Groove Music on Windows Mobile

[sc:mobile-category ]I’ve been running Windows 10 Mobile for a while now and with it comes Groove Music.  Windows WP8.1 I’d been using Modern Music as my music player as the WP Music app had been so buggy to start with.

With Windows 10 Mobile I decided to give Groove music a go and see how it was.

As a universal app it runs the same core as Windows on the desktop and the design is similarly very nice.

However, unlike the desktop version, the mobile version has significant issues.  Most notably around restarting payback after being paused for a while.  This comes to the forefront when you’re connecting to a car AV deck.

With WP8.1, it was seamless, get in my car, start it up and a few moments later music would start playing.

With Groove Music it just doesn’t work.  Most of the time I have to wait for the phone to connect, then force close Groove Music, restart it at least once (sometimes twice).  Then sometimes it will pick up my playlist, other times it looses the playlist and I have to reselect it.

It’s so bad it’s virtually unusable.

I’ve gone back to Modern Music which works much better, though still has a slight pause sometimes after connecting and before starting playback.  But at least it works 90% of the time, grove NEVER work.

Hopefully Microsoft will spend some time working on Groove before the official launch, but they’re running out of time real fast now.


Microsoft Devices 2015

[sc:hardware-category ]So Microsoft’s big hardware event has come and gone, much of the announcements were already known, but there was a big surprise at the end and now everything is official.


Hololens is neat.  It’s a cool piece of hardware and it looks like we may now get to see what others can do with it.  But beyond that I’m not convinced I’d have a need for one.

Band 2

I’m not a big fan of wearables, but I have to say that the Band 2 looks to be a significant update.  Both aesthetically as well as functionally.

I’ve been tempted a couple of times to pick one up for the golf features, but just can’t quite bring myself to do it.

The one thing that stuck out to me was there was no announcement of expanding the number of countries it’s available in.

Lumia 950/XL

The specs on these leaked out ahead of the presentation so there isn’t really anything too surprising form the announcement.

The liquid cooling is a neat tech point but at the end of the day it’s not something that’s going to move phones 🙂

Continuum was demoed again and it’s impressive to say the least.  It was curious they didn’t demo it completely wire free (Bluetooth keyboard/mouse with a WiDi display) but I guess they wanted to show off the docking station.

The USB 3.1 connector is quickly becoming a must have on new phones and that’s a good thing.

One key point that I was interested in was the network bands that are supported by it, while it wasn’t talked about during the presentation, the Microsoft Store site had the tech details up just afterwards and it has a wide range of network support.

Most importantly for me, Wind Mobile looks to be supported.

Finally, they did announce the release, it was kind of vague.  November is a big month, can we expect it November 1st (no, obviously not) or Nov 30th?

Well pre-orders aren’t available yet, but should be soon, perhaps a ship date will be included then.

I’ll be ordering the 950 XL, I’m not sure I want that large of phone, but I have to admin my 925 seems very small these days so I’m going to hedge my bets on the larger handset and see what happens.

Lumia 550

This was mostly an afterthought, but I have to say the low-end Lumia look very slick, I would have liked to see some more details about it.

Surface Pro 4

There wasn’t as much known about the SP4 before the press conference, but in general it was expected to be a minor update to the SP3 and that was the case.

The larger display is nice along with the magnetic pen holder.  Thinner was good as well.  The new type cover is also a nice upgrade by the looks of it.

Before the announcement I was contemplating replacing my ASUS ZenBook with a SP4, but that all depended on two things

  1. Windows Hello support.
  2. USB 3.1 charging.

Well I got the Windows Hello support, but missed the USB 3.1 charging.  I can’t say how much I’m looking forward to replacing ALL my chargers with USB 3.1 power supplies.  I guess I’ll be waiting another year until the SP5 comes out 🙂

Surface Book

This one is a little weird, there was a rumor going around that a larger Surface would be announced but no one expected this.

