Sunday, 18 October 2020

Apple October Event


 This week Apple announced it's iPhone 12 in it's reassuringly impressive announcement videos. An Apple announcement is usually incredibly professional and wonderfully produced. It is the summer blockbuster of the tech announcement world. Other companies try to do the same but they all lack a certain something. Microsoft can't manage it because they are a company focussed on the technical. Microsoft also seem curiously unable to produce a flawlessly finished product that people can buy days after. Instead it always looks like a "pre-production" event. 

YouTubers can do a better job than me of breaking down Apple's announcements. However, I have a few thoughts. 

The HomePod Mini is a $99 home speaker with Siri. Welcomed by Apple enthusiasts as a realistic product to take into that device category. Their previous effort was the expensive $399 HomePod. It was really just a music player that only worked with Apple Music. No matter how it sounded it was just "something else". 

The $99 HomePod Mini is the $99 product in a $49 world. The current batch of Google and Amazon speakers have been the impulse purchase of the consumer. Apple's HomePod Mini is "cheap" by Apple standards but twice as expensive as the others.  For those deeply embedded in the Apple ecosystem it will work well. Most people have probably got and Amazon Echo or a Google device.  Apple's new HomePod Mini doesn't seem to support Spotify for music. The choice of millions of people. So again it doesn't really say "device for everyone". 

Privacy could be the big selling point. People don't like the idea of "big tech" listening to them. If  people feel home speakers need privacy then it could sell it to some people. 

The big announcements were about the iPhone 12. What struck me was the Iphone 12 Mini is a 5.4 inch screen device. The iPhone 8 Plus from just a couple of years ago is 5.5 inches.  Mini seems an odd marketing faux pas. It seems meaningless against the iPhone SE at 4.7 inches. 

The design is a revival of the square Iphone 4 look of 10 years ago. So it should look distinctive in a world of rounded edges of Android phones. Above all the selling point seemed to be 5G.  All iPhone 12 models have 5G but most people can't access 5G. It's something for the well connected. It seemed that Apple were trying to create a symbiotic relationship of selling 5G and thus selling iPhone as the best device to access it. 

If you are fully invested in the Apple ecosystem and want the latest then this will be enough to get you. If you have an iphone that's a couple of years old then the device you have is probably good enough. If you live in a 5G area and really need the speed then this could be worth an upgrade. Apple will sell millions of these but they remain premium devices at a premium price. 

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Maxed Out

 


The last stage of my MacBook upgrade saga has been completed. A late 2009 Apple Macbook was sold with 2gb and 4gb memory options. The 4gb option being the maximum supported memory configuration.  Macbooks have a long life. These days 4gb of memory seems like a minimum rather than a maximum. Could this vintage Macbook take two 4gb memory modules and have an unsupported 8gb configuration?

It turned out that several people on the internet have already done this. For a cost of £28.00 I could do it too.

After I took off the back plate, located the modules, and then replaced them 8GB was installed and working. 

The cost of the Macbook was now £179 for the Macbook, £28 for an SSD and £28 to max out the memory. 

The thing that couldn't be changed was the screen. It is lower resolution than what you expect today and the viewing angles are terrible. The processor is years old too. However, for email, web browsing and remote connection it works well. In fact it's more powerful than a similarly priced 2020 Chromebook.

As a project for a week away from work it was a bit of fun. 

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Catalina


Catalina is an island off the coast of California. It’s also the name of a version of the MacIntosh operating system. Catalina was released on 7th October 2019. It’s version 10.15 of a series of operating systems known as OS X. 

As a Windows user, both professionally and personally, I am more used to the twice a year updates of Microsoft Windows 10. These updates have a less memorable name. Currently called 2004. By which we mean the 2020 month 4 update. 

My recent purchase of a second hand Macbook from Ebay was a Mac released late in 2009. One thing I had to figure out was what version of Mac OS X would work with this computer. In the world of Windows a 2009 PC of the same age would probably come with Windows 7. Windows 7 itself, to business customers, had a 10-year life span. The Mac would work with High Sierra or version 10.13. This was released in September 2017 and is still supported. 

