What’s new in First Major Update of Windows 10

The first big update to Windows 10, which should be arriving today via Windows Update, fixes a lot of problems with Windows 10. Microsoft is streamlining activation, restoring colored window title bars, integrating Skype, and improving the Edge browser. But they’ve also added advertisements to the Start menu.

This release was referred to as “Threshold 2” in development — Windows 10 itself was “Threshold.” It’ll report itself as version “1511”, as it was released in the eleventh month of 2015. It’ll arrive through Windows Update.

You Can Activate Windows 10 with a Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 Product Key

Windows 10 activation has been a confusing mess. When it was originally released, Microsoft didn’t really explain how the upgrade process worked. We did the research and explained how to clean install Windows 10, which was an unnecessarily confusing process. Later, Microsoft posted documentation to its website in an attempt to explain this stuff.

Activation now works as it should have originally. When you install Windows 10, you can enter your PC’s Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 product key and it should activate properly if that PC was eligible for the upgrade.

The “digital entitlement” process — where your PC activates automatically without entering a product key — is also better explained. Under Settings > Upgrade & security > Activation, you’ll now see “Windows 10 on this device is activated with a digital entitlement” if it activated without requiring a product key.



Colored Title Bars Are Back

Colored title bars are back, so you don’t have to perform obnoxious hacks if you don’t like those standard white title bars. Just visit Settings > Personalization > Colors and ensure the the “Show color on Start, taskbar, action center, and title bar” option is enabled. The color you choose here will be used for your title bars.



The Start Menu Includes App Advertisements

The Start menu will now show you “occasional suggestions” recommending apps you should install when you open it. It’s just another feature that makes the Start menu noisy for Windows 10 users. But, like the app advertisements in Microsoft Edge, this feature encourages Windows 10 users to install and use more apps from the Store. Microsoft really wants that to happen.

You can disable these ads, if you like. Visit Settings > Personalization > Start and disable the “Occasionally show suggestions in Start” option.



Windows Can Natively Track Your Lost PC

Windows 10 now includes a “Find My Device” option under Settings > Update & security. This means Windows 10 finally has built-in tracking, so you can track your laptop or tablet if you lose it via GPS and location services — without using a third-party application like Prey. You can also tell Windows 10 to periodically send your device’s location to Microsoft’s servers, allowing you to view its last known location if you ever lose it.



Edge Gains Browser Sync and Tab Previews

Microsoft Edge was updated to a new version, and it features support for new HTML5, CSS3, and ECMAScript features in its engine. The big two user-facing features are tab previews — just mouse over a tab in the titlebar — and syncing of your favorites and reading list across all your Windows 10 devices.

Microsoft Edge won’t be receiving browser extensions yet, however — those have been delayed. And, interestingly enough, Microsoft isn’t updating Edge via the Store as originally promised. Edge updates seem to be held back for major new versions of Windows 10, unlike Windows 10’s other included apps, which are updated more regularly.



Skype (and Sway) Are Integrated

Windows 10 Fall Update includes a few new apps. The big three are Skype Video, Messaging, and Phone. These three apps all use Skype’s service — for video calls, text chat, and audio calls — replacing the big Skype “Metro” app offered for Windows 8.

These simplified apps are designed to integrate Skype with Windows 10, although the standard Skype for desktop app is still available.

Windows 10 also includes Sway, an Office-style app Microsoft describes as a way to “create and share interactive reports, presentations, personal stories, and more.”



Cortana is Better

Cortana no longer requires a Microsoft account, so you can use Cortana even if you’re logged into your PC with a local user account. Cortana can also understand inked notes, track movies and other ticketed events, warn you when you miss a phone call, and sync your messaging and call history. Cortana can also power itself down when it knows you’re not using your computer.


These are just a few of the bigger changes you’ll notice. Windows 10 Fall Update also features new icons, other visual tweaks, and under-the-hood improvements, including ones to memory management.

Why I’m excited–and a little nervous–for the Apple Pencil stylus

A pressure-sensitive, pinpoint-accurate stylus?

