The Surface RT goes on sale at Challenger and I got a quick look at it. Surface RT, is Microsoft’s first foray into the tablet space and the attention showered to the hardware is clearly evident. Windows RT, the operating system that runs on it, sadly, ain’t so good.
The promise of the Surface RT is simple: You get a tablet when you want a tablet, and you get a laptop when you want a laptop. For the most part this is true. You can lounge with your videos and Kindle books, you can listen to music, read magazines, and when you need to do some serious work, there’s the Office 2013 suite available. Connect the type cover keyboard, and it is transformed to a good sized working “laptop”.
When it comes to Surface engineering marvels, Microsoft has long been a major designer of mice and keyboards, and Panos Panay, the hardware guy in charge of Surface development, came from keyboards, but that still doesn’t prepare you for how elegant a job the company did on this. I hate to say that it’s Apple-like in its simple yet high functionality, but there’s really no other company that could integrate such an accessory with such grace.
Hardware wise, the screen is gorgeous, and the Surface RT is the biggest in this range of tablets, as compared to the iPad and Nexus 10 with their 9.6″ and 10.1″ screens. Battery life is also reasonably good with the Surface RT promising to last up to 8 hours on relatively high intensive use.
So what is it? A pressure sensitive pad that you type on? What’s the big deal? I promise you, get to a Microsoft store on Oct. 26, if only to try this out. The thing is so smart, it knows when you’re just resting your fingers on the keys and when you really are trying to get words out. And the popping sounds you hear when you type, while seeming corny at first, actually give you the feedback you need to touch type without looking, enough to make you forget that all you’re really doing is slamming your fingers down on a fake-suede placemat.
I could understand why the Surface Pro required to keep the original Windows interface available to users, since that was poised to offer a full featured computing experience, able to run all existing Windows program. However, the RT was never set out as such, and if it was only designed to run custom apps on the new Windows UI, Microsoft should have just eradicated the old remnants of the Operating System. It even happens when interacting with the tablet in ways that really don’t necessitate the old interface. For instance:
- Classic Windows is required for a simple task as just adding music.
- Why are there two control panels, a modern UI version and a classic version, with overlapping settings and controls?
- There’s even two different versions of Internet Explorer as well. And you can open both browsers separately in their difference interface, and they don’t synchronise. That’s just plain weird.
However, while the hardware design is important, software will always remain the key differentiator in tablets. That’s why Apple is still receiving so much support for their tablets. Just compare the iPad Mini versus the Nexus 7. It’s also not just about the software of the operating system alone, as the third party ecosystem, i.e. the “app store” is equally important and that’s where the Windows RT tablet is lacking currently. Microsoft would really need to push and excite more developers to come onboard this platform.
This last section is dedicated to the Geeky folks. The Surface RT had been launched since October 2012 last year and quite abit of hacking had already been done.
There’s the RT Jailbreak Tool – It allows non-Microsoft ARM-compiled .exes to run on the desktop and to also load unsigned drivers. Thanks to XDA-Developer netham45.
You could actually run normal Desktop apps or Windows program (x86-based) on the Windows RT platform through emulation. XDA-Developer mamaich had achieved it here. It is still a beta, but simple applications have been shown to be working on the Surface RT already. Even games are possible – Pinball from Windows 98, Age of Empires 1, – WinRAR, 7Zip have been proven to be working.
The below list was extracted from XDA as well, to help provide a list of desktop apps which have been recompiled to run on hacked Windows RT devices. It’s a very useful resource for any Surface RT owners.
Apps which have been recompiled:
- Bochs. x86 Emulator. Known issue: no network support. http://forum.xda-developers.com/atta…8&d=1357575232
- TightVNC. VNC server and client. http://forum.xda-developers.com/atta…0&d=1357561475
- PuTTY Suite. SSH/Rsh/telnet client and helpers. Printing fixed in this build. http://forum.xda-developers.com/atta…0&d=1357948281
- 7-Zip. Utility for file archives and disk images. https://mega.co.nz/#!FhQV3SZA!MWayY1…FQpnnA3ZNApq7g
- Notepad++. Powerful but simple text/code editor. New direct link: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/8557161/rt/…B_6.2.3_arm.7z
- SciTE. Code editor (http://www.scintilla.org/SciTE.html). http://fearthecowboy.com/stuff/wscite.zip (Thanks to XDA-Devs member FearTheCowboy)
- IP Messenger. Peer-to-peer chat/file transfer (http://ipmsg.org/index.html.en). Binaries at http://forum.xda-developers.com/atta…1&d=1357842066, source at http://forum.xda-developers.com/atta…5&d=1357842310
- Unikey 3.6. Known issue: without RtfIO, the “Toolkit” and “Conversion on the fly” features won’t work. Older 3.1 build posted below https://dl.dropbox.com/u/8557161/rt/unikeyNT3.62_arm.7z (Thanks minhtuan99bk)
- CrystalBoy. Nintendo Gameboy emulator. Known issue: uses GDI+ instead of DirectX, may reduce performance. Conflicting reports as to whether it works. http://sdrv.ms/11kcXXL Thanks to DXA-Developers member daveoggy.
