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Windows 8.. I just don’t get it…

First the caveats:

  • Remember I said Apple iPad… I just don’t get it… Then promptly went out an bought one. I now use it most days for surfing and checking my emails from bed. :)
  • Windows 8 is pre-beta, so hopefully a lot will change between now and then.

I totally understand the concept of the new front screen and the whole Metro thing. Trying to keep a consistent experience between a Windows phone and a Windows touchpad is sensible. Just like the iPhone and iPad. What I don’t like is the fact the tiles are massive and take up loads of space. It just seems a bit silly to me. Why make me sideways scroll when all the initial options could be seen on my 24-inch monitor anyway? From a desktop computing perspective, it is so much worse than the Apple Launchpad (which I also despise) or the GNOME3 Activities screen.

Since I’m running it on a desktop machine, my biggest concern is getting a regular desktop to work with. I can do this by clicking the “Desktop” tile. The resulting desktop is basically Windows 7, which is fine, *except* there is no regular start menu. Clicking the Start button takes you back to the crappy tiled front screen, or hovering in the bottom-left corner presents you with the new menu. What is on this new menu? Bugger all of any use! The search screen is like a really bad GNOME3 “Activities” screen. It requires so many clicks and mouse moves to get where you want to go. It’s wretched. If I were a regular user I think I would probably pin a whole bunch of apps to the taskbar and maybe define a few folders on desktop containing useful shortcuts. Surely the ability to run the old Windows 7 menu would be a welcome addition for the vast majority of users!

Every dialog now has a ribbon instead of a toolbar or menu. This may prove useful for the newbies as it displays functionality that may have been hidden in sub-menus, but for me it is a disaster. The top inch of very window is filled with a bunch of crap that I don’t care about most of the time.

Typically the early releases have lots of tracing code enabled, so I don’t expect the production release will be as slow as this developer release.

So what is the future of the desktop computer? The rumors are that the next iteration of Macs will be essentially running iOS. It looks like the next generation of PCs will be running Windows 8. Although both these OSes seem fine for phones and touchpads, neither of them seem appropriate for a desktop computer. Now I realize that I am by no means a typical PC users, so maybe the vast majority of the PC users of the world will be happy with these changes, but I for one think it is a massive step backwards. It is starting to look like the future of desktop computing is Linux. :) Luckily, I’m already there.

Let’s hope a little sanity returns between now and the production release of Windows 8. If nothing else, just give us a proper menu, or fix that God awful search screen.

Update: Check out these hacks to restore the Windows 7 style menu.

Cheers

Tim…

PS. Let’s see if I end up contradicting everything I just said in a few months time. :)




Captain Support and the Laptop of Doom…

Friends of Captain Support’s nephews were having a problem with their laptop. They were unable to use a browser to access the internet. This was a job for Captain Support…

A quick twiddle on the machine revealed that FireFox just had proxy settings messed up, but IE was totally screwed. Captain Support suspected someone had tried and failed to install IE8 and the failure had left it in a dodgy state. After much messing around Captain Support came to the conclusion that they should either forget about IE, or reinstall the whole thing. They chose the reinstall option…

All went well until the last few Windows updates were being loaded. Captain Support shouted to number 1 nephew, “Is something burning in the Kitchen?” Whilst waiting for the reply he leaned forward and sniffed the laptop, which was giving off a heavy scent of “dusty Scalextric“. Next the screen started to go black from the bottom-right corner and the smell became stronger. With a slight air of panic, the laptop was switched off very quickly. Captain Support suggested the laptop should either be sent to the manufacture for repair, or binned…

Thus ends the tale of Captain Support and the Laptop of Doom…

Cheers

Captain Support…




Dual Boot: Near Disaster…

Today has been a little emotional…

I decided I wanted to dual boot a server with Fedora 15 and Oracle VM 3.0.1. The machine already had Fedora 15 on, so I moved some stuff around to free up a 1.5TB drive and decided to install OVM on that.

The installation went well, but I made the schoolboy error of overwriting the bootloader on the MBR. After the restart it was all completely toilet. :(  This incident left me checking my underwear because the Fedora installation contained a load of VMs, including RAC and Data Guard installations. None of them were that important, but they would be a pig to set up again.

To sort it I booted from the Fedora 15 DVD and did a repair, telling it to recreate the bootloader on the MBR. A few seconds later, normal service was resumed. Phew.

So then I retried the OVM installation on the clean drive, remembering not to place the bootloader on the MBR this time. The installation went fine again. I booted into Fedora 15, edited my “/etc/grub.conf” to include a chainloader entry. I rebooted and picked the chainloader line from my grub screen only to find I got “Error 21: Selected disk not found”.

After a bit of investiagtion it seems only my RAID1 system disk is visible to grub. The controller doesn’t seem to be able to present the individual disks, unless I kill the RAID1 config. Crappy controller.

So I now have two options:

  1. Buy another disk (or move this “spare” one) and put it into another machine with a sane controller and dual boot that.
  2. Buy another box that is dedicated to OVM.

