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* Posts by Trevor_Pott

3636 posts • joined 31 May 2010

Alienware assimilates Dell FROM THE INSIDE!

Trevor_Pott
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Re: You call that reliable?

I really do. There were a rash of bad hinges on the M15x and M17X that affected some low single-digit percentage of shipped systems. Alienware took care of all of them.

There are failed units shipped with any product. What percentage fail - and how they are delt with - are the determining factors of reliability in my mind. But yeah, that XPS is still going strong, and I still use an old 386 beater notebook as my personal journal system to this day. I fully expect my M18x to match or exceed those records.

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: Dell

I can get a 10" tablet with a resolution higher than 1080p for $399. A 27" or better monitor with a resolution better than 1080p? $750 at least. #asdf

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Trevor_Pott
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You know, the 2005/2006 Alienwares were gaudy. I agree with you wholeheartedly that they needed to "grow up." But I have zero qualms about my Alienware M18X as regards "professional" appearance.

Have you honestly given the new lineup a look?

I wouldn't be ashamed to be seen using an Alienware X51 with the lights off: http://www.dell.com/ca/p/alienware-x51/pd

Personally, I rather like my M18X compared to most 17" notebooks: http://www.dell.com/ca/p/alienware-m18x-r2/pd

With the lights off, I just don't understand what doesn't look "professional" about them. So yes, I advocate them for professionals. Case design and all. Tastes, of course, will vary.

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: Flawless operation? Not a chance...

@easyk: 2005 was 7 years ago. Also, everyone had problems with Pentium 4s back then. You can hang on to predjudice if you'd like, but I think you're cutting out a good supplier for no reason excepting pride.

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: Article reads like Paid Corporate Blogging and at odds with the comments on Dell's website!!

I don't think I qualify as "passionate about the brand." I like it because I don't have to fix the fucking things. Look, I do computers for a day job, right? The last bloody thing I want to do when I get home is futz around with some computer that's acting up. I want my video games to just work. I want my media to just play. I want all the little bits to work, out of the box, and keep doing that for years.

That's why I buy Alienware.

If I am passionate about something - other than abject lazyiness, which is a very important topic for me - it is the bullshitology of "consumer reviews." The hard science of the matter is that people bitch easily but rarely pay a compliment. If you are seeing a bunch of positive reviews about a product amidst the frantic whinging, then pay attention. This means either heavy astroturfing, or people who actually like the product so much they are overcoming the inertia of human nature to say nice things about a product.

I don't care if that's Alienware, Apple, Windows 8 or Science Barbie. There are entire PhDs full of science about group dynamics, cognitive dissonance and various individual cognitive biases. I'm not making this crap up (check Wikipedia for an actually decent overview https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_bias,) but I do study this stuff.

It's part and parcel of being interested in journalism. If I am going to offer objective an impartial news, reviews or analyses, I need to be aware of the various research into cognitive bias and be able to spot it in myself. (Self examination on this level borders on stumbling into Dunning-Kruger, but we'll bypass that for now.)

At the end of the day who is doing the reviewing matters far more than the volume, pitch or tone of the review. Is the individual capable of making judgements about hardware, software, etc? Do they have the expertise and experience, or – as per true Dunning-Kruger – do they lack the experience, but in lacking that experience also lack the knowledge to identify their own lack of knowledge?

What about business decisions? Are these people capable of understanding representative samples, making judgements about failure rates, total cost of ownership and so forth? Or are you seeing – as I deeply suspect – people deep in buyer's remorse, having overextended themselves and wished for something magical that never truly can be?

I have worked with hundreds of models of gaming notebook from about a dozen suppliers over the past 15 years. The Alienware systems coming out of that company today are the best of the lot I've ever had the pleasure to use, with the possible exception of those old Gen 2 XPSes.

You can try to call me "passionate" about a brand if you want. You'd be wrong. What I am passionate about is separating signal from noise. Amazon – no matter how invested you may be in it for your personal decision making – is nearly all noise. The statistical analysis you need to do on that site to extract signal is mind warping.

Far better to find people who shift these units in the hundreds and thousands and start talking about deployment strategies, failure rates and so forth. You get a far clearer picture, not only of the product and brand, but of human nature as pertains to bitching about things on the internet.

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: Article reads like Paid Corporate Blogging and at odds with the comments on Dell's website!!

So you are basing your entire argument here off the fact that "only angry people post on a company website." Well holy crap, batman! Talk about a fundamental aspect of human nature! People complain loudly whenever they feel slighted, but most don't take the time out to heap praise upon a working product!

So yeah, I expect that if I say anything nice about any product, it would go against the bulk of the reviews written about it, especially in that company's forums. To say nothing of "why the hell are we discussing reviews on Amazon for a product that almost always ships from the Alienware.com website?"

Any product is going to have DOAs. Any product is going to have bad components. The relevant questions are "how many," and "how do they deal with them?" With Alienware, the answers are "low single digits of shipped units" and "excellently."

Remember also that Dell's consumer side has nothing at all to do with Alienware. They have different support teams, different corporate ethos, different build qualities and so forth. That is the entire point of this article: Alienware kept it's corporate ethos, but gained all of Dell's corporate oomph, supply chain, etc.

Their success and profitability by doing exactly what Dell themselves don't do is starting to turn heads at Dell and make people look at different approaches.

If you go out of your way to find something bad about a product or company, you'll find it. If you objectively compare Alienware to the competition, however, you'll find that they are first-class.