My Ebay Macbook cost £159.00. A further £28 got me a 250GB SSD. For under £200 I now had a working Macbook. Not the latest but a decent computer that could do a bit of wordprocessing, web and email. The screen was OK but it doesn’t have great viewing angles. The dual core processor is pedestrian but is helped by the fast disk. 

What more could I do? Could I get this MacBook to run the lastest OS?

The answer is yes! 

It is unsupported on this Mac but you can get Catalina to install. It needs to be patched and it is not a supported configuration. However, my Ebay Macbook was bought as a bit of fun. As an excuse to learn. I am going to do some Python programming on it at some point if it can take the strain. 

The installation requires a patch file application. There is a website to help with this. I had to make a special Catalina installer usb to boot the system and do the install.



It was a really slow process. Mostly because of having to download and create operating system images. Exactly what I expected. Once it booted the Macbook worked pretty well. I now have a 2019 operating system on a 2009 MacBook. Not bad. 

Can I improve this MacBook even further? 

The answer is again yes! 

Although the MacBook has a supported maximum memory of 4GB you can actually upgrade it to 8GB. At least that is the rumour. I have ordered 8GB of memory from Amazon for £28. If all goes well for just over £200 I will have a reasonably usable old MacBook. Not the best. Not even a UK keyboard. However, as a project to find out more about OS X as a project to home repair a Mac it is not a bad price. 

Monday, 31 August 2020

Apple IOS 14 is upsetting Facebook

 Facebook is getting upset with Apple. The new update going to Apple iphones and ipads this autumn will bring in new privacy features. Apple has been using privacy as a key differentiator of it's smartphones for some time. It has told the FBI that it can't hack it's own encryption. It says that it's imessage service is end to end encrypted. It has biometric access to devices via touch id or face id. This is in contrast to Google's Android where you do a deal with Google that for free services your data is used to deliver advertising.

Facebook adopts the same model. Your data is provided to advertisers. The Facebook app on smartphones tracks you. So if you have been searching the web for a new pair of trousers you suddenly find that Facebook is sending you deals for trousers on your feed. Tracking means that Facebook can tell advertisers what you are interested in. Its creepy and amazing simultaneously. 

With IOS 14 for the iphone each app will ask you if you want to be tracked. Say no and Facebook doesn't know what you want and will send you random adverts rather than targetted ones. According to Facebook it fears a reduction of 50% in its ad revenue because people will not consent to be tracked when they are asked. 

Privacy. The battleground Apple is choosing to fight for it's customers.  



Friday, 21 August 2020

Bart Simpson's MacBook

 


Sometimes an idea just hits you. I was scrolling through Ebay for no particular reason. With most browsing the aimlessness causes you to head off into various unexpected rabbit holes. On this day it became a list of Apple MacBooks. MacBooks are expensive. Although the word expensive is based on the sort of PCs most people buy. A premium Windows based laptop can easily cost the same as a Mac. Nevertheless most potential purchasers reach for a credit agreement or look at their bank balance before laying out cash for an Apple. Apple is a consumer brand.

Ebay is the destination for bargain hunters. A bargain being a low price for the highest specification possible. Matching the aspiration of high quality and low price being the buyer's challenge. The other challenge is avoiding those offers that are too good to be true, scams and counterfeits. 

What I saw was a reduced price MacBook. The previous week I had spotted it at £249. This week it was well below £200. The Mac was close to eleven years old. I discovered later it had a US keyboard. The memory was maxed out at 4gb and the hard disk was 250gb. The latter would be slow by the standards of 2020. The battery was probably shot and, in my own mind, would probably barely last a few minutes of mains power. On the positive side the OS was updated as recently as 2018, the keyboard would be good and a unibody MacBook of that era was going to be upgradeable. 

I bought it and a couple of days later it was at the house. The upgrade I wanted to do was an SSD disk. I had ordered a new screwdriver to match Apple's internal screws and I was ready to add an SSD.

Upgrading a MacBook

YouTube had some decent repair and upgrade videos. I found Ifixit the most useful site for information and step by step guides. 

Once I got down to business I found a stamp on the bottom of the Mac. It confirmed the device was secondhand. It also confirmed it was used in US education.


