Windows 10 Creator Update Release Date Announced

The Windows 10 Creator’s Update will be released on 2017-04-11.

Today is the world is abuzz with the news that Microsoft will be releasing its much touted Windows 10 Creator’s Update on 2017-04-11. This update will work with all Windows 10 Anniversary Update compatible PC’s and is specifically intended for Microsoft’s larger, touch screen enabled, all in one PC, the Microsoft Surface Studio.

Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for the Windows and devices group calls the Creator’s Update a “pretty major” one. He further states that its “[Microsoft’s] vision is to empower the creator in all of us.”

When I jumped back into the Surface, with the Surface Book, I also jumped back into the Windows 10 Insider program on the Slow Ring. This means that the code that I’m getting is still prerelease code – still a beta – but is much more stable than other betas in other rings in the program. I’m liking what I’m seeing; but so far, for me, the Creator’s Update isn’t as big as Microsoft is making it out to be. I haven’t seen anything THAT major…yet.

However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot going on. Here are seven of probably the biggest and most notable items in the Creator’s Update that you’ll notice, even if you DON’T pick up a Surface Studio – which, by the way, starts at $2999.99.

  • Paint 3D
    Paint has been around since Windows 3.x. Its seen a few updates in terms of UI/UX; but its functionality has remained pretty constant – provide some basic way for a user to create a bitmap. The app now supports creating graphics in 2D or 3D formats. If you have a 3D printer, you can print your 3D creation as well…
  • Photos & Maps
    If you’re so inclined, you can now take your Surface Pen – or other supported stylus – and mark up graphics or maps in their respective apps. It’s not ground breaking, but it can be fun.
  • Microsoft EDGE
    Despite Microsoft’s best efforts, users still do NOT prefer either IE or EDGE. Most Windows users are using Chrome before either MS browser. However, EDGE is now faster, more secure and easier on your battery, and that last, ESPECIALLY over Chrome, which is a known battery hog. Microsoft claims an hour more use while watching streaming video using EDGE vs. Chrome.

Updates to EDGE include the following:

  1. The ability to preview visual thumbnails of your open tabs by hovering over a given tab.
  2. The ability to set aside open tabs to reference later, bringing them back by selecting a “restore tabs” button.
  3. EDGE now offers a variety of extensions including a Pinterest Pin It Button, Amazon Assistant (surfacing deals), and a Translator extension that lets you translate Web pages in more than 50 languages. EDGE also has an MS Office extension, letting you view and edit files without having Office installed on your computer.
  4. Microsoft has created an eBook Store as part of the Windows Store, where users may buy eBooks and read them in EDGE. Microsoft isn’t sharing how many books will be available in the Windows Store at launch.
  • Security
    The Creator’s Update includes a new Windows Defender Security Center. With it, you can examine the overall security status of your system. By clicking on a Health Report , you can your computer’s most recent scan results. The details of this system are still coming together, so I would expect updates to this new component to be available in a Patch Tuesday deployment near you.
  • Gaming
    Windows 10 now has a dedicated Gaming section in Settings now, and includes a Game Mode that is turned on by default. Game Mode prioritizes system resources when your gaming to insure that you get the best gaming experience from your hardware. This includes optimizations to the new game streaming process that Microsoft acquired last August from Beam. I know my oldest boy will be thankful for this when he streams games from our Xbox One. You will also be able to play games via the Xbox app on either your Xbox One or Windows 10 PC in the near future.
  • Color Adjusted Night-Time Display
    A number of different folks have issues with blue-based light in the evening. Studies have shown that exposing yourself to too much blue light before you go to bed can create sleep related issues. In other words, computing before bed makes it hard to fall asleep.A new feature in the Creator’s Update allows you to alter the color pallet on your display automatically so that you get warmer colors in the evening. The warmer colors on your monitor are supposed to help you sleep (or not be kept awake too long after calling it quits for the night). All I’ve noticed so far is that it can make everything on your monitor appear a little yellowy. I have no idea if this is going to make a difference in the long run, though you can use this as well as a new feature to limit the amount of time your kids spend on the PC as well as on the Xbox One’s version of the Creator’s Update.
  • Augmented and Mixed Reality
    Put this more in the coming soon category, but the Creators Update will support the first Windows Mixed Reality-enabled headsets when they arrive later this year from Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP and Lenovo, at a starting price of $299.Microsoft says that the headsets will have built in sensors, that will enable you to walk around a room without the need for any external markers or sensors. This will more easily mark your boundaries . Unfortunately, it’s not clear if this is also going to come to any consumer version of the HoloLens or not. However, these enhancements are eagerly anticipated by many; and should be fun to try when they’re available.

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Is it Really Just Superficial?

Is my love for digital ink and Microsoft Surface PC’s on the level, or just skin deep?

Ok, kids…

I’m going to make this one quick and short for a few reasons – I’ve got a lot on my plate right now; and I want to really get to the meat of all of this in a deeper look at Microsoft’s Surface Book, intended to be published in the coming weeks.

However, I did want to relay a couple of things:

  1. Accept No Substitutes
    When you know you have your heart set on something, no matter how much it really just didn’t sit right with you in the first place, don’t try to convince yourself that something ELSE is just as good.In other words, even though it’s about one third the price, and has decent performance, the ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA is NOT either Microsoft’s Surface Pro nor Microsoft’s Surface Book. As awesome as Intel’s Cherry Trail processor is, it’s not an Intel Core processor (no Intel Atom processor is…) and it isn’t going to provide the same level of performance.
  2. It’s not What I WantedWhen you’re met with the unmistakable conclusion that you were wrong and that you should just accept the facts as they are and move on, you really should do just that.
  3. Don’t be so Damn Stubborn
    Dude. Just say the words…, “I was wrong.” It’s not all that hard. Just say the words.

