I Finally Had It With Windows.

Well it’s a while since I posted on my blog, running my own business means time to have a rant about Microsoft or anyone else for that matter has been limited.

I felt I should add something new rather than let my blog fester so here are some thoughts on things in 2019.

Since I last posted in 2017 about the then new Windows 10 my love affair with Windows has ended and I am now only using Windows 10 in a Virtual Machine on my Linux Mint 19.1 operating system. Why I hear you ask?

Well, I finally got sick of the constant disruptive updates, the suspicion that everything you do on Windows (like with Google when using their search engine) is being recorded and analysed and stored in databases somewhere so that they can monetise everything you do.

I accept that with Google to a degree as you don’t pay for most of the things they provide (Google Maps, Earth, StreetView, Gmail etc etc), but with Microsoft I have paid for my Windows version (I am an MSDN subscriber and it costs me about £400 per year to have Visual Studio and access to some server stuff like SQL Server and some Operating Systems like Windows 7, 8.1 and 10 should I want them to test my applications on/against).

So why was I seeing adverts in File Manager, loads of stupid games and apps getting installed without my permission (well they probably embedded it somewhere in a very long legal document that I acknowledged when installing the O/S but who lives long enough to read these things [and they know and rely on that fact] which is totally “weasel” as far as I am concerned, it’s very much like the Vogons in Hitchikers Guide To The Galaxy “well the notice about Earth being destroyed to make way for the intergalactic freeway was posted for 6 months on Alpha Centauri for you to lodge a complaint, if you can’t be bothered to read it well that’s your problem!” or words to that effect). Also apps I previously installed disappearing from the start menu when they got updated?? And this is the Professional version of Windows not the Home one!!

So the above and the fact that the last three major updates had caused so much grief; one interfered with my antivirus causing a blue screen on boot up. Another locked me out because it disabled my USB ports so I couldn’t use my mouse and keyboard and had to jump through a crash boot game that eventually got me to safe mode so that I could disable the offending update. The third didn’t actually get me but if I hadn’t switched to Linux Mint I wuld have fallen foul of the bug that deleted user data (how Microsoft got so slipshod that, that one got through I do not know, but clearly they need to get some serious testing capability back in house).

All these cumulative pains with Windows and the constant feeling that all Microsoft cared about was Cloud services and to hell with their Windows customers, particularly non-business ones, made me finally throw in the towel and wipe Windows off my machine and switch to Linux Mint.

It was very strange at first as Linux is a lot the same and a lot different to Windows and it takes a while to get your head around the differences. It has a start menu and a task bar (I use the Cinnamon version), it has desktop icons and generally behaves like you would expect.

You have Linux equivalents of most software, I now use LibreOffice to replace Word Excel Access and PowerPoint and Evolution mail to replace Outlook. Linux has all the utilities for opening PDFs (Document Viewer), editing images (Pinta, Shotwell, GIMP) and videos (Shotcut, Kodi), burning CDs and DVDs (Brasero) and so on. All is free and open source so you can look at the code and make changes if you want as long as you send your changes back to the original developers in case they like what you did and want to add it into the mainstream version.

I really feel that Linux Mint, Ubuntu (which Mint is derived from) and Fedora are all mature stable easy to use GUI based Linux versions that anyone coming from a Windows background could switch to and only have minor issues that any Linux expert could help them with (and do in the nowadays much friendlier Linux forums).

The days of having to do a lot of command line stuff is long gone, for normal users I doubt they ever need to use a command line. Techs like me do like to use command lines, but I would think that a normal user nowadays would need a command line as much as a Windows user would.

I have installed Linux Mint on a number of my client’s PCs and I have no more support calls from them than I did with Windows, probably less in fact, as Linux just works and doesn’t keep wanting to restart all the time which will be a great relief for most Windows users.

Linux Mint Cinnamon Desktop

If you want to give Linux Mint a try, you can download an ISO file and burn that to a DVD and it makes you a bootable disk that you can run on your existing Windows PC without needing to install it so that you can try it out before switching over.

You can download the ISO image from the Linux Mint website:


Have fun!


Windows 10 – Where is it all Going?

Windows 10 grew out of the mess that was Windows 8. As a long standing Windows user I have to say that Windows 8.0 was a disaster. As a developer on Windows and an MSDN subscriber I was given early access to the early versions of Windows 8.0 and all of us were screaming at Microsoft to change direction as we could see that their “touch first” mantra was going to alienate the vast majority of their user base. As usual, Microsoft was playing “me too” trying to cash in on the iPad craze rather than sticking with the tried and tested Windows platform.

Well, as we all know that did not go well. When it became clear that very few Windows users were even slightly interested in “touch first” and the whole iPad fad would scoop up all the people who really didn’t need or want a full blown PC, but for about a year looked like a whole new market that was going to displace PCs forever. Again we all know how that went!

Now Windows 10 is more like the Windows of old, there is a recognisable start menu and task bar and the touch stuff is there for those people who like it but not at the expense of the vast majority like me who do not.

