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Author Archives: Alex Kidman

macOS Catalina: New features and problems mean it’s worth waiting

Apple released the latest full version of macOS for its range of desktop and laptop computers recently. It’s a free upgrade to macOS Catalina as long as you’ve got a qualifying iMac, Mac Pro, MacBook, MacBook Air or MacBook Pro model, with the promise of plenty of new features. Most of macOS’ core applications have been given a significant redesign with streamlined workflows. There’s a new feature called “Sidecar” that lets you use any Apple iPad compatible with the Apple Pencil as a secondary display for your Mac.

Those who disliked how bloated iTunes had become over the years can rejoice, because just like it said it would, iTunes is no longer the one-stop shop for your music, video app and iOS device backup needs. Instead, they’re handled by what are essentially ports of their iOS counterparts, except for device backup and syncing, which is handled directly within the Finder. If you’re an iPhone user on a Windows PC, however, iTunes is still where all of those services reside; it’s only on the Mac side of the fence that Apple’s killed off iTunes.

The general sensible advice on any major update like this is to hold off until the bugs are ironed out. That holds true too for macOS Catalina, because despite a public beta period that undoubtedly quashed a number of software problems, there’s still plenty of reports of unusual app behaviour from early macOS Catalina adopters.

Some of these issues are with Apple’s own included apps, but there’s also the prospect of third-party applications misbehaving, at least until their developers patch around or fix issues with those software packages running smoothly on macOS Catalina.

It’s an issue exacerbated by the fact that macOS Catalina drops support for 32-bit apps entirely. That’s a step Apple underwent some time ago for iOS devices, but the Mac’s history of apps with only 32-bit support stretches back even furhter than iOS. If you do run older apps (and especially if you’re already getting the warning that the app will be “unsupported” on future macOS upgrades, you may find that they don’t work at all once you do upgrade.

To further complicate matters, if they have their own uninstallers, you’ll need to run those before you upgrade, because the odds are pretty good that if the core app itself is only 32-bit, then the uninstaller will be too. You could be left with an app you can’t use or in fact even easily remove from your Mac if you’re not careful!

So how can you know if it’s ever going to be safe to upgrade? Thankfully it’s not too tricky to check your Mac for apps that won’t work under macOS Catalina if you’re using the prior version, macOS Mojave.

Open up Spotlight search by pressing command and the space bar, and type in System Information. Press enter, and it will show you the details of your Mac in a new window. Scroll down to the area headed up with “Software” and there should be an entry labelled “Legacy Software”. These are all the apps you’ve currently got on your Mac that won’t work with macOS Catalina.

If there’s nothing there, you’re at least OK from a direct apps support point of view for upgrading. If there’s lots of applications there that you rely on, the smart move will be to at least check if you can get upgrades to 64-bit versions, or find equivalent applications that will fulfill the same purpose.


Microsoft’s new Surface range could show the future of Windows

When Microsoft announced its very first range of Surface laptop computers, it very prominently stated that it wasn’t going into direct competition with hardware partners such as Dell, HP, Lenovo or Acer. Indeed, at the time, such a move would have been very foolhardy for Microsoft, because a huge proportion of its revenue came from the Windows licences attached to machines sold by those firms.

Instead, Microsoft’s stated aim was to show an effective “reference platform” for what a Windows device could be. Surface devices have typically been amongst the most expensive in their class, whether you’re talking the regular Surface tablet that ships sans keyboard, the Surface Book or even the Surface Laptop. They’ve also typically been amongst the best Windows machines you can buy, which was how Microsoft could justify the asking price.

It wasn’t much of a secret that Microsoft had a number of new Surface devices it was planning to launch, and just recently, it did just that. On the slightly more mundane side, it launched the new Microsoft Surface Pro 7, a 12.3 inch Windows 10 tablet device with optional keyboard and Surface Pen accessory to update that line, and the Surface Laptop 3 with either a 13.5 inch or 15” touchscreen in a more traditional laptop form factor. They’ll go on sale in Australia from the 22nd of October, but you’ll need to save your pennies. Even the entry level Surface Pro 7 will set you back $1299, and that’s without the keyboard that I’d consider an essential component of the Surface experience. The Surface Laptop 3 is a little more pricey again, especially as you up the storage and processor specifications.