I kind like option 2, since dual boot is a total pain. All my boxes have a purpose and having something missing while I play with OVM is not ideal. Trouble is it’s more money and it is a machine that is likely to be unused a lot of the time. Seems a bit of a waste.

If only VirtualBox exposed dmidecode to guests, then I could install OVM on a VirtualBox VM. I know it sounds stupid, but it would make functional testing a lot simpler, even if the performance were a little crappy. Never mind…

Cheers

Tim…




Censorship: A confusing subject…

I used to be totally against any form of censorship, but as I’ve got older and I have two young nephews I find myself becoming a bit of an old fuddy-duddy about it. I kinda want to protect their innocence as much as possible.

When I’m in the car with my nephews and the news starts I try to flick to a CD to avoid the talk about sex, drugs, rape and murder. Call me a coward, but I want to avoid the barrage of questions on those subjects and the whole can of worms they will open. I remember one such occasion when nephew number 1 asked me what they meant by, “found her body in a ditch”, after listening to the news on our national radio station (Radio1). Shudder…

I kinda like the idea of everyone taking responsibility for themselves on the censorship front. Having said that you can’t be with them 100% of the time etc.

So now on to the item that prompted this post…

My favorite advert at the moment is from Google. It’s one of those generic, “Use all Google products because they are hip and so by extension, using them makes you hip!”, type adds. Why do I like it? Purely because of the music. It’s a track called Traktor by Wretch 32, which I love. Why did it prompt this post? As with most hip-hop songs is contains some adult language and themes. So what did Google choose to censor? The words in bold were blanked in the add.

“My lifestyle’s terribly wild, but you’ll never catch me on the Jeremy Kyle show”

“Explosive, terrorist style. Don’t think I’m a blow I’ll get you therapy now woah”

“I ride this mothafucking beat like a tractor. I ride this mothafucking beat like a train”

“Zoom zoom down the rabbit hole. More women more alcohol here”

So “Jeremy Kyle” is censored, which I can understand because his show is truly worthy of the “Jeremy Vile” nickname. The word “terrorist” is censored, which seems a little odd to me. The song is not promoting terrorism, so it hardly seems worth messing with. What is surprising is that “mothafucking” (not my spelling) is not blanked. Well to be fair they do play some traffic noises over it, but it is still clearly audible in the chorus. Seems a little strange for an add that runs throughout the day, especially since this was blanked on the radio edit of the song. As for the last quote, I assume somebody at Google understood what that meant before they OKed it in a national advert right? :)

Censorship is a very tricky subject, because as this advert shows, we all have different opinions on what should (if anything) be censored.

Cheers

Tim…




Reaction to riots around the UK…

I spent quite a while watching the coverage of the riots on TV last night and this morning. I also made a few angry posts on twitter. Not surprisingly I am still pretty angry about everything this morning. What follows will be a rather extreme rant about the situation. Look away if easily offended…

What were the recent incidents *not* about?

  • This is not a mass uprising. London has 12 million people and only a few hundred scum are doing this.
  • This is not a race-specific issue. I’ve watched the footage and the crowds are made up of people from all races. Roughly speaking, the mix reflects the racial mix of the area that is being attacked. Don’t use this incident to further your racist (positive or negative) agenda!
  • This is not political. We are not under the control of some unjust dictator and fighting for our political freedom. Likening this to the recent events in the middle east is offensive. Since when has looting a PC store or a phone store been political?
  • This is not about “the kids”. The age range of the people is mixed.

What should be done in my opinion?

  • They should announce a curfew. Being on the streets after that time means you accept the consequences of anything that happens to you. Good people will be off the streets, so you know if you see someone they are up to no good.
  • Police and army reserves should be mobilized. They should be issued with rubber-bullets given a “shoot first, ask questions later” policy.
  • If someone gets injured or killed as a result of the police/army action, tough! No claims. No law suits. No apologies. Tough! If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t be there.
  • We have loads of surveillance cameras on our streets. Faces from the footage should be placed on a website where the public can anonymously shop them to the police. I would encourage anyone who recognizes any people from the footage, or has information from any social network sites, to pass the information to the police and get these people off our streets.
  • Everyone identified should be prosecuted and get a custodial sentence. If it means cramming them into cells and “infringing on their human rights”, so be it. They gave up their rights when they decided to do this.
  • Stop putting “community leaders” on TV who try to justify this crap. I’m sorry, but as a disenfranchised man I do not feel the need to rob a new pair of trainers or a mobile phone. Some of the footage showed a group of kids talking and one said, “Let’s get some watches!” Nuff said!

This country is going to hell in a hand basket. We need to stop pussy footing about and get some authority back.