Microsoft calls it a laptop, but it’s more like a hybrid.

It’s weird as Microsoft has been telling us for the last three years to replace our laptops with a Surface.  Then they announce a laptop at the end of the presentation.

It might have made more sense to announce the book before the SP4.

Either way, I’m not sure I’d ever buy one.  I look at that hinge and the gap between the keyboard and display and just know as soon as I set something relatively heavy on top of it that would be the end of it 🙁

Wrap Up

It was a good mix of hardware from Microsoft and the presentation went smooth.  The think that stood out to me though was the change in tone from previous presentations.

The presenters focused more on how it made you feel and how “magical” it was.  It sounded a lot like an Apple press conference when Steve Jobs ran them.

I don’t know if that’s a good way to go or not.  Either way though we’ll find out in the next few quarters when we see how the new hardware actually sells.

Windows 10 Mobile on my Lumia 925

[sc:windows-category ]So it was finally time to take the plunge and install Windows 10 Mobile on my phone.  I’ve been holding off to get a reasonably stable release as the only phone I have that supports Win10 is my main phone.

OS Install

First off, installing and enrolling in the Windows insider program was pretty straight forward, however before installing Build 10166 (which was the current release when did my upgrade) I of course did a full backup of my data.

There was quite a few reports that the upgrade process was not quite there yet and after doing the update that’s quite apparent.

After downloading the update, it took quite a while to install (close to an hour) and one it rebooted in to the start menu it went in to a continuous “loading…” loop.  It’s a well known issue caused by having many tiles on the start screen.

A simple hardware reset to factory defaults along with a re-install of 10166 cleared up the issue.

I spent a few days with 1066 and after 10512 became available I decided to upgrade but couldn’t seem to get the phone to identify there was an update to do.

After searching around for a while I finally figured out that after the 10166 install, my Windows Insider setting had been put back to the default of no preview releases.  Switching it back to the fast ring resolved the issue and the phone identified the 10512 release.

However after several attempts at installing it, it failed each time.  There wasn’t any obvious reason for the failure and the error message wasn’t very helpful.  After a few days of poking around I finally decided to reset the phone back to 8.1 and try and do a clean install of 10513 from that.

The Windows Phone Recovery Tool is used to go back to 8.1 and it re-flashes the phone from scratch.  The 925 only has a base 8.1 image available so after the reset, Update 2 had to be re-installed.

Once that was back on the phone, I once again had to re-enrol in the fast ring and then the 10512 update came down without issue.

However, when I went to install the English Canada keyboard, I found it failed several times.  It turns out that the 10512 update also resets your Windows Insider status so I once again had to re-enrol in the fast right.  After that the keyboard updates came down.

Restoring Data

Restoring my data was straight forward with two exceptions:

  1. One of my picture folders simply would not copy over to the phone and I have yet to find a way to create a new folder on the phone.
  2. I used “contacts+message backup” to export my SMS/MMS messages (my contacts are on my Exchange server so no need to do them) which worked fine, but after installing it on Win10 it didn’t show up in the settings menu.  I had to access it from the Store, which wasn’t a big deal, just a little unexpected.

Once everything was back I re-added my accounts and everything was up and running.

Basic OS Features

Overall there are a lot of similarities between 8.1 and 10, but there are also a lot of differences.  Here are some of my first impressions in no particular order:

  • The live tile “counts” look wrong somehow.  The font is too thin I think.
  • Live tiles often “flicker” when updating.
  • Live tile counts for e-mail are often wrong.
  • The application list feels very cramped to the left hand side of the screen, a bit of white space might be nice.
  • The notification center seems at little laggy at times.
  • There’s no easy way from the notification center to connect to a new WiFi network.
  • The lock screen font seems too thin as well.
  • Alarms no longer show up on the lock screen or the glance screen.
  • The new transparent keypad on the lock screen is neat, but I don’t know if I like it.
  • Overall performance isn’t too bad but it’s still pretty slow and unresponsive at times.
  • I don’t like the decision to switch the order of the task list.
  • The new cursor controller on the keyboard is a neat idea, but I still haven’t gotten use to it.