So where does Microsoft see Windows going now? The new boss of Microsoft, Satya Nadella is obsessed with cloud and his focus with Windows seems to be around using it as a vehicle to get you and I to sign up to the myriad cloud based services that Microsoft offer. This will be things like Office 365 and OneDrive at the corporate level it is Office, Linked In, Skype for Business etc.

I for one am losing patience with Microsoft, they are obsessed with profit and seem to have lost all interest in their customers. All they seem to want to do is sign you up for one service or another.

Thankfully there is an alternative, Linux is a free operating system that you can run on your PC with no need to pay any licence fees or subscriptions and offers Office programs and other applications that allow you to do pretty much what you could with Windows.

Linux is not as polished as Windows, but given that it’s free, I can live with most of its rough edges.

There are now a lot of people who have changed over to Linux in order to escape the Windows or Apple lock in.

If you are sick of licence fees and lock it’s check out Linux Mint, or Ubuntu, which ate friendly Linux installations that can easily replace Windows or MacOS.


Windows 10 Technical Preview


Yes the Windows Start Menu is back!!!

It’s definitely a big improvement, the key worry for me as an IT Consultant with Windows 8 and even 8.1 was that the only way you could sell it to businesses was to patch it with Stardock’s Start8 or some other similar Start Menu replacement so that the business was not facing a huge training bill.

Most businesses have spent thousands on getting users where they are and don’t want to have to purchase new training materials and employee training companies to get staff moved over to this new paradigm. Particularly as the economic environment was not the best at the time Win 8 came out.

The last thing you need as a business in a recession is staff taken out of the business doing training courses as it a) costs money for the course and b) you lose the person being trained from productive work.

It didn’t also help that the Metro Apps in Windows 8 were so Noddy that they were embarrassing to say the least. If you want to sell the new Metro Interface you don’t want to do it with sub par applications and there was little and still is little, that is compelling to business users in the Metro/Modern/Universal format.  The issue still hasn’t changed and I don’t think ever will that business users need the precision of a mouse and keyboard to do productive work, poking about with your finger is never going to be optimal for a spreadsheet user, an accountant or a typist.

That is why I think if they can pull off the switch in format between desktop mode and tablet mode within the one O/S they are onto something with Windows 10.  During the day you use your computing device in a docking station with a keyboard and mouse and it behaves like Windows XP or Windows 7, undock it and take it home in tablet format and it instantly switches to “poke with your finger mode” which is useful when doing consumption things like reading web pages, watching videos, playing simple games.

From what I have seen of Windows 10,  (I am running my work PC with it.  I have to do that or I just won’t use it in anger and really flush out the bugs and find all the new features.  I am capable of wiping and re-installing all my stuff should I hit a showstopper, but I wouldn’t recommend that to my clients),  in the 15 days I have been running it, is that it’s stable and very usable.

I really like the fact that you can run Metro Apps in a Window and tile them alongside traditional Windows applications. I hated the way Windows 8 forced a full screen shift on you hiding your task bar and generally being a very jarring experience.

I like the multiple desktops a la Linux, I have one desktop for development work, another for Outlook and Office. The multiple desktops need a bit more work as it’s not intuitive yet but I am sure they are working on it.

I like the combined start menu it looks a bit strange at first, but you soon get used to its mixed personality. They could do with making the way you size it better, I would like it to be more tall than wide and you can’t really size it in all directions (or if you can I can’t figure how you do it).

Overall 8 out of 10 and I hope if they really are listening to us testers it will reach 10 pretty quickly.

Windows Blue–A Chink Of Light

Following on from my previous post about my fears that Windows Blue was actually not going to undo some of the terrible things Microsoft had done to its loyal desktop users, it now transpires that they have actually listened to their customers and senior management have finally sent down an edict to the Windows developers that the user SHOULD be able to bypass the start screen and boot straight into the desktop like Windows 7 if they want. 

I know as a developer myself that this will have annoyed those developers that have put hundreds maybe thousands of hours of their lives into creating the new Start Screen and the Live Tiles technology.  Allowing the customer to bypass that and ignore it completely would bug me if I had spent chunks of my life inventing that, but the bigger picture is that the customer IS actually right and they DON’T want the METRO User Interface shoved down their throats, particularly if they are using a PC that uses a mouse and a keyboard for productive work. To me once you start using your Metro full screen applications, you can’t see the live tiles anyway, so it was a bit pointless at best unless you take the view that you were just going to turn on your tablet and just stare at the live tiles all day???


As you can see above I very rarely look at my Live Tiles as I don’t have any apps in view that present Live Tiles because I am a desktop user and just never want to see it, to me it’s just a mess (I don’t know why PHP is in amongst my games??? like I really care anyway!!).

Given that Microsoft appear to have seen sense (I say “appear” because this is all based on a confirmation from an MS insider that Mary Jo Foley deals with and isn’t yet official public Microsoft policy):


But if it is true and I am pretty sure it is ….


