"> Points Archives - Engr Kabir Saleh

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Seven high points of Windows 7

Today Microsoft issues its final free security update for Windows 7, putting an end to that operating system’s decade.

To remember that service – a retirement party but without the cloyingly-sweet cake and cheap gold watch – Computerworld selected seven highlights of Windows 7. While the seven do not pretend to trace Windows 7’s history, they illustrate the influence and impact of the OS.

Here’s to Windows 7. Raise a glass, for cryin’ out loud.

It salvaged Microsoft’s reputation after the Vista debacle

The numbers say it all.

Windows Vista, the 2006 replacement for Windows XP, topped out at 20% of all Windows versions in October 2009. Even though the OS it followed was long in the tooth – XP was nearly twice the age of a typical version when it was supplanted – Vista struggled to put a dent in its forerunner’s share.

Windows XP still accounted for 75% of all Windows activity when Vista peaked.

Windows 7 drove down Vista’s share toot sweet: In 18 months, Vista’s share of all Windows had fallen to 11.5%. Users couldn’t wait to rid themselves of Vista.

But then, what would you expect of an OS that fostered a class-action lawsuit?

The three-quarters-of-a-billion-dollar snafu

An oversight – so said Microsoft – with Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) cost the company €561 million ($732 million at the time) when the European Union’s anti-trust regulators fined the firm for omitting a browser choice feature.

The March 2013 decision by EU officials – the first time regulators there punished a company for shirking an antitrust agreement – ultimately stemmed from a 2007 complaint by rival Opera Software, which alleged that Microsoft manipulated the battle for browser share by tying Internet Explorer (IE) to Windows. Two years later, Microsoft agreed to show European users of Windows a “browser ballot,” a screen that displayed download links to other browsers, including Google’s Chrome, Mozilla’s Firefox and Opera’s namesake.

But Microsoft failed to show that ballot to users of Windows 7 SP1 for some 14 months, from May 2011 until July 2012. More than 15 million users did not see the ballot as they should have, the EU charged.

In mid-2012, Microsoft admitted the goof and apologized, even as it downplayed the problem, saying it had been purely a “technical error” and blaming an engineering team.

Microsoft failed to disclose the snafu in the self-certified compliance reports it was required to submit to EU authorities.

In fact, Microsoft had ignored a user who reported the omission of the browser ballot in Windows 7 SP1. That user had queried support representatives in March 2011, a month after the launch of SP1 and two months before the start of the span during which regulators claimed Microsoft had scratched the ballot, saying, ” I do not see the options for the browser choice.” Although a support engineer replied to the user in the online forum, he paid no notice to the question of the ballot’s whereabouts.

SKU insanity

Microsoft tried to hang onto the netbook market for a while longer with Windows 7 Starter, one of a ballooning number of SKUs (stock-keeping units) segregating the OS.

Starter, which had been preceded by same-named versions on both Windows XP and Vista, was meant to service the netbook market, the name for the smaller, less capable, and most importantly, cheaper notebook computers that juiced PC sales after their 2007 debut. Windows XP Starter and Windows Vista Starter had been sold only in a small number of markets outside the U.S.; Windows 7 Starter was sold domestically, however.

(Microsoft kept calling these systems “small notebooks,” eschewing the “netbook” nomenclature for some reason.)

By the time of Windows 7’s late-2009 launch, netbooks were plainly converging with standard small and light notebooks and/or sub-notebooks (another name for another category, or sub-category). Microsoft acknowledged that, at least to some extent, by dropping the three-application-at-a-time restriction from Windows 7 Starter that had been imposed on XP’s and Vista’s versions.

Other omissions and limitations remained, however. Windows 7 Starter left out the “Aero” graphic user interface (GUI) that was Windows 7’s most visible feature, omitted support for DVD playback and did not provide the ability to change the desktop background. (What?)

Starter was also a signal that Microsoft still held a more-is-better belief when it came to fragmenting an OS into multiple versions, or SKUs. Windows 7, like its Vista forerunner, came in six: Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate. (Vista had used Business rather than Professional.)

