Wednesday, July 31, 2013

[Article] Windows 8 does not need Lucid Virtu software for QuickSync with a dedicated GPU installed?

Edit:
You don’t need to read the whole post. QuickSync doesn’t work even in Windows 8 “out of the box”. But if you follow these instructions, you will be able to get it to work without needing Virtu MVP. I tested it in Handbrake Nightly, and it worked like a charm. Got over 150fps in 1080p content. In fact, on my new Haswell CPU, the quality seems much better than when I tested it on my old SandyBridge CPU.
 
I have been searching for the best Z87 motherboard to base my decision of whether to upgrade to Haswell or not. I really like the features (software features) offered with the Asus motherboards: leaning towards Z87 Pro or MVI Hero. I was listing up the advantages of getting a new Asus Z87 board and one thing caught my eye: QuickSync.
 
I thought every board would come with free Lucid Virtu MVP license but it seems that's not the case (MSI boards come with it though). So how do you get QuickSync working with Haswell CPUs when a dedicated graphics card is installed? I asked around and Googled and came across one interesting piece of information. They say that Windows 8 doesn't need it for QuickSync because it allows you to load multiple graphics drivers side by side. Apparently Windows 7 still needs something like Lucid Virtu. Remember though you have to have the iGPU enabled in the UEFI and  Intel drivers installed.
 
I still haven't been able to verify this because I only got to know about this on the way to work. I know the first thing i need to do when I go home. But if this is true, I have been a  complete fool all this time. Since there is no Windows 8 supported Lucid Virtu (non-MVP) available, I thought I couldn't use QuickSync anymore. Only the MVP edition supports Windows 8. But my motherboard doesn't have a license to that; only to the non-MVP edition.
 
But doesn't matter. It's better that I don't have to install an additional software layer there. I'll check this out as soon as I go home and update the post. Until then, you are welcome to try it out and post in the comments.

Edit:

So I went home and tried this trick. I enabled the iGPU in UEFI and came to desktop. I downloaded the QuickSync enabled beta version of Handbrake (I didn’t know it was out) and I chose the Intel QuickSync video codec as shown below.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

[Article] Sent the Latitude 10 Essentials tablet for repair/replacement

Finally Dell arranged the tablet to be picked for repair/replacement. A person from Sagawa courier service came to our place yesterday (Saturday, the 27th of July) and took it away. He brought all the necessary packaging with him. Really there shouldn’t be any need for all that because I gave it to him wrapped in a air bubble wrapping. Hey, the screen’s suppose to be built using Gorilla Glass. If Dell is afraid that it would be damaged easier, how can we believe their claims that it is durable?

I of course had to take off the anti-glare shield I had on it. You cannot apply it again, so I threw it away. There goes $10 or whatever price I paid for it. Anyways, it looked nice and bright after I removed the shield. Clean too, because there were air bubbles between the shield and the screen. I don’t have the patience required for these stuff.

They say it will take 7 to 10 days to return it. I guess that’s the way it is. If I bought an iPad, I could simply go to an Apple Store and exchange it to a brand new iPad within few minutes. However, if I asked them to come and pick it up, it would take about a week for the whole thing. In that case, Dell’s service isn’t that bad.

I just hope they will be able to reproduce the screen issue. The screen starts to work at times. But if you turn it off (just the screen) and let it rest for a while, it won’t work again. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’ll see how things go in the next week.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

[Article] Managed to install Windows 8 on my Dell Latitude 10 tablet after all

It's yet another blog post about my tablet woes. It's almost ready to be sent for repairs but there was one issue. I never mentioned to them (Dell support) that I had Windows 8.1 Preview installed on my tablet. While I don't think that is the cause of all the issues I've been having, especially the touch screen issue, there was a good chance they would put the blame on me if I mentioned it to them. They'll just say they cannot support Windows 8.1 especially on Preview state, and that I'm on my own. They are all the same. They never accept it as their fault. Neither do we, but hey, the customer is always right.

So as a last resort onmy end, I wanted to re-install Windows and see what will happen. I tried to boot off the bootable Windows 8 32bit USB stick that I just created but for some reason the POST screen never allowed me to change the boot device nor get into BIOS. Usually it shows a message saying press F2 to enter BIOS and press F12 for boot options. I don't know why it didn't show them. 

Forgot to mention one thing though. Since I didn't have the touch screen working, I had to connect my G15 keyboard to the sole USB port on the tablet and plug in the mouse and the USB stick to the two USB ports on the keyboard. Thank goodness for these new gaming keyboards coming with USB ports. And mine isn't new either. I've had it for 4 years and I got it second hand too. But the darn thing only has USB1.1 ports so it was horrendously slow.

[Article] What happened to the original Dell recovery image in my Latitude 10 Essentials?

I still haven’t resolved the issues with my Dell Latitude 10 Essentials tablet. It’s taking too long.

Today I got another email from Dell Support (Japan). This time as a last resort, they were asking me to see if using Windows 8’s recovery environment would fix the recovery issue. Maybe they are thinking that the issue is with their Backup and Recovery software, and I know it isn’t because Windows’ 8’s refresh functionality doesn’t work either.

This is driving me insane. They take a whole day to respond to emails. Their chat support goes off when I come home. What good is having a chat support if people cannot chat when they are at work? They should provide chat support after work hours, right?

Anyways, since they asked, I checked out what they asked me to do. Obviously, it didn’t work. But I needed to show them something. I got the following error by the way. (I wonder if they can read it because English is Greek to these Japanese people.)

Re-image your computer

They say they cannot fix the recovery thing at their factory either. I don’t understand why that is because it seems like a simple drive cloning. They say that all they can do is to reinstall Windows. And what happens if that goes Kaput? For all I know, it could be their own Recovery functionality that broke the Recovery functionality. But it doesn’t matter, because if the tablet would accept any Windows 8 32bit install media without needing a new serial number (because it should be attached to the BIOS), I can make my own restore partition using this method. I in fact could do it already, but that would completely ruin the chances of fixing the recovery functionality that’s built into the tablet.

