Microsoft Surface Gets a Desktop All in One

Microsoft will be introducing Surface Studio on 2016-10-26

If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, then Microsoft is going out of its way to tell Apple how awesome it truly is.

Microsoft has done a lot to chase after Apple in the past six and a half years or so, since the release of the iPad. Their TabletPC’s couldn’t stand up to the iPad, and so they mostly disappeared by the end of 2012. By 2013 and 2014, Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 had firmly taken hold and were making some inroads, but more in the PC market than the tablet market. The Surface Pro – in all its variations – is NOT a tablet. It’s an ultrabook (or ultra-notebook). Despite “Tablet Mode,” it’s not a tablet. A successful tablet requires a successfully implemented ecosystem for content acquisition and consumption, and Microsoft doesn’t have that…but I digress.

So, Microsoft has a tablet-like, computer really, device in Surface Pro and Surface Book, and now, it appears they are chasing after all-in-one’s as well with a new device rumored to be announced on 2016-10-26, apparently named Surface Studio.

surface-studio

My good friend, Mary Jo Foley broke this last month with a heads up on the October Microsoft event. According to Mary Jo, Surface Studio was previously code named, Project Cardinal; and the intent of the new hardware is to turn your desktop into a studio. The device is rumored to come in up to three different sizes – 21″, 24″ and 27″; and MAY also be the consumerized version of Microsoft’s enterprise focused Surface Hub a large screen conference and collaboration tool, previously known as Perceptive Pixel.

If this is the case, then this will be an interesting entry into the already saturated, and sadly, poor performing, desktop market. Running Windows 10 – likely Anniversary Update – the Surface Studio will feature a way to convert the all-in-one from the standard desktop format into a flat drawing and writing surface, ideal for creating paintings, drawings and other touch and stylus work.

According to the engineering drawing, above, the screen will likely fold down over its base with the assistance of some type of pneumatic or spring powered hinges. It is also rumored that Microsoft has trademarked the names Surface Laptop, Paint 3D,Surface Dial and Dial as well as Surface Studio. It is believed that Surface Dial and Dial refer to either a radial styled, creator-based interface for the Studio. Others believe it to be connected to the further rumored Surface Phone

Any way you slice this, however, it’s likely that much of what Microsoft announces on 2016-10-26 will likely be overshadowed by the Apple’s marketing machine and hype when it reveals its anticipated Mac hardware refresh the following day, 2016-10-27.

Hopefully, for Microsoft, their rumored hardware will be compelling enough to help provide the shot in the arm that the Windows consumer PC market needs to turn it back towards profitability. Because right now, it could really use the shot in the arm.

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Windows 10 – Where Are We?

It’s been six(6) months since its initial release.  How is Windows 10 shaping up?

windows-10 were are we

Introduction

My good buddy Ed Bott recently published an article on the state of Windows 10 from an industry perspective and it got me thinking of my OWN experience with Window s10, now that it’s been out for six or so months.

It’s not all sunshine and daisies.  In fact, there’s a lot that needs to be fixed and changed.  Here’s where I think the new OS stands at this point.

The UI

To say that the Windows 10 user interface is an improvement over Windows 8.x is a bit of an understatement.  The UI is a huge improvement and one that nearly everyone who used Windows 8.x is glad to see.  The Start Menu is back, and it’s something that nearly everyone is happy about.  This single most, familiar UI tidbit is something that’s been around in computing since the release of Windows 95 – nearly 21years – and it’s something that nearly every consumer and corporate user has used and identified with as the beginning of their computing experience that they just can’t seem to give it up. Honestly, seeing as everyone nearly lost their minds when Microsoft replaced with the Start Screen, it’s amazing that people were able to use Windows 8.x at all.  I mean, without a place to Start, how do you get work done?

The other, most noticeable change to the UI is the removal and death of Charms and the inclusion of the Action Center.  The Charms were the UI element that you saw when you swiped in from the right edge of the screen with either your finger or with your mouse cursor.  Those have been replaced by the Action Center, which is a general catch all for notifications and other items requiring… well, requiring user action.

The Action Center has been well received, in my opinion. It’s an easy tool to use, and gives you access to the system events you need to act on.  Charms never did anything of value in my opinion, and were very confusing.

The thing that helped Windows 10 out the most is that, in all reality, its UI is more Windows 7 like.  All of the ModernUI elements are gone.  The ModernUI apps have been changed to Universal Apps and have a totally different look and feel to them.  Isn’t it funny what a new coat of paint will do..?

The Update Mechanism

Microsoft seems hell bent on putting older versions of Windows out to pasture.  It’s a problem they created for themselves with the support lifecycle of Windows XP and the absolute failure and public rejection of Windows Vista. An operating system version should never be in active support for 15 years.

As such, Windows 10 is on an auto update trajectory with destiny.

(Provided you have a legitimate, REAL copy…) If you run Windows 7, Microsoft is going to upgrade you to Windows 10 whether you want it or not… whether you like it or not.  …) If you run Windows 8.x, Microsoft is going to upgrade you to Windows 10 whether you want it or not… whether you like it or not.  There is no opt out.  If you run an earlier version of Windows on your PC, other than a version of Windows 10, you’re going to eventually run Windows 10 on that PC.

Period.

