Why Windows 8 is going to be rubbish: Lowry’s Law.

WA screenshot of Windows 8 Metroindows 8 is going to fail. It’s going to be widely criticised, and it’ll frustrate and annoy people intensely, likely driving lots of consumers to Apple.

But “Why?”, I hear you cry. It’s nothing to do with the software itself, but due to Lowry’s law, an immutable law of Windows releases.

In with the new

Before I carry on, a little explanation for those of you not addicted to tech blogs. Windows 8 is the latest release of the Windows operating system. Microsoft have just released the “Consumer Preview” version, which is a free to download, draft version of the software.

The result of this is that millions of people have had a chance to play around with Windows 8.

There have been lots of changes under the hood in Windows 8, but by far the most noticeable to users is the change to two competing interfaces. Most of you will be very familiar with the normal Windows desktop – icons on a background, with the Start Menu, and a taskbar along the bottom. The Start Menu has now been killed off, and replaced with “Metro” – the colourful boxes you can see above on the right.

To hate or not to hate

Reactions have been mixed, with pretty negative reviews from a lot of high profile blogs. Statements such as “It’s going to be an utter nightmare“, “a failure to learn from mistakes of Vista” and “like two very different operating systems trying to be one” lead to some concerns. A former Microsoft employee has created a website called FixingWindows8.com, a site that’s been so popular I’ve not yet been able to load it, due to the traffic crashing the server.

Perhaps the worst indictment is that of tech guru Chris Pirillo’s non tech-savvy father. Here is a video of him totally failing to work out how to use Windows 8:

[iframe src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/v4boTbv9_nU” width=”100%” height=”427″]

Personally, I installed the Consumer Preview, and used it for around an hour. I found the two interfaces completely contradictatory, and time wasting. I found nothing of value in Metro, and the loss of the Start Menu a devastating hit to the efficiency of my workflow. I couldn’t cope with trying it any longer than that, and immediately uninstalled it.

Lowry’s Law

However, my opinions, the opinions of consumers and tech professionals matter not: Windows 8 is going to be awful due to the (newly named) Lowry’s Law

Lowry’s Law: Every other serious consumer Windows release is rubbish.

Let’s look at the evidence. (Windows didn’t really take off until 3 came out, so Windows 1 & 2  aren’t classed as serious releases).

Windows 3 – sold 10 million copies in 3 years. Led to Windows becoming the dominant operating system worldwide. Introduced mouse pointers, copy and paste, and countless other features we take as standard today. Good

Windows 95 – an innovative change, that set the tone for future versions of Windows for the next 15 years – however, pretty buggy, and still reliant on an MS DOS framework, causing driver issues galore. Famous for its prolific BSODs. Rubbish.

Windows 98 – basically 95 v2.0 – cleaned up the bugs, ditched DOS and added the internet. Good.

Windows ME – released in a hurry because XP wasn’t ready yet. Disgustingly buggy, with no real new features over 98. Known as the “Mistake Edition”, along with other less polite terms. Rubbish.

Windows XP – probably the most successful operating system ever. Slick, friendly, crash-free and resource efficient – it’s 11 years old, and still 40% of internet users are running it. That’s a definite “Good”.

Windows Vista – came installed on millions of cheap laptops, at a time when cheap hardware wasn’t quite enough to run Vista comfortable. Coupled with over zealous security pop ups, and lots of driver issues, I think its been the biggest driver of consumers to Apple in the last 5 years. Rubbish.

Windows 7 – basically Vista v2.0 – cleaned up the bugs and dialed down the security pop ups. Time had passed and drivers had been created for Vista and 7, and cheap laptops had the spec to run it well. Good.

Windows 8 – It’s not looking good.

 

Conclusion

So that’s it. 20 years of evidence support Lowry’s Law, meaning there’s an undeniable truth that Windows 8 is going to be rubbish. However, things are looking great for Windows 9…

Bye Bye Blender

A tombstone with a blender and RIP engraved on it.A few years ago, a friend of ours with Asperger’s gave us a hand blender for Christmas. He was really excited when he gave it to us, pointing out “It’s 600 Watts – that’s more than my surround sound system!”.

I absolutely love the concept of comparing the two values; the comparison would never have occurred to me, but to do so adds a spark of brilliance to a humble food processor.

Sometimes people with abnormalities in the way they process ideas – such as autism or dyslexia – have a beautifully “outside-the-box” way of looking at the world. I have another friend with severe dyslexia who delights in making up new words, such as “Le Grange!” meaning “Brilliant”. He has an incredibly rational way of looking at life that somehow runs along completely different lines to mine, but results in very similar conclusions.

Sadly, the blender has just died – Katherine was using it, when a grinding noise occurred, and it caught fire – but as I mourn its passing, I thought I’d just use it to celebrate flashes of joy that can come from a change of perspective.

