While there are plenty of innovative wireless pointing devices available, few are as light, compact, interesting, and mobile as Microsoft’s Arch Touch Bluetooth Mouse. It’s designed primarily as an accessory for the company’s Surface Book PCs (it’s the same light-gray color), but since it’s a standard pointing device, it also works with most laptops or tablets running a recent version of Windows (and some MacBooks) that support Bluetooth. The Arc Touch mouse is, when turned off, ultra-thin, making it easy to slip in to your pocket or some other tight spot.
The Arc Touch mouse is unique in design. Even so, just about any other small wireless “travel” pointing device, such as Logitech’s M535 Bluetooth Mouse ($39.99) or Microsoft’s own Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500 ($29.99), is a direct competitor. You can pick up the Arc Touch mouse for about $40, which is a bit high for a small mouse like this, especially considering that you can buy the EasyGlide Wireless 3-button Travel Mouse, and several others, for as little as $20. That said, you’ll have trouble finding a mobile mouse as easy to carry around with you than the slim and petite Arc Touch Bluetooth Mouse, and like most Microsoft peripherals, it’s well-built, durable, and somewhat elegant.
There’s no shortage of mobile keyboards in the world. Some, such as EC Technology’s Bluetooth Ultra-Slim Keyboard and the Jorno Keyboard, fold in thirds. Others, including VisionTek’s Waterproof Bluetooth Mini Keyboard and today’s review unit, Microsoft’s Universal Foldable Keyboard, fold in half. Nearly all are water resistant to some degree, and most of them support all three of the standard tablet and smartphone operating systems: Android, iOS, and Windows.
Akin to its Surface 3 and Surface 3 Pro Type Cover keyboard sibling, Microsoft’s mobile keyboard is light, compact, and easy to use. And like most Microsoft keyboards (and other peripherals), it’s well-designed and well-built, if somewhat expensive. If you shop around, you can find it for around $70. You can pick up the VisionTek model for as little as $20, though, and the iClever BK03 Ultra Slim Mini Bluetooth Keyboard, yet another competitor, sells for about $36. At nearly two-thirds of a C-note, do you get what you pay for?
On September 30, Microsoft is expected to show off Windows 9 to the world for the first time — yet another sign of the beginning of the end for Windows 8.
Though Windows 8 was an attempt to unify the Windows experience across PCs, tablets, and smartphones, it turned out to be polarizing. Due to its mobile-ish Start screen, the lack of anything resembling the traditional Start menu, and other factors, PC users turned away from Windows 8 in huge numbers.
Two applications that never seem to have quite enough processing power are high-end multimedia editing, and gaming. In Windows, one of the key components of graphics processing in gaming is DirectX technology.
Currently, about 70 percent of Windows machines are running DirectX 11. However, at its Siggraph 2014 booth, Intel recently demoed DirectX 12, and the chip-maker claims that it will significantly increase performance, power efficiency, scalability, and portability.
You may be asking yourself why Intel was running the demo, though Microsoft was also part of the show. The test bed PC consisted of the original Surface Pro 3, which ran on Intel’s Core i5 CPU with integrated Intel HD 4400 graphics.
Read entire review at Digital Trends.
Since my last post on upgrading from Vista to Windows 7, I (and many others) have experienced a number of snafus, ranging from the mildly annoying, to disastrous. In any case, the upgrade issues that arise during and after the upgrade process are at the least frustrating and incredible time wasters.
In last week’s Communication Technology Watch post about the upgrade experience, Installing Windows 7 – Not so Easy, I recounted some of the issues I encountered during the upgrade. Today we’ll look at some of the residual problems I have had to spend a few hours figuring out.
