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5 tips for running a successful virtual meeting

Running a virtual meeting requires a different approach than in-person meetings. You need to figure out how to moderate the discussion, make sure everyone has a voice and feels heard and ensure all your employees are properly equipped to participate. But virtual meetings don’t have to be stressful — in fact, taking your meetings virtually can even help take work off your plate if you leverage the tools effectively.

Here are five tips on how to run a successful virtual meeting, whether it’s your company’s town hall or an after-work virtual happy hour.

Head into meetings with a plan

Virtual meetings can quickly run off the rails if they aren’t organized ahead of time, so try to send out an agenda and sign on five minutes early to make sure everything is running smoothly, says Tim Ihlefeld, CEO of remote interviewing platform Harqen. Even if you have everyone set up on the same platform, technical glitches can arise, as you can’t control individual meeting members’ Wi-Fi connectivity and any software bugs or hardware failures on their devices. Having a plan and establishing best practices ahead of time can save you from an IT headache during the meeting.  

Establish who will be responsible for fielding questions, troubleshooting connectivity issues and taking or distributing meeting notes. You should also decide whether you will need to mute participants, who will moderate the meeting, which participants will need screenshare and how listeners can ask questions. For smaller meetings, these issues may be less pressing and stressful, but for larger meetings it’s a good idea to set guidelines so everyone knows their role and what is expected of them.

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Running Win10 version 1803 or 1809? You have options. Here’s how to control your upgrade.

The older versions of Windows 10 are growing long in the tooth. Microsoft officially released its last cumulative update for Win10 version 1803 (Home or Pro editions) on Nov. 12. It’s scheduled to kill off Win10 version 1809 on May 12 of next year. If you currently run either 1803 or 1809 you should think hard about moving on to one of the next versions, either 1903 or 1909. The good news is that you can control your future version. 

If you leave your version migration up to Microsoft, you’ll get pushed, ready or not. Fortunately, there are relatively easy ways to take matters into your own hands — yes, even for Win10 Home customers.

Which version are you running?

Start by determining, for sure, which version of Win10 you’re running. Down in the search box, type About and click About your PC. Scroll down a bit and you should see a Windows specifications pane like the one in the screenshot.

1809 about Woody Leonhard/IDG

That will tell you, crucially, which version of Win10 you’re running right now, and which edition you’re using — Home, Pro, Education, Enterprise, Pro for Workstations, LTSC, or a handful of variants. In general, the instructions here for Pro also include Pro for Workstations, Education and Enterprise, providing you aren’t attached to a network with an update server. (If you are so encumbered — er, privileged — you have to talk to your network admin to get upgraded.)

Which version do you want?

Each of the three available versions has significant features — and they aren’t the ones you’ll read about in the documentation:

Version 1809 — By far the most stable version at this point. It’s been baking out in the wild for almost a year and, in spite of a horrendous rollout, has had few hiccups lately.

Version 1903 — Has been in final beta testing (er, release) for six months, and in Microsoft’s nebulous “ready for broad development” corral for two months. Each cumulative update still contains enormous numbers of small fixes, combined with a few epic, lingering bugs. That said, 1903 has the single most important feature improvement ever in Win10: The ability for everyone to Pause updates. That’s powerful incentive for all Win10 users, especially Home users, to move to 1903.

Version 1909 — The minimally invasive “service pack” version — has a few bugs of its own, mostly Explorer Search related, but it’s only been available for a few weeks. If you trust Microsoft’s patching ability, there’s no reason to delay moving to 1909. On the other hand, if you want to wait and see what happens, you’d be well advised to wait a couple of months or more.

If you’re on 1803, you want to move with some due haste to either 1809, 1903 or 1909. 

If you’re on 1809, you can wait and see whether Microsoft’s 1903 (and 1909) patches break more things before you’re forced to jump ship.

Most importantly, if you’re running Win10 Home — either 1803 or 1809 — you want to jump ahead to 1903 right away. All of the known and unknown problems with 1903 pale in comparison to the ability to pause updates. 