The move to allow users to put back the Start button (we’re still not sure if they are actually going to put the Start Menu back yet), but I think they should, as that is what makes existing users feel so bad about Windows 8, it’s that jarring experience going between the desktop and the new start screen, it’s just horrible I hate it and no matter how fond of live tiles you are, this constant switching of modes between desktop and Metro is just plain nasty

What MS seemed to be ignoring and a lot of the commenters who are in favour of the new UI miss, is that the new UI is great if you’re using Windows 8 on a tablet or mobile device where you are not doing anything productive because your using the very blunt (in all senses of the word) tool of your finger.

Yes on a device that the finger is your main input device and because it has no keyboard and mouse is the ONLY possible device that makes sense, then yes Metro works and is a sensible and logical way to interact with a computer.

Where MS are completely wrong is trying to apply that interface to people like me who want to be using desktop computers for years to come and who will NEVER EVER want to poke about with our fingers. Poking about with my finger, writing with a pen or even talking to my PC are just not as efficient as using a keyboard and a mouse.

I can type much faster than I can write with a pen and when I am thinking what to say, the keyboard is more efficient. That’s because when trying to talk to my computer and apply my constant corrections as I rethink what I am about to type, takes too long using verbal commands.

(Believe me I have used “Dragon Naturally Speaking” and although when I think a sentence and get it perfectly right [and I have spent hours training it], the speaking is faster than typing.  However when you take out the time correcting my work it’s not, as the commands to re-edit my text are much slower than using the keyboard).  So again it’s a solution looking for a problem that doesn’t exist.

Sure you can use all sorts of clever people to come up with neat ways of achieving what you do with a keyboard and a mouse with your finger, but at best it’s forcing a cack handed technique one me that is just longer winded and less efficient and just annoys the hell out of me because it’s slowing me down. 

Which is why most of us non trendy people who don’t use tablets to do real work on their computers, can see Microsoft forcing a wholly inappropriate interface on us and damaging our future productivity when they finally phase out the desktop chasing Apple for iPad customers who are a completely different demographic to their core Windows user.

That’s why I keep suggesting here in my blog and on the various blogs and forums like Paul Thurrot’s Supersite For Windows and Mary Jo Foley’s blog at ZDNet and others, that what Microsoft need to do is realise that trying to force these two mutually exclusive interfaces into one O/S is wrong.

On tablets and phones and other mobile touch centric devices Metro is great. I have a Windows 8 tablet and when I just want to read on the sofa or in bed, Metro works like a charm and I think it’s as good if not better than the alternatives from Apple or Google, same on my HTC 8X I love it there, it makes sense it works with my stubby pointing device.


(you can see why I don’t want to use touch on my twin 24” monitors as I have greasy fingers)!

So have Metro on Windows RT devices running on ARM chips and get great battery life and accept that Metro Apps are the way to go in that environment.  On my tablet I never go anywhere near the desktop EVER. It just doesn’t work with my finger because it was designed to work with very accurate mice pointers and so it should stay.

Don’t try and make the desktop work with a finger, you are undoing 30 years of evolution of the desktop environment that is pretty damn efficient and is in no need of change in that direction.  I am sure there are other innovations that the desktop could embrace but using your finger isn’t one of them.

I think if Intel can produce devices that have ARM like performance and very low power consumption and that can lead to the creation of tablet type devices that cost £150 to £200 in price, the reason to buy iPads or Android tablets would become less of an issue. 

Most Windows users would probably buy them as a companion device to their desktop PC (I know I would) and the OEMs and Microsoft should distinguish them from Windows PCs and sell them as the Windows flavoured tablet from Microsoft that CAN’T run Windows desktop applications, but embraces this key new tablet interface that runs Modern UI applications. 

The thing that would also sell this to a lot of users is the ability to print to your printer like a PC, which is an issue for Android tablets where printing is not baked in and you have to buy third party apps that are patchy at best.

If they do that I can see both sides of Windows flourish again and they would keep their existing productivity users (mainly in businesses) happy and the new market of tablet users would have an alternative to Apple or Android that brings them a more familiar Windows style experience that is tuned for a touch device.

So if they have seen sense and taken the pragmatic decision to allow us desktop users to turn Metro Off officially and resurrect the start menu and booting to the desktop and thus avoiding the irrelevant (to us at least) Start Screen, I for one applaud them for taking that decision and listening at last to their loyal users.  It may just save Microsoft in the long run as I can’t imagine where they were headed if they absolutely stuck to the course they were on.


Windows 8, Windows Blue and the future of Windows

In the last couple of weeks it has emerged that the following things are true:

  1. Windows 8 sales are disappointing.
    Link to Computerworld post
  2. Windows Surface tablets have not sold well, particularly the Surface RT version.
    Link to gadgets.ndtv.com post
  3. Windows 8’s Bundled Applications are in need of some work.
    Link to ZDNet post

To me, if I was in charge of Microsoft, I would be hearing Windows Vista and Windows ME warning bells right about now. It is clear to anyone that Windows 8 is a step too far.  The existing user base just do not get Windows 8 and particularly the business clients who do get it, but don’t want any of it on their mainstream work PCs, as the immense costs of retraining folk to use Windows 8 and Office 2013 if they are still in the Windows XP, Office 2003 era (like one of my large Bank clients) would be horrendous.

