Personal Setup of the Apple Watch

Sometimes maybe, its just better to go it alone…

apple-watch-selling-points

Wearable computers aren’t as intuitive as you might think. In fact, the whole category is a bit confusing. Its so confusing, that you may have trouble figuring out what is and what isn’t a smartwatch vs. what is and isn’t a fitness band, and which ones really kinda “cross the streams” and are a bit of both.

When you constantly have new players making a splash in this pool full of offerings, its hard not to end up all wet. And that’s a HUGE statement, if you take a few moments and try to noodle that one through…

So, in order to try to make things a bit easier on my wife – who’s new to the whole wearables category – and to me – who knows a bit but not totally EVERYTHING on the Apple Watch in particular – I thought it might be a really great idea to have both of us. What I experienced wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be.

This whole post should be tagged with – your mileage may vary…The videos are also a bit long. So, you may want to skip through a bit. Apple’s Personal Setup process is free, and it takes you through the initial unboxing and setup of the device, right out of the box. You can, if you wish, have them take you through Personal Setup on any product you purchase, even AT time of purchase. I saw one person unbox a 27″ iMac and another, a 13″ MacBook Pro.

Initial Unboxing and Setup

Here, the unboxing has finished and the Genius is taking my wife through the pairing process with her iPhone. There’s a lot of clicking through that’s done here, and not enough explanation, in my opinion. The pairing process is interesting. You hold your phone, camera and Apple Watch app active, over your Watch, while the watch shows some sort of strange particle graphic on its screen. The active graphic’s pattern is supposed to uniquely identify the watch to your phone and silently pair both a regular and a Bluetooth-LE partnership (though only one partnership is listed in MY Devices under, Bluetooth Settings)

Pairing and Initial Setup

The pairing process is done here. My wife described the pairing pattern on the watch as looking like the Teseract from the Avengers. She wasn’t far off. After you pair the Watch with your phone, it wants to know where you’re going to wear it (right or left wrist) and then your Apple ID and password.

Configuring the Watch

Here, configuration choices are made for the Watch. Here, there’s a lot of tapping an OK button. The decision to put a passcode on your Watch is made. If you don’t want to put a passcode on your Watch, then you won’t be able to use Apple Pay on the Watch. Apple Pay = use a passcode!

Apps… here you have to be careful. Every app that you have on your phone that has a Glance, will automatically install that Glance on your phone. If you don’t be careful (I was going to say, “watch…” sheesh!!), you’re going to overload on Glances, and then, you’re likely never going to use ANY of them. You’re also going to get Notification overload, so you have to be careful about what you install on the Watch.

Oh, and if you’re stuck for a camera remote – so you can take a stickless selfie – you can use the Watch to snap the shutter on your iPhone’s camera. Its all kinda cool.

Its So Complicated

Changing your Watch face starts with a force touch. Right now you get about eight or so watch faces. All of the little information icons on any of the included Watch faces are called, “complications.” They can show you cool things like the phases of the moon, the current, local temperature, the time in other time zones, etc.

Some Watch faces can only have a couple complications on them. Others can have one in each corner, at least. What you can’t do, at this time, however, is construct your own Watch face from all of the elements available to the watch. You have to pick from preconfigured Watch faces and then only specific complications are available in each spot where one is placed. You also can’t move the complications to another location on the Watch face. There are a few options, but not many.

The Apple Watch is an amazing piece of electronic fare. It can do a lot, but can you get it to do what YOU really want it to do. I’m hard at work trying to crack this nut, and I’m close to the point where I can start writing this review. Look for it in the next few weeks!

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Windows Mobile 10 Build 10136 Released to Fast Ring Insiders

If you’ve got a supported device and are testing, you’re in for a surprise…

Windows Mobile 10 Build 10136

Ring master Gabe Aul from Microsoft has released Windows Mobile 10 Build 10136 to Fast Ring Windows Insiders as of noon-thirty CDT on 2015-0-16. If you’re a Windows Insider and you’re registered for Fast Ring Builds, AND you’ve got a supported mobile device, you can expect a little bit of additional love from Microsoft today.  This build replaces Build 10080, released to Fast Ring Insiders on 2015-05-15; or about a month ago.

The first thing you need to know is that no new phones are supported in this Build. I have that directly from Gabe Aul:

unnamed

I’m finding this a bit problematic.

