Friday, November 3, 2017

Tech Bear on Windows 10 Latest "Fall Creators" Update

If You Use Windows 10, This is for You

Bear assumes every one of his readers use a computer. Furthermore, he knows his readers tend toward the "experienced" end of the spectrum, rather than Millennials.

"Mashable" is probably not on your daily blog reading list.

There are some things you may need or want to know, and the Bear is here to help. One is, on October 17, Microsoft released a major update to Windows 10. It is version 1709, called "the Fall Creators" update.

Microsoft Marries its Own Hardware to Windows

Microsoft Surface touchscreen Computer.Tablet hybrid today.
You may remember Microsoft as a stodgy, lazy, uncaring software company that churned out bloated junk you had to use because everyone else did. Meanwhile, Apple was the sexy company with all the ideas and premium hardware, to boot.

That all changed in 2012 when Microsoft aired the first of several attention-getting (or annoying) dancemercials featuring the clicks of a keyboard attaching itself magnetically to a tablet that had a kickstand. 

It was something called "the Surface," and it was hardware from Microsoft. Although many scoffed, it was a real computer-tablet hybrid showcasing the power of the touchscreen.

Microsoft Wickedly Turns Tables on Apple

It flopped. The Surface RT flopped. And the Surface 2 flopped, too. However, being as big as Microsoft means you can afford to take casualties in pursuit of the overall strategy. None of the Surfaces were bad, in Bear's opinion, but they did have a lot of room for improvement and needed a better OS than Windows 8.

Remember all those "Apple vs. PC" commercials where the cool dude made fun of the unappealing PC guy?  If revenge is a dish best served cold, they were eating apple ice cream in Redmond when they went after their rival in hilarious head-to-head commercials that pitted, among other things, Siri versus Cortana. ("Do you think I'm pretty?" a defeated and robotic-sounding Siri finally asks in one.) 

"Hybrid" does not mean compromise. Despite it's thinness and lightness, is every bit the fully-fledged computer, and handy enough to be a touchscreen tablet with the keyboard snapped off. Not iPad Mini handy, but handy enough.

First Microsoft Surface commercial set the kicky tone.

With typical Microsoft tenacity, it weathered the criticism and losses. In later Surface vs. iPad commercials, Apple dude taunts Microsoft with, "Oh, so you've come out with the third version of something that flopped twice before?" Ow, talk about self-deprecating humor. But it demonstrated Microsoft's confidence.

Microsoft stuck with the Surface, and today the Bear's Apple MacBook gathers dust and his Surface 4 is his constant companion, now running Windows 10 (ver. 1709, or "Fall Creators" update - more about that in a minute).

He types, touches, pens and dials his way through excellent programs running on a stable OS. And Microsoft is finally cutting the dead wood. Gone are the failed Windows Phone and Groove music service. Microsoft is not going to try to compete where it can't anymore.

Microsoft now looks like the creative, cool, and innovative company, while Apple rests on its laurels, offering variations on a stale theme. Substantively, Apple remains as great as ever. But Microsoft is putting the "it" in IT. Heck, even its online chat tech support is fast, competent and friendly. ("Have a blessed day?" Wow. You, too, wherever you are.)

Snap the keyboard on (still, ridiculously, a separate purchase, though) and you can type away on real backlit keys. Snap it off, and you can read a book, watch a show, or unstick your magnetically-attached pen and draw pictures or annotate a manuscript. The available Intel Core i7 processor with 8 gigs of RAM (up to 16) handles demanding programs like Photoshop with ease and multitasking is a breeze.

What You Should Know

First, if you are one of the few still using Groove Music, the end is near. On December 31, it will disappear, and all of your purchases and playlists will follow it down the drain. The free/premium Spotify music service will replace it. If you don't download your purchases before December 31, they will be gone forever. You also have the option to transfer your playlists to Spotify.

If you are an Amazon Prime user, Amazon Music makes the best sense, coupled with Pandora for free (with ads) music based on your tastes. Naturally, it works best if Alexa keeps you company, because you can ask her to play your tunes and she will. (Although she chokes on "Alexa, play 'Cortot Plays Chopin: Ballades, Sonata Op. 35, and Fantasia, Op. 49.'" "Alexa, play 'Deacon Blues' works every time, though.)

Should you go with the "Fall Creators" 1709 update?

It took more than one attempt and intervention by technical support chat to get 1709 installed, but Bear thinks it was worth it.

Bear's Recommendation: 1709 a Worthwhile Update

The improvements are evolutionary, not revolutionary. Some of the biggest, like a commitment to Virtual Reality and 3D graphics (3D Paint? Really?) will be exciting to only a few. If you like Emojis, you'll be pleased to know you can get the whole set by hitting Windows + [period]. The Start Menu is a bit spiffier and more customizable. So, a lot of changes are ho-hum. A few, like the new contact manager "People" are just half-baked.