 

Five places to waste your time

Have you got a list of a million items on your to do list? Welcome to my world…

The internet is a wonderful invention, but it can be used for good or evil. In the midst of trying to get stuff done, I’m constantly distracted by other things to click on, to read, to learn about.

“It’s a job that’s never started that takes the longest to finish.”
~J. R. R. Tolkien

Twitter is my absolute No 1 stop for distraction, but its such an amazing/terrible invention that I’ll give it a post all its own at some another time. For now (and as a further piece of procrastination) here is a list of five of my favourite sites for wasting my time:

Lifehacker

Lifehacker is a fantastic place to read interesting articles about becoming more productive. It’s hacking your life: literally trying to reset how we function, and find more efficient ways of living life. Of course, if you mostly just read Lifehacker when you should be working, its going to be, rather depressingly ironically, totally counterproductive.

Favourite bits:  Why Coffee May Not Be HelpingWallpaper WednesdaysAlways Up To Date Guide For Rooting Any Android Phone, The Headphone Cable Hack

Slashdot

Slashdot logo

Slashdot was named specifically to be annoying to pronounce. Try saying ” HTTP colon slash slash WWW dot SLASH DOT dot ORG” – fun, eh? That’s pretty geeky, and a perfect introduction to the site, which gives news about tech, web and geekdom, with a slant towards open source. I find it a great place to fantasise about having the tech chops to be a true sysadmin – even if I suspect I’ll never get further than running my own home server.  The comments are also always detailed, informative and entertaining.

Favourite bits: Ask Slashdot – users post their own technical challenges for community help, Slashdot Polls – see large scale responses to tech questions that relate to life. Also, check out the Quotes right at the bottom of each page.

Engadget

Engadget logo

A lot more polished than Slashdot, Engadget is my place to learn about all the exciting new shiny gadgets that are coming to the world over the next few months. Despite the fact I never buy any of them, and generally have no desire to own one, I still read in depth reviews of new phones, laptops and gizmos frequently, when I could be better spending my time.

Favourite bits: Generally just enjoying reading the latest articles, but the Reviews are my favourite, regardless of the item. Engadget is also my preferred source of Liveblog when there’s a new Apple/Google/Palm/etc launch event.

BBC News & Timeslive

BBC & Times live logosAs a little bit of a news addict, I tend to visit two main sites: BBC News for my UK hit, and Timeslive for South African snippets. The BBC are blatantly the best news organisation in the world, and their site is a testament to that – its currently the fifth most visited site in the UK. Whilst less well written, I enjoy visiting the SA Times website to get an inside flavour of how things are going in South Africa: since we are planning to move there, its good to know when a government department can’t account for £100 million of its budget.

Favourite bits: The front page of each is my main port of call, but I also rather enjoy the BBC’s Science & Environment section, and Times Live coverage of SA Politics. When I want to feel especially low, BBC Sport are always there for me with the latest Orient scores

Reddit

Of all the sites mentioned here, Reddit is the only one I’m slightly ashamed of. The self styled “front page of the internet”, it is a community, much like Slashdot, where articles and links are upvoted to gain precedence on the site. However, it has a much more puerile mix of images, links and comments. I’m a recent convert from Digg to Reddit, and whilst I spend less time on reddit than on the others above, it’s definitely a good destination if you urgently need to put off doing something. I refuse to register an account or I’ll never get anything done again!

Favourite bits: The never ending stream of irrelevance that is the front page, but also AskReddit, where people present their real world problems and are *generally* supported, encouraged and helped, with a sprinkling of sarcasm and trolling.

 

So, there we go. I hope this list helps you to not achieve something in your life quite soon. Just reading this post has probably been a good start!

Five things I hate about cycling: Cars

Its taken a month, but I have finally completed my exhaustive analysis of everything wrong with cycling. After hills, sweating, roads and punctures, all that remains is my very least favourite thing about cycling: Cars.

The problem

Cyclist about to be crushed by two carsRisk is an interesting phenomenom in our society. On the one hand, environmental health can shut you down if you make a sandwich without washing lettuce; on the other, there’s no legal barrier to sitting on a flimsy metal frame with half inch wheels, doing 30 mph on uneven tarmac as lorries overtake you at 70, with a feeble layer of polystyrene as your sole protection.

When doing 13 mph down my road, I’m not too worried about lorries, but I am very concerned about the lady in the Corsa who hasn’t looked in her wingmirror, and is about to open her door. Or the chap who overtook me on a high street, then turned left, causing me to crash into the side of his car. And I say I’m not too worried about lorries, but I don’t love it when they force you off the road into a ditch and you lose a front tooth.

