Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Why Do I Need A Computer To Keep Blogging?


Dear Microsoft,

Here is another one of my silly letter style posts to you. I know, you probably never read them, but hopefully some users will start retweeting this posts and start getting some momentum behind this stuff and we can get some of them done. If not, at least I feel a bit better having put these thoughts down to reflect on later – and to say I told you so.

Today’s session is all about blogging and your lack of options for doing so. Right now, I am writing this from one of the most powerful blogging tools ever to hit the planet, your very own Windows Live Writer. I’m using a version from 2012 on my Acer Netbook running Windows 8.1. I have Linux loaded on to another partition because the processor is barely strong enough to run Windows well, but it does work great for blogging. I also run this program on my desktop and my tablet. It is simply amazing. Wordpress, Blogger, virtually anything I throw at it, it takes it down and publishes my posts. I love this program.

Which is why this pains me so much to say… I blog from my Android phone on the go. Yes, with my Windows Phone, I am limited to posting by email, which sucks. With my HTC M7, I can post using the great Wordpress App, the Blogger App and a few dozen other – not so great options. It’s a little annoying. So, there it is – I’m carrying an Android device to blog for my Windows Phone blog because you don’t give me a choice.

It’s obvious that you know amazing software from the fact that you created Live Writer. Seriously, good software is hard to come by for Windows Phone. Using a Windows Phone next to an Android device is a bit sad when it comes to the user experience. Everything Windows Phone does, it does better, but the gap is so large in functionality that it’s just not an easy move to make for anyone. Even me, that has been back to Windows Phone since day one, has issues with the lack of support that Windows Phone is getting and has gotten.

It’s time. Windows 10 is right around the corner. The test builds are coming out and things are looking good. It’s time to push those Apps to the store and get people excited about them. Publish a version of Office that makes us proud. Bring us a blogging program (or enable Word to do it!) that makes me want to leave my Android at home. Open up the archives and return to what made you great – software. Go back to being the best at what you do and create things that make your better.

I know you’re already on this path, but the path is going far to slowly for everyone involved. It’s time to make the change. It’s time to get us the software we need to have on our Windows Phones. I know we’re just 3% of your world wide smartphone market, but we are a powerful 3% and we can help you make Windows #1 all over again. It wasn’t that long ago that Windows ruled the mobile world with Symbian. It can again, but only if you help us do it. Make us the Apps we need and we will make it happen. Start with the Live series as an extension of Office and see how well bloggers respond. We will win them back by just making our OS the best mobile blogging solution on the planet. Then everyone can read all about the best OS on the planet.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Art Of Oneography: Manual Mode–Getting More From Your M8


Ok, I have to admit to double dipping this post, but it seemed like a good one to do it with. I was asked by a Twitter follower what “Oneography” was. My answer was pretty simple, “It is the creation of art using your HTC One device.” Just like Lumiaography as well, Oneography is the use of a mobile device to create some amazing images. My Oneography blog features shots from both the M7 and the M8 for Windows, but the information in the post is just as relevant to those of you with Lumia’s as well. It’s all about what those manual controls do, and how to have a bit more fun with image taking. So, here you go.


As most of you know, the HTC One M7, M8 and M8 for Windows have a unique camera. These devices use an “Ultrapixel” instead of a Megapixel. By increasing the size of the light receptor, it allows for more information to be captured, which should translate to better images. Of course, sometimes and always don’t work in photography, and Oneography is no different. Depending on your situation, an auto-exposed image may work fine for you, but when you need that extra bit of creativity in your images, step out on the ledge and see what your One can do.


The first slider on the left in manual mode controls the white balance. Pushing this setting up, will bring more reds into the lighting and pushing it down will cool the color tones and bring more blue into the image. This is one simple way to add some amazing colors to sunrise and sunset shooting. It can also be used to balance against harsh lighting that creates unreal looks. By cooling or warming the color tone, you can really bring the image back to a natural point when the auto settings fail to do so.


The next useful control is on the far right of the sliders. The focus slider allows you to set the depth of focus and turn off the autofocus settings. This will allow you to shoot faster images at a set focal point, rather than waiting for the autofocus to catch up with you. This brings action shots to the realm of possibilities. Try shooting a basketball game or your kid’s soccer match in a set focal length. It will turn out amazing once you get it down.


The next three sliders are all basic exposure controls. You have the EV compensation control, which will over-ride the sensor setting and allow you to make an image darker or brighter than it was originally. The exposure compensation control lets you control that extra bit of light you need to make or break an image. Remember, negative numbers make the image darker and positive numbers make the image brighter.

The other light controller in this setting is the ISO. The higher the ISO number is, the more light the sensor captures across the board. This can be very useful when shooting in the dark. Be careful with this setting though as the higher the ISO goes, the more digital noise will be found in the image. Digital noise is that ‘grainy, discolored pixel look’ that many darker images suffer from. This is caused by the auto setting of the ISO going too high to try and capture the image. Keeping the ISO lower in some darker images can also yield some excellent photos.


