• Newsletter Issue #865

    June 27th, 2016


    It is curious how people read into something things that really aren’t there. Take my recent piece about the future of the Mac, about the fact that Intel was close to hitting the wall when it came to boosting CPU performance. I discussed ways that Apple might still improve the Mac going forward in ways that do not necessarily make it faster, or whether a future iPad might become the true Mac replacement.

    It was all speculative, listing the history of the various iterations of macOS and all. But some people, rather than take the discussion forward as to where they thought Apple would take the Mac, just ran off the rails. One reader claimed that my article attempted to make something significant about the change of branding from OS X to macOS, which is decidedly absurd since I’ve made it quite clear I really don’t care what they call it.

    Yet another resurrected the tired argument about Macs being overpriced, using the typical dodge of listing a product with lower specs, and, as those points were made, moving the goal posts to accommodate more absurd scenarios. But when that person started talking about sniffing glue and other nonsense, I put it to a stop. Still, the number of comments were higher than normal. But it doesn’t seem to have impacted the site’s hit count in any way that I can measure.

    I suppose I should be pleased with the response, though, but I wish more of it was about the article rather than to advance someone’s screwy agenda. Oh well.

    But it’s not the first time I was expected to comment on something I never said. I also receive strange requests from readers, such as a message from a forum member who asked me to help him recover his DVR’s password. How they’d expect someone running a tech forum to help them do something that’s the province of their cable/satellite provider seemed curious. Maybe the fact that I also host a paranormal radio show made them feel I could perform feats of magic. Or perhaps the tech people at their service provider intimidated them somehow, and it wouldn’t be the first time.

    In any case, on this weekend’s episode of  The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we featured cutting-edge commentator Daniel Eran Dilger, of Roughly Drafted Magazine and AppleInsider. He talked about such topics as the the current state of the platform wars. Daniel focused on the open source nature of Google’s Android mobile OS, and the ongoing problems with fragmentation. This means that critical security fixes, including system updates, are usually not available to most users of Android gear. In response to a column suggesting that Google give up on open source and try to emulate Apple’s proprietary approach, Daniel explained how other tech companies often follow Apple without success.

    You also heard from Bryan Chaffin, co-founder and co-publisher of The Mac Observer. The bill of fare this week included possible changes in Macs over the next few years, and some talk about the future of the platform, influenced by my recent article on the topic. Will there come a time in our lifetimes where Macs have been completely replaced by something new and better? Bryan also discussed the controversy over rumors that Apple plans to ditch the headphone jacks on the next iPhone, presumably the iPhone 7, and rely on the Lightning port for such connections. He explained why it’s not going to be bad news if it happens. He also talked about watchOS 3, and whether the forthcoming update for the Apple Watch will allow people who merely like the device to learn to love it.

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris present Robert Damon Schneck, author of ‘The Bye Bye Man And Other Strange-But-True Tales.” From the liner notes: “Here is the authentically terrifying, true-life story recounted by historian Robert Damon Schneck in a chapter of his classic underground collection of weird Americana, which formed the basis for the major motion picture, The Bye Bye Man. The movie is set for release worldwide on December 9, 2016. The discussion also includes “The President’s Vampire,” another chapter and the original title of the book, and sidesteps into the UFO and Shaver mysteries. Caution: Due to the lurid nature of the conversation in the final two segments, we suggest you not have a meal while listening. Robert will also be featured as a special guest on the accompanying episode of After The Paracast.


    As some of you might recall, Windows 10 debuted last July as a free update for many Windows users; well, mostly except for businesses that paid for support contracts. The theory went, in part, that since Microsoft didn’t really pull a whole lot of revenue from OS upgrades, getting hundreds of millions of users up to date with Windows 10 would have an ancillary effect, which would be to make it more profitable for developers to put their stuff in the Windows Apps Store. As people bought apps, Microsoft would get a piece of the action.

    Many Windows 8/8.1 users would be delighted to get an OS that was actually usable, if they hadn’t already downgraded to Windows 7. With Windows 10, you had a proper Start menu, and a pretty decent and well-performing environment. Security was surely better than that of Windows 7, which was released nearly seven years ago. That would be a given.

    The argument for Windows 10 might still be less compelling to a Windows 7 user, unless you plan to buy a convertible PC that operates either in standard desktop mode or tablet mode. Indeed, Windows 10 is supposed to sense that configuration change, so you get an optimized user environment. Unfortunately, Microsoft has attempted to make some interface elements a little too simple, being unable to lose the stick-pin graphics and too-thin text of the interface formerly known as Metro that make it appear as an OS designed for kids than adults. Some apps, such as Mail, lack the power user capabilities of a proper email app, but perhaps Microsoft would prefer you get a paid email app, particularly Outlook.

