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A letter from the Cuprohastes-in-Chief

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9:12AM

Goodbye Windows Aero?

Microsoft wants to replace the ‘glass’ effect used in title bars and windows borders in Vista and Windows-7 with white.

The new UI looks like day One of writing a new UI when the programmers get the OS to draw a rectangle with a default background and some controls on. Only this time they called it a day and went for pizza.

The stated reason for this is that aero is now ‘cheesy’ – after  6 years of the windows 95 UI, and 8 years of the XP UI, the sudden rush to kill off Microsoft’s best looking UI is a little strange.

However, Paul Thurrot explains that it’s a this is what I’m interpreting as a twofold lie.

  1. The blank, flat UI uses less power to render, therefore increasing the battery life of tablet devices.
  2. It thematically integrates into the flat and kind of ugly Metro UI used elsewhere on Windows 8, which gets suddenly dropped by the much more pleasant looking desktop.

As a side note, I suspect the desktop exists in it’s current form because the Microsoft Office team insisted that the tablet experience included Office, but were unwilling to create a thematically consistent UI for Office – It’ll be available for ARM tablets but will use a UI that you won’t be able to comfortably access with your fingers, suggesting that the Office branch of Microsoft still expect people to carry a mouse and a keyboard around with their tablet, or at the very least, a stylus…

The main problem is that MS seems to have decided that the absolute best thing to do is homogenise the Windows experience on all platforms, so that for desktop users, the actual desktop will not have Aero, it’ll have the new ugly, badly designed UI to match the tablet and netbook experience, but without the option to revert to Aero if you choose.

This is the sticky wicket – If the flat UI was the default but Aero was an option this would not be a problem. As it stands right now, Windows has three  different UI schemes:

  1. Classic
    AKA Windows 95 style. This is a little unfair as it’s actually been updated with each release of Windows, and is still the most customisable, so it’s often used for high contrast colour schemes for the visually impaired, as well as for businesses who assume that once their staff learned to use a program using one UI they are somehow blocked form using an app that is the same but has a different colour title bar.
  2. Basic
    The nice powder blue UI you get when windows freaks out and decides your graphics card can’t handle Aero. This is actually the non-hardware acellerated UI that ship with Vista and Win 7.
  3. Aero
    Aero without transparency and with transparency (Aero Glass). Without you get a solid colour base that you can alter the hue and saturation of, which has some diagonal gradients to indicate abstract reflection. Enabling transparency adds in the familiar blurred glass effect.

The point of Aero Glass is that it makes your wallpaper become the wallpaper of your taskbar and title-bars, giving you some pleasant colour – And indeed, in Windows 8, the glass colour can be set to automatically change to match your wallpaper as it goes through a slideshow routine.

This is a pleasing and user friendly approach to decoration.

Would it be so hard to just declare that in Windows 8, the ugly, user unfriendly Metro UI is replacing Windows Basic, and will be enabled by default on ARM and tablet machines, but can be switched for the other UI schemes at the user’s discretion?

Look for a redaction of Microsoft’s fiat declaration as more people complain about losing Aero.

9:33AM

Conversations with my 8 year old self

2012: Hey! Hey! Over here!

1984: WHO ARE YOU

2012: I’m you from the year 2012!

1984: WOW

2012: … OK, Take the caps lock off. Look, I haven’t got long but I thought I’d tell you, you get this far at least.

1984 how is future. do yuo hav an lasir

2012: Well it’s pretty good. I mean there’s a recession but there’s plenty food and stuff. Yes, we have LASERs.

1984: wow i want a lasir wen i grow up an ill bbe all like pew pew die alein

2012: Yeah… no. We use them to annoy cats.

1984: i dont unnerstannd are you an famuos astrount in the futre

2012: No… sorry, turns out that it was cheaper to send a robot. We ditched the space program, junked all the space shuttles and went back to annoying cats with Lasers.

1984: oh i ht the futer it sucks

2012: On the upside there’s so much porn.

1984: i dont understaned

2012: Give it four years. OK, time’s up, I’m going to eat icecream.

1984: astranot icecream

2012: No.

3:03AM

Markdown

Markdown is a formatting system that removes the need to dick around with HTML or text editors that have rich text functions. Therefore you can quickly and simply type your stuff up and be done.

Needless to say it has problems – You need a Markdown interpreter to translate it to HTML, and the format is not bloody good for tablet users who then need to tap through two screens of virtual keyboard to find the correct symbols...

So you need an app with special keyboard or character inserting code, in which case you might as well just use rich text or HTML...

1:05AM

Is piracy that bad?

Hollywood claims it'll destroy an entire multi-billion dollar industry - But Hollywood got started in California because they were hiding out from Edison because they were pirating his camera technology. And Edison was making money selling pirate copies of 'The first men in the moon'.

America, a young country, was also infamous for never paying royalties on the inventions that they stole from older countries!

And now the USA is arguably the largest media producer in the world - If not quite the economic powerhouse they were ten years ago.

China is doing what the US did 150 years ago, and selling us cheap goods, bootstrapping their economy into the 21st century.

Authors and musicians who's efforts are regularly pirated paradoxically see increases in sales - Which the RIAA laments, even as they take 99% of the profits generated.

The Music industry has balked at every innovation in music - From music halls, to sheet music, to records and radio, through to tapes, CD burners and the internet, promising that at every step, this would definitively destroy not only the industry but actual music itself. And they have never failed to make a profit every time.

Adobe Photoshop is massively pirated - But the result is that now almost everyone who does graphics has experience in Photoshop and so it's the de-facto leader for image creation and manipulation, to the point where it's an officially recognised verb. Adobe has not declared bankruptcy.

And when all's said and done and the actual numbers are examined, the losses through piracy per year add up, in total, to roughly the profit of the Alvin & The Chipmunks movie - Less than $460,000,000.

Or to put it another way, approximately 1/800th of the advertising budget for the USA alone, which is roughly four hundred billion dollars. Roll that around your palate for a moment. Four hundred billion dollars. That’s a round trip to Mars with enough money left over to give every person in the US $330 to play with. And they’re worried because for every thousand dollars they spend on an advert, they lose one dollar of profit to piracy.

What's shocking is not that the figure is so low, but that the Chipmunks movie made so much!

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.