Updating Windows 10 Mobile After it goes RTM

Microsoft says that it wants to push rapid updates to users; but there are issues…

Windows 10 mobile

I saw an interesting update on the Supersite for Windows this morning, and I answered a comment asking what the issues were on this in the US. I wanted to expound a bit more, so I thought I’d gather what I wrote and then start shooting my mouth off.

The original article deals with Microsoft taking control of OS related updates from the mobile carriers – in the States, that’s basically, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, but may also include a number of larger regional or budget carriers like US Cellular, Cricket and Boost Mobile – and making updates available roughly four to six (4 – 6) weeks after the updates go RTM. Based on a report from Ed Bott, Microsoft is serious about it. According to Terry Myerson,

“Here at Microsoft, we take our responsibility to keep Windows secure seriously. We follow up on all reported security issues, continuously probe our software with leading edge techniques, and proactively update supported devices with necessary updates to address issues. And today, we’re announcing this continuous update process applies to all Windows 10 devices, including phones.”

The only way that Windows as a Service (WaaS) REALLY works, is if Microsoft can release updates to users as they are ready.

The problem is that mobile broadband carriers in the US don’t allow just anything to ride their networks and don’t allow hardware manufacturers or OEM’s to release just any device update without that update going through a testing and certification process. Well, at least everyone but Apple; users of any cellular capable iDevice get iOS updates all the time…as soon as they’re released, in fact. I’ll deal with Apple in just a bit. However, every other device and device manufacturer/ OEM has to jump through a lot of hoops.

There are two parts to this issue: Control of the (enterprise) network and control of support. The second one is easy to understand. The first one is a PITA.

Control of Support
Many users don’t know much of anything about their smartphone past how to make and take calls, send and receive text messages, and change a status update on Facebook (or other social network). Most carriers like these types of users, because they generally accept what they are given, even if they don’t like it (which leads to the first thing, but I’ll get to that in a minute).

Because most users aren’t very tech savvy, they don’t know how to trouble shoot issues when they bump into problems, so they call their mobile carrier for support. The mobile carrier knows that support is a big issue, and don’t want to HAVE to support each and every problem that can arise, especially with exotic or little/unknown 3rd party software. So, they offer crapware that may have much the same functionality that most users are looking for and do their best to push users that way. They pay their support people to troubleshoot the crapware, and to try to get users to use it instead of a similar, and likely much more popular app that does the same thing. They can’t pay their people to know everything about every chat client, social network, photo enhancer, etc. it costs too much money to train and support them.

Control of the (Enterprise) Network
(Most) Mobile carriers don’t allow just ANY smartphone on their network. Unknown or rogue mobile devices can eat up bandwidth; and as much as they want to charge you for the bandwidth you use, mobile carriers certify devices and updates because if it rides on their network, users are going to demand support, so… they limit what can actually get on the network… or they at least try to.

Historically, this is why mobile carriers take so long to test individual devices before they actually offer them for sale; or take so long to test and certify updates before they actually go out to users of devices that use the mobile network.

Think of this the same way you think of your work computer. Your office’s IT department doesn’t let you install everything from any and every download site on the internet. Many sites are blocked to protect the network from viruses and other malware. It’s the same thing here.

All you do is use the network. You don’t own it, so the mobile carrier doesn’t allow you to do any and everything you want…. just like the office. The purpose is public communication. Your use effects the public, and the carrier has an obligation to insure that its available to all that pay to use it.

Now, all of this is SOMEWHAT based on older information. I really ran into this face first when I was a Verizon customer, living in Nashville, TN back in 2003/ 2004. I had two separate talks with a VzW store manager and a Tier 2 install technician (I had a car kit installed for my then, state of the art new, Samsung i700). The install tech who put the car kit in my Honda CRV laughed at me when I asked him why the store staff wouldn’t talk to me. I have to admit, it was kinda funny. However, he explained that I gave them fits because I knew more than they did, and had issues they couldn’t support (smartphones were new back then…). I later confirmed this with the store manager, who apologized, but didn’t offer any helpful suggestions, either.

However, the general principals here are the same now as they were then. Control… at least until you pay me (me, being the mobile carrier). Apple cut a lot of deals to get the iPhone on AT&T (and eventually VzW and T-Mo). Part of that was specifically that Apple has control of OS updates. It worked, and continues to work because Apple sells a BOAT load of iPhones. Mobile carriers make a lot of money via mobile accounts, upgrades, and other add-on related iDevice purchases.

…and volume. Let’s not forget the amount of sales volume they get. The carriers tolerate it because they make a lot of money based on iDevice sales volume.

Microsoft has a huge issue here. They simply don’t – and won’t – have the device sales volume to help them convince mobile carriers not to relinquish they’re control of their networks so Microsoft can deliver both software and firmware updates as needed. I have no idea what incentive Microsoft thinks it’s going to come up with to convince the carriers to allow this to happen. However, you would have to think that it may involve a bit of that ol’ happy cabbage… We’ll have to wait and see what and how MS does to make this happen.

What do you think about all of this? Will Microsoft be able to release updates to Windows 10 Mobile device owners as they want to; or will the US mobile carriers put a halt to it? Would these OS and firmware updates attract you to a Windows 10 Mobile device over, say, an Android device or iDevice?

