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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Follow: @c2dev2, RSS, JSON, Micro.blog.

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Walked downstream in a local river for a few miles hunting turtles last evening.

If you share Google Calendars and want them to show up in Windows 10’s calendar app, this is the tip you need.

My opinion of Microsoft Surface, 6 years later

Me, in 2012, writing about the first time I saw a Surface device:

I could have played with it longer. But I wouldn’t want to. The Surface is terrible. Even if you’ve never picked up an iPad or an Android-powered tablet you would think the Surface is pretty slow, hard to use, and heavy; three things a tablet device should probably never have said about it.

I’m writing this on a borrowed Surface Pro (using it until my Dell XPS comes in) and last year I spent a lot of time on a Surface Book (a review that I wrote 2,100 words on and never published).

Today I’d be willing to say that the Surface line from Microsoft is very good and only getting better. The Pro, Laptop, Studio, and now Go are excellent computers, well-built, and worth investigating as your next computer.

A lot can change in 6 years. I wrote this paragraph 2 years ago already:

I’m keeping an extremely close eye on all things Microsoft lately. I’ve even stated, publicly, that I think if they continue on their current course they are going to be beating Apple on several fronts within half a decade.

They are well on their way.

What I saw this week #52: July 13, 2018

More accurately, what I’ve seen somewhat lately.

I’ve been off my blogging game lately as I’m making the switch from Mac to Windows. So I’m busy moving photo libraries, installing apps and services, configuring options, and learning keyboard shortcuts.

Here are a few things I wish I had more time to write about, but do not.

  • Android P Beta 4 – Android P is looking like a very solid release of Android. I’m tempted to run these betas but I’ve been patient.
  • Firefox – I’ve switched to using Firefox full-time across all platforms. I’ve been doing so for a few months now and I’m loving it.
  • Firefox Containers & Firefox Color – Both of these are great “pilot” extensions. Oh, and I was wrong in 2017 when I thought “Containers” was the wrong word. It was the right word.
  • Wired on Surface Go – The Surface Go looks like a fantastic device at a fantastic price. The only thing I would change about it would be to include the keyboard. The Surface needs a keyboard because Windows 10’s tablet mode isn’t very good (yet?)
  • Magic Leap’s recent demo – I’ve been keeping my eye on many things MR (mixed reality) and Magic Leap is one of them. They are purposefully not showing off their technology. I haven’t figured out why yet. It could either be that it is impossible to show their tech in a video and you have to experience it to get the full effect, or it isn’t nearly as good as they lead on. I’m willing to bet the former only because of the enormous amount of capital they’ve raised. I hope their investors demanded a demo prior to investing.
  • MSFT Teams goes free – I use Teams every day at work. It isn’t very good. Especially when you compare it to Slack. Slack is very, very, very good. And Teams is hardly tolerable. Microsoft has a lot of catching up to do here. However, in a recent video Satya says he uses it every day so I hope it gets the attention it needs. Who would have thought that team chat would have been such a massive sector?
  • Digg’s v4 launch – Will Larson recounts the launch of Digg 4.0. Fairly brutal. But I can say that my experience launching things isn’t that far off from what he recounts. Launch days are incredible. Even if well planned.
  • B2B vs B2C – Justin Kan on the differences between the two markets. I agree with him. I love B2B. See also.

I hope within a few weeks I’ll be back to my normal publishing self. Until then…

My experience buying a Windows laptop

After 16+ years working, writing, playing, making, listening, watching on a Macintosh, I’m switching back to Windows. Within a few days from today I will no longer be a Mac user. In fact, the only Apple product I will be using regularly will be my 2014 iPad Air 2 which I plan to replace soon.

(I’m not the only one.)

This is a big deal for me. But not as big of a deal as it would have been if I had made this switch back to Windows a few years ago. A lot has changed. Windows 10 has gotten good. Hardware is arguably nearly as good. And so much of the software is either written cross-platform or runs on the cloud.

This decision to move back to Windows has been years in the making. In fact, it may be about 1 year later than it should have been. While I hope to find the time to write about why I believe it is a great time to switch from macOS to Windows (though, I’ve mentioned it several times here) this post is going to be focused on the experience of researching and buying a Windows computer.

Buying a Windows computer can be a draining task compared to buying a Mac.

Since 2002, when I fully switched from Windows to the Mac, I’ve purchased 9 Macintoshes for personal use, and several others for team members at work. Each time I purchased a new Mac it took me 15-20 minutes to make a decision on what I wanted to buy. Sixteen years of buying Macs has made me a bit lazy.

