Upgrade of QNAP firmware

I just upgraded to the latest QNAP firmware. Everything seems to be working, but despite the promised patch of Safari-related problems some glitches still remain.

First of all the bug in Plex media server remains, in that it won’t start after first boot after firmware upgrade, but needs a second reboot of the NAS. I’m not sure if this is fixed in the more recent Plex upgrades, since my last attempt to upgrade Plex just caused more problems than it solved and I then chose to downgrade. So, as long as nothing more than a scone reboot is needed I will live with it.

Second, while I’m not sure what Safari problems have been resolved, mine still remains, that I can’t log in at all if using Safari on an iPad. Login menu appears, enter user and password, and nothing happens other than the spinning “wait…” screen. But the apps works so it’s also manageable.

Missing: location

While it’s really such a minor trivial thing, it’s still quite annoying that my “home” location won’t appear in the Facebook app on my iPad, only in Firefox on my PC.

It does result in quite many incorrectly location-tagged posts, to be adjusted later sometime. It’s just such a waste of time.

(Another annoying triviality is that the iPad still hasn’t picked up the change of site icon which the rest of the devices has. Should I really need to reinstall the app just for this detail? It works, but still…)

(And, updated, I reinstalled the Facebook app as well. It didn’t help.)

iPhone restored

Well then. I just completed restoring my iPhone from an old backup which I luckily had done just the day before the Snapseed app got updated to its new version, which in my opinion was a significant step backwards in user friendliness and functionality.

First update in years and the app is so drastically changed it should really have been a completely different app, so those wanting it could buy it.

But all’s well that ends well, and at least I have finally gotten around to disabling the auto-update functionality on my iPhone and iPad, I had thought about doing it for a long while but hadn’t really done it since on the whole everything worked well enough and it was easier to auto-download than to install manually. But no more so.

Minnow

I’ve changed to the Minnow theme on this site as well after having used it for some time on other sites. I find it quite elegant and there’s really only one thing I miss: being able to have a picture header behind the title of the site name. That, and the strange bug when reading on an iPad, where everything is just white until you touch the screen after the page has loaded.

Windows 8.1 is finally released

And here I thought I was past getting excited about a new software patch, especially after the gigantic disappointment I had with IOS7, but I’m actually looking forward to the full release of Windows 8.1.

On the Surface RT it matters little as it’s had the preview since day one, but the new Pro with its vanilla-8 felt rather crippled in comparison when I unpacked it yesterday.

Now downloading some 4GB of patches…

Things I shouldn’t have tested in the last minute

I was planning to reduce the weight and leave the laptop at home, and only bring the Surface tablet to Tech-Ed. And I got the bright idea (or so it seemed at the time) that I would need work email on it as well as my private mail.

And it had completely slipped my mind that I had tried this once before, and it didn’t work then either. So I enabled email, it required setting of some policies, oh well, let’s accept those (I thought I should know the impact), and sync away.

The first problem to come up was that the mailbox is quite large and the sync is horrendously slow, not at all like on iPhone or iPad, but painfully slow. And once sync’ed it is even more painfully slow to actually try to switch mailboxes, quite unusably slow. But I thought I could live with that for a week. Until I noticed that the enforced policies had also removed by numeric pincode login and replaced it with the original 25 character randomized Windows Live account password. Which won’t really do at all in real life.

So, mailsync quickly removed, and now for the exciting task of (once more) trying a systems restore without loosing too much things. This time around I will make sure to write it down, in the hope that the next time I get the bright idea to try to use email on the Surface I will read here first and refrain from it…

Surface reflections

I’ve had my new Surface RT for nearly two weeks now and despite my best wishes to make it work I am about to give it up, as currently the feeling I get when trying to use it takes me back some 20 years to the early start of using Windows NT 3.1. Sure we ran the most secure PC of that time at the time of its release, but as we couldn’t run much more than Notepad there was little point to it, and the same goes here as OneNote, one of the few working apps, is really nice, but from functionality perspective I would compare it with a notebook app.

