Microsoft Introduces Surface Book 2

If you thought Surface was just a passing fancy, think again…

Surface-Book-2-696x429

I’ve always been a HUGE fan of Microsoft Signature PC’s. They are, in my opinion, the best Windows experience that you can buy. They don’t have any extra crap on them that would take away from or distract you from your computing purpose. It’s one of the reasons why I really like Microsoft Surface PC’s as well.

Over the past five or so years, I’ve had an original Surface Pro, a Surface Pro 3 and a Surface Book. The combination of the devices features – like the touch screens and pens – have made the Surface line one that I find very valuable, especially in a corporate setting. The Surface Pro and the Surface Book are both perfect for Microsoft OneNote and for a number of different business applications, including custom sales and invoicing apps as well as process and business flow.

Recently, Microsoft released an update to their Surface Book line, and this update, is squarely aimed at not only the creative professional, but the enterprise as well. The Surface Book 2 now comes in both its original 13 inch size, but also a new, 15 inch version. The new size, paired with Intel’s eight generation Core i processor and better graphics hardware also enables Microsoft’s Mixed Reality Headsets.

Like its earlier iterations, the Surface Book 2 has put the bulk of its processing power in the tablet. The keyboard houses both the extra battery and the new Nvidia graphics cards. The 13″ version has an optional Nvidia GeForce 1050 and the 15″ gets a GeForce 1060 by default. Both are mainstream gaming graphics cards and a big step up from what the Surface Book was previously equipped with.

The following are basic specs for both versions of the Surface Book 2.

 

 

Surface Book 2 – 13″ Surface Book 2 15″
Processor Intel 8th-gen Core i5 (dual-core) or i7 (quad-core) U-series processors Intel 8th-gen Core i7 U-series processors
Display 13.5-inch 3,000×2,000-pixel display 15-inch 3,240×2,160-pixel display
Graphics Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU

(Core i7 version only)

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU
USB Ports 2x USB-A 3.1 ports

1x USB-C 3.1 port

2x USB-A 3.1 ports

1x USB-C 3.1 port

Card Reader SDXC card reader SDXC card reader
RAM 8GB or 16GB RAM 16GB RAM
Storage 256GB, 512GB or 1TB SSD storage 256GB, 512GB or 1TB SSD storage
Intel 8th-gen Core i5 (dual-core) or i7 (quad-core) U-series processors Intel 8th-gen Core i7 U-series processors

When it comes to augmented reality, both of these convertibles are in good shape to perform well. Both work well with Microsoft’s Pen and the Fall Creators Update version of Windows 10. You can, for example, create a file in Microsoft’s Paint 3D and then drop it into a real word situation, capturing everything with the device’s 8MP, rear-facing camera. The only problem that you’re going to have here, when trying to hook into AR headsets is the lack of an HDMI port, though you shouldn’t have any real concerns with performance of the box or its graphics adapters. According to recent test results, both versions of the Surface Book 2 can be taken seriously as gaming machines, which is kinda cool.

Microsoft is also releasing a new mouse, called the Surface Precision Mouse. It’s got a more traditional design than either the original Surface Mouse or the Surface Arc Mouse. It also includes a set of programmable left side buttons; and supports both wired USB and wireless Bluetooth connectivity. As of this writing, pricing for these devices has not been released, though you should expect them to fall somewhere between $50 and $80 USD.

Microsoft is putting the Surface Book 2 directly against the new Apple MacBook Pro. According to Microsoft, the Surface Book 2 is a much better performer. There may be some truth to this, as the Apple MacBook Pros are still using previous generation Core Intel processor. Pricing for the new Microsoft Surface Book2 starts at $1499 USD for the 13 inch version and $2499 for the 15″ version.

In my opinion, pricing for the Surface Book line has always been a bit on the high side. As I previously stated, Microsoft is clearly targeting the Surface Book 2 at Apple’s MacBook Pro. The problem that I have with this pricing strategy is that the MacBook Pro is a clearly well established, top performing machine with a long history of top notch components and high price tags.

Microsoft doesn’t have any of these precedent, with any version of the Surface Book. The device has had what I would consider to be a mediocre performance history, especially with all of the issues that were first encountered with the original Surface Book and its ROM problems.

This update is also mostly what I would call an evolutionary update rather than any update of note. Surface Book with Performance Base, released earlier this year, put a better graphics card in the keyboard along with the extra battery. It also bumped the price up quite a bit.