Barely visible were the words Property of Springfield School District. Had I got Bart Simpson's MacBook? 

He is a fictional character. I get that. However, the idea that this Mac kept Springfield learning was somewhat comforting. 

Once the SSD was fitted I booted the device from the old disk via USB, downloaded an operating system from Apple and got it installed. I put on Microsoft Edge as the browser, Office applications, Skype and made it a Microsoft Mac. These days Microsoft just want you to pay a monthly subscription for it's software and services. They no longer care if you use a Mac rather than Windows. It's the new Microsoft. 

Twenty four hours later the fast SSD disk is doing a good job and the Mac is working as advertised. I even found how to get a "£" on a US Mac keyboard. I might even name the Mac "Bart" in honour of it's history. 


Sunday, 2 August 2020

Microsoft Office for Free


Microsoft Office comes in several flavours. You can still buy a license for one PC. However, Microsoft would like you to buy a subscription. 

The single PC license still exits. It lets you use the Office applications on one PC. That's it. If your PC ends it's life so does your license. This is how many people used Office applications at home. They bought a copy of Office, usually at a discount, when they bought a PC. It got to the point where retailers just added in the cost and people assumed that Office applications were part of Windows. That was both good and bad. If consumers kept their PC for 5 years they never paid Microsoft any more cash. They also didn't get any enhancements from later versions. Suddenly they might get an Excel spreadsheet or a Word file with gibberish in the middle. A sign that a later version inserted a new type of data. 

A single PC license would cost quite a bit but it lasted for years. Students got lower prices that hooked them in to Office applications whether they used a PC or a Mac. Office across different devices became a larger business than Windows itself as the PC market declined and mobile devices took centre stage. 

Microsoft would prefer you bought a subscription. The subscription model is now branded Microsoft 365 Family. For a fixed monthly or annual fee you can have Office software for multiple people in your family for multiple devices with a large amount of cloud storage. The price over three or four years across the 6 permitted users and devices is significantly less the old model of upfront cash. You also get continuous upgrades and security updates. If you shop around on websites that highlight deals you can buy at an even cheaper rate. 

However, what if you really don't have much money? What if you rarely need a productivity application suite like Office? There is a way of getting Office for free. It's not all of the Office suite you can pay for but it's free. If you have a Microsoft Account (MSA) then you can go to Office.com and login for the web based version of Office. You may already have a Microsoft Account. Its any email address for outlook.com, hotmail.com, msn.com or any other of the Microsoft services. You get a 15gb Onedrive space to store your documents and web access. Its what Google offer with docs and drive. The difference being you can create and use Office like paying customers. 

Consumers often don't realise there is a free option for Office. There is. For most people it may be all you need. 

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Gmail does Teams



It might seem strange but you can now use Microsoft Teams for free with a Gmail address. Yes, Gmail.

Teams is Microsoft's collaboration tool for enterprises, small businesses and now for individuals. It allows you to create a team of people collaborating on a project. It also contains the ability to have video conferencing. 

Up until now the "free tier" required you to have Microsoft account based on one of the free Microsoft email addresses such as Hotmail, Outlook.com or live.com. A new step by step video allows you to create a Team based on a Gmail address. 

Teams is becoming an application platform of it's own, linking into a variety of Microsoft services and third party cloud applications. I am sure the idea is to lock people into Teams and then sell other subscription services. However, as a free service now people can benefit from Microsoft's experience in the area of business applications, privacy and security. 

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Mixer and Microsoft Retail Stores Closing

Microsoft Retail Store

Last week Microsoft announced that it was closing its retail store presence and Mixer, it’s game stream service. The timing is probably related to the end of the Microsoft financial year on 30th June 2020 more than any deep sense of timing.

Both of these closures are heavily focussed in the consumer market. Retail stores are normally for people to buy products and Mixer was acquired to provide a service for gamers. Microsoft has spent recent years focussing on cloud based business services rather than everyday consumers so these areas of its business were outliers.

Retail stores were primarily in the USA with just a small number at “flagship locations”. Most notably London, which opened in 2019. The flagship locations are going to continue as “experience centres”. I am assuming that this will mean no actual products are going to be sold but rather as places to get the Microsoft brand on display.

