My Bluetooth has Cavities

Sometimes, I really wonder why I use so many Bluetooth devices…

bluetoothApple has just released iOS 8.3 Beta 1 to its developer partners. The big push behind iOS 8.3? – Wireless CarPlay connectivity. This is a change to CarPlay, which previously required a cabled, lightning connection to a head unit to function.

CarPlay and iOS 8.3 are obviously going to rely more heavily on Bluetooth Low Energy connections going forward. For me – and I think, a number of actual and potential CarPlay users – this is likely going to prove to be a huge headache.

I’ve got a Pebble Steel, Microsoft Band and a Fitbit Surge. These three smartwatches and activity bands all use BT-LE to communicate with my smartphone – currently an iPhone 6 running iOS 8.1.3. I’ve been experiencing some very serious challenges with Bluetooth connectivity over the last number of years and I’ve come to a very clear and solid conclusion:

Bluetooth just plain sucks.

I’ve had more dropped connections, failed connections, and difficulty pairing devices than I think ANYONE should have to put up with. The technology is supposed to be active seeking, meaning than its supposed to actively find paired devices and when it does find them, activate secured communications between devices that are paired and hold and maintain that connection as long as the two devices are in range.

The problem that I run into, with my:

  • iPhone 6
  • Pebble Steel
  • Microsoft Band
  • Fitbit Surge
  • Kenwood BT952HD Car Stereo
  • Beats Wireless Headset
  • MacBook Pro
  • Apple Magic Mouse
  • iPad 1

and any other wireless device that I’m forgetting to list is that none of them…

NONE

OF

THEM

can maintain any kind of consistent level of Bluetooth connectivity between any of the devices that they’re paired to on a consistent basis. Devices always fail to sync at some point. Active connections are dropped (like, I’m on a phone call in the car and the call I’m actively on drops off the car stereo, but the call itself is still connected to my iPhone; and this happens WHILE I’m driving) without any kind of warning or indication of communications problem.

Paired devices often refuse to connect, requiring Bluetooth radios in either one, the other, or both devices to be turned off for 15-30 seconds and then cycled back on before formerly paired devices may connect. In some severe cases, partnerships have had to be deleted and devices repaired, because no amount of trying, begging, pleading, bargaining or cajoling has gotten them to connect (and then even repairing the devices can be difficult…)

Mercedes-Benz at the Geneva International Auto Show 2014

This is why I was so very interested in CarPlay in my vehicle. It REQUIRED a cabled connection, meaning that I wouldn’t have to argue with the head unit and my iPhone and their potentially fickle relationship any more. The devices would connect when the phone was plugged into the cable, and that would be the end of that. As long as CarPlay continues to support hard wired connections, then I think it will be a good solution for hands free operation in a vehicle. The moment that it moves to wireless communications only, is the day that I think the standard will begin to have some serious problems.

What’s even more infuriating is that they stop and start working seemingly at random and completely on their own. I have no idea at times whether or not the devices I assume are connected are in fact… CONNECTED.

But can someone please help me understand what I’m supposed to do here??

Can someone point me to some sort of “wireless crazy glue” that will insure that Bluetooth connections work as their intended all the time? I know I can’t be the only person having this kind of problem. I’ve learned over time that I can’t just assume that paired devices will connect when they’re supposed to and/ or will stay connected as they’re supposed to when the devices come in range. At best, this is a hit and miss sorta deal, and honestly, Bluetooth needs to be better than this.

When I rely on Bluetooth connections to connected and stay connected after pairing (as long as the devices are in range), this sort of hit and miss crap just can’t be tolerated. I can’t get any of the Continuity features between my Macs and my iPhone to work consistently. I can’t get any of my smartwatches or activity/ fitness bands to consistently sync with my smartphone. I can’t get my smartphone and my car radio to connect and work the way it’s supposed to.

How the heck am I supposed to rely on any of this stuff to work and “improve” my life if the connectivity technology – Bluetooth is full of “cavities?”

I have NO idea what to do…

Are you having issues with Bluetooth or Bluetooth LE? Do your devices drop connections like paparazzi drop names (and flash bulbs)? Do your mission critical Bluetooth applications – your car radio, your fitness band or smartwatch, your wireless headset, etc. – crap out on you when you need them most? Am I missing something that I should be doing, but for some reason am not? What words of wisdom can YOU offer ME? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the whole issue. Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and give me your thoughts on the whole ordeal? Lord knows… I could use the help!

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Browse websites with UC Browser from your Android Device

ucbrowsericonIn many ways, many mobile users do more web surfing on their mobile device than they do on their desktop/ laptop PC. In some cases, a mobile device is all you’ve got, so you’re going to do all of your web surfing on your mobile device. In cases such as these, you really want a browser that’s going to work for you; and in many cases, that’s NOT the default browser that came with your device. This is why apps like UC Browser for Android are so important. This browser for your Android mobile device can really help you get the biggest bang out of your mobile device buck.

UC Browser is a browser for your mobile device. Its, adaptable configuration helps you adjust the way you browse the internet under different network connections. This allows you to reduce data plan needs and costs; and helps to speed up page loading. The latest version achieves faster data presentation by compressing web pages on its server, and by preloading pages in the background. Android 4.3 is supported in the newest version of UC Browser.