I wonder if I can do something about it. Maybe the folks at eightforums can help me out. I’ve already posted it there.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

[Unboxing] Got my Leap Motion controller and it’s time to unbox it

When I came home from work today, I was greeted with a package. At first I didn’t recognize what it was. In a few seconds, I figured out it was the Leap Motion controller. I thought they only dispatched it on 23rd and it would take a few days to receive it. I had preordered it (a year ago in fact) and they seems to have shipped it to us first.

I will review it in a few days after using it. The first impressions aren’t that great actually, and the reviewers also seems to agree with that, mostly because I didn’t really know what to use it for. I love my trusty keyboard and mouse. It needs a better control panel.

But for now, you will have to be satisfied with an unboxing photo-shoot.

That last pic shows how I am currently using it. Keeping it between the monitor and keyboard makes it not that effective because of the distance. I would have to lean forward to operate it if I keep it there. That is a very uncomfortable experience. Ideally, I believe this should be integrated to keyboards. Perhaps that area where the Logitech logo is placed on the keyboard. (refer last pic) That would not only make it out of the way, but also lessen the cable clutter. After all, it is another USB port wasted and a new cable added to the grand haul of half a down cable on the desk.

Monday, July 22, 2013

[Article] Upgrade itch is so strong! Feeling like upgrading to 4770K Haswell from 2600K SandyBridge after all.

Many shops are giving JPY5,000 worth discounts if you buy a Haswell CPU and a Z87 motherboard these days. Sofmap.com has a eye-catching offer: Core i7 4770K and a Asus Z87 Pro motherboard for about JPY51,000. I sometimes feel like giving a shot at Haswell. I know it won’t give me much benefits over my current CPU and motherboard. But this upgrade itch has been crawling beneath my skin in the past few months. Worse case would be that I will get just about same performance as my current CPU and motherboard combo. That’s if I can only overclock to like 4.2GHz. If I can somehow manage to overclock to 4.5GHz, I will be able to sneak in 10% or so more performance. The temps definitely will play a vital role, especially with the temperature in the summer.

It’s not the CPU that is great actually. Z87 is a great chipset. It performs really well, plus, it uses so little power. It also comes with a lot of stuff my current motherboard doesn’t have, natively. I will get a much better motherboard. I can use the integrated fan controller and throw away (don’t take things literally unless I say so) my current Scythe fan controller. I have been wanting a fan controller that controls fan according to temps. With Asus’s unprecedented fan control software, I can achieve it. I hate the cable mess the current fan controller has created behind the motherboard tray.

[Article] Dell Latitude 10 Essentials tablet touchscreen issue elevated!

Remember me mentioning in my review (and here) that my tablet had a problem with the touch screen where it would stop accepting any touch inputs after resuming from sleep? I told this to the Dell support personnel over Twitter and their final response was to uninstall the touch screen driver and reinstall it. I had no idea how to do it, but for some word reason, the issue went away for few days without me doing anything. (These devices have ears!)

Well, yesterday it came back and this time it was not a random issue anymore. The touchscreen completely sopped working. Not just after waking up from sleep, but even after a reboot too. That's never happened before.
 
There wasn't much I could do from my end other than to use Factory Reset. First I tried using Windows 8's Refresh feature. For some weird reason, it asked me to enter the installation media!!! That shouldn't happen, as it should be using the source files stored in the Recovery partition. (I have done this before and every time I didn’t have to insert any installation media) Having one USB port is not enough btw. Now that the touch screen was not working, I had to have the mouse plugged to the USB port. So I cannot plug in a USB drive. I could redirect the Refresh source to a custom location as per instructions given here, but that would completely break the default recovery functionality. That's not a good thing in my book.
 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

[Article] My ASRock Z68 Extreme4 motherboard having bios issues

With a lot of testing, I was able to finally find the settings that made the CPU overclock stable. It took a lot of work, to be honest, and I came across some weird issues with the BIOS of my ASRock Z68 Extreme4 motherboard during that testing.
 
The biggest issue was that the settings that I set in the bios being not saved when I told it to save and exit. I even misjudged it as a corrupted Windows installation once and almost reinstalled Windows. Luckily, I got a BSOD while booting into the setup and I knew something else was at work. I had set 4.8GHz in bios, which was not stable, and even when I set it to 4.7GHz, it remained at 4.8GHz. However, resetting the BIOS using the Clear CMOS button on the back panel worked.
 
Yesterday I was reading some forum posts about Haswell overclocking and I wanted to check how my CPU compared with the 4770K. When I ran Cinebench on my PC, I only managed to score 8.30 points. That's a pretty low score for a 2600K @4.5GHz. I ran it again and I got the same score. I felt something was not right, so this time I ran it with CPU-Z running by the side. I could see what was wrong. The CPU multiplier would drop to 44x and even 42x during the test.
 
So I went into bios and I found out that the settings had been reset to the defaults on the overclocking section! But I didn't understand how it ran at 45x multi in the first place because according to what was shown on bios, it should have run at 34x. Weird! What actually caused the multiplier to throttle was TDP limit which was reset to 95W.
 
So I loaded the overclocking profile I had saved for 4.5GHz and checked Cinebench again. This time I got a score of 8.72 which is about right.
 
Now, I wanted to play with the RAM timings because I was running them at SPD timings (i.e. 9/9/9/24 2T). I set it to 9/8/8/20 1T and booted back to Windows. When I checked the timings on CPU-Z, it still showed me the SPD timings. I tried several times to set the timings in bios but nothing worked. So I cleared CMOS settings again. The first time it booted to UEFI environment, it was unusable. The mouse movement wasn't smooth. The display was like a slide-show. It felt as if running Crysis 3 on decade old hardware. (But you cannot so that even if you want to because Crysis 3 needs DX11)
 
So I cleared the CMOS settings again. This time it worked and when I set the RAM timings as 9/8/8/20 1T, CPU-Z could see them. I don't know if those settings are stable though. I know for a fact that I cannot run these RAM at CL8.
 
