About two sears ago I published my Roadmap for Self-Improvement. Since then, I’ve been checking off most things. Today, I would like one item: Become a more well-rounded person. Here are some of the things I intend to do to accomplish this:
- Be better informed about current affairs: As a kid, our family would always watch the Tagesschau, the leading news program in Germany airing at 8pm. This is a habit I want to get back into. While I do read a lot of news, I feel you get a very different perspective when you also see pictures with the stories. Also, there is so much more news than any person can consume in a day that I want to make sure I get a decent selection of the most important topics. And I want that selection to be based on the assessment of trusted journalists instead of having to manually scan all the items in my RSS news reader and do the selection by myself.
- Branch out: For too long, I think I have focused my reading and learning on areas related to my formal education and my job (i.e. business and technology). While it is obviously important to know those things, I don’t want to limit myself to these areas and instead be knowledgeable in a wider range of topics. I will therefore try to watch as many TED talks as possible, as I feel they present an excellent and concise means to expose myself to different fields that might be of interest but that I would not normally choose to read about on my own.
- Bring more culture into my life: By attending our Maskerade student drama group festival (in March), two plays at Forum Freies Theater (FFT) and the Theaterwoche Korbach festival (last week) I have seen more than 20 plays over the past two months.While I have to admit that I did not understand some of these plays and was outright bored by others, it was nonetheless a worthwhile undertaking and I think I have learned a lot from it. A season ticket for the FFT is only 100€, so maybe I will get one of those and just try to see as many plays as possible to see what sticks.
That’s it for now. We’ll see how this goes.
It’s been a while since my last Things to Watch, so I thought I’d post a little update on my watching habits.
In terms of TV shows this has been:
- Parks and Recreations: I had watched the first season a while ago and just finished the second. Seasons #3 and #4 have been ordered from Amazon and are on their way. I really like the absurd humor in this show. And compared to season 1, the characters of Ran Swanson and April Ludgate have been getting more screen time, which was a welcome change.
- Portlandia: I have written about Portlandia before, but I just got and over a weekend finished watching the second season. It’s a special kind of humor, but if you’re into it, it’s so good.
- Revenge: Even though it is referred to as “soap opera” on Wikipedia (a kind of show I would not normally watch), I have heard some good things about this series from a friend and the clips I found online looked promising, so I have ordered the first season from Amazon along with the Parks and Recreation DVDs. Hopefully it’ll be here soon.
I have to say, though, watching these shows no longer feels as exciting as it did when I first found them. I kind of feel obligated to watch them, because I have been following them for so long. But I really prefer to discover and watch new stuff that I can then share with friends and co-workers. It is for this reason that I stopped watching a couple of shows such as Chuck, Castle and Californication. I don’t think I can just stop watching 30 Rock, HIMYM and TBBT, though. There is too much history between us. So I honestly hope they just end naturally and I can move on.
I have also been neglecting The Daily Show and The Colbert Report a bit. I had a bunch of other stuff going on, so on many nights I didn’t feel like or just didn’t have the time watch them. I am thus missing out on an important source of information about American current affairs, but well…
As I said in my last Things To Watch, “most of what I [have] watched [recently] has been original YouTube content” and that is still true today. I have revised the channels I follow though and there is some stuff listed in that article that I no longer follow.
More importantly, there is Hank and John Green a.k.a. the Vlogbrothers. They do some amazing stuff, like give a concise and really interesting explanation of The Great Gatsby (, ), a novel I too really like, or “sciency stuff” on their SciShow channel.
Hank Green is also one of the creators of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, an adaptation of Price and Prejudice that I really enjoyed watching (it just ended unfortunately). They tell a modernized version of Pride and Prejudice through the main character’s vide blog. In addition, all the main characters have their own Twitters and Tumblrs that they use to interact outside the main vlog and various spin-off vlogs (such as: The Lydia Bennet and Gigi Darcy’s videos for Pemberley Digital). May I also recommend Hank Green’s first introduction to the project, this interesting interview with cast and crew and a bloopers video.
