Fixing Windows blue screen using Internet Connection Sharing in Windows Phone 8

I have been reviewing a Nokia 620 – an excellent budget smartphone.

Yesterday I was travelling and used the Internet Connection Sharing feature. This is one of the best features of Windows Phone 8, allowing you to use your mobile data connection as a wireless hotspot.

Unfortunately it did not work properly. It could connect for a bit, then the PC (a Samsung Slate running Windows 8) would crash. The error is Driver_IRQL_Not_Less_Or_Equal and the driver mentioned is netwsw00.sys.

The fix is easy (once you know). Reboot, and before you connect to the hotspot (or before it crashes), view the properties of the wireless connection. Click Advanced, and enable Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) for the connection.


Presto! everything works.

If you want to know what FIPS is, see here. The question of what difference the setting makes though is not known to me, though there are some clues here.

Fortunately you do not need to know, just make the change.

I am glad Windows Phone 8 is FIPS compliant (why not?) but disappointed that some issues with Windows 7 and 8 (I repeated the problem in Windows 7) and this hotspot feature, possibly also involving third-party wireless drivers, causes such a catastrophic and repeatable crash.

Review: Nokia Lumia 620, a winner when the price is right

Nokia’s Lumia 620 is now widely available in the UK, and was offered recently at just £120 (including VAT) by O2 on a pay as you go deal (which means that the amount of operator subsidy is small). That struck me as an excellent deal, especially as I already have an O2 sim, so I got one to take a look.


The Windows Phone with which I am most familiar is the first one Nokia produced, the Lumia 800, which is still widely available at a similar price to the 620. The 800 is a beautiful phone with a high quality feel, though my early model has a dreadful battery life and suffered from charging problems (going into a state where it could not be charged without much coaxing) until at last a firmware update seemed to fix it.

The 620 is lighter and very slightly smaller than the 800, and feels more ordinary in design and manufacture. On the other hand, it is up-to-date and runs Windows Phone 8, whereas the 800 is stuck with Windows Phone 7.5 or 7.8. The 620 also benefits from a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus system chip, 1Ghz dual core, versus the 1.4Ghz single core Scorpion and MSM8255 Snapdragon in the 800.

In the picture below, the Lumia 620 is on the left and the 800 on the right.


Do not be misled by the apparently faster clock in the 800 (1.4 Ghz vs 1.0 Ghz). In practice, I found the 620 performs much better than the older single-core CPU. Here are my Sunspider Javascript results:

  • Lumia 800: 6987ms
  • Lumia 620: 1448ms

I also have a Lumia 820 on loan. This is the true successor to the 800 and has a gorgeous 4/3″ AMOLED display plus a Snapdragon dual-core 1.5 Ghz chip. It completed Sunspider in just 910ms.

Still, the 820 is around £350 on pay as you go deals, more than double what I paid for 620. It is in a different high-end market, whereas the 620 is in an affordable category alongside dozens of budget Android phones like the HTC Desire C, Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 or Sony Xperia U. If Microsoft is to make real progress with Windows Phone 8, it has to be competitive here as well as at the higher end of the market.

You can see how Nokia has reduced the cost of the 620. The screen is TFT Capacitive, not AMOLED, and looks dim and small next to an 820. The battery is a small 1300 mAh affair, slightly smaller than the one in an 800. The side buttons feel like cheap plastic.

That said, I would rather focus on what the 620 does have, including A-GPS, Bluetooth 3.0, microSD card slot, 5MP camera with flash, front VGA camera, NFC (Near Field Communication) support, accelerometer and compass.

Two significant advantages over the old Lumia 800 are the removable battery (so you can carry a spare) and the microSD card slot, supporting up to 64GB of additional storage.

One thing I noticed with the 620 is that charging the battery is super quick. I have not timed it yet, but it charges considerably faster than the 800.

Battery life when on standby is substantially better than the Lumia 800. With light usage and wi-fi off, I am getting more than 2 and half days.


There is 512Mb RAM and 8GB storage; reasonable at this price. The Lumia 610, predecessor to the 620, had only 256Mb RAM which caused app compatibility issues.