Data Usage

One big problem I found with build 10166 is that it was eating my cellular data really fast.  About 500meg a day, which is a problem with I only have a 500meg data plan 🙂

I had to turn off cellular data on the phone and I haven’t turned it back on yet though it looks like I probably could based on the current data usage from the phone.

Groove Music

Probably the biggest issue was using my phone as my music player in my car.  Connecting through Bluetooth was easy enough but Groove Music is still a mess.  Until very recently it “forgot” the current playlist any time it was unloaded from memory and it still doesn’t start auto playing correctly when the car stereo connects to the phone.

Groove Music has come a long way, but it still misses artist info and other details when connected to the car.

Overall Impressions

Microsoft is set to announce new hardware and presumably a release date for Windows Mobile 10 on Oct 6th, so are they ready?

Right now I’d say no, there’s a long way to go before I’d consider it ready.

But beyond that, I have to say I’m kind of disappointed with it.  Windows Phone 8.1 had a nice unified feel to it and Windows 10 Mobile feels like a hodge podge of ideas all thrown together, hoping to make a whole.

It feels like they’ve sacrificed the “sole” of Windows Phone to try and get market share, which is sad in some ways but not surprising at the same time.



Windows 10: Post Mortem

[sc:windows-category ]So I’ve had Windows 10 installed for over a month as my primary OS, so what’s the verdict?

The pros and cons I spoke of in the previous articles are all still true, however there have been a few more items that have cropped up:

Long term stability is an issue

My main machine and table are always on.  They never shutdown except for patches.  That’s exposed Windows 10’s biggest single weakness at this point.  The new app architecture has a lot of memory leaks and after 12-24 hours pretty much makes the system unusable.

The biggest culprit seems to be RuntimeBroker.exe, it often consumes all memory and CPU after running for a full day.

On my desktop I’ve actually setup a nightly job to terminate the process and that’s returned the bulk of the stability to my system.  On the tablet it’s much worse.

My Surface 3 can be completely hung after just leaving it overnight.  The Surface has also hung in mid use a few times with a hard reboot required.

Clearly Microsoft will be working on this, but it does show that more testing should have been done before it was released.

Tablet mode and domain logins

I, of course, run a domain at home and I long ago setup the group policy to allow me to login without a Ctl-Alt-Delete.  It’s pretty much required if you’re using Windows with a tablet as otherwise holding the Windows+Power button is a two-handed affair.

I’ve had two issues with the Surface 3 for this.  First, probably 70% of the time Windows still requires me to do a Windows+Power press to get to the login screen.  Randomly it will switch between this and the expected behaviour of just a swipe.

When you have to hit the Windows+Power combo, it also ignores your lock screen wallpaper setting and displays the default one.

To make things worse, the soft Windows key often seems to be disabled when needed.  It doesn’t even give a haptic feedback when pressed.

This makes logging in to the tablet very frustrating sometimes.

This does not appear to be an issue on my laptop or desktop.

Default login wallpaper ‘glitch’

This isn’t a bug so much as an observation.  The default login wallpaper is a nice scene of a beach with the waves crashing in as you look through a stone arch.  It looks great in landscape mode.

In portrait mode the stone arch get’s cut out so you just have the waves, which look exactly like a glitched screen if you just take a quick look at your tablet.

Calendar account settings

On my laptop I often use a WiFi HotSpot to get connected to the Internet when I’m on the road.  Once in a while it loses signal but remains connected.

The Calendar app seems a little sensitive to this and will sometimes come up and tell me my account details are out of date, even though it’s really just a lack of connectivity when it went to check for updates.


Overall I’m still in favour of Windows 10, but I think Microsoft could have spent a few more months testing it before release.

