Thursday, February 06, 2014

Sci-Tech watch, 12: Just as new MS CEO Satya Nadella comes in the door . . . "I hate MS Windows 8!" . . . and I don't really like the attitude behind the MS Office Ribbon either [But, happily, we can do a few practical things about our plight]

The Win 8 "Metro" interface on a Windows Tablet
at its introduction by just retired MS CEO, Steve Ballmer
(UPDATE: Classic Shell allows me to get back
the START button and boot direct to Desktop,
which can be tricked out to do what I want.) 

I needed to get that off my chest, after spending much of today struggling with the set-up of a new Windows 8 machine. 

(In the end, bit by bit, I was able to put together a good part of a "traditional since Windows 95" desktop environment with some of my preferred features and was about to go after creating a mock Start Button & Start Menu when a battery refuses to charge problem broke the deal. There needs to be a simple option that shop clerk/techs can check out and demo a machine, tricking it out as necessary or desired then the new owner can simply sign in, set up his or her own passwords and be good to go going out the door. I will say the support and service I got are part of why that shop is top on my list of preferred suppliers.)

I am figuring that sharing some of my experiences and thoughts may be of help.

Hey, maybe it can be seen as somewhat of an open letter to Microsoft's CEO:

In a shop

Feb 5, 2014

Dear Mr Ballmer (oops, Satya Nadella):

Coincidentally, just one  day after you have come into your new Estate, I spent a day trying to get a new Win 8 notebook machine set up to a condition where as an option, I could work with it in a way that would at least be generally familiar and "user friendly" to someone coming out of almost nineteen years of working with the conventions set up in the Win 95 environment.

I found it unduly frustrating, pivoting on not only the regrettable necessity of a much stiffer security- log-in environment, but also because of a wholesale tossing over of desktop traditions. That is an unnecessary blunder, starting with the disappearance of the best single feature of the Win 95 - Win 7 world: the start-button power menu that grouped major utility tasks (especially power on/off etc) and instant access to frequently used applications (I notice, it's now "apps") and recent documents.

Yes, I know, I know, the new start screen has "much" of that functionality (never mind its awful aesthetics . . . sorry, it may be unfashionable but skeumorphic links to natural, far more pleasing, less garish, more familiar forms and colour tones).

And yes, I know, scroll hard enough or mouse around enough and it will go away, giving us a desktop of a sort. No My Computer, no My Documents . . . a mistake.

Also, when it comes to copying Apple, I have known since the mid 90's that I prefer to click-drag shortcuts to key drives to the top right of my  Desktop, like the old classic Mac interface. 

And yes, I cut my eyeteeth, nigh on 25 years ago on a Mac but went Windows because of workplace and cost-effectiveness requirements. That's why I am taking a serious look at Android [bought a Whiteboxer on the weekend for about US$60, never mind a few probs with battery to be fixed] and am in discussions with the local Ubuntu flavour Linux guru. He tells me, Ubuntu has got a lot better, now that it's version 14 not the version 5 or so that I did not pull the trigger on nigh on a decade ago. (What the Linux world needs is to get us a convenient way to add a new application without having to play tech guru or lock ourselves into somebody's walled garden and we are good to go.)

You should also know that I have already concluded that Libre Office is the best freebie Office Productivity proposition (free for download, no Ribbon, a reasonable File etc menu bar and good plug in access). It is now my main Office Productivity Suite . . . I am considering upgrading from my MS Office 97 to 2003 as convenience for access to the MS world. On my Android and my desktop, I also have the freebie small HDD space footprint Kingsoft from China . . . and I am impressed.

Hey, let's get to the bottomline, with help of a chart, HT Daniel Kline of TheMotley Fool:

See that struggle to grow and menacing tendency -- three tries so far -- to saturate at low penetration?

That is a sign of a high incidence of persistent refusers in the market.

So, my quiet suggestion, with all due respect, is to give us (the end users) reasonable access to a relatively familiar interface while allowing us to use a finger-touch screen interface where that is more convenient.

