I’ve lived with a Windows 8 tablet for a while now and while there are new generations of tablets coming out, and Windows 8.1 is out now, little has changed. I’m reminded of back when Microsoft was faced with a dilemma with Windows Mobile back in 2003. They had come to realization that to be touch screen enabled, well more to the point finger friendly, they had to make a break from the past and do a total rewrite. The days of the stylus were dead. Long live the finger.
Fast forward to now and we seem to find ourselves in the exact same place and it seems Microsoft have not learned much from the past. The reality is this, Windows (at this point in time) is not a finger friendly environment. Step outside of the metro interface, and the Metro apps, and the finger is truly in need of a stylus or pen, or mouse. Go ahead and try it. While a touch screen is a natural evolution of Windows, and while I enjoy and will no longer live without a touch screen, one can not, with Windows in it’s current state, live without a keyboard and mouse. I dare you to try it. Navigate even within the operating system, not even mentioning the applications, without a keyboard and mouse (touch screen only). See how frustrating it is? And if you want an even more frustrating experience try and select some text (for copy and paste) on the screen with just a finger. See how many tries it takes you. Want a simple illustration? Let’s talk about the simple title bar which is everywhere in Windows.
You use it to close, maximize and minimize the Windows in any desktop screen or app. Now try and click one of those with your finger. Now try that on a small 8″ tablet. How did you make out?
The first generation Atoms are severely limited in processing power and memory. The newer generation of tablets has brought the ante up from dual core to quad core but did nothing to resolve the number one issue with Atom, a max memory of 2G. Next thing you know Windows is closing apps, closing browser tabs without asking or telling I might mention, all to preserve the limited anaemic amount of memory you have.
And Microsoft have done some truly stupid things with Windows 8. For example, on a device with a keyboard why am I am constantly faced with an onscreen keyboard. What raving lunatic would use an onscreen keyboard when a physical (or Bluetooth for that matter) keyboard is attached. The solution by the way is to disable the “Touch Keyboard and Handwriting Panel Service” in services for any computer not used as a tablet. But really do we need every user on the planet to figure this out themselves? Can’t you (Microsoft) figure that out yourselves? Are your programmers really this stupid? Did they actually use their own products? How about dynamically adjusting this based on whether a physical keyboard is or is not attached? Is this rocket science?
Personally speaking I jumped aboard the first generation Windows 8 Atom based tablets despite recommendations from friends to not do so (you were right Lance). I bought a Samsung XE500T dual core Atom powered Windows tablet for $700. At the time it seemed like the right choice. Fast forward to now and the same device is worth barely $300. In less than a year. The memory is a huge limitation, and the processor is a big limitation. I’ve abandoned the Windows tablet and gone back to a Windows 8 touchscreen laptop the Asus X202 with a core I3, and 4G of memory and it s a huge improvement. And over Christmas I had bought a Dell Venue 8 Pro on sale at Future Shop for $199. I took some time to contemplate the purchase and thought to myself this:
1) I already have the Samsung 11″ Windows tablet which I have come to figure out is not all that useful in touch screen only mode
2) No HDMI output which means I can’t use it at friends places, hotels etc to play movies
3) is still limited by 2G of memory
4) and does little more than I can already do with my Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 Plus 7″ Android tablet
And promptly returned it unopened.
Now that said, I like Windows tablets. They can finally replace a desktop and aren’t just another device. Add them to a dock and you can have truly mobile functionality. But skip Atom. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out 2G of memory is going to be a limitation. Go with a Core I3 minimum. And set your expectations if you buy a tablet. Once you get outside Metro you are going to need a mouse and keyboard.
I find myself pondering, where is the king of touch in all this (Apple)? Why is it that none of the Macs have any form of touch screens?
Ok I feel better, do you?
There are only two types of people in the world, those that have lost data and those that will. Sadly sometimes the error is ours. I have a gathering of technocrats that I have lunch with most days. When they were done having a good laugh at my expense, and I endured comments like PBKAC (problem between keyboard and chair), ID10T (idiot) and my line … you have a mirror problem … (the problem is in the mirror) we got down to solving the problem. I discovered some things I thought I would pass along. The problem at hand, I deleted a very large file on Windows I REALLY needed. DOH.
