I am Still Betting on Windows Phone in 2015

Laugh if you will, tell me any of your reasons but I am still betting on Windows Phone in 2015! Toward the end of 2012 I upgraded my phone and my wife’s phone to two Nokia Lumia 822 Windows Phones without hesitation.  I previously had used a HTC Trophy Windows Phone 7 device and my wife was using an LG Fathom Windows Mobile device.  Over the course of the past two years there have been some ups and downs for Windows Phone 8 and as we were up for upgrade I questioned whether to stay with Windows Phone going forward.  There were a few things that factored into my decision to stay with Windows Phone.  First was the cost of the iPhone which even on Verizon Edge was going to be more expensive than I am willing to pay.  Second was the fragmentation of Android, finding an Android 5.0 device on Verizon is not the easiest thing and Verizon is not known for being speedy on software updates.  With Windows Phone at least I can upgrade to the newest software through the Preview for Developers. Third, I think Windows Phone will find its best success with Windows 10 as Microsoft merges the two together.

So what did I go with then?  I tracked down a Nokia Lumia Icon for me (The Icon is really the US version of the Lumia 930) Verizon did not have many left and I had to have them call around to find one.  My wife got the HTC One M8 for Windows which seems to be selling well as it was also in short supply.  I am very happy with both devices, my wife uses her phone more than any other device so this time around I wanted a phone that could keep up and it already comes with Windows Phone 8.1 so she is ready to go.  I went with the Icon so I can keep tabs on Nokia/Microsoft Mobile going forward and I was very interested in the camera.

Windows 10 is going to be a game changer for Windows Phone more than Windows Phone 8.1 was.  With Windows 10 Windows Phone and Windows RT will merge together meaning more consistency with small tablets and phones.  Combined with the programing being so similar to create apps that run on Windows and Windows Phone with Windows 10 I think we will see more apps, and better quality apps for both Windows and Phone.  I just have to stay in the game and see what happens going forward.

I know many of you are probably questioning my decision to stay with Verizon.  In the area I live in the US (Southwest) Verizon offers the best coverage in rural areas that I frequent often.  I have to give Verizon some credit that they did not just finally deliver Lumia Cyan but Denim as well putting the Lumia 822 and Lumia 928 ahead of all the other mobile carriers in the us with Windows Phone.  Verizon will be updating the Icon in early 2015 as well and now that I have one I will be waiting for Denim.

What is Up With Pandora’s Bad Audio Quality?

So hey Pandora the 1990’s called and they want their streaming audio quality back.  What is with the bad audio quality on Pandora lately?  I have not listened to Pandora for a while but recently I pulled it up to be disappointed.  I initially thought something was wrong with how under water and tinny the audio sounded.  I checked my data connection to see I was on 4G LTE with full bars.  I even tried over a few days and different devices.  Unfortunately for me I can no longer stand to use Pandora it just gives me a headache and Spotify has awesome sounding audio.

So what is the bit rate that Pandora is pushing out to mobile phones? My guess is no better than 128 Kbps.  I am right too, according to Pandora mobile phones get no BETTER than 64 Kbps AAC+.  I am not sure on the bit rate of Spotify at this time but it does sound better on my phone.  That reminds me that Spotify also released a new Windows Phone app that supports streaming free.  Check it out, it’s a great upgrade.

Maybe things will change in the future, but for now I am not listening to Pandora and instead listening to Spotify until Pandora changes it bad audio quality.  I do have to state if you love Pandora and are not a fan of Spotify you can subscribe to Pandora and get better audio quality and I believe that is for your phone too.

So what is my Technological History anyway?

After dealing with some server issues and a recent move I am glad to be back on the site.  I was recently reading some other blogs and one guy had a post where he talked about his Tech background and well why not share mine.  So here we go.

It all began in the early 1990’s, my friend Belinda recently got a new computer in her house (well her parents anyway)  This computer ran Windows 3.1 and had AOL (America Online) which we spent hours on having fun as kids in the early days of the web.  In early 1995 my parents got their first computer.  A Packard Bell 480 CD, running Windows 3.11 Windows For Workgroups on a 75 MHz Pentium with 4 Mb of ram and a 1 Gb hard drive.  Oh yeah it was cool. This computer cost a whopping $2,400. We would never have internet on this machine as that was an expensive monthly bill my parents could not justify and they were paying off the computer.  This computer would later become my first computer.  I upgraded it to Windows 95 and installed a 90 MHz Pentium and 32 Mb of ram.  I completely disassembled this computer and put it back together just for fun and to better understand computers.

