Apple to iWork Users – All Features will be Restored

I kinda figured this was the case. It’s good to know that Apple isn’t leaving users (totally) out in the cold.

iwork09090106-3

When Apple reworked iWork late last month and:

  • Made it 64bit
  • Leveled compatibility with iOS, iWork in iCloud and OS X
  • Made it free with the purchase of a new Mac

The update was huge; and it was the shot that restarted and won the Office Suite War  in a single volly; or so I thought. I later found out  that a number of features were missing, apparently removed, much to the chagrin of many iWork 9 users. The outcry had many pundits scratching their heads and users headed towards Office 365 or other alternatives.   Microsoft had fired back without even raising a finger.

Thankfully, Apple has heard the outcry of the masses and has responded.   The missing features were removed in order to insure file compatibility with iWork for iOS.   They will restore 18 of the missing features over the next 6 months.   According to Apple, “In rewriting these applications, some features from iWork ’09 were not available for the initial release.   We plan to reintroduce these features in the next few releases and will continue to add brand new features on an ongoing basis.”

Apple will restore 8 features to Pages, 6 to Numbers and 4 to Keynote, or 18 features in total.   This includes customizable toolbars, renewed Apple Script workflow automation support and thumbnail-based section management.   Unfortunately, once documents are converted in the new version of iWork, they can’t be opened in iWork ’09.

The biggest problem here is that the features will be restored over time and not in a single update after the 2013-10-22 initial release of the cross platform version of iWork.   Its nice that the features will be restored, but some are wondering why this message wasn’t delivered with the updated version of iWork in the first place.

The big question here is whether Apple intends to answer these questions or just gloss over them?   Will they accelerate their release schedule; or weather the storm and get them out there when they can? It wouldn’t mean the end of the world to a lot of people, as those that were dependent on the older features can still access the older software either after the update from an “archived” folder created during the installation routine of the newest version of iWork; or by not updating the software and continuing to use iWork ’09.

If you’re not an iWork user yet, but are interested in the new cross platform version, be aware that there are updates to be made. Existing users should watch for the updates and their missing features to be restored.

What do you think of the situation?   Did Apple stick it to its users, or is the situation something that will work itself out over time?   I’d love to hear your thoughts in the discussion area, below.

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Microsoft Down to Just 8 CEO Candidates

…and I don’t care if you DID print your resume on hot pink, triple bond paper…

2013-10-24_02-55-11-1_large_verge_medium_landscape

I’ve been calling for it for years, because despite the fact that Ballmer is a really nice guy, he just doesn’t get mobile computing; but Microsoft has been hard at work. Despite the fact that the talk has died down, Microsoft is still actively searching for a new CEO. In fact, they’re down to about eight candidates – 5 external and 3 internal.

Its kinda interesting, as many people – me included – thought this was a done deal a couple different times. However, MS did the right thing and took the spotlight off the activity and quietly whittled the list down to a few candidates.  They include the following people:

External Candidates Include:

  • Ford CEO Alan Mulally
    Microsoft needs a success story candidate, and that’s Mulally. Ford had been in need of an image and financial make over, and Mulally delivered. Ford’s stock has done well in the recent past and the work they’ve done related to automotive connectivity with Sync and major smartphone carriers shows that Mulally understands mobility; and that’s something that Microsoft needs.  Mulally is also one of Ballmer’s go-to advisors as I understand it, so he is at least familiar with what is going on with Microsoft, its challenges and problems. As much as I think other candidates might be a better fit, Mulally may actually be what Microsoft needs.
  • Nokia CEO Stephen Elop
    Elop left Microsoft to join Nokia.  Just a short while later, Microsoft acquired the smartphone business from Nokia, bringing Elop back to Redmond. Elop understands mobility and mobile computing; and Nokia’s been the flagship Windows Phone maker for a while now. On paper, Elop is the candidate that makes the most sense. However, other external candidates have firsthand experience in pulling a troubled company out of murky water before the swirl gets impossible to handle. I want to want Elop for this role, but the more that I think about it, Mulally makes the most sense.
  • Three other, unnamed external candidates
    Reuters, who is the source here, did not have any additional information on external candidates.  Your guess is as good as mine here.

