February 13, 2017 brianradio2016

Lenovo doesn’t always get things right, but when they go well, they can go very well indeed. The 13.3-inch Yoga 900, which launched late in 2015, was a superb machine — portable, powerful and good looking. Its ‘watchband’ hinge, with 813 separate components for 360-degree screen rotation, has become a trademark of the series.

The follow-up 12.5-inch Yoga 900S appeared in the middle of last year, combining spec upgrades with a smaller, slimmer, lighter (999g) shell, and again earned plaudits.

Now Lenovo has followed up with the 13.9-inch Yoga 910, which retains key features of earlier models, while updating for the latest specifications. It doesn’t come cheap. The starting price of £1,299.99 (inc. VAT; £1,083.32 ex. VAT) — or $1,199 in the US and €1,499 in Europe — rises to a massive £1,749.99 (inc. VAT; £1,458.32 ex. VAT) for the top-of-the-range model.

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With a 13.9-inch screen, the Yoga 910 has the biggest display seen so far in the Yoga 9xx series of convertible laptops.

Images: Lenovo

Physically the Lenovo Yoga 910 is immediately recognisable as part of its series. The watchband hinge is the key design cue: it allows the screen to be rotated through a full 360 degrees for working in a range of different modes, and is solid enough to hold the screen steady in any position. I was sent a grey model to review. This should suit an office environment; if you like a more ‘blingy’ look, you can go for silver or champagne gold options.

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Lenovo’s intricate but effective ‘watchband’ hinge is a defining feature of the Yoga 9xx series.

Image: Lenovo

The all metal unibody chassis is pretty tough. There is some flex in the lid section and around the wrist rest area, but I’d be happy stowing this laptop in a backpack without a sleeve in terms of protecting the innards. However the outer chassis may well be prone to scratching if it isn’t covered in transit.

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The Yoga 910 is available in Platinum Silver, Champagne Gold, and Gunmetal Grey.

Image: Lenovo

The Yoga 910 doesn’t continue the 900S trend towards smaller, lighter devices. Its measurements of 323mm by 224.5mm by 14.3mm and starting weight of 1.4kg are significantly bigger and heftier than the Yoga 900S. In size terms it’s closer to the Yoga 900, despite packing in a larger screen.

Size Weight Screen
Yoga 910 323 x 224.5 x 14.3mm 1.4kg 13.9 inch
Yoga 900S 305 x 208 x 12.8mm 0.999kg 12.5 inch
Yoga 900 324 x 225 x 14.9mm 1.29kg 13.3 inch

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The upshot is a laptop that’s on the weighty side for an ultra-slim model, and too heavy for this user to hold in one hand in tablet mode for any length of time.

Still, Lenovo says that the Yoga 910 is the “world’s thinnest Core i convertible”, with a smallprint explanation that this claim is “Based on Lenovo’s internal analysis as of Aug. 25, 2016 of 13-inch or greater 2-in-1 convertible laptops using Windows sold by major competitors shipping >1 million units worldwide annually; measured with keyboard attached in closed position.”

The screen is a thing of beauty. While not all variants of this laptop offer a touchscreen, they all have a 13.9-inch IPS 3,840-by-2,160 (4K) display that’s impressively sharp and bright. Colours pop out, and video in particular looks superb.

A miniscule 4mm bezel along the short and top edges has allowed Lenovo to cram this relatively large display into the chassis. As Dell’s adventures with the 13.3-inch XPS 13 show, minimalist bezels make for a superb user experience. My touchscreen model was responsive too, so I had no trouble working in modes with the keyboard hidden.

The screen is very reflective, though, which won’t go down well with every user. And there’s another issue: just as Dell did with the XPS 13, Lenovo has had to relocate the webcam from its usual central position, above the display, because there simply isn’t room for it to sit inside the tiny bezel.

Dell put its camera in the bottom left corner of the screen, requiring a bit of readjustment to ensure a central view; Lenovo has positioned the camera in the middle of the large (29mm) bezel below the screen. I found it easier to sit with my face central to the screen, but the low-down position gave a somewhat unflattering ‘up the nostrils’ view when I was working in laptop mode, which is not ideal. Video chats made with the Yoga 910 in ‘tent’ mode are better as they effectively invert the screen so that the camera sits above it.

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The Yoga 910’s keyboard is backlit and delivers a comfortable typing experience. Note the position of the webcam, beneath the screen.