Because Windows XP also featured half a dozen SKUs – although the versions were different in several cases – Microsoft pushed six SKUs from 2001, XP’s launch, through 2017, Vista’s retirement. From 2012 on, however, Microsoft pared Windows to three with Windows 8 (four if you counted Windows RT, which no one should) and maintained that number, at least at the beginning, with Windows 10 (we’re counting Home, Pro and Enterprise). Since 10’s launch, though, Microsoft has loosened its belt, expanding the SKUs with options like Windows 10 Pro Workstation and Windows 10 S, even as it tightened said strip of leather by dropping something-for-everyone SKUs like Windows 10 Mobile and Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise.

Belly up to the bar

Windows 7 boosted the size of the task bar and added several elements that remain to this day in its successor, 10.

Microsoft beefed up the taskbar’s vertical dimension by 33% – when using the by-default large icon and labels option – from Windows Vista, and also expanded the width of the active application tiles as well as the icons for pinned apps.

Features like jump lists – click on the taskbar icon for Word, say, and a list of recently-opened documents appears – pinning and thumbnails (admittedly introduced in Vista but made larger and interactive in Windows 7) have proven durable enough to last through multiple OS generations.

For a blast from the past, check out this blog about the Windows 7 taskbar that was posted almost a year before the operating system’s release. It was authored by Steven Sinofsky, at the time one of the development heads for the OS. (Later, Sinofsky became president of the Windows Division, where he became the public face of Windows 8, the heir to 7 that bombed.)

The end of an era

Windows 7 was Microsoft’s last stable OS.

For a bit more than a decade, Windows 7 remained fixed, steadfast, unvarying, enduring. According to Microsoft’s model, we’ll never see Windows like that again, not on personal computers. (Windows 10 LTSC may be meant to stay static for 10 years, but it’s not suited for general PC purposes.)

Windows 7 sported just a single service pack (SP), the cumulative roll-ups released at irregular intervals, that was issued in February 2011, about 16 months after the OS’s debut. But although Windows 7 SP1 contained some changes, they were all under the hood; nothing visible to users was altered.

Much the same could be said for a subsequent platform update, a February 2013 release focused on graphics and imaging components and including Internet Explorer 10 (IE10). Meanwhile, Windows 10 morphs every 12 months if enterprise customers are lucky (and the 2019 major-minor pattern continues), every six months if they’re not.

Post-retirement patches step into daylight

Microsoft believed commercial customers were so enamored of Windows 7 – and would hold onto the OS in such numbers – that for the first time the company publicly unveiled a program to provide post-retirement security updates. That was a significantly different approach than the company has used before as an OS nears it end times.

Called Extended Support Updates (ESU) and revealed in September 2018 – a year and a half prior to Windows 7’s expiration – the program focused on volume-licensing customers, its largest and most important patrons. Those businesses would be able to purchase support in one-year increments for up to three years, with prices doubling in the second year, doubling again in the third. Customers with subscriptions to Windows 10 would receive a discount.

(Near the last minute – in October 2019 – Microsoft caved to small businesses and said it would also sell ESU to customers who did not have existing volume licensing plans in place.)

What was remarkable about ESU wasn’t its existence, but that Microsoft was so public about it.

The firm has sold post-retirement programs before, notably when Windows XP neared its retirement. But those deals were clouded in secrecy, with mysterious – and negotiable – price points. Prior to Windows XP’s 2014 exit from support, Microsoft sold “custom support agreements,” or CSAs, to its larger customers. But buying CSA was a completely-behind-the-scenes process done on a company-by-company basis, with virtually no public information about the program nor price lists.

That allowed Microsoft to dramatically raise CSA prices in late 2012 and 2013, then turn around and slash them just days before XP’s retirement.

Don’t it always seem to go…, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone

The world-turned-upside-down shock of Windows 10 – its continual updating most notably – did more than anything else to elevate Windows 7’s long-term reputation. Faced with the jolt of Windows 10, its predecessor came off looking that much more composed.

At the risk of being rejoined with an “OK, boomer,” and knowing that nostalgia can backlight even incompetence with an artificial glow, Computerworld proposes that Windows 7 was what an OS should be, serviced as an OS ought to be, useful like an OS better be.

