Windows 10

surface windows 10I recently took the plunge on my Surface Pro3 to upgrade the Windows 8.1 Pro to Windows 10. I am usually quite an early adopter with technology, but I wanted to wait a few weeks to hear a little about users experiences of upgrading. However knowing that the Surface Pro3 is Microsoft’s Flagship product and Windows 10 was their latest operating system designed with Surface users in mind (and the whole hybrid user community) I felt relatively safe taking the plunge.

The upgrade itself was pretty seamless and flawless – I was prompted that my upgrade was ready for me by the small icon that appeared in the taskbar at the bottom of the screen and from there all I had to do was accept the T’s & C’s and then let windows download the installation files and wait while it installs. I actually kicked this off before I went to bed and woke up to my newly installed and updated operating system. This was pretty much a seamless transition with a screen welcoming me to my new windows just like unboxing a new PC.

So, firstly the positive… I was worried about how to keep my windows experience in “tablet” mode. – I Say this because of the way I use my Surface Pro3. On the whole, when creating content, writing documents, email etc I have the keyboard attached and in the evening (mostly) I use it as a table where I am a consumer of information (reading web pages, reading emails, watching Netflix and on the whole, I am invariably only doing one thing at a time and I personally find the touch interface of Metro excellent and ideal for the surface. Well my experience has been that Windows 10 allows me to set the tablet up exactly the way I want – and I can manually switch (if I want to) or let windows switch (if I set it that way) whenever I attach and detach the keyboard. I also love the way that Microsoft is no longer delivering big update hits, but constantly keeping the OS up to date. In addition, the Calendar App is vastly improved with great Google Sync built in – it automatically recognised I have a number of calendars associated with my Google account (including my work calendar) and automatically replicated these through. The email app again is significantly improved with a great experience for Gmail users including “archive” options that work the same way as they do on an iPhone (a side swipe on an email allows you to remove it from the inbox and archive it for later)

Now the bad… the first thing that went wrong was astounding… When I bought my Surface Pro3 I bought the 128GB model. In addition I purchased a 128GB Micro SD Card to store my data on and set OneDrive to Sync content to the SD card. This way the internal drive had plenty of space and the external SD card had about 80GB of data on it (all my OneDrive content) which wouldn’t quite fit on my internal drive. However once I had booted up windows 10, OneDrive setup went through the process of configuring Sync but would NOT allow me to Sync to my external SD card! I raised a support case with Microsoft and was talking to them until 12:15 in the morning and they concluded that they couldn’t resolve the issue and gave me a reference number. As you can imagine this is pretty critical as at this point I can only access my files online and its completely dependant on my internet connection. To this date, it is still not resolved and Microsoft have no answer. Trawling through the forums there are hordes of others complaining about the same problem. Some of these people have come up with innovative solutions – which include creating a virtual hard disk on the SD card and then mounting this as a logical mount point (“c:\files\” for example) but there are two large problems with this. Firstly every time you re-boot the mount point disconnects – so you have to manually go and re-attach it. Some have created a batch process for this and run it as a delayed start up process but its really a botch. The other more important problem is that when OneDrive calculates the free space on your drive to sync your data, can only do that by looking at the drive where the mount point is located. So in my case the C drive doesn’t have 80-90GB of free space in it (even though the SD card does) and so OneDrive will still not sync the data.

After doing some extensive research there is a free file sync and replication program called odrive that will sync data from a load of providers (Box, DropBox, Amazon, OneDrive, Google, etc….) to a single location and manage all of this for you. It does allow you to do this to the SD card so as I write this, it is in the process of replicating my OneDrive to my SD card. However this is far from ideal and Microsoft really need to get this fixed as soon as possible.

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Microsoft Surface 3

Surface-3We are in the middle of a mobile computing revolution. With manufacturers bringing smaller lighter and more powerful mobile computing to the masses and consumers realising the benefits of mobile computing. A significant step was made with Microsoft releasing their Surface tablet. This delivered an almost killer combination – the transportability, battery and instant-on features of a tablet with the familiar windows operating system and full office productivity suite included. Although it was heavily criticized for running Windows RT rather than a full version of Windows (limiting the device to run only those applications available through the windows store) this also had its benefits – Increased security: viruses and malware designed to run on an Intel chipset with windows would not work or execute on an RT device. This was due to the processor being an ARM rather than an Intel. But this is almost the only major criticism – consumers were not able to install things like iTunes and Chrome.