Windows 8 is designed to move Microsoft forward, hell they even called the Metro interface the “Modern UI” when they discovered that they would face a copyright issue in Europe using that name. So they see it as the future. Unlike the Bill Gates era Microsoft, whenever they created a new paradigm, they did it in a way that businesses and seasoned users could migrate slowly to the new way of doing things by giving them the option to enable the old way of doing things and eventually turn that off as the new concept gained traction.  It seems now that Microsoft don’t care, all they can see is chasing Apple for a chunk of the iPad market share and it seems to be at the expense of their dedicated desktop PC users.  If I was on the MS board I would be asking Steve Ballmer for his keys to the executive suite and putting someone in who has a better handle on the needs of the traditional user base and in particular their business users. I cannot see that anyone who works on spreadsheets, accounts packages or edits photos or Videos would ever want to be using their finger for that?

Microsoft are working on Metro versions of MS Office and I am really keen to see how the hell you can do that using your finger as a replacement for a mouse. I am sure they will do it (I have seen the rotary dial device used in OneNote for Metro), but if you have used that you will know that OK you can get things done, but at what cost in time? It takes about 5 steps to do what you could do in 1 step in the Desktop/Mouse version.  This is not progress, it just smacks of using smart people to figure out how to make a thing work in a completely wrong environment. Most desktop users will just think this is just “art for art’s sake”.

If someone can demonstrate to me how using Metro can make me more productive when working on a spreadsheet, a database, an accounts package, a development environment or a photo editing application then I will switch wholeheartedly to using Metro, until then I remain sceptical!!!

Windows Blue

A lot of people like me were hoping that Windows Blue (A software update for Windows 8 to fix a number of issues in the current incarnation) might see Microsoft seeing sense and doing some of the obvious things that need doing to make Windows 8 usable for the majority of existing users. However it now seems from a leaked early version, that the emphasis is not on getting some sanity back into Windows 8 but is heading more in the direction of Metro and further away from the desktop:



I am in the camp that wants to believe that MS are not stupid, they know that the majority of their revenue comes from Business customers and they are your traditional desktop user not an iPad user, admittedly a lot of business users are additionally using iPad like devices, but they are the Sales Execs or senior management who use them as devices for consuming daily reports or reading news etc.  but the serious work gets done on desktop PCs with a mouse and a keyboard.

I think they (Microsoft) are after what they currently see as the bigger market i.e. non-business home users, ultimately they seem to want to move away from the desktop, but hopefully they will realise that this market for tablets is actually a fad that will subside like the “netbook” fad did.  Tablets are a new form factor and they make sense for consumers who want to do just that “consume”, they are not for people who want to be “productive” and that’s where I part company with the current Microsoft vision of the future. I cannot see how if you limit your operating system to be only targeted at the consumer that it can possibly work for the productivity user. These things are mutually exclusive.  That is why (ironically) Apple still maintain a separate operating system for desktop PCs (OSX) and a different one for their tablets and mobile devices (IOS). Why can’t Microsoft get this?

Here’s what should happen

  1. Make Windows RT the version of Windows for tablets and mobile devices, let’s call it “Windows for Mobile” (W4M). The reasons for using the RT version is that it runs only on low power ARM chips (also include whatever Intel comes up with in the future to match the ARM chips in W4M). In this version the desktop is banished as this version is designed specifically for users poking about with their fingers as the only input device. I use a Windows 8 tablet and I would be happy with this, I never want to see the desktop when I am on my tablet, if I do then I’ll switch back to my laptop or desktop PC to do that. Basically the W4M version is all about tablets and touch usage and banishes the old desktop paradigm.
  2. Make Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro the versions of Windows for desktop users (W4D & W4D Pro). In these versions the desktop is the default, but a user can turn on the Metro environment through the control panel if they wish. Instead of grabbing the whole screen, Metro apps run in Windows like Stardock’s ModernMix application (http://forums.stardock.com/440939), this means a desktop user can run Metro applications but in a way that fits in with the desktop environment (not the other way round). The W4D versions can “have their cake and eat it” because they are powerful enough and are not trying to eke out 10 hours battery life like tablets and other mobile devices usually are.

Whether Microsoft will see sense before it’s too late I don’t know, but if they persist with this “touch first” nonsense for desktop PCs I can see them being consigned to history as the company that threw away its loyal user base trying to chase a market that was already owned by Apple.


Windows 8 What Microsoft Should Do … And Soon!

