What I use: January 2014

Hardware:

My main computer is a Dell Inspiron N5110 laptop sporting an i3 Intel processor  running Windows 8.1 (originally had Windows 7).  I use it to do photo and video editing.  I do audio podcast editing with it as well.

In the kitchen I keep a Dell Inspiron 1545 laptop running Windows 7.  It is used to watch Netflix, streaming news, and basic web browsing.

Windows Laptops

My wife’s main computer is a Dell Inspiron 1525 running Windows Vista.

In the living room we have a Xbox 360 with Kinect.  It is used mostly to watch Xbox Video, Netflix, YouTube, DVDs and for gaming.  Every once in a while, I’ll throw in a Kinect game like The Michael Jackson Experience or Kinect Sports (boxing mostly).

Other Hardware

My phone is a Dell Venue Pro running Windows Phone 7.8.  I am clearly overdo in terms of upgrading.

My wife is sporting a Nokia Lumia 521 running Windows Phone 8.

Other Devices

In my home office I have, other than my main computer, a Playstation 3 that I use just for Netflix.  I also use a Playstation 2 Slim for gaming.  Still stuck on Balder’s Gate and GTA Vice City..  Hooked that to the same television as my Dell Inspiron 6000 laptop running Windows XP which is used strictly for video game emulators for the Atari VCS, ColecoVision, Sega Master System and Nintendo Entertainment System.

I still use a Zune HD while in the car, traveling to and from work.  Though I should retire that and just use my Windows Phone which perform all the functions of the Zune HD plus makes phone calls.

At work I am using a HP desktop with a dual core processor running Windows XP.  Yes, I work for one of those companies that is SLOW to upgrade to anything beyond XP.  Luckily, more than half the company’s computers are running Windows 7.

Software:

For photo editing, I am using Photoshop CS2.  No need to upgrade as it handles all my editing needs.  For video editing, a very consumer-friendly application called Pinnacle Studio Ultimate version 14.  It needs to be upgraded.  I should also mention that I do audio editing with that application as well.

For notes, I use Microsoft’s OneNote on Windows Phone and Windows 8.  I use OpenOffice Writer for word processing.

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Battery Saver: Windows Phone has it, but Android doesn’t.

The other day, my coworker, Deb, showed me her new Android device, which is actually her first smartphone.  She purchased the HTC One.  In my opinion, the phone has spectacular hardware, but lousy software…  She was hoping to get the Nokia Lumia 928, but it was not on sale when she went to Best Buy.

Battery Saver option in Windows Phone 8. *photo courtesy of nokiawp.com

Battery Saver option in Windows Phone 8.
*photo courtesy of nokiawp.com

Deb learned quickly that a smartphone’s battery life is very short, needing to be charged more than once a day.    She didn’t understand why it needed to be charged halfway through her work day, because she wasn’t using it at work.  I explained that smartphones, like desktop computers, have processes running in the background.  I also explained that the phone has to try harder to find a cellular signal since we work indoors.

WP7

Battery Saver option on Windows Phone 7.
*photo courtesy of addictivetips.com

I told Deb I will find out if there is a battery saver option, like there is on my Windows Phone (still using a Dell Venue Pro with Windows Phone 7.5).  I did several searches and found  that there are several battery saving apps you can download from the Google Play Store.  I also found tips on how to save battery life.  Some of these lists had 10 or more steps…  Deb was disappointed by the hoops you have to jump through to save battery life.  I showed her what I do when I get to work which is to go to Settings, click on Battery Saver and activate the feature.  Doing so turns off most of the services that run in the background, but you’ll still get phone calls and text messages.

I suggested she keep her eye on Best Buy to see if the Nokia Lumia 928 goes on sale within her return period for her Android phone..

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Windows Phone game: Alex: Mayan Mysteries

Alex: Mayan MysteriesI’m not a big fan of games on mobile devices other than Scrabble-type games.  On-screen joysticks/controls drive me crazy and never seem to work well.  Then I found out about “Alex: Mayan Mysteries”.  It’s a side-strolling adventure game that has FUNCTIONAL on-screen controls.  It’s a fun game that brings to mind the character Indiana Jones which hopefully doesn’t delve into aliens…  I didn’t beat the game yet, so…  If you want to check it out, view the description or install it here.  Works on Windows Phone versions 7.5, 7.8 & 8.