Getting started

The out of box experience for me was pretty good. I put in my O2 sim, which worked without any issues. The setup asked for my Microsoft account and password which also worked, though as is typical with Microsoft, I found myself having to enter this several times more when setting up the SkyDrive app.

I have my own Exchange server which uses self-signed certificates. I installed the certificates and rather to my surprise auto-discover then worked and I was able to add my Exchange account to Outlook on the device without my having to enter the server details.

So far so good; but I was expecting some sort of automatic or semi-automatic process of installing the apps I was using on the Lumia 800, but this is more difficult than it should be. Nothing appeared automatically. You have to go to the store and re-install. You can reduce the work slightly by going to your purchase history online and selecting Reinstall; but in many cases that does not work and there is a message saying “App not available on the Web. Try downloading it on your phone.”

That is a shame, since this works well for Windows 8 store apps. The experience of upgrading to a new Windows Phone should be like this:

  1. Buy new phone.
  2. Enter Microsoft account details.
  3. Wait a bit, then carry on where you left off with all apps in place.

Unfortunately we are not there yet.

The new Windows Phone 8 Start screen is a considerable improvement. The big deal is that you can get four times as many icons on the screen, so no need to waste all that space. The Live Tile concept works better on the phone than it does in Windows 8, since you see the Start screen more often. I might work for hours on a PC and never see the Start screen.

The supplied earbuds/microphone are functional but not very good. The sound is mediocre and the earbuds do not feel secure. Incidentally, a much better set comes with the 820; but in practice most of us have our own favourite headset already and I would not mind if Nokia did not bother to include this in the box. Audio with a better quality set is fine, and after copying some MP3s to the device I was happy with the sound.

Once during the course of this review the phone rebooted itself for no apparent reason. Once it froze and I had to remove and replace the battery. Hmm.

Fitting a memory card

The 620 accepts a microSD card up to 64GB. Fitting is not too difficult, though slightly fiddly. First remove the back. Then slide back the silver card holder until it pops up.


Insert the card and close the holder.



The camera captures images at 2592 x 1936 pixels. It is fine for the use I am likely to make of it, bearing in mind that I am not yet ready to abandon carrying a separate camera. The camera software supports extensions called “lenses” which let you process the image. An example is Translator which lets you point the camera at some text and have it translated, an intriguing idea from which I got mixed results.


I was disappointed to find that Blink, from Microsoft Research, will not install as apparently the 620 does not meet minimum requirements, though I cannot quickly see in what way it falls short.

One small feature that I like on Windows Phone is that you can press the camera button even the phone is locked and use the camera.

Nokia Apps

Nokia has some exclusive apps, of which my favourite is Nokia Drive. I have found it works pretty well for turn-by-turn directions and no longer use my Tom Tom. The 620 lets you install Nokia Drive + Beta, giving you free downloadable maps and offline directions.

City Lens is a fun app that uses augmented reality to superimpose nearby attractions on the image from the phone’s camera. It has some promise, though it asks me to “Calibrate your compass” every time it starts up, which means waving your arms in the air and probably hailing a taxi by mistake.

More seriously, City Lens is only as good as its data, and in my part of England it is not good enough yet, with only a few local businesses showing.

Nokia Transit gives you public transport directions, and worked OK when I asked for directions to my nearest airport, giving a sensible bus route. The app integrates with Nokia Maps for directions and I found the user interface a bit perplexing. The app also freaked out when I asked how to get to London. Sensible options would include my local railway station, which has an hourly service, or a National Express coach from the nearest city centre. Instead, Nokia Transit proposed a seven hour bus journey with numerous changes, starting yesterday (I am not joking). Then the app crashed. Still, looks like it could be useful for local bus journeys.

Nokia Music gives you “Mix radio” for free, and a download service for a per-track fee. Fair enough, though the quality of the Mix radio is indifferent.

Nokia Smart Shoot takes five pictures at a time, and lets you select the best, superimpose faces from one on those of another, or remove people or objects. Face transposition is not my thing, but taking five images at a time makes sense. You can then flip through to find the best, and save it. Useful.