The root of the problem is that cars are large, fast vehicles with limited visibility, often driven by impatient people. As a cyclist, its easy to despise the more obnoxious drivers, and paint them all with the same brush. Certainly, the operator of the car that hooted me last month whilst I was traversing a free flowing, highly dangerous roundabout fully deserves a slap.

However, we do need a little perspective; after all, many of us cyclists are drivers at other times, and all of us know how easy it is to forget to look in the mirrors before turning left, how easy it is to miss the cyclist hidden behind a truck, or in line with the sun.

Last week I pulled out at a cross roads after very carefully trying to assess if there was a bike coming down the hill. Despite my best efforts, there was a cyclist, who I very nearly brained. Whilst his not wearing a helmet implies there was little brain to risk, the point remains: cyclists are vulnerable, and, ultimately, feeling vulnerable is not the same as having fun.

The SOLUTION

I actually tried to come up with a realistic solution to the problem here.

The biggest issue is that not only are bikes very vulnerable, they are also vastly in the minority. Multiple studies show that the more people there are walking and cycling, the safer it becomes. In Amsterdam, you are twice as likely to be murdered as killed cycling. Overall, in Denmark and Holland, countries with much higher rates of cycling, you are three times less likely to die when riding.

So, the best way to make the roads less dangerous, less terrifying and thus less offputting to cyclists is to get more of us out there. Which probably means I should write a 5 things I love about cycling series…

Thanks for reading. This is the last article in my Five things I hate about cycling series. Read the rest here

Five things I hate about cycling: Punctures

I don’t like roads, I don’t like hills, and I need a shower just getting my bike out of the house. Coming in at number 2 on the list of things I hate about cycling: Punctures.

The problem

Flat Tire vectorEvery cyclist knows it: the moment when your heart sinks, and so do your tyres.

Punctures are the intermittent pain that haunts cycling, especially those of us with road bikes (and thus skinny tyres). They may strike sporadically, or you may go through periods where they appear to be an incessant companion; either way, one constant remains: to cycle is to puncture.

The botheration is threefold: time, expense and frustration.

I have to be at work at 8am. I usually leave around 6:15, arriving at work around 7:20, have a shower, eat some food, and I have maybe 5 minutes to spare. If I get a puncture, I need to squeeze an extra 20 minutes into that. That’s assuming that I have actually brought my repair kit, unlike last time…

Whilst inner tubes aren’t terribly expensive, I find spending money on them very painful. I think its knowing that I am paying money for a task that I find very unpleasant. If you’ve ever changed a tyre on a road bike, you’ll know its a dirty, fiddly, finger trapping exercise, perfectly designed to cause annoyance. No one ever enjoys paying their dentist, and I don’t like buying inner tubes.

All this leads to a great deal of frustration. On more than one occasion I have felt like smashing up my bike and buying a Ferrari. The main thing stopping me is doing this is a desire to be healthy, and a lack of a spare £120,000. However, no such barrier prevents me from being grumpy and outspoken about my hatred of all things rubber for several days after a puncture.

The SOLUTION

This one took some thought. Solid rubber tyres don’t go flat, but they also require physiotherapy at the end of every short, bumpy journey. The key will be to reduce the frequency and irritation of punctures.

For frequency, the government simply needs to implement my plans to provide brand new glass-like roads across the nation. As a result, I will enjoy biking more, and get significantly less punctures into the bargain.

For irritation, I propose that all cyclists are followed by a support vehicle à la Tour de France, promptly swapping bikes for you at the first sign of trouble.. Whilst this will cause an increase in emissions, I will fund the carbon offsetting out of the savings I make on new inners. The cars themselves can be paid for out of penalty taxes on towns with too many hills. Sorted.

This article is part of my Five things I hate about cycling series. Read the rest here

Five things I hate about cycling: Terrible roads

Previously, I told you that I don’t like Hills, and that I smell particularly foul. Coming in at number 3 on the list of things I hate about cycling: Terrible roads.

The problem

There are two issues that cause my blood to boil here: road layout, and road condition. Come with me for a moment, as you go on an imaginary cycle around Sheffield.

You hop on your bike, wobbling as you attempt to navigate around all the pot holes on your residential street. You make a turn, making it to the main road, where the road surface is heavily worn tarmac, with raised sharp pebbles showing through – the technical term for this type of road is a “tyregrater”.

Vibrating through that, you find yourself on a lovely smooth run of tarmac, and just start to get some momentum running… when you hit a series of speed bumps the width of the road, with nowhere for cyclists to skirt round them.

The incline increases, and soon you are in a speedy downhill, but immediately have to start braking heavily, because at the end of the road, the sharp hill ends suddenly with a traffic light, a traffic light that stubbornly remains red no matter how much you glare at it.