Anyways, I don't know if the mobo is dying or if the cause was something else. I've seen some people say that pressing the Clear CMOS button alone is not enough; you need to remove the battery and put it back after few minutes. I will try that too. If it doesn't fix it, I will have to make a decision. I wonder if it has some warranty left. I've had the motherboard for 2 years now.
 
 
 
 

Friday, July 19, 2013

[Guide] Windows Explorer troubles in Windows 8 and a possible fix

In the last few days, I had been using Windows 8 predominantly on my work PC. It's easier to use the same OS at home and at work. It was pretty good at the beginning, but starting yesterday, it got really sluggish and acting up.

I had to fix some bugs in the cloud printing application. We have a tool for testing it. We have to load up different settings files for different test scenarios and whenever I selected the test scenarios written in the form of XML, it would take about 5 seconds to actually show it up in the GUI. Usually there is no such delay. The tool is written in Win32.
 
When testing the performance through the testing tool, the actual rendering would finish quickly, but it would take another 10 seconds or so to output the rendered PRN file. Again, usually there is no such delay.
 
Another issue was that when I did some file/folder operation such as creating, renaming, moving files and folders, Windows Explorer wouldn’t reflect the result of that operation on the UI. I have to press F5 key to refresh Windows Explorer and only then it would be reflected on the UI.
 
Something definitely was acting up. It seems that all these things were related. Windows Explorer could be the culprit. The easiest thing for me to do was to create another user account and see if I could reproduce the same issues. I couldn’t. I didn’t think all those mishaps was because my user profile was corrupted. But it seemed that was the case.
 
So I followed the same thing that I did on my Windows 7 installation few days ago. It worked fine for Windows 8 as well. Now all is back to where it should be. No lags or Explorer issues.
 
Bad Windows! BAD!
 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

[Article] Probably IvyBridge-E would be a flop as well

Yesterday Tom's Hardware released some preliminary benchmark results of the upcoming IvyBridge-E CPUs. They only compared others with the highest end SKU, namely, the 4960X. The results were very lackluster once again. (Previously, both the SB to IB and IB to Haswell were lackluster) I felt the benefits of IB-E over SB-E were even less than the benefits of IB over SB.
 
Now, there was one important improvement with IB-E over SB-E. Power consumption. At full load, the power consumption delta was more than 80W. This is at the same clock speeds. With the power consumption being lower than the predecessor and the IHS being soldered to the die, we might see some sweet overclocking numbers though. Too bad Tom's Hardware didn't do  any overclocking tests. That could be the deciding factor.
 
But if we assume that IB-E would clock to the same values as the SB-E, this doesn't look like a big upgrade either. You will definitely see a noticeable improvement with multi-threaded applications by upgrading to a 6-core CPU, but at what cost? The sweet spot, the 4930K, will still cost like $600. That's about 70% more than a 4770K, while giving less than 50% better results even at best case. On average, the 4930K would be like 20% faster. Maybe even less. Like I said, it is the overclocking potential that is going to make a difference.
 
Another noteworthy thing though. Why the heck would anyone buy a 4820K over a 4770K? It will perform about the same (because there isn't a noticeable difference between dual channel and quad channel memory and most people will settle for a maximum of 2 graphics cards; the enthusiasts will go for 6-core CPUs anyway), but 4770K has newer motherboards with 6x native SATA-III and USB3.0 support and a lot of fancy stuff. We all know that there is not going to be a x89 chipset, so the IB-E platform will be 2 years behind current technology. Sucks! Intel should have released IB-E last year.
 
I was planning to get the IB-E and now I'm skeptical. I will wait for the overclocking results - retail overclocking results to be precise. (We all know how Haswell retail CPUs clocks worse than the engineering samples.
 
Why, why, why doesn't Intel want my money? :(

[Guide] Reset your Windows user profile to default settings

There was a problem with my native Administrator user account in Windows 7 x64 installation. I wanted to reset it but I didn't know how to do it. Usually you simply would migrate to a new account. But this is the native Administrator account, hence you cannot migrate it to another account. 
 
I thought it I deleted the account folder from the disk, it would be automatically recreated (with default settings) upon next log in. So I created a new user account with admin privileges and logged into it. From there, I deleted the C:\Users\Administrator folder.
 
Instead of loading it up with default account details, it created a temporary profile which would be deleted when I logged off. That's not what I signed up for! The following is the error message I received upon logging in.
 

Your user profile was not loaded correctly! You have been logged on with a temporary profile.
Changes you make to this profile will be lost when you log off. Please see the event log for details or contact your administrator.

But never fear. There is always a way. The following Knowledge Base article is written for Windows Vista, but it is applicable to Windows 7 as well. I bet it is applicable to Windows 8 too.
 
 
Go to the Resolution section towards the bottom that page. You’ll find the answer.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

[Article] Unresponsive display after waking up Dell Latitude 10 Essentials tablet

Since the A03 firmware update, a new problem seems to have come up with the tablet. When you wake up the tablet from sleep, the screen becomes completely unresponsive to the touch. The only way to get it back to work is to press and hold the power button to power down the tablet and press it again to power up the tablet. It is the same thing as pressing the reset button on a PC.

Now, I don't think the firmware is the culprit here. It most likely are the drivers that were released alongside the firmware. The issue is, we have to install these new drivers with the new firmware. That is specifically mentioned in the release notes. (This also applies to A04 update which I mentioned here.)
 
