Mario and iPhone 7…Pokemon and Apple Watch

Apple had its September press event to announce Apple Watch, Series 2, iOS 10 and iPhone 7.  But, perhaps the biggest thing announced at the event was a game.

Early on in the event, Tim Cook said that there were over 500,000 games in the app store, but that one had been missing. Rather, one character had been missing…MARIO. And, with that, he introduced Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Mario.

Mr. Miyamoto explained the new game while a demo was being played on the big screen.  This Mario game looks and sounds like a Wii U game, but is controlled via touch on the iPhone or iPad.  You use a single finger to control Mario’s jumps…the longer you hold your finger down, the higher he jumps. 

While the game looked great, the game play is like a neutered Super Mario Brothers 2D side scroller. Neutered in that it appeared that Mario only goes in one direction in single hand play.  The goal is to collect as many coins as you can and raise the end of level flag, before the time runs out. 

More importantly, the game will NOT be a ‘freemium’ game in the traditional sense. You only pay one time, there are no in game purchases.  There’s no having to wait two hours for your lives to replenish.  It is a nice change from the current game mobile game model.

Now, for the other announcements, and I’m not going into detail as it has already been covered else where.

Apple Watch 2 will be out in September and will be faster and more responsive.  Oh, and Pokemon GO! is coming to the Apple Watch.  With some health monitoring additions, this looks pretty decent.

iPhone 7, though, is what I am more excited to talk about. 

Now, before I go on, let me say that I am still not an Apple fan and I LOVE my Windows Mobile 10 phone(s). 

So, what has me excited about the iPhone 7?  Well, even though it isn’t a huge, earth shattering advance in mobile technology, the camera, faster processor and MICROSOFT have me excited for the new iPhone. 

The iPhone 7 will feature a new image sub system, new API’s and better optics. In addition, iPhone 7Plus, the phablet edition, will feature TWO 12 mp cameras in addition to the front camera.  The new image processor enables the phone to record in 4K video as well.

Here are some of the nice new photo related features, from Apple:

  • New Apple-designed Image Signal Processor, which processes over 100 billion operations on a single photo in as little as 25 milliseconds, resulting in incredible photos and videos;
  • New 7-megapixel FaceTime HD camera with wide color capture, advanced pixel technology and auto image stabilization for even better selfies; and
  • New Quad-LED True Tone flash that is 50 percent brighter than iPhone 6s including an innovative sensor that detects the flickering in lights and compensates for it in videos and photos.

Iapple-iphone7plus-zoomn addition to the photo features, Microsoft’s entire suite of apps that are on the iPhone mean that I can continue using my Microsoft services and apps with my Windows 10 desktop just as seamlessly as I can, now, with my Windows Mobile phone.

There are other things, like the subtle changes to iOS and to the phone chassis itself.

There are things I don’t like, such as the removal of the headphone jack, inability to upgrade storage via SD card, no way to project the phone to another screen (at least, I haven’t seen this) and the lack of home screen tiles…a feature I’ve really grown to love on my Windows Mobile phone.  In fact, the lack of live tiles is almost a deal breaker for me. Almost.

For now, I am on the verge of mothballing my Windows Mobile phone and going Apple again.  I’m going to have play with one for a bit.   But, today’s announcements look encouraging.  Of course, if I wait a year, I may like iPhone 8 more…

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Putting Windows 10 on my Toshiba Encore Mini

WP_20150802_20_59_36_ProI finally received the ‘Reserve Windows 10’ icon on my Toshiba Encore Mini last week, which I promptly went and ‘reserved’ my copy.  A day after general availability, I checked the icon and the resulting app that opened told me my Mini was compatible and there were no issues.  Of course, it only has 16GB of storage, of which 289 MB was available, I was a bit dubious.  So, upon finding out that one could download the Media Creation Tool, create an ISO file and install from that.

So, I proceeded to clear off some space so I could download the file-I did not know how much space I would need.  I got just over a gigabyte free and downloaded the tool.  Of course, it did not work. I tried to specify the SD card, which was 32GB and clear.  No go.

Persuing the ‘net for an ISO, which I thought Microsoft had on its site, but no longer do, I found an article on Softpedia that details how to download the ESD file and create an ISO from that. This ESD file is a compressed file image, very much like an ISO. We want an ISO because it can be mounted like a hard drive.

