Sunday, October 28, 2012

Comparing my Microsoft Surface (aka Surfette) to my iPad 2 (aka Mr. iPad)

Let me start with a disclaimer, yes I am a Microsoftie.  However, I have also loved my iPad2 since I bought it last October.  My iPad 2 (whom I creatively named Mr. iPad) became my companion device.  It replaced my Kindle as my main e-reader, was great for browsing the web while watching TV, and of course, there were all the cool apps!  Admittedly, when I first bought Mr. iPad I went on an app shopping spree...but after the novelty wore off, the only apps I found myself always using were Flipboard, Kindle, Netflix, and of course Safari.

As much as I loved Mr. iPad, some of his traits did drive me a little batty.  For example not being able to dock two apps side by side was an annoyance...sometimes I want a web page up for reference while I did some calculations with a calculator app.  Having to keep toggling between the two apps tested my patience a lot.  I also missed being able to access music from my Zune (now known as Xbox music) account.  Because I am a paid Xbox music subscriber, I get to download music up to three devices.  However, given there was no Zune app on iPad, I didn't blame Mr. iPad for that.

Then, the Microsoft Surface RT and Pro were announced!  I was really excited at the Win8 features, and once the Microsoft Surface RT was available for pre-order, I snapped one up right away.  Once my Surface RT (aka Surfette) arrived, I put her through the wringers...would she live up to my high expectations?  I decided to write a blog comparing Surfette to Mr. iPad.  To set the stage, I bumped up the screen brightness on both my tablets to be maximum.

Here is Mr iPad in his red cover, and Surfette in her touch cover (more on that later)

The lock screen for both...Mr. iPad prompts me to enter my pin, while Surfette shows me a screen with date, time, upcoming appointments, etc.

With a swipe from the bottom of the screen to the top, Surfette takes me to my login, and I choose to make use of the picture password.  It is a cute feature that allows you to pick your own photo and three gestures.  Makes me smile.  :)

Here is a view of Mr. iPad's "home" screen to Surfette's "home" screen.  While Mr iPad's tiles give me some info as well such as number of new messages, I really love Windows 8's live tiles feature.  At a glance, it lets me know of updates, such as upcoming calendar appointments, incoming mails, etc.

To bring up settings on Surfette, I swipe in from the right screen, which brings up the charms bar allowing me to do search, settings, connect to other devices, etc.  It is nice that I can set settings while my Windows 8 homescreen or app is running in the background.

Let's compare the mail clients connected to my Hotmail account.

On the left is Mr. iPad's iOS6 mail client.  On the right is Surfette's Microsoft Mail client.  Overall both do a good job, however because of Surfette's extra width, I am able to see more information up front such as my mail folders.  Now, what if while we are checking our mail we want a quick view of the of the other apps that we are running?

With Mr.iPad I can double click the button and the apps pop up from the bottom of the screen, shrinking the screen real estate of my mail client.  With Surfette, a small swipe in and out from the left screen pops up the app menu to the left, which just overlays in top of my running app.  It seems minor, but the time it takes me to do the nudge gesture is quicker than the double clicks of the button.  However, the iPad does allow me to scroll through all of my running apps, while the Surface only shows the last six most recently used apps.  On Surfette, you can use the left swipe gesture to toggle through all your apps.

What about my favorite Kindle app?

Above you see the two apps side by side with their settings options open.  Below are better pictures of each.

Mr. iPad allows me two font sizes

Surfette allows me more font options, and has a cute preview screen showing me my selections.  The biggest downside to the Win8 Kindle app compared to the iPad Kindle app is that you cannot download your Kindle magazines subscriptions to the Win8 Kindle app.  That was pretty disappointing to me :(  I hope Amazon will address this in a future update.

Now, what about the all important browser?  Below you see a view of the Facebook on both Safari and IE.

Note that by default, the address bar and other tabs for IE are not visible, which is great because it gives me more screen real estate for my web page.

On Surfette, with a swipe from the bottom of the screen to the top (the common gesture to get to settings for all apps), the address bar and other browing tabs appear.  Now let's compare the touch keyboards.

I really love the layout of Surfette's number keys...perhaps it is because from my days working as a bank teller, but that is the layout that allows me to type in numbers the fastest.  (Disclaimer, maybe there was a way to set this option for Mr. iPad but I never discovered it)

Moving onto one more app comparison, how about Netflix?

