Windows 10

So, the great day is here; Windows 10 has been unleashed.

Microsoft is in full Dr. Pangloss mode at the moment, trumpeting that Windows 10 is the best of all possible worlds.

Forgive my cynicism, but from what I have seen so far, I think it’s more of a curate’s egg.

The one saving grace is that it might improve over time, but going on Microsoft’s past performance, I’m not holding my breath. Having said all that, I will be updating all our windows devices to Windows 10, but not without regrets.

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Media in Windows 10 – Stepping Backwards?

Just a couple of days to go before the launch of Windows 10, and Microsoft has blogged about the built-in apps present in the new operating system. Microsoft describes the apps as “great”. I think many of us would beg to differ; we are finding that the media apps in particular are a step backwards from those that are in Windows 8.1.

Barb Bowman goes into detail about the shortcomings, and, if using Windows to play back your media is important to you, you should definitely check out her post.

In addition to these shortcomings, the Windows 10 Photos app is pretty abysmal. You can’t browse individual folders of pictures, it will only display pictures arranged by date. Interestingly, browsing by folders was originally in the app, but it has now been removed by Microsoft. I notice that the advert in the Microsoft blog post still shows the older version of the app, with folder browsing present:

Windows 10 08

Either Microsoft are being disingenuous here, or someone’s been sloppy, because the Folder view is missing from the latest version (and has been for some months now):

Windows 10 09

So where has the Folders view gone? I need it back – it makes it impossible to find stuff without it (and there is still no possibility to search photo metadata tags in the app).

Frankly, with the current state of this app, I find it next to useless, and use other photo apps in preference. However, Windows 10 will force you to use it in certain circumstances. For example, if I want to add someone’s picture to their contact details in the People app, Windows 10 will bring up the Photo app so that you can select the picture you want to use. Without a folders view, I have to use File Explorer to find out the date taken of an image, and then use the Collection view in the Photos app to scroll to the date of the image to copy it into the People app. This is extremely cumbersome, and far from fast and fluid.

It almost gives the impression that Microsoft teams don’t actually test out the use cases… I am not impressed.

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The Egg Master

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at Rhik Samadder’s review of the Egg Master

So I did both.

The comments are worth reading as well. A&E units – you have been warned…

Posted in Food and drink | 2 Comments

Windows 10 Looms…

We are just three weeks away from Microsoft launching Windows 10 on the 29th July. The tech media has plenty of articles discussing the pros and cons, and now the “should I upgrade to Windows 10” articles are starting to appear in the mainstream press. Here’s one from the UK’s Telegraph. It’s actually surprisingly positive:

Windows 10 for desktop is a massive improvement over Windows 8. It builds on the more intuitive aspects of Windows 7 and Windows 8, combining the familiarity of the Start menu with a number of new features that genuinely seem to improve user experience, such as Edge and Cortana.

It’s also surprisingly accurate (I’ve begun to despair at the quality of what passes for technical journalism these days, even in the tech press), although in some places I would have a different take. For example:

When used on a tablet or smartphone, Windows 10 is not hugely different from Windows 8; most of the changes are under the hood. However, small improvements in usability should make learning the system less of a chore for the uninitiated.

As a user of Windows 8.1 on various tablets, I would disagree with the first part of this statement. There are substantial changes, and the changes are not under the hood, but very much in your face. The Charms bar of Windows 8/8.1 has gone and been replaced by the Action Centre, which holds notifications and is the entry point to Windows settings. Windows 10 also introduces the dreaded “Hamburger” button. These and other changes represent a major shift away from the design language pioneered in Windows 8/8.1 and in Windows Phone 8/8.1.

So for those of us that use Windows 8.1 and are completely comfortable with it, the move to Windows 10 is going to mean changes, and the relearning of our muscle memories. People who use Windows 7, on the other hand, are, I think, going to find it easier to adapt, because Windows 10 is very much closer to what they are used to.

After trying out the previews of Windows 10, I wrote, back in April, that I just didn’t like it. There seemed to be too many features of Windows 8.1 that had been removed or changed.

