# Thursday, 30 September 2010

After installing the latest Internet Explorer 9 Beta on my Tablet PC I noticed a very worrying problem. The IE9 UI degraded my Tablet PC surfing experience compared to IE8. Ok, let’s me show you the problem.

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The picture above is the top of a maximized IE9 window displayed on my Asus T101MT when it’s in Portrait mode, therefore it has a width of only 600pixels in this configuration. There are > 3 tabs opened in the browser. So at first glance the problems are:-

  • Address bar has limited space making it hard to read or enter an address
  • Tab display area has limited space, making it hard to navigate between tabs.

Let’s see how it used to look in IE8.

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So obviously more VERTICAL screen space is used up, at first glance you can see these UI problems

  • Address bar has limited space, after being squished by the search bar which was given the ability to extend way more than it should.
  • Tab display area is VERY cramped, only able to display the current opened tab.

So, how is IE8 better than IE9 in this UI aspect? Because of a little known thing called the tab list!

image

Clicking on the drop down to the left of the tab row shows a list of your currently opened tabs which can then be easily used to navigate between tabs. But instead of just a plain list, you could also click the left most button and bring up the quick tabs view which looks like this.

image

And you have a nice visual way of navigating between tabs. Honestly I didn’t use this feature AT ALL before I started using the Asus in slate mode, AFTER I did though this was a GREAT way of moving between tabs. It’s basically how mobile browsers work when they let users navigate between tabs as well.

Fixing this UI problem is actually VERY easy, since everyone says that Microsoft stole the whole simplistic UI from Google Chrome, let’s bring up Chrome then.

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This is Google Chrome maximized on the screen. With only 600 pixels to display tabs with, it probably can’t fit too many as well, BUT… look at the address bar, since the address bar is on it’s own line it has plenty of space to actually be USEFUL.

So the best thing that the IE team can do now is to stop fighting over who has the most compact title bar chrome and split off the tabs and address bar into 2 rows, bring back the Quick Tabs button and the user experience for Tablet PCs can be brought back to functional instead of annoying. Smile with tongue out


Thursday, 30 September 2010 23:55:28 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Wednesday, 29 September 2010

So.. they call this Wobble 3D? Interesting…

wobble

Well.. it gives SOME impression of shaky, wobbly depth. Smile with tongue out


Wednesday, 29 September 2010 01:17:30 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Sunday, 26 September 2010

Whenever people compare performance between an iPad and a Windows Tablet, they always like to fire up the browser, try to pan the page around by dragging. Then finding not much difference between the two, they’ll then proceed to pinch zoom. At which point they’ll promptly point out that the Windows Tablet is slower because the browser will stutter during zoom instead of smoothly zooming around the page.

To see the effect which they’re seeing on your Windows browser (I don’t know wheter it’ll be the same on others), hold down CTRL and slide your mouse wheel up and down, this will zoom your browser in and out a few times, and you’ll see that it’s not a smooth zoom but rather in steps.

What the people are comparing with is a smooooooooooth zoom experience on the iPads, or rather most mobile browsers. Which looks something like this. (Below is a webpage hosted as an image by zoom.it, if you don’t have Silverlight installed the Javascript viewer will be used and it might not be buttery smooth). Just go ahead and fiddle around image by dragging it around, scrolling in and out with your mousewheel.

OK, so now you’ve seen the 2 types of zooming and panning which people like to compare tablet performance with. If you tried out both zooming methods you would also have noticed that the mobile browsers have a nice fluid zoom movement, whereas your desktop browser didn’t have that. Does this mean your desktop browser sucks?

Not really, because the 2 browsers don’t really zoom the same way.

A mobile browser renders the page into something akin to a very large and long image, zooming is then achieved by panning and moving around the image. Hence the use of zoom.it to simulate the mobile browser navigation experience.

A desktop browser renders the page based on how big the browser window is, dimensions defined in the document, etc. etc. For every page you view in your browser it has to perform a layout pass to determine where exactly to place that 250 pixels wide center aligned paragraph of 12pt text in the window. What does this have to do with zooming? When desktop browsers zoom, they are basically (I’m doing a very general explanation of it, I realize that it could be much more complicated than this) bumping up the defined sizes in the webpage, therefore at 150% zoom the 12pt text now becomes 12 * 1.5 = 18pt.

Because the size of the elements have changed the browser would have to perform a new layout pass whenever the zoom level is changed. This is not so much of a problem on a normal desktop where a user would explicitly select a zoom level from a drop down menu and immediately choose the zoom level they want. When operating with touch gestures the user is basically cycling through zoom increments at a rapid pace which desktop browsers weren’t designed for.