Surfette's 16:9 aspect ratio allows me to view movies in fullscreen, without the black bars that are Mr. iPad.  The Windows 8 Netflix app also does a good job of giving you more information when you pause the film/show.

Now for what truly drew me to Surfette in the first place...ability to dock two apps side by side!  While watching Netflix, I can now check on my other apps such as IE

Woot!  Also, while the movie is playing, if I want to bring up my other apps, the movie continues to play on Surfette, while on Mr. iPad the movie is paused.

But what about the touch cover?  The whole reason I bought an iPad in the first place was for a trip to Hong Kong.  I didn't want to carry a laptop, and wanted a device that was better than my phone at checking/writing emails.  While Mr. iPad performed well, while I was in HK I did find myself missing the features of Office Word.  With Windows RT, it comes with a preview of Office 2013 (with the exception of Outlook 2013).  Clicking in my touch cover, I started Word 2013.

Word 2013 brings me into Desktop mode, which is not as touch friendly as the Windows 8 start screen.  However, the touch cover which has an awesome trackpad, I now found myself using Surfette as a traditional laptop.  She has transformed!


Closer view of the touch cover.  I really liked the integrated Windows and charms keys. Another awesome thing about the touch cover is that it allows me to use all the hotkeys I'm used to such as ctrl+c for copy, etc.  This isn't just for word, but for all text inputs in Windows 8 apps.

Of course, you can dock your apps alongside your desktop :)

So in summary, yes the Microsoft Surface RT has truly lived up to all my expectations.  Of course, there are many apps such as magazines, BigFish games, etc that I miss from my iPad, but I hope that with time the Windows Store will catch up.

Surfette has become my new companion app.  But don't worry, Mr. iPad will be going to a good home as he will soon be keeping my Aunt company :)

And finally, for those who are wondering is the touch cover really able to stand up to the rigors of authoring a document...I wrote this blog entry completely on Surfette via the touch cover :)

Happy Surfacing!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Lentil can you hear me?

Ok, bad pun.  But I'm proud of my first foray into cooking with lentils!  A friend gave me his VegNews magazines, and I found some recipes I had wanted to try out.  First was an Indian Red Lentil Dal dish.  With promises of whisking me away to Delhi, how could I resist?

I have never cooked with lentils before, but I have read that they are a great source of protein and iron, so I was excited to try it out.  Turns out they are extremely easy to cook, unlike beans you do not need to soak them overnight.  I gathered all the ingredients and got ready to cook!

Ok...who am I kidding..._M started to you can tell by the excellent onion chopping skills...

 And under an hour...voila!  Our first home-cooked Dal, served over brown basmati rice.

I was very happy with the recipe, as it was not spicy.  Although I love cumin and tumeric, I'm not a big fan of heat.  In fact at Thai restaurants I always request 0 stars if possible, so I am a total spicy wimp.

On a completely different note, and given that this blog is called "NerdyYogi" but I have yet to blog about yoga...I wanted to give a quick shout out to the 3rd annual Yoga for Hope Seattle event back in mid July.  This is the third time Seattle has hosted this event, and my third time participating.  Great people, amazing energy, and an awesome concert by Steve Gold.  Practicing yoga to live music is one of the times when I am most content ^__^

Thank you to everyone who have supported me...thanks to you and the Microsoft gift matching program, I had exceeded my goal of raising $500.00 for Yoga for Hope.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Shake It Like a Polaroid Picture!

Ever since I read an article about "Shakeology" last year, I have wanted to try it out.  The premise is that it is a nutritious shake powder made from whole foods, so that all the vitamins, minerals, omega 3's, and antioxidants are from natural sources.  Unfortunately, the hefty price tag of $119 for a bag of 30 servings was way too steep for me to buy an entire bag to try out the taste.

With my veggie quest, I have been looking to find a nutritious shake to start my day right, and that I cover most of my nutrition requirements.  My friend recently told me that he heard about Shakeology, and found a "BeachBody Coach" who was selling a sample pack for $25.  I jumped at the chance to see what all the fuss is about :)

I received two packets of Greenberry, and two of Chocolate.  I started with the Chocolate, and brought my Vitamix out of storage to make a breakfast smoothie.  I mixed one packet of Shakeology Chocolate with a cup of unsweetened almond milk and a handful of ice.  The shake was delicious!!!  It didn't taste like the usual fake, chalky chocolate meal replacement shakes, but tasted like a creamy malt chocolate milk shake.  It also kept me full until past 12:30pm, whereas with my normal breakfast of egg+fruit I'm usually hungry by 11:00am.

