Above the Surface: Asus VivoTab Smart Windows 8 Tablet

Tablet-PC-Stylistic-1200I’ve been wanting a Windows tablet for years. I even bought two Fujitsu Windows NT (the Stylistic 1200) tablets off eBay a few years back, but could never get them working. Turns out, they used all proprietary parts that I needed-and could have gotten, but did not want to pay the price.  When the iPad came out, I thought it would satiate my desire for the ever elusive Windows tablet. For awhile, it did.

The iPad was a godsend, to be sure. But, it’s shortcomings-and there are many-got to be more than I wanted to deal with and with each release of iOS, the first gen iPad really began to show its age.

My Kindle Fire became my workhorse slate, so to speak, but, it too, was lacking in so many areas.

When Microsoft showed of the Surface, however, I knew that my ideal table would come from Microsoft. Indeed, the folks from Redmond did a nice job with the Surface. It looks great, feels nice to hold and is just nice to look at. Windows 8 RT looks and works great on this thing.  Windows 8 Pro is even better, though I did notice a bit of warmth to the body of the device, which means it could run a bit warm. There is one huge drawback to Surface: price.  At $499 and $799, they are two to four hundred dollars too expensive. I could have purchased the 64gb Pro, but, at nearly a grand for the device and keyboard cover, I just couldn’t do that for a tablet. I don’t know, mentally, I think these things should not be more than $500, no matter what’s under the hood. I could settle for the RT, but that defeats the purpose of the WINDOWS tablet.  What to do?

Enter Asus.

Asus just introduced a full-blown Windows 8 tablet for $499.  So, for the price of the Microsoft Surface RT, I could get a full on Windows 8 device.  Sweet. Open up the checkbook already!DSC_4342

So, I got my Asus VivoTab Smart tablet from Best Buy. Now, before I go on, I have to say that the buying experience was less than stellar, but not as bad as when I bought my son and wife their laptops from the same store.  First, the sales guy did not know anything about the tablet. He tried to tell me it was RT and, when I challenged him, he did go look it up.  So, then he had to figure out if they had them in stock. The web site said they did, which is why I went out of my way to go to this particular store.  Anyway, while waiting, I was bombarded with questions about Comcast! I told the lady that was talking to me about them that I was very displeased with them and if I have a viable alternative for internet access, I’d drop Comcast in a heartbeat.

Back to the tablet.

So, upon getting the device home to live internet connectivity, I proceeded to set it up. That was notvivotabfront difficult or time consuming, though I did have a hiccup with ACTIVATION. Really, Microsoft, this BS has to stop. Your products will always be pirated, get over it. All your activation silliness does is piss off your customers, it does not stop the piracy.   The problem? Well, as it turns out, if the date and time on your device are not correct, your activation will not work.  Once I realized that the date was a year out, I fixed it and tried to activate again. It worked.

Setting up my user account to be the same as my other Windows 8 computers allows me to sync my Windows 8 style apps across my devices. This involves creating a new user and using your Windows Live ID mail box.  Now, I have most of the same apps across all three of my Windows 8 devices.

OK, OK, how about the tablet?

This thing is nice. It is 10 inches wide and in 16:9 format, which means movies will play nicely on the device.  The screen is very nice, but not quite as nice as the Surface or a current gen iPad, though it still looks REALLY nice.  Audio is weak, but I don’t expect booming sound from a tablet, but the volume level could be a bit better. The heft of the device, for me, is just right. The quality of the casing is not quite as nice at the Surface or an iPad, but better than most tablets.  I think I like the rubbery feeling on my Kindle Fire a tad more. The case is plastic and feels like it. However, it does not look ‘cheap’ like some tend to look.vivotabtop

The speed of the device is a bit better than I expected. Running a dual core Atom from Intel, the machine is fairly snappy and I found web page rendering and video playback to quick and smooth. I’ve not yet played many games, and the only graphical game I’ve play, so far, is something Jetpack Joyride, a 2D side scrolling action game in the style of the old Commander Keen or Duke Nukem. The game played just fine.

