Windows 10 – Where Are We?

It’s been six(6) months since its initial release.  How is Windows 10 shaping up?

windows-10 were are we

Introduction

My good buddy Ed Bott recently published an article on the state of Windows 10 from an industry perspective and it got me thinking of my OWN experience with Window s10, now that it’s been out for six or so months.

It’s not all sunshine and daisies.  In fact, there’s a lot that needs to be fixed and changed.  Here’s where I think the new OS stands at this point.

The UI

To say that the Windows 10 user interface is an improvement over Windows 8.x is a bit of an understatement.  The UI is a huge improvement and one that nearly everyone who used Windows 8.x is glad to see.  The Start Menu is back, and it’s something that nearly everyone is happy about.  This single most, familiar UI tidbit is something that’s been around in computing since the release of Windows 95 – nearly 21years – and it’s something that nearly every consumer and corporate user has used and identified with as the beginning of their computing experience that they just can’t seem to give it up. Honestly, seeing as everyone nearly lost their minds when Microsoft replaced with the Start Screen, it’s amazing that people were able to use Windows 8.x at all.  I mean, without a place to Start, how do you get work done?

The other, most noticeable change to the UI is the removal and death of Charms and the inclusion of the Action Center.  The Charms were the UI element that you saw when you swiped in from the right edge of the screen with either your finger or with your mouse cursor.  Those have been replaced by the Action Center, which is a general catch all for notifications and other items requiring… well, requiring user action.

The Action Center has been well received, in my opinion. It’s an easy tool to use, and gives you access to the system events you need to act on.  Charms never did anything of value in my opinion, and were very confusing.

The thing that helped Windows 10 out the most is that, in all reality, its UI is more Windows 7 like.  All of the ModernUI elements are gone.  The ModernUI apps have been changed to Universal Apps and have a totally different look and feel to them.  Isn’t it funny what a new coat of paint will do..?

The Update Mechanism

Microsoft seems hell bent on putting older versions of Windows out to pasture.  It’s a problem they created for themselves with the support lifecycle of Windows XP and the absolute failure and public rejection of Windows Vista. An operating system version should never be in active support for 15 years.

As such, Windows 10 is on an auto update trajectory with destiny.

(Provided you have a legitimate, REAL copy…) If you run Windows 7, Microsoft is going to upgrade you to Windows 10 whether you want it or not… whether you like it or not.  …) If you run Windows 8.x, Microsoft is going to upgrade you to Windows 10 whether you want it or not… whether you like it or not.  There is no opt out.  If you run an earlier version of Windows on your PC, other than a version of Windows 10, you’re going to eventually run Windows 10 on that PC.

Period.

Get over it. Stop complaining and just accept it.  Apparently, there’s not much anyone can do.  Microsoft is hell bent on getting all the world’s Windows users off of their older version of Windows and on to Windows 10… and apparently, they don’t  care who they upset or anger in the process; and it doesn’t matter if you have that version of Windows running on hardware that the OEM won’t support with Windows 10.

In and of itself, upgrading and updating hardware that is on and supports Windows 10, is very easy. All the updates are pulled down in the background.  You don’t even have to run Windows Update. It’s now a service that is run for you and all you have to do – at most – is simply restart your computer.

This is the cool part of the update mechanism.  In fact, you don’t even have to restart your PC. Windows will do it for you and then apply all of the outstanding updates it has downloaded.

It’s the most hassle free way to update Windows… provided you actually want or are really able to run Windows 10.

Recovery

I have yet to have Windows 8.x’s or Windows 10’s Recovery mode/ partition – whatever you want to call it – work correctly for me.  And trust me…. this is definitely NOT a PEBKAC issue (Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair).  I know my way around Windows; and honestly…

The feature just doesn’t work.

Most often, the feature doesn’t boot into Recovery Mode. It simply reboots the device, which totally defeats the purpose of the recovery partition in the first place.

When the recovery partition does do something else other than just simply reboot the device back into Windows 10, things usually go very, very wrong.  Wrong to the tune of, “I need to download the recovery image from the internet, create a USB boot stick and try to run that to blow the device and start from factory fresh because my device is now hosed,” wrong.

And to be quite honest, I’ve had the same problem with the recovery partition in Windows 8.x AND in Windows 10.  If you’ve been successful with a restore or complete wipe with the recovery partition running off the device’s internal drive and not off a USB stick, I’d love to talk to you about the experience and the process.

Microsoft’s Signature Hardware

I don’t want to over play this too much. I wanted to start off this section by saying something like, “wow! What a train wreck the Surface Pro and Surface Book are,” but that really isn’t very fair.

