Surface with Windows RT: Dislikes

After an agonizing wait, I finally got a chance to play with my new Surface with  Windows RT, or simply,  Surface. It has been a few days, and I thought instead of writing a full-fledged review, I’d focus on some key likes and a long list of dislikes. Nits that I picked. I discussed the likes in an earlier post. This post goes into the small annoyances and issues that I have encountered in my daily use of the device.

Mind you, I really love the device. It has almost replaced my iPad and the kids love it too. With that background/disclaimer, here are the issues, in no particular order or priority:

Speakers: One of the things I have done quite a lot of on my Surface, is play music and video. Xbox Music with unlimited streaming and on-demand playback of not just my music but anything from their huge catalog is nice, but the speakers are not loud enough. Either it is their placement (they point out from the sides towards the top of the device) or just the lack of good amplification, but regardless the sound output is not good. I don’t mean the “quality” of the sound, which may actually be good, but just the volume.

Volume buttons: Speaking of volume, I have inadvertently pressed the volume button so many times as I try to type in landscape mode. When you hold the device in landscape mode, as it is clearly built to be used, the volume buttons are on the left near your index finger. As you reach out to type (or tap), there is a good chance you will hit the button by mistake. It may be that my hands are big (long is more appropriate), but still doesn’t take away from the fact that I have to constantly be aware of the buttons so that I don’t press them mistakenly.

Placing the cursor in a word: Windows Phone has a neat feature to place the cursor inside a word (to correct typos, for example) where you long press anywhere and then navigate to the letter you want to change. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a way to get to the middle of a word. A long press in Windows 8/RT results in a context-sensitive menu (copy/paste for example). Try as I might, I simply couldn’t get the cursor to be placed exactly where I wanted it to be. I am sure there is a different way, but I could not discover it myself and that is a problem.

Update: Thanks to JPG in the comments, I know how to get to a part of the word – the small arrow keys next to the spacebar. Nice. Thanks!

Screenshots: It is great that Windows 8/RT has the ability to take screenshots natively. It has helped me quite a lot when capturing what I see on the screen and share with others. However, the key combination on the Surface (Windows key + volume down button) involves a capacitive key which makes it hard to synchronize the simultaneous press of those buttons. Invariably I end up touching the Windows key before pressing the volume button, or vice versa, ending up in frustration. I don’t know how this can be fixed, to be honest, but it is a cause for unnecessary pain for me so far.

Update: As Williams mentions in the comments below, I can keep the Windows key pressed for however long I want and be able to register a screenshot by pressing the volume down button. Thanks!

Soft keyboard launch: While the Surface works quite well with the keyboard cover (I have the Touch Cover), I tend to use the device mostly without the keyboard, in a pure tablet form. So I depend on the on-screen keyboard a lot. I have noticed that in certain cases, even though it is natural to launch a keyboard for data entry, like a URL field or a text entry form, the keyboard does not launch. I have to tap in the field once before the keyboard launches. On the desktop side, the keyboard has to be forced to launch by clicking on the keyboard icon in the system tray. Both of these should be automatic when the Surface does not detect the external keyboard connection, but they are not.

Mail app: While this is not a specific “system” or “device” issue, I do use the mail app quite a lot and am extremely annoyed that the selected message automatically gets marked as read. Now, I understand why that happens – the mail is after all “opened” in the reading pane – but I don’t want that to automatically happen. In Outlook for example, there is a setting that will mark the message as read after a certain number of seconds, or when moving from one message to the other. If such a setting does get into the app in a future update, I would be a happy camper.

Grouping apps, restoring Start Screen layout, Windows Store web: These items are sort of related to the “management of apps”, so I clubbed them together. I find it a pain to group apps and keep maintaining those groups as I install new apps. I have already installed 100+ apps and especially the first time around, it is very difficult and time-consuming to move the tiles around, and set their shape (wide or narrow) on the Start Screen. More importantly, if I have done it once on one PC, I find it hard to understand why it is not a choice at least, when setting up a new PC, to replicate the layout. One of the beautiful features (as I noted in my “likes” post earlier) of Windows 8 is the ability to sync settings across PCs via the cloud and if “Start Screen layout” is added to the list of settings, it will go a long way in reducing the pain.

