Apple Releases iOS 10.2 beta 5 Developers and Public Beta Testers

It’s a test-a-palooza-thon over in Cupertino for iDevice owners

The guys over at Apple have been really busy. In the past four to five days, they’ve released two different beta releases of iOS 10.2. Beta 5 was released to both public beta testers and to their development community on 2016-12-02. I’d say we’re getting close to a final release if the beta cadence is this quick. It’s only been four days since the previous release.

Getting the software is easy. If you’re a developer, you can get the beta bits from the Apple Developer’s Portal. If you’re a public beta tester, you can get the software through Software Update. However, your device must be registered for the beta program in order for the download to actually start.

Specific changes over Beta 4 haven’t been identified as of this writing. However, iOS 10.2 is known to include redrawn emoji and 72 new emoji characters confirming with requirements from Unicode 9.0. Both iOS 10.2 and the latest beta release of tvOS, version 10.1, released on Wednesday 2016-11-30, include Apple’s new, dedicated TV app. iPhone 7 users will also get new wallpapers. Apple’s Videos app is also rumored to include a new widget; and Messages is supposed to add a new “celebration” effect for text messages.

Both iOS 10.2 and tvOS 10.1 are also supposed to include single sign-on (SSO) for streaming TV. SSO will allow users to enter in their cable or satellite website’s user name and password into their device only ONCE and allow those credentials to be shared throughout the operating system. This will allow apps like HBO Go, Max Go or ShowTime Anytime to all share and use the same login information, only entered once on your device, to authorize the playing of content. Previously, you had to enter in your credentials in every app. Now, with Single Sign-On, once is finally enough. However, each app must support SSO in order for this to work.

I would expect iOS 10.2 to be released during the month of December. With beta releases reaching five, and with the release cadence being as short as a few days, it seems that iOS 10.2 will be with us sooner rather than later.

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Fitbit Looking to Acquire Smartwatch Pioneer Pebble

The fitness tracker maker is looking to acquire smartwatch pioneer Pebble

fitbit-to-acquire-pebbleIn what is being touted as a really, REALLY cheap deal, Fitbit is close to finalizing a deal with beleaguered smartwatch manufacturer Pebble for a reported $40M. If accepted, its understood that the deal will be for IP – intellectual property and software – only. The Pebble brand would be slowly phased out, with its all of its products shut down and discontinued over time.

Pebble laid off 25% of its workforce in March of this year. Pebble has also been having some very serious product issues during 2016. They’ve introduced three new smartwatches in July of 2016 – the Pebble 2, the Pebble Time 2 and the Pebble Core. In August 2016, they released a software update for their Pebble Health feature. None of these moves has helped them get past the product issues they’ve been having.

While Fitbit has emphatically stated that they are unfazed by Apple’s dominance in the smartwatch space, Apple’s sales of its Apple Watch has declined 51.6% as of the third quarter of 2016, according to the IDC. Unfortunately, this development hasn’t helped Pebble sales one bit.

Fitbit’s reported acquisition of Pebble seems to be signaling their desire to move beyond the fitness tracker designation that most of their wearables have been labeled as. The company has introduced new leather bands and other premium accessories alongside two new smartwatches, the Charge 2 and the Flex 2. After announcing mixed third quarter results and a projected weak forth quarter, the company’s stock took a 30 percent hit.

If you remember, I reviewed both the Fitbit Surge and the Pebble Time as part of my larger, year long, smartwatch roundup last year. I took a very quick look at both and gave the Surge to my daughter (who put it on for all of 5 minutes before telling me she’d never wear it…) and the Time to a friend at church (who wears it every day). However, I know both of these devices have struggled to make any kind of showing in the smart wearables market.

While Fitbit is truly only looking at a technology purchase, I don’t see why they would want to chase after Pebble in the first place. Pebble didn’t really concentrate on the Apps market with its smartwatches. Their apps and app store never really took off, and the resolution of their displays really didn’t make for anything that looked any better than what you saw on an Atari 2600 back in the day. In other words, their graphics and their displays suck. Fitbit doesn’t have an app store, and even if they did, their perception by the market as a fitness tracker only wouldn’t draw any of the premier developers to their ranks.