Get over it. Stop complaining and just accept it.  Apparently, there’s not much anyone can do.  Microsoft is hell bent on getting all the world’s Windows users off of their older version of Windows and on to Windows 10… and apparently, they don’t  care who they upset or anger in the process; and it doesn’t matter if you have that version of Windows running on hardware that the OEM won’t support with Windows 10.

In and of itself, upgrading and updating hardware that is on and supports Windows 10, is very easy. All the updates are pulled down in the background.  You don’t even have to run Windows Update. It’s now a service that is run for you and all you have to do – at most – is simply restart your computer.

This is the cool part of the update mechanism.  In fact, you don’t even have to restart your PC. Windows will do it for you and then apply all of the outstanding updates it has downloaded.

It’s the most hassle free way to update Windows… provided you actually want or are really able to run Windows 10.

Recovery

I have yet to have Windows 8.x’s or Windows 10’s Recovery mode/ partition – whatever you want to call it – work correctly for me.  And trust me…. this is definitely NOT a PEBKAC issue (Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair).  I know my way around Windows; and honestly…

The feature just doesn’t work.

Most often, the feature doesn’t boot into Recovery Mode. It simply reboots the device, which totally defeats the purpose of the recovery partition in the first place.

When the recovery partition does do something else other than just simply reboot the device back into Windows 10, things usually go very, very wrong.  Wrong to the tune of, “I need to download the recovery image from the internet, create a USB boot stick and try to run that to blow the device and start from factory fresh because my device is now hosed,” wrong.

And to be quite honest, I’ve had the same problem with the recovery partition in Windows 8.x AND in Windows 10.  If you’ve been successful with a restore or complete wipe with the recovery partition running off the device’s internal drive and not off a USB stick, I’d love to talk to you about the experience and the process.

Microsoft’s Signature Hardware

I don’t want to over play this too much. I wanted to start off this section by saying something like, “wow! What a train wreck the Surface Pro and Surface Book are,” but that really isn’t very fair.

Make no mistake.  Both of these devices have some very serious problems.  Both of them have graphics driver issues that (at the very least) are at the root of the disappearing ink issue I’ve been barking about for the past year or more.  The problem is so severe, that it’s also effecting the Surface Pro 3 (a problem, that I think many – including Microsoft – are overlooking).

The Surface Book as graphic driver issues but also has sleep and battery related problems. These problems are so severe that in many cases when users try to put the Surface Book to sleep, the device won’t sleep.  When users try to sleep their computer and then put the device in a backpack or laptop bag, they often get what has been dubbed, “hot bag syndrome.” This is when  the computer fails to sleep, continues to run, tries to “cool” itself with ever warming air (due to it being confined to the small, secure space of a laptop section in either a backpack or laptop bag), becomes overheated and the battery then quickly drops its charge to zero (0).

Having both the disappearing ink/ graphics driver issue along with these battery and sleep issues has made the Surface Book nearly unusable for many.  Thankfully, I haven’t  succumbed to any pressure related to making a Surface Book purchase. The device is simply too pricey to begin with.  To have these simple usability issues on top of it all is nearly unforgivable in my opinion.

While this doesn’t make Windows 10 unusable, it kinda does make you wonder why Microsoft is having issues that it can’t seem to fix with its own, native hardware running its flagship OS, and many OEM’s are not.

I think I’ll just leave that one there to fester for a while…

Conclusion

I’m going to make this short.  Windows 10 isn’t bad, but Microsoft has a ways to go yet, in my mind.

The UI is pretty good, and a much better improvement over Windows 10.  I think Microsoft peaked in 2009 with Windows 7; but that’s my opinion. They haven’t always gotten things right, straight out of the gate.  Heck, it took them three versions of Windows before they got THAT right (Windows 3.0 was the first big hit for Windows, and then it took three versions of Windows 3.x – Windows 3.0, 3.1 and Windows 3.11 – before they got THAT right.

Their update mechanism isn’t bad, but they need to stop forcing the upgrade on users who don’t want it or can’t run it because their hardware isn’t rated for it.  If I don’t want Windows 10, please stop forcing it on me and my under rated hardware.

Their recovery mechanism needs a bit of work. I haven’t been able to make it work right.  Unfortunately, with the way Windows problems work, in many ways its always been easier to rebuild a system rather than troubleshooting it. That isn’t always the case now.

Finally, Microsoft needs to stop screwing around and needs to fix the driver problems in their Signature hardware.  If Microsoft can’t get this right, it’s hard to think that OEM’s and other PC manufacturers will.

Have you had issues with Windows 10?  Are you satisfied with the way it runs on your upgraded or native PC?  I’d love to hear how things are working for you.  Why don’t you join me in the Discussion area below, and give me your thoughts on the matter.

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Here Comes the iPad Pro

A replacement candidate for the Surface Pro 3 has been identified…

iPad-Pro-Smart-Keyboard

Yes, yes, yes… I know.

Many of you expected this and are not surprised at all – the iPad Pro is going to get a chance to be my digital note taker in the office.

When I dumped my Surface Pro 3, I was pretty annoyed. Hell, let’s face it – I was really mad. The Surface Pro 3 has some real issues with Windows 10 and Microsoft OneNote 2013/ 2016.

It’s not pretty…

When I put the Surface Pro 3 head to head with the Surface Pro 4, I came away with some serious concerns and misgivings about where Microsoft was headed with the Surface Pro line (which, by the way, includes the Microsoft’s Surface Book).

