Windows 10 is just around the corner

In just a few days, on July 29, Microsoft will begin the public rollout of Windows 10 in 190 countries. If you want to upgrade your desktop or laptop computer, it’s a free upgrade in specific circumstances. Lifehacker has a simple flowchart that makes it quite easy to see if you qualify.

Windows 10 upgrade flowchart

The only difference to this chart is that Windows 8 won’t get you the free upgrade but Windows 8.1 will. According to Microsoft:

The only requirements are that a) your device is compatible, and b) you’re running genuine Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) or Windows 8.1 (Update).

Windows 10 is designed to run on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 PCs. That means your device is likely compatible and will run Windows 10.

See the full specifications here.

You don’t have to get the upgrade immediately if you don’t want to – you’ll have a year from July 29 to get it for free. Otherwise you’ll have to buy a license just as you have had to do with previous versions of Windows. What’s different this time is the free upgrade offer.

Once you have upgraded your computer to Windows 10, you’ll be able to create an install disk on a flash drive that will let you do a fresh install from scratch if you wish to. Microsoft says such an install disk is yours to keep for free as well.

Starting a few months ago, you may have seen a popup window on your desktop saying that you could reserve a free copy of Windows 10 upgrade that would be available to you from July 29. If you accepted that, you’ll have a little Windows icon in your system tray.

You’ll also have that confirmed in the Windows Update section of Control Panel in Windows 7 or 8.1.

Windows 10 upgrade reserved

And what about editions? What ‘version’ of Windows 10 will you get?

Microsoft explains it:

Windows 10 upgrade editions

Note the small print – the free upgrade offer does not apply to enterprise-edition customers (that’s typically large companies) who will have different offers.

So what can you expect with the Windows 10 upgrade? How easy will it be to install? What issues might arise?

If you think about it, this is quite an exercise. Imagine the thousands if not millions of different configurations of computers around the world, a fair number of which will have some issue or another. Some won’t have up-to-date video drivers perhaps. Or maybe a niggling problem in Windows 7 the user never got around to fixing. It will be amazing if everyone’s upgrades go 100 percent smoothly.

Yet I think you can expect a pretty good experience if you’re prepared. Being so isn’t difficult:

  1. Make sure your current qualifying Windows version is legal and as up-to-date as it can be via Windows Update. Best thing is to ensure it’s configured for automatic updates and let it do its work for a few days.
  2. When you do get a notification that Windows 10 is ready to install, close every single program you might have running so that your PC can devote all its resources to the Windows 10 upgrade process from the start of it.
  3. Keep all the peripherals you use – printer, mouse, webcam, multiple monitors, etc – connected so that Windows can see all those devices and migrate settings as required. And of course, ensure your PC is connected to the internet.

As a member of Microsoft’s Windows Insider programme, I’ve been running beta versions of Windows 10 for the past eight months or so. The latest beta build 10240 released to Insiders about ten days ago is as flawless an upgrade as it got for a beta. It suggests quite clearly that you should expect a flawless upgrade experience, all else being equal.

Indeed, some industry journals are saying that 10240 is the RTM version of Windows 10. Maybe it is; my thought was that it definitely has the look and feel of finished software, as I noted in a post to the Insider community forum on July 16 (if you’re an Insider, you can read it in full):

[…] 10166 was a really good update in terms of overall polish, reliability of operation, looking like a final. Hard to add more to that but 10240 looks even better. It has a definite look of final, release-version software. For the first time, a terms of use text appears along with a screen explaining some of the features in Windows 10, eg, Edge browser.

Either way, Windows 10 is almost upon us so be sure you’re ready. I think Windows 10 is the best Windows yet, even better than 7.

See also:

  • Sean Hollister writes about his upgrade experiences in Gizmodo, a post a day (here’s Day 1 and Day 2). Very much worth reading.
  • When should businesses upgrade to Windows 10? ZDNet has insights from industry experts.

Windows 10 shows the scale of Microsoft’s ambition

Windows 10 login

On July 29 – in just over two weeks’ time – Microsoft will begin the formal roll-out of Windows 10, the new edition of the Windows operating system for PCs and tablets (and Windows phones). It’s been the subject of a comprehensive beta-testing programme by around five million people since the programme was launched at the end of September 2014.