Now, twelve weeks and several preview builds later, I am somewhat less anxious. I have moved three PCs over to Windows 10. A laptop, a tablet and lastly, and most recently, my main workhorse, my Desktop PC. I have left my Surface 3 tablet running Windows 8.1; I will wait until the official release of Windows 10 before upgrading it.

I still miss the Smart Files feature of Windows 8.1, and the new version of this feature probably won’t appear in Windows 10 until late 2016. I will also be going through a period of relearning how to use my tablets.

Will the pain be worth the gain? In some areas, definitely yes. Windows 10 introduces native support for the FLAC audio and MKV media container formats. Both of these are important to me for the future of my music and home cinema systems. However, what Microsoft gives with one hand, it taketh away with the other. The “Play to” feature of Windows 8.1 is renamed to “Cast to” in Windows 10, and this function will have fundamental changes.  It appears as though Microsoft has removed DLNA DMR devices from system-level control (e.g. the Devices item in the Win 8.1 Charms bar), and demoted that function to needing to be controlled on an app-by-app basis.

That’s all very well if app developers actually take account of it. I note that Microsoft’s Music app does not do this, and I also note that the Microsoft spokesperson uses the qualifier “eventually” in the context of support by the Microsoft app. That could mean it will be available on July 29 or it could mean in five years time. That does not give me a warm feeling.

The Music app has recently been rebranded by Microsoft as the Groove Music app. It’s still primitive, and does not even have the capabilities of the venerable Windows Media Player, Microsoft’s Windows desktop application that last had an update back in 2009. For example, as a lover of Classical music, I want to be able to search and sort my music collection by composer. I can do this in Windows Media Player – in Groove? No, not yet – and I suspect not ever.

Microsoft keep saying that their media applications will have a constant stream of improvements, but they’ve been saying this for a very long time now, with precious little result.

So in summary, the underlying platform of Windows 10 is good, with new features that promise much. It remains to be seen whether Microsoft and other players will exploit that platform with a new generation of apps that deliver value and delight.

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Left Hand – Meet Right Hand…

Once again, Microsoft demonstrates that its left hand seemingly hasn’t got a clue what its right hand is doing.

The OneDrive team has been making “improvements” to the OneDrive service. A couple of weeks ago they blogged about these.

A couple of days ago, Martin tried to send some photos of the garden to a friend. He uses Windows Live Mail (WLM) as his email program. This has a very nice feature that allows the easy creation of a photo album in an email, and it uses OneDrive. What happens is that WLM will create a folder in your OneDrive to hold the full-size photos, upload those into OneDrive for you, and use thumbnails in the email message. So the email is small and efficient, and the recipient can view the photos in the OneDrive folder.

As I say, it’s a nice feature, and very easy to use.

Except that this time, the email got stuck in WLM’s outbox; it would never complete the publishing process. We tried it a couple of times, and the result was always the same.

It turns out that this problem is hitting a lot of people who are using the Photo Album feature in WLM. It’s been caused by a change made by the OneDrive team in the OneDrive service.

Clearly, no-one in the OneDrive team uses Windows Live Mail. It’s probably too old-school for them. I have a strong suspicion that Microsoft would love to drop WLM and the rest of the Windows Essentials software suite. It hasn’t had an update for several years now.

The big question now is what will Microsoft do? Will the OneDrive team fix the issue, and restore the photo album feature to WLM users? Or, as I fear will be the case, will this just be ignored in an attempt to shift users away from WLM and onto the Mail app that will be delivered in Windows 10? Conspiracy theorists will probably surmise that this breaking of WLM is a deliberate move on the part of Microsoft. I suspect it was probably unintentional, but it does now provide a useful lever to Microsoft to drive users away from future use of WLM. So I don’t think we will see a fix…

Addendum: 8 July 2015. Well, I may be wrong. It looks as though the issue has been fixed. No official word from Microsoft, one way or another, but photo albums do now seem to be getting through…

Posted in Computers and Internet, Photography | 2 Comments

Hung Out To Dry – Or Hoist By His Own Petard?

There’s been a disturbance in the Force recently over remarks made by Sir Tim Hunt at a luncheon organised by the Korea Federation of Women’s Science and Technology Associations. He stood up and said:

“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls … three things happen when they are in the lab … You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticise them, they cry.”