Both the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book have problems with drivers, battery life, and in the case of the Surface Book, detaching from the native keyboard. These issues are so severe, in some cases, that people – including the friend I have in the office who lent me his SP4 to put head to head with my SP3 – returned them for replacement or refund. It’s a shame, too, as all three of these ultrabooks are really very nice… you just apparently have to use them for the right tasks, with power available, and without detaching the keyboard (in the case of the Surface Book), or you run into problems.

To be honest, it was the head to head article that I wrote that really pushed things over the edge for me and really prompted me to sell (read: dump) my Surface Pro 3. Windows 10 is problematic on it and OneNote is almost unusable, if you’re not careful.

So, enter the iPad Pro…

The office procured one for me, and I’ll be putting it through its paces. I’ve got the 128GB version on T-Mobile; and I’m using a instead of Apple’s Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro. it’s a matter of preference, really… I’ve played with the Pro’s Smart Keyboard and I didn’t like the way the keys felt; or the way it worked (attached to the iPad and flipped around). I instead asked for the Logitech Create Keyboard, and though it adds a great deal of [overall] thickness to the device, it provides a much better typing and computing experience in my opinion. The keys have nice travel, and I’m able to touch type on it as I would with any other laptop or computer I work with.

The fact that it’s at least $20 USD cheaper than the Apple Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro is just a bonus.

Yes… I have an Apple Pencil scheduled to arrive in the next week or two. The fact that these things are hard to come by (I’ve been calling the local Apple Store a few times a week to inquire about buying one in store) isn’t helping matters. The iPad Pro really wants an Apple Pencil, despite the fact that taking notes in OneNote via the Logitech Create Keyboard works very, very well.

I’ll have a full review of the iPad Pro, the Logitech CREATE Keyboard and the Apple Pencil as soon as I’ve had a chance to spend some time with all of them.

At this point, I’m working on an opinion. If you just can’t wait and need something to chew on, you can go back and read this article on what’s going to make or break the iPad Pro. While it may have been a bit early on in the process for me, I really think the article speaks to some of the major hurdles the device is going to have to get passed in order to be the success that it wants and needs to be, especially in the enterprise.

In the meantime, just hang out…

I’ve got a few other interesting things that I’m working on that many of you might find interesting:

The Conclusion to the Smartwatch Roundup that I’ve been writing for (literally) the last year. While all of the principle players have been reviewed, I’ve got some issues that I’m still trying to work through with the Olio Mode One that have been keeping me much more occupied than I would like…
The review of the Hendocks Horizontal Dock for MacBook Pro 15″ Retina. While there are some issues to work through, I’ve been rather happy with the way things have been going; but I don’t want to ruin the review.
The Release of Windows 10 Mobile. Its rumored to be right around the corner. I’m hoping that the Windows Phone I have gets the upgrade sooner rather than later. If it does, I’ll have a full review, rather than just a news-based article speaking to the release of Microsoft’s mobile OS.

What about you? Did you get any new tech for the Holidays? Am I missing some big piece of gadgetry that I should follow up with an article or two or with a full review? Will wearables continue to be a big player in 2016? Is the iPad Pro JUST a bigger iPad or will it be as ground breaking as Apple hopes it will be?

Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area, below and give me your take on all of these and more? I’d love to hear what you’ve got to say!

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Windows 10 and Dell Latitude 10 ST2

Well, I found out that Dell doesn’t support Windows 10 on this device…

And isn’t THAT just dandy..?!?

Funny thing is, I’m getting pestered all over the place from Microsoft (via their Windows 10 Upgrade stub) to upgrade the device to Windows 10.

capture

In fact, it (and Microsoft) won’t leave me alone about it.

So, what is a Windows user to do?  Because this is the huge debate and dilemma of Late 2015: My PC OEM isn’t supporting Windows 10 on my device, but since it runs a version of Windows that qualifies for the free Windows 10 upgrade, and the Windows 10 upgrade stub knows this, I get nagged.

I get nagged a lot.  A LOT, a lot; and this creates a bit of a problem.

Microsoft has changed its Windows 10 upgrade options. You used to be able to ignore or defer the upgrade.  Now, you get to upgrade NOW or, later tonight.

windows10-upgrade

Microsoft’s Windows 10 upgrade is a 3.0 to 5.0 GB (give or take a couple hundred megabytes) file that Microsoft is pushing to your computer, whether you want it or not. This upgrade now or upgrade later today stuff has been viewed as malware or spamming mentality.  I’m pretty certain you can still “ignore” the process by clicking the red “X” in the upper right corner (effectively quitting the program), but it’s clear, Microsoft is taking a very aggressive – not assertive, but aggressive – stance on getting people to move to Windows 10, especially on the consumer side.  If you have Windows 7 or Windows 8.x on your personal, home computer, Microsoft has set its sites on you.

This would be fine, if Windows 10 weren’t a train wreck.

It would also be fine if my only remaining Windows machine weren’t unsupported on Windows 10.

Now, to be honest, I’ve got Windows 10 on it already; but there are a huge number of problems with it.  Internet access is difficult on in, as Windows doesn’t always recognize that it actually HAS an active internet connection (though, I’m connected to either Wi-Fi or wired LAN via a USB dongle). Sometimes I have to reboot the tablet four to five times before Windows sees the internet connection. I have no idea why; but this causes a number of different issues, especially with Windows Update (as well as general internet web browsing).

