I haven’t written a lot on here recently, partly because I’ve been busy at work with various projects and partly because I’ve been stressing about buying a new house (I’m still waiting for the people at the top of the chain to vacate their property. There are only four people in the chain, including me, yet it’s been nearly 6 months since I sold my property. C’mon people, let’s get moving).
Anyway, I’m writing this from my new laptop in my hotel room in London where I’ve been sent to attend an Exchange 2010 course. I have a spare thirty minutes, so thought I’d write up a quick review of my experience so far. As with most of my reviews, these are based on my own narrow perspective and should probably be read with a generous pinch of salt.
Work recently provided me with a new laptop, after I dropped a not-so-subtle hint that my own had died and I couldn’t afford to replace it (Not strictly true, but hey, I use it for work so why shouldn’t work pay for it!). Anyway, I chose a Samsung Series 7 Chronos laptop with an i5 processor, 8Gb of RAM and a 1Tb hard drive. I have been using it every day this week, and I am suitably impressed with the hardware. The battery life (although perhaps not the reported 11 and a half hours) exceeds my previous laptops by several hours, the screen is large enough to be useful and is crystal clear. The keyboard is comfortable, and the keys are well spaced and don’t have that “flick off-able” quality that some cheaper laptop keyboards have (you know, when you’re speed typing and your finger catches the edge of a key and flicks it off. And no matter what you do, that key never feels the same afterwards!).
In fact, the only thing that lets this laptop down is the software. It can pre-loaded with Windows 8, which was an intentional decision on my part as I felt that I needed to get some exposure to Win8 in order to better assist friends, family & colleagues when they upgrade. While I am pretty sure the OS works well on a mobile device such as a tablet or phone, I really don’t like it on laptops (nor will I like it on desktops!). Microsoft have put both interfaces (the new Metro touchscreen style interface, and the old style desktop interface), and while you can flick between them manually, the fact that different apps runs in different interfaces mean that you will spend much of your time switching between the two. This wouldn’t be so bad if applications such as IE that run in both interfaces actually moved between interfaces as well, but unfortunately each IE instance is totally separate, so pages you’ve opened in one interface don’t appear in the other.
Some of the apps also don’t feel particularly stable. The provided Mail app, for example, keeps telling me that my gmail account is unavailable, despite synching with it not 5 minutes ago. And what is up with having to sign in with a Microsoft account for everything (You even have to sign in with your Microsoft account to start the Mail app, even if you’ve no intention of using the app with a Microsoft email account.
All in all, Windows 8 feels a bit like Vista. A step between two vastly different products that has been used to introduced new features and technologies. As with most new technology, it has rough edges that I’m sure will be smoothed out in time for the release of Windows 9.
I’m staying in the Travelodge on City Road, and I have to say, it’s not been as bad as I thought it’d be. Despite it’s location, and the warnings of traffic and nightclub noise posted on their website, the room has been for the most part quiet and relaxing. The only noisy elements have been one or two of the guests who seem to thinking nothing of having conversations at the top of their voices whilst leaving their rooms at 4am.
The room is basic, but clean. Tea/Coffee etc are provided free of charge and are topped up daily. The room is also cleaned daily (I noted that some other reviews stated their rooms were only cleaned a couple of times a week). There is a bar/café down stairs which I haven’t yet used, so can’t really comment on the quality of the food, but it’s nice to know that it’s an option.
The staff (from the little I’ve seen of them) are friendly and polite. All in all, a decent hotel that I would have no objection to staying in again.
Finally, the Exchange 2010 course that I’ve been attending. I’m not going to go into too much detail yet with the actual course content, as the week isn’t over and it’d be unfair to judge the course based on the first couple of days (which tend to be quite basic regardless of what course you’re on).
The course is being carried out by QA on Tabernacle Street, which is only a couple hundred yards from my hotel. The facilities are about average, with free tea/coffee/biscuits etc. Each student has their own dual screened workstation with 16Gb RAM and plenty of virtual machines to play with. Unlike some courses, you’re not made to pair up with another student in order to test out interactions between systems; each individual workstation runs its own virtual AD/Exchange organisation.
Lunch is pretty much as good as it gets for someone with “lunchophobia”, with us being essentially kicked out and made to find our own places to eat (although we are permitted to bring food back to the classroom).
All in all, not a bad experience and I don’t think I’d have any objections staying in this Travelodge once more, armed with my Chronos laptop ready to embark upon another QA course.