Windows 10 on a Low-End Windows Tablet

There aren’t enough pain relievers for crap like this…

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I have a 32bit Dell Latitude ST2 Windows Pro tablet. It came to me as a review unit while I was writing at InformationWeek’s BYTE. I’d point you to that URL, but unfortunately, UBM has finally retired it (along with most of the writing and editing staff. Boy do they like to do “strategic shifts” over there…) Originally, the device ran Windows 8.0. It got upgraded to Windows 8.1 and then Windows 8.1 Update before finally moving to Windows 10 in October of last year when the Windows 10 Technical Preview began.

As you may recall, I put Windows 10 on it, and its performance with the new OS in ALL builds so far has been… well… yeah. To be blunt, it’s been painful… at best.

So, while I was having issues with my Surface Pro 3, I was also having issues getting Windows 10 Build 10041 on my Dell Latitude 10 ST2. That was a particularly bad couple of weeks or so. In order to resolve the bricked state that the Dell was in, I had to contact Dell Support and was fortunate enough to have them send me a Recovery USB Stick. It put the tablet back to Windows 8, which, again, is what the tablet originally shipped with; but at least it was working again, and I could do SOMETHING with it.

After I had Windows 8 on it, I could have gone through the entire upgrade path again from Windows 8 to 8.1 and then to 8.1 Update; but with the prospect of installing well over 200 individual updates, I passed. Instead, I tried putting Build 10041 on it. I was able to get the build on the device, after booting from a USB stick that had the ISO burned to it. I then updated it to Build 10049, but that update failed and auto rolled back. That, unfortunately bricked the tablet again.

I restored the tablet back to Windows 8 and put Windows 10 Build 10041 back on and left it there. Please note that I was able to install Windows 10 Build 10041 from a USB stick with NO issues.

Queue the other evening when Build 10061 was offered as an upgrade. The Dell tablet downloaded the update and attempted to install it. Initially, the installed failed without upgrading to Build 10061 and tried to roll back to Build 10041. This, again, NEARLY bricked the tablet. The tablet would NOT connect to the internet after that and had a great deal of problems even booting up. So… back to Windows 8 via the Dell stick again.

I wanted to get to Windows 10 Build 10061. So, I built a bootable USB stick with the 32bit version of official Build 10041 ISO and booted the tablet with that USB stick. I ran into several ,very strange, new issues with that install :

1.Touch screen is disabled

The touch screen is totally disabled when booting from the USB stick (created with Rufus 2.1.649). In order to complete the install, you must connect an external keyboard and mouse to the docking station that is available for this Windows 8.x Pro tablet. The tablet seems to have frozen once you get to the initial setup screen (choose keyboard, language, etc.) due to the touch screen not being recognized.

2.The onboard USB 2.x port Works Intermittently

This may be appearance only, due to the touch screen issue above, but there are times when trying to boot from the on-tablet USB port that the tablet simply does not boot from the USB stick and goes right into Windows 8.x

3.Many Drivers Missing, Device Not Functional

I found that with both Builds 10041 and 10061, Windows 10 would install clean from an ISO, but many of the drivers for the device were missing. Wi-Fi does not work, as the drivers for the built in wireless card did not install. There were roughly 10-12 “Unknown” devices in Device Manager. The tablet is unable to connect to the internet via wireless OR the LAN port in the docking station, as drivers for both did not install. The Wi-Fi card is obviously, one of the unknown devices. The LAN port on the docking station is identified, but drivers for the device didn’t install with the build and are not found when you try to install them manually.

The only way I was able to get ANY connectivity was through a USB Ethernet dongle that the tablet was able to recognize and install drivers for, but ONLY via one of the USB ports on the docking station (and not the one on the tablet, as it didn’t work). Unfortunately, drivers for the unknown devices would not install, even when attempting to download and install one via Device Manager. None of them were identified or found.

Upgrading to Build 10061 via a wired connection through the USB Ethernet dongle did NOT fix the problem. The touch screen was still disabled. All devices that were unknown were still unknown.

This wasn’t an issue in previous builds, nor in initially joining the Insider’s program with earlier builds.

I was able to get Build 10061 on the tablet, however. Instead of going through the update and upgrade process, however (as that proved not to work…AGAIN), I wiped the tablet and restored it back to Windows 8.x. I copied the ISO for Build 10041 to the tablet’s Downloads directory. From there, I mounted the ISO and ran setup.exe. The build installed and ALL of the device’s drivers installed as well, meaning that the touch screen works, the on-device USB port works, etc.; AND there were no unrecognized devices in Device Manager.

After that worked, I did the same thing with the ISO for Build 10061. It also installed over Build 10041 without issue and ALL of the devices on the tablet are recognized and seem to be working appropriately. After this, however, I have come to one very clear conclusion:

Windows 10 on older, less powerful devices seems to be a huge problem. My Dell tablet has an Intel Atom Z2760 processor running at 1.80Ghz. It’s a bit underpowered, and Windows 10 seems to have a huge problem performing well on it.

