Top 10 Features of Microsoft’s Fall Creators Update

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

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

Microsoft's Fall Creators Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so here I sit.

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

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

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

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

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Scheduled for Termination – AOL Instant Messenger

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

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

Farewell AIM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Microsoft releases firmware updates for Surface Book and Pro 4

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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UPDATE – Another one Bites the Dust – So Long Olio

I have a small update to this post…

I’ve always liked watches, but it appears I’m a much bigger watch geek than I thought I was. I’m still watching, still waiting for something to come out of Olio; and like most of what’s going on in wearable tech today, I continue to get disappointed.

If you click on the link, above, you’ll be taken to all that’s left of Olio’s website – an HTTP403 Forbidden error.

olio forbidden

As I write this on the eve of Apple’s Fall iPhone event, its nice to know that Apple will be releasing – or at least announcing the release – of watchOS 4 tomorrow. The Olio Model One, while nearly almost completely devoid of its original functionality (except anything that is directly provided by its connection with your mobile device, like notifications, phone and music control), remains a favorite of mine. It looks really nice and it still tells time. However, I’ve noticed that lack of a connection to my iPhone causes it to fall behind as far as telling time is concerned… which is very confusing… There appears to be a LOT of communication going on between the Olio Model One and my iPhone that I – and likely EVERYONE else wasn’t aware of.

I told the sad tale of how Olio died about a month ago. You can see that article here. Unfortunately, at this point… things are worse.

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Google Drive is Out of Support in December 2017

If you don’t have Google Backup and Sync, you better get crackin’…

Google drive

In July of 2017, Google announced that it was introducing a new file synchronization product called Google Backup and Sync. The desktop and smartphone/ tablet app is meant to replace Google Drive, as Backup and Sync does nearly everything that Drive does.

However, Google has stated that its going to stop supporting Google Drive in December of 2017 and will stop working entirely on 2018-03-18. This delay in the overall transition plan between Drive and Backup and Sync is designed to make the transition to the newer service a bit easier on folks who are really invested into Drive. The changes to the service allow users to sync files and folders on your Desktop as well as making all of your photos part of Google Photos as well.

The differences in the service is revealed when you enable its broader file synchronization abilities. Until then, it does the same thing as Google Drive. If you area G Suite user, you can also take advantage of File Streaming. This lets organizations store files solely in the cloud, allowing laptop users to stream them to their local hard drives when working on them, otherwise keeping local storage free and unused.

If you’re interested in getting a jump on the required update to Google Drive, you can transition over to Backup and Sync now. All you have to do is install the software.

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Microsoft Ends Groove Music Pass

If you really have to have music from Microsoft, they suggest Spotify…

In a week when it seems nearly everything is coming to an end except how people are arguing gun control and NFL protests, comes additional news out of Redmond that Microsoft’s music offering, Groove Music Pass, is being shut down. Microsoft is killing the service and offering customers “a seamless transition to Spotify.” Microsoft will also remove all music from its Windows Store as well.

Microsoft is trying to be positive about this development, offering the following spin, according to Microsoft GM Jerry Johnson,

“We’re excited to announce that we’re expanding our partnership with Spotify to bring the world’s largest music streaming service to our Groove Music Pass customers. Groove Music Pass customers can easily move all their curated playlists and collections directly into Spotify.”

On 2017-12-31, Microsoft will shut down Groove Music Pass completely. At that time, anyone with any time lift on their subscription, will get a prorated refund, directly from Microsoft.

Groove Music Pass

Music is also being removed from the Windows Store. However, Microsoft has indicated they will continue to sell movies, TV shows and ebooks. The Groove Music app will still be offered as part of Windows 10, but users won’t be able to stream or otherwise access subscription based content with the app. Instead the app will play music on your hard drive, or will stream music you have stored on Microsoft OneDrive.

Groove Music Pass has always felt like a me-too effort out of Microsoft. The service never really had an identity of its own and the service always felt forced in my opinion. Microsoft never really got behind the service, and never really did anything to make it stand out in a market that seems dominated by Apple and other streaming services, including Spotify.

The only problem with streaming services like Spotify, is that you can’t upload your own music to the service. You get the Spotify catalog and that’s it. Some have indicated that it might be nice if Spotify could play music from a file sync service like Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive, but as far as I can tell, that isn’t in the cards.

