Category Archives: Geek

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Windows 8 – The Onslaught Begins

To read the tech press the past couple weeks, you’d think Microsoft had created some sort of magical portal to a realm of unicorns and rainbows and cakes with zero calories, rather than a dual-mode operating system.

Even when reviewers and developers talk about traditional desktop/laptop computing in regards to Windows 8, they somehow miss some of the more glaring questions that power users may have. For instance, why in the world would I want a full-screen Facebook application on a 24″ monitor? How does the ludicrous number of icons installed in a typical Windows machine’s start menu align with the new “start page” model? They say there are groups of panels, which would be somewhat analogous to the folders of icons in the hierarchical menu, I presume. But, there are several dozen icons in about 15 folders on my work computer, which has not much installed on it.  On my home computer, I have literally hundreds of icons in the start menu. I have at least 20 games; if each one takes a bloody giant panel on the start page, it will take ages to scroll through.

This bizarre start page debacle is partially ameliorated, to be sure, by the ability to search easily within those icons. This is an ability carried over from Windows Vista and Windows 7, and is certainly something I use quite regularly, when I know the name of the program I want to launch. But, when I am looking for something, it’s a great deal more convenient to have 30-pixel high rows of icons to scroll through instead of 300-pixel blocks. I realize that the strangely non-flyout default start menu in Windows 7 only shows about 20 programs at a time, and the Windows 8 start page also can show approximately 20 programs at a time. But, the overall effect of the hierarchical model in the start menu means that I don’t scroll through EVERY icon to get to one at the bottom of the list. I scroll through twenty folders, and then open one folder and then maybe scroll through twenty icons to find the one I want – this is TWO scrolls. From what I can tell of the Windows 8 Metro model, I could be swiping left-to-right dozens more times to get to one particular program, if I didn’t remember its name. This is better?

And don’t even get me started on the Metro business model, where every single program available for the new interface must be sold only through Microsoft’s store. I know Microsoft envies Apple’s deathgrip on its market, but one reason why Apple only has 10% of the desktop and laptop business might be due to that deathgrip. Paying Microsoft 30% of the retail cost of a program might not be a business model that some developers can swallow. How do freeware programs and shareware programs fit into this model? Is there any room in Microsoft’s brave new world for anyone who can’t pay to play?

Another fun fact – Metro applications are not supposed to run in the background. If they get minimized, they go dormant. So much for powerful multitasking 8-core processors – we only need the one core, thanks.

HP Repeats Palm History

Way back in 2002, Palm was the #1 PDA and smartphone OS in the USA. They decided to split their company into a hardware and a software company, and then licensed their own OS from themselves in 2003. It’s all very weird and confusing, and would seem to serve well as a warning to future generations of geeks how not to run a company.

Now that HP has fully digested their Palm acquisition, they are repeating this move. They intend to spin off their personal systems group into a separate company (or just sell it, depending on the rumor). Meanwhile, they are holding onto WebOS (what might be considered PalmOS V7), perhaps intending to license it to their spunoff hardware division at a later date. That worked so well ten years ago, why not?

Further Amazon Tablet Clues

Amazon is going to release a color ereader in the next couple months. Everyone says so, and they may have the best chance to be a #2 Android tablet of any manufacturer due to their content store already in place. Some folks really dig the iPad’s application market system, and Amazon probably already has your credit card information on file, so they’re ready to go.

This week, they’re rolling out a new version of their Kindle PC and Mac software, which adds support for a book file format that is incompatible with their existing Kindle hardware ereaders. If that’s not a giant clue they’re planning new hardware, I don’t know what is.

Story Ideas

I need some inspiration for GearDiary posts. I started writing for Judie back in May, but I can’t come up with a huge number of ideas. The first few posts were a mish-mash of reviewing my watch, talking about geocaching, a how-to on getting free blogs on your Kindle, and a series of reviews about open-source media catalog/player software. I recently wrote an op/ed piece about the coming “impulse buy” era of ereaders.

But, since I am a poor person who does not have every new gadget to review (anyone who wishes to send me free stuff, I will happily review it), I run into stumpers of what to write that hasn’t been done to death by every other gadget geek out there. It’s the rare day that I come up with something insightful or interesting that Gizmodo, Engadget, Techcrunch or someone else hasn’t already beaten to death. To be fair, those people are actually paid full-time gadget geeks and people send them information leaks and new toys.

So, any ideas on geeky topics that I might write about? I’d write about building my own DVR, but since the advent of HDTV (another technology I do not possess), my experience is no longer all that relevant. What to do, what to do…

Guns Don’t Kill People, Video Games Do!