In any other year, Microsoft might have stopped there. But it didn’t, instead announcing a third device we’ll see this year, as well as offering a tantalising glimpse into the very future of Windows itself.

The Microsoft Surface Pro X is a 13 inch laptop that looks somewhat like the halfway position between the Surface Pro 7 and the Surface Laptop 3, albeit with a much flatter Surface Pen. That’s not the key difference here, though. Where Microsoft’s other Surface devices have tended to use Intel or AMD x86-based processors, the Surface Pro X runs on a Microsoft co-designed, Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with an ARM base. It’s not the first ARM-based Windows 10 laptop, although it’s Microsoft’s first since the Surface RT, which was part of the very first generation of Windows Surface devices.

The difference here is that the underlying software architecture means that some Windows applications won’t compile natively for ARM, especially older 32-bit Windows applications. It’s rather hard to say that older apps will or won’t run, and while that’s a somewhat familiar story with Windows generally the further back in its history you go, it’s especially true for Windows on ARM, because it uses an emulation layer to run any 32-bit app. The big players in the Windows space should work, however.

So why go ARM in the first place? It’s a question of mobility and battery life, with a lighter carrying weight, inbuilt LTE connectivity and up to 13 hours of battery stamina. The Surface Pro X is pitched pretty heavily at the travelling laptop crowd, and it’ll go on sale in Australia in late November. Again, though, it won’t be cheap, with pricing starting at $1699.

That wasn’t all Microsoft had to show off, however, although its last two devices I can’t even give you pricing or specifications for. That’s because the Microsoft Surface Duo and Microsoft Surface Neo won’t go on sale for at least 12 months. Both feature twin screens in folding arrangements. Although unlike devices like the Samsung Galaxy Fold, they don’t use continuous screens, but instead hinges in the middle.

The Surface Duo will be Microsoft’s first phone since it folded its Windows 10 Mobile ambitions, running Android with Microsoft’s own launcher on top. More enticing is the Surface Neo, a full double-screen laptop device. Imagine two screens folding in on each other, and you’ve got the Surface Neo, but with an optional keyboard that can be placed on the bottom screen, either to give you a wide activity bar at the top, or touchpad at the bottom.

Windows 10 will see yet another version when the Surface Neo launches, with Windows 10X its core operating system. It’s being modified to work on the Surface Neo’s unusual structure, although at its core it’s still Windows 10.

Microsoft clearly sees this kind of more modular, heavy-screen based laptop as the future, as it’s indicated that its hardware partners such as Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Asus which will also use Windows 10X. That’s an interesting development in itself. Many of them have toyed with this kind of concept idea in the past, but it’s been hamstrung by lack of actual Windows support, making them a “best fit” kind of hodgepodge device. With a version of Windows built from the ground up with this kind of device in mind, they should be much better overall.

Which raises the question of just how touch-centric Windows can actually get. Microsoft’s been down this path before with Windows 8, which defaulted to a large screen, large icon display that plenty of Windows users absolutely hated. It’s not looking quite that way again, but it’s still got to tread carefully to keep in mind all those Windows users who are used to a more traditional approach to the way Windows works.


Apple updates iOS, but it’s not just all bugfixes

If you’re a user of one of Apple’s very popular iPhone or iPad tablet devices, you’ve probably already been pestered by now to upgrade to the latest version of the underlying operating system Apple uses for its mobile devices.

While technically iOS is now only for iPhones while iPads use iPadOS, there’s an awful lot of code similarity between the two platforms, given that Apple only forked iPadOS off from iOS this year. The iOS/iPadOS upgrade to version 13 brings with it a number of security improvements and bugfixes, but also a number of new features as well.

Which devices can get iOS 13/iPadOS 13?

