What Am I Using?

Since it’s been a long time since I’ve posted on here, I figured I’d make a brief post on what I’m using these days and how why I’m using those versus some alternative. I think the last time I tried to start this up, I was still using a Surface Pro 3 and a Lumia phone… I think it was probably the 930 or 830 at that point, so let’s dive in…

First up, I’m still using the original generation Surface Book. The spec I’ve got is the i7 CPU w/ 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD, and the Nvidia graphics base. I haven’t upgraded beyond that, because well… I haven’t really needed to upgrade, and I’ve had a lot of other expenses over the past couple years that have taken priority on my budget. This system still suits the bulk of my needs– web surfing, document editing, multimedia streaming, some VM testing in HyperV, meetings with Zoom (side note: GREAT service!)– but I admit that I’m itching to pull the trigger on something new in the near future, not because the specs don’t meet the needs, but more because I want a different form factor and the Surface Book is actually overkill for my needs now. More on that later in the post…

In the last post, I mentioned switching to Android back in October. In October 2015, I was so gung-ho on Windows 10 Mobile and UWP (Universal) apps, that I went to New York City to Microsoft’s launch event for the Surface Book and Lumia 950 lineup. I was instantly sold on the 950XL, and I was convinced that Microsoft had finally decided to commit to Windows on phones and universal apps and that Continuum would be the future of mobility. I was wrong. They retrenched into mobile isolation, and UWP hasn’t exactly set the world on fire. Even so, I spent about 18 months with the Lumia 950XL, and I quite enjoyed it at the time. I finally switched to the HP Elite x3, not because I was looking to “upgrade” but my 950XL battery needed replaced, the Microsoft Store didn’t have a replacement, and so they offered me a fully refund on my 950XL and Complete Care which paid for the Elite x3 move. The Elite x3, btw, is an EXCELLENT Windows 10 Mobile device, and I even really liked the laptop dock accessory for Continuum. With the right apps, it could have been the perfect mobile experience. Alas, it was not to be… I kept the phone just 7 months (from February 2017 to October 2017) when Microsoft killed off the Groove Music service. This had been my music solution since it was originally known as Zune Music back in 2009 timeframe, and I loved it! To say goodbye after two years of watching W10M dwindle was painful and downright infuriating, so I finally made the decision to look at my options. I had previously bought a Nexus 5X for testing purposes, and since it was made by LG, I decided to give LG a look again since I despise Samsung Galaxy phones. I picked up an unlocked LG G6 for $350, and I immediately enjoyed it, and so in October with the bad news of Groove leaving a sour taste towards Microsoft in my mouth, I pulled the trigger and picked up the LG V30 for myself and moved my wife to the G6. We’re both EXTREMELY happy with the decision. In fact, I was never a big app junky before, but I do find myself enjoying a lot more apps on Android and realizing that I now spend about 85-90% of my personal computing time on the phone now. The cameras are fantastic, the performance is snappy, and the battery life incredible!

And so that brings me back to the computer point of a new computer. As I look at my taskbar on the Surface, I realize that not a single one of the apps pinned or installed is a “Windows exclusive” anymore. Every single one, save for PowerShell and HyperV, are available on Android and are often BETTER on those platforms now (side note: you might remember my series of posts talking about how that wasn’t previously true, but my how times change!). Certainly Skype is superior, Outlook is still mostly better on Windows although Android version is improving, and OneNote is the epitome of universal app building perfection (like seriously, that team should be the ones calling the shots for ALL app teams in Microsoft). Hulu and Sling and WWE Network are all better on Android, and I also have Stargate Command on Android that I don’t have on Windows. And so, as of last fall Google introduced the ability to run Android apps natively on Chrome OS which has me now considering for the first time– a Chromebook! I’m specifically looking at the Samsung Chromebook Pro with m3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. Thanks to OneDrive and Office 365 and Android apps, that configuration is more that sufficient for my needs. I actually played with one at Best Buy a couple weekends ago, and it was buttery smooth even on the m3 processor, which genuinely surprised me! So that’s definitely a purchase in my future, and my Surface Book will be shifted into work-exclusive tasks… a condition that Microsoft seems to be perfectly “OK” with in 2018. Sadly, however, that means I’ll use it MAYBE 2-5 hours/week, if that.

