Mark writes about Microsoft Windows, computer topics, and digital photography.

Oct 302014


You may recognize this print wheel from a Silver-Reed daisy-wheel printer, comparable to an IBM Selectric typewriter. I bought that printer over 25 years ago when I needed better quality than came from the dot matrix printer we were using. The Silver-Reed was replaced by a more-capable laser printer, the first of many I’ve had.

 Posted by at 11:02 am
Oct 132014

I installed Windows 10 Technical Preview on a tablet. After the radical departure Windows 8.0 was from Windows 7, Windows 8.1 refined the separation between the touch-oriented and desktop oriented interfaces. At first blush, Windows 10 looks like a step back to Windows 7. However, the best of the new features of Windows 8.1, such as active tiles and system-wide, consistent implementation of sharing, are smartly woven into the familiar Windows 7 desktop. Looks like a big step in the right direction.

Microsoft: Over A Million People Are Now Part Of Windows Insider Program Trying Out Windows 10

By pradeep on October 13, 2014 Microsoft, Windows, Windows 10

Windows UX head Joe Belfiore today tweeted out that over a million people are now part of Windows Insider Program which allows them to try Windows 10 Technical Preview. Over 200,000 pieces of user-initiated feedback have been submitted by people. You can read some of the top requests from people here.

With Insider program, you’ll get the latest preview builds and an easy-to-use feedback app.

Microsoft: Over A Million People Are Now Part Of Windows Insider Program Trying Out Windows 10

 Posted by at 1:58 pm
Aug 212014

Windows Phone 8.1 will ultimately include themes for customizing the Lock Screen. This is an app that provides the functionality in the meantime.

Live Lock Screen BETA | Windows Phone Apps+Games Store (United States)

Want to truly personalize your lock screen? Live lock screen lets you choose from 6 new lock screen layouts to add a distinctive touch to your Windows Phone. Each layout has a revamped design for the time, date, and notifications, as well as a unique unlock animation. You can also cycle through multiple background images throughout the day to keep your lock screen fresh—or just get the latest incredible image from Bing every morning. db946d8b-22d4-49e3-bd32-f3420a8a9617 66a27a60-7f57-4a83-995e-80174cdeab85 092d4d13-6585-4114-90f0-1dade56d38b7 97f74ade-4f39-4e14-b2ad-7698b9e6b0fe

Live Lock Screen BETA | Windows Phone Apps+Games Store (United States)

 Posted by at 9:14 pm
Aug 112014

This is a fantastic age to be a writer or a reader. A writer’s words can reach countless readers in seconds at very little cost. Readers can communicate instantly with each other and writers. Technology has given each of us a printing press, a podium, and an editorial page, as well as immediate and direct feedback never before possible.

The old saying is that difference between a writer and an author is that the latter has been published. More pertinent may be the latter has made money writing. We’re all free to give away content, but how does one make money doing so? That’s not rhetorical: How does one make money writing?

In the last six years, I’ve earned money writing books on computing and photography for a major publisher. My income has not been from royalties but upfront sums plus a few limited bonuses based on early sales. After a certain volume of sales, the publisher makes all the money. That publisher may well be on the verge of collapse due in part to the cost of printing and distributing physical books.

You may have read something about a conflict between Amazon and a different book publisher that has engendered a protest by hundreds of authors. The instigating author lives in New Mexico. His story has gotten some press lately. Amazon sent some customers a surprisingly thoughtful and well-written response.

At issue seems to be how much should e-books cost. In this regard, Amazon may be right that most people want e-books to cost less than $10, but so what? Most people want everything to be free or cheaper than it is. While Amazon makes a good analogy between e-books and paperbacks, they are wrong about or disingenuous in their assertion that e-books are worth less than physical books. Anyone who reads e-books knows that part of the appeal is that they can be read on many different devices, in different formats. The font style and size can usually be adjusted. One can search instantly, add notes, place unlimited bookmarks, even publish those to other readers. E-books can even be updated, which has huge potential. None of this is possible, or at least as easy, with physical books.

Don’t misunderstand me. I think e-books should be cheap and can be much cheaper than physical books. My concern is with who gets to set the price. (My wife set the price of the Kindle edition of her book to be the same as the physical book so as not to undermine sales of the printed edition. That should be her right.) When I have written for publishers, I have had no control over the price of the book. If I choose to self-publish, I want that control. I don’t want Amazon making that decision for me.

The broader issue that all of us who are fans of Amazon should consider is that this just one example of the pressure Amazon puts on its suppliers. In this regard, they are just like Wal-Mart, ready to squeeze every cent out of a supplier. Customers benefit from low costs, but what effect does this have on supply in general? Amazon should let publishers or authors set their own price and buyers decide if the content is worth the price.

