Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Why can't Microsoft hire competent programmers?

  I've been playing with Windows 7 since it was officially released several weeks ago.  About the best thing I can say about it is that it sucks less than Vista.  It is not as robust as XP is after years of "beta testing" at the expense of paying customers.

  The thing that I find ironic is that when Windows 7 does an Automatic Update, it boldly proclaims that a reboot is required because the OS can't alter important system files while they are in use.  Somebody should rudely inform the cretins who claim to be software developers at MS that almost every patch and upgrade to numerous flavors of Unix and Linux has been installable without requiring a reboot since the latter part of the last century.  It is amazing that anyone who has been responsible for any version of Windows would even show their face in public, much less mention the fact.

  Also, has anyone noticed how the POS known as Silverlight keeps showing up in Automatic Updates even when one repeatedly tries to bur^H^H^Hhide it forever?  I've used Silverlight.  Talk about a waste of time and computer resources!  Ditto for anything MS tries to foist on unsuspecting consumers under the "Live!" brand. 

  On the good news front, based on reviews I've read, Ubuntu 9.10 looks to be very stable and capable of replacing Windows for almost all practical purposes, and will almost certainly do its job faster and more efficiently without crashing almost as often time Obama tells a lie as he parrots what he reads on his teleprompters.  When I return from vacation, I'm looking forward to seeing what new features Ubuntu 9.10 has to offer.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Winblows Vista comments (update)

A few months ago, I bought an OTC computer (rare for me, as I usually like to design and assemble my own systems.  But this one was very inexpensive -- I could not have built one as nice from components purchased over the 'Net for as nice a price.  Now, I think it should have been free.  The hardware is fine.  The OS sucks: it is Winblows Vista and although I swore I'd never own or use a copy of such a crappy OS, the machine came with the promise I could get a free Windows 7 upgrade.  I learned it actually costs $17 to have it shipped when I ordered the "upgrade" which is a sick joke, given one can ship a whole set of heavy books, not just a mostly air-filled box containing a DVD and a few thin booklets for $17.

Vista brings a whole new meaning to terms such as "defective by design", bloatware, crapware, etc.  If there were truth in advertising, it would have to be called malware.  The pre-installed version of Vista Home Premium that came with the Lenovo K220 mini-tower that cost me $429 + tax at Fry's (minus $50 if I ever get the mail-in rebate from Lenovo).  For example, it wants to tell me how to run MY computer and would not let me access certain directories (that's folders to any newbies reading this), even when I was running as Administrator.  When I tried installing drivers for a lame HP Deskjet  F380 All-In-One printer, they failed because the installation program couldn't access certain directories on the system, despite the fact that I was running it with administrator privileges.  Mind you, I wouldn't wish an HP printer on my worst enemy, these days, because they gobble down expensive ink/toner and the drivers come with nagware to remind you are running out of same even though the cartridge in question is probably nowhere close to being empty.    But I digress...

There is a utility I found which lets one take ownership of a directory or file even when Vista stubbornly refuses to let one do so -- under unmodified Vista, the act of trying to take ownership of things Vista wants to keep control of is allowed, but fails with an error message.  Since, while I like it a lot and use it often, I don't know much about the source of the clever little program, I won't provide a direct download link for it, but here is the article on "How-To Geek" where I found it.   Warning: using this utility properly requires a fair amount of knowledge -- about the same amount as editing the registry on a Windows NT/2000/XP/Vista/7 system does, I'd say.

Vista also really tries to impose its will as far as the appearance of things goes.  I like to see contents of directories displayed as detailed lists, but even when I tell it not to, it keeps trying show the files as a grid of space-wasting and useless icons.  I like to keep my systems with a "Windows Classic" look, unless there is a legitimate, overriding reason not to.  Changing a  familiar user interface for no good reason is a sin.  The changes in UI from "Windows Classic" to Windows XP offered no benefit.  If there is a functional gain to be had from changing a UI, I'm all for it, but Vista's default look-and-feel is a canonical example of form-over-function.  Of course there are a lot of vested interests in having to make hundreds of millions of non-technical computer users go through expensive re-training just because the new UI is unfamiliar to them.  Think about it this way.  How many automobile manufacturers make pointless changes in the basic layout of the major controls on the vehicles most people drive everyday? 

