USB-powered cat

USB-powered cat

NOTE: The green eye lights indicate that the cat is fully charged.

[credit: Pet Pix Pillow]

The Curator: Why Microsoft is forcing us on to modern apps

I’ve been struggling for a good year now with Microsoft’s decision to push users as hard as they are pushing them to use the new, modern user interface, what was once code-named Metro. Even in Windows 8.1, a.k.a. Windows Blue, it is the primary user interface. Why is Microsoft forcing us to use the new modern UI?

“Forcing” is perhaps too strong a word I suppose (although it’s a good one for a headline). You can continue to use conventional Windows programs – hell, even text-mode console programs – and keep using a conventional keyboard/mouse computer, but they’re all legacy now, at least for programs with significant user interface.

Moreover, and Microsoft’s protestations notwithstanding, Windows 8 is far less usable on a conventional computer without a touch display. You need to get used to a few gestures and then things are not as bad, but they are still markedly inferior to Windows 7, particularly in desktop mode.

Why would Microsoft make the old interface so undesirable? In order to make the new one desirable. Why? There are a lot of reasons for that, but one very big one is security.

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Security and the “If it Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix it” Mentality

(Originally posted Thursday, June 27, 2013)
“Why should have to replace a computer that’s working even if it’s 10 years old?” 
That’s not me speaking, it’s a relative whose identity I’ll protect (not that he would really care). There’s a foundation of solid logic behind this argument, at least at first glance. The things I bought this computer for 10 years ago are things I do with it still, and it works. So why should I change it? It’s possible – not likely, but possible – that this argument makes sense. But only if you’re cut off from the world.

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Do Not Track Standards Do Not Coalesce

(Originally posted Monday, June 24, 2013)

The advertising industry is in a huff over Mozilla’s plans to support “The Cookie Clearinghouse” at the Center for Internet and Society (CIS) at Stanford Law School. The Cookie Clearinghouse starts with some browser behavior changes and adds what Mozilla’s Brendan Eich describes as both block- and allow-lists of sites and a mechanism for managing exceptions to them. What would be blocked? 3rd-party tracking cookies.

The advertising industry is indignant, as they have been in the past when their abilities to track users are impeded.

As Eich says, it will be months before this hits the release versions of Firefox but there certainly seems to be a lot of indignation out there at how much business would be lost by the Doubleclicks of the world and other sites that people don’t visit, but which visit them. That’s how 3rd party cookies work.

And yet, something seems so familiar to me about the whole “Cookie Clearinghouse” thing… It sounds so much like…. Like Internet Explorer 9.

[cue harp strum…]

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RIP Ed Iacobucci


(Originally posted Saturday, June 22, 2013)

Ed Iacobucci, best-known as co-founder of Citrix Systems, died Friday morning after a 16 month battle with pancreatic cancer, according to a press release from VirtualWorks Group, another company he co-founded and where he served as Chairman. Ed was 59.

Ed was the IBM executive who oversaw (from their side) the OS/2 project with Microsoft. He left in 1989 to co-found Citrix, which took a source license of OS/2 and build a true multi-user operating system out of it. The company eventually did the same with Windows NT and now they’re in a lot of things, but most of their business is still based on the original notion of remoting user interfaces.

I first met Ed back in the early 90’s when Citrix was brand new and awe-inspiring and Ed was always a big part of what made the company impressive. I would run into him over the years and it was always a pleasant experience. Long after he left I couldn’t help think of Citrix as anything but Ed’s company. I’m very sad that I won’t see him again.​

Microsoft Finally Listened To Me (Ha Ha)

(Originally posted Wednesday, June 12, 2013)

Today it occurred to me that an idea I had long ago, that I wrote about many times and nagged Microsoft to implement, that they refused to do for reasons which I understood but did not sympathize with, well they have done it in Windows 8. But not because of anything I said.

My idea, the first incarnation of which I first wrote about for eWEEK in 2007, was that Microsoft should open up Windows Update to 3rd parties to offer updates. The obvious candidates were programs like Adobe Acrobat and Flash which were emerging at the time as major malware platforms. (I’m pretty sure I had this idea much earlier, maybe 2005, but didn’t write about it till this column.)

Microsoft politely declined to respond to my suggestions. Off the record people told me that they couldn’t accept the liability of distributing other people’s updates. There’s something to this, and so I modified it in a later column (which I can’t find at the moment), that what Microsoft should open up is just interfaces to Windows Update: They don’t need to host anyone else’s updates, they just need to allow programs to register at install time with the system to pull updates from a location at the ISV using Windows Installer protocols. In this way, if users are set up to use Windows Update, they will at the same time update, through the ISV, all applications registered with it.

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Desktop Users – You’re On Your Own

(Originally posted Wednesday, June 12, 2013)

Ed Bott’s column this morning does a good job of explaining how, with Windows 8.1 (Blue), Microsoft is going hard-core for the tablet market. What he doesn’t go on to say, and what is the unfortunate corollary, is that they are actively using Windows 8/8.1 to drive users off of non-touch systems on to touch-enabled systems.

With Windows 8, Microsoft redefines tablets as PCs, with their tablets having the benefits of PCs (keyboard, mouse, printing, corporate network access, etc.). Keyboard and mouse maybe there on your tablet/PC, but they aren’t your main interface to the OS – touch is.

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My First HDTV

(Originally posted Saturday, June 08, 2013)

My downstairs TV has been dying for months so today I bought my first HDTV to replace it. I’m really happy so far. I remember back in the day HDTVs were supposed to be complicated to set up. This couldn’t possibly have been easier. The hardest part was that I ran an ethernet wire from the basement and put the heads on myself (it sent through a hole too small for a pre-made patch cable).

The Vizio E390i-A1:

$399 + tax at Costco. 120Hz, 1080p, 3 HDMI.

Even the Wii U just worked right when we turned it on the first time.

My hat’s off to these guys, they have done a great job with UI and OOBE.

Did Microsoft Make WebGL Secure? How?

(Originally posted Friday, June 07, 2013)

​Microsoft has dropped strong clues, without saying it explicitly, that, Internet Explorer 11 in Windows 8.1 (Blue) will support WebGL, a DirectX-like standard for fast gaming on the web. The biggest clue was this video they posted on Vine.

Others have found direct evidence in leaked builds.

It’s not hard to see why they would want to support WebGL. Everyone else does. They spelled out the reasons they haven’t so far in a Security, Research and Defense blog post 2 years ago.

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