Surface RT – The adventure continues


Hi Folks, I am back with some more information on my experience with my 5 days old RT.

I have been trying to use it as much as possible and the best opportunities I’ve got have been when I am in my Drawing Room or late at night when I don’t want to sit at my (home) office chair no more.

Today it’s mostly about software.

Surface as a Remote Terminal

The whole of Sunday I spent in my Drawing/Dining room sitting at my dining table remote desktop(ed) into my Desktop machine working on Visual Studio. Except for the oddity of the Touch Keyboard I was pretty productive. In fact during this session I was able to nail a long standing feature.

I noted lots of connection drops but I attribute that to the tiny wifi receiver dongle that I am currently using for my desktop as well as the crappy WiFi hub + Modem provided by my ISP. I’ll change both in the future. Till such time I only have a niggling suspicion that Windows 8 may have a Wifi related bug somewhere but I highly doubt that.

Word as a Blogging Tool

As I briefly mentioned in the last Post I moved to Word (RT) after WordPress lost my post twice. Well, Word is no LiveWriter and strangely if you are writing into a Docx file using the Normal template and then choose to publish it to a blog it creates a new Document and then gives it a Docx extension again. So this time I started with the blog template. It’s not installed by default but easy to lookup using the template search function in the File->New screen.

The blog template has only three ribbon tabs, File, BLOG POST and INSERT.

It can connect to any blogging engine that can communicate of xmlrpc so from a connectivity point of view it’s pretty good though I’ve tested it against WordPress only.

Unlike LiveWriter it cannot get the existing theme down from your blog so you have to second guess what the post will look like. It can be mitigated by using the Publish as Draft.

All in all, it’s an acceptable tool for the ‘occasional’ blogger like me. Planning to do my first technical post later in the day today.

One Note

One Note has been sitting as a shortcut on my desktop even since I installed Office 2013 Preview but ol’ habits die hard and I never really bothered firing it up to see what it does. I kind of preferred the Stickies application for my scrap work and note taking. And I have lots of Stickies. Problem with them is you can’t minimize a single sticky on its own. Anyway, I was initially a little disappointed that Windows RT didn’t include Stickies. But yesterday I fired up OneNote and was pleasantly surprised that it not only was as easy as stickies but it had certain organizational aspects that makes it a nifty tool. I have recently been smitten by the ‘sync everything over the cloud’ feature and love the fact that notes written in one machine is available to all my machines.

Side Note: I really hope Microsoft keeps the price of Office 2013 family pack affordable when it comes out of Preview.

Xbox Music

Xbox music is really cool, I haven’t used the service before and I am discovering it, but it’s got some nice titles. I am totally out of sync with English music for the last one year but I found quite a few titles that like. I’ll continue discovering.

The App sometimes stops without asking, and sometimes it shows a toast popout confirming if I was still around listening to music (which I find neat). The stopping without asking maybe to do with my WiFi or broadband also.

[UPDATE] Okay this happened while I was typing this blog. I wanted to go away from the Surface so I hit the Pause button on the keyboard and it made a LOUD buzzing sound for almost two seconds before pausing. The sound is like the one you hear when you are plugging in speakers into a receiver that’s not grounded properly. This is new. I clearly remember using the pause earlier without this ‘side effect’. Hope it’s a software fix.

Dhingana Music

Dhingana.com is a music service focused on Music from India and I have followed their service ever since they went live. I like their service, I even bought their iPhone app early on. I was happy to see their app on the app store and have got it as my source for Hindi music. Pretty cool service and works as well as my Broadband will allow.

People have complained that the Speakers are really soft, this is true, even in a mildly noisy environment you probably won’t be able hear them, but I find them sufficient in my small office room. As a Personal device it’s more than sufficient. Also a big shout out to Microsoft for the Stereo speakers and their placement. You CAN make out the difference and it’s really nice.

Skype

After I installed Windows 8 on my Dad’s laptop I installed Skype App on it and I think finally we can say good bye to out video chatting woes using Google Chat in the browser. I haven’t used it for any serious calls yet. Will try it out soon.

Missing Software

DropBox

As I type this DropBox’s Windows 8 version is in the AppStore approval process as per a tweet by Derek Larkin and it couldn’t come to the store fast enough. Dropbox and Office are an important part of my workflow. RT has office already all I need is DropBox. Till such time I’ve Remote Desktop ;-).