Mixer has struggled in the streaming and esports space. The market leader is Twitch, owned by Amazon, and both Google and Facebook have a presence. Microsoft spent millions on attracting high profile streamers but could not make it work.

Microsoft profits continue to soar with its business customers and, other than Xbox gaming, it has failed time and time again to create attractive consumer offers.

No good news in these announcements. 



Thursday, 25 June 2020

Apple WWDC 2020

WWDC is the Apple World Wide Developer Conference.  Apple now makes most money from the iPhone, wants the Ipad to be taken seriously as a laptop replacement and still has a tiny share of the personal computer market. 

WWDC is an annual event for people who create the software, make money from the iPhone app store and “live” in the Apple ecosystem of devices. 

Apple also want even more control of their devices. For this reason they have decided to accelerate the impact of making their own chips for devices. In the next two years Apple will move the Mac from Intel chips to ARM based chips that they design. 

On the other hand the iPhone will get the ability to actually customise more of the experience bringing “widgets” and allowing users to set a default browser and mail application. Not revolutionary but annoyances for iPhone users. 

Apple always announce these things as “world changing”. Mostly it’s catch-up. Android has allowed many more configuration options for years and is more a fundamental part of the operating system than just a feature. Microsoft has been dabbling with ARM chips in PCs since 2012 with limited success. Microsoft always felt constrained by their huge customer base depending on Intel compatibility. Apple have never felt constrained to just flip to a new paradigm on their PCs but announce their slow motion moves on mobile as a revolution. The reason for the difference is volume. Get it wrong on the Mac and it doesn’t affect too many people and the bottom line won’t be hit. Get it wrong on mobile and then you hit your largest customer base. 



The new IOS 14 comes out in the autumn. The new Macs will start arriving at the end of 2020. 



Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Time travel in lockdown

Lockdown Metro

Time travel is becoming possible. Not literally but metaphorically. The lockdown process has accelerated technology changes that were already sitting there waiting to happen.

Working from home is the most obvious example. Before coronavirus (BC) we were in a situation that some people did work from home but it was nowhere near a majority that could. There will always be jobs that can’t be done from home but the creation of a knowledge economy has made homework possible. With a laptop, phone and website you can start a small business from your house. Call centres have had part time staff logging in from home. Some staff would work from home when they couldn’t get into the office.

The barriers to home working have rarely been technological. Some managers felt they needed to see their staff working. Some staff wanted a firewall between work life and home  so work didn’t become 24x7. There was also the social aspect of work. The simple idea that you meet people and exchange ideas. The combination of these factors has slowed adoption of working from home.

Coronavirus has turned a lot of this upside down. Companies are looking at how many people they can have in an office with social distancing. Workers are now thinking about the safety of commuting and travel with the same constraints. Technology has moved quickly to enhance video meetings and respond to the needs of home work. We are literally seeing developments that could have taken years happening in 12 weeks.

 

Consumers have also accelerated change. With handling of cash being a way of passing around the virus many more businesses are preferring digital payment rather than cash. Many people have wallets of cash they haven’t used for weeks. Buses are encouraging more digital ticketing. The disappearance of the wallet with cash, which has been a trend for years, has gone on overdrive over the last few weeks.

While actual time travel is still science fiction our ability to accelerate change due to the pandemic seems to have genuinely moved some aspects of life years ahead in just a few weeks.

 


Sunday, 7 June 2020

Hello!

USB Fingerprint reader

Windows Hello is Microsoft’s answer to the problem of passwords. These days almost all smartphones allow you to unlock your device with face id or a fingerprint. All premium priced iphones have come with this for a couple of years. However going passwordless is not so common on a PC.

Some business PCs have supported logging in with a smartcard or fingerprint reader. However, security was originally quite alien to PCs. The first computers didn’t even need passwords. To get onto one the administrator had to know you and setup your account. Then as more people got access it became necessary to secure systems with passwords. PCs were not originally connected to networks and they went through a similar security transformation. A transformation accelerated by the internet.

Your user account name (username) is often public information. An email address is common. Your password is something you keep secret. These are your personal credentials. Unfortunately, people don’t easily create complex passwords that can’t be cracked. They will make it easy for themselves or use the same password on multiple systems.

