Resetting your Windows PC – Part 2

It’s not as difficult or as time consuming as you may think…

Introduction
The other day, we spent a great deal of time going over the prerequisites for determining why and when you should reset your Windows PC. You can see that article here. Read that one before you follow the instructions here, if only to help you determine the best time to actually pull the trigger.

Once you decide that you really DO want to reset your PC, following the process here should insure that it gets done with the least amount of risk and stress.

How to Reset
I’m going to be doing this on a Windows 10 PC. However, the process can also be done on a Windows 8.x computer. The process will be similar, but somewhat different there.

Backup Your Data
There are a number of different ways to do this. You should be using at least one of them on your PC. Thankfully, you can use one, some or all of these together. If you don’t have some kind of restore process in place, you’re gonna be hurtin’ fer certin’ when you try to get yourself back up and running.

  1. Local Backup
    This can be as simple as you grabbing a USB flash drive and copying over the contents of your Documents, Photos, Videos and Music folders. It could also be a more formal operation that involves apps like Windows Backup or some other application that backs up some, part or all of your PC .If you go the backup app route, please understand that doing an application restore is likely going to put you back in the same boat you’re trying to get out of. When you’ve made the decision to reset your PC, restoring applications and settings will likely put the malware back on your PC as well. You’re going to have to be careful here; and if you set the app up right, it should function in the background, allowing you to continue working while it backs up your machine.Make certain that you only restore your files and application data from any backups you make.
  2. Cloud Based Backup
    Backing up your data to an offsite location, especially if it’s REALLY important to you can be the difference between getting everything back – including photos, videos, etc. as well as your Office or office suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) files.This option is exactly like a local backup, except that the app that’s used uploads the backup data to a cloud based computer, in real time. Apps that fall into this category include both Backblaze or Carbonite, among others, and will involve some kind of a monthly or yearly subscription fee to store your data.Like the local backup option, apps that work here are likely those that you setup once and then simply let run in the background. These set ’em and forget ’em apps can constantly backup your PC, and do it with little to no intervention from you.
  3. Cloud Based Data Storage
    Backing up your data is easy when you use apps like Dropbox, Google Drive , OneDrive or other similar program. The nice thing about apps like this is that they are cross platform and available to install on just about any type of mobile device or computer, meaning you can sync and access your data from just about anywhere. Having a backup solution like this is the very basic of backup steps and should be done regardless of whether you have a local or cloud based backup of your data (or both).Like local and cloud based backups, this option may or may not involve a subscription fee for storage, so you’ll need to insure that you have enough cloud based storage available when you set up the app. If you need more than you get for free, you’ll need to pay for it. Make certain that everything is synchronized before you reset.PLEASE NOTE: Many cloud based data storage products have best in class malware screening products monitoring their storage media. I have yet to see a virus get past any of these products and transferred BACK down to your PC, post restore. However, this is NOT infallible.

Actually doing the Reset
To perform a reset of your PC, follow these steps

  1. Open the Windows 10 Settings App.
  2. Tap on Backup. If you backup with Windows 10, use these sets of screens and this process to back up your PC to save your data, OR follow the instructions I noted above.
  3. Tap on Recovery.
  4. Tap the Get Started button under Reset this PC
  5. Choose an Option. Keep your data or completely wipe the entire computer. Wiping the entire computer will delete everything and is considered a “factory reset.” It is the most reliable option when trying to delete malware that can’t be removed by other tools.
  6. Choose an Option. Clean your drive(s) or just reset all the system files. More often than not, if you’re removing everything, it’s a good idea to remove the files and clean the hard drive. It’s the best way to prevent malware from resurfacing afterwards.
  7. Are you REALLY sure? If you’ve recently upgraded your machine to Windows 10 (the free upgrade options have reportedly come back…), you’re going to get a Warning dialog asking you to confirm, instructing you that you won’t be able to go back to your PREVIOUS version of Windows (because you’re about to erase that backup from your hard drive).
  8. Ready to Reset. This is the LAST chance you’re going to get to stop the process. If you tap the Reset button, your computer is going to be erased and everything that it once was will be gone, restored to factory freshness.
  9. Choose an Option. After you’re done, you get a chance to turn off your PC, explore other troubleshooting options or to exit the Recovery partition and run Windows 10 for the “first” time. Tap Continue.
  10. Set up your PC. Reinstall all of your applications. If you backed up your data with a local or cloud based backup app, install that first and then restore your data. If you used a cloud based data synching service like Dropbox, Google Drive , OneDrive or other similar program, reinstall it and pull all of your data back down

After your data restore is done, you should install your anti-malware app and rescan your PC for it. If its back, then you know your data is infected. However, it will more than likely turn up clean, and you should be all set.

If you’ve used the Windows 10 Reset PC feature, I’d love to hear from you. Tell me how things went for you and share your results in the Discussion area, below.

