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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Apple Seeds 5th Beta macOS Sierra 10.12.1

Developers and public beta testers got new bits to play with…

macOS Sierra is one of the biggest updates to Apple’s desktop operating system, likely since the implementation of OS X. Or at least, it will be once the (big) bugs are gone and the new Apple File System gets implemented.

macos sierra

On 2016-10-19, Apple seeded the fifth beta of macOS Sierra 10.12.11 to both developers and public beta testers. Developers can get it from the Apple Developer Center and both developers and public testers can get the bits through the Software Update mechanism in the Mac App Store.

Version 10.12.1 is a bug fix release that smooths out performance hiccups and addresses other issues that have been reported since the operating systems initial release just a short time ago. The release doesn’t provide much in the “new features” department, however. Though support for Apple’s iPhone 7/ 7 Plus’ Portrait Mode, being introduced with iOS 10.1, is included in the desktop OS’ Photos app.

Other than that, I wouldn’t expect too much more.

Apple recently announced a new media event scheduled to take place on 2016-10-27 where it is expected it will introduce a number of new Macs and MacBook Pros to the market. That’s just eight (8) days away from the time of this writing. I would expect both iOS 10.1 and macOS 10.12.1 to be released to the public by that time. It makes sense to have the new OS version hit the streets the same day as the new computers that will run it. So if you’re a Mac, get ready for a new computer, or at least get ready for the upgrade dance again.

I haven’t upgraded my top of the line, 15″ Late 2013 MacBook Pro to macOS Sierra just yet. I’ve got too many mission critical apps on it that I’m afraid won’t function correctly without major upgrades from their developers. I’m also waiting for a number of the bigger issues to shake out, so I don’t have to deal with them. This is usually when the 10.X.1 release is made available, and most will agree that this is the best time to upgrade, especially if you’re on the early adopter schedule, like me. (Though, to be very honest, jumping on at the X.Y.1 release really ISN’T early adoption…)

Are you a Mac? Have you upgraded to macOS Sierra 10.12 yet? Are you running the 10.12.1 beta? What do you think of the software? Why don’t you join me in the Discussion area below and give me your thoughts?

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Apple Releases macOS Sierra

OSX 10.12 hits the streets with a multitude of new features

siri

Apple has released macOS Sierra – OSX 10.12 – making it available for free to those users and Macs able to run the new OS. This release comes after eight betas and a number of revisions to the GM (gold master) release before its official launch on 2016-09-20.

macOS Sierra can be obtained from the Mac App Store. Apple should be making it available to Yosemite and El Capitan users via their Software Update process before too long. Officially, macOS Sierra supports the following Macs

2009 and Later

  • iMac
  • MacBook

2010 and Later

  • MacBook Air
  • MacBook Pro
  • Mac mini
  • Mac Pro

macOS Sierra does a lot to align compatible Macs with updates to iOS, watchOS and tvOS. macOS Sierra focusses on introducing features that specifically work with iPhone and Apple Watch to improve the overall user experience.

Some of the bigger updates to Sierra include the following:

  • Siri for Mac
    Siri allows users to use normal voice commands to conduct searches, find files, look up information and more. You can pin vocal searches to the Notification Center for continual monitoring.
  • Continuity
    New Continuity features allow you to unlock your Mac with your Apple Watch or with iPhone.
  • Universal Clipboard
    You can share clipboard contents across iDevices.
  • iCloud Improvements
    You can now sync not only the contents of your Documents folder, but your Desktop as well, to iCloud Drive.
  • Photos
    A new Memories feature in Photos will display collections of pictures and bring back old events on their anniversary. Special learning algorithms also improve facial, object and scene recognition making searching for specific photos a LOT easier.
  • Apple Pay

You can now pay for items you buy on the web with Apple pay. Payments are authenticated through a connected iPhone or Apple watch.

I am currently working on a review of macOS Sierra and hope to have it posted before the end of the month – along with a review of both iOS 10 and the iPhone 7. Hang tight, kids. Its about to get very Apple-ie around here.

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No New Windows 10 Builds until it Works…

Apparently, there’s a nasty bug that Microsoft is chasing…

No New Windows 10 Builds until it Works...

During a beta period, a tester or test manager should always expect to find bugs and, more importantly to expect run with buggy software. It’s never really end user ready, despite the fact that you’re opening your user base up to a wider audience.

Case in point – Microsoft has opened up Windows 10 to its Windows Insiders.  You can get prerelease builds of Windows on the Fast, Slow and Release Preview rings.

