Microsoft Releases the Surface Laptop and Windows 10 S

You can file this under the WTF of the Day category…

You can definitely file this one under the WTF category. Sometimes you really have to wonder what the heck a company like Microsoft is doing. I mean, I am totally out in deep, roving, left, right field with this one, knee deep in Lake Winnapasocki… if that doesn’t make sense to you, don’t worry. You’re in good company. Like the last part of that statement, the whole decision by Microsoft to release the Surface Laptop and Windows 10 S doesn’t make a lot of sense either.

Let me break this down for you. It’s really a very simple thing, despite what you might think.

Windows 10 S
Windows 10 S is Windows 10. It runs on an Intel Core i processor and does everything that Windows 10 Home can do (because it mostly is Windows 10 Home…). The big difference here is that Windows 10 S only runs apps out of the Windows Store. Period.

According to Microsoft, the S in Windows 10 S doesn’t stand for Store. It stands for “security, simplicity and superior performance.” Terry Myerson, the head of Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group said that the “S” stands for Soul, or the Soul of Microsoft’s future – a secure Windows platform that will provide users with malware free apps from them as well as third parties at a variety of price points.

In short, Windows 10 S runs apps from the Windows Store. It will also run Win32 apps that are wrapped using Microsoft’s Desktop Bridge, codenamed “Centennial.”

In short, this is Windows RT for Intel Core i processors.

While Microsoft thinks that restricting Windows 10 S to running only apps that come from the Windows Store, because doing so will provide a more reliable, secure and manageable computing experience, there are a couple of key flaws to this:

  1. There Aren’t Enough Apps in the Windows Store
    This has been an issue for Microsoft since the introduction of the Windows Store in October of 2012. As of November of 2014, there were over 500,000 apps in the Store. By September of 2015, that number had increased to approximately 670,000. As of March 2016, that number should have come close to 850,000. By the time of this Writing (May of 2017) that number should be somewhere around 925,000.In contrast, the Mac App Store should have somewhere around 2,2000,000 (two million, two hundred thousand) or approximately 58% more than the Windows Store. You can find this interesting bit of information here.
  2. There are a Number of Different ways to Obtain Windows Software
    Microsoft is trying to change over 35 years of a proven software publishing business model encouraged and supported by the ASP (the Association of Shareware) and software developers all over the world. THAT is going to be an uphill battle. Most software developers and publishers have resisted the Windows Store because, well… they don’t HAVE to use it. They don’t have to subject themselves to the restrictions that Microsoft places on software that’s sold and delivered through it. They have a number of different alternatives and; it’s clear since the introduction of the Windows Store with the Release of Windows 8 and Windows RT, they’d rather NOT subject themselves to those restrictions.
  3. Windows RT was Discontinued
    Microsoft tried this method of software delivery with Windows RT, a version of Windows that ran on ARM. Windows RT failed miserably and was discontinued. Microsoft was really the ONLY software publisher or vendor of note to provide software through the Store under Windows RT; and at the time, that did NOT include MS Office. What makes Microsoft think the concept of restricting users to running software from the Windows Store on an Intel Core i processor is any better of an idea?

Now let us consider the hardware that was intended to run this “new” operating system – the Surface Laptop.

Surface Laptop
The Surface Laptop is light and thin. It has a long lasting, 14.5 hour battery and uses most of the same accessories as its other Surface family PC’s – including the Surface Pen, Surface Dock, and Surface Dial. It also has a keyboard, covered of cloth or fabric, if you will, like other keyboards from Apple.

The base model comes in four different colors – Burgundy, Cobalt Blue, Graphite Gold and Platinum. Its display is a 13.5 inch PixelSense screen made of Gorilla Glass. It has a touch display that has a 2259×1504 resolution, insuring that long exposure to it won’t strain your eyes. Its touch pad supports multi-touch. The keyboard has 1.5mm of travel, and is supposed to be more responsive and more comfortable than the keyboard on Microsoft’s Surface Book, though I have yet to actually put my hands on the device.

