Buying AMD wouldn’t fix Microsoft’s Surface Phone CPU problem (quickly enough)

Develop its own chips. This may not solve the issue of backwards compatibility, but it would give Microsoft more freedom to work through the problem. Developing chips, however, is costly, time-consuming, and not something Microsoft has much expertise in.

Source: The future of the Surface Phone is not looking good

The above article says the Surface Phone is in serious trouble because Intel killed its mobile x86 CPUs. At least one comment has suggested Microsoft should buy AMD to fix this. I disagree:

As much as I’d like MS to buy AMD, I don’t think that would solve *this particular problem.* AMD has no mobile x86 chips, & has been sucking at low power/high efficiency x86 for a while. Optimistically it would take 1 to 2 years to get an x86 SoC out of the AMD purchase, by which time UWP should (hopefully) be a sufficiently viable alternative to Win32 anyway.

A better option would be to push UWP and Centennial as hard as possible while maintaining Continuum and optimizing W10M for the Snapdragon 830.

That said, Surface tablets could use some AMD help. Adopting AMD’s APUs would fix the Surface line’s well documented GPU issues, at the expense of battery life (again, Intel rules at the latter).

 

 

21% of developers are already on Windows 10

Windows 10 is booming among devs.

Stack Overflow recently publised their (annual?) developer survey, in which 56,033 coders in 173 countries participated.

When asked about their desktop OS, the participants responded as below in 2015 and 2016:

Windows1
No Windows 10 in 2015
Windows2
Windows 10 at 21% in 2016

Stack Overflow’s conclusion was, predictably as always for the blogosphere, negative for Windows:

If OS adoption rates hold steady, by next year’s survey fewer than 50% of developers may be using Windows.

Ummm yeah. Let’s just ignore Windows 10 – a single version of Windows – going from nothing to 1 in 5 developers in about half a year.

Let’s just ignore Windows 10 – a single version of Windows – going from nothing to 1 in 5 developers in about half a year.

Developer buy-in is crucial for any OS, as without developers there are no apps. The fact that devs are familiarizing themselves with the OS and using it for mission critical applications is extremely encouraging.

Windows 10’s growth among developers is nothing short of impressive. “If OS adoption rates hold steady,” it should be the #1 OS among developers in 2017.

Other Microsoft technologies made excellent showings in their respective categories; most notably Visual Studio and F#.

Which services does Authy support?

Authy thinks making an official list of services it supports is “too much work.”

If you wanna enable two-step verification (more commonly known as Two Factor Authorization or simply 2FA), Authy is the best current solution due to its multiplatform support. Unfortunately, there’s no official list of services it natively supports. The stated reason:

One can only chuckle at the irony of a security startup thinking a complete feature/support list is “too much work.”* Fortunately, you can find out which services are covered by doing the following in the Android app:

  1. Add an account in the app.
  2. When the above is done, tap the menu button.
  3. Tap Settings.
  4. Tap the Accounts tab.
  5. Tap the account you just set up.
  6. Tap the SELECT ANOTHER ONE response to the WRONG LOGO? question. A list of services with 1st party support will pop up as shown below:

    You have download the app and set up an account to discover which service Authy supports. Something tells me that's deliberate. It's also sly.
    You have download the app and set up an account to discover which service Authy supports. Something tells me that’s deliberate. It’s also sly.

That said, here’s the list of 19 services:

  1. Google
  2. Dropbox
  3. Microsoft
  4. Facebook
  5. Gmail
  6. Outlook
  7. App.net (pretty much dead, so doesn’t count.)
  8. Github
  9. Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  10. Linode
  11. Dreamhost
  12. LastPass
  13. Guildwars 2
  14. Evernote
  15. WordPress
  16. Digital Ocean
  17. Heroku
  18. Stripe
  19. Tumblr
  20. Bitcoin

Unfortunately, Authy does not support Twitter, albeit through no fault of their own:

Technically, Authy supports any TOTP-enabled service, but as the preceding link shows that number is disappointingly small. Two Factor Auth List has a comprehensive list of services that provide some level of 2FA, but bear in mind that only a subset of those with Software Implementation checked can be used with Authy, as quite a few services use proprietary schemes.

*Authy should be taken out to the woodshed for this level of blatant laziness. There’s no reason why a security service can’t reasonably offer a list of what it provides native support for. NONE.

