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A letter from the Cuprohastes-in-Chief

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6:57AM

iOS

Apple decided to have a verification server OK every install os iOS 5, but under estimated demand, dropping users with error 3200 'unknown error' which is a code not listed on Apples knowledge base. Actually, of you know where to look its one of the poorly documented 'cannot contact server, codes.

This does not bode well for iCloud.

Beyond that, it's the usual iOS update story – A set of great features which would have been basic included features on any other system but have been withheld for half a decade by Apple, and a set of features that have been removed from some devices purely to make the newer models seem more attractive. In other words, the Apple 'you are being rewarded with less beatings' business model.

3:28AM

Apple hates iPad

Considering the iPad is slightly over a quarter of all of Apple’s Profits, Apple likes to really punish iPad users for not having bought an iPhone.

 

The new OS update is out and while the iPad 2 and the iPhone have similar specifications (Though the iPad 2 is slightly faster), Siri, the voice activated personal assistant is not on iPad 2.

Apple claims it’s because only the iPhone 4s has the power to run it smoothly – though as pointed out, it’s slower and less powerful than the iPad 2.

When the iPad came out, it didn’t have a Stocks app – neither did it have a calculator, voice memo recorder or weather app – Even the iPod touch 1st generation model which didn’t have a microphone had a voice recorder.

This is a point because Apple, upon demonstrating iOS 5 made much of the way they’d copied Android’s notifications bar, and added stock and weather widgets to it But they’re only available on small devices like the iPod Touch and iPhone – Again, despite being a showcase feature they’re not part of the iPad experience…

… and if you have a first generation iPad, neither are the app switching multi-touch gestures, which bizarrely are enabled on iPad 2.

This makes no sense as anyone who’s hacked their iPad to enable them will tell you – They work fine and they’re very very useful.  By not enabling them, Apple is basically indicating that by not upgrading their 18 month old iPads to the new, 6 moth old model, users have branded themselves unworthy of receiving the full experience.

It’s the same with iPhone apps that would be virtually full screen if Retina resolution graphics were enabled, but again, the iPad’s been locked down to force iPhone apps to run effectively at half the size they can run, purely so they provide an inferior experience.

The old-style voice control – Good enough for the iPhone 4 -  is missing from iPad, text to speech, while built into the iPad, is not enabled in any useful way – For the first time you can have it read some selected text on some apps, but there’s no way to e.g. turn it on and have an e-book read to you, or have it read text or e-mail messages.

The list of half-hearted changes goes on – But the summary is:

Apple hates the fact you didn’t buy an iPhone and is going to punish you for it.

6:01PM

The Windows 8 review that nobody else is writing

 

Windows 8. It has a freaky tiled UI that’s somehow replacing the Windows UI. And that’s all you’re going to hear about – IT looks weird. It has a new BSOD, yuo can use your finger on it… But that’s not all Windows 8 has for you, and right now, nobody wants to tell you that.

Except me.

A few days ago I downloaded the Windows BUILD developer preview, and since it’s incredibly buggy, I installed it using Virtualbox with the following specs:

  • 128mb of Video RAM
  • 3D Support enabled
  • 2.5 GB of RAM
  • 20GB HD
  • 1 CPU core

Surprisingly it runs quite smoothly, and I was even able to play some games, video and music, turn on the Aero Glass effect and enjoy all the interesting wibbles and oddments.

Caveat
 
This is a very buggy, beta version for developers and to show off the UI. A lot of stuff just isn’t working or not working right because it’s not finished, or simply not there at the moment.
 
Start me up

 

The first thing is the start screen. You have the option to set a password, pin number or set a photo and then use your finger to draw and tap a sequence to unlock your machine.

Logon

Initially you get a screen (Mine’s set to grey but it supports pictures) with the time and date and up to six other widgets, though none were available at the time – So in principle you can at a glance check your tweets, Google+, mail, and IM straight from the lock screen.

What’s missing is an indication of what you’re supposed to click to proceed.

Clicking around makes the screen slide up though and with a little experimenting you can slip the screen up like a shutter to get to your password/pin/login pic. I have no information on whether this is the final system or if a more streamlined system will be implemented.

By default, your Windows Login is your Live! account username and password which lets Microsoft sync your windows settings to the cloud for use on other Windows 8 computers, as well as hook your Hotmail in nice and smoothly.

You’ll be pleased to know this is optional.

Fear and Loathing in the Start Screen

 

star

The big one.

It’s the Start Menu, only it’s full screen, and the icons are boxes and some of them can tell you stuff.

AAAAAAAAAH OH MY GOD THE WORLD IS ENDING.

It’s nothing. It’s exactly like your start menu only better. Why better? Because you can un-install Metro apps by right clicking them and selecting Uninstall.

Also, when you want an app or to find your files or look for something you can go right ahead and just start typing and hey! Look what happens!

search

It finds your apps, it finds your control panels and settings and it finds your files – But this time instead of trying to cram them in a little box hanging off the start button, you get a decent view of your stuff.

