Microsoft

Windows 10 TP in Surface Pro 1

I have been trying to find time to install Windows 10 Technical Preview (Build 9926) in my Surface Pro 1. I want to keep Windows 8.1 to do my work when traveling with Surface Pro. This meant installing Windows 10 TP in Dual Boot mode, so that I can easily switch between the two Operating Systems. Instead of creating a new disk partition for Windows10 I went with VHD option. Probably it was not a wise choice. As Dynamic size VHD requires nearly twice the space, which is premium in a tablet device like Surface Pro. VHD options ends up taking space for the VHD file and when Windows boot it needs to have the space equivalent to the defined partition (in the VHD) free in the base machine. For example, in the physical drive you require 26GB free space – 8GB for the VHD file and 18GB for the VHD to get mounted in runtime.

To install Windows 10 TP in Surface Pro, you need to create a bootable USB drive using the free RUFUS app, the Windows10 ISO image, setup Surface Pro to boot from USB (enter UEFI mode by holding Volume UP while Power ON, then boot from USB by holding Volume DOWN while Power ON), then creating VHD by using DiskPart command. Detailed instructions are in Technet blog and from here. Remember to ensure you have set partition type to FAT32 in Rufus, I kept missing it few times and Surface Pro didn’t recognize the USB for boot a result.

After few trial and error (including VHD_BOOT_HOST_VOLUME_NOT_ENOUGH_SPACE), I got it all working. Windows 10 TP is still work in progress, but I am impressed with progress made so far. Windows boots up and responds fast, UI is flat but pleasing, the biggest advantage is the unification of Desktop UI & Metro UI.

Windows 10 Technical Preview in Surface Pro 1

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Apps, Microsoft

Microsoft Outlook for iOS, Android

Few years back, no one in Microsoft ecosystem would have dreamed these will happen. I for one, certainly didn’t see it coming. In the last one year under CEO Satya Nadella there has been in waves of change at Microsoft. I am loving these!

Last week, Microsoft released an unified mail app for iOS and Android. The apps allows you to connect your Microsoft Exchange Server, Office 365 subscription, Hotmail (Outlook.com) accounts. Apart from those the mail app supports Google Gmail, Yahoo mail and Apple iCloud. There is great Calendar, Contacts (People), Files (Onedrive.com & Dropbox) integration as well. I was pleasantly surprised to see the calendar and contacts integration working for Google Calendar & Google Contacts as well, something which even Google doesn’t do well outside Google Chrome & Android platforms.

From the minute I installed the iPad app I know it will be a huge hit. I love the clean, simple design and especially the crisp font-face is awesome. Two reviews in iTunes app store caught my attention – one said “Wow i can’t believe Microsoft is out-cooling apple…” and other “No mail app on iOS has come close to the new Outlook App”. WOW!

Microsoft Outlook app in iPad

Microsoft Outlook app in iPad

Onedrive file support in Outlook iPad app

Onedrive file support with built-in preview of MS Office files

I tried the Android version of Microsoft Outlook, while it’s not as polished as the iOS version, it is much better than earlier released Outlook.com (Hotmail) and the default Gmail app in Android (which doesn’t have unified view of multiple accounts).

Microsoft Outlook app for Android

Microsoft Outlook app for Android

Reading “The Register” article I came to know the App (Microsoft Outlook for iOS and Android) is a re-branded of Acompli app which has been there for sometime. I had missed the news of Microsoft buying Acompli late last year. I don’t care whether Microsoft bought the app or built it, I simply love it!

 

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Microsoft

Windows 10 Technical Preview Build 9860

Earlier this month Microsoft announced the next version of Windows, its called Windows 9, its Windows 10. Anyone can download the technical preview from Preview site, after registering for free as a Windows Insider. Last few weeks I was playing with it in a VHD Dual-boot setup (Instructions on how to setup VHD Boot), this way my work PC setup with Windows 8.1 is not messed up as Windows10 is not production ready yet.

Few day sago Microsoft announced an update to Windows 10 Technical preview, its now build 9860. Apart from few tweaks this build introduces early versions of a Notification center. I tried to run Windows update to get this build from my VHD Dual Boot setup, unfortunately it is not supported. There is no updated ISO image of this build as well. The only way to get this build is to install the earlier released Technical Preview build and then run Windows update to get build 9860. This meant, I had to delete the VHD Dual Boot setup.