Given that Microsoft is realistically targeting July 2015 for the RTM of Windows 10, there are many who believe – me included – that July is an unrealistic release time frame. Windows 10 isn’t ready for prime time at this point and July, even for Desktop, seems unrealistic and overly aggressive.

Are you running Windows 10 on a budget tablet? There are a number of them out there. My Dell is one. Microcenter makes a couple – the TW700 Series and the TW800 Series. HP offers the Stream 7.

All of these are running low-end Intel processors. While they may have dual or quad cores, they don’t really have a lot of punch. They also don’t have a lot of RAM. The Winbooks are a bit better as they are running Baytrail processors as opposed to Atoms in the Dell and HP, but in the end, I suspect that ALL tablets that are running Windows 8.x and eventually the DESKTOP version of Windows 10 (because that’s their upgrade path…) will have performance issues.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, as the WinBooks, the Dell and the HP are all GREAT offerings for a cheap way to get into a Windows tablet, but if their performance is so horrible, they may end up being used as Frisbee’s more than actual computing devices. Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and tell me what you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, as I kinda feel as though I’m eating my own dog food on this one.

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Microsoft Releases Windows 10 Build 10061 to Fast Ring Insiders

If you in the Fast Ring, you’ve got a new build to install…

Windows 10 Insiders have a new build to play with. If, they’re on the Fast Ring, that is. Build 10061 was released to Windows Insiders on 2015-04-22, but late in the day. This release comes a full three weeks after the release of Build 10049 to the Fast Ring. While builds 10051, 10056 and even 10061 leaked to the general public, neither build 10051 nor 10056 were official releases to either the Fast or Slow Insider’s Rings.

Windows_10_Build_10061_Wide

As this is a Fast Ring only build – at least for now – Microsoft isn’t releasing ISO’s for this build (files that can be used to burn DVD’s with). That only happens when a build is released to Slow Ring Insiders. Unfortunately, this is where the problems come in.

During any beta cycle, most experienced testers will want to do a clean install when a new build is released. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible with Build 10061, at least right now, for a few reasons.

  1. Official ISO’s Haven’t Been Released
    The Windows Update process doesn’t download or use an ISO file. It uses an ESD file, and that file – effectively a compressed or encrypted ISO – can’t be directly burned to a DVD. The file also self destructs after Windows Update installs the new build, so you can’t burn a DVD with an ESD. Microsoft’s current policy since the beginning of Technical Preview 2 at the beginning of February 2015 is to release official ISO’s only when a build makes it to Slow Ring Insiders.
  2. The ESD File for Windows 10 Build 10061 is Encrypted
    That’s a bit of a misnomer. ALL ESD files are encrypted. However, the ESD file for Build 10061 uses a new RSA encryption key that current ESD decryption tools used to make ISO’s with, can’t unlock. This means that UNNOFFICIAL ISO’s that were created by end users with ESD’s from Builds 10041, 10049 and the leaked builds of 10051 and 10056 can’t be created from the ESD in Build 10061.

However, I’m certain that the RSA key that’s being used by the ESD in Build 10061 will be cracked in short order and the ESD conversion tool that’s being used by most to create ISO’s will be updated. Its just a matter of time.

With Build 2015 also just around the corner, its likely that Build 10061 will be obsolete by 2015-04-29. I would expect that Microsoft will release a new build of Windows 10 along with ISO’s as part of the Build key note address. While this is generally expected, however, we’ll all need to wait and see.

In the mean time, here’s a run down of new features and fixed and known issues with the latest build of Windows 10, Build 10061:

New Features
New Mail and Calendar Apps
The tiles in the Start Menu/ Screen should be fixed with this release. The actual apps have better performance and bring the familiar three-pane UI to all of these apps. There’s also a way to quickly move between Mail and Calendar. The Mail app has customizable Swipe Gestures. These allow you to swipe left or right to take actions like, delete, flag, move a message or mark it as read/ unread. Mail takes its queues from Word, allowing you to easily insert tables, add pictures and use bullets or color with your text. Both apps support Office 365, Exchange, Outlook.com, Gmail, IMAP and POP accounts.

Start, Taskbar, and Action Center Improvements
Build 10061 introduces a new black system theme across the Start Menu, Taskbar and Action Center. Both the Start Menu and the Task bar now have transparency. You can now resize the Start Menu. All three elements can be themed via Autocolor, which pulls the primary color from your desktop background and applies it to these system components.
You can also adjust the color and transparency settings for these system components through Personalization. The power button has also been moved to the bottom left from the top right of the Start menu to make it more accessible.

Continuum Improvements
Also known as Tablet Mode, improvements in Continuum include an optimized Taskbar for tablets. When you enter Tablet Mode, the Start button, Cortana, and the Task View buttons to all grow in size and space out to be more touchable. Items in the Notification area are also more touchable thanks to optimized spacing. Pinned and running apps are removed by default to reduce clutter. Start and Task Views remain available for launching apps and switching between them. If you really must see apps on the Taskbar, an option exists in Tablet Mode Settings that will allow you to turn them back on. Additional settings allow you to boot directly into Tablet Mode, and this is the default setting for devices under 10 inches in size.

