Windows 8.1

New Computer Chapter 3

 

Things always blow up on a holiday weekend. Just when I thought the replacement HP Envy was the machine I’d be using for the next (hopefully) 5 years or so, trouble came knocking at my door. Yesterday morning, I had breakfast, hibernated the machine. Took a shower, got dressed. Maybe 45 minutes elapsed time. When I turned on the machine again I saw this ugly blue UEFI you’re totally screwed screen.

uefi crash

Burnt a Ubuntu DVD to run Ubuntu FROM DVD on my server. It seemed to indicate a hibernate issue (?).

ubuntu

 

I sent the blue screen image to my new contact (the Director Signature Experience Labs) from Microsoft Store within minutes of seeing it appear. He called me. Yup, on a Sunday, a holiday weekend, 7am Redmond time, within 15 minutes of my emailing the sad news. While were talking, I booted to advanced recovery and tried to run some powercfg cmds to delete the hibernate file, but they are apparently no longer supported. However, when I exited the machine surprised me and BOOTED into windows. I immediately started copying my data off (and spent the balance of the day yesterday getting my data copied off the HP onto two separate external devices to have redundancy).

I had met with him personally (the Microsoft Director, Signature Experience Labs), just last Wednesday when he came to collect the two machines that were “rejects” (one was the original bad hardware HP Envy 17 and the second was a miss-shipped 15 inch laptop from the same family). During lunch last week, we were discussing various laptops and I had mentioned that I had also been looking at the ASUS ROG 17 incher with the same specs (except for the touch screen) but since there weren’t any in the stores (mail order only I guess, I wasn’t all that keen on getting something sight unseen. Even Best Buy didn’t have any from that family to check out (just to look, feel, etc., not to buy from them). We discussed whether there is an issue with this HP ENVY TouchSmart 17-j141nr model machine (they don’t have enough data on returns) which is now my feeling. He is replacing this HP machine with the ASUS ROG-G750JS-DS71. (We agreed that two lemons are more than enough and trying to see if a third unit would be disaster free wasn’t a good game plan).

ASUS

 

The reviews of the AUS ROG G750JS-DS71 everywhere are pretty awesome. I had looked at this computer before purchasing the HP but couldn’t justify the additional $$ for the ASUS. I’m going to have to go through all the setup stuff again, upgrade to 8.1 update 1, update to the Windows Media Center Pro feature pack, install my apps, copy in my data. Will probably take two days plus to set up the ASUS. Which I am hoping will arrive this week. I’ll hopefully have shipping details tomorrow.

New Computer Chapter 2

 

Several weeks ago, I detailed a miserable experience with a new Signature PC purchased from my local Microsoft store. I’m happy to say that everything has been resolved and then some. I certainly received the red carpet treatment on this issue, I’m happily running a replacement laptop and it’s performing properly. As I had hoped, the dual video with discrete NVidia graphics meets all my needs and the computer is certainly in the fast lane. The backlit keyboard saves my tired eyes from eyestrain daily.

new pc

The adventure getting to this point is certainly one I won’t forget. Here’s the abbreviated version of what transpired.

I posted the original saga of my experience on April 27th. On April 29th, I received a LinkedIn connect request stating:

We read your post regarding your experience with the Microsoft Store and I would like to speak with you about it if you have a moment.

from the COO, Microsoft Stores. I immediately accepted the invitation and provided my phone number. I quickly got a phone call and the result of the discussion was a nearly immediate hook-up with the Director, Signature Experience Labs for Microsoft. Had another great conversation, exchanged some emails, and very quickly was engaged with a remote session with a lead engineer on the Microsoft Signature lab team. This all happened on April 30th. They set up the same machine in their Redmond lab and let it soak overnight, but the end result was that they didn’t see the critical issues I had experienced and agreed with me that this was a hardware issue. On Friday, May 1, we agreed that they would overnight a replacement for Saturday delivery.

A little before 9am Saturday morning, FEDEX pulled up. I opened the box without looking at the labels. It was the wrong computer – a 15 incher from the same family. I sent the Director, Signature Experience Labs an email at 9:04M and a second email with a picture of the sticker on the box 9:12am ET and received a reply at 9:16am ET (that’s 6:16am in Redmond, on a Saturday). I’ll skip a couple of phone calls that morning, but the correct replacement computer was delivered to my home, by taxi, from the inventory at the local Microsoft Store, at 12:19pm.

Yep, almost unbelievable.

I’ve been using this computer ever since and I’m happy. Very happy.

With respect to the defective computer and the miss-shipped wrong computer, the Director of Signature Experience Labs explained he’d be on the East Coast in a couple of weeks and would love to meet me, take me to lunch, and retrieve that hardware. That happened yesterday. It was enjoyable, I learned about the QA process and the sampling process on production lines and a lot about the history of the Signature Experience.

While I never should have had the cascade of bad luck on this purchase, it was certainly resolved to my satisfaction, and then some. My thanks to the folks at Microsoft for the efforts they made. I’m a happy customer.

