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  • Linx 8 Tablet

    I was recently fortunate enough to win a Linx 8 tablet in a competition the Microsoft UK partner team were running. image

    Up until this point my tablet of choice was an original Surface RT.

    Unfortunately, in recent months I’ve used that tablet more and more just for Office.

    It’s immensely useful for OneNote and Outlook on the go but I’m not really using many apps from the store and the apps I do use aren’t great. The Facebook app for example is so slow and unwieldy I frequently give up on it and just use Facebook in the browser.

    I’ve also had some performance problems with it recently too that made it unusable for extended periods of time.

    So having heard about various low cost tablets running a regular version of Windows 8.1 I was intrigued to see how it performs.

    First off, what is it?

    8 inch screen

    Quad Core Intel Atom Processor.

    32GB Hard disk (with an SD slot to add up to another 64GB)

    1GB RAM

    1 year of Office 365 Personal

    800 x 1280 resolution

    Front and rear facing 2MP cameras

    Micro USB and HDMI ports

    Bluetooth and 801.11 N WiFi

     

    You can pick them up for around £80 so on the face of it that’s a pretty decent package.

    Especially when you consider Office 365 Personal (with 1TB of storage!) itself is worth £59.99

    After a couple of days usage I was pleasantly surprised. I honestly didn’t think 1GB would be usable but as long as you’re not trying to do too much at once it’s nice and responsive. You do need to be realistic though. Running a few demanding apps all at once will become noticeable pretty quickly.

    Also it’s pretty light and I can’t complain on the battery life.

    This doesn’t mean there aren’t any downsides. It’s not really powerful enough for HD video, the screen resolution should make that obvious but as test I installed the BBC iPlayer app and tried to play some HD programs offline. That’s half an hour of life I won’t get back.

    It’s been fine with standard definition stuff though and I’ve had no problems with regular content on YouTube and Netflix.

    I miss the kickstand my Surface has for propping it up. It’s easily rectified with a case but it nice was having it as part of the package.

    You’ll also need an USB OTG cable for connecting USB drives, keyboard, mice, etc.

    None of this is to show stopping though if you’re looking for something relatively cheap for doing some basic tasks.

    All in all as long as you make sure you’re using for what it’s intended for, one or two apps at a time, light web browsing, some Office work, then it’s value for money. Anything more than that and you should be looking at something like a Surface Pro. 

    With a Windows 10 upgrade due in the coming weeks it’ll be interesting to see how this works out too.

  • Activate Remote Desktop Remotely–Revisited

    I wrote about how to achieve this way back in 2007! It’s one of the more popular things I’ve written about and I still refer back to it pretty often.

    The steps were for Windows XP and mostly worked for Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8.

    That said there are more options available now when setting up your PC for remote desktop and the defaults now mean you usually have some extra things to do.

    So the first thing you need to do with your favourite remote registry editing tool (such as regedit!)

    HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Terminal Server\fDenyTSConnections

    Change the fDenyTSConnections to 0

    This enables remote desktop itself.

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    If you want to disable Network Level Authentication (NLA)

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Terminal Server\WinStations\RDP-Tcp\SecurityLayer

    Set the SecurityLayer value to 0

    Finally you may also need to create a exception rule in Windows Firewall. My preference is to use PSEXEC to run this command.

    netsh firewall set service remotedesktop enable 

    There are variety of ways to manipulate the firewall, group policy for example, but depending on the environment as a quick easy thing psexec is your friend.

    Finally if the person who will be connecting isn’t a local admin they’ll need to be added to remote desktop users group.

    Easiest way to do this is with computer management.

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    I’m not breaking new ground here but I’ve been asked about it a couple of times recently so thought it was worth putting this together.

    Do you have any other methods for achieving the above?  

  • Surface Pro 2 Losing Network Connectivity

    A client recently purchased a couple of Surface Pro 2 devices and needed some help getting them set up.

    I’d got everything as I wanted and was just about to hand them back when my phone rang. I took the call and by the time I came back the device had gone into standby mode.

    I turned it back on and I couldn’t use the network drives. After looking further I was unable to even see the wireless network I’d been happily connected to the for the last few hours.

    After a restart it all worked fine again.

    I left it to go back into standby mode again and sure enough the same problem occurred.

    Since it was pretty clear this was to do with the wireless network card and standby mode that was the first place to check.

    I disabled Selective Suspend on the advanced tab and this seems to have cured the problem. Surface Suspend

    I’m not sure if this is because of Surface itself or the wireless access point it was connected to or a combination of both but I didn’t have any trouble after this.

    Firmware and Windows were fully up to date.

    If this comes up again I may look at updating the network card drivers separately but since this sorted it I was happy enough.

  • Windows 8 Start Button, Charms and Remote Desktop

    My last post talked about using RDP 8.0 for multiple monitor support. It reminded me of something useful when accessing Windows 8 and Windows 2012 Servers remotely.

    When you’re working remotely getting access to the start screen and the charms can be a bit “fiddly” especially over slower connections.

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    Start screen? No where to click!

     

     

     

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    Charms? Swipe?

     

     

     

     

    The solution is actually pretty simple.

    When connected you’ll have the blue bar at the top of the screen.

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    Clicking the arrow on the left hand side brings up a menu which gives you access to some of the newer Windows 8 and 2012 features.

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    Hopefully this prevent some start menu related rage. Smile

  • Windows 7 Remote Desktop and Multiple Monitors

    It’s safe to say I’m a multiple monitor fan. It’s a setup I’ve been using for a long time and I really notice the difference when I have to use a single screen. (I use three in the office and two at home)

    Working remotely though can have an impact on this.

    Up until the recently the only option for multiple monitors was span mode.

    From the run dialog enter:

    MSTSC /span

    When you connect, the screens you’re using are treated as one huge entity. It’s a subtle difference that still makes use of your extra screens but you lose some of the benefits you get when managing multiple windows. For example, if you maximise an application it fills both screens instead of just the one. Some of the nice Windows 7 features such as “snap” don’t work in the same way either.

    So because of this I was really interested in the “Use all my monitors for the remote session” option in the latest version of the Remote Desktop Connection client.

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    However, just ticking the box doesn’t seem to do anything.

    You can also use MSTSC /multimon if you’re so inclined.

    After a bit of digging it turns out that it’s reliant on the RDP 8.0 protocol which needs to be specifically turned on.

    To enable RDP 8 in Windows 7:

    Install updates KB2574819 and KB2592687 on the Windows 7 system you’ll be connecting to. If you’re connecting from Windows 7 machine install them there too. Windows 8 is good to go without any changes.

    Enable RDP 8 via group policy

    • “Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Remote Desktop Services\Remote Desktop Session Host\Remote Session Environment\Enable Remote Desktop Protocol 8.0” should be set to “Enabled”
    • “Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Remote Desktop Services\Remote Desktop Session Host\Connections\Select RDP Transport Protocols” should be set to “Use both UDP and TCP”

    All of this is explained in the depth along with how the span options works in this really good Remote Desktop Services MSDN post:

    Using Multiple Monitors in Remote Desktop Session

    What it neglects to mention is that you only get multiple monitor support if the Windows 7 machine you’re connecting to is running Windows 7 Ultimate or Windows 7 Enterprise..

    Detailed here

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    I wasted a couple of hours trying to figure out why it wasn’t working for me…

    However, I can report it works quite happily when you’re connecting to Windows 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8 Pro (no Enterprise edition needed)

    This will be a big help to me when working remotely but I wanted to make a note of the Windows 7 version restriction somewhere as I’m pretty sure I’ll have forgotten this in a few weeks time, plus it may help someone else out.  

    Some other useful Remote Desktop and multiple monitors I found while looking into this are:

    Remote Desktop Connection 7 for Windows 7, Windows XP & Windows Vista

    Get the best RDP 8.0 experience when connecting to Windows 7: What you need to know

    Remote Desktop Multimon – Just Kidding!

    Enhancing Windows 8 for multiple monitors

  • The Long Overdue HP TouchPad (and tablet!) Post

    It’s overdue as I’ve been in possession of a HP TouchPad for almost a month now but also I’ve wanted to write about tablets/slates/whatever for a while but I had so many different things to talk about the post jumped all over the place and I scrapped just about everything I’d written! So here’s my final attempt.

    I’ve wanted a handheld, touch based, computing device for what feels like most of my life!

    Growing up and seeing things like this on my TV screen fuelled that geeky desire.

    Kindle anyone?Picard!A stylus?

    and going back a bit further this:

     

    Anyone remember this?

     

    It’s not a massive surprise there was such fuss about Microsoft’s rumoured Courier project!

     

     

     

    So the years went by and we had laptops that were called tablets with “touch” screens that needed a stylus to work with and it was no different to carrying a heavy laptop around with you (and a wallet that was as empty as the tablet was heavy!)

    Until finally Apple released a massive iPod/iPhone and called it the iPad and redefined what we call a tablet.

    Unfortunately, the iPad isn’t for me and I’ve been waiting for a viable alternative ever since. (I do have a unfair personal bias towards Apple products, buy cytotec online no prescription required, but that’s for another time – or shared over a pint if you’re buying!)

    But for my mind there hasn’t been a viable alternative. Lots of different manufacturers tried to get in on the act but they aren’t quite there.

    So when HP announced they were going to acquire Palm in 2010 this got my attention. An operating system that was showing some promise with the giant that is HP behind it – what could go wrong?

    Quite a lot actually. Before we get on to the device itself, when it was released as soon as I saw the price my heart sank.

    Approx. £399 for the 16Gb model and £479 for the 32Gb model.

    HP aren’t the only ones guilty of this. The manufacturers seem to think that because people are willing to pay a premium for the iPad they should price their devices to get near that price. image

    The thing is one of the reasons I wasn’t interested in an iPad was the price. As I write this you can pick up the wi-fi only, 16Gb iPad 2 from the Apple store for £399.

