Honest Review Of The Microsoft Surface RT After A Few Weeks With It

I’ll be the first to admit that I have gotten excited over the work that Microsoft has been doing lately so this is coming from someone with a newly found joy in using MS products. Also of note my device history:

    Mobile

  • Motorola SLVR
  • Palm Treo 680 PalmOS circa 2006 (my first smart device) – bought eBay 2007
  • Blackberry circa 2005 (don’t recall model but it sucked and so far my only downgrade ever) – bought eBay 2009
  • iPhone 3gs circa 2009 – bought AT&T 2009
  • Samsung Focus circa 2010 – bought AT&T 2010 (gave my girlfriend my iPhone)
  • HTC Titan circa 2011 – bought AT&T when the iPhone upgrade was up

    Desktop OS

  • Windows 98 flea market build – bought 2001ish
  • Windows XP custom build – bought 2003ish later to become an Ubuntu dev server in house
  • Windows XP custom build – built 2006
  • Upgraded(downgraded) to Vista on that machine with student discount in 2007 after a month switched to Ubuntu
  • Solely Ubuntu Feisty Fawn and only used Windows when I had to for class
  • Officially swore off MS and was loving Linux and my Palm Treo sometime in 2007
  • 2009 Upgraded that old machine to Windows 7 after using it in my job and actually liking it

I currently use Windows 7 and 8 on a day to day basis. Along with OSX Snow Leopard on a weeklyish basis and my Linux box is in a closet:(. With Windows 7 and WP7 coming around I started to actually become a fan of MS products. Before I used them because it was there. When I realized I had a choice, I switched to Linux. There was also some FreeBSD and CentOS installs in there but they were short lived as I preferred Ubuntu. But enough of that, on to the Surface.

Touch Cover

Enough cannot be said about the touch cover. It keeps my screen protected and provides a surface to lay my Surface on where I definitely don’t have to worry about scratches or anything. And on top of all of that it is a top notch performer when it comes to typing. I compare it to going from my Treo’s physical keyboard to the iPhone’s onscreen, although you don’t have to look at the keys like an onscreen. It is also nice that you get a lot of the typical large keyboard keys like volume, media controls, home, end, delete keys across the top as well as a couple of Windows 8 specifics like search, devices, share, and settings. The track pad works but is nothing new or exciting.

Screen

The screen as you know has a relatively low resolution but I can’t honestly say that it is any sort of hindrance, other than the amount of tiles you can have on the start screen. The picture looks great and fonts are crystal clear even when zoomed all the way in as I am right now while typing. I never thought to do this but it is actually kind of nice as it makes it extremely easy to see while typing and the screen automatically moves with the cursor when I get to the edge of the screen or start a new line. Oh hey I just found a fun feature for when I am writing these blogs. If a word is misspelled with the red squiggly under it, I can tap it and it gives me suggestions on a new spelling and it was correct. I also really like the 16:9 for a few reasons. Having a wider screen is great for when I am coding as I use the split screen but it is also great for movies and shows. When you flip it up into portrait (which I don’t do much) it is nice for Kindle books and long web pages to read.

IE10 Spell Corrector While Blogging
You can see above when a word is misspelled you can tap on it and get choices to correct it or to add it to your dictionary

Front and Rear Facing Camera on The Surface

They exist. There isn’t really anything to write about here other than they are there. They were clearly just made for video chat and they do a good job of it but you won’t want to be taking any pictures with them and not just because you look foolish. The angle on the back one is nice as my boss does fight with that a lot with his iPad and cover when trying to set it up for hands off use. (SIDE NOTE: I also just noticed that when I tap a misspelled word I have the option to ‘add to dictionary’)

Surface Ports, Kickstand, Buttons and General Physical Feel

Despite what people might say it is super nice to have a USB port on hand. You can charge your phone, plug in a mouse you have laying around, or plug in one of the 100 other USB devices you have. The headphone jack does what is expected and playing through headphones is surprisingly loud, luckily it automatically turns the volume down when you plug in. The speakers have good sound quality but are a bit quitter than I would like. I have yet to use my HDMI port but if I ever buy a cord that might change. I love the feel of the VaporMG and the kickstand is solid engineering. One thing that did surprise me is how well you can actually use this in your lap. To do so you have to have your lap fairly flat because at angles it obviously gets a bit dicey.