First and foremost from the moment you realize the delete error do not write anything to the drive. This can over write the file you are hoping to recover. If it’s your primary drive take it offline.
Undelete tools have existed for a long time and count on the fact that a delete just flips a bit in the FAT table. These type of tools can be somewhat successful. But when they are not you are left looking for alternatives. I got a $$ quote from a data recovery company, but they are use to dealing with corporations and the price was impractical for a consumer IMHO.
There is a whole category of undelete programs that work in a very special way. They search for the file headers looking for known patterns. They search the entire drive so can take a long time. Since they are looking in the header of the file they only support certain file types. So you need to look at the file you are trying to recover and see if the tools supports the file type you are looking for.
When it comes to recovery you really want to recover it to an alternate location. That way you can try multiple different programs and have the best possible chance of recovering your files.
In the end I used Rene Undelete which was able to recover enough for me to get what I needed. They have an excellent return policy if it doesn’t work for you as well as a demo version that will show you what it can recover before you have spent a dime.
Learn from my mistakes, first and foremost keep backups. And be sure and keep them on a separate drive from the data you are backing up. If you can, have them even on a different machine. Consider off site cloud backups for your most critical files (to protect against theft and fire/flood etc), but be aware of the privacy issues of having your files stored somewhere else in the world. Maybe encrypt them before putting them in the cloud. If you have pictures think how you would feel if the hard drive you store them on (or heaven forbid, the data card if you haven’t off loaded them) died and you lost it all? Laptops get stolen, broken, dropper and their drives die long before desktop ones. Think about all this and plan accordingly! I use Paragon for my laptop backups!
I figured it’s time for one of my favorite programs posts! The Q10 is a great device. I love the keyboard. The screen however is severly limiting. The square dimensions and small size mean most games are out, reading an ebook would be a test of anyone’s patience (IMHO) and watching movies is not a rich experience to say the least. That said it’s a fabulous device, great keyboard, responsive, reasonable battery life, excellent music player and tethers very well. With the upgrade to 10.2.1 now out of Beta Android compatibility is excellent!
Native BB10 and Android apps ported to BB10 Programs (17 apps):
Skype (for Cheap long distance using Skype otu)
4 (although I find it quite buggy with lots of audio problems, again cheap long distance using a VOIP account)
RocketMan (TTC schedules)
Freecell, Solitaire and Spider Solitaire by Odesys
Facebook (written by Blackberry)
Google Talk (written by Blackberry)
The Weather Network
BeBuzz Pro notification and reminder app (My Review)
Ebay (written by Blackberry)
RunGPS exercise GPS tracking and navigation (My last post on RunGPS)
Flixster a great movie app, good for in the theater and released movies.
Cineplex another movie app. You’d think I go to a lot of movies, which actually, I don’t.
Evernote cross platform Note taking tool
I have BBM loaded but I must say it is not in anyway a fav of mine.
I have Blackberry Maps loaded and while it works, has turn by turn directions etc, it’s search engine leaves a lot to be improved. So not a fav either. Not that I would live without it.
Now with the stunning Android compatibility of 10.2.1 you can have marketplaces such as Droid store and Snap(both you have to side load), as well as 1 Mobile to allow you to directly from the device find and load Android apps. There are others including the Amazon Marketplace etc. By the way, if you tried Snap before try it again. It’s now usable.
Android Apps (all available from the 1Mobile Marketplace 14 apps).:
Team Snap for my Hockey Team
Go Transit mostly works. The screen is a little hard to use and I don’t find the location alerts work
Mississauga Transit bus schedules
Alcodroid track your alcohol consumption and keep a close eye on your blood alcohol level.
Ski and Snow Report
Babe of the Day
Bikini Babe of the day
Torrent-FU a great front end to utorrent for Q’ing up and managing your torrents remotely.
Eye-FI for getting your pictures from your Camera to your blackberry using WIFI. (My review of the Eye-FI card). It took a bit of manual setup to add the WIFI setting for the card but I did get it working
Shazam music identifier.
