Review – Olio Model One

The last candidate in our Smartwatch Roundup is here – Meet the Olio Model One…

Introduction
Wearables are the thing for 2015. Nearly every major smartphone manufacturer, including Apple, Microsoft (who delivered MS Band and MS Band 2 in less than a year’s time), Samsung, Motorola, and LG to name a few; not to mention fitness and GPS companies like Garmin, Nike and Fitbit have released a band or smartwatch in 2015.

Wearables, and in particular, smartwatches, are a hot commodity right now. Those that have been successful have been hard to get. The Apple Watch certainly falls in that category. The MS Band, at least back in November and December of 2014, also qualify.

However, there have been a few new players enter the market. Some of these, like the Tag Heuer Connected represent the high end of the smartwatch market. Others, like the Olio Model One, however, also firmly fall into this category, but unlike the Tag Heuer, are smartphone agnostic. They don’t prefer a particular flavor of smartphone OS; and its here that we’re going to end our smartwatch journey; because… it has arrived.

The Olio Model One. Its luxurious. Its waterproof. Its simply stunning. Let’s take a look at it and see how it stands up in a new market, but one that is quickly maturing and see if it’s the smartwatch for you.

Hardware
This is perhaps the one and ONLY area of the Model One that Olio got right. The watch casing and the band on the Model One are really exceptional. If there’s one area of the product that is going to pull a lot of interest from current and potential customers, it’s the band and watch casing. If there’s one area that might make me not return the device to Olio and request a refund, it’s going to be the casing and the band.

In fact, its perhaps the only reason why I haven’t returned the device at this point. The device looks and feels great. It looks like a product that costs as much as it does, and it really just oozes luxury.

Nothing looks or feels cheap on the Model One. The screen looks great, despite the touch screen issues (see below). The casing is solid and well put together. The watch has some heft to it, giving the device the feel of something special.

Check out the pictures below. Once you see this thing, I know you’ll agree, this is an awesome looking device.

 

Unfortunately, that’s all the good I have to say about the hardware. Once you get past the surface, it all goes south.

I’ve outlined a number of different hardware related functionality issues, below. If you are interested in the Model One, please don’t order one until you have the opportunity to read through everything that I’ve outlined. Based on what I know about the device, the issues that I’ve outlined below, and the one customer-wide, web-based quality call that Olio has done to address customer concerns and issues, it’s clear that the problems that I’ve outlined are NOT isolated.

There’s also no way to take a screen shot of the device that I can see, as it has NO hardware buttons and no way to view the contents of the screen in Olio Assist. All of the device shots I’ve taken have been with a physical camera.

Watch Software & Complications
Olio’s product pages all show a continuous, moving second hand. It flows around the watch face with a sense of elegance that really shows off the luxury points of the Model One.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to make YOUR Model One’s second hand move in a continuous, elegant, sweeping motion. The second hand on my Model One “ticks” as a second hand would on a mechanical, analog watch. This is nice, but why the Model One won’t mimic this – when it should clearly be an easy get – is beyond me. According to Olio Assist, the watch face isn’t customizable. Each Bespoke watch face is preconfigured for your type and color (Steel, Black, Yellow Gold, or Rose Gold) of watch, and cannot be changed (other than day/ night settings and its activity streams that help create a unique face, each day.

Notifications
The Notifications complication is the default watch screen for the Model One. As you can see from this screen, you get the time of day, the activity bars and the date in mm.dd.yyyy format. When a notification is sent to the Model One, its most easily seen here. You can also most easily see both Temporal Streams (see Notifications in the Issues and Problems section, below), Early and Later.

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The Model One Notifications Complication The Notifications Screen
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Tap on an individual Notification and get the details Swipe to the left, and get the ability to clear the Notification; but be careful. If you don’t do it right, you can dismiss the Notifications without seeing the Clear button, or you can move to the next Complication, OR you can get the Earlier Temporal Stream

The UI here looks nice. Its modern. Its semi-transparent. It’s also difficult to get to and work with.

Schedule
This is an interesting view of your daily calendar. The only issue I have with it is that as appointments come and go, they fall off the complication. This is good and bad. Its good, because the complication is only good for up to 12 hours at a time. It’s bad, because once an appointment has passed it falls off the display. If you were looking to see how busy you were today, this isn’t the day-view that you’d probably go to first. It is, however, GREAT at the beginning of your day, and as your appointments progress. Eventually, you end up with a blank display until the next day.

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Weather
This is probably the most interesting complication in the entire cache of displays on the watch. It’s not animated, and you shouldn’t expect any kind of animation out of any of the model one screens (except the second hand movement); but it will change based on changing weather conditions throughout the day.

The Weather complication divides your day into four quadrants morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening, and gives you general weather info for the day. The active quadrant, based on the hour hand, is highlighted, white.

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Alarm
You can set a single or repeating alarm with the Model One on this screen. I haven’t played with this at all, because, to be quite honest, the watch has never given me the opportunity to want or need an alarm to be set on the actual watch, largely because I’m not expecting it to have enough power to actually ring the alarm later (see Battery Life, in the Issues and Problems section, below).

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Timer
You can set a countdown timer with the Model One on this screen. Like Alarm, I haven’t used the Timer complication at all, because, quite honestly, I haven’t had enough battery life or power on the device to actually warrant playing with this. I’m just worried about the bloody thing having enough power to tell the time while I’m wearing it. Its nearly always run out of power before I’ve been able to get home and plug it in.

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Stopwatch
You can use your Model One as a stopwatch with this screen. This complication has turned on once or twice due to issues with the touch screen not being sensitive enough, or too sensitive and I’ve had issues stopping it or clearing it back to zero. Again, I’m not very trusting of using this complication because it’s going to burn battery power (and yes… battery life really IS that big of an issue Keep reading…).

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Companion Smartphone App
Originally, I had plans of taking you through the entire app. Lord knows I have enough screen shots of the software on my iPhone.

I’ve been in mobile devices for nearly my entire software QA career. I know mobile devices like the back of my hand, and all of my experience is telling me that Olio Assist needs work, some time to mature and is currently buggy.

I’m not going to show you everything. After going through the cache of screen shots I have, there are simply too many of issues and bugs and quirks that I’ve found to display them all. I will, however, provide you with some screen shots so you can see what the software looks like, and then see where some of the rough edges are.

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You choose a DND range, ideally so the watch doesn’t receive notifications and will save battery power. However, your battery will likely never last long enough to see this happen You choose calendars to tell Olio Assist to only provide appointment notifications for the noted calendars. However, I have yet to have any appointment notifications fire on my Model One. The setup process attempts to use your home and work locations from YOUR contact record on your phone. However, location services in Olio Assist don’t work right and you end up with the error dialog you see directly under this caption. If you want Olio Assist to know where you live, you have to enter the location in manually
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After you enter in your location manually, it can find your location and pinpoint it on a map. After it asks about your residential address, it asks about your work address and goes through the same process. This is the error message you see when you try to have Olio Assist use either your residential or work address out of your personal contact record, as I noted above. Again, you have to search for your address manually.
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After you enter in your location manually, it can find your location and pinpoint it on a map. The only way to get out of the “add address loop” is to tap Skip, which doesn’t make any sense. I should be asked if I’m done with addresses, and then be given an opportunity to add more, or move on. Skipping a step makes it seem as though none of the data that I just entered, found and identified will be used. Olio Assist asks you what kind of transportation methods you use, presumably so that it can provide you with the correct navigation directions. I have yet to see any evidence of this outside of setup, but with the battery problems I’ve had, I really haven’t pushed my luck and tried. Setup is completed. Note that there is a finish button, even though the progress indicator (the 4th of four progress icons, below the finish button) has been on the last or 4th bar the entire process.

What you’re seeing here is extremely immature device software. It’s clear to me that the testing process here wasn’t as robust as it could or should have been. Olio has a lot of work to do here. For the cost of the watch, I expected a very finished software product.

Instead what I got was an unwanted opportunity to be a beta tester.

Issues and Problems
As of this writing, I’ve had the Olio Model One for a little over a month. During that time, I’ve been able to wear it for approximately one (1) – yes, just ONE, single, solitary full day. I have a number of issues with the Model One that I purchased, and I’ve been in nearly constant contact with Olio’s Customer Care Lead, Cristina Hall. With everything that you see documented below, Olio has decided that my Model One is defective. They are in the process of preparing (flashing the latest software update, which as of this writing is not finished yet) a new Model One for me and will send it next day air. I’ll turn around a return of my original Model One after I receive the replacement. I’m expecting my replacement to arrive sometime between Thursday and Friday of the week of 2015-11-16.

However, I can tell you with 100% certainty, I’m extremely disappointed so far in the Olio Model One. For $695USD, one expects a better out of the box experience than what I’ve currently received. Up to this point, I’d pretty much consider this to be one of the worst customer experiences I’ve ever had with a piece of consumer electronics in the last five to seven years.

UPDATE: As with everything that’s been happening with Olio, the organization failed to deliver on its promise of delivering me an updated and preflashed watch when they said they were going to. Just before Thanksgiving, Olio indicated that they were going to send me a replacement watch and that it should arrive no later than Wednesday 2015-11-25.