 Posted by at 11:18 pm
Aug 092014

A friend asked me in his playful poke-the-bear fashion if Windows Phone is doomed. We all know examples of excellent products that failed and lousy ones that survived, so I’m not placing any bets. However, I really like my Windows Phone and would encourage anyone to consider one, especially anyone who uses Windows on a desktop, laptop, or tablet.

I have been using a Nokia Lumia 928 for just over one year. My phone runs Windows Phone 8.1. My carrier is Verizon. I start with these details because one’s experience with anything computer-related varies, especially with different components.

The lockscreen is quite customizable in terms of background (my photo) and icons (battery level, unread email).

Above: The lockscreen is quite customizable in terms of background (my photo) and icons (battery level, unread email).

Before I list specific features of my setup that I like, know that this is my first smart phone. Truth be told, I’d rather not have any phone at all. However, a few years ago I realized I had to have a mobile phone, so I bought a pay-as-you-go cheapy at Wal-Mart. I mostly used it to talk to my wife. A year ago, a family emergency made us both realize how much we needed Internet connectivity on the road, at times when one couldn’t count on free wifi, particularly while driving between cities. And so, we both ended up with Nokia.

Keep this in mind: I’m late to the game and I refuse to play with Apple. I’m certain there are features I like that are found on other phones. I have no doubt there are features that I like that are better on other phones. If my ignorance outrages you, please write your own blog entry.

One of my favorite features of this phone is the camera. Nokia is widely recognized as having good cameras and camera software. I use my camera many times a day and am rarely disappointed with it, except that it is slow to start. In fact, it has an easy to use interface that controls features found on high-end cameras (exposure value and ISO, for example).

The expanded camera interface allows you to tweak settings by dragging and see the effect immediately. Default interface is uncluttered.

Above: The expanded camera interface allows you to tweak settings by dragging and see the effect immediately. Default interface is uncluttered.

The camera works in concert with another favorite feature: OneDrive, which is Microsoft’s cloud storage. When I take a photo, seconds later it is copied to the cloud. Better still, the photo is automatically copied to any computer I log into. Therefore, I can snap a photo and review it seconds later on my desktop, my big screen TV, or my tablet. This integration and automatic process is terrific.

All photos on the phone (left) and the Web (right). All photos on the phone (left) and the Web (right).

Above: All photos on the phone (left) and the Web (right, on the Windows desktop).

There is an odd negative to this process: it’s one-way. If I delete or edit a photo in my Camera Roll on OneDrive, it is not deleted or edited on my phone. This requires me to delete photos from the camera directly, which is extra work. Oddly, all those copies on other devices are automatically synced (deleted or edited), just not on the phone itself.

OneDrive is entwined with my favorite software from Microsoft: OneNote, which is a limitless notebook with so many features it deserves its own blog entry. I’m writing this in OneNote knowing that it saves automatically and I can open it and edit it on any other computer and on my phone and all of those edits will be handled gracefully. I use this every day for journaling. My wife and I maintain shared shopping lists with little tap-able checkboxes. (My final blog entry will be copied into MS Live Writer, a great tool Microsoft has abandoned, and uploaded to WordPress which will deliver it to your browser.)

I should stress that all this data traffic flows over WiFi for free and does not require data service from Verizon.

So far, this sounds like a computer, not a phone. I do indeed use it for communication. The phone itself is better than that cheap clamshell I had before. I like having friends’ photos appear when they call and the fact that I can give each person a unique ringtone. (This goes a long way to helping me over my anxiety of not knowing who is calling.) Nokia also has easy and almost unlimited caller blocking, which doesn’t seem to be a Windows Phone feature and which Verizon makes much more difficult. I would add an option to send anyone not in my contacts directly to voicemail.

 sample of the screen that appear during a call.

Above: A sample of the screen that appear during a call. (Photo by MRudd.)

I also text and I enjoy the smart autocorrect that learns my preferences as I use it. For example, when I type ‘coco’ it’s no surprise coconut is offered but when I chose that, milk appears next. (I’d like to see the keyboard offer more choices when a key is held down, such as when one holds down the period. This would save me from switching keyboard layouts.)

Multiple key options by pressing and holding some keys. Auto-correct above that.

Above: Multiple key options by pressing and holding some keys. Auto-correct above that.

In the screenshot above, note the three dots in the lower right corner. A tap expands the bottom row of buttons to reveal labels (in case you don’t grok the icons) and additional options. This is a fantastic feature I hope Microsoft adds to Windows on the desktop as the two converge.

And, of course, there is email on my phone. It was my phone that weaned me from gmail, something I could not have imagined before that. I like Outlook just fine and now gmail looks overwrought to me. (On the other hand, Google Calendar is still much better than Microsoft’s.)