The device’s feature set is rounded out with a mini DisplayPort, a USB 3.0 port, a Surface Connect jack for charging and Surface Dock connection, as well as 802.11ac wireless and Bluetooth 4.0. The device does not have a USB-C port or Thunderbolt 3 port.

The base configuration of the device which includes an Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD starts at $999. The high end Surface Laptop comes with an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and 512GB SSD and is priced at $2199. High end Surface Laptops only come in Platinum. If you wish to have a gold, cobalt or burgundy colored SL, then you’re going to be limited to a Core i5 with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.

Microsoft is targeting the Surface Laptop at the education market and most specifically, they are marketing the product as a Chromebook competitor.

However, they aren’t going to do that well pricing the device at its current price points. To be very honest, the Surface Laptop is a premium priced product. Chromebooks, most of which are priced between $199 and $399, are minimalist based PCs. They have only just enough processor, RAM and storage needed to push and store a few documents and run the web apps needed to edit them. That’s the point of a Chromebook. They run web apps or those apps that are available in the Chrome Store and that’s all. They don’t run any other kind of app and aren’t meant to.

With Windows 10 S, Microsoft is trying to do the same thing with the Surface Laptop. However, it’s difficult to imagine that Microsoft would price that solution starting at $1000 USD. At that price, education accounts likely won’t touch them, even at a bulk discount.

There’s a great deal here to be concerned about.

The whole model is a bit problematic. Microsoft is targeting the education market where Chromebooks are used by students and teachers, along with G-Suite (formerly Google Docs), to get school work done. G-Suite is free for individuals, and Chromebooks are dirt cheap. The way that the Surface Laptop is priced, it’s really priced more in line with Apple’s MacBook or MacBook Air – a premium product.

The problem here is that Apple’s products are premium products with premium prices in a business model. Most of their apps are found in the Mac App Store; but Apple also gives you a way to side load the apps via the traditional method… the same method that Microsoft is now adopting with Windows 10 S and the Surface Laptop.

Actually there are a number of problems here:

  1. The device starts at $1000 when their direct competition is priced 80% less to start.
  2. Apple’s software delivery model – the Mac App Store – contains roughly 60% more titles than the Windows Store, and it’s much more successful. Its accepted and it works. Microsoft’s isn’t proven and isn’t well populated
  3. Microsoft’s target audience, educators and students likely don’t have the means to get into a Surface Laptop and won’t choose one over even a high end Chrome book, simply based on price.
  4. Part of what makes the Surface Laptop desirable are the four cool colors that the device comes in. Unfortunately, they’re only available in the i5, 8GB, 256GB model. All other models only come in Platinum.

Everything that I’ve seen and read so far about Windows 10 S and the Surface Laptop doesn’t lend a lot to its success. I really don’t think either of them are going to do well. I think the Surface Laptop won’t sell as well as either Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book. While users can upgrade Windows 10 S to Windows Pro for $50, according to Microsoft, I don’t think many users are going to seek Windows 10 S out. The last thing I’m going to want to do is pay an additional $50 to upgrade the “cloud” version of Windows.

I actually think that the whole Windows 10 S and Surface Laptop effort are doomed from the start.

What do you think? Is the Surface Laptop something you’re interested in? Will you pay $1000 or more for it? Do you think that Windows 10 S and the Windows Store are something that is going to work out? Let me know what you think in the Discussion area below.

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Windows Essentials are Dead

Formerly called Windows Live Essentials, this great group of MS created and maintained apps died on 2017-01-10.

Introduction
Back in the day, Microsoft put out some decent add-on software. This add-on software took on a life of its own and was given an “Essentials” brand as these add-on apps were considered an “essential” part of the Windows Live experience. And while they were supported, life on the Windows side of the fence was pretty, darn-tootin’ good.