You can personalize your browser experience with add-ons. This is something that is somewhat new in the mobile world. You don’t see a lot of this, or haven’t in the past, largely because of performance issues, but UC has resolved those issues. Now you can quickly and easily upload photos to Facebook with UC’s Facebook Photo Uploader. This method is easier than using Facebook’s built in functionality, as you can get everything done in a single step. You also get push notifications on likes and comments from your friends without actually having to run the full Facebook app.

UCB-06 UCB-07

UC Browser also lets you save web pages as a PDF. Now, rendered receipts and other important information that don’t automatically have agents that email you a copy, can be saved and recalled later, as needed. Additional file handling capabilities built into the browser also let you manage zip files, directly from the browser. Now you can download supported, compressed files and unzip them so you can work with their contents more easily. This is further augmented by the app’s Download Manager, which allows you to multi-task and contains support for UDisk, permanent, cloud-based storage on UCweb’s servers.

I’m not a big fan of 3rd party browsers on my mobile devices. They often take up space and don’t offer much of an improved or better user experience than the built in version. With UC Browser, that’s not the case. The app is pretty cool.

Over and above the FB plugin and compressed file handler, the browser also offers a webpage translator. The plugin takes advantage of both Google Translate and Bing, and supports more than 70 languages, opening up more of the web to you while you’re out and about. The application is free; and is better than some of the other browsers that I’ve encountered on a mobile device. The only thing it’s missing is a desktop counterpart where synchronization between bookmarks, history and reading lists would make the experience on your device, that much better.

Even without these, it’s a great app; and as it’s free, it’s hard to turn down.

download UC Browser

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More on Tablet Mode

I got a bit sidetracked the other day…

unnamed

So, I’ve been doing a lot of work with windows 10 over the past few weeks. I’ve got Build 9926 installed on just about every Windows machine in the house. I’ve got it on a Surface Pro 1, Surface Pro 3 and a Dell Latitude 10 ST2.

When I started talking about Tablet Mode the other day, it really sorta morphed into a bit on installing it on the ST2, which had its own challenges. I never really got to what tablet mode really is or does on a Windows Pro tablet.

From what I can see right now… not much.

My thought was a bit-more iPad-esque. Believe it or not, I really wanted to see a bit more of a ModernUI approach on a pure tablet device. I mean, that IS what Microsoft was originally shooting for when they released Windows RT and Surface RT. The desktop pretty much hidden, full screen Modern apps, etc.

Yeah, you don’t get any of that…not even when you invoke Continuum (Tablet Mode) either automatically (by removing the keyboard) or manually (by tapping the Tablet Mode button in the Notification Center).

What you do get is a darker display (?? Really?), a static task bar and view back to the desktop and a full screen sized Start Menu when you tap the Start Button. The device is supposed to run all apps in full screen mode; and it does. All Modern apps are supposed to run full screen and without any min/max or close buttons; and they do.

All of which seem a bit useless; and a bit confusing. Microsoft is still mixing their UI’s. This is just more desktop focused and not tablet focused. Fancy that… a tablet, running in tablet mode that is full of desktop UI components. I am SO confused.

I like EVERYONE else under the sun complained bitterly when Windows 8 was released. The whole mix-n-match desktop and tablet OS hybrid drove me nuts, too. However, I can see where a tablet mode might work, and work well if it totally switched interfaces and could be turned on and off by the user where and when needed, and/or activated automatically when the device was separated from its detachable keyboard.

Microsoft needs to pay attention to something like this, because this is what Tablet Mode really should be. Switch the device – in full tablet form factor – into a tablet interface. It’s clear that’s what user’s want… You don’t have to look any further than Apple’s own iPad to see that. Many iPad owners are also Mac owners (and vice-versa) and are happy bopping back and forth between the two now that Convergence is in place under iOS 8 and Yosemite.

I’ve pushed this idea through the Windows Feedback app, with an invite to talk about this; and we’ll see what Microsoft does. I’m not holding my breath or anything; but if they’re looking to find about a bit more about the vision I have for this, then I’m willing to sit down and talk if they are.

What do you think?

Are you a Windows Insider? Are you running Windows 10? Have you ever run

unnamed (2)

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Windows 10 – How Future Updates May Work

A small blip may have given us an idea how seamless updates will work in released versions of Windows 10…

As I said earlier this month, I’m an update nut, especially when it comes to beta and prerelease software. You learn to check early and often for updates, as some of the errors you encounter, can be ugly. When you’re a beta tester, rolling back often means blowing your box and rebuilding it, even when you’re just testing an app and not a beta OS, like Windows 10.

“[Beta testing] is like a box of chocolates,” Forest. “You never know what you’re gonna get…”

Case in point for today… I pulled out my Surface Pro 3 (which is now running as well as can be expected after issues with Build 9926 have been resolved), and went to Windows update and checked for updates. I encountered three updates:

1. Security Update for Internet Explorer Flash Player for Windows Technical Preview for x64-based Systems (KB3035034)
2. Update for Windows Technical Preview for x64-based Systems (KB3035129)
3. Definition Update for Windows Defender KB2267602 (Definition 1.191.3553.0)

I started the download for those and then bopped over to Advanced Settings and looked in on the options for installing new preview builds. We haven’t had one for post TP2, yet, and I wasn’t certain if there would be changes to the delivery mechanism. There were whisperings of potential changes, especially after folks installed item number 2. Update for Windows Technical Preview for x64-based Systems (KB3035129), above. The white space under the update ring drop down got filled with a branch drop down.

Screenshot (4)

I didn’t have that drop down yet, so I went back to the Windows Update screen and let the update finish, install and reboot my Surface Pro 3.

