Windows Mobile 10: Η πτώση?

Διάβασα πρόσφατα ένα άρθρο που μιλούσε για την πτώση των πωλήσεων των smartphones με λειτουργικό Windows Phone/Mobile. Προφανώς φαίνεται ότι υπήρχαν πολλές προσδοκίες σχετικά με τα (επίσημα) Windows Mobile 10, όπως το ότι θα αναβαθμιστούν όλες οι παλιές συσκευές σε WM10, ότι θα υπάρξει στενότερη σχέση ανάμεσα σε διαφορετικές συσκευές (π.χ. ότι θα περνάς εύκολα περιεχόμενο από την μία συσκευή Windows 10 σε άλλη), ότι το Continuum θα παίξει και σε παλιότερες συσκευές κλπ.

Δυστυχώς το λειτουργικό:
1) άργησε πολύ να ετοιμαστεί χάνοντας διάφορες προθεσμίες που ανέφερε η ίδια η Microsoft,
2) τελικά βγήκε αλλά δεν ήταν έτοιμο (ακόμα τρέχουμε με διάφορα bugs που λύνονται και επανέρχονται κατά καιρούς),
3) δεν έγινε διαθέσιμο σε όλες τις συσκευές (άρα όπως την πατήσαμε από τα Windows 6.5 που δεν αναβαθμίστηκαν πλέον, την πατήσαμε στο μεταξύ και με τα Windows Phone 7 που έφτασαν μέχρι την 7.8) και τώρα με τα Windows Phone 8 που έφτασαν μέχρι την 8.1 με πλήρη ασυμβατότητα μεταξύ των διαφορετικών εκδόσεων) και τελικά τα νέα features είτε δεν ενθουσίασαν είτε είναι διαθέσιμα μόνο σε ναυαρχίδες (βλέπε Continuum)
4) Official εφαρμογές που περίμενε ο κόσμος είτε άργησαν πολύ να εμφανιστούν (βλέπε Instagram που ήταν ανενεργό 3 χρόνια, Google Apps), είτε δεν υπήρξαν ποτέ.
5) Ακόμη και οι ναυαρχίδες δεν ήταν έτοιμες όταν κυκλοφόρησαν (βλέπε προβλήματα στο διαδίκτυο με 950/950XL.

Όσο για τους κατασκευαστές, ελάχιστα μεγάλα ονόματα κατάφερε να πείσει για το νέο αυτό εγχείρημα, οπότε δελέασε κατά κύριο λόγο Ινδούς κατασκευαστές (εντελώς low-end συσκευών) και διαφόρους μικρούς που έψαχναν την τύχη τους. Κάτι premium συσκευές από HP με docks κλπ θα τις βλέπουμε μόνο σαν collector’s items σε περιοδικά, αφού δεν θα κυκλοφορήσουν ευρέως.

Και να σας πω και κάτι απλό – προσωπική εμπειρία που δείχνει την απομόνωση και ασυμβατότητα των Windows Mobile 10 σε σχέση με τις υπόλοιπες συσκευές: Μπήκαμε πρόσφατα μια παρέα σε ένα Toyota Aygo και παίζαμε με τη multimedia console που έχει (και υποστηρίζει MirrorLink). Λοιπόν, η μόνη συσκευή που δεν κατάφερε να γίνει pair μέσω bluetooth με το console ηταν το δικό μου Lumia 735 με Windows Mobile 10. Μετά ψάχνοντας έμαθα ότι παρότι η Microsoft είναι μέλος στο consortium που σχεδιάζει και υλοποιεί το MirrorLink, δεν έχει προσθέσει ακόμη την υποστήριξη στις φορητές συσκευές της (και μιλάμε για ιστορία που έχει ξεκινήσει από το 2012 – ίσως και νωρίτερα). Τα ίδια και χειρότερα για υποστήριξη USB OTG, που θεωρείται ακόμη ένα εξωτικό feature για τα Windows Phones.