The Surface Book 2 offers a new processor and a new graphics card; but the fact that it also offers a new 15″ screen size takes this device to a completely new level, in my opinion. It clearly brings the Surface Book up into a better class of computing device, and may actually make the larger price tag, a bit more reasonable. To be honest, we’re going to have to wait and see on that one, though. The a5″ version is new. It’s a completely different device than the 13″ version, with different components and different drivers; and Microsoft has always had an issue with drivers and components when it comes to Windows, regardless of version. So this clearly falls in the wait and see category…

Is Surface Book 2 something that you’re interested in? Will it be a convertible that you pursue or keep your eye on as a potential work tool? I’d love to hear what you plan to do. Why don’t you give me your thoughts in the Discussion area below?

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G Suite’s New Calendar Interface

If you were looking for enhanced functionality out of Google Calendar, you’re about to get it…

My good friend Doug Golding used to have a site called Just Another Mobile Monday. He got out of the mobile enthusiast world and sold the site and unfortunately, the site didn’t survive much past the sale even though it had a decent run afterwards.

However, it was during that time that I wrote a review on the Nexus One and got deep, DEEP into Google Services. In fact, I was all in with iTechGear.org by that time and I had started using what is now called G Suite for all of my PIM services – mail, calendar, contacts and to-do’s.

As of 2017-10-17, there’s a new look and a new set of features for Google Calendar on the web. Google has taken a lot of what they’ve learned over the past seven years related to their mobile apps and have brought that knowledge forward to the desktop, web version of Calendar. This new design is responsive. It adapts itself to your screen size, presenting you with the proper controls for your size screen. Google has also added additional enterprise level features designed to help teams prep for meetings.

Google Calendar

In the new version of Calendar you can:

• See conference room details when booking a room. G Suite admins can enter detailed information about room locations so users know its location, size, seating capacity, A/V equipment status, Accessibility features, etc. Users can simply hover their pointing device cursor over the location and get all the information about the location and its resources.
• Add rich formatting and hyperlinks to calendar invitations. You can link out to documents (word processing and spreadsheets) and presentation files, and then open them directly in a new Event Detail view. Meeting agendas are now more comprehensive and interactive, and attendees can be more productive and prepared prior to the actual meeting.
• Manage multiple calendars in a single view. It’s now easier to see who is busy with what at specific times during the day so that scheduling meetings when attendees are free is now easier and more efficient.
• View contact information of meeting attendees in a calendar invitation. Again, hovering your mouse cursor over an attendee’s name will get you the details you need.
• More easily view and restore deleted items in a single place if you accidentally delete a meeting invitation.
• Day, Week and Month views are now more accessible, featuring better compatibility with screen readers

The new changes will be rolling out during the month of November 2017. By the time this is posted, we should be very close to when Rapid Release domains will begin seeing the new UI implemented (2017-11-14). Scheduled Release domains will begin transitioning to the new UI at the end of the month (2017-11-28); and the transition depending on domain size will take about eight (8) weeks. Admins will have the opportunity to opt-in or opt-out. Admins may also manually opt-in via the Google Admin console.

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First Impressions – iPhone 8 Plus

Here are my initial impressions of one of Apple’s newest iPhones…

Introduction
Recently, due to an unfortunate turn of events where my oldest son dropped his iPhone 6s Plus, I was forced to purchase an iPhone 8 Plus recently. Sometimes having a pre-teen/ young teenager carrying a flagship level smartphone can be a bit problematic. Having a device is a case helps protect against shattered screens, but even then, they aren’t foolproof. You can still end up with a shattered screen despite your best efforts.

The situation with my oldest son is a great example of how sometimes, the universe just seems to be working against you no matter how hard you try. He dropped his protected iPhone 6s Plus and the screen shattered. I had the choice of replacing it via insurance claim or paying the AT&T Next acquired device off and upgrading to the iPhone 8/ 8 Plus. (As a brief aside, upgrading to the iPhone X was out of the question… I’m not paying $999 for a phone. EVER. It’s just not an option, especially when it’s THIS close to the Holidays, and you’re a new grandparent.) The prices in this scenario – insurance claim vs. upgrade – were nearly identical, so… it seemed the better, more prudent thing to do to purchase the upgrade on his account rather than pay the same amount of money for two year old technology.

Through the magic of SIM card swapping, my son ended up with my mint condition iPhone and I ended up with the new iPhone 8 Plus. Here are my initial thoughts on the device. If you recall, I covered this subject shortly after Apple announced both the iPhone 8/ 8 Plus and iPhone X in September 2017.

Honestly, after hearing the details and writing this article, I wasn’t going to bother with the iPhones announced this year. It didn’t seem worth the cost at the time; but since I got forced into it… here I am.

