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September 2014

Windows 8.1

I should have known better – I had read the terrible reviews of Windows 8.  But Microsoft had responded to the criticism and improved the user interface in 8.1, hadn’t they?  Well, up to a point.  Or to put it another way:  not really - they still think they know best.     

I have been using Windows since version 3.1 - back in 1992.  I did try using a Mac, but found OSX frustrating. Windows isn’t perfect but I could generally find my way around, at least up till now.

I suffered with Windows ME, but Microsoft must have realized what a mess they had made of that, and Windows XP came along soon afterwards – one paid upgrade that was money very well spent.

I kept well clear of Vista, and waited for Windows 7.  Sure enough, it was stable and usable.

Clearly, there’s a pattern here of the stupid element in MS wresting control and then being beaten back by the sensible faction (even during Steve Ballmer’s reign of idiotic management initiatives). 

On the evidence of Windows 8.1, the battle is still on.  As I have never used Windows 8, I can’t say how much stupidity has been removed, but I can just about live with the new Start screen with tiles.  Haven’t we been here before, though, with the “active desktop”?  Whatever happened to that?

No, the biggest problem (in both senses of the word) is the way that “Modern apps” fill the whole screen.  Yes, on a tablet it makes sense, but on 21” (or bigger) monitor?  No, Microsoft, no. 

OK, so you can split the screen to have two whole apps visible (or one app and the traditional desktop) – but they have to be left and right, so you can’t have one landscape window in the top left, for example, and they can’t overlap.

Fair enough…on a tablet.  But on a desktop or laptop I had got quite used to having as many windows as I want visible, and different sizes and shapes.  It’s been one of the key features of Windows since back in the days of 3.1 when we had smaller screens and insufficient memory.   

Thankfully, MS Office isn’t a “Modern App”, at least not yet, so most of the time I can have more than two windows open.  But then you get plunged back into the world of stupid “Modern Apps”.  Thanks very much, Microsoft.

Another problem (for me) is that they seem to be trying to copy the OSX user interface, presumably to make it more “user-friendly”.  I didn’t like OSX, and I don’t like Windows 8 hiding things away where I can’t find them.  

Why is Microsoft changing something that is already working well enough?  Is this the same mistake Coca-Cola made with “New Coke”?  Why copy OSX when it has a tiny market share?  Why try to make it work like a tablet when the vast majority of Windows users have large screens and use a keyboard and mouse rather than a touchscreen?

This isn’t the first time - I still haven’t forgiven Microsoft for that ridiculous trick of maximising ordinary windows when you move them with your mouse in a certain way that I still don’t understand.  I think it’s called the Aero Shake and I don’t like it.     

Continue reading "Windows 8.1" »


Hong Kong people love typhoons

Mike Rowse seems to be a rare dose of common sense on the opinion pages of the SCMP, and today his subject is the craziness that descends on the city when there’s a bit of rain and some strong winds:

T8 typhoon signal is no holiday

Joy at time off thanks to weather is misguided - and just where was the weather anyway?

Mike Rowse

    After reviewing recent events, I have concluded I may be going slightly crazy. That is not as bad as it sounds, because I am not alone.

    Take this matter of the typhoon that passed by this week. As soon as the news spread that the No8 storm signal was likely to go up on Monday evening, people in the office started smiling at one another as if some kind of secret pleasure was imminent. We might all get the following day off without the need to deduct it from our holiday balance.

    What was strange was that the feeling was shared even by those who really like going to work. You can understand why people who dislike their jobs, or pupils who are facing a test, might welcome an unscheduled day off. But why were those who enjoy what they do getting excited, too? It must be the idea of "getting something for nothing" that is so captivating.

    So, stay in bed until late then? Well, no, the first priority is to find out what signal is still up the next morning so as to establish whether it is necessary to take the children to school. That actually means waking up earlier than usual, and by the time the Observatory has confirmed the No8 is likely to stay up till mid-morning and school is cancelled, there is no point in going back to bed as I am wide awake.

    Next comes a check of the work diary. The most urgent items won't wait and can be done only in the office. Off to the office anyway …

    Dress casually because meetings will be cancelled and no one else will be there? That won't work because the signal is going to come down mid-morning and then everyone else will drag themselves back in. So shave and dress as usual. The roads are clear; travelling in is easier than usual. Bit of rain and wind, but nothing exceptional; in an urban environment, there does not seem much difference between No3 and No8.

    Will there be newspapers? God bless them, yes! The free sheet has been delivered to our block, and the 7-Eleven for once has the Post available. A Frenchman is outside trying to get a taxi, but they all want HK$150 for a HK$30 trip.

    Cannot bear the idea of the pirates getting away with this, so give him a lift despite his nationality.

    What about coffee? Yes, Starbucks is open and God bless them too, a cappuccino can be had for the usual price.

    And slowly it comes to me: everything is working normally except those bits of the community that have been told by the government not to. Normality seems to have been turned on its head - unless it's me? Whoever could have designed such a system? I'll soon find out.

    When they put me away in the padded cell, I'll just look in the room next door.

    Mike Rowse is managing director of Stanton Chase International and an adjunct professor at Chinese University. mike@rowse.com.hk


    BBC Knowledge HD

    Finally, finally, the BBC is offering an HD channel in Asia.  Rather than a BBC HD channel, they have converted BBC Knowledge to HD (at least on PCCW’s Now TV).  Watching something like Africa in HD is a totally different experience to the rather poor quality murkyvision we have had to suffer up until now (though, yes, it has been shown on HD by TVB).    


    Yes I'm still here

    Kudos to Spike, who is writing his life story (I'm so Smart).  I first read his old blog when he was being magnificently indiscrete about his life as a typical expat in Hong Kong - without taking much effort to disguise his identity.  That had to stop, but I seem to recall that for a while his blog continued by invitation only, and then (wisely) he deleted it completely.  

    Then he settled down and restarted his blog - Hongkie Town in case you didn't follow the link above - and it is one of the few that I still read.  

    I have deliberately never written about my life, and I am not about to start now.  But, in case you (1) care, and (2) haven't guessed, I'm just too busy at work to have the time or energy to devote to this blog.  So I will continue with occasional posting.   Next up (maybe) will be the car crash that is Windows 8.