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Pandemic will push Microsoft to repeat 2019’s major-minor Win10 upgrade cadence

Although Microsoft has not yet said how it will deal out the year’s Windows 10 feature upgrades, it’s becoming clear there’s next to no reason for the company to diverge from 2019’s major-minor cadence.

As the death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic continues to climb worldwide, and the disruption of modern life and business continues to sow chaos, 2020 will be a tough year no matter how one cuts it. In a time of unprecedented changes triggered by the novel coronavirus, there’s no rationale to change what worked for Windows 10 last year.

Microsoft, of course, will do what it wants – and commercial customers will have to deal with the results. But there are good reasons why the Redmond, Wash. company should seriously rethink any plan to mess with 2019’s release scheme.

First, a short recap of last year

For the two years 2017 and 2018, Microsoft’s Windows 10 feature upgrade practice consisted of two more-or-less-equally-robust refreshes containing new features and functionality. Those upgrades arrived in the spring and fall, typically in April and October, and were tagged as yy03 and yy09, respectively.

But last year Microsoft altered that schedule. The spring upgrade, 1903 was a feature-and-functionality refresh. But the fall’s 1909 was little more than a rerun of its predecessor, albeit with a small number of additional minor features. (It was so like the long-unused “service pack” concept Microsoft relied on through Windows 7 that older customers immediately labeled it as such.) The two, 1903 and 1909, shared the same code by October, allowing Microsoft to deliver the latter as a standard monthly update, which users who migrated from spring to fall could install much faster than a typical feature upgrade.

Pundits and news outlets, including Computerworld, labeled the 2019 cadence as “major-minor” to describe the volume of change in each and their relative value. Enterprises that deployed 1909 – under Microsoft’s policy, that version provided 30 months of support to Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education, a year’s worth more than 1903 – were generally upbeat about the fall upgrade, simply because there was less to it.

Still, Microsoft has so far declined to say how it would deliver Windows 10 upgrades in 2020. Two feature-rich releases? Or one real upgrade and a follow-up that is one in name only?

The company hasn’t yet shown its cards.

Delay Windows 10 2004

Microsoft may have finished 2004, the year’s first Windows 10 feature upgrade, but it’s not announced when it will release it.

But really, what’s the rush?

While the moniker may foretell April as its release (or even May, acknowledging the company’s habit of delivering upgrades a month after the designation), there’s no reason why Microsoft couldn’t delay its delivery to the summer or even later.

Developers have already made moves like this: Google suspended Chrome upgrades last week; Microsoft quickly followed suit, saying it would do the same for its Edge browser. Microsoft also extended support for Windows 10 1709 to Enterprise and Education SKU (stock-keeping units) customers by six months, until Oct. 13.

All these calls were made because of the pandemic’s impact on business, motivated by developers’ own decisions to send workforces home and by the realization that upgrades are superfluous when a crisis is at hand. IT personnel have enough to do to keep the technological lights on and users don’t need the kind of stress a botched upgrade would provoke when there is already a stress surplus generated by the virus.

“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” never made so much sense.

If Microsoft issues Windows 10 2004 later than its numeric name implies – mid-to-late summer, say, for argument’s sake – the need for another feature-filled upgrade during the remainder of the year falls to zero when next year’s 2103 should land in April.

A service-pack-esque release in the vein of 1909 would do just fine.

Why not just bag 2009 altogether?

If times are so tough that Microsoft shouldn’t go back to its 2017-2018 pattern, why can’t the company just forget about the fall upgrade and be done with it?

Microsoft can, of course. (It’s the one making the rules, and there’s no referee saying different.)

But the fall upgrade serves a crucial purpose under Redmond’s current policies: It’s the version that awards 30 months of support to Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education customers. Sans Windows 10 2009, IT admins whose charges are running 1903 or earlier would be between the rock of no upgrade and the hard place of no security patches.

Enterprise/Education customers will not want to adopt a yy03 version because it offers only 18 months of support, far too little (as Microsoft acknowledged when it bent to customer pressure and debuted the 30 months nearly two years ago). But with 2009 out of the picture, the next fall refresh, a putative 2109, won’t be available until around October 2021, probably not reliable enough for businesses until early 2022.

Only Windows 10 1909 has an end-of-support date after that: Its retirement is currently to be May 10, 2022.

Expecting organizations to be able to migrate to a new version in just a few months? That’s a fool’s errand.

Dumping 2009 would put enterprises in a bind, not this year but at the end of the next and the beginning of the year after that (hopefully long after COVID-19 is in the rearview mirror). They would be forced to migrate to one of the spring upgrades and settle for just 18 months of support, knowing that they would have to shortly do it all over again.

By “shortly,” Computerworld means sooner than wanted. Let’s say Microsoft does scratch 2009. An enterprise with PCs running Windows 10 1809 would normally target 2009 as the replacement, aiming to upgrade every two years. But with Windows 10 2009 missing, the firm would have only poor choices, as the following figure shows.

