October 2014 Column, Part 3

CHAOS MANOR REVIEWS

Computing at Chaos Manor

Column 370, October, 2014

Part 3 of 3

Jerry concludes the October 2014 column  with some thoughts on Windows 10, and Winds Down with the Books of the Month and other short thoughts.

Windows 10

I have previously said that I am not greatly impressed with Windows 8. It now resides only on the Surface Pro 3; all our other machines either have Windows 7, or Windows 10 which is now available as a free trial upgrade to Windows 8. (The technology preview version will time out in April 2015.)

Windows 10 installs easily, and it is a great deal more intuitive in use than was Windows 8. I have been using it for a week or so, and it will probably be the OS for my secondary “main machine”. I’m still using Windows 7 on this column, my daybook, and email. At some point I’ll probably change but I am in no hurry. On the other hand I have no urge to restore the Windows-8-upgraded-to-10 system to Windows 7, and I find some parts preferable.

Windows 8 has been called a disaster for Microsoft. Some put it in the same category as New Coke. Coca Cola found some relief in reviving Coke Classic, but Microsoft doesn’t really have that option. Everyone eagerly awaited Windows 9, and over on my day book I asked readers to suggest ways Microsoft could get them to love Windows 9. (Note that these responses were received before the “Windows 10” name was announced.)

Here are a few typical answers.

Jerry,

You asked if anyone likes Windows 8, which it seems the general consensus rates a disaster. For myself, the answer is both yes and no. My touchscreen tablet and mouse-interfaced PC both use Windows 8. I love it on the tablet, but hate it on the PC. The tabular start screen array and the simulated page turning feature are terrific when used with touchscreen. With mouse they add nothing. The page turning function, which has the irritating tendency to flip applications whenever one drags the mouse across the screen, is downright annoying! So I adore Windows 8 in touchscreen mode, but think very dimly of it minus that. My own non-expert, somewhat ‘conspiracy theory’ take on things is Windows 8 was specifically developed for touchscreens, which the tech industry probably considers the immediate future of user interfaces. Disseminating it across the board was done both in anticipation that touchscreens will soon dominate the tech market, and to accelerate the progression by forcing users to rapidly assimilate the touchscreen methodology in all venues.

I speculated touchscreens are the immediate future of user interfaces. Their ultimate future can be glimpsed in Mary Lou Jepsen’s remarkable TED talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNDhu2uqfdo

Your insight on these matters would be most appreciated.

Dr. Ian Nieves

Actually, we have fairly similar views. Microsoft was so concerned about touch screens that they forgot that most users don’t have them yet, and they put too much of that and too little of more traditional mouse/keyboard utility into Windows 8.

I have been experimenting with the tech preview of Windows 10, and I think it has taken much of the sting out of Windows 8. I wouldn’t recommend the present edition of 10 for Surface systems, but it has made my desktop Windows 8 system fairly pleasant.

Dr. Pournelle,

What would make me love Windows 9 would be abandoning reliance on a touch-screen based UI development. In Win8, Microsoft has tried to emulate IOS and OSX, going to a similar interface for telephones and desktop. Apple could do this, but Microsoft cannot. The small-screen + touch concept is really antithetical to the PC usage model for the majority of people. They’ve tried to apply UI concepts for telephones and gaming machines to their base, niche product, and alienated the users of the product.

As it is, I have learned to get along with (not like) Windows 8 minus Metro. I bought a Dell all-in-one 21 desktop, without touch, for my business with Win 8 pre-installed, and as of 8.1, have made the default look-and-feel like Windows 7 standard desktop, only resorting to Metro when I must access some of the built-in management applications. I did not put on MS Office, since I do not care for the pricing model, but use Libre Office, since it meets all of my needs and has features not available in MS Office. I installed and am learning to use Quickbooks, which feels and appears like a Win 7 program from desktop.

I have an older, small ASUS Vivobook, also with Win 8.1, that I also have customized the same way. Mostly, I have do not use the touch interface, and have tried to customize it to prefer the mousepad and physical keyboard.