Image: Lenovo

The backlit keyboard is well sized and comfortable to type on. There’s no flex, and I was quite happy typing at normal touch-typing speed. My grumble here isn’t with usability for typed input, but that the keyboard doesn’t lock when the Yoga 910 is flipped into tablet mode. This is not unusual, but I do feel that keys are vulnerable to undue pressure as the device is gripped in tablet mode, and would much prefer key retraction and/or lock in this mode.

The touchpad is wide enough to carry the cursor right across the screen with space to spare. It is responsive and smooth under the fingers.

My only gripe is that there’s no visual cue when the touchpad is disabled via a Fn key. I’d like a light on the pad or the Fn key to let me know I’ve intentionally put the touchpad out of commission. On a couple of occasions I stabbed at the pad thinking it was broken, when it was simply disabled.

There’s a fingerprint reader on the far right of the wrist rest for those who want to use biometric authentication. This is a new addition to the Yoga 9xx range and is the only way to log in via Windows Hello — face recognition via the camera isn’t supported.

There are multiple variants of the Lenovo Yoga 910 on sale at the Lenovo website as I write. The least expensive model comes in at

£1,299.99 (inc. VAT) and sports a 2.5GHz Intel Core i5 7200U processor, 8GB of RAM, Windows 10 Home, a 13.9-inch 3,840-by-2160 non-touch screen and a 256GB SSD.

Stepping through configuration options and choices between silver, champagne gold and grey models eventually leads to the eye-watering £1,749.99 (inc. VAT) configuration. This has a 2.7GHz Intel Core i7 7500U processor with 16GB RAM. It still runs Windows 10 Home, has the same 13.9-inch 3,840-by-2160 screen (again without touch support), Intel HD Graphics and a 512GB SSD.

A range of models do support a touchscreen, and this includes the £1,549.99 (inc. VAT; £1,291.66 ex. VAT) Core i7 7500U system with 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD.

Touchscreen variants only seem to be available off the shelf with 8GB of RAM installed, whereas my touch-screen-equipped review sample had 16GB, along with the top-end Intel Core i7 7500U processor and a 512GB SSD. In effect, then, my review sample was a touchscreen version of the most expensive model available currently online. Other variations are also available on request, including up to 1GB of SSD storage.

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The Yoga 910 has two USB-C ports (one with charging, one with video-out), a USB 3.0 port (with always-on charging) and an audio combo jack. There’s no SD card slot though.

Image: Lenovo

Connections are far from plentiful. There are two USB-C ports, one of which doubles as the charge connector, while the other supports video-out. A USB 3.0 port and an audio jack complete the set.

Twin speakers deliver plenty of volume but — as so often on laptops — lack rich bass tones. Still, they should be fine for videoconferencing and presentations to small groups, and also for some entertainment workloads too.

According to Lenovo, my Yoga 910 review unit is good for 10.5 hours of battery life, and it should certainly get you through an average 8-hour working day. With the screen set to 75 percent brightness rather than the rather lacklustre 40 percent that’s the default on battery power, one three-hour test period under moderate workloads — web browsing, writing and media streaming, with wi-fi always on — saw the battery deplete from 100 percent to 75 percent.

Conclusions

The Yoga 910 is a step forward for Lenovo’s versatile Yoga line. It doesn’t do what the 900S did and downsize, but instead manages to fit a 13.9-inch screen in a chassis that’s almost the same size as the 13.3-inch Yoga 900 — albeit with some weight gain.

The superb screen and all-day battery life are real plus points. Note, though, that you’ll pay handsomely for a top-end spec.

Read more reviews

February 13, 2017 brianradio2016

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If you’re looking for a sub-$500 Chromebook with Android support, Samsung’s new Chromebook Plus might be the device for you.

Must read: Apple won’t do what’s needed to save the iPad

The Chromebook Plus was, along with a Pro version, unveiled at CES 2017 back in January, and Samsung has made good on its promise to get the Plus out in early February (the Pro version has a preliminary release date of early spring and a price tag of $549).