In other areas of tech, I still have my Xbox One… well, I’ve upgraded to the One S in my bedroom and the One X in my living room, and I enjoy them both very much. The media apps are excellent, and the games I play– while fewer and fewer due to time– are excellent. At the same time, however, my shifting views of Microsoft and other parties have me looking around and admiring the Nintendo Switch and the Sony Playstation 4 Pro for a variety of games I can’t otherwise get access to on Xbox… games like Final Fantasy Dissidia and Secret of Mana Remake and Super Mario Odyssey have me really thinking it’s time to move on from the Microsoft stranglehold on my gaming too. Most likely the PS4 will come first– as any platform that has Square-Enix’s undying devotion will ultimately have my strongest devotion… especially with Final Fantasy 7 Remake coming in the future. Nintendo’s console is interesting though, so I might pick one up this year just to enjoy some simpler games like Mario and Zelda.

I also finally started taking a look at more home automation stuff. I switched from the absolutely AWFUL Insteon stuff (which I’d gotten for free), because there was such crappy support from them on any of it. While I wanted to say it was a lack of Windows support– no, it was terrible across the board– even the Android app was just pathetic! I moved to Vera, because I wanted something established and widely compatible with standards-based devices like Z-Wave, and something that I could later integrate with some AI kits like Google Home, Amazon Alexa, or Microsoft Cortana. Well, like many things Microsoft tries to do, Cortana has started to fall behind, so rather than get invested there heavily and be disappointed AGAIN, I’m preemptively going to the front-runner– Amazon Alexa. I’m looking to pickup a few Echo Dots soon just to start simple with basic thermostat and lighting manipulation.

So that’s pretty much it– oh, well, I’ve also got two Samsung 4K LED TVs (living room and bedroom)– a Surface Book that I’m planning to replace with a Samsung Chromebook Pro, a move from an HP Elite x3 to an LG V30, and two Xbox Ones, and plans to pickup a PS4 Pro, Switch, and a few Echo Dots. My needs and my tech, much like the times, are a-changing!

Comments Off on What Am I Using?  

Back in Action…

Hello, and long time no write…

Yeah, it’s been far too long since I’ve posted here, and I hope to fix that. We’ll see how much I’m able to keep to this.

A lot has changed in the past 3 years… Windows 10 has launched and expanded to over 600M active users or devices or both, depending what metric Microsoft feels like advertising today, and while that sounds amazing, it falls short of the 1 billion they set out to achieve. Most of that is because they killed off their Mobile ambitions before they even really got started. They launched the Lumia 950 in October 2015 with an incomplete version of Windows 10 Mobile, and the OS went broad release in February 2016 only to be largely cut to “maintenance mode” by the time 2017 rolled around, and by October 2017, they officially said they were pulling out of it. Groove Music service was also ended, and the state of third party app development has essentially stalled to barely a major app or two per big release. Windows 10 on PCs is still a big deal, in the enterprise, but Chromebooks are becoming more viable as they have begun to allow Android apps to run on them. Apple is trying to push iPads over Macs, which I still find laughable, because it’s not really working, and the iPhone is still the biggest sales device they have. And even though I would have said to be a huge fanboy of Microsoft until late 2017, lately I’m considering dumping Microsoft entirely in my personal life. I finally moved on to Android in October. I’m mulling around in my head whether to switch from my trusty Surface Book to a Google Pixel Book or Samsung Chromebook Pro.

So, going forward, expect that anything I write about is going to be about my real world usage… no matter what platform or devices that may include. Oh, and I hope to have some more technical posts detailing different things I work on at work in what I’d consider a more realistic IT operation than what big west coast tech companies are pushing us to be.

With that said… I welcome myself back to blogging, and I thank you for coming along for the ride!

