Windows 10: We Wants It

Windows 10 on laptop

Microsoft

Let’s face it. Microsoft consistently manages to mail it in every other version, a tradition dating back to Windows 95/98. Remember Windows ME? You don’t? It causes fits of laughter even within Microsoft. By the people who worked on it.

But then Windows XP, despite its leaky security, was so stable that there are still XP installs out there. (If you have one, you really need to upgrade. It’s a hack waiting to happen now that it’s not patched and updated. And IE6. Ick.)

But then they updated to Windows Vista. Um… What the hell was that? Missing drivers, balky interface… And what were these fences? Did anyone ever figure that out? No! They just upgraded to Windows 7. And Windows 7 was awesome! This blog post was written on a Windows 7 machine. Technically, Windows 7 is actually Windows 6.5. XP was Windows 5. Windows 8 was even officially dubbed Windows 7 during its early development. It’s really Windows NT 7.0 or 7.1 if you have the updated version.

But then Steve Ballmer decided that, because Apple upgrades OS X frequently, Microsoft needed to do the same with Windows. Enter Windows 8, which did away with the Start button as we know it and gave us…

Tiles? Some genius decided that your laptop should look just like your tablet or your phone. Yeah, this from Steve Ballmer, a man who introduced corporate cannibalism as a management technique to Microsoft. Users hated it. I have it on a Surface Pro, and for a touchscreen machine, it’s not bad. But…

I have a laptop and a tower. I use another tower at work. The tiles work great on the Surface and my wife’s phone. On full-blown PCs and servers? Not so much.

Well, Ballmer’s gone. Satya Nadella, a techie like founder Bill Gates, is in charge. And all this nonsense about “one experience across all devices” is gone. Windows 10, available in preview, is almost ready for prime time. The Start button is back. Internet Explorer is about to be replaced. All the under-the-hood goodness that makes Windows 8 run well is in Windows 10 without the ugly interface. (Still, this is technically Windows NT 8. What happened to 9? Microsoft is afraid you’ll confuse it with Windows 95.) And the tiles?

Gone!

They’ll be on the phones, maybe on the Surface (I hope not.), but your PC will remain your PC.

This is something Ballmer should have picked up on. Apple uses iOS for iPads and iPhones. PCs and laptops use OS X. Chromebooks use the ChromeOS. Tablets and phones use Android. Same code base in both cases, different interfaces and functionality. No one wants the iPad interface on a Mac, and no one wants to use Android on a netbook.

Best of all, if you have Windows 7 or Windows 8, Microsoft will let you have Windows 10. Free. They want everyone on one version of Windows. Easier to support. Easier to secure. Easier to upgrade.

About time, Microsoft.

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Recruiters: Pay Close Attention

There seems to be a growing arrogance in IT recruiters these days. They contact you at work or during business hours on the attitude that you need them more than they need you. Which is funny because, when I get the call, I notice that I already have a job.

But it goes beyond that. In 2010, I was laid off from BigHugeCo, the discreetly aliased Fortune 500 company where I worked for 10 years. For about six months, I was able to live off desktop support contracts and severance pay. Then I signed on with Medishack, and just my LinkedIn profile (which you can’t see from here, so don’t look) indicated a change in my focus. I now listed my specialties as C# and SQL development.

Understandably, I got phone calls asking if I wanted to do desktop support for about a year after I took that job. But then something strange happened. I got a call from the receptionist saying my “friend” Ben wanted to talk to me. This was about six months into the new job. Ben finally got through, scolded me for not putting my cell phone on my LinkedIn profile, and insisted I needed to interview with his client located a mere ten minutes from my house. I’d have loved to look at that job, but 1.) I had just started this new job and wasn’t ready to abandon it, and 2.) why would I trust someone who had to lie their way to my direct extension? I told Ben thanks but no thanks. He left me with a warning about missed opportunities. Well, that wouldn’t be the first time.

Ben’s company called again, and I finally shot the firm an email telling them that getting me fired was not going to make me amenable to interviewing with their client. Thankfully, I’m blacklisted with them.

With my new job, it gets even more interesting. I’m the first direct hire with BigTinyTechCorp (again, an alias) in about five years. During the interview process, I noticed an uptick in recruiter calls. A few became specific about where I would interview: An e-commerce company in the northern suburbs. The job description sounded exactly like…

My new job. I even got a call after I turned in my notice about this very company. Sigh. All that tells me is the contracting firm did not do their homework regarding the company, never mind me as a potential prospect.