- ClassicStartMenu. Provides a hierarchical Start menu on the desktop taskbar. http://forum.xda-developers.com/atta…9&d=1358061318 (Thanks Netham45).
- Python 2.7.3. Programming/scripting language and runtime. Known issues: Compiled without the Foreign Function Interface, so stuff that needs to call native code won’t work. https://dl.dropbox.com/u/8557161/rt/Python27armrt.7z (Once again, big thanks to minhtuan99bk)
- Quake 2. First-person shooter game. http://forum.xda-developers.com/atta…0&d=1358070370
- OpenTTD. Open-source clone of Transport Tycoon Deluxe (transportation simulation game). Known issues and download link HERE: http://forum.xda-developers.com/show…&postcount=151
- DOSBox. DOS on x86 emulator. Updated again with better performance. http://forum.xda-developers.com/show…&postcount=117
- FAR Manager. 2-panel terminal-based File/Archive manager (think Total Commander, etc.). Updated with plugins. http://forum.xda-developers.com/show…72&postcount=1
- Quake. The original. Known issue: Software OpenGL rendering, which is slow, but it runs well enough. http://forum.xda-developers.com/atta…7&d=1358238612 (Thanks bfosterjr!)
- Miranda IM. Multi-protocol chat/IM client. http://forum.xda-developers.com/atta…4&d=1358334467
- Vim, GVim, etc. Code and text editor. Info and download links here: http://forum.xda-developers.com/show…php?p=36930991
- SumatraPDF. Document reader (PDFs, possibly some other formats). Read and download here: http://forum.xda-developers.com/show….php?t=2098594
- Audacity. Digital audio recording and editing. Info and downloads: http://forum.xda-developers.com/show….php?t=2103779
- VirtuaWin. Virtual desktop utility. http://forum.xda-developers.com/show….php?t=2110131
- Mini vMac. Emulator for very early Macintosh computers. http://forum.xda-developers.com/atta…7&d=1358737954
- Rainmeter. Desktop customization / skinning tool. Many but not all features work: http://forum.xda-developers.com/show…&postcount=282
- OpenSSL. Crypto tool, can generate keys and certificates. http://forum.xda-developers.com/show….php?t=2113595
- MiKteX. LaTeX compiler (typesetting tool). Script is interpreted instead of JITed but works fine. http://forum.xda-developers.com/show….php?t=2113634
- Greenshot. Advanced screenshot tool. http://forum.xda-developers.com/show….php?t=2114273
- Iperf. Network performance testing tool. http://forum.xda-developers.com/show…1#post37346221
- MongoDB. NoSQL database. Mongo shell doesn’t work correctly locally, but the server works and other clients should as well. http://forum.xda-developers.com/show…php?p=37475852
- ScummVM. Game platform for many older games. Known issues: many disabled features and some crashes reported in this early build. http://forum.xda-developers.com/show…&postcount=402
- Synergy. Use one mouse and keyboard across PCs (including Linux & Mac). Info and download here: http://forum.xda-developers.com/show…php?p=37609926
- ResidualVM. Platform for many old-ish 3D games. Known issues: many disabled features, most engines don’t work yet. More info and download: http://forum.xda-developers.com/show…&postcount=411
- Superputty. Enhanced version of PuTTY Suite with more features. http://sdrv.ms/151FWzT (Thanks to Erwan12)
- NZB-O-Matic. Newsgroup post downloader (NZB download tool). http://forum.xda-developers.com/show…&postcount=438
- WabbitEMU. Texas Instruments graphing calculator emulator and dev tools. http://forum.xda-developers.com/show…&postcount=442
- Regshot. Registry shapshot/comparison tool. http://forum.xda-developers.com/show…87&postcount=1
- CorsixTH. Engine for the game Theme Hospital. Includes demo, easy to use full version if you have it: http://forum.xda-developers.com/show…&postcount=466
- FreeRA. Command & Conquer Red Alert (RTS game) engine. Requires game data files. http://forum.xda-developers.com/show…&postcount=468