Ok…

So… here it goes:

  1. There really isn’t a substitute for the Microsoft Surface Pro or Surface Book. They’re basically the same 3×2 convertible ultrabook (with some minor differences). While you may prefer one over the other for one (set of) reason(s) or another, they’re effectively the same. No other transformer PC or ultrabook out there is the Surface Pro/ Book. There are similar devices, like the ASUS Transformer Mini T102HA, but they are NOT a Surface device, and shouldn’t be thought of as a Surface replacement.They are similar, but NOT the same
  2. You can’t fit a square peg in a round hole. You can’t change the shape of your hole, either. If you want a round object, squaring it off isn’t going to make you happy. When you look at it, all you’re going to see is the fact that it used to be a circle.You can’t MAKE something into something it’s not. You hear that a lot about people, too… Yeah, it’s true there, too.
  3. Unde. I give, already.Okokokok… “you” were right. They’re not the same, and I just have to give in and let it go.

If you remember, I originally tossed my Surface Pro 3 to the wind because of the digital, disappearing ink bug that the Surface Pro (all generations – 1, 2, 3 and 4) and the Surface Book have.

The bug is still active, even as of this writing, and while I have implemented the work around, a work around is NOT a solution. Functionality on the Surface Pro series of devices is still deprecated in Microsoft OneNote. While I’ve disable “Use Pen as Pointer” and have turned off “automatic ink OCR,” having to use a work around just makes my teeth itch.

But then again, I’m a QA guy… defaulting to the work arounds is required to insure that ink doesn’t disappear, however, living with the work around and not a permanent fix just seems wrong to me.

But at the end of the day, the answer to the begged question here, “really..?? After all the complaining, you actually got a Surface Book??”, is, “yes. Yes I did.

The Surface Book has been around for quite a while, so doing a ground breaking review on it isn’t warranted, but I’ll have something together for it in the coming weeks. I’ve gotten an accessory or two for the device, so I’m committed to making it work; but the answer to that question, in all honestly, really remains to be seen.

I don’t like going backwards; and I don’t like having to put up with bugs on a machine, that by all accounts, should be the most bug free installation and implementation of Windows 10 and compatible hardware on the market. It feels wrong to me to have to put up with that kind of situation, and to be very honest, I’m not one to put up with that level of crap from Microsoft.

I don’t put up with it from Apple either, but the situation is a bit different. Windows is different from macOS in this regard because Microsoft licenses its OS to a number of different Original Equipment Manufacturers – or OEM’s. As such, there are a number of different drivers that have to be written for the OS, because – and let’s be honest – not all computer hardware is created equally.

I expect a great deal more from Microsoft Windows when it runs on a Microsoft branded computer than when it runs on a Dell or HP or even a Micro Center, build your own style PC. I expect everything on the Microsoft branded computer to work; and in the case of the Surface devices their history has been a bit bumpy.

If you remember, Microsoft had a number of different driver and firmware related problems with both Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book. Other OEM’s haven’t had this level of difficulty with their computers, especially when it comes to Microsoft software, like Office 2016 and all of their components.

In the end, with the work around, things work, but herein lies the article that I want to write later…

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FEATURE REVIEW – DBZDRESS Flux Battery Case for iPhone 6/6s/7 Plus

Every now and again, Facebook ads offer some interesting purchases…

Introduction
Back in July of 2012, the New York Times published an article announcing the opening of small business shops on Facebook. Since that time, you’ve probably seen the number of shopping based posts in your feed increase. This is Facebook trying to claim their slice of the ecommerce pie.

I get them – meaning product ads – all the time. Most of them are either gadget or watch related. I’ve purchased a couple things out of these ads. In most cases, these are Shopify powered vendors. They may or may not have a true web presence, and in most cases don’t have any other type of ecommerce platform than the one offered through Shopify. This would include, oddly enough, a number of vendors that either live or drop ship directly from China.

One such vendor is DBZDRESS. They had a HUGE push about six to eight months ago regarding iPhone battery cases. (by the way, a quick look on what battery cases they offer as of this writing, indicates they aren’t offering any…)

While it was available, I purchased the Flux Battery Case from DBZDRESS in mid-November 2016. Here’s my experience with the company and with the case from the time that I ordered the case until I received it, and started using it.

Order, Shipping and Product Receipt
Believe it or not, this is probably 75% of this story; and it’s probably one of the biggest messes I’ve seen in a while.

The timeline here is way more protracted than it needs to be. In fact, it was nearly criminal. I was very close to contacting the Better Business Bureau and reporting and filing complaints against the company I purchased the case from as well as Facebook. It got kinda weird.

I ordered the Flux Battery Case on 2016-11-15. My credit card was charged immediately, and my credit card was charged almost immediately. Shopify sent me an email about the purchase, and I waited.

On 2016-11-22, I got a notice from USPS that the device had shipped. On 2016-12.02 I got a notice that the case had entered customs in China. It was updated again on 2016-12-07 but there was no event detail provided. The last that I knew, the case was stuck in customs.

I contacted DBZDRESS on 2016-12-23. I requested assistance on the status of the shipment. It was ignored.
I contacted DBZDRESS on 2017-01-13. I requested assistance on the status of the shipment. Again, it was ignored.

I contacted DBZDRESS on 2017-01-27. I requested assistance on the status of the shipment. Again, it was ignored.

I received the battery case on 2017-02-05. I got a reply from DBZDRESS on 2017-02-06 telling me that I had received the case, and that it didn’t look like I needed help any longer. DBZDRESS thanked me for my time and my purchase, and sent me on my way.

This is by far the worst customer service experience I have ever had, with any vendor, EVER. I am not used to being ignored, not once or twice, but three different times, without my emails – which are the only way to reach out to them – even so much as acknowledged… until AFTER the product was received.

Based on this and this alone, I don’t care HOW great the case is, I don’t think I’ll be purchasing anything from these guys ever again. They’ve pretty much ruined any repeat business from me. I did a little looking into DBZDRESS and they have a forum on their website. After readying through the few comments that actually have been posted on their site, it’s clear that my experience is not unusual. In fact, it’s the norm.

