Friday, February 1, 2013
See, I have gone back to Windows 7. Windows 8 isn't fully supported by vendors quite yet, and I was having small issues that, when pig-piled on top of one another, amounted to occasional annoyances. So there's that.
More importantly, I'm dumping Windows Phone. My HTC Titan is still (as of this moment) languishing on version 7.5, although the 7.8 incremental update is skulking around in the woods just outside of eyeshot. Sadly, it's not enough to make the platform work on the Titan. Everything in the Marketplace is gearing towards 8.0. Actually, most news about WinPho apps is gearing towards 8.0 on the Nokia Lumia devices. So sitting around with the lame-ass 7.8 ("More tiles! yay!") while the ecosystem moves on, and moves on with Nokia as the "Golden Child" means that the Titan is practically dead in the water. Why not get a Lumia then? My contract isn't up for another year -- yeah boo hoo -- but more importantly, WinPho is becoming a real "world phone", which is to say that the Market is being flooded with apps from and for other nations. It's not only difficult to find something good, but something that I can understand.
So yeah: WinPho has stalled for me. I wish Microsoft well, because I don't hate it; I firmly believe that having only two players in a market is a bad thing. But the market has spoken, and it doesn't seem to find WinPho worthy.
So I got a Nexus 4. As ironic as it seems -- writing on Blogger, using Gmail and G+, and buying another Android phone -- I don't really trust Google. I've seen how vindictive they can be, so anyone who still believes that they're living up to the ideal of "do no evil" is far too steeped in the Kool Aid to discuss the situation objectively. But what can we do? I won't got back to Apple, that's for sure. Dumbphones? You have to be kidding me. I guess so long as Google isn't actively out to screw me directly, it's one of the better of a bad bunch. Besides, the phone is really cool.
So ends this train of topics. I'll see about switching to something else to talk about in the next quarter century when I remember that I have a blog over here!
Friday, October 12, 2012
So first, I admit that I was pretty anti-Windows 8 just a scant few posts ago. I made claim that I had actually tried to work with it, but that as a desktop OS, the touch-centric UI just didn’t work.
I bought a sweet new SSD, and was faced with a choice: install Win 7 and chug along as normal, or actually guinea pig myself and get Windows 8 from MSDN and run with it; no safety net of dual booting, no rollbacks. I opted for the latter. I’m not going to say that I don’t regret it, because I don’t think it’s a matter of regret or non-regret. I think it’s really just a matter of understanding.
Anyone who’s old enough will remember using DOS. Remember, then, when Windows 3.1 came along? Remember, then, when Windows 95 came along? Did you resist, or did you jump up and down, excited about the transition? Did you care at all? I once swore I wouldn’t jump to XP because I thought it was all eye candy, and I didn’t need that overhead when Win 95 was working just fine at the time. Naturally, time forces us all to jump ship in one way or another, and at that point we have choices: refuse to switch, make the switch, or abandon the platform all together.
Part of the thing is a resistance to change. Another part is any excuse to piss on Microsoft. Another part is annoyance that the tablet ecosystem is being shoved in our faces. And another part is a legitimate gripe that Microsoft is looking to follow a misguided path behind Apple and Google.
The Metro (I still call it that) UI is the Start Menu that many people bitch about losing. I don’t miss it; I’ve used Launchy for so many years now that I heave a heavy sigh whenever I DO need to use the Start Menu. It’s a paradigm that worked well when we didn’t know any better – and I’m not suggesting that Metro is “better” – but when you get something different, it takes a willingness to work with it, and to understand what it is (an always open, unwrapped Start Menu) and what it is not (a prohibitive UI that’s impossible to work with using a mouse and keyboard).
Of course, many people are just itching to justify a simmering hatred for Microsoft. People like to pick sides, and they like to use anything not nailed down as ammo against their enemies. Windows has been the de facto OS for gaming or productivity because of it’s ubiquity, not necessarily because it’s better for gaming or better for productivity. This widespread adoption has forced a lot of people to use Windows even when they’d rather not (which they’ll tell you about anytime the name “Microsoft” is used, which is a name that is a cranky Internet commentator’s Beetlejuice). Using Windows 8 as an excuse for finally giving up on Windows all together is made easier when folks like Gabe Newell and Notch of Minecraft Fame seem to be more than willing to use their products as carrots to sway the opinions of anyone who values their Steam libraries, or who is addicted to Minecraft.