Others

Well can’t think of anything at the moment but you can except and update or a new post when I come across something.

Hardware

Keyboard Woes

I am still not used to the Touch Cover. (So in Steve Jobs terms ‘I am holding/typing it wrong’). I am afraid I might never get hang of it and I’ll tell you why, I keep switching between the Touch Keyboard and a real keyboard and muscle memory is a bad thing. It is very similar to the switching between desktop keyboard and a laptop keyboard, except that you don’t have any tactile feedback making it even more difficult to adjust.

Second issue is the imprecise responsiveness. The touch keyboard’s responsiveness or rather consistency of response is rather poor! I often have to slam the spacebar to get it to work but then again it works just fine with minimal effort on other occasions. For keys like a or s or w that you hit with your pinkie the last effort that induced a keystroke may not be enough the next time so you’ll find some keystrokes missing as you type.

The Trackpad is quirky with respect to the left and right click buttons, they are a pain to get right all the time.

Finally the down arrow key works even if you press well below the etched out area, though this is not a major hassle it’s an indicator of the ‘impreciseness’.

Overall, I would still suggest people go for the type cover. I plan to get one when available in India. Till such time I’ll continue to ‘adapt’.

Battery Life

Well, what can I say? It is the first all day battery PC for me. I can work on it all day. However I have a gut feeling the iPad (1 gen) that I have may outlast it. Again I’ll never know for sure because I can’t do any work with the iPad without spending more money on apps. In a few months when I start letting my son play games on it, I’ll actually figure out how it compares to the iPad when it comes to games. For now, it’s the best PC with respect to battery life and productivity. Allows me to be wireless for a full day if I start the day with it being fully charged.

The Screen and Capacitive sensor matrix

Well I am impressed with the screen but I have not seen a Retina iPad so my comparison standards are against PPI densities that are much lower that what I have on the Surface and needless to say it looks awesome. However I noted a couple of things

  1. The Capacitive Matrix is visible below the glass. When the screen is off if you hold the device at a particular angle you can see the neat matrix of capacitive sensor. This does not cause any aberration when the screen is on, it’s just that I never noticed it for my iPad and that could be to do with the fact that my iPad had a screen protector from day 1 and my Surface is still to get one. Having said that if you look at the screen from an impossible-to-use-normally angle of about 170 degrees in the landscape mode you’ll see rainbowish banding that probably is due to the sensor matrix.

    Assuming what I see is the sensor matrix, it being closer to the glass is NOT A BAD THING. In fact Apple started doing the same to reduce the thickness of its laptops and iDevices so I guess it’s a part of ‘advancement’ in touch technology.

  2. Second thing evident about the screen is an apparent distortion at the bottom (near the Windows 8 logo), again only evident if the screen is off. If you take a fluorescent tube light on the ceiling and watch it’s reflection on the glass of the Surface I can see it slightly deform at one place. This could be a deformity in the glass or the sensor matrix, nearly impossible to tell. It is probably an indication of the maturity of Microsoft ODMs production line compared to Apple’s. Again both these things are really non-issues and could very well be one-off cases. Nothing changes for me.

Ode to Apple Fanboys

With the Surface Microsoft has put a lot of heart and soul into building a nice reference device that other OEMs can lookup-to and challenge. But there is no pleasing the Apple fanboys. I seriously don’t understand why Micrsoft even tries. Put a Surface next to a MacBook and bash it for any and all reason you find. Yesterday was the height, ZDNet produced a piece where it was stated that Microsoft Surface is the Tin Man without a heart from Alice in Wonderland. Reason? The $56 replacement charger, that the author had to buy because HE lost his original charger, has a nice box on the outside but poor packaging on the inside!!! I mean really??? Really Really? How much more stupid shit can you write??? If it was so bad, could you please back it up with a picture of how it looks? No, I just want to write crap so I’ll write it. WTF! Needless to say the article started with image of a MacBook next to a Surface and went on and on and on about God knows what! What happens next, hordes of Apple fanboys descend on the comments section and write up crap about something they haven’t seen or used for real. To those hordes of idiots here is a picture of my setup.

Notice the MacBook Pro? Yes it’s closed, I don’t need it anymore at work, since I got Windows 8 on my Desktop. Even when I open it, it runs Windows 7. So please take your condescending attitude towards anything that has Microsoft on it and shove it!!!

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