Software on Surface RT

Most of the software is nice but some of it is still a bit buggy. The Surface as is lacks a lot of great apps which I know is a bashers go to but at this point it can be a real turn off depending on your setup. As a web developer there isn’t a lot for me to work with on here currently but I actually find using the built in Windows RDP to be the best solution for that anyway as I don’t have to deal with file storage decisions or transfers or syncs, none of that because I am remoted into my development machine. However, I know that won’t be the case with everyone, and even I still need to setup my home VPN if I want to remote while away. The people, mail, and messaging hub can be slow and the messaging hub even failed to finish retrieving messages for me just a moment ago. Upon initial setup I even had to uninstall and reinstall these (they are a bundle) because my Facebook and Twitter stuff was stuck in limbo and wouldn’t actually sync.

Gestures, Charms, Menus, and Multitasking on the Surface RT

Like this keyboard I can’t possibly say enough but the Search Charm. One unified search for any app and the OS alike all a simple flick from the right away is brilliant and it works so well. It does take some getting used to though. Realizing that the Charms are for much more than just the OS is something that will grow on you but you will likely feel limited in a lot of apps until you realize that. One Charm that has so far been a love hate is the Device Charm. When I am listening to music and want to throw it up on the Xbox I just flick left | tap device | tap Xbox. And bam it is up on my Xbox in a few seconds. Sometimes it takes like 10-15 or so seconds which is a slight annoyance but the real problem has been with video. I can get video to work just find almost all the time but when it does mess up, like say it stops playing on the Xbox it sometimes won’t list the Xbox in my device list anymore. I have had to restart my Xbox to fix this one time. Flicking from the left to switch apps is ridiculously fast and I personally haven’t been able to force much lag unless I was switching with video and games and had a lot going on and even then we are talk 1-3 second lag.

To Wrap Things Up

I think that the Surface RT is a great product that needs more software for it. For me it has completely replaced a 17″ HP and a 10.1″ Eee PC though it couldn’t fully do this without the RDP so if RDP isn’t an option for you then you might want to look at the Yoga or MacBook Air, or wait for Surface Pro maybe. Obviously, all of those carry a bit higher price tag. Any review that just constantly rips on the Surface RT is either purely just looking for visits or bought a laptop/hybrid when they actually needed a toaster or something else completely unrelated.

AT&T Has The Worst Upgrade Page iPhone is Their Only Phone

While I have always had good luck with AT&T as a phone service and with customer service, I haven’t been able to stand their upgrade page since 2007. Ever since the iPhone has been on AT&T they make it look like it is the only phone they have. You have to hunt around the page to figure out how to find the other phones that they offer.iPhone5 Is The Only Phone on AT&T

This is what you get when you click to upgrade a device

Come on. I can’t believe how hard AT&T pushes the iPhone. They make it look to not tech savvy people that it is the only phone that you can upgrade too. Sorry for the little rant but this page annoys the crap out of me every time I see it. And I thought that after 5 years they might finally stop forcing it as the default device, but they have not. I think they made it even harder to try to find any other device actually. The iPhone 5 is great. One of the best phones but please just give people a chance.

One thing that makes it especially funny is that when they launched the first Lumia devices they said that it was going to be the biggest launch ever. Bigger than iPhone and promoted heavier. Yet we still have this page. 75% of the page is taken up by some form of iPhone and you have a couple of crappy other devices in the corner with one tiny link to get to more devices.

Fixing Low Hot Water Pressure Problems by Replacing Your Dielectric Union

What You Need

  • Big channel locks
  • Monkey(pipe) wrench
  • Copper tubing cutter
  • plumbers tape
  • New dielectric union (and maybe a male to male galvanized nipple)
  • Torch
  • Solder
  • Flux

Don’t let the list scare you. I was worried about the torch and solder but it is much easier than I thought, thanks to the internet. You can get solder(sweating) kits at Lowe’s for pretty cheap.

If you are a homeowner then chances are you have had some things that needed repaired, replaced, or updated somewhere along the way. Since buying a place earlier this year I have already had a handful of those projects including; fixing a leaking, wobbly dishwasher with broken racks, fixing a leaky icemaker that made little to no ice cubes, laying a subfloor in the attic, and one of the trickiest for me to figure out was extremely low hot water pressure throughout the house. Since we moved in the hot water pressure was low but it got to the point where you couldn’t really take a shower. You just had a few dribbles falling on your head which made for unnecessarily long showers.