I'm glad you like your Samsung; first hand experience with them has taught me that they have awful customer service for that line of products. RMAs are like pulling teeth and I've had ~10% dead after one year. I think you might be engaging in some post-purchase rationalisation here, whereas I am attempting to discuss gaming notebooks as a function of sheer volume of units shipped and the helpfulness of support.

Anyone can have a bad experience or two. How a company handles those bad experiences is what determines their value as a supplier.

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Trevor_Pott
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I like my LEDs. And they ship with a control panel software widget to turn them off...

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Trevor_Pott
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Between my personal systema and the corporate deployments of these units, I've worked with over 2000 Alienware notebooks. There have been 3 RMA-class incidents (dead mobo), 2 stiff-hinge-death incidents, and a life lesson learned about AMD's inability to make good dual-GPU drivers.

Compared to every other system I've worked with - the $400 Samsung netbooks my wife and I have being the only exception - these Alienware boxes have had the lowest incidence of "it's dead, Jim." Hardware or software. That includes Dell's disposable consumer goods, HP, Asus, MSI, Sager, Samsung, Fujitsu, Sony, Eurocom, Acer, Lenovo...

I think I can speak from some experience on this one.

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: Dell

Agree 100%. Dell notebooks are ****ing ass. Alienware, however, is not. While Alienware is starting to bleed into Dell at the high end, changing how they oprerate...I still wouldn't buy a Dell-branded notebook. Limited-time tat!

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: Flawless operation? Not a chance...

m9700 sounds like a rebadged Clevo. Designed and deployed before the merger. Alienware didn't quite have the resojrces then that they do now. It sucks you had a bad experience, but that would have been 6 years ago. If you want to bear a grudge forever, you'll run out of vendors, eventually!

They are worth another look.

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: Article reads like Paid Corporate Blogging and at odds with the comments on Dell's website!!

I've worked with - and continue to - every single brand of "gaming notebook" out there. They all have issues with the video drivers. That can't be laid at the vendor's feet; nobody is immune. If it makes you feel better, Alienware tries very hard to bring Dell's influence to bear on video card vendors to get them to fix their buggy crap. Some times they are more successful than others.

Overall, howevrer, Alienware has been a far more solid brand than any other I've worked with.

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: "the closest thing you can get to indestructible"

The M11X was something Frank was really proud of. I suspect it will return, probably with Haswell's launch.

As to my "indestructable" claim: the new, magnesium-alloy-case ones pretty much are. That m18x of mine has taken a beating; it is bordering on "as much punishment as my XPS gen 2." Yeah, the older m15x and m17x systems had hinge issues. As the article says, however, they are good about replacements. Brand means more to them than recouping costs on 3-4% dead units. That's an attitutde I can get behind; few tech vendors care.

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: XPS extinct?

You're joking, right? Modern XPS notebooks have almost nothing in common with their elder brethren, nor are they even close to Alienware specs. X40/X450- class video cards? Single hard drive? These aren't "gaming class notebooks," they're abominations that don't fit anywhere. They aren't "just business" - Intel i tegrated is fine for that and uber-casual gaming - and they aren't gaming rigs either.

No, the modern XPS notebooks do not deserve to bear that proud name.

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: ... Sorry. Did I misread this as an article or piece of news?

One of the cool parts about writing for El Reg is that you get to talk to the people wbo make the products you use. Sometimes I talk loudly and with great irritation. Sometimes I have to restrain the fanboy.

Alienware is one of the few "brands" I like; and I like them not because they pay me to, but because they make great stuff. I'm odd that way.

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: Agree entirely

Eurocom. Man, I remember those. There were a corporate staple notebook for us in the early aughties. Then Canadian distribution channels dried up and we started shipping Asus Republic Of Gamers boxes. Those things were awesome. I miss them.

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Surface tablet's touch cover is ZX81 REBORN

Trevor_Pott
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Re: Now you've done it

What's wrong with posting nice things about the touch side of Windows 8? It's what the OS was designed for. After nerfing the workstation portion of the OS, the touch side had damned well better bring me to climax!

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Unrootable: Mash these bits together to get a CLASSIFIED spyphone

Trevor_Pott
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Re: Are you sure?

I'm positive. We're not just talking phones. We're talking drones, self-driving cars, and any appliance that is "install once, and walk away." Frankly, that's the majority of computers deployed today. In the near future, this will explode growing to completely dwarf extant PCs, Mainframes and Mobiles.

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: Code signing is not a security feature!

You are wrong. What you are describing is a phone that you, the end user, can "verify" is secure by running whatever software you want on it. This is the exact opposite of a secure device, from the perspective of people who own those devices, but have to have other people using them. For people who have classified data, or "tamper proof" requirements on devices they absolutely cannot have people hacking and cracking, then signed everything – along with many other features – is the only way to go.

Allowing end users to have any control whatsoever of their devices benefits a very small group of end users. It doesn't benefit the people who are trying to keep information secure and secret. It doesn't benefit governments or the "populace at large" who absolutely must have cars running known software so that you don't have your self-driving robocar running anything except obscenely over-tested self-driving software. It benefits ideologues, not those who need control over the endpoint.

Fully locked down systems can be designed to require multiple authentication vectors, even to freak out of - as with your example - someone replaces a screen or battery. Your descriptions of how to crack a "secure device" are based on common operating systems which are not designed by paranoid people. A secure device should (and would) freak out if you swapped the battery. Bricking the phone, reporting it's location to the authorities and wiping all local data. Same with the screen, they keyboard or any of a dozen other things.

