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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Slow (and Boring) News Week..?

I mean… Is it just me, or am I the only one that doesn’t see a lot happening right now..?

I look at the news often.

In fact, I look at specific sites throughout the day to insure that I don’t miss anything. Unfortunately, we seem to have entered a period where absolutely NOTHING fun and interesting seems to be hitting the wire. I mean, I could be totally wrong on this one, but I really don’t think I am.

There really isn’t much of ANYTHING of note or interest going on… Anywhere… At all… and I’m bored out of my mind.

Yes, yes, yes… There are somethings that are going on; but nothing that would make at least what I would consider to be a good news and analysis article on its own. Instead, I’ve decided to combine a few of them here as I have a few things to say; but I won’t have too much to say on them, as honestly, I’ve either partially covered the issue, or I personally don’t think they’re all that news worthy OR all that interesting… However, here’s some of the more interesting of the lot:

Microsoft Ain’t Giving up on Windows 10 Mobile
Really..?

I find this one a little hard to believe. I told everyone what I think of Windows 10 Mobile (it’s a waste of time, money and resources); but for some reason, Microsoft’s Terry Myerson seems hell bent on beating this dead horse, claiming he saw it twitch. Or, just claiming that he’s not giving up.

I have no idea why. It doesn’t make a lick of sense…

I’ve already predicted the death of Windows 10 Mobile (and the Windows Phone platform) and I know I’m not alone in this belief.

I mean, even Mary Jo Foley agrees with me…

MJF-Tweets

It’s hard to believe that Microsoft is apparently ignoring the obvious and that they won’t exit the market. I’d rather see them spend the time, money and resources on something that may actually add value to the market. Any strides they make in mobile will likely get swept under the rug and/ or forgotten before it really has a chance to make any kind of genuine impact.

I also don’t agree at all with Satya Nadella. I don’t think that “business phones are a segment where Windows Phone devices were catching on.”

Nadella’s further statements that, “…the fact your latest soccer app is not available or some social networking app is not available is not much of an issue (in business scenarios)…” is also grossly short sighted, in my opinion. There are little to no third party apps available for Windows Phone on the consumer side. There are even less enterprise focused apps available for the device platform. While, Nadella goes on to say that, “…what matters… is identity management, security [and] protection,” is dead on, even in an enterprise setting, its (device-based) apps that sell a specific platform. Unfortunately, Windows Phone has little to none.

This appears to be a huge mistake on Microsoft’s part. The fact that they don’t have a real tablet-tablet (most Windows based tablets are really nothing more than tablets that run full-blown Windows 8.x or Windows 10… there aren’t any Windows 10 Mobile tablets…) is a huge hole that Microsoft and their hardware partners don’t seem to be interested in filling; and even if they did at this point, it would still be too little, too late.

The platform is dead, Satya and Terry… Get over it and move on.

Reports of Apple’s Demise are Greatly Exaggerated
One… One. That’s it. Just one.

Apple has had one (and only one) quarter in 8 years (or over 32 quarters…) where shipped iPhones dropped from the previous quarter; and the entire financial and tech world is saying that Apple’s growth period is over.

Really…?? Y’all can dope that out after just ONE bad quarter?

Wow.

I bow to your superior analytical skills…

But let’s look at the facts

“Apple shipped 51.1 million units, which isn’t as bad as was expected (the figure to beat was 50.7 million units).” While the figure represents a 32% drop over the previous quarter and a 16% drop over the same quarter last year, Apple still beat the advice it sent to the Street by about 400,000 units. And while sales of the iPhone SE haven’t made up the difference (causing some to think that it’s not a big a hit with consumers – which it may not be… ) it still represents Apple’s 4th best iPhone quarter to date.

iPhone Sales

Sooooo… lemme get this straight – this is the first “bad” quarter in 8 years, because sales are down (and perhaps, down significantly…), but it’s the 4th best iPhone sales quarter EVER… so “repent for the end is near…?”

Really??

Articles like the one(s) I’ve sited in this section really piss me off… They spout and spew all kinds of “statistical” information, but ultimately only reflect a single data point. When you can show a steady, revenue bleeding, cash drop, like the one at Blackberry (click the “ALL” link under the graph), then, yeah… you may have a point.

BB Shares

One quarter, however, where you don’t sell through the roof, doesn’t mean that the party’s over.

Apple Seeds New Betas to Developers and to the Public
Third betas of both OS X 10.11.5 and iOS 9.3.2 have been sent out to both Apple’s developer community and to those consumers who’ve signed up for the Apple Beta program.

Both updates seem to be concentrating on security and performance improvements as well as bug fixes.

Apple vs. FBI
Oy!

Sometimes I really people would just grow up.

