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.

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Reading Between The Lines

Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore has published a blog post today that has caused a slight disturbance amongst the company’s fans: Your Windows 10 PC will love all the devices you own.

The reason for their discomfiture is that Microsoft is intent on bringing features, which hitherto have been unique to Windows, to rival smartphone operating systems. Personally, I think it’s an understandable strategy, and one that Microsoft has already shown that it wants to pursue.

However, the post also caused me some discomfort, but not for the above reasons. My hackles went up with Belfiore’s opening sentence:

Whether it’s a 3-year-old printer or projecting to your brand new TV with Miracast, we’re building Windows 10 to be terrific at connecting all your devices.

Mr. Belfiore seems to be implying that a 3-year-old device is pretty well obsolete, and at the limits of supportability. I have an HP Laserjet 5MP printer that is still going strong, 20 years after I bought it. It almost sounds as though it will be more by luck than judgement that such devices will continue to work in Microsoft’s brave new world of Windows 10.

The other part of the post that caused a slight intake of breath was where he wrote:

Join the Windows Insider Program to try out the Phone Companion app on a new Windows 10 Insider Preview build we’ll flight out in a few weeks.

“…flight out”? That’s a new verb to me, and a particularly ugly one to boot. What’s wrong with simply saying “we’ll release in a few weeks”? I realise that language constantly evolves, but does it have to do so in such awkward ways? However, I’m probably fighting a lost cause for British English here. I remember, with a shudder, the first time I heard an American airline stewardess announce on arrival in America that we should deplane. That was years ago, and I still haven’t got used to it.

Posted in Computers and Internet, Consumer Electronics, Language and Reference | Tagged | 3 Comments

Ireland Has Voted

And it’s a vote for sanity, equality, and same-sex marriage… I’m delighted, and not a little surprised – I had thought that reactionary forces, e.g. the Catholic Church, would have been able to make a greater dent in the majority view. It is clear, from the results, that rural areas are further behind, but hopefully, with this result, attitudes will begin to change in the country as a whole.

Well done to all the “Yes” campaigners, and thanks to all those who voted Yes.

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Banning the Burqa

Back in 2010, I wrote about my misgivings about the fact that the Netherlands was considering banning the burqa. Fast forward to now, and the government has indeed now proposed a ban on wearing the burqa in certain places, including in courts, schools, townhalls, and on public transport.

I remain unconvinced that this ban is going to help our samenleving (literally: living together, but usually translated as society). Kenan Malik’s words at the time about the ban remain as true today as they were back then:

The burqa is a symbol of the oppression of women, not its cause. If legislators really want to help Muslim women, they could begin not by banning the burqa, but by challenging the policies and processes that marginalize migrant communities: on the one hand, the racism, social discrimination and police harassment that all too often disfigure migrant lives, and, on the other, the multicultural policies that treat minorities as members of ethnic groups rather than as citizens. Both help sideline migrant communities, aid the standing of conservative ‘community leaders’ and make life more difficult for women and other disadvantaged groups within those communities.

As I wrote at the time:

While I have qualms about why women should choose to wear the burqa, the answer is not to ban it. The answer is to make it as ludicrous as a codpiece, and that must emerge from the women themselves.

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How Not to Delight a Customer

According to an article in Forbes, delighting the customer is not just profitable, but hugely profitable. It’s a win-win situation, both for the companies who pursue ways to delight the customer, and for the customers themselves.

I’ve just been on the receiving end of the opposite experience: disappointing the customer; and the company who provided this experience was Microsoft.

When the Surface 3 was announced, I wrote that it promised to be a good machine. It would suit me very well indeed. As a result, I pre-ordered a Surface 3, and it duly arrived on the release date of the 7th May.

It is indeed a very nice machine, so where’s my disappointment? Well, Microsoft advertise the machine as including a one year subscription to Office 365 Personal. The fine print advises that the subscription is:

Available on Surface 3 with Windows 8.1 purchased prior to December 31, 2015. While supplies last. Office activation required within 6 months of Windows activation date.

As it happens, I had already purchased a one year subscription to Office 365 Personal back in February. The subscription allows Office to be installed on two machines, a PC and a Tablet (which can also be a Windows Tablet, such as the Surface 3).

On the Office site, there’s a section where you can enter a product code key to renew/extend your Office 365 Subscription. So I tried that, and entered the Office product key that the Surface 3 told me it had. Nothing happened once I clicked the “Continue” button. The expiry date of my subscription remains as February 2016.

I had a chat with Office Support, and was told that the Surface 3 Office 365 Personal subscription cannot be used to extend a current subscription; it can only be used by creating a new Microsoft Account specifically for my Surface 3.