Also you get to pin the last N apps you used to the right hand panel, which seems a little backward until you realise you can pull up the search panel at any time by moving the mouse to where the start button would be (Bottom left) and triggering the hot-corner which pops up five ‘Charms’.

Charms are the five buttons that are always available from the Start button:

  • Settings
    The settings menu. Includes a link to Control Panel.
  • Devices
    A simple device manager for quickly and easily dealing with the stuff plugged into your computer.
  • Share
    A way to easily share screenshots and files with people via apps. This isn’t just limited to your Homegroup, network or e-mail – if you have an IM app that ties into the API you can share via IM for instance.
  • Search
    The search bar.
  • Start
    The start page with all your widgets and apps.

Die-hards will be happy to know that pinning stuff to the taskbar or leaving an icon on the desktop still works fine.

Desktop Dramatica

 

Talking of the desktop, let’s have a look at the exciting changes that have been made!

desktop

First, notice that the mostly pink background and the pink of the UI match. This is not an accident – it’s Windows’ new ‘Auto color’ feature. Enabling it lets WIndows sample your wallpaper, pick a colour from it and then tint the UI to match.

Second, the days of round edges on Windows are apparently over – note the nice crisp sharp corners, with no crappy anti-aliasing.

Apart form this it’s business as usual – though the legacy UI is now gone. no more Windows 95 UI – Though there’s a simplified version still around, which allows for customising the colours to suit your purposes.

Low colour

Interestingly, the faux 3D look used since windows 3.1 and possibly before, has been dumped in favour of what is a pretty minimalist UI. Possibly this is not the finished UI, or it’s designed to be very easy to read by the visually impaired – it mostly shows up with high contrast themes.

If your graphics aren’t up to Aero you do get Windows Basic by default, a flat blue UI that’s a cross between this and Aero.

 

Are you a Dummy or an Expert?

 

Windows 8 is split between being a simple, touch capable UI with lots of very user friendly features, and a powerful, geek oriented system that’s nerd-friendly. And all it takes is a click in the right place:

First, the ‘Dumb’ mode for the 90% of users who didn’t, won’t and can’t learn all the intricate hotkeys and menu locations of explorer.

dumb copy

Note the ribbon and the handy ‘copy to…’ menu which lets you pin frequently used locations to your list of places to copy stuff. There’s also the quick bar in the title which lets you pin frequent actions for one click use. I customised it by adding a delete button. Also note the simple copy dialogue and that it has a pause and cancel button.

At this point a few people are generally muttering about how dumbed down things are getting. now look at the same thing with the ‘Details’ switched.

smart copy

The Explorer ribbon has been shrunk out of the way and now takes up less space than the previous version of Explorer, while letting users drop down the ribbon using auto-hide and the file copy dialogue is giving a read/write speed histogram – Incidentally showing amber because it’s been paused. When copying it’s a nice healthy green.

Also worth commenting on is that he big info bar at the bottom of Explorer is now moved to being a sidebar on the right of the main window, but it’s been replaced at the bottomwith a pair of icons to flip between detail view and large icon view.

The ribbon is also context sensitive – since I was in the Music folder it had an extra tab for handling music.

Another area where this simple/complex thing is in operation is the Task Manager.

Task Simple

In simple mode it merely shows you the open programs and lets you kill them. Muaha. Muahaha. But Ask for more details and you get this…

Task detail

There’s a lot going on here. First the task manager has been re-designed to be pretty, but also functional.

You can see that one of the apps is  ‘Suspended’ – it’s hibernating . It seems that certain sorts of apps, the Metro style ones can not only be hibernated, but if you need the resources, Windows can shut them down, like a Smartphone OS handling resources.

Secondly that the default metric is a percentage of overall system resources – In this case, only 23% of the memory is being used. I’ll come back to that in a second. Each of the columns can be converted from a percentage to a hard figure such as ‘50mb’ instead of ‘4.7%’, and the amber backgrounds become deeper to highlight any entry that’s active, making it easy to see what’s dormant and what’s being called. You can also expand the number of columns to see useful stuff like the command line that’s being called, and additionally – If a process has a sub process it’s threaded to show that.

taskman CPUTraditionally, Task Manager had a pretty crappy graphing system which looked cool but wasn’t really worth much, and in certain circumstances, such as the network adapter, was almost worthless if you were using 1mb of a 100mmb ethernet port.

The new task manager has some very pretty and nicely laid out graphs that allow you to see what’s going on very easily.

Next up is the app history which gives you a history of the CPU time apps have used, how much bandwidth they’ve used, and so on so you can see which ones are pigging out.

Further information (As if there wasn’t enough on display in Task Manager) can be had form Resource monitor.

Precious resources

 

How much of a resource pig is Windows 8?

It’s not. It does a lot of resource management, and aggressively hibernates apps that aren’t doing anything but sitting in the background – even apps that are designed to update tiles with live information – it de-hibernates them for their update and then hibernates them again, letting the notification API scroll the information. Consequently, Windows 8 is idling and with 4 apps open (weather, task manager, picture viewer and Explorer), and all the default processes it’s using…

570 Mb with 98 Mb in the swap file.

That might not seem impressive but it is. It shows that not only are Microsoft planning on making this their tablet OS they’ve gotten resource management down to the point where it can run on netbook spec machines, without sacrificing the cool UI toys.