The watch didn’t SHIP until 2015-11-25. It was supposed to ship over night, so with Thursday being a national holiday, that means it should have arrived no later than 2015-11-27.

It didn’t arrive until Monday 2015-12-02, a full two business days after I was promised it would arrive.

On 2015-12-07, a new communication came out from Olio announcing a new version of Olio Assist – the watch’s companion app – and a new watch firmware update. Its 2015-12-07 as I write these words, and I’m still waiting for the watch to update itself to the new watch firmware version, version 1.1.47.

According to Olio, in order for the watch to update, it needs to be charged at least to 50%, must be sitting on its wireless charger and be connected to your phone via Bluetooth. According to Olio, it should update to the latest version within three hours of these conditions being met, so after three hours (or overnight at the latest), one would expect to see a new firmware version on the watch.

I’ve been sitting here all day, working, literally waiting for the watch to update… and… nothing.

That MAY be because even though my watch says its connected to my iPhone, and my iPhone’s Bluetooth page in Settings says that its connected to the watch, Olio Assist says that the watch is disconnected.

When I contacted Olio about this, I was told to go into Settings on the watch and restart it, and then to make certain that no other Bluetooth device was connected (like my Apple Watch). I was told that having another device connected to it could prevent the watch from updating correctly and that disconnecting other devices and then restarting the watch should immediately kick off the update.

It didn’t… but even if it did, it would be hard to tell.

Olio doesn’t want updating the watch to be something that the user ACTIVELY pursues. They want maintenance activities like that to be handled by Olio Assist and the watch and be totally transparent to the user. I like that… if it worked.

There’s no UI to push updates to the watch at all. There’s no way for me to know if the update has been found and downloaded by my phone, and then transferred to my device. Olio can see all of that from their backend… but the end user doesn’t have ANY way to monitor check, or troubleshoot that. So, if it works, it works. If it doesn’t, you’re screwed, as you don’t get ANY kind of notification from the software that there’s even a new firmware available for your watch, let alone a way to monitor, push or troubleshoot the transfer and installation.

I admire this type of update method – making it totally transparent to the user; but there needs to be a way to push it from the end user side, just in case things get stuck.

Charging Issues
The Olio Model One charges hot. It charges VERY hot. Dangerously hot. Like, burn your skin or desktop, hot. I initially thought that it was only the initial charge. I was wrong; but not in the way that you might think.

Yes. The Olio Model One can charge hot. It can get burn your hands hot; but it doesn’t charge hot all the time, and it can cool down to an acceptable or understandable level while charging. However, every time my battery gets nearly or totally depleted, the next time I charge it, it charges hot.

Every time…

The big issue here is that the device can get dangerously hot. The best thing for you to do is to set the watch to charge on a surface you know won’t burn or catch fire and then wait until the watch is fully charged. After that, you should disconnect it, and then wait for it to cool before putting it on.

The other charging issue that I’ve noticed with the Olio Model One is that even when sitting on its charger, regardless of its charging level, the level of charge can both rise AND fall according to both Olio Assist and the watch itself. How one is supposed to charge the watch so it can be used during the day, gets a bit confusing after this.

UPDATE: I’ve been using – or trying to use – the Model One now for a few weeks. This morning (2015-12-17), I woke up and the watch was at 61% charge after sitting on its charger overnight. In total, it sat on its charger for over 8 hours. However, it showed connected to my iPhone via Bluetooth in Settings, in Olio Assist, and on the watch.

When I got to the office, the watch was reading 1% charge. Yes… Just 1%. I put it on its charger and it immediately went to 10% and then over the course of about 90 minutes, 15%. I left it on the charger and went to a 30 minute meeting. When I got back to my desk, it was at 14%. Still on the charger and about 30 minutes later, it was at 11%, then about 5 minutes after that it was at 10%.

I pulled that watch off the charger and it was very hot. In fact, it was almost too hot to handle.

I restarted the watch via the watch’s Settings, and it took about 10 minutes to come back. The display was strange looking after that, as it was trying to display the Notifications complication, but was clearly having trouble; but the display righted itself. It clearing was having issues due to the high heat level it developed while charging.

Now… after about 5 minutes after restart, I’ve watched the charge meter on the watch jump from 10% to 15% to 22% to now 26%, again, in under 7 minutes.

I’ve been concerned about an insufficient amount of current coming through the charging disc and USB cable, so I’ve stopped using a powered USB port on my computer (a ThinkPad T420 here at the office) to using a wall wart and AC current. It’s made a difference, but the device also charges much hotter, much more frequently now.

Battery Life
This is probably the most disappointing feature on the device, and its clearly related to the charging issues I’ve noted above. To put it quite bluntly – the battery life on the Olio Model One just sucks. On the original Model One that I received (I was sent a replacement unit), the battery life was 2-4 hours.

Yes. That’s right, not 24 hours; but two (2) to four (4) hours. Just 2 to 4 hours, and then the battery would go dead and the watch would be dead weight. According to Olio, the Model One has a maximum of 800 charging cycles for the life of its battery. There’s a huge problem with this.

When the battery needs charging four to six times a day, just to get you THROUGH the day so you can use the watch, you’re looking at a life span of 133.33 to 200 DAYS

Days. Not weeks or months… Days.

That means that the useful lifespan of the Olio Model One is about 4.5 MONTHS to just over 6.5 MONTHS before the battery will fail to take and hold a charge.

At one full cycle a day, the Olio Model One should last 2.20 years before the battery will fail to take and hold a charge.

That’s not long enough.

When a smartwatch costs between $595 and $1395, this is truly unacceptable. The Apple Watch starts at $399 and many people – including me – are busting a flange gasket over IT not holding a charge for more than 16 hours before running out of power (when it first came out). With a maximum life span of just over two years, even THAT’S a hell of a lot more than the Olio Model One.

You can get a LOT of traditional watch for $600 to $1400, and it won’t expire in four and a half months to two years. It will last you – potentially – years to DECADES with the proper care and battery changes.

While a computing component like a smartwatch will quickly lose its relevance in five years or less, at $600 to $1400, I’m expecting the Olio Model One to last well beyond five years. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t.

However, I have serious concerns about it surviving past Thursday next week, at the way this thing runs through battery cycles…

UPDATE: I had the watch on the other day and had put it on my wrist at 8am. I had purposely turned the Bluetooth radio off, as my phone was downstairs in my jacket, and I was upstairs in my office, charging the watch…again. I didn’t want the watch’s battery to drain or not to charge, so I turned off the device’s Bluetooth radio. Then, we went to Church, and I left the Bluetooth radio off.

I want to make certain everyone understand the timing around these events.

1. 8AM – Took Model One off the charger and put it on
2. 10:30AM – Left for Church
3. 12PM – Arrived back home
4. 12PM – Watch was dead

That’s a span of four (4) hours. The Bluetooth radio was OFF, and the Model One still managed to run through its battery.

Touch Screen Issues
I’ve been having a number of issues with the Model One’s touch screen. I’m not going to belabor these, either, and I’m quickly going to run them down and detail them out.

  1. Sensitivity
    You have to touch it just right, and in the right spots (which aren’t very well defined), in order to get the screen to react to your touches. Right out of the box, the touch screen is both under and over sensitive. You can quite honestly tap and swipe this thing for days and the device will just ignore you. Other times, it will jet past three or four screens with a single swipe. The screen is very difficult to control, and I’ve noticed that you have to develop just the right type of touch in order to have the device not only recognize your touch, but to move the way you want it to. This is NOT easy to master, and honestly, you should have to try so damn hard to get the device’s touch screen do what you want or intend.This is a driver issue, and Olio has already issued two firmware updates to address it. No doubt others will follow.
  2. Display On/ Off

The watch is supposed to turn on when you raise your wrist. It doesn’t do that consistently. The watch is supposed to stay on long enough for you to look at it and mentally register the contents of the display. It doesn’t do that consistently. More often than not, it doesn’t turn on when you raise your wrist, requires you to tap it MULTIPLE (like four to five) times before it WILL turn on, and then won’t stay on long enough.

This is a driver issue, and Olio has already issued two firmware updates to address it. No doubt others will follow.

With both of these issues active all the time, interacting with the watch has not been easy. In many cases, I’ve given up, looked at the time, ignored the notifications I’ve gotten and just given up.

Bluetooth and Pairing
The biggest reason why the Olio Model One has the battery issues that it does have is due to problems with its Bluetooth radio. The Bluetooth radio in the Model One has serious problems staying connected to my iPhone.

Bluetooth pairing is not easy with the Model One. The initial pairing of my original Model One took me well over 20 minutes to complete. (See below for a bit more information on the initial pairing experience.) The Model One and my iPhone 6 apparently just don’t see eye to eye… or each other for that matter. I have no idea why, and no answers from Olio on this.

After getting them paired and connected, I have found that both the Model One and my iPhone 6 fail to see each other at all, though this has improved a great deal over the past week or so. If they do happen to “bump into each other,” they often drop the connection later.

And the initial pairing… oy what a painful experience that was. I’ve gone through the setup process with the Model One four (4) times. Connectivity problems have had me resetting the watch and deleting the partnership between my watch and my iPhone, as well as deleting Olio Assist on my iPhone to insure that any app information and device information have been deleted.

