James O'Neill's Blog

December 23, 2010

On the future of tablets …

Filed under: General musings,Mobility — jamesone111 @ 9:07 pm

After the last post – and conversations with several people, notably Mark Wilson I’ve been thinking about how Microsoft’s mobile offerings might develop now that Windows Phone 7 is out in the market. As I’ve said before Microsoft talk about slates as if the ideal is a more portable PC.  Early in 2011 Intel’s  “Oak Trail” Atom Processors will deliver better battery life than the X86/X64 platform has known to date, but I doubt that we’ll get a sub 750g  slate with X86/X64 CPU AND all-day battery anytime soon. 

The usefulness of a personal computer – whether it runs Windows, MacOs or Linux – stems from its working with all the programs, data  data and devices (collectively “stuff” ) that you want it to.  Tell a user of one OS they would be better on another and the response and reason for staying is “the stuff I want is here, not there” and that is as true of company IT people defending using Windows XP past the end of its support life as it trying to persuade a Mac die-hard to get a Windows PC.

I read something recently to the effect that if usefulness was only a matter carry-ability and battery life the calculator is more useful than an iPad.  It sounds facetious; but taking a iPad for the subset of work that a calculator can handle  would be overkill. But it applies in the other direction, the attraction of a mobile personal computer is that you can take all your stuff with you, but that too is overkill if all you intend to do is the work that can be done on a slate device.

It was 2007 when I first told people to expect  what we’re now calling “Windows 8” to be launched in 2012. More specifically the slides said “Point release” – Windows Server 2008 R2 [And client Windows 7] – after 2 years, major release after 3 more.  The first part of that came true and the second hasn’t been un-said so I laugh when I hear“late 2012” quoted as news. Developers should get the OS a year before shipping so after the Professional Developers conference late in 2011 we’ll know if things are on course. I’ve seen suggestions that Windows 8 will break cover, on a slate, at CES in January 2011 – but anything beyond “let’s show you some ideas we’re working on” would surprise me.  When it appears, if there is nothing to make it a better slate platform, then everyone will be surprised. I’ll be interested to see if there is a break from the past Pen-Based tablets. Handwriting input failed on the Apple Newton, it failed on the Pocket PC (I found it worked OK, but no-one took to it), we may be approaching the moment to call time on handwriting input for PCs as well.  

Just as an aside, I wish Microsoft would do two things to make “instant on” a non issue. First the video below shows unmodified Windows 7 can boot from cold in 10 seconds, when freed from a legacy bios.  I’d tell OEMs now that computers with legacy BIOSes won’t get a Windows 8 logo

Secondly, what is the point of a start menu action  “Reboot, cutting the power at half way”. Because this action is labelled “Shutdown” and millions of people think that Shutting down is the right thing to do. Millions of hours get wasted each year through unnecessary reboots, if Microsoft cut the to options  “Sleep” , “Deep Sleep” and “Reload Windows”, a lot of people will cease to care about boot time.

Other people are lining up a bigger task for the Windows team, getting Windows on a long-life slate by porting it to the ARM processor. That’s the wrong answer. Drivers can’t be CPU independent, applications can in theory but many aren’t are in practice. (The iPad gets criticised for lacking support for flash, but Adobe still don’t have an X64 bit Windows Flash player, so how long would an ARM one take ? ).  If Windows-on-ARM can’t pick up all the stuff from Windows-on-X86 then it is a new platform, and wouldn’t  a new platform for mobile devices be better off not starting with 25 years worth of baggage from Windows (we accept that on X86/X64 PCs because without it we don’t get access to all our stuff).

Microsoft have supported the ARM processors for a over a decade on Mobile devices and both Windows Phone 7 and Zune devices use it. Embedded Compact 7  – the latest incarnation of of Windows CE for Mobile devices was announced earlier this year but devices using it have huge rarity value. There is confusion whether these bits underpin Windows phone 7, but there is a standard .NET way of asking what the underlying OS is: on a Windows PC the easiest way to use it is from Powershell

>  [system.environment]::OSVersion

Platform ServicePack Version     VersionString
-------- ----------- -------     -------------
Win32NT              6.1.7600.0   Microsoft Windows NT 6.1.7600.0

So I wrote a little code to test this on the phone emulator.

OperatingSystem myos = System.Environment.OSVersion;
OSPlatform.Text = myos.Platform.ToString();
OSVersion.Text  = myos.Version.ToString();
OSString.Text   = myos.ToString();
Firmware.Text   = Microsoft.Phone.Info.DeviceExtendedProperties.GetValue("DeviceFirmwareVersion").ToString();

and here is the result.


It doesn’t call itself “Windows Phone” but Windows CE and is quite clear the it is V7 of CE  – it seems that Microsoft producing an OS for ARM based slates running with something as close as possible to Windows Phone 7 and/or Zune HD is both practical and sensible.

Do slates actually matter ?

I mentioned Mark at the start his post started with a view of someone else’s that “the consensus [at a Gartner symposium] is the iPad is either a consumer product or an executive toy” which he disagreed with. Mark takes a more rounded view than just the iPad and quotes Forrester estimating that tablets will account for 20% of PC sales by 2015. It’s not clear if that is saying 1 in 5 new PCs will be tablet PCs (running Windows 8.1 by that point) or if One in 4 PC users will also have a slate device running Windows CE/iOS / Android.

He also quotes a different analyst’s forecast that of 48 Million iPad sales by 2014. Against an installed base of something like a billion PCs it’s tiny.  (It also suggests that there’s not much consensus between analysts, but that’s not news). Apple’s shinny products have made it the darling of Wall Street;  Apples Market value is 20 times its profits, Microsoft’s 12 times , if Microsoft halved that gap, its shareholders would have a heck of a reason to be cheerful.

But will emerging devices have much a role in corporate IT  ? Mark has a wonderfully utopian vision
“What will change (and is changing already) is the type of device that is used to access the desktop. Rather than taking a notebook PC from place to place in the device-centric manner that we do today, enterprises will adapt to human-centric computing models, with end users increasingly accessing their desktop from a variety of devices – perhaps starting out with a smartphone on the way to work; switching to a hosted virtual desktop in the office; using a tablet during meetings; and perhaps using the family PC to finish up some work at home in the evening, with local desktop virtualisation opening up new options for secure computing away from the corporate network”

Truly, I wish I could share this vision. The idea of “Bring your own computer”, which Mark also talks about, is  easy to implement with PCs: acquire a PC connect to the network, install a corporate image, and you have a managed PC in a known state with all your software. How many organizations have got the IT department out of the process ? It’s rare bordering on unheard of. Organisations do allow mail on user phones, but extending that to Bring-your-own-Mac, or Linux PC or even a Windows PC running the newer Windows and Office you use at home (never mind embedded devices) requires a revolution, but talking about that will have to wait for another day.

December 17, 2010

How to get the cheapest Windows Phone deal in the UK…

Filed under: Mobility — jamesone111 @ 9:13 am

The last few posts have been about my experience with Vodafone and the HTC Trophy Windows 7 phone. I know carriers hate it, by I view them as utility companies: they are all interchangeable, none of the services they offer constitute worthwhile differentiation, and if they can get me a decent signal that’s fine. In my 8 years or so with Orange they scored highly on customer service, but where I is a bit of a dead spot for signal: my wife gets a decent signal on Vodafone, and the others are a bit of an unknown.

Similarly there isn’t much to choose between Windows 7 phones, yes there are slight differences in display, and memory ranges from more than enough for now, to lots more than enough for now. Keyboarded devices are coming but I couldn’t wait. Since I was paying, my choice of phone and carrier was driven mostly by cost.

I had been able to transfer my old Microsoft number 07801 8 8 10 10, as a big corporate customer Microsoft have an on-site person from Orange, who was able to tell me how to get permission and then she could swap my number onto a new Orange Pay-as-you-go SIM. Unfortunately she was ill when I needed her to do this, so the process was held up for 10 days, which robbed me of patience needed to make the process smooth. I called Orange to get the necessary porting code, and didn’t wait for it to arrive before ordering the trophy. It’s possible to sort things out afterwards, but if you ever have to do this WAIT FOR THE CODE. Orange sent mine out out by first class post on the next working day.

