Category Archives: Microsoft Windows

All things Windows

Tip: Find Out Why Windows 8 Won’t Sleep

I recently started having a problem where my Windows 8 computer screensaver wouldn’t kick in and the computer wouldn’t sleep. I expected a recent change to have caused this but after backing out the latest program install the problem remained. It was time to brush off some dusty brain cells and remember the command to see what process is keeping the screen saver from kicking in. The following command, when run from an administrator command prompt, shows what process (or processes) is keeping the screen saver or other power saving features from kicking in.

powercfg /requests

This will display the processes interfering with the power saving features. In my case it was the Synergy process.

Screenshot showing powercfg results

 

Tools tile

OS Quest Trail Log #81: What I Use – March 2014 Edition

It’s been over a year since I recapped what I use so it’s past time for an update. The timing is also good since I’m about to begin re-examing the way I do things and this will get me going. Not too much has changed in over a year, which means either what I use is pretty solid, or I’m complacent, or I’m lazy. I’d like to think it’s because they’re solid choices.

Server/NAS

Windows Home Server

It seems like there was always constant change in this area. So I was a bit surprised to see that not much has changed.

Even though Windows Home Server 2011 is a dying product it won’t drop off support in April 2016. My server has been solid and I don’t have any plans to replace it until I need to, or something clearly better for me comes along. It has four 3TB drives (no RAID) for data storage and a 160GB drive for the OS. It’s an HP MicroServer with a AMD N36L processor and 8 GB of RAM. The server is used primarily for video files and other files I want long term storage for but don’t use frequently. The only add-in is Cloudberry Backup for Windows Home Server 2011.

Synology NAS

Synology feature image tile - blackThings have been stable here too. My Synology DS1511+ NAS was reduced to 1 expansion bay and a total of ten 3 TB drives back in October 2012 and that’s where it still stands.

The DS1511+ is dedicated to backups. The WHS box does a backup to it using Cloudberry Backup via a ISCSI connected drive. It serves as a Time Machine backup destination for all my Macs. Until I retired my web server it backed up to the Synology NAS using rsync. My other Synology NAS boxes also back up to it.

The Synology DS212+ NAS that I added in May 2012 is still going strong. I did swap the two SSDs with two 500GB Western Digital Velociraptor drives in a Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR). In this case the SHR is just a mirror. This runs my Synology applications and serves my critical data files from an encrypted share. Synology applications include CloudStation, Photo Station, Audio Station and Video Station, all of which have mobile apps.

My original Synology DS212J is still used for testing and experimentation.

Both the DS212+ and DS212J are run the latest DSM 5 beta which has been reliable. I need stability from the DSM 1511+ so it’s still on DSM 4.

Desktop & Laptop Computers

This is where there have been the most changes, and where the most changes are likely to occur in the near future.

Synergy is used for mouse and keyboard sharing between my desktops and the laptop when it’s at my desk.

Mac OS X

Black Apple logoMy MacBook Air was replaced just days ago with a late 2013 MacBook Pro. The MB Pro is a 13″ Retina Display with 16GB of RAM, a 2.4GHz I5 cpu and a 256GB SSD. While the CPU is a step down, I found I rarely needed the CPU horsepower but I was severely memory constrained. The Air maxes at 8GB and that wouldn’t have been enough for me.

My desk has a late 2012 Mac Mini with a 2.3GHz i7, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB Fusion drive. It was just moved to be front and center on my desk so it’s hooked to my primary monitor which is a Dell S2340T monitor. It also drives a second monitor, a Acer H223H 23″ monitor.

Windows 8.1

Windows LogoMy Windows hardware remains the same but now runs Windows 8. The drives have changes. There are now two SSDs in RAID 0 as a 500 GB system drive and two more SSDs as a 500 GB RAID 0 data drive. I recently added a 2 TB spinning drive for file storage. The RAID 0 (scary RAID) is provide by the on-board controller and has been surprisingly reliable. Backup is to the WHS server using the connector software. The ancient Apple 20″ Cinema Display is now attached to this Windows box and the universe hasn’t exploded.