You might ask why don’t desktop browsers just implement a rendering method similar to how mobile browsers work, while that would just solve the problem of the desktop browser’s poor performance I’m sure some other deeply engrained legacy issue would crop up since that’s basically how IE, Firefox and Chrome work right now and there’s must be some reason why all 3 of them work essentially the same way.


Sunday, 26 September 2010 23:19:53 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Saturday, 25 September 2010

I’ve been using a Windows Tablet PC for as many years as they’ve been out. I’ve already compiled my own list of Tablet PC optimization tips and since everyone’s going slate crazy now, I’ve been going keyboardless too. Through out my use of a Windows 7 Tablet PC, I’ve always felt that while it’s not perfect (mostly due to apps that don’t work well with only the mouse) it’s really not the hopeless scenario which most of the tech sites paint it out to be.

I guess the best thing I could do then would be to make videos of my Windows Tablet PC Experience, starting off with a general introduction to the Windows Touch Experience.

Then we get to the all important question of "What makes a Windows Tablet PC so special?"

And finally the stumbling blocks when using a Windows 7 Tablet PC


Saturday, 25 September 2010 21:12:50 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, 13 September 2010

DSC00402[4]

As I mentioned previously, I would attempt to FULLY use my Asus T101MT in slate (that means without keyboard access for those unfamiliar with the term) mode and now here are the findings from my little adventure.

Know The Shortcuts And Gestures For Using Windows Without A Keyboard :- Everyone who uses an iOS device is familiar with the various gestures such as swiping, pinch to zoom, rotate, etc. etc. As I mentioned in my Windows 7 Touch Optimization article, do read the help about what kind of gesture are available for Windows 7 Touch. It's also important to note any useful shortcuts that might help you when you're using your apps, for example :- Most Windows web browsers don't have a way to easily clear the address bar and get it ready for a fresh URL like Safari on the iPhone, instead of having to try to select the whole address bar by using your fingers you can also just hit the ESC key on the virtual keyboard when the address bar has focus, that usually selects the full address which you can then easily clear and replace.

There's An App For That! :- That's one of the primary tag lines which the iOS crowd likes to use. To which I can just ask "Is there an app to watch a 720P Soft Subbed MKV video file LOCALLY on your device without the need of any form of encoding?" Or I guess I can just ask the simpler "Does it play RMVBs then?" On a REAL PC, be it Windows, Linux or Mac, there IS definetly an app for that! But...

The Apps Aren't Touch Friendly :- Most apps on the PC were not made to be touch friendly, they were meant to be operated via keyboard and mouse. While the Windows 7 Touch features can make interacting with these apps possible it's less than ideal in some cases, and downright impossible in others. This is a classic Chicken and Egg problem, there aren't that many Windows 7 SLATES out there to call it a viable market, and thus developers don't really concentrate on this niche category of applications for now. One of the worst/best examples of apps that just expect a keyboard and mouse to be around is Adobe Reader, once in full screen mode, left click goes to the next page, right click goes to the previous page. To exit full screen mode, press the ESC key. If it wasn't for the fact the Tablet Input Panel bar is always floating around at the side of the screen my little keyboardless experiment would have ended right then. Smile with tongue out This of course means most fullscreen games are totally unplayable unless they can work without the use touching the keyboard at all.

Windows Resume From Stand By Works :- One of the primary arguments about Windows 7 as a UMPC is that it takes too long to boot up, when I ask those people why don't they just standby or hibernate they tell me the system crashes on resume. Well... go complain to your hardware manufacturer and ask them to make drivers that sleep and wakeup properly! My Asus Tablet PC wakes up from standby in less than 10 seconds, just like the old UH900, just like the old U1010. Proper drivers ensure proper sleep operation. How long does it take to go from waking up from standby to normal operation? Well... that depends on what password you use to lock your system then. Winking smile

Microsoft OneNote ROCKS! :- I've known this since the first time I booted up OneNote, I don't know which was the first note I created, but the oldest note I have in my OneNote notebook is dated July 2003. If you haven't yet experienced Microsoft OneNote, you should give it a whirl. My executive summary of what Microsoft OneNote is would have to be, You know that notebook/legal pad/scrap book you carry around to meetings? The one where you put down your ideas, circle off problem points and other tasks? THAT's what OneNote is, a flexible notetaking application. It indexes your text for easy searching, and it indexes the best guess of your HANDWRITING for easy searching too!