It was through The Lizzie Bennet Diaries that I also found out about Squaresville. A fun show as well.
There is only one “problem” I have with the Vlogbrothers: When they film events that they appear at and you get to see their audience: it appears to be mostly made up of teenage girls. I am not sure what that says about me and my tastes as I am neither a teenager nor a girl. It’s weird.
As I was doing my taxes today, I had the need to scan some documents. The last time I had used my scanner, however, was still under Windows 7. Unfortunately, I ran into a couple of problems trying to use it under Windows 8. I haven’t found a lot of information on this particular setup, so I thought I would share my experience (and resolution).
Getting the driver and tools: simple
When you go to Canon’s download page for the N1240U, there isn’t actually a driver for Windows 8 (or Windows 7 for that matter). The latest they offer is a Vista driver. So I got that driver and it installed just fine (this was back when I upgraded to Windows 8).
I also got the CanoScan Toolbox, because I like how simple it is to create (multi-page) PDFs with this tool.
Actually using the scanner: not so much
So today was the first time I actually tried to use the scanner. Alas, the CanoScan Toolbox did not work. When it was time to select an acquisition device, my scanner showed up in the list (alongside my Windows Phone, which I guess registers as an image acquisition (WIA) device as well). Upon selecting the scanner, however, I just got the message
Unable to open TWAIN source
If you search for that error message, there are a couple of tips to resolve this. The most common seems to be to add the directory containing the driver to the PATH environment variable (see this blog post by Jeff Widmer). I have tried that, however, it didn’t work for me. Since most web pages I found are from the Vista/Windows 7 era, maybe my problem is a different one. I was tempted to start up Process Monitor to see what exactly CanoScan was trying to do. But because I do enough of that stuff at work, I didn’t want to spend more time than necessary on analyzing and debugging other people’s software.
Other ways to scan: nope
So I just tried to determine whether it was a problem with the driver or an application problem, by trying to scan with other applications I had installed.
The Photos app in Windows 8 unfortunately only seems to import from WIA sources, because it didn’t even recognize the scanner.
In Adobe Photoshop Elements 9, I got the same error message.
Next up, Microsoft OneNote 2013. I have been using OneNote since 2003 and didn’t know OneNote even supported scanners, but it does (and with OCR, too). At first, it scanned the image successfully, but some of the colors came out wrong and it only wanted to save the file in PNG format, which didn’t work for the images I had. I guess the use case for scanning in OneNote is slightly different than what I wanted to accomplish.
I had thought that Microsoft Word had an option to scan and insert pictures (and it once did), but for the 2010 version the support document for scanning images simply recommends “Use the software that was included with your scanner to scan and save the image to your computer.” and the same seems to be the case for the 2013 version I have.
As far as I can tell, those all the applications I have that support scanners.
Resolution: scan with IrfanView
One of the articles I had found while looking into the TWAIN error message above, however, recommended using IrfanView to check whether the driver was installed correctly. Because I find its enormous feature set a bit overwhelming, I have never been a big fan of IrfanView. But lo and behold, it did recognize my scanner and produced flawless scans.
So I guess I will be sticking with it for the rare instances that I do need to scan something. If anyone reading this knows of an easier scanning solution for Windows 8, please leave a comment.
On 15 March 2013 my Laptop celebrated its 7th birthday. While it’s still working, needless to say, it is pretty slow and I spend quite a bit of time waiting.
Because I wanted a device that was a good compromise between the portability of a tablet and the power and compatibility of a PC, I’ve had my eyes on the Microsoft Surface Pro for quite a while. As the Surface Pro is supposed to become available really soon here in Germany, I have been looking into what I would need to make it work as a replacement for my current laptop + docking station setup.
In his Going Pro series, Paul Thurrott has some interesting pointers, e.g. for replacing the desktop. There are certainly some trade-offs in this endeavor, but from what I have seen and read so far about Surface Pro, these do seem worth it for my particular situation.
