Samsung ATIV SmartPC Pro Unboxing

A video of me unboxing the Samsung ATIV SmartPC Pro, by the world’s worst videographer (me)!

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EARTH University: 
Learning for a clean future

http://www.dw.de/learning-for-a-clean-future/a-16408200

Interesting and very inspirational article/video about programs at EARTH University in Costa Rica (and in Costa Rica in general), both teaching and implementing environmentally sustainable practices.

Really makes on wonder why countries like Canada cannot do the same – it is almost like our government doesn’t give a shit.

Ma

 

Windows 8: 5 Things that Really Bug Me

I have been running Windows 8 for a while now (as many people have, given Microsoft’s approach to releasing “previews”). I started playing with it just after the //Build/ conference in 2011, and switched to running it full-time on all of my day-to-day computers back in June. I even blogged a bit about my initial experiences, but I stopped because there was not that much to write about. It is my personal experience that once you get past the initial shock of the user interface changes, doing day-to-day work on Windows 8 is not all that different than Windows 7 (note I am referring to Windows 8 here, not Windows RT).

I really like Windows 8, but I am not sure I would upgrade to it “just because”. If it is on a computer I buy, I will enjoy using it, but will likely not upgrade any more machines.

But…there are some things about Windows 8 that annoy me to no end. Like most things Microsoft does, Windows 8 is 80% great, and 20% ranging from annoying to intolerable. Here are my top 5 issues (at least for today).

It Is Not Finished

This has been said by many reviewers. Some refer to it as not finished, others as schizophrenic. Still other descriptions have been even more colourful.

My issue is specifically with the features which require you to switch to the traditional desktop to do things.

One example is computer settings. While the Settings charm allows you to get to some settings (either directly or via the Change PC settings link), the vast majority of settings require you to jump to the Desktop and open the Control Panel, just as you always have.

Sorry, Microsoft, that is just plain lazy. If there is a setting to which you want users to have access, then present it through your Modern UI.

Another example is Windows Explorer. Why do I have to go to the Desktop to move files around, look for files, etc. I can see maybe having the Desktop Windows Explorer there as a last resort, but I should be able to do anything a normal user would want to do with files through the primary UI. If Microsoft cannot figure out a good way to use the Modern UI paradigm to implement file manipulations, then it isn’t a very strong paradigm.

 The Mail App

I am torn on my opinion of the Mail app. Actually, no I am not – I hate it.

For the most part, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with it (other than the lack of support for POP3 – I mean come on!). There is also nothing especially right about it either. It looks like pretty much every other mail client out there.

When I read the post Building the Mail app, it is clear that the team put a lot of thought into how to build the Mail app. Unfortunately, much of it was wrong.

Yes, it supports various “Windows 8 glitter”, like sharing contracts, search, Live Tiles, pinning accounts, etc. But is that enough?

I really would have liked to see email “reimagined” a little . The way it came out just looks like traditional email prettied up a little (very little). Could no one imagine any strategy using the Metro design language/Modern UI to actually make working with email better?

The PDF Viewer

What could go wrong with a PDF Viewer, right?

Well, how about not remember things like how I use the software? Or at least giving me the ability to tell the software what settings I want to change?

The big one for me is Continuous versus Single Page reading. I like to have PDFs in continuous mode. And, every time I open a PDF in the PDF App, I tell the app I want to use Continuous view. And every time, it forgets.

I know this is a nit-picky kind of thing – but it is endemic in Microsoft’s Apps. To not remember my preferences automatically is bad design. To not even allow me to set my preferences is unforgivably bad design.

SkyDrive App

Ok, this is another very small thing, but I run into it so often that it drives me nuts.

Open the SkyDrive App, select a file, and click the download charm. You are then presented with a UI to allow you to choose a destination folder, and a button that says “Choose this folder”. So far so good, right?

Click the button. The button then switches to say “Ok”. Congratulations! You have now added one completely useless interaction to something I will do all the time. Yes, I might have selected the wrong folder, but it is hardly irreversible. If it is the wrong folder, I can move it. Don’t annoy me on every interaction, just to handle the “exception” case.