Windows 8 just looks to me to be another ME/Vista. The applications are all about form over function (I refer to them as the “Duplo” versions of real applications).  Everything Microsoft does at the moment seems to be focused on trying to be like Apple.  I can’t tell you how much this distresses me.

Windows users are all about function and a little bit of form as long as it doesn’t get in the way of function.  Apple’s ethos is for people who are more focused about how a thing looks than how it performs and gives value for money.  Why do Microsoft feel they have to be like them with Windows 8?  Apple are capturing the non PC literate home user segment, but these people were never going to buy a desktop PC running Windows. They are a different market who just want a device that’s not a PC that allows them access to the internet and Facebook whilst on the move. 

So if Microsoft want in on that market, produce a device and an Operating System that goes after that but don’t disrupt/piss off the great user base that they already have chasing a completely different segment of society.  Desktop users may not be buying a lot of PCs because the power and quality of the PCs they have are still good enough to do the job they bought them for. Don’t forget, we are in a real nasty recession that is making us all watch the pennies at the moment.  Once that passes and their PCs start to need replacing then PC sales will jump and probably make tablet sales look weak!!

Windows 8 applications are just for tablets, but I am very worried that very soon Microsoft are going to be calling all desktop applications “Legacy” and in a future Windows release will be disabling the old desktop and that’s it, you have finally killed me as a Windows user off.

I have been a loyal Microsoft fan and have recommended their products for the best part of 25 years and I must be honest, right now I am starting to think about switching to Linux and open source.  I have recently changed my sister from an XP box to a new PC running Linux Mint and she is very happy with it.  I have done the same for my parents, as I really can’t see them wanting or coping with Windows 8.

So how can Microsoft fix this?  Microsoft need to stop, take stock of where they are and then in my humble opinion do the following:

  1. Separate Windows 8 Metro as a purely Tablet and Phone Operating System.
  2. Make Windows 9 like the Windows 8 Desktop (with a start menu ) and give us all the performance benefits of an Operating System for tablets that runs on a desktop x86 style processor.  So Windows 9 actually runs better with less resources than Windows 7, but has all the chrome and usability that Windows 7 gave us. You can lose the Aero transparency completely, it was just another pointless thing that gave no real benefit to using a PC and I suspect it was trying to emulate Apple again (DON’T DO THIS SORT OF THING UNLESS YOU CAN DO IT WITH NO PERFORMANCE DROP AND NO POWER USAGE INCREASE).
  3. Stop trying to make everything run in the cloud and just treat it as a convenient storage space that can be accessed everywhere and demonstrate to people like me that it is 100% secure from prying eyes and the Government.
  4. Ignore Apple with the main Windows product, they cater for a different segment. If you are not careful they will seriously come after your segment (desktop business PC users) and then you really will be dead. If you want some of their market for tablets, develop your Metro based O/S and Surface tablets purely with tablets and fingers in mind and DO NOT try and force this onto mouse and multiple screen users who want none of it. If you could produce a Surface tablet that just runs Metro and has 10 hours battery life and costs $199 you would wipe the floor with Apple. (I would probably be keen to learn Windows 8 development as you would have a huge user base that would be worth developing games for).
  5. Focus all future Windows desktop releases on:
    1. Improving performance so that Windows works better using less RAM and runs cooler on existing CPUs.
    2. As a result of A above, battery life on netbooks and laptops improves to the point where running an x86 CPU on a laptop with Windows can last for a full working day without compromising on performance like we had to with existing netbooks.
    3. Improve backwards compatibility by developing technologies like Windows XP Mode further and making it as transparent to the user as possible. This will help the entire Windows ecosystem, as business users will be able to bring their highly valued and very expensive to develop applications easily into the new O/S, rather than it being seen as a barrier to upgrading. Net result, hardware manufacturers and support people like me will get work building new PCs and implementing the software on them and the economy as a whole will benefit from the activity. Users will see improved performance and better power usage encouraging them to upgrade. If you encourage the support firms and the hardware manufacturers they will all add together to bolster your business.
    4. Make incremental changes that are demonstrably improvers of productivity, DON’T change things to justify the price on the box (I am thinking of the change from “Add or Remove Programs“ to “Programs And Features” as an example, it is just change for change’s sake and meant deep frustration from users).  If a thing works and it has been around for ages and people have got used to it and there is no benefit in changing it, leave it alone!
    5. Value your desktop user base, understand that if you want to make a paradigm shift like you are trying to with Windows 8 and tablets, that needs to be in a different track that does not derail the existing user base.  Sure if it takes off and becomes the majority usage scenario then quietly and very slowly phase out the old operating system when the tipping point occurs.

I know I sound like an old fart who doesn’t want change but what the business Windows user needs is a stable environment that evolves gradually, rather than this horrible knee jerk switching to whole new environments that just disrupts and decreases day to day productivity.  In practice it means that users have to throw away knowledge they have paid for in real money (books training courses etc.) and real time and effort slaving over a hot PC for years.


“Once Your Data Is On A Cloud Computing Service You Lose Your Property Rights”–US Government.

