Surface Book AZERTY to QWERTY

So I just picked up a Surface Book and paid a good price as it has an AZERTY keyboard rather than a UK QWERTY.  I decided I could live with it if needs be but when it arrived I set about seeing what options I had

The first thing I did was set the language options to UK – that way I can type as if I am on a UK keyboard even if the keys themselves are in the wrong place!

 

Language

 

So now my on screen keyboard is correct and reflects the positioning of the typed keys (if not their positioning on the keyboard itself!)

qwerty

I then looked online to see if there were options for replacement keys – I found several companies on EBAY that sold sets of QWERTY stickers that could be stuck on top of the existing keys.  But I didn’t like that option as the backlighting would be impacted and it would probably end up looking a little tacky.

I also found this company who could supply individual keys albeit at a bit of a premium price:

https://www.quikfixlaptopkeys.com/?product=microsoft-surface-book-single-replacement-keyboard-key

I noticed that there was also a video on their site outlining how to attach the new keys which gave me some confidence that I might be able to remove some of the existing keys:

And so I decided to attempt a basic rejigging of the keys such that they reflect, as far as is possible, a QWERTY layout instead of the AZERTY layout that the keyboard came with.  I found a plastic tool that I already had in my toolkit which proved good at getting under the keys in order to remove them (see pic).

I settled on this – I don’t think I will be purchasing any keys as the guts of what I wanted was already there, just in the wrong order.  (Though it is nice to know that if I wanted to finish the job I can do so for a small premium!)

 

keyboard azerty

 

Job (almost) done!

NB If you are trying something like this the trick is to prise off the keys from the top of the key itself (at least, that is the approach I took)

A PC for the Post PC era?

Windows RT first Impressions

So prior to using it I kind of had a mind set that Windows RT was going to feel like using Windows CE’s big brother (which technically maybe you could argue it is) but in practice what I have found so far is that the experience is EXACTLY the same as standard Windows 8.  I am emphasising that because it does feel like the same O/S and not some kind of cut down little brother (which again, technically in many ways you can argue that it is).  So what does that mean? I guess in the first instance it is good news for Microsoft.  It means RT devices are more attractive than they otherwise might be and bodes well for the future (though I do wonder how long it is until the Intel chipsets match ARM for battery, cooling and  ‘small device’ opportunities – making RT nigh on redundant).  At this point I should mention the Elephant in the room – you cannot run legacy Windows Apps on Windows RT, but what is surprising is at this early stage, and even with the limited (10k+) number of apps available this fact is maybe not such a big deal after all.  Most of the devices I have seen so far fit firmly in the iPad competitor category and when viewed in this light the story for RT devices is very positive.  Microsoft have been very smart in including what feels to me like a full version of Office with Windows RT – making it a even more compelling than if it only supported  Windows 8 apps (which is does extremely well!). 

So the overall initial impression of RT is very positive. If you want something that offers iPad like weight and size (or lighter/Smaller) with reassuring levels of Device*, Office and PC compatibility and a relatively low price point then I would urge you to check out these devices now! 

* The device support in terms of things like printers, scanners, mice etc. looks to be good but with some limitations with older equipment – so check this out first if you want to use RT with any third party hardware that it getting a little long in the tooth.

Update – where do I see myself using my RT device?

My own RT device (Surface) will live its’ life on a day to day basis in the family lounge.  By day it will be the target device for the development of new Windows 8 Apps, by night it will become a leisure device for the whole family to use (Browsing the web, Skype calls, etc.) .  It’s portability also makes it a candidate for taking on holidays or business trips where its’ note taking and office / calendar functionality will come to the fore.

Installing the Windows 8 Consumer Preview on an Asus EP21 Slate / Tablet

Product Image

I’m not going to labour the point but the installation of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview is a lot easier than my earlier post relating to the Dell Duo!  That said, the steps are essentially the same:

  • Back up the supplied Windows 7 installation if desired*
  • Install Windows 8
  • Run Windows Update
  • Download Windows 7 drivers from the ASUS Site
  • Install the drivers

* I say if desired as unlike the Dell Duo the Asus comes with a Windows 7 restoration disk.