I’d really like to hear from you on this, so why don’t you join me in the discussion area, below, and give me your thoughts on it all.

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Where’s Apple’s Media Server??

Am I missing something, or has the whole world gone out to lunch..?

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Ok… if you haven’t guessed by now, I am a tweener.

I sit firmly in between both the Apple and Microsoft eco systems with my feet firmly planted in the middle of the pool. I’ve got a boat load of Apple gear (with a “What I Use” column pending…) – an iPad, iPhone, MacBook Pro and of course, an Apple Watch (and no, if you’re at all curious if my Watch shows that its shipping early, it isn’t, doggone it).

On the Microsoft side, I’ve got a Surface Pro 3, a Dell Latitude 10 ST2, and of course a Microsoft Band (part 2 of its review can be seen here). I also run a Windows 7 VM via Parallels Desktop on my MacBook Pro to enable me to write Windows-based software reviews. Much of my early writing career was also spent as a Windows Mobile/ Pocket PC Microsoft MVP nominee and in covering Microsoft on both WUGNET – The Windows User’s Group Network and in the Computing Pro Forum over at AOL/CompuServe.

So, yeah… firmly planted in both camps.

When it comes to digital media, though, I am wholly and totally a Mac. The iPod, iPhone and iPad have made it too easy to take your media where ever you want, and since I’ve been firmly planted in the Mac camp since I made the total switch in 2010 or so it makes sense for me to really have all of my digital content in iTunes instead of anywhere else. I’m not much of an Android person any longer, having moved back to an iPhone with the iPhone 4S from a Nexus One; and because Microsoft is just now getting its act back together again when it comes to a digital media store and ecosystem, again, being on the Apple side of this fence just seems to make perfect sense.

So, here’s the big issue I have with all of this. I hate streaming stuff over the internet.

I know that may come as a shock to many people, but hear me out first, before you color me beyond crazy and write me off…

Yes. I have Netflix. Yes. I have Hulu. Yes, I’ve used Pandora and iTunes Radio and the like (but honestly, I don’t use those last two a lot, due to mobile bandwidth caps. That’s a whole other story on streaming, so please… pleASE, PLEASE… don’t get me started on that!). But when I – or anyone for that matter stream content over the internet – there’s a GREAT deal of space between me and whatever server I’m trying to get content from; and WAY too much can happen between there and here to block, impede or otherwise slow down the receipt of streamed content to my TV set, or receiving device f choice. If at all possible, I’d really much prefer to stream content across my home network. Its totally self contained and much more reliable. If I have problems with the streaming, I know those issues are within my control to resolve…, which gets me back to my opening question – Where (the hell) is Apple’s Media Server?

See, when first introduced back in January of 2001, iTunes synchronized content from your local hard drive to its portable music player, the iPod. When Apple introduced Time Capsule back in January of 2008, I thought, from an iTunes perspective, that I had died and gone to heaven. Here’s why:

  1. Time Capsule has more storage than my Mac
    My 15″ Late 2013 MacBook Pro Retina has a 512GB SSD. I just upgraded my Time Capsule to 6TB of space. That’s 12 times more space than my current Mac.
  2. All my Apple Stuff sits on my Home Network
    That would include my family’s Macs (there are currently 5), my AppleTV, my iPhones, iPads, iPods, my (soon to arrive… hear that, Apple..? SOON TO ARRIVE..!!) Apple Watch and of course, my Time Capsule. With 12x more space than my Mac, it has ALL of my iTunes content backed up on it. All of it. However, as far as my Mac and any of my iDevices are concerned, my Time Capsule may as well be a boat anchor. None of them can see it, or the three plus terabytes of content stored there.

And I’d like to expound a bit on that…

While I can definitely browse my home network and find stuff there on any of the computers in the house, my AppleTV and none of my other iDevices can see any of that content. iOS doesn’t include a file browser. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to have a cool NAS product like Time Capsule, with the ability to have a large, upgradable hard drive on your home network, without having the ability to stream content locally.

That’s the idea behind a media center or media server computer on your home network. That server allows you to stream content across a home network, bypassing all of the inherent latency and other bandwidth issues and downloading problems that many often bump into when trying to watch content on HBO Go (or other cable network premium channel iOS app) or Netflix or Hulu over the internet.

There are likely third party products out there that can do this, and that’s all fine and good; but what I don’t understand is why Apple doesn’t have a way to set this up as part of the out of box setup process for Time Capsule. This is totally a huge hole in the product.

I know that Time Capsule was initially released as a companion to Apple’s Time Machine. The two can work seamlessly together; and Time Machine will default to it if it finds a Time Capsule on your home network (it will also create one via the Airport Express base station that’s part of its make up). However, not everyone uses Time Capsule that way; and more importantly, I don’t. I have a dedicated 2TB LaCie drive that’s connected to my Mac via Firewire 800. It does a great job connected to a port on my Thunderbolt Monitor that would otherwise go unused.

However, let’s get back to Apple, Time Capsule and what you can do with what you (may already) have.

You can always copy all of your music to your Time Capsule and then ALT/Option Right-Click iTunes, iPhoto or Photos and open an alternate library location, and that’s cool, but that doesn’t really hack it. All this does it put your iTunes library on a home network location. If you do that with a MacBook or MacBook Pro, you can’t use iTunes to listen to or anything on your Mac when you’re out and about (unless you have a local library that you update with the (new) content you want to watch or listen to before you go). In this case, you’re maintaining multiple iTunes libraries, and who wants to do that??

