Skype on Surface RT – So Buggy It Gets a Blog Post

There are bugs. Lots of them. Most notably whilst using the Skype app. People I’m speaking with sometimes turn green, but I don’t tell them to avoid confusion and hang-ups and continue talking to the green person.

Sometimes my video will freeze and plays a 1 second loop of my head bobbing or nodding or whatever movement I was making at the time of the screen freeze. The repetitive head/face motions from the looping makes me look deranged/possessed to the other person.

Other times, Skype seems to think I need to be reminded of old instant messages whenever it feels I need reminding. A barrage of notifications that take up the entire top right of the screen accompanied by an annoying sound is thrown at you in all its buggy glory. Cue old adage: “that’s not a bug, it’s a feature!”

The user interface is pretty horrid, too. Again with the tiny buttons only a Swiss watchmaker could love. For example, it’s not very easy to switch between front and back camera. Nor is it easy to mute the microphone. To do so, whilst holding the tablet landscape style (the only way to hold it), one must either let go with one hand, hold the tablet with the other and press the button on the bottom center of the screen with an index finger. Or, you can reach with your thumb for the bottom center of the screen which is awkward because the Surface is long and thumbs are generally short. Skype is not making use of RT’s screen edge navigation* that eliminates the need to move hands and arms around whilst using this thing. It seems as if the designers have yet to discover “design.” Harsh, but to make it more comfortable/easier, they could move the options bar (which contains camera switch; mic mute; options etc) from the bottom center of the screen to a menu that is summoned when you swipe up from the bottom edge of the screen. Then, with logically placed buttons around where the thumbs are, you can easily use the functions!

But, it does what it’s built for, it makes video calls. Buggy and awful, but functioning. Their iPhone/iPad app isn’t great either; it actually doesn’t function as well, but has fewer bugs. It’s like Skype is giving us a life lesson  about compromise: “Sorry, kid, ya can’t have it all.”

* Edge navigation is when you can use your thumb to swipe from the all four edges of the screen to bring out a menu/options for whatever app your using, including Windows RT itself.

Microsoft Surface – If You Have One, You Know What I Mean

Since receiving my Microsoft Surface a couple weeks ago, I have had many thoughts regarding its pluses and minuses. I think it would be fitting to write this organization of thoughts on the Surface itself using the touch cover, and that’s what I’ll begin with.

LOVE it. Love the touch cover. It’s a screen cover and a keyboard that, as the commercials explain far more effectively than I possibly could, you just click it in and get to work. Many reviewers expressed difficulty in typing on a flat surface, saying it takes them some time to get used to it. Poppycock. My fingers seamlessly reached all the right keys on my first go as if it were a regular keyboard. I actually really like a flat surface (Ha!) to type on. I can make a really satisfying “thump” sound when my fingers hit these suede/felt pads of tablet typing innovation. Almost as satisfying as mechanical keyboards. I say almost because the touch cover requires a little more precision and timing to be as fluid as a regular keyboard. At times, it fails to register a couple keys if I’m typing particularly fast. But not a problem, this touch keyboard is an awesome, seamless dual-purpose tool and it greatly improves functionality/usability of a tablet. Especially since it has a mouse pad, too. If you want to do more typing-oriented work, MS has got you covered. I would suggest the type cover since that has a regular keyboard with actual physical keys.

I always felt confident about its looks. From the very first rumored and leaked photos I saw online, it looked like a solid and beautifully built tablet. I think part of that is due to MS’ VaporMg casing. It looks smart and sophisticated. It would be just as comfortable at the office as it is at home which I am sure was intentional. The kickstand is another mega plus; it has become indispensable. In my eyes, any tablet without a built-in kickstand will be shrugged off as if it were an old calculator. By the way, I don’t think I read one single negative thing about the hardware and looks of the Surface.

Windows RT. Now, there are A LOT of haters out there who are loving to hate on the Surface and the software it comes with: Windows RT. These haters will post headlines such as “Love the hardware, tolerate the software.” Well, haters, I’m glad software is the issue and not the hardware. By hardware, I mean the externals of the Surface, the internals are on par, give or take, with similarly priced tablets. The reason I’m glad it’s the software is because that is the ONE thing that can be changed/updated. All you Apple and Android fanboys, what do you think you are doing when you update iOS or stupidly-named Android version (like Ice Cream Sandwich…seriously, wtf…)? You are updating the software because new functionality and improvements have been made! I think that all you haters out there have completely missed this point and “haters gonna hate.”

I think Windows RT is awesome. I don’t know what the haters were expecting. They seems to want either a tablet OS or a full Windows OS and they say it doesn’t know what it is. Do I really need to spell it out? This is a tablet. It works as a tablet. The additional stuff like the keyboard and familiar Windows desktop are pluses. What MS have done here is made a fully functioning tablet and added *some* of the functionality of a full on laptop/desktop that you can choose whether to use or not.

Love the gestures to navigate on RT, albeit it did take some time to get used to. But once you got it, you fly on this thing. And it doesn’t take long, it will only take a while if you want to hate it (UNSUBTLE NOD TO MY GF, SYDNEY). I digress. No, I’m not going to go into each and every gesture. If you want a manual on the Surface, read any other review.

Now for a minus. I gotta say, whoever thought that the little touch buttons would be adequately large enough to use was GREATLY misinformed…or has tiny, laser-guided, gps-enabled finger tips. What I am talking about here are touch buttons like the back arrow on Internet Explorer. The tiles are big and easy enough to touch, but why make some functionality buttons so…dysfunctional? Some training with a Marine sniper would help too; you have to get your finger ON the button, not around it…at all…not even its border…ever.

Another minus. Despite its fairly good internals, it’s a little slow at times. This has been a wailing note of chagrin by the haters, of course. Sometimes, the surface acts just like your Windows computer; you have to restart it to make it work smoothly again if it’s been a little sluggish. This, I do not agree with at all, and may have to join the dark, hatred-laden hater side. BUT, this is something that can be fixed since it is a software issue; the hardware is more than adequate to run this stuff. But that is something that can be fixed as the bugs and software is smoothed out over time.

This Surface, namely Windows RT actually, needs a lot of polishing up…a LOT. BUT, don’t hate on it! Please don’t! This is a legitimate 3rd option for a tablet, opposed to the old, dreary Apple and Android interfaces. Imagine if we only had the choice between Coors Light and Bud Light, Ford or Chevy, regular and diet Coke…you get the point. There are many options of beer, many options of cars and many options of soft drink. All you mega Apple/Android fanboys, stop trying to make your platforms the only ones in existence and trying to eliminate the others. That’s called dictatorship and no one likes it. Let the technology democracy and capitalism flow. If you review negatively on the Surface/Windows RT without an ounce of “this has so much potential, let’s give it a chance to learn and improve”…I invite you to the flagpole at 11pm for some fisticuffs.