Task View Improvements
There are a number of improvements to Task View. The window icons, close buttons and thumbnails have all been refined. You will also see these elements in ALT-Tab and Snap Assist. Task view also gets a new icon on the Taskbar.

Virtual Desktop improvements
You can now create an unlimited number of virtual desktops. A new overflow experience lets you access any one of them once you hit the limit on your display.

Issues
The following are fixed and known issues for Build 10061. Care should be taken to read through the known issues section to insure that you know what you’re getting when you install the build, in case you bump into any of them while using the Windows 10 Technical Preview.

Fixed Issues

  • We have fixed the issue where Indexing of new email in Outlook was not working.
  • We have fixed the issue with Hyper-V preventing you from enabling it.
  • Visual Studio will no longer crash when creating a new Universal app project.
  • We fixed a few issues in Project Spartan. You can now double-click on the titlebar to maximize. We have also made some tweaks to the alignment of the Favorites Bar so that the text and icons no longer appear partially below the bottom of the Favorites Bar.

Known Issues

  • Win32 (desktop) apps won’t launch from the Start menu. You must use search to find and launch these apps and pin them to your taskbar in order to save yourself from having to search for them each time you want to run them.
  • Windows Store Beta (grey tile) and Project Spartan get unpinned after upgrading to Build 10061.
  • Typed characters in the new Mail and Calendar apps , version 17.4008.42281.0, included in Build 10061 appear twice. Fixes for this issue are already deployed to Windows Store Beta and updated apps will download automatically.
  • Cortana will highlight things it will be able to help users with, but some of these features are not yet implemented and Microsoft is working to deliver them soon.
  • During logi in/out, your mouse cursor may appear on a black screen. Microsoft is working to resolve this and an update will be deployed via Windows Update when ready.
  • Downloading music in the Xbox Music and Music Preview apps is currently broken. Microsoft is working to resolve this and an update will be deployed via Windows Update when ready.
  • Audio may stop playing through an active app if it is minimized.
  • Selected text in the Project Spartan address bar does not highlight. Microsoft is working to resolve this and an update will be deployed via Windows Update when ready.
  • Magnifier does not work when you put it into docked mode. Microsoft is working to resolve this and an update will be deployed via Windows Update when ready.

Did you install Build 10061? What has been your experience so far? Is this something that you can use for your daily driver? Do you think that with the improvements made in Build 10061 that Microsoft will make the rumored July release date? Is Windows 10 ready for a larger, wider audience? Why don’t you join me in the Discussion area below and let us know how Windows 10 is performing for you?

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Windows 10 Preview Builds to Come More Frequently

According to Gabe Aul, it’s about to get hot in their kitchen…

Windows10

I’ve spent a great deal of my early to mid-adult life in the South Eastern United States. When you hear someone tell you that it’s about to “get hot in the kitchen,” what they mean is that things is fixin’ ta get real busy. According to Gabe Aul, the Microsoft exec in charge of the Windows 10 Insider program for the Windows 10 Technical Preview, its fixin’ ta get hot in the Windows 10 kitchen.

Now, what exactly does that mean? Very simply – more builds.

According to a 2015-03-09 blog, and then reiterated in an email sent earlier today 2015-04-20, Windows Insiders are about to see the frequency of builds pick up.

Microsoft has released the second build of Windows 10 Mobile for Windows Phone; and from all accounts, including my own look at the new Mobile OS, it’s still a VERY early build for Windows Phone.

That’s a kind way of saying its currently a train wreck.

Yeah…

It’s not really ready for anyone to look at yet. In fact, if you tried to install it on one of the 35 different, supported, Lumia phones and decided it wasn’t for you, it’s quite possible that returning that phone to a Windows Phone 8.x state bricked your phone. If that’s happened to you, you may be able to unbrick it with the Windows Phone Recovery Tool. If you’re having trouble with a Lumia branded Windows Phone, you should use the Lumia Software Recovery Tool.

All of that notwithstanding , Gabe Aul again has stated that Windows 10 Insiders should begin seeing builds come much faster on the Fast Ring. Aul’s email specifically states,

“Based on your feedback, we’re going to send out builds more frequently to Windows Insiders that have selected “Fast” preview builds. That means you can getting fresher code with all of the features and fixes, more often – but builds may include more bugs. Read my blog for more details. To switch to slow or fast builds on your PC, go to Settings>Update & recovery>Advanced options. On your phone, go to the Windows Insider app.”

I’m certain that given the above referenced blog entry from early March, and the fact that Windows Insiders haven’t seen a new official build hit the Fast Ring since the release of Build 10049 about two weeks ago, Gabe has been fielding a great many questions on “when” the next build will hit.

Many Windows 10 Insiders have specific issues blocking them from moving forward with their evaluations and I know they’re looking for specific fixes. Specifically, I’m looking for a fix for my disappearing ink bug. A fix for that can’t come soon enough.