You can install something like Plex, which according to TWiT does a really good job; and it does have a NAS component, for Netgear, QNAP, unRAID, Drobo and the like; but it doesn’t support Time Capsule. That’s the solution that I, and I think so many other Apple fans want.

I’ve written a note to Tim Cook, asking where something like this that would naturally and automatically hook into a Time Capsule might be; but that was a couple weeks ago, and I haven’t heard anything from Mr. Cook regarding an answer. This isn’t the first time I’ve asked this question of Tim Cook, and it probably won’t be the last; but I have a feeling, that no matter how many times I ask it, I’m going to end up with the same answer – silence.

UPDATE: While writing this column, a new article came out on Neowin. Apparently, Microsoft has killed Windows Media Center in Windows 10. It won’t be part of the end game for Microsoft either. I hate to say it, but I have a feeling that I’m not going to see anything like that come out of the Apple camp at all…ever. It just seems as though the whole idea of streaming content across your home network, FROM your home network, is a dead issue, which is totally sad (and totally crazy…)

The last thing I’m going to say on this subject – hear me and hear me well. Until the day when ISP’s are true Title Two utilities, AND until the average speed across the entire nation is well above 50-75Mpbs down (with that being the totally suckiest speed, ever), things like Netflix and Hulu and other streaming services aren’t going to take hold and be the must have services they want to be. Last mile issues aside, issues with general traffic and bandwidth I think will always be a concern until full Title Two as well as super speeds are common place in the United States.

What do you think of all of this? Will Apple create their own media server? Is Time Capsule the best way to go for holding and serving up a local copy? Why don’t you join me in the Discussion Area below, and tell me what you think?

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Windows 10 on a Low-End Windows Tablet

There aren’t enough pain relievers for crap like this…

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I have a 32bit Dell Latitude ST2 Windows Pro tablet. It came to me as a review unit while I was writing at InformationWeek’s BYTE. I’d point you to that URL, but unfortunately, UBM has finally retired it (along with most of the writing and editing staff. Boy do they like to do “strategic shifts” over there…) Originally, the device ran Windows 8.0. It got upgraded to Windows 8.1 and then Windows 8.1 Update before finally moving to Windows 10 in October of last year when the Windows 10 Technical Preview began.

As you may recall, I put Windows 10 on it, and its performance with the new OS in ALL builds so far has been… well… yeah. To be blunt, it’s been painful… at best.

So, while I was having issues with my Surface Pro 3, I was also having issues getting Windows 10 Build 10041 on my Dell Latitude 10 ST2. That was a particularly bad couple of weeks or so. In order to resolve the bricked state that the Dell was in, I had to contact Dell Support and was fortunate enough to have them send me a Recovery USB Stick. It put the tablet back to Windows 8, which, again, is what the tablet originally shipped with; but at least it was working again, and I could do SOMETHING with it.

After I had Windows 8 on it, I could have gone through the entire upgrade path again from Windows 8 to 8.1 and then to 8.1 Update; but with the prospect of installing well over 200 individual updates, I passed. Instead, I tried putting Build 10041 on it. I was able to get the build on the device, after booting from a USB stick that had the ISO burned to it. I then updated it to Build 10049, but that update failed and auto rolled back. That, unfortunately bricked the tablet again.

I restored the tablet back to Windows 8 and put Windows 10 Build 10041 back on and left it there. Please note that I was able to install Windows 10 Build 10041 from a USB stick with NO issues.

Queue the other evening when Build 10061 was offered as an upgrade. The Dell tablet downloaded the update and attempted to install it. Initially, the installed failed without upgrading to Build 10061 and tried to roll back to Build 10041. This, again, NEARLY bricked the tablet. The tablet would NOT connect to the internet after that and had a great deal of problems even booting up. So… back to Windows 8 via the Dell stick again.

I wanted to get to Windows 10 Build 10061. So, I built a bootable USB stick with the 32bit version of official Build 10041 ISO and booted the tablet with that USB stick. I ran into several ,very strange, new issues with that install :

1.Touch screen is disabled

The touch screen is totally disabled when booting from the USB stick (created with Rufus 2.1.649). In order to complete the install, you must connect an external keyboard and mouse to the docking station that is available for this Windows 8.x Pro tablet. The tablet seems to have frozen once you get to the initial setup screen (choose keyboard, language, etc.) due to the touch screen not being recognized.

2.The onboard USB 2.x port Works Intermittently

This may be appearance only, due to the touch screen issue above, but there are times when trying to boot from the on-tablet USB port that the tablet simply does not boot from the USB stick and goes right into Windows 8.x

3.Many Drivers Missing, Device Not Functional

I found that with both Builds 10041 and 10061, Windows 10 would install clean from an ISO, but many of the drivers for the device were missing. Wi-Fi does not work, as the drivers for the built in wireless card did not install. There were roughly 10-12 “Unknown” devices in Device Manager. The tablet is unable to connect to the internet via wireless OR the LAN port in the docking station, as drivers for both did not install. The Wi-Fi card is obviously, one of the unknown devices. The LAN port on the docking station is identified, but drivers for the device didn’t install with the build and are not found when you try to install them manually.