And for a $450 price tag, the Samsung Chromebook Plus features impressive hardware specifications:

  • 2.0 GHz Hexa-core (dual ARM Cortex-A72, quad Cortex-A53 big.LITTLE configuration)
  • 12.3-inch 2400 x 1600 LED display with a pixel density of 234 pixels-per-inch (higher pixel density than Apple’s MacBook Pro)
  • 360-degree rotating display
  • Built-in pen
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 32 GB eMMC storage
  • Spill-resistant keyboard
  • 2 x USB-C ports
  • microSD slot
  • 720p webcam
  • 5140 mAh lithium ion battery
  • TPM support

So, should you go for the Plus or wait for the Pro to come out later this year?

The biggest difference between the Plus and the Pro is processor and storage — the Pro will be equipped with an Intel Core m3 processor and come with 32 gigabytes of storage. If you feel you need more horsepower and more local storage, the $100 is a small premium to pay. However, for most users the Plus is likely to be all the Chromebook they need.

The Samsung Chromebook Plus is available directly from Samsung as well as other retailers.

See also:

It’s inevitable: Samsung will build a phone with a foldable display:

February 13, 2017 brianradio2016

Now is the winter of our discontent. While the Bard may have been taking liberties with King Richard’s story, today’s modern-day bards — the bloggers and pundits who need to write for clicks — are in the long, slow period of winter when there’s no Apple news.

What’s a tech journalist to do when there’s no Apple news? Apple rumors, of course. And the biggest rumor right now is that the iPhone 8 will have wireless charging.

The Internet of Things

10 types of enterprise deployments

10 types of enterprise deployments

As businesses continue to experiment with the Internet of Things, interesting use cases are emerging. Here are some of the most common ways IoT is deployed in the enterprise.

Now, I’ve heard rumors ranging from a huge price increase to additional insulation so the heat of the charging doesn’t fry the screen, all the way to a claim that Apple will charge phones simply by bringing them into the same room as a charger. This second technique is called the iRadiation and will almost definitely render you unable to have kids.

Rumors notwithstanding, it’s possible to add wireless charging to your iPhone right now. I’ve had wireless charging on my iPhone 6s Plus for the past 18 months (no, I never bothered upgrading it, even though I’m on the iPhone Upgrade Program).

It’s easy and pretty inexpensive to make work. There are a few gotchas. First, I’ll show you what I’m doing, and then I’ll leave you with a few cautions.

How to make it work

Qi is a standard put forth by the Wireless Power Consortium, and it’s the most common of the inductive charging approaches on the market.

You’ll want to use a Qi-compatible charger and receiver. You’ll also want a case with a tiny bit of flex, so that the very thin receiver can fit inside it.

Eighteen months ago, I ordered the QIVV Qi Wireless Charging Receiver for $12.99 from Amazon. It’s now a buck cheaper. There was no specific reason I bought this model except that it had a few more reviews. Once you get it, you’ll plug it into your lightning port and secure it (I just taped it) to the back of your phone. Here’s mine:

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The receiver I linked to above comes in a bundle with a charger for another four bucks. I haven’t tested that charger, but you might want to skip it. Back when I first set up my phone, I did a series of tests with a bunch of wireless chargers and many of them produced a lot of heat on the phone and had inconsistent charging.

By far, the most consistent performer was the $19.99 Anker Ultra-Slim Wireless Charging Pad. It was both the best performer in terms of temperature and consistent charging.

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Unfortunately, it’s no longer available. Anchor has a new device, the Anker Wireless Charger PowerPort Qi Wireless Charging Pad, which is six bucks cheaper than the one I have. You might want to give it a try.

Finally, you can choose from many different cases. The one I use (and haven’t changed, since I really like it) is the UAG Composite Case. There’s nothing uniquely special about it, except it does protect the phone rather well, fits my hand nicely, and I like the workmanlike color.

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Wireless charging and your iPhone

There are a few things you should know before you add wireless charging to your iPhone. First, I only did heat tests on an iPhone 6s Plus. I don’t know how the iPhone 7 will perform.

That’s a lead-in to the big issue: inductive charging causes the phone to heat up. As I noted in my tests, the increases in temperature can range from a few degrees to quite a jump. The back of the phone is often warm (and on some of those chargers, was hot) when removing it from the charger.

Heat can damage the iPhone. I’ve found that my phone makes a dinging sound after a little while. I’ve taken that to mean it’s time to take the phone off the charger, even if the phone isn’t fully charged.

Wireless charging isn’t a speed demon. It can take a relatively long time (4 to 6 hours) to charge a totally empty phone.

