Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Window 8 – Twenty Fifth Pass: Windows 8.1 Update Naming Convention

Can someone explain to me the Windows 8 naming conventions and how they make any sense?  Perhaps they do to some, as I am admittedly not the smartest person around but here is what I can’t figure out.

Windows 7 was updated to Windows 7 Service Pack 1, which was replaced by Windows 8.  Windows 8 was then updated to Windows 8.1. Not Windows 8.1 Service Pack 1 but Windows 8.1.  Now there is a new update.  It’s not called Windows 8.1 or Windows 8.1 Service Pack 2 but rather Windows 8.1 Update.  What’s next?  Windows 8.1 Update 1?  Windows 8.1 Update New?  Windows 8.1 Update Next?

Seems to me that Windows 8.1 could easily name the updates with Service Pack numbers or utilizing .2, .3, .4, .5, etc.  There are lots of options between Windows 8.1 and Windows 9.

It has been pointed out to me that Microsoft seems to inconsistently name things.  Think about the Xbox.  We had Xbox for the first generation product and then Xbox 360 for the second gen release.  Most thought the third generation version would be named Xbox 720 but no, they named the third gen product Xbox One. A popular TV show featuring smart geeks even recently made fun of this.

The same is true of earlier releases of Windows.  We started with Windows 3.1 and then went to naming based on year of release for a while before switching to numbers starting with 7.  Office is also experiencing the same lack of continuity, as Office 13 is actually Office 15.  While the program says Office 2013, the program folder on your hard drive says Office15. 

Anticipating the next goofy turn to the madness……

Monday, April 7, 2014

Window 8 – Twenty Fourth Pass: Windows 8.1 Update Improvements

There is no doubt that Windows 8.1 Update has greatly improved the interface for traditional keyboard and mouse users.  There are tons of posts online about how a mouse user can now do as much as a touch user.  Many if not all of the improvements were already known about thanks to leaks before the release to MSDN and TechNet subscribers on April 2.  Now that the geeks have their hands on it, even more tweaks are popping up.

Some say that Microsoft has recanted and is admitting that they goofed by focusing too much on the touchscreen user and forgetting the legacy desktop users.  Legacy isn’t the right word here, desktop users are treated that way but traditional keyboard and mouse users are still the number one demographic of Windows users.

Microsoft says that isn't true.  They never abandoned the desktop users they just focused on touch first as that is where the hardware is going and they wanted to have that perfected before circling back around and making sure the keyboard and mouse users were satisfied.  I’m not buying it – not for a second.

If that were true then they would not have removed keyboard and mouse functionality only to later add it back in when the public began to fuss.  If that was true then they would have simply added the touch interface as opposed to removing legacy features in favor of new touch features that forced traditional users still using traditional hardware to re-learn how to use their computers.

Microsoft compared working on Windows to making pizza for over a billion people.  I think that’s a good analogy but they don't follow through with it.  If the world likes sausage (or keyboard and mouse functionality in Windows) then why would you remove the sausage only to add it back later when folks fussed that you removed something you knew they liked?

I've already blogged about Microsoft trying to make a single version of Windows fit both needs and it appears that they may be getting the recipe right so that it can work well for both touch and mouse users but it may be too late.  I've found that even though there are improvements to how I use my Surface when I have it docked to my keyboard and mouse that I’m falling back on old “bad habits” I learned as workarounds before the new features were released.  I find myself going for the charms menu a lot when that really isn't necessary anymore and forgetting that there are new right-click menus to make things easier and faster.

It will be interesting to see what the reviews are when the public gets access via Windows Update this week.  I predict a few calls from grandma once the Update installs automatically via Windows Update.

Another juicy tidbit confirmed is that the old Start Menu is coming back.  I've been predicting that for a while but it appears that is now a reality.  Microsoft has not said when it will come back.  It may be in another Windows 8.1 update or it may be in Windows 9.  Either way it is coming back and while it probably won't look like the Windows 7 Start Menu the functionality we are accustomed to will return in another step Microsoft takes not to recant but to improve the sausage they took away they knew we liked.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

#MH370 Mystery

I’m a bit of an aviation geek so the disappearance of a Boeing 777 fascinates me.  Having been to the Boeing factory in Everette, WA where they assemble the 777 and gotten to climb through one and see how large it is I’m truly baffled that one has vanished from the planet.

Nothing I say here is revolutionary but as the story evolves here are my thoughts from a lowly AV geek who flies a lot.

Flying is a high tech enterprise.  The planes are high tech, the crews are well trained, and the communications systems are first rate.  That’s my first quandary – how could a plane with 239 people on it completely vanish without a trace in 2014?  The evidence would indicate that they wanted to disappear as they chose the moment of flight ripe for going off grid in terms of the hand-off from one air traffic control center to another.  However, the obvious cockpit communications equipment is only one piece of the puzzle.  The engines and other aircraft systems often have their own communications systems and we know these continued to operate long after the cockpit communications (transponder, radio, etc.) were turned off.