To make accounts more secure there is multi-factor authentication. This is an additional step on top of a password. This can be a physical key that has to be plugged into a PC, an app on your phone or a text message with a code. All of these are being used.

Microsoft has developed Windows Hello that removes the need for a password. Windows Hello is a biometric identification process. A PC camera that meets the Windows Hello standard can be used or some other biometric element. One of the first devices to use Windows Hello was the Microsoft Lumia 950 smartphone. Most Microsoft Surface devices now support Windows Hello.

The cheapest way of getting your own PC to work with Windows Hello is with a USB fingerprint reader. This upgrade brings passwordless biometric id to your PC. As a driverless device you just plug it in and setup Windows Hello in settings. Once done you don’t have to type in a password.

I have been using this for a couple of days. It’s not revolutionary but it is convenient. For the price it’s a good PC upgrade.



Link to buy a USB Windows Hello FingerPrint Reader


Monday, 25 May 2020

WSL 2.0 - Windows Evolving




WSL 2.0 is the Windows Subsystem for Linux version 2.0. This release will come as part of the Windows 10 update for the first half of 2020. Expected to be called Windows 10 2004. The naming convention has been year and month for sometime with the 04 being April. As it is now May the actual name was a little optimistic but last minute fixes sometimes do this in the Microsoft world. 

The new WSL 2.0 brings a Microsoft built Linux kernel to Windows and, later this year, the ability to run Linux graphical applications in Windows. We are now approaching a world where desktop Linux may mean running Windows! 

Many of Microsoft’s open source critics are still living the world of Microsoft from 20 years ago. Former CEO Steve Balmer described Linux as “a cancer”. He meant that Microsoft made its money from software and giving it away undermines their business model.

However, things have changed. Microsoft is moving to cloud services. The world has gone mobile and the key operating systems are no longer based only on Windows. Developers have turned towards open source and re-usable code. Microsoft Azure hosts Linux as well as Windows. 

Microsoft would like developers to choose Windows PCs. So Microsoft bought GitHub, the developers choice of repository of source code. Now they have added a Linux subsystem within Windows to play well with web software development. The new Edge browser is part of the Chromium project. 
The latest move to WSL 2.0 is good news for developers. They can use Windows and Linux natively on one PC. New Windows apps will bring together development models of both Windows and open source. 

This won’t mean Microsoft abandoning Windows and being a Linux company. It does mean the next step in transforming Windows in a way that isn’t too scary for it’s main customer base – the enterprise. 

Sunday, 17 May 2020

The HP Stream 7 finally goes into recycling

Microsoft Store, San Francisco, 2015


Last week my HP Stream 7 ended its life. I bought it at the San Francisco Microsoft retail store back in 2015. It had Windows 8.1 and a 32-bit Intel processor. It was at the end of the short life of Windows tablets.

It didn’t bother me because the $79 price tag included Office 365 Personal for a year and $20 of Windows store credit. So the tablet was free. I used the Office activation as 9 months payment for an Office 365 Home Subscription.

I had upgraded the tablet to Windows 10. It worked quite well. The only issue was that Windows 10 changed over time and the chipset was no longer supported. I was stuck in a version of Windows 10 that would never update. So the maximum upgrade was to an 18 month old version of Windows 10.

The other problem was space. The tablet had 32gb and with temporary files the upgrade process it would frequently get down to zero. No space left.

These devices were underpowered in 2015. It has less space than my smartphone.

So it has gone to recycling. A low cost way of having a Windows tablet. It illustrated why Windows tablets ultimately failed as standalone devices. They have now been re-born as PCs with detachable screens in the more expensive Surface brand. I was happy with the purchase. It was a cheap way of buying an Office 365 subscription.


Saturday, 2 May 2020

WeChat is the route to Facebook Bank

Facebook wants a stake in the world financial system. It has 2 billion users and wants to be a bank.

Despite global concerns over Facebook's role in destabilising democracy through facilitating fake news, lies, misleading claims and pumping out unchecked ads it wants to be your bank.

