A bit of a blog cataloging stuff I do... Sort of like a lazy mans scrap book of random stuff. Something I can look back on later in life and say "huh... so thats what I spent my time on..."

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On April 14th MS launched the Windows Phone 8.1 update via their Developer Preview program.    Anyone can join and update their Windows Phone 8 devices to 8.1 just by enrolling in the free App Studio program.   WPCentral has a great forum post about the program and how to sign up:

http://forums.wpcentral.com/preview-developers/271799-developer-preview-program-please-read-first-post-before-asking-questions.html

The update:

Once you enroll in the Dev Preview program, you need to download a fancy little “Preview for Developers” app in the MS app store.   Once it is installed you associate it to your MS Live account and it installs a special cert to allow the installing of beta patches and updates.

As soon as I did that process I was prompted for the updated GDR 3 + update which is a prep for the Windows 8.1 install.    Once that is done, then you will get another prompt for another update, this one is the 8.1 update!

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This update took around 30 minutes to complete on my Nokia Lumia 920.

It will run through the normal processes of rebooting, and migrating your data.  From what I can tell you lose nothing in this update as far as your data or settings.

Many apps will need to be reinstalled, and the phone does that automatically.   I had to login with my MS Live ID a few times for the apps to reinstall but overall it worked fine.

Post update:

The main items I wanted to see and test our are :

  • Cortana
  • Notification and Action Center
  • App Sound management
  • Live Tile updates and changes to the home screen
  • The new “Sense” apps  (Data Sense, Battery Saver, and Storage Sense)

Cortana:

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You need to enable Cortana in the system settings, once you do  your search button does some fun things , like fires up Cortana.

A tap of the button lets you tell her to listen, or you can type in a query via text if you are in a place you don’t want make too much noise.  Or hold down the search button until she comes up in “listen” mode and you can just have a nice chat with her.

There is a bit of an education phase you go through with Cortana when you first fire her up, she will ask about your interests, news preferences, dining preferences, etc…   And using the geo fencing capabilities she will let you know about restaurants, events, concerts, etc… going on in your area you happen to be around.  

You can launch the Cotana app on its own and see updates and info specific to you.

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There has been a ton of news about her capabilities, and the API is going to only get better as time goes on.  Once you give Cortana the OK to monitor your email, she will automatically notice reservations, invites, reminders, flights, hotels, etc… and remind you about them.  She will track flight and gate info automatically.   She will give you weather for your destination, etc…

Being able to add reminders to phone contacts, or setup reminders based on geo locations is handy as well.  Like when driving past a liquor store, she can remind you that you wanted to pick up some beer.

You can read much more about Cortana around the web, but so far I am impressed.  There is still a lot of work to do to make her transparent in use, and handle the general short hand we use in the American language (like saying to schedule something on “the 23rd”, and have her understand you mean this month, on the 23rd.)   But the app is still in beta and is evolving on a daily basis according to MS.

Cortana will also allow 3rd party plugins to leverage external data sources and commands.   Like you can tell it to add movies to your Netflix queue,  post something on Facebook, reply to a tweet all using those app specific API integrations.   Something iOS and Google cant do currently.

Notification Center:

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A quick swipe down from the top of the screen will show you not only the quick action items at the top of the screen (airplane mode, Wifi, BT toggles, and in my case, Internet Sharing).   But also the catalog of notifications that have popped up.

This is Microsoft’s first try at the notification/action center and it works quite well.   I haven’t used the ‘Droid or iOS notification centers recently, but it gets the job done.   I could use some more quick action items though.

You can manage the quick action apps via this management page:

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You can change all of the quick actions to do different things based on an app list you get when you click on them.

Live Tile Updates:

MS enabled the ability to use background images for the live tiles, and now use higher density live tiles  (meant for larger phones).

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I enabled a background image and the high density tiles on my Lumia 920, which is a 5” screen and like it.   it let me make some tiles bigger that I use a lot, and shrink small ones I don’t.

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Overall it’s let me change how I use the home screen a bit, and I can do more now than I could before without scrolling.

You need to make sure you use a background image that is darker or lower contrast in order to not wash out the text in the live tiles.

Sounds for Apps and Ringer:

Windows Phone 8.1 finally includes app sound management, and ringer/notification/app sound volume changes independent of each other.  Before all notifications were the same sound, and they were tied to the ringer volume.

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Now when you hit the volume rocker on the phone you get a volume adjustment on the screen based on what you are doing.  If no media is playing the volume adjustment is for the ringer.  If you are listening to music, its for the music.   You tap the small arrow to show you the full audio management panel.

