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Comment: Win8 is deeply weird (Score 2) 387

Background from a UI designer at MS:

Metro was designed for, paraphrasing pwnies, your mom so she could watch her favourite cat videos without getting bogged down in the OS. So ... it's really good at single- and double-tasking, less good if you juggle multiple windows, and kinda' confusing if you run a mix of Metro and standard desktop apps. Metro's downright nasty to use with a mouse, but works great with touch (at least once you grok that swiping from the edges makes stuff happen) and keyboard shortcuts (type to search is nice).

But what kills me is how hard it is to just use one UI or the other, even after significant tweaking. Win8, as far as I can tell, always defaults to Metro apps, even if launched from the desktop and there's an equivalent (or more powerful) desktop app available. Many settings are only found in Metro. File associations, even for file types that casual users are unlikely to use, like .CR2 (a RAW image type) are associated with Metro apps. And the default programs app doesn't even list all of the file types that the desktop pic viewer can handle; you have to set image types like .CR2 through Explorer. Seriously? Weird choice, that.

The flip side, of course, is that if you want to do something other than media consumption you get bumped into the desktop. Somehow, I think it's telling that Office 365 is not a suite of applications for Metro. And that most of the apps in the store seem more ... well ... tablet- and phone-oriented than desktop-oriented. MS doesn't want people to work in Metro, but never really had the stones to say it bluntly.

For my part, I got so pissed off at Metro on my desktop PC that I installed Start8 and another app that opens Metro apps in a desktop window so that, if Windows decides once again that a 22", full screen, four function calculator is really what I need when I'm trying to double-check some math for an email ... I won't have to deal with Metro.

And, hell, if I want to kick back and surf or play a stupid game, I'm going to grab a tablet or smart phone ... not use my PC.

And ... you know what? I set up a new PC for my mom a few months ago. I didn't want to deal with tech support for Metro on her PC (no touch screen, and didn't want to bother with teaching her keyboard shortcuts or deal with her chucking her mouse through her monitor when she can't find the hot spot to switch apps). But ... she's like ... the target audience for Metro. There is a giant bullseye on her head. She is the casual PC user defined and distilled down to its most basic. And I couldn't face down the prospect of explaining charms to turn off her PC (or how to open the charms bar). Or how to switch apps with a mouse.

On the other hand, I do like the idea of MS finally adding some new functionality to the desktop. Even if I'm unlikely to give 2 shits about live tiles in the start menu (seriously, given how much MS knows about me from 20+ years' worth of product registrations, configurations, IP addresses, and that MSDN sub a few years ago, you'd figure they could get at least the country right for the default locations for the weather, sports and news apps -- I deleted them because I couldn't be bothered to configure them).

And yet ... Win8 is fast. Stable. Runs on the same hardware Vista did.

It's kinda' weird, ya' know?

Comment: Metro wasn't designed for people who read /. (Score 3, Interesting) 860

by MyNicknameSucks (#46409629) Attached to: Microsoft's Attempt To Convert Users From Windows XP Backfires

Here's some insight into why Metro is the way it is and why it's the default UI for Win8:

Metro exists, specifically, for the segment of the population that (mostly) single tasks and doesn't want to get bogged down in the nitty gritty of the OS. They don't want multiple desktops or have 10+ windows open; they want to, in the words of pwnies, do nothing more intensive than watch cat videos. It appears to be a deliberate move by MS that most of the included apps suck for "power users" (Mail and Calendar get singled out) and that Office 365 is meant to run in Classic. And, apparently, it's why Metro is Win8's default UI; so-called power users can figure out how to nuke Metro and work more or less solely in classic desktop. Casual users would, apparently, never find Metro if the default UI were classic -- or, at least, they'd never use it since it's unfamiliar. And familiarity's a big deal when it comes to UI design. Think about it for a moment; it's apparently straight-forward make an app that returns the classic UI -- MS must have made it very, very easy to do so from the OS-side of things.

That's why, in large, part MS has been flouting colours! and customization! and Bing integration! in its marketing -- they're trying very, very hard to get media consumers to use Metro and like it.