In the past, I and many other experienced Windows victims have recommended that Win10 Home users pay $100 or so to upgrade to Pro. With Home 1903 (and 1909) and the pause update feature, I no longer recommend upgrading to Pro — Home should be just fine for almost everybody. With Win10 1903 Home, you’re no longer a beta-testing guinea pig.

How to upgrade Win10 Pro

If you’re running Win10 Pro (Education, Enterprise, etc.) and you want to move on to a later version, here’s how to land where you want.

Step 1. Back up

There’s a chance that changing versions will completely hose your computer, or leave your machine tied up in automatically installed knots. Make a full system image backup before you venture down any path. 

I have long recommended both Macrium Reflect Free and EaseUS Todo Backup. Don’t rely on the built-in Windows backup, which dates back to Win7 days and is notoriously unreliable.

Step 2. Set feature update deferral

Upgrading Win10 Pro version 1903 to 1909 is quite straightforward; I have “Download and install now” recommendations in an earlier Computerworld post.

From Win10 Pro version 1803 or 1809, it’s relatively easy to adjust Windows Update to have it land on the version that you want. Using an administrative account, click Start > Settings > Update & Security. Then click Advanced Options at the bottom. See the screenshot.

1809 sac 240 Woody Leonhard/IDG

You’ll see the same screen regardless of whether you’re running Win10 1803 or 1809.

The mathematics is a bit hairy, but you want to set the feature update deferral days so Windows Update will land on your chosen version. 

If you’re running Win10 1803 and want to move to version 1809, choose Semi-Annual Channel and 240 days feature update deferral.

If you’re running Win10 1803 or 1809 and want to move to version 1903, choose Semi-Annual Channel and 180 days feature update deferral. You’ll end up with a version of Win10 Pro that has a “Download and install now” offer to upgrade to 1909.

If you’re running Win10 1803 or 1809 and want to move to version 1909, choose Semi-Annual Channel and 10 days feature update deferral. Or you can skip the middleman and upgrade online using the Windows Media Creation Tool. (Yes, the “Windows 10 November 2019 Update” is version 1909.)

“X” out of the Windows Update advanced options settings dialog.

Step 3. Wait

Don’t do anything else. In particular, don’t click “Check for updates.” Just use your PC as usual, possibly turning it off then on again to awake the upgrade genie. You may have to wait a day, but sooner or later you’ll get upgraded to the version you’ve chosen. 

There’s a tiny chance that your PC will be proactively blocked from upgrading, usually as a result of recently discovered hardware, driver and software incompatibilities. Those are usually listed on the Release Information Status page. At least in theory, you don’t have to sweat the details — Microsoft should hold off on the upgrade until your machine passes muster. 

How to upgrade Win10 Home

If you’re already on Win10 version 1903 Home, you’re in good shape. Simply avoid clicking on the 1909 Download and install now link (screenshot) and you’ll stay on 1903 until the end of time. Or until Microsoft changes its mind, anyway.

1803 download and install now 1 Woody Leonhard/IDG

For those of you on Win10 version 1803 or 1809 Home, there are some additional hoops. Note that I strongly recommend Win10 version 1809 Home folks upgrade to 1903, skipping 1809, specifically so you have access to the new Pause Update feature.

Here’s how to choose the version you’ll get.

Step 1. Back up

Just as in the Pro/Education editions, there’s a chance that changing versions will completely hose your computer, or leave your machine tied up in automatically installed knots. Make a full system image backup before you venture down any path. 

Once again I recommend either Macrium Reflect Free or EaseUS Todo Backup. Don’t rely on the built-in Windows backup, which dates back to Win7 days and is notoriously flaky.

Step 2. Let Windows Update run its course, if you can

If you’re already on Win10 1903 Home, you have full access to the Pause Updates feature. I talk about the proper settings every month on the day before Patch Tuesday. (November’s alert looks like this.) Follow those recommendations, and you’ll stay patched without getting thrown to the beta testing wolves. When you’re ready to move to Win10 1909 Home, you can click the link to Download and install now.