There aren’t a lot of Windows Phones on the market.  There really aren’t.  I have a BLU WinHD LTE, and it has Windows Phone 8.1 Update 2 on it, but the device isn’t supported for testing Windows 10 Mobile yet.  This may be partially because the WPRT (Windows Phone Recovery Tool) doesn’t have a Windows phone 8.x recovery image for it (yet??); or it may be because Microsoft just isn’t opening the device testing pool open to any non-Lumia device besides the HTC One M8 (but again… How many different types of Windows Phones are available, REALLY?!?)

Secondly, if you want to install this build, you’re going to need to do so from Windows Phone 8.1.  You can’t do it from Windows Mobile Build 10080.  The upgrade won’t be offered to you.  To get the build, you’re going to have to use the WPRT (Windows Phone Recovery Tool) to restore your phone back to Windows Phone 8.1 and then go through any and all WP8.1 upgrades (recommended, but not required).  After that, you’ll need to download and install the Windows Insider app, register for the Fast Ring, reboot your phone and then check for updates.

Once the update installs, it’s been reported that the upgrade lock screen will appear frozen, without the date and time on it, for up to 10 minutes.  Stop!  Leave it alone. It’s actually processing stuff in the background.  The Windows Insider Team has instructed users experiencing this to be patient and let the device sit and finish. It will eventually show the date and time and allow you to unlock the device and use it. If you get impatient and restart the device or try locking/unlocking your phone, you’ll wind up in a “funky state.”  Leaving the device alone so it can finish the upgrade process is the recommended and proper action.

In a nutshell, here are the changes:

New

Tons of fit and finish changes: There are far too many subtle changes in the UX to cover; but spit and polish are starting to be applied.

Improvements to Cortana: Cortana is now very close to the final design. She’s gotten smarter and she’s had some previously disabled abilities turned back on.

Photos and Camera Improvements: General improvements are available to everyone. If you’ve got a Lumia device,Lumia Camera Beta can also be your default camera app.

One-Handed Use:   The experience on larger devices – those with a screen of 5 inches or greater – is now much better.  Press and hold the Start button and your screen will slide down so you can reach items at the top of your screen.  The screen slides back up when you tap the Back button.

Resolved Bugs

  • We have fixed the MMS bug in Build 10080, and you should receive MMS messages normally.
  • We have fixed the issue where touch will stop responding on the Lock screen preventing you from swiping up to unlock your phone.
  • We have fixed some visual glitches in Action Center when expanding/collapsing.
  • We have fixed the issue where the text in the People app was too small.
  • When you toggle the Wi-Fi quick action in Action Center, it now disables/enables Wi-Fi instead of taking you to the Wi-Fi Settings page. This was one of the top 5 pieces of feedback we heard from Windows Insiders.
  • Your Start screen background should be scaled correctly now.
  • You can add a detailed status to display on your Lock screen from apps like Outlook Calendar without having the Settings app crash.
  • We also fixed the issue where a mouse cursor would appear when pressing the back button on your phone.

Known Issues

  • After upgrading, you will still see duplicate tiles for apps like Search and Phone under All Apps.
  • If you have too many PIN unlock attempts, you’ll see the “enter A1B2C3” reset experience. However, there is an issue in this build where after you enter the code you won’t see the PIN pad. The workaround is to press Emergency Call after entering the code, then press Back and you’ll be able to enter your PIN.
  • We recommend disabling the double-tap-to-wake feature on some Lumia devices by going to the Settings app then Extras > Touch > Wake to prevent any accidental PIN unlock attempts.
  • There is an issue that may cause Skype not to work after upgrade. The best workaround is to uninstall Skype on Windows Phone 8.1 *before* you upgrade to this build and then reinstall it after upgrading. If you miss that step though, you can usually resolve by uninstalling it and reinstalling from the Store once you’re on 10136.
  • If you’re having issues installing new Language Packs in this build, see this forum post.

You can check out the specifics on the Windows 10 Blog, here.

 

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Backup, sync and protect your data with SpiderOak

Backup, sync and protect your data with this cross platform, cloud-based tool.

SpiderOak

Cloud storage is something that everyone should have. Everyone. Period. Everywhere. You should also have more than one backup or instance of your data on more than one service. You should be using, for example, OneDrive AND Google Drive AND Dropbox AND SpiderOak. Yes… SpiderOak. It’s a very cool, very secure, multi-platform, cloud-based sync service, and it’s pretty cool.