Microsoft eventually divided their essentials into two different parts – Live Essentials and Security Essentials. Eventually, both Live Essentials and Security Essentials provided users with important functionality enhancements for applications that were missing in Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. Windows Essentials did not run in Windows 8. So, there was motivation to either stay on Windows 7 or move to Windows 8.1, IF you wanted to keep Windows Essentials running.

Unfortunately, Microsoft killed these applications as of 2017-01-10, meaning that new installations of Windows Live Essentials are no longer possible. Windows Security Essentials never ran on Windows 10 (as it was replaced by Windows Defender). Here is the official statement from Microsoft:

As of January 10, 2017, Windows Essentials 2012 is no longer supported on Windows 10, and is unavailable for download. Windows Essentials 2012 included Windows Movie Maker, Windows Photo Gallery, Windows Live Writer, Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Family Safety and the OneDrive desktop app for Windows.

Windows Essentials included the following applications

  • Photo Gallery
  • Movie Maker
  • Mail
  • Windows Messenger
  • Windows Live Writer
  • OneDrive – Formerly both Windows Live Mesh and SkyDrive
  • Family Safety – Windows 7 only

Windows Security Essentials morphed into what is now Windows Defender; but was, at its zenith, one of the best free anti-malware programs available for Windows; and in truth, though part of the Windows Essentials family of apps, it was a completely separate deal. Security Essentials has taken a back seat to Windows Defender in Windows 8.x and Windows 10; but it’s still available for Windows Vista (even though Microsoft discontinued support for it) and Windows 7. Its last update was 2016-11-29.

Microsoft Movie Maker
Unfortunately, Microsoft has no replacement for Windows Movie Maker. If you have installed, good on you. You’re a big step ahead of the rest of the Windows crowd who need an app like Movie Maker, but can no longer get one from Microsoft, and certainly can’t get something of that high quality, for free. (If someone does know of something that is on the same level or better than Microsoft Movie Maker and runs for free without having to ever pay or buy a registration code for it, I’d love to hear from you in the discussion area, below.)

Microsoft OneDrive
Microsoft OneDrive is perhaps the most successful Windows Live Essential app out there. It’s got what I would consider to be the best post Essentials success. Microsoft OneDrive is now part of Office 365 or you can get a OneDrive storage plan on its own, if you wish. Microsoft OneDrive offers 5GB of online storage to anyone who signs up for OneDrive, for free.
When you sign up for Office 365, you get 1TB (terabyte) of space, which should be more than enough space to store just about anything and everything you would want to store, including your photo and home video library.

If you don’t want need Office 365, you can get 50GB of storage for $1.99 USD per month, which should get you started and will store a decent amount of data for you. By comparison, Apple’s iCloud storage prices are a bit better. Apple offers 50GB of iCloud storage for $0.99 (99 cents) USD per month, or half of the cost of OneDrive’s exact same offer.

The bulk of the remaining apps – those I’ve noted above, with some exceptions that I’m going to dive into – made an appearance as what is now being called a UWP (Universal Windows Platform) app. Photo Gallery and Mail are all available as native apps under Windows 10. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a Microsoft replacement for Windows Live Movie Maker.

Windows Messenger was discontinued in favor of Skype, after it was purchased by Microsoft, and while there’s still a way to communicate via IM, it’s not with the client that was originally part of Live Essentials. So… Enter Skype, exit Messenger.

Windows Photo Gallery
I don’t have a lot to say here. Though I am a HUGE photography nut, I was never really into Windows based photo apps or solutions. To be honest, photography is literally 25% of why I got into Macs in the first place. Others may have more to say on Windows Photo Gallery or Windows Photos. If you do, please use the comments area below and give me your thoughts on either of these applets.

Windows Photo Gallery was replaced with Windows Photos, and it’s now a UWP (Universal Windows Platform) app. You’ll have most, if not all, of the same functionality in Photos as you did in Photo Gallery, and as you can see from the screen shot, above, it’s a huge improvement and very user friendly.

