Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Turnaround is fair play

I just think it is funny how Apple and Microsoft have changed places.

In the 90's and early 2000's one of the arguments used against Apple was that there were not as many software titles available to Apple computers are there were to Microsoft Windows computers.  The hardware was comparable, though Apple would try to debunk the "numbers game" (GHz, MB, etc.) saying they were not the whole picture.  At the same time critics would point out how there are many more software titles for Microsoft Windows than for Apple's Mac. Apple's response was one of "quality" over "quantity", asking "how many word processors do you use?" and that one good quality program is all you need.

Now about 10+ years later, turnaround is fair play.

Microsoft is the new and smaller player in the mobile market largely dominated and more recently shared with Apple (and Google).  Guess what one of the arguments being used against the Windows Phone?

The (smaller) number of apps available. Wow, deja vu!

Apple countered that argument by making a whole new niche (smartphones) before there were any competitors.  Wonder how Microsoft is going to try and handle this?

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Microsoft Windows 8.1 Pro? tempting

So it seems Microsoft is trying to make a push for Windows 8.1 being released in a couple of weeks by offering Windows 8.1 free upgrade (for Windows 8 users) or full-blown Windows 8.1 and 8.1 Pro installations and not upgrades from existing Windows.  (source) Of course if you are installing 8.1 and not upgrading from Windows 8 you will need to install all of your applications and files afterwards.  If you are doing this on a build-it-yourself computer or on an already blank box then this is a non-issue.

  • Free upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1
  • $119 for Windows 8.1 installation DVD (not an upgrade)
  • $199 for Windows 8.1 Pro installation DVD (not an upgrade)
Which brings me up to my temptation. The family desktop is currently running Ubuntu 12.04 and works fine for the most part.  Unfortunately it does not play some of the games or applications the kids want or need.  Not to mention feature that Windows has when working with other Windows on a network, peripheral compatibility (wireless printer, network drive, tablet, etc.) that are available with Linux *if* I want to put all of the pieces together (assuming I know how).  And it isn't just the kids, either.

I am not shy about saying that if MS Office was made available for Linux natively (100% compatibility) I would be willing to pay for it but it doesn't quite work yet and it doesn't include my wanting Visual Studio and/or WebMatrix for my web development.  I haven't quite been happy with the solutions on Linux yet.

So the temptation is that for only $199 I can get a Windows Pro installation DVD, so I don't have to upgrade from XP to 7 beforehand, compared to $264.59 (free shipping) for Windows 7 Professional from Amazon.  I could be saddled with Windows 7 Home for less than $100, but I have already run into the issue of Home's inability to back up to the networked hard drive (Professional or higher version required).  Not that I am looking at changing that system to Windows 8.1 (I think my wife would kill me ;) ).

Windows 8 is very touch-focused and the idea of working with it on a non-touch device is not a very enticing.  In fact, I dreaded the idea. With Windows 8.1 you can automatically go into the more familiar Desktop mode and have a Start button available giving it essentially a traditional Windows-like interface with the option of Windows Store apps and the Metro interface.  Some argue that Windows 8.1 should have been what Windows 8 was released as.  Oh well, at least it is here now.

Tempting, but we'll see. Now I wonder about dual-booting.... :)

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Do I bother putting Flash on?

I think it is a good idea to refresh your computer system every so often and not only to clear out “cobwebs” and remove unused programs and libraries.  I think it is good to do a refresh so that you can take a moment and figure out what you have used, and what you haven’t. What should you keep and what to dump.


Take for instance I just installed Fedora 19, Gnome, on my laptop.


This laptop is older (pre-Lenovo deal) IBM Thinkpad with not a ton of horsepower compared to modern devices (Pentium M @ 1.8 GHz, 2GB of RAM), but it is adequate to doing most things.  It runs Windows 7 fine, so long as I don’t do too much in the way of heavy compiling or video editing.  The good thing is I don’t do that too much already and now I have a desktop to handle some of the heavier tasks.


