As I was writing this post, I was debating whether to include those exclamation points, but when I’m writing in ALL CAPS, I’m probably very angry and am using ALL CAPS and exaggerated punctuation to help get that point across.  So far, I’ve found 2 of Microsoft’s products to be great at yelling at the end users by using ALL CAPS for their menus adhering to Metro design standards of using ALL CAPS… oh, I don’t know what they were thinking when they went that route.  Thankfully, there are other people like me out there who realize how irritating and offensive ALL CAPS can be, so I wanted to share my findings with you, in case you too get ANGRY from looking at these menus.

Visual Studio 2012

Out of the box, Visual Studio 2012’s menus are showing in ALL CAPS.  However, with a simple registry hack, you too can disable this “feature” and get the menus to look somewhat normal.  For more details on that, check out Richard Banks’ post – “How to Prevent Visual Studio 2012 ALL CAPS Menus!

Office 2013

I am still looking for a registry hack for this.  However, sadly, the ALL CAPS menus were the first things I noticed when I opened an Office 2013 app.

Other Thoughts

While looking up registry hacks and other ways of disabling this annoying feature, it dawned on me that maybe this experience looks great on tablets.  However, for those of us who use laptops and desktops, this UX is definitely a tragic UX decision.  Perhaps Microsoft should come out with “Tablet Edition” versus “Desktop Edition” or maybe a simple check box to enable ALL CAPS since Windows tablets are still the minority for these products’ target platforms.  But to use ALL CAPS by default and hope your primary end users are tablets is a bit premature.  Just my 2 cents…

Sarah’s Must-Have Apps on Windows 8

Tonight, I got my Windows 8 RTM installed on a VHD.  I have to admit that I was skeptical of seeing the Metro interface that looks a lot like Windows Phone on a desktop.  I didn’t think I’d like the user experience, especially being on a laptop with a touchpad and no touchscreen.  The only thing I’m grumbly about so far is that it told me to install the Zune software to sync my Windows Phone with my PC.  Yeah, I don’t feel like ruining my fresh install (and my happiness) with that awfulness, so my phone will have to deal without a relationship to my laptop for now.

While looking around the Windows 8 Store, I found some apps that I just had to have.  These are some of my must-haves and why.


Xbox SmartGlass– This app encourages my laziness with the XBOX.  It’s bad enough that my 4 month old son hears me commanding the XBOX with voice commands thanks to my Kinect.  But now, while I’m tending to my little guy’s needs, I can also control my XBOX from my laptop with this Xbox companion app.  I no longer will startle my son with Kinect voice commands while he’s eating as I have this to control the XBOX.  Did I mention this encourages my laziness?


Microsoft Minesweeper – Oh dear… did I just recommend Minesweeper?  Yes, yes I did.  This is a game of the past that continues to get more awesome – complete with themes, achievements, daily challenges (coming soon), and yes, even an adventure mode (coming soon).  It’s nice to see how this game has grown over time to look better than the battleship grey sad thing it used to be.




TEDw – If you aren’t familiar with TED talks, you can find out more about these motivational talks on This app puts recent TED talks right at your fingertips.  For example, when I look at the app now, I can easily access talks such as Rob Legato’s “The art of creating awe” and Timothy Prestero’s “Design for people, not awards”.  These are truly ideas worth spreading, and the TEDw app is great at spreading those ideas!



Microsoft OneNote MX – As I am writing this post, I have OneNote MX docked to the right with the list of apps that I’m recommending.  I’m a OneNote junkie – love using it to organize ideas and take notes!  So for me, I love keeping it docked while working on things to jot down that one idea that happens to come at the wrong time.




How Stuff Works – I love the site, and my father-in-law and husband are both huge fans of the How Stuff Works books.  Some random articles from the app include 5 Things You Can Do to Make Your Car Safer for Driving in Foul Weather, Does the Higgs boson exist?, How Hackers Work, and 10 Remarkable Exoplanets.  If you ever wanted to know how random things work, this app could probably quench your thirst for figuring out how things work.





These are some of my must-have recommendations for Windows 8 apps as of this point.  As time goes on and I stumble across more fun apps, look forward to future recommendations.  Meanwhile… do you have any Windows 8 apps that you recommend?  Either blog about it and leave me a link to your post or leave me a comment with what you recommend!  I look forward to hearing what others are recommending!

Our Technical Solution for the Baby Monitor

Many months ago, when I was pregnant, my husband and I were talking about baby monitors.  While looking at the ones already out there, none really jumped out at us.  Now, with both of us being geeks, we decided we’d evaluate our options here with the hardware and software available.  After figuring out that we had spare hardware laying about, we decided that we had to find a piece of software that could do monitoring.

Software Requirements and Test

Our requirements were simple:

  • Allow audio monitoring of the baby (video would be an added plus)
  • Desktop & mobile clients needed to be available – for both Android and Windows Phone

That first option was easy – there are plenty of conferencing and video/audio chat programs out there that would meet that requirement.  Now the second requirement, that’s where it got tricky.  My husband has an Android phone, and I have the Windows Phone.  Finding programs with Android clients is simple.  Finding programs with Windows Phone clients alone is okay.  But finding a client that works on both platforms – that wasn’t as easy.

Thankfully, Skype had a beta client for Windows Phone and already had a client out for Android.  We took it for a test spin to see how it would work, and sure enough it worked wonderfully.

Skype Setup

So… how did we set up Skype?

  1. Create an account for the baby monitor.
  2. Add ourselves to the baby monitor’s contact list.
  3. On the baby monitor’s Skype client:
    1. Click Tools
    2. Click Options
    3. Under the Call Settings section:
      1. Check Allow calls from… people in my Contact list only
      2. Check Answer incoming calls automatically
      3. If you want video, then also check Start my video automatically when I am in a call
      4. Click Save

The other thing we did at this point was muted the sound on the baby monitor’s client so that we wouldn’t have to mute ourselves every time and so that the baby wouldn’t hear us when we connected.
At the beginning of June, we went on vacation down to Outer Banks with a bunch of our friends and their families, and it was easy to travel with this setup.  We didn’t pack the netbook, as we had two laptops packed.  There were times where we had our baby in the crib in our room downstairs while sitting upstairs and playing games with the other adults.  We would log in on the baby monitor account on one of the laptops, run through the settings from above, and then call in from one of our phones.  This helped us hear our baby’s cries and tend to him while playing games.
Today marks 4 months of us using this setup.  While we both can’t be Skyped in at the same time separately – someone has to set up a conference call to make that happen – Skype has definitely worked well for us.  If you have spare hardware laying around, as well as need Android and Windows Phone connectivity, Skype works well for this!