Friday, January 25, 2013

Hands-on with Windows 8 Pro - Part 1

Hands-on with Windows 8 Pro (part 1)

First of all future proof yourself and get your hands on Win 8 Pro Upgrade from Microsoft for just $39.95. This offer is valid until Jan 31st 2013 only and then regular price kicks in at $199.99.

After a lot of skepticism I finally took the plunge and installed Win 8 Pro upgrade on my Win 7 PC.
My skepticism on adopting Win 8 stemmed from various notions or fear-factors:
  • why fix it when its not broken: i already have Win 7 and its working beautifully, so why change and maybe fall prey to Vista-like-disaster? I was wrong!
  • its a fad with all that touch(iness) requirements, unnecessary $$ on new PC, new hardware, new touch monitor and accessories - Umm not really. I was wrong again!
  • it won't work or feel the same without "touch" - Wrong! I experienced the opposite (more later)
  • when was the last time I actually bought an OS at retail price? all that data backup, compatibility issues one hears? - Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! 
  • <aaiinnnhhhh> Time up! more than 3 strikes on fear-factors.
So, when I saw the offer of $39.95 upgrade offer to Win 8 with only 2 weeks left, I decided it was now or never (See my skepticism point# 2 & 4). Promptly backed up my data on external hard drives (not much as most of my stuff was already there) and said my final goodbye to Win 7. When I came to know that with Win 8 Pro one can switch to Win 7 like mode - I knew it would be point of no return for me. If I didn't like the Win 8 interface, then I would simply switch to Win 7 interface and stay there as if nothing changed! (See my skepticism point# 1 above)

Download of Win 8 Pro Upgrade is only 2 GB. Not bad even for a slow internet connection @ 12 Mbps download speed. 

Install of Win 8 was a breeze! Maybe 30 mins or less. Since its an upgrade, You have 3 options during upgrade:
  1. save your previous OS's programs/apps, settings, data
  2. save only data
  3. save nothing
I selected option 1 (couldn't let go so easily) and then changed my mind and picked option 3 with my eyes closed. Don't know what happened but apparently the intaller still somehow picked my previous option 1.
(Either that was divine intervention, or because I closed my eyes while selecting option 3, or a defect in the installer - I point my finger to latter of them all! Developers are developers! ;) )

Anyways, like I said earlier, the install was a breeze. It warned me during install the machine would reboot multiple times, so I just sat back and watched....a blank screen with a small blue windows tile logo and the dots going in circle in some rhythm. Very minimal on-screen status updates. No progress bars - just tiny dots going in circle - disappearing and reappearing.

Finally at the end it simply said "Ready 100%" and the screen blacks out one final time and then initial setup starts: Name the computer, choose/create windows user account (I used my hotmail account), Select your wireless network and password (none of the authentication type WPA/WPA2 stuff) and basic Settings (background image when you are not logged in, background image when you are logged in, color themes, speaker setup, resolution setup...) Just 4-5 selections - not more and Viola! Splash screen of signature Win 8 (Metro UI) comes up.

No congratulations page! No background music!! Simply in your face "Start" page - and it looked beautiful!
Tiles flickering with updates, you tend to touch the screen automatically to scroll to the right and then remember- umm... i need to use the mouse. :P

Before I go on - let me tell you my PC's configuration:
  • Intel Core2 Duo CPU T9300 @ 2.5MHz each 533
  • 4 GB RAM (maxed out)
  • Wireless 802.11 b/g Card
  • Some sound card w/ external speakers
  • Some graphics card w/ 512 MB onboard memory
  • 21" monitor (1600x1350 max resolution)
  • 110 GB HDD
Nothing fancy - aging hardware - no hopes for future hardware upgrades. (See my skepticism point #2 above)

The pre-installer checks your configuration to see if its compatible with Win 8 or not and it never complained   except for the fact that Secure Boot would not be possible (its a new feature on OEM motherboards in newer PCs) which kinda protects your OS from being tampered with later installation of software (which at some point in time try to overwrite Windows DLLs etc) - Who cares if you careful enough before installing malicious software off the internet without anti-virus scans etc..!

Like Win 7, the whole installation is touch-free, no questions asked! It identifies the hardware plugged in (wireless printer, USB card readers, wireless mouse/keyboard, iPhone 5 connected to USB port, external HDD from WD & Seagate connected to USB drives, ....)
One by one by one all drivers are automagically installed and my IPhone 5 purrs signaling all devices are ready for use and charging. 

HDD check shows it chewed up at least 50+ GB off my 110 GB so far! but then I remembered it had selected option 1 (save programs, data and settings) - so found the old OS files stored in Windows.old folder on the HDD eating up precious 15 GB - opened up Disk Cleanup utility and purged old OS files.
So in all basic OS install takes up around 35 GB of HDD.