Because I want to use this as a mobile work machine, I bought a 32gb SD card to increase storage to a more reasonable size.  Nearly 100gb (with 24 gb taken for OS stuff) should be enough for my needs.  I also needed a keyboard.  Interestingly enough, the RT version of the device includes the cool snappy add keyboard, similar to Surface, but the VivoTab Smart does not. In fact, the only connectors it has is the single micro-USB connector and the SD card slot.  I did buy a Logitech K400r keyboard with integrated touch pad, but it is USB (wireless, with USB adaptor) but cannot find a full size female USB to micro male USB cable. rpi3After a couple of days hunting for such a thing, I caved and purchased an iHome ‘tablet’ keyboard with Bluetooth. The VivoTab has Bluetooth built in, so this works nicely. Not as elegant as Surface, but it cost under $50 so I’m still way ahead.

Oh, it does have a micro-HDMI connector as well. How could I forget that?  It’s another $35 cable. That is still on the store shelf.

Unlike my Kindle or old iPad, the tablet has two cameras: a forward facing camera for things like Skype and a rear facing, 8 mega pixel camera. The rear camera takes nice photos and pretty good HD video.

Battery life excellent, on par with my iPad: about 10 hours of battery life. They advertise 9.5 hours, but I got about ten out of it.

The thing that really amazes me with this tablet is that it is a full Windows 8 computer.  I can run pretty much anything I already have, including Visual Studio. It feels nice, is good looking, will work all day before needing to be charged and pretty fast for a mobile device. It is $499 and is available at Best Buy, online and from Asus.

 

Specs:

  • Windows 8
  • Intel® Atom™ Z2760 Dual-core CPU @ 1.8Ghz for best performance, power efficiency and compatibility ·
  • 10.1” IPS panel with 1366 x768 resolution for increased visual clarity ·
  • 580g light and 9.7mm thin with colorful design ·
  • TranSleeve as combined cover and stand with wireless keyboard ·
  • 9.5 hours extra-long battery life for all-day computing ·
  • NFC – Tap and Explore: simple interaction with other NFC enabled devices ·
  • Crystal clear 8MP auto-focus camera
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    Another OneNote alternative: Work Notes Pro

    Anyone who has followed this blog knows that I am a big OneNote fan.  While I am a huge fan of the software, that has not kept me from looking for alternatives. Now that I am a Windows 8 user, I have been looking for RT style OneNote-like applications. Yes, there is a RT version of OneNote-and it’s really good-but I am looking for something that is a tad simpler as well.

    There is such a thing and it is called Work Notes Pro.

    WNP takes the idea of OneNote and removes some of the flexibility but maintains the ease of use and follows the RT style pretty good.

    Instead of using the notebook metaphor that OneNote uses, WNP uses the notions of notes and tabs in a card-file like metaphor. Perhaps this works because the thumbnails are of the tile nature (which makes sense, given that this is Windows 8.)

    WorkNotesProPage4When you open WNP, you see your card list.  From this screen, you can slice and dice your data. You can show it in groupings, like projects, to-do’s, keywords, etc. You can then further limit what shows via a filter.  This method of slicing your data is pretty cool and very easy to use. Though, when entering your notes, you must keep this in mind by properly filling out the tiles on the left side of the note card.

    WorkNotesProPage3

    The tiles along the left side of your note card allow you to specify a project to associate the note with; set your keywords; mark it as a to-do and then set the status; add a reminder and others. You can insert media like an audio recording, photo or video to the note card. Of course, right clicking brings up the command bar which reveals editing features like change the font, justification, etc. Note editing is fairly robust, but some things are missing like bullets and the ability to insert a tab.  These are easy to overcome, but should have been included.

    You can also export your notes to text files or media files.

    There is also some integration with Microsoft SkyDrive for syncing your notes.  Once you allow the app to use your Live ID, you will be logged in automatically and your data will be synced to SkyDrive.  Since the app is currently Windows 8/RT only, I’m not sure what this gets you other than backing up your data.

    Currently, the app is available in the Windows Store and is free.

