IOS 8 Beta 4 – Still not Soup Yet

Let’s take a quick look…

The other day, Apple released the latest beta version of iOS 8 to developers. I’ve got it installed on my iPhone 5; and I’ve been playing with it for a bit. Let’s take a look at how things are progressing and see if it’s nearly ready for 3rd party and hobby developers to install yet.

Previous versions of iOS 8 have been a real challenge. If you recall, I’ve had coverage about iOS 8 Beta 1, Beta 2, and Beta 3.  Beta 4 is here, and there are still a great many known (Apple documented) issues as well as those that they don’t know about yet (undocumented issues).   The issues and points that I’ve outlined below combine these two lists.  In other words, some of these Apple already knows about.  Other’s they don’t or didn’t list.  It seems I have some defects to file later…  There are over 50 known issues spread over 37 different areas of the system.

Again, I always setup my iPhone as a new iDevice when installing any beta release.  This prevents any issues with previous settings and plist files. I nearly always have to restore/ wipe and setup the device more than once, as something almost always goes wrong during the first attempt or two.  I think this has something to do with the fact that I would rather play music from my device than stream it via iTunes Match (which iPhone turns on by default).  The synching of large iTunes libraries nearly always causes problems.

ios6beta4

The following are issues I’ve noticed while using iOS 8 Beta 4 since its release.

Installation
Installation in and of itself went ok. I did have to restore my iPhone 5 more than once because of sync issues. The sync just spaced out and stopped doing anything at Stage 5 of 5 (Copying Items) and sat there for well over 90 minutes.

I gave up, hard reset the device put it back in its cradle, turned off Find my iPhone, and restored Beta 4 for a second time. Again, there always seems to be a problem when it comes to wanting to play content locally instead of streaming via iTunes Match.  Turning it off tends to cause sync issues until you get a good, first sync, and then everything is ok.  However, I often have to set the options I want, start the sync and then leave the iPhone to sync for a number of hours – in some cases over night – before it completes correctly.

So far this second installation seems to be ok.  Previous betas lasted between 2-4 days on my iPhone 5 before I blew the device and started over.  This is only day one, however. I may know more about overall stability in the next couple of days.

Bluetooth
Uncle already…

Boy, I sure wouldn’t want to be a communications developer over at Apple right now.  They must be having one heck of a time getting things right. Bluetooth is still a train wreck. My iPhone 5 continually drops audio from any headset it pairs with as well as loses connectivity with my Kenwood BT955HD CD/R-6P1 car stereo. This was never a real solid pairing, even in iOS 6.x and 7.x; however, it seems to be worse with iOS 8, at least so far.  I am trying to see if I can get in touch with someone at JVC Kenwood in order to see if there’s an updated firmware I can apply to the radio.  Actually getting ANY accessory to pair – a headset, speaker, my radio, smartwatch, etc. is a crap shoot at best.  More often than not, the accessory won’t pair on the first three or so tries.  You have to repeat this a LOT right now in order for your iPhone to “realize” that it needs to pair and communicate with the accessory.

BT-LE (Bluetooth Low Energy) is still having issues holding idle connections, or those that don’t send constant data across the paired link.  Accessories like a <a href=”http://www.soft32.com/blog/platforms/mobile/pebble-steel-is-timeless/”>smartwatch</a> won’t work correctly over a long period of time. The BT-LE connection drops.  Getting the BT-LE connection to re-pair, at best, is a crap shoot.

This is a HUGE issue for me as having my phone connected to my car radio is a must have while I am driving. I have an hour long drive to and from work every day, and travel to see my family at least twice a month between Omaha, NE and Chicago, IL (a 6.5 hour drive, one way); and having a hands free device for your cellphone is required in IL, IA and NE.

In short, the Bluetooth experience is really painful right now.  There’s a LOT of work that needs to be done here; and it’s an area where I hope Apple truly concentrates before releasing iOS 8 to the public. In this case, good is not good enough… this really needs to be solid, especially if they want to make any kind of headway in the wearables market where idle BT-LE connections will be common place.

FaceTime, Phone and Contacts
There are still some serious issues with the Phone app.   The most serious – where you can’t answer an incoming call because the device is ringing but won’t wake from sleep – don’t happen too often, but it’s severe enough and unpredictable enough that receiving an important phone call is risky.  The phone dialing app and the active, in-call phone app – if they are in fact supposed separated in anyway – still appear disconnected in iOS 8′s task manager.

The device’s integration between the Phone and Contact apps is also demonstrating issues.  You can’t currently specify a phone number used in Favorites from the Favorites screen.  The only way to do this is to open up Contacts, search for the person in question, open their contact record and tap the “Add to Favorites” link.  From there, you can choose the phone number you wish to make a Favorite.  Trying to add a Favorite from the Favorites screen just adds the first phone number as either a voice call, FaceTime Audio or FaceTime call.