That seems particularly pointless – I don’t want to create a new Microsoft Account for my Surface 3 – I want to use my existing Microsoft Account on all my devices, and access all my documents in my OneDrive space. The subscription offer is thus worthless to me, and seems to me to skirt close to false advertising on Microsoft’s part. 

And what is really annoying is that apparently the other way round works without problems. That is, had I first set up my Office 365 Personal account using a Surface 3 product key, and then purchased a year’s subscription, the purchase would have extended my subscription by a year.

Thanks a bunch, Microsoft. Consider me very disappointed.

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Ireland Votes

This coming Friday, Ireland will be voting in a referendum to legalise same-sex marriage. I’d like to think that sanity will prevail, and that the vote will be “Yes”, but I shouldn’t underestimate the continuing power of the Catholic Church, aided by US Christian groups, evangelical Christians and religious societies such as the Iona Institute to poison the well.

Take, for example, Breda O’Brien’s opinion piece in the Irish Times: Think about intolerance of thought police before you vote. I confess, my irony meter all but exploded on reading that headline. O’Brien is a patron of the Iona Institute, thus she can quite blithely state:

Think about the dogmatism and intolerance of the new thought police, the contempt for the conscientious objections of others, as you decide which way to vote.

I would hope rather that the Irish voters will dwell more upon the dogmatism and the intolerance of the old thought police as they decide which way to vote. O’Brien’s piece fulminates:

Nothing wrong with that, until you realise from the INTO LGBT group that they intend to normalise same-sex marriage in the teaching of children as young as four, using poster displays in classrooms and picture books.

They suggest using King and King, described by Amazon as presenting “same-sex marriage as a viable, acceptable way of life within an immediately recognizable narrative form, the fairy tale”. The prince is only happy when he meets and marries another prince.

Ah, yes, King and King – otherwise known as Koning & Koning in the original Dutch, published back in 2000. A charming little book for children – I have a copy in my library – whose message is nothing more than not everyone is the same, and love comes in different forms. Also in my library is a copy of Jenny lives with Eric and Martin, published way back in 1983, and which caused a similar furore in the UK at the time. The message here is that not all families are the same.

These seem to be messages that worry and concern Ms. O’Brien. I fail to see why. Her implicit cry is “won’t somebody please think of the children!”. We do, Ms. O’Brien. we do. Your way of thinking is to continue to lock children up, and make some of them continue to feel wrong. Your way of thinking leads to a lifetime of suffering. Ask Ursula Halligan.

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Nine Billion Flies Can’t Be Wrong…

A couple of months ago I wrote a post “Metro – Murdered By Microsoft?” in which I expressed my concern that it appeared as though Microsoft was dropping many of the elements of the Metro design language. As I said:

Frankly, if I’d wanted an Android phone, I would have bought one. One of the key reasons why I went with a Windows Phone was the UI design. I like it a lot, and I am at ease with it. To have a key Microsoft team turn their back on it and introduce Android elements is a shock, to say the least.

A few days ago, we got confirmation that Microsoft has indeed stuck a dagger in the back of Metro. The confirmation came in the form of an AMA (Ask Me Anything) discussion on Reddit by an ex-Microsoft Windows Phone designer, Jon Bell. It’s clear that he doesn’t care for the Pivot design element that is a key part of the design language:

Swiping sucks. It hides content. Let’s say you’re in Format and you want to get to something 5 tabs away. Five swipes is an unacceptable series of interactions. The carousel model has been disproven repeatedly, every single decade, for several decades. We have the data. It’s a dumb interaction model, full stop.

It clearly doesn’t matter that I (and presumably many others) happen to like the Pivot and its swiping action very much indeed. Microsoft has the data that “proves” it’s a dumb interaction model. And as an ex-Microsoft designer explains:

So on the day of the Meeting, the PM [Project Manager] will go on and on about how the Decision benefits the User. They come up with facts that support the Decision. We don’t want to confuse the User with too many options. Only 3% of people used it that way, so clearly it’s okay to remove. Consistency is good for Microsoft, so it must be good for the User. Everybody smiles and nods and agrees this is the best way. The newest to the team, because it just makes so much sense. The veterans, possibly because they secretly know it’s about the engineers and not about the User, but more likely because engineers are inherently lazy. The meeting ends and the Feature has a new direction. It’s a little bit farther from the vision, and maybe little bit worse user experience, but writing software is about compromise. This was a good compromise. It’s not that bad, anyway. It was the best option available. If only the User was there to see it, they’d understand that.

Probably more to the point, the Metro design language is radically different to those of iOS and Android, and Microsoft wants to attract those users across to Windows Phone if it can. Having a distinct design language acts as a barrier, so Microsoft appears to have made the decision that nine billion flies can’t be wrong, and moved to a similar design language. I think that’s a pity, I like Metro, but at the end of the day, Microsoft wants to make money.

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