Faux Best Interest

28/05/2014

If there was ever a terrifying thought for any introvert, then it should be representing your company at a trade show. It sounds pure torture. So yesterday when I was asked if I would work at the Good food and Wine show I was wondering what these people were thinking. Firstly, I am no sales person and definitely not outgoing. I struggle to make small talk with a dog, let alone a human. Luckily they had a great selling point as to why I should accept: “You might actually meet someone at the show”.

Thanks for turning my lack of a boyfriend into a selling feature so that I can cover for you while you could not plan to be present at the show yourself. That annoyance aside, the portion that bugs me the most is what gives these people the right to even say something like it? Yes I am 34 and single, don’t have any prospects of a potential boyfriend on the radar, but what gives them the right to reduce my personal and painful situation into what feels like a punch line for a joke at my expense?

To say that this angers me and annoy me, well that is an understatement.

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What is Windows?

30/03/2013

I have been meaning to write about Windows 8 for a while now and as the discussion starts around Windows “Blue” I thought it is a good time to reflect a little about Windows 8.

I think the biggest misconception among people and tech journalist is the distinction between Windows (the platform) and Windows the products build from that platform and Graphical interfaces that we use in those products to interact with Windows. I think if everyone just step back a moment and remember these things, we might be in a far better position to understand what is happening going forward.

Windows firstly is a platform that consists of a Kernel (abstraction layer between hardware and software, currently 6.2 in Windows 8) with low level runtimes and API’s associated with it and some core key components, like a network stack and a driver stack. That is in its essence Windows!

Now, prior to Windows 8, the runtimes was called Win32 (an evolution of Win16). Every application known to Windows was build using these. They were presented in a Graphical User interface called the Desktop. The Desktop really is just a tablecloth; the table is Windows (Kernel and runtimes). You still with me?

The Desktop allowed us to interact with Windows, to run applications on top of Windows, configure Windows in a way that is simple, easy and non-technical (I am being generous).

In Windows 8, the table that is Windows got expanded. We still have Win32 runtimes from previous Windows, but added is a new set of runtimes called WinRT. These I would like to think of like the in-laws, they don’t talk to the rest and think they are better, but they are civil and they sit around the same table and they are still the same family. These set of runtimes have their own graphical user interface and their own ways to interact and configure Windows, called the Start screen and Charms.

Now that we are clear as to what is Windows (the platform), what is runtimes (Win32 and WinRT) and what is Graphical user interfaces (Desktop and Start Screen, charms) we can look at this and say WOW, what a mess and Microsoft kindly called this a product and named it Windows 8.

So how is Microsoft evolving this mess forward with Windows Blue / Next / 9. Firstly, it is consolidating the interface to configure Windows. It is duplicating the Control panel (Desktop) functions in the PC settings (Start and Charms). I am not sure if they will remove Control panel in Blue already, but I suspect you might find that some of the duplication being removed going forward, with PC settings remaining as the sole way of configuring Windows.

At some stage I think it is possible that Microsoft could / might remove the Desktop completely. (Now please breath) Desktop is just a user interface. The runtimes to make your application run will still be there (it is Win32 that makes your applications sing, not the desktop). One way of doing this will be to ring-fence / fortify Win32 runtimes. Either by UAC every time you run an application or once when you authorise it to run. This way you can negate the negative impact of unwelcome Win32 application (malware). Full screen applications are the easiest, since they run full screen already. For windowed applications they could easily use the Start screen background and tattoo as the back ground for the application to run. It is one way to eliminate the confusion that the duel nature of Windows 8. Doing this, they could make these application basically run just like WinRT applications, each one on their own (just like a virtual machine) without the penalties of virtualisation as these application will still be native. You might even be able to save their state and suspend them.

Or they could choose to maintain the Desktop interface going forward, run all your Win32 applications like you do today, but that environment will be nothing more than just a way to present your legacy applications.

One can also dream and maybe they enable to new “Desktop” where both WinRT and Win32 applications run side by side windowed or full screen as needed. One can dream I said!


2012 – The dawn of a new age

07/05/2011

I have been dreaming computers for too long it seem. There are few new developments of late that truly impress me or that have me excited. The problem is that is all of the same from before, just faster, thinner and smaller.