Make no mistake.  Both of these devices have some very serious problems.  Both of them have graphics driver issues that (at the very least) are at the root of the disappearing ink issue I’ve been barking about for the past year or more.  The problem is so severe, that it’s also effecting the Surface Pro 3 (a problem, that I think many – including Microsoft – are overlooking).

The Surface Book as graphic driver issues but also has sleep and battery related problems. These problems are so severe that in many cases when users try to put the Surface Book to sleep, the device won’t sleep.  When users try to sleep their computer and then put the device in a backpack or laptop bag, they often get what has been dubbed, “hot bag syndrome.” This is when  the computer fails to sleep, continues to run, tries to “cool” itself with ever warming air (due to it being confined to the small, secure space of a laptop section in either a backpack or laptop bag), becomes overheated and the battery then quickly drops its charge to zero (0).

Having both the disappearing ink/ graphics driver issue along with these battery and sleep issues has made the Surface Book nearly unusable for many.  Thankfully, I haven’t  succumbed to any pressure related to making a Surface Book purchase. The device is simply too pricey to begin with.  To have these simple usability issues on top of it all is nearly unforgivable in my opinion.

While this doesn’t make Windows 10 unusable, it kinda does make you wonder why Microsoft is having issues that it can’t seem to fix with its own, native hardware running its flagship OS, and many OEM’s are not.

I think I’ll just leave that one there to fester for a while…

Conclusion

I’m going to make this short.  Windows 10 isn’t bad, but Microsoft has a ways to go yet, in my mind.

The UI is pretty good, and a much better improvement over Windows 10.  I think Microsoft peaked in 2009 with Windows 7; but that’s my opinion. They haven’t always gotten things right, straight out of the gate.  Heck, it took them three versions of Windows before they got THAT right (Windows 3.0 was the first big hit for Windows, and then it took three versions of Windows 3.x – Windows 3.0, 3.1 and Windows 3.11 – before they got THAT right.

Their update mechanism isn’t bad, but they need to stop forcing the upgrade on users who don’t want it or can’t run it because their hardware isn’t rated for it.  If I don’t want Windows 10, please stop forcing it on me and my under rated hardware.

Their recovery mechanism needs a bit of work. I haven’t been able to make it work right.  Unfortunately, with the way Windows problems work, in many ways its always been easier to rebuild a system rather than troubleshooting it. That isn’t always the case now.

Finally, Microsoft needs to stop screwing around and needs to fix the driver problems in their Signature hardware.  If Microsoft can’t get this right, it’s hard to think that OEM’s and other PC manufacturers will.

Have you had issues with Windows 10?  Are you satisfied with the way it runs on your upgraded or native PC?  I’d love to hear how things are working for you.  Why don’t you join me in the Discussion area below, and give me your thoughts on the matter.

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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 Releases Windows 10 Build 10576 to Fast Ring Insiders

The latest build of Windows 10 has been issued. Here’s what it’s got…

Windows10mic

If you’ve been following me over the past year, you know that I’ve been a Microsoft Windows 10 Insider since the first released build of Windows 10 to Insiders back in October of 2014. Over the past year or so, there’s been a boat load of new builds released to the Fast Ring. Some have been good.  Others… not so good.

While the jury is still out on the quality of Windows 10 Build 10576, it is the next item up for bids…

New Features

  • Media Casting in Microsoft Edge: You can now use Microsoft Edge to cast video, picture, and audio content from your browser to any Miracast and DLNA enabled device on your network. Please note: Casting protected content (content from places like Netflix and Hulu) is not supported.
  • Ask Cortana inside PDFs in Microsoft Edge: You can now highlight text while reading a PDF in Microsoft Edge and right-click to “Ask Cortana” to find additional information.
  • Updated Xbox beta app for Windows 10: The Xbox beta app for Windows 10 was updated last Friday which includes the ability to easily find and add Facebook friends who are also on Xbox Live to play, chat, and share clips – a top requested feature. In addition to that new feature, voiceover recording functionality has been added to Game DVR, and the Store in the Xbox beta app will allow you to search for and purchase Xbox One games – including Games with Gold and Deals with Gold promotions, and Xbox One 25-digit codes will be redeemable within the app.

Fixes

  • We fixed the issue where the Xbox app for Windows 10 would consume gigabytes of memory on your PC if you have any Win32 games (non -Windows Store games) installed on your PC that have been identified as games or added by you in the Xbox app.
  • We introduced an early preview of nested virtualization so that people could run Hyper-V Containers in Hyper-V virtual machines with Build 10565. This build includes performance improvements.
  • We’ve been addressing a lot of feedback around localization text UI in various languages and you’ll see a lot of that work in this build.
  • The search box should now work in this build if you are in a locale where Cortana is not available.