But there are some very large problems to this. Metro is designed around touch and keyboard shortcuts -- not mouse. If you're using a touch screen, Metro's not bad once you grok that swiping from the edges of the screen makes stuff happen. But, damn, good luck figuring out hot corners with a mouse (switching between open apps is not, in particular, very intuitive). Or alt-tabbing. Or "type to find program" (in Win7 / classic, Windows key then type). But ... how many casual PC users have touch screens? To me, it's the flip side of Kinect; with XBone, you get a piece of hardware that's tightly integrated with the system, but provides comparatively little user benefit. With touch screens, there's a low installed user base among the people who would get the most use out of Metro.

The funny thing is that, by so forcefully going after casual users MS has incurred the wrath of people who need their PCs for work. And those people? If they have to set up a new PC for granny, the first thing they do is install something like Start8. For whatever reason, MS's marketing people have focused on the improved casual user experience for Metro and made it seem like classic is being phased out (apparently, it isn't). And ... Win8 IS a good OS. It was fast and stable out of the box. Driver support is excellent. Security, apparently, is superior to Win7. Unlike Vista, it works well on (comparatively) old hardware.

MS has become a deeply weird and schizo company. They're supporting a handful of separate UIs (Office: ribbons; Win8: classic; Metro). It's been marketing its new OS as being a superior choice for media consumers who have either already switched to smart phones and tablets or, simply, don't want to change from something that works well enough. The only possible way Metro on a desktop makes any sense is if MS is using it as a Trojan horse to get people to consider using Windows phones and tablets. But, damn. That's kinda' crazy.

Comment: K-cup coffee is $40(ish) a pound in Canada (Score 1) 769

by MyNicknameSucks (#46391397) Attached to: The Next Keurig Will Make Your Coffee With a Dash of "DRM"

You can drive the price down with bulk buying and so forth, but you're paying a rather hefty premium for mediocre coffee that would otherwise retail for about $10 a pound.

I worked it out one time and our fancy-schmancy Jura that does about 4 cups a day has proven to be more economical than a Keurig, mostly because it can make a good cuppa out of $10 beans. Yeah, it took nearly two years, but we've had it for four. At this point, we can splurge on Blue Mountain beans and still be ahead of where we'd be with a Keurig or Nespresso.

For those who don't know, all in one espresso machines operate on the basic principal of "water container on one side of the machine, beans on the other, finished coffee out the middle, grounds dumped into a small container that takes about a minute to clean out once a week." In general, they make very good, but not mind-blowingly great, coffee. But ... in terms of overall convenience? Yowza, we're in tough to beat territory. Plus I don't have to drive to the supermarket to recycle the pods. And I can use any beans I want while supporting local roasteries.

And yes, I know, a French press would be OMG cheaper and (possibly) make better coffee. But after 15 years of arguing over who makes the coffee, my wife and I figured that a mostly automated coffee maker would be cheaper counseling.

Comment: My experience with Win8 (Score 4, Interesting) 1009

by MyNicknameSucks (#45943173) Attached to: Windows 9 Already? Apparently, Yes.

Early adopter here -- it came pre-installed on a notebook.

What I eventually realized is that MS is now supporting 3 separate UIs, all with quirks, and all with separate design philosophies.

The classic, window-based UI has been evolving over 15 years; it's straight-foraward, if cluttered. Start button; apps binned to the task bar; random crap on desktop; text-based menu bars; high contrast, colourful design elements.

Ribbons in Office. Similar to windows, but it replaced the menu bars with ribbons. More customizable than the menu bars, but my old eyes find the muted colours, grays on white, and small icons troublesome, especially in Outlook. Runs exclusively in classic UI.

