One note about the Windows Phone store

(title pun was intended)
TL;DR: It’s awful. With almost no official apps, crap alternatives and lots of copyrighted stuff.

A the beginning of this month, due to a good offer and my lack of self control, I bought a Nokia Lumia 630. I was an avid Android user until something like a couple of years ago, then I just bored myself out of this idiotic mania and right now I spend 90% of my phone time calling or texting and the other 10% using GPS or browsing the web for a quick info. I don’t usually play games, I don’t listen to radio or music except maybe 3 or 4 song monthly on Spotify. I know you don’t care about me and I’ll get to the point.
It’s the worse store I ever seen in any device. EVER!

Remember that iPhone ad where the speaker goes “need to sync your calendar with your microwawe? There’s an app for that!“, I’m taking this to the extreme, but you get the idea. This same ad may cover Android devices, too. But when it comes to Windows Phone, it’s the total opposite.
Once you start searching or browsing the app store, you’ll soon realize how much the developers and Microsoft itself didn’t care about this store.
There no official apps for what one could consider daily use apps, like YouTube or dropbox. Oh, little correction, there’s official an app for YouTube which really looks like a browser shortcut to the mobile version of this site, as opening YouTube inside IE looks and feels exactly the same.
There are really no browser alternatives, all the browser in the store are built on top of the provided IE and all of them MUST allow ads, but that’s Microsoft’s fault because of some corporate war bullshit.
Thanks to this same corporate war bullshit you get absolutely zero official Google apps: no gmail, no gmaps, only a crap Google search tile. Fortunately the builtin mail app works with gmail and Nokia’s Here Maps works great, and there are some alternative apps for both Google’s Mail and Maps, called metro mail and gmaps respectively.

But the best part of this store is it’s half assed piracy. Sounds like I’m telling you a joke, but it’s not.
You can search for chrome and you will find a browser called Google Chrome, using Chrome’s copyrighted logo and filled with ads, made by some random guy. Like the other stores, there are some console emulators, but with quick a look in the most played games section of the store you will surely find apps for Metal Slug Advance and different Pokemon versions (all from GBA era), which clearly use an “app” excuse to package an emulator and a rom. Microsoft developer and app policies states that apps that violates copyright are not allowed and will not pass the app validation process, and while most emulator are/may be legal, rom distribution is not. But obliviously they don’t really care, they seems to allow all of this, this way MS can claim they have over 300k apps without looking ridiculous compared to iOS and Android 1M+ stores. I know in those 1M apps there is an huge pile of shit but at least there are some great apps for every need, in Windows phone store as of now I only found the huge pile of shit and only an handful of quality apps.
To this day I still haven’t found an app that allows me to access a file on a samba/cifs share and open it with another app (eg. playing a video from a NAS), on Android this worked quite well since the 2.x era, while a Windows Phone still misses the possibility to access a Windows share (or any other kind of share, for that matter). This may be an OS limitation rather than an app problem and I hope MS will find a solution soon.

While Microsoft doesn’t seem to care about it own store, I have to say something about Microsoft made apps: they work great. Included maps app work flawlessly, Internet Explorer is fast (but competition does not exists, so one can’t really compare) and works on every site I tried, from how little I used Office it seems to work well, MS Authenticator can be used exactly the same way as Google’s one and MS/Nokia camera and ocr apps really do wonders compared to Android ones.

In conclusion the phone and the OS work fast and as intended when using basic smarthphone features (messaging, quick browsing and navigation) thanks to the builtin apps, but when you need a quality app or something more advanced you are completely fucked. A revisited slogan for WP could be: “Need to —? There’s no app for that and if there is it’s complete crap. Fuck you.”.
I’m ok with this shitty OS, but if you are an Android or iOS user, the ones who like to have an app for everything, I won’t recommend a Windows Phone to you, unless you don’t care about ditching some features.

PC Nerding

Windows 8.1 on Dell XPS M1730

Before you ask: why one should waste 120€ and install Win 8.1 on a 2008 pc? My mom bought a cheap notebook with Win 8.1. By specs, that laptop should be a lot slower than mine’s, but Windows 8 seemed really fast. My huge notebook was still running heaviest OS ever Vista Ultimate (ugh!) and I thought it was worth a try.

Now if you are still using this old car and want to upgrade to Windows 8, don’t. I recently upgraded to 120GB SSD (on a SATA II controller) + 750GB 7200rpm disk, 8gb ram, those plus Windows 8 license were in the 350-400€ range and by shelling out 450-500€ you can buy a new laptop at least on par with M1730’s specs, with warranty, support, drivers already installed and all.

What I really liked was the Windows-ish feeling while installing. Really. Installing a new Windows 8 is still like installing the 15 years old Win 98.
First off, while the Microsoft site says you can’t upgrade from Vista, I purchased the download version thinking “easy, I’m gonna download it, put in a USB stick and install”, mostly because I didn’t want to wait for DVD shipment.
First problem. You can’t upgrade from Vista and that was clear, but the real problem was that the download tool won’t even allow you to download files from Vista. Great.
Unearthed I decided to download an ISO and we all know MS don’t have and official ISO download site. I found that MSDN users can download a RTM copy, so I looked for the hash to make sure I could get an untouched (=virus safe) ISO and I torrented it from TPB. Thumbs up for mandatory piracy.
Obliviously MS official DVD to USB tool wasn’t working with that ISO but using dd on Linux did the trick. I plugged my USB stick and rebooted.
Second problem. My CD key was not working during install, but fortunately the torrent came with a temporary one. Another thumb up for piracy.
Third problem. Windows 8 refused to install to my disk: “We couldn’t create a new partition or locate an existing one. For more information, see the Setup log files”. I tried all the methods I could google, using command line to format and repartition it, loading my controller drivers from another USB stick. Here comes the new Windows (9)8. Looks like Windows 8.1 does not install if there is an USB stick plugged in and the installation one counts. The most straightforward solution was to burn a DVD, but my drive doesn’t work anymore so I can’t boot from it. My solution was to build a PXE server then booting from NIC card.
From now the installation worked flawlessly. Before activating I switched to my legit activation key and Windows activated with no complains.

This is not Win 8.1’s fault, but there’s a fourth problem, caused by using an outdated system like my M1730: drivers. Windows 8 recognizes some stuff but you must manually install (take them from Vista 64 bit category): Chipset driver and Logitech LCD driver from Dell support , PhysX driver (see below), nVidia drivers (get them from nVidia site). You may want to install Dell Quickset for controlling LED colors without accessing bios.
Logitech LCD app you get from Dell website will only support 32 Bit applications. Last Logitech Gaming Software will NOT recognize it. I personally don’t care because I only use it as a clock.
If you have an “unknown PCI device” in your device manager, that’s PhysX. Because of M1730’s unique PhysX card model, PhysX card requires and old version (8.09.04, get it here) and it must be installed BEFORE nVidia drivers. It really doesn’t matter installing them tho because new nVidia drivers will not care about it and will use the second graphics card as PhysX processor.
Webcam will not work if you install drivers from Dell, let Win 8 use a generic driver and hide the Creative driver from Windows Update.

While my installation experience have been the worst in my life, until now my use experience with Windows 8 is ok, everything looks a lot faster than Vista, uses roughly 300MB less ram, the new interface is flat and ugly but I use it only as a big shortcut collection. I’m kinda happy with my new OS because it gave my old system some fresh air.