Yes, Mr Ballmer was right, MS should not ride the desktop niche into becoming wedded to what is fast becoming a niche: the mouse/trackpad-pointer interface office productivity environment. Where, yes,  as Kline points out, Office may be more profitable:
Windows is no longer the main revenue driver for Microsoft. The Office division is the most profitable for the company and the Server/Tools division brought in more revenue (but made less money), according to the company's 2013 financial reports, which showed an overall $26 billion profit. But while the numbers may not be as big as they once were, the Windows division still brought in over $19 billion in 2013, producing a profit of over $9 billion. Office may have done better at over $16 billion in profit on nearly $25 billion in revenue. Entertainment makes a small profit and Online Services lost money.
But, he also points out its strategically pivotal role:
 However, since Office and Servers/Tools are Windows-based, if Microsoft does not keep customers in the Windows universe, sales will fall correspondingly in the other divisions.
So, by all means introduce a touchscreen option (but do fix the aesthetics . . . and the tendency to finger smear up the screen), but too, please do something simple:
Options that are easy to use and will allow us to get the best of both worlds. (And that goes for options on the Office 2007 Ribbon interface too.)


Thanks for a few moments of your time,

With that off my chest, maybe a few points of thought:

1 --> The point of the start-button (and the slide-down launch task-bar) is that one gets ready, instant access to crucial utilities, applications and documents. In one easy to remember, standard place. Still makes sense, will always do so. Indeed, in my fantasy satire series, I suggested that Steve Jobs was working up in Heaven and was setting up a multiple use, multi-function, context sensitive Heavens Browser button that could go on a nannite army on the wall touch screen interface and an in the  mind's eye interface:

. . . In case you want a reminder of what a fantasy interface and trans-dimensional portal might look like:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Acts 27 test, 8d: Plato, Socrates, Paley -- and Steve Jobs' latest project -- as we learn to put first things (and first causes) first

A couple of nights after seeing off the C1 delegation and friends on a winged horse escorted home by a squadron of angels, I was startled in the middle of the night to hear of all things, a trumpet-call ring tone.

It was coming from the living room.

So, I tip-toed over, quietly.

A sketch of the HB start button
There, on the same wall that Godel had used for his presentation, was a sophisticated browser start button with a fish-eye, the iris glowing orange. The pupil of the eye was mobile, and it was looking at me, tracking me as I approached. Weird, but I had a sense this was more guardian angel on duty than Big Brother from 1984.
I pressed the eye (rather like modern PC start buttons), and the iris changed to green, while the eye jumped up to a larger size, with the topmost of the three trumpets expanding out of proportion and glowing as it emitted visible notes, with a faint sound of the trumpet ring tone. I touched the bell, just where the notes were coming from.
Up popped a video of Steve Jobs in a window that formed, looking a lot better than when we last saw him, saying, welcome to the Heaven's Browser interface.
(Now I know what he has been up to for the past year and half or so.)
He briefly explained features, explaining that it was a two way interface, and would do different things if I initiated it or the Heaven end initiated it. For instance, if I clicked on or touched the scroll, it would open up a study Bible, with the scroll handles triggering scrolling and related features, or a linked book or if I needed it the ordinary Internet.  The trumpets, top to bottom, were for different menus. The top one would take me to a start menu, the middle to a continue on projects menu and the bottom, to a closing off. The pupil of the eye would watch for me and would warn if security issues were popping up. And the iris would go to amber to alert of an initiation from the other end. In case of danger, the iris would go red and it would automatically switch over to the other end. For instance the scroll could pop up in a texting mode and would give me an alert message.
Then, the iris reverted to amber, and the scroll popped up, flashing.
Over to the Heaven end.
I clicked.
A text message popped up in a browser window next to the eye, saying that I should prepare to receive a delegation of philosophers from C5 BC with William Paley as an extra, in about a half hour. Meanwhile, click the termination trumpet.
The eye and window vanished when I did so.

By half hour's time, I had dozed off.


The text scroll popped to the top, and I mentally clicked it, the iris went green and a message was there that I could read but also heard in my head. It said, first, that this was the private, no eavesdrop version of the HB, now internal and just a prayer for help away. But, it would not eliminate my need to study to show myself approved or to walk in the Spirit. As I deepened in these things, it would become more and more accessible and my confidence in the guidance of God rooted in the scriptures would deepen.

No short cuts to discipleship, I suppose. And, I bet my conscience just got an inner, visible alarm!

Then, even as I mused, I was told, go to the same wall now.

The start-eye was open, in the small size.

On clicking, the eye expanded and the scroll popped to the top.


The message window first said, yes, as you realise you have an internal interface too, and then it said, double click on the top trumpet, to open up a portal.

