Friday, March 2, 2012

Playing with Microsoft Surface Globe

If you want to show off, and you have a tablet computer running Windows 7, and you can connect it up to a big screen, Microsoft Surface Globe is how to do it.

I do demos of software, videos, websites, and graphics here in my house.  With my little 12 inch "convertible tablet", it's fairly easy to do.   Turn on the TV, wait for it to come on to being a TV instead of "starting up".  Then plug in the HDMI cable to the spare port on the set and my laptop and most of the time they'll just "come on".  I'll see my laptop in full screen on the TV, in this case it's 46 inches.

Without getting into the technical stuff behind the scenes, today's cheaper TV sets blow away the best of the old school boat anchor computer monitors that we used to be amazed at.  I managed to have a 21 inch thing that made the desktop bow downward and still didn't have the resolution of the laptop I have here.  Now a "consumer good" that is "off the shelf" will cost less than that old thing did and just work better.

Plus I could hang it on the wall if I didn't get static from people about wanting to do that.

(Yeah, yeah, yeah) You Know Who You Are.

But I'm getting away from this software and showing off. 

See Microsoft has been working on bringing the whole iPad and Android tablet experience to the desktop computer and laptop computer scene for quite a while, but it never really gelled.  Windows 7 on a tablet is usable, but if you have a keyboard attached, the touchscreen will leave you hamstrung.  Sure you can use a stylus to write, touch something to select it, or even have an onscreen keyboard but you're left feeling like you're talking to a "C-" student.  Ok, you can do better, now come back when you've tried again.

Surface Globe is one thing that shows the promise of the technology that they're working on. 

Instead of using your mouse on a tablet computer or the track pad on this HP Touchsmart tm2 that is truly abysmal, you can use the fingers you were born with and leave wonderful fingerprints on your laptop screen.   Hooked up to my TV set I can get fully immersed in the maps that I used to read as a kid when I was bored.  Just wash your hands first.

I'll dig deeper into that link later.  It looks like I may be able to do some upgrades...

Completely familiar gestures to the iPad user and Android Tablet folks, you can pull and stretch the map like you're kneading dough and drill down to where you want to see.  The one thing I wish it had was street view.  That's a Google Earth thing since they sent the cars around and Microsoft didn't.  

Remember, Surface Globe is a "Proof of Concept" app.  It works incredibly well, I'm a fan, but there are things that you can't do with it that other software can let you do. 

Trying to use Google Earth like you would on an iPad didn't work on the version I have on this machine.  It's older, and perhaps I should check into an upgrade, but for now, it's useful the way I use it. 

Since I'm adding links to this article for my own memory - here's the download link for Earth.  Just remember you don't need Chrome and to click on the Advanced Setup.  When there on that web page, click "off" the boxes that say allow Google to automatically upgrade since you don't want that extra spyware on your computer.

All of this has me looking forward to Windows 8.  Sure, my machine works incredibly well on Windows 7.  It has been rock solid and stable.  If there have been problems with the laptop it is from manufacture (the trackpad is terrible) and from applications that just go mental.   We've all got stories like that.

Oh and removing all that crapware like Norton and going with Microsoft Security Essentials certainly helped here. 

I'm skeptical about the whole "Metro" look and feel.  Sure, Apple would sue them if they dared to come too close to their iPad iOS interface.  Then again, Xerox was the one who invented the whole icon on computer way of doing things with a Graphical User Interface so it really is revisionist in my eyes for Apple to claim it's theirs. 

In trying not to look like the iPad, Windows treads carefully with Metro.  Things look blocky and all the pictures I've seen of Metro look like they were built in a rush.  Squares and Rectangles in rigid rows done with primary colors look primitive.   I'm all about the way things work, but they could have done a little more work with that "look and feel". 

There's so much promise in Surface that Windows 8 will be something I'll get very quickly on release.  I'm trying to figure out now how I can get the beta installed on this machine and run it beside my current Windows 7.

Until I figure all that out, I'll be flying around the world kneading my way through maps.  I'll also be looking forward to the next version and if it is compatible.

Now that I have Google Earth's latest version here, I'll have to play around with that.   Mrs Dog has been taking me around for some rather odd walks lately

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