The last time I was truly impressed was the original Macbook Air. Here was a design that I thought, this is truly 21st century. Hopefully the likes of Dell and HP will join the party and make laptops attractive and truly mobile. Sadly I was wrong. It is only now, after years that the Air has been in the market that the rest of the field is catching on. Meanwhile, it took Apple itself to refresh the original Macbook Air to once again take my breath away and remind me that this is the 21st century.

But it is not only the Macbook Air that gives us a glimpse of what computing should be. The whole idea of a tablet like the iPad just scream 21st century. It is probably what we all imagined the future of computing will look like. From the form factor to the touch interface, all that is missing is voice recognition and we have something the best science fiction writers would conjure up at the dawn of mainstream computing in the 80’s.

The real question is why is the rest of the computing industry struggling to beat Apple? The iPad is doing well. People are queuing to buy them. If you look closely at the underlying technology, and you ignore the hyperbole Apple spew about the fantastic engineering, than you will realise that the iPad is as generic as they come. There are no special Apple secret hardware engineering here. It is all components off the generic shelve, assembled and….packaged. This is the true Apple engineering secret! Apple knows how to package it, price it and most importantly, dial into our inner geek and get us to stand in line to buy it.

You want to beat Apple, you will have to learn how to package: 8 hours battery life, thousands of applications, thousands of movies, tv shows and music, thousands of books, full desktop browser, simple to use, build in camera, video calling, always connected, responsive screen, great touch interface, easy to develop for, low piracy… that is a tall order.

Hardware wise you can match Apple, and you have options. ARM based cpu’s is the obvious choice. They are powerful, scalable and customisable. They are built by a range of suppliers and you can either pick readymade chips or design your own. There is also Intel with Atom. While this is an option at the moment, it is not a good option. Current versions of Atom are to power hungry, which will negatively impact battery life. Intel is about to introduce their next generation Atom that will probably go a long way to fixing these and other short comings. For the rest of the components, you can pick the same suppliers as Apple. You might find though that at Apple’s volume and exclusive supply agreements that you will probably end up with the bread crumbs, but let’s say you can find it. Looking at the market there are already plenty of people doing exactly that. HP, Asus, Acer, Lenovo, RIM, Motorola, the list is endless, but why are they not beating Apple.

The real issue is Apple’s one massive advantage, iOS combining iTunes and the app store. In the words of Steve Jobs himself, “the iPod is all about software” and so is the iPad.

So let’s look at the options the rest of the industry has when it gets to the software side of things and why 2012 might be the year Apple might finally find itself with real competition.

Right now we have WebOS, Android 3.0, RIM and Windows 7.

WebOS, which HP acquired from Palm is a possibility. It does have some merit. The problem is it is HP only. This is not per se a problem; iOS is Apple exclusive as well. The problem for HP is that they are no Apple and I doubt that they could pull an Apple any day soon. So WebOS is probably a non-starter and will remain so.

Android 3.0 is Google’s big push for the tablet industry. It is a good platform. Android has done wonders in the phone industry in a short time. The problem with going from phones to tablets is that phones is limited computing at its best. Tablets represent something bigger and more productive. Looking at the response from first generation Android 3.0 devices, it appears that Google has more work to do. The biggest obstacle for Google is app store. It does not have a universal apps store that can rival that of Apple. Android fragmentation is something that has hampered their apps store and developers alike. They are also lacking the multimedia content that Apple has at their disposal. If rumours are too believed, Google is working on these aspects, but at this moment in time…

RIM is a bit of a wild card, but one can apply the same things we said about WebOS. They have the advantage of the existing phone partners that will subsidise the device, but unless they can offer something better than Apple, it is still a wannabe product and at the current price, not a good showing.

That brings us to Windows 7. It is a fantastic OS. It does come with a bunch of tablet friendly interfaces and API’s, but at its core, it is way too heavy a choice for a “pad” product. It is too bloated, does not come with a native touch orientated UI and most importantly, it has a too high resource requirement for itself, let alone anything else. It was designed for a tablet in the vision of Microsoft, not in the vision of Apple. Microsoft’s tablet works with a stylus as primary input device whereas Apple’s work with touch. Windows 7 does support touch, but not as the sole and primary input interface. It biggest flaw is that it does not have an application store with easy access to applications.