That usually clears things up with other products. Not always the case with the Model One. After putting Olio Assist BACK on my iPhone 6, I’ve also had to quit Olio Assist and restart it on many occasions to either get the initial pairing to work, or to get the device to reconnect to my iPhone.

The Bluetooth radio is one of the weakest parts of the Model One. It’s one of the main reasons that the battery tanks so completely and so often. While Olio has made some in-roads to this with device firmware version 1.1.47, they still have a LONG WAY to go.

Notifications
If I go back and gather the same notification criteria that I outlined in my Microsoft Band Review, I can honestly say that the Olio Model One MOSTLY gets notifications right.

That is to say, you get notified when you think you’d get notified.

However, the Model One addresses notifications with a system similar to the Pebble Time. Notifications are grouped into two basic time streams – Earlier and Later.

Notifications that come in now, are automatically deposited into the Earlier stream (it’s an event that happened earlier). Upcoming appointments, weather forecasts and conditions, etc. are shown in the Later stream. This would be fine, if not for the Touch Screen issues I outlined above.

Viewing items from the Earlier or Later streams requires you to swipe either left or right from the left or right side of the screen to the opposite end. Earlier events are seen by swiping from the left side to the right side. Later, from the right to the left… if you can get the screen to recognize the input.

If you do, then you can look at the notification. You can tap on it to get additional information, or swipe it to the left to clear it. Again, this all works if you can get the touch screen to recognize your touches. Sometimes it will, sometimes it won’t.

I’ve learned that the best way to use the watch is to ignore the notifications entirely. The haptics on the device aren’t very noticeable, and there’s a good chance you’re going to miss the notification when it comes in, anyway.

Conclusion
Geez… where the hell do I start..??!!

Put bluntly, stay away from the Olio Model One.

The device doesn’t work; and no amount of discussion or verbal or printed rhetoric from the company can convince me that it does at this point. It’s also way too expensive to have issues like this… EVER.

The company clearly has some huge, HUGE technology hurdles to get past; and I’m really not certain that the company is going to make it long enough to see the issues resolved. This is a HUGE disappointment.

When you’re a technology company, providing an expensive, electronic accessory that realistically has a life span of three to five (3-5) years (if and when it works as designed) and should have a lifespan that goes well beyond even THAT, I see no way that the organization will be able to survive the technology problems it has and the bad press they WILL generate, given the current state of their product offering.

The watch charges hot, has issues taking and holding a charge, has a Bluetooth radio that won’t stay connected to the most popular smartphone in the US, and doesn’t handle notifications right due to its touch screen issues. Top that off with a price tag that is clearly out of line with its battery’s usable life span, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Is it possible for Olio to get past all of this and be successful with the Model One..?

Yes. Yes it is.

However, it’s going to take a eureka moment on their end. They are going to have to make the current hardware work correctly. They’re going to have to fix the Bluetooth radio issues they have with the iPhone. They’re going to have to fix the charging issues they have. They’re going to have to resolve the battery life issues they have. They’re going to have to make their iPhone app smarter and more intuitive. They’re going to have to address device updates and pushing firmware to the watch. They’re going to have to handle notifications a bit better and make them a bit more actionable and recognizable.

That’s a lot to accomplish in what I’m seeing as a VERY short window of opportunity for them – months. Like, less than three (3) months short…

Why so short..? Well, if they don’t get all of their battery and charging issues cleared up by that time, most of the first shipment of Model One’s that were put into service will have surpassed or come close to surpassing their 800 charge cycle life spans, and the watches will be useless.

So… hang out with this one and let’s see how it goes.

Until then, you can admire the hardware. It’s gorgeous; but I’d admire it from afar… The default size of the band is a bit tight for me, and you really MUST go to a jeweler to have the band sized; but if the software was something that Olio totally struck out on, their hardware (case and band) was an out of the park home run.

It’s too bad, too.

With a device that’s just so gorgeous, so water resistant, so and well designed, it’s too bad that the software that drives it is such a dud.

Related Posts:

Ransomware. Taking your Data Hostage

Yeah… Speaking of malware…

Introduction
With all of the email problems I’ve been having over the past month or so, I’ve had my hands full. I’m nearly certain that I’ve got some kind of malware. Removing it, has been a real chore; but at least I don’t have any ransomware. Yeah. That would really suck.

Ransomware is a type of malware that prevents or limits users from accessing their system. This type of malware forces its victims to pay a ransom through an online payment system in order to regain access to their data or system. Some ransomware encrypts files. Other ransomware blocks communications.

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No matter which way you look at it; you don’t have access to your data. Depending on how valuable that data is to you or to your organization, that can be a problem.

One of the most popular pieces of ransomware is CryptoWall or CryptoLocker – same thing. CryptoWall is a Microsoft Windows based Trojan horse. A computer that is infected with this virus has its hard drive encrypted, with the RSA decryption key held by a third party.

When infected, the virus payload installs itself in the user’s profile folder and then adds a key to the registry that causes it to run on startup. It then attempts to contact one of several, designated command servers where it retrieves a 2048bit RSA key pair. The command server sends the public key to the infected computer.

The virus then encrypts the user’s files across all local and mapped network drives with the public key and logs each encrypted file in a registry key. The process only effects files with a specific extension type – usually those belonging to Microsoft Office, OpenDocument, JPEG, GIF, BMP, etc.

Once encrypted, the virus then displays a ransom message that includes a countdown clock. If a ransom of $400USD or €400 in the form of a pre-paid cash voucher – like a MoneyPak or an equivalent amount of BitCoin. If the ransom isn’t paid within the specified timeframe, your decryption key gets deleted, and then there’s no way to decrypt your data. Once paid, the user is able to download a decryption program, preloaded with the decryption key, that unlocks the files.

However, some victims have claimed that even though they have paid the ransom, their files were not decrypted.

Now, there are three ways to get rid of CryptoWall/ CryptoLocker once you get it. Some of them are easy, others are not. Let’ run them down so you know what the options are.

  1. Pay the Ransom
  2. Restore from a Non-Infected Backup
  3. Use an Appropriate Mitigation Method
  4. Call it Quits and Restart from Scratch

Pay the Ransom
Many security experts have said that with a 2048bit encryption key, using some kind of brute force attack to get the decryption key was nearly impossible. Previous versions of the Trojan horse used 1024bit keys and while that may have been crackable – in at least one case, it was – doing so, was not easy and took a great deal of time. That method also required the use of tools and skills that most consumers don’t have, can’t afford, and wouldn’t know how to use.

While removing the Trojan from an infected PC is possible, especially in its early encryption stages (depending on the amount of data in question, encryption can take quite a while), the nature of the infection is that it works in the background. Many users don’t know or see that anything bad is happening. In cases like this, many security experts initially agreed that the only way to recover files was to pay the ransom. Users can usually expect to receive their decryption key within 24 hours.

However, given the dishonest nature of the individuals behind the Trojan horse infection, the 24 hour waiting period and the fact that some people don’t always receive their decryption keys without the call for additional payments, this is a risky removal method. Its certainly not guaranteed. They got your money once. Its very likely that if you don’t get your decryption keys early in the 24 hour period that you will get asked to make additional payments.

It has been estimated by Symantec that up to 3% of all infected victims pay the ransom. Its also been estimated that ransomware operators have collected upwards of over $3.0M USD. So, while you may get your data back with this, paying the ransom doesn’t always get your life’s memories back; and it could end up costing you more than was originally asked for.

Regardless of how much you may pay, if this is the case, you’re going to want to make a back up of your decrypted data and then blow your hard drive and reinstall Windows and all your applications from scratch. You’re also going to want to invest in a malware scanner and some kind of backup plan after that.

Whether its online or offline, it doesn’t matter. The key is starting from a known clean slate and then making certain you don’t get hit again.

Restore from a Non-Infected Backup
Even if your PC and all of your data becomes completely encrypted, if you have your computer’s restore DVD’s AND you have a back up of your data before it became infected (and that drive isn’t always connected to your PC), then you’re more than half way home.

In this case, you can just go tell the malware creator to go pound sand.

However, this may take just a bit of work on your part. You’re going to have to do a few thins to make certain you can safely get to your data.

Check the Status of your Backup
If your backup is done on line, through services like Carbonite or Backblaze, you should be ok.

If you’re using a backup drive that’s connected to your PC all the time, its likely infected and encrypted. However, if you’ve backed data up AFTER you got infected, its likely encrypted and should be considered bad. Do NOT use that data.

If its not always connected to your PC, do NOT connect it to your infected PC. CryptoWall/ CryptoLocker will encrypt it. Check the status of the backup from ANOTHER, uninfected PC and check the last backup date and perform a malware scan on it. Once verified clean, that’s the state of the data you’re going to get back.

If you’ve got all of your data on a cloud service drive, you’re in even better shape., as its likely NOT encrypted. Those services should be set to scan all the data that comes into their data centers and should prevent infections like CryptoWall or CryptoLocker from infecting them. You just need to restore your PC (see below) and then log back into your cloud service and resync your data.

Restore Your PC
After you have the back up drive for your PC identified and set aside, you’re going to need to restore your PC back to factory fresh status. You’re going to need to do this no matter what you do (pay the ransom, restore from a non0infected backup or use a mitigation tool. Once compromised, its not good to continue to use a Windows installation that’s been infected by such a serious piece of malware.