I really don’t see the purchase of the technology or intellectual property doing anything for them.

What do you think? Is this a good mashup? Will Fitbit’s acquisition of Pebble’s assets provide anything of value, or are they just wasting their time and money? Talk to me, kids! Meet me in the discussion area below and let me know what you think!

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Am I a Relic from the Distant (Music) Past? – Streaming vs. On Device Music

…And by distant past I mean, like Steve Jobs time frame… or just 15 years ago.

I’m an Amazon Prime Member. For this service, I, like everyone else who subscribes to this service, get unlimited, free, 2-day shipping on all of my Amazon, physical goods, purchases and all of the digital video my internet services (both at home and mobile) will allow me to stream.

prime-music-header

A little while ago, I got an email promo for Amazon Music Unlimited. It’s an on-demand, ad-free, music streaming service offered by Amazon (obviously) that streams music from their vast, digital music catalog. It comes with personalized recommendations, curated playlists and curated stations. It also has Prime Member exclusive pricing of $7.99 USD per month (non-Prime members can get the service for $9.99 per month). You can also get an Alexa only version for only $3.99 a month. That last deal should be especially interesting to folks who mainly listen to music only through their Amazon Echo.

Amazon is really stretching the offerings here. They’ve given users a number of different ways to get access to their vast catalog and are offering unlimited streaming without any ads. The extra $4 bucks a month for access to ALL of their music seems to be a huge no-brainer, especially if you have an Amazon Echo in the house. You can listen to anything and everything as many times as you wish, and Alexa will serve it up – again, ad free – all at the asking. I’m not certain exactly how vast their catalog is, but it has to be pretty big, right?

With this new offering, it appears as though Amazon is doing the best it can to make the best of Prime’s position. Their audience is big, and they have a lot of other services that they’d like to sell…

apple-music-header

Conversely, my daughter – and a whole bunch of other folks – subscribe to Apple Music. Apple Music works on every iDevice in sight, and once you subscribe on one, the service is available on every iDevice that uses your AppleID. At $10 per month for their service, it’s a similar offering to Prime’s in that you get access to everything, without any ads. I think the best thing here, is that their trial period is three months long.

The cool thing with Apple Music is that it provides purchase links to everything you hear, interfaces with Apple Pay (at least on your device) so buying something that you hear and really like is super easy… much easier I think than any other service offering available today.

UPDATE: Potential new pricing information has come to light from Neowin while I have been writing and researching this article. It is currently rumored that Apple is seriously considering a price drop on Apple Music in order to be more competitive with Amazon’s Prime Music. The new rumored price points are said to be:

  • Regular rate: $7.99 per month, down from $9.99
  • Family package: $12.99 per month, down from $14.99
  • Student rate: $4.99, remains unchanged

The decision looks like a tough one for Apple, it’s expected that if it does slash the price of its Apple Music, it will have to directly pay the difference to the record labels. Digital Music News claims that Amazon is already forking over money to the music labels to offer its own low prices on Amazon Music.

google-music-header

Google Music is much like Prime Music in that it offers a way for you to easily upload and stream all of the music you already own – up to 50,000 songs – as well as stream new music from their service. You get to stream all of YOUR music for free. With Google Play, you get a 30 day trial and after that, the service costs $10 bucks a month.

The cool thing about Google Music is that you get to stream your own music regardless of whether or not you subscribe. The software and service work on iOS, Android, and on macOS or Windows, via a web browser. You can download anything you hear, your music or the services, and listen to it either online or offline. The service has up to 35 million different tracks, too.

Unfortunately, Google Music doesn’t offer any kind of student or family plan. With Google Music, it’s one size fits all. So, you get everything for free for 30 days, and then its $10 bucks a month.

You know… I’ve been chewing on this article for about two months. I’ve talked to a lot of people about the whole streaming craze. Me…? I get it; but I don’t get it. Traditional radio is on the outs. Kids… millennials… don’t listen to it. I’m not certain why, but they’re not. Maybe it’s the mix… the music that’s being played. Maybe the kids don’t like being dependent on the DJ or the station and all of its advertising influenced playlists. Maybe they like having more control over the content that actually plays and streams; and when you subscribe you get ad free music – so no commercials or DJ’s stopping to promote this that or the other thing – and you get both curated playlists AND the ability to skip as many songs as you don’t like (depending on the service).

