Hooray! This week, Microsoft reversed its very conservative Flash policy for Windows 8 and Windows RT. The previous policy required Flash developers to certify their applications and have them added to Microsoft’s Compatibility View List. This was frustrating to me as a Surface RT early-adopter. Many Flash sites didn’t work. And I’m not talking about small-time Flash sites from random developers. I’m talking about large-scale, reputable sites like LogMeIn.com.
Luckily, Microsoft decided to convert its Compatibility View List from a white-list to a black-list. Now, all Flash websites will work in IE10 in Windows 8 and RT unless they have been explicitly banned.
In the long-term, I don’t think this is big news, as I see Flash being replaced slowly and surely by HTML5. I definitely see this as a win for RT in the short-term, though. Not being able to install alternate browsers or software really puts RT users at the mercy of Microsoft, and while it obviously had the best of intentions, the certification process was causing more harm than good. Kudos to Microsoft for realizing this and easing the restriction. As a Surface RT user, I appreciate it!
Read more about the policy change here.
One of the measures Microsoft has taken to improve security in Windows RT is to only play Flash content from sites on their Compatibility View (CV) list. Over time, I doubt this will be much of an issue as more and more sites are moving to HTML 5 and away from Flash, but it causes some pain now because there are sites I want to use that haven’t found their way onto Microsoft’s list.
Let’s ignore the problem with other sites for a moment and focus on a different problem. What if you’re a Flash developer, and you want to get your application approved by Microsoft and onto the CV list? You need a way to test your application, right? Microsoft has published an article about a registry entry that will override the CV requirement for a single domain.
The short version is that you just need to add the domain to the following registry value:
The article adds some important notes about the value to enter:
- Direct URLs to a page or resource are not supported (for example, contoso.com/xyz). Any value containing ‘/’ is not supported, including: http:// (or https://).
- Do not use “www.” prefix, which is stripped (for example, http://www.movies.yahoo.com loads as http://movies.yahoo.com).
- Only a single domain is supported.
So, using this same trick intended for developers, we can override the restriction for individual sites. I tried this out on my Surface RT with a site that I had problems with previously, and it worked like a champ. Here’s the step-by-step version of what I did:
- Go to Desktop Mode
- Open a Run prompt by pressing Windows key + R
- Run “regedit”
- Browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > Software > Microsoft > Internet Explorer
- Right-click Internet Explorer and choose New > Key; name the new key “Flash“
- Right-click Flash and choose New > String Value; name the new value “DebugDomain“
- Double-click DebugDomain and enter the domain; I used “digital.olivesoftware.com”
- Close Registry Editor
- Open Internet Explorer, browse to the site, and enjoy Flash content!
This works great, but it’s annoying that you can only do one domain at a time. An idea for making this slightly less painful is to export the Flash registry key to create shortcuts. To do this, right-click “Flash” in Registry Editor and choose Export. You’ll be prompted to save the key to a file, and you can update the key by double-clicking the file that is created. Using this method, you can create several shortcuts for sites that you visit frequently. It’s obviously not ideal to need to update your registry before browsing to a site, but, hey, it’s better than not being able to use your favorite sites, right!?
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.