If you have something like a Surface Pro or other tablet/ convertible device do NOT restore from the device’s recovery partition. There’s no way to know that it hasn’t also become infected as well.

In that case, you’re going to need to download the recovery image on a separate computer and then burn that image to a DVD, also from that separate computer. Do that and set it aside

If you have a PC that has a set of restore DVD’s grab those now. Place the restore DVD (either the one you just made for your Surface or other similar device or the ones that come from your PC manufacturer) into either your PC’s DVD drive, or into a USB DVD drive connected to your computer.

You’ll need to set your UEFI or BIOS to boot from the DVD drive. Use that DVD to restore your computer. Once it finishes, and you can reinstall your backup software and a suitable malware scanner. After you’ve updated all of the appropriate malware definitions and performed a malware scan on your newly configured PC, THEN connect your backup drive to your PC.

Perform a second malware scan on your backup drive before the restore. Its better to be safe than sorry.

Once verified clean again, you can restore your data; and you should be good to go.

Use an Appropriate Mitigation Method
You should know up front that this is by far, the riskiest option of all. Its not easy, and you’re not guaranteed to be successful.

If you don’t have your data on some kind of cloud sync service, backed up to a drive that was connected to your PC BEFORE you got infected with CryptoWall/ CryptoLocker, and you aren’t using an online backup tool and you MUST get all of your data back, then you can try to use an appropriate mitigation method.

Now… this is where things get a bit sticky. If you’re not comfortable working with and modifying the Windows Registry, installing and updating hardware drivers or other low level components, then stop. It might be a good idea to take your infected computer to a trusted, reputable repair shop and let them handle it.

They’ll likely keep it for a few days. They may charge you $150 – $250 bucks to get rid of the virus; but you’ll likely get your computer back, with some to most of your data, without having to pay a huge sum to some crook.

In a nutshell, here are the steps you’ll need to perform:

  • Boot to Safe Mode
    In Windows 7, XP and Vista, you’ll need to restart or turn on your PC and quickly and continuously press F8 until you see the Advanced Boot Options screen. From here, you’ll have 30 seconds to use the up/down arrows to choose the “Safe Mode with Networking” option from the list and press the Enter Key.

In Windows 8/ 10, its best to start with the computer already on and sitting at the Windows Logon Screen.

Press and Hold the Shift key, and then click Restart. On the resulting screen select Troubleshoot – Advanced Options – Startup Settings, and then Restart. When your computer becomes active, select Enable Safe mode with Networking.

Let your PC boot into Safe Mode. Your PC should be up and running in Safe Mode. You should be logged in (do so if you aren’t) and you should have access to the Internet.

  • Download a Malware Removal App
    Open up a browser window and download SpyHunter or other spyware/ malware removal app. Purchase a licensed copy if you need to. Use it to remove CryptoLocker/ CryptoWall from your PC. Use that app to remove all of the malicious files that belong to the ransomware and complete the CryptoWall/ CryptoLocker removal.
  • Salvage your Data
    If this works, get your data off your computer and store it on a known clean drive. Then, refer back to the section above where I tell you how to rebuild your PC from scratch.Rebuild your PC from scratch.If you don’t get everything – and that’s possible, even with a good malware removal too – you don’t want to be on a PC that’s had ransomware on it. Rebuild your PC and then put your data back on it.

If that doesn’t work, or if your version of CryptoWall/ CryptoLocker prevents you from booting to Safe Mode with Networking, then you can try something else. However, if this doesn’t work, your options become limited.

  1. Boot into Safe Mode with Command Prompt
    In Windows 7/ XP/ Vista, restart or turn on your PC and tap F8 multiple times until you see the Advanced Boot Options window. Use the up and down arrows to move down to Safe Mode with Command Prompt and press Enter.In Windows 8/ 10, at the Windows login screen, press and hold the Shift key and then click Restart. On the resulting screen select Troubleshoot – Advanced Options – Startup Settings, and then Restart. When your computer becomes active, select Enable Safe Mode with Command Prompt in the Startup Settings Window.
  2. Restore your System Files and Settings with System Restore
    Once the Command Prompt window is available, you should be logged into your computer and the Command Prompt window should have you logged in to C:\Windows\system32Type – cd restore – and press the Enter keyType – rstrui.exe – and press the Enter key

    When System Restore comes up, click the Next button and then select a restore point that is PRIOR to you getting infected with CryptoWall/ CryptoLocker. After that, click the Next button again.

    A warning dialog will display, notifying you that System Restore can’t be interrupted. Click the Yes button and let System Restore run and complete.

  3. Remove the Virus Files
    After System Restore completes, you can reboot your PC. After that, you can download Spy Hunter or other spyware/ malware removal app. Use it to get rid of the malware files
  4. Attempt to Salvage your DataYou need to understand that using a mitigation method does NOT remove any encryption from your data. It just removes the malware. If you data is encrypted, you can try to use Windows’ Previous Versions feature to restore any files that may have been encrypted.To do that, find the file in question and right click it. Choose Properties from the context menu that appears. When the Properties dialog appears, look for the Previous Versions tab and look for a restore point for your file. Choose a date before you got infected, and follow the process.

    However, you need to understand that this method is ONLY effected after System Restore completes and the ransomware is removed. Ransomware often deletes Shadow Volume Copies and this method may fail to work.

Call it Quits and Restart from Scratch
Ransomware is a very SERIOUS piece of malware. If you get it and you end up with your data encrypted, depending on how adventurous or wealthy you are, you can try one of the methods that I’ve listed above, or you can cut your losses and call it a day.

In other words, you can simply resign yourself to the fact that your data is gone and you can rebuild your PC, again, using one of the rebuild methods I noted, above.

Depending on how much you trust the drive you’ve got, you may want to just go and buy a new hard drive for your computer, put it in, and then rebuild your PC from scratch, again, using one of the rebuild methods I noted, above.

There are a few advantages to this. While it consigns your files to a permanent rubbish bin, its likely a much safer way to go, especially if you catch it early in the encryption process.

Conclusion
Ransomware is a huge problem in many countries around the world, especially in the United States. Malware is EVERYWHERE on the internet, and you can get it from visiting dubious websites and even through ads that display in a browser window. You can get malware from email, from infected files and just about anywhere else on the internet.

While you’re clean, the best thing for you to do is to make a backup of all of your data. You can use a backup program, a cloud data service like Dropbox, Google Drive orOneDrive and the like. You can also use online backup programs like Carbonite or Backblaze. Whatever you do, though. Make a backup of your data.

If you do find that you get infected with ransomware, again, you have very limited options. You can:

  1. Pay the Ransom
  2. Restore from a Non-Infected Backup
  3. Use an Appropriate Mitigation Method
  4. Call it Quits and Restart from Scratch

There’s a price to each of these, either in cold hard cash, or in time. Unfortunately, despite any of these methods, you’re likely going to experience some data loss, unless you have a recent, uninfected backup. So the rule here, as always should be to back up early and often.

But again, if you do get infected, the best thing to do as quickly as you can, is to get off the internet, remove the malware, rebuild your system and then restore your data. How you pull this together is up to you, but it isn’t easy, and it can often create other problems that you didn’t initially anticipate.

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What’s Going to Make or Break the iPad Pro

It might not be what you think…

Introduction

The iPad Pro is now available at an Apple Store near you. With everything that it can do – differently – than your run of the mill iPad, this thing could be huge in the corporate world. However, its going to take a little bit; and not everyone or everything is keen on its (potential) success.

The iPad Pro is the first iPad you can take to work. It has a native keyboard. Previous iPads didn’t come with a native keyboard. They have a smart cover only. If you want some kind of a keyboard, you have to go third party; and then (nearly) all of those keyboards connect to your iPad via Bluetooth.

ipad pro

The iPad Pro has a native, hardware keyboard cover that that connects to the device via three small contacts on the long edge of the device. The keyboard is backlit, powered by the device, and provides a standardized, tactile experience when typing with it. While third party keyboards are available – like the Logitech CREATE – this is the first iPad keyboard available directly from Apple for their tablet.

There is one big caveat, though – the hardware upgrade cycle on the iPad Pro has to be longer than one year. It needs to be closer to three to five years, or something that more closely and appropriately matches corporate computer leasing cycles – which may be two to three years or longer. The hardware is expensive enough without having to draw to purchase something new each and every year.

Given that, this isn’t what is going to make the iPad Pro great.

The iPad Pro also has a new stylus called the Apple Pencil. This is the first stylus for iPad that Apple has created as a native accessory for the iPad.

I’m certain that Steve Jobs is now rolling over in his grave.

Steve was always adamant that the iPad would never have or need a stylus. In fact, back in 2010 when most mobile devices had plastic sticks for a stylus, Steve Jobs was adamant that the only stylus an iPad user would ever need was their index finger. It worked. It couldn’t get lost, and materially contributed to the productivity and simplicity of the device.