Comments Off on Back in Action…  

Online Privacy Concerns

A lot has been posted lately about Windows 10 and Privacy. I could spend an hour just linking to articles whining about it. I’m not going to, because not a single fucking one of them deserves the ad revenue generated from the privacy-violating tracking cookies they collect and the ad impressions made. Fuck those bastards.
Instead I’m just going put it simply– frankly, I don’t care what any of these companies do with my data as long as they aren’t spamming my email, because that actually requires effort to clean out on my part.
You see, the way I see it, I chose to give up my privacy the moment I opted in to getting on the Internet, and that was roughly 21 years ago when I signed up as one of the first 1000 subscribers to AOL. I’ve signed up accounts for sites and services of my own free will. I don’t have to do any of that, I could do everything the old fashioned way offline, and life would be fine, but I get a lot of convenience for doing this stuff. From the really cool features on my computers and phones to the really cool stuff I do online like buying new stuff or managing my banking accounts, there’s lots to love about being online!
Let’s talk this through a bit, shall we? As far as browsers go and surfing the web, I can use Tracking Protection Lists, AdBlock, and just straight up block 3rd-party cookies to block out the majority of the stuff that bothers me. I can even whitelist the handful of sites I trust so that they can run what they want. Of course, I’m trusting those things to actually work as advertised, and if I’m paranoid enough I can generally prove that they do by digging down and opening cookies and analyzing packets.
In terms of the OS, I can toggle all the things off (at least you can in Windows 10, I defy you to prove you can on other platforms), and block things out so they never do anything… but that’s the problem- they can’t do anything, and neither can I. I can’t check-in to that restaurant that my fiance and I went to for dinner and LOVED, I can’t post that picture of her and I at the beach, because it probably has geo-tagged information on it, and I definitely don’t want to ask Cortana how to setup my Xbox One with Kinect so I can watch TV— Kinect is always watching/listening to me when we’re having sex, right?!
No. It’s not. Nobody gives two shits about some nerdy little man and his tweets about Windows 10, his fiance’s Yankee Candle video blogs on YouTube, or our amorous activities… except for some random 1’s and 0’s that tell them we like these products, so show advertisements about those things, and MAYBE — JUST MAYBE — we’ll want to buy more of those things and things like them.
And all that blocking would be fine, but lately I’ve come to an obvious conclusion– hey, I’d rather have those things shown as ads than the tabloid ads about “You wouldn’t believe what this celebrity did!” or “Here’s how to enlarge your penis” or “Here’s how to get rock solid abs” ads. In fact, I think it would be great to see more Microsoft products advertised via Google Ads on all the anti-Microsoft blogs I read. That would be swell! And hey, if I get better products from Microsoft along the way because they figured out when something they screwed up drives me crazy then fix it– that’s just icing on the cake!

Windows 10: Making the Case for Business

Over the past two weeks, I’ve enjoyed the myriad of news coming out of Microsoft’s annual developer and IT conferences (sadly, I was NOT in attendance, as they continue to have them in spring which is always a bad time for me to be traveling). I must admit I’ve come away from the keynotes and many session videos completely blown away by what Microsoft is doing here. It is amazing stuff that impacts not just home users (consumers) but also business users.

There’s tons of stuff for developers and IT folks that well, I won’t pretend to fully grasp, simply because I’m not a developer, and the businesses I’ve worked for aren’t even remotely interested in the kind of stuff we’re able to do. Actually, let me rephrase, someone, somewhere in my business experiences is able to grasp the meaning of those things… but not here in my little neck of the woods in Youngstown, Ohio. Most people here are lucky to know how to operate Excel without breaking templates, but I digress…

But the biggest features that make Windows 10 special for the masses aren’t the big fancy developer APIs, the Azure cloud services (which, btw, are freaking AWESOME), or even the big data machine learning stuff. It’s all the kinds of features that make Windows a one-stop shop and reduce those third-party service contracts for IT shops. Here’s a few things that I think will matter for the kind of businesses I have worked with:


1. Windows 10 Start Menu – Yep, the biggest reason people didn’t adopt Windows 8.x in the enterprise is training for the new UI. People– and I’m talking MOST, AVERAGE people not tech savvy folks like myself– never quite adapted to a full screen UI or fumbling around between the Desktop and Modern UI apps. The lack of Start button (let alone menu) never bothered me, personally, but they drove some people to the brink of insanity. Worst, all the navigational UX elements of app switching and charms bars, etc. were intimidating to most users. All of that changes with Windows 10 as those things go away, and we regress (yes, I admit it is a regression) to having a Start button and menu again and replace to a more Windows 7-esque experience. However, this is NOT a bad thing even if the minority of 8.1-loving tech users will preach it to be inferior… they’re wrong. Indeed, having these familiar elements back is what will reduce IT training costs and ensure compatibility between Windows 7, 8.x, and 10 desktop experiences for businesses. IT admins will quickly notice that their users won’t freak out about cheese being moved, and we can all benefit from the more meaningful improvements in the new OS.


