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.

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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.

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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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Anticipation… Its making me Wait

Y’all wanna pass me the Heinz Ketchup..?

watch

Every time I say I’m waiting for something, I hear Carly Simon in my head singing “that song;” and I see someone pouring Heinz Ketchup over a hamburger. Yes. Apparently, being a child of the ’70’s means I’m older than dirt…

Well, I have an update to my column, So…Like, I’m in Wait Mode; and I’d like to provide everyone an update. This is going to be a short one, and I’m going to hold myself to that, because if I don’t, I’m really going to go off on a specific vendor, and I really don’t want to torch the relationship I have with them. Up to now, it’s been pretty good.

Apple Watch

I ordered a 42mm Space Gray Aluminum Apple Watch Sport with Black Sport Band 13 minutes into the open order cycle on 2015-04-10. I placed an order for a 38mm Silver Apple Watch Sport with Aluminum Case with Pink Sport Band on 2015-04-12, a full two days after orders opened. The 38mm Pink Sport arrived on 2015-05-11, or the day after Mother’s Day, here in the States. This morning, I was greeted with a wonderful surprise – my 42mm Space Gray Aluminum Apple Watch Sport with Black Sport Band moved from “processing items” to “preparing for shipment” during the night. Charges for the device are pending on my credit card, and I anticipate having the Watch in my hands be week’s end.

apple watch

 Olio Model One

Olio sold out of both versions – black and silver – of all of their Model One’s. the device also seems to be doing very well. According to Olio,

“… we received the results of our latest round of water pressure testing. The Model One withstood the equivalent of 50M (164 feet) of water pressure, which is the high bar for traditional, non-dive watches, and something rarely, if ever seen in consumer electronics like smartphones. More impressively, when the microphone hole is sealed, and we air-pressure test the rest of the watch seals, we remain air-tight past 70M (230 feet), at which point standard watch pressure testing equipment can’t go higher. We’re purchasing specialty dive watch pressure testers to continue testing and optimizing those seals.

“The Model One so far has gone through over 300 distinct tests for everything from drop to impact; altitude to water pressure; extreme cold to sweltering heat; and Coca-Cola to dishwashing soap. To date, no Olio Model One front or rear crystal has broken during use. Not one. It is slated to go through many more tests in real world conditions before it reaches your wrists this summer. We are building our watches to handle whatever adventure you bring their way and we can’t wait to hear where you decide to take them.”

This is impressive. This guy isn’t going to get damaged from wearing it while exercising – be that working out or swimming – and will likely survive the standard snorkel or scuba dive – without getting damaged. However, an updated delivery date hasn’t come out of Olio yet. These are still expected sometime in “the summer of 2015.”

Pebble Time

Yeah, I have NO update at all on this guy. The original estimate for delivery of Pebble Time was “May 2015.” Pebble has just under two weeks left to make that delivery window, and there hasn’t been any kind of indication that the device will ship on time or even any kind of project update from them since 2015-05-09 (or the Friday before Mother’s Day, here in the States).

Update #17, sent out on 2015-05-04 indicated that mass production was scheduled to start that week (so, about two weeks ago, as of this writing). I am assuming everything is still on schedule. Pebble’s done this Kickstarter thing before, so they kinda know what they’re doing.

Henge Docks Horizontal Dock

Yeah… I’m not a happy camper about this one. Not happy at all.

Henge Docks announced the product in 2013. It was originally supposed to ship a year ago, but was pushed back. Henge Docks brought it to CES 2015 in the form of a prototype, and it was a HUGE success there. They opened up purchases of the dock, including its Early Adopter Program in mid-January 2015. They sold out almost instantly. Their scheduled delivery date for the Early Adopter edition, which for an extra charge, got you the dock before everyone else, plus special access to their beta firmwares and exclusive support community, was April 2015, with standard delivery for all other Horizontal Dock orders scheduled for June 2015.

They opened up the exclusive support area with an announcement they sent on 2015-03-06. You logged in, took a couple of surveys and were given the opportunity to submit bugs or suggestions. O 2015-04-10, Henge Docks announced that they were pushing back delivery of the dock due to a change in the power supply. They were upgrading the design to a 150 watt power supply from a 127 watt power supply. Between 2015-04-12 through 2015-04-26, the Henge Docks team were scheduled to travel to China to work with their manufacturing partner on assembly of the dock. Delivery of Early Adopter units had been pushed to EARLY May 2015.