    If you’re looking for a tablet if you’re going to match the iPad for price surely you need something software/hardware wise that makes you stand out. The TouchPad and lots of other doesn’t specifically have anything that makes it standout from the iPad (an exception to this would be the Asus Transformer for example)

    One of my concerns is that while it’s certainly a clever piece of kit and runs tons of useful apps one thing that it isn’t is a computer. As a result if I got one would it fit in with my lifestyle (personally and professionally) or would I be throwing at least £400 on something I’d end up not using as I’d find myself reaching for my laptop or my netbook?

    I wouldn’t really know until I had one but I wasn’t willing to spend that sort of money to find out.

    I also didn’t really know exactly what I wanted one for. Yes, the touch screen is nice, as is the portability but I have a netbook that while it’s a little underpowered it does everything that I need to do when out and about.

    So back to the TouchPad.

    You’re probably aware HP decided they didn’t want to be in the tablet market any longer and to get rid of the existing stock they slashed the prices in big way. First in America, and finally over here. Take-up was massive and various retailers saw their online stores fall over as they struggled to cope with the demand which also left a lot of disappointed people who either couldn’t get onto the websites to actually place an order or battled through to place an order only to be told later the order couldn’t be fulfilled. I was one of the lucky few (with a massive thank you to @SpritesBites for helping me out).

    I’m still trying to decide whether this proves HP got the original pricing wrong for the Touchpad or will people buy anything when it’s so drastically reduced in price as it’s a bargain.

    Nearly a month on I’m not regretting the purchase and I can report I do use it everyday. I’m certainly glad I didn’t pay the original price for it though.

    At home it’s been really useful as an instant-on device for browsing, checking email, twitter, Facebook and playing music while doing bits and pieces around the house.

    At work it’s become my third screen. I push all my social media onto it which has actually helped increase my productivity as moving away from my keyboard and mouse is more of an explicit action than switching to another tab in the browser on my desktop. It’s also where I keep various to-do lists and notes which is helping me get a bit more organised.

    webOS is actually pretty neat. Treating applications like cards is an interesting abstraction and the upward swiping gesture to close a card is nice. The application notifications are certainly not intrusive and having the home button flicker when you receive a notification while the device is in standby is a very nice touch. The look and feel is on the whole pretty attractive and some applications such as Guardian Zeitgeist, Sky News, iGizmo and rad.io are a joy to use.

    The built-in applications are pretty decent. Contacts, calendar and email are simple enough to use and Exchange integration is obviously massively important.

    The app catalogue is nice to use as well. I really appreciate the fact it recognises when you have an app already installed and instead of a “download” option you get a “launch” option. Featured applications are displayed in a magazine style which is a joy to browse through when you have a spare five minutes.

    It’s not without it’s faults though.

    When I first started using it the whole experience was very sluggish. I’d certainly recommend reading this great piece by Gareth Halfacree which has various different tweaks that can help improve your experience. I’ve switched logging level to a minimum which has made a massive difference. (it appears to have broken Angry Birds though!) I haven’t quite been brave enough to install PreWare yet though but it’s something I’ll be doing soon.

    Flash in the browser is both a help and a hindrance. It’s been great that sites such as YouTube just work but there have been some sites which have been a pain. When browsing the BBC news site if a page has an embedded video I’ve had the page constantly refresh. I’ve actually switched to the mobile version of that site just to make it usable.

    When it’s the hardware is getting a little bit stressed you don’t always receive feedback. It’s very frustrating when you’re using an app and your on-screen touches suddenly stop doing anything. After jabbing the same spot two or three times it comes back to life and those extra screen presses are then processed causing mayhem in your current app.

    Finally you have to accept that going forward the future is uncertain for webOS. HP still haven’t fully indicated what their plans are and other than the homebrew community you can’t see many developers wanting to put together apps for the platform.

    In summary, I’m glad I was lucky enough to get one at the price I did. With more usage I can see it being a gateway to me being more open about spending a bit more next time around.

    So what exactly will next time be?

    At the moment it’ll probably be a straight fight between the iPad 3 and Windows 8.

    The rumoured Amazon device may have an impact but at the moment there is no concrete information to go on.

    I’m not entirely sure what to make of Windows 8 yet. Is it a desktop operating system or is a tablet operating system? The Metro interface does look very nice but how practical is it going to be on a traditional system (i.e with a keyboard and mouse).

    The move to an ARM version is on the face of it interesting but since it looks like existing  x86 applications will need to be re-written for the ARM version why are Microsoft bothering? We’ll effectively end up with two different operating systems and they’ll be confusion over which applications will run on which device. Wouldn’t the Windows Phone operating system have been a better fit?

    All just thoughts at the moment – Windows 8 has a long way to go until release and Apple are being their usual tight lipped selves on any plans they may have for the next iPad Smile

    You’re notice I’ve not said an awful lot about Android. I’ve not seen many devices that seem to for for me from a price/hardware spec perspective and the multitude of different operating system versions and whether the next one would be available for your chosen device was frustrating. It is something I’ll revisit though.

    As I suspected I’ve jumped around a bit here and this post is long enough so it’s a good place to stop.

    Just like every other area of IT everyone has their own reasons as to why their chosen bit of kit is better than the others so please leave a comment – I’d love to hear what you think!