Posts Tagged ‘Microsoft’

I got frustrated with the stagnation of Windows Phone and got fed up with Globe Telecoms anti-consumer FUP bs that I, one July weekened, went to Smart to get an iPhone plan. And you know what, I’m happy with this decision.

I supported Microsoft’s mobile offering since WP7. I would have wanted them to succeed, but Microsoft’s propensity to shoot itself on the foot really hurt Windows Phone. A lot of apps were either missing, infinitely inferior, or stagnated into obsolescence – never updated for years on end, and when they finally do get updated, it never seems to be to catch up with features currently available on the leading platforms. Add to that the insult of having Microsoft itself release its own apps (including Cortana, which WP users outside US and select countries can’t even use)  on the competitions’ respective platforms that are often not only better versions, but sometimes even released on the other platforms first, complete with regular updates. Meanwhile on WP, users always got the ‘coming soon’ treatment, which may or may not actually  come to reality. To say this is a frustrating endeavor for someone who supports them is grossly understating it. It’s hard to keep supporting a company which doesn’t seem to value its own loyal userbase, small though it may be.

The Globe Fair Usage Policy is anything but. Well, on Globe’s side it’s proven to be a boon to their bottomline. The users on the other hand are left shortchanged. For months, I have been subscribing to a month-long “unlimited” data bundle, and generally got along fine. A few months ago, I was 10 days or so into my subscription when I apparently hit their daily limit. Before that, I’ve mostly just been tweeting with occasional surfing on the side. The connection slowed down to a crawl, tweets won’t load, websites won’t render. The next day, connection didn’t improved. As it was the weekend after that, I’ve been on wi-fi at home. Come Monday, the connection still was so slow it was unusable. I tweeted about it (not using cellular) and Globe’s army of PR apologists were fast to reply. Their empty sorries just made me angry, their tweets nothing useful or helpful. There I was, barely halfway into my subscription period and I can’t even use the service I have already paid for. That’s when Globe lost me as a customer.

Smart’s signal is not that good at work owing to the place being owned by the same owners of Globe, but it’s tolerable. At my folks’ place, during the weekends I visit, I get excellent reception from Smart that I bought a prepaid SIM that I’d use on the one or two days I was there. More importantly, despite Smart having its own policy, I found they are more lax with enforcing data limits. 

That is what lead me to get the iPhone 2k plan. I figured if I go prepaid I’d be paying Php 1,000 per month anyway. Another thousand more (plus a reasonable cash-out) and I can actually get the 128GB 6+ model. 10GB per month is more than enough for my weekdays commute. Even allowing a couple family members to tether, I barely use half of that.

As I write this I just updated an iPhone 5 to iOS 9. I wouldn’t have been able to do that with Globe even on a plan.

So Globe can shove its unfair policy and suck it.

On and off, I’ve dabbled into the Technical Previews prior to the official release of Windows 10 on July 29. I even installed the TP on my Transformer in the early months of the program but the build available back then was too unstable for the hybrid to be usable that I had to reinstall Windows 8.1. I confined TP testing to a virtual machine, but have not been using it much since then.

On Wednesday, I stayed up late to install the release build on the Transformer. I was actually eager to install Windows 10 on my Satellite as Internet Explorer has suddenly inexplicably started crashing Windows when I launch it. No logs, no nothing to work with.

Installation of Windows 10 on my Transformer took more than two hours – even with a fully downloaded ISO.

I had hoped it would not be the case, but Windows 10 still has the feel of an unfinished beta. Bugs abound.

The Start Menu, while a nice comeback, may take a little getting used to. I find it annoying that if you are in “All Apps” view, you won’t be able to type in and search for a program. Rendering bugs still afflict the menu, with tiles displaying in random disarray. Closing and launching the Start Menu usually resolves the layout issue, but that’s still a bad user experience. Even the notification area acted weird on me last night, showing a blank transparent square area at the bottom while the quick-access buttons that are usually found there are MIA. I had to log-out and back in for that to sort itself out.

On the apps front, the Store app has improved. I like the Music and Movies+TV sections. At least they show up and it looks like I can actually buy content this time. If this is because of the unbundling of the XBox brand – and thus, the need for the Xbox account – then I fully support the removal of the XBox branding.

Groove (the music player) is… new. But it looks to be better than the old music app. I haven’t used Movies & TV app much yet, but at least on the store, I was able to ‘buy’ a free episode of a TV Series, giving me hope that Microsoft will indeed enable buying content without the “your region is not supported” downer.

Twitter revamped its app, but it still is a subpar version compared to its offerings on other platforms, with a lot of features missing. Its design is a head-scratcher, wasting a lot of space, without good reason. You’re better off using TweetDeck.