I don’t imagine I will ever walk around the office and hear “Hey Cortana” or conversations with her happening on a regular basis, but I do expect quietly typed queries or the occasional voice query to simplify what people are doing. Click to call was a huge benefit to employees at my last job, and I could just imagine teaching them, “Hey Cortana- call So-and-So,” and never needing to lift a finger. It makes the scene from Christmas Vacation where the CEO insists his secretary get him somebody– anybody– an obsolete experience. But not just calling, searching for anything, or imagine telling her to book a flight to your field office via Expedia, or of course… reminders about your wife’s birthday, so you don’t go home from work late, giftless.


1. Windows Hello promises quick and easy logon because it knows YOU when it SEES you. Now, cue the conspiracy nuts over privacy and always watching cameras or some other nonsense, but I don’t think that’s what it is. I think it’s a better example of Kinect technology being applied to the real world instead of just for gaming. More importantly, if it works the way it’s promised, it will know ME and not someone who simply looks like me, because like Kinect it senses my heat signature and shape/size. So, what does that mean? No more losing your SmartCard security badges, no more clunky fingerprint readers that are easily hacked, and no more passwords… well, barring any tragic accident that mutilates your face. In that case, see your IT admin to retrain your visual profile, and call it a day (and I guess be thankful you’re still alive, even if you’re now a freakish beast of a human… */uncomfortable joke*).

2. Also, Windows desktop apps can now be restricted to only allowing signed, approved apps (possibly today, of course through cumbersome group policy) from the app store– oh wait, a business portal for all their business line apps? Cool… I’m listening… Yes, and not just a business portal, but also an AppX (virtualized installable app) version of your business desktop apps that no longer risk corrupting your client PC installs and can be securely deployed to BYOD clients that reduces or eliminates the risk of data leaking or malware spreading.

HoloLens and Surface Hub

Surface Hub is the 55 or 80 inch display that can replace your white boards with a multi-user collaborative environment featuring OneNote and Skype for Business and other tools. No more hokey third-party stuff from Smart Solutions (Smartboard) or multiple, non-integrated, and hyper-expensive Cisco solutions. Surface Hub will do it all with one hardware solution, providing you take advantage of the Office 365 or appropriate in-house back end tech… like Exchange and Skype for Business (formerly Lync, whose name I still prefer).

HoloLens, meanwhile, promises to create 3D holographic environment that SUPPLEMENT/AUGMENT your real world rather than submerse you in them. This, I believe, is more viable in business than it is in games and entertainment. When they were discussing the architecture demo, I immediately thought of my last job where I was involved in multiple construction projects. I was imagining when my CEO would describe what changes he wanted to designs (mid-to-late construction build, mind you), and people would be confused or discussing with him, and I was thinking– what if he had been able to virtually show us what he wanted even before it was built? Take a lighting sconce and place it anywhere in the room until he liked the lighting effect it created. Or pick and choose which paintings he wanted on which wall and digitally tag them. Or imagine if my IT colleagues and I could have run virtual ethernet through the building for our wiring contractors along with a server/wiring rack design schematic even without having the parts and pieces ordered yet. All of these scenarios are just ONE example of what could be done with it, and the video demos they gave expand the world even bigger. Sure, it’s not full on Holodeck (Star Trek for you non-nerds) yet, but it doesn’t need to be… and this is the first REAL tech to bring this to life in business. At my hospital, I can see an off-site consulting physician instructing the on-site surgeon during an operation. Or instead of just calling our pretzel stores for PC troubleshooting, I could actually SEE what they see and what the issue is… virtually highlight the cables I need connected to which ports, etc.


Continuum is still in its infancy, but it already promises to be one of the biggest features of Windows 10. On a 2-in-1 laptop/tablet device, it will automatically detect if you’re using it as a tablet and convert your experience to a nearly 8.1-like experience that focuses on touch-enabled interaction and revert to mouse/keyboard-focused interaction when you’re performing that kind of task at a desk.

On a phone, however, Continuum will literally take your mobile apps and redraw them into their full-tablet experiences instead of scaling up some pathetic mobile experience (a la iPad and Android). Conceivably, for users who don’t need a lot of legacy desktop apps, you’re only carrying around one device– your smartphone– and at most a Bluetooth keyboard or mouse (maybe they’re in your conference room), and you project to the Surface Hub or other projected screen, and suddenly that phone can serve as a touchpad, a launcher, a presentation remote, AND as the PC brains of your presentation. No shared drives. No network access offsite. No USB stick file transfers… just project and go.

And this is just for starters…

As I said before, there are TONS of other features that I haven’t even listed. These are just the big features to start wowing your executive team about. Give them exposure to what’s coming, and why you should ALL care about this for your business.

