Microsoft Releases Windows 10 Build 10041

Insiders everywhere (on the Fast Ring) are currently breaking the internet…

Like ALL Windows 10 Insiders, I’ve been waiting since mid to late January 2015 on a new build of Windows 10. Back then, Microsoft released Build 9926 after an eight plus week wait after the release of build 9879 (which was a HUGE train wreck, by the way…). Build 9926 got the train back on the rails, but it wasn’t in as good of shape as previous builds, at least in terms of stability, but is been usable.

Aside from issues that I’ve had with OneNote 2013 and OneNote Preview for Windows 10, this hasn’t been too horrible for me. However, the issues I’ve outlined in the article linked above, are huge as they deal with digital inking and Office Preview for Windows 10 and Office 2013. Let’s face it… I have a Surface Pro 3 specifically because of OneNote 2013.

Period.

So, to be clear, the problems I’ve been bumping into with digital inking are huge.

While I do NOT expect my specific issues with digital inking to be addressed in Build 10041, I am hoping that some general improvement may help me out. It’s a slim chance, but I can still hope, right?

So, while I and the rest of the Windows Insider program members were waiting, I got a bit impatient and posted some very impish tweets to Gabe Aul, the Head of Microsoft’s Windows Insider Program.

Waiting on Win10 01

To further illustrate my points, I tweeted:

Waiting on Win10 02

Thankfully, Gabe seems to have a REALLY great sense of humor. I know he’s been getting a lot of chatter directed at him, personally. I also know that he’s been doing a STELLAR job. To really send that point home, today, Gabe tweeted the following.

Das Button

I was drinking some tea at the time I saw that and nearly spewed the contents in my mouth out at my monitor I laughed so hard. Yeah. Gabe is a good guy…

As noted in Gabe’s blog post, here are some of the release notes from the build:

Top issues fixed in this build (partial)

  • In 9926 there were several issues which prevented Start from launching, these should all be fixed.
  • Search box now works if you have taskbar on the top/side of your screen.
  • After installing the last build (9926), you saw a boot selection menu when you rebooted your PC. We’ve fixed this and you should no longer see the boot selection menu – unless you’re intentionally dual-booting.
  • We received feedback that people were seeing persistent grey thumbnails in the Collection view in the Photos app on Build 9926. We think we’ve worked through all these issues, so definitely let us know if you find a case where one still crops up.

Known issues for this build (partial)

  • Some people might hit an issue where the username and password boxes do not appear or don’t accept input when logging in, which will prevent them from logging in. Possible workarounds include clicking the “Switch User” button, using Ctrl+Alt+Del, or pressing the power button on your PC to sleep/resume and try again.
  • It is possible to manually lock your PC during the initial out-of-box experience. If you do this, you will have to hard reboot your PC and restart the OOBE experience. (So don’t lock your PC during OOBE :-))
  • There are several accessibility issues in this build, which may make it difficult to use with Narrator or 3rd party screen readers. Additionally there is an issue where using a Lens after enabling Magnifier may cause the screen to be unusable.
  • Some apps in the Store Beta will fail to install or update due to a licensing issue.
  • In this build, the Mail, Calendar, and People apps may be broken due to a licensing issue with the Store Beta. To get these apps working again, you need to follow these steps:
    • Open PowerShell as administrator
    • Run the command Get-appxprovisionedpackage –online | where-object {$_.packagename –like “*windowscommunicationsapps*”} | remove-appxprovisionedpackage –online
    • Re-install Mail, People and Calendar from the Store (green tile)
  • You might notice a chess knight icon on your Lock screen to the right of the screen. This was added by the Lock screen team so they could tell via screenshots if someone was using the new Lock screen or the old one, and will eventually be removed in a future build.
  • Font sizes on the Lock screen on devices with high DPI can be really large.
  • We currently have the Tablet Mode notification turned off by default to address some of the issues we’ve been seeing. The notifications can be turned back on via Settings.
  • The touch keyboard doesn’t show up on login screen which prevents you from unlocking your PC when Narrator is on.
  • Some people might see frequent prompts to restart to install updates, even though no updates need a restart. This prompt can be ignored safely.

I am currently downloading Build 10041. It’s at 23% as of this writing (as you can see in the screen shot below). I’ll have more on this release after I’ve had a chance to work with it.

Build 10041 Download

Additional information on the release of Build 10041 and some of its newer features, as well as the above release notes, can be found, here.

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OneNote 2013 and Windows 10 – Potentially Lethal

The union is proving to be very problematic…

onenote and windows 10

I’m a huge OneNote advocate. In fact, it’s the major reason why I’ve been using a Microsoft Surface Pro series tablet since their initial release in 2012. The ultrabook’s active digitizer, pen and OneNote create a digital notepad experience that can’t be beat in a corporate meeting setting. I wouldn’t want to take notes in a meeting any other way.

When Windows 10 came out, it was natural for me to pursue placing it on my Surface Pro 3. I was a formal part of the Microsoft Technical Beta Team between 1996 and 2002. I’ve been an active Windows beta tester via my company’s IT department since time began, so I’m used to working on systems and with hardware with beta software on it. It’s become second nature to me.