And with all those, my main computer is a dual-boot, traditional laptop with a 17 inch screen. Win 7 is available, but seldom used, with most of my work and entertainment done through Linux.

Like the screen keyboard, I do not like most of the features that were supposed to make Win 8 into an iPad (some of which Leo Laporte has approved) like the ability to snap an application to the entire desktop, or split the desktop into two applications — on the larger screen they are not useful, and on the Vivobook, these features are unnecessary.

It is possibly unfair (to Coke) to compare it to Windows 8, after all, New Coke was a one-time, deliberate, and successful marketing campaign. Win 8 comes after Vista, Win 98, Win 2K, Win 3, DOS 6, DOS 4, and many others not well received, and even the successful MS releases have needed many modifications: IMO Win XP and 7, DOS 5 either were faulty as introduced or fell much short on needed functionality. In connection with MS OS releases, I keep thinking of the Ian Fleming line from James Bond, something like “Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, thrice is enemy action.” MS does learn, if temporarily, from their mistakes, so your suggestion for WinHEC could help. Certainly giving prior notice of their innovations has helped in the past.

MS has always had Mac envy, and has always done well when they forgot that, and really did their own thing. What would make me love Windows 9 would be a concentration on a traditional PC desktop (with touch options for touch-pad only devices), and low-cost applications.

Happy belated Birthday, and many returns.

Anxiously awaiting Mamelukes, -d

 

Thanks for the kind words. I do not believe Microsoft has any malice toward its customers. Napoleon Bonaparte once said “Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.” They really need someone like Chris Peters back as a VP.

What would make me love it?

  1. A newer better interface that yet at the same time doesn’t force me to learn the new interface but instead conforms to what I know (the Windows 7 interface). I’m gripping onto Win 7 for as long as I can for this very reason.
  2. Microsoft does have something with OneDrive and OneNote and the Windows phone. I have all three, but the fragile ecosphere is broken multiple ways. It was a PITA going from Skydrive to OneDrive since I was trying to link across: 1 windows phone 7.5, 2 desktops running windows 7, and a laptop running windows 7. Even worse, my Windows phone got bricked and I needed a complete reinstall by my cell carrier, resulting in a complete lack of integration. If I’m going to use the cloud I’d like a way to restore the cloud. I’ve heard that Social networking apps in Win 8 are more broken than in Windows phone 7, because Microsoft wants to be big brother.

This caused MS to lose the hearts and minds of customers. If Microsoft encouraged this 3rd party integration they could steal market share from Android and Apple. For all of the outed win phone benefits of a closed ecosystem it lacks:

  1. backup/restore to include settings, as I found out the hardware.
  2. Better privacy/OS isolation from apps. Every app wants all sort of unfettered access to MY data (address book, GPS, etc).
  3. Multiple user/profile support. I actually carry two cellphones. One for work and one for personal use. Having two phone numbers and user profiles linked to the phone would be hugely beneficial….making N profiles (thing anonymous throw away profiles to run 3rd party apps in a Jail) would be incredible.
  4. Plug ins for 3rd party privacy and encryption, such as TOR, SIM ID masking, etc…In other words, do one better than the “Blackphone”
  5. Continue the awesome camera support from Nokia F. Add better microphone/transcription support.

A better less bloated MS Office. Better disk data management/indexing. I doubt if MS would ever do this, but the ability to switch desktops and actually use third party desktops such a KDE.

-G

I remember when Office exceeded 60 megabytes. I called it “bloatware” at the time, despite pleas from friends at Microsoft, but I was mistaken: when it first came out, 300 megabyte hard drives were plummeting in price, and within a year it was hard to find a new machine with fewer than 500 mb. One thing Microsoft always did well was anticipate the effects of Moore’s Law. If it works at all, ship it. The machines will get better, and early quirks due to machine speed and memory limits will soon be forgotten. Moore’s Law essentially assured Microsoft’s victory in the Windows/OS-2 contest.

The comments on Windows 9 can be largely summed in Rod McFadden’s observation,

“If 9 becomes to 8 as 7 was to Vista, I’m not sure I’d love it, but I’d sure welcome it!”