Back in 2011, one of the first articles I wrote for InformationWeek was a roundup of cloud-based backup services, and SpiderOak made the cut then. It’s a GREAT service that doesn’t get half as much lime light as it really deserves. Its biggest draw – privacy. SpiderOak can’t look at your data. They don’t have your encryption keys.

SpiderOak encrypts all of your data on its servers. This means that only YOU can get at your data. No plaintext data, no keys, or file meta data is ever stored on their servers. All this ensures absolute confidentiality of your data. SpiderOak couldn’t decrypt it, even if ordered to by a court of law.

The service is fast. I’ve been using it for quite some time now, and SpiderOak always has my data up and synchronized well before any of the other services I use. I’m not certain if it’s the compression they’re using or some other feature; but it’s always, quick, accurate and reliable.

SpiderOak is the leading private backup solution and has 100% Zero Knowledge of your data. You can get 2GB of space for free, or 1TB of space for only $12 a month. Plans start at $7 a month for 30GB; and go up to 5TB. You can pay monthly or annually; and you can upgrade, downgrade or cancel your plan at any time.

The only issue that I see with SpiderOak is the same issue that I see with OneDrive – they don’t offer enough space on their free plan; and then their 1TB plan is $2USD more expensive than Google Drive. However, that shouldn’t deter you for using this 100% private service. SpiderOak is an awesome service and one that I can’t recommend highly enough. Stop what you’re doing and download it now, especially if privacy and cloud storage is a concern to you. This is a must have.

Download

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Play any video on your Mac with Elmedia Player

Play any video on your Mac with this cool media player

elmedia-player

Many people have asked me over the last 12 years, “Chris, why did you switch to a Mac as your daily driver when you’re a Windows expert?” The answer, is really very simple – multimedia. The Mac is so much better at handling, playing, organizing, etc. multimedia with native tools than a Windows machine. Besides, I use an iPhone and an iPad on a daily basis. Yeah… plus one or two others. This is one of the reasons why apps like Elmedia Player are really important to me. This app gives me multimedia options I don’t get just anywhere else.

Elmedia is a free media player for Mac that supports various audio & video formats, including, but not limited to, FLV, SWF, MP4, AVI, MOV, MP4, DAT, AAC and MP3. The app features a built-in web browser that allows you to watch online videos directly from the app, while Open URL enables you to do it without any of the noisy ads that often are found with the videos you want to watch.

The app has a 10-band Equalizer to shape your audio tone, a video tuner to help improve video playback quality, the ability to change a video’s aspect ratio so that it appropriately fits your monitor of choice, and the ability to optimize your video viewing by adjusting playback speeds. Elmedia can play video in full screen mode or pin player window on top of other running apps so you do not miss a moment of a movie. The player has its own volume control, the ability to allow you to edit subtitles, and more.

Elmedia Player is a strong third party media player that offers a number of different options to Mac users who don’t want to use either iTunes or QuickTime to play media. Its small, fast and easy to use, and best of all – free. Its Open URL option enables accessing YouTube videos directly from the app without the need to first bring up a browser. If you know the URL, you’re all set.

 

Videos can be viewed in full screen mode and allow you to both show and hide the control panel; and will deactivate your screensaver during full screen playback. If you need to work while you watch, you can also make the video player window float over everything else. Elmedia Player also has specific SWF settings that allow you to set playback quality as well as activating local Flash security to keep your Mac safe in case you’re not exactly certain if the file contains malware or not.

Download

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Apple Watch First Impressions

I’ve had it for about a week. Here’s what I’m thinking so far…

Introduction to my Apple Watch First Impressions
While the rest of the world thinks that any news on the Apple Watch is passing, passé… I beg to differ. I received my Apple Watch on 2015-05-19. I waited a few days until I was able to have a personal setup session with Apple at the Apple Store Main Place in Naperville, IL, before I started wearing the device full time.

apple-watch-first-impressions

The thought for me, was multi-purposed –

  1. I wanted the full court press from Apple for myself
  2. I wanted my wife to have a pampered experience
  3. The Apple Watch is new and like the iPhone of 2007, a bit unknown
  4. The Apple Watch is a complex device, requiring knowledge of and familiarity with
    a. its own UI
    b. Apple Pay,
    c. Notification Center, and
    d. the iPhone and Apple Watch App Stores

I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert when it comes to smartwatches and other wearables. After the Pebble Steel, the Microsoft Band, and the Fitbit Surge, I’d better be. I’ve got the Apple Watch as well as the Olio Model One and the Pebble Time to consider as well before my wearables roundup is completed.