Known Issues:

  • To continue receiving missed call notifications and send texts from Cortana, you will need to be on this build and higher. We’ve made a change that improves this experience that requires newer builds.
  • When notifications pop up from Action Center, any audio playing (like music from Groove, or videos from the Movies & TV app) gets reduced by 75% for a period of time.
  • After upgrading to this build, all your Skype messages and contacts are gone in the Messaging app. The workaround for this is to navigate to this folder in File Explorer:
  • C:\Users\<USERNAME>\AppData\Local\Packages\
  • Microsoft.Messaging_8wekyb3d8bbwe\LocalCache
  • Delete or rename the “PrivateTransportId” file.
  • Then restart the Messaging app.
  • Small form-factor devices, like the Dell Venue 8 Pro, that boot with rotation or virtual mode screen size set larger than the physical screen size will experience a bluescreen on upgrade and will roll back to the previous build.
  • After upgrading to this build, the power button on your Surface Pro 3 may no longer put your Surface Pro 3 to sleep and instead shut down.
  • WebM and VP9 have been temporarily removed from builds. We continue to develop a VP9 implementation that we intend to ship in Windows. Expect VP9 to return soon in a future build.

Conclusion

I give top marks to the Windows 10 Team here. They’re really trying to get this thing ready for release. They’ve also had a number of different quality and stability (as well as privacy) issues to deal with. Not everyone, myself included, is happy with the current state of Windows 10, either in a released or prerelease state.

It still need a great deal of work.

It’s still not ready… though it’s slightly better than it was.

However, it’s clear that there are still a number of issues with Windows 10’s update mechanism – Windows Update – still… especially on a Surface Pro device and especially when it comes to firmware updates.

I know that I’m not the only one that continually sees the download of firmware or hardware updates for their Surface Pro device.  They can get repeated many, many times in both failed and successful installs.

The biggest problem here is that my Surface Pro 3 very rarely actually runs through the firmware update process.  Yes, Windows Update restarts my Surface Pro 3; but it doesn’t always update the firmware, even if it hasn’t been applied (or truly updated) on the device.  And before anyone asks, yes, it has actually reapplied a firmware update more than once, though more often than not, it just redownloads the firmware update, SAYS that it’s going to reinstall it, doesn’t finish the firmware update, but lists the reapplication as successful anyway.

Go figure…

Are you (still) on the Windows 10 Insider Fast Ring?  Have you been installing all the updates?  Have you installed the latest build, Build 10576?  What do you think of the current state of Windows 10?  Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area below and give me your thoughts on these and other Windows 10 related issues. I’d love to hear them…

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UPDATE – OneNote 2013 and Windows 10 – Potentially Lethal

It’s been a long time coming, but there finally seems to be light at the end of the tunnel…

onenote and windows 10

I’ve been using the Surface Pro 3 at the office since December of 2014.  Prior to that, I used a Surface Pro 1 for a couple of years. It was the best and easiest way to really organize work at the office; and I say this to any and everyone who asks why I use it:

  1. It’s the best digital notepad (with OneNote) I’ve ever been to find and use
  2. With OneNote on the web and/ or OneNote’s sync capabilities, you have access to your notes nearly everywhere you have a device with internet access
  3. Paper notepads, notebooks and portfolios get lost. You’re never going to leave a tablet in a conference or meeting room (they’re too expensive to forget)

It’s a nearly flawless system, and it’s one of the best out there. Other software and hardware tools just don’t have the same capabilities or use cases due to one limitation or another.

When the Surface Pro 3 was released, I knew it was worth the upgrade from my Surface Pro 1, so off it went toGazelle, and over to the Microsoft Store I went.  While Windows 8.1 wasn’t as optimal a notebook experience as I wanted, and while (in my opinion) Windows still doesn’t know if it wants to be a desktop or tablet OS (even with Windows 10); with either Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 (and the right utilities, like Start8  from Stardock Software) it can still be a very productive tool in either an corporate or academic setting.

Until, however, you move to Windows 10 and you bump into the problems I mentioned in March of 2015.  The Disappearing Ink Bug is a huge problem for users of the Surface Pro 3.

It completely negates nearly all the value out of the device.

The reliability of the inking system is nearly gone. You never know when you’re going to lose anything you’ve written down, as the bug is completely random, and in end, you’re left with two very real choices – downgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 8.1 or take your chances with Windows 10, the bug, and maybe you lose some notes or maybe you don’t.

