OS X Yosemite Beta 4/ Public Preview Beta 1: Apple Core Apps

Beta 4 of Yosemite was recently released to the public as a Beta 1 public preview. In part 3 of this 3 part series, I’m going to talk about some of Apple’s Core Apps and I’ll wrap everything up, too.

yosemite

If you remember last time, I talked about Yosemite and iOS 8 integration. Here, I’m going to talk about some of the changes to some of Apples core apps, and will wrap everything up with my opinion of the current state of things in OS X Yosemite Beta 4/ Public Preview Beta 1.

Apple Core Apps
I’m going to hit these very quickly. Most of what you will see here shouldn’t be a surprise. Most if not all of Apple’s Core Apps are in flux and need work.  These should be considered usable for the most part, but also represent a work in progress. Things are still a bit bumpy here…

·    Safari
Everything that I’ve seen of the new Safari is pretty cool. It has a tool streamlined toolbar, and makes better use of screen real estate. The app is also faster and gives you more control over your privacy.  I haven’t had any issues with the app, and I use it for banking on my Mac.  I’ve been pretty pleased with what I’ve seen of Safari so far. It is perhaps the most usable of all the apps that I’ll cover, here.

·    Mail
Mail is one tool that I don’t use very much, if at all.  I could use it with my Gmail account, but since I have Chrome installed on my Mac and use it to work with all of my Google Services (read: Google Apps and Google Drive), there hasn’t been much need to do so.

The new features in Mail, however, let you send larger attachments more easily.  You can annotate documents, fill out forms, etc. right in a Mail message. The app is also supposed to be quicker, too.

The thing that gets me here is that sending attachments, even large ones is not so much mail client dependent, its mail SYSTEM dependent.  This means that regardless of how big of an attachment my mail client may support, the thing won’t send if either my mail service or the recipient’s mail service rejects that large attachment.  Sending any kind of attachment via email is also not secure, so if you send accounting info, or any kind of document with sensitive data, unless you’re using something like PGP on both ends to encrypt and decrypt mail, anyone sniffing packets between you and the destination can intercept and steal your data.

I like that Apple is making improvements to Mail.  I just don’t know how valuable they are in the larger picture of the whole, new, OS.  If you have an opinion here, I’d love to hear it as a comment in the Discussion area, below.

·    Messages
I’ve already given you the lowdown on Messages. You can see that in Part 2 of this series on Mac and iOS 8 Integration.  Messages is a great service and I use it quite a bit. Once Apple gets the inter-OS connectivity issues fixed, things will be much better.  This is going to be a huge gain on the Mac and OS X side of the fence… once things are working, that is.

·    iCloud Drive
When Apple announced iCloud Drive at WWDC, many thought Craig Federighi was describing a service that was very much like Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive. It’s not.

iCloud drive is similar in that you can store any kind of files you wish to store on it, not just a file that was created by any iCloud compatible app.  You could conceivably store ALL of your documents there, and access them on your Mac, or any of your iDevices. You can even add tags and such, so it supports Finder related functionality for documents stored there.

From what I’ve seen so far, however, documents are transferred there, and then the local copy is removed. With services like Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive, that’s not the case.  The local copy remains to allow you to make changes when you’re off line.

If someone out there is having a different experience than I am, please leave me a comment in the Discussion area below. I’d like to hear your experience and perhaps try to troubleshoot a bit…

·    iTunes 12 Beta
I was seriously disappointed here.
The functionality of iTunes hasn’t changed, but the UI has slightly. Getting to the Store is now done via a number of different links available with each media type you are working with in your library as opposed to the current way of crossing a line between your library and the iTunes Store once.  The whole experience is more local library focused, regardless of where you media is actually stored – on your hard drive or in iCloud.  I can see where it makes sense; but it is something to get used to.  Again, you have to think “media type” and not “my stuff” vs. “stuff in the iTunes Store.”

The problems I’m experiencing with iTunes 12 Beta aren’t due to the new interface, however. Again, Apple seems to be optimizing and changing code.  The app often freezes and has issues during synchronization with my iPhone 5.  I’ve had to hard reset my device (wake/ sleep button + home button until the Apple logo appears, then release) a couple different times due to either iDevice freeze or iTunes freeze or both.