Twenty years of using and testing Windows has taught me that you always, alwAYS, ALWAYS run Windows Update until it tells you there aren’t any more updates to install. So, after installing those three updates, I went back and checked for updates again.

What I found, can be seen in the screen shots below

Screenshot (1)

It’s a normal update screen. This is exactly what I would expect to see…

Screenshot (2)

Wait, WHAT?!? A new build in the FBL_AWESOME branch?? Why thank you, Microsoft. I don’t mind if I do! (note the build number 9932)

Screenshot (3)

…and it crapped out. Well, crap.

At this point, I wasn’t sure if it was my wireless connection, the SP3 having Wi-Fi issues again, or something else. I grabbed the error number, 0x080246017, and went over to Google to see what I could see…

And got bubkus…

Google has absolutely NOTHING on this error at all. Nothing. Not even a description of what the error number means. There’s no external information on this error at all. Anywhere. Well, at least not that I could find, and I looked for about 30 minutes. I also kept trying to download the update, just in case the error might be congestion or something else. During this time, I notice the build number incremented from 9932 to 9933. As of this writing, that build number remains 9933.

At that point, I got on Twitter and tried reaching out to my friend, Gabe Aul. As of this writing, I haven’t heard from him.

I also tried reaching out to Paul Thurrott. He was able to help me sort this out.

9932 tweets

According to Paul, builds 9932 and 9933 are internal MS builds and not meant for external consumption. As a software quality professional, I know that daily builds of big project are a common occurrence. I also know that you can get multiple daily builds, in cases where important updates become available. At some point, MS is going to make certain that the Windows Insiders Team stops seeing the notifications of daily builds. It’s a temporary glitch.

However, it is interesting, don’t you think??

No, no… not that the build notification glitch happened, but the glimpse we got at how new, complete builds of Windows may actually be distributed to the public.

If this update method stays true to course, then Updates to the current version will appear as the Windows update files we all know and love. You get updates when you get updates, and it’s unlikely that the version or build number of the OS you’re running will change. When new versions of Windows get released, however, what users will see, is a notification of a new build as a separate update item in Windows update.

THAT, my friends, is VERY Apple-esque.

It’s the same method that Apple uses for their OS updates. Well, sort of. Apple usually waits until they have a “dot-release” of their desktop OS ready to go, and they then release, for example, OS X 10.10.2 or OS X 10.10.X to address a number of issues. Microsoft releases updates all the time; and then historically releases a new “full” version of Windows via a hard copy, DVD. Now, we should see a new build show up as an available update in Windows Update. At least we will if this update method stays with us after Windows 10 is released.

And that’s the big question here… Since Windows 10 Technical Preview is in public beta, the whole shootin’ match is up in the air. Microsoft can, and likely will change a whole bunch of stuff throughout the entire OS as they look at items and move from the historical UI to a more (but not completely) Modern or MetroUI based design. Moving Windows Update out of Control Panel and into Settings is just one example of this type of progress. The new Settings interface may stay the way it is now, with more and more Control Panel content moved in, or it could complete change to something else.

I don’t know if We actually WILL see new builds appear as separate updates from Windows Update, but it DOES give us a brief glimpse of the direction that Microsoft is looking in right now.

What do you think? Is this method of delivering new full builds of Windows 10, Windows 11, Windows 12, etc. the right way to go, or should Microsoft try something different? Should they always make ISO’s available for download as well, or is this new online delivery method, very similar to Apple’s model, good enough? Why don’t you give me your thoughts on the issue in the Discussion Area, below? If you have a different or better idea, I’d love to hear about that too.

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Windows 10 Tablet Mode

It’s a paradigm shift to be sure…

windows10-build-9926-startmenu_large

I’ve been messing around with Windows 10 Technical Preview 2 for a bit now. You can see a bit of my coverage here on Soft32, here where I talk about the new OS’ announcement highlights, and here where I talk about how surprised I was to find out that the latest preview got released about a week early.

Since then, I’ve had a very interesting time installing the OS. As of this writing, the two part article I wrote on how installations went on both a Surface Pro 1 and a Surface Pro 3 went haven’t been published. As I was sitting and thinking about Windows 10, my oldest son (an avid Xbox One fan) and Windows 10’s cool Game DVR, I thought about how he might be able to take advantage of that without a Windows 10 device to use (I use both my Surface Pro devices for work and review purposes and trusting those to a 9-soon-to-be-10 year old isn’t something that I’d recommend to anyone). I then remembered that I have a Dell Latitude 10 ST2 laying around in the home office doing nothing; and thought, “this might be the perfect device for him to use for Xbox One and Game DVR.” It really hasn’t been doing much since my initial review of the device in April of 2012.

The device itself has got low-end components and Windows 8 .x on it was a bit of a bust. I’m hoping Windows 10 with it, “only run what you need” approach to hardware and form factors will run a bit more smoothly than Windows 8 did; but that’s me – forever the optimist.

I’m not holding my breath…

The Dell was already running Windows 10 Build 9841. I wasn’t particularly happy with the performance on the device with that build; and after all of the grief I went through trying to get the thing on there, I decided it just wasn’t worth it, and shelved the device. Now that TP2 is here, I thought… why not dust it off and give it another go..?

I probably should have left the dust alone.

