Category Archives: windows

Tech Day – Checking Out the iPad mini and Microsoft Surface RT

Last weekend my buddy Matt and I visited some local tech stores. A few big companies (you might have heard of them) announced a flurry of new gadgets last week and we wanted to poke and prod them to see what all the fuss was about. One in particular intrigued me. Read on to see how the day went. Continue reading

Windows got busy this week

First it was Surface. Now it’s Shared Windows Core. The more Microsoft announces stuff, the giddier I get.

As many of you may know, the Microsoft Surface was announced on Monday. It is, to my knowledge, the first pure Microsoft product. It was developed entirely in-house, taking into account the interplay between hardware and software. It is very Apple-ish, and certainly unusual for a company that has traditionally sold only its operating system and allowing the tactile product development to someone else. This probably does not sit well with Microsoft’s licensees, and Apple undoubtedly knows its a target. Surface will come in two flavors: one running WinRT and geared for ARM processors, and a second running Windows 8 Pro meant to compete with the ultrabook market (Yup, that means x86 chips).

All of that’s well and good. But to make things more interesting, Redmond hosted the Windows Phone Developer Summit today. They announced Windows Phone 8 and a slew of very cool details. There’s a new start screen, Skype integration, and official use of Nokia maps in place of Bing’s. The morsel that’s most tantalizing is the shared code between Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. According to Microsoft’s announcement, Windows Phone and Windows 8 will share C and C++ libraries and even DirectX support!

DirectX support is really, really important. It’s been around forever and is a very mature graphics driver. If they can leverage it in tandem with some dedicate graphics chipsets from either nVidia or AMD, we’ve got a recipe for some serious performance in the gaming sector.

So, as you can see, a busy week for Microsoft. I must say I’m excited.

Windows 8 First Impressions

I recently downloaded the ISO for Windows 8 Consumer Preview. I’m running it through Oracle’s VirtualBox software. Here are some of my thoughts.

I will echo one very important feeling many other tech pundits get when using Win8: the transition between classic desktop and the new Metro interface is jarring.

The Metro interface taken at face value is refreshing and feels wonderful to use. Standing on its own, I see it succeeding in the mobile computing space. The degree of success depends on their ability to position the experience as a better alternative to the iPad – which may prove to be challenging given Apple’s recently announced iPad revisions. Metro implements quite a few new features that will spell wonders for multi-tasked computing on tablets. Bezel gestures are a great example of this. I can’t test that yet as I don’t have one of Microsoft’s demo tablet machines, but they’ve included the same support using the mouse and keyboard which changes the active “gesture” areas to the corners of the screen. The virtual machine is making it difficult to test the corners but I’m sure I can fiddle with VirtualBox to make that a little easier.

There are a few Metro Apps I really don’t like. The Calendar app is garbage because it’s missing some very important event repeat customization and does not seem to support copy-paste of events. The Messaging app doesn’t let you sign in to AOL Instant Messenger (of course, this could be a result of the Preview status of the app) and the integration with Facebook is not as fluid as I expected. The People hub on the Start Screen is easy to set up with your Facebook account, though I’m not yet sold on the idea of having my Facebook feeds flood into the OS of my device.

Overall my technical gripes are just in these few apps. The greater experience is clean and fun and I can’t wait to see what developers do with Metro. I’ll post a more comprehensive review at some point in the near future.

Nostalgia abounds

A long drought of updates, I know. There are many things going on in life!

Today I was inspired to change my desktop to Windows Classic in Vista. I tried to make it as Win98 as possible:

This image is evoking memories of the moments I first used a PC, a Gateway machine. The monitor’s model number (EV700) is ingrained into my mind to this day.

I remember the moment I opened the computer’s packaging vividly: the bus had dropped me off at my neighborhood and I was walking home. I turned the corner onto Erie Circle and discovered that my uncle’s Mitsubishi was parked in front of my house. At this point in my life (I was 14 I think) I had little experience with computers and nearly all information I gathered about them came from my uncle Marc. I immediately made the connection that his presence MUST concern technology and sprinted. I jumped my mom’s Taurus, leaped the stairs, grasped the side door knob, took a deep breath and slowly opened the way into the kitchen. Piled in the living room across from me were three giant boxes: one for a monitor, another for the Gateway tower, and a final container for a shiny new Epson printer. My uncle had been waiting – he was about to open everything for me.

I demanded he stop and pleaded with my parents to allow me to open the computer. They both were and remain to be computer-phobes, and delighted in the fact that someone else would be setting up their new toy.

The first thing I noticed after opening the tower was a giant poster with tons of color codes, which I would later learn represented standard peripheral connections: purple for the P/S mouse and green for the P/S keyboard. The serial port connected the printer, and we later needed to buy a serial port switch for a webcam. A serial switch! Oh man.

Once everything was set up, the first thing I did was set the theme to Windows 98 Outer Space. The metallic clinks and snaps sounded as I pressed “Start”, hovering over “Programs” and panged when I clicked Microsoft Works. The first day of the rest of my life began.

We had a 1st generation DVD player in that machine. I’m sure the reason why my mom and dad added it was on my uncle’s suggestion, because after my brother and I had our first moments with the machine he popped in the DVD of Lost in Space. I remember the Boston Acoustics sound system boomed when we started playback and that the picture was crisp and clear. The DVD menu lit up and animated and I distinctly remember being wowed by the hyperspace jump animation when selecting a menu item. My parents began wondering if they made the right decision to buy a computer at this point.

Whether it was the right one or not, my brother and I used the shit out of that Gateway. Our first experiences with Newgrounds were on that machine. The first time I played FreeSpace 2 was on that machine. The first time I ever used an Arnold Schwarzenegger sound board was on that machine. The first Anime downloaded from Kazaa, the first music burned into iTunes, the first edited video – everything was on that computer. It was even the subject of my first hardware upgrade: going from an integrated ATI Rage 128 to a 3DFx VooDoo 3 3000 PCI card. 16MB of VRAM made such a huge difference in Star Trek: Klingon Academy and Diablo II. Oh, don’t even get me started on Blizzard – that company owned my life and those of my friends for nearly five years on Battle.net.

Those first few years owning a computer were awesome. I can’t wait for the day I can geek out with my own kids and share in their first experiences. And those will probably involve chips in our brains.

History loves to move in circles

20111206-232010.jpg

Windows store? Microsoft has one company square in its sights.

Windows 8 comes out later next year.

Nokia’s push

I’ve been reading a lot about Nokia lately. They held an event yesterday and introduced new handsets. Named the Lumia family, they’re running Windows Phone 7 Mango and seem to be getting good press. Kevin Tofur of GigaOM wrote a fair bit about his expectations of the platform and grades Nokia’s efforts. It’s too bad the phones aren’t coming to the US markets until 2012.

The first phone I ever owned was a Nokia 3330 back in 2001. This was before the rise of touch screens. Before Blackberry was mainstream. Before iPhone was a glimmer in the late Steve Jobs eye. I attach a significant amount of achievement to owning that phone since it established my severely teenaged self as an independent member of society!

Nokia has been part of the mobile phone business for a long time, and I guarantee nearly everyone you know has owned one of their phones or knows someone who has. They commanded an empire market share in the early 2000s, and when the likes of iPhone and Android arrived they began to lose out. Their partnership with Microsoft will become the lifeblood of all major future products. Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop makes no bullshit about that.

I look forward to seeing their new devices. I’ll try to get my hands on Windows Phone 7 at some point this week and let you know what I think of Mango.