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    Choosing a tablet is as bad as buying a car

    ipadminiSo, this is the time of year when shopping is in full swing for the holidays.  Every year, there seems to be that one standout, must have category and, so it seems, this year it is the tablet computer.  As such, I thought I would give some pointers on how to shop. I don’t want to come out and recommend a specific tablet, but I will share my thoughts on several categories of tablets.

    How to determine which category you belong in

    First thing to decide is who is the tablet going to go to, it is the important part of the puzzle. If it is going to a child, then skip ahead.  If to an adult, or yourself, then you need to know the following:

    • Does the recipient have an iPhone already? If they do, they, likely, already have a multitude of accessories and applications.  Things like power adaptors, bluetooth keyboards, cables, etc. will work on the iPad and, if they do not have one, that it is the best and easiest way to go.
    • Does the recipient have an Android phone? If yes, then skip to the buying an Android tablet.
    • Does the recipient have a Kindle or use the Kindle software? If yes, there are three choices: the Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD 7 inch or Kindle Fire HD 8.9 inch.  Here’s where you need to figure out which is better. If they have a hard time seeing, then get the 8.9 inch otherwise, the 7 inch is probably the best way to go.  Amazon has a nice ecosystem already and if they use Amazon Prime, then there is a whole world of streaming possibilities. Plus, anything you purchase from Amazon (like apps or media) will be store in the cloud and the device.
    • Does the recipient need or want an e-reader more than a tablet? If yes, then the aforementioned Kindle Fire or the Barnes and Noble Nook HD are good choices.  The Nook runs a more standard Android operating system while the Kindle Fire (and HD) run a modified Android OS.  Also, there is the KOBO e-reader with table like features and the low end Kindle and Nooks (with some tablety features) for under $80.
    • Does the recipient eschew Android and iOS (the operating system of the Apple iPad) and want something different? Well, if so, there are not many choices. You have Windows 7 tablets, Windows 8 RT and Windows 8 Pro. The Windows tablets are still on the pricey side, however if you want something more like an iPad, but not iPad, the Windows RT tablet may fit the bill. There are several brands, including the MIcrosoft Surface as well as one from Asus.  Keep in mind, Windows 8 RT Store is rather new and no where near as complete as the Android and Apple’s App Store.

    If an Android tablet is in the offering, then read on…

    Buying an Android Tablet

    Android tablets are plentiful and run the gamut from 1.0 to 4.1.  Price is a big factor here, the cheaper the tablet, the crappier the tablet, with a few exceptions.  Generally speaking, stay away from brands that you have never heard of, as well as low end names like Craig, Emerson and, sadly, Sylvania.  These are going to be cheap, slow, lack performance and battery life and, likely, the Google Play Store.  You will have to get your apps from, shall we say, more questionable sources. Plus, many of these tablets will run older versions of Android (CVS carries one – a Craig – with Android 1.6) which may be wholly incompatible with most apps.

    It is better to stay with names you know, like Motorola, Samsung and LG.  Samsung has the best Android tablet, the Galaxy 10.1. It rocks the latest Android, has the performance and battery life to make it useful.  Motorola’s tablet is nice, but lacks some of the prowess of the Samsung. Others to look for include Acer (which always makes good products) and Asus.  These are going to be pricier tablet, in the $300 to $600 range, but will be worth the cash.

    Stay away, far away…

    …from places like CVS, Big Lots, Wal-Greens or any such store.  They are likely to have the aforementioned low end brands and nothing worth laying down your cash. (One possible exception is thesylvania7 Sylvania 7 inch in the BLACK BOX. I don’t have the model number, but it has Android 4.1 and sports a 1.2ghz processor and seems fairly responsive. I would ONLY get this if you need a spare device to use for music or internet and it’s under $80.)  Be careful if you do decide to get a tablet at one of these retailers (which I really have nothing against, they just aren’t the place to go buy a tablet) since some tablets are being sold with WINDOWS CE. Read the box, carefully. You DO NOT WANT WINDOWS CE.  Not in a tablet, phone, ‘netbook’ or anything else. Trust me on this, that is one dog you just do not want.  Also, Pandigital is a brand to now stay far away from as they are no longer an active company. You can still find their stuff in the channel, but you will get NO SUPPORT. And, I’m pretty sure that most of the other tablets will render you supportless as well.