At first I thought it was an issue with Windows 8.1 Preview that I have been running for a couple of weeks. But when I refreshed the tablet and went back to the fresh Windows installation, the situation didn't change. It would randomly lose the touch support when it wakes up from sleep.
 
 
I talked with Dell Support personnel via Twitter. They told me to calibrate the display first but it didn't make the situation any better because it wasn't a calibration problem. Then they told me to refresh the tablet and see. When I told them that I had already done that, they told me to do a full recovery from the backup. I told them that I don't feel like going through with it.

Friday, July 12, 2013

[Article] Dell Latitude 10 Essentials new firmware A04

Today in the morning I got feeling that there could be a new firmware for my tablet because they never released a new firmware after Windows 8.1 Preview came out. Sure enough, there was a new firmware and its status was set to critical. I was only hoping for some performance increasing fixes. Doesn't seem that there is any with this update though. The firmware version is A04. The Latitude 10 tablet already had A05 a while back. Sad!  I hope that they are not updating the firmware less often because this is the cheaper version.
 
Anyways, they also had released new chipset drivers and they were required to be installed with this firmware update. 

image

The following are the release notes.
Level of Importance:Urgent
Dell highly recommends applying this update as soon as possible. The update contains changes to improve the reliability and availability of your Dell system.

Important Information
This BIOS must be used with version A04 or later Intel chipset driver posted on Support.Dell.com. Bitlocker must be suspended before flashing this BIOS. It can be changed via the "Bitlocker Drive Encryption" icon in control panel.

Fixes & Enhancements
1. Update Intel the latest code and need to use with version A06 or later Intel chipset driver posted on Support.Dell.com.
2. Fix BIOS flash utility display error when an admin password is set greater than 8 characters in BIOS SETUP.
3. Update the warning message in BIOS flash utility.
4. BIOS flash utility support password option.
5. Enhance Multiple Boot manager entries.
6. To improve system time shift.

I downloaded both the firmware and the drivers and updated the firmware first. Nothing out of ordinary happened. When it rebooted back to the desktop, I installed the drivers. Then it rebooted as well. Again, I didn't notice anything
out of the ordinary.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

[Lifestyle] Ordered a Domino's Pizza via online for the first time

Yesterday when I arrived home after work, I discovered that there was a Domino's Pizza brochure in my mail box. In Japan, you get these brochures and offers almost everyday and I throw them away, most of the times even without reading. But today I read it and there was a discount of \1,000 on select pizzas. I took it home and told my wife, "Let's order a pizza tonight." I had never ordered pizza before. 

The offer was for 6 new pizzas which have a usual price of ¥2,500 for the medium sized one. They have dropped the prices of them to ¥1,500 when used with a correct coupon. The coupons were printed on the brochure. I chose the "Summer Quatro" and decided to give them a call as per the instructions printed on the brochure.


But then I noticed that if I ordered online, there was a 5% discount. It was no brainer which method to choose. I already had made an account with Domino's Japan but I had never used it (Pizzas are expensive!). I logged into their English site but couldn't find any of those 6 new pizzas. Then I went to their Japanese site and there they were. Instead of using the same website with just English translation, they had made a whole new website for English and haven't updated it. Stupid!


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

[Gaming] GTA V game play video is amazing!

Few posts back I mentioned that I'm fixed to only two game series, Crysis and Battlefield. Yesterday Shameez posted a video about upcoming Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V for short) on Facebook and that possibly changed my decision. But there is one caveat. GTA V is, at least initially, only coming to the consoles. However, after watching that video, I felt buying a console just to play this game is justifiable (well, maybe not). But I bet it will eventually come to the desktop. The video only shows it is coming for the Xbox 360 and PS3. With the next generation consoles right around the corner, there is no way that they won't support them. If thy support them, there is no reason why they cannot do it for the PC because the next generation consoles are more like PCs than previous generation consoles.
 
Without too much ado, watch the video and see for yourself. This game is like a combination of every game out there. It's got everything. Shooting, fighting, driving, flying, diving, hunting, shopping, working, eating, talking, making friends, living, loving - everything is in it. Just pure win.
 
Grand Theft Auto 5 - Official Gameplay GTA V Video
 
I will definitely buy this game. I didn't GTA IV, maybe because it is too time consuming and was buggy at launch. I played GTA3, Vice City and San Andreas though. Hoping to play GTA V when it comes out to PC.

Monday, July 8, 2013

[Article] Upgraded my desktop to Windows 8.1 Preview as well

I didn't have much to do on Sunday afternoon so I wanted to check out how Windows 8.1 performed on my desktop PC. There were some notable performance improvements on the tablet and I was wondering if it would extend to the desktop PC as well.
 
I thought it would be a quick update because the server issues won't be a problem anymore and the PC is 100 times faster that the tablet. But it wasn't the case. The download was so slow that it took more than a hour and a half to finish. And the installation wasn't fast either. Not good!
 
Nevertheless, the update succeeded in the first attempt and I didn't have any compatibility issues at install time. There was a newer NVidia driver installed, 325.71, I believe. Windows 8 still has the 320 series. And guess what just had to ruin my dinner? (We watch movies when we have dinner, by the way) Creative X-Fi driver! That darn thing gets hiccups even when the wind speed changes. Need to replace it soon!
 
image
 
So, the problem was tht there was no sound coming out of the speakers. The drivers were installed but no sound. I reinstalled the drivers. Installed the latest PAX drivers though. Reboot, and still no sound. I had the official drivers downloaded to the hard drive a while back and I tried them next. They worked! The next day when I woke up and turned the PC on, the sounds were gone. Infuriating! I had a feeling that the NVidia drivers - the HDMI audio driver - is the culprit. That had happened before and I always unchecked that option when updating the drivers. But the problem is, there aren't any drivers to update to. But when I searched the Internet, I found out that there were some newer drivers out (326.01) for 8.1, and even though they were supposed to show up in Windows Update, they didn't. Guru3D had posted the direct links to download them. I grabbed them but before installing the drivers, I ran driver sweeper to clean out all the NVidia drivers and settings. And that too got stuck in the middle of the cleaning process. I terminated it from Task Manager and straight away updated the drivers without reboot. I was afraid that whatever driver sweeper did would kill Windows. The last thing I needed was to reinstall everything from the scratch. So I installed the 326.01 drivers, only selecting the driver and PhysX option and telling it to do a clean install (i.e. all the settings will be reset to defaults). That seemed to fix the problem. Even without rebooting, the sounds started coming out of the speakers. I did a few reboots and so far the audio driver (this is the official driver) is holding its ground.
 
