LOT (Law Office Technology): Microsoft’s Fall 2015 Event

Microsoft unveiled some very attractive hardware this morning in New York City, but that very attractive hardware comes with very premium pricing.

(Though Microsoft discussed it first, I’ll leave off discussing the XBoxOne, since I’m not terribly interested in it, and it doesn’t really fit into the whole how-does-this-piece-of-technology-integrate-into-the-law-office thing I have going here.  And the Hololens was mentioned and demoed, with a dev kit being offered next year for $3,000…..)

Microsoft Band (2.0)

Microsoft then moved on to the new Microsoft Band.  A few weeks ago, some renders leaked which showed a very sleek and rounded band that looks like a glowing bangle. The screen is rounded, but generally looks like a shiny version of the current Microsoft Band.  Microsoft is still calling it the Band (but I’m differentiating it by calling it “2.0”), and it still, unfortunately, looks like a shackle.

New Microsoft Band
The New Microsoft Band, sourced from Microsoft Store.

The clasp is huge and looks cumbersome, and interestingly, the woman discussing the Band on stage had it on with the screen on the inside of her wrist.  (The models on the product page are also wearing the screen on the inside of the wrist.) It looks far more capable than the first generation Band, and certainly less awkward with that weird flat wedge of a screen, but still quite large. Much larger, for example than the FitBit Charge I currently have on my wrist, which I think is already somewhat large and noticeably…dorky.

Nonetheless, I like the commitment to fitness that Microsoft is going for with the Band, with built-in GPS, partnerships already lined up with all sorts of health apps, and guided workouts.  One of the limitations I found when considering the original Band, in addition to the clunky screen, was its inability–apparently–to track steps all day long; it isn’t clear to me that the new Band has constant monitoring. It would make sense to have it, but then again, this thing is trying to do more than just track steps.

Such as being a productivity smart-watch-ish device, too.   Apparently, it will work with iPhones (no surprise considering Microsoft’s best mobile apps appear on iOS first), Androids, and yes, Windows Mobile phones.  You can get emails, text messages, other notifications, and even use Cortana.  Cortana, however, requires a Windows Phone 8.1 or later device.  *sad trombone*

At $249, it is $50 more than the previous model, but $100 less than the entry-level Apple Watch.  It’s an interesting pricing strategy because there is some legitimately interesting stuff in the device, but it’s probably appropriately priced (as far as these things go) as a second-tier device.  Not that I think the Apple Watch is any great shakes, to be honest. I’m not interested in that device in the slightest, as I already have a non-smart watch I like very much thank you.  I am interested in the Band, but not at $249, regardless of the fact they made a curved display.  That helps a lot, but I already found $199 too steep for my interests, and again, it really looks quite bulky.

Lumia 950 and 950XL


Lumia 950 and Lumia 950XL
Microsoft’s Lumia 950 and 950XL, sourced from Microsoft.

Anyway, on to the phones.  Not much to say here.  The Lumia 950 and 950XL appear to be flagship devices, and the Continuum features look legitimately impressive.  Being able to hook the phone up to a dock and have it work as a desktop-esque machine is really intriguing.  And the technical specifications are nothing to sneeze at.  Either 5.2″ or 5.7″ AMOLED screens, 20 MP cameras with triple LED flashes and ZEISS lenses (which by all accounts are fantastic), a standard 32GB of storage with a microSD slot, and either a 6-core or 8-core Snapdragon processor, they’re pretty stout phones. (Shoot, they even have liquid cooling, which…what?)  Then there’s the afore-mentioned ability to plug it into a dock and have a functioning desktop experience. It’s creative and progressive, and I genuinely would love to use one.


The apps. Or more accurately, the dearth of apps. And the fact that Windows 10 Mobile is not ready for prime time. There is no way this phone will pass the wife test, and in this BYOD environment, that’s more important to me at this point than the technology. It’s a pity, since they are pretty devices.  And they’re lower-tier priced at $549 and $649 respectively (though, with Google’s release of the Nexus devices last week at lower price points, perhaps Microsoft should knock another hundred bucks or so off each if they actually want anyone to buy them).

Surface Pro 4

Microsoft Surface Pro 4
Microsoft Surface Pro 4, sourced from Microsoft.

Anyway, onto the device that I was most interested in, the Surface Pro 4.  I have made no bones about the fact that I have fallen out of love with my Venue 8 Pro as a productivity device.  I find it too small, and far too unreliable to use it for anything but general leisure-time consumption.  And that makes me somewhat sad because the idea of a tablet running a full operating system with pen input is precisely my perfect law office productivity device.  That’s where the Surface Pro 3, the Surface 3, and now the Surface Pro 4 resonate with me, and Microsoft has really delivered improvements to the Surface Pro line.