The other problem with Windows as a pad OS is that it relies on x86 technology, which means you are limited to Atom as a processor choice. Currently, that will mean a bulky product to cater for the cooling and sufficient battery life.

If you look at the current available Software solutions, it becomes very clear why iPad is flying of shelves and why the rest just cannot muster any reasonable showing.

So what is different in 2012 and why is that the dawn of true mobile computing. Two rather big things will come to passing in 2012.

On the software side of things, Windows 8 is being built at a breakneck pace.  Windows 8 will natively support ARM processors. Windows 8 will support an application store and a new, easier application building tools derived from Windows Phone 7.

Microsoft has awoken to the “Apple tablet vision” and they are not tweaking to make it work with their software, they are rebuilding and ramping up to pick a fight.

Microsoft is finally emerging as a new re-energised company after 10+ years in the doghouse for its anti-trust ridden past. In a way they are the same company with the same goals, but they are executing it very differently. They have several things going for them already.

They have existing movie and music agreements in place from their Zune days. Windows is build with DRM tech build in. Something Android, or rather Linux does not have and which is a prerequisite for digital media content. They have proven that they can build a primary touch interface with Windows Phone 7. They have a big gaming service that scales to desktop Windows and phone Windows. They have existing ties to OEM’s. They pioneered generic OS’s. They learned a bunch of lessons from Windows Phone 7. I bet you right now that the Windows on tablets will be closer to the desktop version of Windows than the phone version.

Looking at what Windows 8 brings to the table, Microsoft might be the first company to cover all the bases and bring the fight to Apple on the software side. They are no Apple, but they have proven in the past that does not matter, they talk partners and generics better than anyone and with that comes economy of scale and price!

Windows 8 will also enable the merging of the mobile and desktop worlds which will be a catalyst of the dawn of 21st century computing and the catalyst of a battle that have been predicted and brewing for some time.

ARM is scaling their processors up via their mobile platform by ramping up the clock speed and core count in their cpu’s.  Intel is shrinking their desktop chips down to meet ARM in the mobile space. The table is set for a battle but the stakes are much higher now. Stagnation in computer requirements for everyday computing and the availability of Windows on ARM will mean a battle on phones, tablets, netbooks and laptops and everyday desktops.

2012 might be the year predicted that Earth comes to an end. I would rather more safely predict as the year that we are finally going to see 21st century computing and more bizarrely a world still happy with Windows.


Death of PC gaming

11/03/2010

A lot have been written about the pending demise of the PC as a gaming platform. Publishers and designers have blamed piracy as the reason why the once leading platform is faltering so badly…or so they would like us to think. Maybe it is them that are killing the PC platform?

I just finished playing Bioshock 2. It is my first blockbuster game in almost a year. I skipped Modern Warfare 2 for reasons that I will explain later.  I bought Bioshock 2 on launch day here in South Africa, which was a week later than the release in Europe, which in turn was a couple of days after the release in the States. This to me is the first problem, not only with PC gaming, but all gaming, why is there a lag? This is still fairly close, sometimes we as PC gamers have to wait 3 months and longer for our version…but it does not end there either. Here in South Africa we sometimes have to wait longer periods for games to reach our shores.

So after I have installed the game, which took 45 minutes, I am ready to go, oops, maybe not, I must first log into Games for Windows Live. Ok, no problem, I have an account so I insert the details and now I can game? Still no. I must first download my gamertag and profile. Right, that is done, nope, sorry, must first update the game, otherwise I will be logged out of the network, which means my achievements will not register on my gamerscore, sigh.

So after all that is done, my dearest arrive, and my gaming time is depleted, so no gaming the first night.

When I eventually start playing two nights later, the lack of wide screen support for the game is so obvious; it is killed the immersion. Why are games shipping today without widescreen support? Considering that most gaming LCD’s sold is widescreen? Is piracy for this to blame as well?