But that aside, it really begs the whole question, of what do you do when the OEM says Windows <the latest version> isn’t supported on your computer?  How do you convince the Windows 10 upgrade app to leave you alone and stop nagging to have Windows 10 installed?

And if it does install (and the experience sucks as bad as it does…), how many times do I have to pull it off before Microsoft and Windows 10 finally leaves you alone and lets you stick with your Windows 7/ 8.x experience?  Unfortunately, Microsoft hasn’t addressed this problem.  They’re assuming – or seem to be assuming – that if the device ran fine under Windows 7 or Windows 8.x that it will run Windows 10 without issue.  I think I’ve shown, or at least convinced myself, that that isn’t always the case.

Barring the forced upgrade issue

(and assuming you get stuck in a periodic, forced upgrade loop) when do you stop downgrading? I’ve actually pulled Windows 10 off my Dell Latitude 10 ST2, twice – once during the Beta period and once after the July 2015 initial release of Windows 10.  As far as I know, as long as you have a pre Windows 10 version of Windows on your PC, you’re going to get hit with this time and again (especially since the downgrade process doesn’t always work and in many cases people have to blow their PC’s and start over, or use a restore DVD/ USB stick to get back to an earlier version of Windows).

Microsoft is giving everyone who upgrades 30 days to go back to their previous version.  Have you decided that Windows 10 wasn’t for you?  I haven’t heard of too many individuals that have fallen into this trap or have been forced to upgrade only to put their computer back to the previous version, though I’m certain that some have done that.  Unfortunately, Microsoft isn’t making stats on those that have reverted to their previous Windows version available.  When they have a 1B user target their trying to hit, I’m certain that they aren’t wanting to advertise how many people have downgraded their PC.

Have you bumped into this problem?  Is your computer officially unsupported on Windows 10 (as mine is)? Have you been forced to upgrade your computer? If so, what’s the experience like?  Did you downgrade back to your previous version of Windows?  Did Windows pester you and make you upgrade again?  How did you make it all stop?  I’d love to hear from you if you did.

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Why I Ultimately Dumped my Surface Pro 3

There comes a time when enough, is just enough…

Surface pro 3

Its hard to know where to start with this one.  I’ve been a Windows guy for so long – nearly 20 years – that in the end… I feel like I abandoned my post, or something.  However, there comes a time when you know you’ve fought the good fight and that you just can’t fight any more. I never thought I would ever say this, but personally, I really think I’m done with Windows and Windows 10. So much so, that I’ve sold my Surface Pro 3.

Over the past year, I’ve written a bit on how much of a problem OneNote and Windows 10 can be together. Funny thing is, I thought it was limited to Office 2013.  Unfortunately, its not.

Even with OneNote 2016 ink still disappears on all Surface Pro tablets running both Windows 10 and OneNote.

I’ve also noticed that while things should be getting more and more stable on Windows 10, they aren’t.  They just aren’t.  Not on my Surface Pro 3.

And to be quite honest, I was willing to live with it. I was going to figure out some way to work through it. I wasn’t going to be easy, but I was resigned to it, in a sense.

That is until I found this thread.

This is not going to end during the life cycle of this device. Period.

The problem exists on the Surface Pro 4. Though it’s a bit different, it’s the same type of problem.

It became clear to me after reading through that thread, that its not going to end. So… I sold my Surface Pro 3. What have I replaced it with?

Nothing yet.

Honestly, I’m not certain what I should do at this point.

The Surface Pro line is proving to be a bit unstable and honestly, unreliable for what I need it to do.  Its also a bit more expensive than I want or need it to be.  I am looking for a way to take hand written, notes in meetings.  The Surface Pro 3 was perfect for that, to a point. It ran OneNote 2013 well enough.

So why not return my Surface Pro 3 to Windows 8.1?  That’s a fair question…

There are really two big issues here:

  1. Windows 8.1 is Clumsy
    Windows 8.1 still has the Windows 8 UI. While there are apps like Start8 and ModernMix that can help hide some of the issues and problems; but its really just a coat of paint for both the Start Screen and ModernUI based apps, nothing more.
  2. Windows 10 isn’t Going Away
    Microsoft is getting aggressive with Windows 10. Their Windows 10 upgrade stub that installs as part of a Windows Update component.  While you can defer it for a while, its going to do its best to assert itself on your computer. I’m not entirely certain you can say no forever. I may be wrong – I hope I am – but it may be true.The OS has been downloading to computers without the consent of their owners. It could install itself overnight, also without their consent.

I thought long and hard about just taking my Surface Pro 3 back to Windows 8.1 and just using Office 2013 or Office 2016 (and ultimately OneNote) there. However, in the end, I decided against that, largely because of number 2, above.

So, out the door it went.  I just wasn’t willing to deal with its problems and issues any longer. I had had enough.

At the end, when I went to take my Surface Pro 3 back to Factory fresh with Windows 10, I had all sorts of trouble, too. Windows 10 would not reset itself on my Surface Pro 3.  Most of the time, it prepped itself and then simply restarted and went back to my Windows 10 account. When I tried to use the Advanced Restart Settings – which booted to the UEFI where you can also refresh, reset and even wipe the drive if you wanted – my Surface Pro 3 froze when trying to reset itself… more than once (I know because it sat at that screen for over three hours each time I tried. I tried three times…).