All of this communication (including Skype, which I don’t use on my phone) integrates into Contacts, which is also cloud-based and syncs to all my machines. I can place tiles on my phone for any contact or group of contacts for quick access and automatic updates of their activity.

Tiles are the most obvious feature of Windows Phones. Instead of static icons, tiles show data or images and update regularly. They are resizable and movable. At a glance, I see the date, time, weather, number of missed calls, voicemail, and text messages, as well as a count of unread email. In turn, all of this, as well as information served up by other apps, has recently been integrated into the action center just a swipe away.

Tiles of all sizes displaying constantly updating data.

Above: Tiles of all sizes displaying constantly updating data.

The latest updates to Windows Phone 8.1 include folders which contain tiles. While this feature exists on other phones, here the tiles are ‘live’ and show their data within the folder tile. All of these are resizable and movable. Quite cool.

Most of these icons are folders displaying live content from multiple icons. A tap expands the folder.

Above: Most of these icons are folders displaying live content from multiple icons. A tap expands the folder.

Yeah, I spend too much time staring at screens.

[my photos of dragonflies on flickr]

Nokia 928 on Amazon

 Posted by at 11:47 am
Jun 302014

This just arrived in today’s mail bag:

I’m 80 years old and I dislike people giving me false information; Its called lying. Its bad enough trying to get the windows 8.1 to work for me without a cheat sheet. I was elated to find an offer of a cheat sheet on p.5 of windows 8.1. Not finding it was very frustrating can you remedy my problem. By the way; I hate computers but they are a necessary evil which I have to put up with.

I wonder how many people this guy has called a liar have then helped him. I composed a reply in my mind and deleted his email.

For the record: I wrote a book on Windows 8.0 almost two years ago. One year ago, Wiley asked me to revise that book for the 8.1 update. Sadly, my mother-in-law was dying at that time. I chose family over commerce. Wiley hired another writer to revise the book. Apparently, he didn’t explain this in his revision nor did he include his email address in the new book. Worse, I don’t even have a copy of the book nor do I have any control over the referenced cheat sheet.

I made no money on the 8.1 book and I make no money helping readers. Through no fault of their own, readers don’t know this odd situation. I help the polite ones.

 Posted by at 2:21 pm
Jun 052014

OneDrive is terrific for viewing and sharing photos. The All Photos view is very handy.

Making photos on OneDrive better: From your biggest screen to your smallest photo frame  | OneDrive Blog

By Douglas Pearce – June 3, 2014

OneDrive aspires to be the one place where you store everything in your life, including all of your photos, and we’ve been working hard to make that experience even better. Today we have three updates to that will make it easier for you to enjoy your photos on Xbox One, on Windows Phone, and at OneDrive.com.

  • New photo views on OneDrive for Xbox One
  • Windows Phone 8.1 update: Auto upload of high-res photos
  • Photo Printing Comes to OneDrive with Walgreens.com

[See linked article for code for 25% discount on printing]

Making photos on OneDrive better: From your biggest screen to your smallest photo frame  | OneDrive Blog

 Posted by at 1:12 pm
May 272014

As screens shrank to fit the palm of your hand, Web designers were going mad. Most Web designers use larger than average screens for their development work. A Web page might look great on a given monitor and terrible on another. (That goes for monitors larger than designed for, such as TVs and higher resolution screens.)

It is true that HTML improved for years and browsers continue to improve. Nevertheless, mobile users such as those on a cellphone simply have different requirement than desktop users. Foremost, mobile requires touch, which is still not standard on desktops. Second, mobile requires larger text while offering less space for text. Finally, navigation that is fine on a computer, such as a link, may be unusably small on a pocket screen.

Many blogs use WordPress to deliver the content. Although it might be nice if WP handled mobile devices automatically, it doesn’t (yet). Programmers have created plugins and themes to address this problem.

I use WPtouch Mobile Plugin on two of my sites: www.ahwilderness.com and www.mjhinton.com/help/. The plugin detects a mobile device and serves up a theme, including navigation that suits such a device. Browse either site on a computer and on a cellphone to see the difference. Here are a few screenshots.

Below is my computer blog viewed in Internet Explorer on an 8.1 desktop:

Screenshot (164)

Below left: Same page automagically formatted for cellphone; below right: the first blog entry.

wp_ss_20140527_0002 wp_ss_20140527_0014

Below: Navigation available by tapping 3 lines in upper-right (compare to tabs in the first screenshot).


Below: www.ahwilderness.com on the desktop.

 Screenshot (165)

Below left: same screen reformatted; middle: menus; right: a page.


I chose not to use WPtouch on my blog www.edgewiseblog.com/mjh/ because I already like how it appears on my own phone, especially the photos in the sidebar, which I would lose with WPtouch (compare www.ahwilderness.com above on the desktop with sidebar and on the cellphone without). Notice that the tab navigation below mjh’s blog is almost useless (until the user enlarges that area in the usual fashion of spreading fingers).