General
I was speaking with a fellow tech pundit about this recently, and he wanted to know where and how I was basing all of these preliminary opinions on. I’ve had the Pebble Steel and the Nike Fuel Band, so I think I have a decent idea of what a smartwatch should and shouldn’t do. Spending over a year with the Nike Fuel Band has also helped me understand what a fitness band should provide its wearer as well. Yeah, with him its all about credibility and proving your premise. Without that foundation, all of this might be a load of hot air.

The Apple Watch is supposed to be the Holy Grail of smartwatches. To an extent it is, but I don’t know if it’s going to be the home run that everyone hopes or wants it to be. I’m still working through how it works; and there’s a LOT more to it than any other wearable I’ve looked at thus far, but I kinda knew that, but didn’t know I knew, ya know? So I’m trying to be objective about all of this and not form a solid opinion without having spent some REAL time with the device, but there are a few things that I know for certain; and they were fairly evident right out of the box. Literally…
Band & Watch Hardware
I’ve had watches with silicone and rubber bands before. Yeah… they pretty much suck. I was really surprised when Apple announced the Apple Watch with a fluoroelastomer (read: rubber) band. But if you recall, I was really surprised by how very much unrubber like my Apple Watch band was. The band is very soft, supple and surprisingly, very comfortable to wear. You really can’t feel it at all when it strapped to your wrist, and my guess is that even when exercising, you aren’t going to capture or retain too much sweat underneath the Watch. At least I didn’t when spreading five cubic yards of mulch in the gardens in my yard.

The Watch casing is solid, and surprisingly light. From what I saw on the internet, I expected it to have a bit of weight, and it really doesn’t. When viewed from the side, you definitely get a 2007 flashback to the original iPhone. Not that that’s a bad thing, but it isn’t all that great, either. Given the design genius that is Jony Ive, I really was expecting something more modern and more angular. However, with such a large screen – it really doesn’t have a bezel that blocks the display – it is very readable, and very large. Thankfully, the screen doesn’t look too large on my medium sized wrist, I think.

Apple Watch UI
There’s a lot to say here, and a lot I’ve got to learn about the OS and the UI before I can make any real comments. So, from a general perspective, I’m going to reserve final comments on the UI for the review, that will be published later. However, there are a few things that I want to hit and make certain everyone hears now rather than later.

Notifications
This is one area where you really have to be careful. Its VERY easy to get Notification Overload when you use this or any kind of wearable that helps you manage notifications. Apple Watch by default turns on notifications to “mirror the exact settings on your iPhone;” but that’s not always how things work out.

I’m not big into text messaging. A lot of people get into trouble with distracted driving, or distracted relationships because they pay more attention to their iDevice and the text messages they receive than the world around them (when driving) or to the people they’re with. I honestly only send and receive text messages with just a handful of people – my wife and my daughter. I occasionally text with my son in law, but as we’re guys, we only really do it when we absolutely have to, because otherwise, its just weird. Other than that, the other Messages threads I have are either my wife and my daughter, my wife and my son in law, my daughter and my son in law or all three of them. Do you see a pattern there, I really don’t text at all.

I wanted to remove Messages from my Watch entirely, but currently, like the Fitbit Surge you can’t. I really dinged the daylights out of Fitbit on that one, and unless Apple comes out with a WatchOS update that corrects that while I’m writing my review, they’re going to get dinged too. I can turn off notifications for just about anything, but the data still comes across to the Watch.

That’s wrong. I should be able to turn some things off completely; and right now, I just can’t.

I would expect something similar to the UI you have on your iPad or your Mac where you can enable or disable Messages and FaceTime on those devices and still be signed in with your Apple ID. Currently, its an all or nothing deal – if you want any level of Apple sync services on your Apple Watch, then you have to sign in with your Apple ID, and you get everything. Period. You can turn off the notifications for Messages and other content, but the information still comes across the synch connection to your Apple Watch.