Speaking of FaceTime, the app does not work properly in landscape orientation.  If you want to use the app, you have to FaceTime in portrait orientation.  This is a known issue and Apple is working to resolve it.

Music
There are a number of issues with Music and Podcasts (they function in much the same way…Podcasts is really nothing more than a specialized music app, specifically intended to play audio files marked as a podcast) that raise a lot of concern for me.  For example, the Music app may stop responding when downloading an album.  I’m not certain if this is because Music really wants you to use iTunes Match to stream music from iCloud, or some other reason.

I’ve also noticed that if you do want to sync music to your iDevice, you may have to wait a VERY long time.  ITunes has a problem synching large audio libraries to iPhone.  I’ve noticed that the sync can take HOURS – as in 5-10 hours or more – on the initial sync; and then the entire library that is supposed to copy to the iDevice may not sync on the first or second try. You may have to initiate multiple synchronization attempts – that can take hours to complete – before all of the content is copied to your iDevice. I have also noticed that you may need to disconnect and reconnect your iDevice – both with and without a hard reset in between – to your Mac or PC before all of the content that is supposed to be copied to your device actually gets there.

Notifications
This is another area where Apple is doing a great deal of work.  Apple is completely rewriting the Notification Center, and as such, things are still not working right.  Many notification settings have to be configured more than once before they take.  In some cases, the default switch for showing notifications on the Lock Screen is turned off.  For example, instead of defaulting to displaying on the Lock Screen, Notifications for Mail won’t show at all until you go in and flip the switch to on.

I’ve also noticed that notifications and other system events, like alarms and reminders don’t always fire consistently.  With the changes to Notification Center being such a big deal in iOS 8, I really thought that they would have been in a better state with Beta 4.  This is also a huge hole and something that must be working and working consistently before iOS 8 is released to manufacturing.

System Issues
Overall, there’s a better sense of stability in iOS 8 Beta 4 than in previous betas; but before you start celebrating, this is really to be expected. I still don’t think iOS 8 Beta 4 is the Beta that 3rd party developers relying on Bluetooth, BT-LE or any kind of sync or streaming services should start to play with yet.  There are still a large number of issues for Apple to resolve before it’s ready for any kind of limelight or attention by anyone other than testing the OS.

The system still goes through a number of spontaneous resets. I’ve had at least six since I installed the newest iOS beta on my iPhone 5 on Tuesday night 2014-07-22.  Many apps – Apple Core apps not withstanding – force quit, yet still leave a stub of a program running as evidenced in the Task Manager.  As I said before, the device also won’t necessarily wake from sleep consistently. It can easily get stuck, without the ability to take a call if that OS craps out while asleep and a call comes in. that’s happened at least three times since I installed Beta 4 (and as of this writing, that’s only two days…)

The app also has a backup and restore issue.  As noted by Apple, a restoration of an iCloud backup onto the same device the backup was taken from may not work properly. It may result in crashes of some apps.  Apple is suggesting that for right now, you don’t use iCloud to back up or restore your iDevice, but that you use iTunes to do that. However, I’ve noticed that even one of those backups can get corrupted, requiring you to delete the effected or all backups from your Mac or PC before the device may be backed up or restored at all.

I’ve also noticed that storage usage is still incorrectly reported by iTunes.  The amount of available storage nearly always increases after synchronization completes; and both numbers reported by iTunes don’t match what the iDevice indicates is available.

Conclusion
To say that I’m not happy with the state of Beta 4 is an understatement. Apple usually has it crap together by this point in the beta cycle and Beta 4 is stable enough to be used by nearly anyone and stable enough for daily use.  That’s not the case here.  Apple still has a LONG way to go before the OS can be considered stable or even usable.

Do you have any specific questions about iOS 8 Beta 4 that I can answer?  If I can, I will.  Why don’t you hit me up in the Comments section below and I’ll do my best go give you an answer straight away.

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One Windows

Say goodbye to Windows RT…

Untitlddded

I saw a report by The Verge yesterday and it kinda got me thinking. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has been busy over the past couple of weeks. He cut over 18,000 jobs from the new combined Microsoft after the deal with Nokia closed and they had time to figure out where the redundancies were. He’s killed Ballmer’s devices and services focus for the company and has everyone focusing on the cloud and on productivity. Now, he’s taking a shot at one of Microsoft’s major products – Windows.

There can be only one…

According to Nadella, Microsoft will “streamline the next version of Windows from three operating systems into one single converged operating system.” Windows will be built by a single team with one common architecture. The details of how this will actually happen aren’t known as of yet, but that means that desktop Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox will be unified. This is huge for developers, as they can now create universal apps, meaning they will only have to code and compile once and their app should run anywhere Windows does.

This has been something that Microsoft has been moving towards for months. At BUILD, Microsoft showed of dev tools that support this. While this works better for developers, how it will work in the wild remains to be seen. This ultimately means the death of Windows RT and Microsoft Surface RT/Surface 2 tablets.