WordPress › WPtouch Mobile Plugin « WordPress Plugins

WPtouch is a mobile plugin for WordPress that automatically enables a simple and elegant mobile theme for mobile visitors of your WordPress website.

The administration panel allows you to customize many aspects of its appearance, and deliver a fast, user-friendly and stylish version of your site to your mobile visitors, without modifying a single bit of code (or affecting) your regular desktop theme.

WordPress › WPtouch Mobile Plugin « WordPress Plugins

 Posted by at 7:47 pm
May 252014

Another thorough review of the latest Microsoft Surface Pro (at the last link below). After the 30 second ad for OneDrive, the 4:33 video is worth watching. Don’t buy anything before reading this review, David Pogue’s, and Ed Bott’s, as well as watching both videos.

The consensus seems to be that this is the ultimate Windows 8.1 machine and a good substitute for both laptop and tablet, albeit expensive.

This is Microsoft’s new Surface Pro 3, in pictures | The Verge By Dieter Bohn on May 23, 2014 09:01 am

 Posted by at 11:21 am
May 222014

NextGen Reader is the best RSS tool I’ve used. If you don’t know what RSS is, you should do a little research. You may see an orange button with a dot and two curved lines — that’s the RSS symbol. If you click that, your browser will attempt to show you the feed for the current website. This is just the beginning. Follow this link for more information.

Once you get used to — dare I say, addicted to — RSS, you’ll need NextGen Reader, one of the very best apps I’ve used on Windows 8 and Windows 8 Phone. Although you can use the free version, it’s worthy paying for and on sale now.

Red Stripe Deals on NextGen Reader, Package Tracker, 4 Elements II, Machinarium, Bridge Constructor, and MeteoEarth

NextGen Reader

NextGen Reader

This popular Feedly RSS reader currently averages 4.4 out of 5 stars in the Windows Store. You can use it with a modern tiled layout for tablet, or a more traditional 3-pane layout for desktop reading. Pin multiple tiles to your Start screen to keep up on all the feeds you care about. Get it this week on Windows for $1.49, or on Windows Phone for $.99

Red Stripe Deals on NextGen Reader, Package Tracker, 4 Elements II, Machinarium, Bridge Constructor, and MeteoEarth

 Posted by at 3:00 pm
May 222014

The linked review is very thorough but the 3 minute faux commercial is wonderful. Hard to believe Pogue is known as an “Apple fanboy.”

Smart, Versatile Surface Pro 3 Can Do It All — Maybe Even Lift the Windows 8 Curse by David Pogue

If this marvel of engineering doesn’t lift the Microsoft hardware curse, I don’t know what its designers are supposed to do. Maybe join a self-help group with Cassandra and Sisyphus.

Smart, Versatile Surface Pro 3 Can Do It All — Maybe Even Lift the Windows 8 Curse

 Posted by at 1:52 pm
May 222014

Links below to a series of tutorials from Microsoft which you may find useful for learning more about Windows 8.1

Getting started tutorials for Windows – Microsoft Windows

New to Windows 8.1 or Windows RT 8.1?

You’re at the right place. Whether you’re brand new to Windows 8.1 or Windows RT 8.1, or just want a refresher, these 10 tutorials will show you the basics.

Getting started tutorials for Windows – Microsoft Windows

Using touch gestures

If you have a computer with a touchscreen, you might find that gestures (motions that you make with one or two fingers) are easier to use than a mouse, pen, or keyboard.

Using touch gestures

Keyboard shortcuts – Microsoft Windows Help

Keyboard shortcuts are combinations of two or more keys that you can use to perform a task that would typically require a mouse or other pointing device. Keyboard shortcuts can make it easier to work with your PC, saving you time and effort as you work with Windows and other apps. …

Keyboard shortcuts – Microsoft Windows Help

Browsing the web – Microsoft Windows

Getting started with Internet Explorer 11

Internet Explorer 11 is included in your Windows 8.1 or Windows RT 8.1 update. Internet Explorer makes it easier to get where you want to go on the web, and helps you see amazing content at its best. By learning some common gestures and tricks, you’ll be able to comfortably use your new browser and get the most out of your favorite sites.

Browsing the web – Microsoft Windows

 Posted by at 1:26 pm
May 222014

Today, the Bing photo of the day is an animation / video of the Eye in London turning. You can see the people inside moving. The desktop photo of the day is actually a pretty composition (as always, in my opinion). Often, they are the same photo and if the .com photo is animated, the same composition appears static on the desktop.

Bing animated photo of the London Eye
Photo of the day at www.bing.com (above)

Bing static photo of the London Eye
Photo of the day from Bing desktop software (above)

 Posted by at 9:56 am