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Search with Bing – GET FREE STUFF!

Bing Rewards

If you sign up with Bing’s Reward Program, you can get stuff simply by using Microsoft’s search engine.  Just sign up here.

How it works:

  1. Click here.
  2. Click on “Join Now”.
  3. Sign up with Facebook OR Microsoft account (small print).
  4. Confirm account.
  5. etc.. done.

What you can receive:

  1. Gift cards from Fandango, Starbucks, Redbox, Amazon and a few more.
  2. Subscriptions to HuluPLUS or Xbox Live.
  3. Microsoft or Skype points to buy games, movies, music (Xbox) or talk time.
  4. Enter sweepstakes to win LOTS of great stuff.

Have you signed up yet?  If not, click here!

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Tried getting a position in Best Buy’s Windows Store…

If you haven’t heard, Microsoft is opening specialty stores within many Best Buy locations. As soon as I read that, I jumped on Best Buy’s website and uploaded my resume. A few hours later, I got a phone call asking me to come in a for an interview.  I was very excited.  Though I already have a full time job that allows me to barely get by, I need a second job to pay for some repairs on a recently purchased home, food, clothes and goodies for my child. My other motivation for getting this position would be showcasing and selling devices from my favorite tech company, Microsoft.

Windows Store within Best Buy

I arrived early for the interview as I always arrive early for everything.   The Windows Store was not set-up yet.  I decided to just browse the PC section.  Noticed the Microsoft Surface display table.  It was a mess.  The Surface RT was not on display.  Appears to have been taken off the display table.  The signage was knocked over and ripped apart.  However, the Surface Pro was there.  It was actually the first time I was able to use one.  It was awesome, simply awesome.

Back to the job interview, which was over before it started.  As soon as I sat down with the manager,  he mentions my time in amateur boxing.  Seemed interested in my Golden Gloves days.  Then he immediately asked about my availability.  I told him I have a full time job, but I would be available Friday evening and open to work anytime on Saturday.  He asked about Sunday.  I explained that I need to spend one day with my family, but I would work Sunday if I had Saturday off.  Not good enough.  He wanted me to work Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  I said I can’t do that.  The interview was over.  As I got up to leave, I told him, “you’re not going to find anyone else that has as much affection for Microsoft products as me.”

It brought me right back to the days when I worked retail and why I disliked it so much. They want you to work part time, but they want you to be open ALL the time.  He seemed like a typical retail manager who is just there to get a head count and not interested in what I would bring to the table.

Shame.  I think my enthusiasm and knowledge of all things Microsoft would rub off on the customers.

 

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Why choose Microsoft? Retail stores.

Microsoft vs Apple

Microsoft Store versus Apple Store

I think the majority of people know about the Apple retail stores.  There are approximately 250 of those stores in the United States.  However, not many people are aware that Microsoft Stores exists and for good reason; there are less than 40 in the U.S..  That number is slowly growing.  I believe Microsoft Stores are superior to the Apple version and I intend you show you why.

There have been many post and articles that discuss the customer service experience.  I will skip over that and discuss the look and content of these retail stores.

A table of the SAME iPads, a table of the SAME MacBook Airs, a table of the SAME iPhones...

A table of the SAME iPads, a table of the SAME MacBook Airs, a table of the SAME iPhones…

Variety

SellMoreThanJustOurOwn

There is a huge selection of laptops, tablets, and phones at the Microsoft Store.

Apple Stores only offer Apple products.  That can get boring fast.  They make different types of devices, but seeing a table of silver iPads  or Macbooks is rather depressing.  Microsoft Stores, on the other hand, sell Microsoft products as well as Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, etc..  You are exposed to different form factors, shapes, and colors at a Microsoft store.  You can get a Windows Phone from Dell, HTC, Huawei, etc..  Perhaps you’re in the market for a tablet.  How about one from Sony, Dell, Microsoft or Samsung?  If you chose the Microsoft Surface, you can buy a touch cover keyboard which comes in a variety of colors.

"Yes, all our products look the same.  Isn't it great to be the same?"

“Yes, all our products look the same. Isn’t it great to be the same?”

Color

Products come in various colors at the Microsoft Store.

Products come in various colors at the Microsoft Store.