Windows Mail

Outlook Express first made an appearance as part of Internet Explorer with the release of IE 3.0. Its last formal, big release was with the release of IE 6.0 and Windows XP in 2001. IE 7 initially included a beta release of Outlook Express 7, but it was eventually replaced with Windows Mail and Windows Live Mail. There were other shareware email clients available at the time when Microsoft released Vista and IE 7.0, but these really weren’t the same; and honestly, most of them required some kind of registration fee to be paid in order to keep using them.

Again, Outlook Express was good. It did basic IMAP and POP3 mail, and when Microsoft discontinued it, it was a huge problem Outlook Express was tied to Internet Explorer, and since Microsoft tied IE to the kernel of the OS, every time IE or Windows changed, so did OE; and when it was discontinued, it wasn’t like you could upgrade the OS and NOT upgrade IE. So unfortunately, when IE killed OE, you couldn’t keep one and upgrade the other… which totally sucked.

So, Windows Live Mail was a response to the absence of Outlook Express. It worked OK, but the Windows Mail in Windows 8 was nothing more than a Metro app (what would eventually become a UWP app) and it used a tablet metaphor for its UI, and honestly, it kinda sucked. Remember, Windows Live Essentials didn’t run under Windows 8, they ran under Windows 7., 8.1, and Windows 10.

There’s only one Live Essentials app left to cover, and that’s Windows Live Writer. Come back next time, as I plan to dive into it, pretty deeply.

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Give the Governor, hu-rumph!

I bumped into something that I want to add my own $0.02 (two cents) to…

Not many folks around today will recognize the title of this article. It’s a line from the 1974 (now classic) comedy, Blazing Saddles; and I’m crying right now with laughter, going over the scene in my head…

Anyway, I often use the line when I’m looking for people to blindly agree with me (the underlying context of the quote…) and I also often use it when I agree with something that others have said. I bumped into something that a former coworker said today while reading some email and browsing the internet and I wanted to post it here to show my agreement, but I also wanted to add my own two cents to the subject.

Paul Thurrott’s Short Takes are a throwback to his WUGNET days. Paul put out a newsletter every Friday where he humorously recapped the tech happenings of the week. He continued that after he started his Supersite for Windows and continues it still on Thurrott.com today.

Anyway, in his Short Takes for Friday 2017-04-01, Paul had the following to say regarding the rollout of the Windows 10 Creator’s Update,

Microsoft: Windows 10 Creators Update will roll out over “several months”

After a wide-ranging series of reliability and quality issues scuttled Microsoft’s plans to deploy last summer’s Windows 10 Anniversary Update within a few months, the software giant has reset its expectations for the Creators Update, which will begin rolling out in April. This time, Microsoft says, the upgrade process will occur “over a period of several months,” but on purpose, so that users will have a more “seamless” (read: error-free) experience. You might argue that this is the right approach. But I think this exposes the soft underbelly of Microsoft’s “Windows as a service” (WaaS) plans, which is that this legacy software is too big, complex, and rooted in the 1990s to work well as a service. And that what really needs to happen is a more aggressive removal of legacy technologies from the platform until WaaS can actually make sense. And yes, I’m looking at you, Win32. It’s time to make some tough decisions.

The issue that I wanted to touch on was the WaaS comment.

Windows as a Service has been a question on the lips of the world since Office 365 was introduced a few years ago. Office works as a service because the code base is finite. The components are well known and controlled. There aren’t different extensions for Office and different driver sets, needed to make it run on different processors or chipsets. It needs Windows in order to do this. Office is a much simpler “platform,” if you will, to convert to a service from a standalone product.

Windows itself is a different story entirely.

Paul is right indicating that it’s got a great deal of gunk to get rid of, before it can become a service platform. Windows has a great deal of 32bit code that needs to be ripped out of the OS, before it will be on a common enough codebase where it can be common enough and easily maintainable enough. The biggest problem is all of the different hardware combinations, requiring all of the different drivers that exist for those combinations.

