My iClever Bluetooth Keyboard

Few weeks ago a very close and trusted friend of mine (thanks, Atanas 🙂 ) sent me a link to this excellent iClever Bluetooth travel keyboard. As I was already quite in need for pocket, travel keyboard, it took me only 5′ to review and purchase it from Amazon.co.uk.

I own the thing since a few weeks and every time I use it to do my typing (i.e., type on the tablet an e-mail, blog post or whatever longer), I’m quite delighted what a good solution this keyboard is to my typing need.

The keyboard is small when folded up, but it’s large enough to allow hassle free typing with both hands. It has very smart (and I hope – strong enough to ensure long living) folding mechanics, which allow transformation from its “working size” to “pocket size” in a second. It also has a pouch, which not only protects the keyboard while folded, but also protects the other items the keyboard is close to in the bag, as it’s aluminum body, which could otherwise scratch another sensitive item in your bag (i.e., your phone or tablet).

The keyboard also has four silicone tips, which make it almost stick to the surface while I’m typing. This is a feature, which I like a lot, because most of the pocket keyboards (or at least those I had my hands on) lack this and you need to always relocate the keyboard, which (naturally) moves as a result of your action on the keys. Thanks to these bands, the keyboard stays very solid on the surface you put it on.

I’m using the device with an Android tablet. However, the manufacturer claims that it should work with Windows and iOS too (it has Win key indeed), but I never tried that myself [yet].

Setup is pretty much out of the box: you turn it on (turns on by unfolding), long press the “Bluetooth link” button, pair and you’re good to go. My only trouble was with the fact that I’m Bulgarian Phonetic user and the default Android hardware keyboard settings do not include this keyboard layout. However, FDroid and the Phonetic Layout for External Keyboards resolved this perfectly. Honestly, I’d be pretty screwed, if this was not existing, so thanks guys (modest donation is on its way!).

Below is the picture of the keyboard, which I made for my Amazon review. It stays next to Nexus 9 tablet, so you get the idea of the size when unfolded. The pouch is next to it, i.e. this is the size of the keyboard, when folded. The thickness of the folded keyboard is not more than 10-14 mm.

image

I highly recommend this thing to anyone, who carries on tablet and has typing needs, which are best served with a keyboard.

This blog post was, of course, typed with this keyboard.

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:

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Only a Microsoft Product Manager can be so naive 🙂

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 🙂

Windows 8 Developer Preview

BR211386.LandingGettingStarted(en-us,VS.85).pngОт снощи имаме вече Windows 8 Developer Preview. Не успях да ида до офиса на Майкрософт, за да гледам директно представянето му по време на началото на //Build, но за сметка на това от врящия Twitter научих доста интересни неща, и връзки. Е, друго щеше да си е да го гледам там с колеги, а сигурно още по-друго е било на живо, но… Smile

Първата работа днес беше да сваля и инсталирам нещото на Hyper-V-то в офиса. Инсталацията мина абсолютно безпроблемно, чудото също засега работи без никакви грижи. Е, но не можеш да се зарадваш на touch интерфейса без съответния хардуер. Май ще се купува touch монитор скоро вкъщи.

Т.нар. “Visual Studio 11” има много нови типове проекти за разглеждане, най-якото ми се стори до сега “New JavaScript application” (а бяха времена…). Ще бъде много, много интересно, само дето трябва да се мисли от сега за парички за ъпгрейд на старите Windows вкъщи (поне на два от тях).

IE10 също изглежда много добре. Най-радващото е, че любимото LastPass разширение изглежда няма проблем с (desktop варианта на) новата версия на браузъра. В таблетния режим нещо не мога още да го подкарам разширението, но пък превключването от таблетен в десктоп режим е сравнително лесно. Може би ще трябва да го преработят да поддържа по-добре touch и да поддържа таблетен режим, но за това ще му мислим, като дойде време за touch Smile.

В тази връзка, преди малко ми се обадиха, да ми кажат че Galaxy Tab 10.1, който си бях поръчал от МТел, не могли да го намерят, защото бил изчерпан в целия МТел. Браво на тях Sad smile. Но май ще се окаже, че е за добро. Ще прекратя проекта да имам 10.1 таблет с Андроид, ще си остана със 7” му събрат . А когато се появят Windows 8 таблетите, ще си взема нещо истинско! Може би симпатичен “таблето-компютър” като Dell Inspiron Duo-то на Тянеца.

Да му мислят от сега адвокатите на ябълчиците, че не знам друго какво може да измислят, освен да съдят конкуренцията. Вярно, наплодиха бая плод-зеленчук по света, но… съжалявам, стига толкова! Личи си, когато Майкрософт набере скорост. PCто просто ще се премести от лаптопа в таблета. Много скоро!

Три седмици със Samsung Galaxy Tab

Вдъхновен от таблените размишления на Йовко, реших да споделя тук моят опит за последните четири седмици с него.

