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back to article So: 6,500 Win 8 laptops later, how are BT's field engineers coping?

An unheard-of decline in PC sales figures since launch, a grumbling press and a user base that struggles without a touchscreen: Windows 8 is easy to take a swipe at. Yet BT announced in November last year it was deploying 5,900 Win 8 Panasonic Toughbooks for its "last mile" Openreach division – the engineers who walk the line …

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Very good indeed

That was very interesting. It's nice to find out if and how Win 8 is being used.

I have reservations, like most people. It certainly looks and feels like a jumbled effort. But still, nice to get the word from the street - instead of the usual straight up trashing.

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Re: Very good indeed

I've gone from XP to Win8 + touchscreen.

I've found I'm using the keyboard more than I did with XP.

Still using a mouse but things like shutdown are just poke at the desktop and alt-F4 then another poke -- takes less time than wiggling the mouse about.

Some annoyances -- like the arrow keys have acquired a 'snap' function when not in text entry.

Unticked the box for log-in on start-up and the bugger gives me another log-in screen instead.

But it's faster than XP and I've had no problems with 'x86' programmes at all.

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Re: Very good indeed

Yup, real-life case beats uninformed opinion every time. But am I the only one that interpreted this mainly as the engineers benefitting from getting decent kit, rather than getting W8 as such? If developers are taking the opportunity to put better and more relevant/functional frontends on their applications (mobile or otherwise), does the underlying OS actually matter these days? Just asking...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Very good indeed

"If developers are taking the opportunity to put better and more relevant/functional frontends on their applications (mobile or otherwise), does the underlying OS actually matter these days?"

Good point, given in most screen shots it's in desktop mode and being used with a stylus, the OS experience as far as using those applications goes is no different to the old XP swivel top tablet/slate things released around the same time as XP.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slate_PC

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Re: Very good indeed

Elmer Phud "Still using a mouse but things like shutdown are just poke at the desktop and alt-F4 then another poke -- takes less time than wiggling the mouse about."

In fact, just setting the power button to "Shutdown" in the Power Options applet in Control Panel, then just pressing it once is quicker than any other method - and has worked since Windows 95.

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Re: Very good indeed

Ta, you learn something every day.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Very good indeed @ Elmer Phud

How is the three fingered poke at the screen coming along ?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Very good indeed

ask the engineer for a real world view of 8, not the guy in charge of procurement!

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Re: Very good indeed

If you spend most of your time in a front end app then you'd experience very little of the Win8 new experience pain, but you'd gain better power management and faster startup and shutdown times over XP.

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WTF?

Re: Very good indeed

What is "desktop mode"?

The start screen replaces the start menu, but the desktop is still there just like it has been before. Is Windows 7 or Windows XP in "desktop mode" when the start menu isn't open?

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Re: Very good indeed

The underlying OS should never have mattered in the first place. It should be invisible, and definitely not worthy of fanfare and launch parties. It should just do its job.

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Re: Very good indeed

Beyond the interface changes (which aren't that big a deal in my view), it's just normal windows, but more solid, more robust and actually pretty damn good.

The only thing I don't like is the new IE, but I don't like the same new IE on Windows 7 either.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Very good indeed

Do you read that BT are hating Windows 8?

These are people actually doing work with some technology, not wasting hours, months of their life telling others how they think something is bad (even though they've never used it).

Get a life Eadon, people actually find uses for all sorts of technology. Every tool has a use, even you.

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Boffin

@quarky

"desktop mode" is what you're in when you're not using the "Fabulous Fred" interface mode.

That said, it seems the engineers are mostly using a front-end app, so they don't suffer from interface change pain. Also, it's a touchscreen device so it does take advantage of the extra stuff, and being a newer OS than XP, driver support must be much better.

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Re: Very good indeed

yes. If you look at what they do, really any decent bit of kit would have worked. Win8 was chosen as much because it was backward compatible with minimal porting with existing custom in-house apps.

Now if someone aid to me 'select the OS for brand new customs apps' i'd write them for either platform independent HTML/javascript, java or native C on a linux like platform.

As for productivity, I've yet to see more data processed faster than on a wyse50, complete with an operator who learnt what the apps function keys did, and could touch type.