A secure phone with heuristics software in silicon or firmware would look for attempts to fuzz the system for a buffer overflow and....brick the phone, reporting back the location and wiping the data. In fact, anything out of the ordinary, expected operating procedure should result in bricking the phone, calling home with location, and wiping the data. The secure device doesn't belong to the end user. The secure device belongs to the organisation that purchased it. Any attempt to modify or alter the application loadout, hardware or so forth should result in a useless phone and an arrest. (Depending on the context, charges of treason and a bullet.)

In today's world, "hardened" systems are not a reality for mass production. That was fine and good when we were making a handful of industrial control systems and mainframes. We're going to be talking here about building nearly everything that humans use except (possibly) cutlery as compute-enhanced appliances. They have to be tamper-proof and cheap. Cheap means not paying a programmer to custom design software for every single one.

Instead, it means taking generic, well understood software that a huge security machine is involved in continually testing for issues and locking it down as much as humanly possible. In some cases you can do basic hardening (pulling out unnecessary kernel elements, etc.), but you aren't going to do real ground-up custom OSes and minimalist designs for each new unit and variant.

Even if you did, that "hardened", unique phone would still contain bugs and exploits. Worse, it would be a special flower, unique like all the others and only the programmer who built it would (maybe) know how it was different from all the other special flowers. Trying to secure and render "tamper proof" thousands or millions of unique branches of the code base (which is ultimately what we're talking about in the next 20 years of computing, and the explosion of appliances that we are on the cusp of,) is lunacy.

Even if you could find the manpower for it, the cost would be incomprehensible. Programmers are expensive. Silicon is not. By removing choice and control over the endpoints from the end user – using methods that even Apple wouldn't dare – these systems can be rendered secure. Apple doesn't have Intel's full suite of tech. Even if it did, it wouldn't use this level of paranoia, because it would probably violate several laws to prevent you so utterly from altering your device.

In the context of devices sold to be "tamper proof," there is no such legal consideration. Quite the opposite, most nations have laws that explicitly state trying to crack such a device leads to big time jail time. A "tamper proof" secure device doesn't belong to the end user.

So let's agree to disagree on the definition of secure in this context. Your definition is not the definition used by the people who will be buying the Intel Inside super spyphones and appliances.

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: RE: being an infomercial

I've worked with Good's MDM. It's still just "using software to try to get other software to behave in a mostly useable fashion. It doesn't come close to "tamperproof;" it is still as vulnerable as the operating system, bootloader, etc underneath. This isn't a hardware + software solution, it's just a series of band-aids, one on top of the other trying to contain the bleeding. What's needed is to open the patient up and repair the artery itself.

This means – as I said in the article – security in silicon that works in conjunction with a well coded OS. Sealed storage, curtained memory, signed bootloaders/OSes/apps/patches, centrally monitored communications, secured heuristics (anti-malware in silicon/firmware) and remote bricking at a bare minimum. You just can't do that all in software. You need that security silicon to pull this stuff off.

This comments thread is full of folks saying "but you can just use MDM, or use an off-the-shelf OS!" Yes, you can. For corporate level security. For classified security – or to meet "tamper proof" requirements for critical appliances – this simply isn't good enough. The contents of your executive's e-mail might lose a corporation a few million dollars. Maybe it even knocks the share price down a few cents. It doesn't cost lives.

A malfunctioning or captured UAV, the contents of certain classified documents, minehunters or self-driving automobiles gone mad…these can most certainly cost lives.

Every other day I'm reading about some new "secure" industrial control system compromised. iOS and Android compromised before the units even hit general availability. The top of the top of browsers, operating systems, etc cracked within hours when there is real money on the line…

…and you want to tell me you are going to solve this problem entirely in software?

I'll cheerily call up Good and see if they feel they can do "tamper proof" entirely in software. Anyone else who feels they can too. I'll need to see it to believe it.

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: politically damaging = classified

I don't know that this is true. Far more than "classified smartphones," the tech is useful for "smart appliances." Think of "smart radios" in an ambulance. Converging your GPS, communications, various flavours of application that require them to run a PC inside the vehicle today, etc. This is a perfect example of a situation where you need the power and flexibility of a "general purpose computer" (or a smartphone), but you absolutely don't need the end user loading apps, changing data, or sucking off patient records.

A centrally provisioned/verified/etc OS/application stack on a completely locked down device would be a good fit.

What about automated buoys for scientific research? Minehunting subs or landmine hunting automated ground vehicles? Autonomous cars are becoming "a thing," what if we start building automated snow plows, street sanders/sweepers or other such robots to pick up the drudge work. These should be run on general purpose PCs that are rootable, or on which we can reasonably easily change applications/move around data?

None of these applications are "science fiction" any more. I have seen the Google self-driving car with my own eyes, I have built UAVs with my own two hands. I have loaded software on to automated buoys and worked with a team to design automated landmine hunters.

Every one of these devices will need the same tech we would use to build a secure smartphone. Some – like the "smart radio" ambulanceputer – are designed for human interaction with the device. Others are automated. The point is that they are appliances. Appliances that need to do very complicated things which we still need "general purpose computers" for. Unlike a proper consumer-level general purpose computer, however, these appliances absolutely must be tamper-proof.

