Category: English

English articles

Good Microsoft Morning :)

Good Microsoft Morning :)

It’s been quite a while, since I had so successful and effective morning, while trying to discover new Microsoft-dependent tools and techniques. I’m very glad from what I achieved, so I decided to share it a bit with you!

Feedly-connected News Reader for Windows 8 Tablet

NextGen ReaderFirst of all, I had to find a decent news reader for my Lenovo Helix ultrabook. I’m already using Chrome on the Desktop, but my tablet browser of preference is by no competition Internet Explorer 10. No other browser can compete with its slickness when displaying/resizing text with gestures. I tried many: Chrome, Firefox, Opera – all of them worked perfectly on the desktop, but their tablet mode is ridiculous (and that’s soft talk here, I was using much more harsh words, while trying). Feedly Cloud, on the other hand, does not work with IE10. I’ve no idea why, but when trying to login with Google Authentication, it just hangs on the authentication provider and… that’s it! So I needed something else.

I remember Alex Miloev mentioning that he found something quite good for his Windows 8 Phone (I do not like and do not use this mobile platform), so I tried to reproduce his success, but for my Pro tablet. A quick Windows Store query yielded my news reader of choice: NextGen Reader. I do not remember is Alex mentioned the same app, but it took only 15 min with the trial version to decide that this will be my Windows 8 Tablet reader of choice. Because of:

  • Full Feedly integration (although I’ve still had no success discovering how to unsubscribe from a feed from within NextGen 🙂 )
  • Quick and easy synchronization
  • Very nice and neat UI
    • Although I’m missing Portrait mode, for some strange reason it shows up just the NextGen blue logo (initially I thought the app hung, but then rotated back to Landscape and it was all there.
  • Excellent synchronization with Pocket and Readability
  • …and it just “feels right”, while I’m using it
    • Maybe the user experience resembles quite well the Android tablet user experience, to which I’m addicted?

I had some troubles, while trying to pay for the app (it costs US3 before tax, for me it went to something below US$3.50). Completely acceptable price, I didn’t even wait for its trial to expire and purchased it immediately.

(Of course) I had some trouble purchasing it :). Otherwise it won’t be Windows Store, ain’t it? My trouble was provoked from the fact that my Live account is created with US-based address, and in its Divine Wisdom someone at Microsoft (I’m trembling from fear it could be a whole team though!) decided that once country is tied up to Microsoft Account, only Death can separate it. So the Store kept insisting for Microsoft-based postal address (I had to use my PayPal account, because guess what – all my credit cards are with my real address)! I was almost given up (and ready to write a long rant in my blog), but then it struck me: I have to cheat (again)! I have plenty of friends, who live in USA and have valid addresses, so I just put there one of them (Note to self: warn the person that I tied up his address and phone number to my live account 🙂 ).

So once I did the “fraud” above, all went smooth and my PayPal payment (with my Bulgarian credit card) went smoothly. Yay, I am not a happy NextGen Reader user. And it’s awesome!

Windows 8 Tablet Radio Application

AudialisThe next challenge, which I had to resolve, was to bring some noise in the room. I.e., to enable my tablet to play radio streams. Yes, I know, it’s a Pro tablet, I can install WinAmp or whatever there for desktop you can try/find, but I actually waned a tablet application, because it’s much cooler :).

Again a Windows Store search, which yielded lots of choices. Initially I went for Mini Radio Player. After installation and some playing with it (literally), I decided to keep searching, because this thing didn’t have some of my favorite local stations! Yes, it was very intelligent, immediately offered me Bulgarian stations, but with quite limited choice. So I had to give it up. I refined the query a bit (sorry, don’t remember how 🙂 ) and then I stumbled upon Audialis. A bit too “overdesigned” app for my taste, but since its main purpose is to run in background, the overdesign did not scare me (too much). Tried it, saw it has practically all stations I’m interested for, and that’s it for now. It’s even playing now, while I type this :).