TV: the reason tech giants are sitting out the net neutrality debate

The streaming TV and placeshifting future we want requires a non-neutral Internet.

Per the New York Times:

Silicon Valley’s giant companies have been quiet lately on the question of whether the government should protect an open Internet, which they’ve previously argued is vital to innovation. Don’t count on them staking out a stronger position even though President Obama has stepped into the fray, and Washington looks to be gearing up for an epic battle over the rules that govern the Internet.

Why is this happening? One word: TV. Google, Apple, and Microsoft are all trying to revolutionize the world’s biggest broadcast medium. To do so, their UX must be equal to or better than incumbents’. Unfortunately, it isn’t right now. To watch ESPN on Comcast, for example, change the corresponding channel and you’re watching ESPN immediately. To do the same thing on a streaming service, there’s a multi-second wait while the video buffers. The problem worsens geometrically as as you switch among multiple channels.

There are 2 ways around streaming buffers. Option 1 is to constantly stream all channels to the end user, as cable and satellite do. That solution is prohibitively bandwidth intensive. Remember, users who subscribe to Comcast internet only are still limited to the bandwidth they pay for.  Just because you don’t use Comcast for TV doesn’t mean you get to use Comcast’s TV bandwidth. Ergo, streaming all channels all the time could easily exceed a user’s available bandwidth, not to mention their data cap.

A streaming TV provider could circumvent that problem by paying the cable company for use of their dedicated TV bandwidth, which is obviously a fast lane and non-neutral approach. It could also simply pay ISPs to implement global QoS policies that prioritize its traffic, which is exactly what net neutrality would preclude.

Option 2 is hyperlocal CDN – think CDN-At-The-Node (CDNATN*). All channels would be streamed to a neighborhood node, which then dispatches channels to users on request. Since content providers such as Netflix and YouTube already have CDNs collocated with ISPs, this isn’t out of the ordinary. However, the deployment cost scales geometrically, since streaming TV providers would have to install CDNATNs for every ISP in a given area.

Given the above, net neutrality is actually a threat to tech giants’ future business, hence their reluctance to get on the net neutrality bandwagon.

Another reason is the tech industry’s core business plan is monopoly creation, but Peter Thiel does a better job of explaining that.

*This is a hypothetical term I totally made up, but feel free to use it and credit me.

Yet another major cross-platform project shuns HTML5

Microsoft is writing cross-platform Office’s codebase in C++.

Microsoft has a huge challenge ahead in developing Office across Windows, Windows RT/NUI, Android, and iOS.

Guess what they’re using:

C++.

Guess what they’re not using:

HTML5.

FTA (emphasis mine):

The goal of “write once, run anywhere” which technologies like Java, Flash and HTML5 were designed to try to solve by pushing the level of abstraction as low as possible or making application programming interfaces (APIs) very broad sounded good, Zaika said, but ended up creating impedance mismatch. Compatibility and interoperability problems, among others, arose.

via How Microsoft is taking on the cross-platform challenge with Office | ZDNet.

P.S.: Here‘s what I mean by “yet another.”

How to fix the Windows Store’s “current internet connection is slow” error

After successfully installing the new TripAdvisor Windows 8.1 app on my desktop, I tried installing it on my laptop, but was met with this error message:

Your purchase couldn’t be completed

This app can’t be purchased because your current internet connection is slow. Please try again using a different connection.

Another day, another Windows Store error.
Surprise: your internet connection isn’t the issue here.

Switching to a different internet connection didn’t work. Fortunately, Googling the problem turned up this thread with a few fixes that only worked for me after I applied them in a certain order, which is what this post is about.

Here’s how to fix the problem:

  1. Ensure the PC is not connected directly to the internet, i.e. is on a LAN and behind a NAT/SPI firewall.
  2. Reboot the PC.
  3. Upon rebooting, disable your antivirus software (Avast 2014 in my case).
  4. Press Windows key + R.
  5. In the window that pops up, enter “wsreset.exe” without the quotes.
  6. Click OK or hit Enter. The Windows Store loading screen will appear as below. Be patient as it may take up to 15 minutes to load completely.* Wait for it to complete and your problem should be resolved.
  7. Install the app you wanted.
  8. Re-enable your antivirus software.
I have a dream that one day Windows NUI will the resurrect progress indicator.
I have a dream that one day Windows NUI will the resurrect progress indicator.

