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February Win10 1903 and 1909 cumulative update causing desktops to disappear

Shortly after this month’s massive Patch Tuesday dump dropped, several people reported that when they rebooted after installing the patch, their desktops appeared to be wiped clean — icons went missing, wallpaper replaced, desktop data nowhere to be seen.

Last night, Lawrence Abrams on BleepingComputer came up with a comprehensive diagnosis:

Based on the reports by affected users, it appears that a bug in the KB4532693 update is loading up a temporary profile to be used during the update process and failing to restore the user’s profile when done. 

Which explains all of the symptoms I’ve seen [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].

Many people are in a tizzy — their desktop icons are gone, they can’t log onto their usual Admin account, and their files most definitely aren’t where they left them. Abrams has a bit of reassurance:

The good news is that the update is not wiping your data, but rather renaming the original user profile in the C:Users folder. If you are affected by this issue, you can look in C:Users and see if you have a renamed profile ending in .000 or .bak.

I’ve seen several reports that uninstalling the KB 4532693 patch solves the problem.

Günter Born picked up the baton overnight (U.S. time) and has come up with a tantalizing observation:

Currently I’m collecting information about the root cause. One user reported, that a bunch of 50 machines was affected, all using AVIRA antivirus, while the other machines without issues didn’t have AVIRA installed. But this is only a single voice. 

Of course, Microsoft hasn’t said anything. The official Win10 Release Information Status page hasn’t been updated since November. The Feedback Hub is useless, as usual (try searching for “KB 4532693”). The official Answers Forum doesn’t have a clue.

So we’re back to helping Microsoft crowdsource patching bug reports for its multibillion-dollar product.

Did your desktop disappear after installing this month’s patches? Are you running Avira or Avast? Please let us know on AskWoody.

I swear, if somebody tells me again how Windows patches are getting better, I’m gonna bust a blood vessel. 

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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5 Ways the Librem 5 Phone Has Impacted Linux Desktops

The Purism Librem 5 phone has been a long time coming and the device’s impact can already be felt on the Linux desktop.

This effect is most noticeable if you use the GNOME desktop environment, found on the default versions of Ubuntu or Fedora. GNOME is also the interface that ships on laptops from Purism, System76, and Dell. Here are five ways you may have been touched by Purism’s device.

1. GNOME Apps Are More Adaptive

GNOME Web adapting to different window sizes

GNOME 3’s designers wanted to create an interface that was usable on touchscreens. The Activities Overview and app windows are meant for fingers as much as mouse cursors. It has always been part of the vision for apps to adjust across various form factors, but there hasn’t yet been a small touchscreen device that comes with GNOME.

The Librem 5 runs largely the same version of GNOME that comes on a Purism laptop. To make this work, Purism’s team and upstream developers have worked to make various GNOME apps work on a display smaller than six inches.

The most prominent example is GNOME Web, the project’s default web browser. If you install the latest version of Web on your desktop and shrink the window down, you will see the navigation and menu buttons jump to the bottom of the window. This is how the app looks on a Librem 5.

2. Desktop-Compatible Mobile Apps Are Here

GNOME Linux apps with a mobile-inspired design

Apps have started to appear on Flathub that are clearly designed with mobile devices in mind. Take GNOME Authenticator, a two-factor authentication app. It will run on your desktop, but the window defaults to the size of a phone app.

GNOME Podcasts will let you take audio feeds with you when you leave the house, but you can already use it as your desktop podcast client today.

GNOME Feeds is an RSS reader with a narrow interface that happens to scale wider if you stretch out the window. The same can be said for GNOME Password Safe, a password manager. If you visit the latter’s GitLab page, you can view the app running inside a mockup of the Librem 5.

A number of these apps only appeared in the last year or two, and each is a gift to those of us who like GNOME’s design language and prefer to use apps that integrate well.

Download: GNOME Authenticator (Free)

Download: GNOME Podcasts (Free)

Download: GNOME Feeds (Free)

Download: GNOME Password Safe (Free)

3. Improvements Submitted to Upstream Projects

The Purism Librem 5 attached to a monitor

Purism is submitting patches to various GNOME projects to make components more adaptive to different screen sizes. This includes core system components such as GNOME Settings, GNOME Help, and the file open dialog. Then there’s work that’s gone into GNOME Contacts and GNOME Clocks. You can find such details in the company’s Librem 5 status updates. Some changes have also made their way into the Linux kernel.

In short, much of the work Purism has done for the Librem 5 makes life easier for future projects looking to bring Linux-powered phones to market. In the process, a few tweaks are making their way to the desktop as well.

