Tag Archives: Surface RT

Windows RT, Surface and Courier – What could have been

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Today’s announcement of Nokia Lumia 2520 made me happy briefly before I realized the inevitability – Microsoft has bought Nokia’s Lumia brand so once the acquisition goes through, either the Surface RT or the Lumia tablet would be canned. As a Surface RT owner and admirer of the Lumia brand it’s not a good scenario, but that’s not what this post is about, the thought of one of the products getting canned rekindled memories of the Courier. Microsoft’s parallel tablet OS experiment that lost out to Windows 8.

If you have never heard of the The Courier, you can see the concept here and read how it didn’t make it.

As you can see, it was an ‘innovative’ idea. But it lost out to Windows 8. At the time I didn’t know about Windows RT and was in general bought into the idea of continuing with the Windows lineage. But then months later, Microsoft Announced Windows RT and the Surface RT.

When Surface RT launched there was an OUTCRY from the tech bloggers as to it was ‘confusing’ because it was Windows that didn’t work with ‘old’ Windows apps. I am pretty sure these are all Apple/Google fanbois who use a Mac or Chromebook (pun intended) for their day to day work!. I bought an RT fully knowing what it is not and I am sure the ‘very few’ people who bought it, knew what they were doing.

But knowing what I knew, I was still surprised how much Windows baggage Windows RT contained and probably the biggest drawback was battery life. Jeff Atwood (of StackExchange fame) had a scathing take on it a few days back and I wrote about it myself in my Surface RT reviews. Much as we would have liked it Windows RT wasn’t a reboot but a re-compile with unnecessary pieces weeded out! But 18 years of an OS shows and it takes much longer to ‘weed out’ un-necessary gremlins. Would a fresh/ground up Courier OS for ARM tablets have been better? I am not saying Windows RT is not touch friendly, but it’s definitely not battery friendly and neither is it flying off the shelves after being bracketed as an iPad wannabe!!!

So after looking at Nokia’s apps for Photos etc. and thinking about the past few days of blogosphere I was thinking what if Surface RT was the Courier and Windows RT was Courier OS? Surface Pro could have been the productivity tablet, while Courier was the entertainment oriented branding! I am not even saying it should have been a split screen form-factor, a clean start, a different branding, hit battery life and some of the Courier features of course!!! Vendors could have used the Windows Phone 8 ecosystem to launch Tablets while the Courier would have been MS’ niche product.

Well, one can dream!!!

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Microsoft’s $900MM Debacle–Surface RT

Last night I heard Microsoft is taking a $900 Million charge on Surface RT this quarter. A billion in a otherwise very healthy quarter is a bit much for MS as well. Needless to say haters are rolling on the floor laughing with their “I told you so” comments!

As someone who totally loves my Surface RT I cannot help but defend my fondleslab, but I know too well that Microsoft bit off a lot more than it could chew with Windows 8. The $900 charge is a course correction to hopefully saner pricing levels, distribution strategy and inventory management.

Here’s to hope that Windows 8.1 will deliver what 8.0 failed. Initial results looks promising in the 8.1 Preview. Keeping fingers crossed!

Haters will hate but the show will go on!

Time for me to go build a few apps for my beloved RT!

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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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Day 1 with my @Surface RT

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(Image Copyright: Microsoft Corporation, not to be reproduced from here)

Okay folks, as I warned, I got a new Surface and you expect lots of ‘updates’ for it! This my Day 1 Update. Don’t expect a 30 days of Surface series, but I will try to put out as much information as I can about this little device! I am not writing this to help you make a purchase decision, I am not writing this to convince you to buy the device, I have not been paid by anyone to write this, it’s just me being stoked about the Surface and sharing my experience as it comes. TL;DR for today is, I like the Surface RT with its blackheads/pimples and all ;-)…

Before I start let me warn you I might sound like a giggling kid with a new toy because that’s pretty much how I feel about it. I was stoked about Windows 8 since Build 2011 and I was super happy to see Surface announcement by Microsoft. After watching in dismay, Apple launch iPad and steal Microsoft’s thunder by claiming to be pioneers of ‘Post PC era/Touch computing’ and MS make blunders like scrapping the Courier tablet, I was HAPPY about the Surface! At least Microsoft would be making an attempt to control it’s destiny instead of depending on crappy OEMs whose imagination gave us the ‘Netbook’. This definitely sounded exciting.