Manually installed APKs (not on 1Mobile):
The following are a list of apps I use to use on Android or my Z10 but due to the screen don’t use on the Q10:
WordHero, Kindle, Wordament, Word Scramble with Friends, Jewels, Populus Romanus, Stupid Zombies Bubbles, Sudokhu Daily, Defense Zone HD, 2X Client, BMO Mobile Banking, Co Pilot, WordPress, Chess, Checkers, Backgammon and XBMC.
A friend came to me looking for a recommendation with an odd restriction. They had won a gift certificate from Microsoft they wanted to use. So her requirements were different than what I would choose. She wanted 15″. Searching through the Microsoft Store’s offerings I found this one. It has an unusual design. The screen bends over 300 degrees to allow it to be used sort of like a tablet or it can be used like a normal notebook. A curious design, not sure how useful it is, but at least you can ignore that feature if it doesn’t interest you.
Right off the bat when this thing arrives two things come to mind … it’s BIG and it’s HEAVY. 15.6 inch big bright, crisp display 1366×768. And weighs in at a whopping 5.1 lbs (vs 3.1 for the X202 I last reviewed). Physically it is 15.00 x 10.70 x 0.87 inches. It’s fairly thin. It’s got a whopping 8G of memory (not upgradeable, although it is a SODIMM so you might be able to replace it. At least it’s not soldered on the planar). Hard drive is 500G 5400 rpm rotating (non-SSD). Start up time is noticeably slower because of the hard drive. Processor is a Core i5. It does not seem to get outrageously warm and the fan is reasonably quiet but noticeable.
Port wise it’s got everything I’d want, USB3, USB2, HDMI (full size), wired NIC as well as SD slot. It also has bluetooth built in. It also has an BGN wireless card.
Once again the SD slot is only half deep leaving it hanging out the side of it. (Repeating an earlier post) I looked for a half slot card or adapter. First off I found one at MCM electronics. I have to admit I didn’t pay enough attention to the pic of it. It’s way too thick to fit in a normal slot. It’s designed only for a Raspberry Pi. Do not buy one of these:
Then I looked into an item called a mini drive. It is designed for MacBooks. This one actually works and just barely sticks out of the notebook. Little enough to not be an issue. They put a little piece of tape on it to be able to remove it. Which is a good thing. It would be a challenge otherwise. I got it on Amazon.
The device arrived with Windows 8 64bit , which upgraded to 8.1 without issues. Once upgraded to 8.1 Windows wanted me to upgrade the Intel ProSet drivers which I did manually.
The Keyboard because of the size of the screen is big, spacious, well laid out and includes a numeric key pad. The Trackpoint is big and prominent up front. There does not seem to be any support for gestures on the trackpoint like some of them. There is no IBM like joystick on this one. The keyboard is not back lit and there is no airplane light either so typing in the dark is challenging.
The power adapter is a bit of a larger brick but then it needs to be to power this bruiser. The power connector is rectangular in shape and looks kind of similar to a USB port. An unusual design.
On the one side of the unit is the power button as well as volume rockers. Odd placement. There is a Windows key on the bottom middle of the screen but has an unpleasant feel to it. Fortunately the only time you will use it is if you are using it in the quasi tablet layout.
Performance on this device is pretty darn good. Once spooled up. Replacing the slower 5400 RPM hard drive with an SSD would make a HUGE improvement. It’s the one thing holding this otherwise stellar performer back.
Lenovo claims 5 hours battery life. I think your results may differ. Push this processor and I bet you can watch the hours melt off pretty quickly.
The web cam is a full 720p. Nice!
There is no optical media on this laptop (CD/DVD).
To open this puppy requires removing a whopping 16 screws including two hidden under rubber feet. Lenovo does make the hardware maintenance manual readily available. Once open you can replace the 5400 RPM 2.5″ drive with a standard 2.5″ SSD.
At $749 from Microsoft this thang sure ain’t cheap. I guess your paying by the pound. Honestly, I would never choose this device solely based on it’s size. But that said, it is a VERY powerful, full function machine.
I work in an area with a bunch of tekkies, ok geeks. They are a great bunch of guys with a great deal of intelligence around the table. Now before any of you get too swelled a head, I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about the other guys We have some lively and educational conversations over lunch etc. Well some of the time anyway. Other times we digress into standard guy stuff. Sometimes this leaves me scratching my head wondering about a particular topic. Now your wondering is there a point to this current seemingly meaningless blog post. Why yes there is! The topic came up is there any difference between connecting a USB hard drive by a USB 2 and 3 port. I must say my answer was that there is not a difference because the rotating media is the limitation not the bus.