Windows 10: Part 3 – Applications

[sc:windows-category ]Last week I talked about Windows 10 in relation to use on a desktop, this week it’s going to be all about the applications!

This is part three of three in my Windows 10 review:

  1. Windows 10: Part 1 – Tablet Mode
  2. Windows 10: Part 2 – Desktop Mode
  3. Windows 10: Part 3 – Applications

First off, like all new versions of Windows, backwards compatibility is very good overall, there are a few little things I’ve found with applications I use:

  • Firefox 39 cut off the top of some of the menus as Win10 changed top level chrome on desktop applications.  This has been fixed with Firefox 40.
  • TortiseSVN seems to have some issues with Icon Overlays in Explorer, it’s not terrible but some of them are missing.

But beyond that let’s talk about the apps that come with Windows 10 or are new universal apps.


The old Mail app in Windows 8.1 was actually pretty good as long as you didn’t need much beyond basic mail functionality.  Windows 10 takes a few steps back and a few steps forward with the new mail app.

The steps back are:

  • Accounts are now buried in a submenu, you can no longer have multiple accounts listed on the left most pane at the same time.  This means you can’t quickly see if you have mail in multiple accounts.
  • The live tiles are little flaky, not updating when you have read or deleted messages very well.
  • The “reading” pane opens and closes based on if a message is being displayed or not.  This is visually distracting to say the least as by default it shows through to the background image.  I “fixed” this by setting the background image to be a plain white square.

The steps forward are:

  • Swipe actions for deleting and other actions.
  • A Calendar button 🙂

Overall it still has many limits (can’t import .ics files in to the Calendar, etc.) but works well enough.

I suspect Mail will be one of the apps that gets a lot of updates over the next few months, especially with Windows Mobile on the way.


My favorite calendar app of all time was on WebOS, but Windows 10 does a pretty good job getting close.

A few things that could be improved are:

  • Ability to see more than a single month in the left hand column.
  • Year view.
  • Excluding accounts from being displayed, yes you can “uncheck” them, but they still show up in the left hand column.

Like Mail, I expect lots of changes over the next few months on this app.


Microsoft’s big new browser has a lot going for it.  Fast, light, standard conformant, etc.  These are all good things and I’ve been using it quite a bit.  It’s much better than IE for those things but it does have a few issues:

  • Stability is still lacking, once in a while it will just crash for no apparent reason.
  • When you create a new tab, often the focus is not on the address field so you can’t type your address directly without reselecting it.
  • If you go to a site that fails to load for some reason, there are several options including “search”, but it does not use your default search provider, instead it uses Bing.
  • No support for Microsoft’s live tiles or live tiles for web sites.
  • Some of the configuration settings are buried pretty deep and aren’t very intuitive.
  • No plugins.

We already know Microsoft is hard a work on improving Edge and I’m sure we’ll see lots of improvements over the next few months.

Internet Explorer

Yes it’s still there, and it’s pretty much the same.  The only item of note is that it’s not prominently displayed, instead you have to dig for it.


The new weather app is slick, it would be nice to be able to turn off the background, but that’s a minor nit pick.


One of the big modern apps I used on Windows 8.1 was MetroTwit.  With Twitter shutting down third party apps (which looks like they may be reversing again), using the official ones has pretty much become a necessity.

The Win10 Twitter app is alright, but it needs some updates real soon:

  • Refresh takes a click, to drag down or auto refresh options.
  • Once in a while it will simply cut of the feed and a reload will be required.
  • On a tablet, there’s a lot of whitespace, another column or two could be useful.
  • Images are strangely cut off at the top and bottom.
  • On a tablet, when you view a picture there’s no back button in the app you have to use the back button on the taskbar.
  • The new retweet format takes you to the web browser instead of opening in Twitter.

Final Thoughts

Windows 10 is a good upgrade, but like every new OS, there is room for improvement.

There’s no reason NOT to upgrade and I’d recommended it for everyone.