Get your Groove back by making a Windows CD toaster!

 

  1. Press the Start button and type Media Player then click to open it.
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  2. In the Organize menu, select Options…
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  3. Select the Rip Music tab.
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  4. In your Microsoft OneDrive account, create a Music subfolder and set that as the location to save ripped music.
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  5. In the Rip settings section set the recording format and audio quality to your liking, but make sure the Rip CD automatically and Eject CD after ripping boxes are checked (this is what makes it act like a toaster!)
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  6. Install and run the Groove Music app on your Windows 10, Android, or iOS device (install from the Store if needed: https://www.microsoft.com/store/apps/9wzdncrfj3pt) and sign in using the same Microsoft Account you use for OneDrive.
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  8. Now just insert a CD in the drive and watch the magic!

 

Notes:

  1. You can set this up on any PC with OneDrive and Windows Media Player so you can rip music at home, at work, or on the go.
  2. You can also copy music files you’ve already ripped into the OneDrive – even upload them to your Music folder via OneDrive in your favorite web browser on any device.
  3. Keep in mind, once the song is ripped, it must be uploaded which depends on your Internet connection – but as long as you’re not in a hurry, the experience will be magical. I set it up for my Mom and she was able to master the process – now she has all of her favorite music wherever she goes.
  4. Anyone in select regions can do this for FREE, no subscription required. Here’s a list of the places this will work today:

Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States.

More info:

https://www.microsoft.com/groove/Onedrive

Cortana on Band 2 can’t reach your Phone

One of my favorite features of the Microsoft Band 2 is the voice link to Cortana – without having to un-pocket my phone.  Unfortunately, when I tried that, I got the following message.

Cortana: Sorry, I couldn't reach your phone...

Fortunately, a brief chat with MS Band Support led me to this elaborate but effective solution.

  1. Unregister the Band from within the Microsoft Health app (under My Microsoft Band in the hamburger menu [≡]).
  2. Remove the Band from your Bluetooth settings screen (tap and hold to Delete)
  3. Uninstall the Microsoft Health app
  4. Restart your phone (on Lumia 950 XL, press and hold power button until the phone vibrates – then release the power button and phone will re-start)
  5. Reinstall the Microsoft Health app
  6. Reset the Band (swipe to the Settings tile [⚙], swipe right to Power [⏻], swipe right to Reset Device and confirm your selection)
  7. Go through the Band set-up process

After this, I was able to issue voice commands to Cortana through my Band 2 again.

Update: I used the voice command feature at about 6p after resolving the issue around 1p, but by 10p when I tried to use it, the feature had failed again, displaying this message.

Update #2 (2016-04-07): I put some feelers out on common support sites for Band 2 and the Lumia 950 XL. 

Cortana on Band 2 can’t reach your Phone (answers.microsoft.com)

Cortana on Band 2 can’t reach your Phone (forums.windowscentral.com)

How often are you able to successfully use Cortana via Band 2? (Straw.pl)

How often are you able to successfully use Cortana via Band 2? (Reddit)

All I was able to learn, after several weeks, is that it’s a very common problem (which is an understatement).  At this time, here’s what we seem to have learned:

Band 2 Cortana works fine with iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 8.1 devices.

Band 2 Cortana doesn’t work with Windows 10 Mobile devices.

I took my fully updated Lumia 950 XL and Band 2 to my local MS store after scheduling an Answer Desk appointment.  I was told that this has been a known issue since November and that there seems to be very little discussion on it since then… it seems to have stalled.

Also, since my initial post, Band 2 and Microsoft Health apps have been updated and installing these updates have not resolved the issue.

It’s troubling to me that such core functionality of flagship products has gone unrepaired for six months!

Make Sure Bluetooth is on and your phone is close by

Update #3 (2016-06-09): Even though there have been several updates to Windows 10 Mobile (I’m now on Fast Ring), the Health App, and the Band 2 firmware, the problem still persists.  Rod Trent over at WinSuperSite.com has written the following article about the situation though:
Constant Problems with Windows 10 and Lumia 950 Make for Irate Microsoft Band Owners

Cortana and the future of Digital Assistants

A friend on Facebook asked “Do any of you use the voice system on your phone, and if so, what are your common uses?”