Yes, I’m getting a bit salty about all of this. This is another one where I think my 4 year old granddaughter has more maturity than some of the players in this mess…

Feinstein-Burr: Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016
In the wake of all of this, “unlock this phone – no, you can’t make me” hullaballoo, perhaps the biggest reason why non-technical people shouldn’t draft or sponsor legislation rooted in technical issues has come to light.

Now, quite honestly, this is (probably) the biggest piece of crap that I’ve ever really seen come out of Capitol Hill. Senators Diane Feinstein and Richard Burr have drafted the Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016. The bill, in short basically states that if properly ordered to, people must comply with any court order for data; and if that data is “unintelligible” – i.e. encrypted – then it must be decrypted by the party ordered to provide it.

This bill would make consumer controlled encryption, like the kind in the iPhone or in WhatsApp, illegal. It outlaws end-to-end encryption.

This type of logic is the same type of logic used to justify gun control laws in the US – if you’re not doing anything illegal then you don’t need [guns, encryption].

That type of logic is the first step to tyranny, as the language in the draft legislation indicates that the obligation of persons cited in the order must provide “assistance as is necessary.” This language indicates that “the bill goes beyond the current laws that the government has used to try to compel tech firms to help with data access such as the All Writs Act.

Even more disturbing and concerning, the draft bill also includes the requirement that any licensed distributors must also ensure that all “products, services, applications or software” they distribute must provide the same easy access for law enforcement, which means that Apple is responsible for unlocking encrypted data from encrypted apps when the author cannot, will not, or the US has no jurisdiction to compel them to do so. This means that Apple has to vet every app and make sure it has been backdoored or has weak enough security so it can comply with the request.

The bill is so badly written and steeped in privacy and technology issues that the White House has officially declined to publicly support it. At least the current administration is savvy enough to identify a stinker when they see it…

FBI Can’t and Won’t Share iPhone 5c Exploit
This is just sad…

The FBI has officially stated that it can’t and won’t share the method it used to hack into Farook’s iPhone 5c. While they paid over $1.3M for the method, apparently, they didn’t purchase the RIGHTS to the method, and therefore, they can’t disclose it.

AND per their own admission, they also aren’t smart enough to figure it out on their own, either.

And don’t get me started on the usefulness of what they found, either… because they didn’t find a bloody thing.

While some people will say this is also a good thing – they didn’t get instructions or information from any domestic or international terrorist network while planning or committing their crimes – I don’t know if THAT tidbit was enough to justify not only the price, but the whole $**t storm as well. In the end, this seems to be a huge cluster bump. I’m not saying that the FBI did the wrong thing in this issue, but I do think they picked a very poor test case to press this issue with.

Apple Issues Statement on Body Found in Conference Room
Yesterday, a body was found in an Apple conference room at 1 Infinite Loop, and unfortunately, there hasn’t been a lot of information on the discovery made available to the public.

The Santa Clara Sheriff’s office has confirmed that the body found was male and that no foul play was involved. The cause of death has not been released; and the name of the deceased has not been revealed.

There was a lot of confusion wrapped around this issue with a number of different reports about more than one person involved, some kind of crime or foul play, blood on more than one person and a 911 call. Thankfully, that appears to all have been either refuted or corrected. Unfortunately, everyone is being very tight lipped about the entire situation. It isn’t often that someone passes away at work. The only reason why this is getting any press, is, unfortunately because it happened on an Apple campus.

Apple released the following statement on the issue. While it doesn’t go into any kind of detail on what happened, it does show their support for the victim and his loved ones:

“We are heartbroken by the tragic loss of a young and talented coworker. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends, including the many people he worked with here at Apple. We are working to support them however we can in this difficult time.”

What do you think of all of this? Is the news slow, or is it me? Do you have any comments on any of the items I covered here? Why don’t you join me in the Discussion Area, below, and give me your thoughts on it all.

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Smartwatches for Everyone!

You Can Turn ANY Watch into a Smartwatch with Chronos

Chronos

Those of you that know me and have been following me over at LEAST the past year know that for me, 2015 was the year of the smartwatch. I reviewed the following smartwatches in 2015:

Microsoft Band
Part 1

Fitbit Surge
Pebble Time
Apple Watch Sport
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Olio Model One

There were good and bad smartwatches in this list. I’ve really chosen the Apple Watch Sport as my daily wearable. I’ve been wearing it more consistently than any other smartwatch that I reviewed. Both the Microsoft Band and the Fitbit Surge have been retired. I gave the Pebble Time to a friend of mine at Church; and I’m still working with Olio on what I would still consider some issues with the Model One.

However, if you have a standard, non-smartwatch, watch that you are totally in love with and don’t want to give up or put into semi-retirement but really want a smartwatch, then you really need to take a look at Chronos.