Microsoft and music have always had issues. For some reason, they just haven’t had anyone on their team that had any kind of real vision for the service, or the Store, or really anything to do with Music at all. Its unfortunate. They’ve nearly always had their feet wet when it comes to music; but all they seem to have gotten is soggy socks.

They’ve had one giant miscue after another with ALL kinds of content when it comes to ecosystem based content. Just ask any (former) Zune owner. They’ll tell you how big of a cluster bump this has been in the Microsoft camp.

Its certainly NOT been pretty.

Did you have a Groove Music Pass? Did you even know Microsoft HAD music in their Windows Store? Is this something that you think the world will miss, or will Spotify struly, uh… hit the spot?

Let me know your thoughts! Give me your take on this development in the Discussion area below. I’d love to hear from you, especially if you had a Groove Music Pass, or if you think the loss of the service will create a hole that needs to be filled with some other MS based service.

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Should I Upgrade or Not..? – Part 2

Based on the information at hand, here’s my take on Apple’s announcements from 2017-09-12…

So, if you’re looking for information on the new iPhones that Apple announced the other day, you should read this article. I cover both the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X pretty thoroughly.

To sum them up again, they’re expensive. Both phones come in 64GB and 256GB sizes. If you don’t buy the bigger one, and you have more than 64GB of content, you’re going to need to get a decent enough data plan to allow you to stream everything. The carrier is going to get your money one way or another… You’re just gonna have to get over it.

Apple also released some other products. Let’s take a quick look at those and see what’s what…

Screenshot_2

Apple Watch Series 3
Apple has introduced four different models of the Apple Watch Series 3 smartwatch in two sizes, a number of colors, in two different case types for two of the models; and at least two different variations. I’m going to try to run everything down here, as quickly as possible.

In general, all models of every Apple Watch come in either 38mm or 42mm sizes. So you get every Watch in small and large sizes. Over and above that, here’s the break down on all of the Series 3 variations that are available.

Series 3 – GPS + Cellular
The Series 3 GPS + Cellular comes in two different variations – Apple Watch and Apple Watch Nike Plus. With the Apple Watch, you get two different case offerings and two different band options with each case type. You can choose from an aluminum or stainless-steel case. If you get the Apple Watch in the aluminum case, you can choose from either a Sport Band or the Sport Loop band. If you go with the stainless-steel case, you get a choice of either the Sport Band or the Milanese Loop band.

If you choose Apple Watch Nike+, you get an aluminum case with either a Nike Sport band or a Nike Sport Loop band.

The big deal here is the cellular capabilities in the new Apple Watch Series 3. The Watch will update itself and communicate with everything on the internet, letting you leave your phone in the car or at home. You can even take and place calls on the thing.

However, if you do use it for talk, you’re going to have to be very careful. The battery in the Watch, while technically a bit bigger, can’t sustain cellular phone calls for any length of time. I’ve seen reports on Twitter and on Facebook that indicate that there’s only enough power to last about an hour or so of any dedicated cellular activity.

Cellular calls burn through the battery like its bleeding water from a sieve. I’ve seen reports where a 10 minute cellular call on the Watch via its dedicated LTE radio (as opposed to via Bluetooth while connected to your phone) will eat through 10% or more of your available battery… potentially more if your battery is below 50%.

Just because it can, doesn’t mean that the Watch is MEANT to replace your phone for all things. It really isn’t. Its “all day battery” rating expects your phone to pick up most of the heavy LTE lifting, allow the Watch and your iPhone to swap data like a Series 0, Series 1 or Series 2 Apple Watch.

The Apple Watch Series 3 – GPS + Cellular and Apple Watch Nike+ GPS + Cellular start at $399.

Series 3 – GPS
The Series 3 GPS comes in two different variations – Apple Watch and Apple Watch Nike Plus. With the Apple Watch, you get aluminum case with a Sport Band. If you choose Apple Watch Nike Plus, you get an aluminum case with a Nike Sport Band.

The Series 3 – GPS can do everything that the Series 0, Series 1 and Series 2 can do. It can also do nearly everything that the Series 3 can do, except it can’t do LTE based data on its own. This edition requires your iPhone to do all internet based calls including communicating via social media, making and placing phone calls and text messages, and receiving notifications. However, it is $70 less.