Much of that stems from the habits that Microsoft force-fed customers. Updates should be discrete so that individual patches can be postponed or rejected outright; feature additions should arrive only after years-long intervals to maximize learning “expense;” the OS should not transmit vast quantities of telemetric and diagnostic data to Redmond’s servers. And so on. But Microsoft upturned all of that in a single swoop, unlike the gradualism of Windows’ past.

No wonder there was resistance from enterprise customers, who on the whole valued continuity and tradition. But what they were objecting to was not Windows 10 per se – from the start the OS was widely praised on its merits – but instead Microsoft’s changing policies of servicing. Where features were extensively criticized – such as 10’s data hoovering – they were integral to those policies’ execution (at least in Microsoft’s mind), not integral to the OS as an OS.

That that has been the case can be confirmed by looking at the most substantial changes Microsoft has made to Windows 10 since its mid-2015 launch. Those changes have largely been made to the servicing policies, not to the OS itself.

For these reasons, Computerworld wagers that Windows 7 will be long viewed as peak enterprise OS and remembered, fairly or not, more fondly than if it had been succeeded by, say, Windows 9 in 2015.

(Where’s Windows 8 in all this? Invisible, frankly. That OS was an even bigger dud than Vista for corporate customers.)

Things have gone this way before, of course. Windows is famous, in fact, for its good-bad cadence of editions. Windows XP was good, Vista was not; Windows 7 good, Windows 8 not. Here, however, Microsoft has boosted Windows 7’s standing not by creating a sub-standard edition as follow-up but by changing practices and policies of that successor.

Microsoft recognizes what it has done. That’s clear from the modifications it’s made to Windows 10, such as lengthening the support lifespan and reducing the number of true feature upgrades; it’s shifted that operating system closer to the model of … Windows 7.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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5 Apps to Find Halfway Points to Meet With Faraway Friends

Want to meet up with a friend, but can’t decide on a place that’s fair? If you live miles away from each other, it’s not always convenient to go to their home or vice versa. Plus, it might be fun to meet up somewhere in the middle that’s new.

Rather than opening a maps application and trying to find a halfway point, there are websites built just for this sort of situation. So the next time you and your pal want to make plans to meet, check out these helpful sites for a location that’s right between you both.

WhatsHalfway Halfway Point

WhatsHalfway gives you the middle location between two spots. Just enter your two cities and you’ll see the halfway point with the travel time and distance for you and your friend. You also get a handy map that you can click to zoom in on that middle point or view the entire route between the two cities.

When you enter your cities, you can pick a venue type such as accommodations, food and drink, or shopping. Then when you view your midpoint, you’ll see a link Click here to find a venue. When you click it, you’ll be taken to a list of those venue options on Google Maps.

Want to meet up with more people? You can add other cities or zip codes and see the middle point for all. And you can choose venues for that type of trip too. WhatsHalfway is easy to use and a terrific option.

MeetWays Halfway Point

MeetWays offers similar features to WhatsHalfway but with a couple of extras you might enjoy. Start by entering your two cities or zip codes and optionally pop in a point of interest. Before hitting the Go! button, you can add options for the travel mode, toll roads, or highways if you like.

When you check out the results for your halfway mark, you’ll see the exact address that’s in the middle along with the distance you each need to travel in miles. The map shows the route between the two locations and you can zoom in or out.

If you entered a point of interest for your search, you’ll see a list of spots, a few suggestions, and the locations plotted on the map. If you pick one, you can get further details which are powered by Yelp. The MeetWays site makes finding that happy medium a breeze.

TravelMath Halfway Point

TravelMath is a site that helps you plan your trips, whether driving or flying. But they also offer a handy way to find your middle point. When you land on the site, use the dropdown box and choose Halfway Point, then just enter your two cities and hit Go.

Once you see the city in the middle, you can click to find hotels nearby

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if you like. Otherwise, scroll to the bottom and get full details on the location like the closest major city or zip code. You can also see how many miles you’ll each need to drive and how long in hours and minutes it should take.

TravelMath offers a convenient map and links for things to do, places to stop, accommodations, and more for your trip. This site is worth visiting for finding a place to meet in the middle.

Distance Between Cities Halfway Point

The Distance Between Cities website gives you exactly that, the distance between two cities and plenty of information about the route. In addition, they offer a section for Halfway Point. So enter your two cities on the main page and when you’re taken to the results, just scroll down to that section.