    Buying for a child or for a family

    There are many tablets for children that are really nothing more than toys. Some of these are fine and are inexpensive, like the Innotab. However, if you want a real tablet that is safe for kids, your choices are limited.  Ideally, you will want a tablet that lets you set up profiles for the kids and profiles for the adults.  Currently, the Kindle Fire and FIre HD will do this, as will the Nook and Samsung Galaxy (a combination of manufacturer software and Android.)  The Windows tablets will as well, but they are far too pricey for kids. iPad does not currently do this, but it does have the best selection of children friendly games and software, bar none.  The Kindle offering has a good selection as well.  Another thing to consider is durability. Currently, there are bumpers and cases for the iPad, Galaxy and Fire that will protect the tablet from drops and other oopsies.  Price is also a factor as well as size. The bigger the tablet, the harder it is for them to hold.  Here, the iPad MIni is a great choice. Children’s eyes are usually better than ours, so the difference in the screen won’t mean much. It is also cheaper than it’s much larger brother.

    Ok, I’m still not sure what to get…

    surfacertAlright, let’s look at it a different way…what does the recipient do most: play games, use Facebook or other social network, surf the net, be productive?  For simple net surfing and Facebook, pretty much any of the under $200 tablets will do that, hell, even those cheap ones I just warned you about will do that (still, stay away from them) but you want to get one that COULD do more,  Here’s where the Kindle Fire or Barnes and Nobel Nook HD would be excellent choices. Both are under two hundred bucks, both have a fairly decent ecosystem, both are easy to use.

    If the recipient wants to play games, again most of the mid to upper end units will work, but the iPad has the advantage here. Every major game publisher supports the iPad and you can bet they will for a long time to come. Forget the iPad mini and get the real deal and go for the 32gb version, they will burn through 16gb in no time. The Samsung Galaxy, Kindle Fire and Fire HD and the B&N Nook HD also make nice game players. Not sure about Windows RT as the RT market is rather limited at the moment.

    Being productive is the big limitation here.  This is the area where the Windows devices shine best. The Windows 7 tablets, while functional, should be ignored as they are nothing more than Windows 7 computers shoehorned into a tablet. Get a Windows 8 Pro device. You can use full size keyboard and mice and also use them as full desktops. Plus, they have the mobility factor.  The Windows RT devices CAN be used this way, but the PRO version is better. Also, iPad and the Samsung Galaxy are good, if not incomplete, choices.sylvania10inch

    Ultimately, money is likely your deciding factor. Get the most for the least is my motto and you can do that with tablets, but you have to shop around. Best Buy will have most of them out so you can at least play around with them and their prices aren’t awful either.  Surprisingly, Target is another place to purchase them, but the selection is extremely limited.

    A good resource to use for comparing features and reviews is CNet. Amazon is decent too, but can be confusing.

    Good luck and Happy Holidays!

    Using Windows 8: Be one with the mouse and don’t worry about touch

    (For reference, when I speak of Windows RT or just RT, I am referring to the ‘metro’ or Windows 8 store style.)

    halfbytestartpageSince it’s release, Windows 8 has been equally praised and panned. Haters have heralded it as the death knell for both Microsoft and Windows. Recently, Microsoft said it had sold 40 million copies. 40 million.  That’s slightly better than what Windows 7 had done at this point in its release. While hardly the runaway hit that Microsoft hopes for, Windows 8 has, nonetheless, done well. Now, it is true that the majority of those installs are on new computers and tablets, and there is no number on how many of them have now been downgraded to Windows 7 or earlier (shudder!)

    Still, there are millions of people using Windows 8 and, I am guessing, the vast majority of them have already figured out how to live with and even love the new RT interface.  RT apps are, for the most part, just nice (gorgeous, perhaps) to look at and use. Many are prettier than anything from any of the competition, including Apple.  Just look at Cookbook. It is stunning for a piece of software.

    So, what are the basics you need to know when using the RT interface?