The only way I was able to get ANY connectivity was through a USB Ethernet dongle that the tablet was able to recognize and install drivers for, but ONLY via one of the USB ports on the docking station (and not the one on the tablet, as it didn’t work). Unfortunately, drivers for the unknown devices would not install, even when attempting to download and install one via Device Manager. None of them were identified or found.

Upgrading to Build 10061 via a wired connection through the USB Ethernet dongle did NOT fix the problem. The touch screen was still disabled. All devices that were unknown were still unknown.

This wasn’t an issue in previous builds, nor in initially joining the Insider’s program with earlier builds.

I was able to get Build 10061 on the tablet, however. Instead of going through the update and upgrade process, however (as that proved not to work…AGAIN), I wiped the tablet and restored it back to Windows 8.x. I copied the ISO for Build 10041 to the tablet’s Downloads directory. From there, I mounted the ISO and ran setup.exe. The build installed and ALL of the device’s drivers installed as well, meaning that the touch screen works, the on-device USB port works, etc.; AND there were no unrecognized devices in Device Manager.

After that worked, I did the same thing with the ISO for Build 10061. It also installed over Build 10041 without issue and ALL of the devices on the tablet are recognized and seem to be working appropriately. After this, however, I have come to one very clear conclusion:

Windows 10 on older, less powerful devices seems to be a huge problem. My Dell tablet has an Intel Atom Z2760 processor running at 1.80Ghz. It’s a bit underpowered, and Windows 10 seems to have a huge problem performing well on it.

Given that Microsoft is realistically targeting July 2015 for the RTM of Windows 10, there are many who believe – me included – that July is an unrealistic release time frame. Windows 10 isn’t ready for prime time at this point and July, even for Desktop, seems unrealistic and overly aggressive.

Are you running Windows 10 on a budget tablet? There are a number of them out there. My Dell is one. Microcenter makes a couple – the TW700 Series and the TW800 Series. HP offers the Stream 7.

All of these are running low-end Intel processors. While they may have dual or quad cores, they don’t really have a lot of punch. They also don’t have a lot of RAM. The Winbooks are a bit better as they are running Baytrail processors as opposed to Atoms in the Dell and HP, but in the end, I suspect that ALL tablets that are running Windows 8.x and eventually the DESKTOP version of Windows 10 (because that’s their upgrade path…) will have performance issues.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, as the WinBooks, the Dell and the HP are all GREAT offerings for a cheap way to get into a Windows tablet, but if their performance is so horrible, they may end up being used as Frisbee’s more than actual computing devices. Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and tell me what you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, as I kinda feel as though I’m eating my own dog food on this one.

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Microsoft Releases Windows 10 Build 10061 to Fast Ring Insiders

If you in the Fast Ring, you’ve got a new build to install…

Windows 10 Insiders have a new build to play with. If, they’re on the Fast Ring, that is. Build 10061 was released to Windows Insiders on 2015-04-22, but late in the day. This release comes a full three weeks after the release of Build 10049 to the Fast Ring. While builds 10051, 10056 and even 10061 leaked to the general public, neither build 10051 nor 10056 were official releases to either the Fast or Slow Insider’s Rings.

Windows_10_Build_10061_Wide

As this is a Fast Ring only build – at least for now – Microsoft isn’t releasing ISO’s for this build (files that can be used to burn DVD’s with). That only happens when a build is released to Slow Ring Insiders. Unfortunately, this is where the problems come in.

During any beta cycle, most experienced testers will want to do a clean install when a new build is released. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible with Build 10061, at least right now, for a few reasons.

  1. Official ISO’s Haven’t Been Released
    The Windows Update process doesn’t download or use an ISO file. It uses an ESD file, and that file – effectively a compressed or encrypted ISO – can’t be directly burned to a DVD. The file also self destructs after Windows Update installs the new build, so you can’t burn a DVD with an ESD. Microsoft’s current policy since the beginning of Technical Preview 2 at the beginning of February 2015 is to release official ISO’s only when a build makes it to Slow Ring Insiders.
  2. The ESD File for Windows 10 Build 10061 is Encrypted
    That’s a bit of a misnomer. ALL ESD files are encrypted. However, the ESD file for Build 10061 uses a new RSA encryption key that current ESD decryption tools used to make ISO’s with, can’t unlock. This means that UNNOFFICIAL ISO’s that were created by end users with ESD’s from Builds 10041, 10049 and the leaked builds of 10051 and 10056 can’t be created from the ESD in Build 10061.

However, I’m certain that the RSA key that’s being used by the ESD in Build 10061 will be cracked in short order and the ESD conversion tool that’s being used by most to create ISO’s will be updated. Its just a matter of time.

With Build 2015 also just around the corner, its likely that Build 10061 will be obsolete by 2015-04-29. I would expect that Microsoft will release a new build of Windows 10 along with ISO’s as part of the Build key note address. While this is generally expected, however, we’ll all need to wait and see.

In the mean time, here’s a run down of new features and fixed and known issues with the latest build of Windows 10, Build 10061:

New Features
New Mail and Calendar Apps
The tiles in the Start Menu/ Screen should be fixed with this release. The actual apps have better performance and bring the familiar three-pane UI to all of these apps. There’s also a way to quickly move between Mail and Calendar. The Mail app has customizable Swipe Gestures. These allow you to swipe left or right to take actions like, delete, flag, move a message or mark it as read/ unread. Mail takes its queues from Word, allowing you to easily insert tables, add pictures and use bullets or color with your text. Both apps support Office 365, Exchange, Outlook.com, Gmail, IMAP and POP accounts.