THAT isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as Microsoft never really got behind RT and pushed it as their competitors – both Apple and Google – push their mobile operating systems. RT was confusing to users who often mistook it for the Pro version of Windows, only without any real apps. The problem with RT was the Windows Desktop. RT still had it and Windows [File] Explorer, making it look and feel a great deal like its bigger brother, but without the ability to run any desktop apps. Quite honestly, no one knew what to do with Windows RT and Surface RT. Microsoft didn’t push it, users didn’t understand what to do with it, and it just kinda died.

As I have stated many times, Mary Jo Foley is a friend of mine, and I trust her take on the inner-workings at Microsoft more than anyone else’s. Well, maybe not as much as a Microsoft press release, but you get my meaning.

Anyway, I took a long hard look at the report by The Verge, and it didn’t quite sit right. Based on what I know MJF has said before, creating one, single Windows SKU that runs on all devices and only differentiates based on the box its running on is NOT what Microsoft has been all about…EVER. Thankfully, MJF has come to rescue again and provided some clarification.

In a nutshell, this is what “One Windows” means:

One Team – a single team developing the core of Microsoft Windows has been in place under Terry Myerson since July 2013. They will continue to take direction from one set of notes.

One “Core” – All Windows variants (and there will continue to be a few) will continue to come from a single Windows Core. Each SKU and variant will be built via a layered architecture, but will be built on top of this common core

One Store – Microsoft isn’t closing the Windows Store simply because RT is dying. Microsoft has been working to unify the Windows Phone Store and Windows Store over the past year and will continue to do so. The unified store should debut with Threshold sometime next year. How or when Xbox apps and games will be made available in the Store isn’t known yet.

One Development Platform – Microsoft will make a single set of developer API’s and developer’s toolset available. Developers won’t necessarily get the code/ compile once functionality as reported by The Verge; but they are still shooting for having developers write “universal apps.” What “universal” actually means is still a bit unclear; but many of those pieces are in place now.

According to MJF what One Windows does not mean is a single Windows SKU. There will be multiple versions of Windows, in much the same way as we’ve always seen Windows – Enterprise, Consumer, OEM and Industrial (Windows Embedded). We should be able to see this come to fruition this Fall when the public preview of Threshold is still scheduled to be made available.

What do you think of these developments? Is Microsoft getting it together, or is their strategy still too segmented/ fragmented and confusing? Does this kind of “unification” make sense to you, or is this all just a coat of paint on a busted wagon? Does the reported death of Windows RT matter? Does the reported death of Windows RT and the apparent loss of the Surface RT/ Surface 2 (not the Surface Pro line, which includes the Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2/3). Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and let me know what you think?

UPDATE – After trading a few Tweets with @MaryJoFoley on Twitter, just before this went into 2013-12-09 report, Microsoft isn’t killing RT. It still plans on making it one SKU with Windows Phone that runs on smartphones and tablets. This fits with the “One Windows” MO, noted above.

I know this is all a bit confusing, but again, I trust Mary Jo Foley. Her sources are known and trusted, and she has yet to lead me down a wrong path.

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Pebble Steel is Timeless

Even at nearly 6 months old, PS is the shizzle.  Here’s my take on it…

There are a number of Smartwatches out there (or soon to be out there). In my opinion, Pebble Steel is the only one that really has a decent handle on the market at this point.  C|Net had an interesting article on this, too; but it doesn’t touch on all of the points I’m going to make here.  I’ll try to run down why, as quickly as I can.

140106C.Steel-Trio

The Right Size
One of the biggest issues with fitness bands and Smartwatches today is their size.  Too small, and you can’t get enough information on the screen to be of value. Too big, and you may as well strap your phablet to your wrist. Finding the sweet spot – i.e. the right size – has been an issue that most current Smartwatches have failed at.

Regardless of what the Pebble and Pebble Steel do or don’t do, they don’t look like anything else other than a watch, and that is largely due to the fact that the Pebble is watch sized.  Most Android based watches, including the second generation Galaxy watch from Samsung, the Samsung Gear 2 and they are large and bulky on your wrist, unless of course, you’re someone like Andre the Giant or LeBron James, and then you’re likely not going to look at the device and think, “man, this thing is huge.”

The Right Functionality

·    Apps and Watch Faces
This may have something to do with the amount of time that the Pebble and Pebble Steel have had on the open market; but there are a number of usable apps and watch faces available on the Pebble platform.  Android Wear is still very young, and while there are some apps available for it, the Pebble still has more.

However, I’m not making this bullet about the amount of apps available on one platform over the other. I think Android Wear will quickly close the gap over time.  My point here is the difference between platforms and apps.  Pebble is about telling time and putting usable, value-added information on your wrist where you can use it. Pebble notifications allow you to see the events pushed to your phone on your wrist, allowing you to check the notification(s) without seeming rude. Most other Smartwatches try to be a smartphone on your wrist and not a companion or extension of your phone.