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Re: Very good indeed

I agree. Overall the article does bring forward interesting information. However, from practical experience, far too many managers have an overly and unjustifiable positive bias - so I'm a bit weary of just taking the word of the guy who was in charge of it all and who wouldn't have an interest in making his efforts look crap - if there were any actual problems. So useful, but could have done with the contribution of some third party with less personal stake in the project, as well.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Very good indeed

Indeed. This is why this mindless bashing of technology (whether it be Microsoft, Apple, Unix) is daft. There is a use case for things, and if the OS fulfils the need for that use case, why not use it just because it's a specific vendor/platform?

:-)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Very good indeed

Yes....how very amazing when you have teams of engineers working on the legacy apps and all the bugs for months...

Hate to be Joe Schmo trying to get those buckets of shit working all by ones self...

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Paris Hilton

Wait, What?

BT field engineers process parking fines?

"This BT division [...] has seen how well the convenience of this platform works in the field: from photographing and reporting damage on-site to swift processing of parking fines."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wait, What?

Because overzealous, commission based, parking zealots slap parking tickets on the vans when they shouldn't so I can guess they can prove where they were and for how long.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wait, What?

It's an occupational hazard. The vans spend a lot of time parked where they shouldn't be - the technicians have to carry too much stuff to park it in a multi-storey and walk to their jobs. Imagine the productivity hit if they had to spend 20 minutes walking to the van and back every time they need a new tool or tester or box opener or reel of cable.

In the past traffic wardens would turn a blind eye if the van wasn't causing an obstruction and was otherwise safely parked. These days they seem to actively seek out the vans as an easy source of income. The end result is that utility employees can get two or three parking tickets a day in urban areas. Automating the process of reclaiming those fines probably saves those people an hour a day.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wait, What?

I used to work for BT Payphones, many years ago and had a memorable encounter with one such "over zealous" idiot.

I was clearing a cash jam.. Now a payphone cashbox can hold several hundred quid, so I don't want to be parking away from the box and walking around the town with it. I, therefore, parked right next to the box on the pedestrianised section and switched on the ARB.

Along comes <insert name of favourite evil dictator, here>, the local parking enforcement arsehole (Pea, for short):-

Pea: "You can't park that there"

Me: "I just have"

Pea: "You'll have to move it"

Me: "Nope"

Pea: "If you don't move it, you'll get a ticked"

Me: "Fine, go ahead"

Pea: "I mean it"

Me: "I'm sure you do, either get on with it or piss of, as I have work to do"

Pea: "I don't think your boss will be happy if he has to pay a parking fine"

Me (getting a bit pissed off, now): "What will actually happen is my boss will call your boss and complain about you harassing someone who is lawfully parked (pointing at ARB and guards) and doing his job and will probably result in you getting your ugly arse kicked. Now either write the ticket or fuck off.

He fucked off.

The best bit was the round of applause from the small crowed who had stopped to listen to the altercation.

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Anonymous Coward

Parked up prats

the problem is that when a BT van is parked there... other people assume that their needs are equally as urgent... maybe (for example) you cant expect the average IT bod to walk 50 paces to a cashpoint machine when he can simply park on the DYL "oh and just pop into the sandwich shop... oh and I need some more smokes.... 30 seconds becomes 10 minutes or more, and tyou would be surprised how many people DONT understand how much room a bus or a truck needs to navigate your carelessly abandoned car, far easier to say "if you want to park.. get a proper official) dispensation - the facility exists... just people are too idle to use it.

What is actually needed is for the councils and operations like BT to come up with a form that sets out the venues for an engineers work each day that could be issued by the LA on request by BT. Otherwise it becomes a case of joe public getting upset with a "Im gonna punch your head in - you booked me but not him...."

PS Most of the rules - including a lack of discretion - are set by the LA operating the restricted area... you wanna bitch? your local councilor is the guy to talk to. Classic case here last week.. Mr BT parked on a DYL outside a bank NOTHING could pass once a bus came along and couldnt pass his nicely liveried BT Vauxhall van while he stood in the cashier queue (not enquiries) in Santander! Luckily no ambulances or Fire appliances arrived on their way to a 999 call... one day it could be your house - or life - threatened by some prat who is too tired to walk anywhere.

Here come the down-votes from the twunts who think they should be able to drive door to door with parking anywhere they fancy stopping.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wait, What?

He was clearly a half wit who needed retraining, CIT vehicles and the like (which call box collection vehicles are classified as) are exempt from restrictions - as are street works, postal packets and blue light vehicles.