Secondly, whenever a new app is installed, it should offer a choice of which group to add it to, if at least one group is created (and named). That way, whenever I install an app I know I am sending it to the right group rather than drop it at the end and then make me move it.

Finally, I personally discover a lot of apps when I read about them on Twitter and websites that cover apps. It would be nice if I got a chance to remotely install these apps from the Windows Store web page that each app gets. If I am browsing the page on one of my Windows 8/RT devices, I get a chance to go to Windows Store from that web page, but I am not always at a PC with Windows 8 (my work PC, for example, is Windows 7) so it would be nice if Windows Store worked like Windows Phone Store.

I care about the device a lot, which is why I went through the trouble of listing things that need to be fixed, so that my experience with it goes from awesome to super-awesome. Do you have any suggestions or any other annoyances besides these? Let me know!

Looking to Delete Your Skype Account? Well Hard Luck

As a very active internet user I end up creating accounts on several websites and usually forget about them. However, there are some accounts which I use on a frequent basis. In the past, there have been several times when I have completely shut down my account on a website and deleted all my account data from it.

Skype Logo

Right now I can easily delete my account, account, Google account or Yahoo account as they provide users with simple options to do the same. But what about Skype?

Well, if you are looking to delete your Skype account, you are in for some surprise (or maybe I am late to the party thanks to Reddit). Skype does not explicitly allow you to delete your account, and I am not kidding. Skype has a support page which states so (emphasis mine):

Can I delete my Skype account?

It’s not possible to delete a Skype account or change a Skype Name after it has been created. However, you can remove all the personal information contained in your profile. This will ensure that other people cannot search for you in Skype by using personal information such as your full name, email or phone number (although they will still be able to search for your Skype Name).

So this technically means that unless you personally go in and remove all the personally identifying information from your Skype profile it won’t be destroyed.

While every service have a right to store user data, they also have an obligation to provide their users with an option to delete their accounts when they want. Why Skype does not allow users to delete their accounts is beyond me. After all, that information is the users and they should have rights to delete it even if it is linked to billing or otherwise.

So how do you delete a Skype account then? Well this might not work 100%, but there have been some instances where users have been able to delete their accounts by directly contacting Skype. You can also visit the same support page to find information to delete your personal information from Skype.

This is definitely annoying, hopefully Microsoft will drill some sense into them. Were you aware about Skype not allowing you to delete your account? Do you think that Skype should allow users to delete their accounts?

Apps Crash After Installing iOS5

I have been using for over a week now and though the new features like instant access to camera from lock screen and the new notification center in iOS5 is worthwhile upgrading, I have been facing constant issues with apps crashing all the time. This even happens in the middle of a game, while reading an email or even using the App store app on the device or using Safari.

It looks like I am not the only person who is facing this issue since there are several threads out there which discuss the problem. Based on most of the threads I was able to fix the app crashing (fingers crossed). However, most of the solutions don’t work so you might have to continue trying different solutions till the apps stop crashing.

Here are some of the solutions you can try out if the apps on your device crash constantly after installing iOS5:

  • Close down all the apps running on your device and try opening up apps to see if they crash. If you are not sure how to check open apps, you can read a guide on multitasking in iOS
  • Download a free app on your device through the App store on your device. This method has known to fix the crashing for several users
  • Reboot your device.
  • Update your apps to the latest version
  • Turn of iCloud sync on the device

If none of the above solutions work for you, try to reinstall iOS5 on your device and then manually sync the apps to the device. Make sure to make a backup of the device before you restore it.

I will keep an eye for more solutions that should fix the app crashes after installing iOS5 and update this post. Please leave a comment if you continue to have problems or used another method to fix the app crashing problem in iOS5.