The Dell Latitude ST2 is a pure Windows Pro Tablet. This means it doesn’t have a native, detachable keyboard. It will use USB or Bluetooth keyboards, but it doesn’t have anything like the Surface/Surface Pro Touch/ Type Cover; and as I covered this in the review, it’s still an issue. I’m just sayin’…

Upgrading to Build 9926
This was the stupidest upgrade path I’ve seen in a long time. The Dell had Build 9841 on it. When I went to Windows 10’s Update and Recovery section under Settings, it found a new Preview Build and started to download it. Unfortunately, the first attempted errored out and I had to restart the download.

The build downloaded, but I had to wait until the next morning at the office to install it. It completed too late in the evening for me to start the upgrade. I’ve run into too many issues with Windows 10 installs to just let ‘er rip and let it go on its own. I wanted to baby sit it a bit…

So, I brought the device to work, plugged it into the wall and placed it on my desk. I started the device, hooked into the Wi-Fi network here, and brought up Update and Recovery again in Settings. I started the upgrade…

And wound up with build 9879…

Wait. What..??

How the heck did THAT happen? I was expecting Build 9926…

It became obvious to me that in order to get Build 9926, I had to upgrade to build 9879, run Windows Update, get any needed and important update bits for it; and then check for and download the new preview build. After it was installed, I would need to run Windows Update again to make certain I had the needed Technical Preview Update that provided all of the fixes that have been talked about.

So, as I said, I let the outdated preview build install and then tried to run Windows Update, and that’s where I started bumping into problems. While the big issue with SP3 was its graphics driver, the problem with the Dell Latitude 10 ST2 seems to be its Wi-Fi adapter. I always baby ALL of my equipment, so for me to have problems with a device that’s been shelved since October, was pulled out of the box to do this update and hasn’t left the home office in over 2 years really confused me. I’ve had eyes on the device for months.

For some reason, the Wi-Fi adapter on the Dell Latitude 10 ST2 likes to disappear. And when I say disappear, I mean, TOTALLY disappear. There’s no evidence of it in Device Manager. There’s no disabled adapter in the Network and Sharing Center. It’s just GONE…

That *SHOULDN’T* be just the driver. That should be a hardware problem…like “your ‘stuff’ is broke” problem. Which doesn’t make any sense. Currently *IF* the adapter disappears, it does so after a restart or power on. If the adapter were faulty, it would fail while the unit was on, running and using the adapter (if it was found…). I’ve had the device running Build 9926 (yes, I got there, but there’s more to this story, so stay with me…) for well over 3 hours straight, synching some OneDrive content. I haven’t run into an instance of the tablet dropping the adapter yet; and I’ve handled the device and used it a bit…

The adapter is usually lost after a Windows Update completes, which tells me that it’s a software issue, not a hardware issue. It also doesn’t matter how long the device has been running. If you turn it on, and it finds the adapter and you immediately run Windows Update after the boot cycle finishes, the Wi-Fi adapter will disappear after the device restarts.

Yeah… I’m TOTALLY confused on this one.

I can consistently reproduce this issue after performing a Windows Update (there doesn’t have to be any software to download). The Wi-Fi adapter disappears, is totally missing from the machine, and the ONLY way to get the thing back, is to totally remove ALL power from the device and restart it cold.

You may have to go into the Windows 10 boot loader , choose the Windows Rollback, and then choose the option to turn off your PC. If that doesn’t work, then you pull the battery (the Dell Latitude 10 ST2 has a removable battery…) and disconnect the AC power, let it sit for about 15-30 seconds, replace the batter and then restart. (so having that bug where the boot menu appears isn’t always a bad thing…). I’m also consistently able to reproduce the solution to the problem.

There’s a lot going on here with Windows 10. There are still MANY issues with it that clearly show it is NOT ready for prime time in any real sense of the word. If you don’t mind working through these issues, then Windows 10 may be a good option for you. If not, then you may want to wait a bit before you jump on board. Microsoft has a lot to do before Windows 10 is ready for release later this Fall. It needs to get crackin’, though if you ask me. It’s a little silly to having to jump through hoops like this to get the device to work normally.

Have you installed Windows 10 on any of your Windows 7 or Windows 8.x PC’s? Have you bumped into any issues? Why don’t you join me in the Discussion Area below and tell us about them? I’d love to hear your experiences with Windows 10 Build 9926.

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Installing Windows 10 Technical Preview Build 9926: Part 2 – Surface Pro 1

Surface Pro 1

SurfacePro1

I honestly thought that things would have been better – read: really, REALLY clean – on a device that was already running Windows 10; but again, Microsoft reminded me that you really do need to approach running a prerelease version of Windows with a bit of caution.

I’m actually kicking myself over this you see, because I’m a software QA manager/director. I should *REALLY* know better; but I honestly got seriously trapped by the reality distortion field that was Windows HoloLens and didn’t think that I’d have too much to worry about when Microsoft released an update to Build 9926 hours or minutes after making the latest build available to testers.

In other words… Yeah. I’m an idiot.

So while I was trying to download Windows 10 TP2 Build 9926 as an ISO on my Surface Pro 3, I was also using the updated build mechanism in Windows 10 Build 9879 to download the update on my Surface Pro 1. The internet connection on that particular device – or I should say, the Wi-Fi adapter – is pretty good. I normally get some really decent speeds from it, regardless of where I go or what network I’m on.

For example, while my Surface Pro 3 might get 50Mbps down on the office wireless network, my Surface Pro 1 will get 104-117Mbps down on the same SSID. The funny thing is, they’re sitting almost literally, right beside each other. So I have really no idea what is causing the SP1 to have nearly twice as fast network download speeds on the same Wi-Fi network other than the very well documented Wi-Fi issues.