I emailed Henge Docks on 2015-05-14 and received the following from their customer service department,

“At this time, we do not have a set, final ship date for the Early Adopter Horizontal Docks. As soon as we have additional information from our Product Development Team we will notify our Early Adopter Customers

“I understand the lack of information is frustrating, we are anxious to get this product out the door. If you prefer to opt out of the Early Adopter program, we understand.”

My response to them was a somewhat tepid, “thank you no. Don’t opt me out. I paid to get into that program. What I want and need is an updated delivery date for the RETAIL product I purchased.”

The organization hasn’t responded to my reply.

What’s bothering me the most here, is that there’s been no official update on this product since 2015-04-10. The organization has missed two (2) delivery dates. This was a RETAIL purchase. The dock wasn’t purchased via Kickstarter or IndieGo-Go. This was a retail purchase. The organization has taken my money and hasn’t delivered the product as of yet; and they’ve missed not only their initial shipment window, but their recast shipment window.

The Early Adopter program website so far is a ghost town. The docks haven’t been delivered; and its clear to me, given the lack of updates on the program, that there are additional engineering problems related to the 150 watt power supply. The units likely are getting too hot and there isn’t enough room for a bigger fan in the current case; or they ran onto some other engineering issue after respec-ing the bigger power supply. I’m guessing of course.

The big issue here is that Henge Docks took payment for my dock in January. They have my money. I don’t have my purchased product. The least they can do is update everyone that bought an Early Adopter unit on where we are with the whole process.

This is a big deal for me, as I want and need a true docking solution for my MacBook Pro, and have wanted one since purchasing my original MacBook Pro back in 2006. Thunderbolt docks aren’t really the way I wanted to go. I don’t want to plug and chug ANY cables in and out of my notebook computer.

I’ve purchased Henge Docks products in the past, and they’ve been totally awesome. However, I don’t like yanking my MBP in and out of a Vertical Dock. Too much torque and pressure are placed on the ports and on the device , especially when removing it from the dock, in my opinion.

That’s why I want the Horizontal Dock. Its docking mechanism is supposed to be much better on the device. I take my MacBook Pro with me everywhere I go, so it’s in and out of a dock – or would be – quite often. My other MBP’s were, as I had Vertical Docks for all of them.

I’m obviously going to keep an eye on this. If I have any additional information, I’ll post back. However, all I’m REALLY looking for here, outside of delivery of the actual product, is some kind of program update informing me when the product will ship and deliver.

In the meantime… would someone pass the ketchup..??

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Windows 10 is the Last Version of Windows

But before your computer gets its undies in a twist, you need to realize it’s not the end…

I’ve seen a lot of traffic over the past few days with a lot of click bait on the headline that Microsoft won’t produce another version of Windows after Windows 10.

windows10-logo

That’s a total load of crap.

First and foremost, Microsoft isn’t abandoning Windows. It isn’t going through the effort of creating Windows 10 for desktop, tablets and mobile devices (meaning phones) only to shelve it after its released. No. Microsoft is going to continue to develop Windows with eyes clearly on both the consumer and enterprise markets. Your operating system of choice isn’t getting ditched.

Instead, Microsoft is changing how it delivers Windows. Windows is becoming a SaaS, or software as a service, product. Now, you also do NOT need to get panicky. This OS as a service thing doesn’t come with any kind of subscription fee. However, that doesn’t mean that Windows as a Service (WaaS) is without its costs.

Windows 10 will be free for a year after its initial release for everyone that has a legitimate Windows XP/ 7/ 8/ 8.x license. Those that have pirated copies may get an upgrade, but will have to pay for activation to make their copy genuine.