I use a lot of the base functionality of Cortana frequently such as setting reminders to remember to take things with me when I leave home – or remember to do things when I get to work – or remember to buy something when I’m near a particular store – or type of store.  Lots of managing one-offs or things that happen infrequently – like a reminder to change the furnace filter in 3 months.

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It’s great for kids.  I can say “You can play at the park for 10 more minutes” and then quickly set an alarm to go off when the time has elapsed.

I use the package tracking a lot, and directions (though I’ve been using Waze a lot lately and it doesn’t yet have Cortana support on Windows 10 Mobile – and is unlikely to improve because Google bought it and they’re trying to drive people to their platform).

I used the flight tracking to great effect when I volunteered to shuttle dignitaries to and from the airport for a large convention.  I could tell people if their flight was delayed and knew what gate to meet them at.

I use it for a lot of math or currency conversions (“What’s the price of Bitcoin in USD?”). Also dictionary and info like “Who is the CEO of Cisco?” or “When did Facebook start?”.

Since I have Cortana set to listen, I might be buttoning my shirt while getting ready for work and say “Hey Cortana, will it rain today?” and I get the answer.

Those are all things with enriched functionality and results – but anything else fails over to a search which is just a head-start on how most folks would find the answer anyway.

Using Cortana with apps

Two really cool things is that some apps tie in to Cortana – so I can have the Windows Central app read me the top tech news headlines – or the Skype app start a video call with someone.

She even ties into my fitness tracker (MS Band 2) and shows me a summary of my day’s activities, etc.  Plus I can ask Cortana things via the mic on my Band and get the results on the screen – considering all that she can do, it means that there are a lot fewer reasons to pull the phone out of my pocket.

Also, if you have Windows 10 (as I do on all devices) I can use Cortana on those devices to send SMS messages from my phone without fiddling with it.  I’d closely watch this space – more on it later.  She can also send emails without ever opening up an email app.

She can be set to respond to “Hey Cortana” prompts on PC as well as phone – and if both devices are within range she’ll do the task on both but seems smart enough not to make two copies of the task.

I also use her to track news items on topics of interest to me – such as news about political issues, technologies, companies I’m interested in, etc… and I see it in a useful summary form.  It’s a really good nexus to stay informed on the things I care about.

In summary, I use it a lot because there are a lot of little things I want to remember – but I don’t want them cluttering up my mind or my ToDo list until I need to do them.  If I forget something, it’s because I didn’t take the time to ask Cortana to remind me.

The future of digital assistants?

I do wish I could ask questions of Cortana and have the result sent to people who either don’t have Cortana or have it and ask me when they should be asking Cortana (my wife).  Maybe a feature like “Notify my Wife when I’m heading home for the night” or “Remind my Wife to have the left front tire checked for leaks next time she’s at the mechanic” – or even “Tell my Wife the weather forecast” (she already knows that what contact info to use for “my Wife”).

I’d also like to see interop with Siri and Google Now for tasks like “Find a good place and time to meet with my friend John Doe” then it’d maybe find places half-way between us, at venues we both like, that serve the kind of food we both like and fit into our schedules.  If I had a real assistant that’s the kind of thing I’d ask him/her to do most – and none of the digital assistants can “have my people talk to your people”.

Also, it’d be cool if Microsoft used the technology they developed for PowerShell to allow Cortana users to hand off computing tasks to the appropriate machine for the task at hand.

From your phone you could instruct your desktop PC (or several different desktops and tablets) to work together on a bandwidth or processor intensive task – then only send your phone the result. 

This kind of thing could get the job done much faster and save power and bandwidth by matching the right devices with the right tasks.

Windows Phone Apps I Recommend

Microsoft did a really great job of integrating the features I use most right into the core phone OS, so honestly, I spend most of my time using built-in Windows Phone functionality – but sometimes I have a need to get off the reservation. Here are some Windows Phone apps I recommend checking out (and you can download them to your phone from the links provided)…