OneNote on my Surface Pro 3 under Windows 8.x worked as intended and expected. It’s all released software with some maturity on it, so I expected everything to go smoothly; and it did.

With Windows 10, its been somewhat of a different story.  With Builds 9879 and older, things were fine.  While the OS may have been a bit buggy, OneNote appeared to be functioning as a mature, released productivity application running on a buggy, beta OS. In other words – situation normal.

With build 9926, however, things have taken a drastic step backwards.

The OS is still buggy and problematic, but that’s to be expected. It’s still a beta of an unreleased OS.  However, OneNote has become increasingly unreliable.  Unfortunately for me, this behavior has bled outside of the OS.  There seems to be something going on with OneNote 2013, specifically in Windows 10, as I’m not seeing this behavior anywhere else I have the software running.  And that… I find very concerning.

Pen and inking services are directly controlled by Windows.  This is where I’m having the issue and problems, and since OneNote 2013 is relying on Windows 10 to create digital ink, interaction between OneNote 2013 and Windows 10 Build 9926, seems to be at the heart of the matter.

OneNote 2013

OneNote 2013 exhibits a disappearing ink problem where drawn, digital ink just vanishes, never to be seen again, regardless of whether or not a notebook has synchronized or not.  It usually starts happening 3-5 minutes after the application has been opened.

Desktop OneNote doesn’t show any symptoms of the problem prior to ink disappearing.  Ink just…vanishes. It’s not ALL ink, or all ink after a specific amount of time has elapsed or a specific even occurs.  Some in may vanish.  Other ink may not vanish. Disappearing ink can be letters, words, sentences or whole passages of digital ink.

There’s no pattern to this. There’s no “tell.” There’s no way for me to state or predict with any level of accuracy what so ever, that after “this” point in the app, after being open for a specific period of time, or after writing a section of digital ink, that any, some or all of the ink will disappear; and it doesn’t disappear immediately after you stop writing.

It might take 15-45 seconds or so and then, when it does disappear, it doesn’t blip, blink or otherwise show you that it’s there, but invisible or merely “forgotten.” It’s truly no longer part of the file.

It may be removed as part of the “save,” as that part of the file was never part of the file to begin with. It may not.  I have no idea… and I think THAT more than anything annoys me the most.  I can’t catch the pattern, and either reproduce the issue on demand, or prevent it from happening.

OneNote Preview

OneNote Preview for Windows 10 also has a disappearing ink problem; but there’s a bit of a difference here.  OneNote Preview has a tell.  The current page you’re working with, freezes.  you can still ink on the page, but the page won’t move up, down left or right.  The app may then stutter, and/or closes and all of the ink that was written to a page from the point of the stutter forward – when the page freezes or refuses to move – disappears.

OneNote Preview also auto-minimizes at times. When its window is restored, the app displays its splash screen and then hangs or appears to hang. You can minimize/ restore the window all you want, but the app may or may not “reactivate” at that point. Your may have to force quit it and restart it. On many occasions, I’ve had to bounce my SP3 to get OneNote Preview for Windows 10 to run correctly again.

OR…

The app may recover and may or may not have had ink disappear.  I’ve noticed this behavior in OneNote Preview, and the app can “recover,” but the ink that was written while the app was in that “bad state” is lost. Ink written after that (i.e. when the screen “unfreezes,” is saved.  OR, the app may have a state so severe, that the Window won’t restore, and you have to quit the app via Task Manager or, if possible, tap and hold the icon on the Task bar and then choose “Close.”

I’ve been dealing with this now on and off for the past 3-4 weeks.  Its put a huge dent in  my productivity at the office, as I can and have lost whole paragraphs of written notes that I thought were “safe,” and ultimately were not.

While writing this, it was announced that Microsoft may be releasing a new Windows 10 build as early as 2015-03-13; and also announced plans to step up the frequency of its Windows 10 builds in its Insider’s “Fast” release ring.  If and how any resolution to this issue is introduced in any new builds of Windows 10 or Office 2013 will of course, be the subject of an update here on Soft32, and I will definitely keep everyone posted.  If you having issues with OneNote and Windows 10, I’d love to get the details from you in the comments section, below.

OneNote Tweet 01 OneNote Tweet 02

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The Biggest Problem(s) with the MacBook 2015

It’s not all sunshine and daisies with the new MacBook. There are a couple issues that may cause it some big problems…

MacBook

I’ve been into mobile computing since 1992. I’ve had DOS/Windows based laptops in my backpack since DOS 3.x, and to be quite honest, I *DO* know what I’m talking about when it comes to portability and power while on the road.

And I do admit it… I’m a bit of a road warrior and a power user. I know that I really want more of the desktop replacement kind of notebook or mobile workstation. I want to do what I want to do – make use of my mobile darkroom, for example – while I’m out on a shoot, or be able to edit app screen shots or product photos I’ve snapped without having to compromise on capabilities or performance.  Yes… If you could put the horse power of a Mac Pro into a thin retina display laptop, I’d likely find some way to justify the purchase (much to my checking account’s dismay…)

So, when Apple announced the new MacBook 2015, and I saw it in that cool gold tone, aluminum alloy… I was like, “Oh yes, baby…!  Come to papa!”