Edge Browser, Cortana and Pen Get Significant Buffs

But Microsoft's Edge browser is finally real competition to Chrome and new web clipping and pen markup is great for researchers.

Microsoft's contestant in the digital assistant title match, "Cortana," gets a huge buff in usability. Cortana no longer opens your browser to answer a query, but will slide out a screen showing the information. You can now focus her search to Apps, Documents or Web. And, she now has her own can to live in, just like Alexa. It is built around a Harmon Kardon cylindrical speaker and costs twice as much as Amazon Echo's current $99.

Microsoft knows it isn't going to topple Amazon overnight. It offers a well-known premium name and will eventually come down in price and come up with features that will make Alexa feel threatened and grow sullen. But, not today. Alexa is intuitive and quite useful within her limits. It will be interesting to see what Cortana eventually brings into the ring. But, even without a $200 speaker, you can still say, "Hey, Cortana," and chat away to her via your computer. (She already has a more pleasant and natural-sounding speaking voice in her favor.)

If you use a Surface, the pen is still not mightier than the keyboard, but more useful than ever. What you do get is direct markup on Word docs - actually all Office products - which is pretty cool. Handwriting recognition is not bad, but still not perfect, either, which limits its usefulness. 

It is also supposed to be more secure against Russians choosing your president or whatever the personal equivalent of that is for you. (Bear just gets ephemeris comments like, "I notis yor blog beings superhappy and shares it with my friends. Nike shoes bestest.")

But Best of All

This is not a full review. There are plenty of those online. The thing the Bear noticed most was that Microsoft has bent over backwards to introduce users to the new features of this latest update, from a useful collection of short videos upon installation to a much beefier and more useful "Tips" resource.

This may sound like a small thing, but for the first time, it feels like Microsoft is not taking users for granted. They want you to know how to use the new features and introduce them in more than one way to make it easy. A lot of  thought went into giving us something more than a perfunctory, "oh, by the way, here's something about the new features because it's expected."

The 1709 update was well worth the snags in installation for the Bear, and some improvements are significant, especially to the Edge browser and Cortana. Can you live without it? Sure. Bear can't think of any "must-haves." There are quite a few "nice-to-haves" though, especially for touchscreen and pen types.

Microsoft has finally perfected its own version of Apple's old OS-hardware symbiosis, and it is looking more like the future than Apple at this point.


  1. It is still possible to upgrade to Win 10 from Win 7 or Win 8. Highly recommended, even if the jump from 7 can be frustrating if you like working under the hood of the OS. There is another layer of menus and GUI before you can get down to where all the real settings are.

    As a note, you cannot not upgrade to 1709. All these upgrades are forced upgrades and they WILL happen to your device, sooner or later. If one ever gets to a point where the device cannot be upgraded (and Win 10 is incredibly runs just fine on a E6650 4GB RAM no GPU Card desktop). If you ever end up at a point where Windows won't update, time for a new computer.

    Speaking of new computers -- anything other than a desktop is currently designed as a consumable not an investment. You are meant to only keep the current generation of devices for a few years and then move on to the newest shinny thing. Apple has really paved the way for this.

    Windows 10 is a very good OS. However, if a Woodland Creature only wants to do things on the Web, including streaming videos, with non-fancy Word processing, buy a Chromebook or ChromeOS device. Fantastic devices with long battery life.

  2. The 1709 update is being rolled out in waves, and it was (is?) indeed a choice to install early. I don’t know if they have begun or finished automatic updates. It easy enough to check whether you have it or not: settings —> about —> then look at Windows Specifications, Versions.

    You could tinker with desktops without being a computer genius, true enough. Bear remembers days when it was great fun to install the latest graphics card or sound card. But you eventually reach their motherboard limits, too. Why, Owl, would you want to tie yourself down to a desktop in this day and age? One would think Owls would value something just as capable that was light enough to carry to the treetops.

    Laptops or hybrids like the Surface are so much more convenient and sacrifice nothing. You can even get a laptop gaming rig that will power through the most graphically intense games. (Haven’t tried Flight Simulator on my Surface - it is a notorious resource hog and the Surface has no separate graphics hardware.) In fact, my Surface hybrid is at least the equal to my Apple MacBook, and has a real USB port. (The MacBook has the latest standard that doesn’t work with anything, so it requires an expensive dongle and is easily lost.)

