Posts Tagged 'windows'

Farewell Windows?

Not quite, and not for a long long time. In my house we run 4x laptops with Windows 10, we have a small office computer running Windows 10; then there is the Music Server in the basement, and the media laptop buried in the TV cabinet, they also run Windows 10. So it will be a long time before we stop using it.

However, in an excellent summary of what’s been going on at Microsoft, Matthias Biehl also makes a number of organizational truisms. It’s well worth a read. Also, do yourself a favor and try the Microsoft To-Do program, I use it on Windows and Android, it’s excellent.

culture flows from success


IoT App hell of the future

On the day after it was revealed that some models of the Google Home Mini speaker was revealed to be recording voices 24/7 due to a defect, Danny Palmer has a thoughtful piece on ZDNet about the toxic legacy of IoT devices.

Danny is spot-on about the social and technological impact of connected devices past their support date. While I’ve complained in the past about constantly updating apps, both adding function that slows the original device, and removing function that changes, often destroys the original value proposition of the device. It’s perhaps when the devices stop getting updates we have the most to fear from?

I have a Netgear NAS that is out of support, in fact, since I have an identical NAS that wakes-up Tuesdays at 2am and backs-up the primary NAS, I have two of them. While they are out of support, Netgear has been good at fixing urgent vulnerabilities. Of course, since I can’t see the source, I don’t know what vulnerabilities they have not fixed.

Kate and I went to see Blade Runner 2049 on the opening day at the local AMC cinema. It’s a bit of a thing of mine to sit through ALL, and I mean all of the end credits, As we left the theater, there it was, right at the very bottom of the screen, unseen from the seats, the Windows XP Start-button. I have no idea what projector they were using, but yes, many projectors did, and obviously still do run Windows XP.

Windows 8 – Hero or Villain?

Friday evening I headed down to the Woodlands to see the Beach Boys, just as I was walking in I got an email, it said simply “Hi Mark, what are your thoughts on this[Windows 8] as a user?”.

Since I had 20-minutes before the concert started, at least, I figured I’d bash out a quick reply. I’d been thinking I should write a follow-up to my earlier “Windows 8 and is change ever good?” entry and earlier in the day had read “Final thoughts on Windows 8: A design disaster” on zdnet.

If you ended up here to get confirmation that Windows 8 is indeed a bad idea, and you are not interested in anything else, then good news, just read the next paragraph and you are done. If you do though, you are risk of missing the point, and that’s what I think is happening now. Reviewers are missing the point, well mostly. And before you accuse me of being a Microsoft shill, remember I contributed to the IBM Linux strategy as discussed on my “corner” over the years, so don’t have my past or my future vested in Microsoft’s success. One of my documents on Linux, from the year 2000, is still available from the About page of this blog.

Corporate PC use: As a corporate laptop user with a keyboard and mouse, Windows 8 is indeed a pain. A number of the default windows behaviors have been changed which mean using it with a mouse is, clumsy at best. I sort of like Metro, and full screen windows, but then I’m an old guy who used grew up on 3270 mainframe terminals.

Ultimately these inconsistencies are going to be a big barrier to early corporate adoption on traditional PCs and laptops, the lost productivity will be a big cost, eventually i can see MS having to ship a Windows 8 that doesn’t boot to metro so they can withdraw support for WIN7.

Home use touch-screen: At home I’ve got an Dell 17-inch Inspiron touch screen laptop attached to my tv and home theatre system. Windows 8 and metro are brilliant, everything i had before works, I’ve been able to write scripts with a UI to automate a few simple, repetitive things I do. For example most mornings I listen to BBC Radio London over the Internet, I’ve now got a metro initiated script that launches the web page and stars the player, all it takes is a simple tap on a big button and it works. Even when the button is off the screen it takes just a few simple swipes. No more trying to scroll win7 scrollbars, trying to be accurate double touching icons, etc.

As a software architect:  One of my current projects the Dell Enterprise Systsmes Group Software/Firmware mobile/UI strategy. I love that you can use a knockout.js   implementation and that you can build apps out of html5 JavaScript and a smattering of CSS and this I think is a key point. There is a great article here if you don’t understand this.

My view is Windows 8 shouldn’t be aimed at corporate for a while, I don’t have a Windows 8 tablet, but one of our guys has bought his own Samsung, taken a Dell IT early Windows 8 build, and is using it in the office. So when Adrian Kingsley-Hughes says on zdnet he’s “going to avoid commenting on Metro on touch-based systems for now because Windows 8 is too far off in the future to know what the hardware is going to be like.” – He’s just wrong.