Here are the steps I took in a little more detail:

Installing Windows 8

NB I used a USB Keyboard which I left connected throughout the process in order to make any text entry (WiFi passwords etc) easier, I also copied the Windows 8 key onto the same USB stick I used for the update process so that all I had to do was copy and paste it when requested.

  1. Download the Windows 8 image (DOWNLOAD)
  2. Mount the downloaded iso file (I used MagicISO)
  3. Run the setup program and follow the installation instructions given

NB I chose the 64bit O/S over the 32bit owing to the generous memory available on the device (4GB) and the fact that ASUS supplied the 64bit version of Win7 with the machine, rather than the 32bit  in the first place).

An alternative methodology might be to burn the downloaded image to a DVD Drive then utilize an External DVD Drive instead of using MagicISO.

 

Running Windows Update

This is essentially the same process as for Windows 7 – from the Win8 menu choose Control Panel and walk through the following screens before finally running Windows update:

image

image

image

NB You can also simply type ‘control’ when in the Metro desktop interface to switch to the Metro control panel, and from there select ‘windows update’

Downloading Windows 7 drivers from ASUS

The consumer build of Windows 8 does a pretty good job of managing the drivers and software from the previous Windows 7 installation.  However it is worth keeping an eye on the 64bit downloads from ASUS in case there is a firmware upgrade or some updated device drivers that don’t make it through the default Windows update process.  The download page is located here:  ASUS support page

 

Performance Rating:Untitled

(Noticeably superior to the Duo as you might expect.)

Notes

Now that this device appears to be available at reasonable rates on eBay I have to say that it is probably the best choice in terms of value and performance for a slate type device at the time of writing (March 2012).  If you can afford it the Samsung series 7 Slate is probably top  dog, with the EP21 a close second and a definite winner in price terms.  The dell Duo remains a great choice for testing the waters and is certainly more than capable of running the majority of Metro apps currently available.

ASUS App Compatibility

DNLA

imageI was particularly pleased to note that the ASUS DLNA server (Mediacontroller.exe) still continued to work after the upgrade – this is a useful utility to have on any slate device that allows pictures and videos to play to any DLNA equipped TV.

Art Rage

Art Rage is bundled with the Windows 7 install of the EP21 and is a great way to show off the tablet oriented features of the device.  It loads fine but I found the functionality to be questionable under Windows 8.

(All the other apps supplied by ASUS appeared to work OK under Windows 8).

Tips:

ASUS Applications

If you intend to use any of the Asus applications that came with the Windows 7 software it is a good idea to pin them to the new Metro desktop.  This can be achieved by holding down on the relevant exe file until the in place menu appears that has the option to pin. Most of these apps can be found under c:program filesAsus

Bluetooth Keyboard

If you find that Blutooth isn’t working properly try downloading the ‘Wireless Lan’ Drivers from the Asus Site:

image

Extract them and run setup – it will fail saying that this is the wrong version of windows.

NB UNISTALL any previous version if you see this message:image

Go on to the install :

 

A few of seconds you should get a windows popup asking if it worked ok – click no- re-run in compatibility mode.
The install will now run OK – I deselected the WLAN driver (as Wireless is working fine anyway) and let it install the Bluetooth stuff:

image

The Bluetooth icon appeared on the system tray – open the settings from here once the installer has finished and click the ‘allow devices to see this PC’ option (not sure if this is absolutely necessary ).
Then held down the Bluetooth button on the keyboard , went into the ‘add device’ option in the control panel and the devices showed up, connected first time and just worked.

(With thanks to Mark Blackburn)


There is also a great thread detailing driver issues etc. here:

http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/windowsdeveloperpreviewgeneral/thread/747de215-f319-4aea-8762-2480573456e2

Windows Phone Apps on Win8 Tablet?

Lots of speculation about Win7 Apps on Win8 but no indication of how it might work from a visual perspective.  Here is one mock up showing how the foursquare app might work on a tablet.

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Foursquare App on Windows Phone 7

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The same app on a Win8 Tablet?

Earlier today NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang was quoted as saying that he believes that “apps written for Windows Phone 7 will run on Windows 8”.

More: http://news.cnet.com/8301-1035_3-20102167-94/nvidia-ceo-sees-tenfold-growth-in-mobile-chip-biz/

(personally I have my fingers crossed)

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