Future Considerations

I moved the Mac Mini to be front and center on my desk, replacing the Windows 8 desktop because I’m considering going “all-in” with Macs as my desktops and laptops. Part of this is because I want to free up the desktop hardware for other uses. The desktop hardware is the most capable hardware I have for some server testing. It helps that I’m finding myself more productive on the Macs.

Portable, Mobile and Media Devices

My Windows RT came and went. I liked it, a lot actually. But it was still rough around the edges and I found I wasn’t using it much anymore. I may get a replacement in the future but for now it’s gone.

I still have the third generation iPad and also don’t use that very much. It never leaves the house. It’s primarily used for viewing videos from Amazon or from my Synology NAS. I also use it for viewing reference books on my desk through Kindle reader.

I have a Nexus 7 with AT&T wireless and this is the tablet that leaves the house with me. I ended up using very little AT&T data but I like having it available without needing to tether. I also gets a lot of use around the house. Except for Amazon it used the same way as my iPad. There are a few additional apps on it that I’ll cover in future posts.

Nokia Lumia 928 next to the iPhone 4SMy primary phone is an iPhone 5S on Verizon. I still have my Nokia 928 Windows Phone which is also on Verizon. I like the Windows Phone OS but the apps are frustrating. It’s not the lack of apps, but the quality. I don’t know if they’re buggy because they are hard to write or because not enough resources are dedicated to writing the apps. For example, I need to constantly bookmark the audio books in Audible because it frequently forgets where I am. The frustration drove me back to using the iPhone as my primary phone.

I have a Microsoft Wedge Mobile keyboard that I use primarily with the Nexus 7 although it works with the iPad and iPhone too.

You can see the iOS apps I’ve tried on Applr although I’ve only begun to review the apps and favorite the ones I like.

My TV is still the same Vizio 42″ and the DVD player is the same LG BD670. My TV viewing has changed from basic cable to a digital antennae for over the air broadcasts.

Home Network

I still run pfSense on an HP MicroServer and it’s still reliable. The HP ProCurve Gigabit Managed Switch that could do link aggregation was destroyed in a water pipe break and wasn’t replaced. Basic NetGear Gigabit switches are currently used.

The Netgear WNDR3700 router still does wireless duties. It’s dual band and I have both a 2.4 GHz and a 5 GHz wireless network. The 5 GHz network gets less interference so it’s the network of choice whenever possible. A D-Link DAP-1522 serves as a wireless bridge to my workbench.

My ISP is still Comcast and they’ve been reliable as long as I don’t have to talk to a person. It seems every human interaction requires a follow-up or three to fix a new problem. Luckily these interactions are rarely needed.

Software

I’m finding Mac apps are allowing me to be more productive. So I’ve been tentatively moving away from my focus on cross-platform apps. This has just begun so we’ll see where it leads.

Productivity & Communication

I use Google Apps for Domains for most of my email. I do use Microsoft Outlook.com for one heavily used email.

My primary browser is Google Chrome but I use Firefox too. With my emphasis on using OS X I just started trying Safari as my primary browser. It’s improved over my last attempt but the jury is still out.

LastPass is my password manager. I have a Microsoft Office 365 Home subscription and it’s my Office suite.

I have several cloud services but primarily use three of them. Synology’s CloudStation is my private cloud. There’s no Internet storage but all my devices can get back to my Synology NAS and sync over the Internet.

Microsoft OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) also gets a lot of use. My phone photos get saved to it automatically, my Office docs use it, and I use it whenever I do want offsite storage.

I use a free DropBox account for apps  that require it for syncing.

Amazon Cloud Drive and Google Drive haven’t caught on with me although I do use them in cases where they integrate well with an app or service.