At least the “Metro” modern apps appear to launch and open with less hassle now. Most are actually usable almost instantly.

With all that said, I think I’ll wait before updating my main laptop. I will just have to avoid using IE on my Satellite for now.

Does this mean it’s going to be an animated wallpaper?

 

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(Image swiped from www.geekwire.com)

Update, 2015-06-15: A few days after the uninstall-reinstall, with the cache data racking up to ~86 MB, the workaround no longer works. I hate Twitter now.


At the start of 2015, a rare thing happened – the Twitter client for Windows Phone was updated.

Twitter

Twitter is a free app that lets you connect with people, express yourself, and discover more about all the things you love.

See what your favorite celebs and athletes are chatting about. Be the first to hear breaking news. Catch a glimpse behind the scenes at the Oscars, concerts, sporting events, and more.

Then join the conversation: Tweet your own text, photos, and video to your followers — and maybe make a few fans along the way.

Get inspired. Be social. Even send private messages to friends. All in real time, as big (and little) things happen, from anywhere you happen to be.

Various bug fixes
This update includes enhancements to sharing and uploading photos.
Tag your friends in a photo to start a conversation.
Capture the moment by uploading multiple photos to a single Tweet.
Tweets with Twitter photos, Vine videos and other select content now show a preview in your home timeline
You can reply, retweet, favorite or follow someone straight from a Tweet in your home timeline.
Share photos through Direct Messages.

As soon as I heard of the update, I downloaded the latest version, eager to try out the “new” features listed in the change log. Personally, I wanted more than anything else to see inline photos with tweets. The experience certainly feels lacking when you have to tap on a tweet just to see the accompanying image. For tweets with pictures, the context is almost always lost if you don’t see the photo.

So the eager-beaver that I am, I installed it on my Lumia 1520, which was on the Developer Preview + Cyan at the time. But no such luck on the one feature I was looking forward to the most. Even when I finally managed to install the Denim update months later, the problem remained.

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The same was true with the Lumia 520, Windows 8.1 + Denim. I was stumped, and of course @Twitter doesn’t respond to mentions, so I let it pass, resigning myself to using the Twitter client for the iPhone instead.

In May, Microsoft launched its Lumia 640 XL, the dual-SIM 3G variant here in the Philippines. I had the perfect excuse to replace my aging Lumia 520 so I went in and bought one. (Bonus, I got a Lumia 105 with the purchase, though it sits in its box at a drawer back home. Still, freebie!)

The 640XL has some niceties – large screen, long battery life, and sporting an updated Windows Phone 8.1 OS (Update 2, Microsoft calls it). So I downloaded my apps and despite the issue with Twitter, I still installed it just for the integration with the People hub.

Much to my pleasant surprise, when I launched the client, it was displaying inline images. I was a happy camper. For the next several days, the 640XL replaced my iPhone 4s as my go to phone. Then, it happened. The inline images were no more. They suddenly just decided to not appear, reverting to that annoying link, where you have to tap on a tweet just to load the image.

Searching online for clues, I found none. I found a few anecdotes here and there, mostly also asking why they were experiencing difficulties, but no solution or at the very least an explanation was offered. Trying to contact Twitter or even an attempt to report the issue is futile. There’s no avenue to reach them regarding issues on the “official” Windows Phone Twitter client. The @MobileSupport handle listed in the app itself I found to be non-existent, and going to support.twitter.com is a frustrating endeavor, with nothing but the most basic help available for Windows Phone users. The platform isn’t even listed on any of their forms for reporting issues. Twitter really drives the message that Windows Phone users are unimportant to them.

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As Twitter is where I get my news on the go, I came back to my iPhone 4s, using the 640XL less and less. Then last night, I fiddled with the 640XL for a while, transferring apps from phone memory to the expansion SD card via the Storage Sense app. It lists the install size as well as the current cache size of the apps. When I turned to Twitter, I found that while the app itself is ~11MB, its cache has accumulated around ~165MB.

Light bulb moment! Could that be the problem?

Firing up the search once more, I began looking for ways to clear app-specific cache in WP. But here Microsoft is to blame, as there seems to be no way to do so but to uninstall the offending app entirely and then to reinstall it. This is a cumbersome workaround and, helped by the fact that I have 2FA enabled, is not an experience I was looking forward to.

The re-download was quick and easy enough as it’s only 4MB. I had to generate an app-specific password on my laptop because Twitter’s SMS notifications are notoriously late to arrive – in the order of several hours!