Because I want the Surface Pro to replace my desktop and connect to all my other devices, there are a couple of things I will need in addition to the Surface itself. Please note that since I do not yet have a Surface device, I cannot test any of these accessories. I will do that, though, once I get my Surface Pro.
There has been quite a discussion about the amount of storage available for apps and data on the Surface devices which many people feel is too little. But since the Surface has a microSDXC slot, I can just get a memory card such as this 64 GB microSDXC card and upgrade its storage for about 50 EUR.
Because the Surface Pro comes with only one USB 3 and no Ethernet ports, I will need a USB 3.0 docking station. In the article I linked to earlier, Paul Thurrott mentioned a Pluggable USB 3.0 docking station. I haven’t been able to find that exact model on Amazon Germany, although they do have a couple of comparable models. Such as the i-TEC Docking Station Advance USB 3.0 or the Toshiba PA3927E-1PRP Dynadock U3. When you look at their specs and pictures, they all seem extremely similar, like it was in fact the same device made by some OEM. Of course I don’t know this for sure, but I think I will just get the cheapest one of them and try it out.
The final piece I will need is an external Blu-ray disk drive. I wish video-on-demand could fulfill all my video needs, but for better or worse, I still have a lot of DVDs that I want to watch. And since I have a Full-HD display and then finally a computer that will be fast enough to decode them, I want to watch Blu-rays, too. Based on their Amazon reviews I think the Samsung SE-506AB external Blu-ray burner looks like a good choice. It comes with a software called CyberLink BluRay Disc Suite which I hope is enough to watch Blu-rays. This seems to be a piece of software that is only available as OEM, so I haven’t been able to look up reviews on it. We’ll see.
I hope the Surface Pro will become available soon (it was promised for late March/early April). With the accessories mentioned above, I think it will make good laptop replacement and connect to all my existing peripherals. I will report back once I have everything and had a chance to test it out.
Sunday. Also known as the day that I cannot go to the cafeteria but instead have to prepare my own food. Below is a picture from said preparations. Spaghetti with pesto is one of the more popular choice of Sunday dish for me right now. Others include Greek Salad and of course our good old friend frozen pizza. Why do you always trick me into eating unhealthy with your ease of preparation, frozen pizza? Why?
In case you were wondering, there isn’t really a point to this post other than sharing a scene that I thought looked pretty nice in my kitchen today.
Unfortunately, the lighting wasn’t that good (it’s an overcast, gray day today). I tried my best fixing that in Photoshop, but my skills in that department are limited. Even though I think I did figure out some interesting things while editing this picture. If anyone cares, here is the original image that the one above was made from.
In that picture, please note the oven mitt on the left: I made that in elementary school; with substantial help from my Mom though. Thanks Mom. I think I got a C+ or maybe even a B for it. I was never any good in art class.
Whenever a new version of Office or Windows comes out, I pretty much buy it right away (heck, for Windows 8, I even took a day off work to install it on launch day). So when Microsoft was offering its Office 2013 applications as a subscription service, I bought a copy of Office 365 Home Premium, since I was basically subscribing to Office anyway. And I think they offer a pretty good deal, because for just 87 EUR for the first year (a sale on Amazon, normally it’s more like 99 EUR, I think), I got:
- what I consider the must-have Office applications: Excel, Word, PowerPoint, OneNote,
- Outlook (which hadn’t been included with the Home versions of Office before),
- Access and Publisher (a.k.a. Office applications I never use at home),
- 20 GB of additional storage on SkyDrive and
- 60 minutes on Skype (which I haven’t found use for, so far).
Not bad, considering, I had almost maxed out the 25 GB on SkyDrive I had before and considering I would otherwise have to buy Outlook separately.
General impression: very positive
But not only did the licensing model change, Microsoft also revamped and dramatically improved the installation experience. I just had to go to office.com/setup enter my license key, sign in with my Microsoft Account and the installation would start. The installer was less than 1MB and right away created links to the applications on the start screen.