·    Great, readable screen
The Pebble Steel uses an e-paper styled reflective LCD display that’s readable in all types of light, including – and most importantly – natural, direct sunlight.  If you’re in a dark room, Pebble supports a “shake to light” backlight. It’s not too bright, to be too disturbing to others, yet bright enough to see; and it doesn’t stay on too long, either.  Other smartwatch displays like those used by Samsung use OLED displays, and those appear black in direct and/ or natural sunlight. LG’s G Watch is the same way.  Both the Samsung and LG watches also sport color displays, while I’m certain they’re beautiful to look at, they also suck battery life.  The Pebble’s display is always on, and is always available.

·    Battery Life
Speaking of battery life, one of the best features of the Pebble Steel is that it lasts up to four to five days on a single charge (depending on how many notifications you get and how often you have it update weather, news and other info).  With Smartwatches, it’s all about data, notifications and update frequency. The more you have pushed to your watch, the shorter the battery life.

The Samsung watches can last up to two to three days on a single charge most other Android Wear watches require daily or nightly charging. There’s also a chance that you could run out of power during the day, and then what good is the device as a watch?

The longer the battery lasts, the better off you are. Even analog watches that require manual winding usually last a longer than two to three days on a single wind.  This is going to be one area that wearables in general are going to have to concentrate and innovate heavily in. If wearables require daily or nightly charging, I don’t see them getting used much in the long run; and they’ll likely end up being a category of devices that doesn’t last long.
·    Notifications
Notifications are the lifeblood of a smartwatch.  The Pebble app on your smartphone pushes any and all notifications received AND displayed on your device (a very important distinction, especially if you can control what notifications your phone does and does not display) to your watch.  This allows you to discretely check your notifications without having to take out your phone, turn on its screen.  In many cultures and countries, glancing at a watch is a much more acceptable action than interrupting a conversation to check a vibrating smartphone.

While Pebble and Pebble Steel don’t do much more than this, one has to ask if there’s much more that a smartwatch needs to do?  This is the great wearables conundrum. What should devices in this category do?  While fitness bands like the Nike Fuel Band can display the time as well as the fitness information it tracks, what the right balance of functionality and displayed information is, has yet to be universally defined or accepted by users and their most primary voting power – their money.

This part of the whole smartwatch field – what should a smartwatch really DO – has yet to be clearly defined by either a vendor or a demanding public.  As a result, the Pebble with its simple notification system, does a good job. It provides users with the information they want and provides for upgrades and updates via new firmware in the future.
·    Waterproof
The Pebble Steel is water proof to 5 ATM (about 160 feet or 48.77 meters). That being said, you could conceivably not only swim and shower with it, but you could go on shallow dives with it. However, I wouldn’t want to test how long each watch would stay water tight at depth.

Other Smartwatches, like the Samsung Gear watches or the LG G Watch are water resistant.  The difference is that you can get a water resistant watch wet, but it will need to be dried off as quickly as possible. It can’t be held under water.  A water proof watch can be held under water without fear of water coming in contact with the interior of its case.

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Aereo – No, Really… We’re a Cable Company

In an interesting turn of events, Aereo has decided to, “go with it.”

I’ve been doing a lot of yacking about Aereo over the past few months.  The SCOTUS recently ruled that the company violated broadcaster copyright ownership when it rebroadcast antenna captured OTA signals over the internet, without the appropriate license.  Then the company pushed pause for a bit while it huddled and decided on its next steps.

TV on the Internet

They’ve made a decision. They’ve decided to embrace the ruling.

Wait…!  What?!

Yep. They’ve decided to embrace the ruling.

One of the options that many technologists – myself included – have suggested for Aereo was to pay for a compulsory license.  The only way they would qualify for something like that would be to categorize themselves as a cable company.  Doing so would qualify them to take part in a royalty system setup in the Copyright Act of 1976 that allows cable systems to retransmit copyrighted programming by paying royalty fees with the Licensing Division of the US Copyright Office.  Aereo can pay the fees and won’t need the approval of any broadcasters in order to restart operations.  They basically drop the “FRAND-styled” payment off and crank ‘er up again.

Specifically, Aereo is arguing that

“if [we are] a ‘cable system’ as that term is defined in the Copyright Act, it is eligible for a statutory license, and its transmissions may not be enjoined.”  It’s a compelling argument as, that’s what the type of company the SCOTUS said Aereo was in its original ruling in June 2014.  Aereo added that it’s already begun filing the necessary paperwork to begin paying the royalties in its response to the Second Circuit Court.

The broadcasters involved in the case are, well, in a word – flabbergasted.  In their opinion, Aereo is “astonishing in its presumption” that the SCOTUS transformed them into a cable company, especially since they’ve been arguing from the get-go that they are not.

It’s up to the Second Circuit Court to decide whether to issue an order for Aereo to totally cease operations or allow them to continue operating during the pending trial.