In essence… Steve Jobs gave us the finger. Oh goody…

The Apple Pencil has 2048 different levels of pressure sensitivity. It has a rechargeable battery (where 15 seconds of charge will give you 30 minutes of battery life). Its weighted and doesn’t feel like it will snap in half when you use it. It can be used for creative purposes (drawing, painting, calligraphy, etc.), for technical purposes like schematics and blueprints, as well as for handwriting and notes.

But this isn’t what will make the iPad Pro great.

Honestly, the one thing that will make the iPad Pro great, is the one thing that it really doesn’t have yet.

Apps

Yes, apps; and more importantly, iPad Pro specific apps.

The hardware is in place. The iOS ecosystem exists and functions well. The App Store is in place and sells apps for all iDevices. The one thing that the iPad Pro doesn’t have, though… is iPad Pro specific apps. I’m not talking about the creative side of the world. Things like the Adobe Creative Suite are easy to see in this space. I’m talking about other apps…

There are a few specific issues here that I want to touch on. I’ve been trying to work through this for a few days, so please bear with me. This isn’t something that is a huge get or anything for Apple or any other app developer. However, its going to require a bit of cooperation that currently doesn’t exist. It will need to happen if the iPad Pro is going to be the success that it can and needs to be for Apple to be successful in the enterprise.

But before I get into all of that mess, let’s talk apps. Apps are the key to the iPad Pro being a success in the enterprise. Without them, the iPad Pro remains nothing more, really than just a really big iPad, and nothing more.

Without apps, the iPad Pro is really nothing more than a really big iPad with a stylus that can now get lost. Without apps, the iPad Pro is really nothing more than a big iPad with a stylus that can now get lost AND with an over priced, cloth covered, keyboard cover.

But which apps? Really glad you asked…

Microsoft Office – Outlook, OneNote, Word, Excel and PowerPoint for iOS already exist. It might be nice if Microsoft came out with an iPad Pro specific version that was a bit more powerful, but even if they didn’t, the versions that we have will work; but what we have now should really be considered a baseline or the bare minimum of functionality. They work for any iDevice with any kind of keyboard. Differentiation should really be the mantra here (and keep that close to your thoughts – differentiation…).

CRM Services

Most CRM apps – like Salesforce and Microsoft CRM – are web apps. While those will definitely work on the iPad Pro via Safari or other iOS compatible browser, and are made the more powerful by the 128GB LTE version (because it has access to the web from anywhere where there’s a cell signal), a client based app with some kind of data capture and reporting capabilities (for running basic, client and/ or data specific reports) would be huge win on the iPad Pro platform.

With something like this on a tablet near you, you can manage cases, customer needs and concerns, sales and service requests, etc. With the right data on your machine and the right reporting engine, you can pull together detailed service analyses detailing parts needed or consumed within a specific quarter or on a specific device or machine model you suspect may have reached its end of life. The possibilities are endless with the right app – the right data and the right reporting engine can make all the difference when your trying to upsell service contracts to your top clients.

Microsoft Office and Related Tools

I’ve already talked a bit about Office and a more powerful iPad Pro only version. I’m not going to rehash that. Its fairly obvious. And speaking of Office, there are some enterprise level apps that are currently missing form the Apple side of the fence – Visio and Project are nowhere to be seen, and quite honestly, in order for any Apple hardware to be taken seriously in the enterprise and for them to be any thing else other than a second class enterprise citizen, Microsoft needs to pull together both Visio and Project for both OS X and iOS. While they’re at it, they could also bring some feature parity to OneNote for both OS X and iOS.

The one thing though that is missing from this is SharePoint.

SharePoint right now is a Windows PC only kinda thing. Microsoft doesn’t have any kind of SharePoint client for its own mobile platform (and who can blame them – they don’t have a true tablet and their mobile phone platform is a joke at less than a 3% world-wide market share, but… I digress), let alone one for Mac or Linux. However, if they came up with extensions that would allow Safari or Chrome (for Android) to access SharePoint sites on a company’s intranet.

From there, you could collaborate on Office based documents, share data, etc. In offices that make use of core Microsoft services, having access to SharePoint’s sharing and collaboration based services can make a huge difference to the productivity levels of its mobile management members who spend most of their work days moving from one conference room to another for one meeting to the next.

Networking and File System Utilities

Now… couple all THAT with VPN software, telnet clients and a way to mount local SMB file shares so you can browse and work with files while connected to a wireless network in either your office or while on the road through that VPN.

Your iPad just got a lot more professional looking.

In fact, its likely now more of a notebook replacement – or at least, notebook companion – than you thought it was just a few moments ago.

Now, let’s talk file system for just a second… The beauty of the iPad and nearly every other iDevice is that its light. Its fast. The OS doesn’t get bogged down by a bunch of resource hogging overhead that prevents you from doing what you want or need to do quickly.

This is partially due to the fact that iOS doesn’t work the way that your Mac does. I don’t know if everyone wants a full blown, user accessible, file system exposed. While it may solve some problems, its going to uncover others and create new ones.

The biggest problem with the lack of a file system is that users really can’t manage files locally. If you want to work with any of your data, you have to do it in the cloud, and then those apps that do it, don’t really allow you to organize or use your files the way you can on a desktop PC or notebook. In fact, only specific apps – like Pages, Numbers or Keynote – allow you to see what data you have, and then only those files that they can work with.

With the introduction of the iCloud Drive app in iOS 9.x, you now have a bit more control and access to your data in that cloud-based storage service, but its not the same as working with Finder on your Mac.

Apple needs to close the gap a bit, and then your data and files need to be accessible by any and all apps, not just those that are iCloud enabled. Think of this as iCloud Drive Sync Lite, or iCloud Drive Sync for iOS. I want and need to be able to access my data locally, when I’m offline, and then have the changes sync up.

Further, this lite file sync shouldn’t be limited to iCloud Drive, but should allow hooks for OneDrive and Google Drive. You should be able to get to your cloud based files no matter what file sync system you use. In order to help this happen, and to insure that its secure, its likely that the whole thing will need to be sandboxed. At least that way, if one of your files has a bug, the damage it can do is limited.

Engineering Utilities

I’m not going to go too deep here. However, there are some tools that for some specific vertical markets that are sorely needed.

A buddy of mine is a Cisco VoIP Engineer. He’s looking to the iPad Pro to help him do his job. Things like RTMT (Real Time Monitoring Tool) that allows VoIP engineers to view traffic passing over cable in real time. If there’s a problem with a router a connection or other item, this tool is going to help them narrow it down. Getting access to other corporate resources on the Cisco corporate network with Cisco AnyConnect VPN is also going to allow them to contact others with analytical information so problems can be solved and solutions put in place.

Yes. You’re right. This can be done with a Windows computer.

The need here is that a full size notebook is one more thing that they have to carry. Most Cisco VoIP engineers travel from client site to client site throughout the day. If they can get the same job done with a lighter, more compact tool than a Windows PC, they’re all over it.

The same can be said for other service techs that manage workstations, servers and other enterprise configurations like Active Directory and Azure servers. If you look at other vertical markets – Sales, medical and hospital, insurance…ANY kind of insurance – it all fits.

Support from Apple

So… what does Apple need to do? Well, that’s a really good question.

A lot of it relates to policy they’ve put in place to help them make money and other policy, but it comes down to a few different things.

Differentiation
Remember when I mentioned differentiation? Yeah. The iPad Pro is a different beast. The A9X processor is a desktop class processor. It can do a lot more than just play video, run an eBook reader or a web browser. It can crunch numbers and do complex graphic displays. Its great for games, but its also great for running presentations while on the go.

Its apps need to reflect its enhanced capabilities. The iPad Pro is more than just a big iPad. Its apps need to call out that difference, and need to do so loudly. The device is expensive. Apple needs to help users justify the cost.

The iPad Pro needs its own app classification. While it may run apps for any other iDevice, there should be some apps that run only on the iPad Pro – enhanced versions of MS Office for iOS, Visio for iOS, Project for iOS, etc.

On the creative side, there should be some drawing and graphic apps that contain iPad Pro only features and functions. One of the easiest ways to do that is to require the use of the Apple Pencil, for example. The point is that the apps that I use may run just fine on any other iPad out there, but should do something different… something special… on the iPad Pro. Users will pay a premium for this device. They need to feel as though they’re getting something for their premium dollar.

The other thing that Apple needs to do is develop a different software model for Professional apps. On the enterprise side, there are a number of apps out there that follow the old Shareware model where an app functions with full functionality for a set period of time after its installation. This gives users a chance to evaluate apps to see if they meet their expectations and needs. You can’t do this under the current App Store. Unfortunately, that needs to change on the enterprise side of the app world. We need to try before we buy, not buy before we try.

Apple’s Cut
To put it bluntly, Apple’s 30% cut might need to be reexamined here. Most enterprise apps are going to cost a heck of a lot more than $10 bucks. This works for Apple on the consumer side for a number of reasons. Mostly because when the App Store hit the market, it was the only thing of its kind. Developers don’t like it but don’t complain too loudly because they make the 30% up in volume.

You aren’t going to see that volume on the enterprise side of things. Not too many people use Project, Visio outside of a work situation. Regular folks won’t need Salesforce or Microsoft CRM. Apple’s going to have to figure out a way of getting their cut without gouging enterprise app developers. Enterprise app devs aren’t going to make the cut up on volume.