While the installation was still in progress, I could launch an application and immediately start using it. Office let me know that the application hasn’t been completely installed just yet, but as the needed bits are downloaded and installed on demand, there were only short delays when I started playing around with Excel while it was still downloading. They say I can use a streaming version of Office with my settings even on PCs that don’t have Office at all, though I haven’t tried that yet. This is pretty cool.
Even more cool is the fact, that I now have up to five installations included in the license and I can manage these on office.com, deciding which version (Mac or Windows) and which language I would like to install on which of my computers. So finally I can have Office in English and no longer have to put up with the often inconsistent and sometimes weird translation into German.
Excel: pretty nice
As I said, Excel was the first application I tried out while it was still downloading, since it is also the Office application that I use the most except for Outlook (more on Outlook in the next section). I think it is fair to say, that in general Excel has seen the most moderate changes over the years: It’s basic user interface still looks a lot like VisiCalc form 1979. So in this release, too, I haven’t come across anything major that’s changed.
There have, nonetheless, been a few subtle improvements. Such as more context sensitive menus. For instance, when clicking a chart, you can now change the design and filter data right there, without having to dig around in the ribbon for that functionality. There is, however, the danger that duplicating access points for features like this, leads to a more cluttered user interface and possibly users wondering whether those are actually two different features, not knowing when to pick which. I think it’s working, though, in the case of Excel, although I will come back to that in the case of Outlook where it doesn’t.
The new feature I like the most, though, is got to be Quick Analysis: Just select a range of data and click the icon on the bottom right of the selection (or press Ctrl+Q) and Excel will present you with a selection of tools to quickly analyze and get a feel for the data. By hovering over the options to graph the data, apply conditional formatting identifying top and bottom values etc. etc. you can very quickly familiarize yourself with a dataset.
And of course there are some features that are kind of fun, but not worth the upgrade on their own. Like how the selection rectangle slides over from the previously selected range when you select a new range. Or how the new values slide in from the top when a calculated cell’s value changes. I have found this to be quite useful, tough, as it makes cells that have changed stand out more and makes it easier to see where in a sheet there have been updates.
Outlook: unusable at first
Because migrating my RSS feeds and four email accounts with all their settings has always been a bit of a hassle, I had waited until the weekend to take on Outlook 2013. the actual migration of settings, as it turns out, was pretty easy, because Outlook 2013 had already imported the accounts from my existing Outlook 2010 profile. There were a couple of things, it hadn’t imported for some reason, like the quick steps I had set up to mark as read and archive mails with one easy click or my RSS feeds. But those things were easily re-created.
What I found shocking, though, were the changes Microsoft had made to the way they handle IMAP and Hotmail accounts. Because of these changes, I was initially unable to use Outlook and seriously considered staying on 2010 (at least for Outlook). Maybe it was naïve of me, to just buy Office and think everything would be alright, because Microsoft had discussed the changes to IMAP in Outlook in a blog post and there has been a lively discussion in their support forums whether those changes were well done (most suggest no, and I agree).
For IMAP, Outlook now uses XLIST to ask the IMAP server which folders are the special folders for Sent Items, Deleted Items etc. In 2010, you could manually select those folders and I had set up all of my accounts in such a way that Outlook on my PC, the email provider’s web interface and my Windows Phone would use the same folders. Unfortunately, my email providers don’t seem to support XLIST, because Outlook felt it needed to create separate folders called “Sent Items (This computer only)”, “Deleted Items (This computer only)” etc. And since there is no more option to map those folders manually, that made the list of folders that much longer and harder to use. Of course, it didn’t help that all folder icons were eliminated from the list as well, making it impossible to find the right folder at a single glance.