The only other notable observation is the screens aspect ratio – a widescreen tablet is great for watching movies and videos, however if you ever have to use the on-screen keyboard or view web pages, the lack of “vertical real estate” really becomes an issue! With the on-screen keyboard open, you can see very little of any document you might be editing or creating!

Microsoft changed their approach with the launch of the Surface Pro 3 which was a major leap forward. An all day device, extremely thin and light with a 4:3 screen and a killer keyboard.

Microsoft have now launched the Surface 3 (the consumer version of the Pro range) It shares the 4:3 screen ratio (although a little smaller at 10.8″ ) but its built on an Intel Atom x7 quad core processor which delivers performance on par with an earlier generation Core i3 processor.

This means that instead of running the RT (rather restricted version) of windows, it runs the full blown windows 8.1. This allows it to run iTunes, Chrome and any other windows software. What’s more, it not only supports the new Bluetooth surface pen but also has a 10 hour battery. All this for a little over £400. Although you can buy a laptop for less than this, I don’t believe you can can buy a device that is as portable, with a 10 hour battery, and usable performance.

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Powermat Wireless charging

I found myself in Starbucks today (a frequent occurrence for me) and there installed in the tables were PowerMac Wireless charging stations. For those devices that don’t inherently support wireless charging, you can pick up a connector for your phone at the end of the table, clip it on and then place your mobile on the table to charge it. The idea being that one day, all wireless devices will operate this way with no connectors to break and wireless charging available everywhere.. No more lost or forgotten chargers, and no more broken connectors forcing replacement devices. Wireless charging is actually quite a simple principal – induction. A coil in the Powermat induces a voltage in a coil in the phone or other device.

Main-AppAs my phone does not inherently support wireless charging Powermat provide a number of adaptors (yes I know this sounds like it defeats the entire purpose) and there was a stack at the end of the table. After having attached the right adaptor to my phone, I then placed the phone and the adaptor on the Powermat to charge my phone.

I must say that there were a number of unexpected experiences. The first was that the phone did not charge with the adaptor up the wrong way. Or let me say that another way, the adaptor must be a certain way up on the table or it won’t charge. The second was that it appeared to be hypersensitive about where it was placed. On several occasions, I placed the unit on the table and the light cam on initially but then went off again – and then didn’t charge – almost as if it was slightly out of some kind of alignment.

I managed to charge my phone to 100% quite quickly (although it was only at 90% before I started charging it) but I’m not yet convinced whether my experience would have been just the same had Starbucks just provided some charging cables and a USB socket on the table.

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Microsoft OneNote

Most people know of Microsoft for its windows operating system and its Office Productivity Suite. In addition, its consumer business developing and selling one of the world’s leading Games platforms – the Microsoft X-Box. In addition people might be aware that they make a variety of other software including project management, Technical Drawing, Photograph collages, Publishing, and mapping. However what is probably one of the least known applications that Microsoft provides is OneNote.

OnceNoteOneNote is arguably Microsoft’s most powerful Application. OneNote has notebooks that have categories and each category can have multiple pages (nested if you wish) for starters, this creates a really powerful way to collate your notes and information. But this is only just the start. OneNote includes powerful sharing and collaboration features allowing you to collaborate in real time with other people anywhere on the planet. That means you can share a notebook with other people and send them an invite via email. They can then view and edit the notebook at the same time you are viewing and editing it – adding text, graphics or drawing directly on the pages with a stylus.

For tablets and other touch enabled devices, it supports highlighting and pen input devices allowing you to write using a pen and then getting OneNote to convert your handwriting to text afterwards. OneNote also has screen clipping tools that allow you to capture any area of the screen and embed these directly in your notes. There are many (many!) more features of OneNote including translation, Drawing, Recording and embedding Audio & Video, and exporting to other applications in native formats like Word
OneNote will Synchronise your notebooks and all edits across all of your devices (and all those you share notebooks with) and it is available for Windows, Windows Phone, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android and directly on the Web.

I now use OneNote extensively and am starting to wonder how I ever coped without it?! Probably the most surprising thing about it is the price. Its Free!

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An early adopter invitation from Google…

FullSizeRenderAs an early adopter of Gmail (I’ve now been using Gmail for over 10 years!)  I was privileged to get an invitation to Googles new Inbox.