But now GeForce Experience doesn’t work. It says that there is a newer drivers available for my GPU, which is 320.49. But it is not newer. Without installing it, I cannot use GeForce Experience. Nuts! So I ended up updating to 320.49 drivers and got a BSOD within few minutes of Crysis 3. Stupid me, I disabled the Page File because I didn't think I will ever get a BSOD again as I have finally got my CPU stable. I came back to the desktop and tried to update to 326.01 by running the setup that I downloaded but the installation failed. I tried Driver Sweeper and it stopped working at the middle of the cleaning process. Still I couldn't install 326.01. The only option for me was to reinstall 320.49 via GeForce Experience. At least it worked and haven't got a BSOD since then. It seemed in Crysis 3 I was getting more FPS with 320.49 driver than the 326.01. Well, as long as 320.49 doesn't crap out on me, I'll be happy. By the way, I also managed to overclock the display to where I had before (69Hz) without much trouble.

Then I noticed that my custom mouse button assignments weren't working. Logitech Gaming Software is where I set them in since I have a Logitech G500 mouse. The settings were intact and the Gaming Software was running in the system tray, but it wasn't working. A simple Google search revealed that reinstalling the Logitech Gaming Software fixes it and it did. Phew! For a second I thought that I might have to go back to Windows 8, because custom mouse button assignments not working is a deal breaker for me. By the way, doing a Clean Install of GeForce drivers seems to ruin the Logitech Gaming Software. I had to reinstall them after installing 320.49 drivers as well.
 
I don't give a crap about Metro on desktop so I was only looking for enhancements in desktop environment. But I have to say, they have ruined the My Computer window. The libraries were nowhere to be found and there were some unneeded folders from the user profile. I was doing fine with Libraries. But a simple Google search again showed me how to get back the libraries. I wish I could move it to the top of the sidebar. Seems like you cannot do that.
 
image
 
I almost forgot. After the update, there was the dreaded Windows.old folder in the C drive. You cannot just delete it. You have to use disk cleanup.
 
image
 
But in Windows 8.1 Preview, disk cleanup doesn't show up under search results! Did they remove disk cleanup?? No, you just have to open Administrative Tools and launch Disk Cleanup from there. No idea why Microsoft is making these nonsense changes.
 
image           image
 
I already had the App Switcher & Charms bar disabled and auto booting to desktop enabled using SkipMetroSuite and it worked well. But now I'm using the inbuilt settings for that.  I also replaced the PowerShell with Command Prompt because that's what I'm used to.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

[Review] Dell Latitude 10 Essentials Windows 8 tablet user review–part 5: problems, short falls and the conclusion

This is the part 5 of the Dell Latitude 10 Essentials Windows 8 tablet user review. This one is about problems, short falls and the conclusion.

Note: If you missed the part 1 and 2, click on the following links to read them.

Part 1: Ease of holding the tablet and look & feel

Part 2: Usability

Part 3: The performance, the camera and battery life

Part 4: bundled bloat ware, Windows 8.1 compatibility, recovery and firmware updates

OK, let’s get on with this section then.

Problems

 
Just like every PC, this isn't problem free either. There have been couple of scary issues and there are some minor, but irritatingly frequent issues. I'll first talk about the big issues.
 
1) Powering on issue

One day in the morning when I pressed the power button to wake up the tablet, it told me that the battery is low and that I have to plug the charger. I pressed and held the power button because there wasn't anything else I could do and plugged the charger in. I left it to charge and came back in about 15minutes to find out that the tablet would not still wake up. I had to leave for work so I left the charger plugged in. When I came back home and checked, the tablet still wouldn't start. Surely it must have charged by now. I did everything I could with the start button and the power button and eventually it started. I don't know if a specific combination worked or it was just random. I even contacted Dell about this and they didn't have any solution other than bringing it in.

2) Screen issue

Then the screen went haywire couple of times. It was like when you get a call to your mobile phone and the CRT display gets vibration like artifacts. The entire screen became like that. A simple reboot fixed it both times.

IMG_0019_thumb9

The artifacts in action

Yesterday in the morning, the touch screen didn’t work when I woke up the tablet! There wasn’t anything I could do, so I had to hold down the power button to power down the tablet. After the reboot, it was fine. I don’t know if this was a problem with the tablet or Windows 8.1 Preview I have installed. (More about Windows 8.1 below)

3) Wi-Fi issues

The other problems are minor and it could be a problem with Windows. I would lose the Wi-Fi connection when resuming from standby. This doesn't happen all the time.

The other problem is also regarding network connectivity. I use the tablet to stream videos and content from the desktop PC. It was one of the key points which made me buy a Windows tablet because none of the other platforms offered easy access to contents stored in the network. Anyways, what happens is say I was watching a video streamed over the network and I pause it for a while. When I try to resume it, say about 30minutes later, I cannot. It says it cannot access the resource anymore. I have to go back to File Explorer and open it again. Stupid stock video player doesn't know how to resume from where it stopped last time. Not helping Microsoft! These apps need a lot of improving.

The shortfalls


Other than the extra weight and the short falls of Windows 8 itself, there are a few shortfalls of this tablet.