What you’re going to get here in terms of an upgrade from Series 2 is a better processor, a slightly better battery and better water resistance. The battery life here is going to be very good, and you’ll definitely get the all-day battery that everyone is expecting.

The thing that you’re going to have to ask yourself is, is all of this worth the cost of the upgrade. The Series 2 is a decent watch. Everything looks the same, and the battery life in it is very, very good compared to the Series 0 and even the Series 1. What you’re going to need to determine is, how deep and how long will you dive or be under water? How much longer do you need the battery to last? The newer processor will make the watch a bit faster and more efficient; but given that you don’t see a lot of direct computing done directly on the Watch, you have to wonder how much of an advantage its going to be. That is a personal decision, and I’ll have my own thoughts on this, below, in the Conclusion.

The Apple Watch Series 3 – GPS and Apple Watch Nike+ – GPS start at $329.

Series 3 Hermès
The Apple Watch Hermés offers everything that the Apple Watch Series 3 GPS + Cellular does. Here, however, you default to the stainless steel case and of course, the branded Hermés watch face and signature leather band. You also get an additional sport band included with your purchase (which, realistically accounts for the last $49 you’re charged).

There are a number of things here that bother me with the Hermés editions. Mostly, it’s the bands and their outrageously high (and overpriced) price tags. While I’m CERTAIN that the bands are high quality and are superior to just about anything and everything like them out there, paying hundreds and hundreds of dollars for an inch and a half wide strip of leather with some holes punched in it just seems not silly; but stupid.

Those that can afford the Hermés edition will tell me that I just don’t get it and that this is part of the reason why the Hermés edition is not for me. I’d have to agree with them. I don’t really care how much money I have to burn, paying $340 USD for the Single Tour band and $490 USD Double Tour band is a horrible waste of money. Especially when you can find reasonably priced and just as comfortable knock-offs for a fraction of the price on Amazon or other online realtors.

Yes, you won’t have the designer branding or the custom watch face to go along with it; and maybe that’s the point – you’re paying for the branding… however, when the functionality is exactly the same on the Hermés edition as it is on every other Apple Watch with a stainless steel case, I have to look at what I’m getting for the extra dough, and when all I see is a watch face, a band and a brand name, I don’t see a lot of value added equity. What I see is vanity, and it just doesn’t make any sense to me.

I’d appreciate some help here, kids. If you’ve even tried on an Hermés band and settle for a knock-off, I’d love to hear from you and get your thoughts and impressions here. It might help make some sense of how folks that purchase this edition justify the cost. Fee free to drop me a line or leave a comment, below.

Apple Watch Edition
This is a far cry from what the Series 0 Apple Watch Edition USED to be. The original Apple Watch Edition went as high as $18,000 for a special 18k Gold version that wrapped the exact same Series 0 guts in an overly expensive, unbelievably priced gold watch case that only uber rich could even THINK of purchasing. Sales of this particular line of Series 0 Watch were beyond embarrassingly low; and Apple promptly moved past the uber fashion statement into something that was a bit more reasonable.

With the Series 3 Apple Watch, Apple is providing a ceramic case – in either Pebble White or Space Gray – with a White or Black Sport band. Ceramic is (supposed to be) very durable and resistant to both scratches and dents. For this combination of case and band, the Apple Watch provides you with all of the Series 3 LTE and GPS goodness you find in all of the other LTE based models; and that’s an important distinction.

The Apple Watch Edition doesn’t come in just a GPS version. Here, you get a choice of color, size (either the standard 38mm or 42mm cases) and that’s it. The Apple Watch Edition comes in the LTE version. Period. The Watch also comes with a similarly colored Sport Band. If you want another band or bracelet, you can shop Apple’s available watch band collection. As always, Apple Watch bands fit both case sizes of every edition Apple Watch, regardless of version or Series.

The Apple Watch Edition starts at $1299.

To Answer the Question
So, to answer the question, “should I upgrade or not?” doesn’t really require a lot of thinking. If you don’t have an Apple Watch, now is a great time to buy in. At $329, the fitness and smartwatch functionality you get is a GREAT value. watchOS runs well on the Series 0; but this will likely be the last version of watchOS that will run on the original Watch. Performance does take a minor – but noticeable – hit.

If you want to be able to swim with the Watch and would like to have its GPS functionality, the Series 2 can be found for some really great deals. I found a Series 2 Nike + version for $249 recently. That’s $170 off the Series 2 full price.