Microsoft Word and WordPress Integration

In the past, I was vivid Windows Live Writer user. However, I did not had Live Writer and also it seems Microsoft does not pay much attention to it either, so I decided to use Word for my posts. Word has pretty good (English and Bulgarian) spell check and auto-correct and it’s a word processor, after all, i.e. great for stuff like that. Until today I was using it as “ground-up” for my posts (when without Live Writer), but today I decided to look for a better integration.

I was very nicely surprised to see that Word actually has an excellent blog integration. WordPress Support says almost nothing about it (is it intentional, or is it on purpose?), but I found this excellent blog post “How to Use Microsoft Word to Publish Directly to Your WordPress Site”, which guided me how I can easily setup my Word 2013 to work with doncho.net. All (again) went flawlessly.

Conclusions

  1. Windows Store and the app content have really grew in the past few months. It’s good to see that and it brings some hope in me that if one day Windows Phone becomes more open and flexible platform, I may decide to give it a chance again (not that I dislike Android, but just of curiosity).
    1. Windows Store, on the other hand, still sucks big time, when it comes to “country diversity” and flexibility. I’m not willing to switch my 10+ years Microsoft Passport account just because an idiot on high Microsoft level can’t understand that sometimes people change countries. Why, Microsoft, oh why? 🙁
  2. Feedly, although promised their cloud will work with any browser, still do not support Internet Explorer 10 in a good way. Maybe Internet Explorer 11?
  3. Word and WordPress work awesome together!
  4. Lenovo Helix is an excellent i7 Windows Ultrabook, Tablet and Notebook, all in one! Great job, Lenovo! I hope I’ll find enough time one day to describe how glad I am from having this gem!

🙂

Update 1:

<span style="font-family: Wingdings;">J</span>

Only a Microsoft Product Manager can be so naive 🙂

Goodbye, WestHost!

Goodbye, WestHost!

Finally! Last evening, at around 02:00AM, I finally had the chance to flip doncho.net nameservers from WestHost to SuperHosting.

It’s been almost 2 years since I decided to throw away WestHost services. I cannot even count the number of incidents I had with them, varying from simple “No service” cases to “We have had blocked your (home) IP, because you have entered your password wrong three times”. Idiotic rules, threatening e-mails (you’re using way too much processor), etc.

Since doncho.net has a lot of content, I was really afraid from the migration plan. But after migrating my main blog to Superhosting took like 30 min (the download took hours!), my hopes went high. And indeed, for less than 4 hours total (spread in 3 days), I was finally ready to flip the nameservers trigger. And I also had (back 🙂 ) all the passwords’ lists for MySQL databases, etc.

Now all should be already in place. My permalinks (finally!) work. And my blog is (finally!) loading fast.

Last but not least, I need to mention the great Superhosting support line. They were excellent. They even offered me them to do the migration, but I wanted to do it myself, for various reasons.

Let’s see now!

Turning temporarily WP-Touch off…

Turning temporarily WP-Touch off…

WPTouch to JetpackWith the recent JetPack update and the no-yet-resolved-after-8-months issue around WP-Touch and displaying of the posts on Android devices, I decided to turn off WP-Touch (for now, I still hope they fix it at some point) and to rely only on JetPack for handling mobile rendering.

I have used WP-Touch for a long time (year++), I like its visuals and style (when it’s working), but I can’t accept the fact that it suffers from such severe bug and no developer is ready to step up and fix it. Yes, I know, Open Source, Free, blah blah, “this is how free software projects work” (or don’t work, in my case) but I still can’t accept it.

Please, don’t hesitate to leave a comment, if you still have issue with mobile rendering of this blog.

Rachel’s Wish: one year later

Rachel’s Wish: one year later

Less than one year ago I red (in the social media) about the birthday wish of a 9 years old Rachel. She wanted to raise $300 in order to help 15 Ethiopian villagers to get access to clean water. She raised only $220 tough, and then she decided she’ll do better next year.

Unfortunately, few days after that she died in a terrible car accident.