After getting the ISO and putting on the SD card, I mounted it as a drive on the Toshiba and began the installation process.  Unfortunately, I cannot say how long it took because I went to bed.  Upon checking it the next day, however, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it had installed and the only things left were the usual user setup and download of the applications and remaining drivers.

BUT…

You knew there was a but, right?

There was the issue of drive space, the primary drive was zero bytes free.  Damn.

WP_20150802_20_59_39_ProSo…I fire up Explorer and began to poke around.  I discover the Windows.OLD directory was there. SIX GIGS worth. Now, you cannot simply right click and delete. The Trusted Installer owns the Windows directory that is in .OLD and that’s where the space was used.  Since you do not have rights to this directory, you must give them to yourself.  You must have Administrator privileges. First thing to do is right click on the Windows directory (Make sure it is in the Windows.old directory) and select PROPERTIES. Click Security.  Click ADVANCED.  Click CHANGE OWNER. Click ADVANCED, then FIND NOW. Look for your user account name and select it. Click OK, OK. Click Apply. It should then make you the owner of the directory and sub directories.  It may take a few minutes. Once done, dismiss all of the dialog boxes. From Explorer, click DELETE in the ribbon or right click and delete.  IF that does not get all files and directories, you may have to repeat the process for those directories.  It took me about fourty five minutes to get them all.  For some reason, some sub directories and files also require you to take ownership even if you ‘own’ the others.

After all of this, I ended up with just over 4GB of space left, enough to install the OFFICE Mobile Suite, which is free for screens under 10.7 inches. I was also able to install a few games from the store and still had space free, around 3GB. 

I didn’t think I’d be able to upgrade this thing, in fact, Paul Thurrot claimed to have broken his out of frustration. 

The end result is a fairly responsive and, now, usable 7 inch tablet that is running Windows 10 pretty smoothly…in 1GB of RAM.  Oh, and Bluetooth appears to be working, something that was not happening with Windows 8.1.

Turns out that my piece of junk, cheapo tablet isn’t such a piece of junk after all.  And, Word works just fine. How about that?

Toshiba Encore Mini: a Seven Inch Tablet For $99

WP_20150216_18_06_53_ProIn 2014, one of the things that Microsoft did, to push Windows 8 and Windows 8 devices, was to offer up a ‘zero dollar’ (i.e. NOT FREE) version of Windows for devices that are under eight inches.  This move did more than just give manufacturers a ‘zero cost’ version of Windows, it opened the flood gate on small Windows devices.  Now, this is a FULL version of Windows, no strings attached. Well, ok, you have BING as your default search provider, but, you can change it if you wish.

Among the devices introduced was the Toshiba Encore Mini Tablet. This is an Intel Atom powered, seven inch tablet. It has 1GB of RAM, 16GB of storage (of which about 10GB is available), WIFI, SD Micro Card slot, USB connector and stereo sound.  It runs Windows 8.1 with Bing and costs $99.WP_20150214_22_48_42_Pro 1

If you shop, you can get it for about eighty-eight dollars.

The device is comparable, in size, to the iPad Mini, though not as pretty.  It is functional, but will not garner any design awards.  It is fairly generic. My unit has a bumpy, white hard plastic back with a black bezel.  The seven inch screen is not the best I’ve ever seen, but far from the worse (no, that award goes to the Pandigital White seven inch tablet from a few years ago.)

Unboxing the unit was quick, there’s not much there: the Tablet, two booklets, an addendum, the USB cable and…that’s it. NO POWER ADAPTOR was included. I suppose they cost too much.  The manual suggests PLUGGING IT IN TO YOUR COMPUTER to charge it.  Or, use the Toshiba branded wall wart, that you have to purchase separately. In reality, pretty much any USB charger will work.  My unit was DOA, so I had to wait to charge it. 

WP_20150216_18_07_50_ProOnce charged, it took a few minutes to set it up. I entered my Microsoft credentials and everything was setup for me: my mail, favorites, even recent browsing history.  OneNote synced fairly quickly as well. I specifically told it NOT to sync my apps as I don’t have that much storage and did not want ‘muddy’ it up. 

While the device comes with Office 365 Personal, I already have a subscription, so I have not set it up. 