Apps
The Apple Watch doesn’t have any native apps as of this writing. Right now, the best we’re going to get are Glances, and those are mini-apps that are accessed from the main Watch face, by swiping UP from the bottom of the display. They’re nice, but they don’t do enough; and there really isn’t a way for them to do much more.

You can’t install glances on your Apple Watch without first installing the associated app on your iPhone. If you uninstall the app, you also lose the glance. You can uninstall the glance from your Watch without removing the app from your iPhone.

The biggest problem with this model is that if you have an Apple Watch, and you install an app on your iPhone, if that app also has a glance, you get it installed on your Watch whether you want it or not.

Apple Watch App
Every smartwatch has its app. Some of them, like the Pebble, need to run in the background all the time, even though you also have to have Bluetooth. Thankfully, this isn’t the way that the Apple Watch app works.

Here, you choose your options and then you can quit the app, which is really kinda nice. I like that part of the app. What I really don’t like, though is how the app is an all or nothing game. What I’m talking about is the way apps install – with the Apple Watch, its really all or nothing. When you install an iPhone app that has an Apple Watch Glance, it automatically gets installed too… whether you want it to or not.

I’ll have more on the app in the review.

Battery Life
I really have to say that I’m very surprised.

Battery life on the Watch is much better than I thought it would be, at least during the one day that you’re guaranteed that the device will hold a charge. At the end of any given day, I have more than somewhere around 50% charge left on the device, in real world use. While I know I’m not going to get much more than say… 28 – 36 hours out of a single charge… while I’ve got the Watch on and I’m out and about, I really don’t think – based on my usage – that I’m going to run out of power or have it go into Power Reserve (where it only tells time, and nothing else, because I don’t have enough juice to push any real functionality).

So… so far, battery life is OK, given that I know I have to charge the Watch every night while I sleep. However, it would be nice to know that a single charge could realistically last me a week or more. However, other than the Pebble and Pebble Steel, I don’t know of a smartwatch on the market today that can realistically last that long between charges; but it would be really awesome if the Apple Watch did just that…

Conclusion
I’ll be honest… the jury is out on this one. Yeah, it looks and feels great. Yeah its bright and easy to read in the sunlight. Yeah, it really does a lot; but perhaps it does too much. The Apple Watch requires pairing with an iPhone right now. The Apple Watch doesn’t work without one. Mirroring what the iPhone does may keep you out of your phone a bit; but you have to watch how and what you do with it or you’re going to get overloaded with notifications, and confused with all of the cute stuff it does.

Over the next few weeks while I use the Apple Watch and try to customize it for my specific needs, I’m going to do my best to keep this in mind and then hopefully, I’ll be able to crack this nut. Honestly, I really feel as thought I’d better… I don’t want to put the Apple Watch aside. Its too expensive to shove in a drawer, and I really don’t want to sell it.

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Firmware Updates for Surface Pro tablets

Microsoft ships firmware updates for its most recent Surface Pro tablets

firmware-updates

If there’s one thing that I’ve been very keen on keeping up with, its all of the updates that are coming down with the Windows 10 Windows Insider program.  I’m trying to stay on top of all of the changes to Windows 10, so that I can, at least, sound like I know what I’m talking about when something cool and exciting makes its way into the wild.  Sometimes it doesn’t seem like much is happening, and I end up waiting and waiting for what seems like forever. Other times, I’m so busy, I could pull my hair out.

So here’s an interesting development – it’s been reported that Microsoft recently released firmware updates for its more recent Surface Pro tablets, the Surface Pro 2 and Surface Pro 3.  Specifically, these updates are intended to address the following issues on each respective device:

Surface Pro 3

The following updates will be listed as “System Firmware Updates – 5/19/2015″ in Windows Update.

  • Surface Pro 3 UEFI update (v3.11.850.0) includes changes needed for compatibility with the updated graphics driver noted below.

  • HD Graphics Family driver update (v10.18.14.4170) improves graphics performance and includes better Miracast (wireless display) support.

  • Display Audio driver update (v6.16.00.3172) improves audio experience and supports compatibility with the updated graphics driver.

Surface Pro 2

The following updates will be listed as “System Firmware Updates – 5/19/2015″ in Windows Update.

  • Surface Pro UEFI update (v2.5.250.0) includes changes needed for compatibility with the updated graphics driver noted below.