Microsoft have a page where you can see the phones currently available the choices were:

  • The HTC Mozart on Orange @ £449 or Free on a £32.50 x 24 month plan
  • The HTC HD7 on o2 @ £380 or Free on £35x 18 month or £30×24 Month plans
  • The Samsung Omina on Three or T-Mobile , Free on a £35 x 24 Month plan
  • The HTC Trophy on Vodafone:  Free on a £25 x 24Month plan
    • The LG Optimus 7 on Vodafone: Free on a £30 x 24Month Plan

After trying a few price comparison sites I found Dial-a-phone have a stonking deal on the Trophy. I hadn’t heard of Dial-a-phone but they’re part of Phones-4-U, one of the biggest retailers so that seemed OK. First an 18 month contract; Second it’s a £30 Month plan. But third there is a 50% mail-in rebate for the first 10 months. So you get 10 months at £15 and 8 at £30 for £390  – roughly what you’d pay for the phone off contact, you get the phone + line + Unlimited texts, 500MB of data (which is enough for me) + 300 voice minutes (likewise).   There are two catches first if you don’t mail in your bill, you don’t get your rebate, and secondly the phone comes with both insurance, a subscription to the “gadget helpline” which you have to cancel or pay £6.99 a month for insurance and £17.99 twice a year for the help line. My home insurance covers “possessions you carry on your person” away from home, so I had no qualms about cancelling both. I have a lunch that Dial-a-phone make a tenner a month out of those too lazy to cancel and anther £15 if they don’t send their rebate in.  Still if it seems like the deal for you, click the link above and put in my number 07801 8 8 10 10 as a friend who referred you … heck, if you find another deal on their site, put that in anyway 🙂

It wasn’t all plain sailing. First I ordered on a Sunday, it took longer than usual for Dial-a-phone to sort the paper work so the phone wasn’t sent out till the Wednesday. In the meantime I had received my porting code from Orange, but I couldn’t change the order, so I had to wait for the phone to arrive and then change the number. Going to Vodafone’s web site for the information on how to do this is frustrating – in fact I’m forming the opinion that their site designer gave up a career as a village idiot. It turns up pages which either tell you how to do this when you buy the phone (too late), or old forum posts which say it can’t be done, which is just plain wrong. You phone the Vodafone Transfers team on 08700 720 265  . When I called they were quick confirm it was all possible when I had the phone.  The phone came by Royal Mail special delivery and I was straight back on the phone to them, but the phone needs to be activated before Vodafone’s systems can process it and Dial-a-phone wait until the parcel tracking system shows the phone has been received before activating it: this can take 48 hours but a call got it working by the afternoon. My first call from it was to Vodafone transfers and within 2 minutes the port was arranged; I might not think much of their website but all the people I’ve spoken to at Vodafone have been good. Of course various things are tied to the initial temporary number. Vodafone’s web site shows me my number until I try to look at what I have used this month, when it can only show me information for the temporary number.  I don’t plan on changing networks any time soon, but when I do I will get the port code before I do anything else.

December 15, 2010

My review of Windows Phone 7 on the HTC trophy

Filed under: Exchange,Mobility,Music and Media,Office,Windows Phone 7 — jamesone111 @ 7:51 pm

I have already looked the move from Windows Mobile 6.5 to Windows phone 7, from the point of view of what’s gone. Now I want to look at what’s better.

The Trophy is the thinnest phone I have ever had, at 12mm. Its frontal area is fractionally larger than the Touch pro 2 I had before, but without the need to accommodate a keyboard, overall volume is down about 20% and weight down about 25%. By way of comparison it 3 grams heavier than the Iphone 4, and a whisker bigger in all dimension. It’s my sixth HTC device and the tidiest design, the finish feels nice in the hand, and the ergonomics are good; held in two hands – like a camera – the camera button is under right index finger, as it should be.  The camera has a 5MP sensor I remain to be convinced that the lens justifies even 5MP and an LED flash, so it is usable under more circumstances than its predecessors. The Touch Pro 2 had a second, front-facing, camera for video chat, but I never used it and so it won’t be missed..

Holding the device in the left hand to work with the right, puts the volume controls are under my thumb and (like the camera button and Power button) they work when the phone is locked.  When the phone is unlocked these buttons bring up a mini menu with Music player controls and access to the ring/vibrate settings; if the phone locks with music playing this menu appears when you tap the power switch – which is naturally under the index finger – so you can pause or skip tracks without needing to unlock the device.
By contrast, Mobile 6.5 devices locked out all the buttons  – even power – so the only way to silence one left on a desk to ring was to remove the battery. Now colleagues can turn a phone off or set it to silent and add a photo to remind you not to leave it on your desk when you go to meetings. You can enable Voice dialling while locked, on Mobile 6.5 you needed to add Voice command, now a subset of it is built in.

Music shows the change from previous Windows Mobile devices: Firstly Microsoft’s hardware spec demands a Micro-USB connector (which is becoming the standard for all phones), with a standard 3.5mm headphone jack: that means the end of HTC’s combination audio / Mini-USB connector which required an adapter to connect headphones. Pulling out the headphone connector pauses music (instead of blaring out to a carriage full of tutting commuters). And secondly the old devices tried to shoe horn Windows-Media-player into a mobile device:  sound quality was fine but the experience was way behind that of proper music player (which I never wanted to carry).  The new phone is a Zune:  Zune isn’t the market leader people who have them really like them, and I can see why.

Over the years I had grown used to the mobile mail/messaging, contacts and calendar applications being the round pegs of their Outlook equivalents hammered into the small square hole which is a mobile display. The same philosophy which got rid of Windows media player has seen these replaced with versions work better on a phone and took zero time to learn.

Volume, camera and power are mounted on the edge, on the front are three buttons which take longer to explain than to learn   “Back” and “Start” are the main navigation buttons going 1 step at a time or straight to the Start screen and “Search” which applications can use to start their own search (want to find a contact ? – Press search in people – it’s very intuitive), otherwise it launches Bing.  The search destination in Internet Explorer is fixed by the carrier: that’s out of character for the phone, you can remove the carrier’s or phone maker’s apps, but with Vodafone I’m stuck with Google in the all-new IE. IE supports multiple open pages, and “pinch zoom”: I’m still learning to tap accurately with a fingertip (the old touch screens worked with a fingernail or any stylus, the new ones don’t – though there are capacitive styli available to stop me obsessively polishing finger-marks off) so zooming in on a link is good and pinch zoom has come more naturally than using the on-screen keyboard.  Zooming is smooth and rendering is snappy which I attribute to having graphics acceleration as standard, rather than the faster processor. Competing phones have graphics acceleration but  introducing it piecemeal into Windows Mobile 6.5 (or earlier) wouldn’t have worked: the “Break with the past” means all apps can count on a certain level of graphics,  accelerometers and so on,  very little should be specific to one phone. Nowhere is the new hardware standard more obvious than in games. 

This is my first phone without built in games;  odd as Microsoft positions it as consumer more than corporate, but it means that people will find their way to the Market Place. Plenty on offer is free, and most paid games and apps have demo versions. The quality runs from truly great to truly lousy. Videos and music are downloaded in the same way as software, all three can be driven from the phone or the PC Zune software. I blogged early in the life of Vista that Windows had what it took to handle podcasts, it was just ugly and buried: finally Microsoft has decent podcast support through Zune. Microsoft are pushing Zune pass, all you can eat music streaming for £8.99 a month – which works from the Xbox, Phone or PC – as well as traditional purchase and download

There are some new look and feel elements, so besides the search button, when the built-in apps produce a long list – like songs or people – they break it up by letters: pressing a heading letter displays the whole alphabet, as a “jump-to” list To listen to “zest” or phone “Zoe”, a couple of taps saves a long scroll. It will be interesting to see how developers stick to the style – I  compared two Sudoku games one would look wrong on anything but WP7 and another looked like a port by people who hadn’t seen a finished phone. Chunky tiles on the start menu make simple targets to tap on)Word press have copied it for their newly launched app.) I already think of the icons interface we’ve grown as the Windows 3.1 program manager, the phone’s start menu is like what we’ve been used to since Windows 95/NT 4. “Start” button jumps to something like main part of the menu; and “All Programs” is off to the right. I looked in settings, for “Uninstall” without success: taping and holding anything brings up an action menu (think “right-click”) for a  program this has options to uninstall, pin to the start menu or write a review for Marketplace.

There is a distinction between Marketplace apps and the built in ones; the latter can run in the background (and update their tiles)  downloaded ones deactivate when they lose focus – although the phone locking doesn’t count. Storage for apps is compartmentalized –so a rogue app can’t do much damage, but the Trophy’s storage device isn’t removable (it is on some WP7 devices, but the phone does some weird magic with the file system, so the card won’t work anywhere else). There is a hack to make Zune files visible from the PC, but it can’t see any  other “compartments” The Zune software will only sync Music Videos and photos, Contacts and Appointments need to go via Exchange or Windows Live.

One-note syncs with Windows live, which is great, but you can only to get something from the other office apps to your PC via SharePoint or by mailing it to yourself. The button attach inside mail only offers photos. I had a look at the developer tools and there is no API for add-on apps to e-mail an attachment or to upload / sync to Windows live and so on.

These are among the things which I hope to see fixed in an update early in 201.1 Paul Thurrott has a long list of What needs to be fixed in Windows Phone, here’s my cut down version of his list.

  • Add Copy/cut/paste
  • Allow Custom ringtones, notifications, and alarms
  • Support Multitasking for Third-party apps
  • Appear as a camera to  photo importing applications, e.g.  Windows Live Photo Gallery
  • Allow Zune PC software to be extended to Sync 3rd party file types.
  • Allow third party services to integrate hubs; The Pictures hub should share with and see photo services and Twitter should be able to add people to the people Hub
  • Support all the policies in Exchange ActiveSync (EAS)  instead of just a subset
  • Provide Access to Microsoft services in all supported locales (Voice search with TellMe is US only)
  • Provide a  service like MyPhone for Mobile 6.5 to deliver Cloud-based backup
  • Provide Windows Live SkyDrive in all of Office Mobile
  • Provide Developer APIS for all functions (speech, mail attachments, live sync)

Most of the list can be summarized as (a) Improve support of cloud services (or the Services themselves) (b) make it easier to get stuff on and off the phone (c) Allow developers to do more. The updates will come when Microsoft declares them ready, not when/if the device makers and carriers get round to it, and yes that’s another plus about saying goodbye to Windows Mobile 6.5

December 6, 2010

Bye bye Windows mobile, hello Windows Phone 7

Filed under: Mobility,Windows Phone 7 — jamesone111 @ 2:45 pm

The postman delivered my new Windows 7 phone on Thursday. My choice of the HTC trophy was coloured by: what’s available now, which carrier give a good signal at home  (I can only get a usable Orange signal upstairs) and price. I got the phone, free on a £30 x 18 month contract with an allowance of 500MB data 100 voice minutes, and 500 texts but the first 10 months are half price. A Total of £330 over 18 months seemed a good deal: the process gave me enough for another post.

