Category Archives: Tablets

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My Next Tablet: ASUS got my money, again!–Sorry SurfacePRO

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Yes, I did it! I chose mobility above Power and Style! Those of you that follow me might know about my predicament in a post I wrote some time ago complaining to Microsoft about SurfacePRO on battery life. I was conflicted whether to get the SurfacePro or not. Believe you me, there is nothing I wouldn’t give to get SurfacePro, its got the muscle, its got the style, but the only thing it hasn’t got is the stamina; which I desperately need. In the post I complained I already have a Core i5 tablet giving me an average of 3 hours, I was not ready to get another Core i5 tablet giving me an average of 4 to 5 hours. I need the stamina, to be able to leave the power adapter for once at home!

You could have said why not get the SurfaceRT that was pushing 9hrs of use, well, just one reason, I’m not just an Internet buff trolling the net all day, I’ve got some real work to do in my daily life. I need to be able to access my office and do real work on my Tablet, and I mean real work. VPN, Office, Citrix and Proprietary apps; you know, the real deal. SurfaceRT will not cut it for me. And if SurfaceRT will not cut it, iPad and Android devices could never. I am of the opinion, you stick to the platform that most serve your need. There’s no way to get me to actively use Google’s products. I only use YouTube passively, period. Apple’s walled-garden is too limiting for me, so thank you, I’ll stay on MS campus if you don’t mind.

So, the decision is quickly made, Atom tablet it is! Current x86 Clovertrail tablets are pushing average of 9hrs of use, the only thing is the bad press they are getting. Nearly all of the reviewers were complaining about near uselessness of these tabs. Could they be right? As of this moment, I can tell you for fact, the majority CAN be wrong, and they ARE wrong!

I went to the local Mall to check out the Atom tablets available for myself. There are many of them, but the one that got me is the ASUS Vivotab Smart.

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Dang! That device is small, thin and light! The ultimate mobility candidate! And it could give me 9+ hours? Well, I loved the size and its feature, but I was put off by its screen quality. It has just an IPS screen, a cheaper screen compared to others with Super-IPS screens. And what’s more it’s a bit greenish and washed out. It was the worst screen you could have!

Another thing is I could not for the life of me bring up the Charm on this thing, can’t open app bars, it seems this only Show unit was broken. Asked an attendant why the Charm is not working, he said he didn’t know why, and from his demeanor, I could see he didn’t care neither. This is exactly the reason why Microsoft needs to open motar&brick shops himself, there are just too much MS-hating shop attendants out there! Well, the geek in me did what’s right at that point in time; I reloaded Windows 8 there and then! Have you ever did a complete restore of an OS in a shopping mall?! Thanks to that single action, my opinion of the device changed. The device came back restored to its default state. Some idiots obviously were messing around with the tab, probably disabled the Windows 8 gestures in the registry, sabotaging the product. There are too many haters out there I tell you.

Well, the device is looking good now, and very responsive. WEI (windows experience index) is 3.2, that’s not bad for a device that all reviewers were dumping upon. And from what I can see, there is nothing wrong with the response. The only thing still is the white balance, still tends to the green. Tried to set the color correction to reduce green or bring up blue and red, to my dismay, you can’t do Windows color correction on this device. I was furious with Microsoft. Why in everything holy would they disable color correction in the Display Wizard?! Tweeted about this, bought the device and left the shop.

Guys, it was the best decision I’ve ever made. Don’t listen to idiots when it comes to your devices. Go out there and try it, or order it online and give it a spin yourself, you can always return it if it doesn’t meet your requirement. I tell you, this atom device is perfect. It withstood everything I threw at it up till now. Got the Task Manager permanently fixed on the taskbar watching CPU usage, I’ve never seen such a cool device, and literarily cool too, no heat, no fan. It’s a dream. What’s more, this thing is powered via a standard micro-usb! I don’t have to lug a bulky power adaptor around, I could just charge with the same charger as my Lumia 920! Are you kidding me?! I mean, we all have this notion in our heads, when you mention an Intel device, you automatically see a bulky power adaptor next to it. I am looking at your HP and Dell!

I loaded it with all my Play and Work software. My VPN clients and Lync MX clients worked flawlessly, no lag nothing! Loaded Office 2013 and a few work related clients, everything works! I mean everything! This is a complete opposite experience than what I was reading in reviews. How can there be so much difference in what Reviewers say and what the real life experience is? Something is wrong with this picture! I was prepared for a very slow experience, after all, this is a netbook class CPU. Nothing, no lag at all. The only lag I’ve seen on this thing is my Bluetooth mouse being jerky at times when device is heavily in use. And the most awesome of all, I am getting about 10hrs on this thing! See what Windows PowerCfg says for yourselves:

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That “Since OS install” is just a fair estimation. I am definitely getting more than 10 hours on this thing. Its an eye-opener for someone that is used to meager battery life on my laptops and tablets.

So there you go. The last argument against Intel platform for mobility thrown out of the window. At the moment Intel Atom Clovertrail CPU leave ARM in the dust in terms of performance. And now that Intel can match and exceed ARM battery life, the contest is over as far as I am concerned. I don’t care what the fanboys sing. On lesson is very clear from this experience, don’t listen to Apple or Android-invested sites to tell you about a competing platform. Go out there an test for yourself. Go to GDGT and see the ridicule of it all. Where real users are giving products 9 or 10 and reviewers are giving 6 or 7. I tell you most of these fanboys have lost their credibility. I am mad that they are still being called journalists. There’s nothing journalistic about what they do. They don’t report facts, they only try to shape opinions.

When I was getting this device, my mindset was to get a less-than-average device to get me to the Intel Haswell timeframe when I hope MS will release a Haswell Surface product that combine beauty and brawn, with stamina to boot. But I can tell you I am more than satisfied with this ASUS Vivotab Smart tablet. Its my companion device now. No, I don’t play Crysis on the device, I don’t have ridiculous expectation of an Atom device like the most reviewers do. They should stop comparing apples with oranges. Atom Clovertrail was never meant to compete with Ultrabook class devices, it was meant to compete with ARM devices, and that is where it is leaving the types of iPads and Galaxy Notes and Nexus is the dust. If you’ve been holding back on getting Atom x86 tablets because of what you’ve been reading, don’t wait any longer, they are perfect Work and Play devices!