  • HD Graphics Family driver update (v10.18.14.4170) improves graphic performance and includes better Miracast (wireless display) support.

  • Display Audio driver update (v6.16.00.3172) improves audio experience and supports compatibility with the updated graphics driver.

From what I understand, the firmware update may have come a few days earlier than 2015-05-19 for some users.  For me, it came on 2015-05-14 and then again eight (8) more times (for a total of nine (9) times), including three (3) in the past two to three days.

This is a huge issue as far as I’m concerned.  While these firmware updates may have been released about two weeks ago, as of this writing, and even though my Surface Pro 3 shows that I have the latest version installed (you have to use MSINFO32.exe or Device Manager to see that…you can’t display a version number in the actual UEFI screen), for some reason Windows Update keeps telling me that this particular firmware version is available for me to install. I have no idea why.

What I find more concerning is that when the file does “install,” my Surface Pro 3 never seems to perform what I’ve come to understand is a full firmware update.  I’m used to seeing the device restart, enter into some obscure update mode requiring AC power to be attached, and then running through a hardware level update with all sorts of warnings that the PC shouldn’t be turned off or restarted while the update is applying, etc.

I’m not the only one bumping into this particular, firmware updates being presented more than once, issue.  A couple other really tech savvy, widely published friends of mine are also having similar experiences.

There seems to be a huge problem with these system hardware and firmware updates.  Microsoft needs to get a handle on these and get them fixed and resolved BEFORE the OS RTM’s in July 2015.  Once this hits a larger audience, having a single update come down and successfully install multiple times is going to cause a GREAT deal of confusion for the average consumer-based user.

If you haven’t installed these firmware updates yet, you should have by now.  If they’re still pending, then you may have something wrong with your Windows 10 installation. If you haven’t seen them install, you should likely check your Windows Update, Update History.

As we get nearer to Windows 10 RTM, your device is going to need those updates as part of your Windows 10 RTM migration.  Many of the drivers that your Surface Pro 2 or Surface Pro 3 device uses will be updated before the end of July. You’re either going to need those driver updates installed prior to installing Windows 10 on your device; or they will be updated post upgrade as part of a Windows Update installation.  However – and it happens every time there’s a major Windows OS update – Microsoft has a number of pre and post upgrade steps that it suggests users perform on their computers in order to both enable and finalize the upgrade.  Microsoft’s new update policy will have you installing them as they are made available under Windows 10, so it will likely be a good idea to start getting used to that process now.

If you have any issues updating your Surface Pro 2 or Surface Pro 3, let me know. I’m going to be interested to know who has what pre update problems on which devices and how Microsoft addresses them.  That will be telling on how well the Windows 10 migration will go in general, and will tell us how much work Microsoft may have in front of them, post migration, as well.  I’m assuming there are going to be a number of different common issues that are experienced. There always are, especially when it comes to migrating legacy hardware to a new platform.

This summer is going to be an interesting time in the Windows ecosystem.  It’s going to get a bit worse before it gets better, I think; but the first thing you’re going to need to do is make certain you have any and all firmware updates installed on your device.  If you haven’t already, again, you should install them now.

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Windows 10 Build 10122 Status Update

After this build, I KNOW I need to drink more…

windows-10-build-10122

That banging sound you hear in the background is me banging my head against my desk. I’ve been in quality for more than 25 years – the entire length of my career. During that time, I’ve spent a lot of time working through software related bugs and issues in various roles. I’ve also spent a great deal of time in the Microsoft ecosystem working with and testing their operating systems and productivity software. I really think I know that ecosystem pretty well; and I can truly say that I’m beside myself. Windows 10 – most of the time – really has me scratching my head…

What a mess.

I have Windows 10 Build 10122 installed on two machines, my Surface Pro 3 and my Dell Latitude 10 ST2. The experience is very different on both devices. I’m going to cover the biggest issues on each, but very quickly. Again, the longer I go on, the more this will turn into a rant, and I really don’t want to rant about this today. I’ve got better things to talk about that I want to get to; but this is something that really needs to get put out there. Regular feedback to the Windows 10 Insider Team isn’t going to be enough; and honestly, the way that system is setup and run, there’s no way for (feedback) reporters to know if it’s been seen, acknowledged or investigated.

