Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Windows Apps-only revisited

Microsoft, it seems, is going ahead with its idea for Windows 10 S being a Windows Store Apps only design, and includes it by default on the Surface Laptop, a thin and light laptop it hopes to break the grip of the cheap and Internet-friendly Chromebooks in schools, businesses and beyond.  I’m setting aside my feelings on that strategy for the moment.
Surface Laptop
On the surface (pun intended) Windows 10 S looks like a dumbing-down for Windows 10 and an effort to force adoption of the App Store and provide a cheap alternative without cheapening its other versions, the Home and Pro edition. 

The real questions is the impact on individuals. People who use specialty software or play heavy games need not apply, so won’t bother with them until that changes.

I recently refreshed my Windows 10 installation and decided to take an inventory of store apps and desktop apps installed that I regularly use.  Using this, I am conceptualizing whether a Surface Laptop (or like device) would be usable by me or not. YMMV, but I hope it may help you outline your needs.

First off, let’s look at the Windows Store apps that I do use fairly regularly.  Some apps, marked in italic, could be done through the web browser and so does not need to use the app.  So at least there are alternatives.

Daily PictureI like the Bing Pictures of the Day, so this automatically changes my wallpaper and/or lock screen.

FacebookThis app sucks; takes a long time to load and crashes often. I use the web interface for now in hopes that someday this app will be improved.

FitbitI use my Windows phone to synchronize with my Fitbit currently.  If the computer has Bluetooth then maybe can use that to synchronize the Fitbit rather than only my phone.

Fresh PaintJust a fun application for drawing. Much more useful with a touch screen device, though.

MessengerAnother application that can be done on the web.  I just wish it would be integrated with the People shortcuts on the taskbar.

A couple of games that I use primarily on my phone but unfortunately when I move to Android (since MS is abandoned the phone) these games are not available as far as I can tell.

MinecraftOne of the few games I frequently play, and my system cannot run the Desktop (Java) version but can run this one pretty well.

Open Live WriterIt is what I wrote this on Smile !

PandoraI regularly listen to Pandora and have dozens of stations. The good thing is I can also run this through a web browser.

SkypeI don’t use this often, but I most of my family does use this on the infrequent times we video chat.

TwitterThis can be done through the web, but is a pain when you have >1 account you wish to go between.  The app allows me to easily switch which feed I am reading.

World of Tanks BlitzAnother fun game. Not as good a s the full-blown game on the desktop but good when I occasionally want to just blow things up!

WunderlistThis is my go-to list maker. I also have shopping lists shared with my wife so she can add things whenever I am going to stop by the store on my way home from work.

So now comes the applications that I use that are not readily available in the App Store or I have not found a good-enough alternative (for free).  Some apps I may be willing to pay a few bucks for but really, unless I know it does what is needed and maybe even better, I’m not going to bother with it.

Dungeons & Dragons Online

It’s an older game, but a fun game to waste some time.  Although if I were using a device like a Surface Laptop, I may opt to taking even an old desktop computer and setting it up with a larger monitor for playing so this could be a moot case.
GimpIt’s a powerful image editor.  It could be replaced with an App version of Adobe products though that would be overkill for what I use Gimp for.  There is also Pixlr on the web that should work as an alternative.

Google Chrome

Mozilla Firefox
Edge is alright except for 2 issues I have with it currently.
  1. Lack of extensions on Edge. There are a few extensions I use regularly that is not available or an equivalent available for Edge.
  2. With only a few tabs open, Edge will grind to a halt not only the browser, but the ENTIRE SYSTEM!  Nothing responds (Start menu, switching apps, closing apps, closing tabs, Ctl+Alt+Del, nothing!).  Task manager does not show it locked at 100%, and once I can close Edge (which takes minutes after hitting the close window), after a second or two the entire system returns to being responsive.
Google Drive
Google Photo Backup and
Google Music Manager)

Cannot complain about Google Photo’s unlimited storage, even if I have to reduce the quality of the pictures.  Google Drive and Music Manager allows for automatically uploading these files as I import them from my camera.  The only thing that keeps this from being a killer issue is that it can be done manually, using a web browser but automatically (and automatically resuming where you left off if you have to close the lid for going somewhere) is very, very handly.
Notepad++When  I do work, it is usually in script languages like bash and php. Notepad++ is quick to open, provides color syntax and plugins and allows me to do things quickly and easily.  I imagine Visual Studio Code may be able to do this but it is a bit more comlex and confusing for me and at this point is not a Windows Store App (but a likely candidate to eventually becoming one)
For editing scripts on one of my Linux servers, by using SSH into the server I will have access to CLI text editors that while not as good, are sufficient in most cases to do what I need to do.