The world, however, responded. Rachel’s last birthday wish got around the world and she, postmortem, collected more than $1.2mln for charity:water. I also gave my modest contribution at that time, so I started receiving occasional mail from charity:water about their campaigns and updates.

A week or two ago was the first year anniversary since Rachel’s death. Here’s the video about Rachel’s gift. A video, which charity:water prepared, to see what and how Rachel touched thousands of lives:

And the next time, when you think that the social media is just gibberish talk and waste of time, think again. Even if it was for this only, it would worth it!

I should also remember this story the next time, when I complain about my <whatever> battery going down. It’s educating! Because we do accept the water as a given.

Rest in peace, little Rachel.

This post uses the image from charity:water Mission Statement.

Viber for Windows Phone

Viber for Windows Phone

These days I noticed that my Viber started notifying me that quite a few of my friends from  Microsoft have joined it. When I first received the initial notification, I though “well, maybe <put_name_here> bought an Android phone or iPhone”. But when I started receiving follow-up notifications, I became suspicious and decided to check!

And indeed, on May 8th WPCentral published that since 2.1 there’s a Viber client for Windows Phone and Blackberry. Unfortunately, only the messaging services for now, but that’s much better than nothing. So these days I will install Viber for Windows Phone on Vesi‘s phone, as soonas I succeed to get it in my hands!

So far we’ve been using WhatsApp messenger, but Viber is a great tool and a lot of my friends are having only that. I’m sure Vesi will continue to prefer WhatsApp, because it’s with much better interface and messaging functions, but when Viber comes with voice, at least we’ll know.

The Surface

The Surface

(Almost) two years ago I’ve spent quite significant US$900 for an Android tablet. The first 7″ ‘real’ Android tablet on the market, which I was sure will worth every buck. That was my 7″ Galaxy Tab device, which I still love and use.

At that time I was still at Microsoft, although I knew the end of these Microsoft days was close. Some of my colleagues disapproved the tablet. However, I had my solid reasons why I cannot wait anymore and I need to get a tablet. I loved the Windows Phone 7 phone, it was great piece of hardware, but I highly disapproved the lockdown, which Microsoft copied directly from Apple and put at his users. That’s why I was sure that my next business phone would be an Android phone.

I was using Android-based devices since then. I’ve had my hands on different phones, starting with Google Nexus S, Samsung Galaxy II, Google Galaxy Nexus, HTC One X and right now Samsung Galaxy III. All those had their flaws and benefits, but the most important experience for me was the fact that I vividly saw the Android OS growing from 2.2 until 4.0.4. I also had some experience with Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1″ (which is with 3.x.x).

Until today I was wondering what would be my next tablet. I was thinking about Asus Transformer series, they’re great, nifty devices with a lot of features. Actually, I almost bought one few months ago, if it was not the Asus support, who ensured me there’s no way Bulgarian language would work with their hardware keyboard. And then I backed off.

…and I’m happy that I waited…

Microsoft SurfaceSo far I did not believe that Microsoft would give something, which would amaze and astonish me that high. Too many disappointments for the past (well…) few years! But fortunately that seems over now.

I just saw the full recordings from the Microsoft Surface announcement, which happened yesterday. I really enjoyed these 47 minutes full of perfection. I can clearly say that the Surface is the device (no, it’s not a tablet, it’s much, much more!), which is worth waiting. Not only because it’s Windows. Because it’s an actual business device, which can be fun as well. Because it will finally close the gap between the Tablet PCs and the real tablets, which you can use in an Enterprise.

I will have to wait for the Pro version. Which means I will wait at least another 9-12 months. But seeing that’re the plans, Windows RT resembles too much the Apple model, which I hate a lot! But Windows 8, on an Intel Surface device, is something which will worth spending $1600 (I think that’ll be the starting price of these things in my geography).

I am very happy with what I’ve saw tonight. Microsoft has finally come with a real product, which will (once again) change the world. I’m sure that Microsoft Surface will give back the speed and the innovation for the consumer computing market, which this company was lacking in the past years.