Dell Latitude 10 ST2
I’ve talked about the experience of Windows 10 on low end tablets before. The experience leaves a GREAT deal to be desired. It’s getting better with newer builds, but it’s still not anywhere near ready for RTM.

Windows 10 Build 10122 has start and stop performance on the Latitude 10 ST2. What I mean is that there are times when you interact with the device and it works like you would expect it to – you touch a button the screen and the expected action connected to it executes. You can type or swipe, or do whatever it is you’re doing. However, that experience doesn’t last long, and the times between these “moments of normalcy” are few and far between.

Normally, the tablet is sluggish. You tap the screen and the touch screen registers the touch in real time, but the button or object you’ve touched or tapped doesn’t launch, or perform the expected action until much later (later can be as little as a few seconds, or as long as 5-10 minutes… I know. I’ve timed it, after thinking that the tablet had frozen, but had my attention diverted long enough to see the action execute minutes later).

There’s no rhyme or reason to these delays. I’ve looked for a pattern. Sometimes the device functions the way you expect, sometimes it just needs to “take a breath.” The device really appears to be processor or memory bound, though bringing up Task Manager doesn’t seem to show a heavy processor or memory load on the device. This really makes the device unreliable, if not unusable. I have no idea when the device will be “available.” There’s so much of the Windows Experience that happens in the background (Windows Updates, disk optimization/ SSD Trim, etc.) that the Intel Atom processor either has issues with, or the code needs to be refactored to effectively support, that you can’t use the device.

All of THAT mess aside, I think the biggest problem that I have with Windows 10 Build 10122 on my Latitude 10 ST2 is related to networking and internet connectivity. Windows has defaulted to Wi-Fi on since Windows 8 hit the scene and portable devices, be they tablets, ultrabooks or notebooks that have both an active Wi-Fi connection and an active Ethernet connection will automatically route internet and network traffic through the Ethernet connection. When that connection is broken, traffic will auto-switch to the Wi-Fi connection, and vice versa.

However, I have a huge problem with network connectivity on my Latitude 10 ST2. The device came with a docking station so I have access to both types of connections on this device. Initially, the device wants to be on Wi-Fi, and even when there’s an active Ethernet connection the device, the device starts up with Wi-Fi active. When it senses connectivity via Ethernet, it will make the internal switch, but Wi-Fi is the default… and all that is good.

However, for some reason, my Latitude ST2 often registers an active Wi-Fi connection but fails to realize that its connected to any kind of an active network. I can turn Wi-Fi on and off and while it sees active networks, and will reconnect to networks that are marked as “Connect Automatically,” apps and services that need an active network or internet connection to function (like Windows Update, Microsoft Edge/ Project Spartan, etc.) will tell me that I need an active network connection to use them. Putting the tablet in the dock or attaching a USB Ethernet adapter doesn’t work. Neither are recognized.

Sometimes rebooting solves the problem, but it often does not. Sometimes switching Wi-Fi networks back and forth between available networks with a strong signal will solve the problem, but often does not.

Unfortunately, Office 365 and much of what I would want to use a Windows PC for won’t function without an active network connection, so I’m stuck. I have no idea what the root cause is here; and I have no idea how to resolve the issue. With this networking issue and the stuttery performance I’ve also noted above, my Dell Latitude 10 ST2 is largely unusable with Windows 10 Insider Preview on it.

Surface Pro 3
Thankfully, I have not had a problem installing Windows 10 Build 10122 on my Surface Pro 3. Everything seems to have installed without a hitch and to be working fine. However, it’s not all sunshine and daisies.

I am having one heck of a time with both the Calendar and Mail apps. Neither of them work right. They often don’t sync with my Exchange account, and often force close out unexpectedly. Information on the Live Tiles of either app on the Start Menu often don’t update at all (and show just the application icon, regardless of tile size), or update very infrequently, even after the app opens, syncs and closes correctly (i.e. without force closing on its own).