However, after further consideration and a bit of research on what the newest member of the Mac notebook family is, can, and cannot do, I think I’m going to pass; and the reasoning behind it (aside from what you can see above), may not be widely known yet. So… here’s why…

Processing Power

The new MacBook 2015 comes with the new Intel Core M processor. Think “M” for mobility, here. The Core M processor is a power-sipping mobile processor that is meant for mobile applications like the new MacBook 2015. It can work with just 5W of power, and doesn’t need a cooling fan (further enhancing battery life) as well as contributing to the new MacBook’s svelte form factor.

However, because it doesn’t consume a lot of battery power, and because it doesn’t need a fan to cool it, it isn’t really a high-end work horse of a processor.  As such, don’t expect to run apps like Aperture, Final Cut Pro or PhotoShopCC on this thing and have it work the way any of your other, more well-endowed Mac do. It’s just not built that way.  Core i5 and Core i7 processors have a HECK of a lot more punch, though , they’re not as gracious with your battery life.

The MacBook 2015 is intended for web surfing, email, and moderate productivity apps (Word, Outlook for example should work well. Apps like Excel and PowerPoint may tax the device a bit, depending on the numbers you’re crunching or the presentation your pushing.). While the device has a premium price (it starts at $1299), it clearly does not have premium specs

Upgradability

Nope.  Don’t even go there…

The trend since the introduction of the Retina MacBook Pro back in Early 2012 has been static components, or providing a computing product without any end user serviceable parts. Popular items like RAM and hard drives/ SSD’s are now configurable at time of purchase and…that’s it.  You can’t change or swap them out at all; and if you do – as in the case, say of the 2012 to 2014 MacBook Air’s – you totally void your warranty.  The MacBook 2015 is configured THAT way – totally non-user serviceable.

It’s no surprise really.  If you remember the interior shots from the Keynote, the interior of the device is ALL battery.  If the SSD, RAM or logic board (which is smaller than a 3″x5″ card…) fail, the only thing that Apple is going to do for you, is to likely replace the entire logic board.

So the best thing that I can tell you here, is to buy as much as you can afford; knowing that the device isn’t meant for digital darkroom or macro or transaction intensive spreadsheets and the like. If you don’t the MacBook 2015 is likely going to be a huge disappointment for you.

Web Cam

At 480p, the web cam on the MacBook 2015 is pathetic. Its SD resolution is, at best, yet another compromise in what is clearly meant to be a premium product.  Any modern smartphone, including the iPhone 5 or later, has a better front-facing FaceTime camera than this one.  If my smartphone has a better web cam, and costs half as much as this notebook, why do have to settle for this woefully pathetic excuse for a FaceTime camera in what is clearly a modern, advanced, technology filled device?

This clearly makes little to no sense at all.  Apple needs to correct this in the next iteration of this device, without raising its price even a penny.

Connectivity and Expandability

Notice… I did not say “upgradability.” Expandability is not upgradability.  The device itself is NOT upgradable.

Wireless connectivity is handled via 802.11AC and Bluetooth 4.0 radios on the postage stamp sized logic board.  That’s not where I’m concerned. Those features come pretty much on any and every notebook on the market today.  What I’m really speaking to here… is the lone USB-C port on the device.  Aside from a headphone jack, it’s the only hardware port on the MacBook 2015.  Let me say that again…

The lone USB-C port is the only port on the machine.

This means that you’re going to need to carry

  • A power brick
  • Some kind of USB-C docking station or hub, or
  • Dongles for everything you want to connect to

Dongles…!  Dongles everywhere! Dongles in your bag. Dongles at your desk. Dongles hanging off your nice, elegant, expensive, ultra-thin notebook.

I’ve heard many say that Apple’s embrace of USB-C is the start of the world without wires.

I disagree. That started in 2008 with the release of the iPhone 3G, at least from Apple’s perspective.

The exclusion of every other port or connector on the MacBook 2015 EXCEPT USB-C is Apple’s way of telling you that you’re likely not going to use a wired LAN line, won’t cable your iPhone to your Mac, won’t use a USB keyboard (wireless, yes… USB, no), and are likely NOT going to hook the Mac to an external monitor.  Apple is pushing portability and lapability with the MacBook 2015.

HOWEVER… if you want to use a wired LAN line, you’re going to need a USB-C to gigabit Ethernet dongle.  If you want to do that while you’re charging your MacBook, you may have a problem, unless Apple puts a USB-C female port in their charger, or gives you a way to connect both to the one port at the same time via a hub or some sort of portable docking station.

If you want to put an SD card reader on the MacBook 2015, you’re going to need to use a USB-C dongle.   If you want to connect to an external display, or to an external hard drive, or to any other external device or resource, you’re going to need to use a USB-C dongle; and again, if you want to do that while you’re charging your MacBook, you may have a problem, unless Apple puts a USB-C port in their charger, or they or a third party give you a way to connect both to the one port at the same time via a hub or some sort of portable docking station.

Apple’s going to push the wireless connectivity, but you have to wonder how that’s going to work, especially with wired LAN, external hard drive (for Time Machine, at least…) and external monitor connections.  It may simply NOT be possible… I don’t know, and very few will, until 3rd party accessory providers introduce their dongles and connectivity solutions for the MacBook 2015.