Keeping all that straight and all that together from a service perspective, is going to be one hell of a job. In fact, there are products out there now that try to monitor the drivers you have on your computer and notify you when they get updated. They don’t work very well; and they’re somewhat expensive.

Windows biggest problems have always been its drivers. There are so many different devices, accessories and tools that require a driver in order to connect and work with your computer. Many of them, unfortunately, are enterprise level devices – those that are used for work – and are unfortunately tied to a 32bit driver base that needs to be retired and ripped out of the “current” version of Windows. When that happens, all those legacy devices will become unsupported.

Note – many already are. This is not a new problem. Every time a version of Windows is retired and becomes unsupported, some kind of corporate, mission critical, medical device, manufacturing sensor or label printer becomes unusable.

Dealing with this issue – driver obsolescence – is the core problem that Win32 has. Finding a way of dealing with this and with the corporate mission critical device issue is going to be what saves the whole concept of WaaS – Windows as a service – from what will likely be a very difficult start. Unfortunately, it’s going to be the enterprise market that really makes or breaks WaaS. The consumer market, while likely “easier” than the enterprise market, still has the Win32 and driver management issues to get past.

Are you interested in WaaS as either a consumer or enterprise customer? What is it about WaaS that attracts you? How big of an issue are outdated drivers and driver updates to you? Do you think that Microsoft can completely strip Win32 legacy code out of Windows to make it easier to manage and better performing in time enough for WaaS to be relevant? Is there, in fact, a time limit on this..?

I’d love to hear from you. Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area below and give me your thoughts on WaaS, 3rd party driver update apps and services, as well as Win32 legacy code and mission critical peripherals at your place of work?

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New Apple Operating System Updates Released

Apple released new versions of macOS, iOS, watchOS and tvOS on 2017-03-27.

Apple released updates to three of its operating systems on Monday 2017-03-27. Apple released macOS 10.12.4, iOS 10.3, watchOS 3.2 and tvOS 10.2. Each OS brings something new to the game.

macOS 10.12.4
This new OS version brings a great deal of new stuff. Aside from the “improved stability, compatibility and security stuff, you also get the following:

  • Night Shift, which shifts the color pallet on your monitor to the warmer send of the spectrum after sunset in an effort to reduce blue light emissions, which tend to have an effect on the ability to fall asleep and sleep quality
  • Siri support for cricket scores and stats for Indian Premier league and International Cricket Council leagues
  • Resolution of several PDF rendering and annotation issues in Preview
  • Improvement of visibility of the subject line when using Conversation View in Mail
  • Fixes for an issue that may prevent content from appearing in Mail messages
  • Other minor enhancements and fixes

Night Shift is the big thing here. This is SUPPOSED to be easier on the eyes and is supposed to make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep if you compute later in the day, into the evening. The pallet on your monitor will actually warm (whites will appear more yellow…). This option is available via the Settings app, under Displays.

iOS 10.3
The latest version of iOS brings a number of new features to the iPhone. The most notable and most important is APFS or Apple File System. HSF+ is dead. Apple is converting all of its operating systems to support the new file system, starting first with its smaller devices before moving on to the desktop.

APFS is said to provide up to an additional 7.8GB of available space on 128GB to 256GB iPhones. Part of the upgrade to iOS 10.3 will convert all of your storage to support APFS, and as a result, depending on the amount and type of content you have on your device, this conversion may take a while. If the upgrade looks like its bombed out and stalled, don’t do anything. Leave your device alone. Let the conversion take its course and finish. Even though the device might not look like its doing anything, leave it alone as its likely converting your storage and copying content back to the volume.

iOS 10.3 also includes the following updates

Find My iPhone

  • View the current or last known location of your AirPods
  • Play a sound on one or both AirPods to help you find them