Creative Studio (I am surprised Nokia can use that name) is a simple photo editing app that lets you crop and rotate, remove red eye, adjust colour balance and brightness and so on. It is simple but rather good.


Microsoft’s cloud storage service SkyDrive is integral to Windows Phone 8. If you follow the setup defaults, photos and videos end up there, though in slightly reduced quality, and it also forms storage for the Office Hub. It is free for up to 7GB of storage and generally works well. Windows Phone would be crippled without it.

Local Scout

Local Scout is an official Windows Phone app that is meant to give information and ratings for local businesses such as shops, restaurants and attractions.

Excuse me while I have a rant. Local Scout was introduced in Windows 7.5 “Mango”, made available in September 2011. It has potential, but I noticed at the time that the data was not that good. In my local area, it included a restaurant that has closed, for example. I hit the link that said “Tell us this place is closed.”

As you can guess, the restaurant is still listed, more than a year later.

There is also a bit of a mystery about Local Scout. It has ratings and reviews, but there is no obvious way to add your own rating or review. The data must come from somewhere, but there are relatively few contributions for the places near me and the app would be more useful with community content.

Local Scout on the Lumia 620 (and on the 820) seems to have got worse. There is no longer a “suggest changes” link so you can no longer easily report that a place has closed. You still cannot add ratings or reviews for places you visit.

All a bit of a disaster. My hunch is that some team created Local Scout for Mango and made a reasonable but incomplete job. Since then, someone decided that it is not important and the thing is essentially frozen. It is still there though; it seems to me that Microsoft should either improve it or abandon it.

This is important because it influences the experience when you pick up a Windows Phone and try to use it. Of course you can use Yelp or TripAdvisor or something else instead; but why does Local Scout occupy a precious spot on the default Start Screen, on most Windows Phones I have seen, when it is so broken?


The Office hub on Windows Phone lets you create, view and edit Word and Excel documents, and view and edit PowerPoint documents. At least, you might be able to. I tried some recent documents on SkyDrive. A PowerPoint opens beautifully, and I can easily edit or hide individual slides. On the other hand, another document I have been working on will not open; it downloads, then the screen flashes slightly, but it never opens. An Excel document downloads and views OK but comes up with a message “can’t edit workbook”.

In both cases, there are in the old binary Office document formats. I tried converting them to the new XML based formats (docx and xlsx) and they worked fine, both for viewing and editing. My recommendation then is to use the new Office formats if you want full access on your Windows Phone.

You can add comments to documents, which is a great feature for collaboration.

If you want to know in detail what will work on the phone, see here, and especially the entry “Why can’t I edit some Microsoft Office documents on my phone?”. This lists “common reasons” why a document cannot be edited. It does not say anything about documents which simply will not open so I guess that is unexpected behaviour.

Given the complexity of Office documents, it is not surprising that there are limitations. On the other hand, it does seem to me problematic that the question of whether you will be able to edit any particular document is, from the user’s perspective, rather hit and miss; and if there are many instances where documents do not open at all I will soon lose confidence in the app.

In an emergency, you could try going through the browser instead, since SkyDrive supports the Office Web Apps.

It may be imperfect, but the Office hub is miles better than nothing.

Other apps

Windows Phone remains a minority taste, and if you want the best and widest selection of apps, you should stick to Apple iOS or Google Android.

That said, the Windows Phone Store does have over 125,000 apps, increasing at around 500 apps per week according to windowsphoneapplist.  Some big names are present, including Twitter, Spotify, Amazon and Google; others are missing or only supported by third party apps, including BBC iPlayer, Dropbox and Instagram. Whether any of these (or others) are deal-breakers is up to the individual.

On the other hand, the strong web browser (see below) means good performance from web apps, which mitigates issues with missing native apps.

YouTube works well full-screen in the browser. Unfortunately BBC iPlayer does not.

A bonus for Xbox users is Xbox SmartGlass, which gives remote control of your console plus a few extras.



Windows Phone 8 includes the Internet Explorer 10 browser, and it is excellent, fast and with decent standards support. It gets a score of 320 at, which by no coincidence is the same as IE10 in Windows 8.