My finance app has switched to Quicken. It’s the least annoying of my choices. This is mainly because it can easily do online updates of all my accounts. I’ve skipped this year’s upgrade and will consider alternatives again when support runs out with their 2015 release.

Backup & Security Software and Services

As I mentioned, I run the Cloudberry Backup on my Windows Home Server. It backs up to both offsite to Amazon Glacier and locally to my Synology DS1511+ NAS. For my Macs I use Arq Backup for offsite backup to Amazon S3 and Glacier and Time Machine for local backups to my Synology DS1511+ NAS. My Windows machines, both physical and virtual, use WHS backup. They don’t store critical data so there’s no offsite backup.

I also use CrashPlan on my Windows Home Server for redundant offsite backup.

I use Microsoft Security Essentials on my Windows PCs, including virtual machines. I use Malware Bytes on my main Windows PC. I don’t use anything on my Macs and rely on safe computing habits. I do use ScriptSafe and NoScript in Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. I haven’t found a comparable add-in I like for Safari.

Digital Media and Entertainment

I dropped my Netflix subscription after it went unused for two months. I liked the online streaming and some of their exclusive shows but just didn’t use it.

Video is from my own DVD library or Amazon Online Video. My DVD library is ripped to files and sits on my WHS. I copy some video files to my Synology NAS to simplify viewing on my devices. I also use VLC Media Player for viewing. Slysoft AnyDVD along with Handbrake to rip and transcode my DVDs. MakeMKV is used on the few Blue-Rays that I have.

I have Amazon Prime and do view Prime Video. I also buy some TV series through Amazon Video which is considerably cheaper than a cable TV subscription.

My photo management is messy at the moment. I mainly use Aperture to organize and touch-up photos I’ve taken since they are raw files. JPGs and others usually just get saved in a folder structure. Synology Photo Station is used to manage and view pictures in those folder.

Misc Apps

Evernote is my primary information organizer. Pinboard is my bookmarking service. I no longer use Sumatra PDF for viewing PDFs, I find both the Windows and OSX native viewers fine for my needs.

LogMeIn is still my current remote access tool although the free version is going away. My free version extension is up in July and I’ll switch to something else before then.

VirtualBox runs my virtual machines. It’s free and good enough for my needs.

Path Finder is my file manager of choice on OS X. Transmit is my FTP client of choice and is also Mac only.

That about sums it up in just under 2,000 words. I suspect applications will be changing in the next few months but hardware should be pretty stable for the rest of the year unless things start breaking.

Nokia Lumia 928

Nokia Lumia 928 Windows Phone: Audio

Nokia Lumia 928One of the primary uses of my iPhone is to play various types of audio – podcasts, audio books, and music. So when moving from the iPhone 4S to the Nokia Lumia 928 I want to keep these functions. I’ll break down current state of these three areas for me and cover audio in general at the end.

Podcasts

Let’s start with the worst of Windows Phone audio abilities. I use Downcast on my iPhone and it works great. I automatically download new episodes of podcasts I’ve subscribed to and they get added to playlists which are further sorted. It also supports playback at faster speeds. Downcast is by no means the only iOS podcast app with these abilities. Instacast is a competitor.

Nothing on Windows Phone even comes close. I’ve tried a couple apps: “Podcast” and “Slapdash” which are both free. I’ve had issues with both, even for the basic stuff like subscriptions and playback. Neither approaches the podcast management of Downcast so I haven’t aggressively looked for work-arounds or fixes.

My iPhone remains my podcast player. Hopefully things will improve for podcasts on the Windows Phone front. I paid for downcast and I’m willing to pay for a podcast app on Windows Phone. But none of the ones I’ve tried are worth paying for. And the remaining ones in the Microsoft store don’t seem to come close either.