I met my friend Jake in Grade School who was into computer games and started learning a few things from him.  We had a lot of fun trying out new things and customizing Windows to our liking, sometimes at our parents disapproval.  We also spent a lot of time online via AOL having fun in chat rooms and talking over instant messenger.

My parents second computer was an IBM Aptiva with an AMD K6-2 I think 350 MHz and like 128 Mb of ram running Windows 98, not the Second Edition just the first version of Windows 98.  This computer was a problem from the start. Windows 98 had a bug in it that caused it to crash and my dad bought a copy of Windows 98 Second Edition and I helped him install it.  By this time I had picked up a few things about computers and was reading computer magazines.  I told my dad to get a Pentium II instead of the K6-2 but oh well.  If I remember correctly this computer cost around $1,200 to $1,800.

Sometime while my parents were using this computer and before I got a new one my parents would get NetZero because it was free.  Free Internet! Man were those the days! I later bought a long phone cable and would sneak out of my room at night and plug in my computer into the phone jack in the other room.  I copied the install files for NetZero of either a floppy disc or CD and would spend time every day online on my own computer.  While other people spent time in chat rooms, playing games, or looking at porn, I would be downloading music (later on to stop because it was illegal and later either deleted all that music or bought the albums{I am a big music supporter today, support bands dang it, buy a CD from them}) or I would be reading about Windows from Paul Thurrott or Mary Jo Foley or other places I could find or download updates and other programs to make my computer cooler in my eyes. (to say that Paul and Mary Jo have not been an influence on my would be a lie and I openly admit it)

When I was in High School in early 2001 my parents recognized two things, first that computers were the future in business and life in general, and two that I was good with them.  So they bought me my own machine.  A Compaq Presario 7120US running Windows ME on a 1.5 GHz Pentium 4 with 128 Mb of Rambus ram and a 60 Gb hard drive.  This computer was around $800 to $1,000 if my memory serves me right and I still have this machine.  I actually liked Windows ME, for a few reasons, first because if crashed less (it seemed) than Windows 98 on my parents computer and second it had some features I really liked such as zip file support and Windows Movie Maker.  I would later in December 2001 install Windows XP Pro on this machine.  I got a disc from a friend at school (we are no longer in contact).  I would later learn online that this was software piracy and later deleted that partition from my computer for fear that Microsoft was going to come after me or something.  Later on I would scrape the money together to buy a copy of Windows XP Home to put on this machine.

I met my friend Ed while I was in High School and we bonded over what we were running on our computers.  When he found out I was already on Windows XP we really had a lot to talk about.  I would learn a ton from him about computers and we are still good friends to this day.

My senior year of High School my friend Jake convinced me to take a Visual Basic 6 class.  He would continue to pursue programing in college and I would not.  So while I can’t really program anything I do at least understand some basics and have a healthy respect for programmers.  Programing is something I would like to get back into because there is more money there.

In college I knew the director of IT because he went to our church.  He hired me on as a student worker to help him keep the classroom computers and the lab running smoothly.  Over the summer my friend Ed would tell me that Best Buy was hiring in their tech bench (this was right before it would be rebranded as Geek Squad) Here I would learn so much on the job.  I became a pro at removing viruses and seldom gave up on a computer.  9 times out of 10 I did not have to format the hard drive and reinstall Windows.  To me that was giving up.

With the help of Ed I would later build my first computer.  This machine would see many installations of Windows sometimes many at once. I ran this computer into the ground and then used my laptops till I had enough money to build the computer I have now and like any good tech it is in need of an upgrade I think.

From there I would work for the local water treatment plant for my city as a tech, as well as Staples and a school district.  It was at this time I would start a blog that would become Useful Windows.  I would later be a remote technician for a local company with clients nation wide and eventually go back to work for Best Buy Geek Squad, funny enough for my old boss though neither of us realized it till we met for the interview.  Today I work mostly side jobs when it comes to technology but I would like to go back to full time.  I have four versions of Windows installed on my desktop and about six others in virtual machines just to I can test and write articles here.  In addition to that I have multiple desktops and laptops for testing as well.   My wife thinks I have a problem but I have gotten rid of some and clearing out old computers.