Την ίδια στιγμή ασχολούμαστε ακόμη με το αν ο email client (Outlook) για το κινητό θα υποστηρίζει μαύρο background και πότε επιτέλους θα έρθει η υποστήριξη για HTML signatures στα emails (που χρειάζεται για σοβαρούς σκοπούς), ακόμη και στην desktop έκδοση της εφαρμογής.

Καληνύχτα σας Windows Phones.

Updating my Turbo-X Wintab 2-in-1 to Windows 10: Issues

Updating my Turbo-X Wintab 2-in-1 to Windows 10: Issues

While I was on holidays I received the notification that I could automatically download and install Windows 10 on my Turbo-X Wintab 2 in 1 Τablet. Since WiFi was pretty slow there, I waited until I got back home and decided to give it a try. Installation was automatic, pretty quick and soon I was introduced to the new Windows 10 interface – alas, the touch screen was not responding!

After unsuccessfully trying to find touch screen drivers that would work (Plaisio does not share the set of Windows 8 drivers for this tablet – for unknown reasons), I decided to reset the tablet and send it to the service, as it was still under warranty (it was only 1 month’s purchase). I was warned by the system that I only had one month to roll back to Windows 8.1 if I wished (which I didn’t) so I went on to delete all files and have it cleaned before it was serviced. In the meantime I had contacted the Plaisio service dept. describing the situation and they asked me to bring the tablet to them for an inspection.

After the reset process completed, the tablet rebooted for the last time – and it was then that I saw the blue screen of death, warning me that the boot device was inaccessible!

inaccessible-boot-device-windows-8No matter what I tried, the tablet kept rebooting into the same blue screen so I had to find a way to make it boot into something bootable.

  1. Create a bootable USB with Windows 10: I was lucky enough to have upgraded my tablet first to Windows 10 within Windows 8.1 and then make this attempt. This means that I did not need any serial or activation number, as the system was already prepared for the update, so I would have a legitimate copy of Windows 10. The process is described here.
  2. Make tablet boot from the USB: That was the tricky part as the BIOS was not accessible by pressing any of the buttons (F2, F10, F12 etc.). I found online that you have to power on some devices (not mine) by pressing the power button and Volume Down, in other cases it was Volume Up – after many attempts, I realized that in my case I had to press simultaneously Power, Vol Up and Vol Down in order to get in the BIOS! Then I changed the boot order (it was not easy, as options were not very clear) but I did it.
  3. Fresh install Windows 10: The process went smoothly, even though the tablet became unresponsive at some points (after periods of inactivity during the installation) and I had to reset it. In the end I ended up with a fresh installation of Windows 10. However, screen resolution was low, touch screen was not working, battery icon was not available in the tray etc. Damn!
  4. Find appropriate drivers for hardware: As I mentioned earlier, drivers for this tablet are a well-kept secret so I had to look for alternatives. I found out that the Onda v101w tablet might be similar to mine so drivers worked for my tablet, too. Indeed, display drivers worked, bluetooth worked, battery icon appeared etc. The only thing that didn’t work was the touch screen.
  5. Reset the tablet (again): The last resort was the authorized service. I reset the tablet again (this time it worked nicely and all devices were recognized so the drivers remained intact), created a temp account for accessing the tablet (that the service guys could also use for fixing the tablet) and let it there.
  6. Have the tablet restored: On 17/8/2015 I left the tablet at the Plaisio service, explaining the issue with the touch screen, the battery not charging more than 95% with the provided charger and the cable that was worrying me. I received a call later on from them, letting me know that the charging was going beyond 95% (apparently they used a micro-USB charger but I gave up on that), that the cable was indeed placed there and that there was no risk of being damaged after use (I hope that this is true) and that they would have to send the tablet to the central service in order for them to see if the touch screen would work with Windows 10 or if we would have to revert back to Windows 8.1 (which I said I didn’t mind, as long as the touch screen works ok – I may try the update at a later stage, when the drivers will be updated). I was also congratulated by the tech guy for managing to install working drivers for Windows 10 (this might have been shocking even for them!).

