New Lumia phones and a new Band

Lumia_950_Marketing_01_DSIM1Microsoft introduced a pandora’s box full of new devices. Among them, the new Surface Pro 4, a new Microsoft Band, new Lumia phones and a new laptop, the Surface Book. They also showed off some XBOX One stuff, which I’m not going to talk about here and a nice demo of the HoloLens, which will be available in January of 2016 in developer form for three thousand dollars.

LUMIA PHONES

Perhaps the most exciting part of the introduction was of the Lumia 950 and 950 XL.  These things are monster phones, with either an Octacore or Hexacore processor. They aLumia_950XL_Black_Front_SSIMre liquid cooled and smoking fast. The 950 sports a 5.2 inch OLED screen, 20MP rear cameras and triple LED Flash, capable of reproducing accurate skin tones and no red eye. The XL has a 5.7 inch OLED screen. Both devices are capable of 4k full time video (unlike the current 11 second limit.)  Both phones also double as desktop computers with full screen, keyboard and mouse ability.  You can use both the full screen HDMI desktop experience along with using the phone directly.  The demo was truly impressive and shows what Windows Mobile 10 is really capable of doing.  Both phones come with 32gb storage and are expandable to a theoretical two TERABYTES.

The 950 will sell for 549 and the XL is 649 and will be available in November.

The Lumia 550, a lower end phone, is no slouch either. It sports a nice 4.7 inch HD display, 4G LTE, 5mp camera with LED Flash and 2mp forward camera for skype.  It also features a quad core processor and, like the 950 series, is expandable via SD cards.

All three phones will ship with Windows Mobile 10, Office Mobile, Cortana integration, Skype and a suite of lifestyle apps.

The 550 will sell for about $150.

MICROSOFT BAND 2

Microsoft-Band-2-image-1A new Band was introduced. This thing has every type of sensor you could possibly want, including heart rate, oxygen, caloric/carb ability, GPS, accelerometer, gyro and more.  It has a Golf mode that can tell you everything you need to know about your game.  It features Cortana integration, touch screen, a multitude of apps (including Uber!?) and full integration with Windows 10. It also works with iOS and Android.  The screen is curved, unlike the previous model, which was flat and a bit awkward.

The Band 2 is the first lifestyle type device I’m actually interested in using.  It will sell for $249. 

There’s much more to talk about, so stay tuned for more on the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book.

Watch the Press Event.

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Apple Announcements 2015: iPad Pro, Watch, iPhone

Microsoft has often be accused of ‘firing up the Xerox’ to copy Apple’s ‘innovations.’  Well, during the Apple presentation on Sept 9, it seems that they are the ones who ‘fired up the Xerox.’  Indeed, the new 12.9 inch iPad Pro they introduced has many Surface 3 Pro features, including the docking keyboard and the pen, which Apple calls ‘the Apple Pencil.’  Cute.  Of course, this harkens back to the Steve Jobs comment “if you see a stylus, they blew it.” Of course, the Apple apologists will say that he didn’t really mean it that way.  Uh huh, right.

iPadPro_Pencil_Lifestyle1-PRINTAll kidding aside, the iPad Pro is a credible machine.  At nearly 13 inches, the screen is big enough to adequately display two apps, side by side. Interestingly, there’s no drag and drop between applications. You copy/cut and paste.  An odd thing to leave out.  Maybe iOS 9.2.

The iPad Pro’s stylus has a nice feature that lets the Pro know the angle and pressure the user is placing on the screen’s surface.  Sensors built into the device communicate this data back to the software, which, in turn, acts on it.  Designer’s can now draw fine lines or really thick lines without having to lift the stylus. 

Microsoft was on stage demoing Office for iOS.  Yep, it is a credible package that turns the iPad Pro into a real, honest to goodness productivity device. 

The Pro’s keyboard dock is very, very similar to the Surface 3 Pro’s keyboard.  In fact, there were many, many similarities, so much so, that it seems that Apple was acknowledging Microsoft’s lead in this space.  A refreshing turn of events.

The iPad Pro also boasts four speakers.  The sound, one would hope, is far better than the tinny monoaural sound that comes out of them now.

On the watch front, native apps are now available as is several new bands.