Well, I have a bit of an update for you.  There appears to be, what may be, a final fix for this problem.  There are two very active threads on this issue over at the Microsoft Support Community (here and here).

Microsoft has released KB3093266 in response to disappearing ink on the Surface Pro 3 running Windows 10.  This cumulative update addresses not only disappearing ink, but tap becomes right click as well.  Both of these issues were contributing factors to the conditions being experienced (where ink would vanish in OneNote on a Surface Pro 3 running Windows 10).

The cumulative update available via Windows Update on your Windows 10 PC, may take a while to appear on your Windows 10 PC. Like all Windows Updates, Microsoft rolls them out in batches.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had it show up for me yet.

However, one really good point came up out of (this support thread. I wish that I could take credit for it, but I really can’t.  Credit for that goes to Clayton Dittman

“Can you possibly tell the Windows OS team to check with the surface team and tell the surface team to check with your team before releasing an Operating System which breaks core functionality of your Staple Devices?

I cannot in good conscious use a Surface (Pro or not) again because of the way this migration to Windows 10 was handled in lieu of Office 2016 and the Surface Pro 4.

I want to trust Windows, I want to depend on you guys for quality control and solutions my customers can trust. I just can’t…”

While it seems obvious, the reliability and trustability of Windows 10 for many users has greatly diminished.  It’s not just this issue, there are still huge privacy, stability and (other) reliability concerns.  You can check just about any and every Windows blog on the internet today and find at least 2-3 articles covering all that.

The cumulative update I mentioned may resolve the disappearing ink issue… it may not.  KB3093266 is not the first fix that was released to address the issue.  There were individual updates made to Windows 10, OneNote 2013/2016 as well as Office 2016 that failed to resolve the problems between May and September of 2015.

Results from those that have received this update have been generally positive, though somewhat mixed.  Generally, it seems to be working; but like Dittman noted above, how much damage has TRULY occurred for the Windows and Surface Pro brands?

How easily Microsoft can recover from this is going to depend on a couple of things:

  1. Does the cumulative update truly resolve the bug for all users of both the Surface Pro 3 and the Surface 3 (its actually experienced on nearly all Surface Pro devices as well as the Surface 3)
  2. How well the Surface Pro 4 is received
  3. How well the bug stays resolved (especially on the Surface Pro 4)

Every time Microsoft releases a cumulative update or a new build, this issue is going to have to be retested. It’s very possible given the depth and severity of the problem(s) that Microsoft may resurrect the issue in future builds and updates. While that’s not ideal and certainly won’t be intentional, it does happen quite often with software development. It’s simply the nature of the beast – sometimes, it comes back.

The Surface Pro 4 has been anticipated for many months now. While there’s no real evidence that any industry pundit can provide regarding a credible rumor on the device’s ACTUAL existence, it is said that Microsoft will announce something next week (2015-10-05 to 2015-10-09) with an actual release date also rumored to be SOMETIME this month (October 2015).  While it totally misses Back to School, it should hit the 2015 Holiday Buying Season, provided its already being manufactured.

Do you have a Surface Pro device (1, 2 or 3)?  Do you have a Surface 3?  Are you using OneNote and the Surface Pen to take notes?  Are you experiencing issues with floating and disappearing ink?  Have you been following any of the Microsoft support threads I mentioned (here or here)?  Have you received the Windows 10 Cumulative Update (KB3093266) that I mentioned?

If you have, do, etc. and have received the update, I would REALLY appreciate hearing back from you on this.  Please provide the appropriate comments and/ or information in the Discussion area, below, so that I can get your information back to Microsoft.  This is a huge bug, and really needs to be resolved once and for all.

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Updating Windows 10 Mobile After it goes RTM

Microsoft says that it wants to push rapid updates to users; but there are issues…

Windows 10 mobile

I saw an interesting update on the Supersite for Windows this morning, and I answered a comment asking what the issues were on this in the US. I wanted to expound a bit more, so I thought I’d gather what I wrote and then start shooting my mouth off.

The original article deals with Microsoft taking control of OS related updates from the mobile carriers – in the States, that’s basically, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, but may also include a number of larger regional or budget carriers like US Cellular, Cricket and Boost Mobile – and making updates available roughly four to six (4 – 6) weeks after the updates go RTM. Based on a report from Ed Bott, Microsoft is serious about it. According to Terry Myerson,

“Here at Microsoft, we take our responsibility to keep Windows secure seriously. We follow up on all reported security issues, continuously probe our software with leading edge techniques, and proactively update supported devices with necessary updates to address issues. And today, we’re announcing this continuous update process applies to all Windows 10 devices, including phones.”