We keep hearing that tablets are the computers in a post PC world, but simply having a number of tablets in people’s hands doesn’t mean that it’s really any better or any worse than what also exists in the space of computing. There’s a whole lot of stuff that can’t be done with tablets, and even among the stuff that can be done, it can’t be done well. Steve Jobs even claimed that the iPad was a consumption device, not a productivity tool. But tablets are the next big bubble, and everyone needs a piece of that pie to be seen as relevant going forward.
But I will agree with Notch’s angry crusade in that Microsoft should not seek to cut off it’s bread and butter of being an egalitarian platform. Windows has a huge support base of professional, indie, and amateur applications because of it’s ubiquity, and because it does support so many development options. If Microsoft were to narrow that pipeline by attempting to create a curated “walled garden” a la Apple and Google, it would be a serious blow to one of the huge pillars of support that Windows enjoys.
Having worked with nothing but Windows 8 for the past several weeks from a purely consumer point of view, I’ve gotten used to it in the same way I had gotten used to Windows 95, XP, and Windows 7. There are growing pains, but if anyone is unwilling to submit to those pains, do they really think that jumping to a Mac or Linux will be any easier? I’d say no, but I think that many people’s irrational hatred based on their perceptions of Windows 8 is more than enough for then to give the Mac or Linux the opportunity to grow on them that they wouldn’t even consider granting to Windows 8.
But I also suspect (or worry) that a lot of people have made their decisions based on screenshots, walls of text, and more disappointingly, the opinions of others. I suspect that a very small number of people have actually given it a true fair shake. Part of that is certainly due to the fact that any potential exposure had to have come by way of the consumer previews, and not a lot of folks were willing to destroy their working computer to test an unfinished OS. So that means a lot of people have offered many pages of opinion about an unreleased product that they personally have not used. Some will simply dismiss the whole product and say that Metro is “ugly” (because the current Start Menu is a study in glamor, naturally). Hell, I’d bet that a lot of people don’t even know about Stardock’s Start8, which was made possible thanks to people’s resistance to any and all kinds of change.
Really, Windows 8 as a product s not that bad. We’ve had to adjust to OS paradigm shifts in the past (those of us who are older than Windows XP), and the cost of being angry and jumping to a Mac or Linux, both financially and mentally, is something that I think is a case of “jump first, look later” for people who aren’t already familiar with either. So the option then is to stick with Windows 7. That’s OK. It does everything that current users expect it to do, and I suppose it’s a way of sending Microsoft a demographic message that desktop users aren’t happy with their decisions regarding the design of Windows 8. Is it a perfect OS? No, of course not. Does it offer enough incentive to upgrade from Windows 7? Depends on what you use it for, and your level of comfort, I suppose. For most, the answer would be no, but I’d certainly respect folks more if they gave it an honest shot and made up their own minds.
As for the business decisions surrounding the OS? Well, I suppose that’s where the battleground should really be. But there needs to be a telling of truth: the Marketplace is not the only way to get applications on your computer. Period. Installing a desktop app – from disk, via download, through telepathy, whatever – still works like it always have. Some people will of course ask, “yes, but for how long?” and I think the answer to that is “forever”, because if Microsoft actually removes that option from their desktop OS, they deserve to be burned at the stake. But that day is not now, nor is it any time soon. If you don’t like the Marketplace policy, then the answer I have for you is pure, unadulterated, 100% capitalism: don’t use it. Don’t buy anything from it. Don’t even look at it. Sorry, current and future Metro developers, but I think that’s advice that really didn’t need to be reiterated.
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Nokia had a press event today to reveal their new Lumia devices running Windows Phone 8 OS. I believe these are the first WP8 devices that we’ve seen in action, and that would mean that Microsoft is pushing their partnership with Nokia hard. Samsung just can’t catch a break these days, I guess.