Aereo’s main argument is that the broadcasters can’t have it both ways.  If Aereo’s business model classifies it as a cable company as defined by the SCOTUS ruling and the Copyright Act of 1976, then they should be entitled to the compulsory license under the Act.  It’s clear that the broadcasters don’t want their content pushed over the Internet, and they certainly don’t want it time shifted (via DVR) without a MUCH larger fee from Aereo.  The argument has some legs.  It’s just up to both sides now to make their arguments for or against this new classification.

What do you think?  Is Aereo a cable company?  Should they be closed down during the trial? Should they be eligible for the compulsory license, or should they have to pay a larger royalty to the Broadcasters if they wish to be in business?  Has greed taken the broadcasters too far; or are they entitled to more money? If so, why?  Why don’t you let me know in the comments section, below and tell me what you think?

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Keep your PC’s hardware working to the best of its ability with Smart Driver Updater

Keep your PC’s hardware working to the best of its ability with this important Windows utility.

SDU-01

One of the most important parts of any operating system as the drivers for each component under the hood or connected to your computer.  Having really good drivers can mean the difference between your PC running well, your performance tanking or not being to use either an accessory or peripheral or the entire PC.  This is especially important with newer operating systems, as updates to drivers can come, literally, all the time.  At that point, versioning can become an issue as app and driver installers are notorious for leaving artifacts behind and in some cases, drivers can even become outdated. This is why I really like Smart Driver Updater.  It helps you find and keep the best drivers for your Windows PC, up to date.

Just because a file is a driver file, doesn’t mean that it’s excluded from errors and other kinds of file corruptions that happen to other Windows components.  As peripherals and accessories move through their life cycle, drivers get updated and your copies can become out dated, quickly; and you often won’t know if that happens. Most computer connected devices don’t have auto-updaters.

Sometimes, installation processes can go sideways and an update gets applied incorrectly.  Or sometimes OTHER drivers get updated, and that update effects the performance of another peripheral or accessory because they share some kind of soft-component…  When something like this happens, it can take one, the other or both drivers – and devices – down.

Provided that the device or accessory isn’t damaged, all you likely need to do is update the actual driver file(s) for any related accessories and you’re back in business. Unfortunately, trying manually track this stuff down can be a HUGE headache. I know from firsthand experience. It can be a nightmare, especially if you’re trying to update drivers for more than one device at a time. This is where Smart Driver Updater comes to your rescue.

Smart Driver Updater has a database of over 600,000 drivers. The app’s database is constantly updated and edited to make sure that the best driver updates are available. With Smart Driver Updater, you’ll always have the latest driver updates available to you.

Having a Windows PC – especially for someone like me who is constantly testing both software and hardware – means that you’re always only a few months away from a complete tear down and rebuild of your PC.  If you ever have to nuke the hard drive and start from scratch, getting right back where you were with all of your drivers is very easy with Smart Driver Updater. It backs up all of your drivers to a zip file that is easily exported, giving you a quick, easy way to get back to where you were.

Smart Driver Updater isn’t the kind of application that has a lot of bells and whistles. It’s no nonsense, pragmatic approach to keeping your computer’s and peripheral’s drivers updated and current isn’t going to be the application that you ache to run every time you boot up your PC… That is, until it saves your bacon.  Then, you’re probably not going to want to run your computer without it.

The app’s Scheduler gives you standard “set it and forget it” functionality. Once activated, the app will scan your drivers at startup or at a day and time during the week or month and tell you what needs updating.  Putting that in place should be part of EVERY Windows PC’s boot process so that your PC is always running at peak performance.

 

Download Smart Driver Updater

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Rik-’em, Rak-’em, Ruk-’em-Ruk-’em

Grab that productivity and really FIGHT! 

productivity

A few days ago new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella addressed his full time employees via email, and made some REALLY bold statements.   I love the way Mary Jo Foley organized all of this.   This is what I took away from her article.

1.    We’re no longer a “devices and services company,” as defined by former CEO Steve Ballmer.
2.    It’s all about productivity and platforms. In fact, Microsoft is going to reinvent productivity.

According to Nadella, “Microsoft [at its core] is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world. We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.”

Nadella plans on pushing the productivity software and services that power “digital work and life experiences.”   While he’s thinking it would be nice of that OS would be Windows/Windows Phone on the client side, he’s really thinking Microsoft Azure and Windows Server. Nadella is making it clear that it doesn’t matter WHAT client OS is driving the end user, he wants to build software and services that empower users to do more REGARDLESS of client OS (so, yes, that means Android, iOS and Blackberry on the mobile side as well as OS X and Linux on the desktop). It clearly doesn’t matter to him.

Nadella also extended this vision to game consoles as well. According to Nadella, Xbox is one of Microsoft’s core businesses. It can influence and tie in other Microsoft products.

“Xbox is one of the most-revered consumer brands, with a growing online community and service, and a raving fan base. We also benefit from many technologies flowing from our gaming efforts into our productivity efforts – core graphics and NUI in Windows, speech recognition in Skype, camera technology in Kinect for Windows, Azure cloud enhancements for GPU simulation and many more. Bottom line, we will continue to innovate and grow our fan base with Xbox while also creating additive business value for Microsoft.”