Audio books

While podcast apps are the bottom of the barrel on Windows Phone, audio books have risen to the top. For me, audio books mean Audible and this completely meets my needs on Windows Phone. The Windows Phone does not support all the iOS features but luckily it has all the ones I want. Whispersync doesn’t work on Windows Phone. While the ability to sync playback locations between devices, or an eBook, sound like something I’d want the reality is I never used them on iOS after the initial curiosity wore off. The WP Audible  app only support playback at normal speeds. Because I like the “performance” of most narrators I only use normal speed.

The only repeatable issue I had was some playback glitches when I was downloading additional books at the same time. The playback would stop and jump to an earlier, random chapter.

There was one time where the Audible book lost track of where I was and started over from the beginning. This only happened once while listening to one 8 hour book. I would also have similar problems with the Audible app on iOS so this is hardly unique. Hopefully it remains rare.

Overall I’m very pleased with the Audible app.

Music

I don’t use iTunes for music anymore, not on the iPhone either, so I’m already past the biggest hurdle. I’ve been using Synology Audio Station for my music along woth storing all my songs in Amazon Cloud Player.

There is a Synology music app for Windows Phone. But as I’m learning, it’s features aren’t on par with the iOS app. Songs can’t be stored locally on Windows Phone although they could be with the iOS app.  In addition, Quick Connect doesn’t work. Dynamic DNS and port forwarding can be used but Quick Connect is easier to set up. But my music on Synology NAS are ripped at a high bitrate so they’re fairly large files, I don’t really want to be streaming them over my cellular connection since I do have usage quotas.

There isn’t an Amazon player for Windows Phone. I did try the web player but that didn’t actually play the songs. So Amazon Cloud Player wasn’t an option.

I prefer audio books and podcasts when I’m out of the house so the lack of local music isn’t a big issue for me. I decided to go with Pandora for those times I do want mobile music. When installing the app I found Pandora is offering ad free streaming through 2013 for Windows Phone app users. It’s still streaming over cellular, but it will use less data than the songs on my Synology NAS.

I gave XBox music a try back when I got my Surface RT. I wasn’t at all impressed with it so haven’t given it a try on Windows Phone. A music subscription doesn’t appeal to me.

So music falls in between podcasts and audio books. It’s not as terrible as podcasts but it doesn’t have all the features I want like the Audible app.

I can always move songs to the phone manually but I’m not the type who wants to put that much effort into managing my music. I might load it up before heading out on a vacation but that’s about it.

Audio In General

Back of the Nokia Lumia 928My iPhone earbuds (the older style from the iPhone 4S) work OK for music and audio. The microphone and phone buttons don’t work. The Nokia Lumia 928 doesn’t come with earbuds. So far I haven’t  needed any but I’ll probably pick up a pair if I find some at a good price.

Bluetooth connectivity to my Jambox speaker worked well for all audio. It also worked as a speaker phone.

The phone speaker is on the back, towards the botom of the phone. The location works well. I can put it in the cup holder of my car and it gets some good reverberation so it’s easy to hear. It’s great for podcasts, audio books and GPS turn-by-turn directions. The power adapter plugs into the top of the phone which is also ideal for cup holder placement.

Overall the Nokia Lumia 928 Windows Phone is a capable replacement for my iPhone 4S when it comes to audio. Podcast handling need to be improved greatly but audio books and music are OK.

Other Windows Phone articles include my first impressions and migrating my contacts.

Nokia Lumia 928 Windows Phone: Migrating Contacts

I figured one of the things that would delay the Nokia Lumia 928 from replacing my iPhone 4S would be my contacts. They were a mess. I had them spread across different accounts, with very few in my Microsoft account. I had all the accounts configured on my iPhone so I saw them in one view. But I wanted to consolidate everything into my Microsoft account. I figured it would be a tedious manual process. But while browsing through the Nokia apps in the Microsoft Store I came across the app “Transfer My Data“. It was in the store but not on the phone. It claimed to move contacts from various phones to the people hub. It would also move text messages from some (unlisted) phones. It uses a Bluetooth connection for the transfer.