Product Review
The Flux Battery Case is slim; and its simple. It contains a 2000mAh battery; and only adds 0.2″ of thickness and 2.5 oz. of weight to your iPhone. It provides little to no protection to your iPhone. So, do not look to it to do that.

The case provides power; and that’s about it. When the battery in the case is activated, it can take your native battery from 0% to 80% before it dies, itself. The case is supposed to support USB pass through according to the product’s website. However, the version that I bought from DBZDRESS doesn’t do this.

The battery in and of itself does a decent job of charging a dead iPhone. The specs for the case say it can take from 0% to 80% and it’s supposed to do it without going to sleep. That hasn’t been my experience.

My Flux Battery Case charges the battery or charges the case. It will charge both at the same time, IF I attach the battery connector to the phone and then plug the case in; but that’s about it.

An angled view of the case notice the open connector leads on the bottom, the stored connector on the bottom corner and the damage to my screen protector The bottom of the case. The connector attaches here, via the Lightning port and the four leads.
The left side of the case. Notice the cut outs for the volume rocker and the sound switch. The top of the case.
The right side of the case. Note the cutout for the wake/ sleep button and the power connector. The power connector removed. A Lightning cable goes into the opening on the side of the case to charge it. The connector, inserts into the bottom of the case.
The power connector and the bottom of the case. Turn the power connector over and firmly insert it into the Lightning port on your iPhone to charge your iPhone. The power connector attached to my iPhone 7 Plus.
The power connector attached to my iPhone. Note the green power light under the case. This notes that the case is charging the iPhone. An elevated view of the power connector attached to my iPhone 7 Plus. You can more clearly see the damage to the screen protector, on both bottom corners, here.

Conclusion
In the end, the case does what its advertised to do, but not without a couple of hiccups.

It doesn’t do USB pass through, as versions now available, do. I’ve tried with different cables and different computers and USB connections. It simply doesn’t work.

The case also seems to sleep, or stop charging my iPhone, 10-15 minutes after the device sleeps. At this point, the case stops charging your iPhone, even though it still has ample charge left in its battery. This doesn’t make any sense to me at all. I have no idea what is going on here; and it’s very frustrating

Waking the device does not reactivate the charging mechanism in the battery case. In order to get it charging again, you have to pull the connector out of the Lightning port and reinsert it. As long as the case’s battery has power, it will start charging your iPhone again. However, I still wouldn’t consider the charging mechanism to be reliable. If I have to wake my phone in order to insure that its taking a charge, I’m going to waste power that I would much rather just get banked into my iPhone’s battery than burned by the LCD or other component because the phone has to stay awake to get the most benefit from the case’s battery.

The cases provides little to no protection to your iPhone. Don’t look to it to do that. I have a $35 Invisible Shield glass screen protector on my iPhone 7 Plus that now needs to be replaced thanks to this case. I’ve used these screen protectors on my last couple of devices (iPhone 5, iPhone 6 and now iPhone 7 Plus), and I’ve never had to replace one of these. There are deep scratches in it near the top, two corners and chips and breaks in both bottom corners.

I’m not pleased with this case, and for the amount that I paid for it ($50USD, shipped direct from China) and with the atrocious customer service experience I had actually getting the case to me, there’s little to no chance I’ll ever purchase a case – or any other product, for that matter – from DBZDRESS. I suggest you steer clear of them as well. Based on how they dealt with me, I’m lucky I received the product I ordered at all.

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The Future of the MacBook Pro

Even though some have moved on to other issues, it’s still kinda hangin’ out there…

I’ve been a Mac for about 11 years. While I originally bought my first Mac to be a Windows machine, I’ve fully moved over to macOS and have moved all of my app needs, wants and desires over to the Mac/ Apple side of the fence. This had made things good and bad; and I’m happy and sad with the results. In other words, I’ve gotten used to it, and I’ve fully transitioned.

While I admit that I was less than happy with the recent Late 2016 MacBook Pro’s, some interesting information has come to light, and thankfully, I’ve finally gotten the time to digest it all.

Apple prognosticator, Ming Chi Kuo has released a few bullet points describing how he feels Apple will address some of the laptop’s shortcomings:

  1. Apple will combat high price complaints by offering discounts. Apple is targeting the Late 2016 13″ MBP without Touch Bar. Its Apple’s desire that this unit eventually replaces the 13″ MacBook Air.
  2. Apple will address performance by working with Intel to insure that the latest Kaby Lake chips get used in all MBP’s going forward
  3. Apple’s done a great deal to address batter life at this point. Some of this was resolved by both OS and battery firmware updates. Implementing the latest Kaby Lake processors will further address this issue and put it to bed.
  4. Apple intends to get low-powered RAM sticks into the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar so that it can eventually bump the specs to 32GB, resolving the criticism of high end Mac users.

There are some holes here, however. While cost is a huge issue, only addressing the price point of the 13″ MBP without Touch Bar doesn’t do anything for the rest of the product line. It only provides entry level discounts. The larger SSD’s, processor and RAM configurations when maxed out, price the 15″ MBP with TB, up over $4000, after tax ($3949.00, USD retail price). The 32GB configuration isn’t available yet; and my guess it’s going to be at least a $2000 add-on.

I have no idea how individuals like me, who have a real need for that level of processing power can afford a computer that will likely cost upwards of $6000 USD. It simply doesn’t make sense. I have no idea how the high end units will sell to the guys that have traditionally purchased them.

These are guys like me – freelance writers, graphic artists, photographers, programmers, etc. They work for themselves, or for small businesses. Apple computers are some of the best computers available today. Creative professionals like these need powerful machines with a lot of RAM. Unfortunately, the 2016 MacBook Pro, fully configured with 32GB of RAM and its largest SSD, is about double what last year’s MacBook Pro cost.

So what does the Future of the MacBook Pro look like?