That should stop all the Xbox naysayers and give Xbox fans a bit of reassurance.   The company intends to not only support but grow the business unit for its popular game console. Talk selling it off can be put to rest.

July seems destined to be a month of change for Microsoft.   “Nothing is off the table in how we think about shifting our culture to deliver on this core strategy,” according to Nadella. Many will say this implies a reorg and reduction in force. It probably does.   It’s not uncommon after a merger. Microsoft said it expected to save $600M by combining it and Nokia.   Wall Street sees a RIF coming, as it’s always an easy way to realize cost savings after redundancies are found in combined companies. Microsoft is also further streamlining its engineering processes. Microsoft is undoing the functional management structure Ballmer put in place before he left. The times, they are a changin’.

What do you think of Microsoft’s proposed changes?   Will this make a difference that you can see?   Will the way they reinvent themselves provide you with the tools you need?   For example, will having Office on Android (as well as iOS) make a difference for you? Will revised versions of MS Office for Mac or even a version for Linux (not announced… I’m just supposing, here) make a difference?   It’s been over four years since Microsoft released a version of Office for Mac; and as I just noted, there isn’t a version for Linux.   Users of those two desktop operating systems don’t always reach for Microsoft tools first.   If Microsoft makes them available, will you use them, or stick with the alternatives you’ve been forced to find because they historically haven’t been there?   With Microsoft looking to provide productivity tools to everyone, regardless of computer or device type or OS, would you be more apt/ likely/ willing to use their products or services?   Why don’t you join me in the discussion area below and let me know what you think?

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The Next Item Up for Bids

Eddy Cue Apple SVP is offering a one hour lunch AND a 13″ MacBook Air and it’ll likely only cost you a couple hundred grand…

1367204020_bid2

Following Tim Cook’s lead, Apple SVP Eddy Cue has decided to offer an hour long sit down with anyone as well as a 13″ MacBook Air – valued at $1199 – to the highest bidder.

This “Fortune 500 Charity Dunk Tank” is a GREAT idea. The MB Air chaser is an awesome idea, as the winner not only walks away with a dozen or so selfies with Cue, but a 13″ MacBook Air as well. I’m certain that if you bring a Sharpie, you could get Cue to autograph the case, and/ or the box, as well.

Tim Cook’s last time out brought nearly $1.0M in a direct donation to the RFL Center for Justice and Human Rights, as that was his choice for the destination of the winning bid. This time, like Tim, Eddy will host up to two guests after they have both passed a security screen. Depending on schedules, you may have to wait up to one year before you get the sit-down; and Apple doesn’t cover travel or lodging. Honestly, if you’re going to be able to afford this, travel and lodging probably aren’t high on your worry list, though.

This is the one thing that bothers me the most about something like this. There’s NO WAY the little guy has a chance in the Hot Place to win this kind of thing. It’s clear to me that the bids for this auction will soar, like Tim’s did. For example, as of this writing, bids were currently up beyond $10,500. The whole sha-bang is valued at $10k, so it’s already reached saturation. Bidding started at $1000; and has quickly climbed to the current $10,500 over the past couple of days. Bidding started on 2014-06-20. The auction closes at 2:20p EDT on 2014-07-16.

These high bids are good for the charity; but as I said, the little guy doesn’t have a chance at scoring the sit down. And while I get it – it IS for charity, after all – it would be really great if something like this could also be around for the little guy.

I know, I know… and yes, it is a bit of sour grapes on my part, I freely admit it. I need a little cheese with this whine; but it WOULD be cool to have the sit down, don’t you think? I have a ton of questions I’d like to ask, and I’m certain that with YOUR help, I could come up with one HECK of a list, especially with up to a year’s lead time. After the general, “whaddaya wanna do?” stuff ends, I’d have all kinds of questions about internal development processes, challenges, product development processes, testing and prototyping processes, NONE of which, I’m certain Cue would (be willing to) answer. Still, it would be awesome to go to the campus and have the meeting.

If you won, what would you ask Apple SVP Eddy Cue? What charity would you like to see the winning bid go to? What charity would you donate to, if you won? Whom would you bring with you; or would you go alone? Why don’t you join me in the Discussion Area below, and let me know. If you’re gonna dream… dream big!

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IOS 8 Beta 3 – A Train Wreck of a Different Color

I’d like to say things are getting better.   I really would…

Those that know me know that I’m a long time mobile device maven. I’ve got years of experience in mobile computing, telecommunications and mobile broadband as well as mobile app testing. If it runs on a handheld device of just about any size and OS (or laptop, too), I feel confident that I can give you a solid set of test results after playing with it for a while.