I encourage all of you to send suggestions on what would make you love the new Windows 10.

WINDING DOWN

The book of the month is Does Santa Exist (Dutton, 2014), by my neighbor Eric Kaplan. Eric is a writer and Co-Executive Producer of The Big Bang Theory. He is also a candidate for a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of California at Berkeley. Think about that background, and speculate what kind of book the writer of one of the most popular TV comedies might produce. Now fold in his philosophy studies, and the subject matter. The result is about what you might hope for, a serious work on ontology (what does it mean to exist?), and epistemology (how do we know anything at all?) that is very readable. Imagine Sheldon Cooper and Amy Farrah Fowler in a dialog on the matter of existence and understanding. Now understand that it’s a serious work. Recommended.

Another book this month was Amy Chua, World on Fire, (Anchor 2003. The subtitle is How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability, and that summarizes the book quite well. Liberal democracy and market capitalism may well be the best goal to work toward, but if you don’t start with a tradition of law and order and property rights, trying to impose it can do more harm than good: particularly in ethnically divided societies which have “market dominant minorities” – think Chinese in Indonesia, and Indians in South Africa. Democracy empowers the poor majority to despoil the already resented minority, while encouraging the wealthy to defend themselves, their families, and their property. The End of History with the triumph of liberal democracy was predicted after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This is a more realistic assessment of the future.

I didn’t get any computer books to review last month.

There is no game of the month, mostly because I don’t have time to do games just now. I hope to change that. I’d like to see new games…

Our experiences with the long neglected iMac and Time Machine have made us appreciate the iMac again. It’s rugged, has consumed little of my time, and goes on working without fuss. We haven’t had a backup in six years – and we haven’t needed one.

Alex is using Office 365 and he cautions “If you use Office 365 and you want to run Word on an airplane, you had better start in the terminal where you have Wi-Fi because you must log in to Office 365 before you can use it.” Logging in requires Internet access.

Those using or contemplating getting a Surface Pro 3 should see:

Surface Pro 3 Tip: Customize Surface Pen with the Surface Hub App http://winsupersite.com/surface/surface-pro-3-tip-customize-surface-pen-surface-hub-app This may be the app you’ve been waiting for.

PLEDGE REDUEX

As I write this, KUSC, the Los Angeles Classical Music Station, is holding a pledge drive. KUSC operates on the Public Radio model: it’s free to listen to, but it is listener supported, and without that support it will go away. Chaos Manor Reviews works the same way. We don’t pound you with ads, and I only annoy you with pledge drives when KUSC holds theirs.

If you have not subscribed, this would be a good time to do that. If you have subscribed but can’t remember when you last renewed – or if you remember and it was a good while ago – this would be a splendid time to renew.

Here’s how to subscribe:   PAYING FOR THIS PLACE

NEXT MONTH

The Time Machine took seven hours to do the six year backup of the iMac. Next month: more on iMac, Time Machine, iPhone, and of course the Surface Pro 3 as we continue to upgrade computing at Chaos Manor. The Airport, with its network renamed, continues to work as always. Tomorrow I intend to upgrade the iMac OS, now that we have a good backup.

We’ve got Chaos Manor into the 21st Century. Now to bring it up to date.

 

September 2014 Column – Part 4

CHAOS MANOR REVIEWS
Computing at Chaos Manor
Column 369 – Part 4 of 4
September, 2014

The final installment of the September Chaos Manor Reviews column discusses SD cards, and winds down with the Books and Movies of the Month.

 SD Cards

Years ago I bought a Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ-30 camera. It works just fine, but it came out just as the SD card standard was being published. The original SD standard was 2 Gigabytes, but when my camera came out a 100 MB card was pretty big. Over time various companies developed ever larger SD cards, and then came out with micro-SD, tiny little cards a couple of centimeters square containing 2 and later up to 64 GB. They came with SD card sized adapters that would allow them to be used in SD devices. The Kingston 2 GB micro SD card in the Kingston SD card adapter works just fine in the camera, but trying to read that SD card on a PC is a bit more difficult: older multi-card readers don’t always adapt micro cards properly. I found this out when my PC offered to reformat the card on which I had about a thousand pictures.