I will beef this article up with video/pictures, etc. as I get to play with these things first hand or get more information on them. For now, enjoy the bliss that is Windows 10!

Comments Off on Windows 10: Making the Case for Business  

Windows 8.1 vs. Windows 10 (Desktop Edition)

For anyone following me (or any WinPhan) on Twitter lately, you’ll know that I’ve had plenty to say regarding Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 in terms of the direction Microsoft is taking with Windows 10 and universal apps. Seems a lot of people are up in arms regarding hamburger menus, a pseudo-Android look and feel, icons, and top/bottom placement of elements. This article is probably going to undergo many revisions during the dev process, not to mention include any relevant screenshots, but rather than make you skip to the end to learn how I feel I’ll just come out now and say– I love the direction that Windows 10 is taking with only a few things that drive me batty. Read more »

Comments Off on Windows 8.1 vs. Windows 10 (Desktop Edition)  

Windows Phone vs. Android, Part 7: Messaging (SMS/MMS)

This is part of a series of posts I’ll be writing that do a direct comparison of Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 (as of January 2015) and Android 4.4 (Kit Kat). The purpose is to determine whether the out-of-box experience with these platforms is really all that different, or whether bias and perception are clouding judgment against Microsoft. Disclaimer: Yes, I’m pro-Microsoft, but I’ll be using a Lumia 1520 and Samsung Galaxy Note 4 to do this testing, and I will be objective in my assessments.

Part 7 – Messaging — Another core OS function of any smartphone is the Messaging app for SMS/MMS messages.

Read more »

Comments Off on Windows Phone vs. Android, Part 7: Messaging (SMS/MMS)  

Windows Phone vs. Android, Part 6: Contact Lists

This is part of a series of posts I’ll be writing that do a direct comparison of Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 (as of January 2015) and Android 4.4 (Kit Kat). The purpose is to determine whether the out-of-box experience with these platforms is really all that different, or whether bias and perception are clouding judgment against Microsoft. Disclaimer: Yes, I’m pro-Microsoft, but I’ll be using a Lumia 1520 and Samsung Galaxy Note 4 to do this testing, and I will be objective in my assessments.

Part 6 – Contact Lists — Another core OS function of any smartphone is the Contact List. Android integrates that into the phone dialer as just another tab, and it offers both obvious and simple functionality. Windows Phone takes things further as a separate app that is easily accessed from the dialer but provides a ton of additional functionality.

Read more »

Comments Off on Windows Phone vs. Android, Part 6: Contact Lists  

Windows 10 (for Phones) Technical Preview 1

So a little over a week ago, Microsoft released Windows 10 Technical Preview for a select subset of Lumia phones. Shockingly, they chose more low-to-mid-range phones instead of flagships. Something about OS partition issue they needed to address.

I have an eligible Lumia 830, so I gave it a shot. So let’s just start by saying up front– holy crap is this thing BUGGY. You do NOT want this anywhere near a primary phone or full time daily driver yet. I have severe battery drain (20% per hour), and the performance lags drastically on action center and start screen. It also crashes quite a bit too. That said, I love it, and I can’t wait for this to hit the next steps!

Read more »

Comments Off on Windows 10 (for Phones) Technical Preview 1  

Windows Phone vs. Android, Part 5: Phone Calls

This is part of a series of posts I’ll be writing that do a direct comparison of Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 (as of January 2015) and Android 4.4 (Kit Kat). The purpose is to determine whether the out-of-box experience with these platforms is really all that different, or whether bias and perception are clouding judgment against Microsoft. Disclaimer: Yes, I’m pro-Microsoft, but I’ll be using a Lumia 1520 and Samsung Galaxy Note 4 to do this testing, and I will be objective in my assessments.

Part 4 – Phone Dialer — Obviously the core point of a smartphone is to be able to make calls. And Android and Windows Phone both have a simple enough process for doing that. Here’s how they compare in daily operation. Read more »

Comments Off on Windows Phone vs. Android, Part 5: Phone Calls  

Keeping a Virus-Free Windows PC

I’ve been doing tech work for so long that you learn a few simple tricks over the years to prevent viruses, but the truth is I haven’t even accidentally stumbled upon a virus or delivery site in a really long time. I can’t even remember the last time an infected file made it to my email inbox either.

Still, people manage to stumble upon these things every day, and not being technically savvy means everyone should know how to protect against them. Here’s how!

Read more »

Comments Off on Keeping a Virus-Free Windows PC