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Resetting your Windows PC – Part 1

In many respects, it’s a lot like resetting your phone…

Introduction
A couple of years ago, I wrote an article for Soft32 called iDevice Restore Gotchas. It’s a good read.

In that article, I covered a few basic points about resetting your device. Without rehashing the entire article – again, you can read it called here – I did cover 3 important points

  1. Don’t Fear the Hard Reset – sometimes it’s the best way to get rid of all the crap, especially if you have a deep rooted virus or piece of malware/ spyware that just will NOT go away.
  2. Make Sure you have a Solid Internet Connection – iDevices always, ALWAYS call home to ask permission before allowing you to completely blow them away, and if you don’t have one or are using your iDevice to provide internet connectivity, the process will fail; and then you’re really gonna be up a creek without a paddle…
  3. Don’t Connect your Smartphone to your PC through a USB Hub – the restore process is going to work better (read: won’t work at all through a hub…) with a direct connection, and you won’t have any technology headaches to trouble shoot.

All of these points are still relevant with the latest set of iDevices, and quite honestly, most every other mobile device out there. They’re also relevant with your Windows based PC, if its running Windows 10, and if you’re having troubles with it, the reasons for looking into this process are actually quite compelling.

At the end of the day, they can save your tens of hours of analysis time and a ton of money on ulcer and headache remedies with just a bit of planning and the new refresh and restore procedures in Windows 10. Let’s take a quick look…

Why Reset
There are a number of reasons why you might want to reset your Windows PC. You may have a virus or other piece of malware or spyware that, despite your best efforts, just can’t or won’t be removed. You may want to pass on your PC on to a friend or family member; or you may want to sell it or donate it to a charitable organization. Regardless of WHY you need or want to reset the machine, resetting it is often easier to do than actually taking the time to trouble shoot or perform some other deep cleaning or maintenance.

In many cases, the best thing to do is to nuke your machine from orbit and start over. Sometimes, fighting the good fight means retreating and not engaging.

When to Reset
So… ok. You’ve solved the “why” portion of this equation; but you’ve got all these apps and all this data. When do you actually do this? When do you tell yourself to stop, drop back and punt? That’s both simple, and complicated.

However, figuring out WHEN to do a reset really involves the severity of the problems you’ve been bumping into and how much time you have to burn. More often than not, its easier, less time consuming and less stressful to simply burn everything to the ground than to try to fix a specific problem, especially in the case of malware. More often than not, Windows based malware will bury itself so deeply within the OS, that it doesn’t want to come out without a fight, if it does at all.

I’ve had partially disabled malware repair itself and come back to life. Yeah… that was really an eye opener.

So, when do you actually declare “defeat” and actually DO the reset? That’s an excellent question. The best way to answer it though would be for you to do a bit of thinking

  1. What’s my Time Worth?
    Try to put a monetary value on your time. When you hit your gag reflex on the “cost,” consider pulling the reset trigger
  2. How “Bad” is the Problem?
    There are resources on the internet that can tell you a great deal about different kinds of malware and how difficult they are to remove. Solvusoft has a decent Malware Encyclopedia. Trend Micro has a good database, with some decent information that explains what each type of worm, virus, etc. does; and rates how difficult it is to remove. When you have more than one rating category with a red or critical rating, and you know your infected, the problem is probably a little more than, “bad.”
  3. Has your Virus Scanner Failed to Remove the Threat?
    If you can’t get rid of the bug with the anti-malware product you have, try an “off line” product like Fix Me Stick. Its fully compatible with Windows and should be able to remove most bugs without damaging your data.

I’ve yet to find a virus that it couldn’t remove (though in all honesty, it may take more than one scan to take care of everything…). Its well worth the $60 bucks a year (for up to 3 computers) that the service costs. However, not all virus scanners are created equally; and in many cases, some viruses just refuse to be removed.

You’re likely going to find yourself in a situation here that requires you to subjectively weigh the answers to these three questions and then make a decision. My experience, especially with malware, is that its always better to be safe than sorry.

Come back next time. I’ll have complete instructions on how to get this job done the easiest way possible.

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FEATURE REVIEW – ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA

Please hold while I try to resolve this problem…

Introduction
As I stated a little while ago, I’ve found myself stuck between a rock and a hard place. It hasn’t been a lot of fun. Unfortunately for me, I really have no idea where Microsoft and Apple are headed with their computing initiatives. Its unnerving, too. I simply don’t know what to do at this point, and quite honestly, this is the first time I’ve been in this boat in the 20 plus years that I’ve been a tech journalist.

However, I think I may have found an interesting and rather affordable solution to my problem. Enter the ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA-D4-GR. Is this the right solution? Does it resolve most, some or all of my issues; or am I chasing through a rabbit hole without the possibility of finding my way out OR the white rabbit that made the hole? Let’s take a quick look at the device and find out.

Hardware
The ASUS Transformer Mini T102H is a Surface Pro clone. It’s a 10.1 inch transformer (ultrabook and “tablet”) in one. It’s got a magnesium-alloy casing and weighs less than 800g; and is running Windows 10 Home.