So what is next for Useful Windows, well I hope to cover as much about Windows Threshold (9) as I can.  Some usability guides for Windows 8.X, more install and upgrade articles and anything else you suggest.  I have been looking into doing weekly videos where I talk about tech news if you all are interested.  In the mean time thank you for reading and supporting me all these years.

30 Days with Windows RT on a Surface RT, 90 Days Later

So after I started my 30 days with Windows RT on a Surface RT challenge I had a few issues with the site and was distracted, however I continued the challenge and have been for a while.  Now some 90 days later I have to give you my conclusions.

For those of you not familiar with it, Windows RT is an ARM based version of Microsoft Windows 8.X that powers the Microsoft Surface RT, Surface 2 and other tablets.  Unlike the X86 and X64 based traditional Windows versions you can not use any desktop software other than what is already on the tablet.

So after using the Surface RT for over 90 days as my main computing device I have made a conclusion I never thought I would…I do not need my laptop anymore!  Yeah I was shocked.  There are a few reasons why that I think set Windows RT apart from Windows Phone (which I also use)

So why was I so able to get comfortable with Windows RT, simple, because it really is Windows.  As much as some people say it is not, it is Windows and is very feature complete.  A lot of tricks work as they would on any version of Windows.  That being said even thought there are a lot of great apps in the Windows Store you do find yourself wanting to be able to do or use something that there is no app for and on Windows RT this is not really a problem as almost every website out there works just as well on Windows RT as it does in Windows.  This is fine on a tablet where you have a full size screen and is just as familiar as a laptop because of the software it runs, but on Windows Phone I have not found the web to be much of a help simply because most mobile sites are terrible and full desktop sites can be hard to use on such a small screen.

There is another strong point that helps Windows RT.  Full Remote Desktop support from both a Windows Store app and mstsc.exe just like in any Windows version.  I have often used Remote Desktop to connect to my desktop computer to use software on there that I can not on in Windows RT.

At this point I have no intention of using my laptop again and I would say that a Surface RT or other tablet running Windows RT will work better than any other tablet on the market the only exception being ones that actually run traditional Windows.  I will also say that Windows RT tablets will work perfect for most computer users out there today because lets face it, we check out Facebook, email, and play flash games online till we get tired of bored and start watching Netflix.  You do not need a computer to do this, and maybe you can’t do it all on an iPad or Android tablet (flash support is not always there) but in Windows RT, you have flash support, you can install printers and print with your tablet, connect thousands of accessories through USB, and the Surface RT and Surface 2 both have micro HDMI out so you can connect to a TV or projector.

So if you are willing to learn and figure it out you will find a Windows RT device to be a great mobile computing solution and may find that like me you do not need a laptop anymore especially if you have a desktop computer at home or work.  I will be posting some articles with tips and tricks for Windows RT in the coming weeks that will help people out and the best thing, they all work on any Windows 8.X machine out there.  I really do love using this device.

30 Days With Windows RT on a Microsoft Surface RT

This past Black Friday there were many great deals out there including some on the Microsoft Surface RT.  Both Best Buy and Microsoft had the 32Gb Surface RT on sale for around $200. No to mention I also saw it being sold with a touch cover for around $230 to $250 at other stores.  Well I had to jump on the chance to get one of these devices for many reasons if not for the fact that they are kind of a unique computing device.  So I picked one up from a Best Buy in Las Vegas and got a Type 2 Cover with it.  I know, I spent more than half of the total cost of the Surface RT on that Type 2 Cover but I think it was worth it.

After using this for a few days though I have to admit, I think this could replace my laptop almost full time.  Windows RT is just that good enough.  Of course it is also a year later so much has changed from a year ago and it does not hurt that Windows RT looks and works almost exactly like Windows 8, which I have used for over a year so I know a thing or two about it.  When I installed Windows 8 on my laptop it took me all of 10 minuets to know I could use that Windows operating system full-time, but without support for any desktop applications on windows RT can I really use the Surface RT like I use Windows 8 on my desktop and laptop?

So for the next 30 days I will only use the Microsoft Surface RT for my computing needs.  I will write many articles to help some of you out there that also picked up one of these devices and I will write about my usage every so often.  I think this will be an interesting month.

So for my first note about the Surface RT, I wrote this whole article on it using only the default touch on-screen keyboard.  Yeah its going to be an interesting month.  So make sure to subscribe to the blog, or follow Useful Windows on Facebook or Twitter and see how I do this month.

Is This The Beginning of The End For Facebook?

