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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Here Comes the iPad Pro

A replacement candidate for the Surface Pro 3 has been identified…

iPad-Pro-Smart-Keyboard

Yes, yes, yes… I know.

Many of you expected this and are not surprised at all – the iPad Pro is going to get a chance to be my digital note taker in the office.

When I dumped my Surface Pro 3, I was pretty annoyed. Hell, let’s face it – I was really mad. The Surface Pro 3 has some real issues with Windows 10 and Microsoft OneNote 2013/ 2016.

It’s not pretty…

When I put the Surface Pro 3 head to head with the Surface Pro 4, I came away with some serious concerns and misgivings about where Microsoft was headed with the Surface Pro line (which, by the way, includes the Microsoft’s Surface Book).

Both the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book have problems with drivers, battery life, and in the case of the Surface Book, detaching from the native keyboard. These issues are so severe, in some cases, that people – including the friend I have in the office who lent me his SP4 to put head to head with my SP3 – returned them for replacement or refund. It’s a shame, too, as all three of these ultrabooks are really very nice… you just apparently have to use them for the right tasks, with power available, and without detaching the keyboard (in the case of the Surface Book), or you run into problems.

To be honest, it was the head to head article that I wrote that really pushed things over the edge for me and really prompted me to sell (read: dump) my Surface Pro 3. Windows 10 is problematic on it and OneNote is almost unusable, if you’re not careful.

So, enter the iPad Pro…

The office procured one for me, and I’ll be putting it through its paces. I’ve got the 128GB version on T-Mobile; and I’m using a instead of Apple’s Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro. it’s a matter of preference, really… I’ve played with the Pro’s Smart Keyboard and I didn’t like the way the keys felt; or the way it worked (attached to the iPad and flipped around). I instead asked for the Logitech Create Keyboard, and though it adds a great deal of [overall] thickness to the device, it provides a much better typing and computing experience in my opinion. The keys have nice travel, and I’m able to touch type on it as I would with any other laptop or computer I work with.

The fact that it’s at least $20 USD cheaper than the Apple Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro is just a bonus.

Yes… I have an Apple Pencil scheduled to arrive in the next week or two. The fact that these things are hard to come by (I’ve been calling the local Apple Store a few times a week to inquire about buying one in store) isn’t helping matters. The iPad Pro really wants an Apple Pencil, despite the fact that taking notes in OneNote via the Logitech Create Keyboard works very, very well.

I’ll have a full review of the iPad Pro, the Logitech CREATE Keyboard and the Apple Pencil as soon as I’ve had a chance to spend some time with all of them.

At this point, I’m working on an opinion. If you just can’t wait and need something to chew on, you can go back and read this article on what’s going to make or break the iPad Pro. While it may have been a bit early on in the process for me, I really think the article speaks to some of the major hurdles the device is going to have to get passed in order to be the success that it wants and needs to be, especially in the enterprise.

In the meantime, just hang out…

I’ve got a few other interesting things that I’m working on that many of you might find interesting:

The Conclusion to the Smartwatch Roundup that I’ve been writing for (literally) the last year. While all of the principle players have been reviewed, I’ve got some issues that I’m still trying to work through with the Olio Mode One that have been keeping me much more occupied than I would like…
The review of the Hendocks Horizontal Dock for MacBook Pro 15″ Retina. While there are some issues to work through, I’ve been rather happy with the way things have been going; but I don’t want to ruin the review.
The Release of Windows 10 Mobile. Its rumored to be right around the corner. I’m hoping that the Windows Phone I have gets the upgrade sooner rather than later. If it does, I’ll have a full review, rather than just a news-based article speaking to the release of Microsoft’s mobile OS.

What about you? Did you get any new tech for the Holidays? Am I missing some big piece of gadgetry that I should follow up with an article or two or with a full review? Will wearables continue to be a big player in 2016? Is the iPad Pro JUST a bigger iPad or will it be as ground breaking as Apple hopes it will be?

Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area, below and give me your take on all of these and more? I’d love to hear what you’ve got to say!

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Windows 10 and Dell Latitude 10 ST2

Well, I found out that Dell doesn’t support Windows 10 on this device…

And isn’t THAT just dandy..?!?

Funny thing is, I’m getting pestered all over the place from Microsoft (via their Windows 10 Upgrade stub) to upgrade the device to Windows 10.

capture

In fact, it (and Microsoft) won’t leave me alone about it.