Internal Candidates Include:

  • Former Skype CEO Tony Bates
    Skye is a mobile communications company and Bates did a great job in building Skype into a popular must have internet property that Microsoft swallowed up and now has as the backbone of its Communications platform. Anyone that can do that, certainly has enough vision to turn Microsoft around.
  • Cloud and Enterprise chief Satya Nadella
    Nadella brought us Azure and helped reinvent SkyDrive. His star has been on the rise at Microsoft for quite some time, and while there may not be as much known about him as Tony Bates, Stephen Elop or Alan Mulally, I think Satya Nadella is the leading internal candidate at Microsoft for the vacating CEO chair. He’s continually brought value to the company, his focus with cloud and enterprise at MS will be a key foundation point in any new mobility or mobile strategy, and there isn’t a lot known about him, meaning that the market and the industry won’t be distracted by any back story developments or questions that would develop now that he’s left (Ford or Nokia) one company or is back in the CEO chair.
  • One other, unnamed internal candidate
    Again, Reuters didn’t have any information on who the last internal candidate might be, and didn’t speculate at all. I, however, think it may be Julie Larson-Green.  She’s the new EVP of Microsoft’s Devices and Studio group and has been with the organization since 1993. She has history; and has drive and vision.  As the only (real) female candidate that I know or have heard of, I think she has a decent chance in the race.  Putting a woman in charge would be a popular and trending play for Microsoft, who desperately needs as much positive spin on their next public move as they can get.

Many people have speculated that Bill Gates would come back as CEO and pull Microsoft out of the gutter. I don’t see this happening and there’s no credible source that I can find that would suggest that Gates is making another run for the corner office on Microsoft’s executive floor.

Who do you think should sit in the captain’s chair at Microsoft? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the discussion, below.

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Cloud Services Raining Problems – Google Drive & OS X Mavericks

mavericksWhat do Mavericks, Google Drive and Apple Support all have in common? Finder crashes…

Mavericks was made available to the public for free on 2013-10-22. It’s been one of the most successful OS X rollouts ever for Apple, in large part because of its many new features and also because its performance has been top notch. However, that doesn’t mean that all is right with the world.

I don’t really like the Finder Tabs implementation that Apple worked into Mavericks Finder. The “fold under” paradigm to the feature makes it very difficult to see what tabs are available in any particular Finder window. Safari uses the same paradigm and has the same problem, in my opinion.

In order to resolve this issue for me, I don’t use Finder Tabs and instead use Total Finder, an $18 Finder add-on that I was turned on to more than 18 months ago. Version 1.5.2 works best with Mavericks; but you have to watch. If something goes wrong with Finder, it’s probably the first place you should look and the first extension you should kill. If for some reason the extension does go south, it doesn’t auto restart, which is good and bad. Is good because you won’t get caught in some ugly, Finder crashing loop. If Total Finder force quits, Finder should come back, and you should be able to use your Mac “normally.” It’s bad, because if you want the features back after the force quit, you have to manually restart the extension.

I upgraded to Mavericks before the 2013-10-22 availability due to my Developer Program membership. I had the Gold Master before the public did, and it’s been a solid performer for well over a month. I’ve not had any issues with it, Total Finder, or any other application or extension I have installed on my Early 2011 MBP. So, when I started having Finder crashes yesterday morning and ALL yesterday evening, I kinda got worried.

I hadn’t installed any new Mac software. There were no changes to the system that I was aware of, so either something got corrupted, I had a virus or worm intrusion, or I had other problems. I have ClamX AV installed on my Mac, and I have not been getting any warnings from it. I’ve got its System Sentry running and scanning the root and subfolders on EVERY drive permanently attached to it, so I was relatively certain I didn’t have any weird bug.