Siri

  • Support for paying and checking status of bills with payment apps
  • Support for scheduling with ride booking apps
  • Support for checking car fuel level, lock status, turning on lights and activating horn with automaker apps
  • Cricket sports scores and statistics for Indian Premier League and International Cricket Council

CarPlay

  • Shortcuts in the status bar for easy access to last used apps
  • Apple Music Now Playing screen gives access to Up Next and the currently playing song’s album
  • Daily curated playlists and new music categories in Apple Music

Other improvements and fixes

  • Rent once and watch your iTunes movies across your devices. This coincides with the iTunes 12.6 update that was released a week or so ago
  • New Settings unified view for your Apple ID account information, settings and devices
  • Hourly weather in Maps using 3D Touch on the displayed current temperature
  • Support for searching “parked car” in Maps
  • Calendar adds the ability to delete an unwanted invite and report it as junk
  • Home app support to trigger scenes using accessories with switches and buttons
  • Home app support for accessory battery level status
  • Podcasts support for 3D Touch and Today widget to access recently updated shows
  • Podcast shows or episodes are shareable to Messages with full playback support
  • Fixes an issue that could prevent Maps from displaying your current location after resetting Location & Privacy
  • VoiceOver stability improvements for Phone, Safari and Mail

watchOS 3.2
watchOS 3.2 requires that your Apple Watch be connected to your iPhone. You can only update an Apple Watch that’s paired with an iPhone and is actually connected at the time that you wish to download the new OS. Your watch will also need to be connected to its charging cable with at least 50% charge.

There are a couple cool items of note here and not much else. watchOS 3.2 now supports SiriKit, which expands the voice commands for Apple’s Siri digital assistant. Siri now supports commands from 3rd party apps, letting users, for example, send a message or hail a ride sharing service.

watchOS 3.2 also includes Theatre Mode which silences all sounds and raise to wake, preventing your Apple Watch from becoming an audience distraction during a movie or play.

tvOS 10.2
The changes to tvOS are a little more demure than changes from other Apple OS’. In tvOS 10.2. Apple has accelerated in app scrolling, has enhanced support for the Device Enrollment Program and has provided for better mobile device management. It also offers an enhanced development tool in VideoToolbox, which is a framework for allowing apps to take advantage of hardware accelerated encoding and decoding.

Owners of a fourth generation AppleTV can get the update by opening Settings on their AppleTV and then selecting System, Software Updates, and then Update Software.

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Windows 10 Creator Update Release Date Announced

The Windows 10 Creator’s Update will be released on 2017-04-11.

Today is the world is abuzz with the news that Microsoft will be releasing its much touted Windows 10 Creator’s Update on 2017-04-11. This update will work with all Windows 10 Anniversary Update compatible PC’s and is specifically intended for Microsoft’s larger, touch screen enabled, all in one PC, the Microsoft Surface Studio.

Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for the Windows and devices group calls the Creator’s Update a “pretty major” one. He further states that its “[Microsoft’s] vision is to empower the creator in all of us.”

When I jumped back into the Surface, with the Surface Book, I also jumped back into the Windows 10 Insider program on the Slow Ring. This means that the code that I’m getting is still prerelease code – still a beta – but is much more stable than other betas in other rings in the program. I’m liking what I’m seeing; but so far, for me, the Creator’s Update isn’t as big as Microsoft is making it out to be. I haven’t seen anything THAT major…yet.

However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot going on. Here are seven of probably the biggest and most notable items in the Creator’s Update that you’ll notice, even if you DON’T pick up a Surface Studio – which, by the way, starts at $2999.99.