It looks technologically superior; but it looks really expensive. I hope Ming Chi Kuo is right. I hope that it all happens.

How it all ends up, though, only time will tell. We’ve got a few months before WWDC hits, and with us approaching mid-March, it’s unlikely we’ll see a March event. So, it’s all about timing.

Right now, it’s expensive, and the port configuration(s) aren’t moving in a direction that I think will work for everyone. Certainly, you can get around the ports “problem” and use dongles while on the go and a docking station or other port replicator while at a workstation; but that doesn’t resolve the issue. It’s a band aide at best.

I’d love to hear what you all think. What do you think about the what Ming Chi Kuo says? Do you have a Late 2016 MacBook Pro? How do you get past the port problem, or the cost? Why don’t you join me in the Discussion area below, and give me your thoughts.

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Audials Music Rocket

Get your monthly music fix with Audials Music Rocket, one of the best players available anywhere.

I’ve been a singer/ songwriter and musician most of my life. To say that I have the music in me is a bit of an understatement. Thanks, in no small measure, to the 128GB iPhone 7 Plus in my life, I’ve got my entire digital music collection with me all the time, every day, out loud. And loud it is, as I love listening to tunes while driving. It’s what I do…

Finding new music, however, can be difficult at times. Yes, there are streaming tools like Pandora and Spotify, you can get access to new streaming titles, but as I’ve said before, I like to own my music and not just lease (read: stream) it. That’s probably the biggest reason why I’m such a fan of Audials Music Rocket for Windows. It gives you access to a huge music library that you can download for free; and its available for a PC near you.

Audials Music Rocket allows you to find and download new music, fast, legally and for free. With it, you can listen to internet radio stations, podcasts and music TV broadcasts. The application offers fast downloads and will even do video to audio conversion from well-known music portals on the fly. You can save music in MP3, WMA or AAC file formats, legally and free of charge.

Audials Music Rocket will create a playlist of songs automatically once you tell it your favorite type of music, by identifying a “reference song.” Its Top Songs feature then creates the playlist to match your taste in music. With its auto play mode, AMR will automatically play that music for you, too

With its Wish List feature, Audials Music Rocket can monitor thousands of radio stations and music sites automatically. Whether you’re looking for singles, whole albums or an entire discography, AMR can find it and send you an alert when the station or site is updated. You can also use the app to update ID3 compatible song tags, album images and song lyrics, prior to adding them to your music collection.

 

I really have to admit that I didn’t want to like AMR. I’m very picky about my music apps and as such don’t venture too far from the OS or device defaults. I don’t even do a lot with Pandora, Spotify, Shazam, Last.fm or Lala. However, I was really, very pleasantly surprised by Audials Music Rocket. I really like this app; and you should, too.

The app provides a number of different ways to do new music discovery. It provides a wish list function that will also update you when new items matching your likes are found. You can download all the music to your PC and sync it to your device and update your iTunes music library as well. This… this was a very pleasant surprise, and now has me doing music discovery from my Windows machines.

While the app is a little on the expensive side for a modern desktop app, its easily offset by all of the new music you’re going to get and find. If this isn’t part of your default Windows setup, it should be. Stop what you’re doing and download the app now. You won’t be disappointed.

DOWNLOAD Audials Music Rocket

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Installing Custom ROM’s on the HTC 10

You need to start with a rooted device…

Introduction
A while back I rooted the HTC10 that HTC sent me. Since then, I’ve not done much with the device. However, I did notice that rooting it DID break OTA updates for the stock ROM that ships with the device.

I found this out after I rooted the device and a device update notification showed up from AT&T. I suspect this was the Android Nougat update that was promised, but I’ll never know. Downloading the AT&T update and trying to install it simply reboots the device directly into TWRP Recovery for HTC10 and nothing more. Trying to do anything in TWRP at that point either results in a flash error or in a file not found error.

I’ve reached out to the author of the tutorial video but haven’t received any kind of response or acknowledgement.

I figured since I rooted the device and can flash just about any available ROM for it anyway, that I should likely get to flashing. However, before I get into anything here, I really need to relate the following:

  1. YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary) & No Warranty
    Anything that’s suggested in any of this text or any of the linked articles either written by me or referenced by me and written by others is done at your own risk. I’m not telling you to do anything, can’t provide you with any support; and no warranty – either real or implied – is available by or through me, Soft32.com (or its related companies) or your device OEM or mobile carrier. If you flash your device and it bricks, you’re simply outta luck. (it’s the same risk I’m taking with the same YMMV issues with my HTC10, too).
  2. It’s all Just for Fun
    I’m not suggesting or implying that you HAVE to do anything I’m writing about. I think it’s cool and I like to do it, at times…
  3. I Ain’t Goin’ Overboard
    The reason I stopped using an Android device in the first place was because supporting a rooted device can be very tedious and time consuming. I started doing it because I was bored with the stock launcher and Android distribution on the Android phones I was using. I’m going down this road again, but only with a select chosen few custom ROM’s and then certainly NOT with nightly or experimental builds.

Resources
The first thing you’re going to need is a microSD card. If you don’t have one in your HTC10, stop what you’re doing and go get one. A 32GB card can as cheap as $13 bucks on Amazon while a 64GB card can be gotten for about $21 bucks. Both of these deals are available via the same URL and are available with Amazon Prime’s 2 day delivery service. Get as big a card as you can afford. The HTC 10 will support a 128GB card.

After you’ve got an SD card in your device and its mounted and readable, you’ll need to find some ROM’s to flash to the device. Of course, the best place to find this stuff is XDA-Developers and most specifically, in my case, the HTC10 Device Forum.

Once you get to the form on XDA-Developers, you need to spend a bit of time wandering around. All of the ROM threads are prefaced with a “[ROM]” label. All the kernels with a [KERNEL] label, etc. everything is easy to spot.