Microsoft initially won the browser war with Internet Explorer 4. Then Microsoft slowed down and now I can’t see how Internet Explorer will make it back. Especially with the fact that Windows RT will come with IE10 “eunuch edition”, which will not allow plugins at all (Flash does not count, and it’s shitty anyway). I hope Microsoft allows better browsers in its Windows RT market, because otherwise I doubt I’d ever like and own Windows RT tablet at all.

It is, however, quite different story with Windows 8 Pro. It will host full-blown IE10, with all plugin goodness, and it will allow installation of any other software just like any other PC: from any source. This will make possible installing and using Chrome (Firefox, you will rest in peace soon… too bad, because you were the changing factor of the browser market…). Of course, Google has to “surface” the Chrome, but I’m sure that’ll happen too. This combined with all the rest will make the Windows 8 Pro tablet the best future device for me and my needs. And probably for the other 500 million users.

I think that at the end, this will rejuvenate the desktop PCs. Especially for people, who need high processor power at their fingertips. Gamers will have hard time putting their favorite MMORPG on a tablet. Plus, the big screen there is a must. Also, although the Pro tablets are promised to be fast devices, I doubt they’ll match the power of a desktop PC, which can be properly fit and cooled.

But still, the surfaces will prevail. Because iPad might be great consumer device, but it’s total crap in the Enterprise. Plus, until you root it, you’re stuck inside the Fruit Farm of Apple. And when you root it, you lose your warranty. Windows 8 (Pro) won’t have that limitation, and will win (for good). I actually think that naming the device “surface” and not a “tablet” will be one of the key factors, which will help people distinguish, know and look for this particular device, and not “tablet” anymore. The fact that the Android devices are called “tablets” (just like the iPad) is one of the reasons, in my opinion, why they never succeeded (and there’re also about 100 other reasons, which won’t fit in this post). But with the Surface and Tablet now, we clearly know what’s the future, and what’s the past (well, and present).

So, unless Microsoft screws it up big time (for example, exclude my country from the “supported” list, or release a device without full pack Bulgarian keyboards), this future looks much clearer to me 🙂

Stufflings

Stufflings

It really was that easy. WordPress, although it’s getting bigger, it easier and easier to handle and manage. Almost like if Apple was making it <put_scary_face_here>.

Other than that… nothing exciting these days. My real work/life and virtual work/hobby affairs keep me away from blogging. Plus, the recent events in my country, people’s reaction and my take on it make me feel that “I’m getting too old for this shit”.

For example, few years ago I’d most probably be part of the virtual (and maybe real) protests against the new Forestry Act. Nowadays, not only that I am not part of them, but I also disapprove the way these are organized and handled. And seeing my friends’ reaction (in Facebook, since it became the virtual playground for all of us) on my opinion… I can’t really figure it out.

But after all, it does not matter. A friend of mine once qouted: “Better be a miserable human, than a pleased pig”. Right now I feel more like the pig… But that’s my opinion and connected with all the rest around me, I do think I have my reasons!

Търся учител по английски / Looking for English Language Teacher

Търся учител по английски / Looking for English Language Teacher

The Bulgarian version, for the English version please see below!

Търся преподавател по английски. Бих искал да организирам обучение на колегите във фирмата (а и на себе си), но не класическия вариант “аз говоря, вие ме слушате и пишете домашни”. Според мен един такъв урок би следвало да изглежда така:

  • Една група е не повече от 8 курсиста
  • Групата се събира веднъж или два пъти седмично.
  • Преподавателят избира (интересна) тема, която се свежда предварително на участниците в курса
  • Участниците се подготвят (доколкото могат)
  • Урокът продължава един учебен час (може и два учебни часа) и е дискусия на избраната тема. Целите са:
    • Курсистите да говорят, за да може да упражняват езика си.
    • Преподавателят да следи грешките при говора, като ги поправя своевременно (по време на, или след урокът)
    • Курсистите да упражняват езика максимално (говорно)
  • Възможно е от време на време да има писмени упражнения (или като домашна), които курсистите да приготвят (доставката може да е чрез е-поща), а преподавателят проверява и показва грешките, за да се учат постепенно курсистите и да усъвършенстват английския си.