Many users who quite legitimately used Megaupload to store personal data and photos and who never illegally shared music or films are still fighting to get their data back from the US Government who seized the Megaupload servers after charging the owner of the service with allegedly “operating as an organization dedicated to copyright infringement”.

One of the people affected Kyle Goodwin is trying to hold the US Government accountable for denying him access to his property.  He is using the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) legal team to raise a brief to this effect.

According to the EFF site it appears the US Government has admitted to reviewing Mr Kyle’s files when he clearly had nothing to do with the case against the owners of Megaupload and as such is an innocent person who just happened to use the cloud service to store his personal files and was innocently caught in the crossfire between the Government and the owners of the Megaupload site. 

If that wasn’t bad enough, the US Government has said that “Mr. Goodwin lost his property rights in his data by storing it on a cloud computing service.”

You can read the full post on the EFF Site here:


As you know I have always maintained that storing your data in the cloud is dangerous and this yet again confirms my worst fears that all your data in the cloud is accessible by the US authorities.  As most cloud services we use here are based in the US you can take it that your data is being picked over at will by the US and their allies (UK Government I am sure), as well as any “anonymous” style hacking groups who seem capable of breaking into pretty much any site they wish including the US Government ones.

Public cloud services … no thank you!

Windows 8–Disaster For Or Saviour Of Microsoft?

I did a piece a while ago on the Developer Preview and said I would use Windows 8 Consumer preview in anger on my main PC and then report back on my findings.  Well this is it.


Very fast start up. The core bits of the Windows UI are polished and improved such as the new version of task manager:

The simple view is really simple and for techies like me the advanced view gives better details about what is hot and clobbering my system, the nearer to red the more CPU the application is using:


Explorer: Some may not like the fact that the Explorer has now got the ribbon style menus which I am not a huge fan of in Office but I do think in Explorer it does work well and exposes a lot of stuff that a lot of users probably never knew was in the Explorer.


If you don’t like the ribbon you can collapse it like you can in MS office:


There are some new disk management things that allow you to handle the oodles of storage we need nowadays in a new feature called “Storage Spaces”:

Virtualizing storage for scale, resiliency, and efficiency

The main improvement that I and many developer preview users had asked for was the ability to close applications.  The blogs for the Windows 8 Team (Building Windows 8) went to lengths about the fact that we shouldn’t worry about closing applications as the operating system knows best. This is a bit analogous to automatic versus manual gearboxes in cars. We all know that the human can handle that activity better than the auto box in most cars, it’s better to leave the human to decide when they want the gear changing, yes it may be more efficient than the way a human does it, but if you want to drive fast, the human is better than the machine.

I feel the same about memory usage, it may make absolute sense to the computer brain to keep some application running as it knows if I want to re-open it in a few minutes it will snap up faster from suspended than starting up from disk, but I know as the master of the machine that I want to make room for a big hefty application I am just about to load and don’t want the PC second guessing me.

This sort of stuff is put well in I-Robot when Will Smith’s character is explaining how he was yanked out of his slowly sinking car in preference to a young child.  The robot did the survivability calculation and his was 40 odd percent to her 11 percent and saved him, but as he put it a human would not have made that decision.

So giving us the ability to override the machine is great, I just hope they have really implemented it not just made it look like they did by hiding the closed application from task manager??

Generally the system seems a bit more robust and on my Zoostorm tablet the scrolling seems a bit smoother than on the developer preview. My main PC is such a beast that it worked well on the developer preview as well.

General Perception – Desktop User Perspective.

I was hoping that after using it in anger after a few weeks I would stop feeling lost and I would start to adopt the Windows 8 way of doing things and it would just seem like any other new version of Windows but this never happened!

This is unusual, as usually I find that new versions annoy me because MS have just changed things for change’s sake.  Things like the change from “Add Remove Programs” to “Programs And Features”??? but within a short while I just get used to the stupid changes and all is well in the World again.  This time however I just find Metro apps annoying.  They claim that they are typographically rich and minimalist and removing the chrome (buttons sliders gadgets toolbars etc.)  allows a user to get on with the job in hand? Hmmm.

Sorry no! All that removing stuff like that does is to make desktop productivity users less productive.  Also from a business perspective, it means, yet again, all the costs you have spent on training staff to use their PCs is thrown down the toilet. In a similar fashion to Office dropping the tried and tested menus and replacing them with a ribbon. 

Yes we all get it that the ribbon may help new Office users, but for old hands like me and the many people in business who just need to get on with their work with minimum disruption, putting in a ribbon with no way of switching back to the traditional menus just wasted our time!!

This is one area where I think Microsoft appears to have lost one of its key selling points “backwards compatibility”. You could rely on Microsoft to be doing new things but always with one eye on maintaining backwards compatibility.  Most people think of this as relating to software and hardware but it also related to the way their key applications like Word and Excel worked.  Even if they introduced swathes of new stuff into the applications they always maintained the old keyboard shortcuts and menu entries so that you could still use the new version and continue to be productive.

