Sunday, November 11, 2012

Windows 8 Pro, Initial

My initial impressions of Windows 8 Pro leave me mostly bewildered. Installing it on my Lenovo as an upgrade was, I’m certain, not the experience Microsoft wants their users to have. Right away, I would strongly caution anyone upgrading on older equipment, and when I say older, I mean anything eighteen months or older. Even better, get Windows 8 on new hardware already installed.
I’ll dispense with the details but after my recovery partition was deleted, I was locked out of the bios, and Windows 8 Pro wouldn’t activate, I was pretty frustrated.
First, the partitioning tools that came with Windows 8 installation suite are mostly useless, so if you’re working around Linux, a Linux Swap, System, and Recovery partitions, you’ll be flirting with disaster. Make sure you reset your machine to factory and back up your files before even attempting an upgrade. Windows 8 isn’t advanced enough to handle anything more than that.
The packaging on a copy of Windows 8 is pretty deceptive. Near as I can tell there is no such thing as a full version that allows you to do a clean install. You’ll have to re-install your old OS and upgrade regardless of what you purchase. This is counter intuitive to everyone who has been wrestling with Windows for more than a decade. Doing a fresh install is always better than an upgrade, but now you've no choice but to do the latter apparently.
Yeah, it’ll let you do the fresh install, but your copy won’t activate forcing you to go through the whole process over again.  
Near as a colleague and I can tell, the OS boots in such a way and quickly enough that you’ll be prevented from getting to the BIOS to make adjustments. That’s how it is on my Lenovo anyway. The restart features within the OS that claim to allow you to boot from other sources doesn’t work whatsoever, and I still haven’t found a reliable way to boot from a USB. Most of the advanced features I’ve found in control panel and settings don’t do what they claim and are likewise useless.
I found myself wishing I had a copy of Windows Millennium. Seriously, it would have been easier to install.
In the end I did a fresh install to try and find some feature that would let me boot Linux or access some sort of disk utility as I had not yet discovered my recovery partition had already been obliterated. Miraculously, the product activated and began to work normally. I have no idea why (from all indication, it shouldn't), and I was able to go in and check out some of the aforementioned “features”.
I loaded Office Pro 2010, Sketchbook Pro 2011, Minecraft, Java, and a few other odds and ends like Dropbox and began giving the operating system a try. It’s incredibly fast, intuitive, and elegant once you get it running. The store and handling of applications is great, the ability to organize the Start menu quickly is nice, and the performance is nonpareil. For reference, I'm running it on a Lenovo e420 with an i3-2310 @ 2.1 GHz, and 8 GB Ram, 7200 RPM harddrive. Pretty much stock except for the extra stick of RAM.
I couldn’t say enough great things about it until I discovered something ugly. I clicked on the beautiful weather application and scrolled all the way to the right. Big as life, there’s a shampoo ad or something displayed right in the app. I chuckled not because it was funny, but because it was decidedly not funny. Microsoft put ads in the “Pro” version of the operating system? Really?
Yeah, bewildered is the right word here. I'll write more as I get things figured out.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Being Pro-Life

Being Pro-Life starts with you, as an individual, and the choices you make. From there it spreads out to your friends and family, to your church, and to your community. It has always been about community activism and giving people information and options to make choices. Being Pro-Life is about loving other human beings and respecting not only their innate and biological life, but the metaphysical workings of their agency. 

When life begins isn't important to these beliefs, only what we do is important. If we are allowing others full access to their agency with the knowledge to use it properly, we are being true to the cause. When we stray from that notion, we stumble and fail. 

The moment we believe the Federal Government can do a better job of taking care of our friends and neighbors than we can, is the moment we can no longer lay claim to being Pro-Life. I think John Koster, Richard Mourdock, Todd Akin, Paul Ryan and others are probably having to give their anti-choice notions some thought now. Indeed, I hope the entire Republican Party is thinking about it. 

I personally believe it played a role in them losing the Senate and the White House. 