It’s important to emphasize this point. Much of the cost of the Librem 5 goes toward research and development, including software development. The company’s philosophy is to submit changes upstream when possible, rather than maintain separate patches or forks.

As a company that works upstream, when Purism hires a new employee to work on interface design, that impacts everyone that uses GNOME software. Purism joins other companies such as System76 and elementary that are directly invested in improving the user experience of Linux interfaces and submitting their changes upstream.

4. More Options for Private Communications

Librem One apps

Purism doesn’t think it’s enough to offer people a smartphone with privacy-oriented software. The company knows that what many people care about today aren’t the apps, but the services a device can support. That’s why before the launch of the Librem 5, Purism rolled out the Librem One suite.

Librem One includes private chat, mail, social networking, and VPN. While these services first launched with Android and iOS as their targets, you can run many of them on your Linux desktop. Librem Mail works with Thunderbird. Librem Tunnel runs fine after you set it up in the command line. Librem Social offers Mastodon instances that you can feel relatively safe are going to stay up and running.

As we’ve discussed before, Librem One doesn’t offer groundbreaking new functionality

What Is Librem One? The Pros, Cons, and Whether It’s Worth It

What Is Librem One? The Pros, Cons, and Whether It’s Worth It

Open-source hardware company Purism has released a collection of social privacy apps called Librem One.
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. The bundle provides a way to more easily use technology that already exists. But there are many people who will never own a Librem 5 that can receive some benefit from that.

5. Hardware Kill Switches Are Spreading

Hardware kill switches for wireless, camera, and audio

A big part of the appeal of Purism devices is the inclusion of hardware kill switches. If you’re concerned that someone is connecting to your device via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, you can flip a switch to guarantee that they aren’t. Rather than cover your camera with a piece a tape, a switch on your device will cut the camera and block the microphone as well.

The Librem 5 phone merely continues the tradition that the Librem 13 and 15 started

Librem 13: The Most Secure Laptop Yet

Librem 13: The Most Secure Laptop Yet

A slimline ultraportable MacBook rival with the tightest security and privacy you’ll see on any commercially available computer.
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. But now that the standard has been set, the functionality is spreading to other laptops. Pine Microsystems has baked similar functionality into the Pinebook Pro, which comes with a Linux desktop pre-installed.

While that laptop doesn’t include actual switches, the device still severs connections at the hardware level rather than software via function keys on the keyboard.

You Don’t Need a Librem 5 to Enjoy What’s Happening

The Librem 5 is not the only GNU-powered smartphone entering the market. Many desktop Linux users are excited about the PinePhone, a smartphone from Pine Microsystems that costs under a quarter of the price (and also includes hardware kill switches). Yet it remains to be seen which interfaces will be the most functional or gain the most traction on that device.

In the meantime, Purism is heavily invested in the software experience of the Librem 5, which uses GNOME. It contributes to GNOME, and various parts of the GNOME community are able to contribute back. We’re already benefiting from this relationship.

If you don’t want to wait to get your hands on a Librem 5 or the PinePhone, there are other ways to install other Linux-based mobile operating systems

3 Linux Smartphone Operating Systems You Can Install Today

3 Linux Smartphone Operating Systems You Can Install Today

Want to replace Android with Linux on your smartphone? Try out these Linux mobile solutions for smartphones and tablets.
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on an Android phone.

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How to Use Virtual Desktops on Chrome OS

Chrome OS Virtual Desks
Justin Duino

Google is finally adding virtual desktops to its repertoire of Chromebook features—something other major operating systems already have—with Chrome OS version 76. The function has been in testing for several months and is now available for those in the Stable channel.

Virtual desktops, which Google calls Virtual Desks, let you separate the desktop into multiple workspaces where you can organize applications and windows. Chrome OS enables you to have up to four Desks at the same time that you can quickly switch between.

After you update your Chromebook to the most recent version of Chrome OS, all you have to do is press the “Overview” key ([]]]) to see the option in the top-right corner to start using Virtual Desks.

How to Enable Virtual Desks

If you don’t see Virtual Desks (of the +New Desk button) available when you press the Overview key, the feature might be hidden behind a flag that you have to enable before being able to access it. Here’s how to turn the feature on.

When you enable anything from chrome://flags, you’re using experimental features that haven’t been tested on all devices and could misbehave. You can potentially run into a few bugs along the way, so be careful when playing around with some of the available flags.

Fire up Chrome, type chrome://flags into the Omnibox, hit the Enter key, and then type “Virtual desks” into the search bar.

Go to chrome://flags, and then paste virtual desks into the search bar.