How To Filter Emails/Create Message Rules in Windows Live Mail 2011

I have been using Windows Live Mail as my primary email client for quite sometime now and have configured it to download emails from several accounts. Though I have found Windows Live Mail to be a really good email client, I have several problems with it, including WLM freezing my system and with high CPU and RAM usage.

Windows Live Mail

However, after cleaning up my emails I found it to be working without issues. Now came the second problem of filtering messages so that I can sort them out in separate folders. Easy right? Well not that easy, or at-least Microsoft decided to put the option in the wrong place.

After searching for over an hour I was about to give up when I came across an option to do it. I believe many of you might be facing the same issue, so I decided to write up a quick tutorial on how to filter incoming  emails by creating message rules in Windows Live Mail 2011.

The below rules apply to Windows Live Mail 2011, so you might want to upgrade your installation first.

Windows Live Mail Message Rules

Step 1: Open Windows Live Mail and click on the Folders tab.

Step 2: Click on the "Message Rules" option available at the end of the ribbon.

Step 3: Click on the "New" button and follow the instructions to create your incoming email message rule.

That’s it, your incoming messages will now be filtered and stored in the appropriate directory,  deleted, forwarded or perform any other action based on what rules you have created.

How To Get Back Old Facebook Chat

Recently, rolled out a new video calling feature in collaboration with Skype. The new feature allowed for one-to-one video chatting with your friends. However, they also rolled out a new  chat sidebar which has been annoying people to no end.

Facebook Video Chat

Facebook has been known to annoy users with newer design changes, and it is no surprise that people are upset with such an attitude. Last time Facebook annoyed users with a new rollout for the image viewer, however, you can easily disable the Facebook Theater mode too.

Earlier last month, Google also annoyed users by changing their homepage design and adding a black bar at the top. You can easily remove the black bar in Google and similarly also revert back to the old Facebook chat.

Also Read: Group Video Chat on Facebook with Social Hangouts

In order to get rid of the new Facebook sidebar chat that has been included, you will need to install a script. Just head over to this link and click on the install button. This will install the script and revert Facebook chat to the older version.

The script should work out of the box in and with the Greasemonkey add-on installed. If you are using a browser like , Internet Explorer or Safari you might want to read our earlier guide about a workaround to run Greasemonkey scripts in Opera, Internet Explorer or Safari.

Don’t forget to read our earlier article on how you can make Facebook better in Google Chrome.

Update: You can also use a called Facebook Cool to restore the old Facebook chat. Download the extension from here.

Hate the Black Bar in Google.com and Search Pages – Here’s How To Remove It

Google recently launched a new design which sports a new Black menu bar with grey colored text. The new menu bar is an eyesore and is being hated by many people.

No Black Bar in Google Search

If you are someone who does not like the new design change by Google, here are few ways to disable or change it back to an earlier version with white background and blue links (coming soon). Right now you completely disable the black menu bar on all Google pages.

The trick uses a script so you will need a compatible browser or user a workaround to run Greasemonkey scripts in Opera, Internet Explorer or Safari.

Like I said, right now I just hide the bar completely, but I am working on modifying the script to change the black bar to an earlier version of Google. Stay tuned for updates on this post to know when it has been updated. I have tested the script and it works in , and . I am still testing it in Internet Explorer 9.

In the meantime, have fun without the ugly black bar in Google Search. You can download and install the Google Black Bar hider script from here.

Update: You can also return back to the classic toolbar for Google by installing this script.

 

 

How To Display/Enable Preview Pane in Yahoo Mail Beta

Back in April 2011, we had posted an article about the new features in Yahoo Mail Beta. Though Yahoo Mail has improved a lot, it has also added a little bit of annoyance by making the preview pane hard to find.

On the said post, several users have been discussing how to show the preview pane in Yahoo Mail beta, but it looks like most of the information available might not be helpful.

I recently wanted to enable this feature in my own account and found going around circles with no preview pane in sight. Turns out that the Options -> Mail Options -> General -> Show all messages in a scrolling list (with Preview Pane option) does not change anything.

