Archive for the ‘Technoloy’ Category

There are now oodles of games on the Windows Store, meant for the Metro interface. Generally, the games are pretty at par with those released on other platforms when it comes to quality. But for games bearing the XBox mark, I find it increasingly difficult to justify even launching them. Upon launch, the game will try to sign in to the XBox service, and this process can take several minutes even on broadband. Add the loading time for the app itself and it becomes problematic, but it gets worse, because most of these games won’t let you play along until you’re signed in. Way to kill the urge to pop up a quick game for a quick fix.

Advertisements

I’ve had RE5, RE6, RE:Revelations and a bunch of other games I bought through Steam for a while, and have been happily killing off the mutated and the undead every chance I get.

This weekend, though, RE6 wouldn’t start. It would just show a blank screen where there used to be the loading cues. It would stay like that for a while, unresponsive except for the ALT+CTRL+Delete salute. I’ve been able to launch Task Manager this way and found the RE6 process eating up all available CPU, which explains the unresponsiveness.

The Issue:

My laptop comes with two display adapters – the built in HD4000 and a secondary discrete card NVIDIA GeForce GT 740m. On Device Manager, I saw that there’s a yellow exclamation icon plastered on the 740m. Uh oh, trouble. Opening the device’s properties, Windows offered this explanation:

Windows has stopped this device because it has reported problems. (Code 43)

Some useful information regarding this error can be found here.

The Solution:

In my case, the fix was straightforward.

  1. Right-click the device on Device Manager, select Uninstall. Select not to remove the driver if prompted.
  2. Click Scan for hardware changes. Wait until the device is recognized and Windows reconfigures the drivers. It should take a couple of minutes and a few screen flickers but no reboot necessary.

That took care of it. Easy peasy.

It’s been a long time coming, but the update to the Windows Phone OS is a solid update that adds much needed features.

 

WP_20140417 3WP_20140417

 

Above, you’ll notice my mug peeking out of one of the tiles – it’s actually a new feature which allows you to customize the start screen with a picture of your choice. Not all app tiles currently become transparent when this is set.

Toggle a setting and you can squeeze in a third column of medium-size tiles.

Below is the new notification center, a welcome addition. Meet the Action Center. Now you won’t have to wonder what app gave out that toast notification that you just missed. It can also hold up to four customizable shortcuts, with those pictured as default. Swipe from top downwards to activate.

These shots are from a Lumia 520, so yes, the update is available to all phones running WP8. Sign up as a developer or join Windows Phone App Studio (appstudio.windowsphone.com) for free if you can’t wait for the public rollout.

WordPress for Windowsphone has vastly improved on the 8.1 release.

(more…)

Update: 2014.05.24 It looks like a culprit to the volume-lowering behavior is none other than Steam. Woke up this morning to this:

image

There I was enjoying some alone time watching videos on my Satellite S40t, when suddenly the volume gets knocked down for no apparent reason.

I never had this issue, or at least never noticed it before since I tend to just use earphones whenever I want to watch something. Lately, I’ve been viewing the movies with the ear sets unplugged and listening to the sound directly out of the laptop speakers (Satellite S40t audio is phenomenal, btw).

That’s when I started noticing it. Randomly, the audio would diminish. Still audible, but it’s really annoying and a tad bothersome. I suspected bad drivers, hardware problems, even VLC itself.

The culprit? A seemingly innocuous little setting nestled deep in the audio settings that Windows (using 8.1 here) helpfully enables by default. Fastest way to access the setting is to right-click the speaker icon on the Notification Area, select Sounds and then click the Communications tab. By default, this is set to Reduce the volume of other sounds by 80%.

image

I don’t know what triggers it but Windows seem to think that there is some communication activity going on at random points and decides to swoop in and adjust the sound of my video playback. Setting it to “Do nothing” does the trick.

The Windows world was set abuzz with the recent reveals at Microsoft’s Build conference just this week. Updates to Microsoft’s Windows and Windows Phone were shown off. And honestly, they both impress.

Windows 8.1 Update

The update to Windows 8.1 is now available via MSDN to developers, and on April 8th, it will be released to the general public. I know I’m excited, with two – nay, three – machines already running Windows 8.1 ready for the new bits. This latest update focuses on Desktop users, with consideration for making life easier on those who use the mouse and keyboard as opposed to touch-first interfaces of tablets.

Windows 8 saw polarized acceptance when it was released. It’s dual-personality confused and angered a lot of users, bloggers and the Technorati. Personally, despite not finding much use or purpose for the interface formerly known as Metro, I enjoyed the OS from the start. I was part of the public beta after all.

I wasn’t bothered at all with the lack of a start button. I never felt the jarring feeling a lot of folks complained about, having to drop in and out of the modern interface to run desktop applications. Frankly, though, I find the metro apps lacking. Not a lot of developers were on board at the start and those who were seemed to not give too much effort with their app offerings. The result is a rather less-than-satisfying experience compared to already established platforms, such as the ones found in iOS. Modern apps are slow, particularly those needing internet connectivity, and a lot are not as feature-rich as their counterparts on other platforms. For a long while, there weren’t even official apps for the major services common today.

But the desktop experience – what an improvement! I do miss the aero interface at times. The 8.1 update was a welcome improvement. It added a start button to appease the critics, but it’s no Start Menu. By now, people should realize that it’s not coming back. Or is it?