  • Paint 3D
    Paint has been around since Windows 3.x. Its seen a few updates in terms of UI/UX; but its functionality has remained pretty constant – provide some basic way for a user to create a bitmap. The app now supports creating graphics in 2D or 3D formats. If you have a 3D printer, you can print your 3D creation as well…
  • Photos & Maps
    If you’re so inclined, you can now take your Surface Pen – or other supported stylus – and mark up graphics or maps in their respective apps. It’s not ground breaking, but it can be fun.
  • Microsoft EDGE
    Despite Microsoft’s best efforts, users still do NOT prefer either IE or EDGE. Most Windows users are using Chrome before either MS browser. However, EDGE is now faster, more secure and easier on your battery, and that last, ESPECIALLY over Chrome, which is a known battery hog. Microsoft claims an hour more use while watching streaming video using EDGE vs. Chrome.

Updates to EDGE include the following:

  1. The ability to preview visual thumbnails of your open tabs by hovering over a given tab.
  2. The ability to set aside open tabs to reference later, bringing them back by selecting a “restore tabs” button.
  3. EDGE now offers a variety of extensions including a Pinterest Pin It Button, Amazon Assistant (surfacing deals), and a Translator extension that lets you translate Web pages in more than 50 languages. EDGE also has an MS Office extension, letting you view and edit files without having Office installed on your computer.
  4. Microsoft has created an eBook Store as part of the Windows Store, where users may buy eBooks and read them in EDGE. Microsoft isn’t sharing how many books will be available in the Windows Store at launch.
  • Security
    The Creator’s Update includes a new Windows Defender Security Center. With it, you can examine the overall security status of your system. By clicking on a Health Report , you can your computer’s most recent scan results. The details of this system are still coming together, so I would expect updates to this new component to be available in a Patch Tuesday deployment near you.
  • Gaming
    Windows 10 now has a dedicated Gaming section in Settings now, and includes a Game Mode that is turned on by default. Game Mode prioritizes system resources when your gaming to insure that you get the best gaming experience from your hardware. This includes optimizations to the new game streaming process that Microsoft acquired last August from Beam. I know my oldest boy will be thankful for this when he streams games from our Xbox One. You will also be able to play games via the Xbox app on either your Xbox One or Windows 10 PC in the near future.
  • Color Adjusted Night-Time Display
    A number of different folks have issues with blue-based light in the evening. Studies have shown that exposing yourself to too much blue light before you go to bed can create sleep related issues. In other words, computing before bed makes it hard to fall asleep.A new feature in the Creator’s Update allows you to alter the color pallet on your display automatically so that you get warmer colors in the evening. The warmer colors on your monitor are supposed to help you sleep (or not be kept awake too long after calling it quits for the night). All I’ve noticed so far is that it can make everything on your monitor appear a little yellowy. I have no idea if this is going to make a difference in the long run, though you can use this as well as a new feature to limit the amount of time your kids spend on the PC as well as on the Xbox One’s version of the Creator’s Update.
  • Augmented and Mixed Reality
    Put this more in the coming soon category, but the Creators Update will support the first Windows Mixed Reality-enabled headsets when they arrive later this year from Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP and Lenovo, at a starting price of $299.Microsoft says that the headsets will have built in sensors, that will enable you to walk around a room without the need for any external markers or sensors. This will more easily mark your boundaries . Unfortunately, it’s not clear if this is also going to come to any consumer version of the HoloLens or not. However, these enhancements are eagerly anticipated by many; and should be fun to try when they’re available.

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Another One Bites the Dust

CyanogenMod is Dead. Ok… so… NOW what?!

This is a real head shaker; AND a huge mess. As with so many small companies and/ or startups, what was once meant to concur the world, has ended in a flaming mess. It’s a common enough story, but one that bears a bit of telling, in that many – including myself – will find interesting.

It was announced a couple of days ago that CyanogenMod would shut down. By shutting down it’s not that the OS is going go back into a state of community driven development (at least not exactly), no. The entire company that came out of CyanogenMod is shutting its doors, its development, its services, etc.

The company is gone. Unfortunately, surprises like this often happen with internet properties. Unfortunately, you just never really know what’s going to happen. Sometimes, change comes suddenly and can be very jarring.