Figuring Out The Cause of Low Hot Water Pressure

I can’t even imagine how many Bing and Google searches I did for figuring out hot water pressure problems. Over the course of a couple of months there were several search/research sessions that lasted for multiple hours trying to figure out how I could fix my hot water pressure. But almost nothing that I found seemed to be very relevant. I was able to find something about a dielectric union on a forum somewhere but, there was no end answer or pictures or anything so I was still left in the dark. I am hoping that this write-up here saves at least one person hours of searching.

Giving Up And Calling A Plumber

The water heater is probably about 12 yeas old so at one point I figured it was time to just throw in the towel and have it done professionally. I got a few quotes on full replacement and was not very happy with the prices. However, there was one helpful company that was actually straight forward with me and instead of making me pay for someone to come out and try to sell me a warranty he said he knew exactly what it was and it would be a couple hundred to fix. He didn’t tell me it was the dielectric union but he said it was the connection on one of the lines on top of the water heater. This got me searching around trying to figure out if we had a dielectric union and/or what they look like. I had little to no success on finding this information so I also searched a lot on how to replace a water heater myself.

Somewhat Blindly Digging In

One morning I had nothing to do so I decided to fix the water heater myself. Not knowing what I was replacing exactly and not having the tools to do it I just took the precautions suggested in some videos for the gas line and such and started removing things from my water heater. I successfully disconnected the exiting hot water line and discovered that it was most likely the problem. However, without a monkey wrench I was unable to remove the piece that I assumed was the core problem and I was unsure what the piece was called, making it hard to find a replacement.

Before you get started, make sure that you turn off the gas, shut off the water supply to the heater, shut the gas line going to the heater, release the pressure in your tank, and have some backup plans for if you make a watery mess.

Dielectric Union Side Shot Still Attached
Getting started, finding the cause of the low water pressure. You can see I detached the hot water line here.

At this point I am feeling pretty good about myself and thinking that it can be a pretty quick fix once I get the tools.

Dielectric Union Top View Corroded and Blocking My Hot Water
Here you can see that the dielectric union is completely done for. I don’t know how any water was making it through there.

At this point I still didn’t know that this was a dielectric union but I was pretty sure that it was the problem. So now I needed a replacement part and the tools to actually replace it. I thought I could just buy one of these things and a monkey wrench and be done with it. I found out I was wrong. After traveling to 4 different stores I ended up going to a┬álocal store to find what I needed and the guy behind the counter told me it was a dielectric union and that I had more work than I had thought. Turns out I was going to have to cut some copper pipe and learn how to solder. So this information ups my needs list to include; solder, torch, and pipe cutter. Back to work.

A Bad Dielectric Union Compared To A Good One
You can see why my hot water was having some trouble getting around my house.

Now we need to cut off the old female dielectric union. For me, I needed a male to male nipple which was about 6 inches long so I had to make sure that I figured that in when cutting. Using a small copper tubing cutter I quickly had the pipe cut and ready to solder the new dielectric female end on. The nut needs to go on the pipe before you do this so it can be screwed down. I grabbed some masking tape to get the nut out of my way.

A Bad Dielectric Union Compared To A Good One
I taped this up so that it was out of my way for soldering on the copper part of my dielectric union.

There are plenty of videos and resources to find how to sweat(solder) copper tubing so I am not going to go into details on that but here is one that I looked at before operating.

New Dielectric Union Ready to Solder
Here you can see I have screwed in my nipple and dielectric union male part to my water heater and ready to solder.

In the above picture the white parts on the nipple and dielectric union are where the plumbers tape comes into play. Read the instructions on applying the tape because it is important. I had to undo all of the screwed in parts 3 times because I screwed up the plumbers tape and had a slight leak. It is really annoying to have to undo your work because of leaks. You can see that I used this configuration to hold the dielectric union in place to do my soldering. I didn’t have an extra set of hands or any tools to hold it in place while soldering but this worked splendidly. I think I applied the solder on too heavy but it is doing the job so I will let that slide.

Dielectric Union Soldered And Ready
This is just after I soldered the dielectric union on and it is ready to tighten down.

At this point you will just untape your nut and fasten it down onto the other part of the dielectric union.

Conclusion

Replacing the dielectric union ended up being a much easier job than I though that it was going to be. Once you have the right tools and have done your research it isn’t too bad. So stop sitting under a shower head that is only dripping out and get the nice high pressure warm shower that you deserve. This is certainly one of the best decisions I have made. I think grand total it cost me about $50 but that is mostly on tools that I can use again. And including driving around and everything it took me about 4 hours but I bet I could do it in 1 now.