The first impression of the phone is fantastic and the upside will also get it’s own post – here I want to talk about the change: I liked Windows Mobile 6.5, on my HTC Touch Pro2. That’s not surprising, in 2000, got the first “Pocket PC”, an iPAQ 3630 (actually made by HTC) which followed by Orange-supplied SPV (the HTC “Canary”)  C500 (HTC typhoon), E650 ( HTC Vox).  The Touch pro 2 ran old Pocket PC apps and with a few things turned off it looked like Pocket PC 2002. but that’s not an automatic condemnation, its still a darned good phone.

Microsoft is sometimes accused of putting compatibility before progress in desktop and server OSes: but that’s OK if the original design assumptions still hold. Xbox 360 runs games written for the original Xbox even though the processor changed from a Pentium chip to PowerPC . Window phone 7 is unique among Microsoft platforms in not running applications from its predecessor: assumptions from the early 2000s don’t work today.

  1. Personal Digital Assistants are a PC in your Pocket. I wrote about that before. The iPhone is closer to the iPod than an iMac. When Microsoft people were asked about a “Zune-phone” they always said “We’re not going to make one” – the new phones are Zunes made by other companies. 
  2. Greater choice must be better. Microsoft  has been selling operating systems to OEMs since the early 1980s, so that was the natural way to sell a mobile OS. But the freedom of specification that PC makers enjoy causes fragmentation in mobile devices – a common OS doesn’t iron out the differences to the degree it does in PCs.  Apple’s attitude of “We will have one consistent platform, and if you don’t like it, buy from someone else” worked. Microsoft didn’t dictate specs to Windows Mobile device makers – perhaps as a legacy of the DOJ experience, and got an consistent platform. For example the my 2 previous HTC phones fed audio out through the USB connector; you needed an adapter to use your own headphones. Windows phone 7 audio uses a standard jack.  It also standardizes the USB connector as Micro USB (I would have preferred Mini USB).
  3. The phone companies rule. I remember asking back in about 2001 “Why not have a Microsoft branded phone, manufactured by, say, HTC”  the answer was “Carriers wouldn’t take it”.  When Orange launched the SPV I defended their right to determine what could run on it, but carriers testing and signing apps was a horrible model.  They dread being “dumb pipes”, but when carriers change software in the name of differentiation it is usually for the worse. Use the iPhone as a way of thinking customer views of carriers “added value; when it was exclusive to 02, did people ask “What shall I buy to exploit O2’s differentiated network ?” and end up with an iPhone or was it “Which carrier can sell me an iPhone ?”.
  4. The world of 2002 wouldn’t let Microsoft say “Applications for devices running our OS will all be approved by and bought through us” which is what Apple did, and the model is accepted now, people are even talking about desktop Windows or Mac OS having an “App store” in future versions; I can’t see either being closed to non-validated programs (that’s all ones you use now), or regulators allowing Microsoft to take a cut of all sales onto Windows PCs. But why shouldn’t Microsoft (or Apple) sell third party applications they’ve validated for their platform ? Small vendors might prefer that to handling distribution themselves.

Windows Phone 7, then, comes from a recognition that the world has changed (how much of that change would have happened without Apple is unknowable): a panic reaction to iPhone as device would have been quicker, but doomed to fail . But some things I’ve grown used to were lost in the change.

Not a “Storage device”
Active sync exposed the whole file system of a Windows Mobile device to a PC, so copying files in either direction was easy. The  Touch pro 2 could act as a USB drive and plug into the  Xbox 360 (or an in-car device) to play music; I even used it as installation media. The Xbox didn’t recognise the Trophy: the Zune software syncs music, pictures and video (but not Calendar and Contacts from Outlook on the PC) without exposing the file system. A known hack for Zune devices works on WP7 , but it doesn’t show everything all of which means, among other things, there is No method to install ring tones, so much for personalization.

No Internet connection sharing: this in Windows Mobile 6.0 and possibly earlier. The Trophy is the first Bluetooth phone I’ve had which doesn’t support the “dial up networking” profile where dialling *99# on a pseudo modem brought up an internet connection. That means sorting out a dongle for the handful of times I need to connect my laptop over 3G.

Still on Bluetooth profiles there is no keyboard profile support, and no keyboarded devices have arrived yet, one must use the on-screen keyboard. that’s step into the unknown; I loved the built in keyboard on the last two Windows mobile devices, and through Ctrl + X,C & V combinations it provided cut and paste – missing for now from Windows Phone 7, not that I used it much.

Voice command.  was an add-on for windows Mobile, Voice control is built in to Windows 7 but with less functionality – in particular it won’t read the calendar or play music from a voice command, and the Internet and map searches use TellMe which is a US only service – at least for now.

Even without Tellme, the mapping application is nice but it is a route planner with GPS assistance but there’s no true satnav – third parties haven’t launched yet.

Finally Microsoft MyPhone backed up various bits of my old phone, and the new  WindowsPhone.live.com does extra things (like remotely locking the device),  but currently backup and restore are missing.

In short – and after more than 1000 words, that might seem ironic – everything I liked about Windows mobile has gone (along with the stuff everyone else hated) – so why on earth do I like this device ? And that’s what the next post will be about. 

March 10, 2010

UK techdays Free events in London – including after hours.


You may have seen that registration for UK TechDays events from 12th to 16th April is already open – but you probably won’t have seen this newly announced session, even if you are following @uktechdays on twitter

After Hours @ UK Tech Days 2010 – Wednesday 14th April, 7pm – 9pm. Vue Cinema, Fulham Broadway.

Reviving the critically acclaimed series of mad cap hobbyist technology demonstrations – After Hours reappears at Tech Days 2010. After Hours is all about the fun stuff people are building at home with Microsoft technology, ranging from the useful ‘must haves’ no modern home should be without, too the bleeding edge of science fiction made real! Featuring in this fun filled two hour installment of entertaining projects are: Home Entertainment systems, XNA Augmented Reality, Natural User Interfaces, Robotics and virtual adventures in the real world with a home brew holodeck!

Session 1: Home entertainment.

In this session we demonstrate the integration of e-home technologies to produce the ultimate in media entertainment systems and cyber home services.  We show you how to inspire your children to follow the ‘way of the coder’ by tapping into their Xbox 360 gaming time.

Session 2: Augmented reality.

2010 promises to be the year of the Natural User Interface. In this session we demonstrate and discuss the innovations under development at Microsoft, and take an adventure in the ultimate of geek fantasies – the XNA Holodeck.

Like all other techdays session this one is FREE to attend  – if you hadn’t heard: UK Tech Days 2010 is a week-long series of events run by Microsoft and technical communities to celebrate and inspire developers, IT professionals and IT Managers to get more from Microsoft technology.  Our day events in London will cover the latest technology releases including Microsoft Visual Studio 2010, Microsoft Office 2010, Virtualisation, Silverlight, Microsoft Windows 7 and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 plus events focusing on deployment and an IT Manager day. Oh and did I say they were FREE

IT Professional Week – Shepherds Bush

Monday, 12 April 2010   – Virtualization Summit – From the Desktop to the Datacentre

Designed to provide you with an understanding of the key products & technologies enabling seamless physical and virtual management, interoperable tools, and cost-savings & value.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010  – Office 2010 – Experience the Next Wave in Business Productivity

The event will cover how the improvements to Office, SharePoint, Exchange, Project and Visio will provide a practical platform that will allow IT professionals to not only solve problems and deliver business value, but also demonstrate this value to IT’s stakeholders. 

Wednesday, 14 April 2010Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 – Deployment made easy

This event will provide you with an understanding of these tools including the new Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010, Windows Deployment services and the Application Compatibility Toolkit. Understanding of these tools including the new Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010, Windows Deployment Services. We will also take you through the considerations for deploying Windows Server 2008 R2 and migrating your server roles.

Thursday, 15 April 2010 SQL Server 2008 R2 – The Information Platform
Highlighting the new capabilities of the platform, as well as diving into specific topics, such as consolidating SQL Server databases, and tips and techniques for Performance Monitoring and Tuning as well as looking at our newly released Cloud platform SQL Azure.

Friday, 16 April 2010 (IT Managers)Looking ahead, keeping the boss happy and raising the profile of IT
IT Managers have more and more responsibilities to drive and support the direction of the business. We’ll explore the various trends and technologies that can bring IT to the top table, from score-carding to data governance and cloud computing.

Developer Week – Fulham Broadway

Monday, 12 April 2010 (For Heads of Development and Software Architects) Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Launch – A Path to Big Ideas

This launch event is aimed at development managers, heads of development and software architects who want to hear how Visual Studio 2010 can help build better applications whilst taking advantage of great integration with other key technologies.
NB – Day 2 will cover the technical in-depth sessions aimed at developers

Tuesday, 13 April 2010 Getting started with Microsoft .NET Framework 4 and Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 WAITLIST ONLY
Microsoft and industry experts will share their perspectives on the top new and useful features with core programming languages and in the framework and tooling, such as — ASP.NET MVC, Parallel Programming, Entity Framework 4, and the offerings around rich client and web development experiences.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010 The Essential MIX
Join us for the Essential MIX as we continue exploring the art and science of creating great user experiences. Learn about the next generation ASP.NET & Silverlight platforms that make it a rich and reach world.

Thursday, 15 April 2010 Best of Breed Client Applications on Microsoft Windows 7
Windows 7 adoption is happening at a startling pace. In this demo-driven day, we’ll look at the developer landscape around Windows 7 to get you up to speed on the operating system that’ll your applications will run on through the new decade.