After Mavericks reinstalled itself (a system update/rebuild of 10.9.0 was released after the GM was made available to Developer Program members and it automatically came down and its install was started), I hadn’t updated any other software. However, all day yesterday, I had Finder crash after Finder crash. Finder would auto restart, but it got to be so bad, that I couldn’t get any work done or even watch any video full screen. The looping Finder crashes took over my machine. I immediately started looking at Total Finder as the culprit. In the past, if my Mac developed Finder issues, it was likely behind them. However, Finder kept crashing over and over, and Total Finder had force closed after the first one. It wasn’t causing the issue.

finder_crash

I took a run over to Apple Support Forums after that. I found a couple of threads about Finder crashes and Mavericks, and a couple of possible solutions. The first one involved removing the com.Apple.Finder.plist file (my system actually had 3, which made me think I some Finder problems anyway…) from my ~Library\Preferences folder. Moderate success had been reported with that.

Unfortunately, that didn’t work for me. Finder continued to crash about once every 2-3 minutes.

The other solution I found was related to people who had Google Drive installed on their Mavericks system. To stop Finder crashes, you had to uncheck the option to display file sync status. That worked.

Shortly after I came to work, I got a notice from MacUpdate Desktop that a new version of Google Drive had been released. Unfortunately, release notes weren’t available at the time of release, and I can’t find anything online that tells me what changed. However, I plan to update Drive when I get home and will likely leave sync status icons disabled, even if they’re fixed. This isn’t the first time that Google Drive’s sync status icons have caused serious performance or stability issues on either Mac or Windows systems. The feature is a convenience, but not something I have to have turned on. As long as the content syncs and my menu bar icon says all is well, I’m happy.

The biggest problem here is that with the big push to get everything in the cloud, Google can’t afford to have Drive causing issues like this. They need to get a handle on it and kill the problem or else the service will be seen as unreliable, even with the work around.

 

Again, this is something that I’ll be monitoring, and if I have an update, I’ll make sure it gets on Soft32.com ASAP.

 

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Desktop Replacements vs. Laptop Replacements

Some laptops were never meant to replace desktops. Others were. In an era where the desktop is disappearing, are tablets meant to replace laptops AND desktops?
Notebook-vs-PC
I’ve been a mobile computing advocate since 1992. I’ve been an expert really, since 2003. Mobile computing has become a way of organizing my life, a way of being more efficient at work as well as a way to entertain my family.  If it wasn’t for my son’s Nintendo DS-XL, some car trips would be unbearable. Dad likes a quiet car…

Desktop computers are being slowly phased out by the consumers that have historically purchased them because portable, more mobile replacements have been taking their place for a number of years. The trend can be taken back to Compaq’s luggable” portable computer that was introduced back in 1980 blah-blah-blah. People have wanted to take their computers with them since they were first introduced…

It was long thought that laptops and notebook computers would cause desktops to be phased out, but that didn’t quite happen.  You can credit that to the fact that they were really the same computer, at least on the inside. For the most part they used the same operating systems and the same applications. There was so much mobile form factor diversity, that the laptop PC almost insured that it wouldn’t phase out the desktop.  Tablets however, are a different story. There are basically only two form factors 7″-8″ and 10″ – or more aptly put – a mini and a normal sized tablet.

Apple’s new A7 processor appears in not only the iPhone 5S, but in the new iPad mini and the iPad Air. The A7 runs 100mHz faster in the tablet versions of Apple’s newest iDevices, and with some of the newer keyboard covers that are coming out for the devices, you have to ask yourself the question – will the iPad Air replace the MacBook Air or MacBook Pro as Apple’s mobile computing platform?  Should it?