He would have got a real ass kicking from me if he was on my team (Former Parking Control Supervisor) possibly followed by a hearing with the Contract Manager - or a referral for re-training - or both.

Councils can be so two faced.. One London Borough used to complain about vehicles parked (or waiting to pick up passengers from a nearby office block) in a recessed area resembling a layby but in a restricted area and included in the restriction. They complained like mad when I issued to a mobile library parked there and I simply pointed out to them that the law applies to them as much as the members of the public that they had insisted we ticket over previous months. They soon removed the restriction - which was a pointless one anyhow.

The parking bods get as frustrated as anyone else with silly pointless lines... but they are monitored by the Councils and penalties exist for non enforcement especially is the enforcement is under contract

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Re: Wait, What?

" Imagine the productivity hit if they had to spend 20 minutes walking to the van and back every time they need a new tool or tester or box opener or reel of cable."

But that's an excuse anyone can use. You might as well say 'but how can my business make money if I have to abide by the law?' The only reason there is space for BT vans to park there is because most other people don't. Let's here you complain about overzealous traffic wardens when the Fire Brigade can't get to your burning house because some arse has parked badly at the end of the street.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wait, What?

" Let's here you complain about overzealous traffic wardens when the Fire Brigade can't get to your burning house because some arse has parked badly at the end of the street."

That'll be why I said 'not causing an obstruction and otherwise parked safely'. We're not talking about vehicles parked diagonally over a zebra crossing, most of these tickets are obtained from parking in residents' parking bays or in other places that have time of day restrictions.

In the past council employed traffic wardens would not actively ticket utility or works vehicles parked safely but illegally if the drivers were working nearby. Most drivers had a wipe clean board that they'd write their phone number and the address they were working in on. Nowadays traffic wardens will go after any and all ticketing opportunities and their focus has changed from managing traffic and parking towards pure revenue raising.

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zb

Acronymns Really Bite

I do wish people would not use jargon and expect others to know what they mean. Which one of these did you point at?

ARB Arbitrage

Business » General

ARB The Architectural Review Board

Miscellaneous » Unclassified

ARB Angiotensin Receptor Blocker

Medical » Laboratory

ARB Angiotensin Receptor Blocker

Medical » Human Genome

ARB Architecture Review Board

Governmental » US Government

ARB Accounting Research Bulletins

Business » Accounting

ARB Alpha Ralpha Boulevard

Miscellaneous » Unclassified

ARB Acquisition Review Board

Governmental » US Government

ARB Acquisition Review Board

Governmental » Military

ARB American Realty Trust, Inc.

Business » NYSE Symbols

ARB Accident Report Book

Governmental » Police

ARB Asociación de Radio Banda

International » Guatemalan

ARB Aij Request Block

Computing » Assembly

ARB Active Rere Beam

Academic & Science » Physics

ARB Acronymns Really Bite

Miscellaneous » Unclassified

ARB Anti Roll Bracket

Miscellaneous » Unclassified

ARB Automatic Remote Brakes

Miscellaneous » Unclassified

ARB Athiest Religion Beliefs

Miscellaneous » Unclassified

ARB Argentine Rainbow Boa

Miscellaneous » Unclassified

ARB Australian Roo Bar

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Happy

Re: Acronymns Really Bite

I expect he meant Amber Rotating Beacon. An acronym that anyone who has ever driven any kind of utility vehicle will know.

Interestingly, if you've ever had to drive on an airport, you'll have used an AFB instead.

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Re: Parked up prats

"What is actually needed is for the councils and operations like BT to come up with a form that sets out the venues for an engineers work each day that could be issued by the LA on request by BT. Otherwise it becomes a case of joe public getting upset with a "Im gonna punch your head in - you booked me but not him...."

Hmmm, and I'm sure the people without broadband, gas, electricity, etc will be really pleased when their service hasn't been restored because the utility company is waiting for authorization to park up for what may be a 20 minute job.

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signature capture ?

Has anyone ever managed to write something resembling their signature on this sort of screen? And has their bank ever shown signs of caring anyway?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: signature capture ?

These aren't the crappy slow, low resolution resistive touchscreens that the like of UPS et al use, they're high resolution capacitive screens, like the current iPad, which allows some pretty fine capture with a stylus.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: signature capture ?