Apple typically drops a generation of older iOS devices when it releases a new version. The older hardware typically struggles to keep up with the demands of newer, more powerful software, although it’s a picture that’s complicated by the split between iOS and iPadOS this time around.

On the iPhone/iPod Touch side of the fence, you’ll need one of the following handsets:

  • iPhone XS
  • iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone X
  • iPhone 8
  • iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone 7
  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone 6s
  • iPhone 6s Plus
  • iPhone SE
  • iPod touch (7th generation)

If you’ve got one of Apple’s shiny new iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro or iPhone 11 Pro Max handsets, they come with iOS 13 preinstalled.

In order to get iPadOS 13, you’ll need one of the following iPad models:

  • iPad Pro 12.9 (2018)
  • iPad Pro 12.9 (2017)
  • iPad Pro 12.9 (2015)
  • iPad Pro 11 (2018)
  • iPad Pro 10.5 (2017)
  • iPad Pro 9.7 (2016)
  • iPad Air (2019)
  • iPad Air 2
  • iPad (2018)
  • iPad (2017)
  • iPad Mini (2019)
  • iPad Mini 4

If your iPhone or iPad isn’t on that list, then you won’t be able to install iOS 13. Indeed, you won’t even be prompted to. As always, you can check if your iOS/iPadOS software is up to date by opening up the Settings app, tapping General, then tapping Software Update. If there’s an available update, be it a point security update or full number update, your device will check for it and update accordingly. It’s wise to do so over Wi-Fi rather than mobile data, simply due to the costs of downloading those updates.

So what can I actually do?

So what’s actually new in iOS 13/iPadOS 13? Honestly far too much for just one article, but to start here’s a few headline features and tips you may want to try.

There’s a new dark mode option you’ll be offered when you upgrade — or by heading to Settings, then Display & Brightness — that turns most (but not all) interfaces dark, which may be easier on your eyes, especially late at night. Apple’s also debuting its Apple Arcade subscription gaming service for iOS/iPadOS devices with version 13. That may or may not appeal, but at least a free trial is available.

There’s also native support for swiping style keyboard entry. You’ve been able to install third party swipe keyboards for some time now, but it’s now a native feature. If you’re keen, you can enable that by heading to the Settings app, then General, then Keyboards, and then switching “Slide to Type” to the green “On” position.

If you’re the private type — or you just hate spam callers — you can now silence them automatically on your iPhone. Head to Settings, then Phone, and turn on “Silence Unknown Callers”. Anyone not in your existing contacts list will still be able to call, but they’ll automatically be muted, rather than disturbing your day. They can leave a voicemail message, which means you can deal with them at your own pace — or ignore them completely depending on the nature of the call.

Apple’s also expanded the role that its voice assistant Siri plays in iOS 13, with a new Shortcuts app that makes it easier to set up custom voice commands or even full automated actions, such as playing a song when you get home, or switching on Bluetooth when you leave home to sync to your car, for example. Apple’s new Shortcuts app really does make this quite simple with a guided interface that shows you what’s possible with just a few taps.

If you take a lot of photos or video with your iPhone or iPad, you should also check out the new editing tools built right into the photos app. It’s not quite professional grade editing, but for the everyday user it’s quite powerful, with easy ways to automatically punch up the quality of your pictures, or even do some quite fine-grained editing and correcting. As just one example, it’s now feasible to rotate videos you’ve shot within the photos app, which corrects (to an extent) if you’ve accidentally started recording video in portrait mode when you wanted a landscape shot, or vice versa.


How much battery life is “enough”?

If you’re a notebook user, there’s nothing worse than that alert that comes up to let you know that your battery is running low. Depending on your circumstances, it may be a long while before you can plug back into a power source and top up your battery.

I recently had the chance to very briefly check out one of HP’s upcoming business-centric laptops, the HP Elite Dragonfly. It’s a pro-grade notebook with an accent on portability, with select models weighing in at under 1kg. Given it’s sporting a 13.3 inch display, that’s no mean feat.

