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Touchy touchy

10 Mar

Several times recently (actually, since it was released) I’ve had people ask me my opinion on Windows 8. It’s always been a case of “I like it a lot, but it’s not without its issues. Overall I prefer it to Windows 7”

It used to be the case that I would almost be told that my opinion was wrong and that Windows 8 was in actual fact a bag of balls, usually by people who had read about it but not used it for more than a few minutes in PC World (if at all).

I have started to see the negative attitudes soften recently, but the response since I’ve had my Surface has been “Well you’re using it with a touchscreen”

True, sometimes. On the train, taking notes in stand-ups, etc. but mostly I use the surface as a regular set-up with mouse, keyboard and either one or two monitors connected. This is just a natural set-up for me, especially when doing productivity work or coding.

My Work Setup

I guess I use the surface in a conventional configuration about 75% of the time (if not more) as I’m mostly using it for, or at work.

So how well does this set-up work for me?

Fine. In fact I’m impressed with some of the multi-monitor control in Windows 8.1, although less impressed with some of the scaling issues on older desktop software, but it’s an irritant rather than a deal breaker. Other than that I’m happy to have the choice between modern and desktop apps. For me modern apps work well with a mouse, and if intelligently written the layout on a large monitor is used well.

Again, I’ll say it’s not perfect, but it is as good as Windows 7 in many ways, and in others it’s better. But that’s just me, I went in not so sure but with an open mind as I like new shiny things.

Oh, and all those additional cables and extra mice in the photo – there are multiple desktop only machines under my work desk. I’m not currently using them, why would I?

Killing A Surface Pro 2

11 Dec

In my previous post, Killing Windows 8, I wrote about how I had managed to de-activate the copy of Windows installed on my Surface Pro 2, and how I was waiting for a response from Microsoft customer support.

Yesterday I contacted them and they called me back with an update.

Apparently the Windows key had not been injected into the BIOS of my device, so the only way to rectify this issue is to replace the device.

That’s right – they couldn’t send me a new key to activate Windows.

Nope, only a new device will do.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t particularly mind. It’s a little inconvenient, but hardly the end of the world. But really Microsoft, if this really a cost effective way of fixing this problem, after all a new key for Media Center only costs $10, significantly less than the UPS shipping alone I suspect.

Still, I suppose if it is a manufacturing problem this is for the best.

Perhaps my lack of success with Miracast will be resolved too?

Never mind.

Surface Pro 2 and McAfee internet Security 2013

21 Nov

A few days after the launch last month I decided to get myself a Surface Pro 2, the 256GB version with 8Gb of RAM. As regular readers to this site will be aware, I’ve been putting off getting a Windows tablet for over a year now since my laptop was doing a pretty sterling job.

The thing that finally swung it for me however was the realisation that, whilst the laptop was still very capable, it was sufficiently heavy that most of the time I left it at home. Once I’d made this realisation I finally had the justification I needed to spend the £1138 on a new device, and so the rest is history…

So what do I think of it after a little less than four weeks of ownership?

Well, at first I was in two minds. Yes it was a lovely device, but a purchase for as much as this is not something I do lightly nowadays, so I think that put a bit of a downer on it. Even though I’d thought long and hard about what a Windows tablet would do for me (over a year as mentioned), I still had my doubts that the money was well spent.

However, as time has progressed I’m beginning to feel more like I’ve actually made a good decision. The device has accompanied me almost every day (only missing the days where I had to attend after work events, i.e. the pub) and it has so far done everything I have wanted and behaved itself fairly well (more on this in a moment).

The battery life seems pretty decent, and I’ve been using it a lot at work for taking notes and recording audio in meetings.

The other thing it gets used for extensively while I’m at work is listening to music. The sound produced by this thing to my Bose QC15 headphones is among the best I have heard, to the extent that even the Lumia 920 that I had previously thought delivered an excellent sound, now seems somewhat lacking. The Surface is a little bass heavy, but the overall sound quality is very satisfying.

There have been a couple of negative points however, one of which in all fairness I am (sort of) to blame for.