Chronos is a 3x33mm disk that adheres to the back of ANY watch via micro-suction. Its water resistant , non-magnetic, and provides both vibration and colored LED light notifications. In addition to this, it has an accelerometer for fitness tracking, allows you to use your watch as a remote for your smartphone’s camera and music player. You can even use gesture controls to skip songs. If you’ve misplaced your phone, you can use Chronos to “ping” it to help you locate it.

Chronos on Watch

Chronos has Bluetooth 4.0 LE with a 50 foot range; and has a rechargeable lithium polymer battery with a battery life range of up to three (3) days. The device charges via wireless charging, so you can charge it while it’s still connected to your favorite watch of choice.

The best thing here is the price – at least at the time of this writing. Chronos will begin shipping in Spring of 2016 and retails for an MSRP of $129. If you preorder yours now, you can get it for $40 off, or $89.

I’ve requested a review sample from Chronos and hope to hear back from them soon, as I feel this would make a wonderful, final edition to our Wearables Roundup. Stay tuned to Soft32 for more information, and hopefully, a full review!

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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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Apple Seeds New Betas of iOS 9.3.2 and OS X 10.11.5 to Developers

Bug fixes and performance improvements seem to be the order of the day…

ios-9.3.2-beta-1Well, Wednesday 2016-04-20 seems to have been a big day for Apple Developers. In the wake of Apple announcing WWDC from 2016-06-13 through 17, and announcing the ticket lottery, they’ve also released two new OS betas.

Apple has seeded both iOS 9.3.2 Beta 2 and OS X 10.11.5 Beta 2 to their Developer Community.

iOS 9.3.2 Beta 2 comes nearly a month after the launch of iOS 9.3, which was a major update to the mobile OS as it introduced Night Shift and other features and improvements. iOS 9.3 was released three weeks after a bug fix for iOS 9.3.1.

iOS 9.3.2 is a minor update that will focus on bug fixes and performance improvements since the release of iOS 9.3. Of note – sorta… – is a fix for a major Game Center bug. There aren’t any outward facing changes to iOS 9.3.2 that anyone has been able to identify as of this writing.

I also wouldn’t expect any major new updates to iOS 9.x.x at all at this point. My guess is that with WWDC just around the corner, Apple is going to concentrate all its effort on development of iOS 10. While it’s unclear just what goodies may be found in it, I’m certain that some information will start making its way to the main stream media as we get closer to mid-June. I’m certain I may also have an iOS 10 wish list published by that time as well…

Apple also seeded its second beta of OS X 10.11.5 for its desktop OS, currently code named El Capitan. Beta 2 of this update comes just two weeks after OS X 10.11.5 Beta 1.

OS X 10.11.5 is also likely to focus on security enhancements, performance improvements and bug fixes that have been logged since the release of OS X 10.11.4. Currently, nothing of note has been discovered, so this clearly appears to be a maintenance update.

If you’re running the beta, you can get beta 2 via the Software Update mechanism found in the Mac App Store on your Mac desktop, or in the Apple Developer Center’s download area.

Like iOS, it’s clear with the release of this maintenance update so close to the middle of the year, that the more serious development work is happening for OS X 10.12,that will also, most likely, be announced at WWDC and its keynote address on 2016-06-13.

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It was All a Marketing Stunt

The Italian ISP that deleted all of its servers… yeah, apparently… not so much.

hoaxLate last week, the owner of a small web hosting company in Italy said he “accidentally” executed some bad maintenance code on his servers, and they deleted all his servers.

Marco Marsala headed to a support forum and posted a cry for help claiming he made a big mistake,

“I run a small hosting provider with more or less 1,535 customers and I use Ansible to automate some operations to be run on all servers,” Marsala wrote. “Last night I accidentally ran, on all servers, a Bash script with a rm -rf {foo}/{bar} with those variables undefined due to a bug in the code above this line.

“All servers got deleted and the offsite backups too because the remote storage was mounted just before by the same script (that is a backup maintenance script).”

He got some sympathetic replies. However, most of the forum users basically told him he was an idiot and that since (as he further explained) that all of his onsite and offsite backup drives were also mounted to his servers at the time of execution, all of the sites that he ran (again, approximately 1535) all got permanently and irrevocably deleted.

Apparently, the delete was so destructive, that many users didn’t think that even an experienced data recovery company would be able to retrieve his data.

One user told him in no uncertain terms,

“You’re going out of business. You don’t need technical advice, you need to call your lawyer,”

I, and many others, woke up this morning only to find out that this had been nothing more than a giant hoax… it was all a marketing ploy. I guess the idea was that he was going to miraculously “restore” his data by himself, thus proving his technical superiority, and would hopefully gain more business.