Thin and light is great if you’re on the go all the time, because even a moderate weight notebook can become a serious drag on your shoulders and back if you have to lug it around all day. There’s a trade-off there, however, because one of the primary ways that you cut weight on any portable tech device is by limiting battery capacity. Batteries are heavy, and if you want lots of battery life something has to give.

Here HP’s done some clever work, with two available models of the HP Elite Dragonfly. The “ultralight” model is the under-1kg version (albeit that it’s 990gram, so only just) with a claimed battery life of up to 16.5 hours, while a heavier version – HP wouldn’t tell me quite how heavy – will run for up to 24.5 hours. Either model uses a sealed battery, however, so you can’t swap them out to meet your needs in the moment.

Now, those are “up to” figures, so they’re always worth taking with a grain of salt. Do a lot of heavy duty video editing on an Elite Dragonfly and I’d be willing to bet you’d see less battery life, but it’s still a pretty remarkable claim for such a thin and light laptop. We’re not that far removed from a period where “all-day” battery life claims made by manufacturers used to think of a “day” as being a working day, suggesting that around 8 hours was an ideal figure.

Sure, the nature of work has changed with many of us doing more than an ordinary 9 to 5 trawl, but even then those were 8 hour figures at best, and often less. For a mobile workforce, that’s far less than optimal. You probably shouldn’t work flat out for 24.5 hours either, but the idea there is much more that you can confidently work through your day, and if power isn’t to hand at night it’s not necessarily going to be a big issue for the next day.

The HP Elite Dragonfly is a premium model notebook pitched at the business crowd with a range of Intel Core 8th generation processors on board, as well as HP’s enterprise software which can include some very smart AI-driven malware detection software. From my brief hands-on it’s very well built, and I was quite taken by the keyboard, which has plenty of travel movement but isn’t terribly noisy in real world use. If you’re interested in the Elite Dragonfly, you can see more of my impressions on YouTube here. It’ll go on sale in Australia from November with pricing starting at $2,699.

If you are stuck in that dread situation of a rapidly dying battery on your existing notebook, by the way, there are a few tricks you can try. Muting your audio, dimming your screen and disabling any radios – Bluetooth, WiFi may help you eke out just a little more power. Closing any apps you’re not using is also wise in this situation, as is dropping any browser tabs you don’t need. You can’t quite get a laptop that will last forever that way – but you just might get enough usage to see you through your immediate task at hand.


Apple’s sweetening its TV deal for hardware buyers

The launch of the Apple iPhone 11 was, not surprisingly, mostly about the iPhone 11. Well, to be strict, it was about the iPhone 11, which is the entry level model, the iPhone 11 Pro, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

However, iPhones weren’t the only topics of Apple’s heavy-handed hype at its recent launch event. It also announced a new iPad model, its subscription-based Apple Arcade service and its own play in the streaming media space, Apple TV+.

Now, in some ways it’s playing in exactly the same turf as services such as Netflix, Stan or Amazon Prime Video, but there are some key differences.

Apple has spent up big on just a few TV and movie productions, with the plan to release new “originals” productions each month featuring big name stars. At its launch event it showed off a trailer for a new Apple TV+ series “See”, starring Jason Momoa of Aquaman fame, for example. Most streaming services offer up a wide smorgasbord of content, but Apple’s approach is going to be significantly smaller and more curated.

Apple’s plan for Apple TV+ involves launching with just 9 available titles, and even then it plans to release most series in a style reminiscent of broadcast tv. Most series will release just one episode a week, in order to keep you hooked. In an era where many viewers are highly accustomed to binge-watching an entire series over a weekend, it’ll be interesting to see how consumers take to that approach.

The smaller curated library of Apple TV+ is no doubt why Apple is pricing it very competitively with the rest of the streaming field, at just $7.99 per month when it launches in Australia on the 1st of November.

There’s no higher tier for 4K streaming, as it will support whatever quality it can manage based on the speed of your internet connection, for up to 6 “family members”. Apple hasn’t really commented on how it will police how you declare those 6 family members, either. It will also support “offline” playback, where you download full shows or movies to your device of choice for watching when you don’t have an internet connection, such as when you might be on an international flight.