Outlook macros to the rescue
A quick internet search showed me that I wasn’t the only one upset about this (see the discussion mentioned above). But thankfully there was this tip providing a macro to move sent items out of those additional folders into the proper ones. I adapted that macro a little and I think I now have an even better workflow for sent items than I did with Outlook 2010. The way I have set it up now, is that whenever an item is added to any of the Sent Items folders (be it the one my phone uses or the one Outlook uses), the item is marked as read and transferred to the archive folder I keep on one of the IMAP servers. So no longer do I have to manually go through those folders moving items I had sent. The same thing works for deleted items, which I move into a single Deleted Items folder in a local PST file. So I now just have six folders under my favorites: my four inboxes, the Sent Items and the Deleted Items that my macros aggregate everything into.
With Outlook 2010 I had created local folders in the Hotmail PST for incoming POP3 messages, but it seems you can no longer move messages into any of the Hotmail folders. So no longer can I just move messages I need to read later or follow up on into my Hotmail inbox that gets pushed to my phone. Instead I have to sync the other inboxes on my phone manually. It’s not that big a deal, but it was another item on my list of disappointments.
Other Outlook flaws
With the most urgent problems solved, I started using Outlook 2013 instead of 2010 for all my email, RSS feeds and general “personal information management” (as that type of application is called). That’s when I discovered some of the other, albeit less dramatic flaws in Outlook 2013.
Such as the fact that the calendar in the to-do bar only shows today’s appointments and not those of the coming days as it did in 2010. Or the extraordinary amount of space taken up by people’s pictures, cluttering up the header area of messages and drawing attention away from the most important part: the message’s content. Thankfully there is a post on Super User on how to de-clutter Outlook 2013.
Among the things one apparently cannot get rid of: the additional reply buttons at the top of a message. While it might be nice to sent off a quick reply inline without having to open up another window to type it into, I find these redundancies don’t help to make an already complicated piece of software any easier to use.
On the plus side, to-do items in the Hotmail data file are no longer just local to your computer, but instead they were pushed to my Windows Phone and when I deleted the item there, it was immediately deleted in Outlook as well. That’s a very welcome change.
Other things I find objectionable
I love the fact that Office now follows the Windows 8 design principles (white space instead of lines to separate things, use of typography to establish hierarchy of on-screen elements, simple color schemes without gradients, fewer and simpler icons). However, I think they have overdone it with the all-caps text. Single words in the ribbon tab headers are fine, but status bar messages such as “ALL FOLDERS ARE UP TO DATE” are too much in my opinion. Has no one there heard about the negative impact all-caps have on readability?
And speaking of Windows 8 design: when I installed Office on a Windows 7 machine, I noticed that it was using the same Windows-8-style window frames there to. I don’t even know why Windows allows applications to provide their own window frame. I have yet to come across an application that used this for good. I think all windows should just get the same Aero glass frame or whatever else the user has set as the default on their system. No needless deviations from the system default. Period.
The remaining applications
I haven’t mentioned Word or the other Office applications, because I don’t use them as regularly as I use Excel and Outlook. I did open a couple of documents to read in Word and they seemed fine. I like that fact that I can now use Word to read PDFs, because Microsoft’s PDF Metro app is pretty basic and couldn’t correctly display a few PDFs I had.
I do use OneNote fairly regularly to write down things, URLs and other pieces of information I would like to have synced between my PC and my phone, but such basic functionality hasn’t changed as far as I can tell.
As for the other applications: I don’t use Access and Publisher at all and PowerPoint I only use at work, not at home. So I have no idea how good or bad they are in Office 2013.
In spite of all the problems I mentioned, I think I am better off now with Office 365 Home Premium than I had been with Office 2010 before. There are a couple of nice additions, although it did take some getting used to some of the other not so great changes. With a few macros, some fine-tuning of options and very minor changes to the way I organize my email, I don’t feel any desire to go back to Office 2010. In fact, I just uninstalled it, so when any other problems pop up (though I don’t anticipate), I will just have to fix them. Maybe I need to read up on VBA programming for Outlook, because it seems pretty powerful and I have only used VBA in Excel and Access (at work) so far.