I have serious questions about use cases for this particular MacBook. While I know this device really is more of a luxury or casual use device, you have to think that users at some point are going to want to use Time Machine to back up their device, or use an external monitor and keyboard. Without a Thunderbolt Port, how does (and do they really..?) Apple envision users connecting this device to an external display?  They may not see or want that happening at all; though I have to believe that Apple wouldn’t actively prevent users of this premium ultrabook from connecting to their premium external display.  That just doesn’t make sense…unless they plan to redesign it to also include a USB-C connector that also provides power.

And cost..!

Let’s not forget about cost..!  The amount of dongles you’re likely to need isn’t going to be an economic or frugal endeavor, either.  A USB-C to USB adapter costs about $20 bucks. However, a USB-C to digital AV, multi-port adapter is $80 bucks, and has an HDMI port, a USB 3.0 port and a USB-C port (for either additional expansion or most likely…power. And while USB-C supports USB 3.1 with a bandwidth of 10Gbps (on line with Thunderbolt 1) and should be able to handle multiple devices at once, including video up to 1080p, you’re going to have to daisy chain everything off the one dongle; and that’s going to get ugly (and you should get prepared for messages from your iPhone that the accessory you have it connected to may not be supported…).

This particular device screams, “give me a docking station or give me death.” Whether that docking station is simply a build out or expansion of Apple’s $80 multiport adapter or something else from a third party, like Henge Docks, remains to be seen.

Is the new MacBook for you? Is it something you want to add to your computing toolkit? Is it the beginning of the future of (Mac and Apple) computing? Why don’t you join me in the discussion area and give me your thoughts?

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Apple Event Recap

The day after the Apple Spring Forward event, what do we really know?

apple

A lot happened at yesterday’s Apple event.  We got some updates on AppleTV, a new MacBook that’s thinner than a MacBook Air, and a ton of news about the Apple Watch.  Here’s a quick rundown of what’s known, now that the cat is out of the bag.

AppleTV

It’s gotten a $30USD price drop.  I’m buying at least two, I think now, for the house.  Now that they’re just $70 bucks, life can be totally cool on your TV for 30% less.  However, this is still the 3rd generation device.ookX new MacBook Air

The Apple Event didn’t mention anything about a 4th generation with any new functionality or hardware. While the device did have a price drop, exclusive HBO content, and a new software release that enabled 1080p playback, its highly anticipated next generation update is still MIA. The AppleTV has moved away from its hobby status and is now as much of a “real” product as any of Apple’s other mainstream accessories.  There’re also rumors of Apple trying to come up with a service to compete against Netflix and Hulu.  Now whether that pans out or truly ends up being a rumor remains to be seen.  In the meantime though… AppleTV’s for everyone!

To pair with your new AppleTV, Apple is partnering with HBO to bring us HBO Now.  This new streaming service will bring exclusive content to any Apple or iDevice for $15USD per month.  All you need is a broadband connection. Now, the cheaper AppleTV makes perfect sense. It also competitively prices it with other streaming boxes.

MacBook

Everyone thought the 12″ Apple product was going to be an iPad.  Dubbed iPad Pro, the device was thought to be something that would compete directly with Surface Pro 3.  The end result wasn’t quite what everyone thought it would be.

Apple has revived its MacBook line with the MacBook 2015 – a Mac that is thinner and more powerful than the MacBook Air. The device is 13.1mm thin, weighs just 2 pounds and has a 12″ retina display.  Most interestingly, has better battery life than the MacBook Air.  In fact, the MacBook 2015 is nearly ALL battery.

During the reveal of the device, Apple displayed a logic board that is smaller than a 3″x5″ card.  It contains not only the CPU, but the RAM and SSD as well.  (None of these components are likely to be third party upgradable in even the REMOTEST fashion, so you REALLY need to make certain you get all that you need or think you will need when you buy the device You won’t be able to add to it later…) The only other electronics in the device (excluding the redesigned keyboard and retina display) is the new Force-Touch, touch pad.

The new Apple MacBook 2015 comes in Gold tone, Silver and Space Gray and available at $1299 and $1599 configurations (the latter having a faster processor, more RAM and a larger SSD).  Expect the MacBook 2015 to hit your Apple Online and brick and mortar Store sometime in April.

MAC

ResearchKit

Apple’s entry into the quantitative-self market has spawned some new and creative thinking within their ranks.  How one can monitor one’s vitals, what can be monitored, and then – most importantly – how can the value of that data be maximized, is where Apple has obviously been spending a lot of time.

Apple revealed at its Spring Forward event that it’s been working with a number of different institutions on creating an opened-source framework specifically for medical research.  In conjunction with their institutional partners, Apple has release five different apps with ResearchKit, and more apps are on the way.

  • MyHeart Counts – Stanford University

This app is a personalized tool to help you measure daily activity, fitness and cardiovascular risk. It can help you understand your specific heart health or heart health risk by combining information from active participants around the world.

Specifically, it measures activity via your iPhone and Apple Watch – or any wearable device that’s linked to Apple Health.  The app can use existing medical data for blood pressure and cholesterol levels to help assess your cardiovascular health and risk for heart attack or stroke.