The 620 also includes the simple, effective internet sharing hotspot feature which was introduced in Windows Phone 7.5, but worth mentioning since it is so useful.


Any budget smartphone is a compromise. The Nokia Lumia 620 is not beautiful to hold, the screen is not the best, the processor is 1.0Ghz rather than the 1.5Ghz on the high-end Lumias, and the battery a bit small.

Nevertheless this is a full Windows Phone 8 smartphone, performance feels snappy, and it supports a generous range of features. It fixes annoyances seen in some earlier Lumias, with a replaceable battery and no fiddly flap over the micro USB port.

The Lumia 620 is a better choice than the old Lumia 800, still on sale at a similar price. It performs basic functions admirably, and has valuable extras like Nokia Drive +. Outlook and the Office hub make it a good choice for Microsoft platform users on a budget.

The Windows Phone 8 OS itself is nice to use but in some areas not as good as it should be. Some of the supplied apps, like Local Scout, are not good enough, and a few crashes suggest bugs.

Web browsing is great though, and strong features like add-on “lenses” for the camera app make up for a few flaws.

In summary, a Lumia 620 is a great way to see what Windows Phone can offer at a budget price. If you can find one for under £150 it is a great deal.

Lumia 620 Key specifications

3.8” display

Dual-core Snapdragon S4 1.0 Ghz, Adreno 305 GPU

Wi-fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0, NFC

5MP camera with flash, front-facing VGA camera

8GB storage, 512MB RAM, MicroSD up to 64GB

1300 mAh battery



Ambient light sensor

Orientation sensor

Proximity sensor

Windows Phone 7.8 Live Tiles are buggy, say users

When Microsoft announced Windows Phone 8, one disappointment was that existing phones would not be upgraded to the new mobile operating system. In mitigation, Microsoft promised Windows Phone 7.8 instead, an upgrade to Windows Phone 7.5 that implements the most visible feature of WP8, a new Start screen with more flexible live tiles that can be sized small and other new features.

Some users are now receiving 7.8 upgrades, but the news is not all good. According to reports on the Windows Phone Central forum, many users find that the Live Tiles are not refreshing correctly after the upgrade.


The idea of Live Tiles is that they refresh in the background with the latest data, such as news alerts or incoming emails.

Developers Heathcliff writes in detail about the problem. He describes three methods to update a Live Tile. The basic ShellTile.Update method works OK, he says. However, if you use an external URL to update a tile, using ShellTileSchedule.Start, it “behaves erratically” and may trigger a problem that drains your battery and makes excessive use of your data connection. Finally, HttpNotificationChannel.BindToShellTile, which uses Microsoft’s notification servers, does not seem to work at all.

On WP 7.5 this method just works as expected. I actually hope I did something wrong here. Or else I don’t understand how this could ever get past the Microsoft Quality Assurance department.

he says.

Finally, users also complain of slower performance after the update, which makes starting apps more laggy.

If Microsoft has put more effort into its new Windows Phone 8 operating system than into an update for existing user, that is understandable, but short-sighted. Those existing users are the best possible evangelists for the platform as well as potential repeat customers; and Windows Phone with its tiny 2.6 per cent global market share, according to IDC, needs all the help it can get.

That said, with decent new WP8 phones like the Nokia 620 available cheaply (O2 in the UK offered this for £120 pay as you go earlier this week), existing Windows Phone 7 users who want to stay up to date are better off buying a new device.

Browser monoculture draws nearer as Opera adopts WebKit, Google Chromium

Browser company Opera is abandoning development of its own browser engine and adopting WebKit.

To provide a leading browser on Android and iOS, this year Opera will make a gradual transition to the WebKit engine, as well as Chromium, for most of its upcoming versions of browsers for smartphones and computers.

Note that Opera is not only adopting WebKit but also the Google-sponsored Chromium engine, which is the open source portion of the Google Chrome browser.

What are the implications?

The obvious one, from Opera’s perspective, is that the work involved in keeping a browser engine up to date is large and the benefit, small, given that WebKit and Chromium are both capable and also close to de facto standards in mobile.