To edit app sounds, you go to the management screen shown above for the quick action changes.   You can then click on any app and change its notification behavior

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You can block an app from doing any notification, change its sound, and edit if it allows for the vibration notification.

Sense Apps:

MS launched Data Sense on their phones back about 6 - 9 months ago.  But some carriers have blocked it (like AT&T).    With the Dev Preview I now have Data Sense, and Battery Sense (renamed Battery Saver), and Storage Sense (which is Nokia’s storage app rebranded for all Windows devices)

The Battery Saver is the cooler of all the apps IMO.   This lets you see not only how much battery you are using, which apps are using it, and when they are using it (foreground/background).

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The main screen is pretty generic, but you can see what apps you allowed to run, and which you restricted to only being able to run in the foreground.

Clicking on an app shows you app specific settings and usage info.

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In this case, it shows that Cortana uses most of its battery use when I am accessing it and almost none in the background.

Data sense is similar:

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It breaks down Cell/Wifi use in a general view.   It also lets you set limits on the main screen.  When you go to the Usage screen though, you can see what data was used by what apps and what technology they were using. image

 Storage Sense looks similar, but just shows disk usage in similar graphs.

 Conclusions:

This is a much needed update to the Windows Phone platform.  There is much more to this update than I am covering here, but these are the important bits the struck me as big changes.    I have liked the Windows Phone 8 platform since I jumped to it from an iPhone last year.   But this completes the move for me.   The fact I received this feature full update for a 1.5 year old device and it runs great is pretty impressive.

Cortana is game changing for MS, in that it brings the platform to the current “digital assistant” standards that are out there, and in some ways leap frogs iOS or Google’s voice assistant platforms.

There are still some things I want, like battery % on the top bar, and some higher quality versions of some apps.  Like the Facebook app which does seem to still have some bugs that annoy me.   For some more info on this platform update, check out these links:

http://www.engadget.com/2014/04/14/windows-phone-8-1/

http://www.cnet.com/news/what-you-need-to-know-about-windows-phone-8-1/

http://www.wpcentral.com/eight-tips-make-most-out-windows-phone-81

UPDATE:

Since posting this a few issues have cropped up, almost all of them around the Music API and apps on the phone.   The music app is an older version of the Xbox Music app now, gone is the Music+Video hub.   This means you not only have lost access to the FM radio on your 920 and other phones for now, but the Xbox Music app seems to completely choke on my phone.  

It wont catalog music on the phone anymore (it tries and will spend hours trying), and in general throws errors and doesn’t work.   I had to install the Nokia MixRadio app to get access to the music on my phone, and even that is struggling.  Which tells me the API is broken at some level.

When trying to play music today I could only get audio in one speaker, a reboot fixed that.   I also got a lot of distortion of bass that I didn’t have before when the phone was playing at 20/30 for volume.

Many solutions are posted as “hard reset”, I am not ready to do that just yet, but may have to soon.  

Keep in mind this is a PREVIEW OS…. so Beta for all intents and purposes.   MS is releasing updated system apps daily right now for 8.1 so they are working on fixes, and stuff will get better, but for now… this is an early adopter platform.

One of our club members offered to take some pictures of my car during some of my races at the big Mile High Indoor Champs this last weekend.   I qualified in the races at or better than I expected, but in the actual races I failed a bit.  Still made for some great pictures :)

On race day, running around taking pictures during the event and trying to drive the car and prep the car was impossible and my racing results showed it.

The group picture is all the racers who were still around at the end that ran the Awesomatix cars. 

Lots of work tonight at 5208 in prep for the big Mile High Indoor Champs this weekend!

Finished building and getting the electronics into my second Awesomatix A700 (the one on the left).  This car is incredibly complex, and labor intensive to build and maintain.   But now on my second build up it seems to be going a bit easier and faster to get it setup.
Still a massive amount of work to do before the big race being held in Denver in a few days.

Finished building and getting the electronics into my second Awesomatix A700 (the one on the left).  This car is incredibly complex, and labor intensive to build and maintain.   But now on my second build up it seems to be going a bit easier and faster to get it setup.

Still a massive amount of work to do before the big race being held in Denver in a few days.

From our apt building - a view of opening day festivities in down town Denver for the Colorado Rockies

From our apt building - a view of opening day festivities in down town Denver for the Colorado Rockies

Now I generally don’t post recipes, or food instructions because Kate is the wizard in the kitchen and I am just a guy who walks by and eats all the bacon.

Today I made a smoothie that is one of the better ones I’ve made.   And its photogenic!

