Microsoft OneDrive Screws the Pooch

Having OneDrive on a non-NTFS partition is no longer allowed…

Over the past week or so, many, but not all, Microsoft OneDrive users have been dealing with a very confusing and very troubling issue regarding Microsoft OneDrive – If your OneDrive data store is on any other volume other than an NTFS volume, OneDrive will stop synching and display the following error message

OneDrive Error Message

Like many Windows users, during the week of 2017-06-25 through 2017-07-01, everything was fine. My Surface Book and OneDrive were working as expected. With the extended Independence Day holiday here in the States, most users – myself included – were off between 2017-06-30 through 2017-07-04. My first day back to work that week was Wednesday 2017-07-05. I didn’t have my Surface Book out that day, as my day had me pretty much confined to my desk due to my extended holiday break. While my work PC has OneDrive on it, my synched files are on the main drive, and its formatted to NTFS already.

The next day, I was greeted with the error message dialog box shown above. I was totally taken by surprise and really didn’t know what to do. So, I took to Twitter, and asked one of my most reliable contacts, Mary Jo Foley if she knew what was going on. She did, and the news was both good and bad.

OneDrive NTFS

It was nice to know that the issue was known and that someone had tried to start a conversation with Microsoft on it. What I found disturbing, was that Microsoft was – and still is – virtually nonexistent on the thread. They haven’t replied at ALL to any of the users looking for any kind of answers. However, one user – Jeremy Chu – did get an answer to the inquiry he made directly with Microsoft. I’ve reproduced it in its entirety, here:

Hi,

We stopped supporting non-NTFS file systems. This is affecting users with FAT32, Exeats and ReFS file systems. Users can get unblocked by converting the drive to NTFS.

Basically all you have do is, from a command prompt, type:

convert D: /fs:ntfs (if the drive in question is currently d:\)

Or visit – http://odsp.westeurope.cloudapp.azure.com/qq/onedrive-sync-client-pushed-out-a-change-where-we/ to get more insights!!!

Unfortunately, if you were unable to do so, contact our windows support team : https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/contact/menu/

Thanks,
OneDrive Team

It’s nice that Microsoft has finally acknowledged the issue; but it took them over four days to do so; and to be honest, the thread that I’m referencing is the OFFICIAL issue thread, and they haven’t responded there at all.

At all…

As far as many of us are concerned on that thread, their lack of communication was making many think that this is a simple bump in the road; and that at some point, Microsoft would “correct” the problem. With the response that Jeremy got, that’s clearly NOT the case. And it’s very unfortunate.

Now… there are a couple of issues here. I haven’t really jumped on my rant soapbox this month, at least not until now, so please bear with me. I’m going to cover them as quickly as I can.

Terms of Service
There has to be an out for Microsoft in the OneDrive Terms of Service that basically says,

“we provide the service (even if you pay for it); and you’ll use what you’re given, the way we give it to you, or you can go elsewhere.” Or in more legal terms,

“we reserve the right to change the way the service works as we see fit, with or without any notice to you”

And if this is the case, AND you agreed to those terms of service before you started using Microsoft OneDrive, then you have little to no recourse in the matter. In truth, if you didn’t agree to the service’s terms of service, you wouldn’t be in the boat, because you wouldn’t be using it. You can’t use the service without agreeing to its terms, first. Which brings me to my second point…

Communications
Like many users, this likely wouldn’t have been an issue or a problem at all – provided that Microsoft had communicated the change – giving users the opportunity to prepare for the change. There may be some OneDrive users – and I’m thinking specifically of OneDrive for Business users – that may not be able to convert their drives to NTFS for one reason or another

If there had been some kind of notice on this, many would have had the chance to prepare for the change and either convert their drives – via the process outlined by the OneDrive Team, above – or to just blow the old data store and resync everything.

However, without any kind of heads up or official notice from Microsoft that the change was coming, many users were caught off guard… which is problematic. You never want to catch your users off guard. While the service owner can do almost anything they want once they Terms of Service are accepted by a customer, there is an aspect of service interruptions and uptime that needs to be addressed, and unfortunately, the way this initially appeared, despite the error dialog box, above, this appeared as an outage and not as the dropping of support for non-NTFS formatted drives on local data stores.

Bad form, Microsoft. Bad form!

What about other platforms??
The one big thing that I see missing here, is any kind of statement from Microsoft on how this change effects other platforms – like macOS. macOS uses HSF+ and ApFS (Apple File System) and Microsoft hasn’t said anything about how the switch to NFTS will or will not affect Macs and Mac users using OneDrive for Mac.

