Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Windows 8: Starting to Grow On Me

I've been running Windows 8 for a while now, and we just got two new laptops that came with it.

There's really no reason I can see why not to run it. The missing start button is no big deal, and yeah, the Metro interface pretty much blows, but overall it's a worthy successor to Windows 7 for a few compelling reasons.

The main reason I like it over Windows 7 it is that they kept the trend of slimming Windows down. Windows 8 is leaner and meaner than Windows 7. They kept with the optimizations and performance enhancements they started with Vista. I see a noticeable performance difference between the two. I also think it looks better "flat." Aero glass always seemed idiotic to me. Part of what I do for a living is design user interfaces, so I appreciate the minimalist design trend I see with Windows 8. Ok, other than them starting to put the menus in CAPs - that's just lame.

There's a couple other neat features like the product key built into the BIOS now for new Windows 8 machines. Take a brand new machine and blow out Windows and when it re-installs, it won't ask you for a product key.

The missus has used hotmail for 15 years, so having it built into Windows is perfect for her. She actually likes Metro, which isn't surprising because it was pretty much designed for her.

So ... it's a compelling upgrade just for the performance tweaks alone, but we'd probably run it either way. There's no stopping progress, and I'm already almost a dinosaur, so, I surrender.

I had some problems early on with VMWare running Windows 8, but I have those issues mostly solved, mostly by just running VirtualBox instead. But I now have perfectly stable and badass installs of Server 2012 and Windows 8 for development.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Android + Bluetooth = Music Lover's Best Friend

I never got into the iPod craze that propelled Apple to the top of the food chain. I never saw the draw for a closed device that didn't embrace the latest device standards. It represented to me a device where I listened to music on their terms. So when my friends all had 16 GB iPods, I was rocking a 10 inch Windows netbook with a 250 GB drive and Bluetooth.

The Netbook with Bluetooth was awesome, but even with a 5 amp/hour battery I had in mine, the battery life wasn't great while listening to music. It had a power hungry, motor-driven hard drive and an earlier version of Bluetooth, which it definitely wasn't optimized for. 

So, the Netbook didn't seem to work out for music duties, or to be a Windows machine in a pinch, which it was a little under-powered for. I ended up with the soccer mom mobile office configuration, which is a powerful laptop and a 10 inch, dual core 32 GB Acer Iconia Android tablet, running Ice Cream Sandwich. It also has a 32 GB micro SD card, bringing its total storage up to 64 GB.

The Android tablet with its powerful but efficient Bluetooth radio has turned into the dream music player for me. Both the tablet and the headphones will go all day on a charge. What I like about this particular tablet is that it has a standard USB 2 port, which can even accept a USB hub for multiple devices. I can put music or movies on it from a flash drive, and it'll even spin up my portable 1 TB drive on battery power. It can also connect to the network, though it doesn't have the best WiFi radio and the file transfer speeds aren't that hot.

None of the apps I tried at first fit the way I organized music, which was putting my albums and play lists into a neatly organized file folder structure. But I found a folder player app which does everything I need. Now I can jam a whole bunch of new music onto the tablet, hit shuffle and go all day. It lets me keep my music organized for all my devices the same way. 

My Motorola over-the-ear headphones work much better with the tablet than they did with the Netbook. I get really good range and the convenience of the media player controls too. It's a dream setup for music. It's pretty good for movies, too. The hardware acceleration works flawlessly for both audio and video most of the time. Right now I have my Band of Brothers box set on it. Tom Hanks + Steven Spielberg  + Android + Bluetooth = 10 hours of awesome.

It's hard to imagine a better setup. More storage, better range, better battery life, sure. But pairing an open software platform with a mature hardware platform is a nice start. Rock solid reliability, and I don't get the impression that Google cares about how I listen to music. I'm a believer. 

It's a good setup for streaming music too. I listen to a few Internet radio stations with the WinAmp app, and of course it's great for YouTube.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Rant: Aaron Swartz Didn't Have to Die

If this case isn't a travesty of justice, then nothing is. He was facing 35 years for downloading documents which were in the public domain and distributing them publicly. Uh, isn't that what public domain is?

But we live in a surreal world where the facts don't matter and the law is interpreted not by the Judicial branch, but by the mega-corporations who line the pockets of virtually every elected official, in plain sight no less. We live in a world where the meaning of the word "is" is open for debate.

Something is wrong where conflicts of interest like U.S. Customs publicly launching a campaign to censor web sites from Disney headquarters are openly flaunted. The special interests are so powerful, they aren't even trying to hide the fact that they are using our government to enforce their obsolete business model, which is based on artificial scarcity which technology has made impossible.

This story mirrors history pretty well, too. Ever heard of the Luddites? They really, really didn't like the machinery developed during the Industrial Revolution, which rendered their manual labor jobs obsolete. The problem here is that the Luddites are now responsible for making public policy decisions regarding technology.

Aaron Swartz would've faced less jail time if he ran over someone's child while drunk, all because the massive conflicts of interest we look the other way for are allowed to openly conflate terrorism with file sharing, which is patently absurd. Unfortunately, these simple facts are off of most people's radar ... hopefully until now.

Copyright reform officially has a martyr now. Aaron Swartz took one for the team. I sincerely hope that we as a society take a fresh look at IP reform, including patents. Otherwise he died for nothing, and I refuse to accept that.