Where competitors tend to offer up 30 day trials, Apple will offer just a 7 day trial, which would presumably mean maybe only 2 episodes of a new series to check out whether it makes sense for you to subscribe. However, there’s a very large bonus deal for that pricing if you’re already in the market for just about any new Apple gear. If you purchase a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPod touch or Mac from Apple from now, you’ll qualify for a year’s worth of Apple TV+ for nothing. The cynical side of me reckons that’s an easy way to drive up the numbers of “subscribers” early, but at the same time, a free subscription isn’t to be sneezed at if you were looking to buy a new Mac or update your iPhone anyway.

The one big downside of the huge variety of streaming subscription services is that subscribing to all of them can get very expensive rapidly. You can always pick and choose based on the content you want to watch, and given Apple TV+’s rather selective catalog, that might be the wisest way to approach it if you don’t qualify for the free year’s access.


Samsung’s Galaxy Fold is surprisingly fun, but not cheap

At the IFA trade show in Berlin, I had the opportunity to go hands-on with Samsung’s new Galaxy Fold. Not for quite long enough to write a full review, given I had 45 minutes, but enough time to run through its major features, as well as to spot some of its less than stellar compromises.

The Samsung Galaxy Fold is a phone/tablet hybrid that Samsung was going to launch in Australia by mid-year. Then, just prior to its US launch, reviewers noticed significant durability issues with dust getting in and what appeared to be a screen protector but was actually part of the actual screen being accidentally peeled off. Samsung cancelled those launch plans and went back to the drawing board, and it’s the revised unit I had the chance to check out.

The Galaxy Fold’s primary selling point is in its name. It’s a foldable phone with quite a small 4.6 inch external display that folds outwards to reveal a much larger 7.6 inch internal display.

By itself, that’s a nice large size to browse web pages or scroll through your photos, but it’s in the way Samsung’s addressed that larger screen that it gets some genuine productivity boosts.

You can run 3 apps on the display — one larger and two smaller apps — so it’s feasible to research on a web page while having, say, YouTube videos running and a copy of your calendar onscreen all at the same time.

When you’re done, you fold it up into a smaller device that pretty easily slips into your pocket – although it is a little tall when you do so. Whatever the primary app you had open will display on the outside screen.

It’s also surprisingly satisfying to simply fold and unfold it. The engineering feels solid, and while it makes for a thicker phone than any other flagship these days, I spent a lot of my test time simply opening and closing it up.

There are some significant catches, however. The folding mechanism leaves a visible “crease” in the display, and it’s one that you can feel when you run your finger across it. Where most flagships use Corning’s Gorilla Glass for durability and scratch resistance, the need to fold the Fold’s screen means that it uses a plastic display that may have some scratch issues. Samsung wasn’t keen on the idea of me “experimentally” running my keys across it, so I politely didn’t try.

The external screen isn’t all that big, but it’s surrounded by a very significant body frame. Given Samsung’s work in providing full-screen standard smartphones, it felt weird that the Galaxy Fold doesn’t follow suit with a larger external display.

Foldable devices have been a big theme in mobility this year, but we’re still in the first generation of them. Samsung’s started selling the Galaxy Fold in South Korea, but there’s not an announced timeframe for when we’ll be able to buy one in Australia. What we do know is that it won’t be cheap. Based on existing pricing, it’s likely to come in at around $3,000 outright. That’ll be for a 4G model, too. Samsung is making the Galaxy Fold in a 5G variant, but Samsung representatives told me that we’ll only see the 4G model in Australia.

The Galaxy Fold is fun to open and close, and I can see the productivity benefits of the way it handles multiple apps at once, but that price means it’s really only likely to be a device for very few people.


Wi-Fi 6 aims to make your Internet connection quicker

We’ve seen a steady increase in the capabilities of Wi-Fi over the past decade, along with a dizzying array of acronyms to go with it. If you’re au fait with the difference between, say, 802.11b and 802.11n, that’s fine — but very few folks actually are.

