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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

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Things about Windows 10 #2: Moving non-existent windows

Well, I had said I’d try to keep this series positive but every now and then you run up against a problem.

It turns out Windows 10 is fairly terrible at remembering window sizes and placement when connecting to or disconnecting from an external display. So far I’ve had issues going both ways and having to rearrange all of my windows each time. On the Mac, it always remembers how I like my windows arranged in each context. I’m connected to an external display most of the time so I only feel this pain a few times per week.

This turns out to be a particularly frustrating issue if an app, like DropIt, doesn’t have a Taskbar item. It means you can’t “get a window back” onto the primary display without some sort of trickery.

Here is what you do: select the app by clicking on the primary icon for it, type Alt then Space then M (not at the same time) and that will allow you to move the “lost” window with your arrow keys to get it back.

Things about Windows 10 #1: Task Bar Previews

There is so much blogger coverage for Apple’s hardware and software products that I feel there needs to be a few more in the Microsoft and Google world. To that end I’m going to start a few new series here on my personal blog; Things about Windows 10, Things about Android.

Generally, I’ll be keeping both of these series positive. I contemplated calling them “Things I like about Windows 10” but, inevitably, there will be some things that I wish were a bit better. So, they will just be “things” that I find interesting.

This first thing about Windows 10, Task Bar Previews, I like very much.

Windows 10 task bar

Let’s say you have an application that has two windows currently open. In the above screenshot I have two File Explorer windows open. By simply hovering the Task Bar icon for that application I can quickly see a preview of sorts for what those windows look like. It turns out to be very handy.

It goes a bit further than that as well. If I hover a single one of those previews, everything else fades away on my computer and I’m able to see just that preview.

Check this one out where I have a bunch File Explorer windows open while moving myriad files from one place to another.

Windows 10 task bar with one window highlighted

I’ve found this feature very useful in just the first few weeks of using Windows 10 every single day.

My checklist for setting up Windows 10

Once I had decided to switch from macOS to Windows 10 I knew that I would need to unlearn old tricks and learn some new ones. The oddest one that can only happen through brute force is to teach my pinky to do what my thumb used to.

On macOS the CMD button modifier is used for everything. CMD+C = copy, CMD+V = paste, CMD+Tab = switch applications, etc. On Windows 10 CNTRL is the modifier of choice for most but not all things. For instance, CNTRL+C = copy, CNTRL+V = paste… however, ALT+Tab = switch applications. Believe it or not, this is one of the biggest hurdles left for switchers (at least those that rely on keyboard shortcuts like I do). The only way to get used to this switch, to force your muscles to unlearn the old ways, is to immerse yourself in the new environment and rely on the keyboard as heavily as possible until your brain makes the switch.

To that end I borrowed a Surface Pro for a few weeks prior to my new computer showing up and switched to it for most of my daily tasks. This way I had a head start on refactoring my muscle memory. It also afforded me time to experiment with how I would set up my work computer just the way I’d like.

While I relearned how to type, I created a checklist of sorts each time I made a change to the system or installed an app. I did this in hopes that it would dramatically reduce my set up time when the new computer arrived. Turns out, it did.

  • Install One Drive
    • Set up work and personal accounts
    • Create Desktop shortcut to OASIS folder
  • Pair Bluetooth devices
  • Turn on WSL (docs)
  • Turn off auto app updates in Store
  •  Customize taskbar
    • Change to Cortana button
    • Add Downloads Folder
  • Logitech MX Master 2S setup
    • Install Logitech Options software
    • Map buttons
      • Thumb button to Windows Task Viewer
      • Middle button to Snipping Tool – C:\Windows\System32\SnippingTool.exe
  • Install apps
    • 1Password
    • Quicklook (replicates macOS Quicklook feature)
    • Trello
    • 1clipboard
    • Spotify
    • Firefox
    • Twitter
    • LastPass
    • Slack
    • Microsoft Teams
    • Visual Studio Code
    • Visual Studio
    • Adobe Creative Suite
    • DropIt
  • Customize Apps
    • Set up work and personal email and calendar
    • Install Color for Firefox
    • Install Containers for Firefox
    • Install Hack font
    • Install Atom One Dark Theme for VS Code
    • Install Framer Syntax for VS Code
    • Adjust font size to 14px for VS Code
  • Miscellaneous tasks
    • Turn on Windows Insider Program
    • Install all Windows Insider updates
    • Install HEIF Image Support (for iPhone photos)
    • Delete all pinned Start Menu items
    • Turn on Windows Back up
    • Turn on Windows 10 Timeline view
    • Adjust Notifications for all apps in Settings
    • Add appropriate folders to Photos app
  • Notes
    • in Ubuntu, put files in /mnt/c/* so they can be accessed by Windows apps

I still have a few things to do, such as moving development database schemas. And I’m sure there will be a bunch of little things as I continue working (I’ll update this post). But having this checklist made setting up the new computer fairly painless and I was done in a few hours. I remember it taking a few days to get a work computer set up right. I think having so much of our “stuff” in the cloud these days has made this process a bit easier.