Deciding which Mac to buy is a fairly simple exercise. First, I would wait until Apple released brand-new models. Then, I would ask myself these questions:

  • What size screen do I want/need?
  • What is my budget?
  • What is the very best Mac I can buy with the screen size I want for the budget I have?

With the answers to these questions I was usually able to pick out the model I wanted within a few minutes, grab the box in the Apple Store or at Best Buy, and walk out.

So a few months ago when I sort of kind of knew for sure that I wanted to switch to Windows I began to look around at what my options were. What is it like to buy a Windows computer?

Due to the abundance of choice, purchasing a Windows computer is not as simple as buying a Mac. This fact is actually something I’ve criticized for years but is now something I see as an advantage. I used to say “I don’t want so much choice, just give me what I need. I like that Apple just gives me what I need.”

However, time has taught me that this is only good if Apple makes all the right choices for me. And for the last few years they haven’t been. They’ve probably been making the right choices for someone else (likely students, casual consumers, etc.) but not for me. What Apple are selling I no longer need.

I digress! Remember, the “why you should consider switching from Mac to Windows post” may come in the future. Back to buying.

Unless you walk into a Microsoft Store and purchase a Surface of your liking (the way I used to purchased Macs) this is what the buying experience is like.

You go to the web site’s of Dell, Lenovo, Microsoft, HP (and others) and pore over all of the configurations they have available.

While you’re there you try to build up your vocabulary both for the manufacturer’s brand names (Lenovo has like three different YOGA type laptops and ten THINKPAD lines, etc.) and for the actual hardware that is inside these laptops. Each of them have their pluses and their minuses and differing options available.

For instance, and this is just one small example, as of this writing you cannot purchase an “ultrabook” sized laptop (13″) with a 4K screen, dedicated GPU, more than 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. You can purchase some combination of these things but you can’t get this exact thing (at least not via the manufacturer’s that I researched). The combinations can be overwhelming and all of the information about these computers is not in the same place.

One huge, huge resource for me was Lisa Gade and Mr. Mobile on YouTube. Both of these laptop reviewers have a style I enjoy. They get directly to the point, explain real world scenarios for their use, and also take the time to compare one laptop with another in head-to-head battles.

Tech reviewers on YouTube have some serious job security. Not only are they distilling a huge amount of information into a quick video – but they need to do it every single month as manufacturers make slight adjustments to their lineups. It has to be a full-time job just keeping all of this straight.

For a few days I was dead set on buying the Huawei Matebook Pro X. It has everything I want in a Windows PC and – coincidentally, looks exactly like a MacBook Pro. However, it appears it will take a few months to be able to buy one in the United States (thanks Verge). By that time I fully expect the models that are available today to be outdated so I decided I didn’t want to wait that long. Perhaps that will be my next computer in 3 or 4 years if they are still highly rated then.

I happily chose the Dell XPS 13” (Model 9370). Yes, I reconfigured mine with exactly what I needed so it will be a fe days before Dell gets it to me. According to all of the reviews I’ve seen it will work just fine for my needs. And I also plan on buying an external GPU (something I was considering doing for my MacBook Pro set up anyway) to give me a bit more oomph working within the Adobe Creative Suite (something I do far more at my current job than I did over the last few years).

Side note: I would not purchase a Windows computer through many retail outlets that I’ve been to. Best Buy, Target, Sam’s Club, Staples — all have meager selections. These retailers likely have better choices through their web sites but I would recommend buying PCs directly from the source. In fact, if you call the manufacturer you will get a better deal for the exact same hardware. I won’t tell you the deal that I got simply by calling our company’s Dell representative, but I can say it was very worth the phone call.

It took me a few weeks to decide on the Windows PC that I wanted. Now that I have a base knowledge of what is available, of the vocabulary, and now that I know what I’m looking for – it will likely take less time to make a decision next time.

I’ll let you know what I think of the Dell XPS when I get it.

This post was written on a borrowed Surface Pro on Windows 10 that I’ve been using for over two weeks and I’m very, very happy with my Windows 10 experience so far.

My half-written draft on how I chose a Windows computer needs to be finished and published. I need to find the time this week.

Friendly reminder: If you use Gmail, check your Google Drive storage. If you run out, you will not get any email and Google will not notify you. So you have to check yourself. Log into drive.google.com and click Storage.

I’ve been getting more value out of Twitter lately and as a result I’ve been tweeting a bit more (on my “new” c2dev2 account). I don’t know what this means.

Incredibles 2 was excellent. Brad Bird is a superhero.

Twenty-four years of computing and I’ve never met a printer that I liked.