    My Surface is a generation behind, and there turned out to be no compelling reason to upgrade. I have had my iPad Mini for years. Barring some weird development like all of us working in virtual reality, I can’t imagine what would make me get a new Surface, although Bears are attracted to shiny things. The screen resolution is already finer than Apple’s “Retina display,” and the human eye must isn’t going to notice more. The horsepower is high enough to run anything I want and multiple programs at once, and shaving an ounce or a tenth of an inch off is not going to matter as thin and light as it is.

    Of course, you are right about matching your tech to your use. There are cheaper alternatives if all you do is browse the web, watch a show, and use email. The Bear’s ephemeris, recording, publishing, agitprop and film projects are more demanding, not to mention binge watching.

    Microsoft is betting that the future of the computer is the touchscreen and pen. Surface is a computer disguised as a tablet that becomes a desktop or laptop or bedtop whenever you snap the keyboard on. It is a brilliant corporate move. And, since they control the software, they have an incentive to innovate so people will want/need to buy new computers. But Microsoft is making desktops, too, aimed right at Apple’s artsy breadbasket.

  3. Yes 1709 is being rolled out in waves, but if you click on Check for Updates, the update will start even if your computer wasn't in the initial rollout. You can also force the update if you have install media -- which can ONLY be created at 1709 now from the MS servers. Updates can be differed ONCE but after the different period, they will install. MSFT has been doing automatic updates for a long time, and mandatory updates behind the scenes for a bit. The OS is now set to update itself along mandatory lines, which is difficult to prevent. There are no more bifurcation between Updates and Recommended Updates and selecting what you want -- you get all Updates.

    Why a desktop? Because you haven't lived until you have computed in front of three monitors. Owl hasn't yet lived. This is being typed from a Chromebook -- fantastic device that Owl likes better than a full laptop for just Web usage and light Office Work. Desktops though, so much better. If a Woodland Creature bought a laptop and plugged it in in one spot and forever there it sits, a desktop would have been the better purchase. Upgradable, longer life, much more horsepower for your buck, can use it as a server, less expensive.

    Yes, laptops are great and capable. Owl is a strong advocate for using the proper device for the task. A lot of people buy the wrong device for the task buying features that they will never use and missing features that they really should have had.

    The underlying upgrades in 1709 are laying the End User foundations for MSFT's Augmented Reality venture that they are beginning to roll out. Owl is excited about this where as OWL was meh about the Virtual Reality devices that were appearing a few years ago and haven't been adopted as was anticipated. This will be a great boon for the Church for parishes will be able to be constructed as empty boxes and the parishioner seeing their chosen decor -- grand cathedral for the Traditionalist, Gumbie Jesus and large screen projected words and lyrics for the modernist. Perfect harmony at last!

    1. Updates are handled more respectfully now, at least. Again, Microsoft's investment in hardware is forcing them to be more competitive.

      Bear was not excited about all the Virtual Reality stuff in the update, but yes, he can envision having a wrap-around eye screen and earbuds with a menu. "Hello, Bear. First please choose a language. (a) English; (b) Latin."

      Bear thinks it is funny that he has gone from one the biggest screen drive ins (now defunct) to theaters, to big TVs to small but crystal sharp screens to watch movies. It reminds him of Nora Desmond from Sunset Boulevard. "I am big. It's the pictures that got small." She had no idea.

    2. Augmented Reality not Virtual Reality...MSFT is up to something different than everyone else.

      MSFT has figured out that the End User doesn't want to be bothered and the best way to update things is to do it quietly, automatically, behind the scenes. People tend to choose not to update if given the choice, especially in industry.

      Owl agrees completely about the change in movies from big screens to small screens to personal screens. There is a great documentary about drive ins on Amazon and their comeback.

    3. The great thing about the drive in was it was not just another place to watch a movie. We would arrive with plenty of light left with all the kids and toss the football back and forth up in front of the screen. The Egyptian Drive-In screen was enormous, and not just a screen on a frame. It was an actual structure. At dusk, you'd go to the little building where the projector was and get snacks.

      And they were great places for dates (but no doubt contributed to much impurity).

      Some trivia: in the Bear's human incarnation, he was born in a cruddy motel directly across from the Egyptian Drive-In in a little place called "Energy," IL. No hospital for poor little Bear cub. Ah, how similar to another Illinoisan, old Honest Abe with his log cabin. So he comes by his love of movies honestly, and suspension of habeas corpus in the Woodlands, too.

      He is not a big fan of the Octoplex Cinema at the mall, though, although stadium steading is an improvement. The screens are small and people are annoying what with slurping and munching and texting. Used to, there would be ONE screen per theater and the line would stretch two blocks for Ben Hur.

