So what does that mean? I don’t really know yet. The program just started, I just signed up.
What DO I know?
I have been using SkyDrive for a while. I’ve recommended it as a great solution to our high school several times over the last several years. I think “cloud” is the way to go, though we’ve all been cloud for a longtime, but since no one told us it was a cloud, we never realized it (hello Atari GameLine in 1983).
I have recently moved my primary dev machine to Windows8, built-in SkyDrive. SkyDrive on my Surface. SkyDrive on my Windows 8 phone. Still getting around to putting it on my other two computers, a Windows 7 laptop and desktop. I will get there.
I know I have much to learn and that is part of my motivation of signing up for the Insider program. It looks to be a group of techies and not--so-techies, we’re volunteers, not employees. Watch for blog posts here about it as I learn more for myself and from others.
Goal 1: Get SkyDrive on all of my machines and set-up local sync of stuff that I would need offline access to.
In the last few weeks I have replaced my primary laptop, my smart phone, added a new touch monitor and a Surface tablet. Normally I am risk averse when adding more than a single new device to my repertoire. Somehow these just all lined up and here we are. It might be worth noting that I am left handed and have had loads of issues and bad experiences with touch-devices in the past. Add on to that the tremor I have in that left hand, I am a tough critic of touch devices. All of these devices here are touch-based experiences (the laptop when in laptop mode has a hard keyboard and the Surface has the touch-keyboard cover).
First thing I got was the Surface tablet. I have the one given away at Build conference. I have never had a true tablet/slate device before. Hubby has had an iPad of some variety for a few years. I have had a few different Kindle devices, including a Fire. With that said, this device is perfectly adequate. I am finding myself using it more as an e-reader on steroids than anything else right now. It is cool that it syncs with my other Windows 8 device, the smooth experience is good. It lacks a good email interface. Heck, it lacks a bad one. The one there is outright awful. If I were in a situation that needed true email capabilities and I had this as my only device, I would open OWA. The app there works for onesie-twosie email processing, not more. Outlook on my phone is far superior than this app. I need to find more uses for this device, but that’s me, not the device.
Next came my laptop. I have been traveling with a BIG laptop. It is hard for me to see small screens. But as displays get better/sharper my eyes see smaller things better. So I figured if I didn’t like the new laptop someone at work would be more than happy to take it off my hands. So, I now use a Dell XPS12, the cool one with the flip screen. Dell did this right. The flip screen seems pretty solid, done better than some of the other twirly screens out there that I’ve watched break with regular use. This one is secured by magnets and snaps right in and out of place very well and as you’d expect. Sometimes it seems like my mouse/pointer lags, but I would think that more a software than hardware issue. This is my workhorse machine, the one with a million open-programs all the time, and it keeps up. I've finally used it as tablet-like thing a few times in the last couple days. I needed to put some stuff on a whiteboard and before I’d have to take a picture, carry my 10 pound laptop or make several round trips to the screen but I just opened it on the XPS, flipped the screen and took my info from there. Then today I was shopping for some picture frames for some photos I took on vacation, I easily brought the laptop with me into the store, flipped the screen and loaded the pictures I will be printing, like put it right up there against the frame in the middle of Hobby Lobby. Even after just a couple of weeks I wanted every device to be touch and behave this way. What I don’t like is the total black box mindset. I am used to swapping out for new memory, a better battery, etc. Not happening here. Also, the video out is more common to Apple products than PC and I had to buy a bunch of new cables and adapters. Would be cool if it had an Ethernet port, but that’s not a deal breaker, wi-fi is everywhere now and pretty fast.
Now the new touch-monitor, the Acer 23-inch LCD touch that is now sold out most places. Love this. A lot. It really truly makes the touch experience with the XPS complete. It simply works as you want and expect. Only potential negative is its desktop footprint, like your literal physical desktop. I do need to spend some time rearranging the other stuff on my desk and make better use of space, it’s getting crowded there. Yea, I know, first world problems. It takes the video out and a USB port if you want the full experience. I’ve not yet tried to add a hub and more devices, not needing to use more than the two that come with the laptop. The monitor has a couple of UBS ports too.
Now the phone. I was one of the first to get a Windows Phone 7 and wore my first one out, used it until it was falling apart. I had averaged a new phone every year to eighteen months. I had my LG Quantum for more than 20 months before it had to retire. Knowing new phones would be out soon after that I grabbed a phone from our graveyard of phones as a make-do phone until I could get a new one. I got a new developer phone with the new platform, the build phone the Nokia 920. But, my carrier didn’t provide full device support. What’s the use of getting a new phone with limited functionality? I know I like Windows Phone OS so it was more about gut feel on what device to get. So I got the HTC Windows Phone 8x, in purple. Purple because it was in stock and my other choice was neon something or other. This phone is great. People see it and ask about it all the time (today the waitress at Waffle House asked about it). It feels about half the weight as the Nokia, fits the hand perfectly. Great sound. Love the system updates from 7 to 8, totally using the different tiles sizes. Can’t offer many comments on the camera yet, haven’t taken many pictures. I do wish it had the anti-shake feature of my last several phones (see above, my dominant hand tremors).
For me I have been waiting for someone, anyone to get the cross-device experience right. I don’t think it’s totally there yet, but Microsoft is well on its way, some of the product teams need to tweak their specific contributions a little still. One silly little thing is that when I updated my desktop wallpaper on one Windows 8 device, it updated on the other automagically; the experience is familiar regardless of the device used to access my world. The pinch and zoom features are great and make up for the smaller (but sharper) screen sizes on the devices. I’m learning more shortcuts everyday (ok, my daughter is reading a book and teaching me).
It’s a cookbook, who knew? Ok, so anyone that knows me knows I love to cook and hate recipes. But I was asked to contribute to the second edition of .NET Gurus Can Cook! Of course I had to contribute, who wouldn’t want to share a byline with The Gu or Mary Jo or any of the other rock stars that also contributed?
So what did I submit…Brady Bunch Dinner (pork chops and apple sauce). The “recipe” begins and ends with wine. And it’s actually pretty yummy. Go get the book, I’m on page 52. And there are many other yummies here too.
But now some important info about this book. First, of the three books I took part of this year, this was by far the most fun and the easiest for me, personally. By looking at the book we know someone worked very hard at it, it just wasn’t me this time. It is from a component vendor, Component One (aka GrapeCity). They are great supporters of professional user groups, as am I (so now you understand why we work on things together). This book is published on their dime and available for downloads for the asking. They also send printed books to user groups as fundraisers, again Component One pays for this. This group coincidentally sells reusable software components.
PS. First person that accurately names the acronyms in my bio will get a free print booked shipped to them from lovely Colorado.