While extended testing is always the best way to go, I’ve also learned to trust my instincts.   As a product reviewer, extended testing helps you identify issues, trends and perhaps issue root causes. This is the best way for someone like me, in a beta testing role to test, as the results you get from this activity are more focused, more accurate and very reliable.   Quick looks as what was released are great for press hounds and getting article views, but don’t always provide the best details on the ins-and-outs of encountered issues.

screen-shot-2014-07-07-at-9-58-00-am

IOS 8 Beta 3 was released to the Apple Developer Community on 2014-07-07.   This one was just a few days longer than I initially anticipated, as I had heard that Beta 3 would be made available on or around 2014-07-03.   Honestly, it could have come sooner for me. iOS 8 Beta 2 was nearly unusable. I have no idea how someone would be able to test any of their app mods or new apps on it.   I had a hard time getting many apps to run with any level of consistency.

So I’ve spent a bit of time with iOS 8 Beta 3, and here are my first impressions. It’s still a train wreck; and not ready for even developers to really use to create apps with yet.   Testing existing apps for compatibility will also be very difficult.  I say this as an experienced software QA professional.   In not so technical terms – train wreck is a kindness.

Here are the issues as I see them at this point. I may update this column with additional information, or expound upon it in an additional column as things become clearer over the next couple of weeks (Apple’s traditional time period between beta updates).

Please note that when installing any new beta release, I never, EVER restore a backup. I always set the new release up as a new iPhone. It’s more work to do this, but insures that all settings and plist files on the device are created from scratch, without any legacy issues or problems from previous builds being brought over.

App Crashes and Other Issues

·    Facebook – often force quits when initially started.   Doesn’t update as expected.   Newsfeed contains items that are totally fresh (minutes old) next to items that are completely stale (10-18+ hours/ days old).
·    Gmail – mail items don’t update as expected. App force quits or freezes unexpectedly during updates
·    Mail – Stability is greatly improved, but comes at the expense of occasional app force quits.  The app also freezes unexpectedly during an update; but at least I can delete 4-5 messages at a time without the app crashing or force quitting on me.
·    Pebble App – No consistent BT LE connectivity (see the Bluetooth section, below)
·    Angry Birds Friends – The app won’t connect to Facebook and therefore, you can’t play the game with your power-ups or other in-app purchases. The app hasn’t worked right in all 3 iOS 8 Betas.
·    Health – this app is about as intuitive and easy to use as an operations manual for a nuclear power plan is to read and understand. IOS 8 Beta 3 is supposed to incorporate a way to count steps in Health.  I have no idea how to do this, and the app doesn’t yet have any info in it that explains that this requires the iPhone 5s or later (as it has the M7 chip and accelerometer which enables this).  It’s also NOT communicating with any other apps as of yet that I can see. I can’t get it and Run Keeper or Nike’s Fuel Band app to show up as sources.
·    Phone – the actual call screen and the phone app seem somewhat disconnected or discombobulated.   The app often doesn’t show the in-call screen or displays a combination/overlay of the two after attempting to end a call.   Dialing from Favorites is a problem. I’ve had occasions where the device has frozen without connecting a call when trying to dial from a saved Favorite, yet the devices top speaker seems engaged as you can hear dead air from it at that point (but the call likely will NOT connect).

Adding a Favorite from the Recent Calls list doesn’t always present you with the correct number or options you want for actually adding the Favorite (FaceTime, Voice Call, etc.)  Again, Apple is playing with the core code it uses to communicate with all of its radios in the iPhone.  I would have thought this would have been worked out in Alpha Builds and not in Beta releases…apparently, that’s just me.  However, from what I’m seeing, the app’s behavior suggests that there’s some heavy logging going on in the background, and this may be the cause for its sluggishness, crashes, graphic artifacts, etc… or it could be that the code is still in flux, too. It’s difficult to say…

My confidence level is set to – Low

I’m not happy with the way app compatibility is working out, and I’m certain that many 3rd party developers won’t be either.  With the way things are shaping up, they’re going to have to do some serious reworking of their products to get them to work correctly with iOS 8.  This means that after reworking, testing and getting everything set, they will need to rev the app and have it resubmitted to the Apple App Store.  Given what I am seeing, I think a huge backup of apps needing review will be experienced and Apple will bump into a problem with backlog.

Bluetooth
Front, back – cha, cha, cha.

This particular area seems to have taken one step forward and two steps back. I have had trouble pairing my iPhone 5 with EVERY Bluetooth device I have, including my Kenwood BT CD/R-6P1 car radio, Pebble Steel smartwatch and LG and Beats wireless headphones. I haven’t had an opportunity to try connecting my Nike+ Fuel Band.   The one thing that did connect without a problem is the Tile I have attached to my key ring. It connects without issue and STAYS connected, which flies right in the face of a known issue.   Currently, CoreBluetooth services are totally borked:

The CoreBluetooth State Preservation and Restoration feature does not work. If your application is jetsammed while in the background performing long-term action(s), with CoreBluetooth, those applications will cease and the application will not be restored.