The 5th and final control on the HTC One M8 camera is the shutter speed. From the fastest to the slowest, you can capture many events with just altering the shutter speed. The top of the slider is the fastest setting, while the lower section will hold the shutter open longer. Fast shutter speeds are used for action shots, mainly to ‘freeze’ time. Longer exposures can be used for things like nightscapes, fireworks or special effects. This is the setting where it is fun to grab a mobile tripod solution and have some fun.

Remember, when you are getting ready to go on your adventure, don’t think too much about how many images you take or how many ‘bad’ ones there are. If you walk away from a #HTCOneLife weekend with 10 great shots, it was obviously an amazing weekend! If you walk away with one great shot, you still had just as much fun trying to get the other 9, so don’t sweat it and try again next week.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below or find me on Twitter and drop me a note.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

App Review: Keep Track Of Your Power With Battery Pro+

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If there is one area that the modern smartphone is lacking, it’s battery power. Sure, they are getting better, but since 2010, Windows Phone has been leading the way with the juice sipping settings that just make any battery last longer than the competition. In fact, looking at the HTC One M8, the Android battery only lasts about 70% as long as its Windows Phone counterpart.
With all that power saving, I’ve never felt the need to track my battery drain, but upon installing a few new Apps, I noticed that my battery level was dropping a bit quicker. So, out came Battery Pro+ and a few days of monitoring. Simply starting the trace function showed me almost immediately what Apps were killing my batter. If you don’t have any major power consumption issues, Battery Pro+ is just a great way to see how much power you are using on a daily basis.
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Battery Pro+ shows you how much time your device spends off charger to how much power per day you are using, You can take your power usage monitoring to the next level by starting the trace function, which will track how much juice your individual Apps are burning as well. This is where installing it earlier, rather than after a problem comes in handy though. If you have a baseline for your device, you can see a spike after you install a few other Apps, you’ll know to run the trace and to watch for those Apps.
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Overall, the $.99 price tag is more than fair for such a great diagnostic program. I won’t say that there aren’t free options out there, but for a buck, but Battery Pro+ just works better. I’ve tried quite a few, and for the free vs. paid solutions out there, Battery Pro+ gets my vote. There is a trial available if you aren’t sure you need on yet, but like I said, you don’t know you will need something like this until a problem comes up, and by then it may not help as much as it would today.
Battery Pro+ is $.99 in the Windows Phone Store and has a 3MB download size. This makes it a great tool for those that often try new Apps and suffer from power issues. It also features shortcuts to popular settings right in the App so you can adjust them to save more battery when need. Battery Pro+ is the perfect addition to your Windows Phone library. You can grab it at the link below.
Download Link: Battery Pro+

Friday, March 6, 2015

Windows Phone 8.1.2 Not Coming Afterall?


It looks like that cute little Windows Phone 8.1.2 update that was featured on the Lumia 640 and 640XL at Mobile World Congress this week will not be coming to older devices in the future. With the push to get a Windows 10 Tech Preview rolled out to higher end devices, Microsoft appears to be skipping the minor update and rolling straight on to the newer OS.

It’s doubtful that most in the Windows Phone community would even care about this incremental update, but it’s worth noting that it isn’t coming to existing devices. Maybe that’s one more reason to consider that gorgeous new Lumia 640XL before the fall Windows 10 devices hit the shelves.

Do You Change Your Phone Or Your Accessories?

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It’s a crossroads… An impasse… An impossible dilemma… It is something that every Windows Phone user faces on a daily basis… I love my phone, but nothing works with it.

Yes, I said it. There is so much that I love about my precious HTC One M8 for Windows, yet there is so much I can’t do with it. As for me, I run a small photography business, do some blogging, take a ton of images, and provide tech support for my day job on an on-call basis. It’s quite a bit for one device to handle. Fortunately, I have had my Windows Phone for the heavy lifting and an HTC One M7 running Android for everything else. This week, that M7 went back for a camera repair – and it has really hurt.

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With functionality like USB OTG, I can upload photos from my DSLR to Flickr from the road. With Square, I can accept credit card payments and deposits from clients on the spot. With proper DLNA, I can share images right to my TV without fancy hookups or a special dongle. Heck, I can even stream to my Sony Network Speaker without anything special, which makes passing the work time much easier. The final straw has been my desire to drop some weight and get in better shape. The $200 MS Band has been out of stock for months, and is really the only major option for Windows Phone. FitBit has a pretty good setup now, but it was a bit late to the party for me.

As I continued down the list, I found my poor Windows Phone just wasn’t measuring up, and it had nothing to do with it being a Windows Phone. It had to do with connectivity, with Apps and with accessories. Sure, there are ways around it, like spending $100’s on new stuff, but that’s not really a great idea when simply buying a $300 device to replace my M8 would fix my problems. It just doesn’t make much sense to continue to invest in a platform that doesn’t meet my needs.