Metro -- which actually comes in two flavours, touch and keyboard / mouse. The touch interface isn't bad, although I personally find it a pain to sort through open apps. But ... I find it hard to stay in Metro. Open up the calculator app, and you end up with a full screen calculator that looks STUPID on an 18" monitor (similar calculator on a 4" smartphone looks great, mind you). Open up Outlook? Back into classic. Further, the apps themselves feature scrolling vertically and horizontally which is ... disconcerting. If there's a pattern as to the reasoning behind H v. V scrolling, I don't get it. While the tiles themselves are colourful (a reference to the classic UI?), the apps are back to scroll bars that are grey on white (Office?). And the Music app is mostly black / grey / white. Weird choice, that, since it removes a design element that can highlight useful information. And, having a whole bunch of live tiles scrolling information on an 18" monitor is distracting, not illuminating.

But Metro with a keyboard and mouse? I know it can work ... but "put mouse in corner and pray" seems like a poor design choice. Further, I'm unaware of any helpful hints within the OS itself about how to use keyboard shortcuts. Seriously, MS made one of the most counter-intuitive UIs I've ever used with a keyboard and mouse, but did an outlandishly poor job of introducing it. First impressions last -- and if the first impression was "rage", good luck to you.

And, finally, my grousing aside, but if MS had released Win 8 with useful, clever, and outlandishly cool apps, we might not really be having this conversation. Instead, MS has my geographical location (Toronto, ON), but the installed apps gave me news, sports and weather for NYC (seriously, they got the country wrong?). Again, it's small -- but it would've been a nice touch if the apps tried to have a local flare because, frankly, I don't care about NYC. At all. The other apps? Music is interesting, especially since it includes free streaming (something of a big deal in Canada), but the interface blends local libraries with cloud streaming not-quite-seamlessly. The other apps, like mail and calendar, suck.

Win 8 is a deeply weird beast. It's fast. It's stable. And I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, especially if you're wedded to Office. The weird blending of multiple UIs is, plain and simple, goofy.

Looking back at my comments. What I think I would like is a small, tablet-sized second monitor for running Metro, connected to my desktop. I'd have whatever I'm doing on the classic desktop open, but could easily glance over and see Twitter updates, incoming e-mails -- a lot of things I use my iPhone for. Weird thing, that.

Comment: GPL violation bad, music theft good? (Score 1) 713

by MyNicknameSucks (#40375629) Attached to: David Lowery On the Ethics of Music Piracy

What's funny is how myopic many /.ers are: if a software developer comes on and talks about getting screwed over by a client (the recent article on someone wanting support forever) or by a distributor (the recent article on someone getting screwed over by Amazon's app store), there's sympathy, solid advice (including legal advice), and links to resources. If a musician comes on and talks about getting screwed over by Google (Google publishes DMCA takedown notices that list offending URLs; YouTube doesn't, AFAIK, pay royalties), Apple (Apple acts as a middle man, only, and does next to nothing to produce works or discover new artists), or by Torrent sites, he "doesn't get it" or is told to find "new ways to monetize your work". I.e., the lamest and most non-specific comments (not even advice) possible.

What makes me shake my head is how lacking in empathy most of these posters are towards people who work in non-geek fields. The same suite of laws that protect software licenses like BSD and the GPL also protects artists. While it's OK for a software developer to put strings on software and how it gets distributed, it's bad for a musician to put similar strings on his work?

At the end of the day, Lowery's argument boils down to, "I did the work of making music. I assumed the risk (financial liability) of producing this piece of music, I paid for the engineer, I paid the factory to manufacture the CD. Why shouldn't I get paid for work I did? Why can't I control how it gets disseminated? How is it that there are cases where download sites make money from making my work available, without my permission?" And have a look at the last /. article mentioning Lowery -- he was an early adopter of using the Internet to connect to fans AND give away music he chose to give away.

Why is it OK to tell a software developer to lawyer up if he's getting screwed, but not OK to give the musician the same piece of advice? Again, it really is all about people getting paid for work they did AND having control over distribution.

It is, IME, fair game to argue over the details (like how long copyright should be), but it should be a non-starter to argue that someone should have no control over, and chance to benefit from, their own work once it's in the wild.

FWIW, I think software developers are AWFULLY lucky that they have the choice to squirrel away their source code and only distribute binaries. That puts an absolute limit on how widely and easily bits of code can be moved.