Yes, it’s true: Apple announced a stylus for the iPad. Ahem, excuse me: A Pencil. At no point during Wednesday’s announcement did the company use the dreaded S-word, preferring “pencil,” “device,” and a few other monikers. But a stylus the Pencil is, and an exciting one at that.

I’ve been writing for almost five years now about why Apple should make a pressure-sensitive stylus for the iPad, and now that it’s come, I cannot wait to get my hands on it.


Questions and curiosities

Rene’s in the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium trying out the Apple Pencil as I type this; I likely won’t be able to take a spin with the Pencil until later this year when it’s released. But before Rene disappeared into the hands on area I texted him an obscenely long list of curiosities about Apple’s new pen:

  • Will it incorporate palm rejection, so you can rest your hand on the screen while drawing?
  • Will you be able to tap and draw at the same time?
  • How bad is the latency between drawing lines and having them appear?
  • Can you write quickly without crazy tapping noises driving you insane or slanting your writing?
  • How good is the pressure sensitivity?
  • Will it work with older iPads? (I’m guessing no.)

There’s also the question of whether we’ll even get hands-on time with the Pencil yet. The stylus still has two months until it ships, and it’s a bit telling to me that we didn’t see an illustration demo on-stage—or really any firm examples, outside of product video, of the device’s pressure sensitivity features.


We’ll know all these things soon, and they’re the important questions to ask: There are many styluses out in the world for the iPad right now, and all get at least some aspects of that list correctly, failing horribly in others. If Apple truly has managed to put together a pen that has great pressure, low latency, and comfortable writing, the company could change artists’s digital workspaces for the better.


The benefits of an Apple-made stylus

Until now, artists and photographers who truly wanted pro-caliber drawing were confined to tablets like the Wacom Cintiq—which hooks directly into a computer, or its Android version, the Cintiq Companion—or the Microsoft Surface. (Or even Frankenstein creations like the ModBook.)

These aren’t bad options for pro artists at all—but if they have Apple products elsewhere in their ecosystem, it makes it more difficult to switch back and forth from laptop to desktop to artist’s tablet and back. It also reduces the need for an iPad in the ecosystem at all—if you already own a Surface for drawing, you might as well lug around the Surface for your other tablet works.

The iPad Pro potentially changes all of that. I don’t think it’s going to spur legions of Surface and Cintiq-users to dump their current solution right away. But if the iPad Pro and the Pencil can offer an even closely-comparable experience to that of working on a Cintiq, it opens up a new option when upgrading, and a very attractive one at that.

Combine the iPad’s third-party app ecosystem with the power of pressure-sensitivity, and artists can easily draw and work on images in their favorite programs without worrying if that program has specific SDK support (as is the issue with many styluses today) or terrible latency. They can work in their favorite programs and use Handoff to send their work to the Mac, wirelessly.

Heck, they may even be able to directly integrate it back to their Mac. Apps like Astropad let users turn their iPad into a Cintiq-like interface for OS X; combine that with a pressure-sensitive Apple stylus, and you have incredible control over any piece of digital artwork combined with the rendering power of your Mac.

There are plenty of other potential uses for an excellent Apple Pencil outside of the artist ecosystem: film editing, enterprise productivity, single-purpose site-specific apps—the possibilities are endless.

But the stylus has to be good. Not just good—exceptionally good.


What about third-party styluses?

Contrary to popular belief, I don’t think the Pencil will kill the third-party stylus. It’s for the Pro only, and plenty of people with limited budgets and desire for smaller iPads may still want styluses for simple writing or sketching tasks. But depending on what we find out about the Pencil’s tech—and how it interacts with that new iPad Pro screen—it may open up some interesting competitive angles. If Apple decides to offer APIs for any of its advances in screen mapping, for instance, that could be a huge boon for stylus-makers.

Either way, I don’t expect to see the third-party stylus die anytime soon—though it may evolve.


Will it sketch?

As soon as I get my hands on a Pencil, I’ll write about all this and more. Until then, I’m going to hope, wait, and continue to be excited that Apple’s taken a firm step in this direction.