I’ve been part of this programme as a Windows Insider since last October, running the incremental builds of ‘Windows 10 Insider Preview’ as they become available on a couple of different computers, and providing feedback. It’s been a stimulating and most interesting experience so far; a few comments on that in a minute.

So starting on July 29, if your PC currently runs Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 you will be able to get Windows 10 at no cost by taking advantage of Microsoft’s free upgrade offer. If you’ve recently purchased a new PC running Windows 8.1, the Windows 10 upgrade should also be available to you at no cost and many retail stores may upgrade your new device for you.

Windows 10 is a huge deployment – Microsoft is rolling it out in 190 countries and in 111 languages. According to Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s man in charge of Windows 10, the launch will happen in waves starting with the Windows Insiders:

Starting on July 29, we will start rolling out Windows 10 to our Windows Insiders. From there, we will start notifying reserved systems in waves, slowly scaling up after July 29th. Each day of the roll-out, we will listen, learn and update the experience for all Windows 10 users. Soon, we will give a build of Windows 10 to our OEM partners so they can start imaging new devices with Windows 10. Soon after, we will distribute a build of Windows 10 to retailers all over the world, so they can assist their customers with upgrades of newly purchased devices that were originally imaged with Windows 8.1.

Now, here’s where things differ from every release of Windows that’s happened before.

In a presentation at the 2015 Microsoft Build developers conference in April, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spoke a bit about Windows 10, including these comments that provide some clear indicators on this version of Windows, its development, its release and its support that are quite different to what has gone before:

Windows 10 is not just another release of Windows, it’s a new generation of Windows. It is a very different Windows in terms of how we deliver it. It’s a service.

WaaS – Windows as a service. Not an attractive-sounding moniker but maybe something to get used to when you look at the global roll-out starting in a few weeks.

At the same event, Myserson said:

Our goal is that within two to three years of Windows 10’s release there will be 1 billion devices running Windows 10.

Those devices are not only the usual suspects (PCs, tablets, Windows phones) but also Xbox One, Surface Hub, HoloLens, bank ATMs, medical devices, and more.

With ambition at such scale, there’s no way you could sustain the physical manufacturing and distribution models of the past century. And something else to think about – how to persuade everyone on Windows 7 to move up to Windows 10.

Windows 7 domination

Free will help. But it will need a lot more than just that. I think word of mouth will help. Think of five million Windows Insiders and their opinions.

Looking at how previous versions of Windows have been produced and distributed, at end-user pricing that produced significant revenue over the years, Microsoft has been a discrete manufacturer where the product (mass-produced DVDs containing software, plus the packaging, etc) is manufactured and distributed through a supply chain to points of consumer sale – physical retailers, online shops, etc.

Now it’s about giving the software away at zero financial cost to consumers, wholly digital distribution, online support, online updating… these are the foundations for a new Windows ecosystem that will also offer developers an environment that’s eminently attractive, plus outlets in the shape of Windows Stores that will offer software created by those developers that work on any device Windows 10 runs on, making it easy for consumers to find (and pay) for the Windows 10 apps they want.

A familiar set-up if you think of how Apple and Google operate in their respective iOS and Android spaces.

In fact, that’s the landscape now – always-on devices, always connected online, able to automatically receive updates and new software on demand from online stores via a network connection typically wifi or cellular no matter where you are in the world.

Circling back to Windows 10 and my experiences with pre-release builds as a Windows Insider, my overall impression with the latest build I’m running (10166) is of a product that is exceedingly polished for a beta as I’d expect in a close-to-release version. I have it installed on a separate drive in a long-in-the-tooth Dell XPS desktop machine running Windows 7 SP1  with a 28-inch non-touch monitor; and as an upgrade to Windows 8.1 in a Fujitsu Stylistic Q704, one of the latest examples of an ultrabook with not only a touch screen but also the transformational aspect of separating the screen from a dock or keyboard to become a tablet.

In both cases, Windows 10 works out of the digital box, as it were – while early builds were understandably flaky at times (occasional system crashes, some native Windows 10 programs not working properly or at all), the last four builds in recent months have been almost flawless.