This wasn’t a MS show, so aside from some WP8 demos from Joe Belfiore and the contractually obligated presence of Le Ballmer, the focus (pun intended) was on the Lumia 920 and it’s smaller cousin, the 820.
The biggest pitch of the afternoon was about the camera. It’s not overly megapixelated (only 8), but the whole camera rig is on springs which results in some very steady, non-blurry images or video, even when in motion. The camera also allows the aperture to remain open longer, allowing more light into the camera, which makes taking pictures in near dark conditions appear much brighter, even without a flash. The demos they showed were nice, I suppose, but it’ll require some in-hand-time to determine if the results are as good in reality as they are on paper.
One additional OS announcement that was made was the inclusion of “lenses”, which is a hipster term for apps that can take advantage of the camera at the time you take a picture. Some apps require you to open the app itself, then select the camera icon to take a picture for use. I assume “lenses” offer the inverse: take a picture, then decide what to do with it. The demo showed how a special effects app could apply filters to a photo once it was taken. There was also a demo of Photosynth integration.
One of the coolest demos was of “image subtraction”, which is basically what it sounds like. Standing on a busy street, you want to take a picture of a sexeh sports car parked by the curb, but people keep walking between you and the subject. This app allows you to wipe those people out of existence by taking several shots of the subject, and then removing the differences between the series – in this case, the rude jerks who don’t appreciate fine Italian sports cars. They also showed the camera’s ability to take several shots in rapid succession, allowing you to select the picture that you like the most. Now you can avoid pictures where someone has his or her eyes closed.
Included as standard in the 920, and optional in the 820, is wireless charging. Oh yes. I’ve seen wireless charging mats for sale for different devices, but those usually required a special battery, or a bulky add-on pack. The Lumia 920 has this built in, without sacrificing it’s thin profile. The 820 actually allows you to remove the outside case, and replace it with a case of a different color, or a wireless charging cover/battery with the same functionality as the 920. Considering the Windows Phones will already back themselves up wirelessly to your PC, this means you never really have to have a cable for the phone. Ever.
As far as I know, both devices have NFC (near field communication) which is the Next Big Thing. This allows your device to bonk another device (not a euphemism) to activate some process. The demo they struggled with was to bonk the phone into a sweet JBL speaker device in order to initiate Bluetooth communication for playing music on the phone though the speakers. The JBL device had the added bonus of sporting a topside wireless charging station. Hawt! Also, they briefly showed some wireless headphones. NFC can also be used (in more forward looking regions such as Japan and Europe, but soon here in the US) along with things like the upcoming Wallet, which can/could allow you to pay for things at the register by simply bonking your phone on the cash register. Yes, that is a thing.
Nokia also spoke about their improved maps, which now feature some AR overlay for Yelp-like location of services and such, but those apps are already out there, and have hit or miss performance. They also pimped their sunlight-defying, better than 720p HD+ display, the ability to use the touch screen with gloves on, and other nifty upgrades.
I always liked the Nokia Lumia, and would have gone with the 900 had I not gotten my Titan for $0.01. Along with the upgrade to WP8, the camera, wireless charging, and NFC are big upsells for me. Unfortunately, there’s no release date (hopefully next month when Windows 8 releases), no price, and no carrier announcement (AT&T is probably a given). My contract isn’t up for another year anyway, but my wife’s contract is up right about the time that MS is going to be flooding the market with stuff, and she’s looking to get rid of her iPhone. I don’t think it’ll be a hard sell to steer her towards the 920.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
The only issue now is that the Mail app continues to crash. Although I'm used to working with a web interface for my mail, I'm holding out for a Chrome for Windows 8. IE 10 seems nice enough, but Kotaku posted a Win 7 to Win 8 benchmark article which claims that the latest version of Chrome still beats the pants off of IE. However, since I'm using Outlook.com as my primary email now, the baked in Mail app connects naturally, and doesn't mess with the messages on the server. I'd like to have it there, as opposed to opening up a web browser just to check mail. I shall seek guidance on this subject.