Alternatively, paste chrome://flags/#enable-virtual-desks  into the Omnibox and hit Enter to go directly there.

Click the drop-down box next to “Enable Virtual Desks” flag and then select “Enabled.”

Click the drop-down menu and click on "Enabled."

For changes to take effect, you must restart Chrome OS. Click the blue “Restart Now” button at the bottom of the page.

For the changes to take effect, you will have to restart your Chromebook. Click the blue "Restart Now" button at the bottom of Chrome.

How to Add Virtual Desks

Now that the Virtual Desks feature is working on your computer, press the Overview key ([]]]) on your keyboard to see all active windows. At the top of the screen, notice the “+ New desk” icon. Press this to add a new virtual desktop.

Add a new desk by clicking the "+New Desk" icon at the top of the screen.

You can add and use up to four Desks at a time.

Have up to four active desks at your disposal.

How to Switch Between Virtual Desks

Virtual Desks are great for applications that you can leave open without minimizing it to the tray. The application lives there, waiting for your return. You can have social apps on one Desk and a word processor on the other, for example.

Whenever you want to switch between desktops and use apps that you’ve dedicated to them, you can do this in a couple of ways.

The first way to switch Desks is to press the Overview key and then click on a desktop at the top of the screen to switch to it immediately. As long as you remember what apps are in which Virtual Desk, moving between them is fast and simple.

To switch desks, click on one from the Overview mode.

The second method lets you snap directly to the application that you’re looking for without having to guess which desktop it’s on. Every app that’s currently open has an icon that appears on the shelf. So, all you have to do is click on the application, and you snap directly to that desktop. If the app is minimized, selecting the app icon also maximizes it.

All open apps are shown in the shelf. To switch desks directly to that app, click on its icon in the shelf.

How to Move Applications Between Virtual Desks

Once you open an app on a specific Desk, it doesn’t have to spend the entirety of its life there. Instead, you can move it between desktops. This feature is handy if you accidentally opened an app on the wrong Desk and want to move it without killing it.

Press the Overview key while viewing the Virtual Desks with the app you want to move, click and drag the window to the middle of the screen, and then drag and drop it on to the desktop you want.

Drag an app from Overview mode directly onto a desk to move it there.

Note: Make sure to drag the application to the middle first. Chrome OS mimics Android and kills the app when it’s dragged straight up or down from the sides.

Keyboard Shortcuts for Virtual Desks are Coming Soon

Currently, Chrome OS doesn’t have a way to navigate through virtual desktops with the use of gestures on the trackpad or keyboard shortcuts. However, as noticed by Chrome Unboxed, the Chromium bugs post for virtual desktops notes that the following shortcuts are coming soon:

  • Ctrl+Search + =: Add new desk.
  • Ctrl+Search + -: Remove desk.
  • Ctrl+Search + ]: Activate desks on the right (if any).
  • Ctrl+Search + [: Activate desk on the left (if any).
  • Ctrl+Search+Shift + ]: Move active window (or highlighted window in Overview mode) to the desk on the right (if any).
  • Ctrl+Search+Shift + [: Move active window (or highlighted window in Overview mode) to the desk on the left (if any).

We’re not sure when these shortcuts will be available, but it’s probably safe to assume that it’ll be sooner, rather than later.

With the addition of Virtual Desks to Chrome OS, Google is finally joining every other major operating system with multiple workspaces to streamline your desktop(s) for a more productive and clutter-free life.

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Best Linux Distro for Laptops, Desktops, and Servers

There is a seemingly endless list of distributions to choose from if you’re interested in Linux. That said, one of the most popular distributions is Ubuntu. If you’ve heard of Linux, chances are you’ve heard of Ubuntu.

You may have heard that Ubuntu is based on another distribution, Debian. Which one should you choose? Is it a matter of preference, or is easy distribution better suited to different use cases?

What Are the Major Differences?

At first place, Ubuntu and Debian seem largely similar. Both use the same package management system and you’ll often find software packaged for both. Below the surface, however, there are some key differences to be aware of.

Not all software available for Ubuntu is available for Debian due to license restrictions in the latter. Debian has a much stronger stance on free software. This applies to firmware as well, so not all hardware that works with Ubuntu will work with Debian.

Ubuntu also has Personal Package Archives, commonly known as PPAs, available. These let you easily install packages not available in the official Ubuntu repositories. This makes installing a wider range of software much easier than it is on Debian. Our guide to PPA installation and security

Linux PPAs: Installation, Removal, and Security

Linux PPAs: Installation, Removal, and Security

PPAs — personal package archives — are a way to install Linux software via the Terminal. But are they safe to use? How can you remove a PPA? And which are the safest PPAs to…
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will help you out here.