UPDATE: While working on this article, Build 10061 was released. I’ve got it installed on my Dell Latitude 10 ST2. We’ll see if my issue is resolved and if it’s worth installing on my Surface Pro 3. I’ll keep you posted.

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Watch video on your advanced, ultra HD display with CyberLink PowerDVD Ultra

Watch video on your advanced, ultra HD display with this must have Windows media player

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I love watching movies. In fact, I watch movies more than I watch regular, network TV here in the States. I have a real issue with mainstream television. I am not fond of the writing, I don’t like many of the plot lines, and most of it isn’t appropriate for family viewing. I have cable TV and most of the movie channels because I REALLY don’t like network TV. However, when I can’t watch my movie channels due to travel, business commute or other issues, I really like to take my video on the go and its important to have a really good Windows DVD app like CyberLink’s PowerDVD Ultra at times like those. Its one of my favorites.

PowerDVD Ultra supports all media types including video, audio and photographic content. Its your all-purpose entertainment station. With it, you can enjoy media on your PC, mobile devices, home networks, from the cloud, and even via social networks. PowerDVD Ultra’s enhanced audio-visual quality, extended file format support, improved functionality, refinements to the user interface, and has an enhanced, wide range of digital media experiences.

PowerDVD 15 takes your movie experience to new places with playback enhancements and format support additions you won’t find in any other player. The app intelligently analyzes video footage and optimizes hues and vibrancy, creating a true-to-life viewing experience. TrueTheater Color recognizes skin tones in footage and applies only subtle adjustments to these areas in order to achieve improvements while retaining authentic coloring.

PowerDVD’s intelligent media buffering engine means that you no longer have to deal with stop and start playback, especially when you’re streaming video from a NAS device. This is a huge advancement, as streaming video on your home network just got more reliable. Advanced preloading techniques let PowerDVD analyze and retrieve additional playback data so that your media playback is not interrupted, even if the connection to your storage device is degraded.

PowerDVD Ultra is one of the better DVD players on the market. Its easy to use, has advanced playback and streaming controls and, it also supports 4K video… if you can find video files that actually support the new color and resolution format. When PowerDVD detects a 4K video file and a 4K monitor, Overlay Mode is automatically engaged to optimize the rendering pipeline and reduce the graphic resource load, delivering smooth, lag-free playback.

The app is also simply gorgeous to look at. However, non-standard UI’s are always an issue with Windows. They’re more often than not, “coats of paint,” or masks, over the standard Windows UI and take resources away from the PC, generating performance issues. I didn’t see that here with PowerDVD, and I tested it on an older, Windows 7 based PC.

If you’ve ripped your DVD’s to ISO’s, PowerDVD 15 now offers convenient direct playback of Blu-ray and DVD ISO files, either directly from the PC or via a network-connected drive. No additional mounting tools are required; and if your playback is interrupted, you don’t have to worry about trying to remember where you were in the movie. PowerDVD can pick it up right where you left off.

This is a really cool application, and since Microsoft has done a huge amount of work to deemphasize Windows Media Player (and I’m not entirely certain why), a more modern app with support for newer HD formats and technology is clearly needed. PowerDVD is filling a huge hole, and it does a GREAT job at it, too.

Download

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So… Like, I’m in Wait Mode

There’s a lot happening and I’m all set to hurry up and wait; and it sucks.

I’ve got a lot to be thankful for and I truly feel blessed.

I have a wife and family that love me. I have a great job. I have a great gig here at Soft32. I actually think it’s one of the best sites I’ve ever written for, and I’ve written for a GREAT many over the past 20 or so years including CMPnet, WUGNET. AOL/CompuServe, Gear Diary, pocketnow, InformationWeek, LockerGnome, plus a number of print pubs including >, Computer Power User Magazine and a Sun-Times affiliated newspaper – The Aurora Beacon-News. Definitely blessed.

All of the writing over the years has kept me in baseball cards and bubble gum, for sure. I’ve been able to afford to buy a number of different technology items and write about them that in just about any other life scenario, I simply wouldn’t have been able to afford to do.

Case in point… I’ve got a number of different things cued up for this Summer and Fall, but I’m stuck in a wait and see mode, or stuck waiting for something to ship. Here’s a run-down of all that I’ve got queued up. I’m going to try to sort these by the time I am supposed to have something in hand, though it will likely be a few weeks after they are received before I have anything written and/ or posted about them.

Henge Docks Horizontal Dock – Mid-May 2015
This one has been a LONG time in coming.

henge_horizontal_dock1-100024094-orig

I’ve been a huge fan of docking stations since, like, the invention of the notebook computer; but really back in the mid to late 1990’s. I’ve had a number of Dell laptops – mostly Latitudes – that have had docks, and I’ve had docks at work and at home with nearly EVERY work PC I’ve ever used in my entire life, including every Dell and Lenovo I’ve ever put my hands on. However, Apple doesn’t believe in docking stations. Not even a little bit.

