Surface

 

I’m all about the Connected Home (as the title of this blog implies). My Living Room Home Theater system up until yesterday consisted of a circa 2010 Samsung 52 inch TV, an ancient Sony 5.1 Receiver, an Xbox 360 used solely as a Media Center Extender, a WDTV Live Hub which I used for DLNA Play To streaming, a Netgear PTV3000 for Miracast, an Apple TV for You tube, Hulu, Netflix, etc., a cable DVR and a first generation Samsung Blu Ray player. Separately, I have a pair of Sonos Play 5 speakers. A few days ago, the ancient Samsung Blue Ray player started groaning and screeching and it was the final incentive to replace it with something newer.

I did some Internet research and decided that the Samsung BD-F5900 would certainly improve my movie experience several fold. I downloaded the user manual and was even more impressed. While Samsung is likely to have a replacement model any day now, the $99 on sale price (at Best Buy no less) and the local availability drove me out in the 2 degree weather to purchase the device.

My intention was to replace an aging Blu Ray player, but what I got was a whole lot more.

No where on the box, the device itself, or in the user guide does the term DLNA appear. The BD-F5900 works perfectly as a Play To target. HD movies even play across the network smoothly. I can now move the WDTV Live Hub out of my Living Room (it is still a great NAS device).

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The user guide mentions Samsung’s proprietary All Share multiple times, and mentions Miracast once.

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Miracast works perfectly. My Netgear PTV3000 can move upstairs to the bedroom TV or travel with me.

I can also use my iPhone with the PlugPlayer App as a small remote controller (the manual refers to similar functionality only working with s Samsung branded phone).

Last but not least, I had been using the Apple TV as a device to watch YouTube, etc. and not for Airplay of late (since the arrival on Miracast on Windows 8.1). I’d been watching some Amazon Prime Instant Movies on my Surface and using Miracast to display on the TV, (and didn’t have any app direct on a device that accessed this). Amazon is one of the apps available (along with 100+ others including the other big names like Netflix, Hulu, etc.) on the BD-F5900. Streams at 1080p HD smoothly and looks great. I’ll put the Apple TV away for now.

Bottom line, I’ve now got one device that replaces three and have removed some of the clutter in my living room.

In related news, there is rumor of a Microsoft Surface branded Miracast dongle via an FCC filing. Interesting development to say the least. It will be interesting to see what price point this launches with (if it launches). Stand alone Miracast adapters like Netgear’s PTV3000 and Actiontec’s Screen Beam are selling for $65-70. I guess I feel really good having purchased the Samsung BD player for $99 and getting everything but the kitchen sink included.

 

My last post on the Facebook issue resulted in a few people asking how to perform the work around without an ALT key on the touch keyboard as their touch/type cover was not available/broken, whatever.

 

There actually is a hidden full keyboard that you can elect to turn on.

 

1. Swipe to display the Charms, then Settings and select Change PC Settings

2. General, Touch Keyboard, make the Standard Keyboard available, and toggle to ON.

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3. Once turned on, when you invoke the keyboard, an additional option will be available (second from right in screen shot below).

 

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4. Whenever you want to use keys like ALT, etc. tap to turn on the Standard (full) keyboard. You will now be able to use the more complete Standard keyboard as shown below.

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My last post detailed the process to add Microsoft non certified devices to the list of supported “Play To” devices in Windows 8 Modern UI Start Screen Apps so that they appeared in the Charms/Devices menu. Once again, if you experiment with this, you will need to verify that your device is a DMR (digital media renderer) that works from the classic desktop explorer/libraries interface by right clicking an asset and verifying Play To appears and that you can successfully send the media to the device).

I already knew my circa 2009 Samsung LN52B750 series TV was not the greatest Play To client (which is why I have been using the WDTV LIVE Hub) but I wanted to enable it to see what kind of results I would get. The LNB Samsung TV series is neither certified by the DLNA.org folks or by Microsoft (just as my Sonos speakers are not certified by either organization).

In DLNA years, 2009 is ancient, and in TV cycle years, prehistoric. Samsung stops issuing firmware updates after 9-12 months so there was really not much hope of improving the DLNA experience after that time. Aggravating, but true. So for most people, the iffy DLNA experience (due to codec and transcoding support) the Microsoft decision to not show these uncertified devices is justified. It would be a support nightmare. But, if you are a geek and accustomed to tinkering with the registry, etc., once again, enabling these devices let you experiment.

Again, this is for geek enthusiasts only and unsupported. Backup your registry and the subkey before you begin. Proceed at your own risk.

Note: I performed this exercise on my Surface Pro and Surface RT with success.