Apple TV got a major upgrade with the addition of in device memory, a redesigned controller and an app store. Yes, it now runs apps and games with ‘stunning, console quality graphics.’ Someone quipped ‘yeah, if the console is a Wii.’  Hey, the Wii is still a cool little console.  Leave it alone or I’ll give you a wedgie!

Prices for the Apple TV are $149 and $199 for the 32gb and 64gb versions.  No 4k yet.

Prices for the iPad range from $799 to $1069.

Of course, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus were also on display.  The killer feature:  living images.  This is a feature that Microsoft has had in its Lumia smart phones for quite sometime.  Basically, the camera buffers about four seconds of video.  The best frame, for the iPhone and in the ‘middle’ is taken where as the Lumia is usually the best of the last frames.  Either way, the effect is impressive.  Apple has taken it a step further and provides magic that also captures audio.  The Lumia does not do that.

There were other interesting things about the phones…faster processor, more internal RAM, 12mp camera, but the living images is, by far, the best new feature.

Head over to CNET for much more detail.

IFA 2015: ACER and Windows Mobile Phone 10

It seems the death knell for Windows Phone/Mobile has yet to fall.  Indeed, At the IFA2015 conference in Berlin, Germany, Acer announced not one, not two but three Windows Mobile 10 phones. Two are aimed at low to mid range markets while the third is a high end phone called Jade Primo.

acer-jade-primo-docThe Jade Primo sports a 5.5 AMOLED screen, Snapdragon 808 processor, 21megapixel rear camera, 8megapixel front camera, and other high end features. 

So what, you say?

Well, this phone also is capable of Contiuum, the Windows feature that turns the phone into a desktop computer. 

Yes, that’s right, a desktop computer.

Think about that.

Yes, I know, Motorola tried and failed with the Atrix. Those laptop docks are now used, by many, for keyboard and displays for the Raspberry Pi.

So, the Jade Primo can be used as a computer, but, how?  Simple. It ships with a dock, keyboard and mouse.  Plug the phone into the dock and a monitor into the dock and, viola! Instant computer.

The way it works is that the monitor displays something akin to a desktop, with a start button.  The phone’s screen is used separately from the monitor.  The phone can run the Universal apps, so Office Mobile runs, and a whole host of universal apps, all at full resolution, full screen on the monitor.  The mouse and keyboard work just as they would on a ‘real’ computer.  Imagine, just carrying the phone and the small dock and no laptop or even a tablet.  There are a ton of possibilities here, and, since it is Windows, I don’t think it will suffer the same fate as the Atrix—which, in itself, was a worthy effort from Motorola, perhaps a bit ahead of its time.

Of course, Microsoft has yet to present at IFA, so there’s no telling what they will introduce. Rumor is that they are also bringing out Continuum enabled phones, but we will see..

Other companies announcing Windows Mobile devices include Asus and Xiaomi.

Start! Me up! Windows 95 hits 20

IWindows-95n early 1995, I saw on America Online that, for $15, you could join the ‘open public beta’ program that Microsoft was starting for something called ‘Chicago’, aka the next version of Windows.  Boy, was I excited.  I eagerly handed them the money and awaited my DISKS. Yes, disks.  For another five bucks, I could get a CD ROM.  I think I did that too, I am pretty sure I did.  After two agonizing weeks, I got my disks.

I carefully backed up my Windows for Workgroups installation and files.  To TAPE.  Oh boy.  Then, following the instructions, I installed Windows 95 on my homebrew computer.  I had upgraded my memory to a full gigabyte of RAM AND had a spiffy new 500 megabyte (I think it was 500, might have been 420, not sure) hard disk and a new-ish Local Bus video card. I was ready.

The installation took several hours, but went smoothly.  That last reboot was very exciting. This Chicago thing already looked cool.  I think I had every computer magazine printed at the time, in front of me, opened to the lead articles about this Chicago thing. Since the public beta had been out for weeks or even months, the magazines had screenshots of what it looked like. It was sleek, three d like, cool iconography, and this thing called ‘START’. What the hell was that? Oh, and this other thing called ‘The Microsoft Network.’

The computer rebooted and Chicago – er, Windows 95, booted for the first time on my computer. WOW.  What was this magic?  Oh my.  It had a green desktop.  Battleship gray controls and…the START Button. I click it. Wow, my programs were listed there and some other things called shortcuts.  WFW 3.11, you are so yesterday! 