Last year it announced plans for Libra, a cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrencies are digital currencies that allow fast transfer of value. Typically they are based on a blockchain to record ownership of value. The blockchain being a giant global spreadsheet documenting digital transfers. It works similarly to banks keeping a digital record of how much money is in your account. However, the blockchain is designed to be an unalterable record of transactions. For more detail there are many videos on YouTube and other places. Suffice to say the idea is that Libra will be a way Facebook users will be able to pay for goods or services without involving a bank. In some parts of the world millions of people don't even have a bank account and are excluded from the sort of financial management most people in the developed world use every day.

Facebook also own WhatsApp and Instagram. So they will also be on the radar for using Libra.

Unsurprisingly the idea that 2 billion people might use Facebook instead of banks has caused the banking system some anxiety. Facebook has disrupted the news business, organising social events, messaging and much more. It could potentially have the same impact on banking.

The way this could work is the way it works in China.



In China a cashless society is in progress. Many Chinese were already unbanked with no access to credit or debit cards. The chat app WeChat, along with AliPay, are social media experiences that include payment, shopping and food delivery.

If the Chinese companies behind WeChat and AliPay actually entered western markets with the same services then China could dominate international digital transactions.

Facebook want to be a global bank and centre for shopping. The Chinese seem to already be doing it and it could come to an app near you soon.


iPhone SE 2020 is a game changer

The iPhone SE 2020 costs $399 in the USA. This is the same price as the older SE launched a few years back to deal with iPhone users who loved the screen size of the iPhone 4 and just kept their device until it died. They then went to eBay and replaced it with the same device.

Apple have spent recent years raising the price of the latest iPhone. If you pay cash then $999 is the price of the latest iPhone. Add some more storage and it zooms past $1000. 

The $399 iPhone launched in April 2020 has the latest processor, a decent camera, runs the latest software, has a smaller screen and uses the body of an iPhone 8. A design recycle rather than a refresh.

However, at this price it is now in the space that mid-range Android phone makers occupy. There are premium Android phones at more than $1000. They have been competing with iPhone. However, in the mid-range lower price market a lot of manufacturers have been making money well away from Apple.

The $399 iPhone is something that people that thought it was a too expensive brand can now consider. The iPhone SE 2020 is at a price that should change the market for lower priced Android devices even more dramatically in the coming months.

Mr Mobile Review of the iPhone SE 2020.

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Lockdown Video





This month the UK, along with half the planet, has been in lockdown due to coronavirus (COVID-19). Technology is allowing people to communicate much more freely despite this. We have seen the UK Parliament recently go into virtual sessions as just one example.

We are allowed to leave home to shop for essentials, medical needs, and for exercise. Working from home, for many people, has become mainstream. This should have been a good time for one of the instant messaging and video applications to come out on top. Apple has Facetime and iMessage. Google has Hangouts and a number of IM apps. Microsoft has Skype. Facebook has Messenger and WhatsApp. However, it seems the biggest benefit has gone to the relatively new video conferencing software Zoom.

Figures show that back in December 2019 Zoom had 10 million daily users. This has gone up to 200 million. However, it is controversial. Due to security concerns companies like Tesla have banned the use of Zoom and the UK Government cyber security specialists have recommended it only be used for public meetings and not any classified meetings. Whole countries have banned the application. Mac users have found hidden servers installed on their MacBooks and the company has been accused of using software that sends data to Facebook. If that wasn’t bad enough alarm bells rang when Canadian security investigators found Zoom sending data via China.

The principal reason for Zoom’s success seems to be that it is has been easy for people to use. The principal reason for concern seems to be that the ease of use has been created with lax security.
If you are concerned about privacy the message seems to be that you should look at these products very carefully before doing video conferencing.

Sunday, 22 March 2020

My struggle with mobile


From 2010 to 2018 WindowsPhone was my chosen mobile device. I mostly used Nokia devices. If you have a PC and you were working for the IT industry then most of the client side is based on Windows as well as the server side. Microsoft had committed to their software working best on Windows so WindowsPhone was a reasonable choice. 

However, in a Twitter post a senior Microsoft executive said WindowsPhone was over. Support continued until December 2019 but Microsoft recommended people moved to IOS (Apple) or Andoid (Google) devices. A big blow to those of us who really found the WindowsPhone environment to be the best mobile environment.