[ROM] threads are likely the most interesting to most folks, especially those of us that are among the noobies of the group. Most of these threads come with an introductory post that explain everything you’d likely ever want to know (and everything you don’t) about the ROM creator, its features, issues, bugs, etc. This post will come with instructions on how to install it, as well as any needed or desired components that make this ROM special. It will also include any special instructions and gotchas that you might need to care for. Follow their instructions to the letter. You’ll want to be able to back up that claim with facts, should you need help setting things right if they turn sideways.

Read through all of that information.

It will also include any special instructions and gotchas that you might need to care for. Follow their instructions to the letter. You’ll want to be able to back up that claim with facts, should you need help setting things right if they turn sideways.

If the ROM author offers any support if and when you have problems installing the ROM, I can promise that they will be more willing to help you if you’ve followed all of their instructions and paid attention to the known issues, etc. for their ROM. If you haven’t they will likely send you packing telling you you’re on your own. That’s not me, that’s just the way this advanced crowd rolls.

[KERNEL] threads will provide instructions and download links to alternative ROM kernels that can be flashed to your device. Kernels can most likely provide a great deal of enhanced functionality to the ROM you’re using. However, since this is really the heart and soul of the ROM, you need to treat it like the “heart transplant” it feels like.

While all kernels in any device forum will work with that device, they may NOT work or work well with every ROM. Make certain you read the instructions post – again, usually the first post in the thread – and take note of any listed warnings. If there are ROM’s in the forum that don’t work and play well with any specific kernel, it will likely be listed in either the instruction post of the kernel or the ROM (or both). Heed these warnings. Don’t install a kernel that doesn’t work with your target ROM. You’ll brick your device or worse.

Flashing a Custom ROM
I’m not going to go into a great deal of detail here (there will be some) on flashing a custom ROM. There are some very specific reasons for this, and I want everyone to understand why.

  1. Flashing a Custom ROM Voids the Warranty on Your Phone
    It doesn’t matter what device you have. It doesn’t matter what custom ROM you use. If you’ve rooted your device AND you proceed to flash a custom ROM on it afterwards, you’re risk bricking the device AND you void the warranty all in one fell swoop.As such, flashing your Android device with a custom ROM shouldn’t be done lightly, or by anyone who really doesn’t know what they’re doing or getting themselves into. Recovering your device from a bad flash can be a very tricky, and very long, stressful set of activities.
  2. I’m not Taking Responsibility
    If you flash your device and it bricks, winds up in a circular boot loop (that happened to me while researching and writing this article…it’s not easy to fix), or some other nasty result, it’s not on me… It’s on you. You do this at your own risk.
  3. Your Mileage May Vary
    Not every custom ROM is built equally. You need to find ones that work for you. However, XDA Developers remains the PREMIER resource for finding rooting instructions and help and for available compatible ROM’s for your device.

If you’re still good to go with flashing a custom ROM to your previously rooted Android device – I have an HTC 10 and will be using it for this article.

Please note that my HTC 10 is still running Marshmallow and a Marshmallow compatible firmware. While I will be flashing a Nougat (Android 7) ROM on this device, my HTC 10 will still be running that Marshmallow firmware.

To flash a new ROM to your device, follow these steps.

  1. Find a ROM
    The first thing you have to do is find a ROM that you like, with the features you’re looking for. There are always a LOT of ROM’s to choose from. Pick one that you like and that has a lot of support from the developer. Most ROM posts have screen shots and informative information in the first couple of posts. Again, go through these intro posts very carefully. Any gotchas will be listed there.
  2. Copy the ROM to your SD Card
    Connect your device to your computer via cable. After allowing it to connect to your PC, copy your ROM of choice to your device’s microSD card. Depending on your PC and the type of connection you have (USB2, USB 3.x or USB-C), this may take up to 15 minutes. It usually takes about seven to ten minutes for me.
  3. Reboot to Recovery Mode
    I’ll be speaking to TWRP Recovery as defined in my article on how to root the HTC 10.Reboot your device to its bootloader and then to the recovery partition. Press and hold the power and volume down button until the device buzzes and then the device logo appears. The device’ download mode screen should appear.

    Press the volume down button twice. The blue bar should move down to highlight “reboot to bootloader.” Press the power button to accept the choice. The device will reboot into its bootloader.

    Press the volume down button three times. The blue bar should highlight the words, “Boot to Recovery Mode,” and press the power button. The device will reboot into the TWRP Recovery Partition.
  4. Begin the Installation Process
    Once TWRP has loaded, tap the Install button.

    TWRP’s select storage screen will appear. Tap the Select Storage button on the bottom left corner of the screen.

    Select the location where you copied the ROM image you downloaded earlier. If you followed my previous suggestion, you copied it to your storage card. Select the Micro SDCard radio button and tap OK.

    Select the ROM you wish to flash. The Install ZIP screen will appear, asking you to confirm your choice and to swipe right to start the process.

    The flash process will start, the LeeDroid logo will appear, and Aroma will appear.
  5. Choose your Aroma Options

    Aroma is a ROM option selection application used to collect installation and OS default options in Android ROM’s. It’s fairly straight forward and easy to navigate through. There are, SEVERAL Aroma screens. I’m not going to run through them all here, as that would unnecessarily elongate this process. It also may not be very meaningful to everyone, as my installation options are unique to my preferences. There are, however, a few screens that you need to be aware of when you go through the process. I’m going to highlight those very quickly, here.
    Do you wish to perform a full wipe?
    This comes about 5 screens into the process. If you’re installing a new version of an existing ROM on your device, you don’t have to do a full wipe. If you’re installing a never used on your device before ROM, you should always wipe your device before installing a new ROM. While you’ll need to reinstall all of your apps and tweak the ROM to your liking, you’re likely going to do a lot of that anyway. Failing to wipe your device appropriately, will likely cause it to become unbootable, as your data partition likely contains data specific to the functioning of your OLD ROM, and will conflict with the new one you’re flashing.