The app is available for free in the App Store, immediately.

  • Share the Journey – Sage Bionetworks

This app enables a medical research study trying to understand a patient’s symptoms after breast cancer treatment, why symptoms vary over time, and what can be done to improve and manage them.

Via questionnaires and phone sensor data, post treatment, persistent symptoms are tracked and reported back to the research team, including fatigue, mood and cognitive changes, sleep disturbances, and changes in exercise. You can track these and more. Both cancer patients and women without a diagnosis are encouraged to participate in the study to help see both sides of the breast cancer equation.

The app is available for free in the App Store, immediately.

  • Parkinson mPower – Sage Bionetworks

mPower is a personalized tool to help patients measure the effects and progress of the disease.

Managing daily changes in Parkinson’s is difficult, and those symptoms are often not tracked. mPower allows Parkinson’s sufferers to track tremor and vocal changes at their leisure.  Patients can also assess cognitive functionality and walking gait and report their statistics back to an anonymous, centralized server.

The app is available for free in the App Store, immediately.

  • Asthma Health – Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

The app reminds patients to take their meds, helps them track their condition 24×7, review condition trends and provides feedback on those trends.  The app specifically allows you to track – daytime and nighttime asthma symptoms and how they affect your daily routine, daily use of your rescue and controller inhalers, triggers, peak flow, ER visits, medical visits, changes to medication, etc.

The app is available for free in the App Store, immediately.

  • Glucosuccess – Massachusetts General Hospital

The app helps patients with Type 2 Diabetes track their health behaviors. You can track your physical activity, diet, and the taking of your medications.  The data that you collect will be shared through the app as part of the research project, but will be anonymous.

The app also provides insights into how your health behaviors relate to blood-glucose values.

The app is available for free in the App Store, immediately.

Research kit will be available in April of 2015, but the apps listed above are available now.

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Office for Mac 2016 Public Preview

Well, it’s about frickin’ time that this got some attention…

office2016

I’m a patient person, but I’ve been waiting a LONG time for this.

Back in 2010, I was all over the beta and preview releases of Office 2011 for Mac. I’ve been an avid Office user and beta tester since the implementation of Office 95 back in 1994 and 1995. To say that I’ve been using Office since it became…Office is an understatement. Yeah… I’ve been around since the beginning.

So, back to the Office 2011 Preview for Mac – which consisted of just Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and for the first time, Outlook. The main three apps, Word, Excel and PowerPoint have their quirks, but all three are very usable. They may not look or feel like their Windows counterparts, but hey, the functionality is basically the same, if albeit a bit strangely implemented. The Office for Mac Team has been, I think, overly occupied with insuring that Office for Mac looks and feels like a real Mac app as opposed to a suite that was ported over from Windows.

Big surprise, kids… Office is a Windows suite. It’s always been a Windows suite. It’s always gonna be a Windows suite, and its origins AND its UI and are firmly rooted… in Windows. You’re just NOT going to get the UI to look and feel like a true Mac app. Get over it and move on. Folks that use Office for Windows at work want to come home and have the same UI greet them when they use Office for Mac.

They do.

Anyone who tells you differently has either a hidden agenda or is too deeply rooted in the Mac culture and ecosystem to be honest about it. (Yes, I use a Mac and OS X because I didn’t want a Window machine; but I’m not married to it, you know. I may prefer it, but I’d really rather Office look and work the way I’m used to seeing and working with it. I’m just sayin’…)

So, today, I was VERY pleased to see a write up from Mary Jo Foley on the release of the first public preview of Office 2016 for Mac. It’s been a long time coming, and I’m glad that the time is now here.

If you’re already an Office for Mac user and have Office for Mac 2011 installed, you can run it alongside of Office for Mac 2016 preview without “crossing the streams.” This is a big relief for many, as there was a great deal of confusion about the initial preview release of Outlook 2016 for Mac during the Fall of 2014. The original thought was you couldn’t run it and Outlook 2011 on the same machine. Apparently now you can.

From what I’ve been able to discover so far, Microsoft is planning on updating the suite often during the preview and will notify users of the updates automatically through the Office for Mac Auto-Update tool. So, pretty much the way we’re used to getting updates to Office; but at least the thought is… on a frequent basis. Each new preview build has a shelf life of 60 days, after which, the software will expire and not run any more. Updating to a new preview build buys you another 60 days during the Official Preview period. The final preview will function for about 30 days after the suite official RTMs.

The thought on THAT date is – some time (this) Summer 2015, several months ahead of Office 2016 for Windows (which is slotted for release during “late 2015.”

So, what do you get with the suite? I mean, besides revised/reworked versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook? Well, according to Microsoft, you get a suite that is more closely aligned with its Windows (and other platform) counterparts. It’s still supposed to look like a set of Mac apps; but will more of the same features from the Windows version. For example, you get a new Ribbon that looks like the Office for Windows Ribbon. Its tightly integrated with OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, SharePoint and Office 365. It also supports Mac’s Retina Display resolutions out of the box.