So, what is a Windows user to do?  Because this is the huge debate and dilemma of Late 2015: My PC OEM isn’t supporting Windows 10 on my device, but since it runs a version of Windows that qualifies for the free Windows 10 upgrade, and the Windows 10 upgrade stub knows this, I get nagged.

I get nagged a lot.  A LOT, a lot; and this creates a bit of a problem.

Microsoft has changed its Windows 10 upgrade options. You used to be able to ignore or defer the upgrade.  Now, you get to upgrade NOW or, later tonight.

windows10-upgrade

Microsoft’s Windows 10 upgrade is a 3.0 to 5.0 GB (give or take a couple hundred megabytes) file that Microsoft is pushing to your computer, whether you want it or not. This upgrade now or upgrade later today stuff has been viewed as malware or spamming mentality.  I’m pretty certain you can still “ignore” the process by clicking the red “X” in the upper right corner (effectively quitting the program), but it’s clear, Microsoft is taking a very aggressive – not assertive, but aggressive – stance on getting people to move to Windows 10, especially on the consumer side.  If you have Windows 7 or Windows 8.x on your personal, home computer, Microsoft has set its sites on you.

This would be fine, if Windows 10 weren’t a train wreck.

It would also be fine if my only remaining Windows machine weren’t unsupported on Windows 10.

Now, to be honest, I’ve got Windows 10 on it already; but there are a huge number of problems with it.  Internet access is difficult on in, as Windows doesn’t always recognize that it actually HAS an active internet connection (though, I’m connected to either Wi-Fi or wired LAN via a USB dongle). Sometimes I have to reboot the tablet four to five times before Windows sees the internet connection. I have no idea why; but this causes a number of different issues, especially with Windows Update (as well as general internet web browsing).

But that aside, it really begs the whole question, of what do you do when the OEM says Windows <the latest version> isn’t supported on your computer?  How do you convince the Windows 10 upgrade app to leave you alone and stop nagging to have Windows 10 installed?

And if it does install (and the experience sucks as bad as it does…), how many times do I have to pull it off before Microsoft and Windows 10 finally leaves you alone and lets you stick with your Windows 7/ 8.x experience?  Unfortunately, Microsoft hasn’t addressed this problem.  They’re assuming – or seem to be assuming – that if the device ran fine under Windows 7 or Windows 8.x that it will run Windows 10 without issue.  I think I’ve shown, or at least convinced myself, that that isn’t always the case.

Barring the forced upgrade issue

(and assuming you get stuck in a periodic, forced upgrade loop) when do you stop downgrading? I’ve actually pulled Windows 10 off my Dell Latitude 10 ST2, twice – once during the Beta period and once after the July 2015 initial release of Windows 10.  As far as I know, as long as you have a pre Windows 10 version of Windows on your PC, you’re going to get hit with this time and again (especially since the downgrade process doesn’t always work and in many cases people have to blow their PC’s and start over, or use a restore DVD/ USB stick to get back to an earlier version of Windows).

Microsoft is giving everyone who upgrades 30 days to go back to their previous version.  Have you decided that Windows 10 wasn’t for you?  I haven’t heard of too many individuals that have fallen into this trap or have been forced to upgrade only to put their computer back to the previous version, though I’m certain that some have done that.  Unfortunately, Microsoft isn’t making stats on those that have reverted to their previous Windows version available.  When they have a 1B user target their trying to hit, I’m certain that they aren’t wanting to advertise how many people have downgraded their PC.

Have you bumped into this problem?  Is your computer officially unsupported on Windows 10 (as mine is)? Have you been forced to upgrade your computer? If so, what’s the experience like?  Did you downgrade back to your previous version of Windows?  Did Windows pester you and make you upgrade again?  How did you make it all stop?  I’d love to hear from you if you did.

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Why I Ultimately Dumped my Surface Pro 3

There comes a time when enough, is just enough…

Surface pro 3

Its hard to know where to start with this one.  I’ve been a Windows guy for so long – nearly 20 years – that in the end… I feel like I abandoned my post, or something.  However, there comes a time when you know you’ve fought the good fight and that you just can’t fight any more. I never thought I would ever say this, but personally, I really think I’m done with Windows and Windows 10. So much so, that I’ve sold my Surface Pro 3.

Over the past year, I’ve written a bit on how much of a problem OneNote and Windows 10 can be together. Funny thing is, I thought it was limited to Office 2013.  Unfortunately, its not.