I had recently purchased Office 2013 pack from Microsoft Home Use Program for $9.95 and had old MS Project 2007 and Visio 2007 from same Microsoft Home Use Program - installed all these s/w.
Installed Adobe Photoshop CS2 (out of support s/w) but Free from Adobe download site. Installed few other basic utilities, anti-virus s/w...At the end with "no personal data" as yet on my Win 8 PC - i am already out of 58 GB. Not bad overall.

Back to Win 8 Metro UI ....there's a lot to tell about!
So, I see these nice tiles laid out on the screen in various sizes and in some what do I do now? Hey! there's no "start" button on lower left corner! So how do I check what programs were installed? How do I go to Control Panel to check system settings? How do I check what devices were recognized and connected successfully? Printer - is it ready to use? what the C:\ directory structure as compared to Win 7 ?
What am I supposed to do now with all these tiles in my face some blinking w/ real-time updates of some sort...

...The panic starts to set in...but wait - let me savor this and post a pic of Win 8 on my facebook page first! ..Awesome! ;D

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Nokia vs. Apple

Had first hand experience of Nokia Lumia 920 recently. Looks nice and has a silky slippery feel to the outer body while holding it. Major disappointment in 3 areas right off the bat: - weighs like a brick, - can't work with one hand (a tad too wide to hold it comfortably) and - every app seems to have some kinda icon (action button) which is non-standard and unlabeled leaving you guessing what the heck it does! On the upside: - Windows 8 tiles /windows phone interface is slick, fast with some cool features/apps which makes you wanting them on your iPhone. - Cost differential is a plus ($50 Lumia vs $200 for iPhone). - wireless charging is cool. -- iPhone 5 revolutionized the charging/sync connector which can be plugged in agnostic of its orientation. But the new cable costs $19.99!!! And old/new cables are incompatible!!!! The advantage is kinda lost. -- Lumia is revolutionizing charging wirelessly! No cables needed, no orientation needed as you don't need to 'plug' in anything. But you are now stuck carrying around the charging pad (almost the size of the phone!) or you can carry around a charging cable as usual. The advantage is kinda lost. Lumia has NFC (near field communication) chip which is supposed to act like your personal ATM paying for stuff without actually opening your wallet - just by swiping or bringing it near the PoS terminal. Cool stuff. This industry is upcoming but not available everywhere as yet - standardized to some extent. Apple hasn't yet accepted this NFC standard/ technology. They are still waiting and watching. Coming from long time iPhone interface use, I felt somewhat lost on Lumia's interface. - In iPhone you scroll to right to find your apps and you scroll up/down within an app. - In Lumia, you scroll up/down, left/right and you will find something or the other popping up (more apps, settings, widgets etc) forcing you to use the Back button more often. Not bad but just disorienting since you are getting deeper into menus and submenus kinda and you need to retrace your steps back and take another path! iPhone keeps you focused on one thing at a time. You don't like what you are doing, press the home button start again to find another focus. (With years of use now this feels simpler as compared to Lumia's look-here-look-there-no-no-look-here scattered workflow) I guess one just needs to get used to the UI to be able to appreciate it fully. Camera comparison in dim light between Lumia & IPhone 5 are as advertised. iPhone 5 pic was grainy but slightly brighter. However, somehow I felt the pictures in Lumia were not as sharp as I had expected. I haven't tested it in bright light as yet. Nokia needs to provide matching headphones! This is where it needs to learn about marketing and hype like Apple does! It seemed to me as an oversight in the rush to arrive at the party before it ended! Surprisingly I think I can say that Lumia 920 with Windows 8 OS is comparable in stability with Apple's iOS at least on the mobile platform. Overall, Unfortunately I think Nokia will get the leftovers of the party (the ugly and the phat chicks aka undecided patrons) cuz the good ones are already taken by Apple & Samsung! :) -- By Dheeraj Sachdeva