The other part of the communications puzzle is the location in the world where this happened.  The Indian Ocean is the third largest body of water on the planet and the southern half is very remote.  There is also very limited satellite coverage for those systems communications to contact.  Even still, a remote part of the world with people intentional on going away should have still be detectable by other types of spy satellites, military radar, etc. and yet we have nothing.  Just a few pings from the engine systems off a single satellite and a lot of complicated math to even get us in the ballpark for where the plane may have gone down.

That same high tech though has aided investigators in at least getting this far.  Even without knowing the altitude and speed of the plane the evidence from those few pings and knowing how much fuel was on board has at least narrowed things down.  Granted it took a while to figure all of that out but at least we aren’t still searching in the South China Sea.

My next observation is the lack of debris.  One would think that by now if the plane did indeed crash in the water that on some beach somewhere something would have washed ashore.  In previous crashes into oceans debris and even bodies have washed up on coastlines within a few days but here we have nothing.  Nothing.  All we have discovered in searching is that the Indian Ocean is a much-polluted body of water with folks dumping all kinds of stuff in there. 

There can be many reasons for no debris but most of them are far-fetched and would be historical if proven true.  Finding the airplane in tact on the bottom of the ocean and understanding how it got there without any surface evidence will be game changing.

Combining these first two mysteries with the disappearance of 239 people and this does indeed become one of the greatest mysteries of our generation.  The loss of life here is tragic but there doesn’t seem to be a scenario where these folks could still be alive.  If the plane were stolen in the greatest heist ever then who would want to keep 239 people alive for this long without making some sort of ransom demand?  If the plane was stolen for purposes of turning it into a weapon then hiding it this long is a feat in and of itself.  You’d think those determined to use it for evil would want to get their ill will accomplished before they could be discovered.

I’m sure that all will eventually be revealed, but it will take time and patience and those traits are hard to come by in a situation like this.  I do think the Malaysians are in over their heads and obviously not used to this sort of international scrutiny and would be wise to turn over the investigation to another nation.

It took 73 years to find the Titanic, granted they had eye witness to tell them what happened but the wreck wasn’t discovered for almost three quarters of a century.  The search areas are massive and even with our sophisticated technology our lack of ocean knowledge combined with the sheer size of the area could still leave us waiting for several years before any of these questions are answered.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Window 8 – Twenty Third Pass: Windows 8.1 Update

Today Microsoft released to some of us the latest update to Windows 8.1 – simply titled Windows 8.1 Update.  The rest of the world will get this update via Windows Update starting April 8 but I was able to install it today and see how Microsoft has capitulated to their desktop users.  More on that in a future post.

If you have access to Update then you will quickly realize installing it that any gains made in terms of the interface for keyboard and mouse users are soon forgotten due to the cumbersome install method.  Hopefully the release to the masses via Windows Update next week won’t be so difficult. 

Here is how it worked for me updating a Dell desktop, a Microsoft Surface Pro and a Surface Pro 2.  All were running fully updated 64 bit Windows 8.1 installs.  The 32 bit process isn’t that much different.

This process applies to Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2, and Windows RT 8.1.

I downloaded a zip file that contained 7 files.  6 install files and 1 readme text file.  The readme text file gave the recommended install order for the 6 install files.  Wait, what?!  I have to manually install all 6 files?  Yup.  Progress in Update.

I didn’t find much online about this process except that Microsoft is using the word “recommended” lightly, it should say, “required”. Doing it out of sequence can create some issues depending on your hardware so I don’t recommend varying from their recommendation.

Here is what the readme text file says:

Recommended Install Order

Here is what that really means.
  1. KB2919442 – when I went to install this all of my systems said it was already installed.  If you are current with Windows Updates then you should also get prompted that this update is already installed.
  2. KB2919355 – this is the big one at 707mb.  This one took the longest to run and requires the first of many reboots when you are done.  This one also has the only quickly visible notice that anything has changed as it pins the Windows Store to the taskbar – change I quickly undid.
  3. KB2932046 – this one also requires a reboot when you are finished.
  4. KB2937592 – this one also requires a reboot when you are finished.
  5. KB2938439 - this one also requires a reboot when you are finished.
  6. KB2949621 - this one also requires a reboot when you are finished.
Really?  5 reboots?  You couldn’t somehow have packaged all of that together?  Again, I hope the experience for Windows Update users is far better.  Due to the number of reboots it took 30 minutes for my longest update.

One other note – if you are using a Surface make sure it isn’t docked to anything before installing the second update file – otherwise the second update may hang at 75% forever.

Aside from a goofy name that makes no sense, and a convoluted update method the benefits of Windows 8.1 Update are beneficial for desktop users.

Had I known I probably would have waited until next week.