Then again, they also haven’t said if this has anything to do with Files on Demand or any other feature, either. Though to be honest, it like does have something to do with some OneDrive updates that are scheduled to hit in the Fall Creators Update (FCU).

However, what’s really kind of confusing is whether or not OneDrive’s NTFS requirement also excludes drives formatted with ReFS or Microsoft’s Resilient File System. ReFS is close to NTFS, but apparently doesn’t support one of the big features that OneDrive needs – reparse points. If this is the case, the question that is begged here is whether or not OneDrive will work (or continue to work) with ReFS; or better yet why Microsoft hasn’t updated ReFS to work with OneDrive.

Did you bump into this problem over the past week or so? Did you have OneDrive synching your data to an SD card or to an older, external drive that was formatted as FAT32? How did you resolve the issue? Did you do what I did and just knuckled under and reformatted the drive and resynchronized? Or did you convert the drive? Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area below, and let me know? I’d love to hear from you!

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Microsoft Replaces Placeholders with Files on Demand

OneDrive’s Placeholders have finally gotten a replacement on Windows 10…

I think nearly everyone will agree – Windows 8 was pretty much a train wreck. The OS confused nearly everyone that used it; and that confusion came in the guise of a tablet “interface” that had features missing, existing features deprecated, and a new set of applications that just didn’t fit the design language that everyone was used to when it came to Windows.

However, there was one thing that came out of it that nearly everyone, present company included, really liked, and that was OneDrive Placeholders.

Placeholders in OneDrive were special file stubs that looked like your documents but actually just “took the place” of the actual document. When you actually wanted or needed to edit the actual file, you could double click on it to open it or sync the actual copy down to your hard drive and use it as you normally would. Placeholders were a wonderful way to seeing every file that was stored on OneDrive. This was especially helpful so that you wouldn’t have to choose what files to have on your PC or not. You could bring down what you needed and the rest was done with Placeholders.

Unfortunately, the version of OneDrive that came with Windows 8.x was not compatible with Windows 10. Microsoft further deprecated all subsequent versions of OneDrive so that all platforms (all versions of Windows, macOS, etc.) ran off the same sync engine. Placeholders, we were told would come back at a later date.

My friends… that time has come.

As part of the latest Windows Insider build on the Fast Ring – Build 16215 – Microsoft is releasing a new OneDrive client that has a new feature called Files On-Demand. In an entry on the Windows Blog, Dona Sarkar, a software engineer in the Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft noted,

“With Files On-Demand, you can access all your files in the cloud without having to download them and use storage space on your device. All your files—even online-only files—can be seen in File Explorer and work just like every other file on your device. You’ll be able to open online-only files from within any desktop or Windows Store apps using the Windows file picker. And you’re covered in both your home and professional life since it works with your personal and work OneDrive, as well as your SharePoint Online team sites.”

The updated OneDrive client will be rolling out over the next few days but can also be installed from here.

After enabling Files On-Demand in the updated OneDrive client, your files will have an “Online-Only” status and be shown with an icon with a “cloud” overlay, similar to what you see below. Local files will have a green checkmark with a white background. Always available files (those that are marked, “always keep on this device”) will have a white checkmark with a green background. Examples of all three icons can be seen immediately below.

Please note that installing this version of the OneDrive client on any other Windows version – for example, Windows 7 – won’t enable the feature. The feature is dependent upon the latest Fast Ring Build, currently Build 16215. Release notes for that build can be found here.

When installed on a Windows 10 PC with the right Fast Ring Build, the user will see the following when they click on the OneDrive icon in their system tray:

Unfortunately, for me, I don’t sit in the Fast Ring any longer. I’ve had too many issues with prerelease versions of Windows to understand that if I want my Surface Book (or other designated Windows 10 PC) to run without issue or problems, I need to stay away from them. It’s really a one way move. Every time I’ve tried to reset my PC back to a released version of Windows 10, its died.

Files On-Demand is currently scheduled to be part of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, due out sometime in Q3 2017.

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Dok Malware is the Disease that Ailes You

Currently, there is NO cure...

Malware – and specifically ransomware – is probably the most compelling reason I know of to completely abandon personal computing. Depending on where you are, what bug(s) you get, and how badly it affects you, I can totally understand the urge some people must feel to leave the computer age behind. Ransomware, or the type of computer virus that encrypts your hard drive without any way of recovering your data unless and until you cough up a payment or two to a hacker, who is then supposed to send you a key that removes the encryption from your hard drive, allowing you to recover your data, can be especially damaging if you don’t have the data backed up or if your backup(s) also gets infected. Infections like these are especially harmful to small businesses that simply don’t have the cash or resources to remove the infection or pay the ransom.