Here’re the issues that I have with all of this:

  1. You Gotta Pay for the Service
    Traditional radio is free. And while I get that while most smartphones can play FM broadcasts, they DON’T include an FM radio app. Most kids carry their smartphone. They don’t carry a portable radio these days, and without the ability to actually PLAY live, traditional radio, it’s clearly OUT of the picture.

    When I talked to my daughter, who is clearly a millennial, about all of this, she said the biggest reason why she subscribes to a streaming service is music discovery. She wants access to new music. The issue I have with this is that you have to pay to play; and at the end of the day, you don’t own any of it. However, you can play songs as often as you want or like. So if you want to find new music, and you want to play it where ever you are, whenever you want, its gonna cost you on the average, $10 bucks a month to find what you want and play it.

  2. You Gotta Pay for the Bandwidth
    I think this is perhaps the singular most problematic point in the whole streaming music model; and it’s the point that bothers me the most. Not only do you have to pay for the service, you have to pay for the service that gets you the bandwidth that allows you to play the music in the first place.

    This can cost you anywhere between an ADDITIONAL $10 to $50 a month per line on your account, which – at the end of the day – more than doubles the cost of your music subscription, especially if you go over your monthly bandwidth allotment.

    This over and above any and everything else is where the whole streaming model falls apart for me. I love music. I especially love listening to music while I drive to and from work. If I were to stream everything and if I had to stick to a specific bandwidth limit, I’d likely either run out of bandwidth or go over my limit and be subject to overage charges.

    This is the one thing that everyone forgets about when it comes to the streaming model: it uses cellular bandwidth, and bandwidth costs additional money.

  3. When you Leave, you Lose the Music
    You have to remember, you don’t own any of the music that you download. You can’t burn any of it to a CD. You can’t play any of it after your subscription expires or is cancelled. You only have access to any of the streaming catalog as long as you’re paying for your monthly subscription. Stop, and you no longer have the music in you.

Again, maybe I’m just an old fuddy duddy. Maybe I just don’t get it. Maybe I’m too old for music discovery and new artists. I don’t think I am, but there has to be another, perhaps better, easier, less expensive way to discover and play new music… Isn’t there? ISN’T THERE?!?

If there is a solution that I’d likely embrace, I don’t know what it is. Perhaps it’s in development now, or perhaps it’s still on the drawing board somewhere. In the meantime, I’ll rely on friends and family to turn me on to new music and new artists… and I’ll keep on playing the music I already own and I already enjoy.

What do you do for music discovery and for playing your favorites? Do you stream? Do you use traditional radio? Do you own a large music library and do you play locally or use a service to stream it like Google Play or iTunes Match? Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below, and give me your thoughts on the whole issue?

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Netflix Now Offers Offline Content

Streamers and video junkies rejoice..!

netflix_logoI’ve been a Netflix subscriber for years. I started off as a DVD subscriber and at one point had three to four DVD’s flowing in and out of my house a week. When the streaming biz started, we jumped on that too, as it was sometimes easier to stream than to wait for the DVD to arrive. Sometimes you had to wait weeks or months for one to get here, especially if it was a popular film. We’re streaming only now, as the DVD biz has gone the way of the do-do… and I got tired of paying for the service that regularly didn’t deliver what I was wanting to watch.

The streaming service is nice, as I can get all the kids watching on iPads as well as my wife and I and my daughter and son-in-law watching separate shows on separate TV’s at the same time. It works out very nicely for us.

One of the biggest asks of all Netflix streamers, though was offline viewing of content. Sometimes, an internet connection isn’t available, especially on a plane or on a long car trip, and a movie on an iPad is just the ticket to a little peace and quiet. Until now, that wasn’t possible. Now… it is.

Netflix recently added an option to its mobile apps that will download films AND TV shows in advance, allowing users to watch them without an active internet connection. Extended trips and plane rides will never be the same.

Unfortunately, not everything in the Netflix catalog is available for offline viewing.