To add the TV to the whitelist, once again, from the Network window, I right clicked the media icon for the TV and accessed the properties.

samsung

Since the DeviceShims registry already listed Samsung Electronics,all I needed to do was add the subkey for Samsung DTV DMR and the 32 bit dword IsLegacyDMR and set the hex value to 1. I did have to take ownership of the Samsung Electronics key and give local users full control in order to perform this modification.

Next step was to reboot.

Concurrent with my experimentation with non MSFT certified DLNA DMR’s, I also was looking to be able to play MKV files and had downloaded the trial of Cyberlink’s Power DVD Mobile from the Windows 8 App Store. (I’ll have more to say about this app soon, but I had a WOW experience; it’s one awesome program).

I opened  my Avatar MKV and it played beautifully on the Surface Pro. Now the moment of truth, could I send to my Samsung TV through the Devices menu. You can see in the screen capture below that both my TV and WDTVLiveHub are available from the Devices charm.

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The answer is a big YES. My Surface Pro displayed the following:

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And the output to the TV worked perfectly.

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The picture looked great and there was no lagging/glitching (and sound was in sync – I run audio from the TV out to a home theater system via Digital Optical SPDIF). I won’t say it was a good as watching the original Blue Ray, but close. This same TV has had trouble with mp4’s using Play To where it doesn’t correctly handle the aspect ratio at times. And when I set still digital images via the Device charm, they displayed beautifully.

 

 

I love my 128GB Surface Pro. I can’t wait for a driver for Wacom pressure sensitive support and a fix for legacy desktop scaling, but other than that, Surface Pro is a wonderful electronic companion that does just about everything.

As with all software, there are bugs. And I think I’ve found a corker. On my Windows 7 machines, I’ve always installed all my apps and configured them and then performed a system image backup (using Windows 7 built in create system image backup tool) both to an external hard drive and over the network. As I added major apps, applied Service Packs and major app updates, I’ve renamed those backups and performed new image based backups. WHS performs the same kind of image based backups, too.

Windows 8 emphasizes some dumbed down recovery methods, including system refresh. The refresh will keep some, but not all of your files. You will lose your installed desktop programs and will have to re-install and configure them. Most Windows Store Apps will be retained, but if you bought a Surface Pro, you bought a machine to run real desktop apps.

So, after having my Surface for 6 days and installing desktop apps, I bought myself a new USB 3.0 external WD Passport portable drive and got ready to use the system image tool that I knew was included (but hard to find) in Windows 8. I was chagrinned to find that it didn’t work as advertised. Here’s what I did:

On the Start Screen, I typed in windows 7 file recovery and then selected Settings

 

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The control panel applet appears (you can also find the applet in the classic control panel when the show small icons view is active). I next selected Create a system image. My external hard drive connected by USB was detected.

 

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A confirmation box appears with everything preselected (you cannot deselect any because this is a full image of all partitions on the drive/SSD) and the backup location I had selected.

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I tapped Start backup and the following screen displayed (so far so good).

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Then, another positive reinforcement that things were working as they should:

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What happened (or did not happen) next is the source of my aggravation and complaint.

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I reformatted the WD drive, tried 3 other drives, sacrificed a rubber chicken, with NO success. I checked the Microsoft forums. Uh Oh, others had experienced the issue and MS Support was clueless, offering solutions like chkdsk and/or sfc /scannow. The real issue is that the hidden partitions that contain the recovery partitions and the secure boot partitions don’t contain enough free space for VSC (Volume Shadow Copies) themselves.

 

http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/surface/forum/surfpro-surfgetstart/windows-7-file-recovery/a73b83ff-2511-44d9-b8a7-85bfd1135e87 is what Surface Pro owners are experiencing.

 

http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_8-system/there-is-not-enough-disk-space-to-create-the/48532922-25bb-46fb-af8b-475ff05f55ce shows similar problems on other systems dating back before the release of Surface Pro.

 

Here is the (really not too informative) breakdown of space allocation on my Surface Pro. The three small factory partitions must be the issue.

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The @Surface folks on Twitter did not understand my tweets on this and kept trying to tell me about freeing up space by creating a USB flash drive bootable recovery device and deleting the 7.8 GB recovery drive. This is not the issue at all. I finally pointed them at a YouTube video demonstrating the process above. They finally tweeted “ http://www.twitter.com/surface/status/302581927423115264 “ but I am not holding my breath.

 

In the meantime, I am investigating third party image creation tools. But I maintain that if Microsoft offers the tool on Surface Pro, it SHOULD work, or they should document it in a KB prominently.

 

If you have comments, feel free to contact me on Twitter @barbbowman

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