Friday, 16 April 2010 – Registration opening soon! Windows phone Day
Join us for a practical day of detailed Windows Phone development sessions covering the new Windows Phone specification, application standards and services

There will also be some “fringe” events , these won’t all be in London and I’ll post about them separately (James in the Midlands, I’ve heard you :-)  )


This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

March 9, 2010

Cars, social media, phones, windows media and there’s no hiding with co-pilot.

Filed under: General musings,Mobility,Music and Media — jamesone111 @ 3:39 pm

As titles go that’s an odd one, but stay with me.

I’ve written before about my Citroen C6: Before Christmas a warning message popped up saying something was wrong with the hydro-pneumatic suspension which give the big Citroens their wonderful ride. A visit to the garage confirmed the problem was real – not a diagnostic issue, and lay with a part which rarely goes wrong i.e. one no dealer keeps in stock. It would be take a day or two to get the part and by the time it was fitted I needed to be at Tech-ed in Berlin. I expected the car to be ready when I got back, but it wasn’t. Having replaced the faulty part it turned out it had failed because of a fault in the hydraulic pump: this is beyond rare – Citroen UK told me later that they’d only ever supplied one before and that was after an accident, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The pump should have arrived before I got back from Tech-ed, but there was no sign of it. We then began a sequence where every few days I would call the garage or they would call me, and I’d get the news the pump had not arrived but would be there in a couple of days.

I’m not totally without patience, but after 3 weeks I was getting cross and started to tweet about it, and found Citroen UK on Twitter. So I posted things like Day 26 of my Citroen C6 being in the Garage. @Citroenuk promised to deliver the part today and they #Fail to. Now promising Thursday. It was partly to vent and partly to see if Citroen responded – if your organization is “doing social media” you really should know what you’re going to do if someone complains – we try to do this at Microsoft when it isn’t the “I hate Microsoft because they’re a big money making concern” variety.  Citroen UK’s twitter account turned out to be someone from  marketing who took enough ownership of the problem to get some information and make sure the right person saw it.  That was how I ended up talking to Brian (I’ll keep his last name out of it – I can see just people calling Citroen asking for him). If Brian was trained in customer care (rather than doing it by instinct) his teacher would have been pleased: he apologized (sincerely – not in an over the top way), saw the customer’s point of view “I know Caterpillar have a ‘parts anywhere in the world in 24 hours, or Cat pays’ promise. You should be able to get a part here in 24 days for your top of the range model”,  explained why it had gone wrong (the pumps showed as in stock but been taken to be modified to the latest specification), committed to speeding the resolution of the problem and promised to follow-up to talk about how Citroen could rebuild the relationship. I’ve had Citroens (7 of them) for 16 of the last 20 years, so I guess I qualify as a loyal customer they’d want to keep. 

USB box,  in glove compartment, showing all 3 connections - click for a bigger version Brian had an unexpected spell off work so it was well into January by the time he got in touch, and offered me a choice of accessories as compensation. I wanted to be able to plug in a music player in the car – I’ve tried those little FM transmitters and found on a decent length journey they’re more trouble than they’re worth. The accessory catalogue had a “USB box” which plays MP3s. Some of the other options which Brian was willing to pay for were pretty pricey and would have felt like taking advantage, but this seemed OK. It took a while to get the kit and sort out a day to fit it, but it went in last week and I have to say it’s a pretty neat gadget. The handbook suggests it goes in lot of cars – Peugeot and Citroen across the PSA group; it has a USB socket which is powered, so will charge my phone (I’ve twice blown the cigar lighter socket fuse with cheap adapters), plus a dedicated iPod socket – which will work with my wife’s nano, and a 3½mm jack plug for anything else. I tried playing a few MP3s I’d copied to a memory stick – and the first impression was nice sound quality: the integration with the built in Stereo isn’t perfect but is quite good enough.  But there was better news: it turns out the USB box plays pretty much any format, including WMA, WAV and even OGG format. Most of my music is in WMA format and sync’d to my phone, so just I tell the phone to connect in storage mode by default , plug it in (even if locked) and the USB box reads the files and plays them.

Playing OGG isn’t quite the advantage it might be when Co-pilot is installed on the memory card, because it uses OGG files for all its messages, and the USB box thinks it should play them – so the first thing it played was “Take 1st exit at roundabout” , “Take 2nd exit at roundabout” and so on. I set the files to hidden, interestingly file explorer on the phone ignores the hidden attribute, so I can’t blame the USB box for doing the same. It’s not an insurmountable problem, unlike its predecessors this phone has enough main memory to allow me to move Co-pilot’s sound files off the storage card.  So that’s another plus for the phone.

And as far as the car is concerned it’s one more thing to like about driving it, I’ve had another, minor problem since which was quickly fixed and thanks to Brian I’m back in the happy customers column.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

February 16, 2010

Windows Phone (again)

Filed under: Mobility — jamesone111 @ 10:23 pm

In theory I was supposed to be taking a day off on Monday to look after my children on half term. (Note for parents, making hot cross buns at home is a fantastic way to occupy the kids.). A spot of car trouble killed off our trip to go swimming so I ended up spending a fair chunk of the day following the announcement of Windows Phone 7 series and the reactions to it.

Blogging about my experience with my new 6.5 phone so close the launch of Window Phone 7 Series was setting up a hostage to fortune. I had 3 factors in mind when I decided to get it.

(1) Windows Phone 7 Series (as we now know it) was in the works.

(2) It always takes time from the announcement of a new release of Windows CE / Windows Mobile / Windows Phone to get new devices to market.

(3) My old phone was falling apart, and needed to be replaced.

Past experience tells me to allow of six months from release of software to device makes, to device availability, with potentially another couple of months before they are available as my corporate phone.We’re setting an expectation of “Holiday season” for general availability of the Windows Phones with the  7 Series software on them.  One article I read said the prototypes on show in Barcelona this week are made by Asus, but Dell, Garmin, HP, HTC, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Toshiba are all listed as launch partners. Qualcomm are listed as the partner we are working with on the silicon. Orange supply phones to Microsoft UK and were given special prominence as a launch carrier, with Vodafone, T-mobile and Telefonica (who own o2) also named.

If “holiday season” is right it’s quite possible that ordinary phone users inside Microsoft won’t get the new phones until January next year: I couldn’t wait that long. Whether it is cameras, PCs or phones – you know that whatever you get today, there will be something better (and probably cheaper) in a year’s time.  This looks like being true here in spades, I have the latest version of Pocket PC phone edition which has changed in small increments since 2001, and the next generation will be a big change – but there was no sensible alternative.  The upside of having a 6.5 phone for roughly a year before 7 is available set against the downside of having it for roughly a year after compromise I’m happy with.

One thing that amused me about what came out in the launch is that every Windows Phone 7 series will be a Zune. Having heard my colleagues in Redmond saying over and over “Microsoft is not going to manufacture a Zune phone”  the answer turns out to be that lots of people are going to Manufacture Zune phones.  How long before rumours start that Asus, Dell and the rest will be able to make non-phone devices based on this software (i.e. Zunes) ? [No, I have not heard any such thing, and I’m not trying to start the rumour] Beyond that – there is hardly anything I’ve seen internally which isn’t viewable externally. This is perhaps the best demo. (Found among other places on the Windows Blog)

Get Microsoft Silverlight


There’s more at http://www.windowsphone7series.com/.  I like what I have seen, no two ways about it. I didn’t see anything much in the way of negative commentary – though a few people were reserving their final judgement until questions like “How will the Marketplace work ?”, “What exactly is the Multi-tasking model ?”,  “How much app rewriting is needed ?”  There’s an intriguing point on the last two in a tweet by Charlie Kindle, but the real answers will have to wait for Mix.

Gizmodo seemed blown away saying  “Windows Phone 7 is almost everything anyone could’ve dreamed of in a phone, let alone a Microsoft phone. It changes everything”  – although I found  their comparison of philosophies with the iPhone more interesting. Engadget were similarly enthused starting “Forget everything you know about Windows Mobile. Seriously, throw the whole OS concept in a garbage bin or incinerator or something” and ending “for the first time in a long time, we’re excited about Microsoft in the mobile space.” Techland were just as excited “it’s a brand new decade, and Microsoft is about to leapfrog Apple and every other player in the mobile space with Windows Phone 7”

Sharon picked up that beyond the headline grabbing UI, Zune and Xbox live hook-ups, this is a useful business platform not just with Exchange ActiveSync for mail and mobile office apps but Sharepoint integration.

Tim Anderson had – let’s call it “an interesting take” – on Microsoft’s partner model and how it plays in the phone world,  translating one set of Steve Ballmer’s words as “we are being hammered by OEMs who wreck our product with poor quality hardware and add-on software”. Ouch: it is a charge that some – including Tim have levelled at PC suppliers; once we might have had the ability to say what software should or shouldn’t be on a machine, but courts decided we abused that ability and took it away. Having a smaller market share in phones we mean we can be much more prescriptive about the hardware and what the OEMs can change in the software. Some Microsoft cloud services (notably Bing search, but also Xbox live and Zune) can’t easily be removed without changing the character of the phone, so those seem to be fixed points: the words that Tim translated were “We want to lead and take complete accountability for the end user experience”. The danger doing that is reaching a point when things are so nailed down when everyone says “Wouldn’t it make more sense for Microsoft to take charge of making and selling the thing – as with Xbox.”. But things have gone too far in the opposite direction and what is available on the devices vary so widely that developers can’t be sure that what they write will work on two different devices which supposedly run the same OS, and we’ve moving back from that.