If you decide to go with wireless charging, you’ll need to be aware of these limitations, and decide if they mesh well with your working lifestyle. In my case, the phone holds a charge well, so each evening I drop the phone on the charger for a couple of hours. It charges quite nicely. Your mileage may vary.

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.


VIDEO: Move photos from your iPhone to Windows 10

February 13, 2017 brianradio2016

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With this matte-black iPhone, the paint first bubbled and then flaked off.

Image: Phirsisch/Apple

A growing number of iPhone 7 owners are complaining that flecks of paint are falling off the matte-black model, despite using protective covers.

The iPhone 7 may be water- and dust-resistant but Apple makes no promises about the surface, having warned buyers from the outset that the glossy jet-black iPhone was prone to “micro-abrasions”.

However, it’s the matte-black iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models that are attracting complaints due to paint inexplicably flaking off the edges and on the back of these.

A thread on Apple’s Support Communities now has several photos illustrating the blemishes.

“The paint at the back of the iPhone started to chip off very heavily,” one user reported on Friday. “First there were some bubbles building up and then when I put the iPhone on a table the paint chipped off completely.”

One iPhone 7 owner claimed to have covered the device with a protective case, but noticed recently that paint around the volume button had chipped off.

Others report paint flaking off around the speaker grill. There are currently more reports of iPhone 7 Plus models with paint issues.

A number of people say Apple is not covering this type of damage under warranty, since it is cosmetic. However, some report having received replacement devices due to the issue.

The paint issues with the matte-black iPhone 7 are reminiscent of complaints about the black iPhone 5, whose aluminum back was far more prone to scratching than the iPhone 4, which had a glass back. Apple’s VP of marketing Phil Schiller at the time said this scratching was to be expected from an aluminum cover.

As Macrumors notes, there were some complaints about paint unexpectedly flaking off some models of the iPhone 6 and 6s, although there appear to be more complaints about the matte-black iPhone 7.

Read more about Apple’s iPhone

February 13, 2017 brianradio2016

We are at the point where computers and machines are no longer going to be simply tools. Computers are becoming, literally, part of us.

“There are a couple of very interesting things happening as we speak facilitating humans and machines working together in a very different way,” said Justin Sanchez, director of the Biological Technologies Office at DARPA.

Smart exoskeletons help people with paralysis walk again, give soldiers extra strength and endurance, and implanted computer chips help the blind see again or help others feel a sense of touch in a prosthetic foot.

It might not be a sci-fi vision of cyborgs, but a near future where soldiers might have implanted chips that help them communicate in the battlefield or receive information from GPS systems or drones.

February 13, 2017 brianradio2016

As the annual RSA Security Conference kicks off this week, thousands of security professionals, IT managers, and senior executives will converge on San Francisco to discuss the latest trends and to share approaches that work. But don’t look to the stage for insights in the latest security issues.

The conference team starts working on sessions programming in the summer and fall, before many of the biggest security events of 2016 emerged, including the rise of the Mirai botnet, the disruptive attack against Dyn, allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, and Yahoo’s two megabreaches. While there are scheduled sessions about the security of the internet of things (especially connected cars) and nation-state attacks, the bulk of the conversations will be about the mundane security issues IT regularly deals with: social engineering, sophisticated malware, challenges of managing a sprawling network, and others.

Not being cutting-edge may be a good thing. The RSA Conference is considered the biggest security trade conference, but its focus has always been about securing enterprise data and networks and helping people work and live more securely online. Black Hat and DEFCON, by contrast, are the conferences where hackers show off how to break stuff.

Attacks succeed when enterprises fail to get the basics right. When software is left unpatched or administrator passwords are easily guessable, then there’s no need to get distracted by the latest, sophisticated attack. Look at embedded and legacy systems still running Windows XP instead, or examine how cloud security assessments should be performed.

February 13, 2017 brianradio2016

Sometimes the relationships between the data you’ve gathered are more important than the data itself. (See: Facebook monetizing your list of friends.) That’s when a graph processing system comes in handy. It’s an important but often poorly understood method for exploring how items in a data set are interrelated.

Microsoft’s been exploring this area since at least 2013, when it published a paper describing the Trinity project, a cloud-based, in-memory graph engine. The fruits of the effort, known as the Microsoft Graph Engine, are now available as an MIT-licensed open source project as an alternative to the likes of Neo4j or the Linux Foundation’s recently announced JanusGraph.