This last point is key though. If everyone uses WebKit, then instead of the W3C being the authority on which web standards are supported, then the WebKit community becomes that authority. In the case of Chromium, that means Google in particular.

On the desktop Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox both have substantial market share, but in mobile both iOS and Android, which dominate, use WebKit-derived browsers. BlackBerry is also using WebKit in its new BlackBerry 10 OS.

There is already a debate about web pages and applications which make use of webkit-specific tags, which often implies a degraded experience for users of other browsers, even if those other browsers support the same features. A year agao, Daniel Glazman, co-chairman of the W3C CSS working group, wrote a strongly-worded post on this issue:

Without your help, without a strong reaction, this can lead to one thing only and we’re dangerously not far from there: other browsers will start supporting/implementing themselves the -webkit-* prefix, turning one single implementation into a new world-wide standard. It will turn a market share into a de facto standard, a single implementation into a world-wide monopoly. Again. It will kill our standardization process. That’s not a question of if, that’s a question of when.

Therefore, Opera’s decision is probably bad for open web standards; though web developers may not mind since one fewer browser variation to worry about makes their life easier.

People commonly raise the spectre of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 6 and the way it effectively froze web standards for several years, thanks to its dominance. Might WebKit’s dominance repeat this? It is doubtful, since the IE6 problem would not have been so great, except that Microsoft decided it would rather promote its own platform (Windows) rather than the web platform. The WebKit community will not do that.

On the other hand, for rivals like Microsoft and Mozilla this is a concern. Something as important as web standards should ideally be vendor-neutral, so that big companies do not use standards as a means of promoting their own platforms and making other platforms work less well. In practice, it is rare that standards are truly vendor-neutral; the big vendors dominate standards groups like the W3C for exactly this reason. That said, it would be true to say that the W3C is more vendor-neutral than WebKit or Chromium.

Leaving all that aside, another question is what value Opera can add if it is building on the same core as Google and Apple. That is a matter I hope to clarify at the Mobile World Congress later this month.

Kraftwerk at Tate Modern, London. Computer world. 11 February 2013

Yesterday I journeyed to London to hear Kraftwerk perform Computer World at the Tate Modern.

A cold night, and I was glad to reach the warmth of the Tate Modern. We picked up our green armbands, and 3D spectacles, were instructed that no re-admittance was possible, and move on into the concert foyer where vaguely Germanic sausages, bread, chips and mustard was on sale, along with cans of flavourless beer.

It feels like a lot of attention has been paid to the total experience. The 3D glasses are packed in an envelope specific for the evening. The programme is only a sheet of A4, but it is informative and intriguing.

“A vision of bright hopes and dark fears of the booming microchip revolution, Computer World is a serenely beautiful and almost seamless collage of sensual melodies and liquid beatscapes,” it says.


We move on into the concert space. Black pillows are handed out; essential if you plan to sit on the cold concrete floor. The hall is not huge, but it is exceptionally high. It is a relatively small crowd, and not entirely composed of middle-aged men as you might expect. The iPad-using guy next to us is 29, he says.

The concert starts at 9.00pm sharp. Everyone stands; forget the pillows then. Four men stand behind desks and barely move; the sounds of Numbers fill the hall, and 3D images pass across the screen.


The images are integral to the show. The effect is more that of an animated slideshow than a film, with many loops and repeats. The images are iconic; watching the show is like walking round an art gallery, with one carefully composed image following another.

Lead man and co-founder Ralf Hütter is on the left and does vocals; I am not sure you can call it singing. What are the others doing? Are they playing real or virtual keyboards? Running programs? Tapping out percussion? It is all part of the mystery.


Next it is Pocket Calculator. I love this song. “I am adding. And subtracting.” it says. It is about delight in technology. It is about doing things that would otherwise be impossible. It is about dehumanisation, no more pen and ink, columns of numbers, mistakes and crossings out, but just a few keys to press.


We no longer have pocket calculators so the whole thing is decidedly retro. Can you be simultaneously retro and futuristic? Apparently you can. The main car in Autobahn is a VW Beetle.