In 2015, the CEO of Cyanogen, Kit McMaster said they were going to kill Google. Two years later, they’re shutting everything down. It’s a common enough tale. Apparently, the company has burned through over $100M in venture capital and has burned down a number of bridges. The one real win the company got – their partnership with One Plus One, failed horribly.

In July of 2016, the company’s CTO and cofounder, Steve Kondik claimed that the company wasn’t going anywhere (meaning they were staying the course) and they haven’t put aside their intent to bring CyanogenMod to the world.

As often happens with organizations like this, the company lacked a single, centralized vision. There were serious conflicts between founders and senior management some of them got so “violent” between Kondik and McMaster (the CTO and the CEO, respectively) that McMaster swore to burn Cyanogen to the ground.

Which is exactly what happened.

Kondik’s power was reduced by October 2016 and Cyanogen announced it was switching from an Android fork – its original strategy – to an open sourced, modular OS. This would enable interested hardware manufacturers to put some, part or all of Cyanogen into stock or a home brew version of Android.

CyanogenMod, however, is dead. The company will shut down its nightly builds, its services as well as every other part of its OS on 2016-12-31. The dream, if you will, the brand, is dead. McMaster may have “won,” but Kondik is going to have the last laugh.

The OS will be forked. According to Kondik, as stated on the CyanogenMod Google+ list, the list’s moderators indicated that the OS would indeed be forked and continued,
“However, CM has always been more than the name and more than the infrastructure. CM has been a success based on the spirit, ingenuity and effort of its individual contributors – back when it was Kondik in his home, to the now thousands of contributors past and present.

Embracing that spirit, we the community of developers, designers, device maintainers and translators have taken the steps necessary to produce a fork of the CM source code and pending patches. This is more than just a ‘rebrand’. This fork will return to the grassroots community effort that used to define CM while maintaining the professional quality and reliability you have come to expect more recently.”

The reincarnation of CyanogenMod is going to be called LineageOS, and its believed that Kondik is leading the effort. The project, however, is still getting off the ground. Time will tell if the effort will be successful; and its likely to remain in this “stealth mode” for a while.

LineageOS is going to be built on parts of CyanogenMod 13 and 14. However, it’s not known when it may actually hit the streets. It’s also believed that Kondik is heading up the new effort. While they can’t actually assume any Cyanogen IP or intellectual property, they can build upon the idea of an Android OS that’s small, fast, easy to use. That’s the hope for LineageOS, if and when it is released.

Unfortunately, not much more is known. However, the LineageOS site – if you really want to call it that – promises more information will be released on Tuesday 2016-12-27. If you click on the Status link, you will see that some work, is indeed taking place.

LineageOS plans on putting in the following infrastructure:

  • Jenkins for builds
  • A Portal for downloads
  • A set of download mirrors
  • Gerrit Code Review for development
  • Jira for defects and requirements management
  • A statistics page
  • A wiki for knowledge management

Jenkins is already up to some extent, but is listed with a partial outage. Gerrit Code Review is up, but is listed with performance issues. Everything else is currently down. The incident log indicates that LineageOS will be monitoring Gerrit over the next few days.

No other information is currently available.

It’s clear that everything is still in its infancy at LineageOS. It’s going to take a bit to get things going, so if you’re interested in seeing this on your Android device, you’re going to need to wait a bit. You’re also likely going to need to pre-root your Android device. You’re likely going to need to do a bit of work prior to LineageOS and its first public build are released.

How the OS will be structured and what features it will have, have yet to be revealed. However, if everything happens the way I think and hope that it will, Android users will be in for a treat. LineageOS is likely to pick up where the original CyanogenMod left off before it became a “big deal” and got ahead of itself.

Are you an Android user? Have you rooted your device and do you use a custom ROM? Did CyanogenMod interest you? Have you tried it before? Is LineageOS something that you’re interested in? Will you install it on your device – given that its supported – once its released? Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and give me your take on Cyanogen’s situation as well as what’s become of it and on LineageOS and its direction. I’d love to hear from you…

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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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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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