Tim also responded to a statement from Andy Lees “[Mobile operators] have tremendous value to add. They are not just dumb pipes” I know from my time working on Mobile Information Server (the forerunner of Exchange ActiveSync) that Mobile Operators hate the idea of being a dumb pipe, but I don’t think Tim is alone in thinking “I find it hard to think of tremendous added value from the operators”. I  recall a time when Orange reduced the value of the phone (adding applications which killed the battery, blocking installation of apps they had not signed). The iPhone has shown that a platform is better for developers of it (a) is one consistent platform, and (b) it bypasses the carriers for sale of applications.  Today my phone has Orange Maps and other services which only work if you are connecting over Orange’s network, not over WiFi for example. A service I have to disconnect from my WiFi to use ? Forget it, I’ll use Bing Maps (or Google Maps or whichever other Map provider I use on my desktop computer). It will be interesting to see how the operators change their game as phones get smarter.

tweetmeme_style = ‘compact’;
tweetmeme_url = ‘http://blogs.technet.com/jamesone/archive/2010/02/16/windows-phone-again.aspx’;

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

February 15, 2010

Windows Phone announcement this afternoon.

Filed under: Mobility — jamesone111 @ 12:18 pm


Our press site says Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will host a press conference at Mobile World Congress 2010. Watch the live Webcast  Recording here on Feb. 15 starting at 6 a.m. PST/3 p.m. CET.  That’s 2PM UK time, and thanks to other commitments I’m going to have to watch the recording which should show up in the same place.

Commercial sensitivity means the detail of what Steve will say has not been shared widely within Microsoft (though having him make an announcement suggests it is important, and MWC is the place to announce phone-related things : that much is obvious) . We have had a small amount of information about the topics areas which will be left for another day*, and the correct and incorrect way to write product names when the time comes. This came from Charlie Kindle, who has a new blog which may be worth keeping an eye on. Charlie is also on twitter. 

* Update. Charlie now has a post on-line which says

There’s a whole bunch of stuff we did not announce today. Specifically we did not announce anything about building applications & games for the new Windows Phone 7 Series operating system. We did this because

(a) The new phone user experience we are talking about is so hugely cool we want people to be able to absorb it for a while, and…

(b) We are working on being able to tell the full story in March at the MIX10 conference in Las Vegas.  We have at least 12 sessions lined up and attendees will be the first to get access to the bits.

Which is what were told. That and “Windows Phone” – capital P – for devices in general – and Windows Phone 7 Series for the new release is the proper naming.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

February 8, 2010

Installing Windows from a phone

Arthur : “You mean you can see into my mind ?”
Marvin: “Yes.”
Arthur: “And … ?”
Marvin: “It amazes me how you manage to live in anything that small”

Looking back down the recent posts you might notice that this is the 8th in a row about my new phone (so it’s obviously made something of an impression), this one brings the series to a close.

I’ve said already that I bought at 16GB memory card for the new phone which is a lot – I had 1GB before, so… what will I do with all that space? I’m not going to use it for video and 16GB is room for something like 250 hours of MP3s or 500 hours of WMAs: I own roughly 200 albums, so it’s a fair bet they’d fit. Photos – well maybe I’d keep a few hundred MB on the phone. In any event, I don’t want to fill the card completely. After a trip out with no card in the my camera I keep a SD-USB card adapter on my key-ring so I always have both a USB stick and a memory card : currently this uses my old micro-SD card in an full size SD adapter. If I need more than 1GB I can whip the card out of the phone, pop it in the adapter and keep shooting 

However the phone has a mass storage device mode so I thought to myself why not copy the Windows installation files to it, and see if I can boot a Machine off it and install Windows from the phone ? That way one could avoid carrying a lot of setup disks.
Here’s how I got on.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

More tricks with the Windows phone. Remote desktop.

Filed under: Mobility — jamesone111 @ 12:02 am

Click for a larger version I’m getting on reasonably well with my new HTC Touch Pro2, and Windows Mobile 6.5 (a.k.a Windows Phone). There are places where it has adapted well to being operated as a touch device – chunky menus and big buttons are essential – the 480 pixel wide screen is as wide 3 of my fingers which puts about 20,000 pixels under my thumb –so big targets are good if you read my post about radio I was operating the device with gloves on On the other had there are some things which work better with a stylus. I still find myself occasionally caught in two minds whether to unholster the stylus or not.  Some of the older applications (3rd party ones or things like solitaire, which doesn’t feel like it has changed in the decade since I first saw it on a pocket PC) need the stylus. [This post from Mary Jo suggests that may change: I don’t know if what upgrade(s) will come to this phone in the future] .

Click for a larger version. Click for a larger version

A case in point (pun intended) for apps that need the stylus is remote desktop , and I’ve had a couple of instances where the easiest way to get something from my home (Vista) PC was by remoting into it. Remote desktop maps storage through – just like it does on a fully fledged PC. I’ll grant that the Pocket keyboard and screen aren’t ideal for a fully fledged VDI solution – indeed before I tried it I thought remote desktop on a 3.6 inch 800×480 screen would fit Dr Johnson’s quote, “like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all." Still as you can see, as a way of doing a quick check on or file transfer it works. In the first window you can see me checking on media center (you can tell this is the old machine – I wrote Back here about "My channel Logos” for Windows 7, which has prettied this up for my laptop)  and in the second to copy a file I needed without needing to install the Mobile bits on the home machine first.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

February 7, 2010

Another trick of the Touch-Pro 2: Radio.

Filed under: Mobility,RSS — jamesone111 @ 8:20 pm

imageThe more I explore the features of the Touch-Pro 2 (and Windows Mobile 6.5 – or “Windows Phone” as the marketing people have it), the more I find to like.

Being a Sunday I found myself with other parents from the village standing beside a freezing soccer pitch cheering on our offspring (since mine was only on the pitch for half the time I spent most the time I was there just freezing). It’s at these kinds of times that two of the greatest comforts are Radio 4 and a cup of coffee. 

When I first got the device I found it had an “RSS Hub” program – this credits Ilium software and appears to be their News Break in all but name. I’d set it up to download the podcast of From Our Own Correspondent , a programme I never seem to get to listen to when it is broadcast. The downloaded Mp3 just plays in Windows Media Player. After that… I hadn’t given the FM radio on the device a try; it needs headphones plugged in to provide an aerial : I use an adapter to connect standard ones – HTC provide “in-the-ear” ones which I never find comfortable – with them it works as well as any other pocket radio I’ve tried.

It does surprise me just how may radios there are in this device.

* Phone / Data (3G / HSDPA / Edge/GPRS)
* Bluetooth 
* WiFi (802.11 b/g)
* FM Radio

I might be showing my age, but I’m still comparing this device to my original iPAQ – that had a 950mAh battery (non-removable), no memory socket, no keyboard, no radios (although it did have Infra-Red), and a volume of 172cc. In its 118cc the Touch-Pro 2 packs in a 1500mAh battery, all those radios, a Micro-SD socket, two cameras and a Qwerty keyboard. I’m genuinely stumped how they the electronics in the tiny amount of space not occupied by screen, keyboard or battery. 

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

February 5, 2010

Video, Windows 7 and Windows Phone

Filed under: Mobility,Music and Media — jamesone111 @ 1:59 pm

I keep thinking back to the theft of my laptop last year. I’ve had maybe a dozen laptops over the years and I haven’t really the same bond with them that I have with, say, my cameras. Even so whichever laptop I happen to have at the time goes everywhere with me like some kind of comfort blanket. It might be a business machine, but I do personal stuff on it. There’s business payoff to that that, the fact I am on-line and signed into Exchange and Office Communications Server when I’m editing photos (for example) means that colleagues from the other side of the world can get hold of me at all kinds of odd hours, but it’s my choice of hours.  Windows 7 is the first time that we have put Media Center into the Professional and Enterprise editions of the product, so now I have a machine which is both protected with Bitlocker (good for IT) and when I’m travelling I can take the USB TV receiver or programmes I’ve recorded on the Media Center at home.

With the new phone I thought I’d try taking a TV recording I’d made under Windows 7 and moving it over from the Sync panel in Windows Media player. This works, but with the downside that the video is resized down below the resolution of the screen and I went off round the following loop.

Click for a larger version * Expansys can supply me with a Video cable for the phone
* I now have a 16GB memory card in the phone. [This was a special offer from Expansys, £30.47 including taxes shipping etc –my memory of prices gone by makes this seem so cheap. How much cheaper will memory be in a year or two.]
* If I convert my TV recordings to 480p resolution WMV I can then play these from the phone to a TV or whatever

Then I came to a stop because:

(a) The 480p / 30 Frames per second video that came out of Movie maker was too much for the phone (it might be speed of reading from the card or CPU/Graphics chip might not be up to the job, it might work better with a different codec)
(b) I’m probably going to have to power the phone because this will chomp through the battery at quite a speed. Where will the power supply be ? In the bag with my laptop, along with the video cable.  – or more likely if I’m travelling I will charge the phone from the laptop.

In short the phone is a nice music player but it is best suited to playing low-res video. If I’m anywhere that I can use a big screen I’ll have my laptop. Since Windows 7 gives me media centre why would I waste time with the other stuff ? 