Apple’s take, even when they were still including a full blown Ethernet port in their notebooks, is that notebooks were meant to be portable; and you really don’t want to tie yourself down to a wired internet connection. You want to be wireless. That’s why you have a notebook PC.

Well, sorta.

I have a notebook PC because I want to be able to compute in a non-standard place like the beach, my deck, or a place where they sell overpriced coffee. The problem is, I still want to be able to use that notebook PC with some desktop styled resources – like a mouse, external keyboard (be they wired or wireless) and most importantly, a large, HD monitor. If you stick to Apple’s way of doing things when you get to a an office setting, you constantly plug and chug cables in out of ports on your MacBook or MacBook Pro… which totally sucks… hence the need/ desire for a docking station or port replicator

Henge Docks has been making (somewhat) affordable vertical docks for years. They announced their Horizontal Docking Station more than two years ago, and I pre-ordered it almost immediately. I’ve been waiting on it ever since.

The dock is finally supposed to ship in mid-May 2015; and as part of their Early Adopter Program, I’ll have access to enhanced functionality, frequent updates and special user forums where I and a number of other folks will be able to provide feedback on the device directly to Henge Docks.

When it arrives, I’m going to have to reconfigure the top of the desk in my office. Specifically, I’m going to need to reassess how I’ve got my dual monitors positioned. I may also need to get a bigger or different second/ third monitor, as the 22″ SD monitor I’ve got just isn’t cutting it anymore.

Apple Watch Sport Edition – Mid-to-Late May 2015
As I said the other day, I got my Apple Watch before things totally sold out. I should be getting mine in the third or fourth wave of shipments. My watch is scheduled to ship between 2015-05-13 and 2015-05-27.

apple-watch-side

I seem to remember seeing one or two articles over the past week or so indicating that preorders MIGHT ship earlier than originally estimated, but I haven’t heard anything else to refute or substantiate that claim. If I had to guess, I’d say things with either ship during my originally estimated window or later than that.

While people wait for their Watches to arrive, everyone everywhere is going to be inundating the internet with a bunch of fluff. You’ll see information about Apple supplied bands, third party bands, uses and ideas for Watch and of course, different apps. You’re also going to see a lot of coverage about how Watch isn’t going to be as intuitive or easy to use as every other Apple product on the market.

Concierge Appointments are going to be an interesting topic to follow and until Watches start arriving and people start making and attending appointments, we’re not going to know what they are really going to cover.

Pebble Time – May 2015
Pebble Time is Pebble’s latest venture into the wearables market. The device is an update to their previous Kickstarter Campaign provides a couple of new options.

Pebble_Time_colours-970-80

This time, you get a color display and up to seven days of battery life out of a single charge. While there are definitely updates to the Pebble watch OS to take advantage of the new color display and some new capabilities. I have no idea what we’re REALLY going to see with this, but we’ll have to wait and see. While I suspect that it’s going to be VERY Pebble – i.e. basically the same as Pebble and Pebble Steel, but with a color display, but again, I’m going to want to wait and see the actual device in my hands before making any final determinations.

Olio Model One – Summer 2015 (Meaning somewhere between July and October)
This is the one smartwatch that I really know little to nothing about. The only information that I have on it is what you can find on their home page. This isn’t much information to go on at all.

olio-watch-steel-steel-link-ui

I’ve spoken briefly with the organization’s CEO via email. He didn’t offer any additional information, other than the organization is excited to release the device in limited availability later this year.

The device looks amazing. The big thing that is going to make or break this device is notifications and the way it works with them. If it’s an all or nothing thing as it is with other smartwatches or fitness bands, then Olio isn’t going to do very well. Unfortunately, because there’s little to no additional information on how Olio intends to deal with notification overload, this is another wait and see item.

Windows 10 RTM – Summer 2015
Windows 10 is supposed to RTM (release to manufacturing) sometime this Summer, which again, means between July and October of 2015. If Microsoft wants to have Windows 10 in the hands of manufacturers and OEM’s in time for back to school computer sales, then it better be as early in the “summer” as possible. If they do hit their advertised release window, then they may make it in time to hit Back to School; but then again, it may not be enough time.

Based on what I know about my own experience right now, and the one huge bug that I have logged – Disappearing Ink – hitting this window is going to be difficult at best. They have a number of different issues to get past and with the way that builds are being released even to the Fast Ring, I’m really going to be surprised if they make it in time. I don’t think they will. My Disappearing Ink bug has been around for at least 6 Fast Ring builds, and it’s a huge defect. I don’t know that they’re going to get to the end game in time to make Back to School PC releases.

However, until they have a fix for Disappearing Ink, I’m off the Fast Ring, especially on my Surface Pro 3. I’ve got too much going on with OneNote at the office to risk losing information and notes during a meeting while using Windows 10. I also downloaded Windows 10 for Mobile 10051 on my Lumia 520, and I agree with Paul, Mary Jo and Leo. The latest Windows 10 build for Window Phones just plain sucks. Oh… it’s really horrible.