Inbox is a new email client from Google that continues Googles efforts to rationalise and sort the web – making you more streamlined and productive in the process. As email is now so prolific, we have to dedicate more and more time to help manage our inboxes – which takes away from the pleasure of just “being” who we are. Google has done a lot to help manage email and some of the tools and facilities that Gmail already offer can easily be taken for granted (when was the last time you received snap in your Gmail inbox?). Well Inbox continues Googles journey to bring intelligence to email in order to enable and empower you to be more productive with your time.

I only received the invitation yesterday evening, so its still early days but I’m looking forward to seeing how it helps me deal with life in a modern, connected, email driven society!

Take a look at Google’s video of Inbox:

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Apple’s “Its Showtime” – oh no it isn’t!

It's ShowtimeNow I am not one to usually moan. I am a glass half full person. But my experience of trying to watch the Apple live streaming webcast was comical – bordering on embarrassing!

To set the scene, here in the UK I have an 80mb Broadband circuit to my house with a 20mb upload (and nothing else using the connection before you ask!). I had got home, and opened the “Apple Events” icon on my AppleTV (which incidentally is the latest generation and has up to date firmware). and just before the allotted time, I was able to open the live stream and start watching as they got the last people sat down for the session to start. And then it all started to go wrong…

The stream stopped and failed a number of times. Either going back a few seconds, or showing in real time (i.e.. jumping forward and missing seconds or minutes) or displayed a message telling me that there had been an error and to try again. This happened repeatedly and I was unable to watch more than about 45 seconds at the most before a new error was received. However I had my trusty iPad as a backup! – informed before the event that it would only stream on an Apple device, I had an iPad 2 fully patched and up to date (running the latest iOS 7.1.2) with Safari open showing the countdown on Apple’s homepage and ready to stream. Would this now work?

In a word – no. The iPad seemed to have a whole host of issues of its own – some of which were rather surprising to say the least! – The stream would start (presumably picking up where we were in real time) and then like the AppleTV would fail. When it did, it either error’d telling me that I wasn’t authorised to access the website  “…..” or even more surprisingly crashed safari completely causing it to quite to the iPad homescreen. I tried turning the iPad off and back on, quitting all other open apps and ensuring Safari was the only app running and the iPad still kept crashing. So the upshot was that despite having a ludicrously fast broadband and multiple Apple products I was still unable to watch Apple’s broadcast.

Now I know that some of you will jump to the defence of Apple and tell me that the sheer demand could not possibly be met and that they were streaming one of the most anticipated broadcasts this year. However – they knew this before the event. They are “Apple” one of the richest and most powerful technology companies on the planet and for them to have a “technology problem/failure” is quite frankly poor! This was afterall their primary marketing platform

What was your experience? Did you try to watch the live stream? did it work for you? What did you think? Let me know how you got on.

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Printing from everything for next to nothing.

There’s nothing worse than buying a device and discovering it doesn’t work with what you already have. In todays home we have phones, tablets, Laptops, PC’s and Chromebooks. If if we don’t have some of these now, chances are we will soon! So buying a printer becomes an ever more complicated affair.

I recently decided that although I already had a good laser printer which is very cheap to run, I wanted to print out more pictures of the kids and needed a colour printer. Now anyone who knows me will tell you that I am one for doing my homework and wanted to make sure whatever I chose was going to work with everything I have now and as far as possible, whatever I might use in the future. What I found not only shocked me, but a number of friends so much so that they all asked me to go out and get them one straight away!

Envy 4500

This is the HP Envy 4500. Its completely wireless so you can plug it in anywhere in range of your wireless router. It supports AirPrint and works seamlessly from iPhones & iPads instantly. It installs on a Mac without drivers instantly and Windows finds and installs everything without you having to insert a disc. It is a fully cloud ready printer allowing you to send content to the printer using a unique email address that will allow you (or anyone else you allow) to print to it from anywhere in the world. It supports Google’s cloud print natively allowing you to print from Chromebooks or Chrome running on any computer from anywhere in the world.

The App for iPhone and iPad allows you to check on the ink levels, control the printer and scan directly to the device itself allowing you the full benefits of the printer without having to touch a PC (or Mac!)

As if all that wasn’t good enough, its also eligible for HPs instant-ink programme. This allows the printer to order its own ink before it runs out while at the same time saving you up to 70% on ink costs by cutting out both the wholesaler and the retailer.

The price for all this? £49 which is hard to believe I know. As I mentioned earlier, since buying this, I have had to buy loads more for my friends and family who all seem to want one and are all equally stunned  by the amazing features and incredible value for money.

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