I am expecting the tablet by Thursday or Friday (in a couple of days, as they said), so I may receive it on time for my upcoming trip 🙂

Turbo-X Wintab 2 in 1 Τablet 10.1″ WiFi – First impressions

Turbo-X Wintab 2 in 1 Τablet 10.1″ WiFi – First impressions

I have been in the hunt for a Windows-powered transformer / 2-in-1 tablet for the last months, after the lovely experience I had with a colleague’s Asus TransformerBook T100 during a business trip. As I had the opportunity to buy something cheap last month, I decided to go for the Turbo-X Wintab 2 in 1 Τablet distributed by Plaisio, a major Greek tech/gadget (among others) retailer. I would expect that such a tiny (but powerful enough machine) would be my companion in my business trips, where no CPU-intensive tasks are required.

Turbo-X_Wintab

I have been using the Turbo-X WinTab for the last three weeks, mostly during my summer vacations, where I needed something easy to carry around for checking my emails, light web browsing and updating social media – while also drafting some blog posts and other texts. My impressions from this short experience with this 2-in-1 are the following:

Portability

It is a 10-inch tablet with a keyboard so it is easy to carry around. It is much easier to carry it as a tablet-only but the keyboard also provides a sense of protection to the screen. The laptop is pretty heavy (at least heavier than expected) with the keyboard docked.

Hardware

10,1-inch touch screen with 10 touch points and a 1280×800 screen resolution, vibrant enough to be readable under bright sunlight. Intel Atom Z3735F CPU @ 1,33GHz, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of flash storage, which can be extended through the use of a SD card. Small-form keyboard (to match the size of the tablet/screen). The packaging included a micro-USB to USB OTG adapter to allow the use of devices with full-USB interface through the micro-USB port. Last but not least, the WinTab features not only a webcam (which can act as a front camera) but a 5MP rear camera as well. The system is powered by a 6600 mAh battery (non-replaceable).

Extensibility

The tablet has numerous ports, actually more than the (older) T100. Apart from the typical headphones jack and power port (it features a needle-like, proprietary charging port), the WinTab has two USB ports (one full-sized and a micro-USB one) as well as a mini-HDMI port for connecting it to a larger screen or TV). In addition, it has an SD-slot for increasing the available storage space. Another full-sized USB port is available at the keyboard’s side. It features WiFi and Bluetooth while 3G is also supported by a different (slightly more expensive) model.

The micro-USB port can be used for charging the tablet as well; however, the additional, proprietary charger can also be used, freeing up this valuable USB port for connecting another device.

Software

The laptop came with Windows 8.1 32-bit edition and no bloatware installed. It also came with a free 1-year subscription for Office 365 and some other perks, such us free Skype call time and storage space in OneDrive.

Overall usage

The laptop feels pretty nice to use on a frequent basis. The small-form keyboard is not easy to get used to but it does the work when needed. The whole package is heavier than expected but it can be carried around easily, as it is pretty compact. The tablet part (screen) is pretty light and responsive enough for everyday tasks. When docked to the keyboard, the laptop feels sturdy and stable enough to support fairly heavy typing. The viewing angle is nice and comfortable and the docking mechanism is simple enough (featuring a sliding button).

Things to notice

  • Sometimes when the tablet is docked, removed and then docked again the keyboard becomes non-responsive and the tablet has to be restarted in order for the keyboard to respond again. I read somewhere that this may have to do with the touch screen driver, that needs to be set up in a way.
  • Even when the tablet is charged overnight, the battery is charged at 95% maximum. The only way I found to charge it up to 100% is to switch on the tablet and then leave the charger on or remove and plug the charger again. Otherwise, using a micro-USB charger solves the problem.
  • Battery life is nice but not as great as the T100 one. Depending on the usage, it may last for about 4-6 hours (maybe longer but I have not tested it yet).
  • In the keyboard part of the laptop, there is a wire that can be easily seen extended and then back in place when the screen is docked and changes position (from fully extended to closed on the keyboard). I hope that this wire/cord is durable enough to withstand frequent use and cycles of extension.

