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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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.

I’m Becoming Bi

Bi-processorial, that is.

I told myself when I finished my associates, I would buy myself a present. I’d get a Mac. This is not the first time I’ve made such a promise to myself. When it looked like the writing career would take off, I told myself I would get myself a PowerBook. Obviously, that was a long time ago, but its successor, the MacBook Pro, is still on the agenda if I sell a book for something more than a faint promise or Amazon sends me a check for $4000 from ebook sales, whichever comes first.

Since we’re still waiting, I’ll focus on the degree, which finally came in the mail this week. (I did not attend commencement. I was too angry with the school over something that happened last year.) I also received a large payment from another source. Degree + money = Jim’s new Mac! To teh Intrawebs!

I Googled a few places and decided a used Mac was a good risk. Mac Heads tend to take care of their machines a little better. I found a site that sold nothing but used and refurbed Macs, iPods, iPhones, and iPads. Awesome. They had a 20″ iMac, the all-in-one unit that’s essentially an LCD screen over top of the computer guts, for roughly $550. I started to place my order and then…

The operating system is five years out of date. This is fine for a PC, where XP will run on just about anything, and Microsoft really needs to keep Windows 7 around a lot longer. On a Mac? Yeah, you try to install the latest iWork or Office on OS X Stray Cat when Werecougar is out. Not happening. It also had an anemic 1 GB of memory and no keyboard.

No keyboard? Every computer I’ve ever bought, even the used ones, came with a keyboard. I’m paying $550 for a desktop computer and not getting a keyboard and mouse?

“But, Jim, you’re getting an Apple.”

With no keyboard, bud. It’s still a desktop computer. Desktop computers ship with keyboards. If they don’t, you’re getting ripped off. But no worries. OS X runs with a Windows keyboard and mouse. I can pick up both for twenty bucks and be off. But that’s $20 I shouldn’t have to spend. I swallow my pride and looking at my shopping cart total. It says “Shipping: $80.”

To eBay!

My eBay search took me less than ten minutes from search to order. I found a 20″ iMac with 2 GB of memory, a camera, a 250 GB hard drive, and a keyboard!!! Same price as the used machine site. Best of all, I’ve dealt with this company before. When you’re employer is as cheap budget conscious as Medishack, you buy used machines. This company has sold us a few Dell computers that arrived clean, undamaged, and, I can’t stress this enough, with a keyboard. Did I mention this storefront regularly ships all makes of computers with a keyboard and mouse? Oh, and shipping?

$30.

Wham. Bam. Thank you, ma’am.

The machine should arrive tomorrow, and then the problems begin.

No, not the Mac itself. I’ve used them before, and while I’m not a convert, the first thing I’m going to have to deal with is the Mac Head contingent. A couple of friends are all excited that I’m getting a Mac to the point of telling me the best places to get rid of my Windows boxes. Granted, the HP box is living on borrowed time, but that’s HP’s fault. They build crap machines anyway. Beyond that, this is not going to happen. The HP will get replaced by a Dell. Why? Because they work.

This is exacerbated by my boss at Medishack, who is anti-Microsoft and anti-Google. (Fortunately, we’re both anti-Oracle, so we get along great.) His work machine is an iMac, though it runs a virtual machine running Windows 8. (Why? That’s a horrible desktop OS, though it looks great on tablets.) Here’s the kicker: We’re a Windows shop running Dells. Go figure. But he is constantly trying to rationalize why anything wrong with Apple is your fault and that Microsoft and Google are sinking ships. But it gets better, folks.

AJ hates Apple. He says Macs are “not intuitve.” And yes, he uses them everyday at college. He hates the interface. He hates the Apple and Command keys in place of alt and control. He just hates Macs. And if you are a Mac Head, like my boss, don’t bother trying to “correct” him. He uses them regularly and will simply see you as a misguided idiot. Never let it be said that my stepson doesn’t have a mind of his own.

My view is this: If you are dogmatic about the subject, you’ve already lost the argument. Pretty much any computer you own these days has an intuitive interface (Yes, even Windows 8, even if I think its desktop interface is the stupidest thing Microsoft’s come up with since Vista). The keyboards and mice are the same. Everything you do is on the Internet anyway. Hey, guess what. The Internet really doesn’t care if you use Windows, a Mac, or Linux (though Linux will make you work harder to get there.) I’m buying a Mac because I always wanted one. I’m buying it because there are three mobile platforms out there: iOS, Android, and Windows 8. You can’t write iOS apps on a Windows box. It’s really stupid, but it’s reality.