If you’re on Win10 1803 or 1809 Home and moving to Win10 1909 Home, you can simply remove any updating blocks you may have (such as setting your internet line to a metered connection) and let Windows Update run its course. Alternatively, you can use the Windows Media Creation Tool page and get upgraded directly.

Step 3. Install from a saved ISO, if necessary

The  other permutations aren’t so simple.

  • Moving from Win10 1803 Home to either 1809 Home or 1903 Home requires the use of an ISO file — an image of a Windows upgrade disk. 
  • Moving from Win10 1809 Home to 1903 Home also requires the use of an ISO file.

There are tricky ways to avoid using the ISOs — you can even manually block the 1909 upgrade — but for most people, the ISO approach is convoluted enough already.

Step 3a. Retrieve the correct ISO

If you’re moving from Win10 1803 Home to Win10 1809 Home, you need to get an ISO for Win10 version 1809. If you’re moving from either Win10 1803 or 1809 to Win10 1903 Home, you need an ISO for Win10 version 1903.

There’s a chance you already have an ISO in your hip pocket. Back in September, I recommended that you download and squirrel away a copy of Win10 version 1903 and in April I recommended that you store a clean copy of Win10 version 1809. Those will work.

If you don’t have a clean ISO to work from, there’s a phenomenal batch program from AveYo available on pastebin that lets you choose and download (from Microsoft!) the official older ISOs. Go to AveYo’s MediaCreationTool site on pastebin. On the upper right, click Download. With an administrator account, right-click on the downloaded MediaCreationTool.bat file and choose Run as administrator. You may need to click through “Windows protected your PC” screens (click More info, Run anyway) but in the end you’ll have a list of ISOs to choose from (screenshot).

media creation tool bat Woody Leonhard/IDG

Click on the version you want. Windows takes a while to download the package, but in the end, you’re tossed directly into the Win10 installer, as described in Step 3b.

Step 3b. Install Windows from the ISO

If you have an ISO file and want to use it to upgrade your Win10 Home version, using an administrator account, double-click on the ISO file, then right-click setup.exe and choose Run as administrator. The Win10 installer kicks in and will guide you through the process. You have the option to either install clean, or to keep your files and settings (“Choose what to keep”) and install the new version. 

Step 4. Reboot

Restart your machine if you haven’t been forced to do so already, and you’ll be running that new version.

You can double-check that the upgrade succeeded by typing About in the search box and looking for the version number.

Remember that you have 10 days (by default) to roll back to your previous version of Win10 — just click Start > Settings > Update & Security > Recovery > Go back to the previous version of Windows 10.

It’s funny how something so simple — controlling your upgraded version — has turned into something so horrendously complex. 

If you have any suggestions for this procedure, or need help, skilled volunteers await on the AskWoody Lounge.

Thx, @PKCano, @abbodi86.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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10 Ways to Check Which Linux Version You’re Running

Which version of Linux are you running? Ubuntu? Arch? Red Hat? No, that’s not what you really want to know, is it? What you want is the actual Linux version, or even the Linux kernel version.

After all, it’s not displayed anywhere, so how could you know? Here are nine commands to help check the Linux version and the Kernel version of your current distro.

OS Version or Kernel: What’s the Difference?

The first thing to check is whether you’re looking for the OS version or the Kernel version.

For example, if you’re using Ubuntu, you might want to check the version of the operating system. It could be 19.04, but is there a subsequent built number?

On the other hand, you may need to know the Linux kernel version. The Kernel is the core of Linux, the code that lets the software communicate with the hardware. Our guide to the Linux kernel

What Is a Kernel in Linux and How Do You Check Your Version?

What Is a Kernel in Linux and How Do You Check Your Version?

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will explain this in more detail.

Show Your Linux Version on the Desktop

In addition to the nine command line options below, you can also check your Linux version from the desktop. This will differ depending on the desktop environment and operating system. However, if you want to check your Ubuntu version, your CentOS version, or whatever, without the command line, you can.