Everything is connected

Microsoft calls Graph Engine (GE) as “both a RAM store and a computation engine.” Data can be inserted into GE and retrieved at high speed since it’s kept in-memory and only written back to disk as needed. It can work as a simple key-value store like Memcached, but Redis may be the better comparison, since GE stores data in strongly typed schemas (string, integer, and so on).

The “computation engine” part of the equation means GE implements distributed algorithms across nodes, written in C#. It’s not optimized out of the box for a specific kind of graph algorithm, so it’ll likely appeal to those who want to write their own graph-exploration algorithms from the ground up — or simply write their own distributed algorithms.

February 13, 2017 brianradio2016

In one sense, Windows 10 is the “end of history.” There will be no Windows 11 — or 12, were Microsoft to decide to keep skipping odd numbers. Windows 10 is it!

One the other hand, despite its immutable name, Windows 10 changes all the time. Constant updates can’t really be escaped by Home version users, whereas admins mete out updates for Pro and Enterprise users who are attached to an update server (that is, either Windows Server Update Services or System Center Configuration Manager). Update management and troubleshooting is literally part of the cost of doing business with Windows 10.

Then there are the major versions of Windows 10: 1507 (“RTM”), 1511 (“Fall Update”), 1607 (“Anniversary Update”), and 1703 (“Creators Update”). This bestiary raises a big question: If you’re running a business, which of these versions of Windows 10 should you deploy? Here are the basics:

  • For business use, you want the CBB (Current Branch for Business) servicing option. Not some Insider Ring beta, of course, nor just a CB (Current Branch). The CBB is what you need because versions designated “CBB” have been put through the wringer — many months on millions of users’ computers — to shake out the bugs. Think of the CBB as the result of a massive unpaid beta testing cycle. Right now, 1507, 1511, and (as of late November) 1607 have been granted CBB status.
  • Just last week Microsoft announced that version 1507, the first-ever Windows 10 launched on Jul. 29, 2015, would go off support in May. You should not be running this version. If somehow you’ve managed to block updates to 1507 to prevent it turning into a later version, stop that right now. It’s unfinished and not particularly stable. Upgrade!
  • Version 1511, which was granted CBB status on Apr. 8, 2016, is pretty much the same deal as 1507. It’s an old and incomplete version. Our best guess is that it will go off support in early 2018. Time to update sooner rather than later.
  • Version 1607, the so-called Anniversary Edition, is today’s Windows 10 gold standard. Microsoft released it on Aug. 2, 2016, and granted it CBB status on Nov. 29, 2016. This is the last Windows 10 version that InfoWorld has reviewed — and it actually earned a 2017 InfoWorld Technology of the Year Award, primarily for its omnidevice management.
  • Version 1703, the Creators Update, is currently in beta but should be available in a couple of months. It’s anybody’s guess when 1703 will reach CBB status, but figure on four months or so after release. You’ve probably heard about the features that give this version its name, such as the drafting features that work hand in glove with Microsoft’s new Surface Studio, Redmond’s first all-in-one desktop. As InfoWorld’s Galen Gruman has said, Microsoft is reaching for Apple’s creative crown. But at the same time, the Creators Update promises improved security, better device management, and greater admin control over updates — not to mention new analytics features for admins to gain insight into how users work with Windows 10.

So you might say that Windows 10’s continuous improvement seems to be accelerating. Yes, there are annoyances: Patch management has been a hassle, end-user data collection has stoked privacy fears, and it has taken awhile for new major versions to become stable. And, well, some of us still find the UI cloying compared to that of Windows 7, and the unfinished stuff like Cortana or the Edge browser sometimes make you wonder what they’re smoking in Redmond. But that’s kind of beside the point.

February 11, 2017 brianradio2016

Here’s how you can add wireless charging to your iPhone, quickly, cheaply, and easily.

See also: Does your iPhone have a battery drain problem?

Here’s what you need:

Fitting the charging coil is easy. Just pop the wireless charging card into your iPhone’s connector, fold it over the back, and pop it into a case and you’re done.

You do lose the port on your phone (unless you’re willing to disconnect the card) but if all you use it for is charging, then this won’t matter much.

With a compatible in-car charger (such as this one) you can continue to charge your iPhone when on the move.

In my experience, these wireless charging systems work very well, and are far more convenient than having to plug a cable into the handset every time. The only time it isn’t is when you want to use your iPhone while it’s charging, then a cable is easier.

See also: