I’m not terribly active on Mastodon, I plan to create more original content on Mastodon soon. Thank you!
The little Surface that could GO!
Well, I’m here to report on my Surface Go. The original, not the Surface Go 2. Why I acquired this specific device… the non-profit I work for supplies laptops running Windows 10. At home I use gSyncit from Fieldston Software to get my work calendar synced with my Outlook 365 calendar. The other service I was using was Groupy from Stardock.
Well the IT contractor started locking down software (in the name of security) to the degree the apps installed would not update without the “Admin” login. But I should have guessed it would go this way since that IT service provider also installed McAfee antivirus on machines that already have the very capable Windows 10 “Security” preinstalled. And guess what, locking everything with “Admin” privileges also keeps McAfee from updating. Yeah, security.
So I bought myself the Surface Go so I didn’t have to deal with any of that, and also maintain a more “highly” secured device. I got the 128gb/8gb version with the Burgundy Keyboard and Surface Pen. The main reason I got this Go is for its mobility, it is so compact and easy to carry! Especially in meetings, back when we had “physical meetings”!
I did figure in the “battery life-cycle” (overall battery life during ownership), knowing that these devices are not repairable or are the components replaceable. The fact that they are disposable kind of irks me. So I figured the daily cost of this device over three years and came to a decision it was worth it for my purposes.
The first thing I did was take it out of “S” mode. S-mode provides more security when this device is used in school settings. All it does is prohibits a user from obtaining applications from other sources than the Microsoft Store.
It works better than all of the stories/articles I had read about it and its lesser-powered sibling. I use it for emailing, calendaring, internet, Word, Excel, and my fave… PowerPoint decks! You can use the pen’s “eraser” button to advance and backup slides.
All-in-all, I think it is a perfect device for my needs. Would I buy another, hell yes!
BTW, my favorite apps on this device?
- Scrble Ink (by Claudia Wey)
- Index Cards (by Sundaram Applied Technologies)
- Stardock TouchTasks
- Coloring+ (coloring book = relaxing!)
- Pure Battery Analytics (by MedahChaitanya)
Comcast/Xfinity couldn’t care less…
So in an effort to start saving money across the board, I’ve started cutting back on services. In fact this WordPress site is another cost saving move, I hosted my original website with GoDaddy ($100 a year savings).
One way to do this if you’re using a service like Comcast/Xfinity is to ditch the rental fee for your WiFi router/modem. Over the course of a year, you could be looking at a savings of $150 or more.
So if you do your shopping right, you can buy your own modem and it pays for itself in the first year alone. Along with owning your own WiFi router/modem, you also have the ability of making sure the “firmware” is always up-to-date, something a rented device won’t be able to do. So that alone brings added security.
So why the drama about Comcast doesn’t care? Well I bought a new device and took the old one into Comcast. Explained I bought my own and won’t be needing the rental. The clerk asks… “does the new device you bought have a phone jack?” I responded “no.” Clerk does some calculations and comes back stating that my new monthly bill would be $221. OK, so I stop rental of a device and because the new device doesn’t have a “phone jack” you’re going to charge me considerably more? “Yes, the plan you had (some triple type plan with phone service I never used), included phone service.” OK I said, so how much just for internet at my current speed?
Clerk states it would be about $96 a month. I said… I’ll be back within the hour. Went home, collected the DVR box, remote, power cables, and headed back to the store.
So I didn’t go there with the intention of getting rid of my television/cable service. But because of the plans, they lost out on $75 or more of revenue from me. The clerk could have easily said… “You know what, I’m gonna’ forget you said your new device doesn’t have a phone jack,” basically they would just be losing the WiFi router/modem rental fee. I would have stayed with my internet and cable TV plan none the worse for me or Comcast.
So, I kept the internet and subscribed to YouTube TV (had an Amazon Firestick already), I get all of my live local channels and more and I’m still saving over Comcast/Xfinity.
Bottom line, Comcast/Xfinity knows for a fact their losing television customers. So they’ve stop fighting, they stopped trying to up-sell, they stopped trying to keep customers happy. This is another reason why a lack of competition is never a good thing. In my area I can’t get more than seven OTA (over the air) channels with one of the indoor style antennas, of which none of them are worth anything, unless you only watch HSN and Ion. So the only other choice would have been Century Link (sub par speeds) and/or some type of satellite dish, which seem to be going out of business as well e.g., AT&T Dish etc.
Just do a little research on “cutting cords” and prepare yourself so when your provider doesn’t want to play ball with you, you can take your own ball home and play a different game!
Nokia 7.1, yes another Nokia for me…
So as you folks have read, The Nokia 6.1 was my first foray into the Android OS. Well again with the demise of Windows Phone, I decided to dip my toes in the water some time ago. I’m glad I did as the true demise for WP is a scant few months away.
I have zero regrets leaving the OS as Bill Gates and Satya Nadella pretty much told me… “Get on with life and move to Android or iPhone!” Satya prefers iPhone and Bill of course rocks an Android.
So I enjoyed the Nokia 6.1 greatly and since the wife was on WP as well, quite a few months ago I got the Nokia 7.1 and bequeathed her my 6.1. It was a frustrating move for her, and frustrating for me as well in the sense that I had to navigate her through this new world.
Mind you, it was only frustrating for me in the regard that I’m a naturally inquisitive person who loves tech. I only have to remind myself that the majority of people use smartphones as tools and have ZERO interest in “How things work and why!” Once I got that in my thought pattern, I was able to just dial it down and give only the information that was “sought.”
So in the long-run, I really like the shape and size of the Nokia 7.1 over the 6.1. It’s much taller and narrower making one-handed use a lot easier. And to me the overall shape and size makes it looks more elegant.
I got the “Blue” version which has the glass back and under that glass is a very “Navy” blue color. It’s so dark it does look black at a glance and you only see the blue when it’s in a great light source. The sides are a beautiful anodized blue with silver edges that’s quite nice.
So I was rocking this for a while, (it came with Android 8 (Oreo) and eventually received the Android 9.0 (Pie) OS.
I had a few monthly Security Updates that went well. But one update ended up “bricking” my 7.1. Bricked it to the degree that I could not rescue it what-so-ever as I tried every Voo-Doo approach I could to no avail.
I had to send it in to Nokia Service Center for them to bring it back to life. Thankfully I had my old HP Elite X3 to fall back on for phone calls and texting. Took about a full business week to turn it around, but my main gripe is this should not happen with a security update! And I’m not the only one, I’ve seen quite a few threads on Reddit showing the same scenario.
But, I am a fan of Nokia and most certainly of AndroidOne. So if and when this needs to be replaced, I’ll examine other Nokia options and now that Pixels have introduced more affordable option e.g., Pixel 3a or Pixel 3a XL… I’ll keep an open mind toward those as well.
Two weeks into Android…
So it’s been two weeks since dipping my toe into Android and the Nokia 6.1, so I’ll share my journey thus far.
I am very much impressed with the physical build quality of the Nokia 6.1, the solid aluminum unibody construction gives this phone a serious flagship feel. The fit & finish of the phone is incredible along with the anodized accents on the edges.
Haven’t run into any issues with the telephone making or receiving calls, the volume and clarity is fine. The only issue I did have was getting it to communicate with my ’17 MINI F55 to “read” incoming “texts.” But I finally did get that figured out with a few setting changes and an app. Setting change was to set the Bluetooth to “AAC,” that along with using Pulse for messaging and ReadItToMe for “text-to-voice” and things are operating OK. Still not as flawlessly with my old HP X3 Elite (Windows Phone 10), but it’ll do.
One huge gain is using my Vector Smartwatch with the Android app. It works much better that the Windows Phone version ever did, and provides better connectivity and features. So that’s a huge plus for me.
“The App Gap” I was in denial when major companies starting pulling out from WP and because of my devotion, felt I wasn’t missing out on anything. The apps that we never had or taken away from us on the Windows Phone platform are really nice to have on the Android, like “Tap-to-Pay (using any dang card you want),” “Bank of America,” “Amazon Alexa, Amazon Prime Music!”
Android just delivered a new app named “Files Go,” and this is a cleaning app for duplicate files, photos, and does a good job cleaning temporary files and cleaning up memory. Even though I have an SD card, this helps keeping the phones built in storage space trim.
While I’m mostly using Microsoft apps e.g., Microsoft Launcher and all the other apps I haven’t delved into using “Assistants” full blast yet. Just fooling around so far, Google Assist looks promising versus Cortana. But I’ll have to put both through the paces.
Love Edge and Bing on this phone. Waze on the WP was crap; Waze on Android is sprite and has more features.
The only thing I’ve yet to try out extensively is the camera, just played around but haven’t performed any real “photography” tasks to date. I’ll report back when I do.
Reluctance, Revelations, Realizations, & Epiphanies (parting from Windows Phone…)
OK, so I’ve been using Windows Phones since their conception, I shit thee not! Since back in Win Mobile days.
Windows Phones as we know them today are going away with EoL (end of life) very near. So a decision had to be made in regard to which of the two remaining phone OS’s would be my choice. OK, I lie… for me and all of my geekiness there only ever has been one choice, Android. I’ll get to why in a bit.
So I had to ask myself “Why was I so damn entrenched and reluctant to let go of Windows Phone?” I finally remembered what lured me to WP (Windows Phone) and why I was enamored with the OS. It was because of my love and need for Microsoft Office apps! Plain and simple, if you wanted to use any of these apps on a smartphone back then, you HAD to have a WP. No other OS had them.
So this wasn’t a dislike or hatred toward Android or iOS, just a love for Windows Phone.
I also loved the ability back in the day when you could root and replace ROM and tweak the living daylights out of a WP, it was fun, geeky, and frankly quite exciting. It brought out the “child scientist” in me. Hell, I even left Big Red (Verizon) for AT&T because Verizon wasn’t supporting WP anymore.
I loved the excitement of being a “Windows Insider” and getting new features in every build ahead of time, before it reached the masses. I also loved the security patch updates that were so frequent, giving me a sense of security.
So Android phones. Coming from a platform that literally only had a few phones to an OS that has a plethora of choices was crippling. Just too many damn choices!
So looking at all of the flagships, premium brand names (because I was coming in from recently owning a Lumia 950XL and an HP X3 Elite) I was still perplexed at the lack of updates from the likes of Samsung, LG, and the rest. Also spending so much money on a phone with a new OS that I’ve never used before… was daunting.
Being a WP geek, what did I need? An Android One (Pure) experience! Google’s phone OS that is (for a lack of a better term) controlled by Google, meaning you get important security updates on Google’s schedule and not the phone manufacturers or the carriers.
So once I determined that, the choice of phones became smaller. But still the MONEY! Damn those Google Pixels are not cheap.
Enter Nokia 6.1 (unlocked) AT&T from Amazon. Having been a WP user for many, many years… I was quite familiar with the Nokia brand (which later turned into the Lumia brand). So let’s talk stats;
- Android Oreo
- Android One (Pure)
- Machined aluminum unibody
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 630
- 3GB of RAM and 32GB storage
- 5.5″ 1080p full HD display
- 16mp rear camera with Zeiss optics, 8mp wide-angle front camera
- Dual-Sight mode, Simultaneous front and rear camera capture with one touch live streaming
As you can see, certainly no “Flagship,” but respectable specs for a phone costing $269.
This phone is impressive considering the LOW price compared to other phones. Build quality is off the hook with the unibody aluminum structure, features, Android One Pure… wow I’m impressed!
Not only do I have every single Microsoft app on this little beast, but apps that left the WP platform years ago and apps that have a ton more features than they ever had on WP. The Microsoft Launcher is heaven. In fact Microsoft Apps have more features and work better in Android than they ever did on WP.
Also let’s not let the fact go unnoticed that the damn phone and Android OS integrates with my Windows 10 desktop better than my WP did!
I’m 100% blown away with the Android OS and this specific phone. My reluctance and asinine hesitation was unfounded. And I think I have learned a lesson in the idea you DO NOT NEED a “Flagship” device at $1,000+
NOTE: Now if I could only get this thing to read via “text-to-speech” my SMS messages while connected to BT in my car… it’d be UNSTOPPABLE!
NOTE: (Update 7/8/18) So I finally figured out the “Text” messaging (Text-to-Voice) portion for my ’17 MINI F55. A combination of using an app named “ReadItToMe” by Rob J and tweaking a Bluetooth setting on the phone to have it use “AAC.” Now I have my messages read to me aloud and am able to reply via voice as well. Happy camper here!
Fear NOT! Windows 10 Clean Install not scary at all…
So my Dell XPS PC was pretty state-of-the-art back in the day. It came with Windows Vista installed, so we’re going back what 10 + years? I’ve update Windows on this through Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, and 10. All of those were updates “on top” of pre-existing ones. Considering the barrage of crap thrown at this machine, I’ve held it together quite well.
Going from builds 1709 to 1803 (yes I live on the bleeding edge of technology as a Windows Insider) caused a bit of a few “niggly” issues. Unfortunately for me, these things start to bug the bejesus out of me long term. I knew I should perform a “Clean Install,” but really dreaded the process.
So I finally bit the bullet. I was going to go the route of buying a suitable thumb drive, using media creation tool, creating an ISO file, hop on one foot, pray to the old DOS G*ds… then I decided to go the easy way. I had attended a Microsoft Alumni event at Microsoft Campus last Friday and dropped by the Company Store. I bought the Windows 10 package which comes on a very small USB drive, the equivalent of making your own but easier and less of a pain for me.
I can’t tell you how much of a glorious experience this was, really I shit thee not! Made sure my BIOS was able to read USB first before defaulting to the hard drive, put the device in the PC and I was on my way, no turning back now. It hand held me through the entire process first asking which partitions I wanted to delete (I boldly selected and deleted ALL of them, I’m such a rebel). And we went from there.
Took 20-minutes for the “clean install” (the speed of my old hard drive is what slowed this down, newer HDs or even SSDs would go faster I’m sure), An additional 23-minutes for necessary updates. And folks that was it! What took the longest amount of time was turning on Windows Insider and going from 1709 to 1803 (April Update) which took 60-minutes. So 1-hour and 43-minutes later I had a spanking NEW PC.
By-the-way… Cortana’s help during the install was something I hadn’t experienced before… she was very helpful and made the process even cooler.
I was so dang impressed, I grab another computer in the house for another surgery… a gifted Lenovo 110S laptop. It came with Windows 8.x and I had updated it to Win 10. That didn’t go so well on a laptop with VERY limited RAM and practically no hard drive space. The update really crippled the machine, just not enough room on the HD to get things done properly. So I went at it with the Windows 10 flash drive, low and behold the Lenovo was resurrected! The machine is quite sprite now, using Wi-Fi with Office 365 apps via the Cloud, this machine (which would have been a doorstop) ROCKS now!
The Install and especially the Clean Install process is something that Microsoft got VERY RIGHT! This was a great experience and I’m sorry I hadn’t done it sooner, but trepidation for clean installs where you’re formatting HDs is real folks.
NOTE: 10 Days Later!
So shortly after doing a clean install on my 10+yr. old Dell XPS… I decided to take the plunge and upgrade to an SSD drive.
Amazon had a good price in some WD SSD drives and I bit the bullet. Nothing like being on the “bleeding edge of technology” eh?
So WD (Western Digital) also provides access to one of their software apps named Acronis. This app allows you to “clone” your hard drive, the entire hard drive with your OS and everything else.
Pretty much plug and play. I plugged it into the tower and rebooted. I started the cloning process and a few hours later (due to the slow HDD) the process finished and shut the PC down for me. Unplugged the original C: drive (so the new cloned drive which when finished was D: drive… takes the place of the original C: drive).
Damn, so FAST! The boot time is incredible; the apps opening are fast, switching user accounts, everything is FAST! After it was determined everything was hunky-dory, I plugged the old drive back in, rebooted and changed appropriate settings in the BIOS so the starting sequence was correct.
Glad I made the update, breathed life into an old work horse.
My “Alexa” Time Machine…
Well, let me start by saying my wonderful Son gifted me a Bose Soundlink Revolve for my birthday. A wonderful Bluetooth cylinder type speaker that pumps out GREAT sounds with volume, bass, and tones that rival any standard music system.
So we have phones that can play our selections (that I’ve burned from CDs or bought as Digital) but then I realized that I have Amazon Prime which comes with its version of free music (to a degree) that I had only been able to listen to via my desktop PC (we use Windows Phone 10, no app…)
So I bought an Amazon Echo Dot at a great price. Now I can listen to Amazon Prime Music through my Bose Soundlink Revolve! I was so impressed with the Dot I bought my Son one.
Time Machine? Yes, Time Machine… because I can remember a band, singer, tune from my childhood or my youth and it plays it for me. Bringing back floods of memories… “Alexa, play Boz Scaggs,” “Play Seals & Croft,” Play Taco,” “Play Pablo Cruise…” “Weather Report is interesting because you have to say, Play music from the BAND Weather Report… 😀 other wise you just get a real weather report!
Just takes me back, there are a few that you can only get via Amazon Prime Music “Unlimited” (e.g., Three Dog Night, and some others) which for a Dot owner is only an additional $3.99 a month. I may pop for that.
But my memory is jogged by:
- Average White Band
- Michael Franks
- Kenny Rankin
- Al Jarreau
- The Manhattan Transfer
- Spyro Gyra
- Grover Washington Jr.
- Dave Grusin
- The Crusaders
- Chuck Mangione
- Chick Corea (my youthful dream was to create an album cover for him when I was deep into calligraphy)
- Herbie Mann
- Herbie Hancock (his music was my wake up call in college every morning…)
- Gato Barbieri
- Stanley Turrentine
- Stanley Jordan
- Weather Report with Jaco Pastorius!!!
But all-in-all, it makes listening to music very EASY and makes your memory work to remember your past, I love it! Thank you, Alexander, thank you, Alexa!
Nerd Nirvana… Mailbird maze solved!
So… quite a few weeks ago I had made a comment on Windows Central asking about a software app for Windows 10. My request was to find out if anyone knew of an app that could act as a dashboard for the few collective apps I wanted to view all at once. So picture this… I wanted my various mailboxes (Outlook 2016), Todoist, Skype (SMS messaging), and maybe Word to all come up in the same window, or at the very least the same time with “one” launch.
There was only one suggestion for an app called “Rocket Dock,” but that didn’t quite solve my dilemma after having looked at it. Then I remembered from the “olden days,” using “Batch Files,” a small script you can write that will perform a group of actions with one click. I delved into that for a while realizing this wasn’t the answer in today’s world either. Could have worked if I stayed with it, just too damn archaic.
Well, I’ve found the closest damn thing to perfect I can. I was on one of my favorite websites “TheAwesomer.com” and saw an ad for the app “Mailbird” I checked it out because the discount was quite deep for a “Lifetime Pro” account. So I played with it quite a bit before deciding a day later it would be worth it.
So what does this ONE application Mailbird do for me? It displays all of what I need in one window!
- eMail – multiple accounts – in my case five
- A “Unified” account to see all
- All and any of my existing folders for email organization are all there as well
- Contacts imported from any of those mail accounts
- Google Calendar (GC)– (NO Office 365 Outlook integration)
- WhatsApp – (NO Skype integration)
- And a LOT, lot more!
Now, in order to get this application to near perfection, it took a lot of trial and tribulation on my part. Mostly because I don’t do much of anything in Google at all. I have Gmail and Google Voice, but never really used any of the other functions of Google e.g., Calendar, Tasks, etc. So there’s a bit of tweaking to get things where they need to be. Spent a good part of the whole day blowing crap up to turn around to later fix or make right. But that’s ONLY because I’m a bit anal.
So to bring everything into this one portal I employed a few tools;
- IFTTT – (If This Than That) to have certain Todoist tasks populate Google Calendar (remember I don’t use GC)
- gSyncit – So that events created in my Outlook Calendar (OC) can synch 2-ways with Google Calendar – meaning the IFTTT Todoist applets can populate GC with my todo’s and those get picked up into my OC
Now the only thing is, this is on my desktop at home, so no mobile app version of Mailbird and of course no installing this great tool at work. But all-in-all… that’s O.K. because the home office is where the bulk of my work is done anyway. Took a bit of work, but overall I’m quite happy with this setup as it brings just about everything I wanted together under one roof… er… window!
Wunderlist | project Cheshire | Todoist | 2Day & More!
Let’s start with Outlook Tasks… because this is where it all started for me.
I love Microsoft Outlook (OL) each and every iteration. I love the “Tasks” that I was able to generate within Outlook and a very long, long time ago… Windows Mobile version of Outlook stopped supporting OL Tasks. What? you heard me right, Microsoft stopped supporting (cross platform) the best feature (in my opinion) in OL.
So since that time I have always been looking for the “Silver Bullet” that would put my task woes away for good.
I’ve tried OL “Add-Ins,” “OneNote “Add-Ins,” you name it… I’ve tried it. I tried standalone apps as well, Wunderlist seemed OK, but had issues on the different platforms that just never made the grade for me. At one time you couldn’t even “delete” a task from the Windows Phone client, I kid you not! So I’m not terribly surprised that Microsoft eventually gave up on the standalone product Wunderlist and has moved to turn Project Cheshire into what they call today, Todo.
So “very long story short,” I ended up trying and loving the 2Day app from Vercors Studio (Twitter – @2dayteam). The great app was written by one guy “Jeremy Alles” (Twitter – @jalpf) in his spare time which might become even sparser due to the fact Jeremy is a NEW Dad! Congrats my Friend! You can sync with the 2Day Cloud, Office 365, Outlook.com, Exchange, or ToodleDo. This is really a very beautiful app in regard to GUI and the developer has gone above and beyond with added features, bug fixes, and updates. You really can’t get much better than this app.
Unfortunately, there is just one thing that still made me long for a better solution, and that is the ability to get to my tasks/todos via the internet. 2Day doesn’t have this YET, but trust me it will be coming and when it does, I hope I’m the first “paid subscriber.”
So for the past two months, I have delved into Todoist. Tried it, then became a Premium subscriber. This app is very solid, yet visually I miss my 2Day. Todoist has everything I need so far… (with the exception of start and end dates e.g., like a project timeline that 2Day does have). I see a lot of Todoist users have been requesting the “start date/timeline” feature, so I have to think it’s in the pipeline for future builds.
I can synch the To-do’s with my Exchange calendar via “Internet” calendar and “overlay” that in my Outlook 2016 app so everything is on hand (that sync is one-way though, “currently”). Does a great job with notifications to my phone as reminders as well. I have it on my 950XL, Desktop, and is available on the internet. There are a plethora of templates you can create and also download from other Todist’s authors.
All of your projects, labels, and filters are there as well. I have three important filters which work well for me @Morning, @Afternoon, and @Evening. So I can pin those filters to my start screen on the phone or desktop to see what I’ve designated as to-dos for my three portions of a day. Kinda’ cool!
The “Karma” rating system is kind of cool in that you set you goals e.g., how many tasks per day, per week to accomplish and you get points when completed. The other nice feature (because of the Karma rating) is the ability to turn off Karma when you’re on vacation so the missed to do’s don’t count.
Of course, this tool is available via Win10 devices, Android, and iOS devices as well. The app is growing on me and I’ve only scratched the surface. BTW… I use Pocket (Poki on my WP10) and I can share an article I find to Pocket with the label #MustRead and it populates my Todoist in the category I’ve set up, nice way to remind me to go back and read an important article.
So yeah, I haven’t found my “Silver Bullet” yet, for me that would be 2Day getting “internet access” along with a Premium subscription for that service or Todoist getting start dates.
Todoist: https://todoist.com $29.00 a year for Premium features
2Day: https://www.2day-app.com – This remains a GREAT app, just tons of features!
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