The only way that Windows as a Service (WaaS) REALLY works, is if Microsoft can release updates to users as they are ready.

The problem is that mobile broadband carriers in the US don’t allow just anything to ride their networks and don’t allow hardware manufacturers or OEM’s to release just any device update without that update going through a testing and certification process. Well, at least everyone but Apple; users of any cellular capable iDevice get iOS updates all the time…as soon as they’re released, in fact. I’ll deal with Apple in just a bit. However, every other device and device manufacturer/ OEM has to jump through a lot of hoops.

There are two parts to this issue: Control of the (enterprise) network and control of support. The second one is easy to understand. The first one is a PITA.

Control of Support
Many users don’t know much of anything about their smartphone past how to make and take calls, send and receive text messages, and change a status update on Facebook (or other social network). Most carriers like these types of users, because they generally accept what they are given, even if they don’t like it (which leads to the first thing, but I’ll get to that in a minute).

Because most users aren’t very tech savvy, they don’t know how to trouble shoot issues when they bump into problems, so they call their mobile carrier for support. The mobile carrier knows that support is a big issue, and don’t want to HAVE to support each and every problem that can arise, especially with exotic or little/unknown 3rd party software. So, they offer crapware that may have much the same functionality that most users are looking for and do their best to push users that way. They pay their support people to troubleshoot the crapware, and to try to get users to use it instead of a similar, and likely much more popular app that does the same thing. They can’t pay their people to know everything about every chat client, social network, photo enhancer, etc. it costs too much money to train and support them.

Control of the (Enterprise) Network
(Most) Mobile carriers don’t allow just ANY smartphone on their network. Unknown or rogue mobile devices can eat up bandwidth; and as much as they want to charge you for the bandwidth you use, mobile carriers certify devices and updates because if it rides on their network, users are going to demand support, so… they limit what can actually get on the network… or they at least try to.

Historically, this is why mobile carriers take so long to test individual devices before they actually offer them for sale; or take so long to test and certify updates before they actually go out to users of devices that use the mobile network.

Think of this the same way you think of your work computer. Your office’s IT department doesn’t let you install everything from any and every download site on the internet. Many sites are blocked to protect the network from viruses and other malware. It’s the same thing here.

All you do is use the network. You don’t own it, so the mobile carrier doesn’t allow you to do any and everything you want…. just like the office. The purpose is public communication. Your use effects the public, and the carrier has an obligation to insure that its available to all that pay to use it.

Now, all of this is SOMEWHAT based on older information. I really ran into this face first when I was a Verizon customer, living in Nashville, TN back in 2003/ 2004. I had two separate talks with a VzW store manager and a Tier 2 install technician (I had a car kit installed for my then, state of the art new, Samsung i700). The install tech who put the car kit in my Honda CRV laughed at me when I asked him why the store staff wouldn’t talk to me. I have to admit, it was kinda funny. However, he explained that I gave them fits because I knew more than they did, and had issues they couldn’t support (smartphones were new back then…). I later confirmed this with the store manager, who apologized, but didn’t offer any helpful suggestions, either.

However, the general principals here are the same now as they were then. Control… at least until you pay me (me, being the mobile carrier). Apple cut a lot of deals to get the iPhone on AT&T (and eventually VzW and T-Mo). Part of that was specifically that Apple has control of OS updates. It worked, and continues to work because Apple sells a BOAT load of iPhones. Mobile carriers make a lot of money via mobile accounts, upgrades, and other add-on related iDevice purchases.

…and volume. Let’s not forget the amount of sales volume they get. The carriers tolerate it because they make a lot of money based on iDevice sales volume.

Microsoft has a huge issue here. They simply don’t – and won’t – have the device sales volume to help them convince mobile carriers not to relinquish they’re control of their networks so Microsoft can deliver both software and firmware updates as needed. I have no idea what incentive Microsoft thinks it’s going to come up with to convince the carriers to allow this to happen. However, you would have to think that it may involve a bit of that ol’ happy cabbage… We’ll have to wait and see what and how MS does to make this happen.

What do you think about all of this? Will Microsoft be able to release updates to Windows 10 Mobile device owners as they want to; or will the US mobile carriers put a halt to it? Would these OS and firmware updates attract you to a Windows 10 Mobile device over, say, an Android device or iDevice?

I’d really like to hear from you on this, so why don’t you join me in the discussion area, below, and give me your thoughts on it all.

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Windows 10 on a Low-End Windows Tablet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.Touch screen is disabled

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

2.The onboard USB 2.x port Works Intermittently

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

3.Many Drivers Missing, Device Not Functional

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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