The only way to get the app to come back on my Mac at that point is to force quit. Even without an iDevice burp, iTunes can still unknowingly lockup. I’ve noticed that the app can prevent my Mac from either restarting, logging out or shutting down if my iPhone is connected via USB cable and I try to do any of those three activities.  Even if you pull the iPhone before actually starting any of those processes, if iTunes is running, it can freeze when you try to restart, log off or shutdown.

You won’t know anything is wrong until you try to do one of those and your Mac just doesn’t do it. There’s work to be done here, and this is one area where I’m certain both developers and consumers will see an update before the app is ready for final release.

·    Spotlight
This is one area where I am really going to have to make a bit of a paradigm switch before I get used to new functionality here.

Spotlight has gone through a number of really big changes.  You click the magnifying glass and you get a spotlight bar in the middle of your screen. When you search for things, you now not only search your Mac, but you search Wikipedia, Bing, Maps and “other source” simultaneously.  This is huge, as Apple has effectively brought the entire internet to your desktop. Instead of having to open Safari or another browser to search for something, you just… search.  Spotlight goes out and fetches everything for you and then presents the results on your desktop.

I’ve never been much on Spotlight. I’ve used it in a pinch here or there, but I come from the old MS DOS 1.x – 6.x days, and I’m used to searching my document store folder(s) for content on my own. I’m very meticulous about how I organize my 3-4 NAS devices (I have over 12TB of storage on my home network) and can figure out where I have things pretty quickly.  However, I am a HUGE exception to the rule.

Apple doesn’t want you to do what I’ve done. That’s why they designed iCloud as they originally did.  They don’t want you to think about where you’ve stored stuff in iCloud (or anywhere else on your Mac, for that reason), they want you to use the right tool to do the job you need done, and your Mac will manage the data.  Spotlight complements this paradigm as it (truly) finds what you need (URL, document, text message, media, etc.) regardless of where it is now.

Conclusion
Here it is in a very clear sentence or two: OS X Yosemite is clearly still in beta at this point. With previous consumer previews from Microsoft for both Windows 7 and Windows 8, the OS was a little more consumer ready in my opinion.

That doesn’t mean that Yosemite isn’t usable at this point. However, the current state of things has me seriously considering reactivating my OS X Developer’s account.  Yes… I installed Yosemite on my only production machine; and yes, I did NOT install it as a VM.  This is what I get when I turn my Mac on and try to use it.  I don’t have an alternative Mac to install this on, and I don’t want to run anything in a VM at this point. That’s not a true use case for me, and honestly, I wouldn’t have gained as much insight as I’ve regurgitated here.

This is not what Apple recommends.  They don’t want you to lose or jeopardize your productivity or your data. I’m a big boy and decided to wing it, anyway. Unfortunately, that means I have to put up with all of Yosemite’s pitfalls and growth points until it’s more stable.

In my opinion, Yosemite Beta 4/ Consumer Beta 1 isn’t ready for the average consumer just yet. If you’re curious, wait for the full release.  Most of the cool stuff isn’t even available yet because it requires an iDevice running iOS 8.  In the meantime, I’ll have updates as things progress.

If you have questions, or are curious about something, leave a comment in the Discussion area, below, and I’ll do my best to answer it or write a full response as a column.

Go back to Mac and iOS Integration

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OS X Yosemite Beta 4/ Public Preview Beta 1: Mac and iOS integration

Beta 4 of Yosemite was recently released to the public as a Beta 1 public preview. In part 2 of this 3 part series, I’m going to talk about Mac and iOS integration.

If you remember last time, I talked about Yosemite Installation and Setup. Here, I’m going to talk about integration between a Yosemite enabled Mac and your iOS 8 enabled iDevice.

Yosemite

 Mac and iOS integration

There is some pretty cool stuff going on with Apple’s Mac + iDevice pairings under Yosemite. However, please note that in order to get some of this stuff to work, especially when everything is released, you’re going to have to run not only Yosemite on your Mac (these features simply will NOT exist under Windows…), but iOS 8 on your iDevice. If your iDevice gets left behind at iOS 7, I don’t care what kind of Mac you have Yosemite install on, this kind of integration won’t exist. Be aware both new operating systems will be required on both ends.