That’s also coincided with an immense growth in the number of devices the typical household has which rely on Wi-Fi connectivity. While the first big push for Wi-Fi came courtesy of Intel and was pitched towards the laptops of the day, these days we’re hooking up phones, tablets, games consoles, televisions and even light bulbs to our home Wi-Fi networks. That means we’re more reliant on it than ever before, but also fighting for limited resources when it comes to sharing around that precious signal. It’s a super-common complaint that your Wi-Fi in one room or another in the house is terrible, or that somebody’s hogging it all to stream video or play data-intensive games.

The latest standard in Wi-Fi aims to resolve many of these woes, including the confusion around standards naming. While it’s technically 802.11ax, what you’ll see it marketed as is the more easy to grasp “Wi-Fi 6”. Understanding that there was significant jargon confusion, the underlying standards group for Wi-Fi certification settled on Wi-Fi 6 on the not ridiculous basis that it’s the 6th generation of standards since the original 802.11.

It’s even backdating the principle, so that you may see some 802.11ac routers — that’s the standard that Wi-Fi 6 upgrades from — sold as “Wi-Fi 5” devices.

One of the key features that Wi-Fi 6 should bring is more speed, although how much will depend on a variety of factors. By specifications standards, Wi-Fi 6 should be around 30% faster than Wi-Fi 5, with a top end speed of some 10Gbps. That’s way faster than you can get any home internet connection in any case, although you won’t see Wi-Fi 6 routers with that kind of speed for some time.

Because it’s a wireless standard, you’ll also still have the issues of interference to contend with, although some of the specifications around Wi-Fi 6 should mitigate those in ways that earlier standards cannot. Without getting into the jargon weeds too heavily, Wi-Fi 6 is a highly efficient standard that should be able to fling data around at higher rates to more devices than existing routers.

There’s a couple of catches, however. For a start, you’re going to need a new router, and the first wave of Wi-Fi 6 routers will be high-end devices with price points to match. Most of us tend to stick with the router supplied by our ISP, and they’re almost always the cheapest possible option the ISP can get away with. Don’t expect a Wi-Fi 6 router from your ISP any time soon.

To make the absolute most of Wi-Fi 6 you’ll also need fully compatible devices for it to talk to. So far, that’s limited to a few Samsung phones, but that’s for full speed Wi-Fi 6. It’s still compatible with every other Wi-Fi device out there, but not at the full speed it’s capable of. At the least, Wi-Fi 6’s ability to serve more clients concurrently should assist with those older devices.

Finally, of course, while it’s highly efficient for pinging packets around your home network, you’re still going to be limited by the speed of the broadband connection coming into your home or premises. If you’re limited on a slow NBN connection, a faster router won’t change that, because it can’t do anything about the data pipe feeding into it at all.


Disney+ makes your streaming choices even more complicated

It doesn’t feel like all that long ago that my viewing choices for the evening comprised just two channels. I grew up in regional NSW, and I could pick from the local regional commercial channel, or the ABC. Programs were on, and then they weren’t.

If I missed a program, too bad. My best bet was to scour the TV guide in the paper and set the VHS recorder appropriately, with a little bit of “grace time” around the recording for if it was running late.

Those days are long gone. These days, when I sit down in front of a TV, computer, games console or even just a mobile phone, I’m bombarded with an array of on-demand choices, many of which are advertising-free and don’t care a jot about when I might want to watch something.

All I really need is a reasonably stable, and preferably quick — at least by the terrible standards of Australian broadband, anyway — Internet connection, and I can binge on anything from Netflix, Stan, ABC iView, 10 All Access, Foxtel Now, Kayo or any other service I might care to sign up for. And that’s not even counting the billions of minutes of content added to YouTube on a daily basis — although there the quality can vary astonishingly.

It’s been known for a while that Disney was gearing up to launch its own media streaming service, called Disney+ in the USA towards the end of the year. Right now, Disney has a content deal with Channel 9’s Stan service that sees much of its content on that streaming platform. Most folks — myself included — figured that Stan would keep those rights for a few years until Disney+ was ready to launch into Australia.

