Microsoft

Happy Birthday Mac

30 years ago today the first Apple Macintosh was announced in the US. There was very little whooping and clapping and certainly no-one had been sleeping outside on the New York streets for 3 days to get their hands on one. But what an impact the Mac had. First time I used one I didn’t like it!! It had one mouse button and was being hogged by a friend who was showing me how to put flames round some writing in Photoshop.

No thanks. I thought, I’ll stick to my PC, it runs Championship Manager 2.

I was wrong.

Without the Mac we quite possibly wouldn’t have had The Mouse, Copy and Paste, MS Powerpoint, smartphones, iPods, Usable tablet devices, and digital music stores amongst other things. Sure all these things probably would have sprung up, but in very different forms than they are now. It’s always pointed out to me that Microsoft pioneered the tablet PC years before the iPad. Trouble is Microsoft always want their mobile devices to run the same software as desktops the devices are always doomed. They haven’t learnt from past mistakes.

Microsoft have of course played a huge role in the success of the Mac. Developing MS Office for the Mac and investing $150 million in 1997. At a time where Windows was king and the Mac was on dicey ground indeed.

Fast forward to the present day. Whereas in the UK the PC used to rein supreme the humble Mac has gained a significant market share in the home market. Even in the office where I work more Mac’s are thankfully appearing, I just wish the people who had them (not me) knew how to use them. Mind you it does give me a opportunity to be a Mac Geek at work, which is much better than trying to eat my Dell keyboard because I have tried to use a Mac keyboard shortcut.

Main question I see on Twitter is (computer wise, not about Justin Beiber) “Is the Mac worth the extra money?”

The question in itself is wrong. If you spec the a PC to the levels of the Mac Pro the home built PC will be more expensive. But MacBook Air is more expensive than £250 PC. If you want a machine that is not only usable but runs the same as the day you got it the MacBook Air will not disappoint.

I hope the Mac will continue to be around in some form for at least another 30 years and that Apple continue to Think Different.

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(WMB4X) What Price Progress?

Just give me approximately two minutes. Will ya? Now about a minute. Cheers! Now under a minute.
Still under a minute… Please bear with me.
Hang on. Now wait a minute. Or two. Wait five hours.

Hey ok I’m ready. Welcome to today’s WMB4X post. That five hours went quick didn’t it. But the under a minute seemed to last much longer.

If you use a computer (in the broadest sense iPads, phones included) which I’m guessing you do as you are reading this. You will have encountered a progress bar. Now software designers can tart it up, pinwheels, beachballs, circles, eclipses or camel toes.

All progress bars of one type or another. Your device is busy. Please wait.

Now I understand that not everything can be instant. I don’t mind a wait. However I hate progress bars that are not in any form a representation of where you are in the process. For example a bar which is 50% full you would expect would be half way through the process. Just like if you drink half a cup of tea you have the same amount of lovely until you have to get up and make another.

But no. 50% progress bars mean diddly. The first 50% can whizz by and the second half might not be done even if you leave it to go and inflate Ingrid and have a night of passion. We live in a world of multi-cores 64bits and Intel Rampant rabbits. You would have thought with all this they will have given you something that can accurately tell you when your porn is downloaded..when your updates are done.

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The view from my desk


You wanna test out the progress bar in your browser. Go check out the Resident Weebles blog mine loaded in 3 seconds.

Being the “Tech Guy”

Firstly, let me state I enjoy my geek status. I like the fact that some of my friends and family rely on, and hopefully value my support and assistance when it comes to all things tech. Whilst stopping short of giving my life meaning it does give me a warm fuzzy feeling when my nearest and dearest are tech enabled because of my actions.

When you go into PC World (or other Microsoft Certified high street tech store) with an issue, the solution is often a Nuke and Pave. A full wipe of the hard drive, and re-installing the OS and transferring personal data from back up. Depending on how good the back ups are you may lose data you will definitely lose £100 as they charge you for 15 minutes work.

I hate this.

I like to try and fix the problem rather than deleting it. For the most part on the Windows side I was successful. However, it is stressful being an amateur (self taught) tech guru. Here are a few tips to make your tech guy relaxed.