FYI – Please note that these features will always require at least matching beta versions during the Beta Period. For example, Yosemite Beta 4 and iOS 8 Beta 4. They’re both going to be revved at the same time (though the public won’t get newer beta versions of Yosemite, but WILL receive some minor OS updates via the AppStore; and the only way to get iOS 8 is via the iOS Developer Program), so the versions will have to match. You won’t be able to have Yosemite Beta 4 and iOS 8 Beta 3 or vice versa on your gear and have this stuff work right now.

  • Phone Calls
    This is probably the neatest thing I’ve seen yet when pairing a Mac and an iPhone running iOS 8. If you have iOS 8 on your iPhone and Yosemite on your Mac, you can use your Mac as a speakerphone. Calls coming into your iPhone will cause your Mac to ring and a notification of the call to display in the upper right corner of your default monitor. You can answer the call, decline the call or reply with an iMessage if needed.You can also place a call from your Mac. Open Contacts, Calendar, Messages or Safari and click a phone number you see displayed. Your iPhone will place the call and your Mac will act as a speaker phone. Dialing into conference calls is super easy now, and totally hands free. Where was this a year ago? I really could have used it then, as conference calls were my life…The cool deal here, though is that you do NOT need to have your iPhone physically tethered to your Mac for this all to work. Through the magic of Wi-Fi, there’s nothing to setup. As long as your iPhone and Mac are connected to the same network, you’re good to go. This means you get this feature at home, at work or at Starbucks…which is cool. Wi-Fi is the magic sauce.
  • Messages
    When you have Yosemite and iOS 8, you can also send and receive text messages with individuals running not only iOS, but Android and Windows Phone – or any other OS that can send and receive SMS/MMS messages – all from your Mac. All messages that appear on your iPhone, appear on your Mac, and vice-versa. You can also begin a text message conversation on your Mac by clicking a phone number in either Safari, Contacts, or Calendar.Unfortunately, I had a lot of trouble with this. I’ve tried this with a couple Android users over the past couple of days, and they never got any of the messages I sent from my Mac. None of those messages ever synchronized with my iPhone. Messages sent from my iPhone got to the user I was texting with, and eventually synchronized to my Mac; but none of the messages that I typed on my Mac in the Message conversation actually sent or were received by the users I was communicating with. There’s obviously still work to do here, as it appears the “send” functionality for non-iMessage users is broken in Yosemite.I have a lot of hope for this feature, as it makes Messages and iMessage a universal way to communicate via text with anyone, on any device, with any mobile OS, at any time. This is a natural progression for the iMessage service, and I’m very excited – or I will be – to be able to use this feature.
  • FaceTime
    While I am on contract with a state government agency and out of town, I use FaceTime as a major communications tool with my family. We speak via cell during the day; but we visit with each other via FaceTime at night. Everyone either has a Mac, iPhone or iPad to communicate with, provided they can get the target iDevice away from my 22 month old granddaughter, that is. She likes to talk to papa, too; but unfortunately, she doesn’t like to share, or can’t necessarily remember where she put her mother’s or grandmother’s iDevice. It makes for an interesting time…I’ve noticed that the new version of FaceTime for Mac has issues searching through large Contact lists. There’s always a huge delay – 30 seconds or more – when typing in a contact name, address or number in FaceTime. It improves slightly after the first search is completed, but there are still lags, especially with larger Contact lists like mine (I have nearly 3000 contacts in my Contacts list).
  • Instant Hot Spot
    One of the coolest features of iOS 6.x and later is the ability to use your iPhone as a mobile hot spot. You turn on the feature, set a password, and then turn on Wi-Fi on your phone and on your Mac. The feature was supported in Lion, Mountain Lion and is supported in Mavericks. Further, if you physically connected your iPhone to your Mac, with the hot spot feature turned on, your Mac connected to the internet automatically without the need to have Wi-Fi on or to configure any password.Apple has taken the feature a bit further now with Yosemite. Now, your Mac can use the personal hot spot feature on your iPhone via Wi-Fi just like it did via USB cable – no setup is required. Your Mac will also display the signal strength and battery life of your iPhone as well. You don’t have to take your phone out of your pocket, bag or anything else. The feature…just works; and now, you don’t even have to turn on the feature on your iPhone beforehand. Your Mac will list your iPhone in the network list of the Wi-Fi menu on your Mac. Selecting your iPhone will turn on the hot spot feature and you’re on the internet.I’m still experimenting with this feature. I haven’t played with it too much yet. However, I would suspect that the bridging technology is not necessarily accomplished not by Wi-Fi, but by BT-LE. You’ll also need to make certain that you’re logged into your iCloud account on your iDevice in order to make all of this work. So here, you need to mix both BT-LE and your iCloud account in order to create the secret sauce. Your cellular carrier will also need to allow the hot spot feature on their network, but that’s really a given…In the end, this looks like a much better implementation of the instant hot spot feature than in previous versions of OS X and iOS. In the end, it’s just on, click, connect and surf.
  • Handoff
    I know when I get home after a long day at the office, the last thing I want to do is get behind the desk in my home office because I HAVE to. Having a laptop makes it easier to compute in places other than an office, but having a hot laptop on your lap for a few hours is neither good for you NOR the laptop. Thankfully, Handoff allows you to use another device.Again, when you pair an Apple iDevice and a Mac running OS X Yosemite, your Mac and iDevices will automatically pass whatever you’re working on between them. You can start working on one device – say your Mac at the office (but it could be the other way around…) – and when you’re ready to go home you save your work to iCloud. When you get home, you can pick up what you were working on at the office on your iPad, at the exact spot where you left off… the availability of the file and the spot where you left off is instantaneous (or as soon as the information get saved to iCloud)…And that’s the secret sauce here – iCloud. As long as your iDevices and Mac share the same iCloud account, the information is traded back and forth with every save. Now you can go to meetings with confidence that the latest information you put in your presentation will show up on the iPad you’re presenting from; and you don’t’ have to do anything else other than save the file. This… is TOTALLY cool; and something that is WAY overdue as a feature not only in OS X, but in Windows AND Linux. Something like this should be available on every platform and computing device; but that’s just me, and probably way too Star Trek for everyone…Currently, Handoff works with Mail, Safari, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar, and Contacts. What is even more important, is that app developers can easily build Handoff into their apps. This is a feature of the OS and not necessarily just Apple’s Core Apps.