During the upgrade process, Windows 7 checks to see if any of your programs are incompatible. Well, it did that for me, but missed one. After the upgrade finished, I started having trouble with my Internet connection. Windows 7 couldn’t communicate with the Windows 7 validation or Windows Update servers. I kept getting errors telling me that my serial number couldn’t validate; I should call Microsoft (eh!). Thinking that maybe a Win 7 update might solve the problem, I ran Windows Update, only to get an error telling me that either the Windows servers were too busy or there was something wrong with my firewall. Also, I could no longer download files successfully from my browser. The download would go all the way to the end, give me a message that I had one second left, and then hang. The few times the files did download successfully, they were corrupt.
None of the Troubleshooter solutions worked. I was pulling my hair out. I was beginning to think that the upgrade had failed, and was just getting ready to install Win 7 fresh on another computer. As a last ditch, I decided to go through my running services. To my dismay, I found an old antivirus program running that had been disabled for at least a year.
Attempts to stop the service or install the program proved futile. All the service control options, Start, Stop, Automatic, Manual, and Disable, were grayed out. During the uninstall process, I got an error that the program could only be uninstalled under XP or Vista. I was starting to think I was screwed.
I was able to stop the service in Safe Mode, but still can’t get it uninstalled.
Within a day or two after the upgrade, I started having trouble with some peripherals and my video adaptor. My Logitech Bluetooth keyboard and mouse began disconnecting intermittently and some graphics programs wouldn’t display properly. It seems that, even though Windows 7 drivers are available for these devices, the upgrade utility decided to use the same Vista drivers already installed on my computer. Now that, my friends, is just downright neglect on Microsoft’s part.
Complaints from the World at Large
Apparently, my problems so far are fairly minor, compared to what some others are reporting. Checkout this link to cio.com for some real upgrade problems:
A survey over at Gizmodo reports that about 20 percent of the upgrades have been troublesome. This is surely much better than the Vista release, but still, one in five!
William Harrel – www.williamharrel.com
After over 20 years of Windows upgrade snafus, I have been running Windows 7 beta on a duel boot machine, just to be safe. Whenever my friends, colleagues, and clients ask me about upgrading to a new version of Windows, my advice is always, “Wait until it has been out for awhile and updated a few times.” Not once have I upgraded a Windows machine without at least one or two annoying, and sometimes catastrophic debacles. However, after reading all the rave reviews about how easy and stable the upgrade has been for everybody else, I decided to give it a try. My experience, though not disastrous, was not without incident, and certainly not smooth enough to sing Microsoft’s praises.
Windows 7 is nice–well, nicer than Vista–but hardly anything to get aroused over. Everybody seems to like it, but some reviewers are not overly impressed. Here’s a luke warm preview from Communications Technology Watch with links to several other not-so-impressed reviews:
However, when you compare Windows 7 to Vista, it truly shines. Check out this review from Engaget:
So, if the new OS isn’t wonderful, why bother? In my case, the decision was simple. I wanted to ditch Vista. After a few years of running it, I was still having annoying performance issues, weird crashes, problems with IE, and so on. I figured that even if I did have a few problems with the Windows 7 installation, chances were they’d be worth it. Anything to finally get rid of Vista!
Hardware and Software Compatibility
Like most people, my PCs are mission critical. I run several applications that if, even for a few days, I had to do without them, I’d be dead in the water. My experience with Windows upgrades has been that at least one or two programs don’t work properly, and some of my hardware devices, such as backup drives and printers, are not recognized. (Since much of my work requires my computers to do some heavy lifting, such as Flash, Indesign, and Photoshop, I keep my machines pretty modern, loaded with RAM, hard disk space and the latest video interfaces.)
All of this is to say, that I wanted to do everything possible to make sure my machine was Windows 7-compatible before I upgraded. My first stop was the Microsoft Website to look for known compatibility issues. At the the Windows 7 Compatibility Center I found a link to the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor, a download you can run on your Vista machine to make sure all your hardware and software are Windows 7 compatible.
Great! This should make things easier. Right?