PuTTYI look forward to when SSH is in Windows, which it is supposed to either have or is coming, and if it can handle making it easy to set up servers and logins so I don’t have to type it each time (bookmarks?) then that should suffice for me.

VLCI only use VLC for playing DVDs, since Windows 10 eliminated that feature.  On a Surface Laptop, however, there isn’t an optical drive so this application would not be needed anyway.

Windows Media PlayerLike VLC, I use this only for ripping CDs and if the device does not have an optical drive, then this is not so needed anymore.

WinSCPLike PuTTY, I use this for moving files between my computer and my Linux servers.  I may be able to work around it if when SSH is working, then maybe SCP would be available too.  I can hope.

So from looking at these lists, it seems that while moving to Windows 10 S would require adjustments, on a device like a Microsoft Surface Laptop (no optical drive) would be or should be suitable in most instances.  I can hope that Edge would be working on a new device, and the issue of it grinding the system to unusable is something my current laptop is alone in suffering.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

The Windows 10 Store Apps challenge

Inspired by the article Experiment: Using Windows Store apps exclusively for a week I have been thinking of trying this sort of challenge myself.

The idea is pretty simple; can I do everything I currently do but only with using Windows Store apps.  This is similar to the challenge I gave myself so many years ago when I was starting to use Linux except this time it is Windows Store apps and just Windows apps.  I already know there are a few apps or games that I am using that do not have a corresponding Windows Store app to use, so I'll have to concede those but that doesn't mean I cannot try and avoid using those or alternatives.
Now if anybody knows me, they know I am a pretty cheap bastard.  So you  won't find me using Microsoft Office 365 and gaining the ability to edit in the mobile versions.  On the other hand, I will do everything I can to avoid using the LibreOffice suite I have installed.  Instead, I'll be planning on using the web version of Microsoft Office, Google Docs or Zoho (since I'm using the web version, any of these are game so long as they do what I need).

I really don't think it will be the difficult because I have already some experience in not having access to the proprietary versions since going into Linux.  Now, Linux has such a wide breadth of applications that cover 99% of what anybody would want to do, I really don't miss the Windows programs anymore.

The other thing working in my favor is that ever since I received Google's original Chromebook, the Cr-48, and decided that to get the most out of the device by "buying in" to the concept, I can pretty much do what I need via the cloud.  Ever since there, whatever Linux distro or platform I use, so long as I can use the browser and get online, I can be functional.  This is further emphasized by being able to take advantage of this cloud-centric focus while at work where I cannot, and do not want to, install programs on my work computer.  Have browser, will be productive.
And there is no time like the present to start using Store Apps only.  So I installed this Windows Store app called Net Writer.  I was about to use the Windows Live Writer I have installed, but then realized when I opened it, that it is the former Windows Live applications and not a Windows Store app.  Unfortunately, I would have preferred to use Windows Live Writer.

I've only used it for a short time, basically just to write this post, and I now know I am going to look and see what else is available.

The interface itself is not bad.  Fairly basic, but does is not too bad.  It does the basics like connecting to my blogger site here and allows me to do basic text editing. I can add pictures and it includes the options for changing the size to one of 3 preset sizes (small, medium and large) as well as a custom size.  Unfortunately there is nothing about wrapping the text or controlling the flow over it. 
I guess the couple of things that do get me is first off, I cannot save a draft.  Or rather, I can but only after I pay for the "Pro" version ($7.99 for 1 year, $16.99 for lifetime).  Like I mentioned before, I'm a cheap bastard so I am not inclined to shell out that money and am definitely not interested with such a limited application. 

It's too bad the Windows Live Writer is part of the now-defunct suite of applications that was great on Windows 7 and no equivalent Windows 10 Store Apps match it yet.  At least as an "all-else-fails" I can still use Edge to access my blog and type up drafts there, or can use the email client's formatting capabilities and email my blog entry to be posted.  Yet, neither of these give me the experience of surviving in a Windows Store App only environment (the web being my fallback).
So I'll be looking for other Windows Store apps and if I find one that works for me, I'll let you know.  I'm hoping to highlight those apps I end up using and what ones don't.
Let me know if you have any Windows 10 Store apps you are fond of, or have found to work.  If it's free, I'll give it a try!

Now, let me see if this app can actually publish like it says it can...

Ok, first try failed.  Seems it requires you to save the picture in a Google Photo album named 'NetWriter'.  So that's what I did.  Well, seems it cannot find it for some reason. So I deleted the picture and will try to Publish this and then if I want, I can add the picture back in via the web browser.

Final word: I ended up having to copy-and-paste this into a Blogger draft via the browser.