If you have any suggestions for Windows 10 I’ll gladly accept them in the comments.

Xamarin.Forms 3.1

David Ortinau on the Xamarin Blog:

Earlier this year, we surveyed Xamarin.Forms developers about the kinds of custom controls and extra platform code being written repeatedly that should be considered for support “in the box”. From these conversations, we created an initiative to deliver as many as we could in the next several releases. Just six weeks after shipping Xamarin.Forms 3.0 at Build 2018, we are excited to introduce Xamarin.Forms 3.1 with a batch of those enhancements to make your lives easier.

I shipped a Xamarin.Forms app on iOS and Android in 2017. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring and using Xamarin and in some circumstances, for some teams (especially those with deep C# experience) I’d wholeheartedly recommend Xamarin. The Xamarin team continues to keep on top of the latest OS/SDK/API releases as well as making it very easy for developers to ship cross platform applications.

Hopefully by the end of this year I’ll be able to say the same about React/React Native. I’m looking forward to exploring this deeper than I have in the past. I like to use different things so that I know what the best tool for each job is – rather than using the same tool for every project.

My clipboard managers: 1Clipboard & Clip Stack

I use two clipboard managers currently.

On Windows 10 I use 1Clipboard:

A universal clipboard managing app that makes it easy to access your clipboard from anywhere on any device.

It says “any device” but I do not believe it has any mobile apps. Since I now use the Microsoft Launcher for Android I may end up switching if MSFT makes one manager between the two? That’d be nice.

On Android I’m using Clip Stack:

Clip Stack The easiest way to extend multi clipboard for Android.

It works great and I like that it is open source.

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.

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.

Reid Hoffman on Microsoft

Reid Hoffman:

Under Satya Nadella’s leadership, Microsoft has re-invigorated itself with an exploratory, future-oriented, and developer-focused mindset.

Microsoft buys GitHub

Satya Nadella:

More than 28 million developers already collaborate on GitHub, and it is home to more than 85 million code repositories used by people in nearly every country. From the largest corporations to the smallest startups, GitHub is the destination for developers to learn, share and work together to create software. It’s a destination for Microsoft too. We are the most active organization on GitHub, with more than 2 million “commits,” or updates, made to projects.

If you’ve been reading my blog for the last few years you’ll know that I’m rather bullish on what Satya Nadella has been doing within Microsoft. Today’s Microsoft is one that embraces open source, contributes heavily to it, allows developers to use any language and platform, etc.

The news that they’ve agreed to acquire GitHub later this year is not surprising at all. I’ve tried to find public evidence where I’ve stated that Microsoft should buy GitHub but for the life of me I cannot find it. I would go so far as to say that Microsoft was the best possible exit for GitHub.

Given some of the negativity I’ve seen around this news, it is my guess that MSFT is going to go out of its way to make sure the community knows they will be good stewards of GitHub. So prepare to see them invest rather heavily on the platform, features, team, and community-related initiatives. Which are all very good things.

Keep watching, I think we’re going to be seeing a Microsoft that none of us would have ever thought possible just a few short years ago.

Terry Myerson leaves Microsoft

Terry Myerson, on the success of Windows 10 under his watch:

Today, we are now approaching 700 million active Windows 10 users, commercial usage is growing 84% year over year, Xbox One is running a Windows 10 core, Surface is leading PC innovation, HoloLens is bringing breakthroughs to computer vision, our universal Microsoft store enables Xbox GamePass, Azure reserved instances, and Office distribution, and the OEM ecosystem is revitalized with profitable growth. Last year, we finished the year with over $8B in operating income from our segment.

I’ve written a lot about Windows 10 here on my blog. It, along with WSL, Azure, Visual Studio, Xamarin, HoloLens and people like Satya and Panos have me extremely bullish on Microsoft. More than I’ve been since the 90s.

Myerson spent 21 years at Microsoft. I recommend you read his post as he reflects over two decades.