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Groove is no longer in the heart.

21 Mar

So OneDrive music streaming in the Groove music player is finally coming to an end in the next few days. This is a shame – I think I was one of the last people to actually use this.

I understand why, but I’m not happy about it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly angry either, as I said, I understand why. It’s just a shame to see cool features being retired, especially those I still personally use.

Such is life.

The only upside is that the day after this gets the chop I’m scheduled to have my cable internet finally installed with a 20MBs upload speed. That still seems quite slow, but much better than the 1.2MBs I current get on a good day, so streaming from my Plex server should fill the hole.

It’s unfortunate that the Plex UI isn’t as good as Groove, but first world problems, and all that.


Ninite is still Awesome

14 Jun

Setting up a new PC?

Wanting to add some desktop applications and have them update easily?

I’ve been using Ninite for years to download and install a set of core applications when setting up a new Windows installation.

Ninite is a free service (although there are paid for options for business) that allows you to specify a list of popular applications from the homepage at, from here it will create a custom installer which you download to your PC.

When you run the downloaded Ninite installer it will in turn download and install the individual applications to your PC in the background(deselecting any nagware or dodgy extensions).


When the install is finished your chosen apps are ready to go.

Better still, for the apps that don’t auto-update you can just run the installer again at some point in the future and it will take care of downloading and installing any updates.

I’ve never had a problem with this application and I’ve been using it for a few years now, my only issue is remembering to re-run the installer to catch any updates as there is no prompt (so remember to keep the original Ninite installation program to hand!).


Android. Welcome to the show.

9 Apr

A few years ago, soon after the launch of Windows 10, a long time friend of mine and somebody whose opinion I respected, announced that Windows 10 was, essentially, “rubbish”.

I had been running Windows 10 beta builds for a while and had become familiar with it, noticing several changes that were (in my opinion) a step back from Windows 8.x for touchscreen devices, but also noticing lots of improvements and potential. I had grown to like what I was seeing and so was interested in his thoughts and how he had come to this conclusion. So I asked what he didn’t like about the new OS.

I forget what his reasons were (although I do remember thinking they were misinformed) because of the one thing I do remember him saying that rendered everything else virtually irrelevant.

“How long did you use it for?” I asked.

“Oh, about 5 minutes on a display machine in PC World.” was his reply.


Sorry. WHAT?!!!

I didn’t bother wasting any more time on this particular conversation with him as a big piece of me had just died.

I don’t want to make the same mistake in my notes on my move (back) to Android. After several years as a Windows Phone/Mobile user, I had grown to like the OS immensely. It seems to me that I  wouldn’t be being fair if I ignored all those years of familiarity and muscle memory that I’ve built up by rushing into a review of Android. That comfortable familiarity isn’t going to vanish overnight.

So to get started, what was bad with Windows Phone?

Well, the design was excellent, by which I mean both the UI and the internals operation (I had a stab at writing some apps for my own amusement over the years). I believe the OS could (should?) have had a great future.

I never really took to the truncation of titles and text as a design element, as opposed to wrapping or overflowing the content. To me it often made distinguishing between similar text (for example “Television Programmed – Series 01 – Episode 01” where there are multiple episodes) difficult. It was certainly distinctive at the time, and the visual flair, speed and reliability were astounding, even on low end hardware.

But over the years the soul of Windows on Phone had been diluted, possibly down to circumstance. I remember the way I could have a conversation in Windows phone 7.5 using SMS, Skype and Facebook Messenger, and the conversation could be seen all in one place as if one chat (if that was what you wanted) for example. Or how brining up the details of a contact would pull in information from their social media accounts too, for example recent Twitter and Facebook posts, etc. This kind of holistic approach was either removed or watered down in later releases of the OS (why would Facebook want you to see messages from their platform without their branding attached, for example?)

Then there was the app gap. Virtually all the apps I wanted to use were available at the time, or if not a third party solution existed, that due to the excellent Microsoft developer tools available, would frequently be better than the official apps on other platforms. But as I’ve mused in the past, you don’t know you’re missing something until you’ve had it. I knew I was blissful in my ignorance of what was out there, but I was blissful just the same.