Much as Goldie Lookin Chain satirized in their great 2004 song (look it up), Norwegian game stores have taken to blaming tangentially related things for a violent act. The store, Coop, has removed such games as Call of Duty, Homefront, and World of Warcraft from their shelves after Anders Breivik expressed admiration for the latter and claiming Modern Warfare was a great training tool for his shooting rampage. Yeah, that will work.

Counterproductive Security Measures

The base computer network seemingly doesn’t trust any security certificates from any signing authority other than Verisign. This means that every web site that uses any other registrar (which is to say, a truly stupendous number of sites) gets an error message that the site’s security certificate cannot be verified to a trusted issuer. This happens with my company timecard system, as one rather important example. Since the network doesn’t trust Entrust or others, this means there is no way to be sure that the sites I connect to which are not Verisign-approved are real sites or phishing expeditions. This means that every site which is not Verisign-approved is a giant red beacon of “ignore this security warning because it’s really not a problem after all.” Every non-Verisign site adds one more item to the list of things to ignore which good security practices tell you NOT to ignore.

Although the Air Force has decided (for reasons which escape me) to allow Youtube and Facebook access on-base (but not Google Plus or even Google Calendar), this week Flash is broken. This is a security configuration issue, as the flashing error bar on the top of the page says the addon has been disabled, not that Flash is literally broken. So, one more flashing error bar to add to the list.

Again, this just encourages users to assume that every error message is, in fact, in error itself. If we get inundated with false positives, we are being trained to ignore actual positives. This also applies to the wave of “helpful” messages which greet us whenever we log in; I challenge any user here at Goodbuddy to honestly claim they read those every time they log into the network. Just more noise to ignore, and train people to ignore all messages because most of them are trivia or wrong.

Gary

2011.07.10

I’ve uploaded a boatload of photos to randomly rotate through the header in my blog. All are my own photos, so no more stock photography in the header. Of course, those viewing these messages through FB or LJ will just have to imagine.

A Good Man Goes to War

The foreshadowing at the beginning was a little too obvious, but the cold open had some great explodey bits and fabulous lines for Rory. But, once again, damn you, Steve Moffat! We’ve got to wait until September to get the second half of this two-parter? Holy frackin’ Sontarans!

Kindle Email

Hey, Kindle users, I have a question for you. The Kindle has this cool feature where you can email things to it (either paid over 3G or free over WiFi). Do you use that feature much, if at all?

This is part of my continuing curiosity about all things ebook, and it seems that Amazon is the only one with an email address the user can shoot things to. With all the reviews for the new touch Nook this week, it just made me wonder if this is a feature that few people would even miss, or if it’s something really important.

Kobo and Nook touch – separated at birth?

Kobo announced the Kobo eReader Touch on Monday; Barnes & Noble announced the Nook Touch on Tuesday. Both use similar technologies, to the point I almost wonder if they’re basically the same device, except for the store each connects to.

Both weigh 200 grams, use a 6″ Pearl eInk screen, have one button on the bottom bezel, and use the nifty infrared touch screen technology that Sony introduced last year. If not for the four buttons on the Sony PRS-650, I’d wonder if both Kobo and B&N hadn’t just nicked Sony’s design. Well, that and the fact that Sony costs twice as much and doesn’t include wifi. The Kobo is $130 and the Nook is $140, while the Sony is $230.

So, this summer you’ll have four different 6″ Pearl eInk ereaders to choose from. Three are infrared touch-screens, and one has a keyboard and is a bit bigger than the other three. The Kindeal is $114 and has a great store integration. Kobo and Nook are in the ballpark and have their own stores as well as compatibility with ePub stores of old. Sony is odd man out, which is par for the course over the past fifteen years.

I can’t help but wonder what Amazon will do next in the ereader war.

Daniels Bows Out

And there goes another one! Mitch Daniels, who by all accounts is a reasonable human being with deep ties to the GOP establishment and no significant baggage to scare off independents, has declared he won’t run in 2012. This leaves Pawlenty as the only declared possible candidate in the GOP that won’t scare off either the base or independents. Of course, he’s also not very exciting and has to run away from his own record in order to throw red meat to the Tea Partiers, so it’s not a lock. Take all statements as if they include the caveat, “18 months before an election is just plain silly to be handicapping races.”