Apple may also need to reexamine its ban on subscriptions and in-app catalogs. Again, it works on the consumer side because devs can make up the cut on volume. Volume doesn’t really exist on the enterprise app side.

Conclusion

This seems pretty cut and dry to me. The iPad Pro, even with its new accessories – an electronic, rechargeable, pressure sensitive stylus and a native, device powered keyboard – at the end of the day is just a really big iPad with expensive (some may say overpriced) native accessories.

And they may be right…

If it wasn’t for the apps.

Apps, which ones come out and for which verticals, how they’re implemented and how broadly they appeal to both enterprise users and consumer users who want to do a little enterprise cross over, will be what makes or breaks the iPad Pro.

The iPad Pro needs things like CRM software, an enhanced and differentiated version of Microsoft Office (including Visio and Project) for the iPad Pro, if its going to have a chance at success. Its going to need specialized vertical apps that address very specific needs for Sales individuals, engineering and service individuals, insurance and medical professionals, etc.

More than that, app developers are going to need help from Apple in the form of incentives, and reworked or reimagined demo, beta and shareware app classifications in order to help sell enterprise apps that will undoubtedly cost a great deal more than a copy of Boom Beach or other popular game app.

Finally, Apple’s going to have to find a different way to get their cut of the App Pie. Charging 30% doesn’t sit well with consumer market app developers. The only reason why they haven’t left the App Store is due to volume. They know their going to get volume sales so they don’t complain, at least not too loudly. Volume sales shouldn’t be expected on the enterprise side, especially when you’re talking about vertical markets.

What do you think? Is the iPad Pro the ticket to Apple’s cut of the enterprise pie? Is it the apps more than any thing else with the iPad Pro that will make it a success or am I all wet behind the ears? Why don’t you sound off in the discussion area below and give me your thoughts on it all?

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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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Anyone Can Pick Up Malware

The past few weeks have been hellacious at Casa de la Spera…

I’ve been in computing since 1984. I have written more than I can remember without actually reviewing the stuff I’ve written. This includes seven years of columns on CompuServe’s Computing Pro forum as well as approximately 10,000 tips for Windows (95, 98, 98SE, NT, ME, 2000, and Windows 7), Internet Explorer, Office (95/97/2000/2007) and Windows-based Hardware, for WUGNET (The Windows User’s Group Network). I’ve written COUNTLESS software reviews for both Mac and Windows platforms; and I was nominated for Microsoft MVP for Windows Mobile at least twice between 2004 and 2007.

Yeah… I’m giving you the resume more for ME than for anyone else right now.

malwareOver the past few weeks, I’ve been dealing with some hacked email accounts over here; and quite honestly, it’s been very aggravating.

It started during the middle of October. I started seeing bounce notices hit my account, and I wasn’t certain why. Not all of them, or the delivery delay notices I got had the body of the original email with them. Some did. When I was able to look at what that was, it was clear that my Google Apps based email account had been compromised.

I immediately changed my password.

However, that didn’t resolve everything.

Gmail has a few different tools to help you protect your account if you think it’s been compromised, including signing out all web sessions. I did that and then changed my password – AGAIN – and signed back in. However, by that time, the damage had been done and Google had suspended my SMTP permissions. I couldn’t send any email. According to Google, I had sent over 5000 emails in the course of a 24 hour period.

At that point, I also noticed that my contact list had been increased by over 1500 entries, as well. Many of these were simply a strange looking address and nothing more. For example:

Atrix6969@don’t-stop.fr
fruit83@bandaid.co
sukey.pangu@legoland.co.uk

Many of the entries had either just the full email address as the contact name or firstname<dot>lastname as the contact name. Those were easy to spot and eliminate, though I had to go through my contact list at least 3-4 times. I didn’t get all of them, and somehow, they got repopulated (with different entries) a couple times. (I’m still pulling crap out of my contacts list…)

After upgrading my Google Apps instance from a grandfathered, less than 50 member free edition to a paid subscription, AND speaking with Google on this for over an hour, I submitted a ticket to get the account reinstated. It took them about two hours, but they put me back in business, and I was able to file a couple of articles with Soft32.

Things quieted down for about a week, and then it kicked in again, though this time, I was able to go through the process again, very quickly and then cut things off before I had sent 5000 emails. This went on – this back and forth – for about another week or so, then things just stopped.

Last weekend (the weekend of 2015-11-08), it started up again, and I got more bounce notices and some forwards back from a couple of people that my account had been hacked again.

That’s when I enabled two factor authentication on my Google Apps account and domain. Two factor authentication is where access to an online account requires not only the account user name and password, but also a validation token or code, usually sent to a mobile or smartphone. The validation token can also be sent via an authentication app.

At this point, I think I have control of the account again.

The bigger problems that remain –

  1. How was the account compromised more than once?
  2. How was it compromised after implementing a 13+ character (multi-chase, letters, numbers, and special character) password?
  3. What significance did the 1500+ additional address book entries play?
  4. Was there any hidden XML payload associated with any of the additional address book entries?
  5. When I deleted them, did I get them all?
  6. Would that even make a difference
  7. Did I pick up a key logger?

Yeah…

A key logger…

The answer at this point is, I don’t know. I’ve ordered a FixMeStick; and while that arrived and scans a mac running OS X 10.11, it currently can’t read a Mac boot drive running El Capitan.

In fact, the boot drive isn’t even visible to the FixMeStick. Thankfully, the vendor is aware of the issue and they’re working on a resolution. FixMeStick owners will have their sticks updated automatically once the solution is published.

My other saving grace is that Time Machine apparently doesn’t have the same security measures placed on its drive as the boot drive on a Mac running the OS. FixMeStick has scanned my Time Machine backup drive and hasn’t found any malware.

The big point that everyone needs to understand, however, is that anyone and everyone can get malware from just about anywhere on the internet. Ad networks are a huge problem. Malware can flow through those and can infect your computer even from a site you know and trust. Products like FixMeStick are helpful ; but you’ve got to be careful, especially right now.

Both Windows 10 and OS X 10.11 El Capitan are new operating systems. Existing anti-malware products may not work correctly on these operating systems as of this writing. They may need some updates.

You may also have issues with anti-malware products that run while your computer is running from its boot drive. It’s very possible that malware on your PC may hide from your scanner – no matter how good it is – and it either may not be detected, or may not be removable.

Unfortunately, this isn’t like the 1990’s. Getting malware today can be devastating and life altering, if not life ruining. Phishing attacks and other data breaches can lead to identity theft, and some of the damage related to it, may be difficult to come back from.

The lessons learned here should be multi-fold:

  1. Mind where you surf
  2. Have some kind of malware scanner running, regardless of platform, and keep its definitions current
  3. Invest in some sort of offline, self-booting anti-malware solution so that stubborn threats can be removed without being activated

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Feature Review – OS X 10.11 – El Capitan

Introduction

os_x_el_capitan_roundup

Security!

Stability!!

Give me these or give me, well… give me another operating system!

Out of the darkness and the despair, the cry of the people went up; and the benevolent wizards in the magic land called Cupertino heard them. They toiled long and hard. They worked day and night. They sent forth version after (public beta) version of their magic spells until finally on 2015-09-30, shortly after the final rendering that was heralded by the appearance of the blood moon… it was completed.

El Capitan… OS X 10.11… and the Wizards of Cupertino saw that it was good… and so, wishing to protect their progeny, they sent it forth…

If you have a Mac running OS X 10.10.x, then you can run Yosemite. Is it the operating system for you? Will it run well, even on a Late 2008 or Early 2009 MacBook? Does it offer the kind of performance boot and security enhancements that you’ve been looking for? Is it safe for you to upgrade, knowing that some apps might not be ready yet?

We’re going to take a look at these questions and others as we look at El Capitan and its natural progression and growth from Yosemite into, what Apple (and all the Wizards of Cupertino) hope will be the best version of their desktop OS yet.

Let’s see if we can wade through the hype (and yeah… my BS…) and take a look and see what El Capitan brings to the table. Is it worth putting on your Mac? Let’s find out…

Experience

It started with Yosemite; and Apple said it when they announced OS X El Capitan – they’ve called the name of the mountain; and given everyone a natural progression of what Yosemite was. El Capitan is what comes next.

I’m making a big deal about the name of the new OS and the name of the mountain that’s depicted as the default desktop wall paper in both OS X 10.10 and 10.11. The mountain is in the park; and the park’s most notable and biggest attraction is the mountain. By drawing this analogy between the mountain and both operating systems, Apple is basically telling you that OS 10.11 is a natural progression of OS X 10.10. And that’s basically true… at least from what I’ve been able to see of the new OS during the time that I’ve been able to use it.

Changes to OS X in El Capitan can really be divided into two different categories – Experience and Performance. El Capitan is a gives you even simpler, smarter ways to do the things you do the most with your Mac – Like working in multiple apps at the same time, searching for information, keeping tabs on your favorite websites, or checking email, or taking notes.

And there are some changes. All of them add value to the OS X experience. Some of them create issues and problems for users. I’ll touch on some of those later.