I had to pull the Windows 8.1 recovery USB I made many months ago and use it; and even then, it wasn’t smooth sailing with that either. I had trouble resetting the device with that too. I had to try ore than once with it, and then ultimately I had to wipe the drive to get MY data off when it sold.

What does this mean for you?

Probably not too much, unless you’re having similar ink and stability issues with Windows 10 on your Surface Pro device (the thread that I’ve been referencing with disappearing ink has a couple posts in it which indicate that it also happens with the original Surface Pro and the Surface Pro 2 as well).

If you are, then you have some kind of decision to make – either put up with it, stay on or move back to Windows 8.1, or sell yours, like I did.

Do you have a Surface Pro device?  Are you having issues with disappearing ink?  Is yours unstable?  Are you using Windows 8.1 or Windows 10? Are you using Office 2013 or Office 2016? Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and give me your thoughts on this and tell me what you think you’re going to do?

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Microsoft Releases Windows 10 Build 10576 to Fast Ring Insiders

The latest build of Windows 10 has been issued. Here’s what it’s got…

Windows10mic

If you’ve been following me over the past year, you know that I’ve been a Microsoft Windows 10 Insider since the first released build of Windows 10 to Insiders back in October of 2014. Over the past year or so, there’s been a boat load of new builds released to the Fast Ring. Some have been good.  Others… not so good.

While the jury is still out on the quality of Windows 10 Build 10576, it is the next item up for bids…

New Features

  • Media Casting in Microsoft Edge: You can now use Microsoft Edge to cast video, picture, and audio content from your browser to any Miracast and DLNA enabled device on your network. Please note: Casting protected content (content from places like Netflix and Hulu) is not supported.
  • Ask Cortana inside PDFs in Microsoft Edge: You can now highlight text while reading a PDF in Microsoft Edge and right-click to “Ask Cortana” to find additional information.
  • Updated Xbox beta app for Windows 10: The Xbox beta app for Windows 10 was updated last Friday which includes the ability to easily find and add Facebook friends who are also on Xbox Live to play, chat, and share clips – a top requested feature. In addition to that new feature, voiceover recording functionality has been added to Game DVR, and the Store in the Xbox beta app will allow you to search for and purchase Xbox One games – including Games with Gold and Deals with Gold promotions, and Xbox One 25-digit codes will be redeemable within the app.

Fixes

  • We fixed the issue where the Xbox app for Windows 10 would consume gigabytes of memory on your PC if you have any Win32 games (non -Windows Store games) installed on your PC that have been identified as games or added by you in the Xbox app.
  • We introduced an early preview of nested virtualization so that people could run Hyper-V Containers in Hyper-V virtual machines with Build 10565. This build includes performance improvements.
  • We’ve been addressing a lot of feedback around localization text UI in various languages and you’ll see a lot of that work in this build.
  • The search box should now work in this build if you are in a locale where Cortana is not available.

Known Issues:

  • To continue receiving missed call notifications and send texts from Cortana, you will need to be on this build and higher. We’ve made a change that improves this experience that requires newer builds.
  • When notifications pop up from Action Center, any audio playing (like music from Groove, or videos from the Movies & TV app) gets reduced by 75% for a period of time.
  • After upgrading to this build, all your Skype messages and contacts are gone in the Messaging app. The workaround for this is to navigate to this folder in File Explorer:
  • C:\Users\<USERNAME>\AppData\Local\Packages\
  • Microsoft.Messaging_8wekyb3d8bbwe\LocalCache
  • Delete or rename the “PrivateTransportId” file.
  • Then restart the Messaging app.
  • Small form-factor devices, like the Dell Venue 8 Pro, that boot with rotation or virtual mode screen size set larger than the physical screen size will experience a bluescreen on upgrade and will roll back to the previous build.
  • After upgrading to this build, the power button on your Surface Pro 3 may no longer put your Surface Pro 3 to sleep and instead shut down.
  • WebM and VP9 have been temporarily removed from builds. We continue to develop a VP9 implementation that we intend to ship in Windows. Expect VP9 to return soon in a future build.

Conclusion

I give top marks to the Windows 10 Team here. They’re really trying to get this thing ready for release. They’ve also had a number of different quality and stability (as well as privacy) issues to deal with. Not everyone, myself included, is happy with the current state of Windows 10, either in a released or prerelease state.

It still need a great deal of work.

It’s still not ready… though it’s slightly better than it was.

However, it’s clear that there are still a number of issues with Windows 10’s update mechanism – Windows Update – still… especially on a Surface Pro device and especially when it comes to firmware updates.

I know that I’m not the only one that continually sees the download of firmware or hardware updates for their Surface Pro device.  They can get repeated many, many times in both failed and successful installs.

The biggest problem here is that my Surface Pro 3 very rarely actually runs through the firmware update process.  Yes, Windows Update restarts my Surface Pro 3; but it doesn’t always update the firmware, even if it hasn’t been applied (or truly updated) on the device.  And before anyone asks, yes, it has actually reapplied a firmware update more than once, though more often than not, it just redownloads the firmware update, SAYS that it’s going to reinstall it, doesn’t finish the firmware update, but lists the reapplication as successful anyway.