I know many people have protein powders and “supplements” in their smoothies after workouts, for me just a nice balance of stuff seems to make me feel good.   Down the road I may try some additional protein, but I already eat a pretty protein rich diet so its not like I am missing out on that. :)    I have been experimenting a bit with different concoctions.  I don’t like real sweet smoothies, and I cant eat bananas.    So accordingly this smoothie has no bananas and a bit of acid (lime juice) to balance out the sweet.

The ingredients:

  • 2 Leafs of green Kale (organic)
  • Organic frozen blueberries - enough to cover the blade at the bottom.
  • 4 or 5 chunks of frozen pineapple
  • 1 whole peeled carrot
  • 3 spoonsful of full fat vanilla yogurt
  • ~ a tablespoon of flax seed
  • 7 or 8 frozen raspberries
  • A splash of lime juice

Now… I HATE carrots… I mean truly hate them.  And they rock in a smoothie, you cant taste them!  The Raspberries impart a nice tartness to the blend and counter the sweetness from the pineapple and blueberries. 

And there is lots of good stuff in this…  I normally add ginger as well, but yesterday I realized I was ingesting 3x the recommended daily allowance (4gm… I was putting in ~ 12gm of fresh root in each smoothie) of ginger and need to back off a bit :)  Ginger gives the smoothie a great warmth and spice.  I may start throwing in a little bit of peppers, or maybe a splash of home made Habanero Taquila I have kicking around ;)

My office for this week.  I am so impressed with the battery life on this Surface 2 Pro.   Yesterday I used it from 10am and well into the night, including the entire flight streaming the TV on southwest, doing email and web browsing, and then doing presentations in the airport after I landed.    And by 5pm I still had 3hrs of battery life left! 
Today I have been using this since about 9am and still have 60+% battery left doing emails, Lync conference calls, and a good amount of work in various documents.   These things sip power!
The Type 2 keyboard is pretty great as well.
Best part - when you fly on an airline that lets you use your electronic devices on take off and landing, people with laptops including MacBook airs (which is arguably smaller than a surface+keyboard) have to put them away, while I could keep using my full Windows 8.1 Pro OS with full office.  
The fact this is my main desktop PC as well (when it is docked at home) means I have everything I normally use with me as well, no multiple machines to maintain.)
MS got this thing right!

My office for this week.  I am so impressed with the battery life on this Surface 2 Pro.   Yesterday I used it from 10am and well into the night, including the entire flight streaming the TV on southwest, doing email and web browsing, and then doing presentations in the airport after I landed.    And by 5pm I still had 3hrs of battery life left! 

Today I have been using this since about 9am and still have 60+% battery left doing emails, Lync conference calls, and a good amount of work in various documents.   These things sip power!

The Type 2 keyboard is pretty great as well.

Best part - when you fly on an airline that lets you use your electronic devices on take off and landing, people with laptops including MacBook airs (which is arguably smaller than a surface+keyboard) have to put them away, while I could keep using my full Windows 8.1 Pro OS with full office.  

The fact this is my main desktop PC as well (when it is docked at home) means I have everything I normally use with me as well, no multiple machines to maintain.)

MS got this thing right!

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Last year I scrapped a ride I was planning to do up to Yellow Stone, and down to the Salt Flats.     I scrapped it to play with toy cars more (I mean play with serious radio controlled racing vehicles… yeah that’s it), and to prep for a race in Vegas last year.

This year I was pondering doing that trip before Memorial day, but with schedules shaping up the way they are this spring, it seems that’s off the table as well.     So… What to do?

Well another trip has been planned to head out to Fruita, CO to do some Mountain Biking with friends.   Now I haven’t mountain biked on a trail or anything complex since I was 15.    But I am game to give it a try if I am ready by then (fitness wise).      So I got to thinking, why not combine that trip with friends with a bit of a motorcycle camping adventure?

Back to Utah:

There is a number of areas in Utah and western CO I never was able to see on previous trips.  And last trip I never camped due to weather concerns, and skipped an entire area of Utah.    So I am pondering and looking at a trip back out to Canyonlands in Utah, check out Moab, Arches, and camp down by the Islands in the Sky.

Possibly camping 2 nights, somewhere else in that area.

Paradox Valley:

Another area I would love to revisit, and check out more, is the heart of mining country in Colorado.   Paradox Valley/Nucla CO.   Looking at this image, every blue dot is a former mine.

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This area was responsible for mining Uranium, Copper, Vanadium, and some other valuable items.    It is also home to the US Uranium Reserve, and where the Uranium used for Little Boy bomb that dropped on Hiroshima was mined from.  