Of course, Microsoft wants to protect users from themselves and make Vista look oh-so-pretty rather at the expense of much poorer performance.  As a rule of thumb, anytime a Microsoft program gives you a choice of two ways to do something, select the "Advanced" not the "Recommended" option. For example, when installing any software from MS that offers a choice of installation procedures, avoid the "Express Install (Recommended)" option like the Black Plague!  Remember, Microsloth is your enemy, most definitely not your friend.  By selecting the "Custom Install (Advanced)" option when you see that choice, you are able to deselect a lot of nasty or just plain useless things MS wants to do if you choose the "(Recommended)" option.

Proof in point of the above: MS decided it wanted to snoop on people's computers, at the owner/user's expense when it came up with a program called "Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications" to compliment its overall WGA (what a misnomer! WGA offers the user absolutely NO advantage -- it exists for the benefit of Micro$oft) scheme.  WGA Notification would have people's Winblows XP systems "phone home" when ever they booted, to let Microsloth spy on changes in those systems.  At least two lawsuits were filed against Microsoft for intentionally installing malware on other people's computers.  One trial regarding Microsoft's grossly intrusive (and quite probably illegal) behavior is scheduled to begin in January 25th, 1010.

I have never seen any version of Windows that was configured best from a user's perspective right out of the box.  Vista is the most glaring example os deliberate misconfigureation, which is why it is know as such a resource hog.  For example, what good does the Aero interface do on versions of Vista that offer it, except allow hardware vendors to sell more expensive systems than people really need?  Some of the entries in Control Panel are there for Microsoft's Benefit, not the user's.  I'm thinking of such space wasters as: People Near Me, Welcome Center, Windows Anytime Upgrade.  These are guided promo tours for idiots or sales links to MS products and services.  Many other times in the list should be grouped together under one heading, the way Administrative Tools are.  Furthermore, headings with sub-trees ought to be easily distinguishable from headings that actually do something, e.g. Mouse.  That ought to be dead simple for the developers at MS to figure out, since they already learned to provide visual cues to distinguish files from directories, and short-cuts from the objects themselves.  But hey, Google has been hiring a lot of Miscrosoft's top talent away from them for years...

MS rather quickly realized that Vista was a dog of a product, especially with the corporate users who aren't forced to buy from retail chains stores that all to easily succumb to the Microsoft monopoly.   People frequently went out of their way to stick with XP if they had a choice in the matter, and over write Vista with XP (or Linux) if not.  If, somehow, antitrust law prevented the almost universal trend of OEMs selling computers with some MS OS pre-installed, Vista would not have nearly as many units sold as MS claims.  Most machines with Windows pre-installed don't come with a disc containing an actual copy of said OS, but just a "restore" disk that trashes any user data on the machine it is run on, but which ensures that all the manufacturer's crapware will also be installed again.  This means that the user can't even move the licensed copy of Windows to a new machine, because the "restore" disc is specific to the old hardware.

   If a customer has to buy a computer from a big box store these days, Microsoft is going to chalk up a Vista sale automagically.  The customer gets screwed just as automatically.  Let me emphasize, I think the US Government screwed up big time in the way it settled its anti-trust suit with MS.  The only reason MS can claim to have "sold" so many copies of a piece of shit like Vista is that it is in a position to force ordinary people to eat it, and computer manufactures to bundle it with their machines.  Needless to say Microsoft gets away with foisting Vista upon the masses because the Fortune 500 crowd and the federal government had enough clout to insist that Microsoft keep supplying them with XP, which, now on SP3, is finally well-known and about as stable an OS MS has had since Windows 2000 SP4.  The US Air Force, when it wanted a reasonably secure version of Windows, chose XP, even though it does use Vista in places.

It is hardly an accident that Vista was awarded the dubious honor of making the list of "Top ten terrible tech products" by CNET-UK.

When I dump Vista from this box, I'll be installing the Windows 7 "upgrade" in a dual boot configuration with Ubuntu 9.04.  At least I know I'll never have to pay for Ubuntu, much less "Activate" it, or even reboot it almost every time I iinstall something under it, patch it, or just reconfigure it.  In my opinion, Windows Vista is the best advertisement for Ubuntu Linux, or any other major version of Linux, that has ever existed, bar none.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Long overdue update...