If you have a Series 2 and are considering a Series 3, then you should be considering the LTE version. The Series 3 GPS version doesn’t offer any compelling reason to upgrade from the Series 2 at all, even with the slightly larger battery, faster processor and more accurate GPS receiver. The Series 3 LTE version is really compelling IF you really want to run AND stream audio while you run; or if you’re looking to update your running or workout app with live data while you run or exercise.

Other than that, even with their current price structure, I don’t see a compelling reason to upgrade from any series Apple Watch to the Series 3. Every version of every Series Apple Watch is still very usable today; and I would expect them to last for a while, too. When non-electronic watches can last years – even decades – and cost about as much as the Apple Watch does, you’d expect Apple to build longevity into the Watch more than anything else… I’m just sayin’.

AppleTV 4K
Aside from the iPhone 8 , I think the news on the AppleTV was some of the most exciting news I took away from the September keynote.

The big news here wasn’t an increase in storage capacity, a better processor, or even improvements to Siri or even tvOS. This year’s big news was all about 4K HDR. According to Apple,

“4K gives you a crisper picture using four times more pixels than standard HD. High Dynamic Range (HDR) delivers brighter, more realistic colors and greater detail. From the hottest new movie to your favorite TV show, everything is more lifelike than ever.”

This means that everything that you watch on the AppleTV that comes in 4kHDR is going to look stunning. The colors are gonna pop off the screen, and the detail and resolution is going to be crazy accurate and high. However, there’s one additional point here that really sets this whole thing off – if you bought video content from the iTunes Store in HD, Apple is upgrading all of your titles to 4KHDR content… for free. 4kHDR titles will also be available for the same price as regular HD titles today, which, to be very honest, is HUGE.

My understanding is that you won’t be able to download 4KHDR files, but you WILL be able to stream them, and to be honest, the AppleTV is a streaming box. While you CAN store either 32GB or 64GB of content on the device, that small amount of storage won’t hold more than a couple files at most, and to be honest, you probably wouldn’t want to store 4KHDR files anyway. They’re likely going to require terabytes of storage to keep laying around.

If you don’t have an AppleTV, now is a good time to jump on board. This version is also a decent upgrade option if you have an AppleTV and are looking for a reason to get the latest version.

The big concern I have here, however, is cost. At $179, the 4K version is perhaps the most compelling of new model AppleTV’s, but its also the highest priced entry point into a streaming box that runs on the Apple ecosystem. The AppleTV still starts at $149; but only comes in a 32GB version.

However, the standard HD version still runs the current version of tvOS; so, unless you have a need for 4KHDR content, this should be a very good substitute. Unfortunately, you won’t get the benefits of the new versions enhancements; but it will do everything that the 4K version does.

To Answer the Question
So, to answer the question, “should I upgrade or no?” that’s going to depend on if you have or are planning on getting a 4K TV. If you do, then you’re likely going to want to spend the extra $30 bucks and get the 4K version.
If you don’t have a 4K TV, and aren’t planning on getting one any time soon, then you may want to hold off until you do. However, spending $30 to future proof your AppleTV isn’t a lot of money to think about or give up.

At the end of the day, it’s a little more than $50 additional dollars for the larger 4K HDR version; and that’s not a lot to ask for, but if you aren’t going to use it, then it may not be the best use of the extra money. That’s up to you…

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OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock

For those that have the right equipment, this TB3 dock has a lot to offer…

http://appleinsider.com/articles/17/05/14/review—owc-thunderbolt-3-dock-is-the-only-game-in-town-for-firewire-800

Introduction
As I mentioned in my Mid 2017 MacBook Pro Review in the USB-C Ports section, you’re really going to want some kind of docking station for working with Apple’s new notebooks featuring their TouchBar (and those without…).

Over the years, I’ve found that having a docking station for my notebook computer is important. I hate plugging and chugging cables in and out of my notebook computer when I want to compute on the go; and I’ve found that doing so – plugging and unplugging cables in and out of a notebook – can actually be damaging to both the PC and the cables. At some point, you’re going to rush, and you’re going to tweak either a port or a cable, and then it won’t work right any longer. That can get expensive if it’s the PC or very inconvenient if it’s a cable you have to replace.