And yes… the install of Build 9926 was (almost) a train wreck on the Surface Pro 1, too.

However, I did have a bit of a better go here than on my Surface Pro 3. So, it wasn’t as BAD of a train wreck…

With the Surface Pro 1, I upgraded through the Update and Recovery function in Windows Settings. I thought that with the faster internet connection speeds I had on this device I would have been able to download the update file (which, by the way is a totally BLIND download and install… something on the Windows side of the world that you aren’t used to). I mean, Apple at least gives you some kind of a progress bar and download X of Y total…

With the Update and Recovery tool, you don’t get that. All you get is a greyed-out Download Now button and the spinning, disappearing dots until everything is downloaded and you’re ready to install. This is both good and bad.

Its good because you can go on about your day, working and being productive without having to worry about where you are in the install. It’s in progress until its done and until then, you don’t have to worry about it.

It’s bad because you have no idea where you are. It’s also bad because your download progress isn’t saved and resumable. If you have to cancel the download, as I did, mid-way through, you have to start all over. I found this out the hard way, Monday after I got back in the office and figured I had about 30 minutes of download time left on the SP1. Boy was I wrong!

I had over three hours of download time, as I can download about a gigabyte to a gigabyte and a half per hour at work.

So, fast forward about three hours and the Surface Pro 1 finishes its download. At that point, you need to tap the Update/ or Install button and then… yeah. You have to wait some more as the process goes through its pre-reboot process of installing the latest Windows 10 build.

However, the first time I did this, I got a nasty error about 15 minutes in. A line of red text appeared above the Install button telling me that Windows couldn’t be updated right now and to try again later. The Install button changed to a Download Now button, and I thought I was going to be required to go through the entire three plus hours of downloading all over again. Instead, I got a bit of a reprieve and only had to download/ redownload content for about 20-30 minutes. Then the Install button showed up again.

restartwin10When it’s ready to restart the machine, you get a full screen “Windows 8/ Windows 10 dialog box” that throws a narrow, colored band across the entire screen, telling you it needs to restart. You tap the Restart button, and you’re device will reboot into a black screen where it will give you an update percentage, a spinning set of disappearing dots and, in my case, a Surface logo.

After that was completed, I got my standard lock screen and I was asked to sign into my Surface Pro 1. After I signed in, I got the “Hi.” Screen and waited for Windows 10 to download my Store apps, install them, and finish any remaining configuration and file prep. From there, I was pretty much done… at least with the Windows 10 Build 9926 install… I had the update files from Windows Update to go through next.

That process went smoother than I thought it would, but was still a bit bumpy. Updates on an updated or upgraded machine still aren’t the best way to get this done, in my opinion. There’s always legacy code or program or resource files left behind that effect performance.

On the Surface Pro 1, there isn’t another firmware update as there is on the Surface Pro 3. There is, however a System Hardware Update, dated 2015-01-15 as well as the KB3034229 Windows Technical Preview for x64-based systems that Microsoft informed everyone of. (There’s also a definition update for Windows Defender that you might need. Make sure you get this, too.) What really burns my butt about the History information on Windows update (and has for quite some time, by the way) is that the web links they put into all of the updates are a totally generic link to Microsoft Support. The whole purpose of putting in a hyperlink should be to get you to the EXACT KB article covering a particular update. Taking me to the root of the MS Support site and making me search, sort and sift through articles to find information that may or may not exist on this particular subject is simply infuriating. Give me the information, give me links to the correct information or simply tell me that there isn’t any information on the update in question, please! I shouldn’t have to search for this crap by myself!

I’m also having issues with the MS product key and Windows 10 Activation again. Windows 10 has NEVER activated correctly on this device. I’ve had to manually activate Windows 10 on every build I’ve installed on this device, including all of the updates that I get via Update and Recovery.

Tapping the Activate button in the Activate Windows screen gets me the spinning, disappearing dots, but I get an error message indicating that Windows can’t be activated right now and that I should try again later. It doesn’t matter how many times I try to activate with the “current” key (ending in -MKKG7), Windows simply won’t activate, and tapping the Enter Key button and reentering the same key doesn’t work.

Thankfully, this is a pretty well-known error, and the issue can be easily resolved. The issue is that the product key in question – ending in –MKKG7) is incorrect for the Enterprise version of Windows. I’m not certain what causes the CONSUMER key to be entered into the PC when the ENTERPRISE version is installed and acknowledged by the system; but it is.

To resolve this issue, go to the Technet Evaluation Center, log in and register for the Enterprise Preview. After you do so, the download for the Enterprise version of Windows 10 will start automatically (after you pick which language version you want). You can cancel the ISO download if you want.

In the Preinstall Information section, you find the Product Key that you need. In the Activate Windows Settings page of your unactivated, Windows 10 machine, tap the Enter Key button and enter this new product key into the dialog box that appears. After you type in the code correctly, Windows will automatically activate.

Conclusion
It’s safe to say that this update went a lot smoother than the upgrade I did on my Surface Pro 3. This went like most of the installs and updates of Windows 10 that I’ve done on my Surface Pro since the beginning of the program back in October of 2014. I find this both encouraging and concerning.

It’s encouraging because it’s been pretty much consistent. At least with consistency as a Quality Assurance professional, I can measure improvement. While the consistency has been consistently mediocre to crummy, the install process has been pretty much the same.