- FreeSynd. Syndicate (game) engine. No cutscene sound, requires game files. https://www.dropbox.com/s/ca0n0atmfl74306/Freesynd.zip
- Pentagram. Ultima VIII (game) engine. Required game files. http://forum.xda-developers.com/show…&postcount=518
- Free Download Manager. Standalone file downloader and bittorrent client. Has some known issues but works: http://forum.xda-developers.com/show….php?t=2170002
- PrBoom. DOOM game engine (can use the included shareware WAD file or other game files). http://forum.xda-developers.com/show….php?t=2175449
- ChocolateDuke3D. Duke Nukem 3D game engine. Requires game files. Has a known sound bug with workaround. http://forum.xda-developers.com/show…&postcount=561
- GemRG. Infinity game engine clone (used for games like Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, and Planescape: Torment). Runs pretty well although some of the newer games may stutter a little. Requires the game files from a standard install. http://forum.xda-developers.com/show….php?t=2177954
- Process Hacker. Advanced process inspection / control tool similar to Sysinternals Process Monitor. Currently marked as Beta due to some hacks that had to be made to get it to compile and run; not all features are supported but it mostly works. http://forum.xda-developers.com/show….php?t=2179754
- FinalBurn Alpha. Arcade game emulator. Port is still considered “alpha” quality. http://forum.xda-developers.com/show….php?t=2187370
- SharpDevelop. C# IDE. Debugging is not yet supported and some setup work is required: http://forum.xda-developers.com/show…&postcount=615
Apps which run un-modified
- Keepass Portable. Password storage wallet. http://downloads.sourceforge.net/kee…ass-2.20.1.zip
- Mouse Without Borders. Use one mouse across PCs (like Synergy). Install instructions here: http://forum.xda-developers.com/show…&postcount=258
- Transmission.Net Remote. Remote control of a Transmission BitTorrent service. http://forum.xda-developers.com/show….php?t=2101891
- ShareX. Screen capture/upload utility. https://mega.co.nz/#!VxYVDZAS!KyyL8g…cB_b3YcS0f-TbE
- IceChat. IRC client. http://forum.xda-developers.com/atta…2&d=1358302563
- IKVM. Java, implemented in .NET (can run many pure-Java apps). http://www.ikvm.net/
- Fiddler 4. Advanced HTTP proxy. To install, unpack the .EXE as an archive using 7-Zip. To run correctly, copy the file Microsoft.JScript.dll from WindowsMicrosoft.NETFrameworkv4.0.30319 on a Win8 machine (older Windows versions may also work) to the Fiddler “install” (unpacked) directory. http://www.fiddler2.com/fiddler2/version.asp
- Boxie. Multipurpose utility (image conversion, file management stuff, etc.). http://boxie.codeplex.com/ (Info: http://boxie.codeplex.com/documentation)
- DtPad. Text/code editor. You can use the installer; there will be a warning but it’s reported to work after clickthrough. http://dtpad.codeplex.com/
- BoxWorld. Sokoban game. Extract the binaries from the installer using 7-Zip. http://boxworld.codeplex.com/
- AstroGrep. Regular expression file/text search tool (basically, Unix grep). http://sourceforge.net/projects/astrogrep/
- Notepad Enhanced. Simple text editor with tabbed interface. http://forum.xda-developers.com/show…&postcount=374 for info.
- QuickSharp. C# IDE. Info at the same link as Notepad Enhanced, and also here: http://forum.xda-developers.com/show…&postcount=378
- Remote TrackPad Server. Allows controlling a PC using a Windows Phone as a server. Use the.NET 4.5 server build: http://www.luecho.com/trackpad/
- ImageGlass. Image viewing program. Runs fine but crashes on exit. https://github.com/d2phap/ImageGlass (Thanks igator)
- Be.HexEditor. Simple editor capable of opening any file, including binary, and editing in text or hexadecimal. Requires changing a config file. http://forum.xda-developers.com/show…&postcount=611
- WindowsAppBoss. Simplifies managing sideloaded or provisioned (i.e. not-from-the-store) Metro apps. http://windowsappboss.codeplex.com/