Windows8.1Update

Above screenshot is what we can expect of the update to Windows 8.1 – and more. Universal apps – cross-platform apps that work on phone, computers and yes, even the XBox One –, windowed modern apps, taskbar on both desktop and modern interface for mouse/keyboard users, and, your eyes don’t deceive you, the return of the Start Menu.

Update: Wndows 8.1 Update is now live. No windowed modern apps. No Start Menu. Looks like they’re gonna be part of another update to the Windows 8.1 Update or even Windows 9. 

There is another update announced that will come to Windows 8.1, but no new information on when and what it will contain as of now.

Windows Phone 8.1

The only reason I haven’t bought a Lumia Phone is because I cant justify Nokia’s decision to not include a card slot on their high-end phones. I wanted the 920 or 925 but crippling the storage front turned me away. I do have the Lumia 520, the cheapest Windows Phone available, from my company. And surprise, it has microSD support!

After seeing the features lined-up for Windows Phone 8.1 though, I’m contemplating getting the 32GB version of either 920/925 again. Or perhaps go with their phablets, since both the 1320 and 1520 have microSD support. The just-announced 930 looks absolutely incredible, but a) it’s not available ‘til June, and then only in Europe and b) even if it is, it will really be expensive. I can get the 920 legitimately today for about Php14,000 (~$310).

The live tiles on WP are a nice touch, but the toast notification is seriously not enough. If you missed a toast, then there’s no way to check what it was about unless you scan your apps’ tiles for updates. A central notification area where all notifications can be glimpsed upon would really simplify matters. Thankfully, this is coming, along with access to quick settings like Bluetooth, Wi-fi and Airplane Modes. All customizable of course.

Nokia_Moneypenny_Action_Centre_Screen_DSIM_CC

Another great feature to look forward to is the Word Flow keyboard. I suck at these touchscreen phones because of my stubby hands.

Nokia_Moneypenny_Text_UI_Landscape_Shape_Keyboard_SSIM_CC

Then we have the new ability to set a background image for tiles. Just wonderful, it can’t get any more personal than that! The update will also allow for up to three columns of medium-sized tiles.

Tiles

The new OS debuts Cortana, a digital assistant similar to Apple’s Siri, but does a lot more. Although, it will be available for US-based users upon launch only. Microsoft is also making it clear that they’re releasing Cortana as a beta.

Of course, there’s a lot more features coming our way. Look here and here for a definitive list.

The world’s most personal smartphone sounds right!

I’m not in the market for a new laptop, but I’ve been eyeing the Microsoft Surface Pro 2. Unfortunately, it isn’t offered here in the country, and buying it on the gray market will set me back twice its actual amount. And it’s not inexpensive to begin with.

Then I saw this:

en-INTL_L_ASUS_Transformer_Book_10.1_Gray_CWF-01524_RM4_mnco

91578f2e-d551-4d69-b976-e4cd84c844f1_12

It’s the 10.1-inch Tablet/Hybrid from Asus, the Transformer T100TA. Simple, but I find elegance in it.

I wanted to buy it from the moment I laid eyes on it. But I held back, decided to check out the specs first.

Its 10.1-inch IPS screen has a resolution of 1366 x 768, powered by Intel HD graphics. Hardly anything to write home about, but it’s decent for that size. Windows 8, and this is important, is the OS, albeit SL (Single Language). Not RT. Which means you can run regular Windows programs in desktop mode in this.

Being a tablet  of course means that it’s a touch screen. And a touch screen is where Windows 8 UI shines. I know because I’ve been enjoying the touch functionality on my Toshiba Satellite S40T for a while now.

Processor is a quad-core Intel Bay Trail Atom Z2760, clocking in at 1.3 GHz. Not bad.

Now the let-downs. It only has 2 GB RAM, and it being a tablet, no provision for an upgrade. Hard disk is a 64-gig SSD, but with Windows and the recovery partition, it shrinks to about 32-gig usable space. It does come with a microSD slot, though, and the dock/keyboard half has a lone USB 3.0 port.

An added perk is a copy of Microsoft Office 2013 Home & Student. Doesn’t have Outlook, but okay.

Given these specs, I decided that I still like it after much thought. What kept me on the fence initially was the price tag. Its SRP is Php23,995 (roughly more than $530 at today’s forex rate). It’s way higher compared to other countries. If you search for its price, on say, the US, it generally retails for less than $400. Customs, am I right?

So today I made up my mind. I’m gonna buy it. I dropped by the ASUS store at the mall on the way home.

I asked the store attendant if there really is no way to bump up the memory; just wishful thinking. I was biding my time looking at the brochure since they had another customer who came in earlier than I did; they were busy setting up his purchase.

When the customer and the other attendant went to the cashier to settle the bill, the attendant I asked earlier gave me some more information.

Information that ultimately made me change my mind about buying the damn thing.

He said that the models that are now being sold only had 32-gig HD capacity on the tablet. They compensated with a 500-GB regular HD on the dock/keyboard part.

I was disappointed. See the thing above regarding Windows and the recovery partition? That meant the SSD will have very little, if at all, free space left. The 500-GB hard drive on the dock, though spacious, is leagues slower than an SSD. Not to mention it will keep me anchored to the dock for my files unless I immediately shell out more money for a microSD.

Sir, p’wede n’yo naman po lagyan ng microSD!” was his last attempt to get me to buy it before out the store I went, empty-handed.

I imagined my wallet heave a relieved sigh.