A little more than a year and a half ago, I reviewed the Henge Docks Horizontal Dock for 15″ MacBook Retina. The dock was awesome and to be honest, the type of dock that I really wanted for my family member for use with their Mid 2017 15″ MacBook Pro, but when we purchased the notebook back in June, the USB-C/ Thunderbolt 3 version of the Henge Docks Horizontal Dock wasn’t supposed to be available for purchase until September 2017. Well, September 2017 is here, and the dock… well, it isn’t.

Thankfully, I got rescued by OWC and their Thunderbolt 3 Dock. It’s one of the best and most affordable Thunderbolt 3 docks available today.

As I noted in my Mid 2017 MacBook Pro Review, the notebook in and of itself is missing a LOT of ports. While it has four (4) USB-C ports that also support Thunderbolt 3, finding the peripherals you need that will work through these ports – keyboard, mouse, thumb drives, your phone, etc. – don’t actually exist yet. While all of these peripherals are available, they don’t have USB-C ports yet, and as such, aren’t supported natively on the Mid 2017 MacBook Pro.

Ports o’ Plenty
Thankfully, the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock resolves all this. It has thirteen (13) ports, to provide you with all of the legacy connectivity you need. It has

• 5 USB-A 3.1 Ports, including 2 high power ports
• 1 S/PDF Out Port
• 1 Fire wire 800 Port
• 1 Gigabit Ethernet Port
• 2 USB-C/ Thunderbolt 3 Ports
• 1 miniDisplay Port Port
• 1 SD Card Reader Port
• 1 Audio Out Port

owc-thunderbolt-3-dock-sg-ports-ms@2x

The nice thing here, is that if you find you need more ports than are offered on this dock, you can daisy chain another hub or dock to the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock either via one of the High Power USB-A 3.1 Ports, or one of the USB-C/ Thunderbolt 3 ports. So, the dock is expandable, if you will. This is important, in that you may have more than five USB-A peripherals, for example. I know that I do. Between printers (plural) a DVD-R/W drive, desktop storage, a keyboard and dedicated ports for my phone, DSLR, Apple Watch and even my Firewire 800 powered Time Machine Drive.

Connectivity and Speed
When connecting devices to these ports, you’re going to be very pleased and very surprised. Nearly everything works with nearly every device in both macOS and Windows (under Boot Camp). However, you’ll find that the dock’s Firewire port will not work under Boot Camp, so, it won’t work with your Mac’s ability to boot into native Windows.

The ports that do work, however, work; and work very well. Thunderbolt 3 supports up to 40Gbps (gigabits per second). In reality when working with other USB 3.1 related devices, however, you’ll get about 10Gbps. It’s hard to know just how fast drive or data transfer rates will be for things like a USB 2.0 compatible thumb drive, but trust me… you’re really going to be impressed. When moving large data files, I was getting speeds equivalent to 80MBps (megabytes per second). This converts to about 0.625Gbps or 640Mbps (megabits per second). In comparison, some of the best REAL internet download speeds I’ve ever seen have been in the range of 150 – 195Mbps, and those downloads were lightning quick… LITERALLY. You’ll be able to copy large movie files in minutes instead of 30+ minutes or more to and from locally connected media.

The Dock also comes with an SD card reader. This is a huge deal, as nearly every Mac laptop has had an SD card slot for the last ten or so years. The fact that the MacBook Pro no longer has one is a huge issue in my mind. The fact that the dock has one makes it all that much more valuable. Its fast, too. When you pair Thunderbolt 3 speeds with this card slot, you get a really wonderful, really fast connectivity solution.

Conclusion
I’ve used a number of different docks and docking stations over the years with the computers that I’ve owned. On the Windows side of the world, this has been easy. Docking solutions on that side of the fence are many and myriad. On the Mac side, however, not so much. Macs don’t have specialized dock connectors that allow dedicated and quick connection to a permanent dock. In most cases, you either have to attach every port to a single docking solution (the those provided by Henge Docks) or you sacrifice a single native port for a port replicator styled dock like the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock.

There’s not much difference between how the two solutions provide connectivity. One uses all the native ports, the other only uses one, connecting you to the dock via a cable. Thanks to TB3 technology, though you’re going to get some of the best performance you’ve ever experienced when working with your peripherals.

The OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock is $299 and is available from their website.

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