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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New title for this blog

A couple of the partners I work with recently busted my chops for having a boring blog title.  I admit it was neither catchy, nor sexy.  It was, however, descriptive.  (If you don't remember what it was, that just underscores their point that it was boring.)  So I decided to re-title it after one of my books, The Compassionate Geek.  I've been a geeky, nerdy kind of guy most of my life and for the last few years I've been trying to understand compassion and to be more compassionate, thus the title.  I'm still going to rant (see my previous post on Windows 8 and Skype) and share thoughts on technology, customer service, and life.  Really, the only thing that has changed is the title...and the beautiful new header graphic. 

Wouldn't it be cool if the new title got millions of new readers!  Oh wait, you have to write regularly to do that.

Has Microsoft made Skype suck?

A bit of background on two things:  Thing one, like lots of people, I love Skype.  Thing two, I've been looking forward to the release of Windows 8 from our Seattle neighborhood software giant for a while.  I actually like a lot of Microsoft products, even though I'm a died-in-the-wool Linux devotee, at least on servers.  I was one of the three people in the universe who liked Windows Vista.

I didn't expect MS to ruin Skype when they bought it.  I hope it's just something I don't understand.  Here's the thing.  You can no longer log on to Skype with your Skype name.  The first time you run Skype on Windows 8, you have to join your former Skypename with your Microsoft account (think Hotmail, Windows Live, etc.)  You now have to use your Microsoft account to log on to Skype and doing so connects your Skype with some old Microsoft messaging account that you never used.  (Did anyone ever really take Microsoft seriously in the messaging arena?)  Okay, okay, I understand corporate takeovers and assimilating...err, integrating the taken-over into the Borg...err, new family.  The problem is that now I'm getting spammy IMs from who knows where, except that it's from somewhere on a MS messenger account that I never used anyway.  Grrrr.  Oh wait, I'll just right-click on the message and delete it.  Nope, can't do that.  You can only delete all messages.  Grrrr.  Okay, well, I'll just right-click on the account that's spamming me and report it.  Nope, can't do that either.  The right-click in Skype for Windows 8 does nothing.  WHAT?!?!?!  Does Windows 8 turn a computer into a Mac? What's happened to the power of the right-click?  Has it been emasculated? 

Someone told me that MS had invested a billion hours of testing into Windows 8.  Must have been a billion hours somewhere other than testing Skype, one of the world's most popular applications.  I wonder if we're witnessing another New Coke or Edsel in progress here.  I hope, I hope, I pray even, that it's something I'm missing and that Microsoft hasn't completely lost touch with their user base, including me.

In fairness, I like the Windows 8 tiles and the concept of the Start Screen instead of the Start button and menu.  However, I don't like my new HP ENVY dv6-7210us Notebook PC's battery life (or the lack thereof).  It's rated at about five hours and appears to run out at about three hours, even with the screen brightness set on the lowest level, plus the keyboard seems to occasionally miss keystrokes.  You know, part of the problem is that I expect better from both Microsoft and HP.

Now, the sentence I never thought I'd type and the words I never thought I'd utter:  I think I might, just possibly, return my new Windows 8 laptop and go visit the Apple store.  Oh, Steve...  Oh wait, there's that nasty issue with Apple Maps.  Maybe it's time for another look at Ubuntu.

I hope that someone will tell me I just haven't spent enough time with the new operating system.  I hope someone will call me a moron for overlooking the obvious.  (Well, I don't really want to be called a moron, but I do hope it's something I'm missing.)  We'll see.

More to come.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Getting used to Windows 8

I think I like the new Start screen in Windows 8, but of course it's going to take some getting used to.  I made an PICNIC* error today when I deleted the Start screen tile for Mail, thinking it was limited to Microsoft's mail products.  Turns out that it supports GMail, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail, and any other mail service that uses POP3, IMAP, or Exchange Active Sync.  The benefit is that the live tile shows your latest email as it arrives.  So I decided that maybe I did want that tile after all.  Hmm, how to recover an accidentally deleted tile?  Turns out that it's easy, but not terribly well documented, at least as far as I could tell.  The mail tile is part of the Mail, Calendar, People, and Messaging app in the Microsoft app store.  A couple of mouse clicks and it's reinstalled and configured with all of my mail accounts in one place.  Aside from feeling like a moron for deleting it in the first place, no harm done.  Hmm, now let's see what else I can foobar!**

Speaking of messaging, I don't use messaging apps very much.  When I opened the messaging app, my friend Paul was looking over my shoulder and we were both quite surprised to see an IM from him.  Turns out it was some spam app.  That's annoying enough, but I couldn't find any way to block it, report spam, or do anything else.  MS seems to have decided to limit the use of context menus with right-clicks.  Grrr.

* Problem in chair, not in computer
** Foul up beyond repair

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Plunging into Windows 8

My very old laptop which I've upgraded over and over and over finally started to give up.  I decided to take the plunge and get a new HP Envy laptop running Windows 8.  I had already played around with Windows 8 in a VM, so this isn't entirely new territory for me, but it's always a little nerve-racking when you jump in and start running your business on new technology.  Still, initial impressions are positive.  I'm still learning my way around, but I really like the tiles already and I think I'll like them better after I learn more about customizing them.  I don't have thoughts yet about performance, but after the next seven days or so, I should get a pretty good idea of how it stacks up against Windows 7.  Of course, it's not an entirely fair comparison, since the Windows 7 computer is pretty old with only a dual-core processor and four gigs of RAM.  I'm still installing applications, but getting close to being finished with the initial setup.  What a pain!  It's about a three day process.  I'll let you know how things go, especially in the area of performance, after a few more days.

Friday, October 19, 2012

I wrote (whined, actually) in my new Cisco router book about my frustration with USB-to-Serial adapters.  I've used several and they all seem to make my computer blue screen or experience other weird problems.  I found this website, http://www.usconverters.com, which sells converters and ranks them based on performance and reliability.  I just ordered the Xetatronix USB Serial Adapter Pro for about $40.  It's supposed to be compatible with Windows 7, Linux, Windows 8, Mac, and just about any other operating system you can imagine (I wonder if that includes CP/M).  It's supposed to be here next week, just in time for a Cisco router onsite class in Iowa.  I'll let you know how things go.