I spent most of my first day with Windows 8 Release installing shit. Video drivers. Utilities for my bazillion Logitech devices. Games, of course: The Secret World, Star Trek Online, Skyrim, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. Also, I committed a sin by installing Steam on Windows 8, which surely made Gabe Newell clutch his chest as the reverberations in the fabric of the universe radiated out from my PC.
I’m a little concerned, through. To the left, you’ll see the sexeh new task manager (yes, I did put those specific words together). Notice column B. That’s memory consumption. I wasn’t running all that much, but the memory in use was only 31% (out of 6GB). That’s pretty damn good. In another test today, after a reboot, I was downloading Guild Wars 2, had started STO loading, and had several utilities running in the task bar, and the memory usage was only 28%! I don’t know if this is wrong, but it’s pretty impressive.
Sadly, I think I’ve run into a wall. My attempt to load STO ended with a crash. Same with Skyrim. Vanguard actually worked better on Win 8 than it does for me on Win 7. TSW worked great as well. I can’t say if these crashes are due to the OS, or drivers. There are still no official Win 8 drivers for anything out there, but the claim is that Win 7 stuff should work fine. I don’t know about that.
In addition, certain Metro apps keep crashing. Email will load the splash screen, but dumps me back to Metro. The People hub, which pulls your contacts from Google, Twitter, MSN, Facebook, etc., also displays status updates from Twitter and Facebook. I tried using that, but that also crashed.
My next step is to try the rollback feature to remove the video drivers and see if things work any better. I’m not sure what that will do for the viability of the games, but it will at least answer the question as to whether or not the video drivers are involved.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
So Windows 8 will be my new steak. I'm not going to crunch up a DVD and cram it into my cheek. I'm sure that would only result in a trip to the emergency room. Instead, I've downloaded the release from MSDN, and have it installed on my secondary drive. As I write this, I'm installing The Secret World. I've already installed my Logitech drivers, and -- hoping against hope -- have installed my tablet drivers. Sadly, it doesn't look like there's multi-touch support for Win 8 from Wacom yet. But that's OK. It's still pre-release. I've also been testing out various Twitter apps. So far, none are exciting, not even MetroTwit, which does make me sad.
I plan on running in Win 8 until it makes it to the street. I'm going to suck it up and actually try and use it. I've been harsh on it (others have been much harsher), but most of what I've said has been a result of frustration in trying to get stuff to work the way I'm used to it working. Now's the time to see if I can get used to working the way it wants me to work. I am not betting for or against it at this time; I want to leave fingerprints all over it before I make a final judgment.
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
I had an old Hotmail.com address which is attached to my Windows Phone. I don't use it for anything other than anything Microsoft, which means that there's a history there. My Xbox account is there. My MSDN subscription is there. And my phone is there, along with all of the pictures I took which were automatically uploaded to my SkyDrive account. Problem is, I'm not attached to my Hotmail account. I'd like it to go away. Second problem is, as I stated in the first post on this subject, that migrating from Hotmail.com to Outlook.com is painful.
The actual act of switching isn't, really. According to an article posted on WPCentral.com, all you need is an Xbox. Great! I've got that! So I followed the directions, and it worked great! All my Xbox and Zune purchase history was migrated over. But now comes the hard part: finding out what WASN'T migrated over.
Some things came naturally when I created the Outlook.com account. Email, of course. SkyDrive space was created for me (a paltry 7GB compared to my other account's 25GB). I need to get the rest of the stuff over from the Hotmail to the Outlook association, so here's the highlights:
- MSDN had a way to move your account from one email address to another. Nice and simple.
- I disassociated my desktop SkyDrive from the Hotmail account, and set it up to use the Outlook.com account. It used the same folder location on the HDD, so it's in the process of moving items from my old account to my new account. Again, nice and simple.
- I panicked when I couldn't get my photos from my Hotmail account. Then I remembered that photos taken on the phone upload to SkyDrive, which was in the process of moving anyway, so those photos are safe and sound.
- The goddamn phone