The new Surface Pro 4 is thinner, lighter, and purportedly more powerful. The pen has been updated, has an eraser, comes standard, and magnetically attaches to the edge of the device. Microsoft also updated the Type Cover, to include spaces between the keys, a glass trackpad, and a fingerprint scanner.  The screen is very nice, and has a ton of pixels.  It’s got Intel’s latest Core processors in it. All around, it’s a sleek machine, and I want one.

But the price.

It starts at $899, which is $100 more than the Surface Pro 3 started at (and you can currently get one for $699.00).  That *only* gets you a Core M3, 4 GB of RAM, and a decent 128GB SSD.  Opting for a Core i5, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD increases the price to $1,299.00.  Another 8GB of RAM pumps it to $1,499.00 and maxing the thing out with a Core i7 with 16GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD storage results in a $2,699.00 device.  Add in a $199 dock, and a $129 keyboard… well, it’s not a cheap device.  Which is fine; it’s the standard-bearer for office productivity tablets.  But it’s also a lot of money to pay for a device which will be last year’s model in a year’s time.

Surface Book

Microsoft Surface Book
Microsoft’s new Surface Book, sourced from Microsoft.

And then there’s the Surface Book (they really should have called it something other than “Book”), which was quite unexpected (apart from whimsical musings about what Microsoft could do if it made laptop), and is very innovative. It’s also got to have all of Microsoft’s OEM partners peeved, because now Microsoft is definitely tromping in the devices category.  It’s a 2-in-1 device, where the screen detaches from the keyboard, and the two halves are connected by a really strange looking articulated hinge.

The thing is pretty compelling, packing a 13.3″ (3000 x 2000) touch screen that also accepts pen input.  In fact, it comes with the Surface Pen.  It also, in its base configuration, sports a Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and 128GB of SSD storage.  It also starts at $1,499.00, which is firmly high-end territory.  Yes, it detaches and becomes a “clipboard,” which is very cool, but that, again, is a lot of money to spend on a first-gen device.  (Oh, maxing it out with a Core i7, 512 GB of SSD storage, 16GB or RAM, and discrete graphics will run you $2,699.)

Wrap it Up

So, all in all, some pretty interesting devices were debuted by Microsoft today, and it will be absolutely exciting to see if Microsoft’s OEM partners can address the build quality and technological specs with slightly more affordable gear.  Nonetheless, it’s nice to see a lot of innovation coming out in the wake of Windows 10.

Technology in the Law Office–Windows 10 on a Small Tablet (pt. 3)

OneNote Windows 10
OneNote in Windows 10 with on screen keyboard.

Now that I have been using Windows 10 on my Venue 8 Pro for a week or two, I can say unequivocally that Windows 10 can work on a small tablet. Microsoft’s Continuum efforts are paying off, and it is definitely possible for an operating system to be desktop-oriented and then switch to tablet mode without too many issues.

Windows 10 Issues on the Venue 8 Pro

There are issues, however. The following are my top six thoughts regarding the past couple of weeks:

  1. The on-screen keyboard during log-in has lately stopped reflecting on the keyboard itself that a key has been pressed.  (i.e., there is no momentary flash of highlighting to reflect a key press.)  I don’t know why it does this, because this wasn’t a problem upon initial installation. It still works, and it doesn’t seem to be a problem in other apps, but having some sort of visual confirmation that a key-press has been registered is fairly desirable.
  2. The WiFi connection decided to stop working randomly one day, and troubleshooting did nothing to resolve the problem.  There were no issues with the driver, and the router was working fine.  It just…stopped behaving. And then it fixed itself.  Which is great and all, but unreliable WiFi is discomforting, especially for a device so heavily reliant on having a constant WiFi connection.
  3. Likewise, using the stylus continues to be a hit-or-miss proposition.  I will say, the Dell Active Stylus appears to be smoother and more responsive than it was under Windows 8.x.  But, it still works only to the level of “more often than not.”  Which is mostly okay.  Except when you’re really trying to take notes on it and it stops registering input.  The Windows 10 settings page for connected devices does not present options for pens or styli, and searching for pen settings will launch the legacy settings interface underneath the full-screen interface.  When you finally find them, you discover that A) Windows 10 thinks that touch and pen input are not enabled on the device and I need to contact my device maker, and B) that you can calibrate a pen regardless. Perhaps that interface is keyed to the old Tablet PC form factor with different touch and pen technology, and I’m seeing it because I forced Windows 10 onto the device rather than letting Dell handle it for me.  I don’t know.
  4. Closely related, and lots of people said this would happen, but not having the swipe-in from the right launch the charms bar is taking some getting used to. It’s not so much that the Charms bar was particularly great, in of itself, but at least it was easy to find where the app-specific settings were.  Without the Charms bar, you need to either swipe in from the top or the bottom and hope that you find them.
  5. The new OneNote that comes with Windows 10 is just not as pleasant as the Modern version that was in Windows 8.x, the one with the radial menu.
  6. Eight inches really is probably too small for long-term handwritten note-taking.