Just on music front, I’m expecting to have a combined USB / Jack plug connection box in my car soon, it can play MP3 files via USB or anything the phone can output (via another connection adapter) to a jack plug. I have put voice command 1.6 on the phone so I can control Windows Media player by tapping my bluetooth earpiece and saying “Play artist/Album/whatever” – which is always a fun trick when the phone is in one room and you are in another. In the days when 512MB was a big storage card it made a lot of sense to use WMA files as used less space than Mp3 for the same quality. But depending how well the MP3 side of the adapter integrates with the existing stereo controls I want to use the phone’s ability to go into “Mass storage class” mode and act like a USB stick, which which will mean transcoding (or re-ripping) music to play in the car. I’ll be spending enough time doing that to not want to bother doing the same for video. Heck, I still have a decent pile of vinyl albums I keep saying I will digitize and haven’t got round to.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

But I don’t want the default browser

Filed under: Internet Explorer,Mobility — jamesone111 @ 9:47 am

OK cards on the table. I’m prejudiced. I don’t pretend to be anything else, and I try to open about my biases – flaunt them even. And Like most prejudiced people I can explain the logical roots that my prejudices spring from.

When it comes to browsers I think IE is pretty good .Actually let me qualify that: I thought IE 7  was when we got back to being pretty good and IE8 ups our game. Yes I know some organizations are stuck on the IE6 – I think being unable to move to current technology is a sign of badly run organization, so excuses for being stuck on 6 always sound lame to my ears. Usually it comes down to “We made a bad choice of something years ago and now we we can’t upgrade anything”. The investment to put this right which then makes people more productive, and reduces support costs etc is always a good one. When XP was still a current OS (early 2006) IE6 was looking old and tired and I tried Firefox and liked it. These days IE does what I want, so I haven’t felt the need to use the recent versions of Firefox, but to me it still embodies what is good in open source software development. I don’t hear its advocates talking open source ideology, and it strikes me that they want it to succeed on merit – the only way a competitor gets my respect. I can’t feel the same respect for Opera, since it was their complaint to the EU which nearly caused us to ship Windows 7 to Europe with no browser at all. Opera has a market share miles behind Firefox, (and well behind Chrome and Safari). If IE were to vanish it would seem a fair assumption that 3/4 of the total market would go to Firefox.  Prejudiced against Opera ? Guilty as charged m’lud.



So… It came a bit of disappointment to find that my new Windows Mobile device comes with Opera installed. Oh the irony: we can’t tell HTC and/or Orange what browser(s) should be on the device , even in our position as customer. On the first day I had the device, I hooked the device up to the corporate wireless (Windows Mobile Device Center handles getting the certificate that is needed) and configured the proxy for work networks. I pointed internet explorer at Www.getCoMo.com and downloaded Communicator Mobile which is working very nicely. Next I wanted to find some IP utilities to check what the network was doing. Sadly the beautiful photos on Bing’s home page are wasted on me – I don’t go to search pages (and my home page is set to blank) – I use the browser’s search box. Except Pocket IE doesn’t have one:  however there is a live search icon in the Programs folder but when I used that the result was an error in Opera. It seems Opera can’t connect through a proxy: it certainly doesn’t respect the global proxy setting which IE and Communicator used (it didn’t pick up my favourites either), and if there is somewhere to set, I can’t find it – it’s certainly not under settings. 

This produced an outburst which must have startled anyone who heard it. “Congenitally stupid” was one of the more repeatable phrases and I’ll draw a veil over the rest. Seriously. This phone is an evolved pocket PC, and I beta trialled the 802.1x drivers for the wireless LAN card which went in a jacket with my iPAQ 3600 series when Microsoft first started to use wireless LANs in 2001, and could use a proxy. It’s such a basic function I couldn’t believe it was missing.
IE at least will me set it as the default browser, so any attempt to jump to a URL at least goes there now. But, can I re-assign the short cut key on they keyboard to it ? That is beyond me. I can remove IE from a PC supplied with it (and presumably if the supplier replaces IE with something else , I can remove that,  and go to whatever I want) but there isn’t the same freedom of choice when you move away from the PC. [Unless there are hacks which the average phone user can’t find]

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

January 27, 2010

The GPS / Sat-Nav experience with the Touch-Pro 2 and CoPilot

Filed under: Mobility — jamesone111 @ 2:53 pm

One of the things with the change of phone means sorting out sat nav software. I’ve been using  ALK’s co-pilot as my sat-Nav on the last two phones, with a Bluetooth GPS puck. I’ve been through 3 different versions of the software and I’ve grown used to its foibles. Since my phone arrived the day I was going to NEbytes in Newcastle I wanted to get CoPilot on installed right away and I decided to take the opportunity to upgrade to the latest version

image Sadly the ALK’s e-commerce site wouldn’t accept my old key to approve an upgrade and so I ended up paying full price – which was still a bargain £27. Then the site wouldn’t release the download – the download won’t work, even as a trial without the key, which only works on one device at a time, so the protection seems unnecessary.  I’ve had problems getting to the point of installing CoPilot before and this time, as then their support line sorted everything out for me in a few minutes.

As it turned out – my phone hadn’t got past the initial handshake with the Network so I knew I wasn’t going to be able to activate CoPilot and I headed for Newcastle with the software on my laptop, but not yet on the phone.  Installing the software is as simple as copying extracting a zip file to a memory card, Powering up the phone with card in it, and answering a couple of simple questions.  Switching to a bigger touch screen changes the UI to something closer to a dedicated sat-nav unit, and its pretty self explanatory, touch friendly controls

Now , it wouldn’t be Copilot without some bit of User interface which doesn’t follow conventions – this time it’s the on-screen keyboard : Windows Mobile provides one and Copilot doesn’t use it. It provides an ABC layout instead of QWERTY. (See the bottom two images on the left for a comparison of the experience in CoPilot and elsewhere – in this case IE). I’m glad of the slide out keyboard! Aside from that it’s a pretty easy going. One of CoPilot’s strong points has always been up to date maps and Points of Interest which still seems to be true, there is a nice feature which tells you which motorway lane to get into in advance and the routing algorithm seems a little less inclined to go through town centres to save a small distance (although it still thinks it easier to get to the Microsoft office by driving through the centre of Reading) . All very easy to switch to, basically.

image It has a number of different modes including walking and cycling. I set it walking mode to guide me the last little way to Monday’s IT tweet-up in London. I was on the train at the time, doing 125MPH – hence the comical message “You are travelling faster than normal walking speed, would you like to change modes”. It was interesting watching the software trying to to match location to roads as we sped down the railway line – it’s worth remembering that the device saves a lot of battery time by throttling back the CPU so this can be expected to hammer the battery life. CoPilot has settings for managing the backlight – the other battery killer – “always on” is going to hit the battery pretty hard so is best kept for when the device is on external power, and leaving Windows Mobile to manage things actually suspends Copilot and turns the GPS receiver off until the device is switched back on. “Backlight: On Near turn” works pretty well,  with one qualification; on the smartphone jabbing any button would bring the display back up, so on a long trip down the motorway one could see the software’s ETA or distance to the next turn. When the Touch-Pro 2 turns the display off it seems to turn the touch functions off so it is necessary to press the wake-up button not such a good thing when driving.

There are several advantages to ditching the GPS puck – not least the battery in it is at the end of its useful life so it has to be powered to be usable, and one integrated unit is always a better proposition. Reception is no worse as far as I can tell, and there are two implementation advantages. First Windows-mobile multiplexes the GPS between applications  so it is possible to have co-existence between CoPilot, the various twitter clients I tried (see this post) which support GPS and a second GPS program – I also use Efficasoft’s GPS utilities when I don’t need navigational guidance – it’s great if what you want is a GPS compass, speedometer, or data logger. The second advantage is the GPS has a “pre-warmer”. When the receiver starts from cold it can get to a fix more quickly given an approximate position – the phone can get a rough position from the 3G network – the information available is not GPS-accurate (otherwise we could dispense with the satellites)  but it speeds up the first plot dramatically – as I found emerging from the underground in London.

CoPilot automatically saves the logs from the GPS receiver which are in the started NMEA 0183 format, and it’s pretty easy to process these in anything which handles CSV files: Excel for example, or PowerShell. I thought it would be rather fun to plot speed against location so I did quick bit of data munging and pushed the information into MapPoint (MapPoint doesn’t seem to like importing Excel files with the 64 bit beta of office 2010 installed so I ended up using PowerShell, but any normal person would have used Excel). For each minute of data I averaged the speed, latitude and longitude and plotted the point a different colour – green for 55 MPH and up, blue for 40-55 MPH and Red for under 40. It’s pretty easy to spot the blocks of camera enforced speed limits through roadworks on my my return journey from Newcastle.

Depending how well the battery manages I may end up geotagging a lot more of my photos – that will be PowerShell again. The tip I learned for this from my diving is photograph the time on the data recorder (The Efficasoft tool in this case). The image of the time on the data is tagged with the time on the camera is of the time on the logger so you can workout the difference when tagging the pictures. I’ll come back to that another time.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

January 26, 2010

Finding a Twitter client for Windows Mobile.

Filed under: Mobility,Social Media — jamesone111 @ 11:13 am

I’ve tried more several different twitter clients on my desktop but I always end up gravitating back to the Web interface – I think mostly because I follow a lot links from twitter posts and with IE7 pro installed (on IE8, despite the name) I can use a “flick” gesture to open a link in a new tab and carry on reading down in twitter – then go to the pages I’ve opened. Some of the free standing readers are very good but opening a link takes you away from the reader.

On Saturday I was on my way to London and I knew people were tweeting about the photographers gathering in Trafalgar Square with the tag #PhNAT (photographer, not a terrorist) and I wanted to see what was happening.I tried the full and mobile web versions of twitter and with the bigger better screen of the Touch-Pro 2 it wasn’t a good experience. With 3G bandwidth at my disposal I decided to download a client. But which one ? There are 10 or so for Windows mobile. One wouldn’t download, a couple wouldn’t work once they were installed. I tested 4. Here are my totally unscientific, sample-of-one personal experiences. Don’t take my conclusions as a Microsoft endorsement.