The device has a quad core Intel Cherry Trail processor running at 1.44GHz. The device, as reviewed has 4GB of RAM and a 10.1 inch, 16:10 backlit, HD display sporting 1280×800 resolution and integrated Intel HD graphics. The device as reviewed has a 128GB EMMC SSD.

The device has integrated 802.11 AC Wi-Fi for wireless networking and internet connectivity. It also supports Bluetooth 4.1 for short range, accessory communication. The ASUS Transformer Mini T102H also has a 2MP web cam for video communications.

For connectivity, the ASUS Transformer Mini T102H has one of each of the following ports:

  • Combo Audio Jack
  • USB 3.0 Port
  • Micro USB Port
  • Micro HDMI Port
  • Fingerprint reader (supports Windows Hello)
  • microSD Card Slot

The build quality here is surprisingly high. I have been really impressed with the hardware and its fit, form and function. For the cost of the device, it’s going to be hard to find something better, in any class of notebook.

The full 360, below, has some really good shots of the hardware, including the included keyboard AND pen.

>
The back of the device. Notice the circular fingerprint reader at the top The back of the keyboard
The device, opened up. The keyboard has magnets that attach it to the landscape side of the tablet The device, open
The left side of the device Close up of the left side, ports
The top side of the device with the microSD slot and the power button Right side of the device
Close up of the right side, volume rocker and speaker

 

Tablet
The ASUS Transformer Mini T102H is a Windows 10 ultrabook, just as the Surface Pro line of PC’s. However, it’s not a tablet. Please don’t consider this to be a true convertible – meaning this isn’t going to turn into your iPad or similar tablet when you remove the keyboard.

Like any other Windows 10 ultrabook convertible, all that happens when you remove the keyboard is that the ASUS Transformer Mini T102H becomes a slate PC.

A slate PC is NOT a tablet. It’s a regular PC with a touch interface that doesn’t require a keyboard or mouse.

A tablet is a content consumption device with an ecosystem – apps, videos, audio, etc. – available from a built in store, specifically made to consume ON that tablet. While a slate PC and an ultrabook have apps, and Windows has a “store,” per se in the Windows Store, you can get PC apps just about anywhere. You can also find videos and audio files (be they music, podcasts or other audio) nearly everywhere else that can easily be played on any Windows PC.

Windows 10 tablet mode is just a change in the standard Windows UI, nothing more. Nothing magical happens to the hardware. Nothing really magical happens to the OS after the keyboard is removed. It’s still Windows; just with a slightly different UI.

Aside from the whole Tablet Mode thing, this is really nothing more than a notebook computer with a removable keyboard. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it IS still just a PC. It just has more than one interface; but please don’t’ confuse this with a tablet like an iPad or a Galaxy tablet. It doesn’t run a mobile OS and it won’t. It’s going to have the same performance as it does when its keyboard is connected.

Keyboard
With the Surface Pro line of devices, the detachable keyboard is made of rubber and plastic. While this makes for flexibility, it doesn’t lend a lot of confidence that you’re getting a quality product. Well, that and the fact that the Surface Pro 3-4 Type Cover is an additional purchase that runs $129.99 for the older version to $159.99 for the version that has the Windows Hello compatible, finger sensor.

The keyboard that comes with the ASUS Transformer Mini T102H is included with the tablet at no additional charge. It functions nearly the same way as the Microsoft Surface Type Cover, but has a metal alloy shell. The keyboard itself employs a butterfly switch under each key and sports 1.5mm of key travel. The extra-large touch pad is built in.

The typing experience is merely ok. It’s nothing to write – or type – home about. In the end, including the keyboard as part of the whole package, is another stellar move. It just cements the value of the whole package.

Out of the box, the keyboard of my ASUS Transformer T102H had a problem with the touch pad. The keyboard is supposed to support a right click via clicking the lower right corner of the track pad. This hasn’t worked right from the moment I pulled the device out of the box, and it’s obvious that the issue is a hardware issue and not a software or driver issue.

I called ASUS Tech Support and got someone who read a script at me and had me uninstall and reinstall APK and touch pad drivers. Getting her OFF the script wasn’t possible. However, 4 restarts and one full uninstall/ reinstall round and me insisting that this wasn’t a driver issue stopped the tomfoolery.

She then told me that I could return the device to my point of purchase, or could send the device to ASUS for warranty work. I told her that since this was a detachable keyboard, and that was the only part that I needed, couldn’t ASUS just send me a replacement keyboard?

No. ASUS doesn’t send parts to customers. If I wanted a replacement keyboard, I would need to send in the entire device, and then they would examine it and then determine if they would repair my existing keyboard or send me a new one. When I reminded the tech support rep that the keyboard was removable and that all that anyone in Repairs was going to do was take a look at the paperwork, grab my unit, pull the keyboard off, attach another one and then call it a day.