Hmmm… Well, no. I tried to download and run the application several times, but kept getting an error that a required component was missing. Frankly, I didn’t try to run down whether the application was faulty or whether it was looking for something in my Vista configuration. What I can tell you is that I was running Vista with Service Pack 2 and all the latest patches. In typical Microsoft fashion, there was no other information–just the name of the missing component, with no instructions on how to solve the problem.
(Ok. Yes, I know how to Google errors and figure out the problem. But I wasn’t about to go to all that trouble to run this utility. Besides, I recalled a similar utility for Vista that I had trouble with, and, once I got it working, it wasn’t all that accurate, anyway.)
My computer is fairly new. It has plenty of RAM and drive space, a recent video adaptor. I figured I was safe on that account. My printers and software are all industry standard. What the hell, I decided to roll the dice.
Ready, Set, Install!
After about 5-10 minutes of churning away, checking my computer for compatibility issues, the Windows 7 installation utility gave me a check list of tasks I needed to perform before the installation could continue. My only option was cancel the installation and perform the required tasks. The tasks were:
- Decommission my computer from iTunes and uninstall the iTunes program.
- Uninstall Windows Mobile Device Center
- Uninstall a couple of Dell diagnostic utilities.
- Restart Windows
Not so seamless, right? At least it didn’t want me to uninstall all my Adobe and Microsoft Office programs, which was a relief.
Granted, none of this was a big deal. The one thing that baffled me was why I had to uninstall Mobile Device Center (the application that helps you sync your cell phone with your PC). Windows 7 comes with a replacement called Sync Center. Why didn’t the installation utility just upgrade it?
Anyway, I got off easy. Check out this PC World article for some real installation nightmares, just three days after the Windows 7 release:
And here’s an issue with the student version posted on Gizmodo:
Hurry Up and Wait
After I completed my list of tasks (geez), I launched the install program again and waited for it to do another compatibility check. By now I had about an hour into the install. (Want to make it slicker Microsoft? Just have the checker make sure I did my homework, rather than run this gruelingly slow process again.)
Once the installation process actually started, I got a message telling me that the upgrade “could” or “might” (something like that) take several hours. After a few minutes of watching the progress, I went to bed.
A New Day – A New OS
The next morning I entered the registration key and, bang, I was running Windows 7. So, the upgrade took a while, but it went off without a hitch. Naturally, I started opening programs and documents to make sure everything worked. For the most part, everything did. In fact, some things work better. IE seems more stable; my RAID tower (which gave me connection headaches in Vista) connected right away; programs open and close faster. So far, so good.
I did have to re-enter the serial numbers on a couple of games I play now and then, but I can live with that.
After all is said and done, so far Windows 7 is running good for me, and noticeably faster. It was a bit of a pain getting there, but probably worth the effort.
Here is a list of what 27 reviewers have to say about Windows 7 from Gizmodo:
William Harrel – www.williamharrel.com
Is this Windows Mobile 7? Who knows. Will it be released this spring? Again, anybodies’ guess. Once again Microsoft is secretive and evasive. Don’t try to plan anything. Just wait to see what happens. With the disappointing release of Mobile 6.5, and some manufacturers, such as Motorola, deciding to opt out until next year’s release of Mobile 7, many of us are relegated to holding onto our 6.1 devices, watching and waiting, suffering from iPhone envy while Microsoft gets its act together. Microsoft either doesn’t get the importance of brand loyalty, or they believe they have such a corner on the market that they don’t need loyal users. This may be true of the Windows platform running on PCs, but not so of mobile devices. Apple and Google are eating Microsoft’s lunch, and more and more users are scampering away from Windows Mobile. What should we do?
Mobile 6.5 – A Feeble Attempt at Placation
The reviews are in. Windows Mobile 6.5 is an ineffective band-aid, hardly worth buying a new phone. Most people will wait to see Mobile 7 (or bite the bullet and change their OS–enough is enough).
The following PC World article, entitled Windows Mobile 6.5 Arrives, Mostly Disappoints, sums up what most people think of Mobile 6.5:
The following article from Communications Technology Watch, sums up the frustration we’re all feeling over Windows Mobile in general:
Where is Mobile 7?