Backup Your Own Data:

This is vital. The more regularly you back up, the less data you will lose, even if the guys at PC World have at your machine. But from a “Tech Guy” standpoint a good backup is great in case I mess up. I am a amateur, I am not perfect. Your backup is my safety blanket.

Offer Tea (or drink of choice):

Second on the importance list. A thirsty tech guy, is a irritable tech guy. Also (and I speak from experience) if I’m spending eight hours removing 82 trojans from your PC so that you can salvage your data and you don’t give me a drink. The nuke and pave “I can’t recover it” solution will soon be arrived at.

Don’t blame me, It’s not my responsibility:

You have asked me to (or I said I would) look at your machine. I am probably your friend/relative. I will try to best of my ability and knowledge to fix it. However if I’m not able to or as part of me fixing it, it goes wrong. I need to know I will not be blamed for the next fifteen years. I will already feel worse than you do.

Don’t Expect it to be completely free:

I will, provide my time and “expertise” for appreciation, sexual favours and Tea. (not all at the same time unless I’m very lucky.) However to fix your issue You may need to purchase a component or a piece of software. I will try to use free (open source) alternatives, but I do not have a “special place” to order stuff from where the “tech pixies” pay for stuff.

“It’s Not Perfect” (but it’s mine)

I will try to make every effort to recover your machine to where it was before the issue. In doing so I may have to delete things, move shortcuts, destroy saved games. Small sacrifices necessary to get your machine working. It may not be perfect, but it’s working.

Lastly:

I will leave you with instructions for general maintenance or guidelines after the fix. This is so you don’t repeat the same mistake again.

 Do what your tech guy has told you. Everyone wins.

Private Dancer

Before the advent of the “megapixel” camera when you had to wait 3 weeks for photos that the processing lab stuck little labels over. Before Flickr, Photobucket and Photostream two ways to share photo’s were. The Photo Album or the Slide Show. The only way to express a “like” in such arenas was to open your mouth and say “I like that one.” Voice activated before the X-Box was a twinkle in Windows 3.1’s eye.

Now we publish online. I am writing this piece to be published online, making it accessible to everyone with some type of internet connection. I publish other things too, I have a Gmail account, iCloud, Dropbox, Box.net, Yahoo. I am as online as you can be without involving Satan’s spawn itself Facebook.

Government spies enlisting the assistance of all tech’s major players has hit the news recently. It’s caused what can only be described as a kafuffle. All emails, blogs, pictures of your kids, pictures of the things you used to get those kids are apparently fair game for Mr FBI without your consent or knowledge .

Consent is a funny thing, Every email account, website or photo sharing service you sign up for has terms and conditions. Terms and Conditions that no-one ever reads. So chances are a high percentage of people (myself included) have consented to great deal of things we are unaware of. Granted letting the Government or anyone else look at your stuff probably wasn’t on the list.

Knowledge. You won’t know that anyone has looked at anything you put online. But you must be aware that they might. Even if you just look at human curiosity. If you worked at Flickr and saw a user account from MassiveNorks69, it’s only natural to want to take a sneaky peak. Google and the rest use your email to target advertising or have in the past.

The only way to keep your data safe from prying eyes. Don’t go online. Don’t phone anyone either. Don’t have a bank account, buy everything with cash. Not really practical. So what can we do?

Nothing. The old adage of if you have done nothing wrong you will have nothing to hide applies. I am not one of the tin foil hat brigade, but I’m not stupid enough to assume big companies and governments will respect the sanctity on my online life. That is the price we pay for the convenience of “Likes” “Re-tweets” and “Followers” So Hi there Mr FBI Man…. (I thought they were all shaped like that)

(28DW) Geek Future

As a proud geek, I often wonder where we will be in the future in terms of the tech we have. A friend of mine just purchased a new MacBook Air, lucky bastard. It is light, thin and powerful. By comparison my 3 year old MacBook looks light years away.

By Paul Hudson from United Kingdom (11″ MacBook Air compared to 13″ MacBook) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Looking at Jonny Ive’s design (that all the ultra book manufacturers copied) I struggle to see where they can improve. Yes I’m sure they will get quicker and storage will grow (or become cloud based) the screens on all Apples machines will be retina displays but aside from that.

