Tech Thoughts

I’ve just got back from Paris.. nice place, relaxing time as well. Managed to catch up on a few articles and some reading as well. With that in mind, this post will be the first of what I’ll call ‘Tech Thoughts’; bits and pieces of news/geek stuff that I’ve come across.

First Impressions – MS Surface

Whilst away, I managed to play about with a Microsoft Surface, at one of these ‘pop-up’ stores that was in this case on the ground floor of the biggest shopping centre I’ve been in, Galeries Lafayette. This isn’t a review as such, as I don’t own the device and only had limited time with it, it’s more of gut feel/first impressions.

The MS Surface…what do I think? Well, I’m not convinced. I played about with it, albeit with a French language theme and my thoughts are as follows:

  • It’s easy to get mixed up about how to go about doing something. I mean, it’s like the Surface has a split personality – two ways to accomplish tasks, either via the ‘UI formerly known as Metro’, or via the desktop experience. Couple this with not being sure whether to use the track pad or touch screen for UI elements and you just end up, confused.

    Case in point.. dialogs. As the UI was in French I messed up doing things (as expected), however a dialog would pop up on the screen and at this point you’re not sure whether to reach across the keyboard and close it with your finger, or navigate with the track pad and action it that way.

    I find that this momentary pause to make a decision about how to accomplish a trivial task counter intuitive to the work flow for using a device. Maybe it’s just me, maybe you need to remove the keyboard when using the ‘Metro’ UI, and use the track pad when your keyboard is attached. Not sure.

  • Build quality is solid. The device is sturdy and reasonably weighty as well. The screen proportions suit the 16:9 ratio, which is great for movie watching, but it does mean that the portrait view is strange and elongated. Additionally, I’m not sure why the didn’t consider a means to close shut the touch cover – it tends to hang open.
  • The touch cover is surprisingly responsive with a decent track pad. There is however a plastic feel to it, and it has a ‘lip’ around the edge that reminds me of cheap throwaway kids toys. Type cover also performs well.
  • The UI and software was responsive and fluid under my touch. Again however, it’s disconcerting to switch to desktop mode and get ‘lost’ trying to get back to the ‘Metro view.

Overall I’d say it’s a reasonable Gen-1 device but not something that I’ll be purchasing at this point. I think it would be a great tool for journalists or bloggers on the move, but for more serious work, the Win RT OS is limiting what apps you can use. Saying that, I’m looking forward to the Pro version that will allow installation of full MS applications.


I’ve been reading a lot on Twitter about folks (e.g. @shanselman) installing NEST. In a nutshell it’s a great looking programmable thermostat that remembers your settings. Designed by Tony Fadell, it certainly looks the part.

Alas, it’s US focused at the moment. I’ve done some digging and you can hack it to get it working in the UK by some clever Wireshark use, but I’d rather wait until they released it properly here.

Some nice articles on it can be found below:

Smart Glass

In essence Xbox Smart Glass turns your mobile phone or tablet into a second screen that interacts with your Xbox 360.

No tablet support is available yet, but should be on the way.

I played about with it whilst watching an episode of the fantastic ‘Breaking Bad’.  It’s decent. Quick enough to respond to input and a really useful when using the newly released Internet Explorer for Xbox.

Word is that games will be able to use the connected device to provide additional game content, such as overlay maps, etc. Kinda dampens the Wii U functionality a bit, doesn’t it!