4th & Mayor (Foursquare Client)
Amazon Kindle (I read free classics with expired copyright)
Avego Driver (neat idea, needs more users locally for it to work though)
BandWidth (checks your bandwidth)
Constitution (don’t leave home without it)
FlightAware (See that plane in the sky? Wonder where it’s from and where it’s going?)
GasBuddy (allows you to check and log real-time gas price data so you know a good deal when you see it)
Glympse (shares your real-time location with friends for a set amount of time)
GoPayment (allows you to accept credit cards for a 4% fee)
HealthVault (mobile app that ties into MS HealthVault services)
Love Clean Streets (See a problem? Take a photo and describe it, they’ll find out what authorities are responsible for correcting it)
Netflix
Planning Poker (A tool for Scrum estimation meetings)
SkyDrive (25 GB of cloud storage)
SkyMap Free (To figure out what that star is…)
TouchDevelop (An experiment in scripting by touch UI)
Visual Studio Achievements (Get achievements for working in Visual Studio)
The Weather Channel
WPCentral (Great source for Windows Phone news)
Your Shape (Tracks your progress in Your Shape, Fitness Evolved for Xbox Kinect)
YouTube Pro (Allows viewing of HD YouTube videos with a Metro UI)

First Attempt at Driving Video

For a few months I’ve been brainstorming with my brother to find some kind of dashboard camera mount for my mobile phone so I could shoot 720p video while driving – without having to fuss with holding a camera – just set-it and forget it. Winking smile

After looking at a variety of solutions that weren’t very good, I told him maybe I’d just get a Flip cam. The quality isn’t incredible, but it’d do the trick.  That’s when he told me about GoPro cameras – I’d seen them before in reality shows on cable but it never dawned on me that they’d be affordable. Turns out the GoPro HD Hero2 retails for $299.99 (seems to be some price fixing going on because I never saw it for even a penny less online).  Compare that to my MiniDV Sony DTR-TRV30 camcorder I bought a few years ago for $1,500 or so at the time and this seems affordable by comparison.

Amazingly, in addition to being able to shoot 1080p HD video, it also has some nice features for artsy photos, like the ability to take ten 11 Megapixel photos in one second via “Burst” mode, shoot high frame-rate video for slow-motion, and even shoot time-lapse videos. Something odd about the GoPro is that it doesn’t have a screen to show you what you’re recording – which is interesting because you just kind of turn it on and forget about it rather than experiencing life through the viewfinder as can happen with other cameras.

One of the things that really struck me about the video I had seen filmed with GoPro cameras was the quality of work shot by novices – which is really the point of this post, to show you the first two videos I recorded with my GoPro – ever.  Both were shot using the suction cup mount I bought with the camera (waterproof and supposedly secure up to 200mph). The commute to work was shot with the camera suction cupped to my car’s moon roof.  The return home it was suction cupped to the windshield under the rear-view mirror.

Anyway, here they are (if you can watch at 1080p full-screen!):

GoPro HD Hero2 1080p internally suction cup mounted to windshield

I picked the music by looking for something fitting in my music collection (ZunePass) that matched the length of the video.  Hopefully the music isn’t a distraction – and I think in parts both of the videos sync up nicely with the music. Not bad for video that was simply sped-up 4x and not really edited (I added the music and sped up the video using Windows Live Movie Maker).

GoPro HD Hero2 vs. Contour+ (Contour Plus)

I was talking to my brother a few weeks ago about an idea for mounting my Windows Phone in my car for capturing HD video while driving. Down side is that you lose phone functionality (such as checking traffic) with such set-ups.

I started talking about getting a Flip cam for the purpose and he pointed out that the PoV camera market was really heating up with some nice offerings.  He suggested the GoPro HD Hero2 camera that released in October. I also researched the Contour+ PoV camera.

I ultimately ended up going with the GoPro HD Hero2 for now, but there were quite a few things I liked about it over the GoPro.  One thing that is hard to ignore though is the community behind a device.

Compare the Twitter news feed traffic:

@contour_cam – https://twitter.com/#!/search/contour_cam
gopro – https://twitter.com/#!/search/gopro

In the past 24 hours or so, people have Tweeted about GoPro cameras 2200 times, and Contour only 56.  Sounds like the marketing folks at Contour cam have their work cut out for them.

Ultimately the reason I went with GoPro was the apparent picture quality compared to what I could find for the Contour.  Seems like there’s room enough in the PoV camera marketplace for two high-end competitors so I hope it stays that way for the sake of innovation.

Personal Access Display Device (PADD) vs. Personal Digital Assistant (PDA)

This page was a comparison between PDA fantasy and PDA reality in 1998.