So onto the test. Now first off I had some difficulty getting a reliable number off my old tried and true drive benchmark called Checker. So I gave up on that and used two things to measure the speed difference. First of all I used a straight Windows copy (which of course is doing a read from the USB drive and a write to the local drive). The second thing I did was to use Checker and timed how long it took to copy the entire file space (without writing it anywhere). This was to remove any delay from writing and focus entirely on the USB bus. I used a directory with 8.9G of MP4 movies. So they are large files that are heavily compressed, and should largely be sequential reads. This should remove some drive head latency issues from getting in the way of the USB bus speeds.
First off I was shocked to see the variation in speed on the USB 3 bus. I don’t have any explanation for it. Check out this graph from Windows. The speed varied from a peak of around 80MB/s to 30MB/s.
I didn’t capture the graph but on USB 2 it was a steady approx 30MB/s.
So let’s do the numbers. To copy the files took 263 seconds on USB 2 Vs 185 on USB 3 meaning USB 3 was 42% faster. In bandwidth the numbers are an average of 46MB/s on USB 3 and 32 MB/s on USB 2.
The numbers become even more pronounced when you remove the write operation and just do a read. USB 3 took 105 seconds Vs 260 seconds on USB 2 meaning USB 3 was a whopping 148% faster than USB 2. In bandwidth the numbers are an average of 81 MB/s for USB 3 Vs 33 MB/s for USB 2.
Wow was I ever wrong. USB 3 is indeed significantly faster. You were right John! We learned in engineering don’t let what you (think you) know get in the way of what you don’t know. I’m glad I did the test. I am now enlightened!
In the latest release of BB10 on the Q10 and Z30 Blackberry have now enabled an FM radio. To use it go into the music player and you will see what looks like a radio on the bottom. You will need to have a headset attached for it to work, that is the antenna. The Z10 by the way does not have the FM receiver so it doesn’t work on the Z10
Those of you that have the pleasure (or is that a curse) of knowing me know one of my passions is Snowboarding. If you don’t embrace a winter sport the winter seems to take forever. I’ve been using the same boots for the last 10 years since I learned to board. My good friend Joe introduced me to the sport. Thanks Joe! My old boots were an old set of Flows. The boots from the start were at least a half size too big and were tightened up by laces. A pain and hard to adjust especially on the fly. Well this year I decided it was time to jump aboard the new tightening systems and bought a paid of K2 Maysis.
I’m in awe of the new system that K2 have come up with. A number of vendors are using the same Boa ratchet system for tightening the boot. What K2 have done that is unique is that the ratchet on the side of the boot tightens the inside of the liner at the ankle. Pulling the foot back into the boot. Then the ratchet on the front of the boot tightens the outside front of the boot. With the two you can get exactly the level of tightness you want. And you can simply and easily adjust it on the fly. Stop for lunch pull out the ratchet and you can easily loosen the boot to relieve the pressure from the foot. The ratchet is perfectly designed to not ice up, they are under your snow pants and you have to pull it out to release it so there’s no chance of accidentally releasing it. The outside ratchet is properly moved to the outside of the boot so it doesn’t get in the way in between your legs.
This is truly revolutionary. If your still dealing with the old school laces check these out. For the price they are a bargain in convenience and on the fly tuning of your boot! Wow. Did I mention comfortable and warm too?
I’ve seen these on ebay before and been curious as to what they can and can not do.
Let’s start with standards. There are three competing standards in the market for wirelessly adding a display or sharing content on a remote display (wirelessly) today. As usual manufacturers are lining up under a specific standard. These are in turn making their way into receivers and TV. So understanding the differences can be helpful. The three standard vary significantly in how they work, and what they can do. In all cases there is a sending side and a receiving side.