Fast forward to launch of Surface and I was sitting here in India wondering when Microsoft Store India would go online (it’s been offline since it got hacked last year). Then holiday season started and my friend agreed to lug one from US to India. Unfortunately he landed on the other side of the country and more than two weeks after my Surface arrived in India I finally got it in my hands on December 5, 2012.

First Day – Setup and Hello World

If you have used Windows 8 on a new PC the Surface setup was no different. Give it a WiFi access point, select your favorite color, put in credentials for a Microsoft account (Outlook.com, msn.com, Hotmail.com etc.) and let it do its thing. Mine was out of charge and the first charge using the supplied charger took almost three hours. I completed the setup with the device plugged in

The good thing about Windows 8 is Roaming settings that tend to carry over bookmarks shortcuts and keep them in Sync. So when the Surface started up my IE bookmarks, couple of pinned shortcuts were ready on my desktop.

Before I did anything with the Surface I went to Control Panel (Desktop->Windows Explorer->type in "Control Panel" is how I roll) and initiated Windows Update->Check for Updates. It gave me a bunch of updates that were ready but kept refusing to start installation. That resulted in my previous post. Initially lots of people complained that they didn’t find Office update and one even returned their RT because of that. But for me Office update was right there. With the updates done I was ready to explore my Surface RT!

Keyboard – Touch Vs. Type Cover

Initially I had thought of skipping on the keyboard covers but later I fell for it and got the touch cover. Last weekend, before I got my hands on my Surface, I got a chance to checkout Subodh sir’s Surface with the Type cover! The tactile feedback for the type cover felt awesome. I spent only a few minutes with it. So when I got my own touch cover and saw that the keys had no tactile feedback whatsoever and in fact they barely had the key etched out on the cover I felt a little disappointed. To me the type cover seemed way more functional if you want to do serious typing on the Surface. So I sent a tweet to @Mossyblog telling him if he intended to buy a Surface without looking at a physical one he should go for the type cover. He promptly retweeted it and that created a storm in the teacup. Pete Brown, Tim Anderson and Ginny Caughey responded saying they like the type cover better. Pete mentioned that he’s typed a lot on them and he liked the touch better than the type. Tim mentioned that the Type cover feels funny when you wrap it around. So I was left feeling a little silly with my pre-mature declaration that type was better than touch.

Having said that I have been typing this on my Surface for the past one hour now and this is my first serious typing effort on the Surface. I still feel that I am missing out on the Type cover. The touch cover is very functional but I am often a key off here and there and I seem to be missing the spacebar a lot, specially with my left thumb. Also this is a perception thing – the lack of physical depth gives me the feeling that the touch cover is more fragile than the type cover. This leads me to tap gingerly instead of going pound-pound-pound like we usually do.

Either-ways I’ll continue to use the type cover and see if I get better at it.

Drivers Support – Printers et. al. It’s a Whole New World

Drivers have always been the bane of every Windows update. Vendors have made it into an opportunity to force obsolescence and encourage periodic upgrades. However things have been relatively stable with Windows since Vista. Anything that worked on Vista pretty much works on Windows 7 and Windows 8 (x86/x64). However Windows RT is a whole new ball game. Since RT is based on the ARM architecture the drivers will have to be ported to Windows RT. The Windows 8 team wrote a long post (using EPSON printer’s images) on how they are making things easy. But now I realize that it still means Windows is at the mercy of Printer driver vendors or specifically Printer Vendors.

My 4 month old HP Laserjet M1213nf is not supported by Windows RT. I have tried almost all tricks in the bag but no luck. Windows can see the printer but can’t print to it. Whatever generic driver I use, the printer choses non to respond. It says version of Windows not supported. I had the previous model 1210 in US and it didn’t support iOS’ eprinting capabilities, the 1213 does support them. So I guess a future generation of the printer will probably support but then I guess HP will expect me to upgrade the printer instead of providing a driver for the existing printer. So I am guessing this printer is a no go.

Mobile Internet

The only other hardware I tried was to plug in my Wireless USB Modem (by ZTE) but no luck. Windows recognized it but couldn’t locate drivers for it. It came with drivers for Windows 7/OSX/Linux (rpm) but no luck with RT. So mobility of the RT is limited to my Home and Wireless hotspots only.