For example, to check your Ubuntu version from the desktop, go to System Settings > Details. Here, you’ll see the distro version you’re running. While this won’t give you as much detail as the command line, it is enough to confirm your Linux version.

How to Check Your Linux Distro and Kernel Version

As you’ll have gathered, the desktop will only give you the basic information concerning your Linux version. For more details, you’ll need to rely on the command line.

Various commands can be used to reveal interesting information about your Linux system. Along with the details of your Linux version, you can find out about the distribution release, codename, and Kernel. This information can prove useful for several reasons. You night need it for troubleshooting, for example, or simply to check if your Linux version has updated.

The following nine commands let you check your Linux version and Kernel version from the terminal.

1. Easily Show Your Linux OS Version With cat /etc/os-release

Check your Linux version with osrelease

Your first option is to check the os-release file in the /etc/ directory. This will provide quite a detailed account of your Linux operating system’s version. We can check this quickly using the cat (concatenate) command, which can be used to display or create new files.

cat /etc/os-release

Our example was tested with Ubuntu. Here, the OS name, full version, version ID, and codenames are listed.

2. Another Option to Check Your Linux Version: cat /etc/*release

Check your Linux version

Slightly more information can be gathered using the *release file instead. This displays all information from files ending with the word “release” in the /etc/ directory, concatenated into a single output.

cat /etc/*release

The output is largely the same as previously, but with additional distribution information.

3. Get Your Linux Version: cat /etc/issue

use the issue command to check your Linux version

For a more straightforward response to your request for a Linux OS version number, try this cat command.

cat /etc/issue

Here you’ll see the distro name and version. Simple!

4. Find Your Linux Distro Version: lsb_release -a

Use the lsb_release command to check your Linux version

The lsb_release command will display Linux Standard Base (lsb) information about your Linux distro.

lsb_release -a

Notice the name of the distributor, as well as the distro name, release, and codename. Again, this is a straightforward command with compact, clear results.

5. Display the Linux Kernel Version With hostnamectl

Check your version with hostnamectl

The hostnamectl command can be used to change the system hostname but used alone will display Linux version details.


Using the command displays the hostname of the device, along with machine ID, and architecture. You’ll also find the Linux version and Linux kernel version displayed with this command.

6. Use uname -r to Check the Linux Kernel Version

Check your Linux kernel version with uname -r

Although the previous command displays details about the Linux kernel version, if that’s all want, try uname -r instead.

uname -r

This will output the version number for your distro’s Linux kernel. There’s no context to this, just the version number.

7. More Linux Kernel Details With uname -mrs

Check your inux kernel version with uname

Additional information about your current distro’s Linux version can be found by expanding the -r switch to -mrs.

languaguname -mrs

This has nothing to do with your wife or mother. Rather, the -mrs command provides information about the Kernel name and hardware version. In our example, we’ve run the command on a Raspberry Pi 4, which displays armv71. A 32-bit or 64-bit Intel/AMD-based architecture would show x86_64 instead.

8. Display More Linux Kernel Version Information: uname -a

Check your Linux kernel version with uname -a

Even more information can be displayed about your Linux kernel with the -a command extension.

uname -a

Using this, you’ll see the device name, Linux kernel version, release date, architecture, and full OS name (typically GNU/Linux

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9. Detailed Linux Kernel Information With cat /proc/version

Check your Linux kernel version in the command line

The final option to check your Linux kernel version is another cat command. This uses the version file in the /proc directory.

cat /proc/version

You’ll find the version number of your current Linux kernel, compiled from information from the /proc/sys/kernel/ostype, /proc/sys/kernel/osrelease, and /proc/sys/kernel/version files. As noted earlier, the cat command concatenates information from various files, which is what is happening here.

Now You Know What Version of Linux You’re Running

With nine command line options and the details you can find in your distro’s chosen desktop environment, you should now know how to find your Linux OS version. Checking your Linux distro is easy—if you know how! Similarly, tracking down the details of your Linux kernel version should now also be clear.