P.S: The Color correction no more available in the Display Wizard (Read-only now), adjustments is now ONLY available in Intel’s Graphic Media Accelerator Display client:

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See Also:
Engadget: ASUS Vivo Tab Smart
GDGT: ASUS Vivo Tab
GDGT: ASUS Vivo Tab Smart (Sorry, no user reviews yet, I am no GDGT user.)

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MS SurfaceRT Security Broken–Now you can run ANY Desktop App

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We knew it’s a matter of time, in fact I am surprised it took this long, but it has finally happened. Someone has found a way to circumvent the built-in Security of Surface preventing arbitral running of Desktop Apps on SurfaceRT devices. Its all about a Byte in the Kernel, and a hacker going by the handle of Clrokr (@Clrokr) has found it as below:

SeGetImageRequiredSigningLevel+0×18
LDR R3, =0x59FFA6 This is our byte, 0x19FFA6 at 0×400000 image base
LDRB R3, [R3]
CMP R3, #4
BHI loc_HighSigReq
B.W loc_LowSigReq

Here is what he said about it:

Finding the right spot

The minimum signing level determines how good an executable’s signature is on a scale like this: Unsigned(0), Authenticode(4), Microsoft(8), Windows(12). The default value on x86 machines is of course 0 because you can run anything you like on your computer. On ARM machines, it defaults to 8.
That means that even if you sign your apps using your Authenticode certificate, the Surface or any other Windows RT device (at this moment) will not run them. This is not a user setting, but a hardcoded global value in the kernel itself. It cannot be changed permanently on devices with UEFI’s Secure Boot enabled. It can, however, be changed in memory.
Finding this byte in the kernel takes a while, there is no exported symbol for it and not even in the symbol database at MSFT. I found it using WinDbg and a machine running Windows 8 Pro, creating processes and watching how the system behaves when the signature checks happen all the way through CI.dll and back. Because Windows 8 and Windows RT are so similar, locating it in the ARM kernel was not hard…

He provided the sample exploitation code on his blog. But what does it all mean to you as user? First, this is not for the faint hearted, you must know what you are doing. Second, someone will probably write a code to automate the jailbreaking. But the question is would you run this code on your ARM device?

I personally will like to to see how SurfaceRT performs after jailbreak. Remember the version of Office on SurfaceRT is specially crafted and optimized for the RISC architecture and its small power environment. So, will you be able to run the likes of AutoCAD/Photoshop now on Surface, I doubt it, you will be frustrated possibly with the performance speed. We will be keeping an eye on developments for you and report back if anything new come up around this story.

It’s a brave world out there, once again, it has been proven that nothing is secure by default. If it is written by man, it will be broken by man, period. Now that you can jailbreak SurfaceRT, what are you going to do about it? The decision is yours and yours alone.

You can read the rest at Clrockr site: http://surfsec.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/circumventing-windows-rts-code-integrity-mechanism/

[Update]
I have been made aware of the fact that you can’t run “ANY” desktop Apps on ARM devices like the hacker’s post suggested, but even after this jailbreak, you still have to compile your standard Desktop App for ARM before it will run in a jailbroken desktop. So, with this news, we can expect Google and the likes to start compiling Chrome and other apps for Windows RT desktop. And of course all the security risks and exploits will follow. Hopefully people will not be blaming Microsoft for their misfortune then.

Seriously Compromised with SurfacePro – A Public Plea to Microsoft

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This week, Microsoft announced the pricing of the SurfacePro to the whole wide world, and reception of the news has been mixed to put it mildly. Its not even the price that broke the deal for me, I don’t mind the price since its work/play device. What broke it for me is the Battery Life of the device. I must confess I am seriously compromised right now in my decision for this device. What were you thinking Microsoft, 4Hrs battery life these days is just not acceptable on a Tablet device. I know it’s a Core i5 device, don’t get me wrong, I can see the need for power for some people, but seriously?

Look, I already have a Core i5 tablet that came with Windows 7, that was announced for 4Hrs battery life when I got it, but actually was pulling 2.5Hrs max in reality. Installed it with Windows 8 DP and my battery life jumped to 3hrs, now with Windows 8 RTM I am getting average of 3.5Hrs on this awesome device. So here I am waiting patiently for SurfacePro in January, and MS announced 4Hrs battery, sorry, but that is disappointing. I was expecting something that will match SurfaceRT battery life if not surpass it. Core i5 with 4Hrs battery life is almost what I have right now with my current Win7/Win8 tablet, I don’t see what’s the improvement, that extra 30 minutes doesn’t cut it for me; not for $1000 price point.

When MS announced 3-months-later for SurfacePro, I was actually hoping that they did that to get the latest and greatest CPU from Intel to capture the same battery life as SurfaceRT, as all kinks with CloverTrail would then have been ironed out etc etc. Ok, they said 3rd generation core i5 CPU, whatever that means, I don’t see its effect if it slurps the battery empty in 4hrs.

So, this is my plea to Microsoft: Please, please, make a third option for SurfacePro with CloverTrail Atom CPU! If HP and Dell could promise 9Hrs on their CloverTrail devices right now, it is a shame for Microsoft to come in the year of the Lord 2013 with a meager 4Hrs battery life device. You know, I have this Core i5 device right now, I am not doing any monster work on it, I am not doing video editing, not installing it with Photoshop or AutoCAD software even if I could. All those are on my Desktop where the power is when I need it. I have chosen this device to be my companion device, I need it to be always available when I need it, not to be looking for the next plugin socket each time. I use it lightly, that is the intention the whole time, the need to be able to run standard desktop apps and be highly mobile. That is the promise of CloverTrail, that is why we wait, so why should we end up with something in January that I can have now; that I have now?!

So, either you come with an announcement before the mid of December Microsoft, else I’ll be forced to shop at HP and Dell for my next CloverTrail device with a Pen. Thanks for listening as always Microsoft.