WinTab_cord

  • The screen is bright enough to be comfortably used indoors with the brightness set at minimum.
  • A driver update of the touch screen screws up the calibration and renders it unusable. The solution is to undo this update/roll back the driver and totally disable it/hide it. You can read more here.

Overall

The WinTab is a nice companion for those seeking a transformer in a small factor. It provides the convenience of Windows 8 (and subsequently Windows 10; I have already received the notification for the free upgrade to Windows 10) in a small and efficient factor. The CPU does well even with HD videos and cannot be compared to the lousy Atom CPUs used in netbooks some years ago.

The only drawback I see so far is the hard-to-get-used-to small keyboard, which makes me wonder if a stand-alone 10-inch tablet with a larger (but still not full-sized) keyboard would be a more efficient combination.

The perfect OS for my Acer Aspire One

At last I have managed to find the perfect OS for my low-end netbook; an Acer Aspire One 751h with 1GB RAM, Intel Atom Z520 CPU @1,33 GHz and a GMA500 GPU. Throughout the years I have tested several operating systems on my netbook, trying to find a responsive one; moving from the initial Windows XP to Windows 7 & 8, and then trying countless lightweight Linux distributions including (but not limited to) PeppermintOS (probably my favorite), Lubuntu, LXLE, Zorin OS, Manjaro Netbook edition, Bodhi, Crunchbang, Archbang, WattOS, Linux Mint etc.

I always tried to find one that would be functional for basic use (e.g. web browsing and basic office usage e.g. document editing) and maybe some YouTube video browsing. However, due to the specificities of my netbook (mostly the GMA500), the overall performance was usually poor  while YouTube videos were barely watchable. Some distributions performed better than the others (mostly Lubuntu but Peppermint OS as well), while others had serious problems (e.g. cursor disappearing, sound not available, difficulty to install languages and change other options etc.). After I gave up on the previous distros, I decided to focus on lighter Window Managers (e.g. Openbox, FluxBox, Enlightenment etc.).

manjaro_logoIt was then that I found out about the Manjaro Openbox community edition; when I first installed it, I could not believe how responsive it was and how low on resources (RAM and CPU) it was running! Then, I also realized that even YouTube performance was much better that the one of other distros. Despite the fact that Openbox is really lightweight, it does not luck features and functionalities; it is only that sometimes manual intervention is needed (e.g. installation of GUI for some functionalities if you are not a Linux power user – I am not!). Installation was really user friendly and all hardware was automatically recognized. On top of that, you get a nice Conky panel automatically placed on the desktop!

Some of the things that I needed to set up in order to bring the installation closer to my needs were the following:

Even though I was thinking of going back to Peppermint OS for a while (I was pretty pleased with v5 and now the v6 is in the works), it seems that I am going to give Manjaro Openbox a try and keep it as long as possible.

My Lumia 720: successfully repaired!

To make a long story short: about 10 days before the Orthodox Easter, I started noticing a hissing sound / white noise during calls when using my Lumia 720; people could hardly hear me and I had issues hearing them, too. I tried to be patient and suspecting that it might be due to humidity inside the phone (which would be strange, but still a possible cause of the issue) so I used a hair dryer to make sure that it was dry inside (the 720 does not have a detachable back/cover) but it made no difference at all.