Go figure…

Are you (still) on the Windows 10 Insider Fast Ring?  Have you been installing all the updates?  Have you installed the latest build, Build 10576?  What do you think of the current state of Windows 10?  Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area below and give me your thoughts on these and other Windows 10 related issues. I’d love to hear them…

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UPDATE – OneNote 2013 and Windows 10 – Potentially Lethal

It’s been a long time coming, but there finally seems to be light at the end of the tunnel…

onenote and windows 10

I’ve been using the Surface Pro 3 at the office since December of 2014.  Prior to that, I used a Surface Pro 1 for a couple of years. It was the best and easiest way to really organize work at the office; and I say this to any and everyone who asks why I use it:

  1. It’s the best digital notepad (with OneNote) I’ve ever been to find and use
  2. With OneNote on the web and/ or OneNote’s sync capabilities, you have access to your notes nearly everywhere you have a device with internet access
  3. Paper notepads, notebooks and portfolios get lost. You’re never going to leave a tablet in a conference or meeting room (they’re too expensive to forget)

It’s a nearly flawless system, and it’s one of the best out there. Other software and hardware tools just don’t have the same capabilities or use cases due to one limitation or another.

When the Surface Pro 3 was released, I knew it was worth the upgrade from my Surface Pro 1, so off it went toGazelle, and over to the Microsoft Store I went.  While Windows 8.1 wasn’t as optimal a notebook experience as I wanted, and while (in my opinion) Windows still doesn’t know if it wants to be a desktop or tablet OS (even with Windows 10); with either Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 (and the right utilities, like Start8  from Stardock Software) it can still be a very productive tool in either an corporate or academic setting.

Until, however, you move to Windows 10 and you bump into the problems I mentioned in March of 2015.  The Disappearing Ink Bug is a huge problem for users of the Surface Pro 3.

It completely negates nearly all the value out of the device.

The reliability of the inking system is nearly gone. You never know when you’re going to lose anything you’ve written down, as the bug is completely random, and in end, you’re left with two very real choices – downgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 8.1 or take your chances with Windows 10, the bug, and maybe you lose some notes or maybe you don’t.

Well, I have a bit of an update for you.  There appears to be, what may be, a final fix for this problem.  There are two very active threads on this issue over at the Microsoft Support Community (here and here).

Microsoft has released KB3093266 in response to disappearing ink on the Surface Pro 3 running Windows 10.  This cumulative update addresses not only disappearing ink, but tap becomes right click as well.  Both of these issues were contributing factors to the conditions being experienced (where ink would vanish in OneNote on a Surface Pro 3 running Windows 10).

The cumulative update available via Windows Update on your Windows 10 PC, may take a while to appear on your Windows 10 PC. Like all Windows Updates, Microsoft rolls them out in batches.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had it show up for me yet.

However, one really good point came up out of (this support thread. I wish that I could take credit for it, but I really can’t.  Credit for that goes to Clayton Dittman

“Can you possibly tell the Windows OS team to check with the surface team and tell the surface team to check with your team before releasing an Operating System which breaks core functionality of your Staple Devices?

I cannot in good conscious use a Surface (Pro or not) again because of the way this migration to Windows 10 was handled in lieu of Office 2016 and the Surface Pro 4.

I want to trust Windows, I want to depend on you guys for quality control and solutions my customers can trust. I just can’t…”

While it seems obvious, the reliability and trustability of Windows 10 for many users has greatly diminished.  It’s not just this issue, there are still huge privacy, stability and (other) reliability concerns.  You can check just about any and every Windows blog on the internet today and find at least 2-3 articles covering all that.

The cumulative update I mentioned may resolve the disappearing ink issue… it may not.  KB3093266 is not the first fix that was released to address the issue.  There were individual updates made to Windows 10, OneNote 2013/2016 as well as Office 2016 that failed to resolve the problems between May and September of 2015.

Results from those that have received this update have been generally positive, though somewhat mixed.  Generally, it seems to be working; but like Dittman noted above, how much damage has TRULY occurred for the Windows and Surface Pro brands?

How easily Microsoft can recover from this is going to depend on a couple of things:

  1. Does the cumulative update truly resolve the bug for all users of both the Surface Pro 3 and the Surface 3 (its actually experienced on nearly all Surface Pro devices as well as the Surface 3)
  2. How well the Surface Pro 4 is received
  3. How well the bug stays resolved (especially on the Surface Pro 4)

Every time Microsoft releases a cumulative update or a new build, this issue is going to have to be retested. It’s very possible given the depth and severity of the problem(s) that Microsoft may resurrect the issue in future builds and updates. While that’s not ideal and certainly won’t be intentional, it does happen quite often with software development. It’s simply the nature of the beast – sometimes, it comes back.

The Surface Pro 4 has been anticipated for many months now. While there’s no real evidence that any industry pundit can provide regarding a credible rumor on the device’s ACTUAL existence, it is said that Microsoft will announce something next week (2015-10-05 to 2015-10-09) with an actual release date also rumored to be SOMETIME this month (October 2015).  While it totally misses Back to School, it should hit the 2015 Holiday Buying Season, provided its already being manufactured.

Do you have a Surface Pro device (1, 2 or 3)?  Do you have a Surface 3?  Are you using OneNote and the Surface Pen to take notes?  Are you experiencing issues with floating and disappearing ink?  Have you been following any of the Microsoft support threads I mentioned (here or here)?  Have you received the Windows 10 Cumulative Update (KB3093266) that I mentioned?