You can see the closest city or town to the halfway point along with the major city nearest the middle and major cities along the routes. You’ll get the travel time and distance for each of you and the exact coordinates, if you find those helpful as well.

Also, be sure to check out the gas consumption and emissions details, nearby hotels, and even rental cars. If you’re interested in more than just what’s in the middle, Distance Between Cities gives you all sorts of information about the route between you.

Trippy Halfway Point

One more website to visit for that halfway point is Trippy. This site is great for finding places to meet in that middle city. On the main page, type your question in the box. For example, you can enter “halfway point between [city one] and [city two]” and click the ask Trippy! button.

You’ll immediately see the answer to your question, but of course, you want more right? Click Read More and you’ll get all the details including the distance, travel time, and coordinates.

Scroll down and you’ll see the best places to meet, local accommodations, eateries, and activities. For each option, you’ll get the address and can click for further information from Trippy.

So if you’re not just looking for that midpoint, but also want things to do or hotels for your stay, Trippy is an excellent site.

Get Ready to Meet Halfway

When you have friends or family members who live miles and hours away, meeting up can be difficult. But with websites like these, it can be just a bit easier. Find that halfway point along with places to stay and things to do while you’re there. These sites can help make your trip a great one!

If you want the assistance of a road trip planner for your adventure

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or ways to keep your kids entertained on the drive

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, we’ve got you covered there too.

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A Decent Affordable NAS with Some Pain Points – Review Geek


  • 1 – Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 – Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 – Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 – Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 – Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 – Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 – Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 – Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $250

The front right side of the TerraMaster F2-221 NAS
Josh Hendrickson

NAS devices are great for storing your digital movies, music, photos, and more. But they’re also expensive—you can easily spend over $600! TerraMaster’s F2-221 NAS bucks that trend by going for $250. But cheap does come at a price.

Here’s What We Like

  • Cheaper than some NAS devices
  • Aluminum case looks nice
  • Will work for Plex

And What We Don’t

  • Tedious to set up
  • $50 savings isn’t a lot

If you want remote access to a large number of files without the cloud, a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device will meet that need. They work by holding multiple hard drives that are linked together. You can either mirror drives for backup or connect the disks, which treats them as one large disk. If you have enough hard drive bays, you can even do both at once.

The TerraMaster F2-221 is a simple 2-bay NAS with a powerful enough processor to handle most basic tasks. The company hopes you’ll choose its NAS over the more well-known brands like QNAP or Synology because of the slightly lower price. And if the cost is a significant factor in your NAS purchasing decision, it’s worth a look.

A Pretty Looking NAS that’s Easy to Tuck Away

The TerraMaster F2-221, with the ports on the back showing.
The backside has 1 HDMI, 2 USB 3.0 Ports, and 2 gigabit Ethernet ports. Josh Hendrickson

Fresh out of the box it’s hard not to admire the F2-221. The shell is an aluminum-alloy that feels cool to the touch and just enough texture to keep things interesting. It’s understated and easy on the eyes. Most NAS devices are dull black affairs, but in fairness to them, you usually want to tuck them away where no one will ever see them.

Because this NAS only supports two hard drives, it’s relatively small and will fit in nearly any corner you decide to relegate it too. The entire unit is about the size of two stacked loaves of bread. That’s the best of worlds, easy to slip away in some unseen corner but not obnoxious if you have no place to hide it.

But It’s Annoying to Set Up

an OS Install dialog, with an upside down 44% and progress circle.
For some reason, you have to load the OS… and yes the percentage was upside down. That’s another area the software lacks polish.

Once you have everything unpacked, you’ll want to insert some hard drives into the thing. Like most NAS devices, you have them to buy them separately. Unlike most NAS devices, the process for mounting the drives is somewhat tedious. Rather than use quick snap connectors, you have to attach your hard drives to the drive trays with screws and a screwdriver. TerraMaster did at least include the screwdriver, and it’s not an overly complicated process, just mildly tedious.

But don’t make the mistake of using hard drives with any data on them, pushing them in and turning on the NAS. That prevents the NAS unit from booting correctly (at least until they’re properly formatted); a fact that I discovered after thirty minutes of troubleshooting. If you want to reuse drives, wait two minutes after pressing the power button to insert them.