No Windows 2009 IDG/Gregg Keizer

If Microsoft decides to simply not do a fall Windows 10 refresh, enterprises would have to depart from an every-two-year upgrade schedule.

More options for Microsoft

One option would be to accelerate migration to annually and upgrade to Windows 10 1909 starting in the last months of 2020 or the first of 2021. (Windows 10 1809 falls off support in May 2021.) Later, the company could return to the every-two-year tempo by moving from 1909 to 2109 during the opening months of 2022.

Another would be to deploy the delayed 2004 later this year, even though that version comes with only 18 months of support, then get back to a release with 30 months of support, such as 2109. Making that might be tough, though, as 2004’s support would expire just six months into 2109’s lifespan. (If Microsoft doesn’t shove 2004’s release back several months, this move would be impossible.)

A missing fall upgrade, even one in the mold of a feature-free service pack, would clearly ruin the rhythm businesses have set for managing Windows 10. That’s why Microsoft would almost certainly issue something other than 2004 this year.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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Here’s Why You Should Buy a Push Block for Your Table Saw – Review Geek

A Microjig Grr-ripper, and orange push block on a table saw.
Josh Hendrickson

Nearly every table saw comes with a single push stick. But that’s not enough. You need at least a push stick and push block to provide proper pressure contacts. Otherwise, your cuts won’t be straight, and you’re risking a severe injury.

Using a table saw always involves some amount of risk. You are moving the material towards and through a sharp spinning blade. Depending on how powerful your table saw is, the blade spins between 3,000 and 5,000 revolutions per minute (RPM). That so fast your eyes can’t keep up.

When it comes down to it, anything capable of cutting through wood can cut through your soft fleshy body. Even without considering the risk of injury, you run the risk of experiencing kickback, and your cut won’t be straight, leaving you with disappointing results.

Kickback is Incredibly Dangerous

Warning: The following section discusses the dangers of table saws and may make some readers squeamish or uneasy; we recommend skipping to the next section if that describes you.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of kickback in woodworking, count yourself lucky. Kickback occurs when the spinning blade of your table saw grabs a piece of the material you are cutting, lifts, and throws it at high speeds. Because the blade spins towards you, the wood, in turn, is thrown in your direction and may hit you hard enough to injure or even kill you.

That isn’t the only danger from kickback. Because the blade is pulling the wood onto it, the process draws your hands towards the blade as well. If you’re lucky, you have minor cuts. But it’s also possible you could lose fingers to the spinning blade.

One form of kickback occurs during a rip cut as some of the wood begins to pass the backside of the blade. If the material drifts away from the rip fence, a corner of the wood can catch the rising teeth of the blade, which pulls the wood onto the blade, leading to a thrown wood piece.

The following is a video demonstrating this type of kickback. Fair warning, the person in the video comes out uninjured (just barely), but it’s still scary to see how close they come to serious injury.

As the video shows, this kickback occurs as your wood piece drifts away from the rip fence and into the blade path. You can prevent this and other forms of kickback by using proper safety equipment and technique. The first piece of equipment is a riving knife.

A tablesaw blade, slightly raised, with a riving knife behind it. A yellow safety switch lays to the side.
The slender piece of metal behind the blade is a riving knife and is crucial for safety. Josh Hendrickson

If you purchased your table saw recently, it came with a slender piece of metal installed just behind the blade. Generally, unless you have a specific reason (like installing Dado blades), you shouldn’t remove it. The riving knife acts as a physical barrier to prevent your wood piece from drifting onto the back teeth of your spinning saw blade.

The second piece of equipment is a push block, or push stick, combined with a technique that applies three points of pressure. In addition to protecting you, that same technique will also give you better-cut results.

Use Three Points of Pressure for Better, Safer Cuts

A piece of wood running through a tablesaw with a push stick and block, and three arrows pointing down, sideways and forward.
The three points of pressure are: forwards towards the blade, inwards towards the fence, and downwards. Josh Hendrickson

Performing a rip cut entails sliding a board across the table saw face while touching the rip fence for guidance to the blade. If your board drifts away from the rip fence, your cut will be crooked (and you may experience kickback).

So when you run the wood through the table saw, you want to apply three points of pressure, as seen in the picture above. (Note: I raised the blade after the cut to help clarify the image.) The first pressure is forward moving. Naturally, to cut wood on a table saw, you need to move the material toward the blade.

The second is downward pressure. That is, pressure coming from above the board towards the table saw top. Pushing downward against the board helps prevent the table saw blade from lifting your board and throwing it at you.

The third is inward pressure. To prevent kickback and maintain straight cuts, you need to apply pressure to the board towards the rip cut fence. You must apply this pressure before the table saw blade, not after. If you try to push inward towards the fence after the blade, you will cause the freshly cut wood to bend in, pinch, which can then lead to kickback.

Maintaining these three points of contact ensures you not only get a straight cut (because you are riding the straight of your rip fence) but will also minimize kickback risk. The general idea is to keep your material moving smoothly through the cut path without allowing drift onto the blade.