Now there’s a good question. Right now, nobody knows. It’s questionable as to whether Microsoft knows. There’s all kinds of speculation around the Web. The timeframe seems to be anytime next year. Helpful, right?
While I have found all kinds of post claiming dates ranging from mid- to late-2009 through early- to late 2010, the latest consensus seems to be 3rd or 4th quarter 2010 before we actually see devices running Windows Mobile 7, as in the following post from the folks over at Windows Phone Mix:
Hold the Phone! The folks over at newsoxy.com are saying early next year:
Earlier articles are touting 3rd or 4th quarter 2009. But it seems pretty obvious that’s not going to happen.
Is Mobile 7 Worth Waiting For?
As Microsoft plugs along on its new mobile OS, iPhone and Android continue to get more and more feature rich and sophisticated. It’s really starting to look like Mobile 7 will be just another version of catch-up. Check out this feature review on Gizmodo:
Notice that this article was posted back in early 2008. At that time, these would have been ground-breaking features. Now, nearly two years later, they are just me-to’s.
Here’s a more in-depth early review from Pocket PC Central:
Looked good then, but today it’s nothing new.
The point is, now we’re waiting for our Windows phones to be as good as the competition. Not a great marketing position, Microsoft.
William Harrel – www.williamharrel.com
We’ve all been watching as Microsoft ‘s mobile OS struggles to catch up with Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android. Granted, creating a modern operating system for handheld’s can’t be easy, but Microsoft’s competitors have proven it can be done. The question is, why can’t Microsoft keep up? Windows Mobile 6.5 is definitely a step forward, but hardly a finished competitor. Besides, many of the Mobile 6.1 devices out there are not upgradeable, meaning that a substantial number of Windows phone users will have to buy new devices to take advantage of the upgrade. With Mobile 7 so close to being released (perhaps as early as April 2010, more likely the second half of 2010), why would we bother? Especially since there is a good chance that many 6.5 devices probably won’t be upgradeable, either. Has Microsoft sold us short again? Should we shell out a few hundred bucks for an incremental upgrade? Does this upgrade get us close to iPhone and Android functionality? What are reviewers saying about Mobile 6.5? Let’s take a look at 6.5, compare it to Mobile 7, and decide whether we should wait to upgrade.
Take a look at the homepage on the Samsung phone in the picture above. Look familiar? If not, check out this phone:
Looks pretty similar, doesn’t it? Well, just because it looks like a duck… While there are some things I don’t like about the iPhone, such as the lack of slide-out keyboard and that you are relegated to using AT&T cell service–Windows Mobile 6.5 is still lacking several iPhone key features. Here are a couple of the most notable:
- Multi-Touch technology allows users to move and stretch images and application windows with simple multiple-finger input gestures, increasing ease of use and productivity.
- Shake and Bump features allows users to manipulate and exchange data, images, videos, and play games with other users with simple shake or bump movements of the phone.
If you’ve ever seen an iPhone user say something into the phone, and then shake the device to execute the command, it’s pretty slick. We won’t see either of the above features until Mobile 7. Mobile 6.5 has only the single-touch function, a function that, until now, was only available to Windows Mobile users through overlays built into the device by the phone manufacturer. Multi-touch is still not available.
The Sad Truth
Where Mobile 6.5 is concerned, the real story is what’s missing. The upgrade really is a yawn, as recounted in this Gizmodo post:
Now compare this to early reviews of Mobile 7:
Granted, this post is old, but it is a pretty good recap of what we can expect from Mobile 7.
Me? Well, since my phone is not yet upgradeable to Mobile 6.5, I plan to wait until it is or until Mobile 7. I’m sure not buying a new phone just to run an incremental upgrade, at best.
[Watch for the release of my book Windows Mobile 7 for Dummies with the release of the Mobile 7 OS.]