    Which firmware are you running?
    You are asked this on screen 7. Choose the right firmware! This process will NOT upgrade your device from one firmware version to another. It will only install the a version of Android that will run on your device; and that version must be properly configured for your device’s firmware.CHOOSE THE RIGHT OPTION HERE or risk bricking your device.
  6. Let the Install Run

    After all of your options are selected, tap the Next button to begin the actual installation.

    Let the install run. The ROM will install with the options that were selected. Tap the Next button when you’re done.
  7. Reboot the Device

    Tap the Next button. You’ll be taken to the TaDa page, indicating that you’ve successfully installed the ROM and a reboot is required.Reboot the device. Let the device do whatever the device wants to do when it reboots. It’s likely going to take a while to get through the first reboot after the flash, as well.Don’t panic.This is normal and not something to be concerned about. There are cache files that need to be created and written to internal storage, and this happens on the first boot of the device after a ROM flash.

Conclusion
Flashing a ROM on a rooted Android device is always an exciting time. In many cases, users buy a specific Android device for one of two reasons – they either love the hardware or they love the OS screens they see. It’s rarely ever both; but when that happens, its magical.

The HTC 10 I have is a truly awesome piece of hardware. I love the device, the camera, the Ice View Case; and was really NOT impressed with the version of Android that shipped with it. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t anything to write home about, either. Simply put, it allowed the device to operate. That’s about it.

Rooting your device and then installing custom ROM’s on it can be very exciting. It allows you to use functionality that the OEM or even the carrier never envisioned for the device in the first place. It allows you to extend the life of your device. I know users who find three to four different ROM’s that work with their device and then flash back and forth between the versions as the mood strikes them. If the device they own is popular and has a lot of enthusiast support, I’ve seen users do this for a period of three to four years with a single device. (Most smartphones are designed with a two year life span, max.)

Caution should be taken with any device flash, however. There are a lot of opportunities for failure and flashing the wrong type or version of a ROM on your device can easily brick it. As such, the moment you flash a custom ROM, you void the warranty on your device.

At the end of the day, READ the information the ROM author posts. Follow any and all instructions that are posted. Ask questions on the forum if you have them; and by all means… HAVE FUN!

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FEATURE REVIEW – Orbi Router

Wireless mesh networking is the latest thing in the world of Wi-Fi…

Introduction
I live in a two story home in suburban Chicago. The home is about 20 years old, and that puts its manufacture date just a few years before the introduction of Windows 95 and the public “release” of the internet.

Yes, yes… Of course, you’re right… Services like AOL, Prodigy and CompuServe were available long before that and had been giving folks access to the internet for a while. To many, that service, its UI, and everything it offered WAS the internet. However, the internet really didn’t start to heat up until 1995; and really didn’t start being made part of the standard single family home build with CAT5 cabling, until the early 2000’s.

For those older homes or those without network cabling in their walls, the easiest way to get internet access in your home has been with Wi-Fi. This is either done with a wireless access point, or more conveniently with a wireless router or cable modem/ router. Suddenly, you can get internet access all over your home… provided you have adequate signal.

And with Wi-Fi, that’s always been the big problem – adequate signal strength between your router or access point and your wireless device. No matter what you do, you’re going to run into signal interference from something in your home, whether it’s a wall or floor with wood or metal framing, copper, brass or PVC piping, electrical wiring and conduit… something is going to get in the way of your super strong, super-duper wireless router and will interfere with your access to the internet and all of its wonders.

Is the Netgear Orbi the wireless Wi-Fi router for me…? for you…? Let’s take a look at what it provides and see if it makes the cut.

Problems at Home
I’ve been in my current home for about 10 and a half years. During that time, I’ve been through 5-6 different wired and/ or wireless routers. For some reason, and I don’t know why, I seem to be on a 2-3 year cycle of replacing what appears to be “perfectly good” electronics because one day they’re workin’ just fine, and the next, they’re suckin’ up the joint.

I’ve tested the power coming into the outlets near where I have my cable modem hooked to the service cable coming into the house. Everything tests out just fine. I have no idea why I have to replace internet routers so often; but it appears that I do, as they just seem to “wear out.”

In following up with this problem, I’ve also contacted Comcast, my internet service provider, or ISP. They took one look at my cable modem and told me that my model was no longer supported. After some very frustrating and flawed, circular conversations on sending me a newer, supported model – and who was going to pay for shipping – I’m getting a new cable modem sent to me, absolutely free of charge, with Comcast covering the shipping. Its scheduled to arrive on 2016-02-03

Mesh Networking
Wireless mesh networking, or Wi-Fi systems as they are being marketed, are all the rage right now. They provide a stronger, wider reaching coverage area than traditional wireless networking solutions. The technology used here is similar to installing and using a signal repeater, a wireless access point or simply putting an additional wireless router in bridger mode; but with some very subtle, but important differences.

What makes these little bad boys better than an access point or other wireless router is the way that it repeats the signal. To understand why that is, we need to understand what mesh networking is and how it works.

Wireless access points and signal repeaters do just that – broadcast or forward on a wireless network signal; and that’s all. A mesh network Wi-Fi signal is different because in a mesh network the wireless signal is strengthened and sped up with each and every additional network node that is added to the network. The more nodes, the stronger and faster the single becomes. The denser the signal field, the better.

In a mesh network, only one node in the wireless mesh network actually needs to be directly wired to the Internet. That wired node is usually the wireless router or base station; and it shares the Internet connection wirelessly with the nearest cluster of nodes. Other wireless nodes share the signal with the node or node cluster nearest to them, etc.

Each individual node doesn’t need to be wired to anything. It only needs a power supply such as traditional AC plugs, batteries, etc. Nodes can also provide Internet connectivity to any type of internet device – wired or wireless devices – including VoIP phones, video cameras, servers, including desktop and laptop computers using traditional wired connections.