But it gets more interesting, my friends. All my job board profiles (which have been turned off for over a year) say “Not willing to relocate.” I keep getting emails about an immediate need for a 6 month contract-to-hire development job in Columbus/Chicago/Dallas/Seattle/Vladivostok. During my unemployment, a recruiter also scolded me for going to night school as it interfered with my ability to do the job he wanted me to interview for (which was outside my skill set). Another suggested I should take a pay cut because “it’s a really good company.” (Hint: A really good company is going to pay me more to leave.)

So recruiters, if you’re reading this, listen up. You need us more than we need you. You need a commission. We need a paycheck, which, by the way, is much easier in 2014 to find than it was in 2010. I found my current job because my employer’s HR department did their homework. I found my last job because I networked. My first manager at Medishack was a coworker at BigHugeCo, which I also found because someone recommended me to take over their job. And don’t tell me it’s a great opportunity if it’s a Java development job, and I’ve been writing C# for several years now. When I say “No relocation,” your job prospect had goddamn well better say “Cincinnati” or show up on Google maps as within 30 minutes of my Zip Code.

Do your homework. Stop alienating prospects. You’ll make more money, and your prospects will be happier.

Back That @$$ Up

backup plan cartoon

Maybe a bit extreme. From de-motivational-posters.com

This past weekend, I did a reread of the novella version of “Gypsy’s Kiss.” The ending is missing. It’s not the ending in the current version. There’s a really sweet scene where Kepler gives former call girl a dollar to formally end her career. The dollar was a silver dollar given to Nick by his grandmother.

And now it does not exist. I jumped on my tower, where I keep all my permanent copies. Nope. It’s gone. It’s not on my laptop. Not on the thumb drive, where everything I’m currently working on lives.

I’ve generally been pretty good about backing things up. Finish a story or an article, copy it to the tower. It’s saved my butt plenty of times. On the other hand, I’ve been good about not taking backup drives into work. Medishack would not have approved, and I’m pretty sure my new employer wouldn’t take kindly to it. Walking out with a portable hard drive in your pocket is likely to cause some suspicion. I could do this at BigHugeCo because I’d been there for over a decade and openly said I stashed my personal backups in my desk. No one was in a hurry to read the early drafts of Holland Bay.

Blue screen o' death

What could possibly go wrong?

They say if it’s important to you, back it up three times, at least one backup offsite. For some things, that’s difficult. Amazon and Dropbox give you a few GB of space for free, as does Google, but it starts getting pricey when you consider I have a huge music collection, having replaced much of my vinyl and cassette with downloads. Still, it’s something I have to rethink. I’m looking for editing work, for covers for hire, and to start building web sites again on the side. Clients have a right to expect their data is being stored somewhere safe and secure.

My Most Prized Possession: The iPod

ipodThat device to the right is my iPod Classic. I’ve had this one since 2007, when I lost the original one on a flight home from San Francisco. It’s been my favorite gadget since I bought its predecessor two years earlier. This one has been pretty sweet. It’s accompanied me on road trips, flights, and hikes. When I wrote Road Rules and the aborted Devil’s Dance, I often sat in the Mt. Washington Starbucks tapping away with the Foo Fighters and Pink Floyd blaring in my ear drums.

When I walk or run, I play the iPod, indulging my recent obsessions with the Foos, Marillion, the Stones, and, most recently Rush. (The band, not the bigoted idiot talkshow host.)

It’s also been a boon to my workday. At BigHugeCo, I had a coworker who had extreme positions on both the left and the right, and he wanted you to have them, too. I did not want to have these deep, philosophical discussions with him, mainly because he liked calling anyone who disagreed with him stupid. I started bringing the iPod to work and voila. “I’m sorry, dude. I’d love to chat, but… You know… Led Zeppelin.” “But…” “Hey. I said ‘Zeppelin.’ Conversation over.” Got a lot more work done.

I use it at Medishack, too. Here, I write C# code along with fixing computers and trying to keep the servers from going off the rails. I tend to write more code when I’ve got the tunes flowing. Unlike BigHugeCo, however, where I could simply watch my phone or wait for an email notification to popup before pausing the music, I play the iPod at a fairly low volume. People stop by my desk all the time, and it’s kind of rude when your job entails face-to-face conversations at odd moments only to have you blasting the new Alice in Chains so that you don’t even know someone’s talking to you for five minutes.

One thing I don’t like is my current car, the Princess. It’s too new for a tape deck, but too old to have an audio jack. I suppose I should spend the money and get a new stereo installed, but Princess’s days may be numbered. If I want to listen to my iPod, I have to wear headphones. Too bad, because I would love to get an Audible account and listen to audio books during my commute.