Yes, it looks like an illegible squiggly mess, just like it does on paper.

My handwriting is so atrocious these days I've taken to hiding my shopping lists from other shoppers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: signature capture ?

I make a point of always making the signature as illegible as possible, so I can deny it later, if required :-)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: signature capture ?

Then again, any laptop with an Alps or Synaptics touchpad can already do acceptably good signature capture with a conductive stylus. They're capacitive too and have an amazing resolution for what they're designed for. Synaptics used to give away a WIndows app to do it.

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Re: signature capture ?

"My handwriting is so atrocious these days I've taken to hiding my shopping lists from other shoppers."

Many years ago I created a spreadsheet in Excel for my shopping lists and it has grown and grown. It now has a list of standard (and not-so-standard) items with their normal prices[1] and locations in the supermarket (or a code indicating that it's in a different shop). A set of columns allows entering the specifics that I'm buying this week along with quantities. The Printing Area is set to print a third zone containing the actual shopping list, complete with quantities and locations. Items that have a quantity are formatted in blue, and it's all sorted so I can just go round the shop in a specific order and pick stuff up in shopping-list order.

The latest addition was some formatting so that items I want to bring home (i.e. Saturday lunch!) are marked in red. Everything without the red marker goes home via Carrefour's excellent home delivery service (except frozen, fragile, and hazchem such as hydrochloric acid or ammonia).

There's even room around the edge for hand-scrawled last-minute additions...

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Re: signature capture ?

"normal prices[1]"

This part is woefully out of date, partly because of laziness and partly because Carrefour updates some prices on week-to-week basis.

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Anonymous Coward

@Steve the Cynic (Re: signature capture ?)

OCD is indeed a debilitating illness.

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M7S
Bronze badge

Re: signature capture ?

Admittedly at the bank I sign correctly but for all deliveries etc I "print" my name. Why would anyone give an electronic (and therefore easily reproduced) copy of their signature to a person/company with whom at the very least they probably have no contractual relationship, and about who's data security practices we know nothing? It'll be the next equivalent of card skimming.

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Flame

Re: signature capture ?

Your Carrefour stocks ammonia and hydrochloric acid?

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Re: signature capture ?

Did the same thing a few years ago with an Open Office Spreadsheet and some scripting.

It printed out the shopping list in walking-up-and-down-the-aisles order to minimize the time spent in the shop.

All it taught me was that my local Auchan makes subtle and sometimes dramatic changes to its layout every week, and I spent more time updating my database than I saved by shopping efficiently.

Back of an envelope for me!

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Re: signature capture ?

"I make a point of always making the signature as illegible as possible, so I can deny it later, if required :-)"

I once worked for a fella who would sign absolutely anything because no one knew that what passed for his signature was supposed to be a signature - it looked exactly like a 'personal hair' lying on the page

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Boffin

Re: signature capture ?

"Your Carrefour stocks ammonia and hydrochloric acid?"

Yup. It's one of the big ones, in the Euralille shopping centre across from Lille Europe station, where the Eurostars stop in Lille. Downstairs is normal supermarket stuff like food, makeup, toothpaste, and basic cleaning products. Upstairs is clothes, stationery, DVDs, electronics, kitchenware, light bulbs, a small amount of DIY stuff, and some exotica like five-litre bottles of semi-dilute hydrochloric acid and ammonia (not in the same bottle, mind).

It surprised me when I first saw it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: signature capture ?

> Auchan makes subtle and sometimes dramatic changes to its layout every week

M&S in Belfast used to do that. I remember an assistant getting seriously annoyed when I made the innocent query "where have you put the milk this week?". Guess I wasn't the first person to have asked...

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Re: signature capture ?

This is bizarre. I've just answered the door - and there is a UPS man with a thingy for me to sign.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: signature capture ?

> a thingy for me to sign.

I do hope it wasn't shaped like a turnip...

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: @Steve the Cynic (signature capture ?)

@Steve the Cynic, mutatedwombat. An upvote each, those posts made my day.

Now to find the anti-static cleaner and some wipes, I was on the thinkpad

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Re: signature capture ?

I have never found it possible to give an accurate copy of my sig to anyoine using a fake pencil on a slippery pice of glass.

It must be over 3 weeks since I last actually used a pen and paper anyway.

I have almost forgotten how to write.

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