Want to do more in the Linux terminal? Become a Linux command line master with these tips and tricks

Become a Linux Command Line Master With These Tips and Tricks

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Whether you’re brand new to Linux, or a seasoned Linux veteran, the command line offers a bevy of uses. Try these tips for mastering the command line.
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Microsoft removes August patch block on Win7/2008R2 systems running Norton, Symantec AV

If you’re using Symantec Endpoint Protection or any Norton Antivirus product on a Windows 7 or Server 2008 R2 machine, you didn’t get the August patches. Shortly after the August Monthly Rollup and Security-only patches were released, Microsoft put a freeze on systems running Symantec or Norton antivirus products.

The conflict stemmed from a long-anticipated change in the way Microsoft signed the August patches: Starting in August, all patches are signed using the SHA-2 encryption method. Somehow, Symantec didn’t get the message back in November that the shift was underway, and missed the deadline.

Per Symantec (which owns the Norton brand):

This issue is specific to Windows 7 SP1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1. All currently available versions of Symantec Endpoint Protection are affected. … Out of an abundance of caution, Symantec and Microsoft worked together to only allow the update to be visible to versions of Symantec Endpoint Protection that fully support SHA-2 signed Windows executables replaced by this and future updates to Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 2008 R2 SP1.

Yesterday, in a coordinated reveal, both Symantec and Microsoft say that all is now well. Symantec now says:

Symantec has completed its evaluation of the impact of this update and future updates to Windows 7/Windows 2008 R2 and has determined that there is no increased risk of a false positive detection for all in-field versions of Symantec Endpoint Protection. Microsoft KB4512506/KB4512486 and future updates can be safely installed and the soft block was removed on August 27th, 2019.

Microsoft has updated its Release Information Status page to say:

The safeguard hold has been removed. Symantec has completed its evaluation of the impact of this update and future updates to Windows 7/Windows 2008 R2 and has determined that there is no increased risk of a false positive detection for all in-field versions of Symantec Endpoint Protection and Norton antivirus programs. See the Symantec support article for additional detail and please reach out to Symantec or Norton support if you encounter any issues.

The change applies to

  • KB 4512506 — the August Monthly Rollup
  • KB 4512486 — the August Security-only update
  • KB 4512514 — the preview of next month’s Monthly Rollup

As best I can tell, there were no changes made to either the Symantec or the Microsoft products.

Only took ‘em two weeks.

AskWoody poster RDRGuy nails it by asking:

Now the real question is, was there ever any problem with Symantec Endpoint Protection not being able to properly handle the Windows 7 SHA-2 updated files?

Patch problems? We feel your pain on AskWoody.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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The 7 Best Running and Workout Music Apps

If you’re the type of person who likes to listen to music while you run or work out, you’re not alone. MP3 players are an essential piece of gym equipment for many people. This is unsurprising; several scientific studies have proved a positive correlation between listening to music and better performance.

But what’s the best running music app? Which workout music apps should you use? Keep reading to find out.

1. Spotify

Spotify used to offer a feature called Running. It used your phone’s accelerometer to match tunes with your jogging pace. Sadly, Spotify decided to retire the feature in early 2018.

Nonetheless, Spotify is still a great running music app. It offers a vast selection of playlists to listen to while you’re jogging. Find them in the Workout playlist category. To access this, open the app on your phone and go to Search > Workout.

Thankfully, there are still some Spotify Running alternatives you can check out if you miss the deprecated feature.

Download: Spotify for Android | iOS (Free, subscription available)

2. RockMyRun

RockMyRun is one of the most popular BPM music apps in the App Store. The big selling point of RockMyRun is its ability to automatically adjust the music to sync with your steps or heart rate. You can also set your preferred beats per minute, and the app will automatically find songs to match.

Keep in mind that research suggests our performance hits a cap at 145BPM; anything above that won’t provide extra gains.

Impressively, RockMyRun’s benefits have been independently verified by scientists at the Exercise and Physical Activity Resource Center. They found the app could increase motivation and enjoyment by up to 35 percent.