After two gaming sessions, I log in be greeted with a message informing me that there is an update available for Bioshock 2, happily I accept, because it is a small update to fix the widescreen issue. One would assume that the update will run in the background and next time I start the game it would have seamless updated. You would be wrong, you see, if you want to play, you must be logged out of Games for Windows Live. While you are logged out, the patch does not download. If you would like to get the patch, you cannot play. So instead of playing Bioshock, I was playing Freecell, because Bioshock 2 was stuck in the menu, with a progress bar. The update took almost 2 hours in the end. While this was happing, my Pentium Dual Core was utilised to 100% utilisation for the duration of the time, making even Freecell slow. To rub salt into my wounds, you must exit the game to run the update! Is piracy for this to blame as well?

I skipped Modern Warfare 2, simply because at launch it was the most expensive PC game I would have own at R499. Considering that all other new titles in South Africa is R349 to R399.  I for the life of me could not justify paying that price for a 6 to 7 hour gaming experience, one that you will probably only play once. I generally do not play the online portion of the game. Why such a high price:  one of the biggest anticipated games of the year, and it is great, so we will charge for it. In the end, they lost my sale. I will buy the game eventually, once the inevitable Game of Year addition or the budget title is released a year from now.

To me, sitting here, there is a lot more wrong with PC gaming than simply piracy. The biggest problem is that the development tools on PC are simply not there. You can blame Microsoft for this, as well as AMD, Intel, Nvidia and ATI. These companies will tell you quickly that they are doing many things to promote PC gaming, on the face of it you have to agree with them, they all have a stake in this platform. The problem is, that stake has nothing to do with promoting gaming, it has all to do with selling and justifying their most expensive parts to gamers…

In the end, piracy has had it easy on PC, partly because the publishers have given them the opportunity. They release games weeks apart in different territories, they charge high prices and they don’t drop those prices after a couple of weeks. They don’t release demos anymore and they ship far inferior products to PC’s as of late.

They are not the only ones to blame. The big players are not doing enough to drive cost and risk of development down for PC game makers. We have nVidia investing in some games so that developers optimise for their cards, locking out others. ATI does the same but to a lesser extent. Why are these companies not making code available to all game designers to make life easier for all? Why is Microsoft not doing more to help? We have the dismal Games for Windows Live, which by the way, is still as stupid as it was when launched. Why is there not a massive depository of code available to designers and engine builders to access? If you have to compare to the consoles, which everyone likes to do so much, they have development platforms, debugging tools, compilers and system specific optimisations, readymade code for network, outputting to screen, scaling to resolutions…which it seems is a far cry from what PC game designers is faced with…they mostly have to build these things from scratch.

There is far more wrong with PC gaming than simply piracy…and piracy is not all to blame for the dismal state of PC gaming…

That brings me to Bioshock 2. It has restored some faith in PC gaming and multiple platform gaming. The game is awesome. It still feels as fresh as the original. It is truly a unique experience once again. Maybe because they change enough to make it fresh or the mere fact that there were not 20 clones since the originals release. If all multiple platform games are this well polished for every platform it would already go a long way.

What is clear though is this: The PC no longer set the pace. The hardware is now far superior to the current generation consoles, but it is no longer driving games. Crysis is still as good as it gets, and that is already 2 years old. The market has gotten to small and too risky to push the envelope and that might just be a good thing. My three year old graphics card can still game, which means that there are potentially a bigger market for games on the PC than ever before. Now if only publishers and platform contributors get their acts together and stop killing PC gaming under the propaganda of Piracy…


Turning 30

19/02/2010

It is just after midnight and I just turned 30! For most people this is a major train smash, leaving their twenties… I thought I would have more angst about it myself, but as it turned out, my angst came on my 29… I think as the last year settles and I move into this new one, I am ready for being 30.

I was never a terrible teenager. I think my parents have had the easiest job in the world to raise me. I never wanted a motor cycle; I had at that stage in my life no desire to drink… I can honestly say I was never drunk before. I never went through the wild experimental stage, I never wanted to smoke, and in fact, I detest smoking so much, that I only have one smoking friend…

My twenties were my crisis years. Unlike other people, that push them self to experience new things and discover who they are and what they want, I was working hard not too… I battled about being gay, the consequences of it… leading to depression, helplessness, low self worth and ultimately to being severely overweight.