It’s this flexibility and strengthening and density of the internet connection that is making mesh networking or Wi-Fi systems so popular right now. They’re easy to setup and manage; and they provide internet connectivity to nearly any and every internet aware device – regardless of connection type.

Orbi Setup
To be very honest, this was surprisingly easy.

I’ve been using routers for home internet service since I got my first @Home internet service account back in 2000. I have a little bit of experience with these, and they are not always as intuitive and straight forward as one would hope; especially for noobies. Non-experienced users have traditionally had a great deal of trouble configuring and setting up wired and wireless routers, even in the more recent years with products that have been labeled “easy to configure.”

Home based, mesh networking is new technology (see above), and I really thought that setting up this product would be a lot different than what it turned out to be.

This was perhaps the easiest networking product I’ve ever setup. This was even easier to configure than my Apple Time Capsule.

When you get your Orbi Home Wi-Fi system, use these instructions to set it up.

  1. Connect the Router to your Cable Modem
    Unplug your cable modem and pull the backup batter so that it completely shuts down. Unplug and remove your old router (if you have one). Put the battery back in your cable modem. Wait 15 seconds and then plug your cable modem back in. Allow it to reregister on your ISP’s network.Plug an Ethernet cable from your cable modem into the yellow internet port on the back of your Orbi router.

    Plug in your Orbi router. The power LED on the back of the router should light green. If the LED doesn’t come on, press the on/off button. The LED on the TOP of your Orbi router should turn white.

  2. Position your Orbi Satellite 

    Your Orbi router should have a coverage area of at least 2000 square feet. When considering a spot for placing your Orbi, you need to consider more than the square footage of your home (mine is 2300 square feet…). You also need to consider the height of your home and how many floors you wish to provide wireless service to.I have 3 floors in my home. I have the Orbi router in my basement next to my Comcast cable modem. I have my Orbi Satellite on the opposite side of the house, in my family room, on the main floor of my home. This type of configuration blankets my entire home with Wi-Fi coverage on all three floors.

    The one thing that you have to keep in mind when positioning your satellite is that you must think in three (3) dimensions. Radio antennas provide coverage to either side of the unit as well as above and below it.

    When you plug the Orbi Satellite into an AC outlet, the power LED on the back will turn green. If it doesn’t, press the power burn. The Orbi satellite’s LED power ring will turn white and then a light magenta. It will remain a light magenta for about a minute while the satellite attempts to sync with the router.

  3. Confirm the Router Connection
    After about a minute or so, the LED power ring will turn either blue or amber.a. If the LED ring turns Blue
    The connection between the router and the satellite is functioning as intended and you’re good to go!

    b. If the LED ring turns Amber
    The connection between the router and the satellite is weak. You need to find a better place to position your satellite so that you get a stronger connection between the source of your internet connection (the router) and the satellite.

    c. If the LED ring remains Magenta
    If the LED remains magenta and you’ve already moved the satellite closer to the router, you may need to force the sync between the two units. Send someone down to the router and have them push the Sync button on the back of the router. After they’ve done that, you should press the Sync button the back of the satellite.

    If the Orbi router and satellite find each other and have a strong connection, the satellite’s LED ring will light white, then turn blue, and then turn off.

  4. Connect your Computer to the Orbi 

    Once you’re Orbi devices are setup and broadcasting a signal, you need to get in and configure them. Turn on Wi-Fi for your mobile device (phone or tablet) or your computer, and find the default Orbi network name (SSID) in your network list. Grab the box and check for the default password and then authenticate.Open your computing device’s web browser and surf to http://orbilogin.com. You will be presented with instructions on how to configure your device for the first time.

    During this time you MAY see the LED ring on your Orbi router or satellite turn back on. It may not… If it does, it should turn off once setup is complete.

Performance
I have the 75Mbps service offering from Comcast in suburban Chicago, IL. The service guarantees download speeds UP to 75Mbps and upload speeds UP to 20Mbps. Since installing the Orbi High-Performance AC3000 Tri-Band Wi-Fi System, my download speeds have been consistently well above that. I’m hitting download speeds of anywhere from 88Mbps to 92Mbps.

I’ve had a few instances of signal dropping or a complete lack of service, but that’s been confirmed to be an issue with either the service that Comcast has been providing or with their cable modem. In fact, I have a new cable modem from them that I need to install and activate. However, the signal provided by the Orbi has been strong and readily available on every floor of my home since it was brought on line.

The one issue that I need to work on with this setup is that ALL of my devices seem to be connecting to the base station and not to the satellite. I noticed this after I upgraded the firmware both devices immediately following installation. I’m not certain if that’s because I upgraded the router first and then the satellite, and everything grabbed a signal from the router instead of being more evenly distributed between the router and the satellite; or if there’s now an issue with the satellite due to the firmware flash.

I should have this all straightened out this weekend when I swap out my cable modems. I will provide an update later on this issue.

Conclusion
Make no mistake. This wireless networking system is expensive.

The Orbi High-Performance AC3000 Tri-Band Wi-Fi System retails for $399.99 for the base station and one satellite; and I’ve not really seen any real discount on this, even at Amazon. Its only $20 bucks cheaper there. It should also be noted that Amazon has the 3 node system (one base station and two satellites) for $599. Additional satellites are $249.99.

So far (when I know I have a good external service connection) this thing is smokin’ fast (and it better be for $399.99). All of my devices, including my smart TV’s and DVR’s – which historically have dropped their internet connection more than they’ve held on to it – don’t have any issues holding on to the wireless signal provided by the Orbi. I’m very pleased.

Setup was very easy, though for some reason I had a very difficult time checking for firmware updates. Uploading updated firmware to both the router and satellite was also, initially a bit problematic. I’m still having connectivity issues in the house, but I’m more convinced than ever that it’s not my equipment and is either the cable modem provided by Comcast (the old one that I need to swap out for its replacement) or is a DHCP/ DNS related issue on Comcast’s part. If the new modem hardware doesn’t resolve this, changing DNS servers within my network setup may.