Adding that he was in favour of single-sex labs, but allowing that he didn’t want to “stand in the way of women”.

Hunt was clearly unprepared for the wave of negative reactions that followed, saying that while what he said was wrong, the price he and his wife have had to pay for his mistakes has been extreme and unfair. “I have been hung out to dry,” says Hunt. He has resigned from his position as Honorary Professor with the UCL Faculty of Life Sciences.

And just as night follows day, the wave of negative reactions has been followed by a wave of support from fellow scientists such as Richard Dawkins and Brian Cox. However, I can’t help but feel that Dawkins, in particular, is certainly not helping with statements such as

“ the baying witch-hunt that it unleashed among our academic thought police: nothing less than a feeding frenzy of mob-rule self-righteousness.”

There’s none so blind as those who will not see, professor Dawkins. At least Sir Tim has recognised the enormity of his gaffe. As his hosts pointed out in a letter:

“As women scientists we were deeply shocked and saddened by these remarks, but we are comforted by the widespread angered response from international social and news media: we are not alone in seeing these comments as sexist and damaging to science. Although Dr. Hunt is a senior and highly accomplished scientist in his field who has closely collaborated with Korean scientists in the past, his comments have caused great concern and regret in Korea.”

They also noted that although Hunt belatedly called his remarks an attempt at humour, he had earlier defended them as “trying to be honest.” His remarks, the letter said, 

“show that old prejudices are still well embedded in science cultures. On behalf of Korean female scientists, and all Koreans, we wish to express our great disappointment that these remarks were made at the event hosted by KOFWST. This unfortunate incident must not be portrayed as a private story told as a joke”.

Sir Tim has written to them regretting his “stupid and ill-judged remarks.” He added:

“I am mortified to have upset my hosts, which was the very last thing I intended. I also fully accept that the sentiments as interpreted have no place in modern science and deeply apologize to all those good friends who fear I have undermined their efforts to put these stereotypes behind us.”

As is said in the article in which this exchange of letters is quoted:

The real point is our failure, so far, to make science a truly inclusive profession. The real point is that that telling a roomful of female scientists that they aren’t really welcome in a male-run laboratory is the sound of a slamming door. The real point is that to pry that door open means change. And change is hard, uncomfortable, and necessary.

What we certainly don’t need is other old, white, male scientists telling us that this is a “baying witch-hunt”.

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Showing Their True Colours

It would appear that the Catholic Church is not happy, not happy at all, about the result of the Irish referendum supporting same-sex marriage.

First we had the Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin saying that the church needed to take “a reality check” and “not move into denial”. The church, he said, had lost its connection with young people, and needed to work to reconnect with them. Now while some liberal Catholics have seen this as an outbreak of common sense, it was very clear to me that this was a brilliant piece of equivocation on the Archbishop’s part. While to liberal Catholics it could be interpreted as recognising that the Church has to change, for the rest of us it was perfectly clear that his message was: “our attempt to indoctrinate Irish youth has failed, and we must redouble our efforts – marriage can only be between a man and a woman for the sole purpose of procreation”.

Luckily, we now have the Vatican’s number two, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, making it crystal-clear for us all.  He is quite clear that Ireland’s vote was “a defeat for humanity”, adding that he was “deeply saddened” by it, and that the answer for the church is to “strengthen its commitment to evangelisation”.

Let’s just ponder that for a moment: a vote for equality and recognising that love can exist between two people of the same sex is seen by the Catholic Church as “a defeat for humanity”.

I truly wonder what goes on in the minds of the leaders of the Catholic Church. And for all the posturing of Pope Francis, I really do not expect him to correct Cardinal Parolin. He may equivocate, but he is unlikely to contradict the cardinal. Let’s wait and see; a miracle might yet happen.

Addendum: Grania Spingies has an excellent commentary on the Catholic Church’s position over at the Why Evolution Is True web site. In summary:

  • First, yes, they really believe this stuff.
  • Second, they are so out of touch with people that they have no idea how unintentionally funny and simultaneously insulting they are.
  • Third, they fear the Internet
  • Fourth, they have no intention of changing the Church’s position
Posted in Folklore, LGBT Politics, News and politics, Society | 2 Comments