Is this the beginning of the end for Facebook?  I have read a few articles that say Teens are starting to leave Facebook for other social media endeavors.  With reasons ranging from their parents being on Facebook to unnecessary drama on the social network giant.  With teens, Facebook is a thing their parents have, and most parents are well aware of Facebook but not of other social media sites so teens head to the other sites to be less monitored by their parents.

While teens are just one demographic of the Facebook user base it seems the older generations are starting to become disenchanted as well.  While talking to a friend and colleague of mine the topic of recent privacy changes to Facebook came up and we both agreed we are considering dropping the social network all together and moving to something else.

Still other friends of mine have brought up drama, people over sharing information, and that they do not find Facebook fun anymore as reasons they have either left or are thinking about doing so.

Another aspect is the rise of blogging which seems like everyone has one these days (you’re reading one now) and how things like Blogger, WordPress , and Tumblr are gaining traction with older audiences.

Still there are many people who have no intention of leaving Facebook as it has become the main way for them to communicate with friends and family.

So Is this the beginning of the end for Facebook, maybe but I don’t think it will be soon. I am interested to see what you all think of Facebook and if you are looking to jump ship to something else. As for me I am thinking of closing my personal profile, maybe I will go back to MySpace.

The Future of Computing is Touch!

I firmly believe the future of computing is touch, but will that include the PC?  I know a few people who think touch computing is just a fad like 3D TV and will be gone soon.  I however think touch computing is here to stay but I think it will happen one of two ways.

The PC will adapt to touch computing and continue being dominant.  This is what I hope will happen.  I hope that computers like what we use today like laptops and even desktops will embrace touch interfaces and we will have powerful machines that we can interact with touch.  Now the mouse and keyboard will not go away as the mouse is more precise especially when using video and audio or even image editing programs and you need a keyboard for programing but lets face it most people use their computers to check email and Facebook, or to play flash-based games.  I think this gives the all in one device we are looking for instead of having to have multiple devices to take with us when we travel.

The second way is similar to what we see today.  Basic tablets like the iPad, or Android tablets will replace most computers in the home because they meet the needs of people who just check email and Facebook.  Lets get real here, most people do not really need all the power in their computer all the time and could make by with just a basic tablet.  I mean these tablets are just big smartphones and people use smartphones all day long for similar functions.

Now Microsoft is trying to position itself to be ready no matter which scenario works out.  If normal PC’s go the route of touch than I expect to see Windows RT go by the way side but if these less powerful media tablets start winning the battle (like the iPad and Android tablets) then I expect to see Windows RT further developed into something to compete with these devices and probably no longer contain a Desktop.  While Windows 8.X (Or whatever version we are on to by this time) will keep the desktop and rely less on the modern environment.  We could then see Windows booting straight to Desktop and maybe not containing the Start Screen at some point.  Again this is all speculation and just what I see as I look in from the outside.

Either way touch screen devices are here to stay in the home, now seeing them in business uses we will have to wait and see.  I see either way working out long-term for the future of computing what I do not see is computers staying in their traditional configuration (non-touch) and being as dominant as they once were, not in the home.  Again this will be different in businesses but for the home market computing is changing and its future is touch.

The Best Internet Browser for Windows, Part 1 An Introduction

I started this look at internet browsers on Windows years ago. Since then web browsers have changed a lot, so I try to update these articles every once in a while.  Here is a list of the articles for the best internet browser for Windows broken down by version. Feel free to check them out and as always, thanks for reading!

The Best Internet Browser for Windows 2000, it is 15 years old but can still get online.

The Best Internet Browser for Windows XP 32-bit, Soon to be unsupported but still installed on many machines.

The Best Internet Browser for Windows XP Professional X64 Edition, one of the first 64-bit versions of Windows, it had limited support.

The Best Internet Browser for Windows Vista 32-bit was not received well upon release but there are still a few people who have not yet upgraded their machines.

The Best Internet Browser for Windows Vista 64-bit, this version started making 64-bit computing a household name.

The Best Internet Browser for Windows 7, this is becoming the next Windows XP and we will be using Windows 7 for years to come.

Also check out my review of browsers in Ubuntu, one of the more popular Linux versions.

I hope to have these articles updated this year and add one for Windows 8, as well as maybe looking at older versions of Windows, and one for Windows Phone 7 and 8.  Make sure to like Useful Windows on Facebook to keep tabs on new articles.