Seen as one of the most desired subscriber features, offline viewing has long been the most popular subscriber request. Netflix has resisted it for years thinking that cell service would improve to the point where it wouldn’t be needed. Unfortunately, mobile internet STILL isn’t ubiquitous, and Netflix competitors began offering the service. That’s what ultimately drove the company to offer it to its customers. Well, that and expansion into other countries where cell and internet services are spotty at best.

You CAN view the following popular shows, among others, offline:

  • Stranger Things
  • Orange is the New Black
  • The Crown
  • House of Cards

The following shows and movies, among others, are NOT available offline:

  • Sherlock (BBC)
  • Disney’s’ Zootomic
  • The Little Price

However, more downloadable content is scheduled to be released, “soon.” Downloadable content is clearly marked with a downward facing arrow next to a show or movie’s title.

In order to view offline content, subscribers need to download the latest version of Netflix’s app. The app, available on iOS and Android devices.

Are you a Netflix subscriber? Have you downloaded the latest app update? Have you tried to download any offline content? What was the download experience like? What was the offline viewing experience like? Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area, below and give me your thoughts on this interesting development?

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The State of Consumer Computing

I have NO idea where the industry is going with this…

consumer_computingOk, kids. Sit back. I’ve been cooking up a rant on the direction that consumer/ prosumer computing has been going for a while; and given that the Holidays are here, it’s time to let this one loose. There’s some background that I feel is necessary (nearly) every time I shoot my mouth off, so bear with me a minute…

I’ve been writing in the tech sector for almost 20 years. I’m a tech pioneer, as I got started in mobile, and consumer computing back in 1990-blah-blah-blah when computing and mobility was in its infancy. During this time, I’ve always seen a clear steady progression… a firm march towards what I would call a confirmed and clear vision of mobility and portability that enabled prosumer and hobbyist level consumers to be productive. Honestly, I don’t see much of that any longer. To be blunt – I have no idea where the heck industry is headed at this point, and it really concerns me.

Windows
I used to be a huge Windows proponent. I cut my teeth at WUGNET – The Windows User’s Group NETwork where I was their Senior Content Editor for approximately 10 years. I wrote – literally – thousands of Windows based tips for Windows, IE, Office 95 – 2007, and Hardware. I had a column in the Computing Pro Forum at AOL/ CompuServe, which WUGNET managed, called, “The Weekly Byte,” covering anything and everything computing and/ or Windows based, for just over seven years. I’ve also been on every technical beta of Windows since Windows 95. Windows is a platform that I know very, VERY well.

Unfortunately, I have little to NO idea where Microsoft is headed at this point, and quite honestly – though it may seem a bit harsh – I’m not certain they do either. Again, to be blunt, Windows 10 is a train wreck; but I’ll get to that in short order.

I’ve made it very clear that I’m not happy with the way things are going with Windows. To say I’m disenchanted with the state of Windows could be considered an understatement. Couple that with the prices for the new and still available, but previous, version of Surface Book; and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

It’s no secret to anyone that Windows PC’s are about half the price (or less) of an Apple computer. Which really makes Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book prices really confusing. Both Signature PC’s – meaning that they are Windows PC’s without any junkware, crapware or adware installed by the PC manufacturer – are priced as premium devices. Microsoft Surface Book ranges in price from $1499 to $2999 before tax. Surface Pro 4 is a bit more “affordable,” but also gets rather pricey. Prices for it range from $899 to $2699 before tax.

I have no idea why Surface PC’s are so expensive. Microsoft’s hardware efforts don’t have the clout to command such premium prices. In fact the history of both the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book have been riddled with HUGE driver issues. Microsoft has had huge issues related to both power and battery drivers as well as graphics driver issues that have prevented the convertible PC’s from sleeping and hibernating correctly as well as contributing to “hot bag” syndrome, where the PC overheats in a backpack or notebook carrying case because the device never shuts off correctly, burning out the device at worse or severely draining and damaging the battery at best.

Don’t get me started about the whole disappearing ink thing. Over a year later, its still not resolved. That bug effects ALL Surface Pro products, including older Surface Pro devices AND Surface Book.