Do you have any questions about OS X Yosemite’ integration between your Mac and an iOS 8 enabled iDevice? Let me know in the Discussion area below, and I’ll do my best to give you a hand.

Come back next time, and I’ll talk about changes to Apple’s Core Apps and I’ll wrap everything up.

Go back to First Impressions | Go to Apple Core Apps

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OS X Yosemite Beta 4/ Public Preview Beta 1: First Impressions

Beta 4 of Yosemite was recently released to the public as a Beta 1 public preview. In part 1 of this 3 part series, I’m going to talk about Installation and setup.

I’ve been a full blown Mac Switcher since about 2010 or so. Snow Leopard and Lion really got me hooked and I’ve just about made a full transition over to the Mac side of the fence.  The only thing I really still run Windows for (aside from reviewing Windows-based apps) is Outlook. However, I’m hoping that with (what should be) Office for Mac 2015 – if and when Microsoft decides to get off its lazy duff and release it – I’ll be able to make a full transition over to Mac.  I have too much invested in Outlook over the past 14-15 years to leave it totally behind…at least just yet.

And while I kinda say that “get off its lazy duff” thing with a bit of tongue-n-cheek, it’s really said out of frustration. It’s been FAR TOO long since the release of Office for Mac 2011; and I’m actually afraid to give Outlook 2011 another go.  The reasons for that go back to a review I TRIED to write of the “new” app back in late 2010-early 2011. After 2 weeks and well over 24 database corruptions (where Outlook 2011 crashes, says it can’t read your data and then redownloads your entire data store from your Exchange server again – leaving the original, unusable database still on your hard drive) I gave up. I also didn’t publish the review – it was, and is, too critical – for Microsoft, and when something is THAT bad, a good reviewer says nothing. Sometimes silence is more damning than screaming and yelling; BUT I digress…

So, I’ve been very interested in the next version of OS X, code named Yosemite, since its announcement at WWDC.  What really caught my attention was the amount of announced integration between a Mac and an associated iDevice. Effectively, your Mac can become your iDevice while you’re on your Mac, at least according to the demos at WWDC and all of the documentation we’ve seen so far.