Comment: As an avid reader ... (Score 1) 470

by MyNicknameSucks (#38655360) Attached to: Are Programmers Ruining the Design of eBooks?

This is what I've found:

I love reading novels on my kindle. I love the sharpness of the next. I love the ability to resize text. I love having a library in my hands. I love that my wife and I don't have to buy new bookshelves or drop off a bunch of books at Goodwill every six months.

I feel cheated when I come across an e-book that obviously hasn't been reviewed by a human familiar with English -- even mainstream(ish) books like Pratchett's latest, Snuff, had to be revised shortly after release due to some appallingly bad errors. I've been an avid reader for decades; I've seen typos and spelin' mistakes aplenty, but I've never had to slog through entire pages of gobbledygook with dead tree editions of works.

Reference books on my Kindle can be downright painful -- tables are usually inserted as lo-fi images that are often all-but-unreadable. Worse, if the corresponding page in the dead tree edition includes images and tables, on the same page, all hell breaks loose. Things get ... ugly.

But the real killer for me is indexes. I love them. The indexes on my reference books are usually rather dog-eared. I find them indispensable. But only once have I found an e-book, Bloodlands, that included a functional index (i.e., you select a term, you're taking to the correct "page"). Every other reference book I've purchased has an index that is simply a list of words. I freaking HATE that. That is bad design in that a feature you expect to be functional does NOTHING. We're talking Web 1.0 functionality here, people.

But ... you know what? For me this isn't an arts v. science thing many of the people here are making it out to be. The best interfaces are those that involve graphic designers (seriously, Susan Kare's a genius) and nerds. You need design AND implementation to pull things off. The gobbledygook I've seen in e-books? That's obviously some kind of script that fugged up its conversion -- that's a fault of implementation. Tables and pictures that are supposed to show up in proximity to each other, but don't in e-books? That's a fault of design. The data's there, but it needs better presentation.

We all just have to, you know, get along.

Comment: Maybe it'll force AV vendors to improve (Score 1) 748

by MyNicknameSucks (#38127116) Attached to: MS To Build Antivirus Into Win8: Boon Or Monopoly?

Here's what I like about MS's AV software: it catches, more or less what other AV software does; it does so without being obtrusive; it's not a resource pig; it doesn't pester me for more $$$ to renew my subscription; it doesn't come up with BS pitches about my PC possibly being infected -- please buy some more software from us.

Norton? Yowza! It's tougher to get rid of than some rootkits, requiring (last time I did it) multiple reboots, multiple programs to uninstall, some hand-deleting, AND a third-party registry cleaner (which still missed a few entries). And the nagging and scare tactics? Pass.

But maybe, just maybe, third party vendors (*cough*Norton*cough*McAfee*) will pick up their game and stop expecting people to shell out $100 / year for bloated crapware.

Comment: Re:heh (Score 1) 206

by MyNicknameSucks (#37588368) Attached to: Amazon Disables 3G Web Browsing For New 3G Kindle Touch

But, seriously.

You want the premium features (keyboard, touch) on the cheapest models? Just cough up the extra $60 for the features you want and get over it. There's a reason Amazon has a range of products, from low end to high.

As for me? I'm getting my kids the cheap Kindles for Christmas. Cheap enough that I won't be crushed if they get stolen at school. And the lack of a keyboard? Just fine with me.

FWIW, I have a Kindle 3g -- I use the keyboard ... once a month. Maybe.

Comment: I tried to love my Kindle ... (Score 1) 254

by MyNicknameSucks (#37143508) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Ebook Reader for Scientific Papers?

I tried to love my Kindle for reference books, but ... it's not there.

First: tables are wonky -- they tend to be images that render poorly on e-ink (FWIW, they also render poorly on a PC and iPhone, so I believe it's at least in part a problem with using heavily compressed images).

Second: the indexes in many reference books are non-functional -- the items are not clickable and, worse, don't have location or page number references.

Third: it's tough to flip back and forth in different sections (colour-coded tape flags are still miles better than Kindle's marks).

Fourth: annotating text sucks on a Kindle compared to paper and pen.