I downloaded it and gave it a try. It was simple to use, which means there’s not real choices to make. For my iPhone 4S it would only transfer contacts, no SMS messages which was fine with me. It was a simple wizard.

The first screen provides an introduction and reminder to enable Bluetooth on the old phone.

Transfer My Data screen 1

The next screen displays devices available for pairing, I select my old phone and accept the connection on my old phone. Then it displays what it can transfer. I check Contacts and let it do its thing.

Transfer My Data wizard screen 3

The wizard finishes quickly. But the contacts didn’t appear in my People hub. After some searching I went to Outlook.com and saw the contacts there. I went back to the phone and they were there now. Looks like they go online first then get synced down to the phone.

The import seemed clean, at least within the limits of an already messed up contact list. It took the contacts from all the account that were enabled for contacts on my iPhone. Outlook.com then allowed my to de-dup the contacts which also seemed very clean.

The app can be deleted from the phone once the import is done.

It’s nice when things work as expected.

Nokia Lumia 928

Nokia Lumia 928 Windows Phone: First Impressions

Nokia Lumia 928I just added the Nokia Lumia 928 to The Quest. It’s a Windows 8 Phone (or is that Windows Phone 8 phone?). My primary phone is an iPhone 4S. This isn’t replacing that, at least not yet. Officially it’s replacing a terrible Android phone on a second line. I’m new to Windows Phone, of any version, although I use (and love) a Surface RT and run Windows 8 on my desktop. This article are my first impressions after a couple days.

I ordered online due to the pricing, but picked it up in store because I wanted to touch and see it before taking delivery. While there’s a return period, it’s just so much easier to walk out and leave it in the store. I took the contract renewal because the upfront fee plus the early termination fee was still less than the no-contract cost. It’s a wash if I have to give up the rebate. Plus, much to my annoyance, Verizon doesn’t offer a cheaper plan for an un-subsidized phone. I heard on one of the TWIT podcasts that NewEgg and Amazon were selling the phones for even less, but I couldn’t find anything lower on their websites.

Setup

The phone was activated at the store, but I saved all the setup for when I arrived home. I had to do the setup twice. Something just wasn’t right the first time through. I could send and receive phone calls. I could send text messages but I couldn’t receive any, not even replies. Some research should that some apps just didn’t see my phone number and had (000) 000-0000 listed. The second time through and all was good, but I lost of hour or so of my time.

The setup wizard is standard fair. Pick a language and accept the terms of use that no one reads. Then there’s a prompt to either accept the recommended settings or do a custom setup. Most of the express/custom settings have to do with privacy and who can get one data. The second time through I accepted the express settings in case that was the problem the first time through. The settings can be tweaked after setup.

Next I picked my country and then things got wonky when I was prompted for my MS account (or to create one). I didn’t really have a problem, but it didn’t work the way I expected. I use a custom address for my MS ID. It’s an ID used to subscribe to Office 365 Home and it’s setup as a custom domain with Outlook.com. It took my account and logon just fine. But I later found there was no email, calendar or contacts. It seemed to see Skydrive just fine. More on the mail setup later once the wizard is finished.

Then there was a prompt to backup to Skydrive. This saves Photos to Skydrive, syncs my text messages to the “cloud” and backs up my phone’s settings to the “cloud”. I answer yes to turn this on since it works well on my Surface RT. There’s a prompt to use Verizon’s service to back up contacts. This seems redundant since I’ll be using the Outlook.com contacts, so I don’t enable it.

Finally, there’s a notice about location services and a prompt asking if I want automatic phone updates. I enable the automatic updates. In what I thought was a nice touch, my phone number was displayed a the very end.

After the wizard ends a text message appears with a link to more Windows Phone tips. (It’s a free message)

I had to manually setup mail, calendars and contacts. My account was setup during the wizard but the email option was unchecked and options for contacts and calendar didn’t exist. I checked the email box and started to receive email. But I still had to set up calendar and contacts. I ended up having to set up the same account I used for the wizard, but selecting the “Hotmail” option when I set it up. Then I could enable calendar and contacts for this “second” account. I also enabled tasks, although this was less of a concern for me.