Перфектният преподавател би бил с майчин език английски!

Други неща, които търся:

  • Да има опит и желание да бъде част от подобен курс. Това не е класическия “даскалски” модел, така че по-скоро говорим за приятелски диалог, отколкото за скучен час по английски!
  • Да има желание да преподава два пъти седмично с предполагаем начален час или предиобед (10:00), или следобед (16:00). Възможно е и по-късно/по-рано, гъвкави сме откъм това условие.
  • Да може да издава официален разходен документ.

Можете ли да ми препоръчате такъв човек?

The English Version

I’m looking for English language teacher for the teams I manage. I’d like to organize English language training for my colleagues (and for myself), but not the classical “I speak, you listen and write homework” way. I imagine one of the course sessions to look like that:

  • The class consists of up to 8 students.
  • The class is in session one or two times per week.
  • The teacher chooses (an intesting) theme and informs the students
  • Students prepare for the follow-up class (as much as they can afford)
  • The session consists of free talk on/around the chosen subject, during which the following goals should be accomplished
    • The students must talk as much as possible, in order to gain English language talkative skills.
    • The teacher tracks students’ mistakes, and notes them to the students (during or after the session)
    • The students excercise their talkative skills as much as possible
  • Written homework is also possible. The teacher chooses the subject, on which the students have to write. After that the homework is delivered (could be via e-mail), in order to be verified. The goal is the teacher to verify and correct the students’ mistakes in order to improve their written English language.

The perfect teacher should have English as mother tongue!

Additional important stuff:

  • The teacher should have experience and be enthusiastic for this teaching model! This is not the classic “teacher => students” model, so if the teacher does not like it, it won’t work.
  • The teacher should be willing to come twice per week at the office for the classes. Example start hours are 10:00 or 16:00, but in general we’re flexible.
  • The teacher should be able to issue an official expense document for the course.

Can you recommend me such person?

Photo (cc-by-sa) Wm Jas

How to resolve: Impossible to start Hyper-V Virtual Machine on Asus Barebone

How to resolve: Impossible to start Hyper-V Virtual Machine on Asus Barebone

I’ve got three barebones, configured as high-performance PCs at the office. The usage of these PCs was decided to be Hyper-V servers, which test team would setup and use for their dark matters.

All that was great, with the exception of one: No virtual machine could successfully start! We successfully installed and configured Hyper-V Servers, but then any virtual machine, doesn’t matter imported or new, would fail startup with the dreadfull message “<virtual machine name> could not initialize”. Very helpful, as you can imagine.

I contacted my best source for any virtualization issue whatsoever: Alex Miloev! The situation became even darker, as he was not able at the moment to help deeper, and I exhausted more or less any “simple” fix I could imagine. Solutions from the newsgroups suggested what I already did (stuff like “turn on your processor virtualization flag”, Doh!).

I was desperate to the degree, where I started looking for and downloading VMWare ESXi 5.0. Knowing what risky business this is, I guess you do understand my desperation 🙂 .

The thing, whcih did it, I found almost by accident. This very interesting hotfix You cannot start virtual machines on a computer that is running Windows Server 2008 R2 and on which a CPU is installed that supports the AVX feature did the charm. I was not initially sure, since I did not know / I was not able to check if my disks were of this kind, but I decided to try it.

And the miracle happened! All worked like a charm! First on one of the machines: all was OK. Then the other two – just installation of the fix itself removed the obstacle and all VMs started normally!

Microsoft, however, offered very weird way of delivering the hotfix! I never received hotfix download link by e-mail, I guess this is something of the new stuff, which Microsoft constantly tries to change (actually, to make it better, but it’s not always better). Nevermind that, the hotfix link came, it worked and now my machines are working like a charm.

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