This post was supposed to be titled “Windows Phone 8: First Impressions”, when started working on it in December shortly after I had gotten my Lumia 920. For a couple of reasons, I didn’t finish it until now. As I have had the phone now after a couple weeks and used it every single day, I can say, though, This article no longer contains just my first impressions but has become a complete review of sorts.
Nokia Lumia 920: Excellent
Let’s get this out of the way: The Lumia 920 is noticeably larger and heavier than many other top-of-the-line smartphones. However, the weight doesn’t actually impact my day-to-day use of the device. I don’t understand why some reviewers are making such a big fuzz about this. The size, on the other hand, is something to worry about. Because it is hard to reach something at the top of the screen while holding and operating the phone with one hand, there have been a few occasions where I almost dropped the phone. I guess having to be a bit careful and/or using both hands is the price I have to pay for having so much screen real-estate.
And it’s worth it, because the screen is great. I have always made fun of Apple’s “Retina” displays, because (a) that is a stupid name and (b) what is the point of having so many pixels, when your eyes’ resolution is in fact lower than the display’s? For the record, the Lumia 920 actually has a higher pixels density than the iPhone 5 (332ppi vs. 326ppi). And to be fair, Nokia’s name for the display “PureMotion HD+” is just as stupid as “Retina”. But I must concede, that having a high-resolution display is pretty nice. As an experiment, I have been playing the same HD video on my old HTC HD7 (at 800×480 pixels) and the Lumia 920 side-by-side and I was just blown away by how much better the Lumia 920’s screen is. I am amazed how I have been able to put up with the HD7’s (comparatively) horrible screen. Not just in terms of resolution, but also how colors are displayed. It’s such a stark difference.
Also, the Lumia 920 has a faster processor with an additional core, and that makes a big difference as well. The side-by-side comparison showed that very clearly. In the past, I have always been complaining about my mobile carrier and their shoddy network causing web pages to load very slowly, but it seems I was wrong, because on the same network Internet Explorer 10 on the Lumia 920 renders much faster than IE 9 on the HD7 (could be the rendering engine or the processor, I don’t know).
The device is also really well made and it’s a pleasure just to hold it. Sure, it is plastic and not metal and glass as some other high-end smartphones, but it feels like real quality material. I may not be as excited as Marko Ahtisaari from the Nokia Design Team, but every now and then I just like to hold the phone in my hand. It feels really great. If you want to know more about the design of the software, Microsoft has an excellent series of videos on Channel 9 about the topic.
The best improvement over my old phone (besides the display) is the camera. The picture quality is so much better than that of the HD7. And for simple point-and-shoot scenarios where you don’t want to fiddle with camera settings, white-balance and stuff, it is even better than my compact camera. Below is a photo I have taken with the Lumia 920 at night without any manual adjustments or editing. Compare that to a picture I have taken with the HTC HD7 (and touched-up in Photoshop Elements) or worse, the HTC S720.
One bug that has been bothering me, though, is apparently related to the proximity sensor which turns off and locks the screen during a call, so you don’t accidentally tap something with your face. Unfortunately, the proximity sensor doesn’t seem to notice when I am removing the phone from my face, so the screen stays turned off. The other day I have been in a call with someone for many minutes, because he didn’t hang up and I was prevented from hanging up by the screen refusing to unlock (there is a split-second window where you can tap end call after pressing the power button, but it took me several tries to do so). From all the talk in Nokia and Microsoft support forums, it seems this is a very common problem. Some people have expressed hope the sensor’s sensitivity might be fixed in a future software update and since I rarely use my phone to make phone calls (that’s not what smartphones are for, anyway), I am holding out for such an update.
Finally, the Lumia 920 is also a big improvement in terms of storage. It doesn’t have an SD card slot, unfortunately, but for now at least, the 32GB onboard storage is more than enough. In the past, I was micro-managing which albums I could sync to my phone, now I just have Windows Media Player copy over my entire music collection and I still have gigabytes to spare.