The keyboard on the Air is full size, a thing of which apple are proud, it makes the air easy to operate. So I can’t see them going smaller, nor can I see them doing away with the physical keyboard. Although currently I am typing this on my iPhone, the virtualised keyboards of iDevices don’t make for good long term typing options. The screens will not get smaller, for we need to see what we are doing. Google have their goggles, which incorporate a display onto glasses but again how comfortable will that be for long term use.

It’s not just hardware I ponder. Software too, games, graphics, operating systems. Microsoft have gone down the touch screen route for their latest version of Windows. Some operations easier to perform with a finger on the end of a cramped hand on the end of a achey arm. Than with a traditional mouse, but touch screens don’t work, thanks for playing. One division of Microsoft who has got it right is the Xbox. Their motion controlled gaming system Kinect, is truly revolutionary. I hate it, because you can’t use it sat down, but the tech behind it is amazing.

Couple this with the advances in graphics and its now increasingly the case that games look very real and you are performing real actions. Fast forward generations into the future and in Grand Theft Auto 8 you will be stabbing a very real looking prostitute in the face. All boyish prevado aside (y’know the inner 9 year old who says “that will be cool”) will that be fun? Really? If nothing else it will give the “video games cause serial killings” people serious ammunition.

Additionally no-one could have predicted how the smart phone has revolutionised our lives. I used to feel anxious when I mislaid my Nokia 3210, when I mislay my iPhone I go batshit mental. Now I would be lost without it. Everything is on this mixture of aluminium and glass. Who knows what they will do? If it will in the long term enrich our lifes or just extend the control these screens have on our increasingly Orwellian existence.


Please check out the work of my 28DW Comrades at The Resident Weeble and A Piece of Pandemonium 

Page 101

In commemoration of my 101st post (I’ll stop recognising post numbers soon I promise) I thought I’d add another page to my blog. Oh yes through the looking glass here people. Much like Room 101, TV/Radio show in the UK where guests send things they hate, Things listed on this page will be things that currently hated by yours truly. You may or may not agree but such is life. Hopefully I will write compelling arguments so you to can join in my hate. Maybe it will be a good experience for all of us.

I thought I’d write the opening entries here so that you dear reader didn’t have to click that extra time.. cos I hate that.

Things sent to Page 101. In no particular order, cos hatred does not work like that, hatred is a twisted ball of grrrr and cannot be constrained by any numerical system.

Chris Martin:

Him from Coldplay. Coldplay is music for people who have no opinion on music. The audio equivalent of magnolia paint. Magnolia is natural it stirs no emotion whatsoever, it sells by the bucket load, yet no-one really talks of it.

In a musical conversation if you say “I like Coldplay” there will be one of two responses “Oh” and no more is said. Or from likeminded (non musically opinionated) person “Me too.” And then no more is said.

The leader of the bland.. sorry band Chris Martin. Your band front man should be a figure head, Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix, Robert Plant, James Hetfield hell even Bono. A guy or girl able to whip up the crowd into a frenzy. Martin able to whip up the crowd into mediocrity.

The Edge:

Whilst we are on a musical tirade. The Edge a man who doesn’t so much play his guitar as program it. When I was a kid I had a toy guitar that had 12 preset riffs available at the press of a button. As a teenager I tried to learn the guitar and failed (even though my guitar is still in my lounge, one day it will sing) The Edge must have had the same toy, because every piece of guitar in every single U2 song is processed repeater pedal crap.

Also, I was recently watching a Rory Gallagher documentary. The Edge appeared, and apparently was best friends with Rory in his youth. Gallagher is dead now, so he cannot confirm, nor does The Edge have pictures. Slash on the other hand, has pictures. Strange that.

Pointless Stats:

My working life is dominated by stats. Numerics, forcast models. I spend hours each day bringing together all this stuff for it to be sent in an email and ignored by people on four times my salary. When they are gracious enough to read what I’ve put I am bombarded by inane requests for commentary explaining what it all means. Because they can’t understand the charts.

Charts which they requested. Charts which I informed them were too packed with crap to be of any use to anyone other than a abstract art exhibition. When they finally understand, they want me to massage the figures to represent something that isn’t there. Thus rendering this whole exercise pointless.

This is unfair. This was created using iWork Numbers.. not Excel that I have to deal with

That’s enough hate to begin with.. check in for more from time to time.