To get started, here, in no particular order, are what I would consider to be the major differences between the iPhone 7 Plus and the iPhone 8 Plus:

• The iPhone 8 Plus features an all-glass design with an aero-grade aluminum chassis in between. The iPhone 7 Plus features a unibody aluminum body
• The iPhone 8 Plus also supports Qi wireless charging
• The iPhone 8 Plus’ Retina HD display supports True Tone display technology. The display automatically tweaks the white balance to improve readability depending on the ambient lighting
• The iPhone 8 Plus is powered by Apple’s 6-core A11 Bionic chip. The iPhone 7 Plus is powered by Apple’s A10 Fusion chip.
• The iPhone 8 Plus is available in 64GB and 256GB storage variants. The iPhone 7 Plus comes in 32GB and 128GB variants
• The iPhone 8 Plus can record 4K videos at 60fps and Full HD videos at 240fps. The iPhone 7 Plus can record 4K videos at 30fps and Full HD videos at 120fps

My initial impressions and analysis of each of these are below. There’s not a lot here to distinguish the 8/ 8 Plus from the 7/ 7 Plus. The devices are visually identical, except for their body construction. However, you really have to look at the back of each device to be able to tell them apart.

The Full 360
Here are some comparison photos of the iPhone 8 Plus next to an iPhone 7 Plus. My guess is that without me telling you which was which, you wouldn’t be able to tell…

DSC_5532
The fronts of the iPhone 7 Plus and the iPhone 8 Plus, from left to right, respectively. The devices look identical. The only way to tell them apart from the front (without turning the devices on) is by hands on inspection.

The backs of the iPhone 7 Plus and the iPhone 8 Plus, from left to right, respectively. Here, you can see a difference. The iPhone 8 Plus’ back is covered in glass where the iPhone 7 Plus clearly is not.

The left edges of the iPhone 7 Plus and the iPhone 8 Plus from top to bottom, respectively. Again, you likely wouldn’t have known the difference if I hadn’t told you which was which.
DSC_5535
The top edges of the iPhone 7 Plus and the iPhone 8 Plus from top to bottom, respectively. Again, you likely wouldn’t have known the difference if I hadn’t told you which was which. There is a SLIGHT color difference between the matte black of the iPhone 7 (top) and the space gray of the iPhone 8 (bottom); but that’s likely just the lighting in my kitchen…

The right edges of the iPhone 7 Plus and the iPhone 8 Plus from top to bottom, respectively. Again, you likely wouldn’t have known the difference if I hadn’t told you which was which.

The bottom edges of the iPhone 7 Plus and the iPhone 8 Plus from top to bottom, respectively. Again, you likely wouldn’t have known the difference if I hadn’t told you which was which. Here, the color difference between the two is a little easier to see.

Storage Space

The change that is probably the most noticeable, believe it or not, is the storage size difference. There’s no longer a 128GB variation in the iPhone 8/ 8 Plus. To be honest, since I had to buy a new device, I decided I didn’t want to spend the extra $150 for the 256GB variant. However, when you’re coming from 128GB, going back to 64GB can be a bit painful. While this is not what I wanted to do, moving to 256GB was not worth the extra cost to me. So, I settled for the 64GB variant and am streaming a lot more content than I was prior to purchasing the iPhone 8 Plus.

Display
The True Tone Retina Display is really very, very good. However, the impact of this white balance method is completely lost on EVERYONE about five minutes after the initial setup of the device.

During setup, you’re given the ability to turn True Tone on or off. You’re also given a button that allows you to see how the screen will look with the feature on and then again with the feature off. While the screen looks MUCH better with True Tone turned on, you forget that its turned on. You don’t have anything that continually reminds you of the feature’s effect when its turned on. This is a set it and forget it feature; and honestly this is exactly what Apple wants to have happen.

Chipset – A11 Bionic
The same can be said for the iPhone 8/ 8 Plus’ A11 Bionic chip. You notice the speed difference for about a couple hours after upgrading. The next day, it’s all business as usual. The performance difference is going to be very noticeable when it comes to VR and AI headsets and apps; but other than that, you aren’t really going to notice the performance bump later on. After the “newness” wears off, this is going to appear as business as usual.

4K Video Frame Rates
You do notice the 4K video frame rate differences, especially on larger displays (like your desktop monitor), as the video filmed on the iPhone 8/ 8 Plus will appear much smoother.

Body Construction – Glass vs. Airplane Grade Aluminum
The body differences are TOTALLY noticeable; but really only from the back. You REALLY need a case on the iPhone 8/ 8 Plus. The iPhone 8/ 8 Plus is very difficult to hold on to due to the glass back and smoother, metal sides. If you don’t have something with a bit of “stick-’em” on it, you’re gonna drop the phone at some point. There’s no doubt in my mind. I’ve nearly done it three to four times in the few days that I’ve had the device. Since the body is covered in glass with an aluminum underbody, as soon as it hits the ground, it’s going to shatter into a million pieces. Save your phone. Put it in a case that’s going to provide decent protection.