The next morning, I wanted to use my "Magic Bullet" to make a Greenberry shake so that there would be less cleanup.  Here I made the noobie mistake of putting the powder in first, and then the milk and ice.  No matter how I mixed, there was still some powder residue left at the bottom of the cup...lesson learned!  The GreenBerry shake was very good - tasted like a banana/berry/green tea smoothie.  There was also a nice hint of cinammon, and again the shake kept me full till 12:30pm.

Notice there are no bubbles in the Shakeology shake...I loved the creamy and thick consistency

I found that with both flavours I was very happy with the taste, and I had increased energy throughout the day (though that could be a placebo effect :)).  I usually chug two cups of black coffee a day, and I didn't have the caffeine cravings on the days I consumed Shakeology.  The downsides to Shakeology are its price and the fact that you have to buy it online via either the BeachBody website or through a "BeachBody Coach".  The only way to get a discount off the price is to become a "Beachbody Coach" - you pay $40.00 to get started then pay a fee of $16.00 a month.  I think most people become a "Beachbody Coach" to sell BeachBody products to friends/family to make money on the side.  However, as a coach you get 25% discount on all "Team Beachbody" merchandise.  This smells a little too strongly of Mary Kay and Amway to me, so I went searching for an alternative to Shakeology...

Aother friend gave me his old Veg News magazines, and I saw an ad for Vega One Nutritional Shake.  Its premise seems similar to Shakeology, except it is fully vegan.  Given that you can buy sample packs at Whole Foods, I was excited to find a Shakeology replacement that I can buy either in store, or online via Amazon.  I bought three sample packs - Chocolate, Vanila Chai, and Berry.

This blog isn't titled "NerdyYogi" for nothing, so time to break out the nerdy science experiements!  I compared the Shakeology Chocolate and Vega One Chocolate nutritional info, and it turns out they were very similar.  Shakeology had higher concentrations of vitamins, but Vega One had higher concentrations of minerals.

In terms of proprietary blends, there were of course differences.  Shakeology also used a natural sweetener blend of non-GMO fructose and stevia, whereas Vega One uses stevia leaf extract.

And now for the most important part - the taste!  I tasted all three, and my preferred flavor was Berry.  Unfortunately, with all three, there is a very strong stevia after taste.  In the past I have tried to use stevia as a sugar replacement in baking, and every time the strong stevia after taste caused me to compost all my creations.  The Vega One shakes were also not creamy when I whipped them up with almond milk and ice, and kept me full till about 11:15am (versus 12:30pm).  I found that I didn't receive the energy boost with the Vega One shakes so I did drink more coffee on the Vega One days, but to be honest I also got a lot less sleep on those days, which probably negated any "shake effect".

Vega One Chocolate

Vega One Berry
(Notice all the bubbles - the Vega One Shakes do not whip up creamy)

In terms of a price difference between the two, Vega One retails for 69.99 for 20 servings, for a cost of $3.50 a serving.  However, you can buy Vega One on ~20% off, knocking down the per serving cost to be $2.75.  Shakeology retails for 119.99 for 30 servings, for a cost of $4.00 a serving.

So, is Shakeology worth the extra $1.25 per serving?  In trying to stay ah-hem, cost-concious, I kept drinking the Vega One shakes hoping that as time goes on I will get over the stevia after taste.  Unfortunately the taste for me did not improve over time.

So in summary, Shakeology was the winner for me (I bought a bag of the new Vegan Chocolate through the BeachBody website).  Don't worry, I didn't sign up to be a coach and I will not be pointing you to my coach website where you can buy the shakes from me :)  That is what I found super annoying in my research about Shakeology - most of the web sites out there are just from Team Beachbody coaches, hoping that you will buy the shakes from their links.  For laughs you should try searching for "Shakeology scam", the results are littered with "Is Shakeology a Scam", and when you click the answer is "No, of course not!  Look at all the good stuff you get.  Now buy from meeeee!!!"

Happy Shakin'!