Today – and for the foreseeable future – that means Intel. For all those irked by this, call up AMD, your favourite ARM manufacturer, and anyone else good at putting things into silicon. Scream at them and get them put some competing products into the field. I think it's a terrible thing that what promises to be the next wave of computing – billions of devices with "tamper proof" requirements – looks set to be dominated by one company.

I don't want that. You don't want that. Probably even Intel doesn't want that. (The critical antitrust eye of ultimate scrutiny is not your friend.) Unfortunately, nobody except Intel has the right mix of stuff to pull it off. So yes, it does mean "Intel Inside" our automated and tamper-proof robotic overlords. For several product cycles worth of "kick the tires and working the bugs out" on behalf of Intel's competitors, at the bare minimum.

The reason it is so bad is that this doesn't just apply to the military death machine. The potential addressable market here is far, far bigger than that.

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: Mandatory add-on

Auto off, two factor to turn on? Biometric + passcode? So many ways to deal with a lost device, is the device is secure enough...

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: While the article is technically accurate...

I seriously doubt the classified phone's target market is "the common man." It likely won't be as thin-and-light as the iPhone, nor quite as fast, as energy efficient, etc. It will be close enough for jazz, but a notable amount more pricy. Proles don't need classified smartphones....but the gov't, military, emergency services, etc markets for mobile comns are booming worldwide.

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Trevor_Pott
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For those of you moaning about this "being an infomercial," how about you put your time where your trolling is, and tell me just who, exactly, you feel has comperable tech right now. I agree wholeheartedly that there are far better OSes than Tizen for this. I don't think Intel is going to push Tizen as their spyphone OS.

Tizen was a learning experience; the OS powering the eventual phone will - I hope - be made by Research in Motion. There are surely others that make the OS. What there aren't, are people with the right hardware, other than Intel. That will include writing secure firmware, even embedding new and interesting security into silicon than exists right now.

So...who else is doing it? Give me names, I'll go get interviews. Intel's folks seem confident they have zero competition here. I'm inclined to agree. You won't make the "secure" device on wide open hardware, just by trying *really hard* with the software.

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I just LOVE Server 2012, but count me out on Windows 8 for now

Trevor_Pott
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Re: Metro for business?

Which is exactly why I have been buying up as many Windows 7 licences as I possibly can. My clients will be demanding them.

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: Now here's an idea

Actually, Microsoft have serveral research projects underway to make Windows more modular. The question is simply "do they ever see the light of day." That depends entirely on how much "status quo" they manage to ship, methinks.

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: Oh god, save us from...

Aw, muffin! Did I hurt your feelers? Do you need a time out to have a manly cry in the corner? That's okay, we won't watch...at least not until it's done uploading to YouTube.

I understand that you have incorporated your favourite brand into your personal concept of "tribe." It's normal; it's natural! There's a lot of good science that explains the process; you shouldn't be ashamed that it occurs, only that you allow it to rule your interactions with the rest of the world. It's okay, there's still hope. If you visit a proper therapist, one day you'll be able to disassociate your sense of self worth from the products other people choose to use and advocate. You may be able to live a life where you only tie your sense of personal valuation to the products you personally choose to use!

It may be difficult for you to understand – but please try, I'm having my minions work up a colour-by-numbers book just for you – but I don't have any moral or ethical obligation to push your favourite products on the world. I don't have any moral or ethical obligation to tell people to do what "the majority" does, nor to stick with the status quo merely because it's the status quo.

If you want someone who will advocate Microsoft, teach you how to incorporate all things Microsoft into your life and otherwise champion the status quo over all comers, please don't read my articles. Instead, I heartily recommend the indomitable Peter Bright at Ars Technica. He's a far better writer than I, and completely, utterly infatuated with Microsoft.

You'll also like Ed Bott, so completely "on-message" that he just declared Windows 8 to be the new Windows XP. You should also follow The Register's own Tim Anderson on his personal blog.

These are the people you need to read. They will tell you things you want to hear. They will comfort you on a cold, CVE-2013-XXXX night. These are members of your tribe.

Whatever you do, do not under any circumstances read Mary Jo Foely, and for your own sanity don't read anything by me. You'll find my blogs clearly labelled. They say sysadmin blog. You don't even have to click. It is, in fact, your choice.

Until you can disconnect your sense of identity from the brands you have incorporated into your tribe, you need to avoid authors that raise your blood pressure. It's for your own health and safety, after all.

Cheers, and good night.

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: What are the "under the hood changes that make it a fantastic improvement over Windows 7"?

Off the top of my head, this is what's in Windows 8 worth considering making the jump for:

1) Faster boot

2) Faster shutdown

3) Better hybrid resume support

4) Way - way - fewer IOPS in VDI mode.

5) Native USB 3 support makes me happy

6) Multimonitor support that is on par with the ATI widget in the CCC from ten or so years ago

7) Mobile broadband as a "first class" networking type. (Long time coming.)

8) Hyper-V

Obviously, they weren't enough to entice me, but they might be for others. From a raw tech side, Win 8 is a solid upgrade. It is critical if you are a VDI implementer.

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: Windows Love?

Um...WTF are you talking about?

WIndows 8 RTM was in our hands ages ago. Just becuase you don't have a retail box doesn't mean you can't download the RTM. Let me help you out a little here:

Windows 8 RTM: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/jj554510.aspx

Server 2012 RTM: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/hh670538.aspx

Also there's no S in my last name. Thanks for playing, though next time Google before ranting. Cheers!