Autobahn as it happens comes rather quickly, after around 23 minutes according to my watch. That’s odd, since Computer World the album is over 34 minutes.

We did not get the whole of Computer World and I want my money back.

Well, maybe not. The concert was stunning and I would not have missed it for anything. But I was surprised.


Autobahn seemed to go on endlessly, which is as it should be of course. Then the VW took the exit slip and it was over.

Radioactivity. This song has been updated and now features Fukushima alongside other nuclear incidents like Chernobyl.


This is a disturbing song. “Radioactivity is in the air for you and me … contaminated population” The jolly melody is at odds with the subject matter, but it works; does it represent the PR machine?


Trans Europe Express. The train song is perfect for Kraftwerk. The train rushes towards us. Travel. Communication. Engineering. Cold steel. Kraftwerk.


Two songs which are particularly striking live are The Robots and the Man Machine. The Robots come first.  This is where the band performing in front of the visuals works so well. What is more true, that the robots are human-like, or that the band is robot-like?


Are we, in fact, machines ourselves, making the whole question moot?



I have skipped over a few, songs in fact which touch on the more human side of Kraftwerk’s art. After Space Lab, The Model is performed to a backdrop of black and white glamour girls, retro, unreachable.


Neon Lights is a short, refreshing interlude. The melody is stark and beautiful. If Hutter ever sings, he sings here.


A note on the sound quality. In general, good, and not ear-splittingly loud for which I am grateful. It did get louder as the concert progressed, and I felt there were times when it distorted; but improved again towards the end.

There was true chest-shaking bass at times, something you had to be there to feel.

Tour de France is rather good. We see human endeavour, more black and white footage for the retro feel, and followed by Vitamins, making a point perhaps.


Vitamins give rise to some strange 3D effects. Giant pills seem to float out over the audience, but as they fall, they fall behind the band, breaking the illusion.


The Techno Pop section is the last in the concert. There is Boom Book Tschak, and another song I think, then Musique Non Stop, just as the concert is in fact stopping. The musicians leave the stage one by one, until only Hutter is left.


He moves to the right of the stage, he bows, “See you tomorrow”. Unfortunately I will not. Then he is gone.

No encore. It is not the Kraftwerk way.

That was Kraftwerk. Repetitive, yes. Perplexing, yes. Beautiful, yes. Unique, yes.

Everything is ambiguous. Perhaps we are participating in an elaborate joke. It does not matter. Wonderful.


Pocket Calculator
Computer Love
It’s more fun to compute
Trans Europe Express
The Robots
The Model
Neon Lights
Man Machine
Tour de France
Planet of Visions
Boing Boom Tschak
Techno Pop
Musique Non Stop

Windows 8: Forget Surface Pro, what matters is the app platform

Microsoft has launched Surface Pro, its own-brand Windows 8 tablet, causing the usual agitation.

  • The 128GB model is sold out online, but has it sold well, or did Microsoft only make a few?
  • Is it too expensive for the spec?
  • Is the battery life too poor?
  • Can you type properly with it on your lap?

All reasonable questions, but to me rather unimportant.

When Microsoft “reimagined” Windows, its goal was to establish its operating system as a new tablet platform. Otherwise, there would have been no sense in upsetting millions of Windows users who were broadly happy with Windows 7, by imposing a new touch-friendly, blocky, mainly single-tasking platform on top of the old familiar Windows.

How is it doing so far? Not well. The reviews for Surface Pro are a symptom of this. It is being treated mainly as an Ultrabook with a detachable keyboard rather than as a tablet. That is a shame, since Surface (RT and Pro) is designed to be tablet-first, with the keyboard cleverly designed into the cover to mitigate the difficulty of using touch alone when you have to use desktop apps.

There are several reasons why Surface is seen as a kind of laptop rather than as a tablet.

First, Microsoft has so far failed to change the way Windows is perceived. People buy Windows devices to run Windows apps, by which they mean Microsoft Office, Skyrim, Foobar2000, and/or their corporate apps written in Visual Basic or C#. The existence of the new Windows Runtime platform is incidental and mainly annoying, since it can get in the way if you only want to run Windows.