1) Speakers are horrible

The audio quality of the speakers is downright BAD. The volume is very low, despite having stereo speakers. The audio quality is also not good. My iPhone 4S only has one small speaker (even though it seems like there are two, only one is actually a speaker) and it is way louder than the tablet's dual speakers and the audio quality is like night and day. I played a music video on YouTube in the tablet and my wife told me that sounds as if it is coming out of a cheap Chinese phone. Wow! Dell???

The reason for low volume level doesn't seem cause by the speakers though. Even when I plugged my then-working-ZAGG Smart Buds, I couldn't max out the volume on the iPhone (i.e. too loud ), but it not that loud on the tablet. It could be that they have made the input to the speakers low because they know that the speakers cannot handle the high volume.

2) The charger is butt ugly

A charger that looks like something that's made for a laptop in the last decade, being offered with a tablet? Seriously DELL? But it charges the tablet quickly at least.

The-Hideous-Charger_thumb2

The hideous charger 
 
3) Wi-Fi speed is very low

When I tried to move the photos and video files from the tablet to my PC over Wi-Fi, I only got like 2-3MBps. That’s pretty slow for 802.11n.

4) Lack of 3G or LTE

I know none of the Windows 8 tablets still doesn’t support 3G or LTE, but since I use the tablet plainly as a consumption device, the need for mobile data connectivity has become critical. The lack of such connectivity options is the reason why I don’t take the tablet outside the house. There is no point having a tablet without internet, because I don’t read. I can watch videos on the move though. I probably could get a mobile Wi-Fi router and that would also save the battery life, but I really need something. Too bad SoftBank doesn’t allow tethering on iPhone 4S. They allow it on iPhone 5 and I’m going to get the next gen iPhone. I probably will be able to take the tablet outside. But maybe I won’t have to, if the iPhone 5S or whatever that’s coming next would do the job.

The grand question: Will I recommend this to anyone?

 
No, because that audio quality issue is a deal-breaker. That’s the only issue really.
 
Sure it is slow, but you have no choice. Tablets coming with Intel Core series CPUs are heavy and needs fans. Maybe the ultra low voltage Haswell CPUs will fix that in the future, I’m definitely looking forward to the Surface Pro 2. It might be the tablet to get.
 
I wouldn’t recommend the iPad either. A Windows 8 tablet does everything that I wanted a tablet to do. This audio quality issue was, sadly,  an unforeseen issue.
 
If are you in the market for a tablet, either get the iPad Mini or a Clovertrail based Windows 8 tablet from another manufacturer, such as Asus. If audio issue is not a problem for you, then the Dell is not a bad choice.

[Review] Dell Latitude 10 Essentials Windows 8 tablet user review–part 4: bundled bloat ware, Windows 8.1 compatibility, recovery and firmware updates

This is the part 4 of the Dell Latitude 10 Essentials Windows 8 tablet user review. This one is about bundled bloat ware, Windows 8.1 compatibility, recovery and firmware updates.

Note: If you missed the part 1 and 2, click on the following links to read them.

Part 1: Ease of holding the tablet and look & feel

Part 2: Usability

Part 3: The performance, the camera and battery life

OK, let’s get on with this section then.

Bundled bloat ware

 
Amazingly Dell doesn't bundle too many bloat ware with the tablet. It comes with their backup software (Dell Backup and Recovery) and some data protection software (Dell Data Access Protection, which I had to remove when updating to Windows 8.1 Preview), but I've never used them. Windows comes with its own backup and encryption software. Why would I need anything else? I know that you can remove the Data Access Protection software but I don't know if you remove the backup software it would ruin the recovery functionality. They are harmless and don't really affect the performance, so I would leave them as they are.
 

Windows 8.1 compatibility

 
I installed Windows 8.1 Preview using the  update method and it works fine. But I had a hiccup in the first attempt and succeeded the second time. I'm really looking forwards to the final version of Windows 8.1. It would hopefully make the tablet experience much better.

IMG_0026_thumb12

Running Windows 8.1 Preview as a boss
 
With 8.1 Preview, things work well, but the crashes are imminent. It's not the tablet's fault anyways.
 

Recovery

 
I believe you can use Dell's own Backup and Recovery software, but I would rather use the Refresh functionality provided by Windows 8. It works very well with this tablet. You don't have to provide any install media because it is built right into the system. I had to use it once when I was updating to Windows 8.1 Preview.
 

Firmware updates

 
I have updated the firmware twice after getting the tablet. DELL doesn't provide frequent updates but it seems like one get released once every couple of months. Updating the firmware is straightforward. You just download the EXE from DELL's product support page (here’s a clutter free page) and run it. The tablet automatically reboots and goes into the UEFI environment (you can manually access UEFI if you connect a USB keyboard and press F2 at the time of POST) and updates the firmware from there.
 
IMG_0018_thumb16
UEFI screen
 
After that's done, the tablet automatically restarts and you are done. But don't forget to read the description on the firmware update because sometimes you will have to update the drivers as well.
 
Shame they haven't released any firmware update to fix the crappy audio quality problem. Maybe it is not fixable with a firmware update.

Finally: problems, short falls and the conclusion

[Review] Dell Latitude 10 Essentials Windows 8 tablet user review–part 3: the performance, the camera and battery life

This is the part 3 of the Dell Latitude 10 Essentials Windows 8 tablet user review. This one is about the performance, the camera and battery life.

Note: If you missed the part 1 and 2, click on the following links to read them.

Part 1: Ease of holding the tablet and look & feel

Part 2: Usability

OK, let’s get on with this section then.

Performance

If you want to find out how measurably fast the tablet is, read this review. I will not go into those tests. I will only talk about how I feel, together with Windows 8.