The Fujitsu machine in particular works exceptionally well, as if Windows 10 were designed precisely for a device like this (er…). It beats Windows 8.1 hands down in usability, intuitiveness, confidence and reliability. (I see Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 as you’d see Windows Vista to Windows 7.) And the venerable Dell works equally well running Windows 10.

None of my software that works on Windows 7 and upwards – and I have a lot of software – crashed or didn’t run on either device running Windows 10. Updating the operating system is transparent, behind the scenes and works.

In my book, all that makes Windows 10 an easy decision.

Plenty to like in Project Spartan

Project Spartan

Will Microsoft’s Internet Explorer see the sunset later this year?

It’s certainly not my browser of choice. Indeed, I don’t use it at all, preferring Google Chrome on the desktop and mobile and, lately, experimenting with Vivaldi, an impressive new browser that’s based on Google Chromium code.

Since it first appeared in 1995, Internet Explorer has come with the Windows operating system. Unless you manually install an alternative, that’s what you end up with. In Europe until recently, Microsoft was forced by EU law to offer users across the EU a choice of browser on first running Windows.

All this may become just a Windows-and-browser history footnote with Windows 10 – the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system, successor to Windows 8.1, and currently in pre-release public beta – and Project Spartan, a new browser that will come with the new OS and will be the successor to Internet Explorer.

Currently, you can only get Spartan if you’re a member of the Windows Insider testing programme and install the latest build 10049 of the Windows 10 Technical Preview (as the test version is known), released to testers last week.

I’ve been part of the Insider programme for the past six months or so, and was able to install build 10049 this weekend and so get a glimpse of Spartan.

First impressions are always key:

  • Pleasing interface, a very attractive contemporary look to it.
  • Write or type notes directly on a web page, and optionally save them. If you use Spartan on a tablet or other device with a touch screen (and stylus) you write; on a non-touch-screen device – like the Dell desktop PC I’m running Windows 10 on in its own disk partition – you type.
  • Save web pages to a reading list, not just as the traditional favourites bookmarks: a different content organization (and sharing) method.
  • It loads fast and gets content from the web fast. Probably depends on internet connectivity speed for some of that.
  • Impressively quick search-term prediction functionality with the Bing search engine. If this is consistently fast and accurate – getting you what you want and quickly – then I would very likely use it more, maybe even instead of Google search.
  • A reading view sans all the clutter of menu bars, etc. Think of the Kindle.
  • Ask Cortana, voice-activated spoken search. Haven’t tried that yet.

And there’s more, too, that I haven’t looked at yet either. Experimentation to come.

For a beta software product, it’s very advanced and polished, much like the Windows 10 Preview itself.

It’s not entirely ready yet, though, as I discovered when I tried to visit my Google+ page in Spartan.

"Your browser is no longer supported"

At least it gave me an opportunity to try out the Web Note functionality by typing a note directly on the web page as you can see.

I imagine such errors will be addressed before too long. Or that Google does read the memo.

In summary, I think Spartan resets the bar for a contemporary web browser that works well across all platforms, ie, desktop and mobile, and gives you a great experience. But others such as Vivaldi are challenging that bar, not to mention what we’ll no doubt see in upcoming versions of Google Chrome, Firefox and Safari. It’s no guarantee that Spartan will be the browser of choice for a Windows 10 user. Not to mention users in enterprises where Internet Explorer is the king of the common standard imposed on users.

Still, if you are trying out Windows 10, you’ll like Spartan. But will you love it?

Samsung Gear 2 Neo smartwatch – some initial impressions

Samsung Gear 2 Neo home screenLast month, I bought a Samsung Gear 2 Neo smartwatch. It’s been on my wrist every day over the past few weeks, replacing my usual traditional watch that tells the time and shows me the date.

Of course, a digital smartwatch can do a lot more than just that, one of the reasons why people buy them.

You want to check your heartbeat? Count how many steps you take walking, or running or hiking? Track your sleeping time? The Gear 2 Neo does all of that and more. I’d argue, though, that dedicated fitness devices such as a Fitbit or Jawbone Up do that much better and in greater depth – that’s what they do.

So if such health-focused activity-tracking uses are of primary importance to you, a smartwatch like the Gear 2 wouldn’t be your best choice.