Right after Easter break (on Tuesday 14/4/2015, to be precise) I decided to send it for a check to the authorized service center (Nokia Care @ Alexandras Av.) in Athens. The phone was still covered by a warranty (purchased back in February 2014) and I was informed that I wouldn’t have to pay for the inspection nor for the repair in case it was a hardware issue (and not misuse; e.g. due to a fall or moisture); at the same time I was also informed that most of such cases were assigned to “moisture issues”, a fact that invalidated the warranty and resulted to a cost for the repair. Since I had paid 170 euros for my Lumia 720 and it was already more than 1 year old, I was not willing to pay for its repair; instead I could keep it as a camera/internet “box” and get myself another middle-range Lumia. They told me that it would take them a couple of days to check it and see if they could repair in in-store; otherwise, it would have to be serviced by the central Nokia Service in Athens (Arvato). They told me to call in the next couple of days to see how it goes.

Indeed, after a couple of days, I was informed that my phone could not be repaired in the store and had to go to the central service – there seemed to be a hardware issue. That process would take about two weeks (minimum) during which I would not have a decent phone (as my only backup phones were an old HTC Touch HD (Blackstone) and a malfunctioning LG Optimus 7) but it was my only choice.

I really hard a hard time during these two weeks (see next post) but in the end I received my phone repaired after exactly two weeks – the issue was its microphone. The best thing? The repair was indeed covered by the warranty (no excuses about moisture) so I did not pay a single cent!

So big thanks to both the Nokia Care Store at Alexandras Av. (Bikaki Maria) & the service team of Arvato (Athens) for treating my case with respect and honoring the warranty!

Lenovo A1-07: The resurrection

Lenovo A1-07: The resurrection

My first (and only) tablet is an old Lenovo A1 tablet, bought about 3 year ago – I have written some stuff about it some months ago, so I am not going into details.

The tablet had some hard times in the past, being constantly flashed with various ROMs, including an unofficial one of Android 4.0.4 (which was rather buggy and battery-killer), so I ended up with some custom Android 2.3.4 ones. The last time I flashed the tablet was several months ago and something went wrong with the process restoring things from the 4.0.4, so I ended up with the only ROM that I could flash at that point – probably due to the incompatibility with the partitioning I did.

That last ROM was CM7not my favorite (compared to the excellent ones provided by Graham & Milaq who were porting Cyanogen nightly ROMs); it had some useless apps pre-installed (some of them had expired and I had to cope up with reminders and other messages from the app) and the whole user interface was rather ugly. I tried to get rid of it, but for incompatibility reasons I could not go back to the Cyanogen ROMs so I soon gave up; after all, I was not heavily using the tablet anymore.

A couple of days ago, while my 4-year-old son was playing with the tablet, he managed to lock it by playing with the dots of the lock pattern (which he thought it was a game). He tried so many times the wrong combination, that he locked the tablet for good. Even I was not able to unlock it in the end (the recovery using the email and password was not working for some strange reason) so after some hours of online searching for ways to unlock it or even to back things up through ADB) I gave up and tried to format everything and set the tablet to its previous state.

I tried finding some old guides I had for flashing my A1, but most of them were not available anymore while the links to the files needed were also broken…this made things even worse. In the end, I found a rather helpful guide by David Artisssome links were also broken there, but I managed either to find them elsewhere or to find them in old backups I had in several places. The steps I performed were the following:

  1. Using ClockworkMod 5.0.2.8 I flashed the original ROM of the A1 (the one that it came with)
  2. I re-flashed ClockworkMod 5.0.2.8 and then the latest one (6.X.X)
  3. I flashed the latest CyanogenMod nightly ROM for the A1 that I managed to download from Milaq’s list
  4. I rooted A1 by installing a zip file inside CWM
  5. I installed Google Apps through CWM
  6. I set up all the apps that I needed etc.

Unfortunately I did not keep track of the exact steps as I was mostly playing around and testing several different things on order to make things work, so the aforementioned list might not be 100% accurate. The point is that I was forced to do this process from scratch after many months and in this context I succeeded in installing a CyanogenMod ROM much better than the one I had before the tablet was accidentally locked by my son!