Start, Taskbar, and Action Center Improvements
Build 10061 introduces a new black system theme across the Start Menu, Taskbar and Action Center. Both the Start Menu and the Task bar now have transparency. You can now resize the Start Menu. All three elements can be themed via Autocolor, which pulls the primary color from your desktop background and applies it to these system components.
You can also adjust the color and transparency settings for these system components through Personalization. The power button has also been moved to the bottom left from the top right of the Start menu to make it more accessible.

Continuum Improvements
Also known as Tablet Mode, improvements in Continuum include an optimized Taskbar for tablets. When you enter Tablet Mode, the Start button, Cortana, and the Task View buttons to all grow in size and space out to be more touchable. Items in the Notification area are also more touchable thanks to optimized spacing. Pinned and running apps are removed by default to reduce clutter. Start and Task Views remain available for launching apps and switching between them. If you really must see apps on the Taskbar, an option exists in Tablet Mode Settings that will allow you to turn them back on. Additional settings allow you to boot directly into Tablet Mode, and this is the default setting for devices under 10 inches in size.

Task View Improvements
There are a number of improvements to Task View. The window icons, close buttons and thumbnails have all been refined. You will also see these elements in ALT-Tab and Snap Assist. Task view also gets a new icon on the Taskbar.

Virtual Desktop improvements
You can now create an unlimited number of virtual desktops. A new overflow experience lets you access any one of them once you hit the limit on your display.

Issues
The following are fixed and known issues for Build 10061. Care should be taken to read through the known issues section to insure that you know what you’re getting when you install the build, in case you bump into any of them while using the Windows 10 Technical Preview.

Fixed Issues

  • We have fixed the issue where Indexing of new email in Outlook was not working.
  • We have fixed the issue with Hyper-V preventing you from enabling it.
  • Visual Studio will no longer crash when creating a new Universal app project.
  • We fixed a few issues in Project Spartan. You can now double-click on the titlebar to maximize. We have also made some tweaks to the alignment of the Favorites Bar so that the text and icons no longer appear partially below the bottom of the Favorites Bar.

Known Issues

  • Win32 (desktop) apps won’t launch from the Start menu. You must use search to find and launch these apps and pin them to your taskbar in order to save yourself from having to search for them each time you want to run them.
  • Windows Store Beta (grey tile) and Project Spartan get unpinned after upgrading to Build 10061.
  • Typed characters in the new Mail and Calendar apps , version 17.4008.42281.0, included in Build 10061 appear twice. Fixes for this issue are already deployed to Windows Store Beta and updated apps will download automatically.
  • Cortana will highlight things it will be able to help users with, but some of these features are not yet implemented and Microsoft is working to deliver them soon.
  • During logi in/out, your mouse cursor may appear on a black screen. Microsoft is working to resolve this and an update will be deployed via Windows Update when ready.
  • Downloading music in the Xbox Music and Music Preview apps is currently broken. Microsoft is working to resolve this and an update will be deployed via Windows Update when ready.
  • Audio may stop playing through an active app if it is minimized.
  • Selected text in the Project Spartan address bar does not highlight. Microsoft is working to resolve this and an update will be deployed via Windows Update when ready.
  • Magnifier does not work when you put it into docked mode. Microsoft is working to resolve this and an update will be deployed via Windows Update when ready.

Did you install Build 10061? What has been your experience so far? Is this something that you can use for your daily driver? Do you think that with the improvements made in Build 10061 that Microsoft will make the rumored July release date? Is Windows 10 ready for a larger, wider audience? Why don’t you join me in the Discussion area below and let us know how Windows 10 is performing for you?

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Windows 10 Preview Builds to Come More Frequently

According to Gabe Aul, it’s about to get hot in their kitchen…

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I’ve spent a great deal of my early to mid-adult life in the South Eastern United States. When you hear someone tell you that it’s about to “get hot in the kitchen,” what they mean is that things is fixin’ ta get real busy. According to Gabe Aul, the Microsoft exec in charge of the Windows 10 Insider program for the Windows 10 Technical Preview, its fixin’ ta get hot in the Windows 10 kitchen.

Now, what exactly does that mean? Very simply – more builds.

According to a 2015-03-09 blog, and then reiterated in an email sent earlier today 2015-04-20, Windows Insiders are about to see the frequency of builds pick up.

Microsoft has released the second build of Windows 10 Mobile for Windows Phone; and from all accounts, including my own look at the new Mobile OS, it’s still a VERY early build for Windows Phone.

That’s a kind way of saying its currently a train wreck.

Yeah…

It’s not really ready for anyone to look at yet. In fact, if you tried to install it on one of the 35 different, supported, Lumia phones and decided it wasn’t for you, it’s quite possible that returning that phone to a Windows Phone 8.x state bricked your phone. If that’s happened to you, you may be able to unbrick it with the Windows Phone Recovery Tool. If you’re having trouble with a Lumia branded Windows Phone, you should use the Lumia Software Recovery Tool.