You can't be anti-choice and a fiscal conservative. It takes money to shake down dealers holding black market oral contraceptives and to kick in the door of every benevolent doctor giving a 12-year-old incest victim an abortion. Worse, this is the last way most police officer want to spend their time. Think! Do you want your community, your church leaders, and yourself responsible for spreading the Pro-Life message? People that really want to be there? Or men with guns that don't? 

Do we really want the Federal Government interfering with a pregnant cancer patient's agency, while she decides whether to fight for her life for her other two kids, or risk all and carry to term? Would you rather have benevolent friends, family, church/community leaders involved, or the Federal Government? 

Hint: The Federal Government tend to deploy heavily armed law enforcement professionals and lawyers with political ambitions to enforce the law. 

The Federal Government can't even balance a checkbook, do we really want them playing doctor with our wives, daughters, aunts, mothers, sisters, cousins, friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens? I think the message to the GOP and the Anti-Choice movement this election cycle was clear. These "Sanctity of Life" and "Personhood" pieces of legislation that have been pushed unsuccessfully since 1995 need to just stop. Put simply, we're wise to it, and we don't want it, push your radical views to your constituency some other way. 

If you want to be Pro-Life, just do it, don't try to legislate it, quantify it, or put it into a legal context. Anyone with a true devotion to their fellow human, derived from their maker or otherwise, knows that doing so is to invite folley and to see one's beliefs cheapened by a soul-blackening political machine. 

If we don't support and love our fellow humans in spite of the choices they make, we are cheapening the significance of having a choice in the first place. Do not erode the greatest gift that comes with life by supporting people who would foster Federal control over the lives of others. These people are not true advocates of the Pro-Life movement, not true fiscal conservatives, and have utterly lost their way. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Surface RT

I had all sorts of expectations about the Surface device before I had a chance to actually handle one. I marvel at how uniform every review of the iPad is as compared to the Surface device. The iPad seems to be pretty much the same experience for everyone while the Surface obviously produces an array of experiences. People confuse this to mean the Surface must be deficient in some way and that it must certainly lack something as a consequence. 

What it really means is that the device has the ability to be something different to each person that picks it up. That's closer to a real computing experience in my opinion. Maybe I'm just totally immersed in Microsoft's Metro design language and the manner in which it is supposed to reach people, but it's like anything I guess, move or be moved. 

I haven't fallen out of love with my iPad. For someone heavily invested in both Apple and Microsoft's ecosystems I don't see the Surface as a replacement for my tablet. In buying a Surface I would acquire it instead of a MacBook Air, Samsung Series 9, HP Folio 13 or similar. It's what I would get instead of a laptop to run the Windows operating system. 

It's better than an ultrabook because it can pretend to be a tablet when it needs to, while being yet even more portable because of it's battery life and size. I still don't think anyone has made a true Windows tablet device, and maybe no one needs to. The Surface, as it's own form factor has appeal all on it's own without having to plug into the marketing hype Microsoft has tried to foster. 

In truth, I think they would have done better putting it out there with no explanation and no expectations. I think the engineers who engaged a hacker-collective style means of rapid prototyping absolutely won the battle that the marketing department seems determined to lose for them. Yeah, they grabbed headlines and made Marco Arment nervous enough that he had to troll a Microsoft retail location, but they lost a valuable opportunity to stand alone outside of any shadow in the oxymoronic mobile desktop computing world. 

Microsoft could have said that there are two worlds and that they need not collide or compete. People are always going to want the option of a mobile desktop experience, mobile experience and yet even more mobile experience. If you've every traveled and carried three mobile computing devices (laptop, tablet, and smartphone) at once through the airport, you know what I mean. 

Microsoft RT is particularly interesting to me. I think RT will catch on, and being there in the beginning is going to be exciting. Early adopters will watch a whole application ecosystem grow and take advantage of it as it gains diversity. It's something that techies didn't really get to experience with the iPad because iOS had already existed previously on other devices. 

Yes, RT is basically just Windows, but the sort that has no applications outside that which enter the marketplace and were designed for touchscreens. It's like Microsoft is asking what it would have been like to start at the ground level with their OS, in a touch-capable hardware environment. I can't wait to see the answer.