[Update: Corrected OakTrail to CloverTrail in the post. Sorry people, getting old here Smile. Thanks Voleheart buddy!]

Your buddy,

Denny McAkins

Debunking the Chris Pirillo’s Negative Surface Review Video

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Someone sent me today a link to Chris Pirillo’s YouTube page comparing MS Surface with the iPad shown below:

Chris Pirillo’s video comparison of Surface with ‘New iPad’

Chris as usual was negative about MS product and recommends people not buy the Surface, he based his argument on the browser test he did at the Peacekeeper browser test page of Futuremark. Naturally I was curious about his comparison. I also have a tablet, a Core i5 x86 tablet that smokes an iPad in terms of performance with the following specification:

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So I went to the Peacekeeper browser test page and did a test of my system. You can imagine my surprise when it came back with the following result:

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You are telling me an ARM tablet called iPad is faster in performance than a Core i5 x86 device? Are you kidding me? Of course, there is no knowledgeable soul on earth that will believe this report. You then have to ask yourself, what this site is actually testing. For one, not all test were done in IE10 because the browser was blocking the Add-In used in the measurements. I counted at least four tests that were skipped. Note the “HTML5 Capabilities 2/7” given under my 374 score above, on Chris’ test Surface had 3 of 7 tested. So if IE10 is protecting users by blocking shitty Java add-ins, it is punished by this Peacekeeper page? And this is the problem with the internet these days. You don’t get the warning that the tests on Microsoft’s platform was incomplete, users are not warned and test results refused because it is no more a fair test. I for one don’t run anything Java. I am of the opinion Java is a gaping security hole on any system. If you don’t believe me, see Kaspersky’s IT Threat Evolution Report page. I just cleaned a Neighbor’s PC this weekend, all Java Trojans! Java should be banned on any system period.

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So I am presented with an incomplete result. Even the Surface is faster than my Core i5 Tablet! And this is the convoluted world we on the Microsoft platform live in these days. We have to deal with un-informed popular opinion. Even the so called “Experts” have no clue about the technology they are talking about. Hello Mr. Chris Pirillo, after this test on the Peacekeeper page, to be fair, you should also have done a test on Microsoft’s IE Browser Test Drive page. I am sure you would see a different performance report. Take the de-facto FishBowl test with 10 Fishes, how many FPS are you getting on both Surface and iPad? Then take the Particle Acceleration Test, what is the Score on both Surface and iPad? I am getting 25FPS for FishBowl and 15000avg for Particle Acceleration on my Tablet.

There you have it. A test based purely on HTML5! No Add-In, no extra web-kit optimized pages. Just pure HTML5 which is the future standard of Internet. What are you getting as score? Unfortunately, I am yet to receive my Surface device and I don’t have an iPad to test with. So I am calling on you normal people using both of these devices to do a test for yourselves. Please go to the Test Drive page and run the FishBowl and the Particle tests, let me know what scores you are getting on Surface and iPad. Know the truth, and the it will set you free as the saying goes. We cannot depend on the so called “Tech Press” anymore as most of them are just opinion shapers these days. They have vested interests that determine their vision. Most of these Tech journalists, if you can call them that, have Apple Stocks, and they will do everything to shape popular opinion to the advantage of their Stock Portfolio. They should now make it a law that any Blogger give a full disclosure of their affiliations and Stock Portfolio. Period.

Please do the tests if you have a Surface and an iPad and come back here to give your findings in the comments below. Thanks for helping rid the world of FUD against Microsoft.

[Update 2012-11-06]
All, please see the response of the Peacekeeper product manager here below in the Comments. He indicated that the test at the Peacekeeper page is not using any Java Add-Ins etc, but based purely on JavaScript language that IE10 also supports. So that clears a bit of the riddle at the moment. However, the question still remains, what are the influence of the Tests skipped in IE. Does this contribute to the Score? I definitely think so. If that is the case, this Test is actually testing Browser performance (also indicated by the product manager here below) and therefore is not a device performance test like Chris makes the world believe. The Story continues.

P.S. You may not be aware but Chris has made another video test with Microsoft IE FishIE Tank test in which the iPad still obviously beat the Surface. Can anyone confirm this also? Thanks All.

Should Microsoft Kill Pen-Computing? – No way!

Another empty head “Tech Journalist” want Microsoft to abandon Pen Computing features of Windows 8, because Pens are things of the past. Below is my response:

So have you really used Pen Computing for any length of time in the past 5 years? Have you sat in a meeting and take note on a digital device without a screen covering your face and making keyboard noise? Have you been to Universities and technical schools where Pen Computing rules? Have you tried OneNote with a Pen and marvel at its ability to convert your chicken handwritten notes into legible text?

Wow, a tech-blogger wakes up one day and thinks he can dis something humanity invented thousands of years ago. You must be really feeling your inadequacy at the moment because you only showed your limited capacity to understand technology with this post.

If the Pen is a naught like you try to convince the whole world with your post, why is there a branch of the industry for sausage-pens for the iPad? With what do you think they created those circuit-boards powering your devices and the car you ride, and the mega-flat in which you live? You think CAD/CAM was carried out with a finger on a glass-substrate?

Jeez, when are these pseudo-intellectuals who called themselves Tech Journalists learn to keep their mouth shut when they talk of things they know nothing about. You know what, there is a complete set of industry based on Pen-Computing at the moment. Yes, schools, engineering institutes, movies CGI, digital artistry and hospitals are where you find Pen-computing, and it will explode once people get the hang of it. People are not buying pens for iPad for nothing at the moment. Because your Prophet said “If it has a pen, it’s a fail” does not make it so. Even prophets can be wrong sometimes.

Microsoft OneNote MX is in the Store!

At last, the OneNote MX app is in the store. I have been trying to find it in the Store since announcement yesterday by Microsoft, it could not be found by any means. Thanks to our MS pundit Paul Thurrott who informed you should just look under the Productivity section and NOT search for it. Now I can confirm the app is indeed in the Store.