What is my Kindle good for? Novels (I actually prefer reading e-ink over dead tree). Connecting to 3g networks (for free) in foreign countries so I can check my e-mail before I buy a SIM for my phone. I can search references throughout my entire library at once. In a pinch, I /can/ have a complete reference library for brewing in my hand. The first four books of A Game of Thrones is only $10 on Kindle; $20 and 4.4 pounds in paperback.

But for reference materials?


Comment: Not much to add ... (Score 1) 270

by MyNicknameSucks (#36593226) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Mobile Data In Canada For a US Citizen?

Except that all of Canada's cellphone providers suck.

Either their coverage sucks or their prices suck.

I was spoiled on a recent trip to Europe. With an unlocked iPhone: 5 pounds for a micro-sim in England. I loaded it with 40 pounds' worth of time for a 2ish week stay in Europe (UK + France) ... and still had 20 pounds' worth of time left. And I wasn't exactly stingy with e-mail + file attachments.

Bonus: Vodaphone (UK provider) sent a text when I started to use data in France, informed me of the price, and sent a further text when I approached my data limit for the day (IME, a reasonably fair 2 pounds / 25 megs).

It was completely civilized.

In Canada?

Ugh. Not cvilized at all.

Comment: Re:Ridiculous (Score 1) 584

by MyNicknameSucks (#35085272) Attached to: Apple eBook Rules Changing For Sellers
You know what?

I love books. I love book stores. I love the sight of neat rows of books; it's a happy thing.

But my wife and I have Kindles because the cost to store the books became insane (we both read 50 or 60 books a year, we've been together nearly 20 years ... and, well, that's a lot of books). Plus our kids wanted their bedrooms for their own things, not their parent's library. So ... we gave most of our books away and now get most of our books via Kindle.

Comment: Re:Ridiculous (Score 3, Insightful) 584

by MyNicknameSucks (#35081990) Attached to: Apple eBook Rules Changing For Sellers
Amazon's former e-book model was "Amazon sets the retail price, publisher sets the price to sell to Amazon." Apple forced Amazon's hand last year with the agency model -- the publisher sets the price, Amazon takes a cut. Prices have /already/ been raised in most cases.

So, right now, on my iPhone app, Apple gets nothing when I purchase a book through Safari on my iPhone. Amazon gets the fee (30%) from the publisher for handling the transaction. Apples wants that transaction fee, or at least a portion of it, for itself. Further, Apple probably wants publishers to release more titles to its own book store ... and is holding other book stores' apps hostage in order to increase its own catalogue -- potentially surpassing Amazon's catalogue.

What will be interesting to see is what happens to Amazon's web site -- currently, if you purchase a Kindle book, you can choose where you want it sent (an actual Kindle, or any other device, including an iPhone, that's registered to your account). If you choose your iPhone, the book will automatically be downloaded the next time you open the Kindle app (honestly, it's pretty slick).

Apple is embarking down a sleazy path that makes MS at its worst look downright tame. MS just wanted to destroy other software companies. Apple has its sights set on: retailers; hardware manufacturers; OS developers (especially on small devices); it wants a cut of ALL media and software sold for its devices; it possibly even has cable TV in its sights. And it's getting there by creating an "ecosystem" that ties its different hardware, software, and sales platforms together. And then it's using its muscle to force even its competitors to adopt models that favour Apple.


Comment: Something else to ask ... (Score 1) 997

by MyNicknameSucks (#34870712) Attached to: Are 10-11 Hour Programming Days Feasible?
Is your boss going to put in 12 hour days? Unlikely -- most people in middle management hate giving up their time away from work when they can sucker an inexperienced staff to do it for them. FWIW, it sounds like your workplace environment is about to become toxic -- it's NOT a good sign if your boss is asking you to work longer hours for the same of pay and no additional perks. That has the whiff of desperation, and desperate companies often start treating their staff like garbage. In your position, I'd start sending out resumes. Immediately.

Everything that can be invented has been invented. -- Charles Duell, Director of U.S. Patent Office, 1899