Because the suite works with all flavors of OneDrive and with SharePoint, you get to access your data where ever it lives and can save it back to the same location from within the app. No more downloading a copy to your Mac, updating, saving back to SharePoint manually and then deleting the “original” so your new version is the only version there.

Office for Mac 2016 also supports Office 365 accounts, so you get cross platform access to all your stuff no matter what device you’re using. It’s obvious that Microsoft is really trying to level the playing field between all of the platforms that it supports, and that the Windows version of everything is losing its “most favored nation” status, which is a good thing. There should be a consistent level of parity between all of Microsoft’s products on every supported platform.

Microsoft Office should be Microsoft Office whether you’re on a Mac, PC, smartphone or tablet (the latter two of any and all flavors). The only things we’re missing now are Access, Publisher, Project Standard/ Professional and Visio Standard/ Professional. Publisher seems like it would be a no-brainer on the Mac. I have no idea why the app isn’t part of the Mac suite. Access, Project and Visio have well carved out spots on the enterprise side of the things.

I can see why Microsoft has dragged their feet there in the past, but Nadella’s New Microsoft shouldn’t look at those four components that way. If they’re bringing parity to all of Office where Office lives, then we’re eventually going to need those apps. I have need of both Project and Visio on my Mac right now. Publisher would be a real nice to have, and Access… well, with Bento going off the market, there’s need of a decent consumer or SOHO database app, isn’t there??

I’ve pulled down the Office for Mac 2016 Preview and I will be going through it over the next few weeks or so. I will have a review of the suite up for everyone to read as soon as I can pull it together.

download Office for Mac 2016 Public Preview

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iTunes 12 Breaks Music Organization

Apple has been having iTunes organize music the same way since the inception of iTunes. Now in version 12, it’s totally different.

I’ve been an iPod user since 2003/ 2004 time frame. I still have my 60 GB Click Wheel iPod. It’s in great shape and still plays music well. The battery is in decent shape, too; so if I had to, I could cart it around without constantly searching for a power outlet or USB port. I still make certain that it’s as updated as it can be. You have no idea when you might need a portable hard drive with all your music on it…

I’ve really invested in the Apple ecosystem, too. Actually, that’s an understatement… I jumped into the deep end of the pool with both feet. I’ve got almost 600 movies and over 50 TV shows (multiple seasons on some, not many…but some). I’ve got 65GB just in music and audio alone. When you’re looking at 4-6MB per song, that’s a lot of songs to get to 65GB.

There’s been an influx of Apple gear in my house thanks to Gazelle and No More Rack and the recent Christmas Holiday. I’ve got at least two new Macs and two new iPad mini’s in the house that need to be connected to Apple services, including iTunes and iCloud. I’ve had reason to setup new devices and new Macs in existing iTunes and iCloud accounts, and honestly, I’m not a happy person right now.

That may be just me, as I did cut my teeth on DOS/Windows and on the Microsoft side of the world, but I’ve recently noticed that the latest version of iTunes has changed the way it organizes the music library.

itunes12-music-song-list

In previous versions of iTunes, when you checked the option to have the app automatically organize your music library (it actually organizes your whole media library on your computer, including music, movies, TV shows, etc.), it organized the media in the following folder tree:

iTunes Music

<Media Type>

                        <Sub-Organizer 1>

                                                        <Sub-Organizer 2>

                                                                                        <Media File>

So for Music, this would translate to

iTunes Music

Music

<Artist Name>

                        <Album Name>

                                                  <SongName.aac/mp3/etc.>

For TV Shows, this would translate to

ITunes Music

TV Shows

<TV Show Name>

                               <Season #> (where # is the number of the season)

                                                  <EpisodeName.m4v>

In the current version of iTunes, the middle, organizing folders have been removed. This means that for music, the Album folders have been removed, so, all of the songs you have for a given artist, coming with all the songs from all of their albums. For TV Shows, this means that every episode of every TV show is stored in a single TV Show Name folder.

Now… you HAVE to be asking yourself, “Why do I care?”

That’s a GREAT QUESTION. Here’s why – It’s totally screwed up my local copy of my EXTENDED iTunes Media Library.

While iCloud is GREAT, the key word in its name is – CLOUD. The big problem of backup and access TO the cloud is still a concern for a great many people, and quite honestly not ubiquitous and totally NOT trustworthy, even in a large metropolitan area like suburban Chicago. I’ve also got TERABYTES of media; and that’s not something that I want to have to rely on internet access to get access to; and I always download a copy of anything that I buy so that I don’t have to rely on the internet or to any other service. Having a local copy on my home network also backs up a copy for me… AND because MacBook Pro’s, MacBook Airs, and Mac mini’s no longer come with upgradable storage, I don’t keep everything I buy on my Mac.

As soon as I download a copy of anything in iTunes, I copy it to my NAS and make a backup copy. That’s just smart computing.

The problem now, though, is that the new file structure doesn’t mesh with the old file structure, and I’ve got shows copying to show folders and not in season specific folders. I’ve got a huge mess of a movie folder on Mac that now copies movies to the root of my movies folder on my NAS.