Cheers

Tim…

PS. If this stops me seeing Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I’m going to kick off… :)




Real World Book Shops…

I’ve had a Waterstones gift token knocking around since my birthday, so I ventured into town yesterday to see if there were any technical books I could spend my pennies on. There’s a pretty big Waterstones in Birmingham, so I thought I was in with a shot at finding something worthwhile in there. How wrong I was…

The place was full of “… For Dummies”  books for old versions of Windows and Office, along with a vast collection of really old reference books. If anyone needs a “Teach yourself VB 5.0″ manual, you know where to go!

When it’s my money I’m spending I almost always buy from Amazon. Part of me wants to support real world book stores, but the truth of the matter is they are really crappy for anything other than the latest bestseller novels, which are still typically more expensive than the equivalent from Amazon.

In the end I bought Ghost Story, the new Jim Butcher book from The Dresden Files series. I’ll see if I can spend the rest of the cash on the Waterstones online store. Must tell family that if they want to waste money on birthday presents for me, they should do it on Amazon gift certificates. :)

Cheers

Tim…




Fitness Update (July 2011)…

A number of things to report on the fitness front…

I’ve switched some of my cardio sessions on the elliptical from regular interval training to Tabata Protocol. A little over 2 months ago Dominic Brooks pointed this out to me. I gave it a try then, but I wasn’t fit enough to cope with it. Now it is just a complete nightmare, rather than impossible. :) So general fitness is going really well. There are the obvious ups and downs, but I feel really good about things and I don’t find the gym daunting now. I know I’m going to survive.

I’ve backed off the weight training a bit. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, I was putting on too much muscle. I used to do weights as a kid and I guess the whole muscle memory thing is true. The tubby meat-head thing is not a look I’m interested in. Second, shifting a lot of weight was starting to aggravate my joints. I’ve had operations on my left elbow and knee and both of them have been playing up for a couple of days after doing heavy lifting. Those two factors combined seemed like pretty clear signals that weight training is no longer the right thing for me.

To replace the absent weight training I’ve been doing some circuit training, mostly using functional training exercises. It feels pretty good and isn’t freaking out my joints so far. I’m not a gym-class type of guy, but I figured I need some technique coaching, so yesterday evening I went to a kettlebells class. The bruises on my arms and shoulders this morning would suggest my technique is not quite right, but I’ve already learned a bunch of stuff, so that’s good. Two visits to the gym yesterday was not a great idea, but I’m glad I got off my ass and made it to the kettlebells class. It would have been very easy to leave it for next week. :)

As part of the functional training I’ve also started to do handstands again. I used to be pretty good at them, thanks to the yoga, but as I got heavier they got a bit scary and my center of gravity shifted somewhat. Now I’m hitting them pretty well and walking on my hands pretty comfortably. I can even pull out a few half-handstand-pushups on a good day. I was in the dance studio practicing handstands and someone asked me if I was a gymnast, which cracked me up. Is there a gymnastics for fatties competition I can enter?

I’ll be in Australia next month and I feel the need to manage some people’s (Chris Muir and Connor McDonald) expectations.

  • If you last saw me about 5 months ago, I will look like I’ve lost quite a bit of weight.
  • If you last saw me about 2 year ago, you will think I look about the same.
  • If you last saw me 3+ years ago, you will probably think I’ve gained some weight.
Based on that, you should not be expecting to see “the new svelte” version of me Connor. :)

Still another 30 years and 30 pounds to go… :)

Cheers

Tim…




Toolbar Buttons Revisited…

My 9 year old nephew was making a Powerpoint slideshow today. I watched him regularly saving his slideshow using the menu and asked why he was not using the Save button, to which he replied, “Which one is it?”.

I looked at the toolbar and saw a button with a picture of a floppy disk. I don’t think he has ever seen a floppy disk in his life. I’m not surprised he didn’t associate this button with saving his slideshow.

I’ve seen articles suggesting that buttons with icons are not good for new users. This is especially true if the icons reference old technology they have never encountered.

Cheers

Tim…

 

 

 




Google+ Hangouts and Support…

You open a ticket and wait… When you do get a reply it tells you to send information you’ve already posted, or suggests you try some workarounds you’ve already listed in the ticket as having not worked for you. You get frustrated and write a blog post ranting about how terrible the support service is etc. I guess this could be a story about just about any internet support service I’ve had to use over the years.

Do you remember in the old days, before the internet was popular, when you phoned support lines? Do you remember how quickly some of these annoying issues were resolved by simply saying, “I’ve already sent that!”, to a real person at the end of the line? OK. I’ve conveniently forgotten to mention being put on hold for hours, but this is my blog and I’m allowed to have a totally biased opinion about things… :)

Maybe elements of the good old days are coming back thanks to social media. Check out this article where Michael Dell proposes using Google+ Hangouts as a way of connecting to Dell service and sales.

Imagine the joy of being able to rant directly at a real person again. :)

Cheers

Tim…




WordPress 3.2.1 Released…

As is often the way, new major releases from WordPress are quickly followed by maintenance releases. The recent release of WordPress 3.2 is now quickly followed by WordPress 3.2.1. Happy upgrading. :)

Cheers

Tim…