First Day With The Microsoft Surface RT

As it stands I have owned a Microsoft Surface RT with black touch cover for a little over 24 hours. This blog is going to be my first extensive typing with the touch cover. To boot I am typing this on my lap because one of the initial reviews that I read said it was unusable like this. I have to say that is simply wrong and laptop use is much much better than I had expected. This is going to be a pretty quick and overall review instead of being super in depth. I hope to write a more in depth review after more use.

The Good Software

The Microsoft Surface is super easy to setup and beautiful to see all of your data instantly synced up on your first login. This is of course assuming that you take advantage of the services offered by live.com, which if you do not then you should check them out. The built in apps are pretty basic but beautifully done and very fast. The app store also has a decent amount of useful free or cheap apps already which was a nice surprise. Angry Birds space, I have to say is quite fun and got me hooked unlike the others in the series. The gestures take a little bit of practice but when you get them down they become quite natural. The task switching swipe from the left is just unparalleled. Having a full on Windows machine is a small and sleek package is pretty cool. You still have the full on familiar control panel, desktop, task manager (actually improved), and of course a file manager. The new task manager is awesome on Windows 8 with a much better breakdown of what exactly is going on and where. The software keyboard is nice with the multiple configurations which work nearly perfectly for the different ways you might interact with your Surface.

The Good Hardware

I had a live account for about 6 years before I looked at what it actually had to offer. And it gets better by the day. The touch cover is super thin, comfortable, sleek, and actually a joy to type on. I use a clunky Logitech wave which has pretty hard keys so I was worried that I would not like the touch cover at all, I was wrong. I equate it to the switch from Palm Treo and Blackberry to my iPhone 3gs. The magnet on the keyboard and on the power cord are nice but the keyboard one is much better. It has already come in handy to have a usb port to charge my phone in a pinch. Surface’s lowish resolution screen still looks beautiful. I did have my doubts on that and I have yet to hold it next to a New Ipad but I think it is much less of a deterrent than I thought that it would be.

Software Fails So Far

For whatever reason the people and message hub will not sync my facebook and twitter accounts fully with my live account but it works fine with my girlfriends live account, TweetTRO doesn’t load at all, and Xbox Music has had problems on some songs. I feel like the switch to portrait/landscape is a little too sensitive sometimes. Lastly, moving tiles around on the homescreen with touch took a little bit to figure out and can feel a bit bulky when trying to move a tile from one end to the other.

Hardware Issues

The camera quality is pretty low, which I knew and didn’t really care too much about, but it could turn some people off. Also the speakers are not really all that loud but of course can be taken care of with speakers or headphones.

Overall Take Away After One Day With Surface

The hardware is extremely nice with only the camera quality being something that I could see being a deal breaker to some. The software is nice but the apps will certainly benefit from some more development. The touch cover is insanely good for typing on lap or on a solid surface.

If you are wondering, I did one type test with the 10 fingers fast test on this touch cove and got 57 words per minute with 6 errors and 55 correct words. I am not a super fast typist but I have hit as high as 89 or so on that test in the past.

Xbox Smartglass. It’s not DLNA or Airplay

If you haven’t played with Microsoft’s new Xbox Smartglass app yet then I suggest you do. It is so cool. Instead of being a mirroring or second display it has controls, extra content, and endless possibilities.

General Media With Smartglass

Say you want to play some music with Smartglass. Simply make sure your Xbox is on and you are signed into the same account you use with your phone and launch the Smartglass app. In a few seconds you will connect and have control of your Xbox. If you are at the dashboard of your Xbox you will have a simple touch interface for a controller with clearly marked hotspots for the buttons. Swipe around a bit and you can dive into some of your Xbox apps or you can leave the remote screen and dive into more function of the Smartglass app by tapping the bottom right for the menu.

Out of the menu you will see a nice Modern UI app with a handful of features including; search, discovery, and current/recent. Swipe to the search and tap in a favorite band name, tap a result, and you are presented with some information and a button to ‘Play on Xbox’. After you start to hear your sweet jams coming out of your Xbox and wow your friends you can then see more information about the artist, song, or album and even see like artists, save to a playlist, or play the top songs. Along with all of that we get convenient buttons across the bottom of our screen for skip forward/backward, pause, and play. Video is basically the same but I don’t have anything in my collection and don’t really like to rent or buy anything from there so I haven’t actually played anything yet.

Netflix and Other Apps From Smartglass

Netflix is one of my primary ways to watch video. Between Netflix and Windows Media Center, I get pretty much all of the shows and movies that I care to watch. Well there is also the occasional Redbox or torrent but I get both of those for free, one thanks to Bing rewards. So you can use Smartglass to navigate your dashboard and get to Netflix or you can use your Kinect voice commands which have been developing nicely. So after shouting things like ‘XBOX’ ‘APPS’ ‘NETFLIX’ and ‘PLAY NOW’ I was up and running with Netflix on my Xbox. All the while I can see from my Smartglass app that Netflix is running on my Xbox and I can even see what show is playing and more information about the show, actors, and similar shows. Which helped me to discover that James Roday was in a few things other than Psych as well. With one tap I can skip to any point in the show, or I can fast forward, rewind, pause, play and with surprising response time.

Internet Explorer on Xbox with Smartglass You Ask?