All of that notwithstanding , Gabe Aul again has stated that Windows 10 Insiders should begin seeing builds come much faster on the Fast Ring. Aul’s email specifically states,

“Based on your feedback, we’re going to send out builds more frequently to Windows Insiders that have selected “Fast” preview builds. That means you can getting fresher code with all of the features and fixes, more often – but builds may include more bugs. Read my blog for more details. To switch to slow or fast builds on your PC, go to Settings>Update & recovery>Advanced options. On your phone, go to the Windows Insider app.”

I’m certain that given the above referenced blog entry from early March, and the fact that Windows Insiders haven’t seen a new official build hit the Fast Ring since the release of Build 10049 about two weeks ago, Gabe has been fielding a great many questions on “when” the next build will hit.

Many Windows 10 Insiders have specific issues blocking them from moving forward with their evaluations and I know they’re looking for specific fixes. Specifically, I’m looking for a fix for my disappearing ink bug. A fix for that can’t come soon enough.

UPDATE: While working on this article, Build 10061 was released. I’ve got it installed on my Dell Latitude 10 ST2. We’ll see if my issue is resolved and if it’s worth installing on my Surface Pro 3. I’ll keep you posted.

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Watch video on your advanced, ultra HD display with CyberLink PowerDVD Ultra

Watch video on your advanced, ultra HD display with this must have Windows media player

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I love watching movies. In fact, I watch movies more than I watch regular, network TV here in the States. I have a real issue with mainstream television. I am not fond of the writing, I don’t like many of the plot lines, and most of it isn’t appropriate for family viewing. I have cable TV and most of the movie channels because I REALLY don’t like network TV. However, when I can’t watch my movie channels due to travel, business commute or other issues, I really like to take my video on the go and its important to have a really good Windows DVD app like CyberLink’s PowerDVD Ultra at times like those. Its one of my favorites.

PowerDVD Ultra supports all media types including video, audio and photographic content. Its your all-purpose entertainment station. With it, you can enjoy media on your PC, mobile devices, home networks, from the cloud, and even via social networks. PowerDVD Ultra’s enhanced audio-visual quality, extended file format support, improved functionality, refinements to the user interface, and has an enhanced, wide range of digital media experiences.

PowerDVD 15 takes your movie experience to new places with playback enhancements and format support additions you won’t find in any other player. The app intelligently analyzes video footage and optimizes hues and vibrancy, creating a true-to-life viewing experience. TrueTheater Color recognizes skin tones in footage and applies only subtle adjustments to these areas in order to achieve improvements while retaining authentic coloring.

PowerDVD’s intelligent media buffering engine means that you no longer have to deal with stop and start playback, especially when you’re streaming video from a NAS device. This is a huge advancement, as streaming video on your home network just got more reliable. Advanced preloading techniques let PowerDVD analyze and retrieve additional playback data so that your media playback is not interrupted, even if the connection to your storage device is degraded.

PowerDVD Ultra is one of the better DVD players on the market. Its easy to use, has advanced playback and streaming controls and, it also supports 4K video… if you can find video files that actually support the new color and resolution format. When PowerDVD detects a 4K video file and a 4K monitor, Overlay Mode is automatically engaged to optimize the rendering pipeline and reduce the graphic resource load, delivering smooth, lag-free playback.

The app is also simply gorgeous to look at. However, non-standard UI’s are always an issue with Windows. They’re more often than not, “coats of paint,” or masks, over the standard Windows UI and take resources away from the PC, generating performance issues. I didn’t see that here with PowerDVD, and I tested it on an older, Windows 7 based PC.

If you’ve ripped your DVD’s to ISO’s, PowerDVD 15 now offers convenient direct playback of Blu-ray and DVD ISO files, either directly from the PC or via a network-connected drive. No additional mounting tools are required; and if your playback is interrupted, you don’t have to worry about trying to remember where you were in the movie. PowerDVD can pick it up right where you left off.

This is a really cool application, and since Microsoft has done a huge amount of work to deemphasize Windows Media Player (and I’m not entirely certain why), a more modern app with support for newer HD formats and technology is clearly needed. PowerDVD is filling a huge hole, and it does a GREAT job at it, too.

Download

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So… Like, I’m in Wait Mode

There’s a lot happening and I’m all set to hurry up and wait; and it sucks.

I’ve got a lot to be thankful for and I truly feel blessed.

I have a wife and family that love me. I have a great job. I have a great gig here at Soft32. I actually think it’s one of the best sites I’ve ever written for, and I’ve written for a GREAT many over the past 20 or so years including CMPnet, WUGNET. AOL/CompuServe, Gear Diary, pocketnow, InformationWeek, LockerGnome, plus a number of print pubs including >, Computer Power User Magazine and a Sun-Times affiliated newspaper – The Aurora Beacon-News. Definitely blessed.

All of the writing over the years has kept me in baseball cards and bubble gum, for sure. I’ve been able to afford to buy a number of different technology items and write about them that in just about any other life scenario, I simply wouldn’t have been able to afford to do.

Case in point… I’ve got a number of different things cued up for this Summer and Fall, but I’m stuck in a wait and see mode, or stuck waiting for something to ship. Here’s a run-down of all that I’ve got queued up. I’m going to try to sort these by the time I am supposed to have something in hand, though it will likely be a few weeks after they are received before I have anything written and/ or posted about them.