Wireless Charging
The go-to feature is the Qi compatible wireless/ cableless charging. I’ve been able to confirm that it works with just about any and every Qi compatible charging system available. This includes any cheap Chinese aftermarket systems as well as Samsung’s wireless charging system for the Galaxy 8 and 8XL smartphone, which is kinda cool. Unfortunately, I am not a fan of Apple’s larger charging mat. I prefer the cradle like system for the Samsung Galaxy 8/8XL.

Conclusion
So where does this leave me..? That’s a great question.

First and foremost, I won’t be purchasing an iPhone X, especially after purchasing the iPhone 8 Plus. I don’t have the funds to do so, and wouldn’t, to be very honest, on my own. At nearly $1000 USD for the entry level model, the phone isn’t reasonably priced or realistically affordable for anyone on any kind of family plan with their carrier of choice.

Now, let’s talk about the iPhone 8/ 8 Plus. The iPhone 8 Plus is a decent phone to be certain; but I stand by my original assessment of the device – if you don’t HAVE to upgrade, you may want to wait for Apple’s next iteration of iPhone, due out some time next year. The iPhone 8/ 8 Plus is, in my opinion, just too similar to the iPhone 7/ 7 Plus. But that is Apple’s M.O. – evolution rather than revolution.

The wireless charging is really cool; and will be something that you really prefer doing and using, say at the office or by your bedside, especially if you use your device as an alarm clock to wake yourself in the morning for work or school. However, it’s not a killer, must have, do or die feature. It’s a convenience.

And that can probably sum up the entire iPhone 8/ 8 Plus experience for me – upgrading has been a convenience for me, and not much more.

The cost of the device – as well as the cost of the iPhone X, in my opinion – is bordering on excessive. The 64GB version is now “affordable” at $800 plus tax; and the 256GB version is just below crazy-stupid (at least from my perspective) at $950 plus tax. Here in Chicago that put things at $870 bucks and $1018 bucks respectively after taxes; or about $27 a month and $35 a month, respectively.

I’m shaking my head as I write this. Apple has almost completely priced me and my family out of the iPhone entirely. We used to be able to upgrade devices every two years or so (AT&T’s standard upgrade cycle is 30 months or 2.5 years). Now, it seems as though we’re going to have to make those last a lot longer than just two and a half years. Even with AT&T Next, the monthly costs for a new device are just not sustainable when you have to cover costs for four to five different devices. When you’re looking at a monthly cost of $35 to $40 per device, I’m looking at $150 – $200 per month just for devices… and I haven’t even begun to cover the cost of a voice and data plan for them yet. After all is said and done, I’m looking at nearly $425 a month, which is just crazy. Who does that just for mobile phones..?!

It truly does appear that after phones get paid off, the family is going to have to learn to live them for a while. So, my son is going to have to make this one last more than a year. Its either that, or he’s going to end up with a flip phone (or maybe a Windows Phone… I think both are just about equal when it comes to apps and functionality at this point.)

However, I’d really like to hear your thoughts on all of this. Did you upgrade to the iPhone 8/ 8 Plus? Did you opt for an iPhone X? Are you sticking with what you’ve got for now and upgrading later? Are you just sick of all the evolutionary updates out of Apple and have you decided to jump ship?

Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area, below and give me your take on the iPhone 8/ 8 Plus? I’d love to hear from you!

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UPDATED: KRACK Attack Threatens to Kill WPA2 Wi-Fi Security

Well, this could be problematic…

I heard about this early Monday 2017-10-16; and it got me a bit concerned. Six collegiate researchers revealed information on a WPA-2 Wi-Fi security, Key Reinstallation Attack (KRACK Attack). This reliable information will allow attackers to undermine Wi-Fi encryption on any wireless connection utilizing WPA2 Personal security. This will affect literally, any and every brand and type wireless router on the B2B and consumer markets today.

This latest exploit takes advantage of the four-way handshake needed to establish an encryption key between a router and a connecting device. When properly executed, this vulnerability allows attackers to compromise the third step. This can lead to the re-use of an encryption key; or in some cases in Android and Linux based devices, the establishment of a null key.

