Ugh: Windows 8, Metro and Desktop

First I’ll say that every PC I use these days is running Windows 8.1.  That’s my home desktop, laptop, Surface RT, and work PC.

Windows 8 is actually very good on the tablet form factor.  It’s fine on PCs if you’re wanting to stick to the new Metro style apps.

But it’s horrible when mixing desktop and Metro apps.  This seems to be compounded further when you’re running a multiple monitor rig.  Since many people complain about Windows 8 in general without offering specifics, I thought I would.

IE Stops Streaming

So here I am doing some work in Visual Studio or Lightroom. I’d like to stream something to listen to and watch, so I fire up Internet Explorer (Metro).  I dock it on the side of a monitor and get back to work.  Everything’s going just fine, I can glance over and catch a peek. It’s really nice.

Until I need to launch another app, that is.  So I hit the Start button to bring up the Start Screen and BAM.  Audio and video pause.  I suspect it’s because MS didn’t add background audio capabilities to IE, but still… it’s EXTREMELY jarring and frustrating.

Metro Apps Disappear

Many times, it’s happening right now actually, I’ll have a couple Metro apps docked but will still be working on the desktop.  As soon as the desktop app gets focus, some (or all) of the docked apps disappear and leave the start screen background color.  That’s it.  So now I just have a gaping hole of blue. If I click on that hole, the Metro app re-appears.  Give focus back to the desktop app and it disappears once again.

I don’t think it’s a driver issue, but then again I’m running all NVidia displays.  Anyone else experience this?

What’s Going to Happen?

When I want to open or close a Metro app, what happens next feels non-deterministic.  I can never guess where an app will open, what will replace the screen when it closes, etc..  On my Surface, my resolution doesn’t support 3 simultaneous running Metro apps, so I get prompted about which to replace. On my desktops, the new app starts full-screen and I have to move it somewhere.  The result is before launching an app I have to pause and recall which machine I’m on so I can prepare for what will happen (or if I should launch it to begin with given the screen/resolution limitations).

Sometimes after closing and app, I expect the Start Screen to re-appear, but it’ll just be replaced with a blank canvas, forcing me to hit the Start button (keyboard or lower left hotspot) to bring the Start Screen back.

And why, oh why, if I’m on the desktop and launch a Metro app am I not taken back to the desktop if I dock that app somewhere? After docking it somewhere, I’m taken back to the Start screen.  I just noticed this happens regardless of the starting point (Desktop or other Metro app).  Don’t make me remember what I was in before launching the new app, just take me right back there.  It’s ridiculous.

Did I Mention Multiple Monitors is just Weird?

Over the course of writing this, I have a situation where I have the desktop showing on one half of my left monitor and one half of the right monitor (full-screen metro app in between).  You can drag a window “behind” the metro apps, to the other sides.  It’s just really strange and unnatural feeling.

What am I Missing?

So these are my main gripes, coming from someone who uses Windows 8 daily and in multiple form factors.  Hopefully more is done to fix these in upcoming releases, but I’m not holding my breath.

Anyone have any other specific complaints?


3 Weeks with the Surface RT

Microsoft SurfaceNow that I’ve had the Microsoft Surface RT for 3 weeks, I think it’s a good time to go over a few things.

First, I’ll say that I really like this device.  Before owning one, I thought both the kickstand and touch keyboard were rather gimmicky.  But now, whether it’s sitting on my desk or with me on the couch, the kickstand is out the majority of the time.  The angle is a little steep for sitting on my lap, but still workable.

I have the Touch Cover.  I have mixed feelings about it.  For one, it’s GREAT having a keyboard.  I can type pretty quickly on it, but the error rate is still rather high.  I’m hoping I’ll get even better as time goes on, but there’s also the option of upgrading to the Type Cover which is more of a traditional laptop-style keyboard.

Having Microsoft Office on here is something I had far undervalued.  I mean, I’ve gotten along for 2 years with the iPad without Office, what’s the big deal?  Well, with fully functional Office, working with documents is effortless.   With the iPad, I always had to do some mental gymnastics regarding document handling: what format should I convert this to?  Email it? DropBox it?  Can the app I want to use open it from DropBox?  And  that’s just for viewing, forget about editing and getting it back off of the device!  With the new Office and its SkyDrive integration (not to mention that I’ve been an avid OneNote user for years), it’s for the most part seamless and Just Works: edit and save a document from my desktop, pick up where I left off on the Surface, an vice-versa.   Open from SharePoint (ugh), and on and on.

I was glad to see Microsoft include an ARM version of the Remote Desktop Client, it works well.  I’ve been able to VPN to both home and work, so this combined with Remote Desktop access really gives me plenty of flexibility.

Battery life has been decent.  I routinely get at least 8 hours without a problem.  What did come as  surprise is how incredibly fast it recharges.   I need to pay closer attention to it, but it seems like I’ve gone from less than 10 percent battery to well over 50 in right around an hour.  The plug is weird, though.   It’s small and magnetic, but I find it difficult to get plugged into the beveled side without looking.  Nearly impossible in the dark. One coworker agrees with me on this, another doesn’t.