Even with OneNote 2016 ink still disappears on all Surface Pro tablets running both Windows 10 and OneNote.

I’ve also noticed that while things should be getting more and more stable on Windows 10, they aren’t.  They just aren’t.  Not on my Surface Pro 3.

And to be quite honest, I was willing to live with it. I was going to figure out some way to work through it. I wasn’t going to be easy, but I was resigned to it, in a sense.

That is until I found this thread.

This is not going to end during the life cycle of this device. Period.

The problem exists on the Surface Pro 4. Though it’s a bit different, it’s the same type of problem.

It became clear to me after reading through that thread, that its not going to end. So… I sold my Surface Pro 3. What have I replaced it with?

Nothing yet.

Honestly, I’m not certain what I should do at this point.

The Surface Pro line is proving to be a bit unstable and honestly, unreliable for what I need it to do.  Its also a bit more expensive than I want or need it to be.  I am looking for a way to take hand written, notes in meetings.  The Surface Pro 3 was perfect for that, to a point. It ran OneNote 2013 well enough.

So why not return my Surface Pro 3 to Windows 8.1?  That’s a fair question…

There are really two big issues here:

  1. Windows 8.1 is Clumsy
    Windows 8.1 still has the Windows 8 UI. While there are apps like Start8 and ModernMix that can help hide some of the issues and problems; but its really just a coat of paint for both the Start Screen and ModernUI based apps, nothing more.
  2. Windows 10 isn’t Going Away
    Microsoft is getting aggressive with Windows 10. Their Windows 10 upgrade stub that installs as part of a Windows Update component.  While you can defer it for a while, its going to do its best to assert itself on your computer. I’m not entirely certain you can say no forever. I may be wrong – I hope I am – but it may be true.The OS has been downloading to computers without the consent of their owners. It could install itself overnight, also without their consent.

I thought long and hard about just taking my Surface Pro 3 back to Windows 8.1 and just using Office 2013 or Office 2016 (and ultimately OneNote) there. However, in the end, I decided against that, largely because of number 2, above.

So, out the door it went.  I just wasn’t willing to deal with its problems and issues any longer. I had had enough.

At the end, when I went to take my Surface Pro 3 back to Factory fresh with Windows 10, I had all sorts of trouble, too. Windows 10 would not reset itself on my Surface Pro 3.  Most of the time, it prepped itself and then simply restarted and went back to my Windows 10 account. When I tried to use the Advanced Restart Settings – which booted to the UEFI where you can also refresh, reset and even wipe the drive if you wanted – my Surface Pro 3 froze when trying to reset itself… more than once (I know because it sat at that screen for over three hours each time I tried. I tried three times…).

I had to pull the Windows 8.1 recovery USB I made many months ago and use it; and even then, it wasn’t smooth sailing with that either. I had trouble resetting the device with that too. I had to try ore than once with it, and then ultimately I had to wipe the drive to get MY data off when it sold.

What does this mean for you?

Probably not too much, unless you’re having similar ink and stability issues with Windows 10 on your Surface Pro device (the thread that I’ve been referencing with disappearing ink has a couple posts in it which indicate that it also happens with the original Surface Pro and the Surface Pro 2 as well).

If you are, then you have some kind of decision to make – either put up with it, stay on or move back to Windows 8.1, or sell yours, like I did.

Do you have a Surface Pro device?  Are you having issues with disappearing ink?  Is yours unstable?  Are you using Windows 8.1 or Windows 10? Are you using Office 2013 or Office 2016? Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and give me your thoughts on this and tell me what you think you’re going to do?

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Microsoft Changes OneDrive Storage Options

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I mean, is “unlimited” unlimited or not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OneDrive Dropbox Google Drive iCloud
Free

5GB

2GB

30GB

5GB

30GB

N/A

N/A

Free

N/A

50GB

$2

N/A

N/A

$1

100GB

N/A

N/A

$2

N/A

200GB

N/A

N/A

N/A

$3

1TB

$7/ $10*

$10

$10

$10

10TB

N/A

N/A

$100

N/A

20TB

N/A

N/A

$200

N/A

30TB

N/A

N/A

$300

N/A

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

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

What does this actually mean for Microsoft??