After all is set, I fired up the Twitter client once more. There they are, the inline images in all their colorful glory, showing once more. All is right in the WP world, that is, until the next time the cache needs clearing again!

In Unix and Linux, you can string commands so that they will be executed one after the other, like so:

cd /usr/foo/home; mkdir tester; cd tester

The same can be done in Windows Command Prompt; stringing commands can be achieved through the use of ampersands and pipes:

image

Command A & Command B

Execute “Command A,” then execute “Command B” without evaluating anything. In other words, each command will be executed one after the other.

Even if the first command fails, as in the second instance the command was used here, the succeeding commands still got executed.

 

 

image

Command A && Command B

Execute “Command A,” evaluate its exit code (or errorlevel) after running, and if it’s 0, only then execute “Command B”

In the first example above, a test folder was successfully created, which made the “cd test” command possible, which in turn made the “dir” command execute. If the “mkdir test” command fails as in the last example, both the cd and dir commands are not executed.

Command A | Command B

Execute “Command A” and redirect all its output as input of “Command B.”

image

Command A || Command B

Execute “Command A,” and if the exit code evaluates to anything but 0, only then execute “Command B.”

In the example, “world” becomes the input to the second command.

Microsoft had plenty to announce this week – Windows 10, Windows 10 for phone, Project Spartan, and the pleasantly surprising HoloLens. It’s an exciting time for all Windows users.

But those are aimed for the future. What’s the plan for today? After all, despite hanging on to a huge chunk in the desktop stage, the landscape is admittedly becoming more focused on mobile. Despite a good offering, Microsoft hasn’t managed to break through significantly in the mobile space.

The leading problem that Microsoft has to overcome before it could gain any ground is itself. Microsoft is Microsoft’s biggest problem. Its reputation has been so tarnished by its past mistakes and questionable behavior that it completely undermines the good that it does today. Mention Microsoft to almost anyone and the best reaction you can get is indifference.

Compound that with the company’s inability to market itself and its technology, and you find yourself a company that is inching ever further on consumers’ minds and wallets.

Microsoft seems to have solid products on the pipeline, but it needs immediate actions to repair the blemishes that mire its consumer face lest those technologies suffer the same fate as Windows 8.1.

And that would be a crying shame.

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.

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.

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!

Local News: Aquino announces abolishment of PDAF, otherwise known as Pork Barrel.

In a nationally televised address, Aquino announced that it is time to abolish the corrupt-ridden Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). Not one to miss an opportunity to put the blame on his predecessor, Aquino had this to say:

Wala pong mali o masama sa polisiyang ito. Ang mali, ang masama, at ang siya ngang ikinagagalit ng taumbayan, ay ang pagsasabwatan sa pagitan ng isang pangulong handang makipagtransaksyon para manatili sa kapangyarihan, mga mambabatas na handang makipagkuntsabahan, at kung nariyan ang kooperasyon ng burukrasya, at mga mamamayang tila namanhid na sa panlalapasatangang ginagawa sa kanila.

The announcement came as a surprise to everyone as Aquino has staunchly said he is against the abolition of Pork just mere days ago. A nationwide march that calls for the abolition of PDAF is mobilizing and set for this Monday.

But even as Aquino relents on the abolishment of said Pork, it appears that Filipinos have yet to see the end of this controversial issue, for Aquino is planning to put a new “mechanism” in place of PDAF that he says will be more tightly controlled.

Yeah, like we haven’t heard that before! Different name, same hocus-focus. Stay vigilant Pinoys!

Entertainment: Warner Brothers announces Ben Affleck is the new Batman

Micro-blogging site Twitter as well as various Social Networking sites were abuzz with the surprise news coming from Warner Brothers. After Snyder’s announcement at Comic-Con that Batman will appear in the sequel to Man of Steel, rumors of who is being tapped to don the cowl circulated in a frenzy.

WB made the surprise announcement Friday. Indeed, Ben Affleck will appear as the new Batman.

This is not the first time Affleck will play a superhero role. He played the lead role of Dare Devil; the film has been widely criticized. Various memes and jokes are already circulating on the internet. Most seem to question the casting decision.

Technology: Ballmer says goodbye to Microsoft

Another unexpected announcement comes in from the technology world – Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is stepping down. He is to retire within the next 12 months, acting as CEO until a successor is named.

This announcement seemed to be taken a good sign by investors, Microsoft’s share price actually rose seven percent after Ballmer declared his retirement plans. Ballmer himself earned $769 million from the share price increase.

This recent event gives Microsoft a fresh start. If it can find a good, visionary leader, it may yet redeem its lost glory in the this time of mobile computing!

Personally, I wouldn’t like a world where my only choices are Apple and Google.