I suppose I should add something to this blog after a several month long hiatus, so here goes...

The 2008 Florida primary is over. For the Dems, it was moot, as no delegates were awarded to the winner due to some Dem Party infighting. For the Republicans, it might spell disaster. McCain won by 5 percentage points when the contest was considered a toss-up the day before. The problem is that McCain has a strong negative rating with many Republicans who simply won't vote for such a fickle, feckless old fart. For pertinacious Congressman Ron "Libertarian in Republican Clothing" Paul, it was politics as usual -- he got only 3% of the GOP primary votes in FL.

Hillary "Conniving Canine" Clinton clobbered the only slightly less objectionable Barack Obama (he has a platform that is as counterproductive as Hillary's, but at least he isn't as shrill and won't have much of a political machine behind him if he wins). Super Tuesday should be interesting. Guiliani and now Arnold Schwarzenegger have endorsed McCain on the GOP side. Ted "Chappaquiddick" Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy have followed Oprah's lead by endorsing Obama. Bitch Clinton has some less well known endorsements -- Maxine Waters?, she makes rocks look smart!.

In other recent news, it turns out that even the French paramilitary police (the gendarmerie) are bright enough to ditch Microsoft Winblows in favor of the far superior Ubuntu Linux operating system. They've already adopted OpenOffice, Firefox, and Thunderbird instead of wasting money on Microsoft crapware such as Office, IE, and Outlook.

But there is more good news for people who are sick of having to deal with the overpriced shit Microsoft foists upon the marketplace due to its monopolistic practices. Microsoft is placing the blame squarely on former monopoly, IBM, for shooting down OOXML as an international document standard. Way to go, IBM!!! One of the best things that could happen to the IT industry would be for Microsoft to go down in financial and legal flames. At least the EU has been more successful than the US government has at penalizing Microsoft by hitting it where it hurts: the wallet. It would be interesting if Microsoft had to start selling its products for the same price in the US and the EU as it does in some developing nations; say $3 per license for Windows or Office. Even at that price, those MS products would remain ripoffs due to their buggy, bloated nature.

The "economic stimulus" bill that Prez Bush asked Congress to pass swiftly in his SOTU address seems to be about to start a legislative fuss, as the Senate could not resist tampering with what the House and Bush agreed on as a compromise. This is a Good Thing™ as just giving out checks more or less willy-nilly at the taxpayers' expense is a brain-damaged idea. A far better way to stimulate the economy would be to implement the FairTax and phase out the IRS. Reining in out-of-control government regulatory and law enforcement agencies (EPA, BATF (notice how they now like to go by a TLA, too? the acronym they prefer now is just ATF...I wonder why?), DOT, FCC, FDA, TSA, DHS, DEA, etc.) would only make us safer from government oppression, but far more prosperous. It seems that far too many Americans have become namby-pamby, mouth-breathing, scaredy cats -- all too willing to trade what little freedom they have left for a false sense of security.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Salad Nights: Wal-Mart wins again

Caesar salad is one of my favorite foods. That was not always the case, but my father was exceptionally gifted at making the dressing just right, from scratch, as he was at cooking steaks on the grill when I was a kid, so it was one of the very few ways I could be encouraged to eat rabbit food way back then. Fast forward three decades...

I now eat all kinds of lettuce and actually like it. A good friend tells me that lettuce isn't all that nutritious. I reply with a polite version of "Fuck off.".

That brings me to this story. Why am I writing a blog entry about salad and dressing, particularly about Caesar salad? Well, as I finish this one, I am thinking I could not easily have had a reasonably fresh one as a child, especially at this time of night.

I grocery shop at night. I am sort of nocturnal to begin with, but I absolutely hate competing with the Mommy Vehicles full of annoying shoppers during the day, so I tend to hit the aisles just after midnight.

A few days ago, I bought some bagged "Hearts of Romaine" lettuce packaged by Fresh Express at a local Wal-Mart store ... at night, of course, when most stores were closed. I am currently eating the rest of the contents of said bag of rabbit food. I had a full dinner plate of it right after I bought it. Crunchy! It is still quite fresh. While it is not what I would expect/want to see on my plate for $8.99 at a fancy restaurant, it is plenty good and crisp enough for me here and now. The Caesar dressing I also bought at Wally-World: Cardini's "The Original Caesar Dressing". Not my favorite by a long shot (Dad made much better) but it works.