I was part of the public beta program this time around, so I have had IE on my Xbox for a while and I have used it all of zero times. Well other than testing it out a bit. No wait, I lied. I used it once because a friend wanted to show a video that was not on Youtube. Any how, it is not great to navigate as you would expect from a console browser but it is certainly usable. However, with having a touchpad in your hand the game is changed. Suddenly with Smartglass a browser works pretty similar to a desktop browser. Is it perfect? No. Multi-touch next please. I tried to 2 finger scroll and it doesn’t work. They did however put a scroll bar on the right side for you so you can do that. And you can pinch to zoom in and out. I still don’t think that it is very likely that I will use IE on my Xbox on a daily basis but, it is a much better experience with Smartglass.

Oh and as far as games go on the Xbox with Smartglass, well I haven’t played any yet but that is where I am most excited. Just imagine where gaming can go now that we have multiple interfaces. What can developers do with a tv, controller, kinect, and tablet or smartphone? The answer is, A LOT. So game devs please give us your best in the next couple of years and really kick this Smartglass off with a bang because Microsoft has done a great job with it so far. One thing I would like to see out of Smartglass is a landscape.

Custom Tiles Updated – Now Supports HTML Entities Hex and Decimal Code ✌

Want to make the home screen of your Windows Phone even more attractive? I’ve made some exciting changes to the Custom Tiles web app that I have built ➠ here. If you haven’t seen it, it is a must for Windows Phone fans. It is a great, easy way to add custom tiles to your start screen for website shortcuts. Currently, you simply just the web address that you want to create the shortcut for, the title, subtitle, color, and pin it to your start screen.

As you can see below I have used a few of the HTML entity icons to show just a little bit of what can be done now with Custom Tiles. There is a link below to a good resource for the html entity, hex, and decimal codes for these icons but here is one example. ✌ = ✌

Windows Phone Custom Tiles Web App - Website Tiles
Here are some sample tiles that you can make with the new and improved Custom Tiles web app.

More Customizable Website Shortcuts

I have just added support for HTML entity hex and decimal code so that you can add a slew of different icons to your start screen. A good reference to these characters can be found here ✓.

Techniques for Perfecting Your Custom Tiles

I started thinking about it and realized that you can easily pan and zoom to position the text/icons exactly where you will want them to be. Later on I would like to add more colors, font color change, and independently changing the position of the title and sub-title. I have been thinking about using cookies to remember some of your choices to make your process faster. And implementing an auto complete for some common urls to make that process easier. If there is any other functionality you would like to see please let me know. I think that adding the icon support increases the usefullness 10 fold for this web app.

4 Days Until The Indianapolis Half Marathon

The race is only 4 days away now. Sadly, I slacked off from my training routine more than I should have the past week. And ate more than I should have for that matter. At one point I weighed in at about 209 but this morning am right around 211. I think I will likely settle around 210 by time of the race, which would be a total of about 8lbs lost in the 6 weeks of training. I was on track to be more like 208 but had a bad week the past week as far as my training to diet goes.

Below is the calendar that I had set from the begining (Sept-Oct). This turned out to be far too ambitious for my ability, so I stuck to the days for the most part but shortened the running. To date the farthest I have run without stopping is only 4.5 miles, but like I said in my last post here, we are going to do intervals. In our training we worked up to running about 4-4.5 miles non stop and then would walk/jog another 1-2 miles.

I would certainly be lying if I told you that this has been easy, and that I haven’t had my doubts or wanted to quit. There were so many days that I just did not want to get up and go outside to run. The first couple of weeks were kind of like a high. It felt good to get out and be active, and I was excited about the challenge. As the runs got longer and more time consuming it got harder to do them not just physically but mentally as well. But, if you are sitting around, thinking that you need to get into shape then committing to a half marathon is a good way to do it. I really enjoyed the 5k that I ran at the Indianapolis Heart Walk this year and really want to run more 5k’s to get my time down. So get out and start running. I haven’t gotten there just yet but come Saturday I will have gone for couch potato to a half marathon in 6 weeks.


Week 5 of 6 Training for a Half Marathon

Sorry I haven’t kept up better with blogging about my training. Due to being out of town and getting sick I have missed a few trainings. Most of the time I tried to make them up or just do a cut down version. In general over the past 5 weeks I have knocked my goal down a little bit for the event.

Week 5 Training Progress

The Indianapolis Marathon is coming up quickly. To date I am weighing in at 213lbs which is a bit heavier than week 2 but there are a lot of things that can go into that, but the important part is that my body fat is still showing about 27%. So far the farthest we have run without stopping is 4.2 miles and we kept about a 10 minute mile pace. This might not sound like much for having to run 13.1 miles here in a couple of weeks but I am not worried about it. We are starting to think that we might do the race like such:

  • Run 4.1 miles – 9 left
  • Walk .5 miles – 8.5 left
  • Run 3 miles – 5.5 left
  • Walk .5 miles – 5 left
  • Run 2.5 miles – 2.5 left
  • Walk .5 miles – 2 left
  • Run the last 2 miles

Hopefully, taking the half mile walking breaks keeps us from getting worn out without racking up too much time. With this we are hoping to finish probably around 2:30 to 2:45. I know 15 minutes is a bit of a range but I am really not sure how fast ‘running’ will be on those last couple of intervals.

I would say that overall the schedule that I came up with for training is pretty good, but a little bit too ambitious. We haven’t done the full training plan but we have stuck pretty close to the 4 workouts a week, just smaller distances than scheduled. In short, I think it is looking pretty good to be able to train for a half marathon in 6 weeks.