Then you turn left onto a cycle lane. The cycle lane appears to pass through several car parking spaces (with cars in them), a bollard and a set of railings. Its also on the edge of the road, where many uneven layers of tarmac over the years have combined to leave a craggy 45 degree slope. After a few minutes you come straight to a roundabout with cars racing round so aggressively that your death would have been certain, if you hadn’t just gone over a massive hole in the tarmac surrounding a drain cover and punctured both tyres.

You throw your bike in the nearest dumpster, and get on the bus.

While this is a (mild) exaggeration, I have actually had all of these experiences, and have several of them every time I hop on my bike. I hate feeling like a second class road citizen, but being on a bike, this is often the case.

Road layout

My biggest bugbear with road layout comes in the form of cycle lanes. Renowned amongst seasoned cyclists for being unsafe, unrealistic and unhelpful, I generally tend to avoid them, at the same time resenting the money that is spent on them.

Warrington Cycle Campaign runs a Facility of the Month, which applauds, in a tongue-in-cheek manner, ridiculous, dangerous, deceitful and plain stupid cycle lane examples from all around the UK.

I have included my own submission, with a caption to accompany it below:

Ridiculous Sheffield Cycle LaneThis delightful two way cycle lane, near the University in Sheffield, is a beautiful example of urban cycle planning. Located right next to one of the most dangerous roundabouts in the city, the track used to join the dual carriageway at right angles, leading to a distressingly deadly arrangement.

Happily, the city council obviously listened to feedback from cyclists, and helpfully installed some railings between the end of the cycle lane and the main road. Since this, there have been no reported accidents on this 3 metre track!

Is this because cyclists ignored the track from the beginning and just take the filter lane on the left, which gently and safely feeds into traffic? Or is it due to the visionary work of Sheffield City Council? I leave the decision up to you.

Road condition

When it comes to road condition, especially in Sheffield, we have had some hard winters over the last few years, with a lot of freeze thawing, leading to many roads resembling a patchwork of repaired sections of tar. Unfortunately, lumpy road + inner tubes that are 3mm thick can only lead to one thing… but I will cover that in another post shortly.

The solution

The solution, on this occasion, is partly realistic, and partly less so.

Firstly, its time for the council to spend a lot more money on roads. Lets spend a few hundred million, and get some nice smooth roads. We’ll probably save the cost on petrol savings from the reduced friction. Well we won’t, but still, let’s do it.

Secondly, we need to change all the signs, so that cycle lanes become “car lanes”, and the bikes are given the sole licence to ride on the rest of the roads. Absolutely guarantee you would see a lot more cyclists around!

This article is part of my Five things I hate about cycling series. Read the rest here

Five things I hate about cycling: Sweating

Previously, I told you that my fifth biggest hate about cycling was Hills. Coming in at number 4 is: Sweating, and the need to shower.

The problem

Cyclist on a bike, in a shower, silhouette.So why is that you ask? First off, if you aren’t male, you may not be aware of the scale of the problem. A 2006 study showed that if you exercise 14 fit men for an hour and a half, they will produce nearly 16 litres of sweat between them. As a comparison, your average bucket is about 9 litres. Men literally are capable of sweating buckets.

This wouldn’t be a problem if our society wasn’t so discriminatory. One side effect of civilisation, it appears, is that there is no such thing as sweaty professionalism. Apparently the ideal businessman does not have wet patches back and front of his suit, and it seems that most people don’t want their doctor to be dripping whilst they examine you.

Unfortunately, on the scale of sweatyness, running from 1 (A rock) to 10 (Really old Brie, wrapped in socks, in a plastic bag, in monsoon season), I hit about a 9: I am definitely a sweat monster, especially when I have to deal with hills.

This all ends up frustrating me, since I can rarely use cycling to replace my normal mode of transport without knowing that I have somewhere to change afterwards. It means that I have to pre-plan every trip, often having to check out new locations at least once before I can cycle it.

Replacing a 10 minute car trip becomes rather impractical, since it becomes a 30 minute cycle, followed by a 10 minute hunt for showers, and 20 minutes making myself look presentable. And when the showers are locked/being replaced/filled with stacked chairs – all of which have happened to me – it can be a real problem.

A few years ago, I cycled 7 miles to work, only to realise I had forgotten my suit! It is hard to express the extreme misery I felt inside when I realised that I was going to have to cycle all the way back home, grab a suit, drive in and be an hour late for work into the bargain. If I could have cycled in a suit without fear of drowning, this problem would go away.

The solution

This brings me onto my solution for Sweating – compulsory laser treatment for all men, coupled with a readjustment in the attitudes of society toward odour. Sorted.

This article is part of my Five things I hate about cycling series. Read the rest here