Overall, the performance is about on par with my Asus Tablet.  For some things, it seems a bit faster and for others, much slower. Graphics performance is abysmal, but I won’t be playing games on this thing. Well, not anything demanding, anyway.  Audio is MUCH better than on my Asus-I can actually hear it. What a concept.

One thing I have noticed is that the Windows Desktop (aside from being an antique) just is not suitable for this size.  I think Microsoft made the right choice for Windows 10 by doing away with the desktop for devices of this size or smaller.  It simply does not scale properly. Icons and links are way too small, I found myself tapping on one thing, or, so I thought, and something else WP_20150216_18_07_12_Prohappens. At 1280 by 600, on a seven inch screen, it is just too small for Windows desktop.

WiFi performance was good, but I found that it, frequently, drops the WiFi connection.  I am guessing it is a driver issue.

Battery life is also not that great. iPad Mini gets about nine hours whereas this thing get, maybe, seven hours. It also charges very slowly. That initial charge took nearly eight hours. It has taken about six hours to fully charge since then. Now, to be fair, that first charge was from the computer, which charges my phone slowly as well. The second and subsequent charges have been on my Nikon Lumia battery charger. Your mileage may vary.

The camera? It’s horrible. Nothing more to be said.

Overall, this is a good buy if you need a tablet to take with you on daily trips, but don’t need it a full day.  It is great for short Internet bursts or checking and answering email. If you have a portable Bluetooth keyboard, it may be good for Word on the go.  It is great for OneNote as well. But, it isn’t so great for many things you’d use a laptop or larger tablet to do.  If you need to do more than this, save your money and buy a bigger tablet.  If, however, you want a device a little bigger than your phone, but not a full sized tablet, then this may be for you,  Go to Best Buy and try it first.

OneNote for Mac is for real and it is free

Microsoft not only released a version of OneNote for the Mac OS X, they made it free as well. It is free not only for the Mac, but for all platforms. There is still a business edition that is a paid for product, but all of the rest are completely free.Onenote

I have downloaded and installed the Mac version, but have not yet used it, so I cannot yet compare it, but from what I have seen, it looks and works just like its Windows counterpart.

Finally, our Apple friends can now use what is, perhaps, the greatest piece of productivity software ever to come out of Redmond’s software factory.

Not only did Microsoft make OneNote available for free, they have added features.  An improved API, LENS for Windows Phone (which turns the phone into a scanner), enhanced the OCR ability and released a library of plug ins.

Go here for a list of apps and services that work with OneNote.

With OneDrive, you can now keep all of your Notebooks in sync.  You can even protect your notebooks and all of the various versions (except for the Windows Store version) will be able to access the protected notebook.  Even the web version. Yes, you can even use the web version with YOUR notebooks.

If you are an EverNote user, you can easily migrate your data to OneNote. The easiest way is to save your notes out as HTML and then import them into OneNote. You can also PRINT TO ONENOTE each of your EverNotes, but that could be quite an involved process.  You can also email your notes to your OneNote mail address. (To set this up, goto the OneNote.com site, scroll down about midway and look for ‘Send Mail’. Click the Setup email link. It will show a list of email addresses that you have linked to your Live account. Select the one to use with this feature. From now one, you can send mail  from that account to ‘me@onenote.com’ where ‘me’ really is the word ‘me’ and NOT your name. The email will then go into your default notebook and section.)

I am a huge fan of this software and have written several posts about it. Click here to check them out.

OneNote is available for Windows, Windows RT, Windows Phone, Android, iOS and, now, Mac OS X. You can download the package for your device here.

OneNote like: ArcNotes

OneNote is, perhaps, one of the most useful applications EVER. I use it everyday on my Windows and iOS devices.  Even though I love the application, I still look for that ‘perfect’ note taking and data organizing application. So far, I’ve not found anything better than OneNote, but there are a few apps that are close. Here’s one that’s really close and it’s a Windows 8 style application too.

ArcNotes, from ArcSoft, is pretty darn close to OneNote in features and ease of use. Screenshot (24)Like OneNote, you can categorize your notes, create collections, tag your notes, include photos, drawings, video and audio files. For images, it has a nice feature that will correct distortions in the image. 