OneNote for us lovers of the App needs no introduction, but if you are new to TabletPC, this is the note-taking app from Microsoft. This is the App that Evernote copied to gain popularity, but somehow OneNote never catch on with the populace. This is about to change. OneNote is an appreciated app for Students, Engineers and Professionals alike because of its unparalleled support for Ink. If you have a tablet with a true Pen (not a sausage pen), this is the app for you. With this release of OneNote MX, note takers are in Nirvana.

OneNote MX feature the RadialRing menu that was debuted in InkSein project of Microsoft Research years and years back. Those of us that have used and appreciated InkSein are glad it found its way into current iteration of OneNote. I will not go into details here as other blogs have covered OneNote MX in details. I just want to afford you an easy means to download and install the app via the following link: http://apps.microsoft.com/webpdp/app/f022389f-f3a6-417e-ad23-704fbdf57117

What is a “Post-PC” Era? – A figment of Imagination

Your Post PC World only exists in a parallel universe

Posted this reaction on “The Verge” in reaction to the stupid notion of “Post-PC era”, a term that seemed to have caught on these days:

“Post-PC Era”, it’s just a fad thing that Tech Bloggers latch on to, just like the DoA thing. I think the Tech blogger have all lost touch with reality because they don’t know the definition of PC anymore. Everything is PC! Macs are PCs, your phones are PCs, ARM devices are PCs!

For example ARM=Advanced RISC Machines, and RISC stands for Reduced Instruction Set Computer. So let the tech bloggers living in the reality distortion field know that both iPhone and iPad and what have you are all PCs! If it has a CPU, it’s a Computer, if it’s not a Mainframe, then it is Personal! If you carry it around and it has a CPU, it’s a PC! Period.

There is nothing like a Post-PC era, there is just a bunch of self-delusional tech bloggers.

It is time we called our tech bloggers to responsibility. They should stop being a Parrot, quoting one-liners  all over the place confusing people instead of educating them. I guess the Golden Age is indeed behind us. Obviously the explosion of technical information has not led to explosion of technical wisdom.

So, say it forth: Macs are PCs, iPads are PCs, iPhones are PCs!

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 Months Later – The Reason

Microsoft went public last week with a scene fit for Hollywood movie kind of hype. Rather unusual for a company that has been deemed irrelevant by the Tech bloggers, the world that have successfully being pocketed by Apple. However everyone came away with a positive feeling about Microsoft, and it seems everyone agrees MS has something in these new Surface products lines they are introducing.

MS announced that the Surface RT will be available with General Release of Windows 8, and Surface Pro 3 months later. People found it strange that MS is releasing the Pro 3 months later. What is peculiar with this timing. Why three months? Why not two months or 5 months, why exactly 3?

The clue lies in the exact timeline that Microsoft gave. They are assured of Pro’s availability 3 months after Surface RT goes for Sale. As you all know MS is towing here a very delicate line with its Windows Partners. It is not Microsoft’s intention to usurp its OEMs market but to complement them; be a reference source for its OEM hardware wise. Microsoft is providing its OEMs leeway with the first 3 months after Windows 8 release, to give them a chance to sell their products for the Pro, or the so-called Intel platform PCs and tablets. None of the OEM is strong nor ready on the ARM platform, that is why MS could afford to release the Surface RT with Windows 8 release and not be seeing to be directly in the way. But on the Intel PC/Tablet front, this is the bread and butter for the OEMs, so they need the respite.

Therefore I hereby present you Microsoft’s timeline for the Surface Pro:

  • Windows 8 will release in October.
  • Microsoft Surface RT will also release in October.
  • The OEM will have the chance to market their Intel platform products for the holidays; October through December.
  • Microsoft will release Surface Pro end of January 2013, 3 months after Surface RT.

So there you have it. Say it forth, the reason Surface Pro is coming 3 months late is to cut MS OEMs a break during the holidays. Then the OEMs cannot point accusing fingers at MS during the holidays sale. Which is a wise decision by MS to pacify its partners.

[Update:2012-07-18]
Microsoft just confirmed the release of Windows 8 for the 26th of October as I have informed in this post. This makes the release of Surface Pro to be end of January like I also informed.

The King is freaking Naked! – Debunking the Retina Hype

Configuring Retina – Courtesy The Verge

I have decided to stick my neck out here and swim against the tide. Yesterday, Apple released another “Retina” device and of course the usual pandemonium in the tech world as expected.

Since Retina made its debut I have been watching the Tech blogosphere go gaga with ooo’s and aaa’s but I haven’t seen anyone compare the advantage of Retina to its disadvantage. The only advantage is the DPI density, that you can look at you pixel to so called “infinity” and still not notice any jaggedness of fonts and pictures etc. You know what, I am writing this on standard resolution screen, I don’t notice any jaggedness in this Word document. I haven’t noticed jaggedness since ClearType technology and its variations in other OSes.

So what’s the point? Looking with naked eyes (or with four eyes it you wear glasses) you can’t see jaggedness on anything above 100DPI. You will have to do your best at that level to see anything wrong with the screen, and by the time you reach 150DPI its just a waste of pixel density. I know some of you will crucify me, and cite headaches and all at anything below 200DPI, you know what, it’s just an excuse to your partner to buy yet another addictive device. Yes, you can’t see any difference anymore with naked eyes after 150DPI. Do you know how they show the difference between normal DPIs and Retina display on all Tech sites? They show the difference under a microscope. Yes, under a freaking microscope. Tell me, which of you do your day-job under a microscope looking at your computer display. It’s plain nuts!