Unfortunately, Comcast is the only service provider I have access to. Google has slowed down the implementation of its Google Fiber service; and unfortunately, it decided to skip Chicago anyway. My address also doesn’t qualify for AT&T Fiber; and their standard U-verse internet service simply sucks. Their plans max out at 12Mbps; and Comcast, even on a bad day can provide download speeds much, much higher than 12Mbps.

Do you have wireless internet service in your home? Do you have a separate wireless router and a cable modem, or does your cable modem also include a wireless router? Are you renting your cable modem from your ISP or did you purchase it outright? Do you have even Wi-Fi coverage in your home? Do you have weak or dead Wi-Fi spots in your home? Have you replaced your wireless router recently? Do you need to and are looking for a good replacement candidate?

I’d love to hear from you on these and other networking issues you’ve experienced lately or over the years. I’m very interested in understanding how many times you’ve had to replace a wired or wireless router in your home, especially if your cable modem does NOT provide wireless internet services. Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area, below, and give me information on what you’ve got going on for internet at your place..?

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Resetting your Windows PC – Part 2

It’s not as difficult or as time consuming as you may think…

Introduction
The other day, we spent a great deal of time going over the prerequisites for determining why and when you should reset your Windows PC. You can see that article here. Read that one before you follow the instructions here, if only to help you determine the best time to actually pull the trigger.

Once you decide that you really DO want to reset your PC, following the process here should insure that it gets done with the least amount of risk and stress.

How to Reset
I’m going to be doing this on a Windows 10 PC. However, the process can also be done on a Windows 8.x computer. The process will be similar, but somewhat different there.

Backup Your Data
There are a number of different ways to do this. You should be using at least one of them on your PC. Thankfully, you can use one, some or all of these together. If you don’t have some kind of restore process in place, you’re gonna be hurtin’ fer certin’ when you try to get yourself back up and running.

  1. Local Backup
    This can be as simple as you grabbing a USB flash drive and copying over the contents of your Documents, Photos, Videos and Music folders. It could also be a more formal operation that involves apps like Windows Backup or some other application that backs up some, part or all of your PC .If you go the backup app route, please understand that doing an application restore is likely going to put you back in the same boat you’re trying to get out of. When you’ve made the decision to reset your PC, restoring applications and settings will likely put the malware back on your PC as well. You’re going to have to be careful here; and if you set the app up right, it should function in the background, allowing you to continue working while it backs up your machine.Make certain that you only restore your files and application data from any backups you make.
  2. Cloud Based Backup
    Backing up your data to an offsite location, especially if it’s REALLY important to you can be the difference between getting everything back – including photos, videos, etc. as well as your Office or office suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) files.This option is exactly like a local backup, except that the app that’s used uploads the backup data to a cloud based computer, in real time. Apps that fall into this category include both Backblaze or Carbonite, among others, and will involve some kind of a monthly or yearly subscription fee to store your data.Like the local backup option, apps that work here are likely those that you setup once and then simply let run in the background. These set ’em and forget ’em apps can constantly backup your PC, and do it with little to no intervention from you.
  3. Cloud Based Data Storage
    Backing up your data is easy when you use apps like Dropbox, Google Drive , OneDrive or other similar program. The nice thing about apps like this is that they are cross platform and available to install on just about any type of mobile device or computer, meaning you can sync and access your data from just about anywhere. Having a backup solution like this is the very basic of backup steps and should be done regardless of whether you have a local or cloud based backup of your data (or both).Like local and cloud based backups, this option may or may not involve a subscription fee for storage, so you’ll need to insure that you have enough cloud based storage available when you set up the app. If you need more than you get for free, you’ll need to pay for it. Make certain that everything is synchronized before you reset.PLEASE NOTE: Many cloud based data storage products have best in class malware screening products monitoring their storage media. I have yet to see a virus get past any of these products and transferred BACK down to your PC, post restore. However, this is NOT infallible.

Actually doing the Reset
To perform a reset of your PC, follow these steps

  1. Open the Windows 10 Settings App.
  2. Tap on Backup. If you backup with Windows 10, use these sets of screens and this process to back up your PC to save your data, OR follow the instructions I noted above.
  3. Tap on Recovery.
  4. Tap the Get Started button under Reset this PC
  5. Choose an Option. Keep your data or completely wipe the entire computer. Wiping the entire computer will delete everything and is considered a “factory reset.” It is the most reliable option when trying to delete malware that can’t be removed by other tools.
  6. Choose an Option. Clean your drive(s) or just reset all the system files. More often than not, if you’re removing everything, it’s a good idea to remove the files and clean the hard drive. It’s the best way to prevent malware from resurfacing afterwards.
  7. Are you REALLY sure? If you’ve recently upgraded your machine to Windows 10 (the free upgrade options have reportedly come back…), you’re going to get a Warning dialog asking you to confirm, instructing you that you won’t be able to go back to your PREVIOUS version of Windows (because you’re about to erase that backup from your hard drive).
  8. Ready to Reset. This is the LAST chance you’re going to get to stop the process. If you tap the Reset button, your computer is going to be erased and everything that it once was will be gone, restored to factory freshness.
  9. Choose an Option. After you’re done, you get a chance to turn off your PC, explore other troubleshooting options or to exit the Recovery partition and run Windows 10 for the “first” time. Tap Continue.
  10. Set up your PC. Reinstall all of your applications. If you backed up your data with a local or cloud based backup app, install that first and then restore your data. If you used a cloud based data synching service like Dropbox, Google Drive , OneDrive or other similar program, reinstall it and pull all of your data back down

After your data restore is done, you should install your anti-malware app and rescan your PC for it. If its back, then you know your data is infected. However, it will more than likely turn up clean, and you should be all set.

If you’ve used the Windows 10 Reset PC feature, I’d love to hear from you. Tell me how things went for you and share your results in the Discussion area, below.

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