US-CERT, the division of the Department of Homeland Security responsible for computer safety has become aware of “several key management vulnerabilities” used in the attack. The agency has declared that the vulnerability includes lack of proper encryption, content hijacking, HTTP injection, and other problems. In the advisory issued on Monday, US-CERT says that “most or all correct implementations” of WPA-2 are affected by the vulnerability —meaning every consumer device, and most enterprise access points.

The researchers claim that the attack vector completely opens up an Android 6.0 and later device. Other operating systems, including iOS and macOS are less impacted, but “a large number of packets” can still be decrypted from all.

At present, there are no patches for consumer-grade devices, and only a few commercial manufacturers have issued updates. A large percentage of network equipment will likely not see updates —so a properly patched operating system will be essential for users.

The attack uses one or more of 10 different exploits. The details of the exploit were submitted for review on May 19, and a conference presentation will be delivered on Nov. 1.

Fixes can be made by vendors on either the client or router level, and only one of the pair needs to be patched for the vulnerability to be ineffective. A patched computer can connect to an un-patched router and not be vulnerable, and vice-versa. Updates to either will prevent an encryption key from being reused.

What to Do
If you feel you must do something to ward off the evil Wi-Fi spirits, you can consider doing the following:

• Most home-based, consumer networks likely won’t be affected. However, those “common area” networks in apartment buildings (you get access because you rent there) or hotels and other high settlement areas remain vulnerable to attack.

• If and when a patch to the vulnerability becomes available, install it immediately.

• Upgrade to the latest, released version of the OS you’re computing on; and keep your security patches current.

• Never, ever use public Wi-Fi or unsecured networks. In fact, avoid them like the plague.

• Don’t frequent any ecommerce sites or any sites that collect PII (personally identifying information – like Name, Address, Date of Birth or SSN), that do not make use of HTTPS.

• Consider configuring your Wi-Fi network(s) to NOT broadcast its SSID. It’s still possible to sniff a non-broadcasted network name out if you’re determined enough to do it; but not revealing your network name is easy and effective way of keeping it hidden.

• Change your default passwords. If your router or other network equipment, network attached storage devices, etc. are still using their default passwords after you set them up, you’re just begging for trouble. Changing these will make it harder for undesirables to get the goods

• Consider turning your wireless printer off when you’re not using it. That way, no one will be able to waste your paper or toner by printing 300 pages of junk…

• Enterprise WPA-2 doesn’t appear to be affected by the flaw. If your network gear supports it, consider shifting to the more secure protocol.

UPDATE:
I reviewed the Netgear Orbi Mesh Router earlier this year. I was fairly pleased with the device and the way it worked in my house. Most of the Wi-Fi issues I was experiencing were resolved after I purchased and installed this device in my house.

Unfortunately, Netgear has not released a firmware update for the Orbi Mesh Router to resolve the KRACK vulnerability in this device. According to a KB article, there are a couple issues that need to be remembered about this issue:

1. Your devices are only vulnerable if an attacker is in physical proximity to and within the wireless range of your network.
2. Routers and gateways are only affected when in bridge mode (which is not enabled by default and not used by most customers). A WPA-2 handshake is initiated by a router in bridge mode only when connecting or reconnecting to a router.
3. Extenders, Arlo cameras, and satellites are affected during a WPA-2 handshake that is initiated only when connecting or reconnecting to a router.
4. Mobile hotspots are only affected while using Wi-Fi data offloading, which is not enabled by default.

Based on this information, it’s very unlikely that anyone – regardless of the type of UNPROTECTED router they have – is EVER going to fall victim to this exploit, especially if you’re the average, everyday consumer. Those folks don’t have much to chase after; AND most importantly, they are unlikely to have any of their wireless networking equipment in bridge mode or to have hotspots using Wi-Fi data offloading.

While there are a number of Orbi users loudly demanding a firmware update, if and when an update IS made available, the Orbi system will download and install the update automatically.

Thankfully, I don’t have too much to worry about.

The other thing that users can do IF their router supports it is to switch from WPA2 Personal encryption to WPA2 Enterprise. Unfortunately for me, the Orbi does NOT currently support WPA2 Enterprise, so this isn’t an option for me. However, I’m not very upset or concerned about it at this time.

If you’re effected by this issue, I’d love to hear from you. Please meet me in the discussion area below and tell me what happened to you and if and how you resolved it on your end.

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Jelly – The World’s Smallest 4G/LTE Smartphone

After successful campaigns on both Kickstarter and Indiegogo, Jelly is finally available!
Jelly

Back in the day, small but functional was the thing. One handed operation on any PDA or smartphone was not only important, it was imperative. Back in the early 2000’s, if you couldn’t fully operate your phone with one hand, it wouldn’t make it. I remember reviewing one or two phones who stretched this a bit and didn’t do very well. Back in the day, large screens were a no-no.