    Well, for non-touch devices, you really just need a two button mouse with a scroll wheel, pretty standard these days. And, if you have ever moved things around a photo or art app with the mouse, then you have already mastered Windows 8.

    Closing an RT app

    There are many ways (keyboard shortcuts do work, like ALT-F4) but the best and easiest way is to place the mouse at the top of the screen, hold down the left button and drag the app to the bottom of the screen and let go. In one swoop, you’ve closed the application. 

    Switching to another app

    Move the mouse to the upper left corner and the last app you used (provided it is still open) will show its tile. Move the mouse down and the list of currently running RT apps will reveal their tiles. Simply move the mouse the one you want and click it. You can also close an app here by right clicking and choosing CLOSE.

    Charming, to the last

    Moving your mouse to the lower right corner will reveal the charms bar. From here, you can search, share data or access hardware and settings.

    But, where do I go for the Start page?

    When you are in any other app, move your mouse to the lower left to access the Start page.  Alternately, if you have a Windows keyboard, press the Windows key.

    Ok, this IS Windows, how the hell do I see more than one app?

    twoappsatonceMicrosoft may need to rethink the name of the product when the ditch the desktop altogether. However, there is a way to see TWO (oohhh, ahhhh) apps at once, though one will be much smaller.  Open the first app you want to use, then open the second (it can be a desktop app too.) Switch back to the first app (an RT app) then drag it down like are going to close it, but about midway down, move it to the left or right side, like you would dock a Windows 7 window. The application should rest there, though dramatically smaller, almost like a sidebar. Next, switch to the second app (by moussing to the upper left, and then selecting the app) and it should fall into the larger section of your screen. Viola! TWO, count ‘em, TWO apps at the same time!  Now, keep in mind, not all Windows thingies will be available, such as drag and drop and not all RT will work in this mode. But, hey, it is a start.

    Your scroll wheel is your friend

    Now, since RT was designed, primarily, with touch in mind, the applications are linear. That is, most of them will scroll sideways instead of vertically.  They are meant to be swiped left and right. So, no touchscreen means these apps are difficult, right? Well, no.  If you have a mouse with a scroll wheel, you can use the wheel to ‘swipe’ left and right. It works surprisingly well.  You could use the scroll bar at the bottom of the screen, but what fun is that?

    win8startshortcutOK, that’s nice that I can scroll over on my Start page, but what if I want to see it all at once? (Huh? I can name my groups too?)

    Easy. Along the very bottom of the Start page is the scroll bar. In the very right hand bottom, you will see a small box with a minus sign. Click it. Go on, you KNOW you want to. Ah, there. Doesn’t that feel good? Oh, win8startfullwhat’s that? You see all of your tiles? Well, yeah, you are supposed to see them. This gives you two things: the ability to see all of your tiles and…check this out…you can name your groups of tiles.  To do so, arrange the tiles the way you want. Next, click the minus sign in the scroll bar. Move the mouse over each group and right click. In the options customizeStartbar, click the ‘Name group’ button. Enter the name for the group in the box and press ENTER. The name appears over the group. Pretty cool and a nice way to organize your Start page.

    One way of seeing all of your apps, desktop or RT, is to right click anywhere on your Start page and click ‘All Apps’ in the lower right of the screen. Every app that is installed on your computer will be displayed. Even the hidden Windows desktop apps (like Command or Character Map) will display and will be grouped as well.  Right clicking an app reveals more options. You can, for example, pin to the taskbar, open in a new window, etc.

    It’s a mystery…where DID I put that file?

    win8searchPerhaps the nicest feature of Windows 8 is its search ability.  From the Start page, just begin to type. The search bar pops up on the right side and a real time search commences as you type. You can specify the types of files to be searched or let Windows look in all files.  It will break down the types of files that it found your search term and display it in the info bar along the top of the screen. The search is quick and reliable. It was an eye opener for me and I’m glad that Microsoft finally put Bing in my computer.

    So, we’ve seen some pretty cool stuff and it is all in the RT side of the house. Your mouse is your best friend in Windows 8/RT on a PC.  Touchpads seem to work as well, but, for us diehards, the mouse is still our trusty companion.