Things seemed to change around the Vista era and suddenly Microsoft started doing stupid things like UAC (User Account Control) which I believe the developers of that admitted was to “annoy” their users as a method of stopping them allowing viruses onto their machine.  Well we know where that sort of thinking went, Vista was probably the biggest MS flop ever, and I am including Windows ME in that statement.

They also took their eye off driver development and most people could not get their printers, graphics cards and audio to work with it and net result MS took a beating. Admittedly it was probably the hardware vendors who always see a new O/S as a great way to sell new hardware and so were in no hurry to write new drivers for the new Vista Operating System, but I think MS should have done what they did in Windows 7 which was to write or include swathes of drivers on the Windows 7 DVD so that most devices just worked out of the box.

As soon as an operating system vendor believes that the end user comes second to their style gurus they are on the slippery slope. This is how I feel about Windows 8 for a desktop productivity user.  Because the main focus of Microsoft has shifted to chasing the success of Apple and its iPad everything has gone touch centric.  This is why the Metro interface and applications are designed the way they are. What I can’t understand is why MS insist on treating desktop users who will never want to poke around on their dual or triple monitors in the same way as tablet users who clearly are a different demographic?

Using Windows 8 and Metro “apps” on my machine which has two 24” Dell monitors attached to it, seemed jarring, particularly the way that with Metro applications you can only have a maximum of two applications running side by side and only in the one quarter three quarters layout:


Which given the horsepower you have available seems a bit weird? Now on a low powered ARM tablet this makes absolute sense, you don’t want too much going on at once as they just do not have the capacity or battery power to run multiple applications like this. So why constrain a desktop user to this.

The answer I think is the overall strategy that Microsoft is following with Windows 8, that is to have one operating system across all their platforms. Which from Microsoft’s perspective makes sense as they only have one codebase to maintain across Mobile, Xbox, and Windows.

My usage in the period since I wrote my piece initially on Windows 8 Developer Preview has pretty much told me that I don’t use Metro applications a lot.  Without thinking about it I have just switched on and immediately gone to the desktop and haven’t felt the need to use Metro for anything other than some casual game playing.  This in itself does not mean that Metro “apps” should be banned if you are a desktop user, for non-productivity work such as reading stuff, viewing stuff and generally consuming stuff Metro works fine on both the desktop and the tablet. 

General Perception – Tablet User

As well as my desktop PC I decided to buy a Zoostorm SL8 tablet as I felt it was unfair to criticise Windows 8 and Metro applications without seeing them on the form factor they are designed for.

When you use Windows 8 on a tablet, the whole point of Metro applications makes sense. When all you have to interact with the tablet is your finger then having everything big and simple makes a lot of sense.  I had used the SL8 with Windows 7 on it and it is sort of touch aware, but because the Windows Aero interface is designed around desktop and mouse thinking it is a struggle to use it on a tablet as all the buttons and chrome items particularly are way too small to dab at with your finger. 

So if you are using a mobile device then yes Metro is the way to go. Because also tablets do tend to be the kind of thing you would use in a casual environment such as in bed or on the sofa in the front room then the Metro applications for reading news or watching videos are more appropriate.

I use Windows 8 on my tablet a lot when I want to do some reading before going to sleep and it was great when I was off with the flu for a few days a while back and some of the games were very addictive and made the boredom of being ill less of a pain.

Microsoft recently released Office 2013 and I have put that on my tablet and the changes they have made to the interface definitely work better when using your finger, even though Office is a productivity application and suited better to mouse and keyboard than finger.

So my considered opinion is that as far as non-productivity on mobile devices is concerned Windows 8 and Metro “apps” are a success and will go down well with casual consumer type users.

My Concern

My only concern with the way Microsoft are going is if they intend to turn off the desktop so that you are forced permanently into the Metro world (or whatever the new name they are having to use to avoid a copyright issue in Europe). That would be the end of the road as far as me and Microsoft would be concerned.

In the scenario where they eventually turn off the desktop as a desktop user I am being forced to fit in with the Metro way of doing things when touch is wholly irrelevant to me. I will never want to do productive work using my finger,  because a) I don’t want my screen covered in greasy finger prints and b) it’s not a comfortable way to use a desktop PC. 

As far as productivity is concerned a mouse is still king and all the chrome you get in productivity applications is needed. I cannot imagine using something like Excel in a touch way on a desktop PC.  It can be done, I recently tried the Office 2013 beta on my tablet and you can do useful work on a tablet in Excel but it’s very clunky and not what I’d want to do day in and day out, possibly just making minor changes before using a tablet to do a presentation would be fine, but prolonged use would drive me insane.

I have seen a rotary wheel idea that was mentioned on Paul Thurrot’s Windows Supersite in a “Windows Weekly” show: Windows Weekly 270- We’ll Look Back and Laugh (go to 48 minutes and 20 seconds to see the one that is in the new Metro version of OneNote), which may be a way some of the finesse of using a mouse can be brought to touch applications but it’s still going to be too many steps for productivity users who want the direct capability of the mouse with application Chrome and right-click menus.