And besides, who says I must remain loyal to brands or platforms? I treat political parties as disposable. What makes you think I want to get tribal about my computing equipment.

OK, enough of that rant. The machine comes out of the box this week. Once I get Snow Leopard and iWork installed, I’ll let you know what I really think.

Platform Promiscuity

With my new job, I’m not only neck deep in all that Microsoft has to offer (except for those sweet, sweet MSDN subscriptions), but I’m also finding myself working a lot with Linux, the open-source, community-built Unix-like operating system that does everything Windows and Macs do, except for free. (Usually.) Which means I’m now, by job description, bi.

I mean bi-processorial. I work in two platforms – Windows and Linux. And I plan to bring this form of computing deviance home.

Back in the summer, the old tower reached the end of its useful life span. I’d expected it to be the laptop that would go first, but the tower began wheezing and grunting just trying to load a wireless connection. One day, it started blue-screening on a regular basis, something it had never done in five years. Yes, Windows-bashers, most PC’s don’t blue screen on a regular basis. If they do, you need to look at where you’ve been on the Internet.

The bottom line is it was time to move to Windows 7. How was it? It’s definitely not Windows Vista. For one thing, the User Access Control is nowhere near as annoying as it is in Vista. It took considerably less time to setup than it did to reimage the PC. When it came time to replace the laptop, I took it a step further. I installed Windows 7 Pro on the new machine. The only thing I had to add in terms of drivers was the touchpad. Apparently, left to its own devices, the Dell touchpad will interpret your thumbs being in the same room as the keyboard as a mouse movement and send your cursor flying all over the place. A quick visit to Google revealed the glaringly obvious solution: Use the Dell driver, stupid.

Hey, what can I say? They spoiled me with not having to load drivers for the wireless, the video, the sound, etc.

But what of the old tower?

It is sitting in the corner quietly collecting dust, waiting for its fate. There’s nothing wrong with it, except we ran all the CRT monitors out of the house when I bought my flat screen. Nita uses a laptop. AJ has a flat screen, as do I. What possibly could we want with the old glass boat anchors we had sitting around?

Well, now I need a monitor. Why? I have found use for the old tower, assuming I remember to get some canned air to clear it out. For I now have an Ubuntu disk. So, what, you ask, is an Ubuntu disk and why would I want to use it on a tower?

Ubuntu is a user-friendly version of Linux that works great as an alternative to Windows or Macintosh. Plus, you buy one distribution of Linux, you can pretty much use all of them. And let’s face it, it’s been quite a few years since I seriously got my geek on. Linux is still very much a nerd’s OS.

But I don’t stop there. I have said in the past that I didn’t want a Mac because I can’t jusify what is now an Intel box running BSD Unix (a cousin to Linux) with a pretty interface.

Well, kids, I now have two reasons to want one.

First off, if I’m going to be running a Linux box with all the bells and whistles that make it not all that different from the boxes powered by Windows and OS X, why not go all the way? Why not get a highly-proprietary Intel box running BSD with a pretty interface? Lots of people like the pretty interface. And besides, if you’re going to go with two platforms, why not all three?

Of course, someone out there is probably suggesting I find a way to get an Amiga box. Remember Amigas? Well, dude, that ship sailed a long time ago for the Western Lands, never to return to computing Middle Earth.  Nor do I plan to run Chrome, which is dependent on an Internet connection or SCO Unix, which managed to litigate itself into irrelevance.

But why not go for all three? We have an annoying tendency to get stupidly tribal about things: Our religion, our politics, our cars, even the type of computers we own. One of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard was when someone wanted to lecture me about how ATT was the best wireless provider out there. This, of course, I found humorous because, while ATT claims to cover 97% of America, I apparently live in the other 3%. His rationale? Until a couple weeks ago, you could only have an iPhone on ATT. To him, the Apple trademark was all the reason one needed. To me?

Steve Jobs is a technology CEO. Therefore, Steve needs to earn my respect on an ongoing basis. So does ATT, which it consistently fails to do.

But then I’ve always despised any tribe that would have me.