Living with the Nokia Lumia 720 – update to 8.1 & Cyan

I got my Lumia 720 back in February 2014, after a long time searching for the perfect budget phone; it had to be a Windows Phone (I was really pleased with my previous LG Optimus 7 / E900), with a large (but not huge) screen and feature a nice camera with a flash, FM radio, long battery life. In the list of Lumia models, 720 was the one meeting all these requirements and still it costed less than 200 euros. With its 4,3-inch screen, 6,7MP camera with LED flash and Zeiss lens, FM radio, 1GHz dual-core CPU and almost two days of battery life it is the perfect phone.

Since February the phone has served me pretty well and has been through a lot (including heavy internet usage and a drop to a cement wall, which just caused a slight scar at one of its rounded corners). I recently also updated the original OS (Windows Phone 8) to Windows Phone 8.1 and the Lumia Cyan firmware; I have to admit that I was really looking forward to checking the new version of the OS, which provided a few but substantial improvements.

The point is that the phone became laggy and not as responsive as it used to be…I rebooted a couple of times, also tried to soft-reset but still the issue remained; not only when scrolling through menus, but also when opening apps and typing, among others. My last resort would be a hard reset. In fact I did two of them! First I checked how I could back up my phones settings; it seems that Windows Phone did pretty well with that, as not only my settings were backed up, but also my SMS, my home screen tiles even the apps I had installed before the hard reset!

The I did a hard reset through the available menu option (Reset to Factory Defaults) and after it finished, I used the method with the physical keys’ combination. After that, I let the phone boot and started setting up everything again; my comments are the following:

  • As soon as the phone booted into Windows, I was asked to enter my PIN; this resulted in the phone automatically connecting to the internet using 3G – I do not have a data plan and this incurred a not-necessary cost… Next time I will have to remember to skip entering my PIN when prompted and only do so after I have finished setting up my settings;
  • I was prompted to restore my latest backup; this led to restoring my home screen tiles, my settings, my SMS, my installed apps etc. I had to verify my credentials (by receiving a code in the alternative email address that I had provided) and to manually enter the password for each email account I had set up;
  • Most of the settings were already correct (as I had set them up) but some of them not, such as the use of mobile data for connecting to internet, the regional settings (e.g. the time & date format), default location for storing new apps, photos and videos, NFC was left to on etc.
  • All apps were automatically installed but not their settings; I had to manually enter my credentials to all of them, check their settings and take some time to bring them back to my favorite ones. This was really time-consuming but I was informed that this is due to restrictions of the OS.
  • Drive+ and Maps were not automatically installed along with the rest of the apps; I saw that the tiles in the home screen had an exclamation mark on them, informing me that the apps were missing (while for the rest of the apps, the tiles were grayed-out before they were installed). I had to manually install them, which was not a big deal but rather strange.

The point is that it took me quite a lot of time to complete the process of hard reset and set up everything again but it seems that the phone is a little bit more responsive now. If I was aware of this fact, I would have gone through the process much earlier. Apart from that, I am still really pleased with my Lumia 720 and I do not plan to exchange it for any other model before it actually “dies” in my hands (more or less like the LG Optimus 7).

(Short) Hands-on with an Asus Transformer Book T100

A colleague of mine recently got himself an Asus Transformer Book T100 (taking into consideration my suggestion over other tablets of similar price) some days ago. He was kind enough to give it to me for a short test drive over an evening.
 
Asus T100 next to a TV remote control
 
The device consists of two parts; the tablet and its detachable keyboard. It is small in size. Just imagine a 10-inch tablet with an equally thick keyboard, which also acts as a cover for the tablet (when closed). It is quite light, too. It seems sturdy enough for everyday use, even though the keyboard is rather “plastic-y”. The keyboard detaches and attaches really easy, with the use of a button. The specs of the tablet are basic: 2GB RAM, 32GB storage (expandable through a microSD slot), 1,3GHz CPU etc. and it comes with Windows 8.1 (not RT, the full flavor!) and MS Office Home installed. You can find detailed specs of the tablet at the ASUS website.
 