I decided to install Windows 10 Technical Preview in a virtualized setup. In my Windows 8.1 PC, I use Virtual Box for doing Virtualization, its simple and easy to use for my usage over Hyper-V, which is awesome for Windows Server environment but complex for developer/consumer usage like mine. After installing the Guest OS (Windows 10), Virtual Box Guest Additions didn’t get installed, it was not supported for Windows 10.

After I updated to latest version (4.3.r18) of Oracle Virtual Box, I was able to install the Guest Additions for Windows 10.

Now I could get Windows 10 Technical Preview updated to latest build (9860).

Windows-10-TechPreview-Build9860-under-VirtualBox

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Apps, Gadgets, Microsoft

XBOX Live – YouTube and OneDrive

Few months back Microsoft announced to make more services available free for XBOX Live users. This meant without paying for XBOX Live Gold subscription (around $10 per month) you can use popular apps like YouTube, Internet Explorer and OneDrive in your XBOX consoles.

I have two XBOX 360’s in house, I swapped one my son was using (XBOX 360 Halo edition) which broke down today with another one (XBOX 360 White) which was lying around unused. While doing it, I formatted the XBOX HDD, downloaded his profile and added my profile as well. After I adding my profile I downloaded the apps – YouTube, Internet Explorer and OneDrive. All of them worked brilliantly.

Using YouTube app in XBOX 360

Using YouTube app in XBOX 360

Google’s has done a fine job in authenticating and pairing devices like XBOX & TVs with your YouTube account through a code that appears on screen that you need to type in YouTube site from any device. The app in XBOX 360 allowed me to watch my favorites, uploads & subscriptions in YouTube. Once I pair a mobile device with XBOX YouTube app, I could search, select the video and play it from my iPad or Android phone and it automatically plays on the console (TV). Just like Apple TV Airplay but for YouTube. Cool.

Using Internet Explorer app in XBOX 360

Using Internet Explorer app in XBOX 360

Internet Explorer in XBOX 360 allowed me to browse the Internet easily, of course to be effective you need a USB keyboard plugged in the USB port of XBOX. Otherwise entering URLs through onscreen keyboard and controller is a pain. Unfortunately Internet Explorer in XBOX 360 didn’t display Unicode characters particularly my mother tongue Tamil. I guess in the new XBOX One console this should have been addressed as it is based on Windows 8 OS kernel.

Using Microsoft OneDrive app in XBOX 360

Using Microsoft OneDrive app in XBOX 360

Out of the 3 unexpectedly the one that impressed me was OneDrive. I can easily drop pictures or music into OneDrive account from my phone (Lumia 925) or desktop (PC or Mac) and access them from XBOX using this app, impressive stuff.

After setting this console I went back to the broken one (Halo Edition), the problem with it was the Optical Drive (DVD) wasn’t opening. From standing position I kept it flat in the table and voila, the drive opened. Now I have a working backup!!!

 

 

 

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Gadgets, Microsoft

My new Workstation PC

My main PC at work was becoming slow for my usage. It was a Core i7 (Gen 1) with 8GB RAM, 500GB (10000 RPM HDD) with Dual monitors. In the last few months I upgraded the Graphics Card, 27″ inches (dual) monitors and put in a Bluetooth dongle. But there is only so much you can do to an old machine. I went shopping for a new Workstation PC.

The specification I wished for was:

  1. Intel Core i7 (4th Gen) Quad Core
  2. 16GB RAM
  3. 1TB HDD or 250GB SSD
  4. Display for Dual HDMI/Dual DVI output supporting 1080p
  5. Bluetooth 4.0 built-in
  6. Gigabit Ethernet port
  7. USB 3.0 ports (sufficient nos)
  8. Windows 8.1 Pro (please no Mac OS for work)

All the above for a price of less than Rs.1 Lakh (USD 1650). No laptops as I have a Surface Pro 1 and I was not planning to carry this anywhere.

I spent nearly 2 weeks looking around, spoke to local vendors, browsing  endlessly online. I couldn’t find any that fit my requirement. The only Desktop PCs I could find in India were All-In-One Touch PC’s, which I didn’t want for work as I prefer using Dual monitors and I have already spent on two 27″ monitors recently. OEMs like Dell & Lenovo had in their websites highend Desktops listed but when asked for quote, none of them reverted back. For the configuration I wanted I could only see laptops and I disliked the idea of spending for a laptop with a large 17″ display and not using it. Finally my regular vendor suggested I look at Apple Mac.

It looked like regular (non touch) Desktop PC market in India was dead. For Windows choice was only laptops & All in Touch.