Incidentally I think if Microsoft were to add Service Workers and a couple of other PWA features into the Windows Mobile version of IE, and allow PWAs into the store for the phone, there would be a second chance of life in the platform, but time has moved on and they say that isn’t going to happen. Anyway, I digress…

So with the end of Windows Phone becoming as official as it was ever going to get, I made the jump to Android.

New hardware is almost always fun, especially when it offers something different. To this end I didn’t go for a flagship phone, but my tentative choice of the mid range Motorola G5s Plus seems to be a decent decision.

The camera isn’t terrible but a big step down from the Lumia 950XL, but I’ll take the front mounted fingerprint sensor over the iris unlock any day. The Iris unlock worked surprisingly reliably for me, but it’s just not as convenient as tapping your finger. I don’t see how you could get around this on any mobile platform. I don’t want to point my phone at my face to use it. Of course, having both options would be best, but I still feel I’d use the fingerprint more frequently.

I’m delighted to say Android itself now seems very stable. My biggest memories from my Desire HD and Motorola Xoom (tablet) days are the frequent OS crashes. Apparently no more! Individual apps still crash, but no more than I’m used to (something that I feel got worse over time with each new Windows Phone OS reboot).

I miss my live tiles, but the hunt and peck nature of Android launchers isn’t the worst thing in the world to deal with. On that note, I use the Microsoft launcher which is good, arguably offsetting the loss of live tiles with its other functionality such as the cards available on the left page.

Apps seem to be fairly decent. Not only are there obviously lots to choose from, but I had a surprising number I paid for first time around which were still in active development.

I now have too many apps to choose from. I’ve installed loads of store and loyalty cards (for example) for places I just don’t go to anymore.

I’m also now able to connect to a greater range of hardware such as fitness trackers or smart scales, without jumping through hoops (although I have encountered an incompatibility issue on this front with one particular device on my phone).

I still miss the excellent NextGen reader, but have grown accustomed to the official Feedly reader. In fact, this illustrated my initial point perfectly. I absolutely hated the Feedly reader to begin with, it just didn’t work how I did, but the alternatives were even worse for me. Now, after using it for six months I’m comfortable with it. Sure I’ve altered my workflow to fit in with it, but being pragmatic NextGen defined that workflow in the first place, so it’s not the fault of either product.

And that’s my initial point. I miss Windows Mobile, but I’m OK on Android now after giving it a fair chance, and me time to adjust.

Would I go back to Windows Mobile if it came back from the dead with a strong catalogue of apps? Possibly, but I’d be acutely aware of what I’d be giving up now that Android has matured into something more stable.

So what is going on with Windows 10 Mobile?

25 Apr

From everything I read, nobody knows.

At the moment it just seems to be speculation as to where Microsoft is heading with Mobile as it appears no sources seem to know, or at least nobody is telling.

In some ways this is becoming the norm for Microsoft, which appears to be managing leaks, or at least the media, far better than previously. Take for example the release of the Surface Studio, there was very little chatter about this before the official announcement and what was available was posted with uncertainty by the respectable news sources.

And so we see the same thing with Windows Mobile. Speculation but nobody calling anything concrete other than for the purposes of click-bait. From my own perspective through reading various we sites I can imagine the following panning out:

  • With the release of the Feature2 branch windows Mobile is essentially being put into maintenance mode to keep enterprises and partners happy for the next several years (think HP with their Elite X3, or the various police forces and governments that have adopted Windows Mobile). This has happened before – I was still doing the occasional piece of work for Windows CE less than 2 years ago and devices were still being manufactured and sold running this OS. I’d be surprised if this wasn’t still the case – if it works, etc.
  • Windows Mobile has lost in the consumer space for now, and any work being done now is primarily for enterprise. Look how much new functionality was added for consumers in the Creators Update. Of course the occasional minor feature will continue to trickle out until the next re-boot is announced.
  • With the C-Shell initiative full Windows 10 on ARM is expected. Yes Windows Mobile was largely Windows 10 recompiled for ARM, but not completely. With the move to XAML (most recently in UWP, but also in WPF to some extent) responsive applications have been a reality for some time, so a well designed app can more easily scale to different screen sizes. The main thing full Windows is missing is a telephony stack and it’s job done (an oversimplification perhaps, but even as a worst case scenario the code is there ready to be ported).
  • The hardware is almost there too. The Snapdragon 835 has even been shown to run full Wn32 apps at (what looks like) full speed.
  • Those apps may be too small to use on a phone screen but… Continuum…
  • The Windows store isn’t anything to get excited about yet, many of the Windows developers I work with barely know of it’s existence, let alone understand it. But with Project Centennial hosting full Win32 apps, the Snapdragon 835 emulation, and the expected announcement of Windows Cloud in the next few days (which reportedly only runs apps from the store), perhaps the store will grow legs.
  • Everything is coming in place with the new vision, with the current minimal Windows Mobile user base, why wouldn’t you make the switch now the planets are aligning?

Bear in mind that this speculation is drawn up through third party sources within the echo chamber of the internet (i.e. Site A reports something speculatively, Site B picks up on this and re-reports, site C sees site A and B reporting it, so it looks likely to be true and reports as such, site A sees site C confirming their speculation and reports this is true, etc..)

There’s a couple of things that could prove this theory wrong:

  • Feature2 branch could be a “we never got rs2 finished on mobile. We need to sort this stuff out then we can merge back with the PC rs3 branch.
  • Microsoft said they had a mobile strategy. They didn’t say that strategy included Windows. Perhaps letting Google and Apple take the OS development pain, and making money off the back of them is a cleverer move, at least in the near to mid term (as a loose analogy SEGA did this after the Dreamcast by becoming a publisher for other platforms rather than making their own hardware). After all, Microsoft is no longer “The Windows Company”, it really is all about services now. Last time I checked Windows was only the third biggest revenue generator at Microsoft.

Essentially, who knows?

The one thing I do know is that I’m planning the switch to Android for family soon, at this point in time it’s the right choice for them. I shall do this with a heavy heart though.

I’m even considering the move myself. After the amount of effort I’ve put into Windows Phone and Mobile over the years (and reward from that to be fair) I’m not looking forward to it. But at the end of the day I’ve got no choice.

And the trouble is Microsoft, once I’m back into Android, I’m unlikely to look at coming back for the next 2-3 years minimum. So whilst I’m still happily tied into Microsoft services for now, I will be more exposed to the competition than currently. And you know what that means…

Is the iPad Pro really a PC killer?

27 Nov


Not yet anyway.

Of course running a mobile operating system doesn’t help many, but is naturally also fine for some.

My opinion is that the design is a little disappointing for an Apple product. With it’s single position official keyboard, high price, distorted performance, it underwhelms the PC crowd, whist naturally pleasing the Apple faithful. What you would expect really.

Is it a PC killer then?

Well those that need a laptop will continue to buy laptops, those that want PC and tablet functionality will buy a convertible (such as a Surface or similar), and those for whom an iPad worked well will rightly lap up the iPad Pro.

I think this is how it should be. I can’t see the iPad Pro in its current iteration making too many inroads into the PC space, Chromebooks are probably a bigger threat here.

I wonder what the next version will bring though.

Music to my ears.

26 Nov

Well, I cancelled the auto-renewal on my Microsoft Xbox Music pass late last month, and the yearly subscription expired last weekend.

The service hadn’t done anything wrong, in fact I was very happy with the selection, but I just wasn’t making enough use of it, instead spending most of my time listening to music I already own. Sure I listened to the occasional new album, but not enough to justify the cost.

So have I missed it?

Well it’s been less than a week so really to early to tell, but not yet. In fact, the closest I’ve come is today where I’ve ended up streaming from Amazon courtesy of my Prime account, and even then I’m listening to stuff I’ve purchased!

It’s not good for me discovering new music, but to be fair it wasn’t much better whilst the subscription was live.