If you have, do, etc. and have received the update, I would REALLY appreciate hearing back from you on this.  Please provide the appropriate comments and/ or information in the Discussion area, below, so that I can get your information back to Microsoft.  This is a huge bug, and really needs to be resolved once and for all.

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Prediction – Windows Phone has about Two Years of Life Left

Boy it kills me to say this…

Windows 10 mobile

I’ve been a Windows Mobile guy since 1990-blah-blah-blah. I started using Microsoft mobile devices back in 1997 or so with the Casio Cassiopeia E-10/E-11 and haven’t looked back. I became a big WindowsCE and PocketPC guy and helped at least three or four sites get off the ground as either a guest reviewer or as a regular contributor. At least two of those sites are still around today (The Gadgeteer and pocketnow. I got into customizing extended ROM’s and into working with custom distributions of PocketPC and Windows Mobile builds. I was nominated as a Microsoft Mobile Devices MVP twice (that I know of) but came just shy of actually receiving the award (program politics…). Microsoft mobile devices and I have a pretty well defined history.

So, you have to believe me when I say this – and it kills me to actually vocalize it and write it down – I’d be very surprised if Windows Phone lived much beyond 2017. In fact, I really think its gonna die and disappear entirely before 2018.

The reasons for this are four fold

1. Ballmer Does Play into this
Whether you like him or not is irrelevant. Unfortunately for everyone that was a fan of the original Windows Mobile, Ballmer NEVER understood mobile computing and his ouster from the company can be traced to the fact that he NEVER got behind it.

EVER.

Windows Mobile should have taken over the mobile market place when both Apple and Google adopted Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) as the synch engine for both iOS and Android respectively. It should have swung for the fence at that point, knowing that during that time (roughly late 2007 to late 2009) it controlled MDM (mobile device management) for three of the four major mobile platforms on the market (iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile)

Ballmer never stepped on the gas or green lighted any kind of mobile acceleration, and unfortunately, Windows Mobile died. At that time, Windows Mobile 6.5.x was out in beta and as such, never saw the light of day. Microsoft killed it, back peddled, and instead released Windows Phone 7 in response to the iPhone.

2. Windows Phone Development History (both OS and Apps)
Windows Phone has a huge history of – pardon my language… – screwing over its developer partners. Windows Phone 7 wasn’t compatible with any version of Windows Mobile and developers had to rebuild current, popular apps from scratch. Windows Phone wasn’t compatible with Windows Phone 7 and again, developers had to rebuild current, popular apps from scratch.

Developers entered a wait and see mode on submitting new and recreated apps to the Windows Phone Store Many of the new devices at the time weren’t very popular and the new OS wasn’t attracting new users over other devices like the iPhone or the Droid and Droid X. Developing for Windows Phone 7.x and Windows Phone 8 also wasn’t as easy as it was to develop for iOS or Android; and the user bases there were better established.

At this time, Microsoft also didn’t enter any kind of marketing push to really try to compete with the iPhone or with Android (partially due to Ballmer not getting it, partially due to their own arrogance in thinking that Apple and Google would always use EAS to power their mail servers and mobile apps). Because they didn’t push their advantage appropriately and because both Apple and Google ended up dropping any and ALL support for EAS, they lost their strategic position on the backend of things.

Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 never took off with developers because they didn’t want to have to spend all of the time, money and resources to win their users back, who had, with them, moved on to other platforms.

The thought and hope with Windows 10 Mobile is that because of the architecture of Windows 10 Universal Apps, you develop once, and can have a single app on phones, tablets and desktop. That however, still has to be proven out, and I don’t know how willing many mobile developers are to give Microsoft a third try on a mobile platform that still doesn’t have any (real) users to speak of.

Speaking of which…

3. Low Market Share is still Declining
This is pathetic. According to the IDC, Windows Phone has a worldwide market share of only about 3%. iOS has about 14% global share and Android dominates the market with about 83%. Everyone I know of, including some major Windows industry pundits, say that’s a hole that Microsoft just isn’t going to be able to crawl out of. At best, Microsoft should be happy to hit 5% and hold that. If they can ever get it that high or that far…

Compounding the problem, Microsoft recently wrote down their entire Nokia acquisition, declaring all of the assets they actually retained, effectively worthless.

Microsoft also hasn’t released a flagship class Windows Phone since late 2013. Yes, they are supposed to have two others announced on 2015-10-06, currently code named Talk Man and City Man; but there are further considerations. For example, when will they release flagships AFTER that?

I don’t think they will.

Life is breathed into a platform by the hype and excitement generated by the best of the best. Both Apple and most of Google’s major hardware partners are releasing flagship class devices at least on an annual basis, with many Android hardware partners staggering and coordinating their flagship releases so that new devices are announced and released every 4-6 months.

Microsoft and Windows Phone doesn’t have that. The one major hardware partner that Microsoft DOES have – HTC – recently had their stock declared worthless, and they also haven’t released an M9 version of the HTC One for Windows Phone. I’d be very surprised if they did, too.

Microsoft has spent their engineering efforts introducing either low end or mid-range devices and has, unfortunately, saturated the market with them. The devices they do have are virtually indistinguishable from one another and no one knows why they should pick one over another, let a one over an Android devices that has a huge developer and accessory support base.