 
1. The tablet/screen
The tablet is also the screen of the device and is very clear. Featuring a resolution of 1366×768, it has vibrant colors and is bright enough; I didn’t have the chance to check it under direct sunlight. Sometimes I found buttons (e.g. closing a window) to be rather small for my rather fat fingers. The tablet has a power button, a microSD slot, a volume key (+/-), an audio jack input, a webcam of 1.2MP, mic, microHDMI, micro USB and USB 3.0 etc.
 
It felt rather nice to hold, and switching from landscape to portrait mode was pretty fast.
 
The ASUS T100 sitting on top of my 17-inch laptop!
 
2. The keyboard
The keyboard has the same size and weight as the tablet. It felt nice to type and I got used to its small factor in a few minutes. I would have liked it more if the keys were the same style as my Acer Aspire One 751h, as they would have benefited from a rather larger size (instead of having large spaces among them). The keyboard does not feature any ports.
 
When attached to the keyboard, the screen has a limited space to move but still the max angle was convenient to use. In addition, when at the maximum angle, the keyboard raises a bit, making typing even easier. The touchpad was also nice and responsive and I am sure that with a little tweaking it would feel like my laptop one.
 
3. Performance
I did not have the tablet for enough time to check the performance thoroughly. The first time I used it it felt a little laggy, something that I did not expect. However, when I spent some more time with it, I did the following:
  • I installed all pending Windows Updates;
  • Disabled System Restore;
  • Selected “Optimize for performance” by disabling all the optional user interface features;
  • Started using metro apps instead of the Desktop ones;
  • Restarted a couple of times

After that, the tablet seemed much more responsive and exhibited no lag at all. YouTube videos played pretty well even at 720p. The overall experience was (as expected) much better than the one of my Acer Aspire One 751h (1,3GHz CPU, 1GB RAM, GMA500 GPU, 160GB HD). I should note here that the T100 came only with a basic setup (not many apps installed), so I guess that if resources-hungry processes run in the background (e.g. Skype & Dropbox, a common scenario of my Linux-powered netbook), performance might be a challenging factor.

 

4. Final notes

Getting my hands on a T100 was a long-term wish that came true. I usually travel quite often and I carry with me either my Linux-powered (Peppermint OS 5) netbook (portable but still has compatibility issues when it comes to MS Office documents, which I use a lot for my work), or my Windows 8-powered 17-inch Toshiba Satellite, which is really bulky and heavy; not the most portable laptop available. I was looking for a portable device (probably an ultrabook) which would allow me to be fully productive during my trips and at the same time would not hurt my back (nor my pocket!). 

After my short experience, I would say that the Asus T100 would fulfill my requirements and would allow me to perform basic tasks and be fully compatible with my work laptop. It has the advantage of being a tablet (e.g. for checking emails and open documents during a meeting) and can become a small laptop when keyboard is attached (when e.g. one needs to write long documents/deliverables, respond to several emails, prepare slides etc.). It is highly portable and versatile and at about 330 euros for the 32GB version, it is also rather budget-friendly. However, a microSD card of at least 32GB for increasing the storage as well as a micro to normal USB adapter (for using e.g. a mouse and an external hard disk, USB flash drive etc.) is required.

I would probably be more happy in terms of performance with an ultrabook which might provide better specs and a similar battery life for a premium but I guess that I would miss the versatility and portability of the Asus T100. With the limited storage space I would have to make some sacrifices (e.g. I wouldn’t be able to sync my full Dropbox set of folders and the ones from OneDrive (as I do now) and I might face some performance issues when trying to multitask as I am used in my laptop but If I had to select between these two I guess that I would go for a T100 😉

 

Home network update Part 2: Laptop’s operating system upgrade

As mentioned earlier, I kept having issues with my home laptop. It is an entry-level Lenovo G550, with basic specs like 15,6-inch screen, Intel Celeron Dual Core T3100 CPU @ 1,9 GHz, 2048MB DDR3 RAM, a modest Intel GMA X4500 GPU and 250GB HD. The laptop is othing special, but obtained back in 2010 for serving basic tasks, such as web browsing, word pr