However, what you should take from this “tock” styled update, is that the El Capitan experience is familiar and something that nearly every Yosemite user is going to feel comfortable with; and (should be) instantly productive in (again, provided your core apps aren’t broken under El Capitan. I have more on that below…

Performance

Improvements under the hood make your Mac snappier and more efficient in all kinds of everyday tasks — from opening PDFs to accessing your email. And with Metal for Mac, you get faster and more fluid graphics performance in games, high-performance apps, and many other places.

In OS X El Capitan we’ve made all kinds of things run faster — like accessing email and launching or switching between apps. It’s these little things that make your Mac feel faster and more responsive. And we’ve brought Metal to Mac, so you experience more fluid performance in games, high-performance apps, and key system-level graphics operations.

Now things you do every day — like launching and switching apps, opening PDFs, and accessing email — are faster and snappier. OS X El Capitan makes your Mac feel more fluid and responsive.

  • Up to 1.4x faster app launch
  • Up to 2x faster app switching
  • Up to 2x faster display of first mail messages
  • Up to 4x faster pdf opening in preview

    Metal

One of the biggest developments and improvements in OS X 10.11 is Metal. Metal is a new graphics core technology. It gives games and apps near-direct access to the graphics processor on your Mac, allowing for enhanced performance and a richer graphical experience. Metal speeds system-level graphics rendering by up to 50%, as well as making it up to 40%more efficient on resources, compared with Yosemite, on equivalently speced Macs.

In a nut shell, Metal allows your Mac’s CPU and its graphics processor to work more effectively together, boosting high-performance apps. The most obvious benefit of Metal will be to games, but any high performance app – like Photoshop, iMovie, or any other graphic or video intensive app – will benefit from its up to 10x performance boost

Core Application Issues

When I say “core application” I really don’t mean apps that Apple has written, like any of the iWork components or Mail or iTunes. What I’m really talking about is Office 2016 for Mac. When El Capitan was released, it was released AFTER Office 2016 for Mac hit the streets. If you upgraded Yosemite to El Capitan with Office 2016 for Mac installed, you were – unfortunately and unknowingly – in for a very serious problem.

Office 2016 for Mac doesn’t run on El Capitan 10.11.0.

Since I started writing this review AND since the release of OS X 10.11.1, both Apple and Microsoft have released updates to the OS and to the suite to resolve the issues. However, it got dicey there for a while…

Features & Improvements

Security Updates

OS X 10.11 builds on the security model in Yosemite and takes it to the next level. Security is a big part of the El Capitan Update over OS X 10.10. Here, I’m going to touch on three of the biggest updates that Apple has made to its flagship OS’ security underpinnings.

System Integrity Protection (SIP)

Over the years, Macs have enjoyed a bit of anonymity. Hackers and malware writers didn’t target them because, quite honestly, they didn’t have the user base for most of these bad guys to bother with. That’s changing now.

In earlier versions of OS X, Apple introduced things like Sandboxing and Gate Keeper to help protect users from malignant code. Sandboxing requires programs to run in a defined memory segment, without the ability to write code to other parts of the computer. Gate Keeper effectively limits application installs from everywhere but trusted sources. In El Capitan, Apple is hardening its security model with System Integrity Protection (or SIP for short).

SIP prevents programs or users with insufficient security credentials to writing any files to /System, /bin, /usr (except /usr/local), and /sbin. This prevents malignant programs from In other words, it provides a type of root-level protection to the Mac similar to what the iPhone and iPad have benefited from for years.

Code injection and runtime attachments are no longer permitted, though expert users who really want to will still be able to access the system as deeply can still make system level changes that will allow them to do so. If you run apps like or TotalFinder, you’re going to find that they either do not work now, or you have to either fully or in part, disable SIP.

You can find instructions on disabling SIP here.

Some apps like Bartender, only need SIP disabled during install. After that, SIP can be reenabled.

System Integrity Protection helps keep your computer secure by preventing unwanted and malicious, privilege escalations.

App Transport Security

Web apps are gaining in popularity. Apps like Outlook.com and Gmail are hugely popular, and that TYPE of app are only going to become more prevalent. In order to insure that the data transmissions between your computer and the web server that the app is actually running on are secure, Apple added Application Transport Security to OS X. In El Capitan, that’s TLS 1.2, but as stronger transports become available, ATS will push everyone towards them as well. This type of security is insanely important in that without this secure layer, not only will productivity apps like Gmail and Outlook transmit data in the open for nearly everyone with a packet sniffer to see, but shopping apps that use the same secure transports will also pass insecure payment and credit card data back and forth.

Security protocols like this help make the future of online activity – whether that’s mail, or productivity (like Google Apps or Microsoft Office Online) or shopping apps safe to use

Privacy

El Capitan helps make computing more secure by protecting your privacy. Apple inverts the current cloud computing model by bringing the cloud down to your Mac, and not the more traditional model, which is the other way around. The easiest way to see a tangible example of this, is Spotlight.

When you search for data through Spotlight, you simply type a question and the search results are brought to your desktop. In a more traditional search model, you go to a web site – say Google or Bing – and search for something. You… go to the data, putting your security and your privacy at risk. In the Mac model, this is reversed. The data, comes to you, as it should be.

The best thing here is that when you use an Apple Online service, your personal data and the data you searched for and retrieved isn’t shared with any online service. You just get your results. This lowers the risk of your personal and/ or private data being inappropriately or inadvertently shared with other individuals or other companies. How well this works over time in terms of service quality and what you can and cannot search for based on what’s shared and retrieved, remains to be completely seen.

Feature Updates

El Capitan makes several updates to many of OS X’s key features. I’m going to highlight some of the more visible and more important feature updates in OS X 10.11.

Split View

Everyone is used to running multiple apps on their computer or laptop screens. I mean, we’ve been doing this really since 1990 blah-blah-blah and Windows 3.x. You get from one open app to the other by using ALT-Tab. Its very easy.

On the Mac side of the world, it’s the same way. We’ve been able to swap bits between apps since 1984 and Finder 1.0, if you really want to get down to brass tacks. You get from one app to another by using Command-Tab. Its also very easy here.

The big problem is that some times, all the other apps you might have open are nothing more than noise. Yes, you can try to Tile your open windows, but in many cases, if you don’t watch it, you can wind up with every open app window sitting next to every OTHER app window on your computer screen. When all you wanted was two apps side by side, this is hugely annoying.

Split View 01

In El Capitan, Apple takes a queue from Microsoft’s Snap feature and has given us Split View. With Split View, you can automatically fill your computer screen with two apps of choice. To get to Split View, you can either get there from Mission Control or from a full screen app. If you already have an app running full screen, you can drag another Split View compatible app to its desktop thumbnail at the top of the Mission Control Screen. Both apps will appear in Split View.

The other way is to click and hold the green full screen button with your mouse. The left half of the screen will become shaded in blue. Release your mouse button to open the current window on the left half of your screen. Any other compatible, non-minimized apps will show up on the other half of the screen as thumbnails. Simply click the other app you want to use in Split view.

Microsoft does this on the Windows side with Snap. You can get there in a similar fashion, and popping content back and forth between apps is just as easy via Windows Snap as it is with OS X Split View.

Mission Control

Mission Control 01

A streamlined Mission Control makes it easier to see and organize everything you have open on your Mac. With a single swipe, all the windows on your desktop arrange themselves in a single layer, with nothing stacked or hidden. Mission Control places your windows in the same relative location, so you can spot the one you’re looking for more quickly. And when you have lots of windows competing for real estate, it’s now even simpler to make more room for them. Just drag any window to the top of your screen, and drop it into a new desktop space. It’s never been this easy to spread out your work.

Mission Control 02

 

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Unboxing the Olio Model One

The latest – and last – candidate in our 2015 smartwatch roundup has finally arrived.

Over the course of the last year, I’ve been doing a very extended roundup of smartwatches. The final piece of hardware for the roundup arrived yesterday (and there’s quite a story wrapped around its shipment and delivery…). I present for your consideration – the Olio Model One.

As you can see in the unboxing video, above, the Olio Model one just oozes luxury from the very beginning. I knew I was unboxing something special when I saw that the packing material inside the shipment box was custom cut foam.

The box and packing materials are of the type that you’d think you’d find with the purchase of a luxury time piece. The watch box is bound in soft, black leather, and the watch itself is securely packed with a suede wrapped liner. The box has two small compartments on either side of the watch – the left one containing the micro USB power cable and the right containing a cleaning cloth, extra watch bracelet links, a safety and user guide and a getting started guide.

Here are my first impressions on the watch and my initial out of box experience with it.

Hardware
Olio Model OneThe hardware is flawless. It looks great, feels great, and is solidly made. The build quality is high and Olio gets top marks in this regard. Unfortunately, it goes straight south after coming out of the box.

The getting started instructions tell you to plug the charging cable into the magnetic charging plate and to attach it to the back of the watch. After that, the watch turns on and you’re instructed to run through the watch’s setup procedure.

That was fine, but the watch gets HOT when charging.

I mean it gets, “burn your hands and I can’t pick this up or hold it” hot when it is charging. I had a VERY difficult time completing the setup procedure because I had to put the watch down multiple times. It was simply too hot to handle. It took me over two hours to complete the setup because the watch was too hot to handle, and I made a few mistakes with it while trying to work with the watch.