UPDATE: While writing this an article appeared on Microsoft News attributing AMD’s CEO, Lisa Su, with a statement that Windows 10 would RTM in July. Early Monday morning, 2015-04-20, as I was finishing up this column, I also stumbled upon a reiteration of this same attribution, but this time with a full quote on the Windows Supersite. Here’s the full quote, given during AMD’s Quarterly Earning’s call:

“…What we also are factoring in is, you know, with the Windows 10 launch at the end of July, we are watching sort of the impact of that on the back-to-school season, and expect that it might have a bit of a delay to the normal back-to-school season inventory build-up…”

This statement fails to indicate if the July release is Windows 10 for desktop, Phones or small tablets, or ALL devices.

Given the issues that are currently being encountered in all platforms, I’d be surprised if this was for everything. Desktop, maybe; but all platforms…? No.

iOS 9 and OS X 10.11
WWDC currently scheduled for 2015-06-08 through 2015-06-12. At that time, I’m expecting announcements for both iOS 9 and OS X 10.11. However, while this is pretty much a safe bet, there’s no guarantee on this either. No one has really started grinding the iOS 9 grindstone. No one has been beating the “I really need the next version of OS X to do ‘this'” drum.

So far as I can tell, the only thing that most people have been saying about both iOS 8 and OS X 10.10 is that they’d really like the next versions to work better than the current versions. So maybe both will be stability and bug fix releases. However, given that they’re both going up against a huge release in Windows 10, it’s unlikely that that will happen.

While this may be seen as a good thing for Apple fans and users, in the end, it may not be. Adding new features on top of a release that isn’t as solid as it could be could be a big problem in the end. Unfortunately, as information is going to be lacking until at least after the WWDC Keynote, this is yet another wait and see item.

So as you can see… I’m stuck.

I’ve got more wait and see items than I do actual stuff to look at right now.

What are you most interested in seeing this year? Are you waiting for anything in particular? Did you order an Apple Watch? Will you get it before school starts in the States in the Fall? Did you order another wearable? Is there going to be high demand for iOS 9 or OS X 10.11? Do you think that Windows 10 will make a July release date, or will it be delayed until later?

Why don’t you join me in the discussion area, below, and give me your thoughts.

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Amazon Releases Prime Music

Amazon jumps into the streaming music business with the release of Prime Music.

Amazon Prime

The world of digital music is complicated.  With the RIAA still occasionally chasing after folks for illegally sharing copyrighted files, and artists complaining of poor pay-outs when it comes to pay to play rates on their songs that are actually streamed on the service in question, Amazon has decided to throw their hat in the ring and offer a streaming music service to its Prime members – Prime Music.

The service, which is free to Prime members (which costs $99 USD per year for Prime 2 day shipping, Prime Photos, Prime Instant Video, Prime Music and Kindle Lending Library)provides over 1 million songs instantly available for streaming, via the web, your iOS or Android tablet or smartphone, as well as clients for Mac and PC. The service is ad-free, and you can skip as many songs as you want, two huge plusses for Prime customers, as the service is funded by your annual Prime membership fee.

With Amazon’s Prime Service now offering these 5 distinct and different services (shipping, photos, video, music and Kindle Library), the value of the service has (at least potentially) increased. While most streaming music services cost $120 USD per year (or $10USD per month), Prime gives you all five services for $100 USD, a $20 savings. If you order ANYTHING from Amazon during the year you have the service, and you stream music on a regular basis, you’re going to benefit from the service.

I’m a prime member and I have used Prime Instant Video along with two day shipping for years.  I likely will not use Music, unless I’m connected to a Wi-Fi network, if at all.  Call me old school if you must, but I don’t like using ALL of my mobile bandwidth for streaming services. While I do have AT&T with Roll-Over data, I share the account with my wife and daughter, and we do not stream music at all. Most of the bandwidth we use is used for iPhone data or hot spot services. Until Wi-Fi is available everywhere (if it ever is), and mobile data is much cheaper than it is now, I’m not going to blow it all listening to music I likely already have in my iTunes Music Library…AND on my iPhone. It’s why I bought a 64GB iDevice, and why I sync my entire music collection to my iPhone (and by the way, I still have over 20GB of free space…).

While this may not make a lot of sense for me (except over Wi-Fi, and then maybe only at work, if I don’t get busted for using a streaming service there), it may be very compelling for others that are looking for a streaming service and who are already Prime members or are considering Amazon Prime.

Interested parties can checkout Amazon Prime for more information.

The email that I got announcing Prime Music can be seen below:

“As a Prime Member, you now get unlimited access to Prime Stations — an ad-free, internet radio service you can enjoy at no additional cost to your Prime membership.

With Prime Stations, you can find a genre or artist you like and hit play to hear a continuous stream of music that you can pause, replay, or skip as many times as you’d like. As you listen and give songs a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, each station will adapt to your music tastes.

Prime Members can stream Prime Stations and over a million songs for free with the Amazon Music App on iOS, Android, Kindle Fire HD/HDX, Mac, PC, and the web.”