Today, the world is all about bigger screens for video purposes. In fact, the larger the screen, the better (without really being a tablet…). However, when you do this, you lose some portability and convenience. Enter Jelly… an Android phone that tries to go a long way to resolve this issue.

 

Unihertz sponsored two crowd funding campaigns – one on Kickstarter, the other on Indegogo. Together, Jelly was able to raise nearly $3M in funding.

Jelly is meant to be an “alternative” to your usual phone that you can use while working out or maybe going out for the night. The device, according to Unihertz isn’t supposed to be your primary phone, despite the fact that its running Android 7, Nougat.

Measuring 92.3 x 43 x 13.3 mm, Jelly sports a 2.45-inch screen with 240 x 432 pixels. Jelly is powered by a quad-core 1.1 GHz processor, with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of ROM or 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB ROM. Both models feature two cameras, dual SIM support, GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and a 950 mAh battery.

According to Unihertz, with only a 950mAh battery, the device won’t last all day long, and you shouldn’t rely on it as your only device. This means that you’re likely going to need to swap your SIM card in and out in order to make this work as intended. From my perspective, 950mAh isn’t ideal, but it isn’t horrible. Back in the day, a battery this small was often encountered and just meant that you will need to charge it periodically, if possible.

However, the proof is in the pudding, as they say. I have a Jelly Pro (2GB RAM/16GB ROM (for storage)) coming to me to review. I expect it to be here some time in November 2017. I’ll have additional spec and performance information in the review, and I will also do an unboxing video as well.

Stay tuned!

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Top 10 Features of Microsoft’s Fall Creators Update

The latest bits are now available. Download ’em if you want ’em!

http://www.zdnet.com/article/windows-10-fall-creators-update-should-you-upgrade-now/

Microsoft's Fall Creators Update

During the middle of October, Microsoft released the fourth feature update to Windows 10, the Fall Creators Update. This new version is listed as version 1709 . The final build number is 16299. I’ve pulled together a quick list of some of the new features that might be of use to everyone. I’ve also got some personal impressions of the new update, as it has already installed on my Surface Book, and I’ve been using it almost daily for the past couple of weeks.

New Features
Here are some of the newest, more compelling features of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. Depending on what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, these may or may not matter to you.

Action Center
You’re going to see a HUGE revamp of the Action Center in the Fall Creators Update. You’ll see new organization, improved notification hierarch and separation and a new, enhanced integration with Cortana. The Action Center is probably one of the most noticeable and used features of Windows 10, and this improvement is going to be very noticeable, if not in your face, as soon as the OS boots.

Mixed Reality Headsets
With the Fall Creators Update, Microsoft is finally and completely throwing its hat into the mixed reality ring. Besides Microsoft’s own Halolens, other third party providers are also prepping six degrees of freedom (6DOF) powered headsets, manufacturers like Dell, Acer, ASUS and HP are also launching mixed reality headsets this month. Some of these manufacturers are also expected to release Mixed Reality certified PC’s, too.

Mixed Reality Viewer
Coupled with its Mixed Reality headset initiative, those that can’t or don’t want to shell out the shekels for a mixed reality headset will still be able to take advantage of mixed reality via Microsoft’s Mixed Reality Viewer. Any device with a compatible web can will be able to climb in and experience mixed reality with the Fall Creators Update. Users of this app will also be able to use the new and included tools like 3D Paint to create their own elements, too.

Story Remix
The Windows 10 Photos app has gone through a complete revamp in the Fall Creators Update. Story Remix is an evolutionary update to Photos that implements machine learning and mixed reality to automatically create cool highlight reels of your digital content. You can include stills and videos as well as edit your own soundtrack. On top of that, you’ll be able to include 3D mixed reality objects and animations in your creations directly from Microsoft’s 3D database.

(These are) My People
My People was originally supposed to be part of the Creators Update, but didn’t make the cut. My People assumes that your digital life revolves around a small group of contacts and makes the contact cards for those chosen few available directly from the taskbar.

Ransomware Protection
With Controlled Folder Access, you can insure that you don’t fall victim to ransomware and other malware designed to keep you from accessing your files. When enabled through Windows Defender, unauthorized access to specific folders will be prevented. Protected folders include Documents, Pictures, Movies and Desktop; and can’t be removed. You may also manually specify other protected folders and can whitelist individual apps that are allowed to access those locations.