A few people ask why I still have an iPod when phones will now do the same thing. Simple. I have an Android, which doesn’t sync with iTunes. Years of burning iTunes purchases to CD and ripping them back to MP3 to have them on non-Apple devices has resulted in a music collection bloated by multiple duplicates, a situation not helped by Apple’s insistence of making cloud-based versions of some songs available. Do I really need three copies of “Lady Maramlade,” both the Patti LaBelle and Moulin Rouge versions? I know my copy of Metallica’s S&M was originally from a cassette version, but how many copies of “No Leaf Clover” does Apple think I need? I paid for one. I’m good with just the one.

At some point, the iPod will die, as all electronic gadgets do. What will I replace it with?

Right now, it looks like an iPhone.

But it won’t be the same.

What Windows Needs

Finally, at long last, Microsoft is ditching their technologically challenged CEO Steve Ballmer. We all know why Steve got the job. He was there to continue the will of Bill, as in Gates, after the company’s founder retired. Gates is still chairman of Microsoft, but he’s focused more on his humanitarian efforts these days. The problem is that Ballmer is no Bill Gates. He’s definitely not Steve Jobs or Eric Schmidt of Google. He isn’t even Oracle’s Larry Ellison. He’s a Jack Welch wannabe who introduced corporate cannibalism into Microsoft’s management strategy and tolerated the tone-deaf delusions of Windows chief Steven Sinofsky long after it became apparent Sinofsky had no clue what it was users wanted.

All that is neither here nor there. By the fall of 2014, there will be a new person at the helm of Microsoft, and it remains to be seen if anyone can reinvent the company that broke into Xerox’s house with Apple and stole the TV known as the graphical user interface. (That’s based on a hilarious response from Gates when Steve Jobs complained that the GUI was Apple’s idea. Jobs later said he thought that was pretty funny, too.)

The problem is Microsoft’s flagship product, Windows. When Windows 7 came out, it was as close to perfect as Microsoft was ever going to get: Intuitive, familiar, stable, and very user friendly. If Windows 7 became a pain to load on your PC, it almost always could be blamed on the manufacturer. I know because what used to be Compaq builds HP’s computers these days, and almost always, I have to download drivers and strip crapware off of HP machines. It hearkens back to the days when Compaq used to put their own interface over Windows. Dude, I’m sticking with Dell. (My current and previous employer swear by them.)

Then came Windows 8, inexplicably designed with the idea that people wanted their tablets, phones, and PC’s to all look alike. Wrong. OS X looks nothing like iOS. The Chome OS touted by Google looks nothing like Android (though the two will eventually share the same kernel). Why? You’re phone is not a PC, and your laptop is not a tablet. Windows 8 is a ham-fisted, poorly thought-out attempt by Microsoft to outsmart Google and Apple.

The idea of using Windows to run tablets and phones is not a bad idea. I’ve heard people find the “Metro” interface looks fine on the Surface and on Windows phones. It looks horrible and is confusing on laptops and PC’s. Hence, Windows 8.1 now has an option to default to the desktop.

So what does Windows need to survive the next decade?

  • Device-sensitive interface: No one wants Metro (I know. They had to drop the name. Too bad. That’s what everyone calls it now) on their desktop, Xbox, or laptop. No one wants a Start button on their phone or their tablet. Windows already has built-in functionality to know what device it’s running on. It’s maybe a couple dozen lines of C++ code to figure out which interface to use based on that.
  • Integrate Office into Windows. Seriously, no one wants Office 365, and those of us supporting Office in business environments find Office 2013 next to useless, particularly in small companies that can’t afford to upgrade their email server every time Microsoft wants to wring a few more pennies out of its user base. Besides, there’s really nothing more you can do to Office to make it better. It’s ubiquitous, and free open-source alternatives are starting to catch up. Not only that, Corel still makes Word Perfect, fully compatible and cheaper. Come to think of it, Corel has been making Adobe it’s bitch of about a decade now by creating cheaper and robust alternatives to Adobe’s product line. If they smell blood in Redmond, it wouldn’t be hard to convince a few penny-pinching IT departments to switch. If Office is part of Windows at no extra charge, you pretty much own that customer base.
  • Lose the app store. It’s my least favorite aspect of mobile device computing. I don’t like Google Play, and I don’t like having to go to Apple to get apps.
  • Embrace open source. Look, we all use Windows. OK? Even some Mac Heads own a cheap Windows box as a backup. Making Windows open source let’s you charge for the OS , but you get the add-ons and development for free. If IBM had figured this out about 10 years sooner, it’d be an OS/2 vs. OS X world. And OS/2 in its time was a much better operating system. Now it’s like the Amiga, a curiosity for extreme geeks.
  • Ditch the current business model. Look, the gravy train is going to end. If you don’t get off soon, it’ll end badly, leaving Microsoft more like the BUNCH companies that competed with IBM in the mainframe days than, say, Ford Motor, still one of the largest companies in the world despite the decline and near collapse of the American auto industry.
  • Hire someone design-minded to be in charge. Apple knows this. They have Johnny Ives, and even their miscues are better than most other companies’ hits. A design-minded executive will keep Windows’ (and Office’s) interface consistent across versions and make the OS more intuitive. Yes, you have some brilliant people working for you in Redmond, but they’re clueless as to whom they’re selling to. At some point, the door will be forever closed to any phone or tablet not running iOS or Android, and eventually, Ubuntu will make an interface so user-friendly that people will wonder why they even pay for an operating system on the bigger boxes.And then Microsoft will be the next Studebaker. How ’bout them 2014 Larks? Oh, wait. They ceased production in 1966.