To Mars and Beyond

All in all, despite the gripes, it’s fine.  It’s the stuff in this list, though, which really show just how rushed Windows 10 was.  At about the time Microsoft announced that Windows 10 would launch on July 29, it became very clear that Windows 8.x was the spaceship that Microsoft had wanted to take to Mars after finally getting into orbit, but that they expected to be able to build it as they rocketed there.    In other words Microsoft slammed a nice new kernel in the Windows 7 frame, gave it some outrageous styling and controls, left the dated upholstery inside, and launched it into orbit.  It got to about the level of the ISS before the pilot said “I will turn this spaceship around and go home if you don’t give me a fully functioning desktop interface,” and Microsoft had to acquiesce.  In the process, Microsoft removed the weird styling they had given their spaceship, slapped a fresh coat of paint on it, gave it some additional functionality, and called it Windows 10, leaving the ratty old interior intact.  They’re still going to Mars (and maybe even further) after a quick pit stop, but I hope they still plan on continually building the thing as they head there.

Technology in the Law Office–The Default Method of Installing Windows 10

Three weeks after the launch of Windows 10, my Windows 7 desktop machine finally told me it was okay to upgrade.  (I forced updates on three laptops–I finally did my wife’s after the Windows 7 partition corrupted itself and lost the boot loader–and a Dell Venue 8 Pro mini tablet. But I wanted to leave one computer alone to see how long it would take to get the official “okay” from Microsoft.  Three weeks was the answer, I guess.)

A Rough Start

That does not mean, however, that the upgrade experience was seamless.  Yesterday morning, as I did nearly every morning since launch, I clicked the little Windows icon in the System tray to see whether it said “your reservation is confirmed; we’ll let you know when it’s ready” as it normally does.  Yesterday, however, it said I was ready to upgrade.  It informed me that, if I clicked “Continue” (or whatever it actually said–I probably should have written it down), there would be a 10 second pause, and then it would ask me to review the license, and then I would be able to determine when to actually do the upgrade.  So I clicked to continue, expecting a 10 second pause, and expecting to let it do its thing while I went off to court.

That didn’t happen.

Instead, it gave me the soothing spinning Windows 10 ouroboros circle of balls, and a message that it was “Working on It.”  I let it run for ten minutes before finally needing to trot off to court.

When I got back, the circle was still spinning and it still said it was working on it. This is not an uncommon experience, turns out, and as much as these new error messages are friendlier (“something happened,” “the store has stumbled,” “this is taking longer than expected,” &c), they are not any more helpful than the old technical error messages.

There Are Answers Out There

After trying a couple of suggestions that were offered on Microsoft’s support forums (one of which required running the command prompt, and which seemed to really do nothing), the best suggestion I saw was simply running Windows Update, checking for new updates, and then seeing the option to upgrade to Windows 10 through a dialog box there.  Sure enough, that did the trick. There was about a 10-second pause, the option to accept the license, and then it started downloading the files I would need to upgrade.  As those files were “only” 2.7GB, I wonder if they comprised the cumulative updates that have come out in the past 3 weeks, since the whole point of the reservation process was to allow Microsoft to trickle-distribute the Windows 10 installation files to a hidden folder on the hard drive over the course of weeks so that installation would go faster. (And the reason I suspect they were the updates is because after Windows 10 installed, I didn’t need to thereafter download all the cumulative updates.)

Once those files downloaded, it shut down the computer, and over the next hour or two, Windows 10 installed.

One interesting aspect of upgrading this way, rather than the method I had used with the other computers, is that it did not give me the option to essentially clean install.  Not that I would have necessarily wanted to clean install this machine–this was definitely going to be a simple upgrade which kept documents and applications in place.  But it is interesting nonetheless.

And Then it Was Done

And, at the end of the day, once you get the thing to actually download and update, it’s a pretty mundane experience.  It’ll work just fine and, having tested it across a nice variety of devices–Atom-based tablet, Core i3 laptop, Core i5 laptop, Core i7 laptop, and Core i5 desktop–it seems to have no issues performing well on pretty much anything you might be running. (Seriously–if it can run on an Atom it can probably run on a Celeron…)

That being said, there are a handful of privacy-related issues that I will address in my next post in this series.

Technology in the Law Office–Windows 10 on a Small Tablet (Pt. 2)

Windows 10 on the Dell Venue 8 Pro
Windows 10 on the Dell Venue 8 Pro

And there it is.  Windows 10 is on the Venue 8 Pro. Once I reset it and gave it plenty of room to install, it upgraded like a breeze.

I’m just getting started playing with it, but these are 10 of my quick thoughts.