Firstly, I decided to go for a “Touch Cover 2” as my keyboard of choice, rather than the significantly better typing experience provided by the “Type Cover 2”, my reasoning being that I plan to get the power cover when it becomes available next year, so having two similar keyboards was a bit silly. Additionally, I also wanted to experiment with the cover as a giant touchpad (Verdict: underwhelming). Don’t get me wrong, the keyboard is usable, impressive even in some ways, but I know without even trying the type cover that it is lacking a little in its primary use case. Sure I can type reasonably fast on it, but something is just not quite right and I do end up making slightly more mistakes than usual. Overall I question if this was the right decision. Still, backlighting in something as thin as this is impressive (but that doesn’t help much in normal usage).

Secondly, I have found the device has frozen a few times, but I think I’ve worked out why.

Very shortly after getting the Surface, I heard about the CryptoLocker virus that’s doing the rounds. This insidious virus has put the fear of god into me, so whilst I’ve been well served by Microsoft’s virus software for several years now, I decided the time was right to start paying for protection again.

I purchased three copies of McAfee Internet Security 2013, one for the Surface, one for my old Laptop which Hayley now uses, and one for my desktop machine.

So far I have only installed one copy, that going on the surface.

Shortly after I started to find that “clicks” in the Modern version of Internet Explorer were not always registering. Probably a coincidence I thought.

Then I noticed the file transfer speed of my device was far slower than I had previously seen when copying large files across locations.

Then in a meeting I noticed my battery was draining disturbingly quickly. A quick investigation revealed that despite being on battery power, McAfee had decided to do it’s weekly scan (I can find no setting to alter this behaviour).

Then yesterday whilst editing a file in Visual Studio, the IDE froze for a couple of minutes. On investigation it appeared that the biggest process user was the McAfee on access virus scanner. I feel this was an unacceptably long interruption.

Enough, I thought, is enough, so I’ve uninstalled it from the machine and gone back to the Microsoft defaults. This has left me a little uneasy, and more than a little annoyed that I forked out for three of these licences.

There is a (very small) chance that I’m blaming too many negatives on this application, so I guess time will tell if I see an improvement (it’s only been off the machine a couple of hours now)

I shall try to use this licence on the old laptop that Hayley uses, as I don’t expect she will notice the difference, and I’d like her to have the added protection and see how it works out for her. At the same time I’m hoping that the other two licences will allow me to install an updated version of this software at a later point in time when it isn’t a complete shambles (perhaps a 2014 version?). We’ll see.

In the meantime I’m annoyed I paid for something I am not going to use. Oh well, I guess that I should have read those reviews first…

So anyway, these gripes aside and considering it is missing a few features I would have used (NFC for example), I think I’ve made the right decision now, and look forward to getting some of the forthcoming accessories (power cover, dock, Bluetooth adapter for the keyboards) and using this device for the next few years.

I’m feeling pretty confident I’ll get my moneys worth out of the Surface, and that it will be money well spent… Unless of course I do something stupid like drop it on concrete or lose it entirely. That had better not happen as I can’t see me being allowed to buy another replacement for a good few years now.

Nokia Tablet

27 Aug

So Paul Thurrott and others have confirmed that Nokia is getting ready to announce a 10.1″ Windows RT tablet. It’s going to be a high specification with a quad core Qualcomm 8974 processor, 1920 x 1080 resolution screen, etc.

That is great news, except for one caveat: The expected price is going to be $499, or about £322 in the UK, plus taxes on top I’d imagine, so we’re looking in the region of £386, although I expect £399 to be the minimum headline price.

Nokia/Microsoft, you have a problem here. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll let a recent mailshot from Ebuyer explain:

So while I absolutely love Windows RT, I can’t see myself advising many to buy this new Nokia device. Yes the Nexus screen is smaller at 7 inches versus the RT 10.1 inch display, but is higher resolution at 1200 x 1920. Also the Nexus doesn’t have Microsoft Office, but most people won’t care.

Also the app selection on Android is far bigger than on Windows RT.

I actually feel the app situation is a bit of a red herring, as almost all the major app categories are covered by RT, and a lot of Android apps are dross, but many are very fine programs indeed.

In favour of the Nokia is also the fact that RT is much more secure than Android.

So it’s an interesting release, but I can’t help feeling the price is going to put off many prospective purchasers, which is a shame.

What we really need is some RT devices @ seven or eight inches to rival the price of the Nexus or Kindle Fire devices. These will, I believe, add credibility to the higher prices of these larger RT devices.

It’s no good having premium devices if there are no standard equivalents against which they can be compared.

Unless of course you’re the only player in town, like Apple was three years ago.

Those days have gone.