I got similar service from Newegg, as I bought the device from them and also purchased their extended warranty for $50. I would need to send the entire device and they would then send a replacement. Both companies knew that this would leave me without a working machine and didn’t care.

I blame Newegg more than I do ASUS, simply because they are the ones that I bought the extended warranty from. Why no one will send me a detachable keyboard is way beyond me.

Performance
I’m going to get to battery life and other performance factors in just a moment, but I wanted to take a moment and talk about this computer and its processor and RAM performance.

In a word – WOW!

The Intel CherryTrail Atom processor definitely makes a difference. I’ve reviewed value based tablets before and haven’t been impressed. Atom processors promise decent performance coupled with battery savings, but, in my opinion, always have a hard time delivering.

My assessment of the Dell Latitude 10-ST2’s Atom processor can clearly be seen here:

The Atom processor doesn’t have a lot of horse power. In fact, it’s pretty anemic. The system is optimized for a few specific apps – Microsoft Office being one of them – but don’t expect it to power through anything else. The weak processor performance even seems to affect network traffic, disk I/O and display performance as well, though obviously system interaction between dedicated subcomponents will also factor in.

With the ASUS Transformer T102H, the tune is a little different. While this is NOT going to run Photoshop or Lightroom with any sense of reliability or desired performance, it can ink notes in OneNote 2016 without ANY ink lag at all. It will also handle most, if not all, your PowerPoint and Excel documents – barring any really complex macros or large, external data calls – with reasonable results. For reliable, light to medium level productivity work, this computer should more than adequately meet all of your needs.

To be honest, I don’t know if the level of performance satisfaction I have is due to the more advanced Cherry Trail processor in the ASUS Transformer T102H vs. the Atom processor in the Dell Latitude 10-ST2, or if the satisfactory performance is due to the device’s 4GB of RAM… or both. I don’t have the 2GB version of the device to compare mine against. However, I’ more than certain that it plays into the equation more than you might initially think. At the very least, it’s the combination of the quad core, CherryTrail processor and the device’s 4GB of RAM that are making such a remarkable difference in my expectations.

Battery Life
Led in part by its 1.44GHz CherryTrail Processor, I’ve found the battery life to be totally crazy awesome on the ASUS Transformer T102H. The device advertises an 11 hour, all day battery.

These estimates are close but I’ve found my results to be about half of what’s advertised in real life. However at five and a half hours, this should get me through most of the work day without really NEEDING a charge. This is great news; and a huge relief, as having a day long note taking solution is HUGE in the office, especially when you have back to back meetings and CAN’T get back to an AC outlet and charging cable.

I wish that all of my notebooks were as good on battery life and did me so well when it comes to the task at hand.

Software
The ASUS Transformer Mini T102H is a Microsoft signature PC. This means that its free of crapware. It doesn’t have any third party add-ons or software. The only thing that it really does have is the installation stub for Microsoft Office 365. Other than that, this PC is junk free.

In my opinion, Signature PC’s are the best on the market. I know in many cases that software companies cut deals with OEM’s to help defer the cost of software development, and the OEM’s get help to defer the low cost of the device. I think the software companies come out on top of that deal; and that’s fine when the software in question is useful; but when it’s something that’s so bloated like Norton Antivirus or MacAfee Internet Security, you really have to wonder why the OEM chased after it.

I’ve seen MacAfee software preinstalled on low end PC’s with budget processors and quite honestly, all that it really does is bring down the performance of the device. Having the ASUS Transformer Mini T102H be a Signature PC without all of that garbage software, is a huge blessing. Those apps don’t always remove themselves well, and you can end up with a gimpy system afterwards. Here, you don’t have to worry about that.

Conclusion
This one is fairly easy. If you’re looking for a Microsoft Surface Pro clone and you don’t want to spend a lot of money on the device, this is likely the PC for you. Its CherryTrail processor isn’t going to be something that’s going to punch through any audio or video editing or run Photoshop or Lightroom, well, really at all; but if you’re looking for a productivity machine for you or your kids, THIS is a really good choice.

The device will run Office very well; and if you’re into OneNote at all, then you’re in for a treat. The device comes with both a detachable keyboard and a pen, so you can take notes, draw, markup documents – whatever – right out of the box. There’s NO ink lag with the pen in OneNote 2016, and with an Intel Atom processor, that’s really very surprising. I’ve had other devices where that was NOT the case.

A side view of the ASUS Pen The top of the ASUS Pen. Notice, there’s no application button on the end.

This is an ultrabook PC, so even though you can remove the keyboard and use it without a keyboard, it is not a true tablet, as it doesn’t run a mobile OS. It runs 64bit Windows 10 Home. In any “mode,” PC or tablet, this is a PC. Period.

Speaking of the keyboard, it provides a decent typing experience. While it’s not something that I’d like to work with all day long, its ok; and can get you through a meeting in a pinch. Again, the fact that this device comes WITH the keyboard is huge. On the Surface Pro, it’s a $129 – $159 add on.

As a Signature PC, this device is awesome. No junk software! No crapware! This is huge on a device like this with a budget processor, no matter how good that processor may be; and huge when it has a non-upgradable SSD as a main drive. While it does have a microSD card slot for additional storage, the fact that you don’t have to run an app like the PC Decrapifier to try to remove all of the OEM sponsored junkware that comes on most Windows PC’s is huge.

The ASUS Transformer Mini T102H runs $349.99 for the 64GB version and $399.99 for the 128GB version. It is readily available on the internet and is perhaps one of the best budget PC buys you can make this year.

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Data Hogs Beware!

Verizon is gunning for users of its legacy Unlimited Plan…

If there’s one thing that I know, and I know well, it’s that mobile carriers get their undies in a bunch when it comes to customers using what they consider to be “too much” bandwidth. In fact, Verizon has been, it seems, on a mission to get users of its legacy unlimited data plan to move to a current plan.

Back in 2011, Verizon killed their unlimited data plans, requiring everyone on those plans to move to a different, shared data plan. However, some users weren’t affected, and were able to remain on a legacy, unlimited data plan. Verizon has been on a mission ever since to remove remaining users from those legacy plans so they can finally be retired in favor of more lucrative data plans that limit customer bandwidth.

Recently, Verizon sent a notice to users on those plans who were using at least 200Gb a month that they would be required to choose a different data plan by 2016-02-16, or risk having their service terminated. Terminated clients will have 50 days to get with the program and get a new service plan. Clients failing to do this will be hit with contract termination fees and will have their lines of service/ accounts closed.

Back in August of 2016, Verizon targeted users consuming 500GB or more of data a month and gave them the same message – find a newer data plan or be terminated. Verizon no longer offers unlimited data on any device. They have a 100GB plan that costs $450 per month, before line and access fees. The legacy, unlimited data plan costs $100 per month.

Verizon has made a number of different changes to its service plans over recent months. At the beginning of 2017, Verizon raised its line upgrade fee from $20 to $30 per line. Every line that is upgraded to a new device will be charged this fee going forward. Verizon has also stopped offering two year subsidized phone contracts as of 2015.

Verizon has historically been an expensive mobile carrier. Individuals who use Verizon do so under one of just a few key conditions, in my experience:

  1. It’s the only carrier in town
    Verizon is often the only carrier in many rural areas. Their mobile network was built out first and in some cases, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint either haven’t gotten there or don’t intend to.
  2. It’s the only carrier in town with a decent signal
    In some (rural) areas, there’s carrier choice, but service from other mobile carriers is SO bad, that it’s not worth using them. Folks in this category may also travel for business and need to have a reliable signal that can be reached in the devil’s basement.

I used to be a Verizon customer. However, shortly after AT&T started offering the iPhone – and before I switched – I moved from Verizon to AT&T simply because I was able to cut my monthly spend nearly in half. Back in the day, the family and I were spending nearly $500 a month on cellular service for just three lines. Switching to AT&T drastically dropped our monthly spend.

However, their legacy unlimited data plan, popular with many iPhone and smartphone users offered access to Verizon’s fast 4G and LTE network at a reasonable cost. Now, according to Verizon, those folks are costing the company too much money and clogging up the pipe.

If you’re still a Verizon Unlimited Data user, if not now, you’re going to be targeted by the organization in the very near future. Verizon wants you off that data plan and on something else that provides them with better revenues. Let’s be clear about this – regardless of how Verizon tries to spin this to you, this is about their bottom line, not the service quality on their network.

According to VzW spokesperson Kelly Crummey, speaking with Ars Technica,

“Because our network is a shared resource and we need to ensure all customers have a great mobile experience with Verizon, we are notifying a small group of customers on unlimited plans who use more than 200GB a month that they must move to a [different] Verizon [data] Plan by February 16, 2017.”

Are you a Verizon customer? Do you still have their legacy Unlimited Data Plan? Have you received any kind of notice from Verizon that you’ll have to pick a new data plan or risk losing your line/ lines of service? If so, which data plan(s) look attractive to you? Would you consider a change or move to a different carrier like AT&T or T-Mobile who are both offering unlimited data plans again (albeit, with a few prerequisites)..?

If you fall into one of these categories, I’d love to hear from you and get your opinion on what is happening with Verizon and more importantly, how you’re treated by the company when you call them and have a customer service issue to resolve. Do they hound you to switch data plans? Have they in the past tried to force you out of your existing plan and on to another? Are they offering any kind of incentive to make the move early (I haven’ t seen any evidence of any kind of incentive…). I’d also love to know which data plan you end up choosing, if you decide to stay, and how that new data plan effects your bill.

Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area below and give me your details? If enough people respond, I’ll do a follow up article on your experiences and put you in the lime light!

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The Day that Apple Changed the World

The iPhone is 10 years old, and its introduction changed the world

Apple set the smartphone – and the world – on its ear when it introduced the iPhone to the back in 2007. Steve Jobs mashed the popular iPod Touch together with cellular communications technology and created what he called, “a revolutionary mobile phone and breakthrough internet communication device with desktop class email, web browsing, searching and maps [all combined] into one small and lightweight handheld device.”

That’s exactly what the iPhone is today, too. Still… even ten years later.

The device, however, is much, much more than it was. With more than two million available apps, its changed the way we play, commute and communicate with family, friends and the entire world. It gave birth to the Selfie, to the tweet, and to countless other things social. Its created bajillions of copycat devices, much to Samsung’s chagrin, and is in many ways the most successful consumer device, like, EVER.

So where does it go from here? That, my friends, requires a bit of vision. Many are prognosticating on this topic, and I don’t agree with everyone. Here’s where I think Apple will go with things, even if I don’t care for that particular direction.

Connectivity
Apple wants to be the communications hub of your entire existence. With things like Home Kit, your iDevice – including your iPhone – can communicate with the core infrastructure of your home. As costs come down for third party products – like locks, thermostats, light bulbs, appliances, etc. – imagine being able to control the temperature of your house from anywhere in the world, being able to see if you’re out of milk while on vacation and then being able to place an order for milk, eggs and bread while you’re gone and having them on your doorstep when you return home. While you can sort of do some, if not most of this today, it isn’t always easy… or accurate. It should be with future versions of iPhone.

Imagine being able to accurately communicate with all of your gadgets and appliances without dropped connections or other communications interference. Bluetooth 5 promises to provide communications accuracy as well as increased range and speed of communications with your entire home.

Artificial Intelligence
The biggest issues with the Amazon Echo and with Google Now is that both Amazon and Google require that you give up privacy and access to most if not all of your personal data to make their digital assistants work. Imagine if Apple could accomplish the same thing, while still protecting your privacy.

Apple intends to do this by keeping your data on your device, instead of pushing the request to the cloud where your data is collected, analyzed and aggregated with every other bit and byte. This will be a huge win for Apple if they can deliver. Keeping your data private and creating devices smart enough and fast enough – with enough memory (RAM) to handle local search should be a key initiative for Apple going forward.

Ports
Many folks lost their minds when Apple removed the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. I am not a huge fan of the missing headphone jack in the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. I know a great deal of folks who are still a bit miffed about the whole thing; and Apple seems to be doing the same thing on their computing devices as well.

However, most fall into two categories – those that don’t care and those that can work around it.

Those people that can work around the lack of a headphone jack on their iPhone are those that have accepted the fact that they’re going to need a dongle to continue to use their legacy headphones with their iPhone 7 or 7 Plus. They’ve pulled the dongle that Apple included in the box with the new device, slapped it on the cable of their legacy headset and have decided to leave it there. The only issue most folks bump into here is listening to audio and charging at the same time. There are some splitter cables on the market right now that resolve this issue, but unless this is a big deal for someone, paying $40USD or more for a single dongle isn’t a very popular idea. (yes, Amazon DOES have splitter cables for about $10USD, but they don’t have MFI certification. If you go this route, use the cables with caution. The application of too much or too little power to a lithium ion battery can have explosive results.

The Next Big Thing
Figuring this out isn’t easy, especially when it comes to Apple. There are more rumors about what Apple is going to produce than anything else on the internet, really. Well… perhaps there are more cat videos, but this comes in as a close second.

The biggest problem here, is that no one hardly ever gets it right, until the last minute, and by THAT time, it’s too easy. Nearly anyone can produce an accurate guess at that point. However, figuring out what Apple is going to do with the iPhone ten years from now, isn’t going to be too hard, at least I think so.

Before 2027, Apple will discontinue what we consider to be the iPhone. Apple will likely produce a different device, with a completely different form factor to replace it. It’s likely NOT going to be in the traditional or familiar form factor. It could be a wearable. It could even be an implant, projecting a virtual display that only YOU can see.

Whatever the iPhone turns into, many see it being a wearable of some type. As reported by C|Net, input and output of data from a communications device and the brains of a product will reside with a [more fluid] device, [instead of a traditional smartphone]. I expect to see some REAL innovation in this space over the coming years as there’s no doubt in my mind that communications, could (literally) all be in your head.

What do you think? Do you see enough changes in the smartphone and peripherals market to change the iPhone into a wearable of some kind? What do you think the next big thing is? Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area below, and give me your thoughts?

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OWC Announces Upgrades for 2016 MacBook Pros

OWC has found a way around the Apple upgrade problem with the 2016 MacBook Pros…

I’ve always been a huge fan of OWC. In many ways, I think they’re one of the best aftermarket Apple accessory producers in the world. They have hard/ SSD drive, memory and accessory upgrades for just about every Mac on the market, as well as support for models going back many years. If you have a Mac – any Mac – you need to at least check out their website to see what add ons and upgrades might be available for your hardware. It may also be that they’re local to suburban Chicago, too… but I digress.

With the release of the 2016 MacBook Pro’s, many in the tech industry, and especially in the tech journalism sector – myself included – were very disappointed with Apple’s latest hardware release. In fact, many – again, myself included – feel that Apple is truly ignoring their “professional users” and instead concentrating on a larger, more consumer oriented audience. To boot, they’ve been rather quiet about this. Instead, the only thing anyone is hearing on the lack of ports on the 2016 MacBook Pro (both with and without TouchBar) is the echo of the WWDC keynote – “we think you’re going to love it…” (or some such nonsense).

Clearly, not everyone does.

In an interesting CES development, OWC (Other World Computing) has released an add on for the 2016 Mac Book Pro called the OWC DEC that allows not only for internal storage upgrades, but includes a number of missing legacy ports.

When attached, the DEC sits completely flush with the bottom of the 2016 MacBook Pro, and while it does add to the thickness of the device, OWC says that it keeps the overall height of the device as the 2012 MacBook Pro. Exactly HOW it connects to the MacBook Pro hasn’t exactly been disclosed yet. The press pictures that OWC has provided show all four native USB-C ports unused (see above). However, when released in the Spring of 2017, the DEC will support the following, according to OWC:

  • Up to 4TB of additional Flash/SSD storage (for a maximum of 6 TB, including the factory installed 2GB SSD that Apple offers)
  • SD Card Slot/Multi-Media card slot
  • USB 3 Type A Ports for standard USB cabled devices
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • And other features to be announced at a later date

The key here is that last bullet – “other features to be announced at a later date.” The big things missing in the above list are:

  • A MagSafe Connector (including a USB-C to MagSafe Adaptor, yet to be developed or released)
  • An HDMI port
  • A Mini DisplayPort port
  • Additional Thunderbolt 2-3 ports (not using the Type C connector)
  • A rechargeable battery, for extended battery life

What additional features are included in the final, shipping product have yet to be determined or announced. The prototype is on display at the OWC booth at CES during the week of 2017-01-03.

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Another One Bites the Dust

CyanogenMod is Dead. Ok… so… NOW what?!

This is a real head shaker; AND a huge mess. As with so many small companies and/ or startups, what was once meant to concur the world, has ended in a flaming mess. It’s a common enough story, but one that bears a bit of telling, in that many – including myself – will find interesting.

It was announced a couple of days ago that CyanogenMod would shut down. By shutting down it’s not that the OS is going go back into a state of community driven development (at least not exactly), no. The entire company that came out of CyanogenMod is shutting its doors, its development, its services, etc.

The company is gone. Unfortunately, surprises like this often happen with internet properties. Unfortunately, you just never really know what’s going to happen. Sometimes, change comes suddenly and can be very jarring.

In 2015, the CEO of Cyanogen, Kit McMaster said they were going to kill Google. Two years later, they’re shutting everything down. It’s a common enough tale. Apparently, the company has burned through over $100M in venture capital and has burned down a number of bridges. The one real win the company got – their partnership with One Plus One, failed horribly.

In July of 2016, the company’s CTO and cofounder, Steve Kondik claimed that the company wasn’t going anywhere (meaning they were staying the course) and they haven’t put aside their intent to bring CyanogenMod to the world.

As often happens with organizations like this, the company lacked a single, centralized vision. There were serious conflicts between founders and senior management some of them got so “violent” between Kondik and McMaster (the CTO and the CEO, respectively) that McMaster swore to burn Cyanogen to the ground.

Which is exactly what happened.

Kondik’s power was reduced by October 2016 and Cyanogen announced it was switching from an Android fork – its original strategy – to an open sourced, modular OS. This would enable interested hardware manufacturers to put some, part or all of Cyanogen into stock or a home brew version of Android.

CyanogenMod, however, is dead. The company will shut down its nightly builds, its services as well as every other part of its OS on 2016-12-31. The dream, if you will, the brand, is dead. McMaster may have “won,” but Kondik is going to have the last laugh.

The OS will be forked. According to Kondik, as stated on the CyanogenMod Google+ list, the list’s moderators indicated that the OS would indeed be forked and continued,
“However, CM has always been more than the name and more than the infrastructure. CM has been a success based on the spirit, ingenuity and effort of its individual contributors – back when it was Kondik in his home, to the now thousands of contributors past and present.

Embracing that spirit, we the community of developers, designers, device maintainers and translators have taken the steps necessary to produce a fork of the CM source code and pending patches. This is more than just a ‘rebrand’. This fork will return to the grassroots community effort that used to define CM while maintaining the professional quality and reliability you have come to expect more recently.”

The reincarnation of CyanogenMod is going to be called LineageOS, and its believed that Kondik is leading the effort. The project, however, is still getting off the ground. Time will tell if the effort will be successful; and its likely to remain in this “stealth mode” for a while.

LineageOS is going to be built on parts of CyanogenMod 13 and 14. However, it’s not known when it may actually hit the streets. It’s also believed that Kondik is heading up the new effort. While they can’t actually assume any Cyanogen IP or intellectual property, they can build upon the idea of an Android OS that’s small, fast, easy to use. That’s the hope for LineageOS, if and when it is released.

Unfortunately, not much more is known. However, the LineageOS site – if you really want to call it that – promises more information will be released on Tuesday 2016-12-27. If you click on the Status link, you will see that some work, is indeed taking place.

LineageOS plans on putting in the following infrastructure:

  • Jenkins for builds
  • A Portal for downloads
  • A set of download mirrors
  • Gerrit Code Review for development
  • Jira for defects and requirements management
  • A statistics page
  • A wiki for knowledge management

Jenkins is already up to some extent, but is listed with a partial outage. Gerrit Code Review is up, but is listed with performance issues. Everything else is currently down. The incident log indicates that LineageOS will be monitoring Gerrit over the next few days.

No other information is currently available.

It’s clear that everything is still in its infancy at LineageOS. It’s going to take a bit to get things going, so if you’re interested in seeing this on your Android device, you’re going to need to wait a bit. You’re also likely going to need to pre-root your Android device. You’re likely going to need to do a bit of work prior to LineageOS and its first public build are released.

How the OS will be structured and what features it will have, have yet to be revealed. However, if everything happens the way I think and hope that it will, Android users will be in for a treat. LineageOS is likely to pick up where the original CyanogenMod left off before it became a “big deal” and got ahead of itself.

Are you an Android user? Have you rooted your device and do you use a custom ROM? Did CyanogenMod interest you? Have you tried it before? Is LineageOS something that you’re interested in? Will you install it on your device – given that its supported – once its released? Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and give me your take on Cyanogen’s situation as well as what’s become of it and on LineageOS and its direction. I’d love to hear from you…

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Yahoo Hacked – 1.0B Accounts Exposed

Dude… The Fat Lady is SO singing over at Yahoo…

yahoo exposed

  1. There are a few things that come to mind here:
  2. If I were Marissa Mayer, I would crawl under a rock and hide. Like… forever.
  3. If I were Verizon, I would run, not walk, so fast and so far away from the purchase of Yahoo, and I would NEVER look back (or second guess that decision)
  4. If I were a Yahoo user, I would set fire to my account and use the mail account that my ISP gave me. At this point a comcast.net mail account can’t be seen as a bad thing…

To be honest, this is beyond pathetic.

I’ve heard it mentioned that the security breach in question is the result of a separate, earlier attack that occurred in 2013, at least six to twelve months before the attack in 2014 that exposed 500 million accounts to hackers. I’ve heard that security analysts at Yahoo brought their concerns to the management team and the analysis was effectively ignored.

In a statement, Yahoo said they weren’t able to identify the intrusion associated with the breach. Hackers may have stolen names, email addresses, telephone numbers, MD5 hashed passwords, dates of birth, and in some cases, both encrypted and unencrypted security questions and answers.

The company has further admitted that hackers may have accessed all of this information due to a theft of source code, enabling them to manufacture a way in without requiring a password. Apparently, they were able to forge a cookie that allowed them to retrieve credentials that were stored locally. While Yahoo has invalidated the security questions and their answers as well as the forged cookies, the damage has already been done.

The thing that really irks me the most here, is that this was a bigger breach than the one that was reported in 2014; AND it occurred BEFORE the breach that got so much publicity. This hack is twice as big and in my opinion twice as damning. Verizon was already “evaluating” its purchase of Yahoo. If I were them, I’d evaluate myself right out of the deal. The assets aren’t worth the risk.

Yahoo has been severely criticized by six different US senators for taking two years to publicize the September 2014 breach that lost them 500,000 accounts. This latest breach occurred a full year or so before that, and its being revealed AFTER the 2014 breach.

At this point, Yahoo knows basically NOTHING. They have no idea who may have perpetrated the attack, which nation may have sponsored the hackers or the full extent of the information that has been compromised. As a result, Yahoo’s stock took a 2.5% hit in afterhours trading on 2016-12-14. At this point, I can see the value of the stock dropping more as Verizon “evaluates” their purchase plans.

As I said, Yahoo is over. Marissa Mayer is done as a CEO, despite the amount of promise she showed during the early part of her tenue with the company. Verizon should do themselves a favor and target other web content and properties . I think their money would be better spent on assets that weren’t compromised.

If I were a Yahoo user, I’d shut my account down, get a secure password manager, and change passwords and security question answers on all my financial accounts… and that’s just for starters. Yahoo has been around since the early 1990’s. A lot of users have a great deal invested in them, and all of that metadata may be compromised at this point. Better safe than sorry for ALL involved (including investors, Yahoo management and Verizon, as well as users)…

Are you a Yahoo user? Are you still using your Yahoo account? Are you concerned about this breach? What, if anything, have you done to protect yourself and your account information? Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area below and give me your thoughts on the breach and on Yahoo itself as well as what you’re doing to make yourself safe.

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