After a batch of recent updates, the laptop started freezing temporarily every now and then and I suspected the Internet Explorer update to version 11, as freezes occured while using the browser for watching YouTube video. Even though I use Chrome myself, my wife uses Explorer in her user account, so I had issues with that. Since I had never formatted/refreshed the laptop before, I decided to take some time, back everything up (a really time-consuming process, as there was not enough free space in the 2nd partition of the hard disk and the external one was not the fastest around) and re-install the original Windows 7 Home Premium. However, I remembered that I had purchased a Windows 8 Pro license some months ago to be used with my Acer 751h netbook, hoping that iy would bring some fresh air in the low-end hardware; however, due to the fact that the GMA500 GPU was not supported, I decided to uninstall Windows 8 and keep the license for another instance.

ocessing and  movies, among others. It has been through a lot during these years, such as frequent falling (my son liked to push it from the desk down to the floor), and it became rather sluggish over the years. It came with Windows 7 Home Premium which were never upgraded or formatted. It is the core of my home network, which also consists of my netbook (Acer 751h), a Lenovo A1 Android tablet and my LG Optimus 7 (E900) Windows Phone (7.8).

Installation was quick and easy; all hardware was correctly identified. However, I faced an issue with the license key: Despite the fact that it has long been inactive and uninstalled from my netbook, I was unable to activate my license in this case. I tried all methods I found online but the only one that actually worked was to call Microsoft’s line and follow the guidelines in order to get my license back again. In the end I managed to activate the license properly but still I was frustrated by the fact that I had to go through this process despite the fact that there were no two machines using the same license.

The next step was to update to Windows 8.1; I left my laptop working overnight for downloading and installing this large update. After that, I started setting up my software again (e.g. Google Chrome, 7zip, Dropbox/Sugarsync/Skydrive etc.) and everything seems to be working properly. I realized that there were some things still not working properly (e.g. Windows Experience Index missing, some distortion with the graphics and the lack of Aero functionalities). After uninstalling the GPU’s driver at least the distortions were minimized (if not totally eliminated). In addition, there was an issue with the touchpad (the part for scrolling up and down) which was also solved after installing some official drivers from the web).

Despite the fact that I have not used the laptop intensively during the last days, I have the impression that the laptop is more responsive now with Windows 8.1 compared to Windows 7 Home Premium. Maybe a re-install of Windows 7 would be sufficient but since I had the opportunity to try Windows 8 Pro. At least there are no freezes or lags yet so everyone seems to be happy with the update.

Home network update Part 1: Modem/router replacement

I have been having issues with the network at home for quite some time now. I suspected that the cause of the disconnections was not the laptop but the modem/router; the old and probably worn Thomson TG585 v7 was my first one and obtained through my DSL provider back in 2009. It has been working almost 24/7 since then and I found it normal to start malfunctioning. Even a firmware update to the latest available version (8.2.7.8) did not help; my devices kept disconnecting from the home network every now and then.

After doing some online research, I decided to get myself a LEVEL ONE WBR-6603A 150MBPS WIRELESS ADSL2+ PSTN MODEM ROUTER, which I found on sale for 24,90EUR + 3,00 EUR P&P. It seemed like a decent replacement of my existing modem/router with advanced features (many of which I may never use). I have to admit that setting it up was not the easiest part since I found the user interface to be poor and not helpful (nowhere near the Thomson one); however, after some hours of testing I managed to get all the info provided by my DSL provider correctly in the settings of my new router and had my home network up and running again.

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It has been about three weeks since then and everything seemed to be functioning smoothly…apart from the home laptop itself (an entry-level Lenovo G550); it kept freezing sometimes and became the bottleneck of the network. So I had to do something about that too!