    Regardless, Windows 10, despite its lapses, doesn’t bother me. It retains a traditional desktop PC environment and, when working with regular apps, you can overlook the silly lifestyle nonsense and focus on getting work done.

    The user base seems to have grown fairly large — if leisurely — in the past 11 months, According to Net Applications, Windows 10 now stands at 17.43% of the total PC user base, which also includes Macs. Windows 7 retains the crown with 48.57%, and it’ll take years for Windows 10 to hit that plateau. But Windows XP still has 10.09%, after nearly 15 years of availability. Indeed, I still visit businesses, including banks, that appear to be stuck with a 2001 OS. Maybe if people refused to do business with them out of security concerns, they’ll upgrade to something better.

    Windows 10’s percentages may not seem so high, but it amounts to a user base in the range of 300 million. That ought to be large enough for app developers to exploit. So I can see why Microsoft is pulling out all the stops to entice you to upgrade ahead of the July 29th deadline, when you may have to pay $119 and up for a user license. Indeed, I wonder if Microsoft will simply extend the deadline before that date.

    While I’m not at all certain if those messy lifestyle TV ads are persuading people to upgrade to Windows 10, certainly ongoing PC sales, even if the numbers are off compared to previous years, mean a steady stream of customers will adopt the new OS. Yes, I expect businesses will continue to downgrade to Windows 7 for several more years, until support expires. But the Windows 10 user base will still hit a decent plateau in the near term.

    Unfortunately, Microsoft continues to go overboard to push Windows 10 updates. Indeed, the approach might be regarded as of questionable legality, approaching that of spyware. So loads of Windows uses are complaining that Microsoft evidently pushed downloads on their PC, in the background, without their approval. On some occasions, the update was even installed without an OK of some sort.

    One Windows evangelist recently reported that Microsoft had pulled a fast one with a common user interface object. So on clicking the “X” of an information dialog, the act was taken as approving the Windows 10 upgrade. This is a clear reversal of the usual convention, where the “X” dismisses a dialog rather than approve a positive action. It’s even documented somewhere so Microsoft can say, “see we already told you about it.”

    Some Windows users have turned off automatic patching features, which means they aren’t receiving critical security updates and other necessary bug fixes. But it also evidently turns off forced Windows 10 upgrades, at the expense of making those PCs less secure. Microsoft is even offering Windows 10 cheek-by-jowl with the list of security patches, all the more to confuse you.

    Now I have never encountered this unwanted upgrade scheme, largely because I set up an “Insider” installation on my Mac, using a Parallels Desktop virtual machine. So I continue to see the latest and greatest versions of Windows 10, thus having a good chance to follow its development. It actually works quite well on my Mac, although most of it bores me to death. But I also have to make sure my sites are compatible, so I will continue to use the latest and greatest from Microsoft.

    But Microsoft’s forced upgrade scheme got so bad that some people who run businesses have watched their PCs undergo a Windows 10 upgrade while they are trying to do real work. One published report told the tale of a small businessperson who sued Microsoft and got an award of $10,000 in damages as the result of the negative impact of an unwanted upgrade. Microsoft evidently decided not to appeal, and they would no doubt prefer to bury such news. I just wonder how many many other lawsuits have been filed as the result of this unsavory practice.

    One morning, I heard a radio talk show host complain how he couldn’t use the show’s PC, which manages scheduling and call-ins from listeners, because a Windows 10 upgrade began without his approval. He talked on the air of switching to a Mac, and one listener even suggested he move to Linux.

    In contrast, Apple never forces you to update your Mac or mobile device. True upgrades are easy, and you can do them automatically in the background if you want. The Mac App Store preference pane offers several clearly-labeled checkboxes to adjust how you want OS and app updates downloaded and installed. But you can easily turn everything off, and have those updates arrive on your terms, or not at all. You are not being forced to accept a download you do not want.

    It’s a lesson Microsoft needs to learn. But since the ads for Windows 10 are childlike, I wonder if it’s that immature attitude that is partly responsible for this self-induced upgrade mess.


    The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.

    Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
    Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
    Marketing and Public Relations: Barbara Kaplan
    Sales and Marketing: Andy Schopick
    Worldwide Licensing: Sharon Jarvis

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    3 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #865”

    1. James g says:

      Apple may not force it but they will aggravate the crap out if you until you install an update. I turned off apple’s auto update system too.

      • gene says:

        “Aggravate the crap”? That’s overwrought. Auto-update means the updates are installed automatically. What did you think it meant?


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