  1. It takes up even more space than Windows 8.1.  Prior to installing it, I had about 12.9GB available on c:\ drive.  Now, only 9.3GB.  I’m not sure if that will improve after the 30-day free-reversion period ends.
  2. It automatically installed with rotation lock enabled, which makes no sense.
  3. The Metro/Start/Universal version of OneNote is simultaneously better and worse than the version available on Windows 8.1.  For example, the radial menu on the previous version was incredibly convenient for choosing pen colors and line thickness.  Those options are relegated to menu items, and I haven’t been able to find a way to change line thickness. Yet. I only played with it for a moment.
  4. Speaking of OneNote, the stylus worked just fine for writing. Certainly no worse than on 8.1.
  5. Still speaking of OneNote, I understand now why some people lament the loss of the Charms swipe-in.  To get to OneNote’s settings, you have to push a back button, and then look at the bottom of the sidebar to find the settings cog; from there, you can make changes to the App’s settings, but it wasn’t as easy as simply sliding in from the side.
  6. Having Candy Crush Saga pre-installed is the answer to all my dreams.
  7. Sorry, being able to uninstall the pre-installed Candy Crush Saga is the answer to all my dreams.  (Seriously, being able to uninstall almost all Apps I don’t want really is a nice thing. (Looking at you, Apple Music app, Apple Watch app, Apple Stocks app, Apple Newsstand App…))
  8. Finding File Explorer is a little more difficult than it probably should be in Tablet/Continuum mode; I had to long press the Start icon and select file explorer.  I can probably pin a link somewhere, though.
  9. It certainly doesn’t run any worse than 8.1, and perhaps feels even a little more responsive.
  10. Still, I’d like to know what is taking up so much space…

I’m really looking forward to messing with it some more once I have a little more free time.

Technology in the Law Office–Windows 10 on a Small Tablet

Trying to force an upgrade to Windows 10 on a Dell Venue 8 Pro
Trying to force an upgrade to Windows 10 on a Dell Venue 8 Pro

While the upgrade to Windows 10 has been relatively painless for my laptops, getting my Dell Venue 8 Pro to accept the upgrade has been less than smooth.

Pros and Cons of the V8P

The V8P has been both exhilarating and incredibly frustrating.  (Why I don’t have the same sort of anger toward it as I do my iPhone is something of a mystery, but I suspect it has to do with the fact that it only cost a couple of hundred dollars.) It is exhilarating because, when it works, it shows just how useful it can be. Taking notes with a stylus and then being able to pull up the notes months later with little hassle is fantastically productive.  Having an 8″ device which can function as a fully-capable computer is also quite useful.  It also is fairly responsive and presents an enjoyable reading experience–I read the entirety of Andy Weir’s The Martian through the Kindle App, and my eyes never got tired, and I found the text easy to read.  Browsing the web, so long as you don’t mind using Internet Explorer works just fine 99% of the time.  The microSD slot allows you to expand storage significantly (more on that in a moment, though). It’s a very decent and capable small tablet.

It’s frustrating though, because the stylus and the active digitizer have been fraught with problems from the get-go.  When you’re scrawling on the screen and getting nothing as a result, you don’t know if it’s a computer error, a stylus error, or a dead battery–there’s absolutely no information presented that can help you figure it out.  The micro-USB charging port is also laughably weak.  I’ve already had to send it back to Dell early in its life to fix the thing, and now, about a year later, it’s showing signs of weakness again.  It’s also a bit small for the type of work I want to do on it.  8″ seems like it would be great for taking notes by holding it in your hand, much like a steno pad, but there’s something limiting about having only 8″ to work with.  (The Surface 3 seems like a great size for what I want to do, and maybe someday I’ll get one of those.)  Finally, the 32GB of standard storage is extremely limiting, especially when more than half of it is devoted to the operating system.  Yes, you can expand storage by adding a microSD, but you can’t use that storage for anything but, well, storage.  Store Apps–under Windows 8.1, at least–can’t install in that space, and even if they could, it would probably prove to be too slow to be pleasant.

All in all, while I like it enough, as a Windows 8.1 device, I’d say that I’d recommend it only to people who don’t want to spend too much to have a small tablet, who don’t mind having some frustrating limitations.

All this to say: that’s why I don’t mind sacrificing the V8P to experimentation. If I mess it up, I can (or should be able to) go back to 8.1 without a problem, and it isn’t the end of the world even if I completely kill it. Yes, I’ll be mad that $200 bought me only about 18 months of computing, but it is not a device that I rely on every single day.

Forcing the Upgrade

I am currently on my fourth (yes, yesterday I said second) attempt to get the thing to accept the Windows 10 update. The first three attempts all ended with a dialog box which said something to the effect of “Something Happened; The Update Failed to Initialize.”  I searched for solutions on the web, and came across two solutions.  The first recommended doing a factory reset to give the upgrade files more space to work with (remember, in it’s factory state, the 32GB drive really only has about 12-14GB of usable space) and the other recommended changing Registry permissions to allow access to all users.  Not wanting to wipe the device (even though there was very little that wasn’t saved elsewhere) I tried changing the Registry permissions.  That did nothing.

So this morning, I reset the device, got it to bare-bones status, and then immediately hunted down the upgrade in the manner I detailed in previous posts.