Microsoft has over the past couple of years since the start of the Windows Insider Program at the beginning of the Windows 10 beta period, said that it would be forcing ALL Windows users to Windows 10 once the operating system was officially released; and they’ve stuck to that, too. Microsoft has been downloading Windows 10 to users PCs whether they want it to be upgraded or not, without their permission. At that point, Windows doesn’t ask you if you want to upgrade, but TELLS you that it’s going to update your machine. In fact, many Windows 7-8.x users went to bed only to wake up to a PC that was upgraded to Windows 10 without their permission. These strong arm tactics had many Windows users breathing fire in Redmond’s general direction. Microsoft seems to have crossed a line with this one, and they aren’t sorry about it either.

And I REALLY have to go into Microsoft’s mobile strategy or the real lack thereof?

It’s clear that Microsoft DOESN’T care about whether or not I want to upgrade or not. They’re taking everyone there, kicking and screaming if they have to; and they don’t seem to care about the fallout, either.

I don’t get it. Microsoft seems to have done a “Steve Jobs” and decided what was best for everyone whether they want it or not. This new attitude combined with their Surface based driver issues has me wondering who’s steering the boat in Redmond; or if anyone is really steering at all.

Microsoft has seemingly gone from a compassionate business partner strong arming business software dictator. Where the heck did they get the system level permissions to upgrade my computer without my consent? My good friend, Woody Leonard of Microsoft Office fame has a decent article, published earlier this year that provides some good information on this.

Needless to say, this and a Microsoft’s confusing hardware strategy has a number of people, me included, wondering just where Microsoft is going with all of this. They’ve burned a lot of bridges with a lot of folks. Some have sworn off Windows and have considered other OS options like machos or Linux.

Speaking of which…

Apple
I got into Macs in 2006 after Apple made the switch to Intel processors. In fact, I bought my first Mac with the intent of it being a Windows machine. An Intel based Mac runs Windows VERY well. The drivers that Apple provides via Boot Camp are really solid. In my opinion, Macs provide one of the best native Windows computing experiences around.

In fact, it’s for THAT reason alone that most of the tech sector – meaning those paid professions (like me) that cover technology developments via mainstream tech print or online media, use Macs. They’re really the ONLY computer on the market that can natively (and legally) run BOTH major, consumer operating systems out of the box. In fact, they can also run just about any Linux distro you throw at it as well. Since Macs can really be the anything and everything computer, spending the extra money to purchase one of them as a notebook makes perfect sense and is completely cost justifiable. With a Mac, I can cover any and every platform. I can review nearly every OS available. I can review just about any and every accessory for any operating system, provided I have the right port and/ or cable or dongle available or within reach.

Macs have also historically been supported by firmware and OS compatibility by Apple for a minimum of five to seven years, making these historically, premium priced, prosumer targeted notebooks and desktops easy to use, easy to justify and easy to maintain… that is, until recently.

With the release of the iPad Pro and the release of the Late 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar I truly believe there are very few people outside of Cupertino that know where Apple is going with its computing strategy.

Many new Late 2016 MacBook Pro users have said that the form factor of the device is approaching that of the iPad Pro, with a keyboard. These same people have stated that the iPad Pro could be a MacBook Pro replacement… with the introduction of the proper software. Both devices seem to be hurtling towards each other’s users and towards each other’s form factors.

There are a number of reviews on the Late 2016 MacBook Pro that indicate that the device is more mainstream consumer oriented than a “professional” device. They have further said that the only thing that’s “pro” about the new MacBook Pro is its price. Its anywhere between $500 to $1500 more expensive than its immediate predecessor; and the only thing that it REALLY offers is a thinner form factor and a Touch Bar that many users are still on the fence about.

What remains adamantly unclear is where Apple is headed with their computing products. Apple recently got out of the wireless router business. Apple hasn’t updated the Mac mini since October of 2014; and hasn’t’ updated the iMac since October of 2015. While they’ve updated the iPhone and iPad regularly during the same timeframe, what IS clear is that their portable computing efforts seem to be edging closer and closer to their tablet based products and their tablet efforts seem to be edging closer and close to their portable computing based products.

But to WHAT end?

Back in the day, everyone clearly wanted not only better, faster, stronger, but lighter and more portable. With Apple’s MacBook and MacBook Pro lines of notebook computers, we achieved that some time ago. All that Apple seems to be doing is making the MacBook Pro and the iPad Pro more and more alike; and many are asking, “why?”