So… Microsoft doesn’t have the market share, and they don’t have the hardware releases to support a growth in market share. Worldwide, Microsoft seems to be fighting a losing battle.

4. Windows 10 Mobile Build Issues
Oh my Lord, what a train wreck this has been. This is almost as bad as the old Keystone Cops silent movie skits back in the day (and nearly just as pathetic…). Sorry, Gabe Aul… it just is, especially from the outside.

I’ve been a Windows Insider since the program was originally announced in October 2014, AND I’ve been active too. I submit feedback as often and as consistently as I can, on nearly every PC build I install on the Fast Ring. It can be a very labor intensive activity, but as software quality professional, I know I can give them the detailed information they want and need.

I also went and purchased a Windows Phone in anticipation of testing Windows 10 Mobile builds. I bought a BLU (Bold Like Us) Win HD LTE. it’s a very affordable, unlocked, upper mid-range dual SIM device that supports US carriers. However, there are issues here with this Windows Phone and Windows 10.

First and foremost, Windows 10 isn’t supported on it yet; and this is a HUGE problem.

Microsoft is only supporting their own Lumia devices and the HTC One M8 so far with Windows 10 Mobile Beta Builds.

Can someone – anyone really… I’d accept a logical explanation from anyone at this point – please explain to me WHY Microsoft isn’t supporting beta builds for any and ALL Windows 10 Mobile devices right now. With its release looming in the two and a half months left in 2015, you would think that Microsoft would be pushing this thing out to any and ALL devices on their platform… but they aren’t.

Worse yet, Gabe Aul (again… sorry for calling you out, Gabe) won’t answer any of my tweets questioning when other devices will support Insider Builds on either the Fast or Slow Rings. I also can’t get him to answer WHY other devices aren’t supported, either.

Worse than that, what the public has been able to see of the release and internal testing cycles for Windows 10 Mobile are effectively a huge cluster-bump. Earlier this week (the week of 2015-09-14) I got a notification from my Windows Phone that a Windows 10 update was available for it.

WP-01

I got very excited. I even waited a few days and didn’t actually attempt to download or install the update until I had some time to spend paying attention to the update, the update process, and how things transitioned from one Mobile OS to the other.

WP-02

After it downloaded, I did an internet search to see if anyone had experienced any problems. When I couldn’t find anything, I pulled the trigger.

WP-03

The device restarted and I got the spinning gears screen. However, thankfully, as it turns out, the OS did not install. I got an error message from my device after about 20 minutes into the flash that the OS couldn’t be installed on my device. The screen flashed, and then it restarted on its own.

The next day, I saw on Neowin that a number of different devices got the same notice that I got and that it was a mistake, and Microsoft would need to push out an update to fix those devices that were now unstable and functioning inappropriately.

if you could physically see me as I’m writing this, you’d see that I’m shaking my head.

What the hell??

This isn’t the first time that this kind of problem has happened with the Windows 10 Insider program. If you remember, a similar problem happened on the desktop OS where users were seeing updates they weren’t supposed to see and couldn’t download or could partially download and the download would fail. MS had to shoot out an update to fix that.

Then there was an issue where some users installed an update that prevented them from seeing updates they were supposed to see. Microsoft had to shoot out an update to fix that. It’s clear that Microsoft is having a number of technical issues with their release management process. In appropriate updates are going out and needed updates are not.

Then, there’s an issue with build quality in Windows 10 Mobile. Most of the Fast Ring Builds are totally unusable, or have major flaws that make using the OS on a supported device very difficult. I only remember one build being released to Slow Ring Insiders a number of months ago. The testing process MS has in place for Mobile is the same that it has for Desktop – if a build passes specific testing miles stones on both their internal Fast and Slow Rings, then it is released to the Insider Fast Ring. If it passes testing mile stones there, its released to the Insider Slow Ring.

Not much is getting past the Insider Fast Ring. Windows 10 Mobile has the same (if not worse) instability problems that Windows 10 for desktop is currently rumored to be having.

This clearly doesn’t look good for Windows Mobile. It has a history of little to no internal support from either Management or Marketing. The Windows Phone development community doesn’t like it, because there isn’t a lot of money to be made selling software for it. The platform itself is having issues getting users to jump on and its market share has steadily declined over the past 2 – 3 years. Finally, it’s got release management and build quality issues.

When you look at all of this, you have to ask yourself – Why is Microsoft continuing to do this to themselves AND to their users? It isn’t reasonable to think that Microsoft is going to be able to generate enough market share to continue support for the platform. When you couple that with the cluster-bump that has been their release and QA processes for Mobile (and Desktop) over the past few months, you’re left with one REALLY huge question:

Why is Microsoft, one of the biggest and best software companies in the WORLD, having trouble getting this right? I have the answer to that (it’s a methodology and process problem…you can’t cut corners) but I don’t have the time nor space to go into that. I’d lose most everyone in the problem to TLDR (too long, didn’t read). So, I’ll have to save that for another time.

BUT..!

What do you think of this? Is Windows 10 Mobile going to make it? Will it be worth the wait? Will it provide any value to anyone in the mobile market? Will it live beyond 2018 or have all of the issues I’ve outlined bring about its demise (sooner rather than later…)??

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the whole thing. Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and give me your thoughts on the whole issue?

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