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

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

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

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

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

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Expect Windows 10 to RTM this Week

This is either a good thing, or a not so good thing…

windows 10

As a SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle) professional with over 25 years in QA, releases are always a mixed bag of emotions. I’ve heard some SDLC professionals say that software is ever “released,” it escapes. The more that I think about that statement, especially in light with all of my personal, professional experience, I can’t help but agree. As a QA guy… you always want more time with a project before you release it into the wild. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t work out that way…

I think this is going to be how things work with the release of Windows 10. The way things have been going over the life of the beta since Windows Insiders started testing in October 2014, it’s been a bit rough. Here are the articles I’ve published on Windows 10 since the Technical Preview started. Please note these are in reverse order, with the most recent listed on top:

There’s a lot there. Thirty (30) articles is a lot for around six months. That’s about one article a week, at least; and when you consider that we’re in the home stretch, there’s likely to be a number of different builds pushed to Windows Insiders, up to, and past the 2015-07-29 scheduled release date.

I say scheduled, because I’m a QA guy, and the QA guy in me says, it ain’t done cooking yet.

What does that mean, REALLY? Well, there are a couple things that have come to light today – 2015-07-06 – as I write this article, and they’re really kinda telling.

First and foremost, Windows 10 is reportedly supposed to RTM (that’s Release to Manufacturing, to the uninitiated…) sometime this week. That means that at some point this week, Microsoft will need to deliver a build of Windows 10 to all its OEM partners so they can start building machines with the final version of Windows 10 installed on them. In the past, that has usually meant that the Windows Development Teams are done with development and can shift gears to post implementation support (meaning, they have bug fixes and Windows Update updates and patches to create, test and deliver. When have you NOT bought a Windows computer, set it up and then waited (what seems like) days for it to download and install a boat load of updates via Windows Update?

Well, according to another recent development, that’s going to happen again. Only this time, it could be a much longer wait.

Microsoft recently announced that Windows 10 Insiders would be the first ones to get Windows 10 once its available on 2015-07-29. There are roughly over 5 million of us as of this writing, and that’s going to clog up the Windows Update servers for a good WEEK or more, at LEAST, before all 5 million plus, get the RTM bits. After that, the OS will be made available to the general public, according to your reserved place in line – read, your reservation [number]. It’s going to be a good long while before the rest of the world gets their first taste of Windows 10.

Let’s take a good look at that last sentence there – It’s going to be a good long while before the rest of the world gets their first taste of Windows 10.

If you read between the lines, this smacks of “delayed deployment.” In other words, it can be interpreted that Windows 10 isn’t ready, and what’s likely to be the case is that a number of updates as well as potential new builds will be released to everyone in that release chain before it hits the general public. OEM’s may install (and I’m totally making this number up…) Build 10200 on their systems as the RTM build, but by the time early adopters get new, native Windows 10 machines in their hands, they may need to download Build 10299 (or greater – internal builds not released to even Insiders may take up a lot of build numbers between RTM and the build end users actually have installed on their machines after initial setup and updating is done) on their machines.

This is both good and bad.

It’s good because Microsoft should be continuing to update Windows 10 to resolve bugs, provide finish and polish to the OS as a whole. It’s bad because a build is anywhere between 2.5GB to 4GB in size depending on your processor type (32bit or 64bit, respectively). Users also don’t want to have to wait to download a whole bunch of updates before they start using a new PC, either. Making them wait is just Microsoft begging for bad press.

And it seems its already getting some on this particular issue, too.

The best and easiest way to insure that you get Windows 10 either on, or as close to Release Day as possible, is to join the Windows Insider program.

According to Microsoft News, 2015-07-09 is Windows 10 RTM Day. They also state that Microsoft is currently testing Build 10176 on their internal, TH1 branch. It’s also supposed to be the first internal release candidate. If that’s the case, Fast Ring Insiders should expect at least one Build to be released to them this week. My guess is that we’ll see at least two (2), with a potential for a third, like last week. However, that’s going to depend on the amount of usable feedback Microsoft got on that rapid fire, three build release. As I said… I’d expect two (2).

What do you think? Will Windows 10 be ready to go at the end of the week? Will the RTM Build be usable, or will it contain issues that will REQUIRE an immediate, end user upgrade to the latest build as soon as your new PC is turned on? How big of a PR or perception issue will that be? Will Microsoft’s new, rapid release effort cause people to blow their bandwidth caps? Will it create a multi-build download requirement, or will all builds be cumulative updates? Is this a good idea, or just a disaster waiting to happen?

I’d love to hear from you. Why don’t you give me your perspective on this issue in the discussion area below, and let’s figure it out.

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Microsoft Releases Windows 10 Build 10162 to Fast Ring Insiders

Wow! It’s been a busy week in Redmond!