Does anyone else suffer from gadget envy when their iPhone or Android touting buddies come around, or is it just me? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to fall out of love with Windows, but it’s becoming harder and harder to love it when everything else just keeps getting better and better. It is even harder to love it when there is so much missing from it that I need to keep things running.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Grab The Verizon HTC One M8 For Windows For Free

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Been waiting for that ‘right deal’ to grab yourself the Verizon HTC One M8 for Windows? Well, that deal is here. Right now, you can grab that gorgeous device for $.01 on contract with Verizon Wireless. The cost of the monthly plan isn’t too rough, as you can limit your data usage pretty well with Data Sense and the lower bandwidth using Apps that Windows Phone has available. It’s hopeful that the reduction in the HTC One M8’s price is a sign that the M9 might becoming sooner or later in a Windows flavor, but for now, it might be worth considering the HTC One M8 instead. For $.01, you get one of the best Windows Phones every to hit the streets.

Source: HTC One M8

Wait… Who Had A Windows 10 Phone At MWC15?


Microsoft, you’re killing me here… Seriously, this is about the most stupid thing I have ever seen. One of your partners, and not even a ranking one at that, had a device at MWC15 that was running Windows 10 and you didn’t. I’m baffled, bewildered and bumfuttled. Most of all, I wonder how did this happen? It’s not like in the past where the OS is a super secret that nobody knows about. It’s not like there are some new features that will floor the universe. This was your chance to stand along side HTC, Samsung and anyone else that would have you, smile and show off this next major step in Windows history. Instead, we had the same happy go lucky speeches, the see you at BUILD and a few new mid-range handsets.

The bad news of course for everyone involved is that the Alcatel device is nothing new. It was just the Pixi 3 (announced at CES) with an older build of Windows 10 running on it. Quite a few sites are saying that this is great as it shows more manufacturers are jumping on the Windows bandwagon, but to me it just shows how lost Microsoft is on the device front. The 640 is announced with Windows 8.1 but will be upgraded to 10, yet 3 booths down, I can see a device running Windows 10. It’s just not a very reassuring picture to me.

Perhaps if Microsoft had just dropped the bomb, the one that everyone was waiting for, the Lumia 1040 with that 50MP camera, 5” display, that SD card slot for saving those monster images (or dual SD slots?) and a partnership with Adobe for getting Photoshop or Lightroom mobile installed? Or maybe the 1540 with a higher PPI screen and more power behind it? If Microsoft had done this, and just smacked the industry with something great, I’m thinking Xbox360 great here, perhaps people would be talking about that for a few months while we wait for it to come out instead of why the Samsung and HTC offerings aren’t good enough upgrades.

I think Microsoft is stuck between being a devices and services company and being something they are not. By opening up the freemium market to Office and other Microsoft products, they will gain users. By showing off new handsets, they will gain users. By creating great Apps for other platforms, they will gain users. The problem is those users aren’t switching to Windows. The market share isn’t going to increase and that means that the developers will continue to blow off the OS. By making decisions like they did for MWC15, they just seemed to confuse the faithful and miss out on attracting many new users.

Monday, March 2, 2015

MWC15 – The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

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I’m not going to blog much about the actual happenings at the Mobile World Congress event since just about every other tech blog on the planet does so. If you want to read up on the Windows side of things, www.wpcentral.com has you pretty well covered. What I am going to take a peek at is what Microsoft actually delivered during their presentation late last night. Fortunately, it’s going to be rather short…

The Lumia 640 and 640 XL

These two little guys, well one little guy and one pretty big guy, continue Microsoft’s assault on the entry to mid-level handset market. It’s almost as if Microsoft expected others to do the flagship lines and they could just clean up what was left over. The bigger of the two handsets has mid-range written all over it. The street price should be around $250 US. It has a 5.7” display, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. It also has a 13MP rear shooter and a 5MP front camera. Overall, the 640 XL is a nice device and a good follow up to the 1320 that was out last year.

The Lumia 640 features a 5” display and the same 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. The 8MP rear shooter is matched with a 1MP front camera. It is rumored to be headed to T-Mobile and their affiliate carriers in April for around $150 US.

Spartan Browser

For the first time, Microsoft started showing off their Spartan browser. The lighter weight, redesigned browser really looks to be the highlight of the day. If it renders out half as well as they say with the data savings and increased speeds, Spartan may be a killer addition to Windows 10.

I’m going to drop coverage here for a minute since those two items were really the major consumer items from the first day of announcements. There was quite a bit about the universal App platform, developing for Windows and how it is very profitable for those that do, but honestly, to the consumer, that’s all pretty boring.

The End Game

Microsoft didn’t wow me, but they didn’t disappoint me either. The news that a flagship would be coming and that Windows 10 is on schedule was really about all that I expected to hear. Thank goodness I wasn’t one of the many that expected the 1020 follow-up or the successor to the 930 to be announced. Of course, going to the x40 series makes sense for both the 10xx and the 9xx now doesn’t it? I have a feeling that there will be many more fun announcements at the developer conference in April, and probably more of the exciting things that we all hoped we would see at MWC, but for now, the 640 and 640XL look like solid devices to continue the Lumia lineup in the mid-range.