Once the setup was finished I had 23.81 GB of free space.

Impressions

Nokia Lumia 928 next to the iPhone 4S

Nokia Lumia 928 next to the iPhone 4S

The side if the Nokia Lumia 928 and iPhone 4S

The side if the Nokia Lumia 928 and iPhone 4S

The phone support 802.11n on the 5 GHz band which is my preference since it’s less congested in my apartment complex. I get good performance using it throughout my apartment. It seems like most phones support 5 GHz these days so this isn’t unique to the Lumia 928, but it’s new for my phone.

I like the bigger phone. The screen is nice and clear. The text is easy to read. As I get older my eyes have struggled with the smaller text of the iPhone. The phone still fits in a pocket although some may find it uncomfortable in a shirt pocket. It’s heavier than my iPhone 4S, 162 grams (5.7 oz) compare to 137 grams (4.8 oz) but it doesn’t really feel heavier to me when I’m using it. That probably has something to do with the increased size. I’m still getting used to one-handed operation of the phone since it’s larger. My thumb doesn’t quite reach the physical back button. Well, I can reach, but my hold on the phone is precarious since I have to hold the phone lower in my hang, making it top heavy.

The phone feels well built, despite being plastic. Aluminum and glass have a solid and expensive look compared to plastic but I think the plastic will be durable. I don’t use a case and it seems like it will resist scratches. I don’t plan on dropping the phone to test it’s durability, although I figure it’s only a matter of time before the accidental drop test.

The buttons along the side have been a bit annoying. They stick out and are prone to accidental pressing. There is a setting to avoid accidentally turning on the camera when the phone is locked which helps a bit since I was often hitting that button. The other annoyance I have is the lack of a system-wide screen orientation lock. Some apps don’t rotate which is also kind of annoying.

I’ve purposely avoided blindly installing apps that I use on my iPhone, if they are available. I’m using the opportunity to find different ways of doing things. I have installed my Synology apps (for my NAS) – Video, Music, Photo and Finder. I also installed the Lastpass and Audible apps. I pretty much stopped there for now. I want to become more familiar with the built in apps and what I really want to use on the phone.

Like other mobile OS’s, the UI isn’t easily discover-able. For example, I was annoyed that there wan’t an easy way to switch between apps. But then I accidentally held down the back button and a app switcher popped up. After Windows RT I’m also disappointed that there’s not more swipe support. I find myself swiping IE to go back but then have to press the back button. On the other hand other apps require swiping to move between screens.

There are some apps I use that aren’t available on Windows Phone, no denying that. I’ve been trying to avoid app lock-in, going with mobile web options whenever possible.  I think my biggest problem is going to be a podcast app. I really like Downcast and the Windows phone options don’t come close, at least not yet. I’m giving “Podcast” a try. It’s free and seems to be OK but the one problem I have is that I can’t subscribe to any TWIT podcasts using it. Leo seems seems to use a lot of different subscription URLs along with redirects, I may just have to hit the right one.

The Nokia Lumia 928 has been fun so far. The Nokia apps seem to be a step above the (low) quality I’ve come to expect from vendor apps. It does cause some duplication, such as in my music choices. My iPhone 4S is still my primary phone but I do see a not too distant future where the Nokia Lumia 928 and Windows Phone 8 replaces it as my primary phone. Now I just have to get there. I’ll post updates on my progress (or lack of progress).

Back of the Lumia 928 and iPhone 4S

Back of the Lumia 928 and iPhone 4S. The gray box covers some info and isn’t blank on the phone.

Additional Nokia Lumia 928 Windows Phone Articles

Migrating Contacts From My iPhone 4S

Audio Capabilities – Podcasts, audio books, music