Unfortunately, no one from Cupertino is providing any kind of explanation; and I find myself trying to figure out a couple of things:
1. How in the world I’m going to afford a new MacBook Pro in 2-3 more years.
2. Is a Mac even the right platform to choose?

Both of these questions are equally important. I don’t want an iOS device to be my main computing device. The platform doesn’t offer enough software – or even the right software – for what I use a computer for. I don’t want all of my files pushed to the cloud, which is where iDevices really want all of your data to live – and to be very honest, iDevices don’t offer all of the peripherals and connectivity options I’m looking for. Connecting my Nikon D7100 to my iPad isn’t possible, for example; and likely won’t be. Yes, Apple has a dongle to connect an SD card to an iPad, but I really don’t want to have to remove it from the camera every time I want to transfer pictures from it to my “computer” for retouching and processing.

While I really don’t need more than 16GB of RAM on a computer at this point, my previous Mac purchase strategy was to buy the high end 15″ MacBook Pro with as big of an SSD as I could afford. In the past, that’s cost me approximately $3000; but it got me a Mac that has historically lasted more than 5 years, with the exception of my Early 2011 MacBook Pro, that is. My 2006 MacBook Pro lasted me until 2011.

Most folks who did what I did – bought big to ward off obsolescence – won’t necessarily be able to do that this time around. I bought the high end, Late 2013 MBP with the high end processor and 512GB SSD, and 16GB of RAM. Which at the time, was as big and as bad as you could get.

If I were to spend the same amount of money with the Late 2016 MacBook Pro, the only thing I really buy myself is a technology refresh, as I don’t see any value in the Touch Bar given my workflow. If I add the Radeon 460 graphics card – a $100 upgrade that doubles your graphics adapter RAM, a decent upgrade for the price – I’ve priced myself $600 above what I paid for my Late 2013 MacBook Pro (before tax), and as I said, all I’ve really gotten is a technology refresh. I’d hardly call that a compelling reason to buy a new computer, especially since, at this time, there’s nothing wrong with my Late 2013 MacBook Pro.

Upgrading storage from 512GB to 1TB is an additional $400, which seems reasonable, given storage gain; but that brings the price up to $3499, or an additional $1000 above what my Late 2013 MacBook Pro cost, and again, before tax. After tax, the cost is $3718, or $933 more than I paid previously. That’s a lot of money for additional storage and a small graphics adapter bump.

The cost increase here is a huge surprise to many, given that Apple has a history of keeping the new price for new equipment the same as the cost of last year’s model. Here, it seems that there’s a $500 bump for the new models even before you get to customizing the base model’s specs.

AND it’s a lot of money when I have no idea where Apple is headed with their consumer/ prosumer computing roadmap. Are they truly ignoring the professional market? Are they going to push all consumers towards iOS? I have no idea.

Conclusion
Dude… your guess is as good as mine.

I have no idea where the hell Microsoft is going with Windows 10, its somewhat hostile upgrade program (now, seemingly toned down a bit…) or the fact that Microsoft can’t even get the drivers for their OWN signature PC’s coded and debugged correctly.

Heck, have you run Windows through Boot Camp on a Mac? Apple did a dynamite job of providing Windows drivers for all of THEIR hardware. If Apple can do this well, why can’t the maker of the operating system provide drivers for THEIR branded machines? This really seems kinda stupid… Microsoft can’t get this right, but their major competitor – who really doesn’t want to continue to provide Boot Camp, by the way – can. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, that’s for sure.

While it seems like the best thing to do at this point is to just jump to over to a Mac, the cost of any of their current “Pro” level notebooks, unfortunately make it exceptionally cost prohibitive. Buying into the Apple ecosystem as a new user is just too damned expensive at this point. Staying here means I either have to settle for a notebook I don’t want, or my kids won’t be able to go to college…EVER.

Even if it weren’t cost prohibitive, I have no confidence that Apple will be able to support me with the type of hardware that I want and need for my computing needs. Their current computing offerings seem to be hurtling towards each other, destined to end up in some sort of crammed, hashed together mess that combines both iOS and macOS elements.

Hey, Tim..! Keep your chocolate OUT of my peanut butter! I don’t want a notebook that’s more iDevice than notebook. I want a portable, desktop replacement that runs a desktop class operating system. And I don’t want to have to pay $4000 for it, either.