Which brings me to Retina’s disadvantages:

  1. Like almost all Apple’s products, it is a brag right! Yes, there is nothing to Retina than to brag my d@#ck is bigger than yours. Anyone who has a need to brag as such should see a shrink because you are compensating for a need in your life.
  2. It is inefficient. Because of increased resolution, there are more wasted pixels on the screen. These pixels have to be powered, supplying power to something you don’t need is inefficient, it’s a waste of resource, and environmentally irresponsible. The power you supply to these pixels have to be generated which impacts the environment. By the time you take the energy to power those extra pixels and multiply it by the number of Retina devices, you begin to realize we are talking of serious impact on our planet. Like they say, “if you don’t do it for your money, do it for your grand-children”. The next generation bears the brunt of our current obsessions with devices. Retina is so inefficient that it requires more battery on the “New iPad” than iPad2, grows hotter than iPad2, has less battery-life than iPad2, etc etc.
  3. Requires Apps Re-Writes. It is a normal cry now, anything that sports “Retina” display has to have the “right” apps for it. Sad that none of the Tech blogs are calling Apple to this inefficiency: Apple creates a problem where none exists, and therefore has to be fixed by devs. The following logic hold if you can figure it out:
    1. When you put high resolution on a small screen, your screen elements suffer if it doesn’t scale. It’s a simple question of proportions. The screen elements are made to a certain specifications, especially on a Touch device. A button in an App need to be a certain size to accommodate an average finger size. Certain font sizes are chosen for readability per DPI. So what happens when you increase resolution and your elements are fixed, they seem tiny and unreadable on the small screen. Therefore elements have to be made bigger. For example, a 320×240 standard graphic element now has to be made 640×480 to be made usable on a retina screen and so on and so forth. You get the picture. A size 10 font has to be made size 20 font to be readable. All for nothing, just because someone convinced you higher resolution on a small screen is better.
    2. App devs need to drive more pixels for games on a small screen. Can you imagine, you are playing an HD, Xbox level resolution game on one third or fourth of the screen estate. It’s a waste. Its lots efforts to make the elements visible on the screen. The game still looks small despite the fact that it’s a large resolution game.
    3. I can’t think of any more disadvantages off the top my head at the moment, but I am sure you will think up of other. If you comment, I’ll add them here.
    4. [Update] Someone pointed out another disadvantage offline: The manufacturing cost, not in terms of price, but in terms resources needed to produce it. All the energy waste during production, and the waste materials and chemicals from the production that will probably end up dumped in the ocean somewhere.

So please stop this Retina screen madness and see Retina for what it is: A sales gimmick. Nothing more, nothing less. There are people clamoring now for Retina Windows 8 devices, believe me, you don’t need them. If Apple has succeeded in pocketing every blogger out there (I know most of them are pushing their Apple stock), then let it be that this “little fella” here have the nerve to shout it out loud: “The King is freaking Naked!” Save our environment, stop inefficient use of Technology.

[Update: 2012-07-09] For those of you bashing me on my stand on Retina, you’d better read this from the CIO Journal! “Apple withdraw from Green Electronics initiative”  Apple has just removed itself from the Green Electronics initiatives as none of its current devices meets the goal of energy efficiencies. And before it is hit by class action suits, Apple has decided to withdraw itself there losing permanently the Good for Green logo right.

[Update: 2012-08-04] Engadget carried a piece about Retina and Windows Desktop that I think confirmed my assertion in this post. What really got my attention is the following quote:

Windows on Retina display
Making full use of the Retina display’s 2,880 x 1,880 resolution, the Windows desktop is startlingly huge with tiny text and dwarfed navigation buttons lost within it. Pegging the dpi at 200 percent, however, strikes a balance between readability and definition. System text, icons and windows are easy on the eyes, but third-party apps are hit-or-miss, as they require developer support for large, crisp and readable visuals. With a bit of tweaking, the oversized-desktop is useable, but a 1,920 x 1,080 experience is a bit easier on the eyes, and is more forgiving of apps that lack support for the extra pixels.

As you can read, the large Desktop on a small screen is a waste, the editors had to increase the fonts DPI to 200 to be able to read anything on the screen. Navigation buttons were “dwarfed” making them un-usable. So you tell me what is the efficiency of a large Desktop on a small screen in which you have to increase the screen elements to be able to see anything. I think its stupid.

[Update: 2012-08-11] A guy just published the complete maths of 20/20 Vision and Retina proving my point. Read it and convince yourself Retina is just a gimmick to sell you expensive devices.

The Bane of Fast and Fluid in Windows 8

Microsoft just published on its Building Windows 8 Blog a treatise about realizing Fast and Fluid applications deployments for the platform. Fast and Fluid is the mantra that Microsoft adopted these days to describe responsive, naturally interactive applications designed for its Metro environment on Windows 8. They call them applications that “Sticks to your finger” while using touch. To realize this feat, Windows 8 was tuned for performance from ground up. We all cheered the responsiveness of Windows 8 and its speed. But there is a condition for this responsiveness that a lot of people are overlooking. The intensive use of Windows 8 of the GPU! Yes, your GPU will determine your experience on Windows 8. The combination of hardware GPU and its Win8 Certified Driver will result in experience that is equal or greater than you have now on the competing Apple platform.

So if you are having poor performance on Windows 8, with all things being equal, you should verify if you have a good GPU power to boot, and that you have the latest Win8 Compatible Driver for it. It is still an early days for Win8 Certified drivers, but you get the general picture. Troll your Graphic Card manufacturer site, hopefully you’ll get lucky with your existing hardware, that the OEM will release a Win8 Driver for it. The future Graphic Cards will of course come with Win8 Drivers, so we are covered there.

But the real kill-joy I have noticed at the moment is that MS is not making full use of the GPU capacity. A lot of Win8 activities are Calculations intensive, fast and fluid means a lot of number-crunching for the GPU. But what if you have GPU power to boot , but only a small portion of its capacity is being used, while the CPU is being peaked like we see here below:

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You can see from above all my 4 logical CPUs are being tasked. I am simply writing this blog entry and at the same time running a 720p video with Media Player Classic (MPC-HC). A player that I know makes good use of the GPU. Below shows the use of the GPUs for the built-in Metro video player, Windows Media Player and the ubiquitous WMP-HC:

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You can see only about 40% of GPU is being used. The following drill-down on GPU use showed only about one GPU cell being used out of 8 cells!

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The same is seen for Media Player Classic that uses a little bit more of the GPU:

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As you can see also about a single cell is being used for a third party player.

Now for those of you that don’t get my frustration. I am running this on my ASUS EP121 Tablet with Intel Graphic unit. It is not the best GPU but hey, it comes with the device. On a tablet device, battery life is paramount. You can extend battery life by offloading calculation intensive cycles to the GPU which is able to complete the task faster, which leads to less battery use.