    Windows 8/RT on your iPad? Sort of, with Smartglass for XBOX

    smartglass2The Windows RT environment (the old “metro” for those of us who liked that name) is a rather elegant and clean interface.  It is one that lends itself to a variety of devices, from smartphones, computers and tablets and the video game consoles, specifically, the XBOX.

    During the last E3 game conference, Microsoft demoed ‘Smartglass’, its answer to the Wii-U and other handheld and console combos, like Sony’s ill-designed Vita and PS3. In a nutshell, Smartglass is a means to present secondary game play or other information from the XBOX to a second screen. It also lets you remote control your XBOX.

    At is simplest level, Smartglass is an application that works with the XBOX. There are version for Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, iPhone and iPad and Android.  You can get the app from the respective app store.  Windows 8, during install, however, found my XBOX and automatically configured Smartglass.

    I also checked out the iOS version for iPad.  smartglass4Boy, the Windows RT environment would work very, very well on iPads.  Forgetting for a moment that I was actually using RT on an iPad, I was really drawn into the application and found myself doing things that are actually easier with Kinect or a controller, like navigating the XBOX dashboard.

    Since I do not yet have any SmartGlass enabled applications, I was limited to checking out things like the new browser and getting stats and other information. Using the iPad as a remote control was pretty cool and really useful for text entry since it will take advantage of the iPad on screen keyboard.

    The new browser for XBOX is nice. I was able to browse to smartglass1sights I visit the most, like Facebook, the Verge and my own blog. Each rendered correctly and videos played correctly.  Using Smartglass on iPad made browsing really easy..but..here’s the thing, if I want to browse, I’m probably going to actually use the iPad for browsing and not the XBOX. However, the browser does open up more content for your big screen (like Vimeo and the commercial networks) so it does have SOME utility. And, if you do not have a secondary device, you CAN use the controller to enter the URL, but it is a pain. You can use Smartglass to set up favorites and pin them to the dashboard and THEN use the controller.

    Osmartglass6ne of the things Smartglass will do is show you your most used/played games and apps.  The recents page will show you played or used recently and you can tap on the tile to restart the app or game.

    Smartglass really shines with the XBOX store. You can browse the store on the secondary device while the XBOX is doing something else. You can purchase music, apps or video in Smartglass and it will show up on the XBOX.

    smartglass5Smartglass also lets you manage your XBOX account and avatar. You can customize your avatar on the iPad and it is updated almost immediately on XBOX. I think I prefer this over customizing the avatar directly on the XBOX.  I can use the funky XBOX controllers for games, but anything else? Forget it, I have the worst time.  Using touch on the iPad is more intuitive and convenient.

    Perhaps the easy access to your gaming achievements is the coolest thing about Smartglass. You get complete breakdowns, by game, of all of your XBOX achievements. Now, I love to play games, but stick mostly to the Call of Duty games on XBOX, but, I smartglass8can imagine, others play a plethora of games so this feature is probably going to be the most important to these users.

    Overall, Microsoft did an excellent job of bringing the RT environment to iOS and making it useful. Smartglass is, very likely, the nicest looking and smoothest iOS app out there.  And, best of all, it is free.

    Windows 8/RT App Mini Review: PhotoFunia

    I have been sampling some of the applications in the Windows 8 store. Most of them look fantastic (with a few exceptions) and most work well, though seem to be limited. However, I have found a few gems among them.

    photofunia1The first is a photo app that takes your picture, looks for the face(s) and then inserts the face portion into a template that you choose. The app, called PhotoFunia, also lives on the web and is available on all major smartphone platforms, including Palm webOS, Windows Phone, iPhone, Android and Symbian. It’s the Windows RT app, however, that shines.

    When you start the app, you are presented with the typical, but attractive RT grid layout of template options. Click a template and you are taken to that template’s page. Most of them have a tile that holds the photo you select, maybe an option or two and the go button. You can also pin the template to the Start page or add it to the application favorites.photofunia3

    The application then inserts the face of the person in your photograph into the appropriate area of the template, resizing and adding any effects as necessary.