With no other choice I looked at Apple Macs, deciding that I can load Windows 8 through Bootcamp and I can try Mac OS Yosemite as well in the sides. I narrowed to Mac Mini, as I both iMac & Mac Book Pro was not what I was looking for.  I got a quote of Rs.124,800 (USD 2070) for latest Mac Mini with 2.6Ghz Core i7, 1TB fusion drive, 16GB (vendor added 8GB), HDMI to DVI adapter & Mini Displayport to Dual-Link DVI Adapter. Mac Mini comes with all necessary ports (Ethernet, Bluetooth 4, WiFi, USB 3, Thunderbolt).

Before I placed the order I wanted to check all the features in Mac Mini works in Windows environment as well. Apple FAQ stated that drivers were available for Windows 8 including for Bluetooth, but the fusion drive will work only for Mac OS (disappointing but understandable). My support engineer suggested we try connecting two displays to a Mac Mini we already had in our office just to ensure everything works as advertised. We didn’t have Apple Thunderbolt to HDMI Adapter but we managed to connect two displays to Mac Mini, one using Mini Display Port & the second with HDMI. The two ports (Mini Display & HDMI) were close to each other in Mac Mini (unlike what you expect from Apple design) and it took a bit of effort and sampling 3-4 HDMI cables before we got the two in and the displays worked.

Connecting Dual Monitors to Mac Mini using Mini Display Port & HDMI

Connecting Dual Monitors to Mac Mini using Mini Display Port & HDMI

Seeing the above somehow I became uncomfortable. Waited for another week, luckily my vendor came back with a good news that HP has released very recently a new Desktop series that might fit my bill. Looking into it, it did match and I ordered it. The new Desktop PC came two weeks back and I am happy with the choice.

The PC I went for is “HP ENVY Phoenix 810-101in” costing Rs.90448 inclusive of taxes and with 3 years warranty.

Windows 8.1 PC with Corei7,16GB,2TB HDD,Blueray

Windows 8.1 PC with Corei7,16GB,2TB HDD,Blueray

Configuration of the PC was:

  1. Intel Core i7 4770 (4th Gen) 3.4Ghz Quad Core
  2. 16GB RAM (DDR3 1600)
  3. 2TB HDD with 16GB mSATA disk caching SSD (similar to Fusion Drive in Mac)c03750320
  4. NVidia GeForce GT 640 having DisplayPort (2560×1600), DVI (2560×1600) & HDMI (1920 x 1080)
  5. Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi (802.11b/g/n)c03784168
  6. Gigabit Ethernet Port
  7. 6 x USB 3.0 (2 each in Top,Front & Back); 4 x USB 2.0 Ports (2 each in Front & Back); Headphone ports in Front & Back; Multimedia card reader (SD and others)
  8. Windows 8.1 (no Windows Pro unfortunately)
  9. BlueRay optical disk (this was bonus but I don’t think I will watch movies at Work)

Added to above, the PC came with wireless keyboard and wireless optical mouse. For bonus the front audio output support Beats Audio for fine Audio reproduction.

Windows 8.1 Device Manager showing HP ENVY Phoenix 810-101

Windows 8.1 Device Manager showing HP ENVY Phoenix 810-101

For Windows OS configuration (not having Windows 8.1 Pro edition), I was worried that I had to format and reinstall Windows which will mean I will loose all HP default drivers and I have to spend getting everything working. It turned out it was easier than I feared. I got a Windows Pro key through our Microsoft Partnership program (you can buy Windows 8.1 Pro in retail) and inputting the key meant the PC upgraded to Pro effortlessly with all drivers and apps intact.

After solving the Windows edition issue, I proceed to uninstall all the crapware installed by default by HP. The main culprit in the list was WildTangent games, which has to be uninstalled from Windows Add/Remove Programs (you need to select manually some 39 check boxes to get rid of all games) and for each user from the Metro UI Start screen. The Cyberlink Media suite turned out to be better than I expected and I need them for Blueray playing and Optical disk writing, so I didn’t uninstall them.

Uninstalling Wildtangent games in HP Envy Phoenix

Uninstalling Wildtangent games in HP Envy Phoenix

 

At work, we have Microsoft Office 365 subscription for all team members. In the new PC, Windows 8.1 had put in a shortcut to Microsoft Office, I just entered the credentials to my Office365 subscription and voilla the copy of MS Office got activated, effortless.

Overall I am very happy with the new PC. Its fast, has all the ports I want, Audio is great and Windows 8.1 runs fantastic. Thanks HP for still producing great Desktop PCs.

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