1) CPU

I am a guy that loves fast computers. This tablet definitely isn't fast. That’s mostly due to the Atom Clovertrail 1.8GHz dual core/hyper threaded CPU in there. The specs wise, it doesn’t seem slow, but Clovertrail is an in-order executed CPU, which makes it slow compared to Core series CPUs.  But I knew that before I bought it.

There was no choice, to be honest. ARM doesn't support full version of Windows 8 and Intel Core series CPUs have terrible battery life, need active cooling and all that adds weight. So we all have to put up with the slowness of the Atom chips. Hopefully Baytrail will fix it.

2) Storage

Anyways, the CPU doesn't seem to be the only thing that is slow in this tablet. The storage medium is eMMC which is solid state alright, but doesn't have the raw speed of an SSD. It's pretty slow, just like a USB flash drive.

3) The OS itself

But Windows 8 modern apps are slow to launch anyways. The video app for example takes about 5 seconds to load a video for the first time. The Windows Store is terrible. It is slow and needs a lot of user interactions to get the smallest thing done.

4) Wi-Fi

Downloads are not so fast. Wi-Fi browsing performance is comparable to my iPhone 4S, sometimes even slower. I was expecting more. The current generation devices have better Wi-Fi performance than iPhone 4S.

The Camera

The camera on a tablet doesn’t make much sense and people taking photos with a tablet look like idiots. But nevertheless, some people would like to see how the camera performs. I captured a video and took some photos with it.

Photos:

90242304341241671
Photos from Dell Latitude 10 Essentials tablet
-20923651517A3AF373 9136295057A3AF373      

Video:

Battery life

I haven't measure the battery life accurately but according to the proper reviews, the battery seems to hold for about 8-10hrs. That's good and you should not expect nothing less from a CPU this slow. In other words, you won't have to worry about the battery life.

Next: bundled bloat ware, Windows 8.1 compatibility, recovery and firmware updates

[Review] Dell Latitude 10 Essentials Windows 8 tablet user review–part 2: Usability

This is the part 2 of the Dell Latitude 10 Essentials Windows 8 tablet user review. This one is about usability.

Note: If you missed the part 1, click on the following link to read it.

Part 1: Ease of holding the tablet and look & feel.

OK, let’s get on with this section then.

1) Media streaming from the PC

One of the use cases for this tablet was media streaming from the desktop. While there are hiccups like the video player being too slow to launch videos and sometime you lose the network connection to the video file if you had it paused for a long time, the streaming experience is great. You don't get black bars on HD content like you do in iPad. You don’t need a 3rd party software to manage the streams. And the playback is smooth. Funny how the MacBook Air 2011 model that I have screams when you watch a video. No fans here. All that’s said, the sound quality of the speakers sadly ruins the experience.

2) Desktop experience

This has nothing to do with the tablet. It is all Windows 8'a fault. The desktop apps aren't easy to use. It is not because the controls are not big enough for the touch (at 1366x768, they are large enough), but because they are not optimized for touch. Only the bundled apps have full support for stuff like finger scrolling and zooming.

If you increase the DPI, things get larger and it becomes easier to use. You can also change the default view setting to “Large Icons” instead of “Details”. But the issue with that is, this setting gets synced with your desktop as well! That, I don’t need.

I tried adding a photo on Windows Live Writer for a blog post I was writing and I had to waste like 2 minutes just to grab the holders to crop the photo. Google Chrome is horrible and actually too slow for this tablet. Media Player Classic, which is the video player I use on the desktop also doesn't work well with touch. Office apps are OK, but typing is difficult with the virtual keyboard, especially because of the larger size of the tablet. Virtual keyboard has no issues on a mobile phone though. So, you see, the desktop experience hasn't been that great. The only reason I go into the desktop is to access the files stored on the desktop PC. Otherwise I hardly use the desktop apps. I probably should have went with WinRT then!!!

3) Metro experience

Metro runs pretty well on a tablet. Maybe because of the cheap eMMC storage, the apps take a bit of time to load. But after that it is mostly the CPU, which is also slow.

Windows 8 needs more official apps from the major app makers like Facebook and Google. Twitter now has an official client but it is very feature limited. Sure, most people will argue that those are just web apps, and they are right, but you really need touch optimized apps because the web apps are mostly made for the mouse.

4) Reading books

Now, Microsoft doesn't have their own bookstore so you either have to download PDF files or use a service like Kindle to get books in. Sure, you can easily open the PDF files stored in your desktop PC as well. Even though the screen doesn't have a high pixel density as the iPad, once you are immersed in the book ,or anything that you are reading for that matter, you won't notice the pixels. Sure, if you compare it with a iPad side by side, you will notice the difference. But to tell the truth, the low resolution has not bothered me, not even once, during the last four months. It's the glare that ruins things and I have dealt with it. Maybe if you read for many hours, your eyes will get tired soon.

5) Music/podcast listening experience

This is downright bad, because of the crappy speakers. I prefer to listen to them on my iPhone.

6) Browsing experience

Metro version of IE10 (now IE11 in Windows 8.1 Preview) is great actually. Better than mobile Safari. There are times that it becomes slow. But nothing is perfect. Sure, you cannot have add-ons and it will never get add-ons. Most of the issues are related to Windows 8 and some of them are being fixed in 8.1. I'll be writing a separate article about that.

Next: the performance, the camera and battery life

Friday, July 5, 2013

[Review] Dell Latitude 10 Essentials Windows 8 tablet user review–part 1: Ease of holding the tablet and look & feel

So I've had a lot of time to play with the tablet and it's time for a review. This won't be a professional review, but I will just tell my experience using the tablet.

Because this is a long article, I will be splitting it to 5 parts. This is part 1, ease of holding the tablet and look and feel.