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: Agree largely, but...

Let me answer a question with a labratory test.

Hold you arms in front of you for 8 hours and make wild jesticulations. When you feel you can do this from 9-5 every single day, you're ready to use Windows 8 on the magical touch screen replacement of my 17" + 2x24" + 47" monitor setup.

Please try holding your arms out in front of you for 8 hours. Just for one day.

You'll have my answer when the excercise is completed.

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: Here is how to get rid of the "Metro" design and return to the old-fashioned desktop

I concur; this doesn't work on my RTM VMs or physical system.

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: Productive work

I get paid to know the latest OS. That way when my clients start deploying, I'm ready.

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: Here is how to get rid of the "Metro" design and return to the old-fashioned desktop

Must try this...

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: "since Netscape, when has Microsoft actively tried to prevent applications from working?"

That is a whole other story. Microsoft is a little pile of warring fiefdoms...

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Trevor_Pott
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I'm starting to like Mountain Lion a lot. I also have Fedora 17 with Cinnamon as a potential candidate, and I am trying to learn Mint with Cinnamon. (There's a lot more mainstream support for Debian than RHEL.) Android ont he desktop is a real possibility if the x86 version ever gets born. I rather like Android, and can do all my legacy Microsoft stuff through RDP.

Overall, it's Windows XP/7 for now, with my next desktop likely a Mac and my next ultrabook likely Android.

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Global notebook sales tank in recent months

Trevor_Pott
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Re: Bad Apple cultists

"Apple cultist?" How about people wanting an "ultrabook" with more than 1333x768? I don't care what you sell, if it isn't a MINIMUM of 1440x900 you can GTFO.

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Foxconn: Worker who lost half his brain in accident must leave hospital

Trevor_Pott
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Re: Sounds like

I work four fucking jobs, mate. 16+ hours a day, 7 days a week. That includes running my own business where I am responsible for the incomes of two other people. I own my own home, so I pay corporate taxes, municipal property taxes, provincial taxes and federal taxes. All of which I do without trickery or tomfoolery to try to declare myself some sort of "in need" charity case to the government to get a negative tax rate, despite being capable of paying my fair share.

You do not, and fuck you very much to boot. There are people in this world who don't give a fig and mooch off the system, it's true. They are however a pretty goddamned small percentage of the populace, all told. There are people who genuinely need help; from the unfortunates born with disabilities, to folks who just ran into a bad patch and need a leg up. I am proud to live in a society morally and ethically advanced enough to provide an organised – and mandatory – system for providing assistance to these people.

Only sociopathic assholes and the very young truly believe that we all get what we deserve according to how hard we work. That's complete bullshit. We get what we get by pure fluke as much as anything else. I could have been born with any interesting combination of genetic disorders worse than those I have today. I wasn't. I could have been born to a poorer family, or one where one of the breadwinners got killed/disabled to the point of being a burden when I was young. I didn't.

I grew up in a household of relative privilege; provided a decent middle class life and opportunities to both succeed and fail in an environment that had numerous safety nets. I was provided an education, a chance to schmooze and meet the right people. I was gifted with early access to computers, and educators who taught me to express myself through writing.

I worked hard some times, slacked off at others, but to say that I earned my place in the world – as though all my successes were mine alone, having occurred in a vacuum without the support and care of others – is bullshit of the highest calibre. Yes, I worked my ass of. Yes, I still do. But there are others out there working just as hard and earning incomes below the poverty line.

Some aren't gifted with my intelligence; an unfortunate happenstance of genetics. Some merely lack my education, or the contacts I earned growing up. Some were injured, born addicted to substances, brutalised during their lives or psychologically traumatised by war, disease or other things I cannot contemplate.

What kind of human being would I be – what kind of human being are you - to trumpet a sense of personal entitlement celebrating an ownership of privilege while simultainiously disclaiming responsibility to those less fortunate? There are people in this world who need our help, goddamn it; people willing to work hard for a better life. We can't yet help all of them, but we damned sure have the responsibility to help those in our own nation.

So…noblesse oblige, motherfucker. Now get down off your high horse before the proles rightfully shoot you off. You don't speak for "those with jobs" at all.

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Microsoft plans midnight launch for Surface

Trevor_Pott
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Minefeilds

A whole lot of other people are going to have to walk through that minefield before I spend my hard-earned on Microsoft's latest. I somehow doubt Microsoft has plans to be sending me a review sample, so the question is: which tech journalists (if any) do I trust to be capable of reviewing this thing objectively and have anything remotely close to my workflow and multitasking requirements.

I am coming up somewhat blank on that. Oh well, maybe next launch, eh, MS?

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Archaeologists resume Antikythera Mechanism hunt

Trevor_Pott
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Re: Aliens done it.

Excepting that the gates contained various technologies to ensure that atmospheres (gaseous or aqueous) wouldn't pass through the gate. Smart folks those Alterra. Without this little plot mechanism, the entire "Atlantis" series would not have been possible. Every time they opened a wormhole to a space gate, Lantia's atmosphere would go roaring through the event horizon, dragging all the unfortunates in the control room with it.

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Paul Allen: Windows 8 'promising' yet 'puzzling'

Trevor_Pott
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@Mark

I'd also like to point out that I do not qualify as someone who simply "dislikes change." I like change just fine...so long as that change is of benefit to me. More to the point, it is not incumbent upon me to go looking for reasons to embrace change. No money greases my palm to do so. Quite the opposite: I have a vested interest in getting the maximum possible return on investment from what I already own, and what I already know.

