Chromecast Could Be a Home Entertainment Game Changer

chromecastGoogle announced a nifty little device called Chromecast the other day and this tiny device that is no bigger than a USB flash drive could change our relationships with our computers, tablets, phones, and televisions forever. If this works as advertised, Chromecast will allow anyone, with any device that runs the Chrome browser, send audio and video to their televisions easily and seemlessly. That doesn’t sound like much but it is actually quite a lot as it should totally break down the barrier between devices and the TV.

Sure there are set-top boxes that currently do something like this. The Apple TV is a prime example. But, the Apple TV is walled off and only plays well within the Apple universe. I can’t take my Surface Pro running Windows 8 and send a movie to an Apple TV.  But there is even more to it than that. The Apple TV streams audio and video from the device to the Apple TV, which is connected to your TV’, whereas Chromecast does a hand-off of the audio and video.

From what I understand from watching the announcement, Chromecast has a subset version of the Chrome OS that runs Chromebooks (The laptop look-a-like with only a browser for its operating system). This allows Chromecast to stream audio and video from the web just like any other device with a web browser. When taking a video from your device (computer, tablet, or phone) and pushing it to Chromecast a “hand off” is performed. This means that your device will tell Chromecast where it can get the media you want it to play and then Chromecast will start playing it. Then there is some other secret sauce that will allow your device to communicate with Chromecast over your home WiFi network to control things like volume, pause, play, and other functions.

This to me is genius. There is no streaming between Chromecast and your device thereby having no effect on your device’s battery life. Not only that but because of this hand off of functions you can still do other things with your device while Chromecast is being controlled and it is playing your media.

I’m wondering if this will work with gaming too. If it does that could also have an effect on the new XBox, Playstation, and Wii. Chromecast could be used for 2 screen gaming in conjunction with a smartphone or tablet. Google showed some impressive games on the new Nexus 7 tablet and I could easily see how some of this could be pushed to Chromecast and a big screen. I don’t recall them making mention of anything with Chromecast and gaming but I thought it was an interesting idea.

The price, $35.00, and the convenience of device to TV media consumption should be a no-brainer IF it works as advertised. And if it does this should plunge a dagger into the heart of Roku, Apple TV, and any other set-top box. I should have mine in hand by the time this is posted. Maybe I’ll post a review after I’ve had time to play with it.

I hope it is what they say it is.

Please Stop With the Apple-Esque Promo Videos

Meet CanaryI’m so sick and tired of seeing these Apple-esque promotional videos. It’s time to move on to something else people!

Below is a video for an interesting product called Canary. It’s a nice enough looking device for home security. It will allow you to, using your smart phone, see live video from your home as well as view other data that is collected from the device’s sensors.

That’s about all the useful information I get from that video. The rest is marketing bullshit telling me how it’s the first this and the first that. It will make my life simpler and the product is so beautiful.

In the 2 minutes, which is an eternity on the web, they don’t tell me:

  1. If I can have multiple units in my home (they inform you that you can on the Indiegogo page)
  2. If f it records anything and if it does, what it records, how much, and where it stores the recordings
  3. If there will be some kind of monitoring fee (they inform you that there could be on the Indiegogo page)

Instead they tell me that it’s the “World’s first consumer security product”. Which is a huge fat lie. I had a Motorola home security system almost a decade ago, that was consumer oriented, hooked into my home network, recorded video, had motion sensors, and even sent me text messages when someone walked in the door. I’m sure what I had is not as easy to use and there were no smart phone apps to interface with the system either. So I’m sure theirs, when it comes to market, will be superior to what I had. But, then again, it’s almost 10 years later and all the supporting technology is better than it was before so it SHOULD be better.

They talk about, “what kind of experience can we create for people”. Which is all fine and good. A good UX , aka User Experience (I can go on and on about how I hate that acronym), or rather UI, aka User Interface (which is a much more accurate way to describe how a  human interacts with a machine), is important because if it’s not easy to use the product is worthless. But to speak about the user experience without showing much of that experience in your video is pointless and provides me with a terrible viewing experience.

Halfway through the video the CTO comes on and actually gives us some information! Wooo hooo! But it lasts all of :11 seconds or so. Then we’re greeted by one of the founders who is also the design director where he gives us some fluff about how it “empowers” us. I’m sick of that kind of language too. Empowers, amazing, beautiful, incredible, “it works”, and on and on with the platitudes.

I want to like this product. I’m interested in it and it’s technology. I might even want to buy it. But the “me too” video turns me off to it.

Can’t someone produce some informative promo videos that also look good? I’m sure there are some out there. But, as of late, all of them just look like re-hashes of Apple promo videos. What was Apple’s tag line before? Oh yeah, “Think different”. Why don’t people who copy Apple take that to heart?

Done With Tech Blogs

Just Say No to BlogsI’ve been a reader of technology news since the 1980s when I would regularly read PC Magazine. That was my first foray into technology news and I followed that up with subscriptions to PC World and a little later than that Computerworld. These magazines let me know everything that was happening in the world of computers and it was fascinating and enlightening.

With the rise of the Internet and the emergence of the technology blogs I was immediately enamored with them. Suddenly on a daily basis I could scan their headlines and find out what was happening. It was great for many years.

In the last year or two the over abundance of tech blogs has caused a shift into the tabloidization of all things tech. No longer are they concentrating on what’s important in technology but instead are concentrating on what will bring them the most links or click-throughs. Now, don’t get me wrong, I fully understand that tech blogs have been doing this for quite some time. But, what I’ve noticed, is that all the blogs that are doing this seemingly all the time. I can’t read wild speculation anymore about the latest phone, tablet, or (God forbid someone actually report on a full fledged computer) computer. I can’t read about leaks or blurry pictures of a rumored device. I just don’t care about rumor and gossip. I want to know what IS happening and where things are going.

I had a hourly habit of scanning RSS feeds of many tech blogs. More and more I found myself skipping over most of their salacious headlines. From time to time I would click on a review of a product or a story about what was learned at a conference or product announcement. But, mostly I was skipping what they were writing. So I came to an epiphany. Why bother scanning their headlines if I’m skipping most of what they’re reporting? That’s when I decided to just stop.

It started with a single week. I made a conscious effort to not look at my RSS feeds. At the end of the week I found that a burden was lifted. I was no longer a slave to the barrage of tech news. I tried a second week. And low and behold I found I didn’t miss it still. This has now stretched into a month and the urge to scan headlines is so totally out of my system that I went in to Feedly and deleted all the tech blog RSS feeds I was following. Click click and it’s done.

I still pay attention to tech news. But mostly through Leo LaPorte and his network. I can get everything I want to know from This Week in Tech, This Week in Google, Windows Weekly, Mac Break Weekly, Security Now, and All About Android. These podcasts keep me up to date in a non-intrusive manner. It’s like getting my bi-weekly copy of PC Magazine poured into my ears a little at a time over the course of a week.

I’ve jumped off the tech blog treadmill and I’m a happier man because of it. I did it cold turkey because that is the only way for me to get rid of a bad habit or addiction. Enough was enough.

Where’s the Outrage?!?

big-brother-1984What happened to us? When did we become such sheep? When did we become so blase to government over reach and intrusion into our private lives? I just don’t get it.

The giant scandals in the news of wiretapping and investigation of journalists for reporting the news, the IRS targeting certain groups for their political beliefs, and the FBI and NSA PRISM program that allows the government to collect ALL our communications from cell phone call information to e-mails and instant messages are being largely ignored and treated by the general public as if they don’t matter. What the fuck happened to us?

Here’s a great op-ed in the New York Times written by Jennifer Stisa Granick, the director of civil liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society and Christopher Jon Sprigman, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law. In their piece the specifially call out what is happening, specifically with regard to the PRISM program as being criminal.

We may never know all the details of the mass surveillance programs, but we know this: The administration has justified them through abuse of language, intentional evasion of statutory protections, secret, unreviewable investigative procedures and constitutional arguments that make a mockery of the government’s professed concern with protecting Americans’ privacy. It’s time to call the N.S.A.’s mass surveillance programs what they are: criminal.

The indoctrination has been all around us for a long time. From television shows that plant the idea in the viewer’s head that as long as the police or FBI are doing something to “protect” the lives of U.S. citizens it’s okay to news reports that marginalize and call out  people who shout out about constitutionally protected rights as being cooks and nuts. It seems that Americans are not all that special anymore. We’ve lost it and perhaps we deserve it.

We’ve elected these people who swear to protect and defend the very document that holds the laws that keep the government from attacking the people. We don’t hold them accountable when they violate that oath or those laws. We don’t vote them out of office. Instead we allow them to become entrenched and we believe the bullshit that comes out of their mouths.

I found it funny when the Associated Press was shocked that the Justice Department was spying on them. But I expected the media, the group that is supposed to uncover government abuse and let the people know, to wake up and really start hammering away at the federal government. It really hasn’t happened. They are laying down like beaten dogs. They never believed that a government run by a democrat administration would come after them for doing their jobs. But this administration has and the press is taking it lying down.

What about us? The government is now coming for us. They are collecting vast amounts of data on us. The NSA facility in Utah is said to hold 5 zettabytes of data. 5 freaking zettabytes. That is equivalent to 5 BILLION terabytes of data. As the price of digital storage goes down the government’s capacity to collect more about us will only increase. What will they do with this information? They won’t even look at it right now. But let’s say you are suspected of anything in the future. Well, the government now has the capacity to look back in time to see who you e-mailed, what you said in those e-mails, where you were, who you talked to, and even perhaps what you said in those conversations (they say they don’t record your calls but do you really believe them now?) at any point in time since they started collecting the data. You have no private life. It’s over.

If we are not secure in our persons or our papers then we are not secure. The government is not your friend. How much longer until our own government becomes our enemy? Why aren’t we outraged by this? What happened to us?

Disturbed by Government and the Public

I’m deeply disturbed by recent events regarding government’s attack on the Bill of Rights and the public’s blase attitude towards these attacks. Over the last couple of weeks we have learned that various arms of the U.S. government is collecting data of the private communications of the public, targeting political groups using the IRS to squelch opposition, and attacking freedom of the press by investigating journalists as if they are co-conspirators in the stories they are trying to uncover. Any single encroachment upon our liberties is bad but this seems like an all out assault and should be crushed immediately.

The President, members of Congress, the Supreme Court, and all federal employees all must take an oath of office. The President’s is:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Congress, the Supreme Court, and the rest of the federal employees take this oath:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.  So help me God.

The Supreme Court has one additional oath and that is:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as _________ under the Constitution and laws of the United States.  So help me God.

The common theme with these oaths of office is that each individual swears or affirms to “defend the Constitution of the United States.”  This isn’t happening.

Since September 11, 2001 and the rush to enact laws to defend the United States there has been a steady erosion of the protections, provided by the Bill of Rights, against an abusive government. The Patriot Act (A misnomer if ever there was one) gave the federal government unprecedented power to monitor, incarcerate, and even kill citizens of the United States. How is it possible for Congress to pass such laws and the President sign them when these laws go against their oaths of office?

Where is the defense of the First Amendment when the Department of Justice investigates journalists for digging up information to report to the public? Where is the defense of the First Amendment when the IRS restricts the ability of certain political groups from organizing? Where is the defense of the Fourth Amendment when the NSA can, without warrant, collect and analyze the communications of U.S. citizens? Any federal employee, member of Congress, Supreme Court justice, or President that believes these actions to be within their power, for what ever reason, should be impeached and/or fired and removed from office.

What’s more disturbing are the recent polls that news organizations have conducted that are showing a majority of Americans think these things are okay. They say the government should have the power to collect and analyze our private communications, without warrant, as long as it is for the purposes of “keeping us safe”.

Pew Research: Majority Views NSA Phone Tracking as Acceptable Anti-terror Tactic

The brainwashing of the public is now complete. Over the years, even before 9/11, the public has been inundated with the meme of “better safe than sorry”. But the push after 9/11 has been relentless. How many interviews have you seen that have shown average citizens saying things like, “It’s okay as long as their trying to keep us safe” or, “If you’re not doing anything wrong and you have nothing to hide then what’s the harm?” It disgusts me to hear people say things like this.

Back in the 1970’s school was still teaching that the phrase, “If you’re not doing anything wrong then you have nothing to hide”, or something like it, was the wrong way to look at government not needing a warrant to search you, your car, your home, or any other search. We were taught that governments that acted in this manner where oppressive and wrong. We were still worried about fascist governments as in Nazi Germany or Communist nations like the Soviet Union and Communist China. Those were the countries that routinely used the phrase, “If you’re not doing anything wrong then you have nothing to hide”, and they were oppressive.

If this attack on the Bill of Rights continues and we, the citizens of the United States, remain silent it won’t be long until 1984 becomes reality. If you haven’t read the book then read it. All my life people have said this could never happen here.

It’s happening.

Here are a few more links to peruse.

Tech News Sucks

Dull and Boring

Never did I believe I would tire of technology news. But, today it finally hit me. Tech news has become so boring that I can’t bear to continue reading it. Blog upon blog upon blog upon blog report the same crap over and over and over. Most only cover the sizzle of technology rather than the meat.

Today’s Facebook announcement is a prime example of the type of “technology” coverage out there. Facebook essentially announced something called a launcher for the Android mobile operating system. What’s a launcher? Well, it’s a skin or front end to the user interface. There are bunches of them out there for Android so users can customize their phones. Here’s my take on it. So what!?! Who cares?!?

Facebook had a full room of bloggers live blogging every word about a stupid launcher. There was even applause from “press” about different colors for some stupid HTC phone that will come with Facebook baked in. Applause? What the hell! These guys are supposed to be reporting what’s happening not be a fan of what’s happening. I’ve grown to expect this of the Apple press coverage but for Facebook and worse for a Facebook launcher?

There was a time when the tech press covered advances in technology. Faster processors, faster RAM chips, better storage technology, and genuinely novel and unique software. The coverage still exists but in order to find it you have to wade through the noise of the popular tech press.

I place the blame squarely on the popularization of the iPhone and the iPad. Granted these are great pieces of technology and changed the way we think of smart phones and tablet computers. The problem is that the change was not for the better. It turned the computer into an appliance and opened the floodgates for regular people to use them. This, in turn, made everyone feel as if they were “in to” technology when really they were just into the latest fad or fashion. They didn’t really care that the phone in their pocket was able to do more than a computer that was sitting on their desks several years ago. All they cared about was the stupid game they could play or the latest “social” app.

The blogs had to follow. They wanted this large mass of people to start reading them. And so they started reporting on every little tiny “innovation” or upgrade to a product or service. Every company was a technology company as long as it had something to do with a smartphone or tablet. I don’t want to sift through  the stories about Facebook Home. I don’t want to weed out the stories about some “viral” tweet. These are not technology stories but instead more like celebrity “tech” news. More like People Magazine than the old PC Magazine.

I don’t blame the users. I think it’s great that technology is more accessible to more people and that anyone can now use a computer. But hardware and software companies are now chasing that fat middle of the user base and it will only stifle technological advances in computers. Business needs to go where the money is and it’s obviously not in large numbers in the enthusiast crowd. I suppose it was inevitable. I’m just really sad that something I’ve loved since I was a teenager has become so boring.

I need to find some better blogs.

Surface Windows 8 Pro 128 GB: Update – One Month In

I’ve been using the Surface Pro for about a month now and had a chance to take a short trip with it as well. I can tell you that the more I’ve used it the more frustrated I become with Windows 8 as an OS and Surface Pro as a device. The hardware annoyances are nearly as bad as the ones on the software side. How far I’ve fallen from my preconceived notion post.

Here are some positives before I delve into my bitching and moaning. Boot time is fantastic. From power down to the Start screen is less than 10 seconds. Far far better than my Windows 7 machines that take maybe a couple of minutes. Hopefully this won’t change as the machine ages and I install and uninstall software (which is always the culprit to slowing down a Windows machine).

The hardware is solid. And not just in materials either. The processor and RAM are more than powerful enough to run all my Windows software and run them without a hitch. The screen is extremely responsive to touch with no lag that I can detect whatsoever. Surface Pro is a nice laptop replacement.

Now for the bitching and moaning.

The dual nature of Windows 8 is stupid and poorly executed. In my several part review I said that there is no need for the traditional desktop and I stand by that opinion. If the tile interface was just the new desktop the transition to Windows 8 would be much simpler. I think the solution would have been to build in certain functions from the traditional desktop into the tile interface. Things such as the taskbar and the capability to open multiple windows might be all that was needed to move people towards this new interface. Without these two things there is too much unnecessary swiping going on. I don’t want to keep moving from one part of Windows to the other constantly. Just open my applications on top of the tile interface and give me an easy way to switch between them using a taskbar and I’ll be peachy.

The tile interface has tons of empty space. there’s a good 1.5″ at the top and 1″ on the left and bottom that are primarily empty space. Why? And, for what reason is the word “Start” doing in the upper left hand corner? How about give me something I can use up there like a clock? I had to download a stupid clock app from the Windows App Store (if that’s what they’re calling it) and place it in the upper left hand corner of my tiles so I could have a clock to glance at for a quick update on the time. How stupid is that? It would be so nice and useful to see a taskbar at the bottom of my screen.

The tile or “Metro” version of IE sucks. It’s a mobile browser that’s been dumbed down and I would rather not use it. Windows 8 makes this difficult because when you make another browser like Chrome the default you can no longer pin shortcuts to the tile interface. It wouldn’t be so bad if this stupid dumbed down version of IE wasn’t so bad. There are no tabs. Instead if you swipe down from the top you’ll pull down a bar with thumbnails of any “tabs” you might have open or give you an option to open a tab. They’re not really tabs if there are no tabs. It’s more like having several iterations of IE open and you have to swipe and tap to go between each one instead of a simple tap on a tab. The address bar has been moved to the bottom and is only visible after you swipe up. You also have to tap on the address bar in order to bring up any favorites or recent web sites you’ve visited. Again, these are extra swipes and taps for nothing. There is more than enough space on the screen to have some tabs and shortcuts.

Using another browser with Windows 8 stinks too. It’s slightly better when using a mouse and keyboard. But using the Surface, as it was intended, as a touch-centric device the experience is horrible. As I said before, I’m a Chrome user and I have 9 to 10 tabs open at any one time and this is just not convenient on the Surface Pro. Chrome does not respond to touch very well on the desktop. At best it’s intermittent. You don’t know when you can tap on something and when you can’t. You can’t even scroll using the screen. You have to use the dinky track pad on the keyboard. Switching to Windows 8 mode in Chrome only helps a little. It opens up scrolling using the screen and you tap on links and such for the most part  (I say for the most part because it’s still inconsistent for me) but you lose using it on the desktop and you can’t use Google Talk. Google Talk in Gmail only works in desktop mode. Why?

The AC adapter continues to be frustrating. It never fits on the first try. I have to fiddle with it for several seconds before I position it just right so it clicks in. Far too much trouble just so you can plug in your device. The AC adapter cords are too short. I mentioned this before but it has become more of a problem because it limits where I can place the Surface on my desk. I shouldn’t need an extension cord for something like this. For travel, the AC adapter is not well suited. Two cords instead of one creates extra unnecessary bulk. The side that plugs into the Surface Pro comes with a built in rubber clip that is totally useless. Why didn’t it come with a velcro strip like most other laptop AC adapters?

I’ve soured on the Touchcover. It just doesn’t register some letters when typing unless you hit the key in a particular way. I thought I would have no problem because I tend to really type hard. So I thought a keyboard of that nature would be perfect for me but I was wrong. There is also a goofy bug where if I touch the Touchcover just right it triggers the mute button. Even though the mute button is located in the upper left hand corner of the keyboard and my hands are nowhere near it some how an odd swipe of the keyboard triggers the mute. There are no markings for the function keys (F1, F2, F3… and so on). The markings are there on the Typecover but why they were omitted from the Touchcover I’ll never understand. It’s not like they couldn’t have printed the characters on the keys.

I’ve soured on the concept of a keyboard cover in general. While the Typecover is easier and more convenient to use most of the time the Touchcover or the Typecover are just in the way. For the last week I’ve been experimenting with using the Surface Pro sans cover. This works out much better because I have no stupid keyboard cover to lay on my desk when I don’t need it. I use a nifty little program called Mouse Without Borders which was a side project by someone at Microsoft. This little program runs on both my desktop and my Surface Pro and it allows me to use one keyboard and mouse for both. No more extra keyboards sitting on my desk taking up space.

Here’s the bottom line with the Surface Pro and Windows 8. It sucks. The tile interface is useless to me because none of the things I use a tablet for (Google Apps) work. The things that do work, like Twitter, are dumbed down versions. I can do more in the browser. The apps I do use where a shortcut sits on the tile interface open to the desktop. The traditional Windows desktop works like an app made for the tile interface. You don’t really move between the desktop and the tile interface. Instead you open the desktop and have to close the desktop, just like a tile app, when not in use (I suppose you could leave it running).

I was sold on the idea of Surface Pro until I got it in my hands. The execution is so poor that I may grow to hate the device. This wasn’t a melding of the tablet and laptop. Somehow Microsoft managed to put two separate devices in one piece of hardware. This isn’t a vision for the future of computing but a bit of a nightmare where everything is made more difficult for no apparent reason.

Surface Windows 8 Pro 128 GB Review Part 4 – Wrap Up

Surface Box Surface Unboxed2 out of 3 ain’t bad. I said this in my initial post about the Surface, ” It has the power of a desktop machine, the portability of a laptop, and the convenience of a tablet.” Well Surface does not have the convenience of a tablet. It falls short in this area in a big way. Surface is simply too big.

I complained a lot about Windows 8 but my complaints are really about a new operating system. I like where Microsoft is going with this OS but I fear it may be too little too late. My initial thoughts about not wanting to use the tile interface was way off. If Microsoft can improve multi-window use straight from the Start screen then they can dispatch with the traditional Windows desktop. It’s simply not needed anymore. There is a lot of room for improvement with consistency in behavior between the tile interface and the desktop. Solving this alone would help but I still feel the desktop can go.

All gripes aside, I really do like this device and if it came out 2 years ago I would have said that this is the only portable computer I need. But in the last two years I pared down what I carry to only my cell phone (a Samsung GS3) and have freed my self from carrying around a computer. I did this because of the bulk. I don’t want to be carrying around a bag or a computer in a case where ever I go. Smartphones are at the point where they perform more than enough tasks for those 30 minutes to an hour when a person is going from one place to another. The only time I carry a traditional computer is when I travel and then I bring a laptop. Sadly the Surface will fill that role. I say sadly because I really was hoping to be able to use this device day in and day out as my primary machine. It’s just not there yet.

Here’s what I want, and it would need to come out this year in order for it to be relevant. I want a Microsoft Surface, even with all its flaws, in a 7″ or 8″ form factor (7″ is my preference if you’re listening Microsoft). This would be a computer I could see myself carrying around everyday. It would also need space, inside the device, to store the pen. It can look the same as the Surface Pro and use the same build materials but it really needs to be small. The laptop and the large form tablet are dead. That’s yesterday. Devices like the iPad Mini and the Nexus 7 are the now and the future.

Here’s my personal plea to Microsoft; Figure out a way to put real Windows in a 7″ form factor, make available a docking station for when a full monitor, keyboard, and mouse are needed, and make it happen before the end of the year. I may actually wait in line for something like that.

Surface Windows 8 Pro 128 GB Review Part 3 – Hardware

I had so many gripes about Windows 8 that I thought it would be prudent to keep my hardware and software thoughts separate. Here are my impressions on the hardware for Surface Pro. I can boil this down to two words. It’s nice. Every blog imaginable has written about the specs and the performance and by and large I can agree with the consensus that Surface is fast and can run all my Windows software with ease. But, this is expected anyway because this machine has laptop parts. If it didn’t perform as well as the latest generation laptops then that would be news.

Microsoft has done a fantastic job of squeezing laptop hardware into this package. But, my feelings on the hardware are much like my feelings about Windows 8 in that, to me, it feels a couple years behind. I say this even though there is no keyboard like the touch cover, the palm recognition while using the pen is excellent, Surface is relatively thin and light when comparing to a laptop (although NOT thinner and lighter than my Samsung Series 9 11.6″ laptop), the touch screen is extremely responsive, and the materials used are strong and sturdy.

My reasons for saying it feels a couple years behind is that I’ve been using a Nook Color (rooted with stock Android installed) since it was first released (2010), I replaced that with a Nook Tablet ( in 2011, also rooted with stock Android installed), and then last year I was using a Nexus 7. The tablet skin on an OS, as popularized by Apple, is old hat now and is what we expect when using something in a tablet form factor.  The Surface is simply too big and too heavy. The device is 12.5″ diagonally and roughly 10.75″ x 6.75″ and weighing in at a whopping 2.5 lbs. I don’t want to carry around something this big anymore.

I think personal computing devices have progressed enough where we should have full Windows compatible computers in a device as small as our phones and that can dock with a full keyboard, mouse, and monitor. Devices as small as an ultrabook are now too big.

I do have some real gripes on the hardware. The pen feels sooooo cheap. It feels like something picked up from the discount bin at the dollar store. I’ve heard nothing but raves about using the pen across all the blogs. But, I still don’t think the video is processing pen input fast enough. When using the pen for handwriting you can see that the ink is trailing the pen by a split second. It’s not much but for someone like me who writes fast in a herky jerky fashion it is not an optimal experience. I’m often starting on the next letter a split second before the last letter is drawn. My handwriting is bad enough and made worse by this lag.

Much has been said about how the pen attaches to the AC adapter port on the Surface. It’s pointless and not strong enough to hold the pen in place when slipping it into a case or bag. I’m repeating and agreeing with this. With Surface being such a tightly built machine I don’t think there is any practical way to carry the pen. It will most likely get left behind.

The AC adapter brick is too big and the cord is too short. The laptop I was using prior to the Surface was a Samsung Series 9 with an 11.6″ screen. The AC adapter is 2/3 to 1/2 the size of the Surface’s adapter and has a single cord where the Surface adapter requires one cord to plug into the outlet on one side of the brick and another cord that connects to the Surface on the other side of the brick. If this is to be a true portable device the AC adapter needs to be smaller. It will take up too much space inside my bag when travelling.

When using Surface as I do my laptop the fan runs constantly. It’s not loud but it’s not imperceptible either. The fan is running because Surface is noticeably warm to the touch. This is because I’m using it as I would my laptop. When I use my laptop with the AC plugged in I prefer to keep the display from turning off unless there is no activity for 30 minutes and the sleep function disabled. I don’t like the inconvenience of having to swipe to unlock or some other gesture in order to use the device. I can put up with that when it’s unplugged as I need to save the battery in order to get sufficient hours of use out of it but I don’t see the sense while it’s plugged in. Perhaps I will need to change the way I use these types of devices as keeping it running is not the inconvenience it use to be with other versions of Windows since waking up from sleep mode is nearly instantaneous.

I mentioned the touch cover earlier and I really like the touch cover over the type cover. Typing on it will take some getting used to but the touch cover makes Surface look more like a finished device. The type cover, however, creates a funky looking gap between keyboard and screen when closed. It doesn’t look nice in my opinion. Typing on the type cover is easier, at first, than typing on the touch cover. I’m getting better and better and typing on the touch cover the more I use it. I haven’t found any problems with it not being sensitive enough. What I don’t like about both the type and touch covers is the cheap felt-like fabric on the back. Why did Microsoft go with this type of material? It’s not protecting anything as it is not facing the screen and it looks plain-Jane (apologies to the non-plain-Janes of the world).

I don’t have as many complaints as I did with the software because in all honesty the Surface is indeed a well built machine.