Microsfot vs. Samsung

Here's the 1:1 comparison of Microsoft Surface with Samsung's Ativ 500T windows 8 tablet. Note: I won't compare the technical specs, as you can get those from umpteen sites. My article is geared more towards my first impressions when looking at these 2 tablet side by side. - Microsoft Surface looks like a regular tablet in size; Samsung's Ativ looks more like a platter (it's super wide) I think Samsung's tablets screen was almost an inch wider than Surface's screen. Personally I felt awkward holding a platter to browse the web. The hands felt far more apart than they ought to be.
Image courtesy
- Surface has a built-in back stand; Ativ doesn't. - Ativ comes with a stylus tucked in at the bottom; Surface doesn't. On a side note: It's funny how Samsung is bringing back the stylus in all their touch products to break away from Apple's revolutionary touch concept. Ironically, Windows were the first to bring out the stylus in their smartphones few years back before iPhone launched. Apple then brought in iPod and iPhone and everyone threw out the stylus and the windows phone along with it. Then came Samsung mimicking Apples design/concept with their slick smartphones on Android OS and now it has partnered with Microsoft to launch Windows 8 in face of iOS & Android and brought back the stylus just to stir the old time memories! Like I said, it is funny to see it come back! - Samsung's windows 8 tablet was bland looking as compared to Microsoft's Surface. I mean except for its wide form you wouldn't know if its Android based or Windows based. A Microsoft/Windows logo "would" have been a nice touch. - Weight-wise I think Samsung's Ativ may have been slightly heavier than Surface. And believe me every additional gram counts when it comes to enduring holding of the tablet for longer periods. - Surprisingly Surface felt more sturdy in the hand especially if you try holding it in one hand. I could hold Ativ with one hand but I could see the pressure points it was building up on my wrist. Ativ somehow looked like a cheap knockoff as compared to Surface. - if you deploy the on-screen keyboard on Ativ you hardly get to see few lines above the typing area...and you are left wondering maybe it should have been longer as well (or you need to rotate the device in portrait mode for typing and ROFL looking at the monolith jutting up in the air) - awkward! -Ativ also comes with external snap-on keyboard for those who really want to type a letter or try doing some serious work (using MS Office); Surface comes with its own magnetic snap-on Touch Cover. - it's funny that you hardly see any ads on TV for Samsung Windows 8 tablet, Ativ; whereas Microsoft Surface hogs the primetime airwaves. Shows who has how much at stake here! :) - Price point wise both Samsung & Microsoft windows 8 tablets are priced in the same range. I was told off handedly by store manager that Samsung maybe $50 cheaper than Surface. (Bottom line) Now that's maybe 'cuz as per Samsung's marketing strategy it's only meant to dirty the waters, undercut the main product and flood the market with cheaper stuff. If i was a gung-ho fan of Samsung then I'd rather wait for prices to drop on these, preferably wait for Ativ 600T or whatever their next version is going to be. Otherwise I would seriously recommend looking at Surface again if you are Microsoft/Windows fan. At these prices I'd rather purchase MS Office suite App for $15-20 from the App Store for iPad 3! Best of both worlds ;)

Microsoft Surface

So finally I got my hands on the much awaited Microsoft Surface Windows RT tablet - 1 day before its official launch at various retail stores! I played around for 30 mins or so with it in the store. The keyword here is "play" and "30 mins"... at $699 a pop that's all there is to it. But setting that aside... Pros: - smooth responsive Interface - nice design especially the built-in back stand and the keyboard cover - keyboard cover probably should be listed as number 1 innovation. It's magnetic and u literally don't need to align the tablet with the keyboard, it just finds the notches automatically and snaps in. - keyboard was so thin it almost felt like a cardboard cover but the pairing was impeccable and no miss-strokes. - supports a full USB port, a mini HDMI port, a microSD card slot hidden behind the tablet (in between the builtin stand) - full ms office integration - front camera resolution was great
Cons - $$$$$ (sorry couldn't help reiterating it) $699 is the price with the keyboard!! - be careful of the black stand; skin of my palm got caught in between the stand and tablet while trying to close the stand (maybe my clumsiness but I bet many would encounter it one time or the other, trust me!) - back main camera resolution was unimpressive! Lacking sharpness. - slightly heavy (I probably could have put this under Pros section also - as it wasn't as heavy as I was anticipating) - the angle of the back stand is fixed and optimal for on the desk/table mode only.
Verdict: - pricey toy if it's not a Windows 8 Pro version. - you gotta be sure what you want this for. So ask this question to yourself: am I looking for a laptop replacement? Or am I looking for a tablet and maybe some light weight work? - it may seem like a laptop replacement but it will not be so (laptop can do a lot more, install various programs, VPN software, ERP clients etc. for some serious work, higher hard drive capacity!) - it is at best a netbook (semi laptop, browser based work (cloud based ERP clients can still make it a worthwhile adversary) - it is ok at just a tablet level if you have this for browsing the net, listening to music, videos/movies viewing etc. Million dollar question: would I buy Surface over iPad 3 (err...the 'New' iPad 2)? - the day I am ready to shell $500+ for any tablet, I might go for Windows Surface*. *Disclaimer: I'm a long time user of iPhone and familiarity with iOS capabilities across iPhone / iPad has dulled my senses, so Surface gets the edge here for its newer interface and the promise of discovering capabilities unknown in iOS. --by Dheeraj Sachdeva