One of the biggest things that Microsoft needs to do with the update and recovery pages in Settings is implement some kind of progress bar, internet speed meter and download x of y progress system. I’d like to know how far along I am in the process, how fast the download is progressing and how much I’ve downloaded out of how much there is total, please. It only seems logical and reasonable to expect this kind of information on these screens, even if the bulk of it is supposed to happen in the background, without my knowledge.

I haven’t seen any performance issues with the Surface Pro 1 like I did with the Surface Pro 3 and its video driver issues. However, it is running a dual core, Intel Core i5-3317U Ivy Bridge Processor where the Surface Pro 3 is running a dual core Intel Core i3-4020Y Haswell-MB Processor. The SP3’s processor is a year and three months younger than the processor in the SP1, but its running 0.2gHz slower and has 1MB less L3 cache. In this case, I’d give the SP1 a slight advantage on processing power, but they’re going to be pretty close. However, this version of the i3 was really meant to conserve batty power more than anything else, so we’re not exactly comparing apples to apples. The GPU on it (HD Graphics 4200) is only running at 850mHz max, so it’s not surprising that it was overwhelmed.

Neither of these are going to win any speed races, but it’s clear from what Wikipedia is showing me that the SP1 is clearly the faster of the two.

Do you have Windows 10 installed on a Surface Pro 1? Did you clean install or upgrade from a previous build? I’d love to hear your experiences with the upgrade process and subsequent use of the device and new OS. Why don’t you join me in the discussion area below and give me your thoughts on the upgrade experience and on Windows 10 in general.

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Installing Windows 10 Technical Preview Build 9926: Part 1 – Surface Pro 3

It’s still not all sunshine and daisies, I’m afraid…

When I said I was shocked over the “early” release of the January Windows 10 preview, I really was. Microsoft has been pretty adamant about what it would and would not release and when it would (or wouldn’t) release things as part of the Windows 10 Technical Preview, and they’ve pretty much stayed on mission thus far.

When I saw the available download for Windows 10 Technical Preview 2, I kinda new what I would be doing over the weekend of its release. I expected to have a ball. Instead, I ended up pulling my hair out (or what little I actually have left). The install experience so far has been a total train wreck. I’ve got two different machines – a Surface Pro 1 and a Surface Pro 3 – running Windows 10 Technical Preview Build 9926, here’s my experience in upgrading and installing Windows 10 Build 9926 on each of these.

Microsoft-Surface-Pro-34

Surface Pro 3
The words, “train wreck” do not adequately describe the amount of crap I had to go through this weekend to get Windows 10 Technical Preview Build 9926 on my SP3. This was a huge pain the butt. And it all started out, with corrupt ISO files.

Yes. Corrupt ISO files.

I have my Surface Pro devices at use at work mostly; and I’ve got the enterprise version installed on both, just in case I get the opportunity to run either or both of them over my work network. While I’m not holding my breath – the office hasn’t totally adopted a formal CoIT policy as yet – I at least want to have the right build of Windows on my device(s) should the opportunity present itself. So, after chatting very briefly with Gabe Aul on Friday, I started downloading.

Initially, I had to abandon the first download as the network at the office isn’t that great. For whatever reason, it just doesn’t like my SP3 very much, as the speeds on it aren’t like they are on my SP1. Initially I thought this might be the Surface Pro 3’s dreaded Wi-Fi problem, but I have the same kind of crappy Wi-Fi performance on the ThinkPad T440 they gave me, so, maybe not. Wireless performance on my SP1, however, over the same network at the same time can produce download speeds of over 3x as fast than either my TP or SP3, so again… go figure.

When I got back to my place, I started the download almost immediately, and it was much peppier on the home network. Unfortunately, the ISO I downloaded was unmountable… it was also undeletable. As were the two additional copies I tried downloading to different locations on my Surface Pro 3. I couldn’t download a copy to save my life, and then I also couldn’t delete them either. I tried shutting the machine down; and I still got a “file was in use,” error from the OS. It was then that I simply restarted the machine and then was able to delete everything.

However, I still couldn’t download an ISO, and I didn’t want to try the consumer version, or simply downloading the EXE. I wanted installation media; and everything I could get my hands on was somehow getting corrupted.

You can’t download the Win10 TP on a Mac. The Windows Insider site is OS detecting, and unfortunately, doesn’t present a, “yeah, yeah, I know I’m running a Mac. Download the ISO’s anyway,” link. I also haven’t had good experiences burning a bootable Windows DVD on my Mac, so downloading the ISO’s via my Windows 7 VM under Parallels Desktop wasn’t an option, either.

I was kinda stuck… I bought my wife a refurbished Late 2009 13″ White, Unibody MacBook for Christmas to replace the 15″ Acer Windows 7 PC she had (someone stepped on it while it was closed and off, and cracked the LCD…) I’ve got her running Yosemite now. In fact, there really isn’t a “decent” and “working” Windows machine running Windows 8.x or EARLIER in the house any more… or was there..??

In a fit of desperation, I grabbed my wife’s 15″ Acer with the cracked LCD, and booted it up. The LCD is still half usable (on the right side) so I was able to run a browser, download both the Enterprise and the Consumer ISO’s and then using MagicISO, I was able to mount the ISO’s and burn them to a DVD.

Upgrading Windows 8.1 Update 2 to Windows 10 – The Train Wreck Continues
It just got worse from here.

windows-10-technical-preview-license

I had my Surface Pro 3 configured and setup with Office 365 and specific settings that came with it out of the box, and I wasn’t really ready to scrap all that, effectively blowing the device and starting over. So initially when I started the upgrade, I chose to keep everything.

