I don’t blog much on sports but I am an avid Bengals fan and seeing them make it to the playoffs 2 years in a row is huge for me. Not sure that I have any Bengals fans that ever check this site but I am just psyched about this. I started being a Bengals fan in the days of Esiason which I remember back to about the age of 3 or 4 years old.
Bengals Going to The Superbowl?
Not likely, sadly I expect they lose in the first round. That said I think the Bengals can beat the Patriots because of how their defense has been and because Patriots likely won’t be able to stop Green, Jones, Hawkins, and Gresham. Would be quite amusing to see a San Fransisco and Cincinnati Superbowl happen again as that is the only team the Bengals have played in their 2 Superbowl appearances. I imagine we will see a high scoring game in the first round of the playoffs this year.
So let me know below what you think of the Bengals or general thoughts on who will be in the Superbowl XLVII.
There are many people that are out looking to get a ‘tablet’ so they do not have to pull out their 8lb laptop when they want to check email, surf the web, or track their daily calories. I don’t know if very many people actually use a laptop for calorie tracking but I doubt it. For all exstensive purposes I will be talking about the Surface with touch cover. It is, in my opinion the only way to go and should be sold for $499 with the cover. But at $599 with cover it is on par with or cheaper than you will spend on a similar setup with a new iPad.
The Good Things About Working With Surface RT
The form Factor: It is light, thin, and versatile.
Weighing in under 2lbs with the touch cover is a pretty impressive feat with a 10.6″ screen and several usable ports like the USB, HDMI, headphone, and microSD. Oh and there is a built in kick stand that does it’s job elegantly and hides away nicely. This baby can easily slip into my girlfriends purse, a backpack, or just be carried around and the keyboard is a nice protective cover. Granted I haven’t dropped my Surface yet so I don’t know how much protection it will offer in reality. With the touch cover you can easily use the Surface like a full fledged laptop on a flat surface like a desk, table, etc. Also with how solid the kickstand is, it is easy and comfortable to use the Surface in your lap. The lap position isn’t as versatile as a laptop because it is not as rigid as a laptop and only has one angle but it is still very usable. The 16:9 is wonderful in landscape for media and in portrait it is nice for longer websites and Nook or Kindle reading.
Doing web development, I obviously deal with a lot of files. Having Skydrive nicely integrated and having a full featured, easy access file system is a great asset when developing.
The App Ecosystem
Hold on a second and let me explain. The ecosystem isn’t there just yet for everything but, being a Windows machine you can clearly see that the device has developer minded people behind it. There have already been a lot of code editor apps to hit the marketplace and this excites me. I haven’t found one that I like as much as Notepad++ just yet but I know it will be there shortly either with an update to the already impressive list of editor apps or a new one coming along.
Full Screen Browser, Multi-tasking, Charms, Gestures, Snap, and App Switcher
I lumped these together because in my use they are the bread and butter of what makes the device such a joy to use and they all basically go hand in hand. As a web developer I am obviously excited about the future of web apps. I have never been a fan of native apps, even when I was on iOS. Oops started drifting, back on. The full screen browser is just beautiful, it really just puts the web in front of you without any other junk. The multi-tasking is similar, tied in with how you switch apps it is just out of the way and just works fast and fluid. Instead of having a cluttered desktop with various sized windows stacked on top of each other things just get out of the way and are a simple flick from being front and center again. And of course if someone is chatting you up, you need to check emails, or are testing your mobile sized web work then snap is a beautiful answer to that. The gestures and charms really tie everything together. Instead of hunting around for where an app put it’s settings or other core functionality, you know they are a flick from the right away. Also a short swipe from top or bottom will bring you the other options the app brings and they will get out of your way when you are done.
Built in Remote Desktop is Second to None
Lets face it, in its infancy Windows RT does not have everything you could possibly need as far as apps go so you have to get on your desktop. But wait, instead of walking all the way up stairs and pausing your movie you can just RDP. As a bonus if you are remoting into a Windows 8 machine you even still have all of your wonderful gestures. RDP to a Windows 8 machine feels like you have full Windows 8 on your Surface RT with a bit of lag in a few areas.
The Bad Things About Developing on Surface RT
I can sum this all up in one word. Apps. While RDP is a good solution, it isn’t always the desired one. I need some Ruby on my RT for SASS, filezilla, and more browsers to test on. Sure there is browser stack but it isn’t the same.
With Windows Phone’s deep facebook integration I never open the actual Facebook app and I rarely check Facebook on my computer. This I recently found can cause me to miss some party planning if someone decides to use Facebook chat to plan the party. One thing you can’t do with WP’s Facebook integration is group chat, so you have to actually open the Facebook app for it. Booooooo.
So if you open up the Facebook app and go to messages you have an option to pin it to your start screen. You should also change your settings if you haven’t already (I hadn’t) to allow for push notifications on messages.
The Facebook apps push notifications do not appear to be working at this time. I tested on an HTC Titan with WP7 and a Lumia 920 with WP8 with no success. Hopefully Facebook fixes this as it will make this post much more useful
If I am going to try to do a dictation mode post. Dictation for the service with windows of a doesn’t like the word surface or water. Add to that as. Th the dictation experience on the Microsoft service is this allows a Lazard carol all full. Linda Owen have th from neat features of stuff I wonder if I can read it any better without looking at what I’m reading th em I’m just be because the microphone is not sensitive enough. The sound of a fire hold the surface with my mouse to the microphone to cushion works quite well. I live. I didn’t do the dictation setup to try to optimize if though that might be part of the reason it sucks oboe and. At the
This really makes me want to try to cushion on a different machine and even just was a different microphone because I’m not sure if the software is bad or fish microphone really to scatter mirror will. Talking directly into the microphone works to sort also some of your options are nice for correcting words. That is when it works in a patent suit attention of the haven’t even though it has to come at a dinner and hendershot speaks of the period. The only a reason I could see to use dictation is as you’re missing fingers will perhaps or to use as a creativity tool because of the brain processing for speech rather than typing or in addition to tucker.
Overall it looks like the software is pretty good and I have spoken this entire post without doing any corrections as you can see from the first paragraph it is miserable the differences May 1 paragraph was about 2 feet and from a safe hand of this last paragraph of his was my mouth right up to the microphone. Th fifth.Publish
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
New dielectric union (and maybe a male to male galvanized nipple)
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.
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.
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 local 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.
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.
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.
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.
At this point you will just untape your nut and fasten it down onto the other part of the dielectric union.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. ✌ = ✌
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.