This time, it appears to be working.  I’ve made it through the media download, it’s initialized, it’s checked for updates, and now it’s asking me whether I want to Install Windows 10 Home by keeping personal files and apps.

Making it to the second round with the Windows 10 preview.
Making it to the second round with the Windows 10 installation.

I decided to keep nothing; as I mentioned, very little is actually stored on the c:\ drive (since, well, there’s typically no space), and I want this thing as pristine as possible.  It performed one last check to see if there is enough space, and then it’s off to the races.  In a couple of hours, I’ll see if the thing works or not.  And whether the concern I’ve read about how Windows 10 is great in a traditional desktop environment but not on a tablet is merited.  That’s coming up in the next post in this series.

Technology in the Law Office–Windows 10 is Finally (Officially) Here (Pt. 2)

Now that you’ve run the Windows 10 installer, you get a screen asking “What do you want to do?”  And you have two choices: “Upgrade this PC now” and “Create Installation for another PC.”

Choose whether to upgrade or to create installation media.
Choose whether to upgrade or to create installation media.

I recommend choosing Upgrade this PC now. While you can create an installation USB drive or burn an ISO to a DVD, honestly, the most success I’ve had is with the upgrade-in-place path. My complications involved intentionally/accidentally wiping out the master boot record on my testing laptop, making a bootable USB stick that I couldn’t boot from, burning an ISO to a DVD, and then failing installation when I had to enter a product key because OEM product keys don’t activate (or maybe they do, who knows?) and then digging out old recovery media that was created in 2010–good thing I had it on hand–and reinstalling Windows 7 and upgrading to SP1.  It’s a lot easier to simply select “Upgrade this PC now.”

When you do that, Windows 10 will start downloading.  Feel free to do something else for the time being, because it takes a while.  After all, it’s downloading 4-5GB of data.

You will next have the option of keeping your applications and files or essentially keeping nothing and getting a fresh installation of Windows 10. I’ve done both.  With one of my laptops, I kept all of my files and applications, and with the other–the one I borked–I chose the option to keep nothing.  Both scenarios worked just fine.  In fact, it was impressive just how well the system that had years of applications and files on it handled the upgrade.  Sure, it took a little longer, but I was pleasantly surprised that most things (other than an outdated graphics driver which was easily updated) worked just as they were supposed to. The system which was essentially clean-installed worked just fine, too, other than a problem with its graphics driver, which was a problem that existed throughout the preview period.  A) it doesn’t seem to be a fatal issue, and B) there is apparently no updated driver coming from Intel.  Time will tell, and it doesn’t seem to impact performance.  (It appears that the driver simply relaunches anytime the screen comes back to life after being asleep, but otherwise, no real performance issues.)  I haven’t had the time yet to do a deep dig into that issue, and since I don’t use that laptop for much of anything serious, I’m not worried about it right now.

In any event, after a couple of hours or so–maybe less, maybe more–official Windows 10 is up and running on two of the five machines I encounter regularly.  Given my experience with my testing laptop, I’m hesitant to mess with my wife’s computer, since she is also running the preview.  She is a little less pleased with the preview right now (and it mysteriously uninstalled some printer drivers in the past week), so I’m waiting until I have the time to make sure I don’t mess things up entirely for her.  I’m letting the desktop I use for most of my work go through the Microsoft-intended upgrade path (i.e., simply letting it tell me when it’s okay for me to upgrade) to see how long it takes.

And then there’s the tablet.  Which has not gone smoothly, and which will be the topic of my next post on this subject.

Technology in the Law Office–Windows 10 is Finally (Officially) Here (Pt. 1)

You'll see this if you try to force the install.
You’ll see this if you try to force the install.

Windows 10 arrived, as promised, on July 29, 2010. Members of the Insider Program got it first, though, truth be told, we’d been running it since Build 10240, which was pushed out to insiders a couple of weeks before the official launch.

For everyone else, though, well, I’m not exactly sure when you’ll get a notification that you’re ready to upgrade.

Basically, if you reserved your copy when that silly little icon popped up in your task bar, that told Microsoft that you wanted to upgrade, and it began dripping the installation files into a hidden folder on your root drive.  At some point, the folder is ready, and you’ll get a notification to upgrade.  I guess.  I haven’t officially received that notice with any of the computers I’m using.

I am, however, running official Windows 10 installations on two machines, and am currently attempting (for a second time) to put it on a third.  The experience has been largely positive.

How Did I Get Windows 10 Without the Official Notice?

Thanks to tips from a variety of sources (mainly thurrott.com) I got it directly from Microsoft’s “Download Windows 10” website.  Easy enough. Now, you will need to know, at a minimum, one piece of information: whether you are running a 32-bit or a 64-bit version of either Windows 7 with SP1, or Windows 8.1.  You can find this in Windows 7 by clicking on the start menu, right-clicking on “Computer,” and looking in the middle of the page in the section labeled “System.”  There you will find “System type:” and it will tell you whether you have a 64-bit Operating System or a 32-bit Operating System, circled in red in the image below.