Now, after I make any new iTunes content purchases, I have to go into iTunes, find out where iTunes has stored it, move it to match the folder structure of all the content on my NAS and THEN copy over the backup. This is a huge increase in overhead, and a change that totally screws up a bunch of stuff on my network. I have to ask, WHY did you do this, Apple, especially without telling anyone?

I’ve been being a good Apple boy. I’ve been resisting to organize my iTunes library myself and have been letting iTunes organize it for me. Part of the reason why this worked for me and was so easy to accept was the fact that they organized it exactly the way I would have done it, if I organized it myself. The obsessive-compulsive, anal retentive organizer within me now screams every time I download new content.

I think what’s bothering me the most is that the change in this is unannounced, and for me to follow the Apple “company line,” I’d have to reorganize my entire extended library and I really don’t want to. I don’t want to do that not only because it’s a huge amount of work with very little return in value, but also because the new organization structure is not what I want. I want what I had. I want it the way it was. The new “organization” method that iTunes does on its own creates a huge mess…

Am I alone in this? Am I the only one that’s noticed this? Have you noticed the change? Does it matter to you? Am I the only anal retentive nut job out there that keeps a local copy of their extended iTunes media library? I really can’t think that I am…

What are your thoughts on this change? Does it matter to you? Do you have a local copy of your extended iTunes library, or do you totally rely on iCloud to get you access to content you’ve removed from your iDevice, Mac or PC? I’d really love to hear what you have to say on this, as I’d like to know how big of an issue this is for everyone. Have you looked it up in Apple’s Support Forum? Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and give me your thoughts on this?

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FEATURE REVIEW: Microsoft Band – Part 2

Introduction

In part one of this first entry into a much larger series, I talked about Microsoft Band and the hardware that it uses to track your physical activity. In part two of this first leg, I’ll deal with the software, the additional issues and problems I’ve encountered while using it, and then I’ll wrap everything up.

Software and Interfaces

MH-01

I’ll get into Microsoft Health in a minute, but I have to say something here, that’s bothered me since I started wearing Band – The information that it tracks and collects isn’t stored in Apple Health. Its stored in Microsoft’s proprietary program. The app doesn’t share or swap data with Apple Health, and it really seems like it should. Some of what it does can’t be done in Apple Health, and that’s fine, but there really should be a way to have data from your iPhone and the data from your Band work and play well together, especially where Microsoft Health falls short – like on climbing stairs.

MH-02 MH-03

Microsoft Health tracks the steps you take.

Exercise and Run/Walk Tracking
Unfortunately for me – and I say unfortunately, because I’ve got moderate to severe asthma and COPD – running for recreation isn’t an option any longer. I ran cross country in high school; but running isn’t too much of an option any more. Walking is ok, but I have to watch distance and exertion levels. The last thing I need to do to myself is work it too hard and then have an asthma attack. Those can get bad…

MH-05

That being said, this is a difficult section for me to write. I’m gaining weight, so obviously I need to move more and eat less, but finding an exercise program that will raise cardio up to a good level without sending me to the ER is an issue. Walking is best, and walking with a purpose has always been my style anyway. I have a long stride and a pretty quick pace, which, for a guy with rheumatoid arthritis on top of it all, is pretty good. As I said in the Hardware section, above, I can do elliptical workouts, but I really have to watch…
Now… how does Band help in my particular situation? It needs to keep me moving. Tim Cook said recently that sitting is the new cancer; and he’s likely right.

MH-04

Over time, you see how much you’re moving…or how much more you need to move.

With Microsoft Band, in order to track exercise and workouts – which is a key, core function of the device – you have to tell it that you want to start that type of tracking. Turn the device on, scroll over to either the Run or Exercise tile and tap it. Press the Action button (the one under the flashing down arrow on the bottom right corner of Band’s screen) and Band will begin tracking the workout. When you’re done, like you do with Sleep, you have to tell Band you’re done, so, turn it on again and hit the Action button. Band will ask you if you want to stop. Tap the Yes button on the screen, and Band will display a summary of the workout.

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FEATURE REVIEW: Microsoft Band – Part 1

 

MSB-01

Introduction

When I was a kid, I was always skinny. When I was a young, married adult, I was always skinny. In fact, I was 135 pounds (61.24 kilos) until I was about 35. I was skinny my entire life until we moved from Chicago to Nashville in 2000 where I had a group of kind hearted, good natured rednecks introduce me to the REAL meaning of fried chicken and biscuits and gravy.

Now, I’m a fat slob. I should never have learned the recipe.

My weight jumped from 135 pounds to about 170 pounds (77.11 kilos). After I turned 40, I began fluctuating between 170 and 180 pounds (81.65 kilos). Now that I’m nearly 50 (Lord, that seems so OLD!), I’m weighing in at a hefty 191 pounds (86.64 kilos); and I lost my feet. I think they’re still attached and below me because I haven’t fallen down yet.

My wife has been wanting to lose some medically added weight for a number of years and I’m finally ready to get rid of the inner tube around my waist, so for Christmas in 2014, I purchased both of us a Microsoft Band at a local brick and mortar location near the office.

Microsoft’s first entry into the wearables market is a smartwatch and fitness band unremarkably named, Microsoft Band. Microsoft Band is really the FIRST commercially available, actual and totally genuine, platform independent Smartwatch available on the market today; and it’s all about the quantitative self – the end user’s need/ want/ desire to learn more about how much calories they’re burning, how far they’ve walked or run on a given day, what their active and resting heartbeats are like, etc.