There are two solutions to the problem. The simplest for me is an even smaller Kingston micro SD card adapter, which converts the micro SD into a standard USB thumb drive. When that is inserted into a USB port on a desktop the system recognizes it and can read and write to it with no problems. The second solution is a proprietary cable for the FX30 available for a few bucks online. Panasonic developed what I call a “mini-micro” USB plug before micro USB became standard.

Alas, the FZ-30 model came out with firmware that believes 2 GB is as large as SD memory cards get. After the camera came out the SD standard was redefined to allow for much larger capacity, and later models of the Panasonic camera line have no problems with big cards. In my case, Good Enough is really Good Enough. One day I’ll update my camera, but the Lumix optics work great, and a 2 GB SD card holds over a thousand pictures. I don’t take hundreds of pictures and choose the best, although that seems to be the habit of younger photographers.

Winding Down

The Book of the Month is the California Sixth Grade Reader, compiled and edited by Leroy Armstrong in 1914. The 2014 edition is edited with comments by Jerry Pournelle. This is the sixth grade reader in use when California public schools were considered among the very best public schools in the world. It contains stories once considered an important part of the heritage of Western Civilization; they’re also cracking good stories, once you get used to reading with what was considered a normal vocabulary for sixth graders in 1914; today’s public schools would consider many of those words “too hard.” There are also a number of poems that were once considered a vital part of our heritage.

I also recommend Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II by Arthur Herman. This tells the story of how America, which had no defense industry in the 1930’s, converted the economy into the greatest arsenal the world had ever seen. It is also the story of Knudsen, and Henry Kaiser, and some of the heroes of that story. I found it fascinating.

Safe Is Not An Option, by Rand Simberg is a reliability expert’s look at the space program. The book is discussed at length on its own web site. Those interested in the space program should read it: the book is quite critical of current space policies. It has endorsements from both astronauts and space policy analysts.

His general thesis is that NASA’s obsession, born of the days when “ours always blow up” and brought back with a vengeance by the Challenger disaster, is eliminating all human risk from spaceflight. That doesn’t work and the obsession is a huge obstacle to progress. There will always be risks, and we will always have heroes.

Simberg is an aerospace engineer with considerable experience and his analyses of various space incidents such as the Challenger Disaster are spot on, which is to say, I agree with them. Recommended.

We haven’t got out to many movies in the past few months, and some we did get to, like the Saturday morning live simulcasts of the Metropolitan Opera productions, aren’t on any longer. We have found those well worth going to, and the Met usually chooses accessible operas for those simulcasts. My wife’s sister also enjoys them, and unlike Roberta, her sister doesn’t have a musical education. We particularly enjoyed Dvorak’s Russalka, which I had never seen before. It’s not likely to come back to a theater near you, but if it does, don’t miss it.

The Movie of the Month is quite old and already on television, so you won’t find it in theaters. That’s a pity because it’s very good there. I mean Frozen, the Oscar winning Disney film sort of loosely based on a Hans Christian Anderson story; actually the movie is better than Anderson’s tale. It’s still available on cable TV, or of course as a recording.

There is no game of the month because I haven’t had time to collect any new games. That comes later.

Those interested in comparing views of the Computer Revolution might find the March 2010 column interesting. http://chaosmanorreviews.net/oa/2010/20100311_col.php

Next Time

Next time the new Surface Pro 3 with OneNote. Back around the turn of the century I said that a good tablet with OneNote was about the best research tool I knew of. That may be true again, with the Surface Pro 3 as the tablet.

I also have Office 365 subscription service. At present that is Office 2013 (for Windows; Office 2011 for Mac) and includes a more complete OneNote than the one that comes with the Surface Pro 3. Actually it’s more complicated than that; we’ll have a lot on OneNote with the Surface Pro 3 next time.

And we’ll start looking at new computer books once I let publishers know I’m back in business here.

– 30 –

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