If that wasn’t it, I have no idea, as, if I were someone wanting web hosting, I wouldn’t be looking to THAT guy…

According to Server Fault Meta, the whole thing was nothing more than a DUPLICATE of what is being called a “guerrilla marketing operation.” The user has been called a “blatant spammer/ troll” by a number of users

One user called Sirex, I think said it best, “we went into it thinking [this guy] was an idiot. We’ve came out of it thinking [this guy’s] an idiot, but for a different reason. I don’t think the joke is on us.

I happen to agree, here. If I were anyone that had a web account with this guy… I’d be long gone by now. What about you? Did you see this last week? Did you follow it at all? Were you surprised when it was reported to be a hoax? Why not chime in, in the Discussion Area, below and give me your thoughts?

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Uninstall QuickTime for Windows – QUICK!

That is, if you want to remain virus free…

Uninstall QuickTime for Windows

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been a bit absent from Soft32.com, not because I wanted to and not because there wasn’t cool stuff to write about, but because real life intruded.  It’s always an interesting time when real life gets in the way, especially for those of us that have routines.  Thankfully, though, I didn’t have THIS problem to deal with – more malware.

However, if you’re an iDevice user on the Windows side of things, you’ll remember that iTunes historically always wanted you to install QuickTime for Windows. It used to play all video out of iTunes via QuickTime.

That, my friends, has changed.

Apple is no longer using QuickTime for Windows to play video in iTunes and apparently, has also stopped issuing security patches for it as well. Unfortunately, Apple didn’t tell anyone about this.  This was picked up and reported by Trend Micro and their Zero Day Intuitive; and has been making quite the stir ever since.

Trend Micro released the following statement on the issue:

“Apple is deprecating QuickTime for Microsoft Windows. They will no longer be issuing security updates for the product on the Windows Platform and recommend users uninstall it… Our Zero Day Initiative has just released two advisories ZDI-16-241 and ZDI-16-242 detailing two new, critical vulnerabilities affecting QuickTime for Windows. These advisories are being released in accordance with the Zero Day Initiative’s Disclosure Policy for when a vendor does not issue a security patch for a disclosed vulnerability. And because Apple is no longer providing security updates for QuickTime on Windows, these vulnerabilities are never going to be patched. We’re not aware of any active attacks against these vulnerabilities currently. But the only way to protect your Windows systems from potential attacks against these or other vulnerabilities in Apple QuickTime now is to uninstall it.”

While nearly everyone should have seen a number of third party reports to this effect, there’s no information on Quick Time for Windows’ demise coming from Apple.  They just seem to have flushed it, and moved on.

Those Mac users in the audience don’t have anything to worry about. Apple doesn’t seem to be deprecating or ending support of Quick Time for Mac, just the Windows variety.

It is highly recommended to everyone who uses Quick Time for Windows, to remove it from their Windows PC’s immediately.

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Back door..?!? We don’ need your stinkin’ backdoor..!

Life is just full of little surprises…

backdoorI really can’t help but chuckle a little bit. Over the past four to six weeks, the FBI and the DoJ have been screaming at Apple through the media about how they MUST help the DoJ break into an iPhone 5c owned by a local government agency but used by Syed Farook and his wife Tashfeen Milik.

There’s been a great deal of posturing back and forth between the two – Apple has been saying that the government’s requests are really equivalent to making them create cancer. The government has threatened to make Apple turn over its source code and signing keys.

In an interesting development, it was reported on 2016-03-21 that a third party made an offer to show the FBI a method that may get them access to Farook’s iPhone 5c, all without assistance from Apple.

The FBI was so interested in this development that they moved to cancel a court hearing scheduled on 2016-03-22 where additional evidence would be presented by both sides. The same judge who previously ordered Apple to help unlock the encrypted iPhone, US Magistrate Sheri Pym, approved the motion.

The DoJ remains “cautiously optimistic” that this will work. If it does, then they get what they want without having to compel Apple to do it for them. The court has ordered the DoJ to file a status report by 2016-04-05.

Apple’s attorneys are urging caution, saying that the method the DoJ was shown may not help them and both may find themselves back in court in two weeks. It’s also unclear to Apple what vulnerability the FBI has been shown in order to crack the phone. Like everyone else, this was news to them (Apple) as well.

However, if the FBI can’t crack the phone with this new help, they’re going renew their original case with vigor.

If this works, I can see the FBI tying the solution up very quickly into their own, private back door… that is until Apple – or a DIFFERENT third party – discovers or discloses it, and Apple hardens the OS against this particular vulnerability.

At the end of the day, though as in the 1948 film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, I can hear “that guy” saying “it” over and over again – We don’t need any stinkin’ backdoor..!

This is an ongoing story, and as additional information is made available, updates will be posted.

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