A GRR-RIPPER block pushing wood through a blade.
The GRR-RIPPER push block is a single tool solution for three points of pressure. Josh Hendrickson

You can achieve those three points of pressure by using a push stick and a push block. Your table saw likely came with a push stick, and so long as you use the correct technique, it will work well. You should use the push stick for your inward point of contact towards the fence.

Next, lay your push block on the board you intend to cut and apply even pressure down and forward to move the board through the blade. Keep your eyes on the fence to ensure your board isn’t drifting away from it.

While you could, in theory, use two push sticks, you may not get enough downward pressure to prevent kickback. With a push stick, you’re focusing downward force the board’s back corner instead of across the surface.

Alternately, instead of a push stick and push block, you can use a GRR-RIPPER push block. It’s capable of safely providing all three points of pressure in a single tool.

No matter what you use, the most important thing is keeping your fingers far away from the spinning blade. Destroying a push block is much better than the alternative.

The Push Blocks You Should Buy

Now that you know why you need a push block, it’s time to buy one. There are plenty of options to choose from, and anything is better than nothing. But here are a few good picks:

A Good Push Block: Big Horn 10230 Push Stick

An orange Big Horn push block with rubber grips.
Big Horn

You’ll sometimes see the terms push blocks and push sticks used interchangeably, and that’s the case with Big Horn 10230 Push stick. The critical part is the safety features it provides. That includes a spring-loaded tip at the back that extends out for maximum grip on the end of your board. And a rubber-tipped texture along the bottom to increase grip as you push and forward. The closed-construction that surrounds your hand should mean if something goes wrong, it’s likely the stick will hit your blade before your hands do, giving you an extra layer of protection.

A Good Push Block

A Nice Multi-pack: Safety Woodworking Package

Five push sticks and blocks in a bright orange color.
PeachTree Woodworking Supply

If you want plenty of options, this safety package has you covered. It not only has table saw friendly push sticks and push blocks, but it also has push blocks that will work with your router table and jointer. Some of the push blocks feature a thick matter rubber for extra grippy texture. The bright orange color is also pretty helpful when you’re trying to find where in the shop the safety equipment ended up…again.

A Good Multi-pack

A Premium Experience: GRR-RIPPER 3D Pushblock

A Grr-ripper 3D push block with green turn knobs.
Micro Jig

If you want the best, safest, most comfortable experience, it’s hard to beat the GRR-RIPPER 3D Pushblock. It’s incredibly adjustable so you can easily work with both thick board and thin boards, wide and narrow cuts. Micro Jug even offers additional accessories for even smaller cuts or advanced techniques like tapered cuts. It may cost more, but you get a premium experience for your money. This single push block is capable of applying all three pressure points, and the rubber textured grips keep the block locked to your wood.

A Premium Experience

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The push to Win10 version 1903 takes in more 1809 machines, yields few complaints

In February, Microsoft’s John Wilcox blew away the “Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted)” terminology for blocking Windows 10 version upgrades. At the time, Microsoft declared its old terminology obsolete, replacing it with a statement that those who are actually using the Win10 1803 and 1809 Pro settings to select a branch readiness level would instead be subject to an arbitrary 60-day delay in version upgrades.

The 60 days are up. Win10 version 1903 was released on May 21. Add 60 days and you get July 20. (Microsoft officially says the alarm went off on July 23. I guess they hit Snooze a couple of times.)

What this means in plain English: In Win10 1809 Pro, Windows Update advanced settings, if you have “Choose when updates are installed” set to Semi-Annual Channel (see screenshot), the baseline for feature update deferrals started yesterday.

Windows 10 1809 sac branch Microsoft

The countdown for the number of days you specify in the setting, “A feature update includes new capabilities and improvements. It can be deferred for this many days: XXX” started yesterday, or thereabouts.

I’d put both of those setting descriptions up for an obfuscation award, but never mind.

Even though “Semi-Annual Channel” and “Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted)” are no longer recognized, they’re still in the settings panes for Win10 1803 and 1809.

You aren’t going to get pushed from 1809 to 1903 unless Microsoft’s new, improved Machine Learning algorithm determines that your PC is ready. (So, for example, higher end Surface Book 2 machines won’t get the push just yet.) But 1809 machines are now officially fair game, only protected by their own deficiencies and the feature update delay setting.

There’s one additional change that wasn’t explicitly documented. As @zero2dash reports, “On my 1803 machines, Semi-Annual Channel, if I change feature deferral to 0, I’m now offered 1903. [Earlier, it was 1809.] If feature deferral is 1 day or more, I’m offered 1809… there is no more Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted) starting today.”

We’re seeing more and more Win10 1803 and 1809 machines showing the expected “Download and install now” come-on for the 1903 upgrade. At the same time, I’ve heard few complaints from people who have been pushed unexpectedly onto 1903. Perhaps we really are seeing a kinder, gentler Microsoft.

Time will tell.

Thx @b, @zero2dash, @abbodi86

Join us for the 1903 nightwatch on the AskWoody Lounge.

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