Once the NAS properly boots, you have to download software from TerraMaster’s website. That software detects your NAS and prompts you to download the Operating System for the NAS. Then you load the OS, get it configured, and format your drives.

None of this overly tricky. It’s just tedious. I don’t particularly understand why the NAS arrives without an OS already on it.

The NAS Works Fine

the TerraMaster NAS OS, showing applications, file manager, and NAS status.
The OS is serviceable, if not simple and lacking polish. It’s certainly not terrible.

So the real question is, did TerraMaster create good hardware that can meet most users’ needs? Yeah, honestly it did—as long as you as keep your expectations in check.

The F2-221 has two bays for hard drives, which means you can either mirror your data for retention (what’s on one hard drive is also on the other) or join them together as one large hard drive.

The latter option is somewhat disconcerting; if you lose a hard drive, you will lose data. And without a separate backup scheme, you may not be able to recover that lost data. So like any other two-bay NAS, you shouldn’t depend on this hardware to back up your data, this type of NAS simply isn’t intended for data backup purposes. You should use external drives with version backup options, instead.

What it’s meant for, and does a good job of, is data retrieval. While the Operating System doesn’t have the polish or the same number of apps as Synology or QNAP, it’s serviceable. The NAS works well for remote access of your files from your computer, or even from your phone or tablet. And it has Plex, iTunes, and other multimedia server options.

Speaking of Plex, I set this unit up as a Plex server and threw a challenging multi-gig movie at it. The intel processor supports 4K transcoding, but only barely. That means while I was able to play the movie directly from the NAS, I wasn’t able to skip around. Any attempt to jump to the middle of the movie resulted in a never-ending spinning load icon.

I use my Nvidia Shield TV as a Plex server, and it can handle this movie just fine, including skipping around. So I’d probably recommend using the NAS for holding your movie files and another solution (like the Nvidia Shield TV) to handle your Plex Server.

You’ll Save a Few Dollars for Something Nearly as Good

The front left side of the NAS with TerraMaster logo showing on the left side.
The front has your power button, hard drive access, and LEDs for hard drive and network status. Josh Hendrickson

At $250, the TerraMaster F2-221 is one of the cheapest two-bay NAS devices you can purchase. Synology’s closest option is the DS218+, and you typically find it priced in the $300 area. At first, $50 might not seem like much of a difference but remember: with either device you’ll need to provide hard drives. If you don’t already have them, that’s $50 you put towards that purchase.

Hard drives are, in some ways, the most important part of a NAS purchase. If you don’t buy reliable hard drives meant for intensive use, they’ll wear out and fail sooner. An extra $50 might help you buy better drives.

Overall the TerraMaster is fine. It does the job of a NAS, even if it is a little tedious to get there. If you have the extra money to spend, you might be happier with Synology’s set up process and OS. But if you want to save a few dollars, the TerraMaster will do.

Here’s What We Like

  • Cheaper than some NAS devices
  • Aluminum case looks nice
  • Will work for Plex

And What We Don’t

  • Tedious to set up
  • $50 savings isn’t a lot

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How to Change a Shape Using Edit Points in Microsoft PowerPoint

powerpoint logo

PowerPoint gives you pretty good editing control over shapes you insert into a presentation. Whether you want to merge two shapes or change a shape using its edit points, PowerPoint has a way.

First, open PowerPoint and select the shape that you want to change. If you don’t already have a shape inserted in your presentation, you can do so by going to Insert > Shapes > Select Shape. In this example, we’ll be using an isosceles triangle.

A green isosceles triangle in PowerPoint

Once you’ve selected your shape, you’ll notice a new “Shape Format” tab appear. Go ahead and select it.

Select the Shape Format tab

Next, head over to the “Insert Shapes” group and click the “Edit Shape” button.

edit shape in insert shape group

A drop-down menu will appear. From the menu, select the “Edit Points” command.

Edit Points option

Now, to change the shape, click and drag the black edit points to the desired location.

Changing the shape using edit points GIF

You may have noticed a few white edit points appear, as well. You can use these to change the curvature of the line between two black edit points.

Change the curvature of a shape GIF

This will allow you to change the structure of your shape completely. It’s a simple technique, but it can yield some interesting results.

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