Преди три седмици си купих от Public Samsung Galaxy Tab. Бях му хвърлил око от много време, защото ме блазнеше идеята да имам мобилно интернет устройство, което да е навсякъде с мен, с достатъчно голям екран не само за преглеждане на неща, но и за поработване на това/онова, когато няма или е неудобно да се извади ноутбука.

Дълго време се колебах дали да чакам за някакъв таблет с Windows 7 или да отида на Google Android за това устройство. Много производители се пънат да обявяват таблет след таблет с Windows 7, но аз читав (като съотношение цена/производителност) не съм видял все още, а и пъргавия, капацитивен екран на Таб-а определено ме привлече много.

Разни радикализирани течения из приятелския ми кръг се опитаха да ме убедят колко як бил iPad-а, но аз не се дадох. Вярно, че цената му е почти колкото цената на куция модел айПад, но пък по-малкия размер и най-вече по-отворената и либерална позиция на Гугъл в сравнение с земеделската компания въобще бяха най-важните причини, поради които и дума не можеше да става за айПад. Разбирам, че епъл-талибаните ще скочат с 230 други причини, но просто епъл не е фирмата, на която за момента бих дал пари, а пък и дума не може да става да разчепкам нещо като разработчик. Веси има скъпата платформа, с която може да се пише за айСтоките, но пък и Objective-C… хайде моля ви се :).

Та везните яко наклониха към Galaxy Tab. И на 18.11., на връщане от Sinergija 2010 в Белград се отбих до магазина на Public в The Mall и се обзаведох с устройството, що-годе читав (единствения модел!) калъф за него и (пак единствения модел) screen protector. Добре все пак, че ги имаше тези аксесоари, аз честно казано не вярвах, че ще ги има въобще. Те са просто задължителни, ако държите на устройството!

Таблетът не е пълноценен без мобилен интернет, така че първата ми работа беше да извадя картата си за данни от Huawei wireless access point-а ми и да я сложа на таба. Той си захапа настройките напълно автоматично, така че нямах никакви драми в това отношение. Разбира се, пуснах му и безжичната мрежа, за да не си хабя излишно трафика (нали МТел са щедри, та не дават повече от 2.5Г гювеч с висока скорост месечно).

До сега сигурно съм му инсталирал 100-на различни приложения (от тях 40-50 вече съм ги махнал).

Батерията на устройството издържа около 4-6 часа “моя” работа. В смисъл цъкане, смяна на приложения (много често работа с повече от едно приложение). Видео рядко гледам, макар че има прекрасна поддръжка на всичко, което до сега ми е трябвало. Не мога да гледам филми от сървъра ми, все още не съм открил защо, но в интерес на истината не съм и търсил сериозно. Филми мога да гледам с който и да е ноутбук, или директно на телефона. Ако оставя само за четене, предполагам че поне 8 часа работа ще ми е гарантирана, но до сега съм нямал шанса да го пробвам само и единствено като четец за един цял цикъл на батерията.

В първите няколко дни успях да забия устройството два пъти. Бях се примирил, че ще е така, но от тогава не се случи вече, та или се е ъпдейтнал тихомълком (което не ми се вярва, доста е подробен в ъпдейтите), или просто съм отстранил приложението, което е побърквало системата. Но в едно се уверих от самото начало: трябва да внимаваш какво инсталираш, защото с бъгав софтуер можеш да го скапеш.

От тогава таблетчето е любимо устройство почти за всичко. Онлайн присъствие (социалки и др.), разглеждане на съдържание, четене на книги (умората от активния екран може да се компенсира донякъде с намалена яркост на шрифтовете и тъмен фон) и за каквото друго се сетите. Даже материал в блога писах преди две седмици, седейки в самолета. За това обаче имам малко драма с приложението, което ползвам за писане. Нещо интерфейса му е с крив дизайн и трудно се вмъкват автоматично препратки, форматиране и т.н. Но без проблем става за самото писане (което е най-трудната част така или иначе), а форматирането и други глезотии може да оставите за устройство с клавиатура и мишка.

Въпреки че съм с таблета от почти месец, вече съм безнадеждно пристрастен към него. Ползвам и нетбука, който си взех преди години (верен ЕЕЕ 1000HA), но основно таблетът е устройството, с което се “мотая” из къщи. Почти съм сигурен, че някой ден ще сменя нетбука с таблет с Windows, който ще има докинг станция. Кръгът тогава ще се затвори…

Засега съм си поръчал допълнително един калъф с поставка за него, като вече го чакам с нетърпение. Калъфчето от Public определено не става за по-интензивна употреба. Докато този изглежда многообещаващо, а поставката ще ме улесни доста, докато устройството стои на бюрото.

Като цяло съм сигурен, че ще ми трябва поне още един зареждащ USB кабел за него, но него още не съм го поръчал. Гледах и bluetooth клавиатури за него, но малко ме съмнява поддръжката на кирилица там, така че засега ще отложа такава покупка.

Абе джаджи да иска човек. От две седмици съм и с нов служебен телефон, Samsung Omnia 7, но за него по-късно и най-вероятно с повече думи. Windows 7 Phone определено е ОС, на която си струва да се отделят доста внимание и думи!

Photo: 3 Sverige