It turns out that the House of Mouse had different ideas. Disney+ will launch in Australia on 19 November 2019, and surprisingly for a company that loves money so much, it’s going in pretty cheap. A months’ access to Disney+ will cost $8.99. There’s also an annual subscription option at $89.99 per year, which bumps the monthly cost down to $7.49.

Those are the only two pricing tiers available, but that will score you content at up to 4K resolution, as long as your broadband’s up for it, with up to four simultaneous streams — again if you’ve got the bandwidth for it — and seven different profiles to cover most family needs.

Disney+ will offer up a range of classic Disney titles, plus a lot of content specifically created just for streaming, including a new Star Wars series, The Mandalorian, that will debut with the service when it launches. The trailer for that one is pretty sweet if you’re a Star Wars fan.

Now, Disney’s not exactly being altruistic here. It knows it’s got a big target to take down globally, with Netflix being more or less the “default” streaming service of choice for most consumers. Netflix’s pricing is a little higher, and it charges more if you want more simultaneous streams or 4K access.

Like Netflix, Disney’s offering up unique content to try to tempt folks into its service, but it does create something of a challenge for folks on a more constrained budget. The typical price for a streaming service (excluding Foxtel) is around $10 per month, but between Netflix, Disney+, Stan, Kayo, 10 All Access and plentiful niche services offering everything from Japanese animation to professional wrestling content, you could easily spend north of $100 a month if you wanted to watch “everything”.

Mind you, you don’t have to. Most of these services rely on the idea that you’ll sign up and stay signed up, but you’re not contractually obliged beyond your typical 30 days, so the really smart move is to line up your viewing with the programs you most want to see becoming available.

Keen on a new show landing on Netflix? Subscribe for a month, watch that and as much other Netflix content as you can manage, and then pause your subscription. Maybe flick over to Disney+ if it compels, or Kayo if you like your sports, or whatever.

If you carefully manage your subscriptions, you can still watch just about everything without paying for access to everything all at once. After all, while there’s many new streaming services, you’re only going to be looking at it through one set of eyes.


Microsoft’s latest Surface update causes its laptops to sink

Generally speaking, when there’s an important update for your notebook, it’s a decent idea to install it. It may not be an update that makes an immediate obvious new feature available. Instead it may work behind the scenes to add layers of security, fix bugs or improve general performance.

It’s why for the most part across both Windows and MacOS, you’re prompted to update when new upgrades are available. Both Apple and Microsoft are all too aware that functionally speaking, most of us don’t want to fuss with manually installing updates. Left to our own devices, we’re quite likely to skip out on an update. Typically you sit down at your computer to do something, and don’t want to wait while it downloads and updates itself.

Letting your PC handle those updates is a good middle ground. For many it can work very well, with scheduled updates running overnight while you sleep or at other convenient times.

Except of course when it doesn’t.

Alongside the Windows operating system, Microsoft also sells its own range of Surface-branded laptops and 2-in-1 devices.

A recent update for Surface devices, however, appears to have gone quite awry. Specifically, Microsoft recently put out a firmware update for Surface Pro 6 devices. That’s a hardware-level software upgrade designed to fix bugs and optimise performance, with the most recent update looking to improve Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity specifically.

At least in theory. What’s been widely reported is that the update is heavily throttling the main CPU performance.

In simple terms, it’s putting a serious brake on how fast the underlying processor can run, which means it can pull a top-end Surface Pro 6 to a near halt. The issue appears to be in the code that runs between the processor and external components.

It’s code that’s designed to pull the CPU speed down just a touch if other components are raising overall system temperature. That’s an ideal scenario, because it should optimise performance, but it appears in this case it’s kicking heavily into gear for no actual reason.

Microsoft, for its part, is reported as saying that it’s looking into the issue and that it’s working to quickly address the issue via an updated firmware patch.