Windows 10 Build 10162

I am so behind in my writing projects it’s not even funny. I relayed the status of my big summer projects this week. I was fortunate enough that I was able to knock out my review of the Pebble Time just a short time after that. That… was a big win for me.

It was a big deal because both my Windows machines – my Surface Pro 3 and Dell Latitude ST2 – are in varying states of train wreck status, even though both of them are using Build 10158 or later. Yes… I’m still having all sorts of train wreck classification errors with the Dell. I just don’t know if this thing is going to be a good candidate for Windows 10. Dell is going to have a lot of optimizing to do in order to make certain that they don’t run into support related issues with it.

While things are a bit better on the Surface Pro 3, Windows 10 is still in a pre-release state, and there are some potholes still out there. However…

In that regard, Microsoft has released a third build of  Windows 10 Build 10162  to Fast Ring Insiders today. According to Gabe Aul – Windows 10 and Windows Insider Grand Poohbah extraordinaire – Insiders normally on the Fast Ring can now consider themselves on the faster, Fast Ring. Says Aul,

“We’re at the point in the development of Windows 10 where nearly every build is getting out to our internal rings, and passing the criteria for release to Windows Insiders. We’re focused at this point on bug fixing and final polish, so it’s much easier for each build to get all the way through than earlier in the cycle when we’re adding big new features. So now we find ourselves in a great situation, with an abundance of build candidates. We’re deciding how long to let each build stay with Windows Insiders so you can really exercise them and send feedback on any problems that you’re hitting. I know many of you have said you’d love daily builds, but it is actually important sometimes to get a few days on a build so that all of the code that does deferred work (like OneDrive sync, search indexing, background updating, etc.) can run and we can get feedback and error reports.”

According to Aul, it’s very possible that Windows 10 Build 10162 may get released to Slow Ring Insiders as well, as early as next week. This would also kick off the release of official ISO images of the build (so that I can get it on my Dell. Did I mention getting Windows 10 on that machine was a bit of a train wreck..??)

With the release and RTM of Windows 10 so very close at hand (T minus 27 days and counting…), it’s very possible that we’ll see many more rapid fire releases of Windows 10 between now and then hit the Fast Ring. If you’re on that ring, expect to see more of this in the coming weeks leading up to the release of the new OS on 2015-07-29.

I suspect that testers on the Slow Ring will also see an increase in build releases during the same time frame.

Are you on the Windows 10 Insider Fast Ring track? Have you installed any of the builds released this week? If so, what do you think of them? I’ll have some updates on the state of my installs next week. Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area, below, though, and let me know how things are working for you.

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Pebble Time – Times Up

Here are my first (and likely last) impressions of the Pebble Time.
Pebble Time
Introduction

I’ve been a fan of Japanese anime and the like since I was a kid.  One series, however, Johnny Sakko and His Flying Robot was a favorite of mine when I was a kid, growing up in suburban Pittsburgh, PA for a couple of key reasons –

  1. It came on right after Ultraman
  2. Some of the tech it used – like a radio watch that allowed the story’s lead, Johnny, to control the actions of a towering, giant, defense robot – were pretty cool (especially for the late ’60’s and early ’70’s).

The concept behind the watch wasn’t completely new.  Dick Tracy has been using a radio watch to communicate with his team since the comic series launched in October of 1931.  However, it is a total geek-gasm, and it’s totally cool, especially since, we now possess THAT specific technology today.

In this light, I’ve approached my big writing project this summer – my Wearables Roundup – with a great deal of enthusiasm. I love gadgets, and I most especially love gadgets that I can take nearly everywhere with me.  Here’s what we’ve got so far in the series:

I’m still working through a lot of metal gyrations with the Apple Watch.  There’s good and bad there, and it’s going to take a little bit of time to work through a supportable position on it. (Yes, it’s totally cool, but why is it totally cool; and what (if any) is a compelling reason to buy one…?  I’m working on that…)

You may recall that I was – and in many ways still am – a big fan of the Pebble Steel.  Has that changed?  Does the Pebble Time improve on what Pebble and Pebble Steel introduced to the market? Let’s dig up our smartwatch review topics and find out.

