I haven’t done much travelling since getting my Surface RT, but this weekend I had a pair of good, long flights. I decided to occupy myself with movie rentals from the Surface/Xbox video app. I can’t really articulate why, but I’ve been hesitant to rent movies to watch on devices in the past. Maybe it’s just because I didn’t I didn’t have a good device for viewing. Regardless, I decided to give it a shot, and I’m pretty happy with the result.
What I Liked
My actual viewing experience on the plane was awesome. The picture was great, and I had an okay pair of noise-cancelling headphones that did an admirable job of drowning out the sounds around me. (Other co-workers on the flight were complaining about a screaming kid that I was completely unaware of.)
I rented two movies, one for $4.99 and one for $5.49. Five bucks seems like a reasonable price for relatively new releases, so I was happy with that, too. I also liked that I was given a rental period of 5 days or 24/48 hours after viewing began. That allowed me to download the movies to my device well ahead of time so they could be ready and available when I needed them on my flights.
What I Didn’t Like
My only complaints are ones not actually related to the device. When you go to rent a movie through the Xbox video store, you’re presented with 4 options and 4 costs: HD streaming, HD download, SD streaming, and SD download. I’d rather have just two choices (HD and SD) and be given the option to stream or download based on my situational needs, which may change. For example, maybe I’d like to re-watch a previously downloaded movie that’s been deleted via streaming. Regardless, I needed one of the download options since I was planning on watching from a plane, and I opted for HD. At some point, I’ll probably try an SD download just to see what the quality difference looks like. I suspect I’d be happy with SD but didn’t want to regret not spending the extra $1. I have the 32 GB Surface with approximately 10 GB of free space available. Downloading an HD rental for offline viewing takes up about 7 GB, so I can really only have one movie at a time. So HD vs. SD is more about the download time and disk space than saving money. I should probably just pick up a MicroSD card, though.
One of the problems I’ve run into with my Surface RT is that the screen timeout interferes with a number of common tasks. I use my Surface to run my team’s morning standup meetings, and I have to keep touching the screen every 30 seconds to keep it active. Or, if I want to listen to music using Pandora or Google Music, the jams stop when the screen turns off. (I believe the music will continue to stream with the screen off if you’re plugged in, but I’m not usually plugged in.) I ran into a similar issue while watching a football game on Espn3.com.
No problem–there’s an application to control your computer’s presentation settings that’s built right into Windows. It’s trickier than you’d expect to create a shortcut to it, though.
I found the setting by going to the Start screen and typing Presentation. At first, it looks like you get no results, but that’s because the default search bucket is Applications and Presentation Settings is under Settings. Checking the setting I am currently giving a presentation will disable the system timers, allowing you to keep your Surface active for an extended period of time for an actual presentation or streaming music and video from the web. I need to access this pretty frequently, so I wanted to pin it to my Start screen, but, since it’s under Settings, Windows doesn’t let you select it for pinning. Blurg.
There is a way to do it, but it’s not very intuitive. When you launch the application from Settings, it fires up in desktop mode. With the application running in desktop mode, you can right-click it in the taskbar, then right-click Microsoft Mobile PC Presentation Adaptability Client, and choose Properties. It will open a dialog where you can then click a button to open the file location. You’ll be whisked off to C:\Windows\System32, and the executable–PresentationSettings.exe–will be selected. Voila! You can right-click the file and pin it to the Start screen.
The ultra-abbreviated version of this post is to simply browse to C:\Windows\System32 and right-click PresentationSettings.exe. Note that the screen will still turn off if you flip the keyboard up to cover the screen while in presentation mode, so you won’t kill your battery if you forget to re-enable the timers before closing your Surface and chucking it in your backpack. If you leave it open on a desk, you probably will, though. To maximize your battery life, you’ll definitely want to re-enable timers if you don’t need to keep the computer awake for a specific reason.
I decided to sign up for the newspaper this year, and I’ve really been enjoying it. I’ve said before that I’m a CNN junkie, but you really don’t get a lot of news from CNN. In the mornings, they tend to repeat the same 5-10 minutes worth of stories over and over again–presumably catering to the morning rushers that flip on the TV for a few minutes while they’re getting ready. The newspaper gives you SO MUCH MORE information. It’s really great. If you’re like me and haven’t (hadn’t?) picked up a paper in the last decade, maybe it’s time to give it another shot. But I digress…
Along with the physical paper that comes 3 times a week, I also have access to the paper daily via the e-Edition. But there’s a problem: it doesn’t work on my Surface.
The reason it doesn’t work is because it’s Flash-based. IE10 on Windows RT supports Flash, but sites must be whitelisted. So, my the e-Edition will work fine, but the e-Edition’s vendor, Olive Software, needs to provide code to Microsoft to get themselves on the whitelist. That seems like the easiest solution for Olive, but what I’d really like to see is a Detroit Free Press app in the Windows Store. I’d love to have something similar to the New York Times app with my local, Detroit news.
While typing on my Surface yesterday, I noticed something unusual: the volume kept muting itself. I’d noticed this before, but I figured I just accidentally hit a button. Yesterday was different, though. The volume muted 3 times in a 15-minute span!
The first thing I did was hit the ‘net. Has anybody else experienced this? Yes, there are a lot of forum posts. People seemed to be pointing the finger at Touch Cover and suggesting that you contact Microsoft for a replacement.
I contacted Microsoft support and was told that replacing the cover was not found to fix the issue. I’m hoping it’s a software issue that can be resolved and pushed out in a hotfix, but I’m skeptical. It does seem to occur primarily when I interact with the keyboard.
It’s not a huge issue since the workaround is to simply unmute it, but it is annoying. If anybody hears about a solution, I’d love to hear!
I broke down and ordered a Surface RT last weekend. After what felt like the longest week ever, I finally got it today. The thing that I was most looking forward to was the Touch Cover keyboard, so I figured what better way to try it out than by writing a quick blog post!
The honeymoon is just beginning, so you won’t catch me saying anything negative here. I’m not sure what I expected from the Touch Cover, but it’s definitely cool. The buttons have a fabric-y texture to them. There’s definitely a learning curve, but my ability seems to be improving by the sentence. The trick seems to be in figuring out how hard to “punch” the buttons so they register. Touch too lightly, and it won’t go. But, the more I use it, the faster I’m able to go and the more I like it.
The keyboard/kickstand combo works surprisingly well for lap-computing, too. I’d read mixed reviews about that. Some said it was completely inadequate. Others said that it was sturdy enough but not idea. I’m finding that it’s perfectly acceptable. I’m currently typing with the kickstand balancing on my thighs, and, aside from the screen bouncing a bit as I type, it seems perfectly fine. I’ve also used the keyboard with no kickstand, propping the screen up on my crossed leg. That worked fine, too.
I haven’t gotten into the software much, yet. It’s mostly been installing apps that I already know like Netflix. I checked out Office, and that was really cool. It definitely gives a desktop experience, even switching into “desktop mode” and displaying the taskbar.
I’m looking forward to getting more familiar with my new friend over the coming days and weeks. I’ll be giving it a conference trial tomorrow at 1DevDay Detroit, too.