If you, Microsoft, Apple or anyone else what to impose change then you have to sell me on it. Convince me of the ROI in buying something new, in learning something new and in retraining the habits of a lifetime. Give me a reason to embrace a given change, one that can be objectively seen to benefit me, and I'll be all over that.

As one example related to Windows 8: I like Metro Start...I just don't believe it is an appropriate replacement for my Start Menu. I think it's a fantastic little launcher, and I truly adore live tiles. They are like widgets on my Android phone, but – if coded well – contain a higher information density. I would like to fullscreen the Metro Start application on it's on screen, where it could enhance my desktop experience by providing me more information at a glance without having to context switch.

The extant implementation of this technology however is non-optimal, thus I refuse to invest in it and I call for change. Interesting that; at least some of the people you label as "afraid of change" are in fact calling for change. Not for a return to what was, but for a modification of what is in order to better suit our requirements.

I'm not afraid of change, Mark. I'm just someone without an excess of it in my pockets.

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Trevor_Pott
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So what, EXACTLY, do I want from Microsoft?

If Microsoft had a desire to shut me up, my "demands" are thus:

1) A switch in the operating system to restore the classic start menu and remove the hot corners. Simply licensing Classic Shell would do fine. Alternately, a legally binding commitment from Microsoft not to block Classic Shell from working at any point in the future (and ensuring the relevant libraries that Classic Shell relies upon are always present) is acceptable.

2) Either context-aware file extensions, or a simple setting that you can toggle which prevents any Metro application from binding associations without explicit permission. The goal is to have a "nothing jumps to Metro without my express permission" setting.

3) A legally binding commitment from Microsoft to maintain the Desktop in all future versions of Windows for a minimum of the next 15 years.

4) A legally binding commitment from Microsoft to produce a Desktop version of any primary software they produce for Metro. (Nobody cares about $widgety application. I mean things like Office, Lync, RSAT, etc.)

5) RDP support for Metro to be taken into consideration. Using Metro from RDP, Teamviewer, or any other remote-access or support application is horrific. Metro is a burden on support desk staff.

6) Revisiting touch queues to make them more obvious, or incorporating a "how to use Windows Touch" tour. "How to use Metro with a keyboard and mouse without going mad" would be great too.

7) Revisit how you "throw away" Metro applications with a mouse. It is counter intuitive and difficult for some people. (Older folks, those using trackpads who have motor control issues, etc.)

8) Fix Stylus support for Metro; it's pants. Specifically, I have an issue with the fact that you cannot drag the Metro screen around. Instead, you have to drag the magic, disappearing slider, and that doesn’t work well.

9) Provide a setting to make the Charms Bar a textual overlay with a transparent background. Big Black Bar causes context switching.

10) Let me "Pop Out" tiles and affix them permanently on the desktop, like widgets or active desktop items. Alternately, I would love the ability to assign Metro to a monitor as a FULL TIME application. Metro is a great launcher in a multi-monitor scenario, but Metro should be a desktop application, the desktop should not be a metro application.

11) Allow me to "Window" Metro applications. I don't care if they aren't resizable, but if I am eschewing Microsoft's "only 33/66 two things at a time" philosophy, I need a way to get at the soon-to-be-mandatory Metro applications in a manner that suits my workflow, not Microsoft's desire to sell more Smartphones through forced acclimation to a new UI.

12) Allow anyone willing to pay the fee to sign their application (because, frankly, if you are forcing a new walled garden UI on everyone, Metro apps should damned well all be signed!) to create a Metro app. That includes browsers and "applications which replicate core functionality." I don't care if you are Microsoft, Apple or Bob the Baker. Shut up and stop trying to restrict competition by turning away people who make a better mousetrap.

13) Alter downgrade rights to include downgrade all the way to XP. Application compatibility is still an issue for some of us. Many are dependant on applications from companies that have gone out of business, or don't have the wonga to re-purchase some $50,000 application that nearly broke the bank the first time. Alternately, take advantage of Windows 8's hyper-v to offer both "XP-mode" and "Windows 7 mode."

14) As per 13, if you don't want to offer downgrade rights all the way to XP, then allow the operating system to be booted directly into either the "XP-mode" or "Windows 7-mode" VMs that should be shipping as options with Windows 8.

15) Let me log on in a manner that bypasses Metro. Just dump me directly to the desktop if that is what I choose. I shouldn't have to see Metro if I don't want to. It should be something I choose to use. Frankly, if you do the things I've said above – like allow me to "pin" metro to a monitor, just as if it were a Desktop application – then I will use Metro. And I will use the start menu. Each has different uses for me.

There's more, but these are the big asks. You can now begin crapping on all of the above with your nose high in the air.

Commentards, attack!

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Trevor_Pott
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@Mark

You detail how you use a PC, and champion your ability to adapt while simultainiously writing off anyone who might want to use a PC in a different fashion. I will direct my criticisms at who I damned well please; and frequently do. It's interesting to me that you claim such breadth of experience, and yet conflate "Linux" with Ubuntu.

Your argument is entirely anecdotal, based of your experiences and your experiences alone while simultainiously discarding the experiences and preferences of others. Does Windows' launching of an app full screen serve as a context switch? For me, it does. For others I know, it does.