But if you want to do things such as receive notifications of messages from social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Yammer and more; receive texts from your contacts on WhatsApp, Hangouts or via standard SMS; get reminders from your calendar on upcoming appointments; read email from your Gmail or corporate email accounts; or receive (and make) phone calls from your wrist, then a Gear 2 Neo might be right up your street.

And, as I use a Samsung smartphone – a Galaxy S4 at the moment – the fact that this smartwatch is geared  to work seamlessly with 17 supported Samsung smartphone models including the S4 was a big selling point.

So that’s what I want today from a smartwatch.

All of the above was the primary reason why I went for a Gear 2 Neo rather than any other comparable smartwatch currently on the market, many of which will also do some or all these things with other brands of smartphones: iPhones as well as Android-based devices.

In my view, the Samsung Gear 2 Neo is at the most favourable price point for what you get with your device, better than anything comparable I looked at.

You use a Gear 2 Neo in conjunction with your Samsung smartphone and the Gear Manager app you install on your phone. The first thing you do is pair your two devices via Bluetooth, and you’re set – from that point on you’ll get all the notifications you want on your Neo, from any of your installed apps, once you’ve set them up with the Gear Manager on your smartphone.

Samsung Gear ManagerManage Notifications

As long as your two devices are within range of each other, you won’t need to whip out your phone just to see a notification. It’s a very handy feature, possibly more so than you first realize.

One thing I find really appealing are the extensive ways in which you can customize your Gear 2 Neo, from the obvious and visual (wallpapers or coloured backgrounds) to the useful (watch styles and faces), and a great deal more, from how you’re notified and by which apps, to privacy locking and finding your Neo using your smartphone.

WallpapersClocks

I’ve experimented a bit with the aesthetics! At the moment, my Neo screen has a November the fifth effect as the wallpaper. I expect to change that in the next week or so, once I’ve found a good alternative (a good resource for Gear 2 wallpapers is Tizen Experts website).

I’m only scratching the surface of the Gear 2 Neo at the moment, not yet having explored in depth the apps that come with the device – some of which are tuned to Samsung smartphones, eg, S Voice and Voice Memo – never mind what’s in the Samsung App Store. And there is a surprisingly large quantity of apps in that store.

All that’s yet to come. Meanwhile, a handful of quick impressions:

  • Battery life is excellent in my experience, at least two days between charges, sometimes three days. Much depends on how you use it, of course, but this is my experience by and large. Only once did I use up all the juice in one day when I was doing a huge amount with the device including making and receiving quite a few phone calls and playing around with the various screens and options. But for typical usage, I’d say you can expect about two days on a single battery charge.
  • The way you charge the battery is via a little clip-on charge pack that fits on the back of the device. It’s small and very light = very easy to lose; I’m taking special note of where I put it. You can’t just plug your device in to a power source as you do with your smartphone – the only way to connect a USB cable is via the clip-on pack, and it’s the only way to charge your Neo.
  • The huge battery hit is on your paired smartphone because of the Bluetooth connectivity. In a typical day, I need to charge the phone during the day and again at the end of the day (where, usually, it’s only once at the end of the day when I charge it). Much depends on what you use your smartphone for and how you use it, as well as how long or how frequently you connect to your Neo via Bluetooth. Being permanently connected, with Bluetooth running all the time, is a nice convenience but maybe not really essential. So short battery life isn’t a device issue, it’s a battery issue – and extending battery life is undoubtedly one of the next key development frontiers to cross with battery technologies for mobile and wearable devices.
  • Usability as a device paired with a Samsung smartphone is excellent where the two devices work hand in glove, pretty seamlessly from my experience so far. If you think about how you use a smartphone where some of your time is spent just looking at it to see notifications, with limited interactions, then a smartwatch surely is a more convenient way to do that especially in some situations, eg, in a meeting, on a bus or train, etc, where a gentle vibration alerts you that a notification is coming, and you can give a discreet glance at your wrist.
  • The Gear 2 range including the Neo run the Tizen operating system, not Android. From my experience, that’s not an issue at all as Linux-based Tizen is actively supported by many mainstream manufacturers (including Samsung) and has a growing developer environment with more apps coming all the time, with plenty of incentives for developers.

The smartwatch market is getting most interesting now. Samsung just launched its Gear S in the US, an advanced-level smartwatch and health/fitness tracker with built-in cellular communications functionality – no paired smartphone required; Apple’s much-anticipated Apple Watch is reportedly coming in Spring 2015; more devices within Google’s Android Wear framework are coming soon; and news keeps popping up of more brands releasing their own smartwatches.