With the ability to use touch on a tablet or phone, build UI apps easily, I think Microsoft have taken a bold step, making WIN8 pretty compatible with mobile hybrid apps, and touch. In the next few years that will turn out to be a masterstoke but with the ability to capture a new generation of developers, writing web apps, Windows 8 apps, Windows Phone apps, and xbox.

As a PC User: All the apps from win7 are compatible, I get a pretty useful touch paradigm, and best of all, we get a pretty easy way to write metro apps without the old complexities of windows UI programming.

And I sent off my reply. A Few minutes later the reply came back “Sounds great Mark and I am seeing this in a similar way to your view below but you’ve added some new insights. Thanks and enjoy the beach boys! Michael [Dell]”.

The Windows Legacy

My good friend and fellow Brit’ Nigel Dessau posted his thoughts, and to some degree, frustrations with Windows Vista and potentially Windows 7 today on his personal blog, here.

The problem is of course they are stuck in their own legacy. If I were Microsoft,  I’d declare Windows 8 would only support Windows 7 and earlier apps and drivers in a virtual machine.

They’d declare a bunch of their more low level interfaces deprecated with Windows 7 and won’t be accessible in Windows 8 except in a Windows 7 VM.

Then they’d make their Windows virtual machine technology abstract all physical devices, so that Windows could handle them how they thought best, and wouldn’t let applications talk to devices directly, only via the abstraction. They would have generic storage, generic network, and generic graphics interfaces that applications could write to and Microsoft would deal with everything else.

This would initially limit the number of devices that would be supported, but thats really status quo anyway. They would declare how devices that want to play in the Windows space would behave, declare the specs, and Microsoft would own the testing and to a degree validation of almost all drivers or they could farm this out to a seperate organization who would independently certify the device, not write the code. Once they stabilised the generic interfaces though, the whole Windows system itself would become more stable.

This would be a big step for Microsoft. When you look at the Windows ecosystem, there are hundreds of thousands of Windows applications and utilities. Way too many of them though are to deal with the inadeqaucies of Windows itself, or missing function. Cut out the ability to write these sort of applications and their will be at least an infrastructure developer backlash. It might even provoke more antitrust claims. While I know nothing about the iPhone, this would likely put Windows 8 in the same position with respect to developers.

For all I know, this could be what they have in mind, it’s and area I need to get up to speed on with them, and obviously the processor roadmaps for AMD and Intel, as well as understanding where Linux is headed.

Touchscreen won’t kill the mouse… [or will it?]

I’ve really not been keeping up with what Microsoft are doing in UI design, although as the owner of an HTC Windows Mobile PDA/Phone thingy, I have a passing interest. I also sometimes look longingly on at iPhone users who swish their fingers around and do funky things, while on my HTC phone, apart from the contacts application, my finger basically just replaces the mouse. Still, I have my work calendar, address book, journal/notes, task list and more syncronised on my HTC phone!

In my post of the other day, I bemoaned the fact that creating slides and moving objects around even in the latest PowerPoint, really hasn’t changed much since Freelance under DOS, and even it had some neat features not found in todays PowerPoint for selecting, moving, duplicating and aligning objects.

It was with some interest then that I just spotted Robin Bloors commentary via his twitter stream, on Bill Gates latest claim that Touchscreen will kill the mouse. Robin is probably more right than Bill, but either way, hopefully creating objects, grouping them, moving the around on the screen and aligning them will get much easier. I’m all for that.

The chances of me still using Microsoft products by then, remote.

[Update] I’ve been giving some more thought to Robins argument, I do think he is right. However, I also think there is a reasonable alternative, at least one I could use. At home I use a draftsmans table as a desk. You know, one of those ones that sits up at an angle. Using my laptop on it, with a large external monitor for the extended desktop contain mostly the windows I’m not currently working on, IM clients, my calendar etc. works out ergonomically quite good.

I could see replacing the laptops sit up screen with a touch sensitive display of somesort, along with either a visual touch keyboard, perhaps projected onto the desktop; or a standard keyboard. I think that would work out fine, no mouse.

However, on a traditional flat desk it would be no use at all. Rather than having to hold your arms up all the time, you’d spend the day with your chin on your chest, not ideal for the neck. Still, I’m sure someone could resolve that, ergonomic touch screen stand anyone ?

About & Contact

I'm Mark Cathcart, formally a Senior Distinguished Engineer, in Dells Software Group; before that Director of Systems Engineering in the Enterprise Solutions Group at Dell. Prior to that, I was IBM Distinguished Engineer and member of the IBM Academy of Technology. I am a Fellow of the British Computer Society ( I'm an information technology optimist.

I was a member of the Linux Foundation Core Infrastructure Initiative Steering committee. Read more about it here.

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