I’ve used most of my computer hobby time since the release of Windows 10 fighting to keep the things I had working, rather than actually using and enjoying my computers. Now with the release of Windows 10 Build 10586, most things seem to work, and although some of the new bundled apps seem far from finished products, the basics work. What follows are what I see as the building blocks for thriving in the Microsoft ecosystem:
I log into my local system with my Microsoft Account. This simplifies access to the pieces of the Microsoft Ecosystem. It makes it simpler for me to manage multiple systems with a single sign-on. It simplifies product licensing and purchases from the Microsoft store. It ties the ecosystem together.
OneDrive may be the most-used new feature of the Microsoft ecosystem for me. It has basically become my storage location of choice between all of my systems. I have an Office 365 subscription that gives me 1 TB of OneDrive cloud storage, which is plenty for everything I want to share across systems. It also allows me to access all of my music from a device without enough storage to fit it all in. I take my Microsoft Surface with me to meetings and now when a document is called for, they look to me because chances are I have a copy on the OneDrive. The OneDrive synchronization model allows me access to most files without an Internet connection, but I’m finding that I have Internet just about everywhere I need it, and when don’t, I use a mobile hotspot from my phone.
I like music; I have a good deal of Music ripped from CDs; I don’t listen to music very often, and that is partly because it’s not where I need it so be. The files total around 36 GB, more than I have free on my mobile devices. Now I can upload the music to OneDrive, and then with Groove Music search and listen to it as long as I have an Internet connection. What’s extra nice about this is that there are iOS and Android apps too. I can also download music to the device and play it with Groove Music for situations like a car trip. I also like not having to install iTunes on all my devices.
The theme here is that now I have things when and where I need them without much extra effort and planning.
Bluetooth isn’t Microsoft, or new, but I recently put something together that I enjoyed. I downloaded a karaoke video from YouTube onto my Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and then “connected” Bluetooth speakers. I played the video with Microsoft Media Player. The result was a hand-held karaoke machine that I took to a party, getting rave reviews on the result. I also have some Bluetooth headphones that get a lot of use.
I have a Kindle Fire HD, but I haven’t turned it on in ages. It’s been completely replaced by the Kindle app on my Windows tablet. I have other book reader apps and Adobe Reader DC that allow me to have my books with me anytime. Amazon serves its own content, and the rest goes on the OneDrive. I rarely buy paper books anymore. Some people prefer paper books, but I have one word for them, “search.”
Office 365 Home is a great deal for me since I have 5 systems that need Office and the $100 annual fee gets me all the Office apps (including Access and Publisher) for $20 per device per year. I updated to Office 2016 without an upgrade fee, and I get 1 TB of OneDrive storage with the deal. I shared the subscription with my wife, and now she gets 1 TB of storage for herself. I also use the included mobile license for my Dell tablet and my iPhone. I could put it on my Android tablet too, but I hardly ever use that. Just today I needed a phone number that wasn’t in my address book, but someone had send me a list of phone numbers in a Word document that I had saved on the OneDrive. I accessed the OneDrive on my iPhone and opened it with Word Mobile.
Skype / Phone
Microsoft has released its Phone app that connects to Skype users. What’s confusing for now is that Office 365 gives me 60 minutes of Skype to phone time per month, but the Phone app can’t call phones, at least not so far. The Skype desktop app still works though. I’ll file this one under “unfinished,” but promising.
Surface Pro 3
Lots of companies make hardware, but I chose the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 for my tablet and it is a sweet machine. It is fast, and powerful. I can plug in standard USB devices, run BlueTooth, and connect with WiFi. The Type keyboard is very usable. All in all, it replaces a laptop handily.