The restrictions imposed by Debian aren’t as strict as those used by some other distributions, but it’s something to be aware of. Debian also has a different release cycle than Ubuntu. Both this and different license restrictions affect certain use cases, as we’ll see later on.

Debian vs. Ubuntu: Laptop Use

As you might have gathered from the above section, Ubuntu is often much easier to use on laptops than Ubuntu. Part of this comes down to the third-party firmware and software. Much of the hardware on newer laptops lacks open source drivers, meaning you’ll have to turn to non-free binaries.

Some non-free binaries are available in the Debian non-free repositories, but a wider range of hardware is more easily supported in Ubuntu. This combined with the software available in PPAs means you’ll have an easier time getting up and running with proprietary software in Ubuntu.

Ubuntu desktop interface

One of the main advantages of Linux is how customizable it is. This means that with a little work, you can get Debian running on a laptop as well as Ubuntu. That said, you’ll have to put in a bit more work to get to that point.

Finally, if you want to run Ubuntu on a laptop, you can simply buy a laptop running Ubuntu. It’s possible someone sells laptops pre-loaded with Debian, but you’ll find plenty of laptops preloaded with Ubuntu.

Debian vs. Ubuntu: Desktop Use

When it comes to desktop use, Debian is easier to use than it is on a laptop, especially if you choose your hardware carefully. If you’re building your own computer this is easy. If you’re dealing with a pre-built computer, maybe less so. Have an older computer? There’s a decent chance your hardware is supported.

When it comes to installation, you’ll generally have an easier time with Ubuntu. This isn’t necessarily a plus for every laptop user, but it is for many of them. Configuration is also easy in Ubuntu; how easy Debian is to configure will largely depend on your desktop.

Debian desktop interface

The toughest time you’re going to have is with graphics cards. Nvidia offers drivers that will deliver decent performance for many of its cards. That said, if you want to use the open-source drivers you’ll have better luck with AMD cards.

If you’re looking to Linux alongside your Windows installation, you can dual boot either Debian or Ubuntu. That said, there are far more ways to run Ubuntu alongside Windows

How to Install Ubuntu on Windows 10: 3 Simple Methods to Try

How to Install Ubuntu on Windows 10: 3 Simple Methods to Try

There are many ways in which you can try Ubuntu. One of them is to install Ubuntu on Windows 10 using one of these methods.
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Debian vs. Ubuntu: Server Use

Debian doesn’t have a bespoke server download. Instead, it offers a minimal base installer. The main choice is to pick the image for your CPU architecture. Once you’ve installed the base system you install the software you need. From here you can choose  server software or a more desktop-oriented installation.

In the case of Ubuntu, multiple installers are available. One is meant for desktop use, another is meant for server use. Still others are meant for other use cases. The server image is a relatively minimal install with no graphical interface and basic server software.

Different ubuntu downloads

Debian is frequently used in server environments for a few reasons. One such reason is its reputation for stability. This is due to the relatively older packages it ships. These have been tested and verified, so they’re less likely to have bugs.

Ubuntu is still a good choice for server software, but it tends to use newer versions of software. This is a plus if you need features found in newer software versions, but it does mean that packages aren’t as time tested.

Ubuntu server install

If you’re curious, we have a rundown of the key differences between the desktop and server versions of Ubuntu

What Is the Difference Between Ubuntu Desktop and Ubuntu Server?

What Is the Difference Between Ubuntu Desktop and Ubuntu Server?

Ubuntu ranks as arguably the most popular Linux operating system. But did you know that there is a desktop version and a server version of Ubuntu?
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. Many of these apply to Debian as well.

Debian and Ubuntu vs. Other Distributions

What if you’re wondering about choosing Debian or Ubuntu instead of a distribution like Arch or Fedora? One of the key advantages of using either distribution is just how popular they are. If you’re looking for a tip for solving a problem, someone has likely encountered that problem on Ubuntu or Debian. This may not be true for other distributions.

This popularity helps when it comes to packages too. You’ll find DEB packages that run on Debian or Ubuntu for plenty of software. You may not find packages for other distributions. This is doubly true for Ubuntu, as its PPA system means you’ll find plenty of packaged software available.

Why Pick One?

For the most part, which distribution is best for you comes down to personal preference. Ubuntu is generally easier to use on the desktop while Debian is well-suited to server use. That said,  you can easily use Debian on the desktop or Ubuntu on a server. As long as your hardware is supported, you can easily use either.