So my question then to Microsoft is why the full capacity of the GPU is not being used by Windows 8. Why not go the full length and make efficient use of the GPU? 8 cores will finish video calculations faster than an single core if I am not mistaken.

I thought OK, maybe the video players are not yet optimized for GPU usage, below is the GPU usage for the Start Screen flipping; just panning the Start Screen right and left the full length:

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As you can see, only one cell is still being used for Start Screen manipulation. What’s with MS and my Cell4?!

With this I can only reach two conclusions:

1. Either my Graphic driver is not Win8 Certified (But it was installed by Windows 8 itself! ASUS doesn’t provide any Graphic driver for Win8 like Samsung is doing. Shame on you ASUS!), and therefore not being used efficiently, or

2. Windows 8 is not yet optimized for full GPU usage. If this last is true, then I think I do the community a service by pointing this out now early in the game so that MS can get this fixed before Win8 goes gold. We are all enthusiastic about Windows 8, we believe MS has now something in-house to compete with Apple. We do not want MS to deliver a half-baked OS to the world if they can do better. Its time they wrest the crown of leadership again from Apple. We need to get off the image that Windows devices don’t have long battery life if wastage can be prevented.

Hopefully some you nerds out there will check your own devices and report back to me how Windows 8 is making use of your Graphic Driver. See this post on how to check your own GPU usage by Win8.

I welcome your comments below. Thanks.

McAkins

The Start Menu Wars: In defense of Windows 8 Start Menu


Welcome to Windows 8 Serenity

OK picture this, you got a call from a friend or family that they are fed-up with the slow performance of their PC. Its been acting up lately. Its thoroughly messed up! You made an appointment to take a look for them in the weekend. You went there, you start-up the darn thing, and the first thing that confronts you is the Start Menu, with never-ending lists of folders, stacked or in perpetual scroll mode. You just wanna puke. How do you tell these people they’ve turned their system into a dumping ground, now they have to live with it. Most of you reading this know what I am talking about. You’ve found yourselves time and again in the same situation as me. The start menu is a mess. You can’t find anything in it in 2 seconds. You just want to avoid it.

Yeah, life is a bitch. The computers then were supposed to make life easier, we’ve discovered, nothing is less than the truth. The weakest link in the chain is the carbon-entity behind the monitor. “Garbage in, is garbage out” is a universal law that has to be obeyed time and time again. So how do we fix this mess? What is a Start Menu actually?

A Start Menu is just a collection of shortcuts to your programs. Period. Does it matter how you access it? In Windows 8, the Star Menu has transformed from the static repository of shortcut folders to dynamic, informative place where you can interact with you programs without even having to open them.

Yes, it is true. Change bites real hard. We all resist change. It is the inertia built into our biological systems. Newton law of motion applies also to human nature. It is Deja-vu all over again. We had it transiting from DOS to Windows 3.1 to WinNT to Windows 95 to WinXP to Vista, now to Windows 8. We the geeks are always the first to try to restore the old shell, old menu etc. Look at the furore over the Ribbon, now that you’re getting touch devices, you’ll know why the Ribbon is a life-saver. Now some folks are hacking their win8 install to disable the new start menu and bring back old start menu. Why not stay with Win7? Why bother?

Which brings me back to the topic in Question. Where do I start my programs in Windows 8, the new Start Menu is a weird place. No it is not weird, you just need to get used to it. Before, the Start Menu opens in the same screen as pop-up, now it opens as a pop-out. It still contains you good-old icons, albeit in a peculiar way, in large blocks called Tiles, but shortcuts they are, and as usual, organizable they are.

Of all the zillion shortcuts folders you have in your current old style Start Menu, tell yourself honestly, how many of those do you really launch per day; per month. Your frequently used applications sit directly in your start menu root, the most used in the Taskbar since Windows7. The same will hold true in Windows 8. Installed apps will dump their icons in the new Start Menu, it is now left for you to you to decide if you want it there or not. Your Start Menu is now a complete reflection of yourself.

I have heard people complain it takes more effort now to start a program, so be it if that’s what it takes to use touch on our devices. Personally I don’t agree with that notion, it depends on where you put your shortcut. You can’t have your cake and eat it. Touch is the future whether you like it or not. It’s a paradigm shift. This is Microsoft implementation. Better get used to it or jump ship.


Search is the future

Which brings me to the conclusion: App Search. Remember my opening with zillions of shortcut folders in that messed up PC? Yes the one you’ll rather throw out of the window. How do you find anything on that one. I’ll bet you, you’ll find things faster in that Start Menu with search than looking for it yourself. Since Vista Start Menu search, I seldom see my installed apps folders. We are approaching a time of casual games and applications. Remember how many apps are in Apple’s App Store? Yes, we are getting something like that on Microsoft platform, it will drown out Apple’s store. Yes, all the millions of existing Win32 apps, and now zillion of casual free Metro games and apps, and a lot premium paid Metro apps, easily available in the Marketplace at the touch of you finger.

There is going to be an explosion of installed apps, especially Metro apps in Windows 8. The time you have an average of 30 apps on a machine is coming to an end. You can’t manage that anymore with shortcut folders. It doesn’t make sense. App Search makes sense in a case like this. Folders are for categorization. To organize. But psychology has taught that the ability to remember categories after 8 unique categories breaks down very quickly. How many of you have used SAP or any LOB Applications. You know its no use trying to remember in which menu hides what module. That is why all these apps have search functions in their Menu. To easily find what you are looking for, and to discover what you didn’t know exist. Discoverability it is called. Don’t even get me started on using folders to organize your mail in Outlook. If you’re like me, getting an average of 250 mails a day at work, I have given up trying to organize. Everything lives now in my Inbox, even wrote script to move items from my Sent Items to my Inbox so I can view by conversation. All archived per month. Windows Search is my saviour. I’ll bet in 5 year’s time we’ll all be wondering how we put up with the old Start Menu for so long. Time will tell.

In the meantime, enjoy your Windows 8 Developer Preview, the most stable pre-beta OS I have ever seen in my lifetime, and believe me, I have been around a long time in the tech industry. I know MS has got a winner in Windows 8 with Metro.