Microsoft also recently announced what SKU’s or Windows 10 related products they will be releasing. Like every other release of Windows, Microsoft made this more complicated than it needed to be. Specifically, they are

  1. Windows 10 Home
    This is the consumer-focused desktop edition. It offers a familiar and personal experience for PCs, tablets and 2-in-1s. Windows 10 Home will include the following:
    – Cortana, the world’s most personal digital assistant; the new Microsoft Edge web browser;
    – Continuum tablet mode for touch-capable devices; Windows Hello face-recognition, iris and fingerprint login;
    – Universal Windows apps like Photos, Maps, Mail, Calendar, Music and Video.
    – Xbox Integration giving games and gamers access to the Xbox Live gaming community, enabling the capture and share of gameplay and giving Xbox One owners the ability to play their Xbox One games from any Windows 10 PC in their home.
  2. Windows 10 Mobile
    Win10 Mobile is designed to deliver the best user experience on smaller, mobile, touch-centric devices like smartphones and small tablets. Windows 10 Mobile will include:
    – Universal Windows apps that are included in Windows 10 Home,
    – The new touch-optimized version of Office.
    – Continuum for phone, so people can use their phone like a PC when connected to a larger screen.
  3. Windows 10 Pro
    The Pro version is a desktop edition for PCs, tablets and 2-in-1s. Windows 10 Pro builds upon both the familiar and innovative features of Windows 10 Home, it has many extra features to meet the diverse needs of small businesses, including:
    – Mobile device management supporting Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
    – Windows Update for Business, which is the same as the consumer version of Windows Update, but with the ability to reject or postpone the installation of specific updates that may not be fully compatible with an SMB-based hardware installation.
  4. Windows 10 Enterprise
    Windows 10 Enterprise builds on Windows 10 Pro, adding advanced features designed to meet the demands of medium and large sized organizations. It provides advanced security capabilities, including:
    – Advanced security options to help protect against the ever-growing range of modern security threats targeted at devices, Advanced options for operating system deployment and comprehensive device and app management.
    – Windows Update for Business, which is the same as the consumer version of Windows Update, but with the ability to reject or postpone the installation of specific updates that may not be fully compatible with an enterprise-based hardware and software installation
    – Long Term Servicing Branch as a deployment option for their mission critical devices and environments.
    – Available to Volume Licensing customers only
  5. Windows 10 Education
    This is where things get a bit murky. Windows 10 for Education is really a version of Windows 10 Enterprise, but it has “paths” that will enable schools and students using Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro devices to upgrade to Windows 10 Education. I have no idea how it’s going to do that, what the cost will be, or who will have to pay the upgrade charges.
  6. Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise
    Simply put, this is nothing more than Windows 10 Mobile with enterprise related hooks for mobile device management and security policy enforcement.
  7. Windows 10 for IoT
    There will also be versions of Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise for industry devices like ATMs, retail point of sale, handheld terminals and industrial robotics and Windows 10 IoT Core for small footprint, low cost devices like gateways.

There’s a lot here. From what I’ve heard and read, there is more than one Win10 IoT version out there, depending on the Thing you’re trying to install Windows 10 on.

So, what’s this whole Windows as a Service “service” thing supposed to be about..? Simply, Microsoft is taking a page from Apple’s playbook here and simply labeling the latest version of Windows as Windows 10 (much like Apple did with OS X…). Each new “version” or “edition” of Windows 10 will carry the Windows 10 label. What Microsoft hasn’t done however, is tell us how we’re going to be able to differentiate between one version and the next.

Microsoft needs to take an additional queue from Apple and give each major release some type of code name. Apple was using cats for years – Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion, etc. Now, they’re using California state points of interest – Mavericks, Yosemite, etc. Microsoft needs to pick a theme and hop on here. This will allow people to know and relate to some kind of support tech or family member what flavor they have.

Following this model, like Apple does for OS X, some hardware won’t be able to support the newer versions of the OS, and will get left behind as far as versions of Windows are concerned. Depending on where and when Microsoft kills support for those orphaned versions of Windows 10, they may still need to support them. As such, users will need to call that version of Windows… something. Simply calling it Windows 10 or referring to some kind of version number or number range, isn’t going to cut it. They’re going to create a huge amount of confusion if they don’t slap some kind of label on a given major release of Windows 10.

What do you think? Did Microsoft create more versions of Windows 10 than it needed to? Should the Education version simply be part of the Enterprise version without being called out? Should the Pro and Home versions simply be one version, or will SMB’s need options that consumers and their home networks will never, ever need? Do mobile and desktop versions need to be grouped together in a single version of Windows 10, or is it ok to say that desktop and mobile are separate, and are likely to take on different lifecycles? (as it stands now, they won’t… Windows 10 is Windows 10 is Windows 10, if Microsoft’s vision works out.)

Give me your thoughts on all of this. I’d love to hear your feedback in the Discussion area below.

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