Hardware

In many ways, the Pebble Time should be considered the baseline of all smartwatch hardware. It could be because they were one of the first modern smartwatches to hit the market, filling a gap vacated by the exit of the Microsoft SPOT Watch, first introduced to a short, four year lifespan back in 2004.  They continued to be supported three years beyond their death in 2008, finally losing support for their services on 2011-12-31. It could be because  – that’s all that it really does – the baseline of what many smartwatches really are capable of…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The hardware for the Pebble Time has the following basic specifications:

  • Dimensions: 40.5×37.5×9.5 mm
  • Weight: 42.5g (1.5oz, with strap)
  • Band: 22mm (compatible with all 22mm watch bands)

 

IMG_1372 IMG_1373

 

As you can see from the specs and from the pictures, below, this puts it in the same size category as the 38mm Apple Watch. The front casing has an Stainless Steel bezel, but don’t think that this device has a metal casing. It doesn’t, it has a plastic casing. The bezel is just that – a bezel, and while it may be made of Marine Grade Stainless Steel with PVD coating, it really looks more like anodized aluminum than Stainless.  I don’t think it provides much protection for the device.  It’s purely decoration only. However, it does have a nice matte finish and looks good. The watch body also has a thin, curved ergonomic profile, which is supposed to make it a more comfortable, long term wear than watches that don’t have the same type of bend.

 

IMG_1380 IMG_1381

The Time has a tough, 2.5D (Gorilla) glass crystal covering an always on, color e-paper display with LED backlight.  The display is clearly readable in both indoor and outdoor lighting, and even though it’s always on, the device comes with a 7-day rated battery life.  This improves on the Pebble and Pebble Steel which went about 5 or so days, depending on use. Seven solid days is pretty decent.  So, high marks to Pebble on this feature. I’ll have more on this in the Battery Life section, below.

However, it’s not all sunshine and daisies for the display.  The biggest problem with it, is that it’s difficult to read in low light situations.  You’d think that the backlight would help here, but it doesn’t. The backlight tends to wash out the display, so it looks more white than anything else, which is unfortunate.  Someone with not so great eyesight, like me, may have trouble reading it in low light situations, and that’s not good.

 

IMG_1589 IMG_1590

 

The Time also has a built in microphone for voice notes and quick replies, however, I don’t know how practical it is.  Yeah, I know, the whole Dick Tracy/ Johnny Sakko thing of talking to your watch is kinda cool, but I haven’t had any real luck with that feature in any other setting other than a quiet room or office; and honestly, if those kinds of places are the only ones that’s any good in, then having a microphone on the Pebble Time is a waste of internal space.

Finally, the Pebble time has a vibrating motor for discreet alerts and alarms, which allow you to silently notify or wake yourself, and not anyone else.  This is a great way of getting up in the morning without some ugly blaring, beeping noise going off in your ear, or the music on your clock radio sending you AND your cat to the ceiling because your kids are smart alecks and have turned the volume on it “all the way up to 11.”  The Time is also water resistant to 30 meters, insuring that an inerrant swim or shower won’t ruin the watch by having it come in contact with water.

On paper, the Pebble Time really looks like a cool smartwatch.  However, the hardware looks, well… campy, I guess is the best way to put it.  The original Pebble wasn’t very professional looking and while competitors like the Microsoft Band (Part 1,Part 2) and the Fitbit Surge are total dork magnets, their somewhat less than high-dollar look and feel can be completely excused due to their heavy fitness tracking functionality.

 IMG_1378 IMG_1381

Now, before everyone gets their compression pants in a knot, yes.  I know that the Time can “do” fitness related stuff too.  Yeah, but not really.  As with the Pebble, Pebble Steel and now the Pebble Time, all Pebble smartwatches can “do” fitness tracking. However, they are completely dependent on your smartphone or other device to count steps, track progress, etc.  What the watch can do is display data from your connected phone.

Yes, it has an accelerometer and a compass; but it doesn’t have an A/GPS receiver, so it can’t track your progress natively. If you forget your phone or leave it home when you go out on a run or walk, you’re not going to get any fitness data on your workout.  The watch also doesn’t have any heat or heart rate sensors, so don’t look to it to keep track of any physical attributes when you work out either.  The Time also doesn’t work with Google Fit, the Android answer to Apple Health (oh, and it doesn’t work with Apple Health, either…)

When you look at the device as a whole – plastic body and case, rubber/ silicone band, I can’t help but be a bit disappointed.  Maybe it’s because I’m also wearing the Apple Watch, and because I’ve also got an Olio Model One coming.  I don’t know. Honestly, both the Microsoft Band and the Fitbit Surge aren’t “high end” devices.so I know I’m not turning into a watch snob or anything; but I can’t help but be disappointed.