Turning 28 was my turning point. In New York, I realised that without thinking about it, I have achieved one of my goals, to travelling, getting away from home and living on my own. To be actually twenty…  It was that power within that gave me the guts to accept my sexuality, a fact I should not hide nor can change. The year that followed was a storm of events, dating for the first time, losing weight, exercising, meeting someone special (or so I thought), having your heart broken…it was a busy year…

Then 29 stormed by and the angst started. I wanted to do so much before I turned 30 and time was running out… but I have not done to badly: I had a romance, for 8 weeks I fall deeply madly irresponsible in-love, knowing that it would end in tears and a lot of hurt, yet, I just did not care. I felt free and seriously in love for the first time in my life… Then I came home, I started a new career, I moved into my own space, which later by accident became my first home and property…

I have also met someone that makes me smile most days and that care for me greatly and someone I care for greatly. This time the love is different, it is not perfect but it is real and I know that we can build on it and expand it and that is what is special about it…

I think people fear turning 30 because they are now expected to be mature, grown up, responsible. I think they associate it with a time they no longer can be the things that makes being twenty so great.

That brings me to me, being 30… In many ways, I think I have always been 30: I have always been very serious and responsible…most days I wish I were not like that. I think my wish for myself this year and for my rest of my life is to be a little twenty every once in a while: Dare to be free, dare to experience, dare to push yourself, be you and just have some fun…


The oldest wish…

10/07/2009

I find myself wondering the age old question…what must one do to get a great guy in your life? Is it to much to ask that a nice guy can just walk up to you and be open and honest about what he wants form you…? Why can’t it be this simple?

Have it ever happened that you have found some one and he ends up living in another part of the world, thousands of miles away…with so many obstacles to overcome that you have to ask yourself if this is even possible? Or you have two people that are a great match for one another, but they both don’t want to let go of their lives…or the one is willing too but the other is not…or worst yet, they only “work” outside their normal lives…?

Is it too much to ask for just a guy that is willing to open his mouth and be honest about what he wants, be available and willing to open to you and you be both willing to deal with each other…?

Instead, what we have is some of the following…You are to open with your feelings, you are too intense…Or I can’t give up my aspects of my life, they are too important to me, it is not fair on you to wait for me…Or you are pressurising me…

There is also the other side, I will give up everything to be with you…Or it does not matter as long as we are together…Or I know we belong together…therefore nothing else matter…

Mr X and Y, you are both idiots…and both wrong for me…

You are playing the oldest two dating schemes in the book…Guild and Playing the field.

You see, this play works well for them, like a spider and his web. You the counter party are caught in their web. Vulnerable, exposed, needy…they are driving everything. The one makes you feel guilty that you don’t feel the same towards him, the other, keeps you guessing and unsure, setting the rules and the game play…making sure you can’t fight back or demand too much, because then they will loose you…

You see both these parties have their goals, and they care about what suits them…what you want is less important…you are ultimately there LUNCH!

Yes, the Madman is not so sane today, but he needs to write…I am distracted and I want to just scream at someone. It is fear, pent-up frustration, lust, hate, love, guild, anger, helplessness, hopelessness… So world, fate, divine intervention, please send me Mr. Right…I am home…alone!


The cost of living at home

28/06/2009

There is an often expressed misconception that it is cheap to stay at home with your folks. People that say something like that clearly moved out in their late teenage years before adulthood set in.  Any person that has lived with their parent in their early adulthood will tell you that the cost of living with your parents is high and that it had nothing to do with money.

You see as I am sitting here typing, I am deeply irritated.

The idiot that tell you it is easy living at home, free laundry and food…utopia? Yeah right, I will cook any day my own food and do my own laundry.

You see what they take for granted is their freedom. I gave up a breakfast with friends this morning. Why? To avoid the inevitable fall out. You see, my brother is home this weekend, and I was out at friends Friday and Saturday night. So if I miss the last remaining main dinner while he is here, there will be issues…

So, rather give up the breakfast and spent it at home. Not like I am socialising…I am typing this after all. The cost of living at home has truly nothing to do with money; it is the cost of giving little up little things that other adults take for granted!