  • Fast Ring – You get (nearly) every build that Microsoft releases to its Insider program.  While there’s a lot of churn here, you get the most builds, and you’ll also likely see the most bugs. Builds are released almost every other week.
  • Slow Ring – Slow Ring is more stable than Fast Ring, but you don’t see as much churn. Things are still buggy; but there’s a bit more polish than with Fast Ring. While there’s still risk with Slow Ring, but with the right hardware combinations, it can still be very usable.
  • Release Preview – You can think of builds released in this ring being of Release Candidate quality.  This gets you things early, but nearly everything here is production ready, or can be considered Production Ready. Builds hit here a week or two before this hits Windows Update for everyone else.

So, with this model in mind, last week (as of this writing), Windows Insider guru Gabe Aul stated that there wouldn’t be any new builds of Windows 10 to the Fast Ring due to a bug that needed additional development time and attention.

According to Aul, there’s a bug in both Mobile and PC versions of Windows 10 that causes system crashes (what we used to call the Blue Screen of Death). Thankfully, the defect was caught before it hit Fast Ring (so, by Microsoft’s internal testing team), and as such, the details on the bug are sketchy at best. All we know is that it causes PC’s and phones to crash.

UPDATE – While writing this article, Microsoft released Insider Preview Build 14342 on 2016-05-10.  The updated build includes the following:

  • Updated Extensions in Microsoft Edge
  • Real-Time Web Notifications in Edge
  • Swipe navigation in Edge
  • Bash on Ubuntu on Windows Improvements
  • Skype Universal Windows Platform (UWP) Update
  • Updated Windows Ink Workspace Icon
  • Updated Visuals for UAC (User Account Control) dialog
  • Middle click to dismiss Action Center
  • Apps for Websites
  • Feedback Hub Improvements

The crashing bug noted above, has been resolved.

Are you installing preview builds of Windows 10?  How do you find the latest builds?  Are they worth the time and effort? Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion Area, below, and give me your thoughts on them?

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Get Your Free Windows 10 While You Can

Apparently, Microsoft was serious about Windows 10 only being free for a year…

windows10-ad

Sometimes I really have to wonder if the senior leadership team at Microsoft is asleep at the wheel or not; because this just seems stupid.

When Windows 10 was released last year on 2015-07-29, Microsoft said the upgrade would be free to all Windows PC’s running Windows XP and higher for a year. Well, a year will be up on 2016-07-29, and Microsoft is holding firm to that statement.

On 2015-05-05, Microsoft made the following announcement:

“The free upgrade offer to Windows 10 was a first for Microsoft, helping people upgrade faster than ever before. And time is running out. The free upgrade offer will end on July 29 and we want to make sure you don’t miss out.”

This caused a flurry of speculation on whether Microsoft was really serious about this and if they were, what Microsoft might charge for the upgrade.

Microsoft answered that with an additional statement:

“After July 29th, you’ll be able to continue to get Windows 10 on a new device, or purchase a full version of Windows 10 Home for $119.”

This is concerning to me, and to a number of other Windows pundits for one big reason – there doesn’t seem to be an upgrade SKU or price point for Windows 10 after 2016-07-29. If you miss the upgrade window, it appears that you’re going to have to pay full price for Windows 10.

The only good thing about this whole situation is that it appears that after 2016-07-29, all of the nagware that is (now) natively part of previous versions of Windows , will be removed. According to Microsoft,

[…the free Windows 10 upgrade offer ends 2016-07-29.] “Details are still being finalized, but on [that day] the Get Windows app that facilitates the easy upgrade to Windows 10 will be disabled and eventually removed from PCs worldwide. Just as it took time to ramp up and roll out the Get Windows 10 app, it will take time to ramp it down.”

All this means is that the Windows Update that turns the nag off, may arrive on YOUR PC sometime AFTER 2016-07-29; but it will happen if you decide to remain on a Windows version that is not Windows 10.

So the upgrade nagging that Microsoft has been doing for nearly a year is going to stop; but the upgrade to Windows 10 is going to cost you more than $120 bucks if you decide to make the jump after 2016-07-29.