The A7 runs 80% faster than the A6. It seems to, or appears to, have the chops to handle most of the computing tasks that most consumers would need – web surfing, email, moderate digital photography retouching. As I said before, all that most any casual consumer would need at that point would be the right kind of keyboard cover, and without a doubt, the iPad Air or new iPad mini could be their go-to computing device. Those that are more comfortable with a full featured PC, notebook or other computer can still get what they need today with either a Mac mini or MacBook Pro; or even a notebook or desktop PC.

Consumers want what ever device is going to provide the path of least resistance to their computing goal. The biggest problem with tablets as a primary computing device, in my opinion, has been their slate form factor and lack of keyboard and, even with their touch screens, a pointing device like a trackpad or mouse.

Devices like Surface Pro and Surface 2 Pro have the right idea – a portable slate device with a very usable keyboard and trackpad.  Now that third party accessory makers are providing usable, comfortable keyboard covers for the tablets in general, I think we ARE going to see more tablets with magnetic keyboards.  With processors that are providing notebook level computing power, I think that for the immediate computing future, say the next 3-5 years, notebooks and desktops won’t be completely replaced in the consumer market, but more users will likely be headed in that direction. It simply makes sense from a usability, portability, economic and ecosystem perspective.  Forget lean back and lean forward computing, tablets will be the devices we lean TOWARDS to get work done.

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Is The End Near for Microsoft?

microsoft-in-kenyaWell, I don’t know, but they sure act like it. Just like a beast, who is starting to realize that the opponent is getting stronger, and now, wounded, tries to get hold on every possible thing to remain in the big digital war.

This is my personal point of view, and it’s becoming more and more obvious. Microsoft started an aggressive campaign against Google’s email client, Gmail, called Scroogled. Well, now, Microsoft is doing it again! Another campaign against Goole’s email scanning process, called Keep Your Email Private (and use Outlook.com instead of Gmail). So, what’s new? I don’t think that is anything new, and they just wanna remind the users that outlook.com is safer and respects your privacy, unlike Google’s Gmail. We all know that emails content are scanned with a view of delivering targeted ads, depending on your conversation topic.

People know about this, and whoever is not happy with it, can move along from Gmail. What is now suspicious, is that Microsoft is using this Gmail feature, and exploits it, in order to get more people to use Outlook.com

Microsoft statement: “Unlike Gmail, Outlook.com keeps your privacy private. You won’t see ads based on keywords from your personal email. Your email is nobody else’s business. But Google makes it their business. Even if you’re not a Gmail user, Google still goes through your personal email sent to Gmail and uses the content to sell ads. ”

They explain how the scanning works, but something is missing. Of course the lack of clear points in this information, is not making it clear if the scanning is anonymously made and if any of our private data is given/revealed to any other third party.

It’s clear that Microsoft wants more users and they use this “feature” from Gmail to boost their products. I don’t find it a fair fight, to throw mud on your opponent’s products in order to show to the people how shiny is yours. And about our privacy, Google statement is clear. It’s your choice if you use their products or not. The Big Brother doesn’t force anyone to join him, but he sure offers some of the best products on the market.

What can we do? Well, it’s clear. As long as we give up our privacy, we let our freedom vanish.
Using the email account is almost vital for many people. But, really, I don’t know who likes the idea to have all the emails scanned… A workaround can be made. If you really want more privacy, but you don’t wanna let your Gmail account go, you can set up another email client, or you can even choose to use Outlook.com and connect your Gmail account there, and you’ll get all your emails forwarded to your new Outlook account. But this is the right way to avoid having your emails scanned? If I set up the automatic forward, would make my emails invulnerable to scanning? Still, one big question remains… what is the safest way to use the email and have our privacy protected?

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Fairfax Deal Falls Through – Blackberry on the Skids?

Sometimes I really hate it when I’m right…

The clock has been ticking for Blackberry for quite some time, and today, the alarm went off. You know, I really feel bad. I really do. I hate it when I’m right, but some things really just can’t be helped.