Whilst I Was Sleeping

Whilst my motivation has been lacking I missed:

Jimmy Carr and Tax
Team DB not for Team GB
Microsoft Surface
Euro 2012
Murray Mania

So because I know you are all dying to hear what I (the angry masses) thinks about all this microblog a go go.

Jimmy Carr

Rich man employs people to pay as little tax as possible shocker. “It’s not fair” scream the masses all of whom would have done the same thing if they had:

1. Thought of it
2. Could afford a decent accountant.

Life isn’t fair, people will always want more for less in return. Human nature folks, embrace it.

Team DB not for Team GB

David Beckham 25 year old footballer plays for Man Utd and England, he has the vibe of a man who has yet to reach the pinnacle of his career, he has a wicked right foot that can fizz crosses into the box and he can hit a dead ball with style similar to that of Roberto Carlos. So it is a travesty that this young talented player has been denied a chance to perform at London 2012. What do you mean he’s 37 and a bit part player in LA? You are kidding me???

The Olympics is supposed to be for athletes who are at the peak of fitness to compete with each other according to Olympic ideals and values. Yes David Beckham gave a lot to bring the games to London but so did Seb Coe. I don’t see anyone mounting a campaign for him to get out his running spikes. Why? Because he had his time. As has Beckham.

Microsoft Surface

Finally a piece of hardware that suits Windows 8. An iPad killer? No. I don’t think so one because the iPad fitted into an ecosystem that was already in existence, and the distribution plans are shaping up to be a nightmare. On launch the Surface will only be available at Microsoft Stores and online in the states. How many stores? Less than 30!

Euro 2012

England were ok. Despite all the press saying we failed. We played a defensive game versus Italy that nearly worked. Boring well maybe, but defending is part of the game too. Spain were a cut above. The dutch need to actually like each other, relax in each others company. Maybe over a smoke and a pancake.

Murray Mania

Tennis. I can watch. Not the greatest fan but I can watch. Wimbledon however seems to be surrounded by people who are unaware that Tennis is played as part of a world tour. They seem to think that Tennis pros play for 2 weeks in a year. I don’t think Andy Murray will ever win Wimbledon which is a shame for him and Scotland.

Nearly New Year.. Really New Name

Slowlycreepingdeath has died. What can I say it crept up quicker than creepy was expecting. So the One Button mouse reigns supreme. As always. You see Microsoft just don’t get it.

I have been known to be somewhat of an Apple fan boy and yes the number of products I own that were born in Cupertino and now the name of this site bear that out. However what may come as a surprise to some of you is that I want Microsoft to succeed. Not in a mass market high turnover way, although this would accompany it but in a technological way. I want Microsoft to produce products that “just work” I want them to produce a Windows Phone that does have technology to rival the iPhone.

I want Google to keep on not being evil. Bringing out many different deserts that give iOs a run for it’s money. I want Samsung to make quality handsets, HP to make great laptops with instant on. HTC to manufacture handsets that inspire their many users.

No honestly no sarcasm.

I want Microsoft Office to lead the world in more than units sold. I want the suite to be so easy to use that everyones Grandma could produce those sales figures. Database administrators would be free from the tyranny of the “query” because the management would know how to produce their own stats without needing to hard code anything. Ok this isn’t possible now, but isn’t what every tech company should be aiming for, ease of use, to enrich the user experience so that they spend less time learning how to get to that all important end product.

No-one wants a computer. In the same way no-one wants a whisk. You need a whisk to make an omelette, but it does it’s job without much thought from the user. Indeed even if you’d never ever seen a whisk before, one well spent second watching someone using one would give you advanced whisk certification for life.

Microsoft and Apple are both companies founded by geeks. The difference being one company had the forethought to realise that the geeks never get the girl, because geeks are seen to be moody and inaccessible. So how does a geek get laid? Switch on a charm offensive, look good, stay healthy, be friendly, easy to get along with and keep all that geeky conversation to a minimum.

So what happened to the geek who had none? Well he produced excellent software, shrewdly investing time, energy and money into projects that attracted other male business geeks. These other business geeks, forced their employees to use the products produced by the geeky project and everyone made a whole bunch of cash. The barren geek employed other geeks to enhance their products and year on year more geeky features were added until the whole pile of frustrated geekyness became rather unwieldy. Producing great technical products that are time and time again hampered by the inability to understand how people (not geeks) work.