In order to prevent infections like these, regardless of what operating system or computer type you use, its highly recommended that you use a reputable malware scanner. Like I said… anyone can get malware… (Part 1, Part 2). Problems start when the malware scanner you’re using can’t detect the latest, greatest bug to be declared in the wild – case in point: Dok is the latest critter to move into the macOS space, and it targets ALL versions of OS X and macOS; and will take complete control of your Mac if you let it.

Before we go any further, there is a silver lining to this massive, malware cloud of doom – it’s a phishing attack that requires the user to open a ZIP archive that’s attached to an email message. This should be a warning sign to just about everyone – opening ZIP attachments in an email is likely NOT a good idea, regardless of where they’re coming from or who is sending them.

So, what exactly is phishing? According to Wikipedia, phishing is

“the attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and, indirectly, money), often for malicious reasons, by disguising as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. [Phishing] is a neologism created as a homophone of fishing due to the similarity of using bait in an attempt to catch a victim.”

Most phishing attempts usually occur via email or instant messaging (so you have to be careful with IM apps as well…) and the “attack” occurs when you open a specific attachment or open an active web page that executes code that directs you to enter personal information on to a page that looks and feels like the real thing. Phishing messages are often sent by imitations of auction sites, credit card and bank sites, online payment processing sites, or from an “IT administrator” from any of those places. The idea is to fool you into thinking that the website or service you’re using/ viewing is legitimate so the hacker can install or execute some other program that will steal financial or other information from you that will provide them with financial gain.

The best and worst thing about phishing attacks is that most users can prevent them by not clicking on suspicious links or opening dubious email attachments sent from people or places you don’t know or recognize or aren’t expecting to receive messages from.

According to Check Point Software, a leading antimalware software publisher, Dok isn’t detectable by any malware scanner from any vendor as of this writing. While this is likely to change quickly, it still represents a huge problem. Dok uses a signed developer certificate. This means that your Mac will allow it to install despite having Gatekeeper active. That signed developer cert is authenticated by Apple, and because of THAT, if you open a ZIP file on your Mac, you could be risking infection.

Once Dok is installed on your Mac, the malware has elevated privileges that will provide access to all communication methods, even those sent over SSL connections, by redirecting all of your traffic through a malicious proxy server. All of your traffic will be monitored, and the person(s) monitoring that data can look through the details, saving what they want. This information could include access to the financial and other PMI based accounts you opened while infected.

The best way to keep yourself infection free at this point is to stay uninfected. In other words, don’t open any ZIP files from anyone. Period. Just delete the email. If you think the sender is a trusted party, email them back and make other arrangements to retrieve the attachments. Services like Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive all have ways to send secure links to files you want to share with others. Look into those.
Additional information on Dok can be found at Check Point’s Advisories archive. If you’re running Check Point Antivirus R75 – R77, you can prevent unauthorized remote access by following these instructions. If you suspect you already have Dok, you need to take a look at this article by Lory Gil over at iMore. All the folks there are awesome; and this article is especially helpful.

As I mentioned earlier, the best way to keep yourself infection free is to not open attachments in email, especially attachments from someone you don’t know; or if you get unexpected attachments from someone you do know.

In the case of the latter, a quick phone call or text message asking if they did send you something can save you a huge headache. Err on the side of caution, kids. It’s better to be safe than sorry…

You should also make certain you’re running a good antimalware app. If you’re running macOS, you can find one here. If you’re running a Windows machine, you can find one here.

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Windows Essentials are Dead – Part 2

Formerly called Windows Live Essentials, this great group of MS created and maintained apps died on 2017-01-10.

Introduction
As I mentioned last time, Microsoft has recently discontinued the download and support of a set of add-on apps that were formally part of its “essentials” brand, as these add-on apps were considered an “essential” part of the Windows Live experience; and while they were supported, life on the Windows side of the fence was pretty good.

Unfortunately, Microsoft killed these applications as of 2017-01-10, meaning that new installations of Windows Live Essentials are no longer possible through its web based installation program. While the installation app is available through Microsoft and via any number of download sites, any attempt to actually run the install app is met with a download error. Here is the official statement from Microsoft:

As of January 10, 2017, Windows Essentials 2012 is no longer supported on Windows 10, and is unavailable for download. Windows Essentials 2012 included Windows Movie Maker, Windows Photo Gallery, Windows Live Writer, Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Family Safety and the OneDrive desktop app for Windows.