Phone and PC Integration
With Windows Phone officially dying, Microsoft is making phone and PC integration a major part of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. After you’ve linked your phone to your Windows account, you can push web pages and even files back and forth to your phone and computer. Windows 10 will also notify you of, and allow you to respond to, text messages and to see missed calls on your PC. Cortana also has a new, “I’ve got more for you” section that displays apps, documents and websites you were recently working with on your other devices, allowing you to pick up where you left off. Unfortunately, the list of supported applications is limited as of this Windows 10 version’s initial release.

OneDrive Files on Demand
As I noted back in June of 2017, Microsoft’s replacement for Windows 8 Placeholders is Files on Demand.

With Files on Demand, you’ll be able to see what files are available in the cloud and which ones are stored locally. You can select which individual files or folders will be available only online or which ones can be edited while offline.

If an app tries to download a file that’s only stored in the Cloud, you’ll see a Windows 10 popup notification display. The popup will show you details of the file being downloaded and give you the opportunity to download the file or block the app from accessing OneDrive completely.

Enhanced Linux Support
If you’re a Linux user and rely on the Bash shell support in Windows to do what you do, you’re going to like the changes in the Fall Creators Update. Now, Linux support in Windows has been expanded to support additional Linux distributions, including SUSE and Fedora. All three distributions are available in the Windows Store. You also will no longer be required to enable and configure Developer Mode to use Bash anymore.

Additional Update Options
One of the biggest problems with Windows 10 was the way updates to the operating system have been delivered since its original release. Settings now includes Delivery Optimization Advanced Options. These give you granular control over how Windows 10 handles and delivers updates to you. These advanced options allow you to tell the OS to limit how much of your network bandwidth is used to download new updates. A new Activity Monitor also shows you how much data has been pulled down specifically for Windows Updates per month, and to see where it went.

Personal Findings and Impressions
I’ve been using the Fall Creators Update since its release on 2017-10-17. Unlike the original Creators Update that took absolutely FOREVER to be received by most Windows 10 users, the Fall Creators Update made an almost immediate appearance to many users. If you had a Microsoft Signature PC, you likely got notification that your PC could download the update immediately. I know that’s what happened to me with my Surface Book.

However, since the update installed, my experience has been anything but stellar.

In fact, I’ve had to reset my PC at least 3 times in less than two weeks due to some app and utility incompatibilities. I’m also not completely done with all that mess, as I’m still trying to figure out where some of my issues are coming from.

I’ve been working with one of the developers of one of the 3rd party utilities that I’ve been using, and his insight into what is going on and why it is happening has been more than enlightening.

The issue that I’ve got has to do with – I think – incomplete compatibility with my 3rd party virus scanner of choice, Webroot Secure Anywhere. The problem I have is with the creation, deletion and recreation of temporary application files used by the utility. It appears that Webroot Secure Anywhere is removing all permissions from files in a specific folder. This folder needs to be deleted as part of the app’s normal operation. Unfortunately, Webroot is stripping all permissions from the folder without quarantining it, making the app non-functional.

I think the issue has to do with the rate at which folders are created and deleted by my utility that is causing the issue.

At this point, I have a choice. I can forego the use of my utility and install Webroot Secure Anywhere, or I can use my utility and trust Windows Defender to protect my computer. While my utility isn’t mission critical, it IS something that I want to use and keep on using. I also do not trust Defender enough to keep my PC…

And so here I sit.

I am currently trying to figure out exactly what to do. I have contacted Both the developer of the utility that I’m using and Webroot. The utility developer I’ve heard from. In fact, we’ve had a rather prolonged and protracted conversation about this issue. He actually has a few users with the same problem. They are also using Webroot Secure Anywhere.

I have heard nothing in reply to my inquiry with Webroot. Nothing at all; but I’m not surprised that my problem is related to a virus scanner. These apps over and above all others are known to cause issues with OS upgrades and other basic OS functions.

Have you downloaded the Fall Creators Update? Are you using it yet? If so, have you bumped into any issues or problems? I’d love to hear your impressions of the Update, as my experience thus far has been mixed.

Why don’t you meet me I the Discussion area below and give me your thoughts and impressions on Microsoft’s latest update to Windows 10.

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Scheduled for Termination – AOL Instant Messenger

The iconic instant messaging client will send its last IM on 2017-12-15…

You know, I saw this one and it kind hit home pretty hard. I’ve been a computing professional, working with PC’s since the early 1980’s. Now that I’ve told you that I’m older than dirt, let’s get to the heart of what AIM shutting down really means. It is in fact, a true end of an era.

Farewell AIM

Back I the mid to late 1990’s when the internet got its public start (many may disagree, but it was, in fact the release of Windows 95 that really got things going…), the face of the internet was services like CompServe, MSN, and America on Line (AOL). Most people didn’t get on the “internet” per se back then. They fired up what was nearly 95% likely, a dial up service, that showed them highly curated content, in a 100% designed and controlled interface. These dial up services showed you the content you were looking for – sports, entertainment, computing, etc. – all from within a controlled, curated environment that showed them exactly what the service wanted them to see.