1) Weight

The biggest concern I had before buying this tablet was the weight. It weighs as much as a full sized iPad and that is heavy. But I guess I've gotten used to the weight of it overtime and I don't really care anymore. I don't read a lot so maybe it will be too heavy for a readaholic. But it is no iPad Mini. However, maybe due to the landscape orientation of the tablet, holding it is easier than the full sized iPad. I can even hold it fine with one hand.

2) Gripping and holding

However, since the back cover of the tablet is not made of metal, it doesn't get hot at all. I've never felt it running hot. It’s not slippery at all and maybe it helps hold the tablet easily as well.

3) Build quality

The build quality isn't the best, and you can here the odd creaks here and there I you look for them, but that's not a big deal. I've dropped the tablet twice on cement floor, about a two feet drop each time, and nothing's happened. But quality wise, the iPad is much better I guess.

I have a soft case for the tablet and it feels too big and heavy with it on. I rarely use it. I only use it when I need to watch something while doing something else since the case can be arranged as a stand. The tablet doesn't get scratched anyways. You only need the case if you are taking it outside and traveling by bus or train.

 

IMG_0027

Snapped into the soft case

I’m not sure if Dell completely redid the back case of the tablet from the standard model. There is a weird slot, with a plastic cover plugged in and I don’t know what it is to this date. You cannot pull out the plastic cover. Well, you probably can, if you did it forcibly but I don’t want to break the tablet by doing so.

IMG_0042

This is not a SD card slot. There is one, but this is not it. They have just covered this up with a piece of plastic. No idea what should have been there though.

There is also a Kensington lock below to volume buttons just like you get in the laptops.

IMG_0041

4) The screen

The screen is an IPS screen with a modest resolution of 1366x768. Nothing special about it. But the smaller PPI is better for the desktop actually. Otherwise the UI elements would be too small to be selectable by the finger. Metro is resolution independent though. More pixels the merrier when it comes to that. This is one place you have to compromise.

I also use an anti-glare screen filter which I bought from eBay. I did a really crappy job of installing it though. Managed to let some air bubbles sneak in. There is no way you can take it off and reapply it. I will have to buy a new one instead. It's a bit expensive so I don't feel like ordering another one. Since I really hate glare, I am putting up with the odd air bubble. The screen is otherwise OK. It lacks the vertical viewing angle (becomes dark) despite being IPS though. What's up with that? Have never used IPS displays before. Maybe that's the way it is.

Next: Usability

Thursday, July 4, 2013

[Guide] Getting into Android Development–speeding up the emulator on Intel platform using Intel HAXM

Introduction

We guys in Japan are finally going to do some development for Android platform. First thing’s first. We need to setup the development environment.

I referred to the official development tutorial provided by Google. This means, I will be using Eclipse as the IDE. I downloaded and installed the Android SDK integrated version from Google. Here’s where you can download it from. LINK.

Since I don’t know anything about developing from Android platform, I started from the Building Your First App section. I did the coding for the Hello World app. Then it was time to run it. For that, I first had to create a Virtual Device because I don’t have an Android device with me.

The Crappy Emulator

There are a lot of restrictions. I first selected the Nexus4 device which comes with 2GB RAM, but the emulator doesn’t work if you specify more than 768MB RAM.

image

So I set it to 768MB RAM, and started the emulator. It took a whole 60 seconds to just load the OS. Fine. But the UI was even worse. It was so slow respond.

image

Would “Use Host GPU” option fix it?

I read somewhere that if you check “Use Host GPU” option, the UI becomes snappier. So I went into the Android Virtual Device I created before and did that. But that didn’t do any good.

Enabling Intel x86 Emulator Accelerator

So I searched the internet and found out that if you use Intel x86 Emulator Accelerator, you can make it snappier. This is how you enable it.

Launching Android SDK Manager

First you have to open Android SDK Manager. There is an icon for it at the root of the Android SDK you downloaded. But for some reason it would not launch for me. But there is a fix.

  • Close the Eclipse IDE if you have it open.
  • Open \sdk\tools\android.bat in a text editor. (Notepad for example)
  • Search for “set java_exe=”
  • There, enter the path where java.exe is installed. If you installed JRE to the default location, it would be at C:\Program Files\Java\jre7\bin\java.exe. Put the path within quotation marks.
  • Now it should look like this.

set java_exe=”C:\Program Files\Java\jre7\bin\java.exe”

  • Now save the android.bat file, and double click it to open Android SDK Manager.

 

Installing Intel x86 packages

In Android SDK Manager, select the following two options and click on Install Packages. It should be straightforward after that.

image

Now launch Android Development Environment (or Eclipse) and check the properties of your Android Virtual Device (or add a new one).

image

You will see that you can now select Intel Atom as the CPU.

image

However, if you try to launch the emulator after selecting Intel Atom as the CPU, it will still work as crappy as before. You will notice that there is an error shown in the console.

emulator: Failed to open the HAX device!
HAX is not working and emulator runs in emulation mode
emulator: Open HAX device failed

Installing Intel Hardware Accelerated Execution Manager

Looks like there is still work to do. Now we have to install Intel Hardware Accelerated Execution Manager. (HAXM).

Go to \sdk\extras\intel\Hardware_Accelerated_Execution_Manager and run IntelHaxm.exe to install Install HAXM.

image

However, for this to succeed, you have to have a CPU that supports Intel VT-x. You can check if your CPU supports VT-x using Intel Processor Identification Utility. Remember even if your CPU supports it, it might be disabled in BIOS/UEFI. So check there as well, and enable it.

Enjoy the speed

Now you are ready for action.

Open the Android Development Environment and in there go and add a new Virtual Device. For some reason, updating the existing Virtual Device didn’t work for me. From there, select Intel Atom as the CPU and rest of the settings as you please. I checked “Use GPU Host” option as well.

After that I launched the emulator. Woah! The difference was night and day. The emulator fully starts within 10 seconds. The UI is fluid, just as running inside the real hardware.

Now it is time to develop. :)

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