Wearability and Usability

So what is the Pebble Time like to wear and how usable is it?

Great questions.

Like the Fluoroelastomer band on the Apple Watch, the silicone band on the Pebble Time is just as comfortable and just as soft and silky feeling.  However, in long term wear, I had issues with it creating dry patches on my skin. I was not pleased with that at all.  The band simply doesn’t breathe very well, and it’s not surprising. It is, after all… a silicone band.

IMG_1374 IMG_1375

The curved hardware casing of the watch ads a level of comfort… I think. Honestly, it’s hard to tell, as with a device this small and thin, it’s difficult to know if a curved case vs. a standard shaped case – i.e. like any other watch – makes any real or noticeable difference.  Honestly, I can’t tell; but it is at least nice to know that the feature is there.

Notifications

Like its predecessors, the Pebble Time gets Notifications right.

Notifications are configurable on your phone and alert you when needed.  With the Time’s Timeline feature, you can even review them as part of your Present or Past Timelines.  The only caution I have here is that you take the time to configure your notifications correctly so that you don’t get bombarded by them . The idea behind the Time – and all other smartwatches for that matter – is to make dealing with them easier and less intrusive.  If you’re constantly checking your watch because you have your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, etc. social networking accounts dinging your watch, then you likely haven’t improved on anything and have overloaded your ability to effectively and discretely address notifications with the Time (or, again, any other smartwatch).

Connectivity

I do NOT like how the Time interfaces with my iPhone.

The Pebble Time connects to my iPhone 6 the same way my Pebble Steel does – with a regular Bluetooth partnership and then with a Bluetooth LE partnership.  This type of relationship has proven to be problematic in the past.  If the Bluetooth LE partnership doesn’t link up after pairing (and because the LE communication uses its own partnership vs sharing the main Bluetooth pairing, it often can), then you aren’t going to get notifications.  This starts to become evident after things are “too quiet” on the notification front after a while.

I haven’t run into this yet on the Time, but it happens quite often with my Pebble Steel, and it’s very frustrating.

Battery Life

The Pebble Time has a Lithium-ion polymer battery that Pebble rates for up to seven (7) days of battery life.  This is both good and bad.  The good is obvious. The bad may seem silly, but you’ll get it once you hear it.

Seven days of battery life (I got about five and a half during this review, due largely, to all of the fiddling and playing I did) is awesome. I love not having to remember to charge my battery every night. It makes for a much more familiar watch wearing experience.   The magnetic charging port on the Time has been moved to the back of the device as opposed to the side on the Pebble and Pebble Steel. The magnetic port on the Time is also supposed to support future smart accessories, that may be built into a watch strap (hence the move to the back of the watch).

IMG_1375

 

IMG_1588 IMG_1591

 

I have no idea what those accessories may be or when they may be available, so at this point, I wouldn’t worry too much about them or how much they may cost.  IF they show, they can be reviewed and commented on like any other smartwatch accessory for the Apple Watch (or other watch that may have available accessories…but right now, I can’t think of any others.  Can you..??)

Software and Interfaces

At the end of the day, while having a nice bit of hardware on your wrist is nice, what’s going to make or break the device is the software that it uses on device and on your smartphone.  Needless to say, yes… I have opinions on both the device software and the Pebble Time App.

At the end of the day, though, this winds up being nothing more than a shuffle of the cards and a coat of paint.  That is to say, yes… I’m calling the interface a total dud.  Let’s check out why…

Device Software

First and foremost, let’s be clear – from a software perspective, the Pebble Time didn’t bring anything new to the table except its color, ePaper display.

That’s all.

IMG_1380 IMG_1381

Yes, I know it has a new software interface. However, the interface on the Time is really nothing more than a reorganization of the information Pebble has had on their watches from day one (except now color enabled), with a new coat of paint.  Pebble Time now organizes your information into three different buckets Past (top, right, device-side button) Present (middle device-side button) and Future (bottom, right, device-side button).  You can review all of your notifications via your Timeline and see what’s most important to you “right now” by simply sticking to the middle and/ or bottom right buttons.  You can review anything you’ve missed by tapping the top right button.

The organization they’ve implemented isn’t a bad idea. In fact, it’s pretty cool; but tying it with the three right side, device buttons is very 2012; and with touch screens available on the Apple Watch and even the Microsoft Band, limiting how you’re reviewing notifications to actions and activities keyed off of buttons on the Time is (now) a bit clunky.  A touch screen implementation with swipes and taps would have been much better; and better received, too.

