Getting into the groove with Acer Iconia W3

Acer Iconia W3 in its Bluetooth keyboard

Acer Iconia W3 in its Bluetooth keyboard

This post is being typed on the Acer Iconia W3. I thought it was Microsoft Windows RT device. When I got it at the Build conference in 2013, I was not sure what to make of it, or what I thought was Windows RT in general. It has taken some time to get used to it. Also it took a couple of false starts with upgrading to Windows  8.1. I thought that it would need 8.1 to get it workable. My early experience with windows 8.0 was problematic. I experienced trouble waking it up, weird screen effects, and random failures on startup. It seems that Acer and Microsoft have ironed out some driver troubles with 8.1.

We were told at Build in 2013  that we could turn around right away and get 8.1. I had to actually download 8.1 from MSDN to make my first attempt. It did not turn out so well. I needed to do a hard reset and go back to the Acer 8.0 RT load. Then I had to run the upgrade through Windows upgrade. I finally found my Office 2013 activation code, which I did not realize was necessary. I thought that Windows RT 8.1 automatically loaded Office RT. I actually needed to load Office from the Windows store, then put in my activation code.

I have used the Acer Iconia W3 as a portable “companion” device for data consumption. Tablets, slabs, or pads are not great platforms for content creation in my opinion. This is my first attempt at content creation with it after nine months of use. It has a soft keyboard similar to the one I first started using with the iPhone. Windows 8 and Word 2013 have a decent autocorrect feature, which compensates for fat fingering with the soft keyboard somewhat.

The screen is small, so I need to have it about 12 inches from my face. This is probably the biggest obstacle to this being a decent writing tool. I have been working with the split keyboard in landscape mode and “two thumb” typing to write this paragraph. If it were not for auto correct, I would be dead in the water. The keyboard has one nice feature needed on the iOS keyboard. That is the left and right arrows < > next to the space bar. These go a long way to help position the cursor. Kudos to you, Microsoft Windows 8 User Experience team.

My two main apps are the reader and the Wikipedia app. I use the reader to read my collection of PDF books. I use Wikipedia as my electronic encyclopedia. If this device could have been available 20 years ago, with just today’s Wikipedia content, it would have made a killing in the market. I like the Microsoft solitaire collection as well. The latest app I have pressed into service is the Book Bazaar Reader, which enabled me to read an epub version of the Divergent series, and my DK travel books. The Bazaar reader does a nice job with the epub books in font adjustments and readability adjustments. Otherwise I use the browser most frequently.

I finally started customizing my start screen in a more pleasing manner. What it really took as for me to get a Windows 8 Ultrabook as my primary work computer, to start thinking about how I really wanted to use windows 8.

It came with a Bluetooth keyboard which I have used from time to time. The Bluetooth keyboard is easy on the batteries compared to the keyboard that came with the Samsung Build 2011 slab Windows 8 developer prototype.

I wish that the power cord was a different size connector than the headphone jack. Apple finally figured out with their USB lightning connector the right way to do mini plugs and jacks. Pay the patent fee and standardize on that please manufacturers.

Two major plusses about this device that the iPad just does not have: Desktop mode and USB. The Apple engineers righteously praise the compartmentalizing of apps. I am sure it saves a lot of headaches for many users. I like the power that desktop modes gives with the windows file explorer and file management in general. You do not have to rely on Box, Evernote, Dropbox, or Onedrive for file storage. That is, you are not forced to use the cloud. Apps can share files just as easily as users have come to expect since PCs first were made available to consumers.

Another area where the W3 beats iOS is in printers and printing. The Windows computers can connect to network printers. This is something that is going to forever elude iOS, which is relegated to AirPrint.

The iOS devices pop alive faster that this Acer Iconia. But the security login on the Windows devices is much more robust.


Twitter user @Dave_M_Davis opened my eyes to the fact that the Acer Iconia W3 actually is not a Windows RT device, but in fact has full Windows 8, or 8.1 now in this case. It has an Intel Atom CPU Z2760 @ 1.8 GHz. All this time I felt it was a “crippled” device and never really put much thought into it. It has 2 GB of RAM.

Here are a couple of other reviews by more knowledgeable tech users:

I loaded my first desktop app, Sublime Text. Away we go!

Of course, now the W4 is out, and likely better than the W3. So as it turns out, at Build 2013, I got two full fledged computers, the Surface Pro and the W3. I am looking forward to Build 2014 this week to see what is in store.

BuildWindows 2014

Microsoft let slip that the professional developer conference returns to San Francisco on April 2-4. I hope to attend again.


Using Sublime Text as my new essential development tool

I have list of PC must haves in my toolbox. A good text editor is a must. I have been using Textpad  ( ) for a long time and really have nothing bad to say about it. It can open large files and has a decent regular expression editor. It is able to delete at column and row level.

I dabbled with Notepad+ and Notepad++ as I looked for replacements for notepad. I used Editpad for quite some time.

When I attended the BuildWindows conference this summer, I saw many of the presenters using Sublime as a text editor. It runs on both PCs with Windows and Mac. It also works on Linux. It seemed to be the consensus editor of choice. I have enabled my Sublime plugin to prettify the XML files I work with on a regular basis. I used this tip here:

You will need the xmllint command for your PC from Google CodePlex. Take the one that allows inline piping.

More about xmllint:


The command line to fix your XML: xmllint –format –encode utf-8

Acer Iconia Windows RT device from //BuildWindows/ 2013

I have been trying out the complimentary Acer Iconia from the Microsoft Professional Developer Conference. The shortcomings for this device really apply to Surface RT / Windows RT devices in general. Looking at it as a Windows 8 device, it is missing the ability to run Win32 apps. No Java support yet for Windows RT. No ability to use my WDC cloud drive from MyBookLive. I can copy files to it and use the PDF reader and picture viewer. I also can set up a FTP mapped drive. There is an FTP client for Windows Modern (Metro / RT).

It is difficult not to think of the RT devices as crippled computers. I do not feel that way about iPads and Android tablets. Presumably this is because they are “larger smartphones”. The Windows RT devices appear to be more powerful than their Windows Phone 8 equivalents. Unfortunately, it appears that at minimum a recompile is necessary for Modern apps for the Windows Store to work between Windows Phone 8 devices and Windows RT devices. The change also has to take into account Portrait vs Landscape and smaller resolutions. (How to Leverage your Code across WP8 and Windows 8 from //Build/ 2012)

Another struggle I have experience with the Build 2011 tablet prototype, and also with the Acer Iconia, is getting the Bluetooth keyboard to work. They are both battery powered by AAA batteries. These tend to wear out quickly on Bluetooth keyboards. Also there seems to be a song and dance to connect each time I want to use it. It should just work, right? I am sure some users have no problem.   I expect to get reports like “I just joined once and it works every time on my machine!”.

Ultimately, Microsoft might emerge the winner if what they believe about the platform design is true. Right now, the RT still looks like a lesser computer, even if it can do more.

Front row for the Build Keynote

It worked quite smoothly to get in to the hall at Moscone. I had time for a leisurely breakfast and chat before queuing up for the keynote session at 9:00am pacific.


BuildWindows 2013

I feel fortunate to have gotten a ticket and support from my company to attend the Microsoft 2013 Professional Developer Conference (PDC) also known as BuildWindows. It is in San Francisco this year at the Moscone Center. I attended to 2011 Build Conference in Anaheim, California. It was full of Rock Stars of the development world.

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