Maybe we are the only ones on the planet for whom this is true; even if this is in fact so, by what right do you chastise us for seeking an alternative? By what right do you demean and belittle us for seeking to have Microsoft incorporate into their operating system options that accommodate how we work, how our minds have been trained to function?

If you like Metro, fine. Good on you. Go frolic and be merry. I don't; despite having given it several honest tries, and working with it for months.

Beyond that: get off your fucking high horse and look at the complaints being levelled and by whom. I resent the implication that I am singling Microsoft out for criticism. I loathe Unity and Gnome 3 and I could go on for quite some time about the "little things" in OSX that detract from usability. (Though, frankly, Mountain Lion cleaned up a lot of the mess Lion made.)

Apple isn't "trying to kill the mouse and keyboard." Quite the opposite, they are committed to keeping them as first-class devices, expanding their usability with the new interfaces whilst adding touch as an equal partner. Touch is non-requisite, but the keyboard/mouse are not either. In my opinion, Apple have managed the transition better than Microsoft has. The Linux teams aren't even close.

Does that mean that I rush out to embrace Apple? No. I may love OSX, but…I can't stand their keyboards. I just can't use them. My brain has used a PC-standard keyboard for nearly 30 years, and as a writer and programmer I require both a delete and a backspace button as separate keys. That "little thing," a design choice by Apple, is why I can't use their notebooks for prolonged periods.

I don't use Windows Phone or iOS; I eschew both for Android. Why? Because for me, the smartphone isn't just an appliance. It's a pocket computer that I use for many things. It is a USB drive, a mobile hotspot, a full-featured browser, an RDP client and a penetration testing tool. Things I simply can't accomplish without access to the file system, a promiscuous-mode networking stack and root on the file system.

The same goes for my PCs. I choose Windows XP SP3, Windows 7 SP1 (with classic shell) and RHEL/CentOS 6.2 (with the Cinnamon GUI) because they meet my needs. Nothing else does. I need to multitask heavily; it's how I get paid. I also need a comfortable and familiar environment where everything that I need to use is easy to get at and doesn't require me to context-switch in order to get there.

Maybe I'll be the last person on earth using a desktop-metaphor GUI for my computing needs. Maybe I'll be the last person on earth to use a computer where I can install any application I want, get complete control of the operating system, and live outside the walled garden of a vendor-provided store. I'm okay with that. I don't need to defend my choices to you or anyone else.

More importantly, I don't need to attack those who choose differently. That is the behaviour of one who has backed the wrong horse, or who is unsure of their faith. I don't believe in faith. I don't have faith in a god, I find it silly to have faith in a corporation.

What I will do is conduct business. Business in this case means using whatever means I have at my disposal to attempt to convince Microsoft to support my use cases. As my previous comments stated, I don't believe for a second that Microsoft will acquiesce. That isn't the point; the point is to join the chorus of the disenfranchised and make our voices heard: not by Microsoft, but by those who would compete with them. It is the corporation that provides me a computing experience that I want which will ultimately receive my investment, not a corporation that tells me I must adapt to them.

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Trevor_Pott
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@AC

It has been ever so slightly modified for pesudo-article status on my personal website here. It's the best I can do in that regard.

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: Its a new paradigm

The new version is objectively "worse" for some people's work patterns. Don't give me any of that insipid bullshit about "it's just a replacement for the start menu." It's a hell of a lot more than that. File associations are another great example: many files open in Metro-only, even when launched from the desktop. This means context switching from your multi-tasking environment to a mono (or at best a dual)-tasking environment.

Maybe for you, this isn't a problem. Maybe for you it is even superior. If so, congratulations...and I even envy you! I'd love to be the kind of person who simply "didn't have a problem" with the shit being shoved down my throat. I, however, am not you.

Myself and many others do have a problem with Windows 8. It disrupts our workflow and makes us less productive. It provides jarring context switches when we really need to focus and doesn't allow us to properly multitask when we need to be keeping an eye on 10,000 things. This isn't just a start menu, this is the first broken step on the path towards a New Way Of Doing Things. One which goes against a lifetime of education and burned-in habits.

You can proclaim from on high that "the new way is better" all you want, but I have yet to see proof of this claim. I have seen some evidence that for some people in some circumstances the New Way might be better. I have seen zero evidence that it is ideal for all people under all circumstances.

So not including a way to say "fuck off Metro," bringing back a start menu, banishing the hot corners and re-mapping all the file associations to desktop applications as an easy, integrated option? That is Microsoft urinating on anyone who isn't the middle of the bell curve on the world they are trying to create. For that matter, there's no guarantee that Microsoft are going to keep the desktop around for much longer, anyways.

So why should those of us who find the new regime suboptimal gamble that Microsoft will even still leave us the option of doing things the more optimal way? Right now Microsoft make it a pain in the ass. Soon, it may well not be available at all.

Even if you believed that only "the majority" matters. Even if you believed that Microsoft is good and pure, and those who can't adapt (or are different) simply shouldn't be allowed to use computers…Microsoft's handling of the entire situation has been piss poor. Their engagement with the community on these issues has been rife with arrogance and dismissal.

But hey, if that's the company you want to worship, that's entirely up to you. Me, I will continue to exercise my options to find and use alternatives until they pry sourceforge from the grip of my mouse and keyboard.

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: Its a new paradigm

How is anything I said predicated on me "being right"? I said only that even if we all spoke out as one, it wouldn't matter. Obviously, we haven't done so; some people like Metro, some don't. Equally obviously, there are quite a few people who don't like Metro one bit.