Last time, I covered almost all of Windows Essentials; and they included the following applications

  • Photo Gallery
  • Movie Maker
  • Mail
  • Windows Messenger
  • Windows Live Writer
  • OneDrive – Formerly both Windows Live Mesh and SkyDrive
  • Family Safety – Windows 7 only

While there are apps included with Windows 10 meant to replace Photo Gallery and Mail, there aren’t replacements for Movie Maker or Family Safety (the latter was meant for Windows 7, only). Windows Messenger was replaced with Skype when Microsoft purchased it; and OneDrive took on a life of its own. It’s now available as part of Windows 10 and includes 5GB of free storage. Additional storage can be purchased as part of Office 365. Users can also purchase up to 50GB of storage for $0.99 (99 cents) USD, per month.

Windows Live Writer
Most users of Windows Live Writer have a few poignant things to say about it. Thankfully, most of them are positive. In contrast, while Microsoft Word can be used to create and edit HTML files, most people that need a “real” HTML editor will tell you – actually they’ll plead with you –choose a different editor. Word inserts a lot of unnecessary – as well as other – tags in the HTML it creates, and HTML edited with it, is considered dirty and “expensive” (meaning that it requires more processing power to crunch through the unnecessary HTML tags than cleaner HTML written in a different editor). Most websites won’t use documents or articles written in Word HTML. A number of years ago, I had more than one publication turn down or reject HTML written with Word. Having a tool like Live Writer to compose and post articles directly to one or more online publications is the closest thing you’re going to have to an offline CMS for the masses.

Windows Live Writer first came out to support Windows Live Spaces. Live Spaces were Microsoft’s answer to GeoCities. GeoCities was Microsoft’s answer to Yahoo’s mass attempt at getting the world to claim their slice of the digital frontier, if you will. GeoCities was a place where just about anyone could create a website and create some kind of presence on the web. It was also an attempt at competing with additional properties like MySpace and Xanga. The big difference with Microsoft’s solution is that they provided a tool in Live writer that had a familiar WYSIWYG interface, like the one found in Word.

Live Writer made it very easy to post to Live Space. Thankfully, the app also worked with other popular blogging platforms, including WordPress, SharePoint, Blogger and TypePad, among others, meaning you can write and automatically post to sites built on these supported platforms. You can also use WLW to create HTML that may be used by other CMS’ (Content Management Systems).

Unfortunately, Windows Live Writer died with the rest of the Windows Essentials on 2017-01-10.

Open Live Writer

Thankfully, prior to its death, Microsoft decided to release the application to the open source community. Windows Live Writer was replaced with Open Live Writer; and strangely enough, the open sourced version of WLW, is completely identical to the Microsoft branded app.

Interestingly enough, the new version of the app supports the same blogging services. The only difference with OLW is that you already have to have the blog started somewhere (meaning, it has to have a URL and the ability to post articles prior to you writing one).

I’ve been using the app for just a little bit now, and quite honestly, I’m pleased and VERY relieved. When I picked up a Surface Book earlier this year, I wanted to install Windows Live Essentials on it. Unfortunately, it was after 2017-01-10, and as I mentioned previously, attempts to install after that date will be met with installation/ download errors (even though you can still download the installation program. Searching for “windows live essentials download” on your search engine of choice should bring up a number of different download links from reputable download sites all OVER the internet. Thankfully (and rightfully so), Soft32 doesn’t have it in its download catalog.

Conclusion
As an HTML editor and web article creation tool, Open Live Writer is just as effective and good at its job as Windows Live Writer was. To be very honest, those that depend on or prefer this tool to others have a great deal to be thankful for. Open Live Writer satisfies the need for a posting tool for just about any and every website out there, plus it creates some of the cleanest HTML, the same as any of the bigger, paid tools on the market.

Windows Essentials had some of the best Microsoft applets ever created. They covered a great deal of holes in the OS. With the advance of Windows to more sophisticated versions, Microsoft has finally retired the suite.

Its components may have been replaced, but can still be used, provided you already have them installed. After 2017-01-10, they can no longer be installed on any computer, regardless of operating system.

Some of their replacements can be installed and/ or used at your convenience; and if you’re curious, or interested, they’re a good move and good choice of applet to address the needs they fulfill.

Are you currently using Windows Essentials? Which version of Windows are using them on? What is it that you find most valuable about them? Are there better apps out there, in your opinion?

If there are, I need you to tell me all about it. Meet me in the Discussion area, below, and give me all the information you have. I’d love to hear it.

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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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