Windows Update is often a hit or miss here, too, as with Build 10122, I’ve been sitting on 86% of a System Hardware (not firmware) Update for the past 5 days. The download won’t move past that point. Other updates may download, but won’t install as they are waiting on that hardware update to finish. I’ve also got a handful of updates that are saying they need a restart to finish installing. Can I tell you that I’ve restarted my Surface Pro 3 over and over again, and those updates won’t finish installing? It’s almost as though Windows doesn’t see those pending updates and completely bypasses them during restart (which MAY actually be the case…).
I’ve also got four separate, successful installation instances of a System Firmware Update – 5/14/2015 in my Update History. I’ve actually seen this update “successfully” installed on my SP3 at least nine (9) different times since 2015-05-14. It was successfully installed twice while I was writing this article on the morning of 2015-05-29. However, my SP3 never seems to go through any kind of firmware update process, and there’s no way to really know if it was actually installed, especially since it seems to be offered on a regular basis every day or two for download and installation.

The biggest issue I have with Windows 10 on my Surface Pro 3, however, has to do with the lock screen, Sleep, and unlocking the console. Quite honestly, this whole process doesn’t work right, either. It’s getting to be very frustrating; and I often have to force the device to shut down by holding the power button down.

The device often doesn’t appear to wake from sleep. While I know its “on” (largely because the backlight on the keyboard turns on after either popping open the kickstand and tapping a key or two on the Type Cover or by pressing the power button, the screen doesn’t do…anything. If it does do something, the screen backlight will turn “on” but the screen will either appear black or a dark gray. The mouse cursor may or may not show up when the touch pad is used. Pressing CTRL-ALT-DELETE doesn’t change the display. It remains black or gray, with or without a mouse cursor, just staring at me.

It’s at that point that I have to press the power button to hard shut the device down and pray that it turns back on. I’m constantly mindful of my battery level and I’ve nearly always got enough power for the device to start. Unfortunately for me, I often have to run through the process to restart a Surface tablet when it won’t start or the battery won’t charge. It’s been updated to include instructions for the new Surface 3, so book mark that page and keep it around for future reference. If you have a Surface tablet, it’s a good resource to have, if you need it.

Windows 10 has a long way to go. My friend Paul Thurrott recently confirmed that Microsoft WILL RTM Windows 10 in July of 2015. So it’s coming whether we Windows Insiders feel it’s ready or not. Again, while I’ve been in quality for 25 years, and software for nearly 16 of those 25 years, I’m not used to having consistent, clearly corroborated feedback so (apparently) casually or cavalierly ignored.

Yes, I know that Microsoft is going to continue the Windows Insider program after it RTM’s Windows 10 near the end of July 2015. Yes, I know they’re going to continue development and will continue to release updates to the OS in a seemingly never ending cascade of “catch it, cuz I’m gonna throw it to you as soon as its ready” updates. I’m also completely familiar with strategic release vs. perceived risk of active defects. I sing THAT particular song every day at work for at least three IT SVP’s and two VP’s and no less than three business SVP’s and a large number of business VP’s. I assess risk all day long; but not ready is not ready. Shipping something that’s this broken often doesn’t provide strategic advantage. It circumvents it.

Are you using the Windows 10 Build 10122? Are you trying to install it on either an under powered/ budget PC or tablet? Are you trying to install it on any of Microsoft’s Surface Pro devices or on the Surface 3? Did you bump into the rollback-installation bug with Surface Pro 3? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the latest build(s) of Windows 10. Do you think Windows 10 will be ready to ship at the end of July 2015? Will it matter , considering that Microsoft is likely to continue its rapid release cycle and its Fast Ring/ Slow Ring release paradigm? Are you having a better go of things than I am? Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and give me your thoughts on the situation?

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Today is the Day

Yes! Merry Christmas in May to me!

YlaUR6JpbmU0lw9AXY3WpNPx-qTYoosBmOZZgwfeQwII didn’t know if this day would actually come or not. Today (2015-05-19) is the day that my Apple Watch gets delivered. Over the next few weeks or so, I will be taking a look at it, trying to make heads or tails of what it does and doesn’t do. I’ll be reviewing it, blogging about it, and in the end comparing it to the Fitbit Surge and Microsoft Band (part 2 of the review, can be seen here . I will eventually be comparing all three of these – the Apple Watch, Fitbit Surge and Microsoft Band to a couple of other smartwatches and against a set of criteria that we will begin mulling over in a blog post or two after the Apple Watch review is posted. With three smartwatch reviews in the series, we should be able to pull together some criteria that can be used to measure the best of all five.

So, stay tuned. I’ll have an unboxing up shortly; and likely an initial impressions blog post up shortly after that. I know it’s taken a while, but stick with me on this one, kids. Things are about to get very interesting in the wearables department over here…

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