DLNA is about streaming content from a sender to the receiver. This is intended for content like pictures, video and audio. It will not work for mirroring the display of the device. You can not use it to add a second display to a PC for example. The sender streams the content to the receiver. The receiver is doing all the heavy lifting of decoding the content. This is why when you see DLNA on a receiver or TV it can mean only audio/video not video. It may not have the horsepower to do video. You need to read the fine print. DLNA is widely supported and has been in the market for a while now. Lots of devices support DLNA. Blackberry 10 devices, and Android devices for example. Depending on the data rate of the content you may need a fast wireless connection. Especially with HD movies for example.
Check windows 8 send to/playto.
Next up is MiraCast. This works very differently. It is used to add an display which can in turn be a mirror of your desktop, extend your desktop of completely replace your desktop. Intel are largely behind Miracast. Lots of Windows 8 devices support Miracast. Here is a Microsoft document on the subject. They refer to it as projecting. All the heavy lifting is done by the sender. The amount of data can be high so it’s important to have a fast wireless connection for the response time to be good and the experience to be smooth. I found an article on CNET about Android support of Miracast. Unless you bought a device very recently Android support of Miracast is spotty.
Lastly is Apple’s AirPlay. Being I am not an Apple person I won’t go into this one simply because I would get out of my depth quickly It seems to be Miracast like in that it can act as an additional display.
Ok, with that said let’s move onto this device. It claims to support all three standards. The device looks just like a dongle with an HDMI connector on one end, a micro USB jack on the back, a WIFI antenna, a single button and a single LED.
Out of the box it comes with two cables, a pig tail for HDMI and an USB cable.
The pigtail for HDMI is a great idea and IMHO is a must. It insures you can plug the device into anywhere. Without it, the device may or may not fit plugged directly into your TV. The other plug is a USB plug that provides the device power. If your TV has a USB plug then all you need is there. It does not come with an AC adapter.
Beyond that the only thing left is to decide if you want DLNA or Miracast. If you put it in Miracast mode to change it back to DLNA you have to push the one button on the device and wait for it to switch modes. If there is a way to set this for AirPlay I don’t see it. It does say that it is iOS DLNA compatible.
In DLNA mode the device works pretty well. My Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7 plus running Android 4.1.2 saw it perfectly and played just fine. I tried it with an HD, heavily encoded movie and while it was jerky at first it settled down and was ok. Music played fine. On my Blackberry Q10 running 10.2.1 it was also seen perfectly. Again movies and music worked fine. I tried three different Windows 8.1 PCs and none of them would see it as a Play To Device but it did see other devices on the network. So this seems to be bust.
In Miracast mode I had some mixed results using my Asus X202 running Windows 8.1. The default resolution for my Asus X202 is 1366×768. Mirrored it worked fine and was acceptably responsive. I tried going to the Miracast only display and bumping the resolution 1280×720 and it was a little sluggish and somewhat buggy. Bumping it up to 1920×1080 and the laptop hung. I don’t know who is at fault here but this wouldn’t work. Playing a movie on the laptop projected out to the miracast display was jerky and not usable.
So in the end it’s a mixed result. Depending on what you might want to do with this device it might be ok. But it definitely is not a perfect device. I spent little on it, which is a good thing. I will not be recommending this device to any friends.
Taking control of your notifications (sound, LED, vibrations) on your device is key to keeping the intrusions into your day to a minimum. Sadly most devices including the Z10/Q10 do not do this well. Out of the box BB10 has a limited number of sounds. You can control the sounds for a specific individual’s emails, calls etc in the contacts ap but there is no ability to change the color of the notification LED. It’s either on or off. Yet the LED itself can do different colors. There’s also no reminder setting for insuring you don’t miss a message from an important person. Android wasn’t a whole lot better (out of the box). On Android the Priority Inbox for gmail was awesome. I had hoped the Priority hub in BB10 would do something similar but sadly Blackberry left off one key item, the ability to notify only for the priority Inbox. A HUGE miss. And one that makes the Priority hub nothing more than a display filter on the hub. Sad …
This is where BeBuzz steps in. You can use BeBuzz to take over all control of your notifications. And with it you can completely control message reminders, vibrate, tones, and color of the notification LED based on an individual. It really does have a ton of flexibility. So much so that I bought the app at $2.99. I have noticed BB apps are definitely more expensive than Android apps. This is at least partially do to the smaller number of apps, thus less competition IMHO. BeBuzz really does a good job but there are a couple of places that could be improved. Each time you add a contact you have to go through all the settings, (each email type, ring etc) for each individual. So that means LED/Sound/Vibrate/Popup for each account type. So for my device I have three email accounts, text message, Google talk, Windows live and missed call. So there are a total of 7×4 or 28 settings for each individual.