Installing Windows 8 on Bare Metal with VHD-Boot

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Ok guys, as you can see, my ASUS EP121 tablet is running Windows 8 without having to blow away my factory installed Windows 7 partition. I can Dual-boot to Windows 7 and Windows 8, and they are both running on a harddisk with a single partition. How do I manage this you say? I installed Windows 8 with a feature of Win7/Win8 called VHD Boot.

VHD-Boot is better than installing in a VMWare/VitualPC environments, especially now because of all the Touch features of Windows 8. If you have a touch-enabled device, you will loose the touch feature if you install in virtual environment.

VHD-Boot present you with the advantages of a virtual environment with the quality of bare-metal installation. All the standard drivers of your machine will be installed as if you are installing on the machine itself, only the installation is done in a VHD file, the same used by all virtual PC systems. This give you portability and disaster recovery possibility. I know, disaster recovery is built in Win8, but that is another subject entirely.

Another problem a lot of you are having is preparing a USB key to perform the installation. I went through the problem myself, did not succeed in copying the 64bit files to my 4Gb usb key, 54mb too short! So I resulted to preparing a Harddisk install media, yes you heard it, harddisk install media. Most of us have unused harddisks lying around with lots of space than the 4Gb required by Windows 8 to install, why not use those HDD to install?

Creating the Install Media: Be warned! These steps are only for people who know what they are doing. I am not responsible if you wipe your active boot partition accidentally!

  1. Find an unused HDD drive of at least 5Gb. NOTE:all data on that HDD will be wiped!
  2. Connect the HDD to your machine, either internally or via a SATA/IDE to Usb converter. I used a 10year old 2.5 notebook hdd I have lying around with a SATA-to-USB converter.
  3. Now boot up your machine to format the hdd. Note that if you are installing a 64bit of Windows 8, you will need to format the hdd on a 64bit machine. Confirm in Windows Explorer that you can see your HDD after booting into Windows.
  4. Start command prompt administratively by typing “CMD” in the Start Menu search box. Windows finds the command prompt. Right click on it, and select to start as administrator. Command prompt opens as admin.
  5. Type the following commands in red exactly pressing the enter key after the command:
    1. Diskpart– Diskpart, Windows hdd partitioning software opens.
    2. List Disk– Diskpart shows all physical harddisks on your system, including your removable HDD.
    3. This is the most dangerous part so be careful. Identify your HDD from its size, if it is the same size as you C: drive for example, you need to identify which one is which. Type List Volume– Diskpart shows all your volumes and their corresponding sizes. This could help you identify which drive is which. The volume number helps to identify too, but not always. Just be careful if your Install media is the same size as your boot drive! If you are not sure, contact me via Twitter for advice.
    4. Go back to step B, if you did step C, just to be sure you see your HDD ID. Now that you’ve identified your drive, type Select Disk #with the # corresponding to your drive ID. This command is necessary to ensure all following commands will be performed against the selected hdd.
    5. Now type Clean Diskpart removes all partition information on the disk. So be careful that you’ve selected the correct disk before running this command. Now type the following commands to create your Windows 8 install drive:
    6. Create Part Pri Creates primary partition on the drive
    7. Activemakes sure the created partition is bootable
    8. Format fs=FAT32 Label=”Win8 Install” Quickformats the partition as FAT32 which is necessary to boot the install media from HDD. The Label is to help you identify the Install media after it is surfaced
    9. AssignDiskpart assigns the next available letter to the drive, it is now visible in Windows Explorer with Label given in step H.
  6. Now you are done with preparing the HDD as install media. Mount the Windows 8 ISO with a mounting driver. I prefer to use VirtualCloneDrive from Ellaborate Bytes. Once the ISO is mounted, copy all files from the mounted drive to your prepared HDD.
  7. Now you can remove the install media and attach it to the device on which you want to install Windows 8, and boot it.
  8. To install with the VHD-Boot feature, I have found an excellent post online here. There is no point repeating the same steps here. Just go to his “Step 2 – Make a Virtual Hard Drive” and proceed from there. In this case, his “USB Key” in his “Step 1” is your HDD Install Media. Please read his cautionary statements.

All these seems complex, but it is actually simple once you get the hang of it. Writing it up makes it look weirdly. All the best installing Windows 8 on a VHD-Boot device. If you have any problem contact me via twitter: @McAkins. I will try to help as much as I can.

Happy touching Windows 8

[2012-03-06: Update to this post can be found in followingIn love
https://mcakins.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/installing-windows-8-on-bare-metal-with-vhd-bootthe-update/

The Post TouchPad Lesson

How the mighty have fallen! HP kills its Touchpad and its darling WebOS. It is inevitable if you are playing reactive to the market. I personally don’t shed a single tear for HP. Yes, they deserve to fail in the tablet venture.

Why? You asked. Because without HP there will not be iPad. Yes, believe it or not, there is a device that Apple copied, and it is made by HP. It is the reference slate device called HP TC1100.

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When HP decided to abandon the slate format in 2005, all of tablet users thought HP was crazy. The tablet was beautiful, a sign of things to come. We started a campaign to have HP rescind on its decision and develop the slate line further, but they refused. They told us the Slate format is dead, they were turning out the convertible format in droves. Go read the history in www.tabletpcbuzz.com if you are interested.

So Apple stole HP’s thunder and released the iPad and broke the tablet market. All HP can do was dust-off the a TC1100 follower they had shelved years ago called HP 500 tablet. A lack luster device that failed miserably. Then they bought Palm and the venture into the WebOS world. The rest of the story is known all too well to you all.

But something wonderful happened at the demise of the Touchpad, there was a clamor for it! Are you kidding me?! Why are people clamoring for a dead device, whose marketplace and development is dead in the waters? Price, yes just the price!

The death of Touchpad showed that people will buy a functional tablet if the price is right! Microsoft and its OEM can learn a lot from this. The touchpad at $99 is just a web-browsing device and people are willing to pay for it. Can you then imagine what will happen if we have tablet that has a good ecosystem behind it, vis-à-vis Windows8, and cheap price. People will buy it in droves!

