Category Archives: tech

The Surface 3 has a Smart Cover – but only half the time

When I first got my HP Touchpad (vale webOS…) I thought nothing of opening the cover and pressing the Power button to turn on the screen. After all that’s what you always did. But one of the nice little features of device covers in the last four years has been the integration of magnets to activate a hidden power switch, so the screen is turned off automatically when you close the cover, and on when you open the cover back up. It’s become a normal part of interacting with a device for many of us, and I’ve enjoyed this feature on my Nexus 7, my LG G2 and most recently my Surface 2.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered my Surface 3 screen stayed off when I re-opened the cover! Really? Yep; the screen goes off when the cover is closed, but it stays off when the cover is opened.

Windows 8 power options
Windows 8 power options

There was nothing in the power options to change this, nor anything available online. Plenty about closing the lid, but not a cracker about what to do when opening it.

Yesterday’s attempt at Microsoft Support had all the usual suspects – updates, settings and even a full device refresh, all to no avail. Today’s attempt connected me with a different person who advertised this to me as a feature. Yes a feature people! Having the screen NOT turn on when you open the cover is a feature. Remember that. I have to keep reminding myself ‘cos for some reason I mistakenly keep thinking it’s a bug.

The support guy directed me to this Microsoft Community thread so it sounds like I’m not the only one asking this question. But surely if Microsoft want to install this bug / remove this feature they should give the user an option to turn it back on if they want? I’m still at a loss as the reason for making the cover smart enough to turn off the screen when it’s closed, but not smart enough to turn it back on when you open it. After all, when do you open the cover and NOT want to do something with the screen?

I’m waiting on a callback to advise if this can be changed. In the meantime if anyone has a registry hack for this I’m all ears!

 

EDIT: 15 Feb 2015: A subsequent tech told me they’d done this because some people had had the cover opening and closing in their bag and running the battery flat so this feature’s not available anymore. I’d rather have the option to make this decision myself but as at now this decision has been made for us. 🙁

Why I didn’t hate Windows RT

windows rt logo
Are you sad to see this go?

By now you’d all know that I’m onto a Surface 3 which naturally has full Windows 8. I’m sure this upgrade path is common for Windows RT users. But I’d like two minutes on the soapbox being (as it appears) a lone voice in support of the Windows RT project.

Windows RT was more than adequate for my needs while I had the Surface 2. I never expected it to be a full version of Windows and I didn’t need that; I needed a lightweight portable device with a browser and MS Office, and with the alternative being a heavier and pricier Surface 2 Pro, the Surface 2 with Windows RT was the best choice for me. I didn’t expect it to run desktop apps, because I knew it couldn’t. I didn’t expect 100% driver compatibility, because I knew Windows RT to Windows 7 was like iOS to OSX. Two different beasts for two different purposes.

Microsoft evidently wanted to make a device which could be competitive (on some levels) with the iPad, but back when they started this project (well before the release in 2012) low power x86 CPU’s like the Cherry Trail didn’t exist and weren’t even on the horizon. That this is correct is born out that the ‘right’ hardware didn’t come along until three years after the original device released. The x86 hardware available to Microsoft at the time meant a Surface Pro-like device with its weight, heat and battery drain, and no-one looking for an iPad was ever going to go for that. So their next best option was Windows RT, a stripped-down OS specifically designed for a range of CPU’s which DID have the low power architecture they wanted, i.e. the ARM range.

It’s easy to stand here in 2015 and lambast Microsoft for Windows RT, but at the time I think it was an entirely logical decision to write a version of Windows which gave people some of the features and interface they were used to in a low-power, slim package.

Would they do anything different in hindsight? No doubt; it’s been far from a blazing success and I’m sure they’ve learnt a few things in terms of timelining and marketing. But in 2012 I think Windows RT was the right decision. Equally I think its time is done now the hardware is at a stage where devices like the Surface 3 are possible.

Thanks for the work you did, Windows RT. You served a valuable purpose at the time, but I suspect you won’t be missed.

Am I jinxed?? Surface cover turns screen off but not back on

OK so you would have seen yesterday’s post where I finally moved on the Surface 2 with its screen issues and now have a shiny bright Surface 3.

Problem.

OK it’s nothing like before, but the issue I now have is that the screen turns off when I close the cover (as expected), but it stays off when the cover is opened! I Googled this and didn’t find any other people with this problem. I’ve done all the updates, restarted the machine a few times but to no avail. As we speak I’m with Microsoft support who were looking for HyperV in the Windows Features (it wasn’t there), they have run a sfc /scannow operation (which found nothing) and are now doing a device refresh.

I hope this doesn’t turn into another case of a changeover device. I’ve just installed a brand new screen protector! (Which BTW isn’t the problem because 1) it was working before and 2) it still registers when the cover is closed).

Have you experienced this? What did you do about it?

 

Hello Surface 3!

Microsoft Surface 3
Microsoft Surface 3 (copyright Microsoft)

The touch screen issue on the Surface 2 never properly went away. It would work for a while, then often after a restart it would stop working. About 50% of the time it would come back after the battery ran flat, so I got through the last ~6 months by keeping it powered up whenever the screen was working, and if it did go flat and the screen stopped responding to touch I’d let it go flat again and try again.

I had already recommended my brother to purchase a S3 which he did and he was very happy with it. So when it spent the last month with the screen stuck not working something had to happen. I got approval through work to upgrade to the Surface 3 so I utilised the extended warranty to get a refund rather than just change over to another S2 unit.