Apple Stores only offer white and silver (unless you get an iPod Touch, Nano, or Shuffle).  Walk into an Apple Store.  What do you see?  Shades of gray.  If you like the look and feel of a hospital morgue, you’re going to LOVE the Apple Store.  If color is what you want, then please stop in a Microsoft Store.  It is bursting with color; from the different colored devices to the video wall displaying the latest offerings from Xbox.  Color is everywhere.  There is a sense of warmth and excitement in a Microsoft Store that you’re not going to get from Apple’s.

"According to the iWork spreadsheet, you will need to take out a load for these products."

“According to the iWork spreadsheet, you will need to take out a substantial loan for these products.”

Price

As of June 8th, 2013, the prices for Apple’s most basic devices are…

  1. iPad is $499
  2. iPhone 5 is $649
  3. MacBook Air is $999
  4. MacBook Pro is $1199
  5. iMac is $1299
  6. Mac Pro is $2499

Compare that with what’s available from the Microsoft Store (products of similar or identical specs)…

  1. Acer Iconia W510-1674 Tablet is $399
  2. Nokia Lumia 920 smartphone is $499
  3. Acer Aspire S7-191-6400 Touchscreen Ultrabook is $899
  4. Lenovo IdeaPad U310 Touchscreen Laptop is $599
  5. Samsung Series 7 DP700A3D-A01US Touchscreen All-in-One is $999
  6. Dell XPS 8500 X8500-4742BK Desktop is $899

Look at how much money you would save getting something from the Microsoft Store.  Don’t let the Apple press fool you: under that shiny metallic package are the same components in the Windows package.  The difference is, in many cases, you’re getting more for your dollar with the Windows product.  The Apple products DO have something going for them, their product names are easier to remember..

Waiting in line, talking to others waiting to get in, is about fun as it gets at the Apple Store.

Waiting in line, talking to others waiting to get in, is as fun as it gets at the Apple Store.

Fun

WeGotXboxOne of the great things about stores like these is being able to try the product.  That may be considered “fun” to tech geeks like myself, but what about the rest of you?  The Microsoft Store has a killer feature for that.  It’s call XBOX.  The employees at the Microsoft Store let you stroll in and play the latest Xbox game.  If you’re feeling energetic, you can jump around, wave your arms, punch, kick, and then some on the Kinect.  It’s a carnival worth of fun in one corner of a Microsoft Store.

Do yourself a favor, send this post to every Apple consumer you know.  Those with an open-mind may give a Microsoft Store a try and find themselves pleasantly surprised.

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Facebook Beta and a sad trend..

When I was shopping around for a smartphone a few years ago, I didn’t find much to like about Blackberry devices.  I looked at both iOS & Android devices and thought the UI & UX was very similar and didn’t impress me.  Then I saw Windows Phone 7 at Mobile World Congress and was intrigued.  It felt like a TRUE mobile operating system, not an app launcher.  The killer feature for me was the app design, what Microsoft was calling “Metro”.

Metro

Fast forward to 2013 and things are very different.  Android has evolved, drastically.  No longer can Windows Phone gloat about Live Tiles; Android’s widgets can do the same.  iOS has evolved too, not as dramatically as Android, but enough so that social integration into the OS is no longer just a Windows Phone thing. iPhones have Facebook, Twitter and so on through their OS as well.  While these features still seem better on Windows Phone, it no longer separates us from them.

Still, Windows Phone has one killer feature left; Metro.  Let’s be clear, Metro is MORE than just flat imagery or tiles.  It’s about typography, minimalism, landscape layout and content as the imagery.  And there’s more than one way to achieve it.  Look at the People hub then look at the USA Today app.  Similar and different.  One is utilizing black & white, the other, color.  One has no background, the other does.  All metro apps should be similar in function, but can still be quite different and recognizable on its own.  I would never confuse the USA Today app with the Amazon app.  Both use metro, but are very different.

Then comes Facebook Beta.  An app almost identical to it’s Android & iOS counterparts. One of the hosts of the recent WP Central podcast said the Facebook app does have metro elements…  I spit my coffee out when I heard this. He cited the flat look of the graphics as being metro.  Again, metro is SO much more than that.  While it’s good that OFFICIAL apps are finally making their way to Windows Phone, if they are no longer following the metro design principles, then what separates Windows Phone from the other mobile operating systems?

*Note: I originally published this on WP Central’s forum, but they shoved it into a super thread.

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