After getting to know the user interface, I immediately tried the one feature that I was dying to have:  LONG FILENAMES. Yes, the only thing that really drew me to the this new operating system were the long filenames.  I wanted ‘georges resume for 1995.doc’ instead of gresu95.doc.  I mean, really, gresu95.doc? Long filenames, to me, were the biggest improvement to Windows.  Oh, sure, there was all that stuff about new API’s, something called DirectX coming out soon, a new audio system, a new rendering engine, networking that was ‘easy’, and other cool things, but all I cared about were the long filenames.  And, they worked well.

Suddenly, it dawned on me that my Windows 3.11 applications looked like natvie Windows 95 apps and I got all giddy.  COOL! I don’t need to buy new stuff.  Well, yeah, I sort of did have to buy new stuff. Some could wait, but others could not.  None of the Windows 3.x software was long file name aware, so, I really had the same situation as before, only it looked way better now.  No problem, I bought a program that faked it for those applications and it worked well, until the database got corrupted.

My twenty bucks also got me into the Microsoft Network, aka MSN.  MSN was an America Online wannabe.  It wasn’t really. It was cool, until the beta ended and I had to pay for it. Once I got a bill, I dropped it. Wasn’t worth it and, after all, I had AOL AND Bell Atlantic dial up, so why would I need MSN?  Problem was, most people did not need or want MSN and it did not last long.

As the release date drew closer, there was a frenzy around the OS building.  The Rolling Stones’ ‘Start Me Up’ song became the Windows 95 theme, commercials abound and, OS2 Warp trying to make a big splash before Windows 95 hit shelves.  IBM’s last stand.  It failed.  OS/2 was relegated to the dust bin.  But, Windows 95? It was everywhere. Seeing that big START button on a billboard? That was cool. Hearing people talk about this Windows 95 thing was tremendous.

During this time, I entered a contest, by Microsoft, whereby I had to write about how Windows 95 changed my life.  I wrote it, took pictures of my computer running it and submitted it.  Weeks later, just prior to the launch, I was notified that I had placed in a tie with an undisclosed number of people. My prize was a legal, boxed copy of Windows 95 AND something called Windows 95 PLUS! pack.  I got both of them on launch day.

August 24, 1995.  Lines wrapping around buildings. Entire newspapers devoted to the operating system.  Product placement everywhere.  Microsoft held an event to officially kick off the OS.  On stage, Jay Leno emceed the event. He read off quotes from the testimonials-actually from the contestant entries-and I was quoted by him.  Supposedly, the essays were framed and lined halls at the Microsoft campus in Redmond. I don’t know if that is true or not, but I want to think it was. Yeah, we’ll go with that.

Anyway, the hype was so great, people who did not even have a Windows computer were buying Windows 95.  That’s all you heard on the news, was this new computer program was out and would make life so much easier. While, it did make computers easier to use, I don’t know that it was killer app for life.

My favorite product placement was the Windows 95 box on Seinfeld’s desk, next to his Macintosh—which could not run PC software at that time.

Windows 95 was a huge advancement for home computers. As much as the iPhone was important for smartphones, Windows 95 introduced computing people who would not otherwise have bothered.  It took computers mainstream.  It jumpstarted careers, indeed, created an entire industry. While that industry today is changing, in 1995, it was just starting and ‘Start me up’ is, indeed, what it did. 

Looking back, I was not as excited on launch day as others were. Oh, sure, I enjoyed the day, as any geek might, but the excitement of putting the disks in the computer, following prompts, installing the OS was gone because I already experienced it, months prior to that day.  There were a few things on the shipping CD that I had not seen, mainly the two music videos-The New Bohemians and the ‘Happy Days’ video. I think there were a few games and some demos. But the core OS was the same.  No matter, I was now eager for the NEXT version, Windows 96. Only, that would be nearly three years later and called Windows 98.  But, it didn’t come close to the excitement that was Windows 95.

Yep, the Start button, fancy new themes, something called ‘Internet Explorer’ (which was on the Plus! pack) and the Long FileNames. Those were killer.  Oh, sure, having Leno quote ME, a shmoe from Richmond, Virginia, well, that was OK too.