My point? I couldn't have sat here writing this crap and eating this kind of reasonably good salad on a moment's notice a quarter century ago. Wal-Mart made it possible. Hmmm.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, August 13, 2007


I remember way back when disk space was metered out in kilobytes, yes, KB. We are talking a few hundred KB or thereabouts. Now, I sit here with a new 1/2 terabyte (500GB) drive in my hand. I could have a 1T drive, if I were wealthy...but this thing will suffice for backup purposes. 0.5 TB ... kool enuf 4 me!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Apple's silly little customer base



and, Coming Soon! to elevators, bars, restaurants, shopping centers, grocery stores and motor vehicle accidents waiting to happen near you:


Since (and with the exception of) the Apple II line of computers that first went commercial thirty years and two weeks ago today, have has anyone ever encountered a "successful" Apple product that wasn't dumbed down and made to look very shiny for the oh-so-trendy, fashion conscious, technologically impaired, mostly mindless drones who are Apple's biggest fanboys?

"Successful" is in quotes because unlike the iPod, the Mac product line never achieved much market success (less than 5% market share these days) despite all the hype. The iPhone seems doomed to be another flash in the pan unless the total cost of owning and using one drops dramatically from current expectations when it is released at the end of this month.

The iPod has achieved amazing market domination. One could even say it once drove the market for MP3 players, despite the fact that it is technically inferior and over-priced compared to many products made by companies such as SanDisk (Sansa), Rio, Samsung, etc. Now that other pocket sized portable music players are gaining market share, Apple has decided to join the cell phone fray, using its success with the iPod as leverage to try and break into the fiercely competitive mobile communications market.

The Mac line of computers has less than a 5% share of the microcomputer market and peaked at about 13% in 1993 – ancient history in the hi-tech world. Today, he PC market is very much a Wintel environment, and even Linux-based systems have grabbed more of it than Macs recently. Microsoft isn’t really even worried about Apple as a competitor when it comes to computers, but is clearly reacting to the increasing popularity of Linux combined with FOSS office suites.

A major problem with Apple products (and Microsoft and Sony products, too) is that they tend to be proprietary, locking consumers into very expensive platforms. Apple, Microsoft, and Sony are almost synonymous with harsh DRM and gross overpricing. “You can get better, but you can’t pay more…”

Let us not forget how Apple foolishly decided to go with a built-in battery for the iPhone instead of the removable ones that savvy cell phone manufacturers have long known are far more practical for people who can't seem to pry their cell phones away from their ears.

One has to wonder how many suckers will be duped into wasting money on an iPhone, only to deeply regret their blunder a mere few months later as the bills roll in and the novelty of the goofy menu system on a tiny touch screen as a keyboard alternative wears thin. Many people can use regular cell phone keyboards, especially the QUERTY kind without even looking at them – great for text messaging without being obvious about it. Try that, iPhonies!

If iPhonies end up hating AT&T (formerly Cingular) they are SOL if they want to switch service providers after their mandatory two year contract with AT&T expires, because there won’t be any alternatives available until five years after the iPhone hits the market. By then, the iPhone will probably be a flop on the order of these other Apple blunders: Apple III, Macintosh Portable, and Newton Message Pad (thanks go to Insearch of Stupidity.

When all the (mostly artificial) media frenzy over the iPhone dies down, expect to see a lot of naive, gullible, former Apple fanboys whining about the money they wasted on their iPhones as they switch to far more functional, much less expensive phones which can be used with a variety of service providers besides AT&T...although this whole marketing ploy by Apple would be even funnier if suckered iPhonies into signing on with a pathetically lame yet truly obnoxious service provider such as Verizon Wireless--that sort of treatment is best reserved for asinine Apple apologists.

Ah, well, the antics of the most loyal members of Apple's silly little customer base are almost always amusing when they aren't annoying.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The music *IS* getting louder

As has been known by people in the A/V gear sales industry for decades, people tend to associate louder/brighter with "better" when comparing sound systems or video displays (at least to a point, all else being equal). Back in the 70s when audio gear was becoming all the rage, it was considered news in the audio magazines that stereo dealers would often find a way to crank up the volume on the system they actually wanted to sell to a customer who was comparing various systems in a showroom. The audiophile magazines of the day (and probably now) would routine "expose" this somewhat deceptive practice.