I’ve got the Public Beta of Yosemite installed on my MacBook Pro. Let’s take a look at some of my first impressions to see if the hype stands up to scrutiny.  I’m going to cover a number of different areas here, and will likely point out some opportunities for improvement that I hope Apple will address, going forward.  I have let my Mac Developer account lapse at this point and I don’t plan on updating Yosemite with Developer Beta 5 unless things prove to be a total train wreck.

OS-X-Yosemite-578-80

FYI – Please note that the only way to go back from Yosemite to the latest version of Mavericks is to nuke your drive and reinstall Mavericks from scratch.

Installation and Startup
As of this writing, this is probably my biggest pain point. Installation went fairly well. That wasn’t too much of a problem at all, really. It was smoother than I thought it would be, especially for a public beta release. Those can often be problematic at best, because you never really know what you’re going to bump into in the wild, and end users often have the GOOFIEST computer configurations… Managing beta programs and feedback is often a huge headache. I applaud Apple and other major vendors like Microsoft, for doing this when and how they do.

As I said, installation was fairly painless. The new OS downloaded from the Mac AppStore, installation started, and everything went smoothly. However the experience after installation has been less than stellar. I have a number of startup issues with Yosemite and 3rd party apps that I know from the developer are supposed to be Yosemite compatible, but are showing signs of hangs, bugs and issues; and even force quits.  Unfortunately, this behavior isn’t limited to 3rd party apps. There are also issues with some of the Apple Core apps, as well. I’ll cover issues with those, below.

The biggest issue I have, however, is really with startup.  I have two external monitors hooked to my Mac – a 27″ Thunderbolt Display and a 22″ wide screen VGA monitor.  I’ve got my Thunderbolt Display setup as a docking station (I’ve got peripherals and cables plugged into the back of it) and there are issues with device startup, especially with the displays.  I’m not certain what the issue is; but for some reason, neither wants to activate with the notebook closed.  My Mac not only has to start up, but be logged in with the lid up before the other two external displays will activate, allowing me to close the lid. I need to do more troubleshooting here before filing an issue in the Yosemite feedback app.

However, this is really driving me crazy. I’m also having trouble with the Thunderbolt Display flickering; and it wasn’t behaving that way prior to installing Yosemite on my MacBook Pro. I have no idea what the issue is; but knowing the way Apple is apparently remaking nearly absolutely everything with this latest release, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a driver issue. It seems the most common explanation.

I am also having a huge issue with my fans. They are usually pegged at 5700-6200 RPM’s and stay that way 20-30 minutes after I turn my Mac on. I’m not certain if this has anything to do with external monitor use (i.e. a graphics driver issue) or if it is caused by increased network traffic on my home network (i.e. a network driver issue) or something else.

However, while they don’t make a lot of noise for me, I’m told that my family can’t hear me speak over the snow-like noise they create during a FaceTime call.  While I had this problem with Mavericks, its worse with Yosemite. I’m not certain what is going on here, but it’s creating a communications issue for me and my family, and I’m not happy with the results. I have filed a bug report with Apple on this, and I’m waiting on feedback from them.

Do you have any questions about OS X Yosemite installation or setup?  Did you bump into problems?  Let me know in the Discussion area below, and I’ll do my best to give you a hand.

Go to Mac and iOS integration

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Windows 8 is the New Windows Vista

Microsoft on Windows 8 – You don’t see anything…

Windows8 is the new Windows Vista

I think it’s safe for nearly anyone and everyone to say and agree that Windows 8.x is a total train wreck. That’s sad, because it isn’t the OS itself that’s horrible, it’s just Metro, or what Microsoft officially calls “ModernUI” (though I fail to see much that’s “modern” about it. It’s very similar to Windows 1.0 in look and feel…). Microsoft is officially looking forward to putting Windows 8 far, behind it, much as they did with Windows Vista.

When Windows 7 was released, Microsoft went on a huge media blitz. They contracted with a company called, House Party – a company that does classic “Tupperware” styled parties for just about everything – to help them get people across the country to host Windows 7 Launch Parties. If you were chosen to host one, you got a party kit, which included a free Windows 7 license so you could demo the new OS and talk up its new features. I actually got a local newspaper – The Aurora Beacon – to help with the coverage and started a 12 week freelancing stint with them where I started off with a cool series on Setting up Windows 7 for the first time. In the end, they really did great job on moving the limelight away from Windows Vista – the old and busted – to Windows 7 – the new hotness.