Messenger services were easy to create at that point. Most of the time, you, your family and friends were all using the same service. It made sense, too. Tell me when my friends, who are also using the same service, are online so that I can have an instant message conversation with them. It made communicating with friends and family, all that much easier.

And the war…! Oh my goodness…!! Ok. Show of hands… Who here remembers the IM client war? Interoperability was a huge deal back in the day when all of these things were popular. When one would figure out how the get access to another’s network, so that you could use one and only one IM client, the ACCESSED network would change the way it worked blocking those on clients other than theirs; and then figure out how the other one worked so they could do the same thing. This went on and on, back and forth, for YEARS.

Meanwhile, consolidation apps like Trillian brought them all together; but always had an outage on this IM network or another because they got blocked due to the back and forth crap in the IM war.

But it looks like all of that is now history. MSN Messenger kinda morphed into Lync and Skype for Business. AOL Instant Messenger is done in December 2017, and somehow, “https://www.icq.com”>ICQ still seems to be alive and kicking.

But as I said, AIM is out. According to Oath VP of Communications, Michael Albers,

“AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed. We are more excited than ever to continue building the next generation of iconic brands and life-changing products for users around the world.”

So, it’s the end of an era. AIM is done. The final IM on its network will be sent and received on 2017-12-15.

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Microsoft releases firmware updates for Surface Book and Pro 4

Its been a long time coming for Surface Book and Pro 4 owners…

When the Microsoft’s Surface Book was originally introduce, most of the pundits in the industry, me included, declared it a total non-starter. It had a boat load of issues, and none of them were getting resolved quickly. I had declared that the Book was a disaster, and that I wouldn’t consider getting one any time soon. Its funny how things can change; but it wasn’t right away; and wasn’t without a number of firmware and system/ driver updates that didn’t come anywhere NEAR the mark.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4Thankfully, Microsoft finally DID figure it out; and they were able to get past some of the bigger problems plaguing the ground breaking ultrabook line. Keeping with a series of updates that, in recent releases have made the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 better than ever, Microsoft released a series of system based, firmware and driver updates for both the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book. This is a key update for the Surface Book, however, as it hasn’t had the regular updates that the Pro 4 has had. It hasn’t had any updates released for it in nearly six months.

Here’s what’s new for the Surface Book:

Windows Update History Name Device Manager Name
Intel Corporation driver update for Intel(R) AVStream Camera 2500 – System – 3.0.0.0 Intel(R) AVStream Camera 2500 – Sound, video and GC
30.15063.10999.4731 Improves camera stability.
Intel Corporation driver update for Microsoft Camera Front – System – 3.0.0.0 Microsoft Camera Front – System device
30.15063.10999.4731 Improves camera stability.
Intel Corporation driver update for Microsoft Camera IR Front – System – 3.0.0.0 Microsoft Camera IR Front – System device
30.15063.10999.4731 Improves camera stability.
Intel Corporation driver update for Intel(R) Control Logic – System – 3.0.0.0 Intel(R) Control Logic – System device
30.15063.10999.4731 Improves camera stability.
Intel Corporation driver update for Intel(R) CSI2 Host Controller – System – 3.0.0.0 Intel(R) CSI2 Host Controller – System device
30.15063.10999.4731 Improves camera stability.
Intel Corporation driver update for Intel(R) Imaging Signal Processor 2500 – System – 3.0.0.0 Intel(R) Imaging Signal Processor 2500 – System device
30.15063.10999.4731 Improves camera stability.
Intel Corporation driver update for Microsoft Camera Rear – System – 3.0.0.0 Microsoft Camera Rear – System device
30.15063.10999.4731 Improves camera stability.
Surface – System – 1.0.85.1 Surface Camera Windows Hello – System device
1.0.85.1 Improves camera stability.

 

Here’s what’s been updated for the Surface Pro 4:

Windows Update History Name Device Manager Name
Surface driver update for Surface Embedded Controller Firmware – System – 3.0.0.0 Surface Embedded Controller Firmware – Firmware
103.1791.258.0 Improves device reliability.
Surface driver update for Surface Integration – System – 3.0.0.0 Surface Integration – System device
1.0.170.0 Improves device reliability.

All of the updates are available via Windows Update on any Surface Book or Surface Pro 4 running Windows 10. However, the Surface Pro 4 update can be downloaded here. The Surface Book update can be downloaded here.

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