Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Win10 Experience - Cortana

The Win10 Experience – Cortana
Cortana is Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri, and seems to rely a bit too heavily on its roots as a phone application. When you search the web for information on Cortana capabilities, you usually get Windows Phone 8.1 answers, not Win10 info – even of you specify Win10 in the search.

What Cortana does:
It seems to be a phenomenally got voice recognition tool. In testing it, Cortana was instantly good at understanding my voice. There is a text window that shows what it is interpreting, and it is fast and accurate.
What it doesn’t do well: much beyond opening applications and offering Bing search results.
You can set Cortana to look first on your local PC to satisfy your request. You can set Cortana to linger in the background and respond to questions that begin “Hey Cortana…” without requiring any mouse or keyboard action, although those are available by default. For example, while I am typing this, I say “Hey Cortana, when were you created?” It correctly interprets the words, as shown in its dialogue box, but answers “Consider this a polite dodge of the question.” Various other versions of this question can produce good results in the BING browser window, but I am unable to get Cortana to give a verbal reply. It’s worth noting that Cortana often just open an Edge browser window that is behind my full screen WORD window, and only a “burble” sound indicate that anything has happened. I was unable to get any sort of extended dialogue, so Turing can rest easy.
One thing I have found handy in Cortana – with Windows navigation a bit different form previous interfaces, Cortana is good for finding things that really should be easy to do but are not. With Microsoft reportedly planning to eliminate the Control Panel, it’s not easy to find (although many of the functions are available from the START menu) if you ask “Hey Cortana, open Control Panel,” it is there for you in an instant, or maybe two.

Cortana will not take oral notes (voice to text) in any application I can find. It does say “I cannot take notes now, check back later,” suggesting that capability may be in the development queue. It can open the Office apps, but not to any specific file – it generates the “most recent” list an leaves you at the mouse to select which one.
Conclusion: Cortana is an interesting, perhaps even exciting, speech recognition application, fast and accurate, but it does not have enough hooks into the application world to make more than an occasional toy. It may be effective in making intermittent notes to your calendar – “Hey Cortana, remind me to call John at 3PM.”

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Microsoft Edge - A browser for the devotee

The Win10 Experience - Microsoft Edge

Win10 replaces Internet Explorer (IE) with the Microsoft Edge, but you wouldn’t notice it at first. The Edge icon is a slightly stylized version of a lower case “e” – looks a lot like the old IE icon, with a more hip (or maybe LESS hip) haircut.

Two things strike you at first blush of Edge: First, the menu bar you are accustomed to across the top of Internet Explorer is … different.  It has tabs, like before, but there is leftmost “Start” command, Next,, the entry screen is tiled (like a tablet screen) with  LOT of entries form the Net.  On my 17” laptop, at the default 100% size, there are about 80 screens of web links across 11 topics plus “My Topics.” A small text note informs me this “My News Feed – powered by MSN.

Among the tools on the top bar is the “pencil in a square” indicating you can make Web Notes – write on the page, add a text box, highlight with a pen tool, and save/send the page, plus a direct clipping tool.  However, this does not apply to the Edge home screen, which is customizable but not fully accessible to the user – no Web Note capability there. There is, through that Home button, the ability to navigate right back to your first tab, the "My News Feed.” This is important if you have not set the browser to open all new screens in a new tab, and want to go back without scrolling through all those interesting pages you browsed, and you never thought to activate the Setting to show a HOME button.
If you miss the sarcasm there, it’s that Microsoft has given you a new way to do something there were already three or four ways to do, while keeping all of the old ways, backward compatibility for the Browser Idiot.

The Web Notes capability looks pretty interesting, but I’ll have to investigate before I proclaim it a windfall of Win10.

Tomorrow, I will take a stroll with Cortana, or WinSiri.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Win10 Experience, Post 3 (Friday)

This is a blog of the experiences I have Installing and navigating the new Windows 10 Operating System.

Since installing on Monday, Windows 10 has received three automatic updates – Two on Tuesday, one on Wednesday, August 5. It’s still early, Friday morning, and we’re holding at that. The August 5 update is labeled “cumulative,” so it probably incorporates all of the Tuesday fixes with any new ones.  It includes 3912 files which sum to 1.8 GB of information, but only 30 files are 10MB or larger.
The most frequently changed file is “SystemSettingsAdminFlows.exe“ with 78 changes, followed by “Systemsettingsadminflows.exe.mui” with 46 instances. Only seven files have more than 10 instances.

Shell32 and MShtml are the largest fixes, with 64 and 63 GB, respectively, followed by Flash and EDGEhtml files (.63 and 59 GB.)

Facial recognition appears to be a significant change area, with updates for the engine adapter and sensor adapter, totaling 40 GB in four files.  A quick search on Win10 facial recognition reveals nothing more than a special infrared camera is required to use it. EDGE is the new MS browser, which I have not yet looked into. With those two areas prominent in the update, I will be checking them out to see what si new, cool, or even functional.

There is speculation in the MS community that Monday will produce a major release for bug fixes, to be labeled “Service Release 1.” We’ll see next week.