In my experience, most Windows Store bugs are due to interfering security software. I’m not sure if this is due to the NUI/RT not being designed with such software in mind, or just bad testing/development on the part of security software dev shops.

Learn how Windows (& OEMs) handles USB devices at Microsoft’s USB blog

I'll take "Universal" things with not so universal implementations for $400, Alex
I’ll take “Universal” things with not-so-universal implementations for $400, Alex

If you’re a hardcore tech user, more than likely you’ve run into a few USB troubles here and there, such as this one afflicting my Mac OS X Mavericks using DJ friend:

I’ve had a few issues myself over the years, ranging from printers suddenly vanishing from the OS to mice that refuse to wake when the PC is resumed from sleep. I once returned a Belkin hub under warranty 3 times in a row because devices connected to it would disappear after the PC had been running for over a day or so.*

Fortunately, Microsoft has an entire blog devoted to USB and its attendant issues. Unfortunately, like most good things at Microsoft, it isn’t promoted at all. The blog is great for troubleshooting, but it’s also highly informative for power users who want to know how Windows handles USB under the hood.

*The root causes of the above issues are Link Power Management & Selective Suspend (and their equivalents on other desktop OSes). Both features allow the OS, the host device, and/or the client device to move to very low power states so as to save energy. Apparently, their implementation can vary at the OS, host, and client levels, resulting in odd behavior.

Why I’m never buying another Google device. Ever.

Google has made a tradition of betraying users who buy in to their devices and services. And it needs to stop.

Raise your hand if you were stupid enough to buy one of these
Raise your hand if you were stupid enough to buy one of these

When the Google released the Galaxy Nexus in December 2011, it touted the phone as a flagship device  that would always receive the latest updates and receive strong support from Mountain View. And so I bought in – for over $300 after activation – with zero hesitation. I didn’t mind that OS updates were slow due to Verizon’s interference, as long as said updates actually arrived.

This week Google announced that Android 4.4 Kit Kat won’t support the Galaxy Nexus, which means one of the primary reasons for buying the phone just went up in flames less than 2 years after its release. Imagine if Microsoft had announced that Windows 8.1 wouldn’t support PCs released before December 2011. People would have a fit. By comparison, Apple’s iOS 7 supports the iPhone 4, which was released 3.25 years earlier. Even Microsoft’s much maligned Surface (RT) has 5 years of guaranteed support all the way out to 2017.

Google claims the announcement is because the Galaxy Nexus’ CPU OEM, Texas Instruments, is no longer in the mobile business and so can’t support the phone. Unfortunately, that excuse doesn’t cut it. In fact, it’s the latest example of Google’s gross fundamental misunderstanding of life cycle management that engenders trust in your products. When you release a device or service, you make (contractual) deals to ensure that the supply chain necessary for supporting the released entity stays in place for the device’s life. If Google truly cared about the longevity of the devices and services they offered, they’d have done that. But they didn’t.

And so I find myself with a phone that will never receive another update. My only options are to either upgrade and lose unlimited data (no thanks), or buy a new phone at a whopping $650+ (more than I paid for the far more powerful 1080p laptop I’m writing this on). But I’d bought into the Nexus to avoid this problem in the first place. Thanks a lot, Google.

Other glaring examples of Google’s awful product life cycles:

  1. The Nexus Q, which lasted all of 4 months from announcement to being dropped.
  2. The Nexus 4, which shipped without LTE ostensibly due to battery concerns aeons after Samsung and Apple had solved that problem.
  3. Google Reader, a widely used enterprise product (yes, Reader was listed on Google Apps’ page) which was shut down within 4 months of a terse announcement of its demise.

So what next? I don’t like iOS, so I won’t be getting an iPhone. Windows Phone 8 is great, but it’s far behind Android on apps and has no access to the filesystem hierarchy without root. I use Android because – gasp – it’s the least bad (read: restrictive) mobile OS out there. My next device will probably be an Android one, but it certainly won’t be a Nexus or Motorola phone. I’d very much like a Galaxy Note 3, but right now that’s $849 at full price and Samsung hasn’t announced any definite plans to bring Android 4.4 to it.