After I was finally able to finish setup, the Model One wasn’t done charging so I placed it on my desk and left it to charge overnight. I actually wondered if the watch would get hot enough to burn my desk or cause a fire, it got so hot… and no. I’m not exaggerating.

Watch UI
So far, the UI on the watch seems about as intuitive as a nuclear missile silo. Moving through the available screens doesn’t seem to work very well, because for some reason, my touch screen doesn’t seem to do anything when I tap it. I have to give it the ol’ “hello…! McFly..!!” treatment to try to get the screen to turn on so I can even see what time it is. It doesn’t seem to have a “lift to display” feature like the Apple Watch does. There are no buttons on the watch and it doesn’t have a crown – digital or otherwise – to turn or push to try to get the display to turn on.

One of the first thing that Olio tells you to do is to go through its tutorials; and it’s a good thing, because the print on the getting started guide is very, VERY small and it was very difficult for me to read, even with my glasses on.

Once you know how to move through the watch screens and to get to its Settings and other function screens, there appears to be a particular “touch” that you need to employ in order to actually get to the screens.

This is not easy to master.

It takes a while to find just the right amount of pressure and just the right spot on the screen in order for the UI to correctly interpret your intent. I still haven’t gotten this right consistently.

Companion Software
I really need to spend more time with the Model One’s app. There are some initial items of concern here; but it’s entirely possible that those concerns may disappear after I become more familiar with it. I don’t want to comment too much on this just yet.

Conclusion
Yeah…

I dunno.

The jury is definitely still out on this one. Unfortunately, the Olio Model One didn’t hit the home run out of the box that I was hoping for; and I’m somewhat disappointed the morning after doing the unboxing.

I’m going to do my best to get through this as unbiased as possible, but out of the gate, while the hardware – the Olio Model One itself – is nearly everything that you thought it would be by looking at Olio’s product offering on their website, the hardware isn’t worth squat if there are UI, companion software or worse yet, charging issues.

I’m targeting the end of November 2015 for the completion of this review. If there’s anything in particular that you’d like me to look at specifically – device software/ UI, companion software, battery charging and battery life or hardware – I’d love to hear from you. Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and post your questions or concerns. I’ll do my best to address them during the review and to keep everyone posted on how things go.

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Microsoft Changes OneDrive Storage Options

Now this truly sucks, as it was one of the reasons why I bought Office 365 in the first place...

In a surprise move that took many off guard, Microsoft has announced sweeping storage changes to its OneDrive online storage product, which is similar in function and scope to both Dropbox and to Google Drive. Users will now be limited to 1TB of storage. Here is the complete list of changes that users can find on the OneDrive Blog.

  • We’re no longer planning to offer unlimited storage to Office 365 Home, Personal, or University subscribers. Starting now, those subscriptions will include 1 TB of OneDrive storage.
  • 100 GB and 200 GB paid plans are going away as an option for new users and will be replaced with a 50 GB plan for $1.99 per month in early 2016.
  • Free OneDrive storage will decrease from 15 GB to 5 GB for all users, current and new. The 15 GB camera roll storage bonus will also be discontinued. These changes will start rolling out in early 2016.

Microsoft is taking the following actions to help users make the transition:

  • If you are an Office 365 consumer subscriber and have stored in excess of 1 TB, you will be notified of this change and will be able to keep your increased storage for at least 12 months.
  • If you are an Office 365 consumer subscriber and find that Office 365 no longer meets your needs, a pro-rated refund will be given.
  • If you are using more than 5 GB of free storage, you will continue to have access to all files for at least 12 months after these changes go into effect in early 2016. In addition, you can redeem a free one-year Office 365 Personal subscription (credit card required), which includes 1 TB of OneDrive storage.
  • Current customers of standalone OneDrive storage plans (such as a 100 or 200 GB plans) are not affected by these changes.

onedrive-logo-microsoft-212x212Like all things in life that get ruined, Microsoft is blaming a “small number of users” who had more than the “average” of 1TB. In these cases, it was found that these users had pushed over 75TB of space (or 14,000 times the normal user). These users pushed files like PC backups, DVR collections, or their entire digital movie collection up to OneDrive.

And who could blame them – Microsoft had PROMISED, and users had paid for (via their paid Office 365 subscription), unlimited storage. I’m not certain why Microsoft seems to be taking this retaliatory step against its users. Isn’t unlimited, unlimited??

To be honest, I never saw unlimited storage. To be honest, I called Microsoft and they ASSURED me (after unlimited storage was announced earlier this year) that I had unlimited storage space. I didn’t buy it then… and I’m OBVIOUSLY seeing the end results very clearly – NO UNLIMITED STORAGE FOR YOU!

I honestly do NOT think that this is a case of a few bad apples (spoiling the whole bunch girl). I honestly think this is a case of someone finally waking up and having, what I like to call, a V8 moment.

If you offer unlimited (and people have purchased it) people are going to make use of unlimited . It’s stupid to think that someone would not put all of this content in OneDrive if they could.

I mean, is “unlimited” unlimited or not?

It’s a simple yes or no question. One year ago, the answer was yes. Today’s move seems to say, “Psych! We weren’t really serious. Did y’all think we were serious?!”

While I’m being, perhaps a bit sarcastic and maybe a bit callous, the move to unlimited storage was a huge benefit for Office 365 Home and Business users (users of Office 365 Personal got only one (1) account with unlimited storage, even though they could share their subscription benefits). As I mentioned earlier, it’s what finally pushed me over the edge and made me bite. It was a better deal than Dropbox (still is) and a better deal than Google Drive.

I’ve been reading and researching information on this on and off all day. The biggest possible reasons behind a change in product alignment may be

  1. The marketing promotion on OneDrive and Office 365 that offered unlimited storage may have ended.
  2. Microsoft may have realized that they can’t sustain an “unlimited storage” offering. It may be too costly or too unwieldly to manage (or both)
  3. With the 2015 Holidays on the horizon, they may see a wave of new, potential Office 365 subscribers coming, and may not want or be able to provide unlimited storage to existing and new customers.

Any way you cut it, though, this is not being received very well.

This doesn’t affect me much. I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 35GB of documents and files on OneDrive. The new 1TB limit doesn’t affect me much, as I am not likely to put all of my photos or other media files on OneDrive, though I had been considering placing some of my unboxing videos there. That likely won’t happen now.

What’s still up in the air about all of this is OneDrive for Business.

At one point, Microsoft said they would extend the unlimited storage option to OneDrive for Business customers. That didn’t happen, and at this point, Microsoft isn’t saying whether or not OneDrive for Business will get unlimited storage or not. Their Office 365 roadmap still shows that offering as “in development.”

Users are truly up in arms about this , as Microsoft was effectively offering (depending on how you look at it) unlimited OneDrive storage with free Office 365 use for $11 per month or the other way around. That is huge compared to companies like Dropbox, iCloud and Google whose product offerings can be seen in the table below:

OneDrive Dropbox Google Drive iCloud
Free

5GB

2GB

30GB

5GB

30GB

N/A

N/A

Free

N/A

50GB

$2

N/A

N/A

$1

100GB

N/A

N/A

$2

N/A

200GB

N/A

N/A

N/A

$3

1TB

$7/ $10*

$10

$10

$10

10TB

N/A

N/A

$100

N/A

20TB

N/A

N/A

$200

N/A

30TB

N/A

N/A

$300

N/A

*Office 365 Personal is $7 a month, and gives a single user access to 1TB of OneDrive Storage. Office 365 Home is $10 a month and gives up to five (5) users access to 1TB of OneDrive Storage.
All costs are rounded to the nearest US Dollar, and are charged monthly.

These are the big storage players out there. Given that OneDrive was really the one to start the cloud storage war, their retreat back to such a small product offering seems a bit strange. Given the costs outlined above, Google Drive is back on top as the most cost effective STORAGE plan out there. However, Microsoft still offers both Office 2016 (or the most current version) plus the online/ cloud based storage amounts I’ve noted. How that plays out and what that might actually mean to you in terms of monthly cost, clearly falls under the “your mileage may vary” category.

What does this actually mean for Microsoft??

That’s a very good question. At this point, it’s all up in the air.

However, you have to think of a few things, here.

  1. Microsoft realized they bit off more than they could chew with unlimited storage and decided that the bad PR was worth what they estimated they could save in storage costs
  2. Bandwidth and enterprise storage is expensive, even for someone like Microsoft who decided to get into the storage business, when they started offering what is now called OneDrive a few years ago
  3. Microsoft has focused the identification of their target customer as either an Office 365 Home or Office 365 Personal customer who isn’t storing more than 1TB of data (obviously) in the cloud.
  4. Microsoft is likely fine/ ok with losing customers who do not fit this mold and doesn’t seem to be concerned about
  5. Microsoft doesn’t seem concerned with the bad press they are likely to get as a result of these decisions
  6. Given Microsoft’s track record in the “bad decision department,” I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to see them reverse this decision within the next week or so

What do you make of all of this? Are you an Office 365 Home or Personal customer? Are you one of the naughty users who had more than 1TB of data in OneDrive? Are you a OneDrive for Business customer? Do you expect Microsoft to make good on the unlimited storage offer still on their roadmap, or will that also fall victim to this new product refinement?

Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area, below and give me your thoughts on the matter?

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