    Once complete, you are presented with the final photo, which you can save if you wish (by right clicking to bring up the save bar.)

    The speed is impressive, I have only waited a few seconds-less than five-in most cases. I think one took ten seconds, but it had two people instead of one.

    There is a plethora of templates included. They range from movie posters, billboards, magazine covers and tattoo’s.  The Tattoo is one of the cooler templates in the application. There are cutesy ones and, so it seems, there are movie tie ins as well (perhaps this is where they make money.) You can get the same templates on the web site as well.

    The most intriguing thing, however, is support for Symbian and webOS smartphones. They are still listed on the ‘apps’ page of the website and, indeed, you can see phones that run those operating systems in the photo on that page. It is nice see someone still supporting webOS, perhaps the most innovative smartphone platform out there.

    photofunia5The application is free and, so far, I’ve not seen where you need to purchase anything. The web site contains ads, but, so far, I’ve not seen any in the app.

    The thing I’ve noticed, so far, with most RT apps is that they look great and PhotoFunia is no exception. The app looks great, is easy to use-even with the mouse and keyboard. In face, I’m really at a loss regarding the criticism about the Windows RT environment and using a mouse and keyboard with it. There is a slight learning curve, but it is really quite easy to use.

    PhotoFunia is available in the Windows App Store and is free.

    Big tech week: Microsoft steals Apple’s thunder

    It’s been a big, no huge week in the tech world.  Microsoft released both Windows 8 and Surface. Apple announced a slate of new products including a new ‘new’ iPad and the iPad mini. While Apple garnered its share of press on it’s announcement, it’s been a longer stream of Microsoft news for most of the week.

    Microsoft

    surfacertIndeed, Microsoft has managed to pull of something that only Apple had been doing: maintain and strengthen excitement for its products for more than 15 minutes.

    With the release of Windows 8 and earlier than expected reviews of Surface RT, Microsoft has kept itself in the limelight longer than many had expected.

    All was not rosy, however, as many of those early reviews for Surface RT were glowing for the hardware, but less so for the included software.

    Windows RT, so it seems, while innovative and beautiful to look at, is full of inconsistencies and bugs. And many of the RT apps appear to be missing features or little more than tech demos. One hopes that has changed by now since release day has come and gone.  I have yet to personally try one out as I live in the majority of the country that is not served by a Microsoft Store. And that brings up another point: how can this product be successful if you cannot go to a brick and mortar store like a Best Buy and try one? I don’t mind ordering online, but I would like to try one first.

    Windows 8, however, has been getting good to glowing reviews.  Indeed, it is deserved too.  Windows 8, whether used on a touch or non-touch device really is an innovative and worthwhile upgrade.  I really like the RT side (formerly called Metro) of the house better than the traditional side, however I will probably spend more time in the traditional environment more than the RT environment. That is because of the software I use. Which brings to mind the question: why is the traditional environment in the pure RT release anyway? Seems odd and a bit confusing.

    Apple

    ipadminiApple’s announcement of a ‘mini’ iPad smacks of desperation. This is a company who is beginning to lose it’s luster with its old fan base and its new ‘fans’ probably just don’t care enough.  Priced at a staggering $329(US), the iPad mini (terrible, terrible name) is too expensive and offers little in the way of features to justify the high price (for seventy dollars more, you get a full sized device) or make it any better than the Kindle Fire HD (which is a hundred and change less.)

    The ‘new’ new iPad.  Seriously? The apologists will defend it, saying things like ‘well, they needed to do this so they could get the Thunderchicken connector on all of their devices’ or some other lame excuse. No, they did it because they could. It is the holiday shopping season and this is a way to cash in for them. The ecosystem for the Thunderchicken connector is ramping up and what better way to sell those new connectors and accessories than to confuse the consumer into buying a device that requires them.

    They introduced new Mac’s as well.  It’s about time too. I won’t say anything further about them as they are very nice (except for the ridiculous omission of the optical drives) machines and you can get specs galore from just about any Apple site.

    Back To Microsoft.

    I will be upgrading two machines to Windows 8 over the next few days. I will be documenting the process and will write a post or two about the experience, so stay tuned!