Download: RockMyRun for Android | iOS (Free trial, subscription required)

3. Fit Radio

Another service with some of the best running music is Fit Radio. The app has three distinct tabs, all of which combine to it make a leading running music app.

The first tab is Coaching. It provides access to recorded coaches who push you through your workout. Just set whether you want to do an outdoor run, treadmill run, elliptical session, spinning, or high-intensity interval training (HIIT). The coach will play music to match the workout while simultaneously providing motivational hints. 24 new coach playlists are available every week.

Secondly, there’s a Music tab. It provides specially curated DJs mixes. And unlike services such as Spotify and Google Music—which are very restricted in terms of the number of music filters on offer—Fit Radio allows you to sort music by BPM, DJ, and workout activity. You can even set your own customized intervals. 150 new mixes are available every month to keep your workout time fresh.

The final tab is called Running. Like RockMyRun, it can match music to your pace. Just hit the Play button, start jogging, and the app will take care of the rest.

Download: Fit Radio for Android | iOS (Free trial, subscription required)

4. Runtastic

Runtastic is a Spotify Running alternative with a difference. Rather than providing you with good running music, the app takes a different approach through the use of its “Running Stories.”

A Running Story is part-audiobook, part-music mix. The exclusive content is created by an international team of storytellers, musicians, and sound technicians. Stories are available across several different genres (such as Inspirational, Sci-Fi, Travel, and Coaching) and each is around 30 minutes in length. Check out the video above to get an idea of what to expect.

Of course, Runtastic also differs from the other apps we’ve looked at in that you can use it as a workout tracker. You can set goals, analyze your training patterns, perform challenges, join groups, and a whole lot more.

Download: Runtastic for Android | iOS (Free, subscription available)

5. Hit Your Run

Hit Your Run isn’t quite as polished as the other apps on this list. However, it has one big advantage: the app is entirely free to download and use. There are no subscription requirements, and it’s not a freemium model. Of course, that inevitably means the app is ad-supported, but that’s a tradeoff you might be happy with.

There is no automatic matching between the music and your running pace. Instead, all the music is searchable by BPM, and you can create your own playlists.

The available music is also overwhelmingly weighted towards newer releases. If you’re looking for some older dance classics to help you through your workout, you’ll be out of luck. And sadly, Hit Your Run is not available on iOS.

Download: Hit Your Run for Android (Free)

6. Spring Running Music

spring music app store

Spring Running Music is an iOS-only running music app. You’ll find it to be a good fit regardless of whether you’re looking for a workout music app or a running music app.

Importantly for some people, Spring Running Music is an app that plays music to your running pace. It will automatically detect your running rhythm and play music that has a corresponding BPM. In total, it offers more than 100 different playlists packed with the best running music to listen to.

You can also use Spring to design your own interval-based workout music playlists. There’s even a built-in GPS tracker for monitoring distances and calories burned.

Download: Spring Running Music for iOS (Free trial, subscription required)

7. GYM Radio

We end with another one of the best workout music apps—GYM Radio.

The app is simple to use. At the top of the screen, there are three tabs: Cardio, Gym, and Hardcore. Each tab has dozens of radio “channels” built around specific workout themes. For example, there’s a CrossFit channel, a fight channel, a pre-workout channel, and even a rest day channel.

The app does provide some workout music for free, but you’re limited to 20 minutes of listening and miss out on features like track skipping and high-quality audio unless you subscribe.

Download: GYM Radio for Android | iOS (Free, subscription available)

The Best Running Music App

So which is the best running music app? It’s a difficult question to answer and depends a lot on the type of workouts you do.

If you’re not bothered about using an app that plays music to your running pace, Spotify is the obvious answer—especially as you might already subscribe to it. For people who want a BPM music app, we recommend RockMyRun.

To learn more, check out some apps to make running more fun

7 Apps That Make Running and Jogging More Enjoyable

7 Apps That Make Running and Jogging More Enjoyable

Find running boring? Try these mobile apps that turn jogging into something more fun, like a game of survival.
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and the best running watches to track your exercise.

Image Credit: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

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