First up, and therefore the standard that the others had to be beat was Twinki

Click for a larger version

Looks nice, and you can add pictures , co-ordinates from the phones GPS or a shortened URL when making a tweet. But where is the search ? If it hasn’t got search I need another client. I know some colleagues use TinyTwitter, so that was next.

Click for a larger version

As you can see Tiny Twitter wants to tell me to the second when a tweet was made and from which client. I can live without that – it’s not a killer but Tiny Twitter doesn’t seem to have any way of showing full names on tweets or adding GPS data to one of yours. It also takes more taps to start a new tweet. If you look at the text of the second post Tiny Twitter gave me the whole thing but Twikini truncated it. One tap shows the whole message in Twikini and second tap takes me to the linked page. In Tiny twitter  it’s tap the Tweet, then menu, status, links and I found it corrupted some links (bit.ly ones). It still doesn’t have search.

Next I tried Twibble, a Java client. I never got it to work, and what little I saw of the UI didn’t encourage me to try very hard. Next came Twitula, which demanded a new version of the .net compact framework and didn’t work even when I installed it (and slapped wrist for us:  I had to do that at when I got back to my laptop as it is not packaged for direct installation on mobile devices).  Then came Twobile.


Twobile has the big advantage that it it support all the functions of Twitter including … drum roll … search. It also packs in the maximum number of tweets – although it does so by truncating them so you need to go to open each one to read it. It also can invoke Google translation to translate a tweet (sadly Hebrew isn’t one of the options, so I never will know what Shay was saying). Its looks are definitely against it and some things like following a link require so many taps it borders on the perverse. I could use this with one of the others to get search but that really is all.

[Update: somewhere about this point I tried Pocket Twit. Somehow I left it off the original list]

PocketTwit  is the opposite of Twobile – those controls are geared for stylus input (which the Touch-Pro 2 supports) rather than finger input (which it also supports). Pocket-Twit is a true touch app – slide the column of tweets out of the way and you find menus which are located off to the sides. I found this baffling at first and still not feeling entirely I’ve made touch I had a few misgivings. The major one being when I slid the keyboard out and the device went into landscape mode I found I wasn’t sliding the column far enough to get the menu to snap into place. This may be worth re-visiting as and when I get on better with touch, but I discarded it for lack of search, although (thanks here to Scot Lovegrove) I later found it does have search, just not very accessible. I can understand people liking this app – I feel a bit of luddite for not doing so myself.

Click for a larger version

Finally I arrived at mo-tweets, which comes as an “Ad supported” version or a $3.95 version. 


First of all it has the option to run full screen (as here) and the use of bar along the top gives a tap-to-tweet button (of the other 3 only Twikini lets you tweet in a single tap from the home screen). The “sections” item from the main menu also has a short cut button on the top menu , so it can access the same wide range of choices as Twobile. there’s a choice of truncating the messages which don’t have the focus or showing them in full, and tapping on a message gives the widest range of choices (search hash tags in it, send it by e-mail, translate again), and there is an option for short cut buttons on the message with the focus – for reply, retweet and add to favourites. Finally the tweet dialog as buttons for adding people, new or existing pictures, a shortened URL or your GPS location.  I could suggest improvements for mo-tweets. It previews the Google maps page it will display for a URL link but it jumps out to the default browser when a link is clicked – I’d like the option to preview the page inside mo-tweets. It gives a choice of URL shorteners, including Bit.ly – I’d like to put my bit.ly account information in so I can see what traffic has gone to the link, and I’d like to be able to choose my own mapping provider. However as stands it gives me the key things I want in a form that I like so that is the one I have settled on for now – just remember folks, you can’t extrapolate from what one guy at Microsoft likes to anything about Microsoft as a whole.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

January 25, 2010

Early days with the HTC Touch Pro 2

Filed under: Mobility — jamesone111 @ 4:12 pm

Last week Orange delivered a consignment of HTC-Touch Pro 2 phones and one of them had my name on it. Every phone I’ve ever had has been driven by buttons and I wrote before Christmas that I was in two minds about “going touch”. But my old E650 was falling apart and I decided the HTC was the best of my choices, so here are some first impressions

This is the 6th device made by HTC I’ve owned (the original Compaq IPAQ 3650, the first 02 XDA – which I never used, the first Orange SPV phone, the SPV-C500 and the E650). It’s the first to have HTC’s name on it. In terms of build quality and design it is the best of them, and so it should be with a price tag which would let me buy a laptop or two net-books. Adjectives which come to mind are “clean” , “minimalist”, “solid”, “business like”.

The device is built around an 800×480 (“Wide screen VGA”) display: my old desktop monitor is about 85 Pixels per inch, my lap is twice that, and the HTC is 3 times that – I suspect that is a large part of the cost of these devices. The screen is actually slightly smaller than that original IPAQ (47x79mm – 3713mm² against 58×77 4466mm²) but packs in 5 times as many pixels. Not to mention phone and GPS functions a Micro-SD memory socket, a much more powerful processor, two cameras and a bucketful more memory.  Each new device seems to have better brightness and saturation than its predecessor and this one is no exception – I thought this was one of the new OLED screens but the specs say it is just LCD.  That screen enables some new scenarios, especially as graphics abilities of the device seem pretty good, and there is no getting away from the fact that applications I had on my E650 are just better on a big screen (that’s not a surprise – I can’t think of anything which gets better on a small screen.)

One oddity of this phone is the extent to which choosing a home screen changes the whole user experience of the phone.


From left to right we have HTC’s “Sense” UI which has short-cuts to other HTC apps along the bottom. Then there is the “Microsoft default” which puts people in mind of Zune’s UI. Neither of these is greatly customizable so far as I can tell so I can’t get rid of the getting started or voice mail options (I only use my Exchange voice mail, and have turned off the one that Orange provide). Then there is the Orange home screen – the latest incarnation of something that first saw the light of day on the C500 phone and I’ve never warmed to. And finally there is the traditional Pocket-PC page – this certainly used to be highly customizable using XML files I haven’t found out if that still applies, but it looks dated beside the first two.  However it lets me see time and upcoming appointments at the same time, and it doesn’t provide a button for call history which looks a missed call notification.

The HTC sense “skin” gives access to the main functions via the bar along the bottom  


They’re all pretty nice, but don’t do everything, so I end up clinking All programs , all settings or Inbox to open up the built in windows application.

I’m slowly warming to touch as a UI (though I keep growling “Why do I have to slide that, why can’t I tap it”), and with the slide out keyboard I think I’ve got something where I can do mail, note taking, tweeting and so on quite easily. Since E650 was not a 3G device the thing I notice most is the speed of the new device – not only do it’s CPU and graphics make it feel nippy, it hops from my home network on WiFi to 3G, and then to the office Network on WiFi pretty much seamlessly (something I gave up on with the E650 which never seemed happy about changing networks) – the only speed test I’ve done it to date showed a download speed of about 750Kbits/sec and upload of about 128Kbits/sec – plenty good enough for all but the largest downloads. One neat trick about the phone is when connected by USB it asks if you want to go into internet sharing mode, memory stick mode, or normal active sync. I wish it would offer a “Web cam mode” too as the camera looks pretty good. There’s a rear facing autofocus camera of 2.4MP and a front facing one for video calls (though communicator mobile can’t use them). There’s no flash but the camera has fast lens and high ISO rating so it can get pictures in poor light.

Music and video seem pretty good – there is a TV connection cable for the USB socket and like previous HTC devices an adapter is used plug in conventional headphones. And of course the GPS is built in, and seems to work at least as well as the Bluetooth GPS puck I used before – the only Bluetooth configuration needed was to get my earpiece going and that was pretty straight forward.

All in it’s a easy device to like, and I’ll explain a bit more in the next post or 2 … or 3

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

November 27, 2009

Decisions Decisions, and “When is a phone not a phone ?”

Filed under: General musings,Mobility — jamesone111 @ 2:08 pm

Someone at work (no names, no packdrill) keeps telling me I’m set in my ways, and I keep disagreeing, since I’ve always thought it’s one of my personality traits to challenge the status quo (see Apparatchik vs Autistic). But I’ve been forced to confront my own conservatism when it comes to phones.

I’ve had my E650 since April 23rd 2007. Our phones normally get replaced after two years, but we wanted to make Windows mobile 6.5 the base level for phones and so people renewing were asked to wait for the new phones to start arriving.  2 years and 7 months have been hard on my E650. Being shoved in pockets with coins and keys has done horrible things to the finish, and it’s been dropped onto hard surfaces on several occasions – even bouncing down a flight of concrete steps. When I get fidgety I play Bubble breaker, obsessively, 200 games without leaving my seat is not unknown (yes, yes, another Asperger’s type behaviour, don’t think I haven’t noticed). I’ve played just under 12000 games, and if a typical game involves 100 button clicks that’s well over a million key activations. The keypad is getting to the end of its working life.  I need 3G data only rarely but when do the E650’s lack of it is a nuisance. 