Background | PADD Facts | Comparison | Discuss


BACKGROUND

The first place I remember seeing a PDA was on the television show Star Trek, The Next Generation (STTNG). Crew members could be seen toting them around. In later episodes, they became so common that some of the extras on the show began to refer to them as “hall passes” (Perhaps as PDA’s become more popular in every day life, this term may catch on within major corporations). I even remember one scene where Captain Picard had a pile of PADD‘s on his desk.

I think that the first device I owned in this form-factor was a Nintendo Game Boy. Mine did not have PIM capabilities (though I recall seeing a keyboard and PIM cartridge that may have seen the market in Japan), nor the ability to synchronize with a desktop computer – but this did not matter to me because I was 14 years old and had no PIM data. I also had no computer.

After graduating from high school, I got a job at CompUSA and was exposed for the first time to the Apple Newton. This was truly an ingenious device – a half-decade ahead of it’s time. Unfortunately, despite many rumors to the contrary, Apple has not announced plans to compete again in this space.

At the moment, the device that comes closest to matching the functionality of a PADD from STTNG is the Windows Mobile (WinMo) device. WinMo devices were made by a number of different manufacturers. For the purposes of this demonstration, I have compared the PADD to a Casio E-125 Pocket PC (an early version of WinMo). As devices better suited to this comparison surface, I may replace the Casio, at the time this article was written it came the closest to the parameters set forth in the STTNG Technical Manual.

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PADD FACTS

In STTNG, the PADD was designed to allow crewmembers to do two things:

  1. execute hardware functions in a variety of locations
  2. manipulate visual information and communicate that information to others aboard ship

In a PADD, there are three replaceable parts:

  • the sarium power loop – we’d call this a battery
  • isolinear memory chip – or for us, a memory card
  • and subspace transceiver assembly (STA) – a cellular modem

In STTNG, the PADD’s are recharged via “induction charging”, though I must recharge my Pocket PC via the synchronization cradle or some other cable based power adaptor. User security is implemented on the main computer system, and this carries over to the device.

Interestingly, with a properly configured PADD, a crewmember could pilot a starship while walking down a hallway on the Enterprise. Admittedly, it would probably be difficult on a small screen, but this gives you an idea of the flexibility of the device.

This can be accomplished because the computer systems in STTNG are viewed as an integrated organism where each component is seen as a cell in a body directed by a central brain. Much as in our own human brains, the processing capabilities are spread throughout the network. Because of this, information can be shared and transferred between devices with ease.

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COMPARISON

PADD Tricorder Casio E-125
CPU: Unknown Unknown VR4122 (150MHz)
OS: Unknown Unknown Microsoft® Windows® for Pocket PC
ROM: Unknown Unknown 16MB
RAM: 4.3 kiloquads Unknown 32MB
 
Display: 4.25 times larger than Tricorder 2.4 x 3.6 cm 6 x 8 cm LCD (240×320 dots), Hyper Amorphous Silicon TFT color liquid crystal, 65,536-color, touch-panel display
Display area: 36.72 cm² 8.64 cm² 48 cm²
 
Expansion: Isolinear Chip Unknown Card slot – CF Card Type II x 1
Interfaces: STA Unknown (STA?) Serial port -RS-232C, USB (Client), Infrared – IrDA 1.2
Communications speed: 4.3 Kqs maximum Unknown 115.2 Kbps maximum
 
Power source life: 16 hours 18 hours Main battery – approx. 8 hours (when repeatedly operated 1 min. and displayed 10 min.) Battery backup – approx. 5 years (when main battery is recharged soon after charge warning message)
Operating Temperature: Unknown Unknown 0-40°C
 
Size: 10 (W) x 15 (L) x 1 (H) cm 8.5 (W) x 12 (L) x 3 (H) cm 8.36 (W) x 13.12 (L) x 2.00 (H) cm
Weight: 130.02 g 353 g 250g (including battery)
Volume: 150 cm³ 306 cm³ 219.37 cm³
Density: 0.87 g/cm³ (est.) 0.87 g/cm³ 0.88 g/cm³
 
Case: Boronite whisker epoxy Unknown Plastic
Max Drop Height: 35 m Unknown Unknown
Sound: Input – Audio pickup sensor Unknown Input – Internal microphone (mono), Output – Internal speaker (mono), headphone jack (stereo)

SOURCE: Star Trek The Next Generation Technical Manual by Rick Sternbach and Michael Okuda.
ISBN: 0-671-70427-3

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DISCUSS

Have anything to contribute on this topic? Weigh-in on the Skype chat.

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