Add a Live Tile to a Project Siena App

 

Microsoft Project Siena is a really cool tool. Basically, it’s a Modern App that allows you to BUILD Modern Apps almost ready for uploading to the Windows Store. A small amount of customization work can be done in Visual Studio 2013 to tweak settings, but MS Project Siena is really a visually driven tool that builds complex JavaScript and HTML apps.

One of the few things it (currently) does not do (in Beta 2) is provide a Live Tile experience. There’s an active Project Siena TechNet forum and Ronan Monaghan came up with some code using buildmypinnedsite.com that, when inserted into the proper file, provides a Live Tile. As it turns out, you don’t need to visit buildmypinnedsite.com unless you have a web site and want a pinned live tile function for site visitors.

All you need is a properly formed RSS feed which you insert into the “template” below, replacing text in red with your own feed for your app. In fact, you can use a different RSS feed in each of the five slots if you have multiple feeds for your app.

var notifications = Windows.UI.Notifications;
var recurrence = notifications.PeriodicUpdateRecurrence.HalfHour;
var urls = [
new Windows.Foundation.Uri("http://notifications.buildmypinnedsite.com/?feed=http://www.flickr.com/services/feeds/photos_public.gne?id=44494372@N05&format=rss_200&id=1"),
new Windows.Foundation.Uri("http://notifications.buildmypinnedsite.com/?feed=http://www.flickr.com/services/feeds/photos_public.gne?id=44494372@N05&format=rss_200&id=2"),
new Windows.Foundation.Uri("http://notifications.buildmypinnedsite.com/?feed=http://www.flickr.com/services/feeds/photos_public.gne?id=44494372@N05&format=rss_200&id=3"),
new Windows.Foundation.Uri("http://notifications.buildmypinnedsite.com/?feed=http://www.flickr.com/services/feeds/photos_public.gne?id=44494372@N05&format=rss_200&id=4"),
new Windows.Foundation.Uri("http://notifications.buildmypinnedsite.com/?feed=http://www.flickr.com/services/feeds/photos_public.gne?id=44494372@N05&format=rss_200&id=5")
];
notifications.TileUpdateManager.createTileUpdaterForApplication().enableNotificationQueue(true);
notifications.TileUpdateManager.createTileUpdaterForApplication().startPeriodicUpdateBatch(urls, recurrence);

 

Once you have personalized the template, open init.js in the JS folder inside Visual Studio and insert the code above any existing var statements as shown in the screen shot below.

insertcode

Once you’ve finished any other customization work inside Visual Studio, if you pin your app to your Start Screen, you’ll see the Live Tile functioning. Below is a screen shot of two of my apps showing Live Tiles in action.

livetile1

That’s all there is to it. While there isn’t any additional customization available for the Live Tile (as there would be if you built from scratch using Visual Studio), this quick and dirty work around will give your app a little something extra to offer.

No guarantees that this will work for every RSS feed and all the usual disclaimers apply – edit the project’s init.js file at your own risk and create a backup first.

Enjoy!

NASA Historic Photos App Now Available

 

Since its creation in 1958, NASA has been taking pictures of the Earth, the Moon, the planets, and other astronomical objects inside and outside our Solar System. Under United States copyright law, works created by the U.S. federal government or its agencies cannot be copyrighted. (This does not apply to works created by state or local governments.) Therefore, the NASA pictures are legally in the public domain. One of the best organized collection of images and information is available on Flickr, as part of the Commons project at https://www.flickr.com/photos/nasacommons/sets/. Organized into 60 Albums (or Sets), the collection contains some of the very best images and accompanying information on NASA through the years.

I’m a real space buff, and have spent hours viewing bits of space exploration history. Flickr has done a great job of packaging information within 60 categories and it struck me that this content would make a great Windows 8.1 App. I ‘ve been working on this app for a while, and I’m happy to announce that my new free app, NASA Historic Photos is now available in the Windows Store. 

I’ve included the very best of the 60 albums into a Windows 8.1 app that contains 60 scrollable galleries with descriptive information. I’m hoping that other space aficionados find it useful.

The home screen contains a menu, presented as a scrollable gallery. Scroll through the 60 items with touch or your mouse and then select an individual gallery to view.

main menu

Once you’ve selected a gallery, you can navigate with touch or mouse. I’ve constructed the app so that the individual items within each gallery should “snap” into place as you scroll. Below is a sample showing one of the galleries. You’ll see an image, an accompanying description (if available) and the date published (not the date of the event, which I hope to add in a future release).

gallery 1

When you’ve finished viewing an individual gallery, select the Home button to return to the main screen and select another gallery. You’ll find galleries for all the missions, Apollo, Gemini, the Space Shuttle and lots more. Below is another sample gallery.

gallery 2

You’ll find hyperlinks to the source material below the images. Just click or tap to open in your browser.