If you want to run Windows on a tablet, Windows 8 is great news, finally you have a Windows system that really does work on tablets and you can also have all your desktop applications as well and it all works.

If you want a new version of Windows for your desktop that looks totally different and allows you to run a new Metro style application it’s great too. If you only use your desktop for productivity then you probably won’t use Metro apps a lot and like me will load the desktop and ignore the Metro style applications.  At least with Windows 8 you can use both types of application.

I would like it if there was an option in Control Panel to say “load desktop on start up” that once turned on made the desktop auto load when you logged in.  I don’t want to lose the Start Screen as I will occasionally use Metro applications, like most Windows 7 users I have all my applications pinned to the task bar and rarely go to the old start menu.  Just for 90% of my work I am in the desktop and it saves me wasting time in the start screen.

I think if you are a business user you should wait and see how Windows 8 pans out.  At the moment unless you are using or wanting to use a tablet, Windows 8 makes little sense in business. Also the ARM processor version of Windows 8 designed for low power tablets cannot be managed via group policy, which means administrators cannot mange them like they can with Windows 7 PCs and laptops. Until that changes I suspect a lot of businesses will skip Windows 8 completely.

I think Windows 8 might be slow to gain traction as a lot of people will find it just too different to what they are used to.  Microsoft should be congratulated for not being afraid to embrace a completely new computing interface and not being too constrained by backwards compatibility.  Just don’t completely do away with the desktop or forget your desktop users in the pursuit of the iPad market.


And Finally It’s Microsoft’s Turn

In my continuing rant against Cloud Providers, the one I thought probably couldn’t go down just did and of course that is Microsoft.  Microsoft have effectively been in the Cloud Business for ages with Hotmail and their Live services (soon to be called “Microsoft Account”).

Apparently they were down for a while on the 29th February:


Best laugh is it was a “leap year” bug. Thought we had sorted all the date related bugs like the Millennium etc.

But yet again, even the super brains at Microsoft can’t avoid them!!

The worst thing with large cloud services like these is that they impact greater numbers of people in one go.  Stick with your own IT they can react much more quickly than these monster systems.


Mega Upload Innocent Customers To Lose Their Data!!!

I just read this with horror:

“MegaUpload has received a letter from the US Attorney informing the company that data uploaded by its users may be destroyed before the end of the week. The looming wipe-out is the result of MegaUpload’s lack of funds to pay for the servers. Behind the scenes, MegaUpload is hoping to convince the US Government that it’s in the best interest of everyone involved to allow users to access their data, at least temporarily.”

Read the full post here at Torrent Freak:


The shocking aspect of this and it’s something I have been ranting about on this blog for ages, is the danger of leaving your stuff with cloud providers who can just disappear in minutes taking your data with them. 

If I was a MegaUpload customer with all my private home photos stored on their servers and no access to get them back and worse, if I was foolish enough to not have them all backed up elsewhere I think I would be going out of my mind right now.

I cannot imagine how I would feel if my pictures of the kids when they were growing up and family holidays were lost. Additionally to add to the horror, what if the authorities decide to sell off the servers on which they currently reside to cover the debts that MegaUpload probably incurred to its debtors?  You now have the possibility that your private photos are being viewed by unscrupulous buyers of the MegaUpload hardware!!

As I say, treat all Cloud Services with extreme caution, as providers are appearing with services that have scant service level agreements and customers are foolishly trusting them with important, possibly irreplaceable data.

Dropbox for instance has a lot of stuff in their “Terms and Conditions” about them not sharing your data with anyone else, but I can’t see anything that looks like a service level agreement, this paragraph is probably the nearest to it:

Dropbox is Available “AS-IS

Though we want to provide a great service, there are certain things about the service we can’t promise. For example, THE SERVICES AND SOFTWARE ARE PROVIDED “AS IS”, AT YOUR OWN RISK, WITHOUT EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF ANY KIND. WE ALSO DISCLAIM ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE OR NON-INFRINGEMENT. (We are not shouting- it’s just that these disclaimers are really important, so we want to highlight them). Dropbox will have no responsibility for any harm to your computer system, loss or corruption of data, or other harm that results from your access to or use of the Services or Software. Some states do not allow the types of disclaimers in this paragraph, so they may not apply to you.

Basically you do everything at your own risk and they can accept no liability.  Now I don’t blame Dropbox for that, if you are providing a free service I think you the consumer should not expect too much and take reasonable precautions.  What I would like to see is something about what happens if Dropbox goes out of business, what happens to my data? Will they guarantee that before sale the servers that hold my data will be erased so that it can’t be recovered. Also will they confirm what happens if I chose to leave the service, will they destroy my data so that it can’t be used by anyone else?

To me if any of this stuff matters to you, don’t use Cloud Services as none of them will guarantee any of this.