This review is part one of a four part series. I’m reviewing the Microsoft Band, the Fitbit Surge and the Apple Watch (when its released, currently expected in April of 2015). The last part will be a round-up based article where I will try to compare and contrast the good and the bad of all three to help everyone pick the device that’s the best for them.

For now, let’s sit down (or, perhaps a more appropriate colloquialism would be, “let’s get up and jump around”) and really take a look at how the Microsoft Band works (or doesn’t).

Hardware

Microsoft Band is an interesting accessory. The design is a bit on the rigid side, however…and there are some strange and curious design decisions that were made, that are clearly evident, as you become more and more familiar with the device.

For example – the device isn’t water proof or even water resistant. That last one really is confusing. Depending on how hydrated you are, or like to be during a workout, you can sweat. Not to be gross or anything, but I’ve been in karate classes where I’ve soaked a gi. I’ve done walk or elliptical workouts where I’ve been equally as sweaty; and I’m certain I’m not alone.

Microsoft Band may be encased in rubber and plastic; but there are many seams in the device where it’s easy for water to get in. I do not understand why Microsoft would make and market a device that’s meant to get somewhat wet (with sweat at least) and not make it water resistant at least. Microsoft says Band is “splash resistant” meaning that if you accidentally splash water on it, it’s likely to survive, but you’re going to want to wipe it up right away.

However, you should not swim, shower or do any other kind of activity (like run any kind of marathon or other activity where you’re going to potentially pour water on yourself or get wet) while wearing Band. You’ll ruin it.

Totally the most stupid design decision I’ve heard or seen on an exercise and activity band… Why in the WORLD is this thing not water resistant at least?! I can understand the issue of being water proof… they may have issues with the heart rate sensor and such; but if Band has issues with excessive amounts of sweat and other moisture, how useful is the device going to be, REALLY?? This is a huge hole that really needs to get resolved in future hardware updates of Band.

Wearability and Usability

Microsoft Band is VERY bulky. Aside from the lack of water resistance, this is probably the device’s biggest issue and problem. As you can see from some of the graphics and photographs of the device, its thick, its bulky and very inflexible.

I’ve been wearing the device daily since Christmas Day 2014, as of this writing. There have been times when Band has loosened on my wrist, and has turned at an awkward angle. Due to its rigidity, its pressed against my wrist bones and can be very painful to wear.

I’ve also heard people say that it’s very difficult to sleep with because it’s so bulky. This hasn’t been my experience. The only problem that I’ve had sleeping with the device is when I forget to turn sleep monitoring on. I have the device in Watch Mode (it displays the date and time in a dim, white font when Watch Mode is turned on), and the screen never turns off when it’s in Watch Mode. While the full graphic and color screen isn’t active unless the device is actually “on,” Watch Mode is none-the-less, very bright at 2:37am, and has woken both me and my wife up from a sound sleep because its shining in our eyes. Obviously, during the day, and in bright sunlight, the Band’s Watch Mode isn’t very bright at all, and is in some cases, difficult to read, but in a dark theatre or other dimly lit area, it can be brighter than you think. If you’re using Watch Mode, as I am, and NOT using the sleep functions, you’re likely going to want to remove Band and charge it overnight. As I said, even its dim, Watch Mode, the display is VERY bright in a dark room.

Notifications

Microsoft Band does notifications rather well. The only other smartwatch that I’ve seen so far that does them as well or better is my Pebble Steel; and that’s feeling very, VERY tired and old (and it’s not even a year old yet). That’s both good and bad for Pebble, as they seem to understand what Notifications can and should do on a smartwatch (dismissing also deletes, and you can send a call to VM, directly from the watch). It’s bad because some of this really shouldn’t be old and long in the tooth at just shy of a year old, but that’s technology and Moore’s Law for you…

However, with the Microsoft Health software on your smartphone, you can configure Microsoft Band to send over every single notification that hits your phone (via Band’s Notification Center widget), or you can choose any number of predefined notifications, for example – Facebook, Mail, Calendar, phone calls, etc.

If you enable Band’s Notification Center, then don’t have it send over notifications for any of the other specific tiles like Messaging, Mail, Calendar, etc. You’re just going to get duplicate notifications that you’ll either need to clear or allow to expire when they hit your Band. The only thing about this is that Notification Center then becomes a huge dumping ground for duplicate notifications, and going through more than a handful at a time is messy.

The big problem with notifications on Microsoft Band is that even if you dismiss them when they pop up on Band, they don’t dismiss from your smartphone; and they also never leave your band, either. You can dismiss the notification, but there’s no real way of deleting a notification from Band, that I can find at least.

I’m hoping this is simply a work in progress and that Microsoft will soon have a software update for Band that will resolve some of this. Notifications can be really cool, but the hodge-podge of a mess that you have in Notification Center really needs to be addressed (the simple fix is that if you have both Notification Center and any of the other app/ notification specific tiles turned on, they don’t show up in Notification Center; but that’s just a start…)

MSB-03

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