Big, BIG mistake.

First there was a bit of confusion on my part as to how to appropriately start an upgrade. Windows 10 doesn’t want you to start it from a cold boot from the DVD. It wants you to start that from within Windows, so after booting to the Win10 Build 9926 DVD, I had to shut it all down and boot into Windows 8.1, put the DVD back in the drive and then run SETUP.EXE.

And that’s where it all turned south.

I knew the install would take a while, so with it running, I left to take the family to dinner. When I got home, I found the display off (as expected); but the device totally unresponsive. I had to look up how to resolve the, “my Surface Pro 3 won’t turn on,” issue. The thing that worked for me was pulling all USB devices and then holding power + volume up for 10 seconds and then releasing both buttons. After that, the device started up.

The setup picked up where it left off, with the “Hi.” screen. Unfortunately, the device was nearly unresponsive. The display changed colors, but very slowly. The text on the screen didn’t update. The mouse via the Type Cover would not work at all. In fact, the mouse cursor was totally missing. Typing a password didn’t update the screen, and then unlocking the screen seemed to take 15 seconds or more.

At that point, I decided that saving all of the apps, programs and settings wasn’t worth the grief of having to compute at a glacial pace, so I decided to blow the device and start from scratch.

And that’s where it all turned Deep South.

Honestly, I didn’t think it could get much worse; and I really didn’t think I was going to get out of this mess, either. I mean, I know what I’m doing. And without sounding like a total jerk or anything, other than a few people like Paul Thurrott, I don’t know too many other technically savvy people other than myself (especially local to Chicago) who might be able to help me resolve the situation…without making a trip to the Microsoft Store and swapping the Surface Pro 3 out in a warranty exchange. I mean, I was really *THAT* stuck. I really thought the computer was (effectively) bricked at one point.

So I let the PC get to a point where I could come back and restart everything. That is to say, that I gave up for the night and picked it up the next day. I let the device finish whatever it was going to do and in the meantime, I took 3 Advil and went to bed.

The next day, I tried to determine the best way to blow the device. I was having trouble now getting the device to boot from the USB DVD drive I have. I still had to make sure the device would turn “on” via the power button +volume up method I mentioned above. The bloody thing was still unresponsive otherwise. To boot, I also have evidence of the boot screen bug that’s been associated with Build 9926 where the Windows 10 device shows a boot screen before booting to Windows 10.

However, this would prove to be the turning point in the process, too.

Since the boot menu appears with an option to actually boot into the recovery partition, I tried going there and looking for the option to blow all the personal files and settings and hopefully get whatever was causing the PC to move at such a slow pace, off the machine.

The first time I tried to use the recovery partition, it failed. I got an error that setup couldn’t start. I wasn’t given any reason or even encouraged to try again. I rebooted the machine.

The second time I tried, the recovery partition told me that the drive I wanted to install Windows 10 on wasn’t available because it was encrypted with BitLocker. I hung my head and simply rebooted the machine Thankfully, I got the boot menu again.

The third time I tried was the charm. The recovery partition was able to “figure out” what I wanted to do when I told it I wanted to restore Windows to its factory state. I had some errands to run on Saturday afternoon, so away I went.

When I got back to the desk in my home office, the screen on the SP3 was dark again, but I expected that. I had been gone for a number of hours, and even though the SP3 was plugged in and charged, I had expected the PC to be asleep. I was just hoping that I wouldn’t have the force power it on with power + volume up again. That’s not the way I wanted to start the device from here on out.

Thankfully, the device powered on immediately when I pushed the start button, and took me through setting up the PC without any issues. I’m pleased to say that everything appears to be running normally. After it got setup up, I ran Windows Update, as recommended by Gabe Aul and nearly everyone under the sun in a position to know that MS found and resolved issues with Build 9926 immediately after it was released.

WIndows-10-UI

Observations, Post Install
There’s a lot going on with Windows 10, especially on the Surface Pro 3. Here are some of the things that you need to know, going forward, if you use an SP3, and are running Windows 10 Build 9926.

  1. PRE install, you need to make certain you have all of the latest updates for Surface Pro 3 installed. This includes a much needed, and very important, firmware update. You can get all of it from Windows Update. Update the device there first in Windows 8.x before making the journey over to the dark side, and Windows 10.
  2. The video driver is a serious sore point in Windows 10 on the SP3. It’s very possible that you’re going to see the level of performance issues that I saw after upgrading (though I couldn’t imagine it being any worse that I what I saw). Depending on how bad your device performance is, you’ll need to open up Device Manager and delete the Intel HD Video Driver. This will install the basic driver. Then you’ll need to update the driver via the facilities on the Driver Properties modal dialog box and let Windows Update bring down the latest Intel HD driver for you. After a series of screen blips and blackouts (and possibly a restart or two later), you should be good to go.
  3. You may see a serious battery life hit after all is said and done. This will likely be temporary as this *IS* a Preview Build and MS is likely working on a fix, but forewarned is forearmed. You may not want to venture too far away from your AC adapter…
  4. You may see that issue with the Boot Menu I mentioned…or you may not.

A fuller, more comprehensive list of issues can be found on the SuperSite for Windows, now managed by my friend, Rod Trent.