Coming from using a Windows Phone (an therefore a Metro UI) for a couple months, I feel like the tablet (and perhaps Windows 8 in general) could benefit from a Back button.  I also wish the Start (“home”) button glowed like my Lumia 920 – it’s also very hard to locate and press in the dark when you’re not sure how you have the tablet oriented.

For the first few days, I mostly avoided Metro IE in favor of IE on the desktop.  Most likely because of familiarity.  But once I discovered that you can swipe left/right for back/forward in Metro IE, I rarely use the desktop version anymore.  I still find it painful that MS doesn’t allow browser plugins, though.  I’d really like to have my LastPass integration.   Random thought here, LastPass: what about implementing the Sharing Contract (or whatever it is called) so IE could pass you the URL, and you copy the password to the clipboard and toss control back to IE?

I think that’s it for now, David’s  swimming lessons are wrapping up so I need to get moving.  I’ll post more as I come across it.

Brother HL-1440 Driver for Windows RT

Now that I have a Microsoft Surface, one of the things I should be able to do from my tablet is print.  Our iPads don’t support printing to our old (almost 10 years) Brother HL-1440 Laser Printer, so I was a little skeptical that I would be able to find a driver for Windows RT (ARM-based).

I gave it a shot and, after testing a couple of the built-in drivers, hit upon the  “Brother Laser Type 1 Class Driver”. It works!

Internet Explorer 10 Skipping Keystrokes

I’ve been running Windows 8 for a while now on my laptop, and ran into a very frustrating problem with Internet Explorer 10. When typing on a webpage, I often found it skipping keystrokes. It seemed to get progressively worse over time, to the point where I found myself having to hit a key 3 times before it would register.

So tonight I set out to figure out what exactly was going on, or how to fix it.

Skimming through the IE settings, I found an option for using software rendering instead of GPU rendering.

I had completely forgotten that IE10 uses the GPU.  Off I went to NVidia’s website, downloaded new drivers, and voila! no more typing problem!

If you’re unable to find new drivers and are experiencing missed keystrokes in IE, you may want to check that checkbox in Internet Options – it may just help you out.


Lumia 920 not Recognized by Windows 8

Today when I plugged my new Lumia 920 into my Windows 8 desktop, noting happened. Odd, it had worked the day before.

I unplugged and retried a couple of times, to no avail. Checking Windows’ Devices and Printers showed it was Offline, so I wasn’t imagining that it was installed and working at one point.

I tried a reboot of the desktop, still nothing. As a last ditch effort, I tried rebooting the phone itself, and voila, it reappeared on the desktop.

No biggie, but I saw a few discussion threads online about the same problem. Hopefully this will help others out.

Lumia 920 and Windows Phone 8

After several years with Apple’s iPhone (3G followed by a 4), I’ve made the switch away from Apple. Yesterday I picked up a new, black Nokia Lumia 920 running Windows Phone 8!

First impressions, I really like this phone and OS. I’ve played around with Windows Phone 7.5 before, but have never used it as my main device before.

So, I think the biggest hesitation going into switching was the lack of applications. Or, rather, the perceived lack of applications. So far I haven’t really run into much that I cannot do with Windows Phone 8, and I suspect those places where it does fall short will be taken care of in the near future (Instagram, some notification-related stuff, etc). One day in, I’m very happy with the choice.

Copy File Path in Windows Explorer

Update: I’ve been notified by Mark that this is completely useless.  Please disregard 🙂   In Win7 and 2008 you get the same option by just holding down Shift as you right-click.  Thanks Mark!

Ever find yourself in Windows, browing through files and needing to copy a file’s full path?  As a developer, this seems to happen often, and I today I got tired of not having a quick way of doing this.

A little registry tweak later, I now have a Copy Path command on my right-click menus in Windows Explorer.

This puts the path to the selected file (or folder) in the clipboard.  Quite handy for quickly opening that file in an application without having to navigate folders or type the path.

Download and run the Regedit file here.

That menu option is just conigured to run the following PowerShell command:

c:\windows\system32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\PowerShell.exe -Command “‘%1’ | clip”

Simple, yet very effective.

Corel VideoStudio Pro and QuickTime, a Followup

A couple days ago I posted about problems I’ve run into trying to use the QuickTime files created by my new Canon 7D.

Last night, someone from Corel contacted me with a few questions about the issue.  After some back and forth, it became quite clear that there really shouldn’t be a problem – he was, in fact, running the exact same versions of VideoStudio and QuickTime as I, without issue.

This got me very curious, so I began poking around more.  I ran ProcessMonitor in hopes of finding something out of the ordinary.  With that software running, I went to open a .MOV file, got the error I was looking for, and checked the ProcessMonitor events captured:

That looked curious – the app is presumably calling LoadLibrary on QTCF.dll and Windows is doing its best to locate it and finally gives up.

The Fix

Grasping at straws, I located that QTCF.dll down in C:\Program Files (x86)\quicktime\qtsystem and copied it into c:\Windows.  When I restarted VideoStudio, all of my QuickTime functionality was restored!

So, if you’re one of the people out there that has run into problems getting VideoStudio to view/edit QuickTime .MOV files, you may want to give that a shot.  Hopefully it’ll work for you too.

On a side note, now that I can edit my MOV files directly I’m not sure if I’m comfortable having my videos archived in this format.  .MP4 seems like it might be more durable, years from now.  No?