In short I want Microsoft to get laid!

In long terms. I want someone to rival Apples “wow” factor, you know produce the tech that gives the world a hard on, not just geeks. Focus on the user, what they are doing, instead of what they are using.

Everyone wins. Competition is healthy.

Tech vs Viruses

Ok as I stated before I am a Mac Guy. It hasn’t always been this way, my first proper windows PC was a mighty powerful 166mhz Pentium, with I think 16 Mb RAM. On this I ran Norton Anti virus and no firewall whatsoever! When no-one wanted to use the phone (oh dial up how I don’t miss thee) I used this humble machine as a portal to another world. (Mirc and Porn then!) Until one day a virus.

This was back in the day when I wasn’t too tech savvy, having recently transferred to the PC from an Acorn Archimedes, so down to the local tech guys, who formatted my drive and charged me through the nose. Virus removed. Fast forward  15 or so years. Malware hits the Mac in the form of Mac Defender/Guard, not a virus but pretty close, a week later Apple release a security patch, killing the threat. Oh look how far we’ve come, vendors of the operating system now provide patches for viruses and computing is now hassle free, Apple and Microsoft must be commended by for their swift action.. no wait sorry.. apparently the PC variant of Mac Defender and millions of other security threats remain un-patched. Oops.

Microsoft famously in fact have taken 7 years to patch a known vulnerability in their software. 7 years! Now because Microsoft do not make computer hardware, it is unreasonable of anyone to expect them to patch for viruses, because each PC on which it’s software runs is different, but to not patch their own software for 7 years! That is a middle finger to all their customers surely.

People have said the reason why the mac has no in the wild viruses is directly linked to it’s market share. 90% of world use a Microsoft OS. 10% Macs. This is true, partly. Mac OS is built upon UNIX and according to folks more geeky than I, that means it’s more difficult to produce a successful virus. If this recent malware scare has taught virus developers anything it’s surely don’t dick with Apple. You make it, we’ll patch it. There is sure to be a little backlash, with the malware developers changing things, but as Apple announce Mac OS 10.7 Lion I’m backing cupertino.

With smartphones, there is debate about Googles openness in the form of Android Market vs Apples walled garden App Store. Obviously I’m going to favour the garden. All Apps validated by Apple, controlling yes, money making yes, consistent  you bet ya, screw up your phone no freaking way!

Android Market is riddled with Malware Google are removing apps but the open way in which everything has been done means they are always a few steps behind, so on Android your data could be half way round the world before Google have even had a chance to not be evil.

The Mac Geek Gabs Dave Hamilton put this best, when describing internet security.

“It is easier for me to leave my car unlocked with the keys in the ignition ready to go. I don’t because it is insecure.” So if in the future all apps are brought via Apples App store or a Microsoft equivalent and all these apps are validated, we sacrifice a the ease of free choice safe in the knowledge that all the personal stuff we have on our machines is safe. The debate goes on..

 

Japan: The Redmond Approach and the Cupertino Approach

You can only express deep sympathy when it comes to our Japanese brothers and sisters of the world. Their loss is great and of course any support the rest of the world can give at this time should be offered. After all it is the least we can do. It is a very human tragedy.

Microsoft’s Bing division has donated $100k to the aid effort. For this I applaud them, or at least I would if they had not done it like this.

Yes that’s right, people dying, ba-da Bing, lets make it into a marketing opportunity. Well done Redmond. Yes they retracted it but only after complaints, it worries me that people would need to complain about such a thing. It’s almost as if Redmond couldn’t see the human angle. Some people lost their lives some Microsofts own customers, those who share the same planet as Bill Gates, and Steve Ballmer seeing everything they hold dear being swept away by the forces of nature. But hey it’s OK because Bing can find it again.

Microsoft found $100k under one of Ballmers sweaty butt cheeks and sent it to the needy. Meanwhile over at the Tokyo branch of the Cupertino camp this was happening. Apple to the the aid of the people, feeding people, caring for their staff and families and people who had nothing to do with the company.

This is not a marketing gimmick, this is a huge multinational company showing the human side, seeing the bigger picture. Because most things in life, least of all death, should have a dollar sign placed upon it.