However, I found another trick which can be used to display the preview pane in Yahoo Mail Beta. The trick is really silly but not many people will be aware of it.

Enable Preview Pane in Yahoo Mail Beta

In order to enable the preview pane in Yahoo Mail, go to your Inbox and click on the "Switch view" button next to the "Actions" button. From the available option select "In Scrolling List (With Preview)" option. Yahoo Mail will say that it needs to refresh the page to change the settings. Click on Ok and you should now see the preview pane below the email messages.

I have tested this change in multiple browsers including , and Internet Explorer 9. Unfortunately, the new version of Yahoo Mail Beta does not support . If you aren’t able to see the preview button in Yahoo Mail, you might want to try going to options and changing the settings.

If the above solution does not work for you, you can try logging in to Yahoo Mail using another browser and making the changes. The change is sticky, so it will then reflect across all browsers.

Disable Gmail From Automatically Adding Contacts You Email

is no doubt one of the best email services out there, however, it does have an annoying feature which keeps adding email addresses as contacts when you email someone new. This can be quite a pain because your contact list will start growing with unnecessary contacts.

Gmail Love

Google has been listening to feedback and has introduced a new feature where users can disable Gmail from adding new users you email to your contacts list.

Gmail Auto Contacts

To enable this feature, head over to the Gmail settings page and look for the option which says “Create contacts for auto-complete”. Now select the option which says “I’ll add contacts myself” and save the settings. Once you have enabled this feature Gmail will not add new contacts to your contacts list unless you do it manually.

Gmail Email Deletion Blamed on New Software Update

If you have been following the recent news, Google had a major outage where emails were being deleted for certain users. Google did acknowledge that the problem was affecting around 0.02% of their users and have been continuing to work on fixing those issues.

Google has now posted an update on their official blog explaining what exactly went wrong. According to the updates, Google basically rolled out a new software update to their storage software which caused an unexpected bug. This bug affected around 0.2% of users.

The bug was quickly spotted by them which led them to perform a rollback to the earlier version of the software. Google is still continuing to fix the problem and even though they have multiple backups of user emails, most of it was corrupted by this bug. Google is now reportedly restoring these emails from tape backups, which have remained offline and not been affected by this bug.

However, users who were hit by this bug will not receive emails sent to them between 6:00 PM PST on February 27 and 2:00 PM PST on February 28. So if something important was sent during this period then the email sender will have to send it again to you.

Rest assured, outages such as these are not acceptable and it was really bad on Google’s part to roll out software which could cause such a problem. Though I love using Gmail, I would certainly not be happy if my emails are not delivered or if someone cannot send me an email.

Hopefully we will not see such problems in future again. If you have been affected by this problem, you can check the Apps status page for updates on the issue.

Facebook’s "Instant Personalization" Automatically Shares Your Data With Other Websites Without Your Consent

Oh my dear , why do though take decisions for me? You make HTTPS opt-in, but want me to opt-out when it comes to sharing my data with third party websites, and you say that you adhere to privacy standards?

Disable Facebook Instant Personalization

If you have had issues with Facebook’s privacy settings, here is something which will irk you even more. Facebook has a new privacy setting in place called "Instant Personalization" which basically gives your data to other websites without your consent. When I say without your consent, it means that you have to opt-out of this feature to stop sharing your data with other websites.

I find this really ridiculous because on one hand Facebook makes security features opt-in and on the other hand they feel that it is fine to share your personal data with other websites without your explicit consent.

If you don’t want to share your data with third-party websites, go to Account -> Privacy Settings and click on "Edit your settings" under the "Apps and Websites" item at the bottom left of the screen. On this page, click the "Edit Settings" button next to the item "Instant personalization" and uncheck the checkbox next to "Enable instant personalization on partner websites."

The feature was launched last year in April, but is now being gradually pushed out to all users. This is the first time I saw this option in my privacy settings and I was surprised that it is enabled by default. You can learn more about how your data is shared and whether you really want this feature to be enabled by default at http://www.facebook.com/instantpersonalization/.