      We have never had more choice when it comes to stuff to watch, and that includes a lot of classics that would otherwise never see the light of day. "Bridge Over the River Kwai" was the first prime-time movie, if Bear recalls correctly. Back in the day, you looked forward to The Wizard of Oz once a year, and, since It's a Wonderful Life's rights had lapsed, everybody ran that stupid movie into the ground leading up to Christmas. (Yeah, I know. I think Mr. Potter is the hero of that bit of Commie propaganda.)

    4. Oh, and you'd bring folding yard chairs, blankets, and a giant citronella candle to keep the mosquitos away. It's easier to find a Latin Mass within driving distance than a drive -in these days.

      Now Bear must go back to trying to figure out why he's Catholic instead of Orthodox. He thinks it has something to do with the Pope, which is really weird the more he thinks about that. Bear is not saying theology is not important. He is just saying theology is not very important for his purposes. And for a long time illiterate priests were running around the West with only the foggiest notion of how to say Mass. Or at least that was what Bear was taught when he went to a school of theology before deciding his professors were all godless Communist plants and ran away like his fur was on fire.

    5. Owl's first theology class, before Owl was Catholic, was taught by a SJ who made an extensive point that the Resurrection was only an allegory. On the flip-side, Owl knows many good SJs.

      Ah, but yes that is the great myth: that the early Church had no liturgical books and everyone was running around doing their own thing and if we could only get back to that, everything would be just fine.

      The documentary that Owl was referring to is Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the American Drive-In Movie. Well worth your time.

  4. New Surface will come when

    1. Dead battery
    2. The internet moves beyond what the device can handle. (5 years ago, Chrome was using about 25-35MB of memory per active tab. Now days it can easily be over 140MB per active tab.)
    3. You run out of HD space on the OS drive.
    4. If there is an EOF built into the device by the manufacture. The EOF for this Chromebook is next summer, for example.

  5. Geeks! Yes, I love it. Quick question for both the Bear and the Owl from someone who's had her head into computers ever since the first BBC, the first Spectrum, and the first Atari came into existence: Is the latest Surface capable of handling DCI 4K editing in post?

    1. With Intel Core i7 CPU, up to 4 gb Nvidia graphics chip and available 32 gb RAM, I would go directly for the sweet Microsoft Studio desktop for professional work, starting at $3k. Watch this and drool:

      The Surface, for all its merits, is a consumer grade machine and does not have a dedicated graphics chip. I seriously doubt it would meet your needs. It handles PhotoShop and personal video fine, but is not designed for professional video editing.

    2. What Great Bear said.

      Owl has heard that if you are on the PC side of things that the AMD Ryzen chips considerably outperform the Intel chips at comparable price points when it comes to video/audio editing. This, though, will somewhat depend on how the programs are setup -- if they are programmed to used the extra threads that the Ryzen chips provide. Most are.

      Owl also recommends that Eagle not to skimp on her monitor setup. Large screen multi-monitor setup is the way to go. Also, if you are producing 4K video, you need to have a 4K monitor for viewing things as you are working on it.

    3. Thanks, Owl. I'm presently using a MacBook Pro. You're right about the monitor setup (three large screens), especially for the 4K fine editing. One problem though: They are SO expensive to buy!

    4. Only the 4k will be expensive. You can reduce the price by not buying one with speakers, extra ports, touch screen (unless you really need that), and by not having it be your largest monitor -- its only function is to watch your fully rendered video. The other monitors can be 1080p for workflow and at this time of year you can grab no frill IPS Monitor 23in for $80. This will also lesson the amount of work your GPU has to preform.

      There is a tendency for people to choose the wrong tool for the job, either because they do not know the right tool, or the right tool is expensive. However, the right tool is worth the price. The project comes together quicker with better results and life is happier.

    5. You're right - I don't need the touch screen, etc. Thanks. Here's a short I just finished which I downsized and rendered in 1080p:

  6. I love my surface pro. Love. The battery is going, though, and a bunch of very bad things happened when so tried to upgrade to win 10 a year ago. I ended up at the Microsoft store, where they broke my roll back even worse, but phone customer service saved me. I went back to win 8.

    Hearing 1709 was good is music to my ears.

    1. When a battery goes on a modern mobile device, that is the manufacture saying, "Time to buy a new device".

      1709 is good, so was 1703. In case people are wondering, that is 2017 September and 2017 March. MSFT is not exactly known for their creativity in their naming conventions.

      If you want to try again, start with creating a full system backup image onto an external HD.

      Now using a USB stick, create Win 10 install media. It will automatically be at 1709.

      Launch, and you will be done shortly. If you break the install, use the Windows 10 Install Media to re-image your computer with the backup that you made.


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