But that’s not the main reason I want to head down there,   The views are supposed to be pretty amazing.  The reason its called Paradox Valley is that the Delores river runs paradoxically perpendicular to the valley instead of down it.

Looking to settle in a small Inn in Naturita or Nucla when I go through there.

Then back up to Fruita to meet up with everyone else for mountain biking.  Taking the Canyon ride up to Gateway, and then back to Fruita.   Last time I went through Gateway this is the view I saw:image

Lots of Colorado is beautiful, but the western slope is just unrivaled for its awesome views.

Prep:

Already making a list of stuff to get ready, and motorcycle maintenance I need to catch up on.   Shouldn’t be too much work given I own just about everything I need.  But I fear a new chain, and some other updates to the bike are in order.

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So… I found something interesting the other day.  After we moved into the new place I slacked off on setting up the surround sound speakers.  I had the front 3 and the sub setup.     Everything was fine, In our smaller living room area, it didn’t seem to matter, and I couldn’t even figure out how I would setup speakers properly if I wanted.

Then I went to watch Gravity…   A movie that had as much depth in audio as it did in 3D video.     The movie rotates audio 360 as the camera pans in many scenes, meaning vocals may be only coming out of the back speakers quite often.     This resulted in me only hearing half the conversation quite a bit in the first few minutes.

Generally before this, the only things going through surround speakers are some sound effects, explosions, or ambient noises.  Rarely does a movie place key dialog, or rotate the entire audio “scene” around you as you watch.

Kudo’s to Gravity for being one of the first movies to truly use surround sound,  but this does set a bad precedence for people (like me) who slack and don’t have the entire system setup.  If you just have a sound bar, or stereo speakers, you should still get all the audio because it will compress 7.1 channels to 2.0 or 3.0. But you will lose the entire immersive effect they did in this movie.   It’s actually a pretty significant effect that changes the entire feel of the movie.

In the end I setup the rear speakers on the floor facing up behind our sofa, so they bounce the audio off the ceiling behind us to give some distance, and  works well.   Now I can hear all the bits of the movie and the added depth is pretty amazing for this movie.   I never thought losing 2 speakers would alter a movie in such a way.

This the way of things to come?  or a one off over ambitious audio design?  Who knows, but I like it :)

 

Pics for a car I am selling.

Time for a tablet upgrade :)
New Surface Pro 2 256GB in hand.  For something that looks, feels, and is pretty much the same on the outside as my Surface Pro… it’s still giving that new toy grin :)

Time for a tablet upgrade :)

New Surface Pro 2 256GB in hand.  For something that looks, feels, and is pretty much the same on the outside as my Surface Pro… it’s still giving that new toy grin :)

Driving trough Rabbit Ears pass last wed on the way to Steamboat in whiteout/blizzard conditions.

Pics from the beautiful drive on Hwy 14 today from Steamboat. 

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Late 2013 and now into 2014 is a time of drive for me.   I am still doing the RC thing, but overall there are many bigger fish to fry coming up.    Training/Exercising almost daily, dropping weight, getting stronger, eating better (primarily thanks to Kate!), and looking to push myself to do things I’ve never done before.   RC will largely go on the back burner after April to focus over the summer on much more active pursuits.

I have been dabbling with Skiing, and have been on the hill more this year than I have all other times combined.   I still suck, but I am having some fun at it.    I am looking to do as much as I can outdoors, and out of my comfort zone as I can this year.    So much to take in and do in CO that I haven’t seen yet.   

This fall I am doing the Warrior Dash in August.  In spring I am now planning to do a mountain biking trip in May to give a try at some basic trail riding as well.  I haven’t been on a bike on trails since I was ~ 15.   Another goal by the end of summer is to hike a 14’r.   I am hoping that training for the Warrior Dash will get me where I need to be for that as well.

In addition to all this, my goal is to get on the motorcycle more and finally do the trip to Yellowstone/Wyoming/Bonneville Salt Flats I scrapped last year for RC.    I truly miss those trips, and need to get this going sometime before Memorial Day.   Kate and I are talking about a lot of travel this summer as well including a trip over to Italy to see family later this year.

2014 looks like a year of massive potential.  Regardless of what I achieve, what setbacks I encounter, and what hurdles I need to overcome, I am going to make the most of it!

[I get how narcissistic this post may come off to some people, but as with everything on this blog, this is my scrapbook.  This is just part of that commentary.]

Picked up the new Glitch Mob album, pretty nice!   Always up for some new music that isn’t strictly dub step or EDM.   Well done album and worth the purchase.  

This album works great for workouts as well :)