Now, you might not have a Surface device to speak of, but it’s a good demonstration of how software updates are a tricky balancing act.

On the one hand, you shouldn’t ignore them. There’s important security updates in many at a minimum, alongside potential performance boosts that could give your PC a little extra grunt. Just like having decent Anti-Virus/Anti-Malware software, they’re a necessary part of keeping your PC in the best possible shape.

On the other hand, it’s not always wise to jump in straight away with every single update unless it’s specifically flagged as a critical update. Those address flaws that might affect you right away, and it doesn’t appear that this firmware update was of that type. Waiting for the dust to settle and the bugs to be ironed out can be a smart move too.

If you’re reading this on a Mac, by the way, the same advice is true too. We’re not that far away from when the next major upgrade of macOS, known as macOS Catalina, is going to be heavily pushed to your iMac, MacBook Pro or MacBook Air.

While Apple’s been beavering away at any bugs in that code, and you’ll no doubt be prompted to upgrade when it’s available, jumping in straight away may not be your best bet.


Samsung and Microsoft team up for the Galaxy Note10

Samsung has long pitched its “Note” line of larger smartphones as being perfect for folks with a productivity focus for their smartphone work. A few years ago, it introduced a specific desktop dock for its Note and Galaxy S class phones, the DeX dock.

Drop a qualifying Samsung phone into a DeX dock, and what you get isn’t the standard Android environment, but instead a phone that can connect to an external keyboard, mouse and monitor for an experience that’s closer to Windows than it is to just about anything else.

Samsung’s newest phone, the Samsung Galaxy Note10 is, of course DeX compatible, but Samsung had a little more than just simple desktop interfaces to boast about for its latest line of productivity mobile phones.

Samsung also pulled Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella up on stage to talk about Microsoft’s collaboration with Samsung for the Note10, and how it’ll work with Microsoft applications more closely than before.

Like Note devices before it, the Galaxy Note10 comes with its own stylus, which Samsung calls the “S-Pen”. This year’s model can work with gestures away from the phone itself, which could be used to (for example) run a powerpoint presentation sitting in an Office 365 account linked to the phone. It can take handwriting from the screen, convert it into text and drop it into a word document.

Where previous Notes needed a specific DeX dock, Samsung says that the Note10 will be able to connect up with just a USB C cable. Mind you, that’s the only cable you can connect to the Note10, as it’s Samsung’s first smartphone to lack a proper 3.5mm headphone jack.

Not that all this comes at a particularly low price point if you are productivity focused. The entry level Samsung Galaxy Note10 will cost $1,499, while the larger screened Note10+ will run you $1699, and the 5G-capable Note10+ will set you back a hefty $1,999. They’ll all be available in Australia from the 23rd of August.

Now, that’s a fair amount to pay for a phone, and it’s easily within the price point of many laptops. Samsung does make laptops, but it hasn’t sold them in Australia for some years now, citing the heavy competition in the local market and razor-thin profit margins as the reason why.

Samsung surprised many — myself included — when it unveiled a new laptop at its Note10 launch. The Galaxy Book S is a 13.3 inch laptop running Windows 10 Home on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx processor. It’s LTE capable and Samsung says it can run for up to 23 hours on a single charge. That’ll be down to the Qualcomm processor rather than one of Intel’s new Ice Lake CPUS; you’ll get more battery life but most likely a less nimble machine in processing terms as a result.

Surprisingly, it’s a laptop that Samsung says it will launch here in Australia, although it hasn’t committed to a timeframe or price point just yet. In the US, pricing will start at $US999, which should see it land here somewhere around $1500-$1600, depending on the exchange rate and applicable GST issues. Microsoft’s selling the Galaxy Book S in its US stores, so we’ll probably see it here in Microsoft’s online store as well.

Or in other words, it’s a choice. The Note10 is much smaller and more mobile, but doesn’t have that full keyboard all the time, and it’s in the premium price space for a smartphone. That’s true too of the Galaxy Book S, where it competes with the likes of Dell, HP, Apple and Acer for your computing dollar.


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