Information on which download path you need to take.
Information on which download path you need to take.

If you are upgrading from Windows 7, you will also likely need to know whether you are running a Home version or a Pro version (circled in blue, above).

In Windows 8.1, you can get to the same screen by going to the desktop and right-clicking (or long-pressing) on the Start icon, and then selecting “System.”  The OS is circled in blue below, and the version of Windows 8.1 being run is in red.

System information for Windows 8.1.
System information for Windows 8.1.

If all you see is Windows 8.1, and nothing else, then you will upgrade to Windows 10 Home. If you see Windows 8.1 Pro, then you will upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

Really Important Importation

You really should make sure that your critical files are backed up somewhere. Whether it’s to an external hard drive, a NAS system, to a cloud-based storage solution, or whatever, you need to do it.  All sorts of things can go wrong (especially if, as I found out, you get overly aggressive with how you muck about your system) and you will want to be able to have access to all those files (which I was able to do, because I made a backup).

Back to Microsoft’s website, you will click on the version of Windows 10 you want to download and install; it must be the same type (32-bit or 64-bit) as you are currently running.

A stub file will download. Run it, and we’ll pick this discussion up in the next post on this topic.

WWDC 15 and Windows 10 Build 10130

Image sourced from LegitReviews.com

The other day I griped hard on Apple and its dubious tagline “the Epicenter of Change” for WWDC 15.  And while the keynote devolved into a jumbled mess about the new Apple Music service, the rest of the keynote highlighted very few earthquake-metaphor-worthy elements. (Yes, this post is about Windows 10, too.)

Not Much Change to See Here

As I alluded, I recognize that this cycle of OS updates are more geared toward fit-and-finish and stability improvements–which are definitely necessary–but the features highlighted in the keynote are features already available on other platforms.  The Notes App now allows handwriting? Okay, Evernote and OneNote have done that for years.  (Also, doesn’t this pretty much guarantee a fully-implemented stylus input system, which was heavily resisted–and mocked–by Apple for a long time?)  The Notes App now allows to-do lists and picture embedding?  Okay, again, that’s been available on other platforms for years. Side-by-side multitasking on iPad Air 2 devices?  Okay, that’s been a feature of Windows 8.x since its launch in 2012 (and it’s in Android, too) and you don’t need a $500 minimum device to use it. “Slide Over” to bring up a recently used app?  Again, see Windows 8.x. Picture-in-Picture as a floating window on tablets? Okay, that’s somewhat newish, though Windows 10 allows Start Apps to run in windows even on tablets.  Siri might become useful for something other than eliciting stupid-silly responses from a machine, a la Dr. Sbaitso?  Okay, see Google Now and Cortana.  There’s a new News App that aggregates your news interests?  Okay, again, not new.  Safari on OS X El Capitan now tells you which tab is making noise and allows you to pin sites?  See Chrome and IE11 respectively.  Apple Music is a streaming service that costs $9.99 a month for an individual, or $15.99 for a family of six?  Well, I guess they needed to make one to compete, and there’s human curation, but at the end of the day, it’s a music streaming service like Spotify, XBox Music, Google Play Music, Tidal…. (And to think of how much has changed since 1994, compare these pictures:

Reznor Then and Now
(Images sourced from some random Pinterest user, and from The Verge’s Matthew Panzarino.)

…and then think about the weirdness that he became an exec at a tech company who was the punchline to a hurr-hurr joke: “Trent’s my vocal coach.” Okay, so, yeah, that’s a pretty big change.)

In any event, like I said, fixing the underpinnings to iOS is incredibly important and will hopefully make using the iPhone a less-frustrating experience.  And the implementation of features that have been around for a long time will make the iPad a more compelling consideration for business users (though you still have the problem that getting documents and files on the device requires so many pointless and frustrating hurdles that could be easily addressed by having a USB or microSD slot).  But this event was hardly anything approaching “change.”  (And now that I think about it, for a revision cycle largely focusing on stability, why would you reference earthquakes and change…?)

Speaking of Frustrating

Windows Technical Preview Build 10130 is the most-recent build officially available for people in the Insider Program, and while I got it up and running on my laptop (albeit with quasi-crashy Intel video drivers which may or may not continue to be supported in the future), getting it to install on my wife’s laptop has been an exercise in frustration.

The easy way to do the upgrade is to allow it to download through Windows Update and install itself.  This it would not do. Download progress would get to 22-25% and then fail unexpectedly.  The second easiest way is to download the ISO (which has finally been made available) and put it on a bootable USB drive, which is how I installed the TP on her machine in the first place.  Recall that that process was a breeze.  Not so this time around.  Putting the ISO on the drive was simple, but trying to boot from the USB created a boot failure right out of the gate.