As Magritte might have said, this is not a phoneFor the moment we have a choice of 2 phones the Samsung Omnia Pro and the HTC touch pro 2 either would be a new form factor for me.The Samsung has a qwerty thumb-pad which isn’t as good for dialling numbers as a 4×3 keypad and not great for typing messages (some people – Blackberry users think this compromise is ideal. I don’t) and it can’t use a standard USB cable to charge. So I’ve ruled that out. The HTC can use a standard USB (although HTC have added the ability to output sound and video via extra pins), and has a slide out keyboard for messages and correcting documents. But no keypad on the front, and it has GPS integrated so I no longer need to worry about my bluetooth GPS puck; and the big screen should work nicely with co-pilot. It’s a nice piece of industrial design, and it’s had good reviews especially for the 480×800 resolution screen.I wrote a piece called the mobility dilemma before I got the E650, and a lot of it still applies. iPhone users seem to manage doing everything including typing messages by caressing the screen: the slide out keyboard removes my biggest objection to the iPhone design, yet after 17 years using phones with 4×3 keypads, some instinct says without one it’s not truly a phone. (“See: you are set in your ways” … “No I’m not, because of the next question”).  Why am I carrying a telephone ? These days I use my “mobile” more as a PDA than a phone – but it is designed to be a phone first. When I ring someone it is almost always using a saved or emailed number, so the lack of keypad  to dial from shouldn’t matter. My PC has replaced my desk phone thanks to Office Communications Server and communicator, so if the telephone isn’t the best template for a mobile device why cling on to it ? I’ve rationalized getting the HTC by telling myself I’m going to stop carrying a “phone” and go back to a proper PDA (I loved the original iPAQ back in 2001) – just a PDA which can do phone calls. I have a suspicion one iPhone user I know (she knows who she is) will say “A-ha you get it now. Phone calls aren’t the main function why not optimize for the other stuff”. Indeed “Phone” may turn into a throwback term like “dial” or “ring”. The order should go in on Monday and the experience should give me the material for for some more posts once it arrives.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

January 26, 2009

Camera-phones One Note and OCR.

Filed under: General musings,Mobility,Office — jamesone111 @ 1:43 pm

Everyone uses different bits of office. There’s a core piece that everyone uses and then we all have our personal 10%. I like the OCR feature of One-Note. For example on the way to the BETT show a few days back I saw an advert on the tube that’s a grander variation on “How do you pronounce Ghoti ?” *

If GH can stand for P in Hiccough
If OUGH can stand for 0 in Dough
If PHTH can stand for T in Phthisis
If EIGH can stand for A in Neighbour
If TTE can stand for T in Gazette
It EAU can stand for 0 in Plateau
Then the way you spell POTATO is…


Isn’t it?

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I just grabbed a snap with my phone (the handles for standing passengers make a great camera rest to keep shake down) and when I hooked up to my PC  I dropped the picture into OneNote: One notes does OCR on pictures offers a “copy text” menu option when you right click them. I’m finding myself using this more and more, even for slides with a variety of cameras and even screen grabs of on-line presentations. I’ve noticed than some phones now do recognition of input from business cards via their phones. I wonder how long it will be before the whole thing can be done in the phone without needing the PC to do the OCR part.


* Ghoti is pronounced “Fish” , Gh as in enough, o as in women , and ti as in station

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

December 1, 2008

iPhone Adverts.

Filed under: Mobility — jamesone111 @ 9:12 am

Everyone knows Apple’s advertising annoys people at Microsoft. That’s partly what it’s for. And I’ve held my peace about an iPhone advert which appear to feature a faked series of operations. If you watched the ad closely you could see that a .ZIP file is downloaded from a mail message and magically opens as a document, without ever being unzipped. Not having tried it I can’t be 100% certain that the iPhone doesn’t magically unzip files and open their contents, but I’m sceptical to say the least. So I was quite pleased to hear the Advertising Standards Authority have banned that ad – the issue being it showed downloads at a speed that no 3G network can deliver (with a message that Network performance varies).

Incidentally I’m told that the launch sales of Samsung’s Omnia phone were better than the equivalent for the iPhone. The Omnia isn’t for me, but it’s one of 160 Windows mobile devices – there’s a form factor for most people.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

November 2, 2008

Internet connections and People ready businesses

Filed under: General musings,Mobility — jamesone111 @ 2:50 pm

I’ve been “on Holiday” for a few days. My mother-in-law hasn’t been enjoying the best of health so we took took the family off to visit her over the half term week. To a rented house with Satellite TV – because it is in a DVB deadspot – but no broadband, and no 3G reception. It’s been a lesson in just how much we take connectivity for granted.

The 3G part was interesting: Microsoft provides me with a phone  its due for replacement in a few months (hopefully with one of these), for me the candy bar form factor with slide out qwerty keyboard is perfect, and when I got my current one the only 3G option was a touch screen PDA. I’ve shut up about the iPhone, it doesn’t work for me nor do the Windows-powered touch screen phones. They work for lots of other people. Fine: we’re not all the same.  So I went shopping for a Pay as You go 3G service in Oxford – where half the shops now seem to be phone shops or coffee shops. I asked each provider to check my destination was covered, all of them could check, and had to admit it wasn’t To be fair, Orange’s web site suggest they have coverage but that they don’t offer Pay As You Go 3G. I wanted to check both things, but their Oxford shop was being refurbished, so I thought I’d go to a mobile phone shop when we arrived.  Reading this piece on Mark’s blog I realise that this will soon be considered suspicious (The Times reports Everyone who buys a mobile telephone will be forced to register their identity on a national database under government plans to extend massively the powers of state surveillance.) . I like the fact that my phone isn’t registered to me: if it was at a crime scene it could be traced to me in 5 minutes flat. The same is true of my (leased) car.With no way to look up my phone or my car, its hard for someone to go on a fishing trip about me. I’m nervous that a computer somewhere in the Home Office would spot my purchase of a 3G dongle far from home and send someone to check things out. As it happens, there was nowhere to buy one anyway; this is a town with no mobile phone shops, no McDonalds with free WiFi, no Starbucks. A single Cafe had internet access – at 5p a minute! Once the home secretary catches up with the notion of VoIP, I guess we’ll have to produce Biometric ID to use cyber-cafes. 

A fair chunk of my expensive internet time was spent arranging my hotel for Tech-ed – I don’t know why I left it so late; usually when I start procrastinating about everything it is a sign something is wrong. The travel coordinator gave me the necessary URL  but my chosen credit card issuer doesn’t participate in the site’s chosen verification scheme. So I mailed the coordinator back, explaining that I’m on holiday, I don’t have proper access, the web site won’t play ball, so here’s my credit card number, please book the room. Back comes a reply “we need a fax for security reasons”.  I reply “You want something with a signature on it … even though you can’t tell if it is really MY signature, that’s no security”. And who takes a fax and printer on Holiday ? Somewhat crossly I went back the next day to try another credit card, this takes me to “Verified by visa”, or “vilified by Visa” because I couldn’t get it to accept my details. What followed was actually rather wonderful. My phone rang, it was the bank’s fraud department, a  computer somewhere had spotted my failed purchase far from home and sent someone to check things out. With the transaction cleared the call got passed to someone in a totally different part of the bank, who knew what was going on, and walked me through the Visa system and hey presto everything worked. I’ve no idea what software they  use at first direct but when we ran commercials about “The people ready business” we meant the sort of thing they have been doing for years. And the Hotel bookers were the target to become people ready. [Side point. I have long had a theory that people get more choosey about where they place their business when the economy is bad “lots of you are chasing my custom, so I’ll go somewhere that I don’t have to put up with X.”. If you’re an IT pro and your projects don’t lead to delivering something better to a customer, what exactly are you doing ?]. 

On the subject of my procrastination leading to find out of companies are people ready or not, I nearly gave this post a risqué title like “Sucking big Julie dry” as I explained a couple of weekends back , “Big Julie” was the identity I floated for my new car from its registration “Sierra Juliet”, though that name just isn’t right. The last 4 Citroëns I’ve had were equipped with a trip computer showing range at about 20 miles the display would change to — meaning “I can’t guess any more. Fill up right now”. I try to avoid filling up until I absolutely have to, so I quite familiar with that display. With  Trip computer still indicating 22 miles range and a mile from where I planned to fill up something horrible happened. The engine stopped. I expect embedded computers and their sensors to be 100% reliable – which means if they are wrong they fail in the direction of safety. I wouldn’t accept my latop’s battery dying when the display said 10 minutes left: tell me I’m out of fuel with 20 miles left – not the other way round.
I called Citroën assist – “We can get someone to you in about an hour with some fuel” they said, “I can walk and get some in less time” I said “but does the engine need to be re-primed ?”. “No” said the guy at the other end. “Are you sure there’s no special procedure for a dry diesel engine” “Yes”. “OK I’ll walk”. 45 minutes later with 5 litres of diesel in the tank I was back on the phone – “The engine won’t start, the handbook doesn’t cover this engine, only the V6 diesel and there’s nothing about re-priming that”. “OK. We’ll send someone out – it will be about an hour”. Grrr. If I’d known, I’d have got them to send him in the first place. We called a taxi so the rest of the family could get home and I waited. I got a call and a text from the AA (that’s the Automobile Association, if you’re thinking of something else known as AA)to say they were on their way. Now here’s a tip. If you have a Peugeot or Citroën with a 2.2HDI engine (and according to Wikipedia possibly a Ford with the 2.2  TDCi as well)  and you run it dry, open the bonnet and look for a little black bulb with a fuel line coming from it, on the left near the front. The AA man squeezed that a few times, I turned the key and hey presto the engine sprang to life.  One of his easier jobs. On the one hand calling a number and having someone sort the problem out is great, but the computer at Citroën assist knew what model and colour my car is… so why didn’t it give that tip to the person on the phone ? It just didn’t come up to scratch on people –readiness.


Bonus link, Given where I was this story from Jason had me almost crying with laughter

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

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