I won’t go as far as some friends (also testing Surface) suggested, as to donate it as a discus in the next Olympics, as for the time being it seems to serve well enough for children’s games, and I could sneak it in as a new toy for my daughters and re-conquer my two Windows 7 desktops…

There are several shortcomings as I see it but the overall greatest lack so far with the Surface is its lack of simplicity, user friendliness and total lack of apps.

It’s not going to compete with the iPad as long as it has no apps, and it will remain less than a normal PC since it can’t run standard x86/x64 applications either.

That sort of leaves it running OneNote, which is great but can quickly be replaced with other apps like Evernote (which incidentally takes less hassle to configure), running a few games, read some email and browse the web. All of these can be done on PC, iPhones and iPads as well, so there’s not really anything new.

The downside is the fight to get even the basic browsing to run.

– I have some 2600 favorites or bookmarks, of course not all are relevant, but I like to keep them for if (when) needed and have quite a big structure of groups to sort them into categories and use XMarks to sync them between PCs and between IE, Firefox and Chrome. (Sadly not Safari, but as most relevant sites comes as apps on iPad it’s no big problem anyway.) But Surface has neither favorites sync nor apps.

– I have about 170 websites using credentials, a few use tokens but most use user/password only. For a long time I used the same credentials everywhere but it became too high risk as it was a major task to change passwords everywhere if some site got compromised. So I use a password manager, in my case Password Safe, which works nicely on PC, iPad, iPhone and all other platforms I know except Surface. The lack of platform support makes it impossible to browse 95% of the sites as I don’t intend to manually type in 25 character long randomized passwords. And though I’ve found a competitor able to import Password Manager entries I’m not really keen in starting all over on all my devices simply for the sake of lacking password handling on the Surface.

So essentially it won’t do browsing either, beyond the most basic things like reading news and letting the kids browse the children’s channel on TV.

And it’s incredibly slow. Especially when browsing via Google Search, but IE is not directly lightning fast either. I assume I’m not supposed to browse the web via Google Search, but IE is so crippled it’s really of no use, it runs fullscreen and lacks all menues and favorites, and basically I prefer Google Search over Bing to get valid search results.

Then there’s also the general unfriendliness in getting stuff to work, like the Store, which for me at most shows 50 applications, total. And either there’s a serious lack of apps in the store, or it’s broken.

I suspect the latter, since searching for apps will turn up links pointing to the store which allows the apps to be installed while searching for the app inside the Store itself simply returns “no match” at in principle all searches.

At first I thought I had missed something and resorted to searching via IE and “Bing”, but again no matches whatsoever. But finally I found out that only searches via Google Search will return working apps from the MS Store. Microsofts own search engine does not. (Bing incidentally seems broken in other aspects too, as the Bingweather happily reports it to be raining while iPad weather and in fact a look out the window will tell you the sun is shining and not a cloud in the sky).

So, after two weeks of frustrated searches, I’ve come up with Dropbox, Citrix, a feeble early-bird of XMarks clone and a competitor password manager (MetroPass for KeePass).
It’s quite a way yet to compete with the AppStore which basically attacks you with (more or less but frankly rather good) recommendations of new apps, and where searches mostly return what you’re looking for, and usually with some additional related suggestions as well. (MS Store on the other hand most often shows only apps like the “1000 Sexy Girls in HD” whenever browsing categories, and no apparent way of permanently blocking them either…)

So, right now it seems the Surface either goes onto the shelf a few months until the app portfolio is larger, my concern is whether the apps will be enough in time for them to make any difference before the hardware on the Surface is outdated? Which is why I’m simply considering swapping it to the kids to play with for a while.

That just needs another round in locking it down, especially the Store, as they’re 6 and 3 and I don’t want them purchasing random stuff on their own just yet, for a few years…

Sad really, but I’m no longer finding the constant challenge of getting basic OS to work as fun as it used to be, nowadays I prefer actually having some time to even use the devices rather than just installing them. For now it’s back to laptop and iPad. I’ll check again closer to Tech-Ed if at that time it might be worth bringing along for the testing of it.