Fine enough, I tried booting into Windows 10 and then upgrading from the USB.  That process worked fairly well, until it got about 70% of the way completed, and then it all failed.  Again, boot failures cropped up.  Fine. I looked up the error code, saw that it had something to do with failed boots due to the presence of a USB device in a USB slot, and could see no way to install from a USB drive without having the drive in the slot. (Yes, I even tried copying the drive to the hard drive and installing from there, but unsurprisingly, that didn’t work.)

Well, great, I’ll just create a bootable DVD.  That went fine for a while, until, again, about 70% of the way through the process, it gave up and reverted. Same boot failure, same error code, but this time, empty USB slots.  Whatever. I gave up. I had already spent three evenings trying to install the dang thing, and the final version is supposedly coming in exactly 7 weeks.

Which, when you think about it: if Build 10130 is the most stable version Microsoft is willing to let us use, and it’s been 9 or 10 days since it came out (I know, I know), and it’s still not really a coherent product… Well, I just hope that Build 10500 (or whatever will be the final release) is secretly amazing. Because the last thing anyone in Redmond wants is a bunch of people asking “what the heck does Inaccessible_Boot_Device mean?!?!!?”)

That being said, I do think it’s notable that my wife would still rather use Build 10074 with it’s cludgy interface and super-crashy Project Spartan–declining to instal Chrome or Firefox as well–than use the Windows 7 partition. Windows 10 really is much faster, cleaner, and though the interface is somewhat different, it’s familiar enough for most uses.  And that’s definitely saying something.

WWDC and Apple Developments

WWDC 2015
WWDC logo sourced from: WWDC Conference site.

WWDC 15 kicks off with the rather dubious tagline: “The Epicenter of Change.”  The logo looks like a bunch of Apple Watch bodies and some circles splooshed together to make a colorful flower, and it’s all very friendly.  Apple fans are super mondo excited about the conference, as we’ll all be getting details on iOS 9 and OS X 10.11.  (That is, unless Apple decides not to do what they do every year during WWDC, and instead decides to go less generational this year.)

I’m, of course, intrigued about what will be announced today, but it’s not because I love Apple products.  I obviously have spent a lot of time talking about Windows 10 on this blog, and with good reason, in my opinion–it’s genuinely exciting! I like how it’s coming along, though I have no idea how Microsoft is actually going to ship something that doesn’t look like a cludgy mess by July 29.  Admittedly, it’s by and large much better to use than Windows 8.x (which is exhausting to use because you have to pay so much attention to what you’re doing and remembering where to swipe, and which settings to use in which context…).  But we’ll see!

Rather, I’m intrigued by what will be announced today because I hate my iPhone, and desperately want things to improve.  I hate my iPhone not because it’s nearing three years of age.  I hate it because it’s boring, frustrating, inconsistent, mediocre, and uninspiring.  I hate the way Messages works, where it’s difficult to tell when you’re sending a message to an individual or a group (yes, the 6+ has convenient icons which ameliorate that, but I see no reason why that can’t be applied to less-than-huge form factors).  I hate how Messages sometimes associates my messages with my phone number, and sometimes with my email address.  For no apparent reason.  I hate how sometimes that back button is on the bottom of the screen, and how it’s sometimes at the top of the screen, and how the close-window button isn’t in the same place across apps. I hate how this supposedly premium hardware had a power button stop working within less than a year of owning it, and while, yes, it’s subject to recall, it requires going to an Apple Store and giving up my phone for a while.  I hate how taking screenshots is wedded to that stupid power button.  I hate how the home screen is just a bunch of boring icons in a grid and that I can’t move them about the screen freely.  I hate how the icons don’t tell me anything about why there’s a little red circle with a number in it.  I hate how the notifications don’t really do anything useful, and how they persist even after the email that triggered the notification has long since been dealt with.  I hate how Siri’s voice dictation is a garbled mess if I’m connected to a BlueTooth device, and I hate how there’s a 3-second delay streaming audio from my phone to my car’s stereo (that may be a car problem, though, as my BlueTooth speakers don’t seem to have the same delay). I hate having to use iTunes to backup my phone, and iTunes is an abysmal experience.  I hate how difficult it is to put something as simple as a PDF on the device to show it to someone later.  I could keep going, but this post is terrible enough as it is.  But that’s just a sampling of how little I like using the iPhone.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, it’s the least worst choice among smartphone platforms.  I had an Evo 4G about 5 years ago, back when Android was on Gingerbread.  It. Was. Terrible. I detested that thing, and regretted getting it.  I recognize that Android has vastly improved since then, now that it’s on Lollipop and soon to be on Macadamia Nut Cookie.  Unfortunately for Android users, though, good luck getting an update to your operating system through your carrier!!! According to Android’s own developer portal, only 11.6% of Android users are currently using an OS that was released a year ago; almost half as many are still on Gingerbread, which was four generations ago.

Android Adoption Chart
Chart Showing Android Adoption, sourced from developer.android.com.