Working on the RT

With my initial experiments done with available hardware, next thing I wanted to do was to test my Windows 8 app on the device.

Wireless Deploy and Debug – Steps towards a wireless world

I followed steps documented by Tim Heuer for setting up Remote Debug tools on the RT. Then I started Visual Studio, selected Remote Debug, it detected the Remote machine (the RT) on my network Subnet and installed it over the air to the RT. **** MIND BLOWN ****

Coming from iPad/iPhone development I was almost getting off my chair to fetch a USB cable to plug the RT into a USB port of the desktop. I just couldn’t believe things were working over the air. I quickly pinged the nicest iOS dev I know Matt Gemmell on Twitter and he responded with a confirmation that you still need to tether iPad for debug/deploy. Damn MS just one-upped Apple atleast for developers there! Woo hoo!

Remote Desktop

If you check Microsoft’s comparison chart of RT v Pro you’ll see under Pro remote desktop is called out as a feature giving you the impression it might be missing from RT. But Justin Angel confirmed RDPs presence on RT and that kind of influenced a lot of my purchase. Sure enough Remote desktop is present on RT and I can RDP into my Desktop Win8 machine or Win 7 laptop!

Sweet! Fact that the Surface has > resolution than my 2009 MBP gives me enough reason to access it from the RT. Sure enough it works just fine.

Blogging/Typing

Windows RT is a little sparse with respect to apps available but the WordPress app is available so I gave it a spin. Totally worthless as a Content creation app. No intermediate Saves, drafts, no tag support and no theme support. Over to Word. If nothing it does AutoSave. Also the WordPress app is unable to edit posts.

Battery Life

From the first charge to first discharge (shutdown) it almost last 26 hours with all the above stuff I mentioned. But overall it was pretty mild usage with very little actually typing and no music etc. Today I have been at it since 6:30 am and it’s 11:56 now. Battery remaining is 44%. I typed this entire thing out on the Surface. Listened to Adele playing for about 2 hours and sent out a bunch of tweets. I also joined it to the Homegroup in hope of getting the printer to work over a printer share no luck yet. So I believe it works up to its billing of 10 hours battery life.

Wireless Networking

The wireless receiver is pretty decent and I got the same download speed I get on my desktop (it went up to 195KB/sec for the below file.

Other Niggles

When I started IE for the first time it offered to disable an add-on that was delaying startup. Turns out it is office document cache handler! LoL!

There were a few more niggles. Last night the Surface shut down with battery at 6%. Today morning when I started it (left overnight for charging), it started without WiFi and said no Wireless Hardware was found. A second reboot fixed it. Hope it’s not h/w defect. Without network ability it’s a slab of metal and glass.

Xbox music keeps crashing, not sure if something to do with region confusion. How long can I listen to music for free?

Summary

Well that is a massive first day review for you. Hope to put the Surface to some serious use in the upcoming few weeks and will post things as I find them. Overall very nice hardware, software is sufficient but will definitely mature and I am going to be hands on about that part so Rock on Windows 8 and Windows RT!!!

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First Surface RT Update – Error 8024004C

If you just got your Surface RT recently (let’s just say starting December 5, 2012…) and try to run windows update you might get an error with the cryptic code 8024004C. As of typing this, it’s ‘unreported’ in Google or Bing. I got it and was initially worried but I looked at the list of updates and saw the Firmware update in the list of scheduled updates. I unchecked the Firmware update and kept the optional update of Microsoft Office unchecked, Re-Tried updating and the updates worked. I am assuming the Firmware update needs some of the other updates to be in place. The updates are still going on. Will update this post, when I am able to install the firmware update!

[Update 1]

Okay, Windows RT updated itself with the other items first, then installed the firmware during reboot, so I didn’t have to go back and install the update manually. The only optional update remaining was Office RT update. That’s a 500+ MB download, currently in progress! BTW Windows sets you up for auto-installation of updates. If that’s not your thing do change it from Control Panel!

[Update 2]

As pointed out by Joey in the comments below, it is more likely that your RT won’t install firmware updates if you don’t have enough juice. I clearly remember my Surface being on charge when I was trying to update. So thanks Joey, that’s a very useful remark.

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