Likewise, it has long been a matter of routine for vendors of background music (Muzak, etc.) to heavily compress their audio tracks and generally omit any attention grabbing transients altogether. (When is the last time you heard any kind of drum solo in your dentist's office or on an elevator in a stuffy corporate office building's elevator?) Recycled Beatles tunes are common, but when turned into background sound, the beat is gone as well as most of the dynamic range.

The article,Why music really is getting louder, explains a lot of things we all observe but may not put together. Just as advertising on city streets tends to get bigger, brighter and often louder in the face of intense competition, so too are many forms of consumer entertainment and consumer products in general. We all know that many of today's R-rated films would have been given the kiss-of-death X-rating back in the late 60s when such ratings were introduced.. Now, many studios pump up the sex and violence in their PG movies to obtain a R-rating because their target audience thinks of G and PG as "kid's stuff". DVD's are released in "unrated" versions that are now common even in relatively tame outlets such as Wal-Mart.

It is quite enlightening to look at consumer goods these days and try to determine a sort of form/function ratio for them. Take for example a lot of today's trendy SUV's and pickup trucks. We know that the vast majority of people who buy and drive them will never intentionally take them off a paved surface, much less go off-roading for fun or work, so the idea of putting very low profile tires on a set of wheels with 18" rims on a pickup truck doesn't seem absurd to folks who aren't old enough to remember Jeeps, vans, and pickups as commercial/work vehicles. The same is true of a lot of today's trendy luxury cars: small greenhouse (tiny, gun-slit like windows over large body panels that look almost like armor), big wheels inside low-profile tires (that do little to promote the old notion of a luxuriously quiet, smooth ride), and a generally aggressive, intimidating, urban, "gangsta" look to them. It is rather amusing to see an elderly, wealthy, law-abiding couple driving around in a Mercury or Cadillac that one normally associates with the kind of vehicle driven by the meth-dealing pimp as he cruises around the 'hood selling his product and bitch slapping the night's proceeds outta his crack hos in the movies (and often in real life).

But, let's not digress too far! Think about family restaurants, or places you might want to take a serious date for dinner before going to a show or party. It used to be that one could find a lot of reasonably good eateries what were definitely not fast food joints or bars where one could have an affordably upscale meal (realistically, taking a date to Mickey D's or KFC is tacky if one is old enough to drive, not to mention unhealthy; and most young people can't afford fine dining establishments except for the occasional homecoming, prom, promotion, engagement, etc.).

Today, young people and families often end up going to what are sometimes called "fast casual" restaurants, typified by the likes of TGI Friday's, Appliebees, Bennigan's, Ruby Tuesday's, Chili's, Chedders, steakhouses ( e.g., Texas Roadhouse, Lone Star, Outback, Ned Kelly's, etc.), or pizza places that have substantial seating (not Dominoes, Papa John's, or Pizza World, for example). While many counterexamples exist, the general trend is for these establishments to play some form of pop music in the background, and often so loud that one has to raise one's voice to be heard even if the restaurant is nearly empty. (This is supposed to make the place seem busy, happening, exciting and fun...even when it is anything but). Given that intelligent conversation is a decreasingly important part of a successful date or family dinner, the fact that many of the restaurants mentioned above just turn up the volume to make them seem "vibrant" is hardly surprising. One has to wonder when the patrons have to shout their drink and dinner orders to waitstaffers standing no more than a meter away... Then there is the visual noise created by all the monitors many of these reastaurants (and sports bars) would suppose that peeps just can't survive for very long without a busy video display or ten within sight.

Think about the actual quality and nature of the music one is exposed to in these places and you will discover that the music itself really is getting LOUDER, just as the aforementioned article says. But is it any better, despite all the advances in recording and sound reproduction technology and all the interesting sounds and miraculous effects modern electronic musical instruments are capable of creating/reproducing for cheap? Or is it all becoming, as Frank Zappa (formerly the World's Greatest Living Musician) would say: STRICTLY COMMERCIAL.

Labels: , , , ,