Now BeBuzz has a handful of new sounds over and above what is in BB10 and you can add your own sounds, but this is clumsy to say the least. There’s no ability to import a sound into BeBuzz which would help. So each time you choose to add a sound not in BeBuzz you have to navigate to find it. Multiply this times the number of settings, times the number of contacts and this is tedious. And there’s no ability to group individuals. Lastly there’s no ability pattern a new individual off an existing one. So all in all it is time consuming to set it up.
One of the limitations of BB10 is that is does not allow for auto starting of an app when BB boots. So you need to keep this in mind and start BeBuzz each time. And of course, don’t close it. This isn’t BeBuzz’s fault, its a platform limitation. They wisely added a are you sure when you quit. And do remember there is also a limitation of only having 8 things running in the background so this takes one of those. This is being fixed in upcoming releases of the operating system but this is where it is at for now.
Bebuzz even allows you to set a sleep time and allows you to control notification settings while in the sleep times. One missing item would be to change the sleep times on weekends. It’s one setting for all days. Some of us like to sleep in on the weekend This is again something missing from the native Operating system.
There’s one mistake BeBuzz made that I hope they will correct. It ignores phone notification settings. This could be a platform limitation but if I’m in silent or all notifications off BeBuzz still makes sound/vibrate etc. This is particularly bad if your trying to sleep. So if you use BeBuzz for all your sound/vibrate settings remember you will need to close BeBuzz, or select Silent mode in BeBuzz (as well as the OS if you are using both) before you go to sleep. Of course the easier thing to do is to put the phone in silent mode and do everything with BeBuzz.
By the way I got a neat tip from Crackberry that to take a screen shot simply push up and down volume at the same time. Cool!
Be sure and drag from the top and go into settings for even more flexibility!
The app has a backup and restore function, but when I tried it after an OS reload it didn’t work right and I had to totally redo the setup
All in all this is a good app, with tons of flexibility. With a few improvements it could be a great app! I really hope they continue to improve it. It really does fill a HUGE gap BlackBerry haven’t fixed even in 10.2.1.
Recently I saw a post on crackberry about a new release of the Beta of 10.2.1 on Crackberry that is suppose to bring some improvements for Android Runtime as well as performance. So I decided to jump on it. What do I have to loose right
Ok so I started by doing a full backup of the phone. I had put on and setup a ton of apps, including a number of Android ones and was hoping to not loose them. But just as a precaution I backed up manually the important app data where I could.
The upgrade process was painless and took less than 1/2 an hour. Then I did the restore which took another little while to do. But all seemed to go fine and the device rebooted. Ok time to see the results …
Oh no … every single Android app that had previously been loaded was gone. Every side loaded Blackberry app was also gone. All of the accounts had to have their passwords re-entered. Blackberry native apps were reinstalled (by the backup) and maintained their setup. WIFI setup was there, but bluetooth was gone long gone. Time to set these up yet again.
The music player (and video/pics) all had to rescan the 32G SD card for content. And this took another little while (about another 1/2 hour).
The whole time all this resetup was going on the phone was unresponsive and I couldn’t even get into messages
Whatever you do, if you choose to do this upgrade, do it when you have a lot of time. I asked a colleague who has done this kind of thing many times and he said he has not seen it go this bad before. So this may be a one off. Now this is what you live with when you choose betas but none the less I am underwhelmed and even a little annoyed.
- Windows 8 tablets a rant
- Oh no … I deleted that file :) Crap!
- My Favorite programs for my Blackberry Q10 running 10.2.1
- Lenovo Flex 15″ laptop review
- USB 3 Vs USB 2 for hard drives
- Q10 and Z30 now have an FM radio
- K2 Maysis snowboarding boots
- Wireless Display adapter
- BeBuzz Pro BB10 ap review
- Upgrading my Q10 to 10.2.1.1925
- Is snowboarding aerobic? (and a RunGPS article)
- Updating my Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7 Plus P6210 to Jelly bean