There are also developments with useful things you can do with your smartwatch. For instance, I look forward to flying with an airline where I can show my boarding pass on my Gear 2 Neo, as you can do with Iberia – far easier than grappling with a bit of paper or a smartphone along with all your hand baggage when you board.

And in the workplace, think how useful it would be to get notifications of events from your ERP system, such as the working proof of concept from enterprise software vendor IFS (a client) that they developed to deliver notifications from their IFS Applications software to the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo.

This is just the start. So I’m happy to be in a good place to learn right now with a Gear 2 Neo.

More possibilities with extended-time live video from Google+

Live Hangouts On Air

Wow – now you can do a Google Hangout On Air (a live video broadcast) for up to 8 hours!

That’s a huge amount of additional time from the previous 1-hour-maximum you had. And remember: up to 8 hours means just that – you don’t have to do 8 whole hours.

Oh what possibilities! Here are just 4:

  1. A live idea-a-thon to flesh out thinking and ideas for brand engagement via live participation with brand owners, customers and fans on the social web.
  2. Live segments over a set period with different people talking about different aspects of a topic.
  3. Live broadcast everything in a one-day conference or other event.
  4. Be very creative and experiment with your movie idea via “live TV over the web”.

Plus you get a recording of everything you do that gets published on your YouTube channel, and which you can edit.

How can you see opportunities?

Reshared post from +Tom Batkin

8 hours Rolled out!

You will see a Notification box above the start broadcast button in the green room

Hopefully you will not look as serious as I do in this selfie…..Note to self , smile next time

Big thanks to +Dawn R Nocera for letting me know where the notification was located

#hangouts   #hangoutsonair   #TheYearOfThePlus

cc +Ronnie Bincer ?

(Via Krishna De)

Is a (search) picture worth a thousand words?

Jelly questionI’ve been having some fun this morning with Jelly.

Jelly is a new mobile search service announced yesterday that works via apps for Android and iOS. The company was co-founded by Biz Stone, one of the original founders of Twitter.

So what is Jelly?

In a nutshell, it’s an app you use to ask a question about something, such as the one about Starbucks mugs you see in the screenshot, where you show a photo of a mug you take with your phone’s camera.

You ask the question of those in your social networks – the app currently lets you sync with Twitter or Facebook – and anyone who sees the question can offer an answer. You can quickly give thanks to those who answer, and share the Q&A publicly on the web via Twitter or Facebook.

Jelly: answer

The app has some simple editing capabilities for the photos you take: you can crop them, for instance, or add lines and circles with your finger to emphasise or highlight an aspect of your image.

Jelly has certainly captured some imaginations if my experience earlier today is any indicator. Once I’d installed the app, synced it with Twitter, and asked my first question, interactions started happening at quite a pace as these reduced-size screenshots from my Galaxy S4 suggest.

Jelly - questionJelly - answers

It reminds me a bit of Quora, the text-based Q&A service on the web where you ask questions and get replies from the crowd. Jelly is mobile and uses pictures.

The service has just gone public and the Android app I used is clearly a version 1 in terms of features and what you can do with it. The questions come as a firehose – I can see no means right now of filtering who you can see, something I would imagine would come in a later version, along with other features, based on user feedback.

The old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is quite apt for Jelly. Snap a pic on your phone, add a short question, and hit ‘send.’ No need for a thousand words!

There are so many instances of a question forming in your mind where typing it out often isn’t easy (or even practical tapping on the screen of a mobile device) as you’re not quite sure what the actual question is. Showing a picture makes it very easy to frame the question.

Take my example of the USB connector I mentioned earlier – far easier to show a photo of it and ask what it is then to try and describe the connector and ask what it is.

Imagine the possibilities also for business. For instance, a visual gallery about a product showing common questions with the answers provided by users, fans, anyone who has an answer. Hashtags will be key here. I imagine things like an API will come to enable more sharing opportunities of the content resulting from all those photo Q&As.

I think Jelly is a neat offering and I’ll continue experimenting with it. Try it and see for yourself what Jelly is all about.

(Via TechCrunch)