So I’ve now got a 64Gb Surface 3 with a grey Type Cover, Surface pen, video adapter and (aftermarket) screen protector. Time will tell how this one behaves!

Surface 2 – seven months on

Microsoft Surface 2 with Touch Cover
Microsoft Surface 2 with Touch Cover

Seven months on how do I find the Surface 2? I’m still happy with it. The bugs I had with the screen seem to have gone. I’m guessing since others have commented on the problem it must be a software glitch, not an issue with just my unit, so it could have been fixed through a software update. It only came back once when I put a screen protector back on, but since that’s been gone so has the problem.

Continue reading Surface 2 – seven months on

LG G2 battery life…

LG G2 battery life
LG G2 battery life

…continues to impress. It seems to chew through the juice slower than normal in use, but in standby it hardly sips anything, generally only dropping about 4% overnight on airplane mode. This is a big improvement on the Galaxy Nexus which would normally lose >10% under the same conditions. A lot of this is no doubt largely due to the GN’s 1750mAh battery compared to the LG’s 3000mAh, but it’s good to see that larger battery translating into longer battery life rather than simply driving a hungrier processor / screen etc. For a heavy user the difference may not be so noticeable but as my phone is on standby most of the time, to be able to get almost two full days out of a single charge is a big improvement!

My new LG G2

My current phone is a Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Bought it two years ago just as they were being phased out and it’s been a good daily driver. I liked the simple Nexus experience. Several months ago it had been running slower and slower so I rooted it and installed the last official ROM, 4.3, and started from scratch (was able to restore app settings with Helium). Unfortunately I think the hardware’s not totally up to 4.3 as it’s ended up slower than ever, sometimes taking up to 10 seconds from pressing the search box to the keyboard appearing and being able to type.

So I started looking for alternatives. The Nexus 4 was on my list as I liked the look of this when it came out, but the Nexus 5 quickly joined it as its replacement and also packs LTE. Then I saw the HTC One (M8) which looked magnificent, and then read some reviews on the just-released LG G3. This last one sounded like exactly what I was looking for, but wasn’t released and also expected to be priced right up in the $600+ bracket.

It boiled down to a toss-up between the Nexus 5 and the LG G2. The hardware was very similar. LG Nexus 5 vs LG G2 read before purchase – LG – Android phones explains some of the differences, but in short it’s the better camera and battery life on the G2 and larger screen in same sided body, plus oddly placed buttons and custom skin which I was unsure about, vs wireless charging and quicker software updates on the Nexus 5. Coming from a Nexus background I liked the philosophy of the Nexus 5. Most reviews listed them as about equals taking into account the higher price tag on the G2, but by now the G2 is about the same price as the Nexus 5. Eventually I got a 3 month old 32Gb G2 for $350 on Gumtree which feels good since it’s a current model still selling around $600 new.

I’m pretty happy with it so far.

  • The screen is definitely an improvement on the Galaxy Nexus, though I’d have to say that either are quite adequate in that the text and images are all quite readable (I don’t believe pixels have to be indeterminable in order for the screen to pass).
  • Battery life has been better than expected. I’ve had a pretty quiet couple of days on the phone but I’ve done nearly 47 hours with the battery now down to 2%. Often it’s been minimally used during this time but I’d never get much more than a day and a bit on the old one under comparable use. I’m running it right out a few times in order to flush out any dodgy charging from the previous owner.
  • I wasn’t sure about the buttons on the back, but surprisingly I’ve hardly needed to use them! When the phone’s on a desk face up you can’t get to the power button, but the knock-on feature makes that unnecessary – you just knock the screen twice and the phone wakes up or goes back to sleep. Or if you have a quick view cover like mine does, just open or close the cover to wake or sleep the phone. Volume? Slide the curtain down and there’s a volume slider above the notifications window. If you need the hard controls e.g. during watching a video clip they’re a bit harder to get to than in the traditional position, but quite manageable. Airplane mode / onto silent (normally hold power button)? Again they’re in the curtain view when needed. So you can get away with not needing the hard buttons that often, meaning their sometimes inconvenient placement is much less of an issue than one may think.
  • Software, haven’t used the custom stuff much, would prefer it if nearly half the curtain view wasn’t taken up with various controls but these can be useful.

 

Surface 2 screen problems – checkpoint

I thought I’d post an update on where we’re at with trying to nail this problem. I’ve bandied a few different ideas around in previous posts about what could be causing this, and it’s been great to have comments from Niall and Aleksandar in earlier posts too (review the history if you’re late to the party). As there’s been several theories and counter-arguments thrown around, and certain theories have been disproven while others are still alive, it’s probably helpful to summarise what we know so far:

Continue reading Surface 2 screen problems – checkpoint

Surface 2 screen saga – do you run these apps?

apps listIf you’ve been following my other posts you’ll know I’ve been having problems with the touchscreen on my Microsoft Surface 2 (refresh your memory). Currently I’m onto my second device and the problem has persisted. Microsoft have authorised a second replacement but I’m wanting to do some detective work of my own before I blame the device again; there’s no point replacing a device if the problem relates to something else which will only manifest itself in the third device.

As far as I can tell the only thing which has persisted across both devices (based on when the first one started failing) are the Touch Cover and my user profile. I’ve already noted that disconnecting the cover while faulting doesn’t make the fault go away on this second device; I’m yet to determine if having the touch cover disconnected on an ongoing basis prevents it occurring in the first place. So that will be an ongoing project.
Continue reading Surface 2 screen saga – do you run these apps?