I’ve been down on RIM/Blackberry for quite some time. I’ve been calling for them to see the writing on the wall since late 2011. Its seems now, they actually do know “for whom the bell tolls.” This time, it tolls for Thorsten Heins as Blackberry ousts not only him, but many of its senior directors as well in a last ditch effort to salvage some value out of the organization before it’s too late.

The buy-out by Fairfax Financial isn’t going to take place, and that’s really too bad. It was, in my opinion, Blackberry’s last, real chance to maintain any of its identity. Instead of the buyout, which would have been a nearly $5.0B deal, Fairfax is going to try to raise about $1.0B by selling convertible notes in a bid to stabilize the organizations shrinking operating capital. Recently, the company reported a quarterly loss of about $1.0B and burned through an additional $500M in cash.

Sybase’s former chairman and chief executive of its enterprise technology firm, John Chen, will take over as CEO and as chairman of its board. Fairfax’s CEO, Prem Watsa will act as lead director and the chair of Blackberry’s compensation committee. There are specific, unspecified conditions that must also be met for the deal to close, which also includes approval from the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Trading of Blackberry shares was briefly halted, prior to the Nasdaq actually opening, as they lost nearly 21% in premarket trading. As of 2 PM EST, BBRY shares were still down 1.28 to 6.49.

wake up blackberry

After the operating capital is secured, I’m not certain what Blackberry’s Plan B moves are. However, if they’re smart, those moves should include finding some kind of buyer for their IP before it becomes completely irrelevant. Blackberry’s security technology is great for mobile email, but many of its current customers are moving to other solutions as they weren’t able to make their latest OS gain any traction with the consumer market and have only had mild success in the enterprise market. Divesting the organization’s assets seems the only real alternative for them to get any return on their investor’s money… before the world completely moves on.

 

I’ll be following this in the coming days and weeks to see if and what John Chen decides to do with the organization. Please watch Soft32.com for updates.

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Microsoft Windows 8.1 Delta Review

Introduction

Windows PC’s are some of the most affordable computers available today. Portable or not, they cost hundreds of dollars where Macs can cost thousands. If you want an affordable or budget PC, portable or not, its likely going to be a Windows machine. Unless there’s a Windows 7 offer, you can expect to have the latest version of Microsoft’s flagship operating system on it.

Windows 8.1 has a few interesting changes in it. I’ve covered the Consumer Preview of Windows 8 for Soft32. There wasn’t a huge delta – or change – between the Consumer Preview and the version that hit the streets. There are some interesting changes between Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. Let’s check them out and see if Windows 8.1 is the version of Windows 8.x that we’ve been hoping for.

New Features

Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but please remember that Windows 8.1 is still very much Windows 8. There are some very, very good improvements to legacy usability that should make many users of non-touch enabled PC’s very happy; but Microsoft didn’t go quite as far as it could have – or should have – for a great many users. Windows 8.1 still has ModernUI throughout most of it.

However, that doesn’t mean that the improvements that were made weren’t valuable. They are. Windows 8.1 is a much better Windows 8 than Windows 8 was. Let’s take a look at what was done, and see how it all stacks up. Depending on the type of PC you have, you may find them more relevant than others.

Start Button – but no start Menu

The masses have not been happy with the lack of a Start Button and Start Menu in Windows 8. The Start Menu has been around since the early days of Windows XP, and as many will tell you, was optimized in Windows 7. Microsoft has heard the wailing and gnashing of teeth and has resolved the issue…sorta.

Win81-01 Start Button

The Start Button is back, but the Windows 8 Start Screen is still here. There’s no Start Menu any longer. So unless you replace the Live Tiles with the All Programs menu, you’re stuck with them. The functionality here is still very good, and Microsoft has included the new Search Everywhere option (which is the real value of the Start Menu) which includes searching SkyDrive as well as online, for the terms you’re looking for.