Office Apps

I am not talking about the Office Desktop applications here, or even the Office RT applications, but about the Modern UI/Windows Store apps – OneNote MX, and Lync 2013.

Both of these are cute proof-of-concept sort of apps, but they are functionally really disappointing. I sympathize that the Office team was probably brought into the game quite late, and that they were in middle of their own major product release cycle, but better not to release anything that what you have. Neither of these are good examples of Modern UI apps, and some of the missing pieces are really stupid (why can’t I change the pen colour in OneNote MX? why can’t I pin a User or Group from Lync to the Start menu?)

There are other things that bug me, but these are the five which are top of mind today. I also kind of annoyed at some of the limitations of the App development model, but that will have to wait for another post!

 

Samsung ATIV SmartPC: Be very careful when buying in Canada

Among the Windows 8 devices I have been very anxious to see are Samsung’s ATIV SmartPC line. There are two main versions, the 500T, powered by an Atom processor, and the 700T powered by a Core I5 processor (note there is also a Windows RT version of the ATIV).

In particular, I was really looking forward to seeing the 500T. With the Atom processor, it runs a full version of Windows 8, rather than running Windows RT. The Atom processor would also seem to give better battery life, and keeps the price more in line with what people want to pay for this type of device. And the kicker (for me, anyway) is the inclusion of the S-PEN and an active digitizer to support note-taking, a big bonus in my books.

Based reviews like this, I was pretty excited.

Well, now comes the problem…I live in Canada.

As in the US, there are two different SKUs for the 500T in Canada (XE500T1C-A01CA  and XE500T1C-A02CA). The first does not include the keyboard dock, the second does.

But…

The versions being sold in the US (for slightly cheaper) both include the S-PEN/active digitizer. Not so for the versions in Canada. Samsung Canada has confirmed to me via Twitter that the Canadian versions do not have the pen, and reviews I have seen indicate that they will not even work with other Active Digitizer pens.

Others may not place quite as much important on the pen as I do, but this makes the device a non-starter for me.

I have received no justification from Samsung as to why Canadians should pay more for reduced capability. I would love to see their reasoning.

Don’t Pave Around Your IT Obstacles!

I came across a news story (note the link seems to now be broken) yesterday about a hydro pole in the middle of the road in Quebec. In case the link breaks (they often do on the Canoe.ca site) here is the picture:

Apparently, a contract was put out to widen the road, but no one thought to involve Hydro Quebec. The contractor followed his instructions to the letter, and widened the road, paving right around the hydro pole in the process. In fact, it looks from the picture like they did a fine fine to – it looks very professional. The contractor is quoted as saying:

“Everyone knows it looks crazy,” he told QMI Agency. “But the transport department is our client. You must understand, I was somewhat uncomfortable to criticize them.”

We look at this and ask ourselves “How could anyone be so stupid?”

This is a perfect example of “doing things right”, as opposed to “doing the right things”.

How many times have we watched IT projects do the exact same thing?

How many times have we seen projects which followed the exact statement of the new requirements, without always looking at or understanding the surrounding IT terrain? How many new IT projects attempt to simply “pave around” existing infrastructure? How many times have you heard someone say “well, I thought it was kind of stupid, but that is what my client/boss asked for?”

Even worse, what looks stupid in the physical world is often applauded in the IT world. If you jump through hoops to do a very professional job of “paving around the hydro poles” then you are being resourceful, and “responsive to client needs”.

Sorry, stupid is still stupid!

So the next time you see something stupid about to happen –  ask somebody. Maybe it really is as stupid as it looks! And if they still insist on doing something stupid, show them this picture!

Leap Motion

This is too cool! And at the advertised price point, it would definitely be a game changer in NUI development. I do not agree that it replaces a mouse and keyboard, but I do not think in terms of “replacement”. It provides another mode of interaction, along with mouse, keyboard, touch and voice, all of which can augment one another to provide an optimal user experience.

I want one!