So… I have no idea where both Microsoft – whose software runs in nearly every office of every business on the ENTIRE PLANET – or Apple are headed. One seems to be unable to write drivers even for their own equipment, and the other seems to hell bent on turning their conventional PC’s into tablets.

Both seem hell bent on pissing off all of their users though.

Am I the only one who thinks this? Chime in folks. I’d really appreciate you giving me your thoughts on this.

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Symantec to Acquire Identity Protection Service, LifeLock

The deal, worth $2.3B, is intended to create a more powerful AV tool

symantec_lifelock

2016 was a big antivirus year for me. I had two articles on how anyone could pick up malware. I followed it up here. Its true. Anyone can get a bug, so if you aren’t running a malware scanner or antivirus product, you really should be. Soft32.com has a number of GREAT antivirus products available. Some are free to try, or are completely free. Others, may cost you a subscription fee. Regardless of its payment structure, you need to run a virus scanner, whether you’re using a Mac, a Windows PC or a Linux machine.

Better safe than sorry…

And in that light, an interesting development occurred the other day. Antivirus maker Symantec is going to acquire identity protection service, LifeLock in a deal that’s currently valued at $2.3B dollars.

The deal, a combination of cash and $750M in new debt is scheduled to close in the first quarter of 2017. The merger of LifeLock and Symantec is anticipated to provide comprehensive online protection for consumers. They’ll have premier antivirus protection coupled with identity theft protection, according to Symantec’s CEO, Greg Clark.

Symantek is interested in moving away from just providing malware protection. They’re looking to go into the “digital safety,” an estimated $10B business. With personal information and data becoming an increasingly larger tarket, Symantec is “stepping up to defend [them] through innovation and vigilance.”

LifeLock shares rose 14% in the aftermath of the Symantec announcement, while Symantec shares were flat. LifeLock is best known for its former CEO K Davis sharing his social security number with the public. Since 2010, he had been a victim of identity theft at least 13 times. In 2010, the FTC said it reached a deal with LifeLock where the company would pay $12M to settle claims it used false advertising to push its identity protection services. Then, it reached another deal with the FTC to pay $100M for violating the terms of a 2010 court order to secure consumer’s personal information and stop deceptive advertising practices.

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Apple Releases iOS 10.2 Beta 3 to Developers

There’s some noticeable changes in the latest beta release…

ios 10.2Big changes, kids. That’s what can be seen coming in iOS 10.2. Especially, in the US. The most noticeable is that the Videos app has been removed. While you’ll still be able to watch video on your iDevice, you’ll need to use the TV app for that. The Video widget, introduced in iOS 10.1, has also been removed and replaced with the TV widget. In countries outside the US, both the Video app and Video widget are still available for use.

The new functionality – app and widget – includes an “up next” feature which allows you to keep track of shows and movies you’re watching. It saves your place or recommends new TV episodes and movies across multiple devices. In the Settings app, there’s also a new section for the TV app, allowing users to choose whether they use cellular data for playback; and to choose the streaming quality over both Wi-Fi and cellular connections. You also get to choose whether you purchase video in HD or SD from the iTunes Store.

Additional changes to iOS 10.2 Beta 3 include the following:

SOS – The SOS functionality that allowed users to call emergency services by pressing the power button several times on the iPhone has been removed. According to Apple’s release notes, SOS is currently only available in India.

Messages – There’s a new “Send With Love” Screen Effect option in Messages that sends a heart along with a text message.

iOS 10.2 Beta 3 was released on 2016-11-14; and is currently only available to developers. It’s likely a public beta will be available in the coming days. iOS 10.2 has been promised an early December launch, and several features – including single sign on (SSO) for the TV app – are expected during this time frame.

There are a lot of changes going on at Apple. Some of these I understand and agree with, others are leaving me a bit confused. The first was the introduction of the new MacBook Pros. Unfortunately, at this point, I’m not a huge fan. Pro users don’t want thinner and lighter, they want expansion options and ports. The only pro feature that the new MacBook Pro has is price. They’ve priced a LOT of MacBook Pro users out of the MacBook Pro with this particular hardware iteration. One can only hope that Apple will see the error of their ways and price the device DOWN a great deal with the next iteration. My guess is that they WON’T do this, as Apple very rarely, if ever makes products significantly cheaper so more people can re/afford them.