 

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Yes, I got my Apple Watch Before it Sold Out

But it won’t ship on 2015-04-24…

w42ss-sbbk-selEarly adopters and tech journalists (which are usually one in the same thing, at least on my end) know the drill when it comes to ordering a brand new iDevice – you get up in the middle of the night, wearily shuffle your feet down the hallway, nearly tripping over socks, underwear (?!?) and a Tonka truck only to step on a lone Lego block hiding in some obscure location on the floor causing you to want to cry out and swear with every four-letter word known in your native language (but you don’t ’cause it’s the middle of the night, and you don’t want to wake anyone…). So… you hobble the rest of the way to the computer desk, with muffled words held back in your mouth and tears running down your cheeks

In my case, its 1:55am CDT; and orders for the new iDevice (in this case, the Apple Watch, but the same thing happened recently with the iPhone 6…) begin in six (6) minutes. By this time, however, I’ve got myself seated, wiped the tears from my eyes and have begun refreshing my browser that’s pointed to Apple’s Online Store, specifically at the Watch’s order page.

The site still shows that its down, and that’s ok, because officially, orders don’t start until 2:01am CDT. However, that time comes and goes with the site still showing that it’s updating. That’s when I really began to understand that there was a bigger demand for Watch than some – including me – had originally thought there would be.

Initially, everyone thought that the demand for watch would be high. However, since Apple Watch requires an iPhone 5 or later, many thought that it would be easy to get, including me.

Totally…TOTALLY not the case.

I got up in plenty of time, and I started refreshing my browser early enough in order to catch an available connection on the server when one opened up. The problem was that nearly everyone ELSE in the world was apparently doing the same thing.

I was able to order and reserve my Apple Watch Sport by 2:13am CDT; but I was shocked that my delivery time was pushed out 4 – 6 weeks (delivery will take place between 2015-05-13 and 2015-05-27.

Four to six weeks. FOUR TO SIX WEEKS!! REALLY??! OMG!

You know that means that the initial stock that Apple was able to secure for Launch sold out in less than twelve (12) minutes, right?

… In less than 12 minutes!

It also means that a great many people didn’t trust the whole, “reserve a time to try on and buy your Apple Watch” thing in order to make certain that they were able to actually secure a Watch. It also means that those that were able to actually get a Watch did exactly what Angela Ahrendts wanted them to do and bought Watch online as soon as orders for it opened up.

…OR

More stock of the device was actually allocated TO the brick and mortar stores offering Watch appointments than to the online store so that orders at try-on appointments could be fulfilled. It kinda makes me wonder how many devices were on hand and available to ship at both the online store.

However, I’m very lucky.

From what I’ve been able to see, if you didn’t get in and order one by 2:15am CDT, your order got pushed to a “June” delivery time. June. Inside of 15 minutes, your delivery date got pushed from 2014-04-24 to between 2015-05-13 to 27, to June (without any kind of date range). June..!

JUNE!

…and I got that delivery time frame at 2:15am CDT when I tried to see, just for grins and giggles, what the time would be pushed to for orders that got placed after mine. Delivery times have stayed at “June” since then, and are still listed as “June” as of this writing (11am CDT). It kind of makes me wonder if Apple did the same thing with Watch as Olio did with the initial manufacturing run of their Model One – create hype and a sense of increased value and desire due to rarity, as many devices aren’t available until 2-3 months after pre-orders open. However, I’m not sure that was an active strategy here for Apple. It happens a great deal with all of their latest, high-demand products like iPhone and iPad.

Apple Insider had the same thought, but quickly dismissed the idea. It is very “unApple-like.” However, when initial stock sells out in less than 5-10 minutes, you have to wonder if it might not be true. It does appear, however, that the supply chain for Watch is even more constrained than iPhone, which is really saying something.

I was hoping to have the review of Apple Watch available on Soft32 at least in part, during the month of April. Now it looks as though we’re going to have to wait until May or so for the unboxing. I’m a bit disappointed, too. I was really hoping not to have such a long period of time between the candidates in this round up.

Until then, keep checking back here. I will likely have a bit of news and other fun tidbits as we get ready for the arrival of Apple Watch (and a couple others…) in the next four to six weeks.

Did you order Apple Watch? If not, will you? Are you planning on it or waiting until either later this year; or will you wait until version 2.0 of Watch comes out (some time in the next year or so)? I’d love to hear your opinion and thoughts on the matter. Why don’t you join me in the discussion area below and let me know what you think?

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Olio – Did the Cat Finally Build a Smarter Mouse Trap?

Contestant number five has entered the ring…

olio

One of the bigger things to hit the market this year is wearables. Things like Microsoft Band (part two of the review can be seen here), the Fitbit Surge, the Apple Watch (review pending arrival of the hardware), Pebble Time and Time Steel are all wearables – specifically smartwatches – that will have been released or will be released later this year. As of the first of this month (yes, April 1st; but no, this isn’t a joke), a new player has thrown their hat into the ring – meet the Olio Model One.