William Harrel – www.williamharrel.com
I’ve been using Windows since before Windows 3.1, which is when this unruly beast finally became functional. You can’t imagine what it was like running PageMaker and Photoshop on machines that sometimes took a full minute or so for screen redraws. Crashes were a regular occurrence, driving me nuts and making me wonder why I bothered. Finally, with version 3.1, Windows became relatively stable and PCs were almost fast enough to run the struggling OS comfortably. Now, over 20 years later, here we are at version 7. As usual, Microsoft and pundits are touting it as the greatest thing since sliced bread. But we’ve heard that before…
With each Windows release the everyday enduser encounters numerous serious issues that don’t turn up during development and testing–upgrade issues, program compatibility issues, performance issues, security issues, you name it. Let’s face it, Vista was a disaster. Even after Service Pack 2, it’s still a bloated dog.
So, the question is, is Windows 7 what Vista should have been?
So far, my experience with Windows 7 has been relatively positive. But then, I doubt that I am the average PC user. (In fact, I doubt there really is such a thing as an average PC user.)
So, instead of simply recounting my limited experience with the new OS, let’s also take a look at what others are saying about Microsoft’s latest OS.
One thing we should all know by now is that moving to a new version of Windows will undoubtedly be an adventure, a test of our patience and fortitude.
Another Convoluted Edition Scheme
As with Vista, Microsoft has once again come up with an elaborate Edition scheme to confuse you and relieve you of more of your money. The more you need your computer to do, the more Widows 7 will cost you. Oh how I long for the days when all you had to do was buy and install Windows, without trying to figure out what level of user you are. This time, at least, there are only three Editions (so, Microsoft knows we don’t like this whole edition thing). Rather than go over all three and what they allow you to do, here is a link to a page on Microsoft’s site comparing them:
Speed and Stability
Several testers, including Microsoft, are touting Windows 7’s speed. Microsoft’s ads are calling it “snappy.” There’s a lot of hype out there about faster boot speed. Here’s an article about how fast the new OS boots:
Most of the tests I’ve seen test how long it takes to display the desktop. But these tests are done primarily without virus and other software installed. Besides, just getting to the desktop is half the battle. Vista displays the desktop rather quickly, but the OS continues loading long after that. In fact, programs are slow to open and sluggish for quite some time after the operating system “boots”, to the point where Windows is nearly unusable for several minutes.
The real issue is, of course, how fast will programs load and perform their magic. Outlook, for example, is sluggish under Vista, and always misbehaving. We won’t know until the OS is released and running in real world environments how nice Windows 7 plays on PCs with various configurations.
Granted, Microsoft’s beta environment and sampling is much more sophisticated than with previous releases, but haven’t we heard that before?
My experience so far is that the new OS seems fairly stable. No real problems with crashing. Here’s an article from a guy with similar experience:
Notice, though, that Ben had trouble with one of his programs, which takes us to the next issue.
More often than not, upgrading Windows means also upgrading several programs, or running them in compatibility mode. Here’s an example of some experiences people have had running Photoshop CS4 in Windows 7.
I haven’t had a lot of trouble with the graphics and design software I run, mostly Adobe products. And it really looks like most applications will run alright in Windows 7. Here are a few sights where people are listing their experience with various programs:
So, we upgrade software to get new features, right? Well, Windows 7 has a bunch of those. Even Vista was easier to use than XP, once you found everything. And that’s the issue again. Microsoft seems to move things around and change how things are done for no apparent reason. A classic example is Office 2007. Does anybody know why it’s so different from previous versions?
Many things are different in Windows 7. For example, you setup dual monitors in an all new way. So, there is always a learning curve.
Anyway, I found most of the new features useful, though nothing to get excited about. Here is a list of the new stuff:
So far, it looks like Windows 7 is relatively stable, fast, and pretty slick. But I’ve said that before about other upgrades. We’ll see…
William Harrel – www.williamharrel.com