That said, there may be other reasons you may not want to use Ubuntu, or Debian for that matter. If you’re curious why you might opt for another distribution, we can fill you in on the details. Check our guide to the best Linux operating system distributions

The Best Linux Operating Distros

The Best Linux Operating Distros

The best Linux distros are hard to find. Unless you read our list of the best Linux operating systems for gaming, Raspberry Pi, and more.
Read More

for more.

Explore more about: Debian, Linux Distro, Ubuntu.

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Virtual Desktops on Chrome OS are Coming Along Nicely

Virtual Desktops are coming to Chrome OS. The first glimpse of how this is going to work showed up in February, and now there’s a new video of how the feature is progressing. And it looks amazing.

As Chromebooks have grown in both feature and popularity, this is a feature that many users have asked for—myself included. Having the option to switch between multiple screen layouts for various tasks seamlessly would dramatically improve workflow on Chrome OS, and the implementation shown in the video looks great.

All that said, this is still a very early—and notably unfinished—look at how “virtual desks,” as they’re being called, will work. First off, we know that the number of desks will be limited to four. That’s understandable, especially given the lightweight hardware found in most Chromebooks. Comments on the video also note that desk switch animations or mini view haven’t been implemented yet. Again, understandable since this is still very much in development.

Chrome OS Virtual Desks

While we’re getting a better look at how the feature will work, there’s still a lot of unanswered questions. For one, how much of a hit is this going to have on the system—especially lower-end Chromebooks? I’ve been able to peg my Pixelbook’s 8 GB of RAM on more than one occasion with little more than a slew of Chrome tabs, so I can only imagine what it will be like when I can keep multiple apps open across several desktops.

Secondly—and probably the more significant question—when can we try it? As About Chromebooks’ Kevin Tofel points out, it’ll probably be Chrome OS 76 at the earliest. I’m just glad I keep my Pixelbook on the developer channel, as this is one feature that I absolutely can’t wait to try out. [via About Chromebooks]

In other news, Google is having a hard time selling Pixel phones, older Huawei routers were found to have hidden backdoors, Energizer’s massive-battery phone flopped hard, and more.

  • Google reported “lower than expected” Pixel sales: Smartphone sales are down overall this year, but it seems that Google is taking an even harder hit than expected. One analyst even went as far as comparing Pixel sales to Windows Phone. Ouch. [Android Police]
  • Backdoors in Huawei routers: Vodafone Italy says it found “hidden backdoors” in Huawei routers that allowed the Chinese company to access users’ home networks and Vodafone’s fixed-line network. The now-patched backdoors were discovered between 2009-2011; there was also no evidence of breached data. [Bloomberg]
  • Energizer’s big bet on a big phone: Remember the ridiculously huge Energizer phone announced back in February? Well, unsurprisingly, it completely flopped on Indiegogo, only grabbing about one percent of its goal. lol. [The Verge]
  • Netflix will need ads…according to advertisers: Because that’s exactly what advertisers would say. [Tech Radar]
  • Moto’s new RAZR foldable breaks cover: A new supposed leak shows off the rumored RAZR foldable Motorola has been working on. And man, it looks…pretty good. [Engadget]
  • Vudu is getting OC: Original content is coming to Vudu next year, according to a new report. The best part? It’s all going to be free with ads. Well, free is the best part. Not the ads. [MacRumors]
  • Anki is shutting down: No more toy robots for us. 🙁 [Axios]
  • Alexa is getting support for Spanish: Right now, Alexa can only speak English. Starting later this week, she’ll also speak Spanish. Good. [Digital Trends]
  • T-Mobile-Sprint merger delayed: The Justice Department is still in deliberation, so it pushed back the dealing to July 29th. Maybe one day we’ll let the two become one. For the good of humanity. [Android Police]
  • Apple kills Aperture: Apple announced that Aperture will no longer work in macOS versions after Mojave. Makes sense—it’s been out of development since 2014. [MacRumors]
  • Burger King does the Impossible: The company announced that it’s bringing the Impossible Whopper—a totally meatless burger that is said to taste like, well, meat—to all BKs by the end of the year. Wild. I’m gettin’ one. [Vox]

In a bit of interesting science news, scientists have found that “water worlds”—exoplanets completely covered by one huge ocean—are not only common in our galaxy, but have more water than initially imagined. We’re talking massive amounted of water here; potentially thousands of kilometers deep. Of course, water worlds are still technically hypothetical is it were, but this new research, paired with computer simulations, show that planets that were previously thought to be gas with thick atmospheres are actually water worlds. Neat. [Gizmodo]

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