Perhaps things will change should my work environment change, I do more travelling, I ever get to work from home, or even if I just get bored. But for now, I think I’ll save the money, thanks.

Free Books

18 Nov

For quite some time now the nice people at Packt Publishing have been offering a free technical eBook each day. I’ve spent hundreds of pounds on Packt books over the years, both as physical copies and eBook downloads, and they tend to be very well written, so getting extra titles gratis is an offer too good to miss.

The free books on offer are often not the latest versions, but many are surprisingly recent and well worth a read, or just downloading if you think you may refer to them at some point in the future.

Why not take a look at, and while you’re there you may even find some more books worth paying for too!


26 Aug

IDC also forecast that Google’s Android platform, which will own 81.1 percent of the smartphone space in 2015, will retain the same share through 2019. Apple’s iOS share is expected to end 2015 at 15.6 percent, but ultimately fall to 14.2 percent in 2019 as Microsoft’s Windows platform steals some share and rises from 2.6 percent this year to 3.6 percent in 2019.

With this in mind, why do so many people believe Apple are still the number one player?

Partially that’s because Apple make more money out of smartphones than anyone else, and partly because per user more apps are sold on iOS.

Android is still the biggest Market for eyeballs though, and that’s worth remembering.

For what it’s worth, If I weren’t into app development with a Java history I’d be more tempted to get an iPhone than an Android device.

Then again I don’t own either as I’m still captivated by Windows Phone, and more recently Mobile 10. I find the figure of 3.6% by 2019 likely, but two things come into play here which I think get overlooked:

  1. Despite the FUD, Windows 10 looks set to be adopted in the enterprise, unlike Windows 8.x. That offers a lot of potential for the Universal Windows App strategy.
  2. … Which in turn may end up pushing addition of Windows Mobile.

Is the game over for Windows on the phone? I don’t know, ask Nokia and their Symbian partners, Blackberry or Palm. Of course the Market is more mature now so its a different ball game, but history has a habit of repeating itself. Who saw tablets becoming such a hit after Microsoft’s failed attempts?

The post PC world was also a certainty too, but look what has happened there. The tablet market is shrinking as devices become more mature, and now the growth area is 2 in 1 devices like the Surface and the many alternatives.

This is partially good news for Microsoft (but also for Android and other players), which in turn could also drive Windows 10 adoption, etc.

But increasingly the OS is becoming less important… isn’t it?

Possibly for many situations, especially as services become cross platform or cloud hosted. But just like Windows Phone which is brilliant until the app you need isn’t available, there are always exceptions that make the OS as relevant now as ever.

Mobile Woes #2

4 Mar

My mobile contact finished at the start of February, so I contacted EE around that time to sort out a new contract. This time around, after some discussion, I decided to go for a SIM only deal with 5Gb of data, discounted to half price for the first six months, plus an addition SIM with 2Gb of data per month for £12.99.

This was discussed online and a couple of days later I emailed the EE contact to ask to proceed with the deal we discussed.

I heard nothing back.

Also, stupidly I didn’t chase this.

So yesterday I contacted EE again, this time via a phone call to customer services, to take out these deals… however by now they had expired.

Now, instead of 5Gb at £11 for the first 6 months, followed by £21.99 for the following 6 months, I was offered 4Gb for £17.99 per month. This deal is actually not as good, I’d be paying more over the 12 months for less data. The 5Gb plan would now cost me the full £21.99 for the 12 months.

Additionally, the second line has seen it’s data allowance halved to 1Gb, but the price has remained the same.

This new offer isn’t really grabbing me, so I guess it’s back to the drawing board and trying to find an alternative deal elsewhere.

I have to say I’m not happy with EE in this case. I’m absolutely partly to blame for not chasing up the offer initially, however I did email back their representative to go ahead, and nothing happened.

Also, why has the second line plan been changed for the worse?

Colour me not impressed.

Hold on a moment, this isn’t what the press tell me!

2 Mar

Always believe what you read in the press.

Apple’s OSes Top ‘Most Vulnerable’ List of 2014