I gave up my WindowsPhone permanently in 2018. I sold my remaining device on Ebay. For the previous year support from services on the device had been ebbing away slowly and Microsoft had withdrawn functionality. I tried a number of Android devices. Samsung, LG, and then the new Nokia devices. Currently I am on an iPhone 8 Plus. 

My concerns with leaving the Microsoft environment were several. The first is data privacy. No tech firm entirely segregates your data from others. Apart for the obvious factors like location data each company sells advertising. Primarily your personal data. Microsoft’s main customer base is business so they spend a lot of time on data privacy, compliance, protection and the like. 

Google seems to have the weakest data privacy stance. If you give data to Google it will sell it to someone. Apple is a lot better. So just from a perspective of trust in data handling I feel better with Apple. 

The devices available for both Android and Apple all provide are a grid of icons. The apps are similar although Apple’s apps seem more polished. The problem with the Android world is manufacturer customisation. Samsung is possibly the worst but LG is close. They have apps that they make that can’t be removed. Samsung duplicate Google apps for the sake of a corporate strategy of trying not to rely on Google and almost avoiding mention of them. 

Another problem of the Android world is updates. Security of Android is a problem. If every manufacturer can customise Android they can also leave the OS open to security issues. In the case of Chinese manufacturers there is the ongoing suspicion of Chinese Government monitoring. It’s a world in which users seem to have make decisions on devices not just on colour and features. 

I have been using Apple’s IOS for about 6 months. I have another phone, a Nokia 8.1, in a box. I don’t really work inside the Apple ecosystem of services so having an iPhone is a bit odd. 

There is a certain pressure to move back to Android. Microsoft has put all it’s services on Android, the Microsoft Launcher customises Android to be a “Microsoft Phone”. In a turnaround it seems that Google has created a mobile operating system for Microsoft to customise  whereas Apple’s closed and locked down environment provides a lot less.

I haven’t settled. I would still be using WindowsPhone if it still existed. I am keeping the iPhone for now but I think the draw of Microsoft services and PC integration will take me back to Android.


Saturday, 15 February 2020

Windows Lite is now Windows 10X

Last year I wrote about Windows Lite. That never was a real name or at least I hoped it wouldn't be. However, now we have the first look at what it may be and the name is Windows 10x.


Back in 2015 Microsoft announced that Windows 10 was the "last version of Windows". True, if you mean there won't be something called Windows 11. There wont! What Microsoft has settled into is a series of updates that happen twice a year in spring and autumn. The older schedule of monthly security updates also applies. That is Windows we already know about.

However, for a long time Microsoft has wanted to modernise Windows. By modern we mean a more mobile style OS. The sort of operating environment that links to Microsoft's cloud services, is a lot less complex for daily tasks, is secure and updates like a phone.

They have tried. Windows 8 was a touch friendly move to get rid of old Windows. However, the PCs were not ready for such a radical change. Business users, who make the most money for Microsoft, were not ready for the move. So they staged a retreat. Similarly Windows RT, using ARM processors, looked like Windows but couldn't run traditional Windows applications and Windows 10 S ran only applications you could download from Microsoft's online store.

Each attempt had positive aspects but all failed because Microsoft were trying to marry the experience most people get on their mobile device with the requirement to run full screen applications like Word, Photoshop or Excel.  Trying to get both things working proved to be a long road.

What they have come up with is firstly reducing Windows to it's core components. This is Windows Core OS (WCOS). This is designed to provide the fundamental things and operating system can do. On top of this is container technology. A container is a space where an application can run on it's own. The container has the application but also, and crucially, the parts of the operating system that make it run. Types of containers include traditional Windows applications, new web style applications and Universal Windows Applications (UWP). This latter category was the type of application that WindowsPhone was championing.

Windows 10X will first launch on dual screen devices. You won't see it on a PC near you soon. However, it might become the modern Windows that allows Microsoft to transition from the the PC world of the 1990s, where Windows started, to the lighter mobile applications and services environment of the 2020s.


Microsoft Blog Introducing Windows 10X