Honestly, I’m really surprised that Bluetooth is working at ALL in iOS 8. As I stated before, they seem to be rewriting the Bluetooth stack from the ground up, and as such, I’d expect problems with Bluetooth connectivity with any and all device types. I don’t care how long this takes to resolve; but in the end, this really needs to be totally rock solid.

My confidence level is set to – Medium

Unless Apple does a much better job at pulling this together (and it still IS a bit early in the beta cycle…) in the next couple beta releases, I think this is an area that will need to see updates AFTER the initial release of iOS 8.0 in order to make things work correctly.   I do want to qualify this a bit though.   Apple can extend the beta period as long as it needs to.   This can still come together. I’m basing my statement on three beta releases.

Settings
This is a huge mess. It’s clear to me that Apple is still working on (tweaking is too delicate of a word…) much of the core code rewrite of the mobile OS, and as such, it’s no surprise that Settings is in a worse state than it was in previous beta releases.  Unfortunately, because Settings now behaves like a child throwing a tantrum (on occasion), using the device in any way has become challenging.  If you can’t set anything up, it’s difficult to use the device at all…

In no particular order, here are items of concern that I’ve noticed about Settings since installing iOS 8 Beta 3.
·    The app often force quits unexpectedly, sending you back to the home screen without notice.
·    PIM (mail, contacts, and calendar) data doesn’t always sync consistently for non-Apple accounts.  Fetch doesn’t fetch data. You may have to change “Fetch” to “Manual” and then run the associated app in order to get data to come down to your device.  I’ve noticed this with Google Accounts/ Google Apps Accounts more than any other.
·    Bluetooth settings are difficult to change.  Discovery works just fine, but actually pairing a new device can be challenging. It took me over 10 times to get my car radio to pair with my iPhone 5 running iOS 8 Beta 3, and that process involved initiating the pair from either the radio OR the iPhone, completely turning off both devices at different times, putting the radios in airplane mode, etc.  I actually thought at one point that I wasn’t going to be able to get the two devices to pair…
·    Settings often force quits when trying to modify Bluetooth settings.  The app crashes here more than in any other area, though it does force quit when trying to work with Wi-Fi settings, too.  Apple is obviously changing the way it communicates with your iPhone’s radios, and as such, Settings is very flakey.  This is problematic when the Bluetooth stack itself is in bad shape.  When the Settings for it often force close the Settings app, you really have to wonder just HOW you’re going to get any testing or other work done in this area.
·    There are issues with Notification Center.  I’ve noticed that Notifications often don’t register (new mail coming in, for example) when they are configured to do so. Running Notification Center itself doesn’t always resolve the issue. Opening Settings—Notifications doesn’t always resolve the issue.  This however, is to be expected, as this is an area that Apple is known to be making some big changes in with iOS 8.

My confidence level is set to – Low

iOS 8 is still in heavy active development. I would have – and actually did – expect things to be much more mature by now than they were in Beta 1 and Beta 2. Apple Beta’s are often very mature releases and seeing things in this state is a bit surprising to me when you look back at 6-7 previous beta releases of Apple’s mobile operating system.  Honestly, I didn’t expect iOS 8 to be the major reworking that its turning out to be. Apple tends to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary and as such, development has historically been a progression and not a tear down and rebuild.  iOS 8 seems to be, and very much has, that kind of feel to it. Apple is rebuilding a lot more of their core services than I thought they would.  This isn’t a bad thing. I am just surprised by these developments.

Some people wouldn’t be surprised given all of the rumors out there for the iWatch.  I’m surprised because we haven’t gotten any official word or anything really substantial from the rumor mill that would suggest that a newer, completely different type of iDevice is going to be presented to the public.

However, if Apple IS going to surprise us with some sort of watch or fitness band with a boat load of new sensors and functionality, then doing this type of tear down and rebuild to allow for new and different kinds and types of communication and device interaction wouldn’t be very surprising.  So, I’m interested and intrigued; but not much more than that because I have nothing substantial to hang that raised eyebrow on.

Conclusion
iOS 8 Beta 3 is an evolutionary beta release. I can see progress in it over Beta 2, but it’s clear that Apple has taken a step or two back in some areas in order to move things forward in the end. Communications – which is the heart of any mobile device OS – is a huge focus for iOS 8; and Apple is doing a lot of work with the iPhone at a grass roots level. If you were hoping to jump on to iOS 8 Beta 3 and have a mostly usable device, you’re not going to be happy yet. A lot of the device is still unusable. Apple is clearly still on the bottom end of the development curve with iOS 8 Beta 3.  There’s clearly a long way ahead of us before we can consider this feature complete and all Apple is doing is refining code and squashing bugs.

Are you looking forward to iOS 8?  What are you most interested in as far as its feature set and capabilities are concerned?  Do you have a specific area of interest that you’d like me to comment on, test or research?  Why don’t you give me your thoughts in the discussion area below, and I’ll do my best to get something written up and posted on it in the coming days before Beta 4 hits, in an expected two week time frame (which would be somewhere around 2014-07-21).

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