I'm still using the Asus in slate form most of the time, I'm growing more and more comfortable to being keyboardless and Windows 7's touch features do make it very much possible to use it that way. As I've said before, a Windows 7 Tablet PC will never be better than an iPad. You can't even compare them as Apples to Apples since they can't be categorized as the same thing as much as Steve Jobs would want to. (in the sense that an iPad can be used as a NetBook) But taken on it's own merits, can Windows 7 be used purely driven by touch? Yes, there might be some bumps here pertaining to some usability issues with some apps, but yes it is possible.


Monday, 13 September 2010 00:38:51 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Saturday, 11 September 2010

Even before my little keyboardless adventure, I've always known that a Windows 7 Tablet PC's biggest disadvantage is that not many apps are optimized to be run by touch. So I guess I need to start writing some myself, here's the first thing I finished a while back for my UH900, An extremely simple RSS reader. EXTREMELY simple, mainly because I wrote it just to help navigate through some feeds on the UH900. Also because I wrote it while waiting to see the Doctor one day.

It's a Silverlight 4 based application, so you'll need to grab that runtime to try it out.

Marauderz Simple RSS Reader


Saturday, 11 September 2010 02:33:53 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Tuesday, 07 September 2010

So I've been greeted by this message when I tried to login to Facebook.

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So... ok I tried to add my phone and I see this.

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Maxis not being in I picked the My Mobile Service Provider Isn't Listed link. And I eventually get to this window.

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Since I didn't get me code, I decided to let them know. But....

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WHAT THE HELL !?!?!?!?


Tuesday, 07 September 2010 21:25:59 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Sunday, 05 September 2010

I’m a heavy user of Microsoft Onenote, Since it’s very first version, on my very first Tablet PC. Well,  times have changed now and I now have 2 machines instead of just one Tablet PC. My main workhorse system (currently a Dell XPS 13), and then there’s my meeting/ideas Tablet PC (Currently the Asus T101MT). The OneNote notebook is stored in the Dell, whereas the Tablet syncs the files from the Dell using a password protected fileshare.

You might ask why I didn’t make use of the excellent sync to web feature by putting my notebook on Skydrive? Well that’s a GREAT feature, I just found out that it doesn’t end well when you have audio/video recordings in your notebooks cause it obviously tries to upload those as well.

Recently I was looking through my Tablet PC strategy and realized that it is pretty much an expandable system. In the sense that, if I ever lose it (knock on wood) The data should be replaceable, and I need to try and protect the data as much as possible. (My Onenote holds… well… a LOT of information that can’t fall into the wrong hands)

My first thought was obviously to set OneNote to sync to a BitLocker To Go secured SD Card, but then I saw this under Options -> Save & Backup –> Cache File Location.

onenotecache

Oh crap.. they specifically mentioned that you CAN’T toss the cache file location into a removable drive. thought that was it, and my dreams of having a protected storage were shattered. That’s when I remembered a command I learnt when I was hacking some Windows Protected Files. MKLINK.

In short, MKLINK allows you to make one folder point to another folder. And then to any program that access it, it’ll be seeing the stub folder instead of the real one.

Given that piece of information, all I had to do was run the command in the command prompt as such

MKLINK /J C:\MYFOLDER\MYSTUBFOLDER F:\SDCARDFOLDER

So now c:\myfolder\mystubfolder  can be used to refer to the sync folder on my BitLocker’ed SD Card, and I can happily set that as the Cache File Location in Onenote and it’ll not complain. Yippee!!!

But there’s a few gotchas for this scenario, first of all, since this is just a dirty ugly hack. Starting Onenote when the SD card isn’t mounted, not unlocked, or mounted in the wrong drive. OneNote throws up.

onenotecrash

So, try to make sure you are familiar with how to adjust your SD Card’s drive letters, or are prepared to recreated the junction with MKLINK so you can make sure that OneNote can find the cache folder without any problems.

The other gotcha was that, I didn’t realize that BitLocker To Go doesn’t relock on resume from standby. Hmmmm.. I guess that was for convinience sake. I do have a user password to login from standby so I guess it’s not like someone can just access my system if they find it in standby form. Though it is something to note when using BitLocker To Go.

UPDATE: This will not work in Onenote 2013, so you will need to make a VHD on the external media instead, you can check it out here.


Sunday, 05 September 2010 23:39:36 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Wednesday, 01 September 2010

I'm ready to throw in the towel and just decline any form of Windows Client application if the client has their mind set on creating the worlds greatest application and decide that they should have full control of the OS.


Wednesday, 01 September 2010 21:56:40 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  |