Conclusion – Surface Pro 3
I think I can say with pretty much 100% certainty that this is the rockiest OS upgrade – beta, prelease, or preview – that I’ve ever done on any PC anywhere…and I’ve been running Microsoft OS betas since Windows 95. Heck, even the Developer Preview of Windows 8 back in 2011 was a heck of a lot smoother than this.

Key point – any time a software manufacturer announces an update to an OS they released THAT SAME DAY, you HAVE to know there are issues with the build. And honestly, I was expecting issues. I really was. However, I never expected as rough a go as I had. This was really painful.

However, Windows 10 Technical Preview 2, Build 9926 is installed and running on my Surface Pro 3. I’ll let you know how the OS performs over the coming weeks.

Have you installed Windows 10? Did you install it on a Surface Pro 3? Did you bump into any issues or problems when you upgraded or installed? If you’re on an SP3, did you bump into video driver issues? Why don’t you join me in the Discussion Area below, and give me an update on how you fared? I’d love to hear what your experience was.

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Windows RT and Surface Tablets are Dead

Here’s why I’m sad to see them go…

303387-microsoft-surface-with-windows-rt

Its clear to me that Microsoft really tried to create a total converged device with Windows 8 and its Surface RT product. Its also clear to me that the computing public – both consumers and tech pundits alike, myself included – totally panned, bashed and otherwise lambasted the OS to the point where Microsoft scrapped its roadmap, dropped back and brought back not only the desktop, but the Start Button and Start Menu as well.

The mobile strategy was simple, really… build and market a product that could compete with Apple’s iPad line of consumer tablets so that Microsoft wouldn’t miss out on the tablet revolution that was sweeping the nation (back in 2012 when the tablet revolution was in full swing).

Unfortunately, Microsoft failed. Back in the 1990’s you’d never even think of anyone thinking those words, let alone typing them on a web page that would be read by ba-gillions of people. Today, however, the tables have turned on Microsoft and their mobile strategy, well… it just sucks.

Windows Phone never caught on in the States, which is unfortunate, because the mobile OS is very capable and does what it does very well. Microsoft thought, erroneously, that they could combine the success of the desktop products with the tablet form factor and give everyone a product that would be a home run. I’m certain it sounded good in the Board Room when it was pitched, too. Unfortunately, this is where Microsoft missed the boat.

They thought that people wanting to bring their iPad to work meant that they really wanted a TabletPC. They don’t. They want a tablet that can do some PC-like things; but they still want a tablet. Microsoft, I think, got that; but maybe not so much.

Windows RT was an experiment that didn’t quite make it because Windows on ARM, or WoA as it was originally called, couldn’t run all of the desktop apps that everyone had been using and amassing for years. Users of Windows RT and Surface RT tablets couldn’t install their familiar applications and Microsoft was never able to convince its 3rd party development partners to release any software for the platform. Thus the death of a platform.

They just couldn’t leave the desktop alone. Putting a desktop on a product that didn’t have any desktop apps didn’t make any sense and really kinda tanked – and eventually killed – the product. Nobody could EVER figure out what it was supposed to be.

uC15s

However, if Microsoft had just embraced the iPad-like need that their customers were telling them they wanted, and made Windows RT more like Windows Phone, then they may have had a chance on making the product work. The in betweeny thing that RT really tried to be – a bridge between the TabletPC/ desktop world and a more productivity-based, consumerization of IT device – just didn’t work and as I said, confused nearly everyone, Microsoft included. They ended up concentrating more on the Surface Pro product line, as it followed the standard desktop PC paradigm they were used to seeing and working with.

However, I can’t help but think of what Windows RT really could have been if it did what it should have done. I really think that Apple has the right model. iOS is very similar to OS X. It just lacks a few key support items and features, but its really very close to Apple’s full blown, desktop OS. While those differences do require developers to make mobile counterparts to their venerated desktop programs and apps, Microsoft has been struggling (until Windows 10) with how to make that work. They really only wanted developers to HAVE to make a single app if they wished (hence the whole “universal app” concept in Windows 10).

But if Microsoft had totally ditched the desktop on Windows RT devices, which confused and befuddled users, and didn’t really permit them to DO anything that they could do on their Desktop machines, and figured out a way to have Phone apps run on RT, who knows what could have happened to the product.

We *COULD* have had a Windows based tablet that was a real and true iPad competitor. With a clarified and solid marketing strategy that differentiated and defined exactly what “Windows Mobile” was (Windows Phone plus Windows RT), Microsoft could have had a platform that may have been able to compete with both Apple AND Google’s Android. It could have been really cool.

And that’s why I’m a bit bummed. I saw an article on Computer World that says all signs point to the death of Windows RT, and they’re right. Microsoft isn’t going to provide an update path to Windows 10, though they will have some kind of update released to sort of bring it close.

I have no idea what that sentiment means. I have no idea what Microsoft is really going to do with Windows RT. I don’t think THEY know what they are going to do with Windows RT. However, its clear… they need to do something, and they need to provide some way for users to either use the hardware they invested in, or provide a way to spring board into Surface Pro (maybe some kind of hardware trade up program..??)

But it could have been cool… Unfortunately, the technology world is full of “could have been cool’s” from over the years. In the end, we’re just going to have to wait and see what Microsoft wants to do.

Goodbye Windows RT… We really never knew you or what the heck you were supposed to be.

What do YOU think Microsoft should do with Windows RT and Surface RT and Surface 2? Should it all be scrapped? Should Microsoft provide some kind of premium trade up program? Should they do anything else? Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion Area below and give me your thoughts on the whole situation? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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