As an exercise, my coworker and I took a look at the history of the Democractic and Republican party primaries and eventual winners. Only once in the history of either party could we find an example of a candidate who lost the general and went on to win the general election years later – Richard Nixon. With that in mind, and realizing that the economy is no longer screaming downward like a fireball of doom, might the more “adult” and sane members of the GOP stay away from becoming the sacrificial lamb in 2012? Surely, any analyst came to the same conclusion we did from our comfy chairs – if you lose against Obama, give up on ever being President in the future. It seems plausible that Daniels and other reasonable people may be staying away just because they know that Obama is likely to win anyway, so they’re not going to go through the bother.

With that in mind, why not nominate the most entertaining person to the GOP candidacy, just so we can all have some fun next year? Come on, you know a Michele Bachmann/Barack Obama debate would be absolutely hilarious!

Fake Big Mac

Once again, my imaginary friend Kenji has inspired yet another winning meal. If nothing else, he was able to produce a great recipe for the “Secret” sauce for a Big Mac. We only had larger sesame seed buns (there was no way I was going to glue hundreds of seeds to smaller buns), and thus we made 1/6 lb patties instead of 1/10 lb micropatties. Overall, a great success. Who knew that nuking onions on low for ten minutes made them mild? Yay Kenji!

Day of the Moon

What is up with Steven Moffat and his “arc-y” approach to the Doctor Who series? Although billed as the conclusion of a two-parter, “Day of the Moon” still managed to sneak in a giant hanging cliffhangery wobbly thing.

I love the Silents as the monsters, the whole Rory/Amy/Doctor triad, and the idea that Rory can sort of remember the previous reality where he was made of plastic. That’s about as far as I can go without giving away any major spoilers, but this is a great way to kick of the new season. Woohoo!

Nook Nook Nook

My Kindle is arriving this afternoon, but all the techie ereader blogs are talking about the updated Nook Color firmware/software. I particularly enjoy the idea that $250 is “cheap” in most of the writers’ minds. Sure, if you’re comparing the Nook Color to an iPad or Xoom, $250 is cheaper. But, if you’re comparing it to the new ad-supported Kindle ($114) which starts shipping this weekend, no – it’s not. It’s kind of cool to watch the development of new Android tablets and near-tablets, though. I leave you with this quote from a recent review of the updated Nook:

At $249, the Nook Color is almost an impulse buy. [ed: poor impulse control?]

Mac vs PC People

This self-selected sample of self-described “PC People” and “Mac People” is amusing. Some of the answers tend to make me think the Mac people are deliberately messing with the poll, though. “Oh, I use a Mac and I prefer my lunch of bánh mì while sipping a gimlet.” I cry shenanigans! I’m convinced no plurality of any group drinks gimlets in the 21st Century. Either that, or the Mac people are pretentious twats.

Benefits of a CR-48

Just wandering through a Google Image search today, I ran into a great example of where a protected web-only operating system can save you some trouble. Although a good anti-virus/anti-malware program would prevent infection if you’re even a little aware, the ChromeOS netbook prevents anything bad from happening at all. I was expecting to include a screen shot here, but the latest ChromeOS version apparently breaks the screenshot functionality entirely. Anyway, the screen shot would have shown you an imge that looks remarkably like Windows XP’s security center, with lots of flashing red warnings of impending doom from all the Win32.worm things. This is particularly amusing on a Linux-based device, of course.

Impossible Astronaut

I loved a man and his son playing the same character (especially because I love both of those actors). I love every scene with Alex Kingston in tight jeans. I love the mysterious new amnesia-inducing monsters from an Edvard Munch painting.

But, that cliffhanger! One week will crawl by, damn you Steven Moffat!

Ancient Geekery

It’s always amusing to look at the Old School Monday posts on the Maximum PC site. They post scanned images of their magazine articles from 10-15 years ago to educate, elucidate, and envigorate (I ran out of E words) their audience. This week, it’s an interview from 1998 with one of the AMD executives. One of my favorite lines:

Is the $1700 PC a low-end PC? A K6 with a 3Dfx card, 64MB of memory, 4MB of frame buffer, and a 6GB hard drive is not a low-end part.

AMD has been fighting the “budget company” moniker for as long as they’ve been making chips, it seems. Besides that, though…look at those specs. Let’s assume that he’s including a monitor with that $1700 price, and compare with what we can get from a boutique builder for that price today.

Playing with the Cyberpower X58 Configurator (yes, they really do call it that), I was able to spec out a $1700 machine, which includes speakers, a BluRay player/DVD burner, the OS and a 24″ monitor, and here’s the quick spec line to mirror the article: An i7-960 with Geforce 570 card, 6GB of memory, 1.2GB of frame buffer, and a 2TB RAID 1 array is not a low-end part.  🙂