A letter from the Cuprohastes-in-Chief

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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.

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.


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



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.


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!


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!


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.


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…

  • 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.
  • 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.

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 ...


Confirmation bias and the dangers of being a nerd in the herd.

A short essay on why confirmation bias is bad for your website, and what confirmation bias is.

Click to read more ...


A short but informative guide to Social Media Ettiquette

Welcome to Social media, you've probably been here for a while already, or you're quite new to this!

Either way, here's a short guide; It's not here to let everyone get the most out of their experience without having to stab anybody!

00: Don't post guides telling people how to use social media sites. This is important. Nobody reads those things anyway.

01: Posting

You found a neat-oh Thing on the Internet and you just have to post that puppy (Or Kitten, as the case may be), but hold on there a moment, is there something you're forgetting?

  • Who else posted this? Is it someone wildly popular that has hundreds or thousands of followers?
  • Was it someone who is also a friend of a lot of your friends?
  • Is it likely to be something everyone has seen in their stream fifty times already?
  • Is this a video, picture or meme that's now more than a week old and therefore, by Internet standards, a tired, old cliché that will cause you to be mocked and de-friended by all the cool kids?

So you've determined that that your neat-o find really is worth posting! here's a couple of simple little things that you can do to make it even better!

Write a little something about it!

This is especially important if you're going to use a URL shortener. Here's an example!



This link doesn't show you what it points to and there's no explanation. It could be anything! It's probably something everyone's already seen before, and even if it isn't, it's something not everyone is interested in.

"My favourite moment in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (Sonic Rainboom)... 'Uh-oh!'"

This link also hides what's behind it, but you know what's there because I left an explanation. Now you don't need to click if you have a persistent loathing of MLP.

If you re-post someone else's post, add an explanation of why you're re-posting it, and if possible, add your thoughts - it's more interesting than just stealing someone else's link!

When you're posting links in Google+ it will try to add a thumbnail and a text snippet. Don't forget to use the 'Add Link' button to add your link so you can see what it looks like - if the text or the thumbnail aren't great, turn them off!

Before you post, ask yourself - does anyone really care about your game score, favourite game, or the fact you just got up? The answer is - No actually very few people care. Only the people who know you well will not hate you for saying 'Good morning' or 'Goodnight' or posting that you are going to lunch.

The obvious exception to this is Warren Ellis. You are not Warren Ellis. Don’t do it.

In fact, in Google+ you can arrange your contacts into circles - Why not arrange all your really good friends into one circle so you can post about your life only to that circle instead of publically broadcasting news of your impending sandwich?

Don't be a Bore.

If you have exactly one topic of conversation... try hanging out on a forum instead.

02: You and the Social Scene

Don't forget to fill in your profile, otherwise nobody will know who you are. It's like going to a party and refusing to introduce yourself before you loudly start trying to shout comments at other people who are having conversations!

Be self aware, especially in hangouts  – Just because you are…

  • Goth
  • Emo
  • Into Animé
  • Furry
  • A total Weeaboo
  • An asshole…

… doesn't mean everyone else is!

In hangouts, don't forget to say "Hello!" – But you don't need to give your life story! Try and stay away from the obvious comments like:

"So where are you all from?"

"How do you like Google+?"

"Are you wearing a hat?"

"Cool! A chick! Hey, you're hawt! Did you know Google Plus is like 90% guys? Can I see your tits?"

Remember, if everyone starts to look uncomfortable and leave, it's because you're really really creepy and nobody wants to talk to you!

Happy Google Plussing!

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