This could soon change if there were numerous compelling apps on the new platform; but there are not, and that is reason number two. Which Windows Store apps are better (presuming you have a tablet) than their desktop equivalent, or which are great apps that have no desktop equivalent? It is a short list. Personally I would name the Wordament game, Maps, and the Weather app as examples; and yes, I know how lame that sounds.

Microsoft slipped up badly by spending so little effort on the built-in apps, especially Mail, but also Music and others. The result is that users spend little time in the new user interface (I am guessing but have anecdotal evidence). The further result is that the platform is unattractive to developers, despite the size of the Windows market.

Take a look at the MetroStore Scanner  and you can see that around two hundred apps are added most days (green is updates rather than additions).


That in itself does not tell us much. Just one hundred great new apps would be fantastic news for the platform. But no, they are mostly trivial and/or poor and/or repetitive and/or uninteresting.

Why are developers not building more and better apps? That indeed is the question. The main reason of course is that size of the market, not in terms of the numbers of Windows 8 users out there, but in terms of likely sales or adoption.

This is circular though. Good apps will increase the size of the market. So what else?

My views on this changed when I sat down to build my own app, simple though it is. This was harder than I expected, and there is still a z-order bug which I have not got round to fixing. A core question though is this: does the platform help developers to build apps that delight the user? In this respect it is not yet good enough. The kind of app you will build if you follow all the guidelines will be genuinely touch-friendly, but look a bit blocky and spaced out too much. There is also the problem of the disappearing menu bar and the fact that users do not always discover options hidden in the Charms bar. It is too easy to build apps that are not good enough. I regard the poor quality of apps like Mail as evidence of this.

Put another way, it is not yet a platform that inspires developers and makes them want to support it, despite its immaturity.

Windows 8 is not going well then; but I do not write it off. Better apps surely will appear. Further, Microsoft’s next go at this, whether it is called Blue or Windows 8.5 or Windows 9, should be better as the team fix annoyances and add compelling features.

As yet though, there is no sign of Microsoft averting the march of Windows towards being a business-oriented, desktop platform occupying an ever-smaller niche in a world of mobile and browser apps. If I were CEO Steve Ballmer, I would find that a concern.

Hi-res audio and the hi-fi press: the problem with honesty

I have posted several articles on the subject of high resolution audio – here, for example. It is a subject that fascinates me. I enjoy music more if it is accurately reproduced, and regard sound quality as something worth paying for, but is it worth investing in high resolution formats such as SACD, DVD Audio, 24/96 and higher FLAC or ALAC (Apple’s lossless audio format); or is it better to concentrate on other parts of the audio chain, on the grounds that even lowly CD and 16/44 capture music with an accuracy close to the limits of what human hearing can perceive?

Many audio enthusiasts swear that high-res formats sound much better; but solid evidence for their superiority as a delivery format is hard to come by, and when you perform simple tests like converting a high-res format into one at CD resolution and comparing the two, it is often (perhaps always) hard to hear any difference. 

High resolution formats are of course a necessity in music production, where the sound will be processed, possibly many times over, before the final master is complete.

Alan Sircom is the editor of the UK audio magazine hi-fi plus. In a frank forum discussion concerning the challenges of editing such a magazine today he makes the following remark:

For all the enmity you and yours have toward the magazine, our biggest potential loss of readers right now is coming from my stance on hi-res. I still maintain that you are paying a premium for microphone thermal noise and – at best – a more careful mastering process. I know a lot of manufacturers of DACs who (privately) agree with me… but have to continue to develop their products from 24/96 to 24/192 to 32/384 to DSD-over-USB because the audiophiles (who, let’s face it, buy our stuff) will not accept anything less. This is a sham, especially as there is a better campaign to be had (something like “brick-wall mastering is worse than brick-wall filtering”, but more pithy). However, the upshot of the excellent exposé of the hi-res game by Hi-Fi News did not cause an army of hi-res-loving audiophiles demanding more from their hi-res, it caused some of them to consider Hi-Fi News ‘hostile’ to hi-res.