Finally, and I can’t put it off any longer – ‘cuz this is the right place to mention it – the interface itself is horrible. The screens look as though they were painted by my 7 year old son.  I am so upset about this, to the point where its infuriating.

Again, the word “campy,” comes to mind, and it’s such a shame.  While I know that the Pebble Time is a budget oriented smartwatch, it doesn’t have to look budget oriented.  I know there’s only so much you can do with a color ePaper display, but Pebble could have done so much more with the graphics and SDK to have the time present a more professional, much more mature interface.  With items like the Apple Watch and the Olio Model One out there, a little more sophistication out of the Pebble Time couldn’t hurt, and would have been much welcomed.

The thing that bothers me the most about this, is that UI design choice “A” vs. UI design choice “B” doesn’t necessarily cost more.  You still have to draft it all out, create the screens, review the designs, etc., and having a more sophisticated, more professional look couldn’t have been more costly during its initial development.  The Time is a budget watch, yes, but it doesn’t have to look that way, does it?!  I know I’ve repeated myself here, but I mean… COME ON, people!

The original monochrome UI elements on the Pebble and Pebble Steel looked better than this, I think. Unfortunately, the implementation of color into your UI can bring out its weaknesses as much as it can show its strengths.  The design language needs to be changed here to allow for a more professional look and feel.  It would be nice if Pebble provided that option to its users in a future firmware update.

Pebble Time App

I’ve found this to be yet another huge disappointment.

The new Pebble Time smartphone companion app is really nothing more than the ORIGINAL Pebble app with a new coat of paint to allow for apps with color screens to be offered. While I don’t think you can use the new app to connect to the original Pebble or Pebble Steel – you still need the original app for that – it’s clear that all of the familiar apps from the original monochrome store are offered and available for the Time.

IMG_1593 IMG_1594

New watch should have offered me a new companion app with a new UI and a new design and, as I mentioned above, a better app offering with much more professional graphics. I’ve got screen shots of the smartphone companion app below, and as you can see, and I think agree, this struck me as a “very familiar” (which isn’t necessarily bad) and “nothing special” experience (which isn’t good).

IMG_1595 IMG_1597

The new store and new watch do offer the opportunity to get a better set of watch faces, but as you notice by running through the store, many of them are really nothing more than the old monochrome faces, now colored for the new ePaper display.  Again, a huge disappointment.

As with the original Pebble and Pebble Steel, the Pebble Time works with both iOS (running iOS 8 and higher) and Android (running 4.0 ICS and higher) smartphones.  So this is about as cross platform a smartwatch offering as you can get.

IMG_1596 IMG_1598

The only downside to all of this is that if you really want to track any fitness info with the Time, you’re going to need a third party fitness tracker like the Misfit or Jawbone (recommended by Pebble) in order to do it.  Additional language and international character support for the Time is said to be coming soon.

Problems and Issues

I think I’ve covered most the of the issues that I’ve bumped into with the Pebble Time in other sections. I won’t go over them again here.

The biggest thing that you do need to be aware of if you’re upgrading to the Time from either the Pebble or Pebble Steel is that the bands are not interchangeable or reusable on the new watch.  Any favorite band styles will need to be repurchased for use with the Time. However, since the time uses a standard 22mm band, they shouldn’t be too difficult to find or replace.

Conclusion

The biggest problem that I have with the Pebble Time is that the device is a huge disappointment to me. It’s not a bad device, per se. There just isn’t anything here that would make me really WANT to upgrade from my Pebble Steel to the time – except its color ePaper display – and that certainly isn’t worth the cost of the new watch. In my opinion, the original Pebble Steel should have been introduced with a color display. It would have made much more sense, and honestly, would have totally negated the introduction or release of the Pebble Time. Perhaps we would have gotten something different or better if it had.

The Pebble Time should be considered the base line for any smartwatch.  It has all of the basic functionality that would be considered mandatory in a smartwatch.  The absence of any kind of native fitness tracking in the actual device, however, is a huge hole, and one that will really make individuals looking for a smartwatch stop and consider or reconsider its purchase.  Other devices exist for about or near the same cost that include the fitness stuff, and as such kinda make the Pebble Time a bit irrelevant even before it had a chance to make any kind of impact on the market.

The Pebble Time is currently available for pre-order (as of this writing) and will cost $199.99.

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