If MS is willing to take a hit on Windows8 tablets by subsidizing them like they did with xBox, they can stall the onslaught of Apple and take the wind off their sail. This will get people comfortable with tablets on Windows platform. Coupled with the availability of Pen-computing on Windows platform, MS will have a winner on its hand. Lets just hope that the death of Touchpad will bring something beautiful: affordable tablets on the Windows8 ecosystem.

Me and Windows8: The Update

As those of you following me know that I have published an article lamenting apparent lack of support of Portrait mode in Windows8, now that I have actually taken a look into the world of widescreen tablets, I must confess I have to rescind my earlier complaints. Please bear with me and read through.

I am a tablet PC buff. I have been using tablets since 2004, and with that I meant the traditional tablet PCs of the MS platform making, not the glorify toys of these days. I principally came from the 4:3 inch world, you know, the same dimension that your favorite toy iPad has. My tablet PC of choice was the HP’s TC1100, I not only have one, not two, but three of the device. One for me, one for my wife and kids, and one as backup in case of repairs. They don’t make them anymore you know Smile.

So you can understand my frustration when MS demoed Windows 8, without a single moment showing the screen in portrait mode. Coupled with their emphasis on true wide-screen format as basis and design reference for Windows 8, you can understand my frustration that my favorite format of 4:3 screens will not be supported.

During the demo of Windows 8, Microsoft showed a tablet, the ASUS EP121. This is the most powerful tablet at the moment, having a CPU that most desktops can only dream of. I have been keeping an eye on this tablet for some time before MS demoed it, and now that MS have confirmed it will support Windows 8, I decided to make the jump. I can’t wait any longer. My trustworthy TC1100 tablet has been screaming for a replacement with a thinner, touch compatible, more mobile replacement. I believe I have found it with the EP121. What tipped me over is the inclusion of an active digitizer with a Wacom pen, built in like the TC1100. Anyone knows that Wacom pens cannot be compared to anything in the market today as far as pen-computing is concerned. So the choice is easily made.

So I ordered the EP121, got it delivered. Salivated to get it unboxed and boy, it was impressive. Then I turned it portrait mode and my heart sank! It was ugly in portrait mode. Any of you informed about this tablet knows that it is not a true wide-screen, it is not 16:9 but 16:10 dimension. I.e. 1200×800 which I thought should be easier to the eyes in portrait mode compared to Microsoft’s default reference of 1350×768 true widescreen.

I was shocked to discover that portrait mode for widescreen of any size is weirdly; and that is putting it mildly. If this EP121 is so unsightly in portrait mode, then the true widescreen tablets will be ridiculous. Tablet are made to be 4:3 dimension I concluded. HP got it right in TC1100, and Apple of course copied the design in their iPad which is also 4:3. They are made for reading in portrait mode. Reading in portrait mode of any widescreen seems out of place. I quickly returned to reading in landscape mode on my new EP121 in the Kindle app that came with it. Compare the two in this picture:

Widescreen is ugly in Portrait mode
Widescreen too portrait!

So, yes I griped with portrait mode in Windows 8, but that was before I discovered Widescreen and portrait modes don’t go together. The question that remained, now that we’ve clarified that portrait mode and widescreens a no-go area is, will Windows 8 support portrait mode with 4:3 screens? I know MS mentioned they’ll support 4:3 screens, but will they support portrait mode in it? So, my curiosity still remain. What is MS take on portrait mode? They still need to answer to the public on that matter. I hope those of you at Build this year will ask this question if MS is again mum on portrait mode in Build sessions. I will specifically request Paul Thurrot to dig into this for those of us that can’t attend build this year because we don’t live in US.

My Gripe with Windows8 so far

OK guys, We all welcome Microsoft innovation on the new Windows8 platform, we all think its going to be a success and give the competition a run for their money. However, I have two points to gripe with, things that are getting me worried about what MS has shown so far about Windows8:

1. Portrait Mode:
I guess this is still too early to bitch, but I have a nasty feeling Windows8 is being designed Landscape-centric. This will be a big put-off on Tablets which is made for data consumption. I.e. browsing and reading. Like Arguino said in the Computex video, the browser is most used App; 60% of computing time is done in the browser, and browsers are made for reading like a paper, i.e. portrait mode! I hope they come clean quickly on Portrait mode. I don’t care how they handled tiles in portrait, maybe reflow them or something, but please give a great portrait experience.

2. 16:10 Docking:
I hate the fact that Windows8 SNAP will not support 16:10 screens. What is wrong with a 1200×800 resolution? It is bridge between 16:9 and 4:3 screens, and perfect for portrait computing! Anyone ever held a 16:9 screen in portrait mode? It feels out of place, it doesn’t obey Fibonacci numbers, the shape of nature. Its like you are holding a slab instead of holding a slate. And they are horrible for pen-computing. I’ll prefer 16:10 screen anytime over 16:9 because I have more portrait screen estate. Your printing paper format is in 16:10(Fibonacci compliant, very natural). So why Microsoft? What is so bad about docking apps on the EP121 slate? Give us a break here will ya? We all agree that 4:3 screen have no place for docking but, please reconsider docking for 1200×800.

What about Larger Monitors?
And while we are still at it, what happens if I have a ginormous monitor, even a 4:3 at that? I consider it a waste of screen estate if I can only dock vertically on a larger screen. Anything above 20 inch should dock both vertically and horizontally! Why can’t I have some kind of a ticker app running horizontally at the bottom of my screen and have my main window in the middle. What if I have a 30 inch screen? Please let Windows8 adapt for more docking possibilities.

[Update: 2012-06-15] For those of you reading this piece after such a long time of its original publication, I have confirmed Windows 8 supports Portrait mode, and like someone commented here below, SNAP is supported on any screen with Horizontal resolution greater than or equal to 1376. Also I have concluded that Windows 8 is primarily built for Horizontal mode. No doubt we will see 4:3 portrait Win8 tablets, but they are all primarily 16:9 designed. I have in meantime gotten used to using Windows 8 in its horizontal mode. It took getting used to, but now I enjoy the horizontal panning on the OS.

For Fibonacci natural shapes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F…