Two Weeks In

If the past few months were hectic, my first two weeks at Microsoft were… hard to describe, really.

Oh, everything is going swimmingly. I just can’t really write anything about it (of course), except for the glaringly obvious bits, like there suddenly being a lot of extra stuff to read, try out and get comfortable with.

For instance, and to cater to my gadget-loving audience, I was given a Lumia 640 XL (non-LTE, alas), which is a great way to catch up with the state of affairs of Windows Phone – something I’ve been tracking for a while and that I’ve been meaning to try recently.

The thing is huge, “unapologetically plastic” (but likely not in the way you’re used to that expression) and runs the current Windows 10 previews just fine, so I’m having quite some fun with it1.

The camera is rather good (although I’ve yet to have the time – and decent enough weather – to test it in earnest), and the size and overall quality of the screen turns out to be more than good enough for reading ebooks. And despite the humungous display panel, the battery lasts a long time.

As such, and since it is vastly more portable than my Nexus 7, it’s become a killer combo mobile hotspot/book reader for my commutes, as well as an amazing Remote Desktop client (it’s 720p HD, so I can leave it propped up as a sort of secondary display to keep an eye on server installs).

The Lumia was also my incidental introduction to universal apps on Windows – Nextgen Reader is a great Feedly client, and turned out to be an excellent purchase – for EUR 1.00, it was the first universal application I ever bought, and works splendidly (with an almost Reeder-grade degree of UI polish2) on my laptop as well.

Oh, right, the laptop. Well, it’s not a Mac, but I can’t complain either – one of my first “real” laptops was a ThinkPad, and here I am using one again. In particular, it was remarkable how I started using the TrackPoint nub again without even thinking about it, though – it’s been something like fifteen years since I last used a ThinkPad at length, and yet the instinct’s still there.

It’s very, very convenient, but I have terrible memories of RSI from it. So I am forcing myself to use the trackpad, which is nice (as far as PC trackpads go) and even has gesture support. I do, however, keep trying to do triple-finger drags to move windows (a tweak that has become indispensable to me, even on Force Touch trackpads).

Having a massive HIDPI touchscreen on a laptop is a game changer, though, and something I’m still adjusting to. Just like the (backlit) keyboard, which was a pleasing experience from the get go (ooh, such comfortable key tops!), but where my fingers keep looking for the Ctrl key on the “right” place.

I find that the hardest part, however, is the aesthetics, both in terms of hardware and of software (although, to be fair, Windows 10 on the Lumia is very pleasing).

But typography, in particular, is still a sore point, especially when running desktop applications that are not yet HIDPI aware. The upside is that Segoe UI looks wonderful and is much more readable than I expected on a HIDPI display, although it is still jarring to have common dialogs pop up in a variety of different font sizes depending on which app they’re from.

Bear in mind, though, that I keep a copy of Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style on my bedside table, so I’m naturally biased towards noticing that kind of thing. And that I’m still typing this on a Mac, and using all my other home gear.

And that’s it, really. The people are great, the work is challenging (in a good way) and my usual penchant for drinking from firehoses every time I land in a new environment means that I have a lot of stuff on my mind, but this time around it’s all good.

Like they say… Come as you are. Do what you love.

  1. I’m using it as a secondary phone, since years of terminal testing taught me to keep my main SIM on a production device, period. ↩︎

  2. Only slightly marred by the lack of more font options (no Georgia? Seriously?) and the inability to change the list font size on a HIDPI display, but hey,for the price I’m definitely not complaining. ↩︎