If true, this is a depressing situation. The goal of home audio is to achieve the best possible sound at home within your budget, which means investing in the technology that makes the most audible difference. It is not easy to discern what that is though, which is where an independent press has a valuable role to play. According Sircom, that is difficult to do in practice, because of the constraints imposed by the economics of advertising at one end, and a readership which does not always want to hear the truth at the other.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 hassles: asynchronous processing service stopped

I installed Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 a few days ago – rarely a straightforward task, thanks to Active Directory dependencies and the complexities of Windows security. There also seem to be unfixed bugs in the setup. For example, I always find that the trace directory is incorrectly configured and has to be fixed via PowerShell, even with a new install on a new installation of Windows Server 2008 R2.

Never mind. This time I came across a new problem. After a successful install, users reported errors in scheduled jobs and imports. An attempted import resulted in the message Waiting for Resources.

The problem was that the two CRM Asynchronous Processing Services were not running. Start them manually, and everything works.

The event log reported Event ID 7000 after the last reboot – “the service did not respond to the start or control request in a timely fashion”.

The solution in my case was to set the start action on these services to Automatic (Delayed Start). They now start OK after a reboot.

I suspect this problem may be related to update rollup 12, since the very same problem appeared on another Dynamics CRM 2011 install after applying this.

I also wonder if the fact that SQL Server is on the same VM is related. If CRM starts before SQL Server is fully running, you get this kind of problem.

Not just a four-horse race: three new mobile operating systems joining the fray

Some have declared the mobile OS battle over, won by Apple and Google Android between them. Microsoft and RIM Blackberry will fight it out for third and fourth place.

Maybe, but I doubt it will be so simple. There are not one, not two, but three further open source mobile operating systems which have significant backing.

Tizen is supported by companies including Intel, Samsung, Orange, Vodafone, Huawei, and NTT Docomo, and managed by the Linux Foundation.


It is based on what used to be MeeGo (which itself came out of Intel Moblin, Nokia Maemo and so on). Tizen is intended to work on smartphones, tablets, and in embedded devices such as TVs and in-vehicle entertainment.

Firefox OS is a new project from Mozilla, whose Firefox browser is under threat from Webkit-based browsers such as Google Chrome.


Mozilla promises that:

Using HTML5 and the new Mozilla-proposed standard APIs, developers everywhere will be able to create amazing experiences and apps. Developers will no longer need to learn and develop against platform-specific native APIs.

Ubuntu also offers a mobile OS, along with an interesting add-on that lets you run Ubuntu desktop from smartphone when docked (this can also be added to Android smartphones).


All will be interesting to watch. Tizen is particularly interesting. Samsung is the largest Android vendor and the largest smartphone vendor. While this is currently a win for Android, it is possible that Samsung may want to steer its customers towards a non-Google operating system in future.

Equally, logic says that the open source world would be better getting behind a single Android alternative, rather than three.

Embarcadero acquires AnyDAC data access libraries for Delphi, C++ Builder

Embarcadero has acquired the AnyDAC data access libraries from DA-SOFT, including its main author Dmitry Arefiev. These libraries support Delphi and C++ Builder and support connections to a wide range of database servers, including SQL Server, DB2, Oracle, PostgreSQL, SQLite, Interbase, Firebird, Microsoft Access, and any ODBC connection.

AnyDAC is well liked by Delphi devlopers for its performance, features and support. Its architecture includes a local data storage layer similar to the dataset in Microsoft’s ADO.NET.

While it is good to see this set of libraries added to the mainstream product, developers are asking the obvious questions. What will happen to the cost and to the support for AnyDAC?

I am both scared and relieved at the same time. We took the AnyDAC route a few years ago, getting out of the BDE, and we have not regretted it for a second. My fright comes from the fact that DA-SOFT could not be beat in terms of customer support…many of us have come to DA-SOFT with a problem, only to have it fixed the next day. It is only realistic to think that with Embarcadero, this will no longer be the case.

says Dan Hacker on product manager Marco Cantu’s blog.