So now that I have a fresh Fedora 19, Gnome, installation once my updates are done I will be able to start looking at which programs I want to install and actually use, and which programs I usually install but never use.


The first item coming to mind, though, is Flash; do I really need it?


YouTube plays many of its videos using HTML5 instead of Flash and outside of a couple of games I really don’t use Flash all that much as far as I am aware.  If I have a need for Flash, I can still use the desktop or switch to the Windows 7 hard drive.


Probably one of the more used, at home, Flash application I use is to listen to Pandora. Pandora has years of my music preferences collected and I have my stations pretty much the way I like them so I am not too interested in trying another music service that allows streaming over the Internet which I need to “teach” all over again.  Not to mention, to hope that it will recognize that if  like one song flagged with “rap”, that I am not suddenly interested in “gangsta rap” in the middle of my Christmas-themed radio station!


Thankfully I may be able to fulfill this with the use of Pithos.

So between Pithos and HTML5, I am going to see how far can I get without Flash before breaking down and installing it.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Finger pointing Windows 8 failings

There has been a lot of bashing of Windows 8 and Microsoft lately, and finger pointing to what has gone wrong.  Truth be told it is never only one entity's fault, rather a combination of multiple factors. Some are controllable, others are environmental and others are just out of your control.

Take for instance the following article that incited a forum thread entirely negative towards Microsoft:

Keep in mind that media hypes up anything they can represent as "controversial" or attempt a "train-wreck" kind of slow drive-by by rubberneckers to read their articles/blog posts.  In other words, out of a dozen "journalists", maybe one or two spent more than 15 minutes on Windows 8, have never tried anything other than Windows XP and maybe 7 (which are very similar to each other in my opinion) or started in with the mind-set of "this is going to suck, I just need to research details...".

I did not say, however, that Windows 8 is any good (or bad).  

Personally, I have gone through some UI changes on the Linux front (Gnome2, Gnome -shell, Unity, KDE, Xfce, etc.) and the one thing I have gathered from this is that you cannot go into a new interface and expect it to run just like the other interfaces.  It's a mind-set that most people haven't had to use because Windows has predominantly stayed the same in a UI manner since 95!

So Microsoft is starting something new, a new UI and a new "philosophy" of how to navigate the system. This after waking up and realizing the world has gone on without them and IE 6 is no longer the only browser in the market (let alone Office, Windows Server, etc.).  It's taken a while for them to rub the sand out of their eyes, and I think they are still working on their first cup of coffee but at least they are shambling around like a Monday morning zombie.

The OEMs, though, are grumbling and whining about having to change their way of thinking, to include touch, mobile devices, power AND efficiency and more device-like computers than the old beige boxes sitting on a desktop.  Coupled with strong Apple sales and a slower economy to navigate through and they have had to actually... um... work!  Innovate!  Come up with something more than same-old-same-old.  And just to help drive home the point, now they have to compete with Microsoft themselves!  Gosh, guess they can't be caught sleeping at the wheel anymore.

Microsoft is "rebooting" Windows 8 February and it does make sense.  The name "Vista" became synonymous with "sucks" and though it was more of a bug-fix and polishing up of Vista, "Windows 7" has become the heir apparent of Windows XP's position of the most popular operating system (of the world).  

Technical issues will exist regardless of how long they tested and developed the OS, especially at the size and and magnitude Microsoft and Windows exist. Really what Microsoft needs is a marketing "reboot", not a technical one!

Hopefully Microsoft has learned.  They have had 3+ months of real-world feedback that they could address so that Windows 8 Pro on Surface can benefit from it and have fewer flaws.  The world has had 3+ months to learn how to operate this new UI.

I think that Microsoft needs to push education (books, video, blogs, etc.) on HOW to work the Windows 8 UI and push deals to get it into the hands of people so they can get used to the new interface.  Also, there are plenty of improvements "under the hood", let people know how it benefits them whether it be safety, security, stability or even putting into place a framework that can easily handle massive changes in the near future.

Now is their time to push and push hard on it; Apple is looking old, Linux's competition is still forming and the mobile market is young enough that nothing is set in stone.