A Modest Proposal: Multiple Windows

I am still trying to figure out what sort of crack they were smoking in Redmond when they came up with Windows 8 and its migraine-inducing interface. No one will accuse Microsoft of being design geniuses, but the smartest thing they ever did was to put a Start button on your desktop. It’s the one thing that makes Windows Windows.

Of course, the Start button emerged on the watch of Bill Gates. Who was in charge when this fustercluck hit market?

steve-ballmer

Source: Microsoft

Yeah, this idiot. Steve Ballmer. The man who thinks corporate cannibalism is cutting edge management. There are some things Microsoft has gotten right, but they’re all on the development side. (Which makes me happy. I write C# over SQL Server. Anything that hurts Oracle is a good thing.) So what did this genius decide to do with Windows in the tablet era?

Make Windows a tablet operating system that runs on a PC. Know who else does that?

NOBODY!

Not even Google. While Google has announced plans to merge its Chrome and Android operating systems at some point, but Chrome will still run on laptops while Android will run on tablets and phones. So when will we see iOS on Macs?

Never.

As it should be.

So, a modest proposal for Microsoft before they’re forced to become a consulting firm like IBM: Well, you all know my feelings on Steve Ballmer. He desperately needs to become an unemployment statistic. But moreover, let’s do this with Windows. Instead of the visual atrocity that is Windows 8, let’s make Windows 9 a new and improved Windows 7. Keep Windows 8 for the tablet. And the phones?

Hire someone from Apple to fix it.

Steve Ballmer Must Go. Now.

steve-ballmer

Source: Microsoft

Remember in 1995 when Microsoft brought out Windows 95? They made the PC easy to use in comparison to its earlier DOS-based predecessor. That spooked Apple so badly (Well, let’s be honest. So did Apple’s bottom line.) that they brought back Steve Jobs from exile. Microsoft created Office, made Excel virtually the only spreadsheet anyone in corporate America uses. (Yes, I know. There are other spreadsheets. I probably even know most of the two dozen people who use them.) Chances are, your work email is on Outlook.

Well, all that happened in the 1990’s. Wanna know why it took until 2012 for them to come up with the Surface tablet? Oh, they had one years before the iPad was even on Steve Jobs’ radar. It ran Windows 2000 and needed a stylus. Um… Yeah.

So what else has Microsoft done lately? The Zune. Windows Vista. How about Windows 8, which has the most idiotic interface of any modern operating system. And what is the cloud-based system called this week? It used to be Azure. Maybe it’s Azure again. Or maybe…

The problem is Bill Gates retired. Yes, Bill Gates was a ruthless businessman who thought nothing of riding roughshod over competitors. All the while, Microsoft was considered hip, the company that upstaged stuffy old IBM at their own game. But when Bill retired, he put in charge his right-hand man. The Pope Benedict to his John Paul II. Steve Ballmer.

Love Microsoft. Hate them. You can’t deny that, since Gates’ departure, it has been a rudderless ship. Not only has Apple overtaken them as the most valuable company in the world, but Google has pwned them with not one but two operating systems. Yes, the Don’t Be Evil people are Apple’s biggest competitors, not Microsoft. No one uses a Zune. If you don’t own an iPod, you probably use your phone, which is either an iPhone or an Android, with Blackberry getting most of the scraps.

When Gates ran Microsoft, developers and engineers tripped over themselves trying to score some sweet office space in Redmond. Now they stay in the Bay Area, where the only pariah of late is Oracle (the database company who is the only outfit Microsoft seems to be handing its lunch.) And in Redmond? In an attempt to emulate Jack Welch at General Electric, Ballmer has implemented a cannibalistic means of internal competition that has stifled creativity and resulted in brand confusion. The result?

Have you seen Windows 8 lately?

Time for Steve to pick up on the Pope Benedict comparison and retire.

Failing that, how soon do you think HP and Dell can switch to a user-friendly version of Ubuntu?