Those of us used to using Windows in the Enterprise will also notice that the consumer version of Windows 8.1 also includes a log off/Sign Out option, accessible via a right click or by pressing Win-X, allowing users to take the PC back to an on, but not logged on status. This makes sharing PCs at home a bit easier as you truly DON’T have to share a single account with a spouse or siblings. All the instances of each app can truly be customized for any user of any account and you don’t have to share unless you want to.

This particular point is still a huge issue for many people. They really don’t like the Live Tile-based Start Screen on non-touch enabled and/or legacy PC’s. For those that just can’t live with the Start Screen, you can always install Start8.

Boot to Desktop

One of the biggest problems with Windows 8 is that it took you right to the Start Screen every time the PC finished the startup process. As part of the Windows 8.1 update, Microsoft introduced a Boot to Desktop option for users who simply weren’t going to use ModernUI or who preferred to see the standard Windows Desktop. It *IS* where most users will do most of their work.

Win81-03 Boot Desktop

Interestingly enough, the options for this are connected to the Task Bar and not to your desktop (Personalization) or Display options. To get to these, right click your Task Bar, click Properties and then choose the Navigation tab.

Here, you’ll see a great many Windows 8.1 options, including the option to replace the Start Screen with the All Apps view. Take note of this tab and this dialog box. You’re likely going to become very familiar with the options here as you try to figure out the best set of “navigation options” for you.

This is one of the biggest advantages of Windows 8.1 over Windows 8. If your PC doesn’t have a touch interface and you aren’t going to be using it as a lean-back device (a tablet-like, content consumption device) then you may want to give serious consideration to using Boot to Desktop. Using this, along with options like the All Apps View go a long way to hiding ModernUI elements from users who really won’t make use of them.

IE11 Updates

Windows 8.1 comes with IE11, so you won’t need to update the browser via Windows update or any other manual process. The ModernUI version of the Microsoft’s web browser includes Reading View, which allows you to view and read content off line. It has settings that allow you to customize its look and feel with different fonts and colors choices. You can also turn Tracking Protection on and off and prevent sites from tracking you or from installing 3rd party cookies.

Win81-04 IE11

Next page

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No Derp Intended – What Apple Might be Doing with iWork

There may be madness to the method…

Apple’s iWork has been causing a ruckus. As I mentioned the other day, angry users are ditching iWork for Office. Microsoft fired back in the resurging Office Suite War without even loading their guns. Apple seems to have shot themselves in the foot with the stripping down of iWork.

But consider this – Final Cut Pro. How familiar is this situation?

Didn’t the same kind of thing happen? Didn’t users wail and gnash their teeth? Was not the cry so loud that the SDLC gods moved Apple to pacify the natives before they revolted?

i dont workComputerWorld’s Jonny Evans seems to think so. He sees this not as a dumbing down of the software, bringing parity with iOS and iDevices everywhere, but as a way of leveling the playing field before reintroducing features and functionality in a way that will allow those things to be universal across the App Store.

He has a point. That’s sorta what Apple did with Final Cut Pro. Sorta.

Jonny’s point is – wait and see. And he may be right. For now, users who upgraded can look in a subfolder under the iWork app folder and they can run the OLDER version (ver. 4.x) of iWork that version 5 replaced. At least until newer versions are released that contain the features that users are screaming about. However… there is a catch.

Apple really has one chance to get this right, and while they don’t have to reintroduce ALL of the removed features in the next version, they DO need to communicate their intentions without it seeming as though they are caving to user demands and putting things back that they took out. It’s a little thing, but it’s going to go a long way to strengthening their credibility in the eyes of a user base that feels jilted.

The problem with that is that Apple – and for that matter Microsoft or any other software publisher – doesn’t make it public policy to publish the roadmap for every <widget> out there. Apple is one of the most secretive companies in the world; and I expect them to stay that way. However, part of getting this right is going to be Apple explaining what’s going on and not making everyone either guess or wait until pundits read the tea leaves just before or just after another update of iWork is released.

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