Nearly 80% of devices are not running the most current software.  And then there’s the whole Google thing that you have to deal with when using an Android device, and despite having its tentacles wrapped around everything that passes through my various Google accounts, Google services still thinks I’m currently in Dallas for some reason, even though I haven’t passed through there since I went to Oklahoma City 18 months ago. Despite having hardware makers which are pushing out some legitimately interesting devices with aggressive specs, at the end of the day, Android is a battery-guzzling hog (much like the Chrome browser).  At Google I/O this year, noises were made that a lot of hard work was going to happen which would fix that in Android M(acadamia Nut Cookie).  We’ll see.

I’d love to use a Windows Phone. Absolutely, I would. I love the live tile functionality.  I like that they can be resized.  I like the cameras in last year’s flagship Lumias.  I like the way things flow.  I get the operating system, and now that Microsoft realizes that it entirely missed the boat by ignoring business customers in Windows Phone 7.x and had to catch up to reintegrate something as vital as Exchange, the phones can be legitimately be used for my job.  I’m excited what Windows 10 can mean with Continuum and having a phone that can produce a desktop environment when docked to a keyboard and mouse.  I like Cortana and how useful it can be. Using Cortana on Windows 10 has been really interesting, and surprisingly useful.


Windows 10 Mobile
Windows 10 (mobile)” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

But, man, there is no way I can get a Windows Phone.  The App situation is a joke, and developers have been abandoning ship for months.  Shoot, when even banks start pulling their apps from your store, you don’t have platform adoption at a rate that signals long-term success.  Maybe that’ll change with Windows 10, but let’s be honest: probably not.  I also don’t think I could convince my wife to switch over to a Lumia or something similar because she’s too familiar with the iPhone ecosystem. Also, see: lack of Apps.  I mean, Skype could stand in for FaceTime and Messages, but… there’s a lot of other things she does with her phone than call and chat with me.  Additionally, if there was a flagship Lumia worth buying right now that would be intriguing, but there isn’t.  They’re all running last year’s technology, and the new phones coming out are all mid-range with subpar cameras; excellent picture quality is an essential part of my buying decision when it comes to a phone.

And so I’m stuck using an iPhone, and I’m not happy about it. Maybe today’s keynote will introduce something truly interesting, but it sounds like not much truly groundbreaking is expected.  iTunes may get revamped and/or replaced by “Music.” Apple may announce a Snow Leopard-esque cooling off to retool and polish iOS and OS X. But, unless they announce that the grid-of-snapped-icons look is going away and being replaced by an interactive interface, it’s really just more of the same.  Epicenter of Change?  Eh, we’ll see.

Windows 10 and the Wife Test–Day 2

Windows 10 Preview
Windows 10 Screenshot from Microsoft.com.

After installing the Windows 10 Technical Preview on my wife’s computer yesterday morning–actually, you know what?  I just want to take a moment to dwell on that last statement. I installed an entirely new operating system on my wife’s laptop yesterday morning. And I’m not talking about something that took from 5:00a to just before noon, qualifying the time frame as “morning.”  Rather, starting at 6:30a, I signed her up for the Technical Preview Insider’s program (with her consent and direction, of course), downloaded the latest ISO (Build 10074) and the legacy USB Download tool to make a bootable USB drive (which still works fine), created a partition on her hard drive, installed the ISO onto a 4GB USB thumb drive, installed the operating system from the USB drive, and had her computer up and running with all available updates in a dual-boot environment by the time my daughter woke up at 8:15.  When I upgraded my old desktop computer from Vista to Windows 7 back when it came out, I’m pretty certain I remember the process taking about 3 or 4 hours. And I already had the Windows 7 disk.  A lot of progress has been made, to be sure.

The Good Aspects of Windows 10

Anyway, how does she like it? She’s fine with it. It feels much less bloated, she reports, and responds quicker than her Windows 7 environment. She likes Project Sparta (the Edge browser) a lot, and hasn’t felt compelled to download Chrome, Firefox, or Opera. She enjoys the start menu expanding to full screen, with the translucency effect. Her “All Apps” list is on the right-hand side, and that seems to work well for her. The main thing is that it feels familiar, but better, and that’s good enough.

The Annoyances of Preview Software

That isn’t to say there haven’t been hiccups.  For whatever reason, when we tried to play with the OneNote app yesterday afternoon, it wouldn’t load.  Trying to download it from the Green Store (as opposed to the Gray (beta) Store) again, did nothing. And it was frustrating that OneNote couldn’t be uninstalled from the device. It’s not a matter of it taking up less than a MB of storage; it’s a matter of trying to wipe it off and giving it another go. Trying to set OneNote up in the browser didn’t really work any better, so there could have just been some issues with OneDrive yesterday. Those happen from time to time.  Other than those minor bumps, though, things have been bumping along smoothly so far.

We’ll see how it goes when new updates or builds are sent out.