 

Please download NASA Historic Photos  at http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/app/nasa-historic-photos/fd89541e-aa2f-45b5-88de-e7fe493b3b5a and let me know what you think on Twitter @barbbowman (or even write an app review).

Replaced a Computer with an HP Laptop from Microsoft Store

 

Subtitle: A Signature PC should not behave this way or require this amount of manipulation. Not to mention that an average person would never be able to get through this.

A very old (in computer years) computer from the XP years that I’d been updating (hard drive, RAM, video card, network card, and of course Windows Operating System) (it was running 8.1 updated completely) finally gave up the ghost. It was an old clunker by today’s standards, and I had been using it for development and testing work. I’d been expecting this and had been doing some research for a few weeks. I’d already decided on a 17 inch laptop as a desktop replacement and I was loathe to order something I couldn’t test first or that came with bloatware, crapware, and things of that ilk. I’ve been to out almost local Microsoft Store enough times to know that the signature PC’s there were probably my best choice. And decided on an HP Envy 17 that appeared to be “fully loaded”.

envy17

The nice man that waited on me showed me a similar (less powerful) model that was on display. I decided that if testing that model proved acceptable, that the higher end model would be as good or better. On the negative side, the sales person was unsure of the specs of the higher end machine. I asked if it had a 5400 or 7200 speed hard drive (he had to look it up). I also asked if the higher end model had Windows 8.1 or Windows 8.1 Pro (the down level demo I was testing did not have Pro) and he replied affirmatively.

The demo seemed to be quite responsive, even on the store’s not so wonderful wireless internet connection. I wasn’t absolutely crazy about the gesture enabled trackpad and mouse functions, but knew I’d be purchasing/using a separate Arc Touch Mouse most of the time and that I could turn off and adjust trackpad functionality. Backlit keyboard was a plus. The keyboard itself is so-so but usable (I still think that no one has equaled the ThinkPad keyboards). After about twenty minutes I decided to pull the trigger and purchase.

The box came out from the back of the store. NOT Windows 8.1 Pro, only Core. I complained. I asked for a discount to offset the need to buy an upgrade key. The assistant store manager said yes to that in seconds (the store manager, who I know, was on vacation) and did some magic with prices to effectively reduce the cost by the amount needed to offset the Pro Pack Upgrade. Home I went, laptop in hand.

Arriving home, I plugged in and spent a couple of hours first applying the Pro with Media Center upgrade and then hitting Windows Update about 8 times until I was fully updated to 8.1, Update 1 (or whatever it is officially called).

I walked away to have lunch.

Problem #1: When I came back, the laptop was displaying an ominous black screen showing Boot Device Not Found Please install an Operating System. Held down the power button, did a few more things, started downloading my apps from the Windows Store. Went back to the desktop. Had two more instances of Boot Device Not Found Please install an Operating System. A web search for “hp envy operating system not found” turns up and ungodly number of hits. Most of which are folks who can’t get their computers to boot at all. That was not my problem. After some thought, I went hunting for a BIOS upgrade. Which I found and applied.

Problem #2: Under heavy network load (over 802.1ac wireless), I had some complete lockups. I went hunting for a driver update on the HP site. Found one for this specific model and applied it.

Problem #3: After performing the Windows 8.1, Update 1 update, Bluetooth went missing. It was completely gone from Device Manager as well. While I couldn’t find anything specific to the model laptop I had, I did find http://h30434.www3.hp.com/t5/Notebook-Operating-Systems-and-Software/Bluetooth-missing-HP-ENVY-15-j026tx-Windows-8-1/td-p/3753454. After some more searching, I figured out that I should try https://downloadcenter.intel.com/Detail_Desc.aspx?DwnldID=23761. Yes, that worked. Or at least I see Bluetooth in devman and have a functional BT task tray icon.

Problem #4: The HP Assistant Program  finds newer drivers that those listed for the product page for this model laptop. It found an even newer Intel Wireless drive for the AC NIC. Suggests that it is a waste of time to use drivers from the product page. HP should be ashamed. If you have drivers, HP folks, keep your site updated.

Problem #5: I installed all my modern apps from synced profile. I then got all the Windows Store Updates for these apps. Skype and Bing News won’t install and error with 0x80073cf9. I can install other apps and update other apps. I uninstalled the “old” versions. Now I have none. I ran the PowerShell script to remove windows store apps and these two do NOT appear on the list. It’s not corrupted files, I’ve sfc /scannow’d and tried the standard wsreset, license sync, and it appears I am not alone. I do have the desktop app and there are other News Apps, so it is not the end of the world.

 

skype

Problem #6: Locks up when accessing an SDXC card in the media reader slot. I’ve got an external card reader that works, but gee whiz…

Bottom line.

 

I’ve got a thirty day return window and have resolved most of my issues. I’ve spent the past day and a half installing my apps and so on. I want this to be a keeper. I’m hoping I’m over the hump. HP should be ashamed for sure. And I’m hoping that the Microsoft Store folks leaern something from this.

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