Windows 10 and Privacy: what you need to know

Much has been said about the privacy – or, rather, lack of – in Windows 10. Well, don’t worry about it, it is much ado about nothing.  Most of what’s been written is FUD or a poor understanding of what you can do in Windows 10. 

There are a couple of features in Windows 10 that seem to be causing the confusion: Cortana’s ‘learning’ you and WiFi Sense.

First, Cortana.

This just amazes me.  People can accept Siri on an iPad or iPhone and think nothing of it.  Same for Google Now. Yet, put Cortana on the desktop and people freak out. Doesn’t make sense: Cortana is doing the same thing that Siri and Google Now do. It sits there, learning what you browse, remembers what you search and gets to ‘know’ you.  What do you think Siri does? Heck, going to Google.com for your searches is just as intrusive. Use gmail? Well, guess what…Google reads your messages, looking for keywords to serve up more ads.  Oh, and it is looking for things that might trigger legal action too.  Just ask the guy who got nailed for pornographic pictures in his mail.

Never fear, though…you can turn off Cortana if you are still reluctant to use the feature. Goto Settings, Privacy and tap/click Speech, inking and typing.  Here, you can click/tap ‘Stop getting to know me’ and that will stop Cortana from learning and monitoring what you do.  While in the Privacy settings, you might want to turn off the following: Camera, Location, Microphone and everything in General. You will, of course, kill most of the functionality of many applications, but you will protect the little bit of privacy you may have left.

Yes, I am being sarcastic.  Turning off most of the features I mention will render things like Bing search, Google search and even maps, useless. 

Now, that doesn’t mean that EVERYTHING is OK.  On a desktop, with no touchscreen, there is no need to let Microsoft know how you write, so you can turn off that feature in Privacy->General. Also, you should turn off that bloody ‘Advertising ID’.  Finally, click the ‘Manage my Microsoft advertising and other personalization info’ link and change those settings accordingly. Want personalized ads? then don’t do anything, but, if you don’t want ads about panty hose showing up your Facebook timeline because your wife searched for them, then turn this off.

WiFi Sense

WiFi Sense is a feature that debuted with Windows Phone 8.1.  It does a lot, but nothing very scary.  If on, it will fill in, with bogus stuff, those nag screens in public wifi hot spots. It can ‘click’ the I agree buttons on those pages.  It maintains a list of hot spots and can map them for you.

More importantly, however, it allows you to give friends access to your home network with out giving them the password.  They MUST be using Windows devices for it to work, it will NOT work with, say, an iPhone.  And, it does not ‘give’ anyone your password. Once they leave, their device no longer ‘knows’ about your network.

Still worried?

Go through the settings application.  You will want to look through the privacy settings. Many are on by default, some are off, like Cortana. You do not have to let it even start collecting your data.  Simply reply ‘no’ when asked. You are asked the first time you search for something in Windows.

Wifi Sense can be turned off and you will still be able to use hotspots, but will have to give your friends your password.  It is YOUR decision.

Windows 10 is no more a privacy problem for you than anything else and, at least, you can control how much or how little privacy you keep.  Unlike with Google.

Windows 10: One more recap

10-UpgradeWell, the waiting is nearly over.  The Windows 10 rollout has begun. Those who are ‘insiders’ will be getting the bits first, then a staggered roll out for everyone who ‘reserved’ their copy will begin to get the new OS.  Your computer, if you reserved, will let you know when the OS has been downloaded so you can then install it.

So, just what will you get? What new functionality is in there, you might ask.  Well, here’s a short wrap up.

Cortana

Cortana is a digital assistant for your computer.  Cortana will search the web and your computer to give you the information you need, find that file or start an application.  You interact with Cortana in many different ways including keyboard, speech, the EDGE browser and other ways.  Cortana will learn how you use your computer and become more efficient and give you answers accordingly. And, since you use more than your computer, say a tablet or smartphone, Cortana is there. Available on iOS, Android and Windows Mobile/Phone, Cortana is there when you need it.

EDGE Browser

Replacing Internet Explorer, EDGE gives you a better browsing experience.  Faster rendering, more accurate rendering and the fastest Javascript processor yet.  EDGE is more minimalist and, therefore, easier to use.

 

EDGE has a unique feature that lets the user markup the page. You can take notes and draw on the web page and then send it to Microsoft OneNote for later use and indexing.  This feature works best with a touchscreen device, but is also mouse and keyboard friendly.

Bundled Applications

3-MailThe bundled applications have been improved. The mail and calendar applications, especially, received welcomed changes that make them easy to use, nicer to look at and smoother operation.  Looking more like a consumer edition of Outlook, Mail and Calendar play nice with not only Exchange, but GMAIL and other third party mail and calendar services. This is not your Dad’s Outlook.7-Photos (1)

Photos application now includes support for importing photos from your phone, has the same editing features that were nice in the Windows 8 version of this application AND have more intuitive OneDrive integration.

Start

8-StartThe Start menu looks familiar to both fans of Windows 7 and Windows 8. It retains the live tiles of Windows 8, arguably the best feature of Windows 8 AND the Windows 7 menu.  If you like 7, you’ll love this, ditto for Windows 8 fans. The Start menu can go full screen for those who like the Start Page from 8/8.1 Or it can reduce to almost nothing if you despise it.  However, in the default configuration, I think everyone will like them. Live tiles present information (if coded) that often precludes the need to open the application all the time. 

For a more in depth look at the operating system, click here to download the Quick Guide from Microsoft.

Windows 10, fun things to know

With Windows 10 about to launch, I thought I would share some tips on using the ‘new’ operating system.   If you have used Windows 8/8.1, some of these will be familiar.

EDGE – Internet Explorer’s replacement browser

  • When you fire up EDGE, you will notice, right away, thisedgefave is not Internet Explorer.  It does what all browsers do, and that’s serve up the now standard fare of HTML/Javascript/CSS based pages.  It does so very quickly and much more standards based than Internet Explorer ever did.  However, upon upgrading to Windows 10, EDGE knows nothing about your favorites. As you would with another browser, you must import your favorites.  Do so by clicking the ‘Hub’ icon, it’s the three uneven lines on your EDGE window, in the upper right corner.  When the panel opens, click the Star icon (your favorites) and then select Import Favorites and then the browser you wish to import from. It will take a few seconds, depending on the number of links you have.  Your favorites are now imported.
  • One of the things about tabbed browsing is having a tab play audio when you don’t want it win10EdgeNiceor expect it. Finding that tab, especially if you have many open, isn’t always obvious. With Edge, in Windows 10, it is a bit more obvious. Refer to the photo, the opened tab has an audio indicator and a play button. These let you know which tab or tabs have media playing. You can switch to that tab and take care of the offending media.

  • In the current version, 10240, EDGE does not have the ability to display multi levels of forward or backward pages.  For example, in IE or Chrome, if you right click the back button, you will see 10 levels or so of history. Not so in EDGE.

START Menu

newstartThe Start Menu, which Microsoft decided to bring back from the dead, has been greatly enhanced. It is also customizable.

  • In Desktop mode, the Start menu takes up little space. It has, on the left side, that traditional style Start Menu listing of applications and functionality. On the right side, is what remains of the Windows 8/8.1 Start Page.  You can pin things to the Start Page and the live tiles will work, provided the tile belongs to Windows Store application.   The whole thing can be resized by grabbing the upper right corner of the menu and dragging it up and to the right.
  • In Desktop mode, you can make the Start Menu take up the entire screen, if you like that. To do so, go to Settings->Personalization->Start. Click ‘Use Full Screen’ and close the settings.  Click the Start Button and you should see a full screen Start Menu/Page.
  • Right clicking on a live tile will pop up a menu giving more control over them.  You can unpin the tile, resize it, turn it on or off, pin to the taskbar or uninstall the application.
  • You can make the taskbar, action center and start page transparent by opening Settings->Personalization->Colors. Turn on the transparency by clicking ‘Make Start, taskbar, and action center Transparent’ slider.

Task Manager

taskmanThe ALT-Tab task switching, though looking different, still works the same. Microsoft has taken that notion, added in a bit of the Vista style task switching and went full screen with tiled representations of the running applications. You can select an application to switch to OR…and you LInux people will deride this as old, send an application to a new desktop. Yes, Windows 10 now has multiple desktops.  You can activate this feature by clicking on the desktop icon next to the Cortana icon on the task bar.

 

So, there you have a few nice features of Windows 10.  Check back for more.