Henge Docks Horizontal Dock – Mid-May 2015
This one has been a LONG time in coming.

henge_horizontal_dock1-100024094-orig

I’ve been a huge fan of docking stations since, like, the invention of the notebook computer; but really back in the mid to late 1990’s. I’ve had a number of Dell laptops – mostly Latitudes – that have had docks, and I’ve had docks at work and at home with nearly EVERY work PC I’ve ever used in my entire life, including every Dell and Lenovo I’ve ever put my hands on. However, Apple doesn’t believe in docking stations. Not even a little bit.

Apple’s take, even when they were still including a full blown Ethernet port in their notebooks, is that notebooks were meant to be portable; and you really don’t want to tie yourself down to a wired internet connection. You want to be wireless. That’s why you have a notebook PC.

Well, sorta.

I have a notebook PC because I want to be able to compute in a non-standard place like the beach, my deck, or a place where they sell overpriced coffee. The problem is, I still want to be able to use that notebook PC with some desktop styled resources – like a mouse, external keyboard (be they wired or wireless) and most importantly, a large, HD monitor. If you stick to Apple’s way of doing things when you get to a an office setting, you constantly plug and chug cables in out of ports on your MacBook or MacBook Pro… which totally sucks… hence the need/ desire for a docking station or port replicator

Henge Docks has been making (somewhat) affordable vertical docks for years. They announced their Horizontal Docking Station more than two years ago, and I pre-ordered it almost immediately. I’ve been waiting on it ever since.

The dock is finally supposed to ship in mid-May 2015; and as part of their Early Adopter Program, I’ll have access to enhanced functionality, frequent updates and special user forums where I and a number of other folks will be able to provide feedback on the device directly to Henge Docks.

When it arrives, I’m going to have to reconfigure the top of the desk in my office. Specifically, I’m going to need to reassess how I’ve got my dual monitors positioned. I may also need to get a bigger or different second/ third monitor, as the 22″ SD monitor I’ve got just isn’t cutting it anymore.

Apple Watch Sport Edition – Mid-to-Late May 2015
As I said the other day, I got my Apple Watch before things totally sold out. I should be getting mine in the third or fourth wave of shipments. My watch is scheduled to ship between 2015-05-13 and 2015-05-27.

apple-watch-side

I seem to remember seeing one or two articles over the past week or so indicating that preorders MIGHT ship earlier than originally estimated, but I haven’t heard anything else to refute or substantiate that claim. If I had to guess, I’d say things with either ship during my originally estimated window or later than that.

While people wait for their Watches to arrive, everyone everywhere is going to be inundating the internet with a bunch of fluff. You’ll see information about Apple supplied bands, third party bands, uses and ideas for Watch and of course, different apps. You’re also going to see a lot of coverage about how Watch isn’t going to be as intuitive or easy to use as every other Apple product on the market.

Concierge Appointments are going to be an interesting topic to follow and until Watches start arriving and people start making and attending appointments, we’re not going to know what they are really going to cover.

Pebble Time – May 2015
Pebble Time is Pebble’s latest venture into the wearables market. The device is an update to their previous Kickstarter Campaign provides a couple of new options.

Pebble_Time_colours-970-80

This time, you get a color display and up to seven days of battery life out of a single charge. While there are definitely updates to the Pebble watch OS to take advantage of the new color display and some new capabilities. I have no idea what we’re REALLY going to see with this, but we’ll have to wait and see. While I suspect that it’s going to be VERY Pebble – i.e. basically the same as Pebble and Pebble Steel, but with a color display, but again, I’m going to want to wait and see the actual device in my hands before making any final determinations.

Olio Model One – Summer 2015 (Meaning somewhere between July and October)
This is the one smartwatch that I really know little to nothing about. The only information that I have on it is what you can find on their home page. This isn’t much information to go on at all.

olio-watch-steel-steel-link-ui

I’ve spoken briefly with the organization’s CEO via email. He didn’t offer any additional information, other than the organization is excited to release the device in limited availability later this year.

The device looks amazing. The big thing that is going to make or break this device is notifications and the way it works with them. If it’s an all or nothing thing as it is with other smartwatches or fitness bands, then Olio isn’t going to do very well. Unfortunately, because there’s little to no additional information on how Olio intends to deal with notification overload, this is another wait and see item.

Windows 10 RTM – Summer 2015
Windows 10 is supposed to RTM (release to manufacturing) sometime this Summer, which again, means between July and October of 2015. If Microsoft wants to have Windows 10 in the hands of manufacturers and OEM’s in time for back to school computer sales, then it better be as early in the “summer” as possible. If they do hit their advertised release window, then they may make it in time to hit Back to School; but then again, it may not be enough time.

Based on what I know about my own experience right now, and the one huge bug that I have logged – Disappearing Ink – hitting this window is going to be difficult at best. They have a number of different issues to get past and with the way that builds are being released even to the Fast Ring, I’m really going to be surprised if they make it in time. I don’t think they will. My Disappearing Ink bug has been around for at least 6 Fast Ring builds, and it’s a huge defect. I don’t know that they’re going to get to the end game in time to make Back to School PC releases.