A portal?
A fictional Stargate (Wiki and TV series)
Is this Stargate SG1?
Where's MacGyver -- whatever they call him in that TV Sci Fi series -- and his Swiss Army knife? (BTW: Col. Jack O'Neill.)

I clicked the bell of the top trumpet.

Not only did a  6' x 4' software window similar to modern browsers open on the wall with tabs and the like, but a projection popped out of the wall unto the door.

A portal solidified -- if that's the right language.

Someone was knocking politely.

I walked across to the portal and opened.

A verdant pasture and beautiful blue skies beyond, with two very familiar angels on either side. One was one of Gabriel's wingmen. The other one was one of Michael's wingmen, the one  I had last seen with a smudge on his cheek a couple of nights past; and he quietly said, your guests will step through in a moment.

They did.

Paley's Fob Watch (HT: Wiki)
Plato was obvious from his broad shoulders.

Socrates, by deduction was the shorter man in Greek clothes, to whom Plato was quite deferential.
Accompanying them was a man dressed in late C18 English Parson's clothes, obviously the well known William Paley. Obvious, as he was carrying an old fashioned but rather elegant fob watch in hand . . .

2 --> I know, I know, that's fantasy, Win 8 is reality. Sigh. 

3 --> But, if all else fails, we can create a mock start & utilities menu on the desktop screen with key desired features by creating a new folder, changing the icon to a useful shape and relabelling. Set it up bottom-left on the Desktop screen. Then populate it by right-click dragging shortcuts into it. No need for guru-ish tech stuff, an ordinary user can do this with some patience.

4 --> I don't know just yet if a power icon can be R-click dragged there, but will try that some other day.

5 --> I like to put similarly click-dragged drive icons top-right, by opening My Computer and R-click-dragging to the desktop. Then say: create shortcut here. If you want, click on the label and rewrite. That includes, push in a USB stick, then do the drag trick. If no external device is in, the drive letter should appear with a question-mark over it, no prob. 

6 --> You can do this for several drives if you want, and just dump the drive shortcuts into a "My Drives" folder. Right click the icon, to pull up a menu, then pick Properties and the Customize tab to change the icon. My working Desktop, Top-right (with the auto-hide rocket dock dropdown turned off) currently looks like:

Top-R my working desktop. Yes, I know, that's a lot of
icons. The Word is fav Bible. Drives next to it, cf. the ?-mark
on the "insertable drive" icon. Next, RPN logic calculators.
Skype, Firefox and Firemin to control memory hogging.
Folders with modded icons for reading, productivity &
utilities. Three backup browsers. BTW, Avant Browser allows me
to use Chrome with a proper menu bar. Libre Office &
Kompozer web edit. Some working project files & folders.
(And yes, I'd love to be on a beach, 7'6" light tackle surf rod in hand.)

7 --> Bottom right, r-click-drag and insert a My Documents shortcut.

8 --> Similarly, you can set up a utilities and references folder and an office productivity applications folder, maybe along the RH side of the desktop. If you want, key icons to link major apps and files or folders can be put over that side.

9 --> On the LH side, I tend to stack icons for daily routines like a calendar or Bible readings, and for current work projects. Use the folder trick to control desktop clutter.

10 --> That way, we can create a practically usable desktop, mouse-pointer interface where that is needed, and still have the access to the touch-oriented interface.

11 --> Of course, after many howls of protest that did not go away, there are some improvements from MS for Win 8.1:

Where is the Start menu?

The Start screen replaces the Start menu in Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1.
Open Start by swiping in from the right edge of the screen and then tapping Start. (Or, if you're using a mouse, point to the lower-left corner of the screen, move your mouse all the way into the corner, and then click Start.)
Here are a few more ways to get to Start:
  • Press the Windows key Windows key on your keyboard.
  • If you're using a mouse, you can point to the lower-left corner of the screen and click the Start button The Start buttonwherever you are in Windows.
  • If you're on the desktop, tap or click the Start button The Start button.
12 --> If only someone can come up with some nannites that will keep the screen clean for those of us with particularly oily fingerprints.

Okay, let us hope a balance of common sense, user friendly choices/options and well thought through innovations will prevail from here on out. END

PS: How to get the Start Menu back, thanks to dedicated tech-savvy users of Windows 8.

PPS: Windows 8.1 productivity tips.