Screenshot (27)

Creating a note is simple, click or tap the new tile and a blank page pops up. Write or type your note, add whatever files you want and…that’s it. You can tap the information icon and up pops an info page where you can name your note, tag it and add a location.Screenshot (29)

Other features include PDF Preview and Share as PDF.  This is a really cool feature. It will let you share a set of notes with someone who does not have the application or just preserve your notes in a universal format.

 

Currently, the application is free and available in the Windows 8 store.

Windows 8.1 Preview Released…what’s inside and other news from Build

Microsoft’s developer’s conference, Build, began with the keynote from Steve Ballmer. Ballmer began by talking about hardware, new phones and tablets (there will be an 8 inch form factor, beginning with Acer) but quickly got into Windows 8.1, which was released today in a preview build.

Among the changes, a more functional Start button that includes the ability to shut down the computer-something that was a complete surprise. Also in the build, the boot to desktop-another feature we didn’t think would make it into this build. 

There were tons of goodies either shown or talked about. They include a Windows 8 style Office release for 2014, Outlook for Windows RT that looks really, really nice. A new version of OneNote is also in the works.  XBOX Music is not only gaining a cloud version, but has been completely re written and includes RADIO, a free streaming service.  It, too, looks good. 

win81searchPerhaps the biggest surprise was from Bing. Bing is now the in-built Windows search engine. Not only that, but Microsoft has released a set of tools for developers that gives them very tight integration with Bing.  This, to me, is probably the biggest news yet, from Microsoft.

Another surprise was an announcement from Dell that they will be selling a Windows RT tablet, giving credence to the notion that Microsoft has not abandoned the struggling operating system.

Sprint is, finally, going to be carrying two Windows Phone 8 devices, one from HTC and the other from Samsung.

Two other announcements of note: Windows 8.1 includes built in support for 3D printers and high resolution, retina like, displays. 

If you want to read more in depth reviews, the Verge has a really nice write up and MIcrosoft’s preview site has a video the explains many of the changes. You can also download the preview here. (If you are already running Windows 8, the download is an update to the Store, which is where you actually download the preview.)

I’ll have more on the preview once it is installed on my tablet.

SkyDrive: sync your OneNote notebooks, access all your PC’s, and share your photos

skydrive1Years ago, Microsoft introduced it’s Windows Live brand and, with it, a set of applications, including the Photo Gallery, Movie Maker and something called Live Mesh. Mesh was a syncing tool that also had a really nice remote access feature. This was, perhaps, its best feature. You could remotely access and control any PC that had Mesh and was linked to your Live Account. I used it extensively. Mesh also allowed file syncing between all of the machines in your mesh.

Alas, Microsoft dinkyed around with Mesh over the years and have now killed the product. All is not lost, though.

Enter SkyDrive.

When I first heard that SkyDrive was replacing Mesh, I cringed. Having seen it, I was thoroughly unimpressed. But…

Things change, time passes and software gets better. And, so did SkyDrive.

Microsoft has SkyDrive client software available for Windows, Android, iOS and Windows Phone. There is also a browser based client. Of all the choices, the web based SkyDrive is the better choice.

I’m not going to go over the clients, they offer only basic options, like file sharing.  The web site, however, is more.

While it will not provide the remote access, Microsoft is leaving that up to its partners, it does allow access to the file systems of any machines that you’ve linked to your SkyDrive account.  And this feature alone makes SkyDrive-the web site-a must.

If you are using Windows 8, that machine is automagically linked. I found my three Windows 8 devices are all linked to my SkyDrive account and let me access the file systems on the other devices.

skydrive2Other features include photo sharing, online versions of Word, Excel and Powerpoint and access to Outlook.  Microsoft keeps making SkyDrive more and more useful. It’s a shame they are not making the applications more useful, especially the rather lame XBox 360 version. I have yet to figure out why I would want that one.

For me, the ability to sync my OneNote notebooks is about as useful as the access to my devices, perhaps more so. I can now sync my notebooks between my PC’s, iPad, iPhone and my Asus tablet. Having access to that data has proven invaluable and, couple with the online Office apps, have eliminated my desire to put Office on my new machines. My Asus tablet does have Open Office, but mainly for use at work, where my access to SkyDrive is limited.

If you have not tried SkyDrive lately, give it a shot, you will be pleasantly surprised.