Microsoft would very much like to repeat that kind of activity with similar results. In fact, I’d wager that their tactics will be nearly identical. They’ll do anything and everything they can to make the public forget Windows 8.x, and especially MetroUI.

For example, in the months leading up to Windows 7’s release, Microsoft did everything it could to make users forget about Windows Vista. All formal communications released from Microsoft either downplayed the former OS release and/ or played up the new OS release. Microsoft did everything it could to help users forget that Windows Vista ever existed.

For Windows 8, it’s going to be a little more difficult, but in the end the results will be the same. Microsoft has one more major update to Windows 8.1 scheduled for release on 2014-08-12. Windows 8.1 Update 2 (or whatever they end up calling) was supposed to be the update that had the new, revamped Start Menu in it. However, that update was pulled from the release many months ago and will instead come as part of Threshold, largely believed to be called, Windows 9. New – read reinstated – Start Menu with a revamped – read MetroUI removed – user interface, plus some other, yet to be announced, features = new version of Windows that Microsoft hopes everyone will embrace. In an effort to help that, Microsoft will likely have little to no press or released information about the 2014-08-12 Patch Tuesday and the release of Windows 8.1 Update 2 (if, in fact, that is what it called).

Another tactic, as noted by ComputerWorld would be to change the naming convention of the next version of Windows. As I stated above, the next version of Windows is rumored to be called Windows 9. When Microsoft released Windows 7, instead of giving it a name – like XP or Vista – Microsoft instead switched to a numeral based designation. They did this because XP was the OS that just wouldn’t die no matter how hard they tried and Vista was the marketing and sales thud heard round the world. Since Windows 8 is just as much of a dud as Windows Vista is, Microsoft may decide to remake the brand entirely and leave the numeric designations behind.

Perhaps they’ll move back to a product name. The next version of Windows is codenamed, “Threshold.” So, for example, calling it Windows Threshold, or something else may help Microsoft move away from the failure of Windows 8. Perhaps they’ll return to a year designation like they did with Windows 98 and Windows 2000 and call this version of Windows, “Windows 2015,” as the OS is supposed to become available for download and distribution in the early Spring of 2015.

Whatever its name, Microsoft is going to have to put some heavy marketing capitol behind it in order to reduce and remove the market share that Windows 8 has. Windows 7 had three to four years of exclusivity before Microsoft started talking up Windows 8.x. Microsoft is hoping to bury Windows 8 after only 2-3 years of exclusivity. Yes… it’s really that bad for Windows 8.x.

(BTW, it’s not the OS itself that’s bad, just MetroUI, which unfortunately, is nearly everywhere within the OS. While you can’t get away from it, with tools like Stardock’s Start8, and other very cheap utilities, you can nearly turn Windows 8 into a Windows 7 look alike. The OS in and of itself, is fast, optimized, and it will run on cheaper, more affordable hardware. That means your older notebooks and netbooks can use it too, extending their value and life.)

Some pundits – as well as many people in the tech circles that I frequent – that are talking about this issue are saying that Microsoft needs to do something spectacular to help remove Windows 8 from the annals of history. Some feel that giving away Threshold may be the best way to do that. Those that ARE saying that are calling that the, “smart thing to do.”

Nearly every version of every distribution of Linux is free to end users. Apple is making OS X Yosemite free to all Mavericks users. For Microsoft to continue to charge end users for upgrades and new versions is becoming problematic. Only Macs can run OS X, but nearly every Windows machine can run Linux, and their user interfaces are becoming more and more Windows-like and end-user friendly than they were before. With online versions of Microsoft Office and other online office suites that run on any and every OS that has a web browser, a compelling reason to pay for Windows on your PC is quickly disappearing, despite any reasoning behind Microsoft’s One Windows vision and streamlining.

What do you think of all of this? Is Windows 8 a boat anchor drowning Microsoft and holding them back? Should they do their best to erase it from history as they did with Windows Vista? Should they give Threshold away? Let me know in the Discussion area, below. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the whole issue.

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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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