There are a few things here that bother me…

  1. It costs $120 bucks
    Really?!? One hundred and twenty dollars?!I can see this back in, like, 2004; but today? The price point is WAY too high. In all honestly, Windows 10 should be FREE, period. OS X 10 is free. Most – if not all – Linux distributions are free. Microsoft is the only major OS maker out there that is still charging for their operating system. At some point, this is going to come back and bite Microsoft in the butt. Windows 10 should be a free upgrade to anyone and everyone forever.I can see a charge for a new, FULL license (the kind you would use to install on a PC you built from scratch); but only at about half of what is currently being advertised ($119). In my eyes, the target price for this should be under $50, after taxes.
  2. Installing Post 2016-07-29
    I’ve been using Windows 10 since the very early Insider Preview Builds in late 2014. Nothing related to installation has gone well with this at all. I’m wondering how much of a problem installing Windows 10 will be post 2016-07-29? In other words, if you download the free update, but wait to install, what happens? It’s it still free? If you need to restore or rebuild after 2016-07-29 and have to start at with the ORIGINAL version of Windows that shipped you’re your legacy hardware, will Setup ask you for money? (It shouldn’t, by the way; but I’m just sayin’…) Speaking of which…
  3. Restore/ Rebuilds
    This process has NEVER worked right for me.Refreshing your PC is simply supposed to put all of the core Windows 8.x/10 system files back on your PC, in case a poorly behaved app or (ultimately removed piece of) malware changed or modified any of them; and you wanted to put everything back to the way those core system files should be. This wouldn’t/ shouldn’t affect any installed apps or (mostly) the way you have Windows configured. This has never worked right for me and always ended up with me Restoring my PC.Restoring (often called rebuilding) your PC is supposed to erase everything and will put the version of Windows 8.x/10 back on your PC that it came with. This is the same thing as wiping the drive, reformatting and starting from scratch… without the reformatting part.You’re going to be stuck redownloading all of the Windows Updates you previously installed all over again, and this is supposed to be the easiest way to repair something in Windows that is just buried too deeply, or is too difficult to fix. Unfortunately, this has never worked right for me either; and nearly almost always requires me to download and create (or in the case of my Dell Latitude 10 STE – buy) the appropriate USB flash drive that would boot the PC and then run it through the setup process.

    This process works well for me on the Apple side of the world, but I’ve never had a Restore on the Windows side work from the device’s recovery partition. Any time I have tried this from the PC’s recovery partition, setup always ends up crashing or in some other error loop that is unrecoverable. I’ve always had to boot from a USB drive to get it to work.

My friend and former coworker, Paul Thurrott has an interesting article regarding whether or not the 2016-07-29 date is a hard and fast date or not. He seems to think that Microsoft will keep offering the free upgrade as long as it’s helping Microsoft migrate legacy PC’s to Windows 10, in pursuit of their 1 billion Windows 10 devices goal and not a day longer. By his reasoning, if Microsoft can get there within two to three years, they will have achieved that goal. Right now, that “last day” is 2016-07-29.

I think that Microsoft should extend that date indefinitely, even if they hit 1 billion Win10 devices within two to three years. Keep it free.

What do you think? Have you upgraded to Windows 10? If not, why not? Will you download the upgrade and install it before 2016-07-29? Do you foresee any issues with this offer ending on 2016-07-29? Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion Area below, and give me your thoughts on the matter?

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Microsoft Releases Surface Hub

The long awaited update to Microsoft’s Perceptive Pixel PC’s has finally shipped.

Surface-hub-1

This is a huge deal for the enterprise…

One of the things that I like the most about my current job and role in IT is that my company has a Windows 8.x powered Perceptive Pixel PC.  It sits in one very specific conference room, and quite honestly, I tend to live in that room, mostly because of this particular PC.

Perceptive Pixel is Surface Hub, before it was Surface Hub.  The update and launch of this device has been a long time coming, and Microsoft’s General Manager of Devices Marketing, Brian Hall said, “… our Surface team works together better because we have Surface Hub.”

The difference between Perceptive Pixel and Surface Hub is that PP is really a giant Surface Pro 3 styled touch screen.  Surface Hub is really more of an interactive whiteboard. It’s really designed to take advantage of Windows 10 and incorporates collaboration tools like Skype for Business, Office, including OneNote, and Windows Universal apps (if any of note actually existed…but I digress…)

Surface Hub can be mounted on a wall or movable stand and resembles a flat screen television but with a touch screen; and really has little to no difference than Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book.  Microsoft is targeting the device for the enterprise in the fields of healthcare, manufacturing, automotive, consulting, defense, finance and education.  However, it’s really going to work well in any corporate setting.  Not only does it allow physical attendees to interact with it, but via Skype for Business, even remote meeting attendees can use its interactive and collaboration features.

In today’s fast paced business environments that often include distributed teams, having the ability to have everyone see what you’re seeing at the same time as well as collectively and collaboratively interacting with meeting resources and files – sometimes at the SAME time – is going to be a huge productivity boosting benefit.

Surface Hub is said to come in two flavors – an 55″ model and an 84″ model.  Prospective pricing was announced for the devices about this time a year ago.  The 1080p equipped, 55″ model will cost $6,999 USD and the 4k capable, 84″ model will cost $19,999.  The devices actually started shipping in March 2016 (as opposed to the original September 2015), and have also seen a price increase over their initial pricing.  The 55″ device cost $8,999 and the 84″ device cost $21,999.

Now… I wonder how easy it will be to upgrade our Perceptive Pixel PC here in the office…?

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