It sure is expensive enough.

The other issue I have is with the true definition of Pro and how it relates to the iPad and its software. The iPad Pro could – and likely would – resolve a lot of “Pro” use if IT had some of the software that productivity professionals were looking for. Creatives would likely embrace the iPad Pro as a still and video editing machine IF the device had the software that they needed. However, as of this writing, even THAT is nowhere to be found.

All we really have is a set of hardware options – the MacBook Pro and the iPad Pro – that seem to be coming closer and closer together without any REAL direction as to why, or where the grand game is going. I have no idea what future hardware direction I really should be going in.

When I compute in my home office, I know I am going to want an external monitor, will want to access local and network based storage; and will want desktop classed tools, peripherals (keyboard and mouse, etc.) to work with. So it seems that a Mac is really the way I want to go.

When I’m out and about, thinner and lighter is usually better; but I don’t want to sacrifice hardware capabilities for portability… and I certainly don’t want to carry dongles or extra or different cables.

With the MacBook Pro that I have, I SHOULD be able to last at least another three years at least, (which would place me at about the 2019/ 2020 date range; but I should have been able to do the same thing with my Early 2011 MacBook Pro, and it died two years ago due to that model’s well publicized system board defects.

So where does this leave me?

That, kids… is the $64,000 question. I have no idea.

It’s clear that if I wasn’t a tech journalist, I’d be stuck with some sort of budget based, Windows laptop. Buying a Mac without a clear way to justify the cost, especially the latest models, just means you have money and not much else. While Apple DOES want to maintain its exclusivity… its boutique standing, if you will… practicality usually sets in at some point. The thing that made the MacBook Pro so popular in the past five to seven years was the fact that while the hardware WAS expensive, it wasn’t out of reach, especially the high end models.

Now, with prices for high end machines approaching the price of a private sale on a decent, used car, many people are going to think a heck of a lot more than twice about purchasing a Mac laptop. In many cases, it just doesn’t make sense; which is problematic when you’ve made the switch from Windows to Mac and you’ve been there for 10 years.

If you’re like me and you’ve switched and your Mac is also your Windows machine (either via Parallels Desktop or VMWare), and you DO in fact buy a new Mac laptop, but can’t buy as big and as bad as before, you’re likely to run into performance issues. At that point, don’t worry. You may need to give up some hard drive/ SSD space and convert your VM to a Boot Camp partition, but you shouldn’t have issues running Windows on your Mac. You may not be able to run both OS’ at the same time, but you can still do it all.

It’s clear that there’s a lot going on at Apple. It’s also clear that both iOS and macOS are in a state of flux, and that the public doesn’t have a very clear roadmap to guide their hardware purchases. As such, you’re going to have to be very careful about what hardware you buy, if any. The last thing you want to do is buy too much, or too little.

Apple certainly isn’t making this any easier on anyone really interested in their hardware.

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Use Android Auto without the Radio

If you’re an Android you can now use Android Auto directly from your Phone

I remember back when I was using a Nexus One and reviewed for Just Another Mobile Monday. Unfortunately, the site and the review have been taken down. However, you can see info about the review in the link, above. The point is that back in the day, Android Car mode allowed you, often with a special dock, to access an automobile UI for Android. This was really the precedent to Android Auto. In the years since, that mode has largely been written OUT of the core OS.

Thankfully now, however, with the inclusion of a special app, you can get access to “car mode” again.

Android Auto is now available as a special app for your compatible Android phone. This allows you to access all the features of Android Auto without having a special, compatible touch screen radio in your vehicle. You simply access the functionality right on your phone. The function is similar to Android Wear. This is based on the idea of showing the user what they want to see, before they’ve actually asked for it.

The app includes most, if not all of the features of Android Auto. You can use navigation, listen to audio, make calls, etc. Voice interaction is key, so make sure you have that enabled, as interacting with a touch screen while driving isn’t always legal in all areas of the country.

The Android Auto app is available now, and requires Android 5.0 Lollipop or greater.

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