However, until they have a fix for Disappearing Ink, I’m off the Fast Ring, especially on my Surface Pro 3. I’ve got too much going on with OneNote at the office to risk losing information and notes during a meeting while using Windows 10. I also downloaded Windows 10 for Mobile 10051 on my Lumia 520, and I agree with Paul, Mary Jo and Leo. The latest Windows 10 build for Window Phones just plain sucks. Oh… it’s really horrible.

UPDATE: While writing this an article appeared on Microsoft News attributing AMD’s CEO, Lisa Su, with a statement that Windows 10 would RTM in July. Early Monday morning, 2015-04-20, as I was finishing up this column, I also stumbled upon a reiteration of this same attribution, but this time with a full quote on the Windows Supersite. Here’s the full quote, given during AMD’s Quarterly Earning’s call:

“…What we also are factoring in is, you know, with the Windows 10 launch at the end of July, we are watching sort of the impact of that on the back-to-school season, and expect that it might have a bit of a delay to the normal back-to-school season inventory build-up…”

This statement fails to indicate if the July release is Windows 10 for desktop, Phones or small tablets, or ALL devices.

Given the issues that are currently being encountered in all platforms, I’d be surprised if this was for everything. Desktop, maybe; but all platforms…? No.

iOS 9 and OS X 10.11
WWDC currently scheduled for 2015-06-08 through 2015-06-12. At that time, I’m expecting announcements for both iOS 9 and OS X 10.11. However, while this is pretty much a safe bet, there’s no guarantee on this either. No one has really started grinding the iOS 9 grindstone. No one has been beating the “I really need the next version of OS X to do ‘this'” drum.

So far as I can tell, the only thing that most people have been saying about both iOS 8 and OS X 10.10 is that they’d really like the next versions to work better than the current versions. So maybe both will be stability and bug fix releases. However, given that they’re both going up against a huge release in Windows 10, it’s unlikely that that will happen.

While this may be seen as a good thing for Apple fans and users, in the end, it may not be. Adding new features on top of a release that isn’t as solid as it could be could be a big problem in the end. Unfortunately, as information is going to be lacking until at least after the WWDC Keynote, this is yet another wait and see item.

So as you can see… I’m stuck.

I’ve got more wait and see items than I do actual stuff to look at right now.

What are you most interested in seeing this year? Are you waiting for anything in particular? Did you order an Apple Watch? Will you get it before school starts in the States in the Fall? Did you order another wearable? Is there going to be high demand for iOS 9 or OS X 10.11? Do you think that Windows 10 will make a July release date, or will it be delayed until later?

Why don’t you join me in the discussion area, below, and give me your thoughts.

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Amazon Releases Prime Music

Amazon jumps into the streaming music business with the release of Prime Music.

Amazon Prime

The world of digital music is complicated.  With the RIAA still occasionally chasing after folks for illegally sharing copyrighted files, and artists complaining of poor pay-outs when it comes to pay to play rates on their songs that are actually streamed on the service in question, Amazon has decided to throw their hat in the ring and offer a streaming music service to its Prime members – Prime Music.

The service, which is free to Prime members (which costs $99 USD per year for Prime 2 day shipping, Prime Photos, Prime Instant Video, Prime Music and Kindle Lending Library)provides over 1 million songs instantly available for streaming, via the web, your iOS or Android tablet or smartphone, as well as clients for Mac and PC. The service is ad-free, and you can skip as many songs as you want, two huge plusses for Prime customers, as the service is funded by your annual Prime membership fee.

With Amazon’s Prime Service now offering these 5 distinct and different services (shipping, photos, video, music and Kindle Library), the value of the service has (at least potentially) increased. While most streaming music services cost $120 USD per year (or $10USD per month), Prime gives you all five services for $100 USD, a $20 savings. If you order ANYTHING from Amazon during the year you have the service, and you stream music on a regular basis, you’re going to benefit from the service.

I’m a prime member and I have used Prime Instant Video along with two day shipping for years.  I likely will not use Music, unless I’m connected to a Wi-Fi network, if at all.  Call me old school if you must, but I don’t like using ALL of my mobile bandwidth for streaming services. While I do have AT&T with Roll-Over data, I share the account with my wife and daughter, and we do not stream music at all. Most of the bandwidth we use is used for iPhone data or hot spot services. Until Wi-Fi is available everywhere (if it ever is), and mobile data is much cheaper than it is now, I’m not going to blow it all listening to music I likely already have in my iTunes Music Library…AND on my iPhone. It’s why I bought a 64GB iDevice, and why I sync my entire music collection to my iPhone (and by the way, I still have over 20GB of free space…).

While this may not make a lot of sense for me (except over Wi-Fi, and then maybe only at work, if I don’t get busted for using a streaming service there), it may be very compelling for others that are looking for a streaming service and who are already Prime members or are considering Amazon Prime.

Interested parties can checkout Amazon Prime for more information.

The email that I got announcing Prime Music can be seen below:

“As a Prime Member, you now get unlimited access to Prime Stations — an ad-free, internet radio service you can enjoy at no additional cost to your Prime membership.

With Prime Stations, you can find a genre or artist you like and hit play to hear a continuous stream of music that you can pause, replay, or skip as many times as you’d like. As you listen and give songs a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, each station will adapt to your music tastes.

Prime Members can stream Prime Stations and over a million songs for free with the Amazon Music App on iOS, Android, Kindle Fire HD/HDX, Mac, PC, and the web.”

 

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