This brings me to another sore subject for Windows Phone 8: syncing your media with it. While the Zune PC software used with Windows Phone 7.x wasn’t perfect, at least it made it possible to sync everything in one place with reasonable convenience. With Windows Phone 8, the Zune PC software is no longer supported. Instead you get a wide range of sync options. Some of them are very welcome. For instance, I love the fact that I can just copy media to and from the device using File Explorer in Windows. Or that I can use Windows Media Player for syncing, which is great, because it’s the one place where I organize all my music and videos anyway.
What is missing, though, is support for podcasts. Windows Media Player doesn’t have it, and the podcasts section on the device is empty, too. It tells me to look in the store, but at least here in Germany, I can’t find the Windows Weekly or Stack Exchange podcasts I would like to listen to. In the Zune PC software it was also more convenient to select which content to sync, just right click an artist, select “sync with phone” and when you bought a new album from that artist, it would automatically end up on the device; no manual sync necessary. As I mentioned before, this deficiency is mitigated by the fact, that the Lumia 920 has enough storage for me to just sync everything. The downside being that sync does take a while.
I am not quite sure why I would really want this, but just to try it out, I have also synced a bunch of pictures to my phone (from vacations, mostly). These pictures are organized in folders by year, then by occasion and finally by activity (e.g. My Pictures\2012\12-08-04 Norway Vacation\12-08-07 Flåm for my trip to Norway). Windows Media Player doesn’t allow me to sync everything under the Norway folder. For that I have to use the Windows Phone desktop app. Running it for the first time took forever, because it needed to scan my entire media libraries, but once that is done, photo sync is pretty straight forward. It would support music and video sync as well, but Windows Media Player does a better job at that, in my opinion. There is also a Metro version of this app, but that one is so basic, I can’t recommend it to anyone (and therefore won’t even link to it).
Finally, it is very nice that the media hub on the phone no longer locks up while syncing content.
Windows Phone 8: Awesome
The first big improvement you’ll notice compared to Windows Phone 7.x is support for different tile sizes. Being able to customize the screen, so that I can fit more tiles on to it, but also make the ones I use the most large and easy to tap, is awesome. In addition to the three sizes they have now (large square, small square and large rectangle) I would also like to have “small rectangle” for all those apps where the icon by itself isn’t very distinctive/descriptive and it would be nice to have the name of the app on the tile as well (e.g. for Microsoft’s own PDF reader app which has a really nondescript icon).
Even though auto-correct in Windows Phone 7 had already been excellent compared to other mobile platforms, it too has been improved dramatically in Windows Phone 8. Based on the words I have typed, it can now predict what words I am likely to type next. E.g. when setting up an alarm with the message “good morning sunshine”, it suggested “morning”, “day” and “evening” after I had typed “good”. But it gets better, because apparently, auto-correct is also learning: A number of times I have created calendar entries “visit grandma Elli” for visiting my grandmother. So whenever I am creating a new entry to visit her, I only have to type the start of “visit” and the rest is suggested for auto-completion. That’s awesome.
Because this article is already way too long, I will just list the remaining things I think are worth noting as short bullets:
- As a replacement for Bing Maps, Nokia Maps is excellent and free (now even on other platforms and non-Nokia devices).
- Skype is no longer just a separate app, but is nicely integrated into the people hub, so you can Skype call or text someone right from their contact card.
- Internet Explorer 10 now includes “Find on Page” again, after it was originally in Windows Phone 7 but then removed at some point. Weird.
- It is unfortunate that none of my apps, texts or other settings could be migrated from the HD7 to the Lumia 920, but for future upgrades, Windows Phone 8 now includes a capability to sync some settings via the cloud (e.g. text messages).
I am very happy with my upgrade. Both the hardware and software is excellent, aside from a few issues (mostly sync). If you are happy with Windows Phone and are looking for a new device, I have no reservations recommending this. If you have been skeptical of the Windows Phone platform before, I would say it is definitely worth taking another look at. I can easily image it becoming one of the major three platforms (i.e. the only ones that will matter) in the near future.