Monthly Archives: June 2013

A big ball of Bluetooth at Microsoft Build

At Microsoft’s Build developer conference in San Francisco the company is showing off new features of Windows 8.1, now in preview, a major update to Windows 8.0.

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In a session on the Windows Runtime, the platform behind the tablet platform in Windows 8, there was a dramatic moment when a huge black ball rumbled onto the stage and threatened to destroy the “Lemonade stand” which the presenters were using to showcase how a very small business might use Windows 8.

The significance of the ball (a custom Sphero) is that Windows 8.1 has Bluetooth APIs built in, so that app developers can easily control a Bluetooth device from code.

Robotics is an obvious application, but with increasing numbers of Bluetooth devices out there, this is a smart move by Microsoft.

Online booking with National Express: prices change arbitrarily

I don’t get this. You go online to book (or check prices) at National Express.

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Hmm, that 13.00 looks a good deal at £9.00. But maybe I’ll go earlier. Click Show Earlier Coaches.

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Oops! Not only are all the prices more for the earlier journeys, but the 13.00 is now £10.70. What if I now go back with Show later coaches?

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Bad new – the 13.00 is still £10.70. Good news – the 16.00 which was £14.00 is now only £12.70.

What if I clear cookies, or revisit the site in a different browser?

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Yes, it’s back to the old prices.

My experience is that price reductions are rare. They almost always go up. And that simply closing the browser and starting a new session is not enough to make them go back down. In the worst case, a £19.00 ticket went up to £30.

The behaviour is too consistent to be caused by other factors, like other customers booking or cancelling trips.

A bug? Or does National Express like to play games with its customers?

Acer announces 8.1” Windows tablet – but will desktop Windows work in this format?

Acer has announced an 8.1″ Windows tablet, the Iconia W3:

  • Intel Atom 1.8Ghz dual-core Z2760 CPU
  • 8 hr battery life
  • 1280 x 800 screen
  • 2GB RAM
  • Front and rear 2 MP cameras
  • Micro HDMI
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • GPS
  • 32 or 64GB storage
  • Micro SD
  • Bundles Office 2013 Home and Student
  • Optional keyboard $79.99
  • $379.99, available this month

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Anything wrong with this picture? Certainly it could be handy for using Windows on the go, being more compact than a Surface (though how much more, if you include the keyboard?) and much cheaper than Surface Pro.

There are some snags though. This device runs full Windows 8 rather than Windows RT, the ARM version, so you can run all your desktop apps; but many will be no fun to use on an 8.0″ screen, or without keyboard and mouse. The Modern – that is, Metro-style – apps should be fine, but the Windows 8 app ecosystem is still weak so you may struggle to get by on those. There is Office – and it is smart of Acer to bundle Home and Student – but will you be squinting to use it on such a small screen?

My hunch is that Windows will not sing on small tablets until there is a version of Office for the Modern UI.