So it doesn't matter if you like it, or don't. I don't even understand how liking or not liking a user interface can be turned into "right" or "wrong." It's personal preference. Since when is a personal preference right or wrong?

Do you have an island in your kitchen? Do you want one? If the majority of people don't have one, are you wrong? Are you right? What if the majority of people want an island in their kitchen? What if the majority want one, but don't have it? And heaven help you if you choose the wrong colour for your vehicle!

You make a lot of statements backed up by absolutely nothing. Who are you to say Windows is priced correctly? Or designed correctly? Or anything correctly? Who are you to poke at OSX, Linux or anything else? Who are you to tell people what they should believe, desire, or require?

Everyone is part of a minority at some point; everyone's needs are niche eventually. But hey, you know what? I'm okay being "wrong."

And I'm okay with using the microwave, house design, paint colour, cell phone, shoe style, computer operating system and custom-moulded salt shaker that suit my needs. The majority, the minority, the whatever-ority…

…I just don't care about any of them any more.

Sent from my who-gives-a-flaming-monkey-fuck.

--Trevor Pott

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: "flaming monkey fuck"

You know, vodka is a very nasty thing in bulk. I have been repressing that rant for about three months. O_o

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: Its a new paradigm

I can't change Microsoft's mind. I can put my time and effort into helping people get what they want to out of computers. I don't have the programming skills to write a Classic Shell. I do have the schmoozing skills to put those sorts of people in rooms with others, the research skills to hunt that stuff down, and a couple internet soapboxes to publish the info. I hope it helps a few folks; getting the odd attaboy makes up for the effort.

I'd like to say "if enough of us spoke up, it might make a difference." The truth is: it won't. Voting with our wallets won't matter either. If every prole on Earth decided they were going to fight the power on this one, it wouldn't even tickle Microsoft's income. Microsoft gets where they get because they have the ability to take decision makers at large corporations and government institutions out for fancy meals, shower them with perks, discounts and whatever political or personal clout is required to shift SKUs.

They shift those SKUs in the billions. Because these SKUs are forced on the hoi polloi by the powers that be, we all need to be "compatible." If you are a small business, you need to speak the lingua franca of business: Microsoft formats. Choose not to and you don't get a chance to interact with or bid on contracts from the larger entities. If you are an individual, you need to do follow the pack because we have evolved our society into one that is "always on:" the work-life balance is disrupted and we require the ability to work from home.

Couple this with a tame press (tech and otherwise) that daren't speak out for fear of losing ad revenue and anyone who expresses a dissenting opinion is a marked man. To dislike the digital food shovelled onto your plate is to bear the stigma of being "afraid of change." You are a Luddite; someone unwilling to "give X a chance" and unable to comprehend the obvious majesty and importance of the vision which created the product you malign.

For a press that exists only because of sensationalism and the magnanimity of vendors, the best way achieve these is to publicly evangelise The New whilst heaping scorn and derision upon the heathens clinging to The Old. Throw in some fanboys and most people who would even have thought to speak up are sick and tired of the bullshit before the product even hits shelves.

Consider a comment from the illustrious Ed Bott on Twitter: "if you write about Windows, and you take a screenshot using Windows XP, you're doing it wrong."

Really? How interesting. Just who the flaming monkey fuck is he to tell me – or anyone else – what they should or shouldn't be running on their systems? I am "doing it wrong" because I use XP on my personal VM? Really? Why? Detail this explicitly. Where is the incentive to use anything else? Describe the ROI and in moving away from something that has worked Just Fine for over a decade? Don't give me enterprise-level vague security hand waving bullshit: I'm talking about my personal VM here.

I'm not afraid of the new, but statements like Ed Bott's above both upset me and make me realise how futile resistance truly is. Here we have one of the most respected voices in Microsoft punditry telling everyone that if you write about Microsoft it is your job to evangelise Microsoft's latest. In this case the advocacy is subtle; you are to demonstrate that having the latest is "proper" by only showing the latest greatest as the operating system of choice in your screenshots. It is evangelising nonetheless.

It should come as no shock to my readers that I will take a screenshot off any operating system I damned well please. Maybe it'll even be an XP VM remoted into from a Windows XP VM which I am in turn remoting into from a Linux box. It has been known to happen.

If I am discussing something specifically blowing up on Windows 8, maybe I should demonstrate that on Windows 8. If it affects multiple versions of Windows, what does it matter which version has the screenshot?

But…aha! There's the subtle slant of it all. In the same vein as judicial capture (or regulatory capture,) I posit the concept of "press capture." If a pundit covers a topic or vendor for too long, they begin to sympathise, even empathise with them.

Considering the complexity of the topics at hand, how can any journalist rise to the top if they haven't been covering that vendor for ages? There is so much to know, it takes years to absorb it. So you, me…all of us…

…we'd best get used to Windows 8. Our voices are easily shouted down as heretical by the closed-minded echo chamber that has become the only thing vendors choose to listen to.

Use your "non-new" or "non-Microsoft" operating systems if you must. Just don't talk about it unless you are prepared for scorn, marginalisation and other potentially serious repercussions. Be careful to whom you admit not keeping the faith. It could more than your internet reputation on the line. It could be your job.

Freedom of choice my hex-encoded ASCII.

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Trevor_Pott
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Re: Its a new paradigm

Start Menu get.

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