The device…? Oh my stars and garters, yes! Have you seen this thing?!

The Model One is beautiful. It’s made of stainless steel and basically comes in two flavors – (brushed?) Stainless Steel and Black. And while it is DEFINITELY drool-worthy, it’s got a few hurdles to get past.

The device itself runs on a proprietary OS

According to Olio, people spend WAY too much time in their computers, in their smartphones and tablets and shortly, in their smartwatches… that are tethered and tied to their smartphones. Olio wants their users to think of the Model One as an extension of themselves and not something that drives them or makes them live in it. As such, there’s no app store to bury you in apps. You get what you’re given (at least initially).

While the device obtains connectivity via both Android and iOS wireless devices, there aren’t any apps for you to run on the watch other than the ones that come with the device. While it does have an “assistant” of sorts, called Olio Assist, providing time saving suggestions, the limited – but value-added – functionality of (just) what comes out of the box, is where Olio sees the Model One hitting the sweet spot. You don’t get lost or waste hours of time playing Flappy Bird (or one of its many device based, or online clones). Instead, you focus on the information you need and only the information you need, so you spend time instead to your family, friends and loved ones.

However, most of the world wants apps. Its why we buy smart devices, and without an app store or a market (more on that, below), you have to wonder what the draw will be? Yeah it looks GREAT; and people at Tech Crunch, The Verge, and Gizmodo, all think saving you from “notification hell” is the bomb; and maybe it is.

Maybe it is….

I know that it drove me a bit nuts with the Microsoft Band, and it didn’t work right on the Surge; but when things are configurable, as they are on Band (and are supposed to be on the Surge), then you have to think a bit more about the purchase. For example, there aren’t any apps or even an app store for Band, either… (and its $400 cheaper).

And by the way, there’s no fitness band functionality here that I can see. This is a smartwatch and not a smartwatch that also measures physical activity. It doesn’t have any activity sensors, a GPS, a accelerometer, or a gyroscope. The functionality appears limited at this time.

It’s Expensive
Yeah… let’s talk about that for a sec.

While Microsoft Band is clearly affordable at $199.99, the Olio Model One is $345 – $395 for the Steel flavor and $495 – $545 for the Black flavor as of this writing with the $250 “friends and family” discount that’s being extended to the public. Normally, we’re talking $595 – $645 for Steel and $745 – $795 for Black (which puts their metal link bracelets at around $50 bucks over their leather bands).

The Olio Model One runs in the same neighborhood as the Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport. The pricing models may be very different, but their close enough to be similar. You can clearly get a decent and high end analog watch for about as much AND get the band you want, too.

The device has a stainless steel case and an ion exchange glass touch screen that is supposed to survive impacts and resist scratches. It has wireless charging with a battery that can last a full two days with full functionality and then an additional two days, if you turn off connectivity to its Bluetooth-LE radio. The Model One can communicate with both Siri and Google Now via Olio Assist; and can control third party smart devices like thermostats and lights. It’s also water resistant so you don’t have to worry about ruining it when you take a swim.

The Model One is clearly a premium product; and maybe all of this is worth the premium price to you. I’m skeptical at best, at least until I have it in my hands.

It’s got an Initial Production Run of Just 1000
The Model One is a limited edition device.

Other companies release things in “limited edition,” and then they really aren’t limited at all. Olio’s first run of the Model One is limited to 1000 units – Five hundred of each the Steel and Black flavors. According to Olio,

“We decided to do a very limited production for its first release because the company is committed to the quality and craftsmanship and wanted to make sure that every piece holds up the high standards of the company. Olio compares themselves to a craft brewery, and aren’t trying to be everything to everyone.”

Olio likens itself to a craft beer brewery. Brian Ruben from ReadWrite.com said it best, I think. “if I buy a six-pack of a craft brew and I don’t like what I drink, I’m not out $600. Plus, I don’t have to call tech support.”

While the limited run and the high price are, I think, partial marketing tools to help create hype (as well as tech coverage by a number of different outlets, including yours truly and Soft32, at the end of the day you have to wonder how viable a company with such a limited production run with such a high end product will be. Olio appears to be artificially creating a limited supply in order to make the device’s value appear higher. Things that are rare ARE considered more valuable.

Diamonds, like the Hope Diamond, with such a highly desired cut, level of clarity and precision cut ARE rare and ARE very valuable. Olio hopes that watch aficionados see the Model One in the same light and don’t ding it for its digital guts as they do with nearly every other smartwatch; and with nothing really to compare it to (the Apple Watch isn’t even available for pre-order as of this writing, and hasn’t hit the market with either a splash or a thud…), it’s hard to see how well or how poorly the Olio Model One will do.

Have you seen the Olio Model One? Does it interest you? Will you buy one? Stay tuned to Soft32 as 2015 truly does appear to be the Year of Wearables. I’ll have more coverage on devices as they are released or as they make news.

In the meantime, if you have any questions, please let me know in the comments and discussion area, below.

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