Archives for: "September 2011"

Windows "8" on an old school Tablet PC

Long term readers will know I've long been a fan of the Tablet PC. Having owned two and certainly would have owned a few more if the budget had been more favourable. My first was a Toshiba Portege M200, and my most recent has been a Motion Computing LE1700. Windows XP SP2 was really great at making a PC usable with a pen. Windows Vista took that a step further and really developed a lot of the things we take for granted today, a handwriting recognition engine that learns and of course pen flicks. Enabling you to make quick gestures to scroll up and down a page, or navigate back and forward, among others.

Windows 7 however - bar slightly better performance on low end systems - took a massive step backwards with Internet Explorer 8. Pen flicks which by then we had all grown to love broke, badly. Scrolling up and down just didn't work in IE8 when using standards modes, that remained the case with IE9 despite me almost constantly hassling the IE team over it. You had to move over and grab the scroll bar. Urrggh.

Now however with the "touch-first" focus on Windows 8. I'm pleased to say pen flicks work properly in Internet Explorer 10, and it has really brought new life back to my LE1700. Unfortunately neither of my tablets support hardware accelerated graphics in Internet Explorer - so many of the Metro style apps run with near-unusable performance if they run at all, the LE1700 only has an Intel 845 which only ever supported WDDM 1.0. But at least we've got a browser that works properly again on Tablets (before Firefox or Chrome fanboys start, neither of those have ever worked properly on Tablets).

I've got one of the lower-end original LE1700s, Core Solo @ 1.2Ghz w/ 2GB of RAM. But it has the higher resolution 1440x1050 screen. Day to day operations work great, like they did on Windows 7. Start up time is much faster and having a picture password is a welcome improvement, and in many ways works faster than the finger-print reader.

However out of the box I ran into an issue where the CPU was being pegged at 100% by NT Kernel & System, which I successfully tracked down to be an issue with the "Standard Enhanced PCI to USB Host" driver - which I've now disabled. The classic desktop stuff works as great as it ever has, and better in many ways. Not having to go all the way down into a corner to get at the Start menu is a nice feature since my pen lives in my right hand often at the right-side of the screen.

There are consistency issues and general usability issues with the new Metro UI however. It isn't possibly to scroll the Start screen by dragging with the pen at all, nor by flicking the pen. In fact flicking left and right actually moves the currently selected tile. You have to use the scroll-bar instead. Kind of annoying, but then some applications behave differently, some you can click and drag, while others you can hold the right-button to bring up the scroll functionality, and some you just can't seem to move at all without the arrow keys or page up or page down. This is an area I hope they'll be looking at. As it is kind of a breaking deal if you're using an active-digitiser based tablet, although I understand that isn't exactly the key market they're after any more.

Using the original Remote Desktop Client in Windows "8"

An issue a few people are running into while they're getting to grips with Windows "8" is the remote desktop application, the new dare I say it "Metro-style" doesn't seem to be all that great. I personally can't get it to do anything - it's also pretty rare I'd be using Remote Desktop fullscreen, I'm usually doing something else at the same time.

Nevertheless it is of course possible to just use the original Remote Desktop client.

There's a couple of ways you can launch it. You can hit the Start button and start typing mstsc (which can be easily remembered as Microsoft Terminal Services Client) and hitting enter - just make sure you're searching applications, as by default the new Start search doesn't seem to search all categories at once.

Or you can just open Explorer and make your way to Windows\System32\mstsc, you can right-click on that and pin it to the Task bar if you use it a lot.

Hybrid shut down in Windows "8"

As revealed in the latest Buildings "Windows 8" blog post, half of all users shut down their computers rather than putting them sleep/standby.

Shocking statistics in my opinion. No doubt compounded by the fact that in Windows 7, the power button, would shut the system down rather than put it to sleep by default like it would in Windows Vista.

Windows Vista introduced the new hybrid sleep mode, that writes the contents of memory to disk, like if the system was hibernating but would then suspend the system like it was sleeping. This was a great development, it meant that if the system lost power, the state was still stored on disk and could be resumed as normal, but if the system maintained power it would boot up in a couple of seconds like it would as if it was sleeping. Windows 7 continued with this approach, but made Shut down the easy to find option and as we can see many people continue to use it, and waste millions of hours waiting for their systems to boot needlessly in my opinion.

Windows "8" however is introducing what I'm calling a hybrid Shut down. Importantly it is now the default option, although can be changed or the old style shut down can be achieved with a command line switch.

Essentially what this does is hibernate the system, while shutting down the user session. This is a great step forward and should cut boot times in half on many systems. So rather than the system starting drivers and services they're all read into RAM from the hibernate file.

Here's an example:

Meteor fail from the Daily Fail

So the Daily Mail picked up a story about a brilliant meteor moving across the sky over Peru.

First up the Daily Fail incorrectly call it a meteorite - which is what they're called when they're on the ground. They're meteors when seen in the atmosphere, meteoroids when in space and meteorites on the ground. It isn't hard, if they had just asked you know, one of the expert type people they wouldn't have made such a play-school mistake.

Astonished residents watched as the impressive natural phenomenon eventually disappeared over the horizon.

Natural is it?

Trouble is it isn't a meteor at all, it's actually an aircraft. The only reason it looks odd is because its orange. It's orange because it's high enough up to still be lit up by the Sun (it's shortly after sunset on the ground). As we've often seen the tops of clouds can be orange before or shortly after sunrise or sunset.

The next clue comes from the contrail being left, the sort of thing you get from an aircraft jet engine at high altitude. As we can see it's probably a four engine jet aircraft. You can also see the effect high altitude winds are having on it. Meteors typically don't last long enough to get low enough to encounter these sort of winds.

The clue after that comes from the speed of the thing across the sky. Meteors travel very fast. Fast enough they'd cross the sky in seconds.

Local officials and the National Police are currently trying to determine where the meteorite may have landed and are speaking to farmers south of the city.

It probably landed at an airport somewhere. Have fun wasting your time.