Talk to me!

 

There’s a lot of new things in Windows 8 but one item caught my eye, or rather my ear. Microsoft Anna. She’s no longer in the OS. After being part of Windows through Vista and Win 7, and indeed, the only choice for Text To Speech synthesis, she’s been axed and not one but three new voices have been added – Microsoft-David, –Hazel and –Zira.

David and Zira are US voices, while Hazel has an English Accent. This is a nice change and shows Microsoft is still thinking of disabled users.

In fact the full suite of accessibility tools is available, and even easier to get to.

11:37AM

Deus Ex: Human Revolution–A Player’s Review

Having finally completed Deus Ex: human Revolution, here is my review in short form:

“Wait until it’s out on budget and they fixed the bugs.”

And now the longer version, under a cut…

Good
  • For £10, a satisfying game
  • Large choice of Aug upgrades.
  • Rapid XP aquisition.
  • Variable gameplay styles – Run n’ Gun, sit n’ snipe, stun n’ evade.
  • Upgrade weapons.
  • Health and power regeneration handled sensibly.
  • Difficulty levels are:
    • Tell me a story.
    • DeusEx how it was meant to be.
    • Challenge me.
Bad
  • It cost £35.
  • A lot of the Aug upgrades are pretty damned weak and ineffective.
  • Prepare to either sink a lot of your upgrades into expanding your inventory or get used to throwing away the weapons you spent thousands of credits upgrading because you ran out of ammo, and then a minute later, really wishing you’d been able to bring that Sniper rifle/silenced pistol/rocket launcher/pointy stick along.
  • Plot is pretty much exactly the same as the last two Deus Ex games.
  • The plot twists are pretty much telegraphed in the first five minutes of gameplay and confirmed quite soon. There are no big surprises in this game.
  • Some levels force you to toss away weapons you’ve sunk a lot of time and money into in the form of upgrades – It’s nearly impossible to fully upgrade any single weapon because the upgrade kits just aren’t available. And then you find the level designers are dropping hints that you should toss them by removing ammo from gameplay.
  • Despite quitting me out of the game and telling me I didn’t have enough resources to turn on Anti-Aliasing, this game continues to be both breathtaking in it’s design and scope and also, fugly.
  • No Windowed mode.
  • Item Highlighting is a toggle, but it’s advised to keep it on because some things can be interacted with and others which are very similar cannot be, and frankly there’s so much damned clutter that you’d never find what you’re looking for without it. But you cannot alter the colour (yellow) to make it stand out from the background (Mostly yellow).
  • All in-game characters suffer from Parkinsons. They constantly jitter, quiver, shake and twitch.
  • Adam Jenson apparently is either severely bow legged, massively overweight or spent the last six months on a boat because he walks and runs in an incredible, eye straining rolling gait that suggests he’s swaying side to side dramatically. There’s no option to turn this off.
  • ‘Pocket Secretary’ items often vanish from your log list. This is slightly problematic as they most often  contain the access codes or mission continuation info. I picked up one from a downed enemy, read it and was told I should read it some more before it’d update my waypoint. No matter how many times I read the entry the waypoint would not update. Fortunately like most of the plot points in game it was ham-fistedly obvious.
  • At least one mission cannot be completed by any means other than having a stupidly high hacking skill.
  • Boss fights: Oh dear.
    • Boss fights are often a dramatic way to end a story sub arc and allow the player to test out that special superweapon they’ve been dragging around for the last hour.
      However if your Boss is basically an invisible super soldier who can take a hundred bullets to the face and laugh it off while firing three types of grenade out of his ass and hosing the room down with his chaingun-nipples, it’d be really nice if your main character didn’t die from say… Taking two rounds to the leg. Also if you offer an Armour upgrade, it really aught to protect you. Even slightly.
    • There’s three ways Deus Ex used to deal with bosses:
      1. Go toe to toe and see who’s upgrades were better
      2. Use some clever environmental trap.
      3. Pick up some information and evade the fight alltogether.
    • In DX:HR your option is basically to die a lot then say ‘Fuck it’ and hammer the ‘Fire Typhoon Aug’ four or five times, and walk away. This is shitty design. The fact is you can tazer and tranq and EMP and gas the Boss and they will always still die of massive gunshot injury.
  • Too many no win-scenarios were provided apart from ‘Kill everything that moves’. If your game’s major feature is ‘find alternate routes’ and ‘look for other ways to cccomplish your goals’ (Both of which are handy laoding screen tips). maybe you should allow for htat to happen?
  • The ending is a throwaway – In a game full of fully rendered cut scenes with dramatic Bladerunner Noir visuals, they went with the cheapest, nastiest and least satisfying ending. It’s like sitting through Avatar and then the last five minutes is two interns with blue sock puppets.
8:29AM

Sucking the social out of Social Media.

Recently, I signed up for Klout and Empire Avenue, which are sites that track one's social media accounts and apply a number to you, a score suggesting your overall importance judged by how much interaction the system sees.

Click to read more ...