I often view myself as a connected individual. I have a smartphone, Internet access, and various social media and communications accounts. I respond to emails, chats, messages on Facebook… the works. I buy things online, and pay most of my bills online. And, occasionally, I take a break from it all. But sometimes I imagine a time before the Internet and how things used to get done.
Paul Miller of The Verge has done exactly that. For a year, he cannot use the Internet, or any feature of the Internet, and his journal entries give us a peek into his experience with this. It’s an intriguing thing he’s doing, considering he has grown with and relies heavily upon the Internet, even more so than myself. He has to find alternate sources for news, entertainment, and knowledge, not to mention having to pay bills and contact people using “old fashioned” methods.
Some of the things he mentions having issues with, like figuring out a news paper, breaking the habit of checking his phone, being unable to find answers quickly, and paying bills via phone and mail, I noticed something about myself – while highly connected, using some of the latest technology, I tend to be old-fashioned at times. I read the news paper, despite it having an online digital copy. I pay some of my bills via mail, and up until recently, in person (I’ve since bothered to pay my utilities and Internet online). I prefer to make phone calls at work rather than send emails. These are things that I find normal that Paul, on his journey, finds difficult or frightful.
And yet, I fall into the same pitfalls he does. He talks about some of the old habits he has regarding his devices (as he’s allowed to have them, just not online). Even when there is nothing to do on them, he will pull out his phone and push buttons. He will have his iPad and laptop out, looking at apps, not really doing anything. And honestly, I do the same things sometimes. I’ll pull my phone out when everybody else does, and even if my social networks have nothing new, and twitter bores me, I’ll look at those things, because everybody else is. That’s one habit I’m trying to kill, trying not to pull it out in social situations or just out of habit.
I can waste hours online, doing up the social media sites, checking the news, and doing things. But sometimes, I find comfort that newspaper, prefer to write that check, love hear and see people, and would rather not be distracted by electronics in social situations. As the world moves forward, we can’t forget why these technologies exist, and the people on the other side of that Facebook post or tweet.
Windows 8 is making the rounds as both the best new thing and worst new thing coming from Redmond. It features a revamped user interface, authentication using a Microsoft account to access cloud services, Xbox LIVE integration, and many, many new features, built from the ground-up. It’s a brand new Windows through and through. However, is it really what people want?
The first thing you will notice when you use Windows 8 – the Metro UI. It’s a series of blocks with icons, text, or images that you can click or tap on to access your files, media, and applications. It’s not too much different than what Microsoft has had on their Xbox 360 for quite a while. It’s a beautiful interface, and in the consumer preview, works very smoothly.
And yet, despite the looks and smooth animations, the Metro UI is not initially intuitive, and doesn’t really fit into typical computing. It’s a touch interface first, and after some complaints with the developer preview, a standard desktop interface second. This means that the majority of Windows users are now second-class citizens in this new OS. That’s a massive no-no. Not to mention that it will be highly confusing for non-power users.
But why did Microsoft do this? Why subject the typical user to such a terrible desktop interface? One word – tablets. Microsoft has been loosing out to Google and Apple in the tablet market, offering only a mobile phone OS and completely missing out on tablets. Yes, there are tablet PC’s, but those require styluses and are quite expensive. Microsoft wanted to create a powerful OS that was simple to use. On a tablet. And that they did, at the cost of the typical PC user. Yes, the standard desktop is still there, but to do anything that the old start menu did, you have to subject yourself to oversized blocks and hovering over certain areas. Very awkward to use.
Besides the tablet market, the Metro UI is also great for a media center PC. Big text, simple UI, and something already familiar to many Xbox owners, Windows 8 should be a great media center OS, right? If you want to pay extra for it. Windows Media Center won’t be included with Windows 8, but will be an addon. The article isn’t clear if it’s just the Pro version not having, or the same across the board, but if the announcement of DVD playback being an addon is any indication, it’s across the board. So it’s doable, but more expensive to do.
Back to the tablet, Windows 8 will have a version (called Windows 8 RT) that will run on those processors used in tablets, as Intel and AMD processors are still too power-hungry and hot to play nicely in an iPad-like tablet. But, the ARM version of Windows has third-party browser developers up in arms. Microsoft has denied access the APIs that IE 10 uses to third-party developers of browsers, blocking integration of Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox into the Metro UI. Hopefully, Microsoft can another antitrust case related to IE.
Windows 8. I’m not quite sure if I really want to upgrade to it. It doesn’t quite appeal to me, as a desktop user, and it has glaring problems, as a consumer, and will be giving me headaches, as a technician. Unless Microsoft can bring back the desktop-first approach, bring back the start menu, and make the Metro interface optional, I might consider it. But, for now, Windows 7 will have to do, just like Windows XP when Windows Vista came out.
This is a (short) list of books I hope to eventually get around to this year.
UPDATE: I’ve had more time to add to this list, and modify it, so I’ve republished this post.
A Game of Thrones
The God Delusion
A Clash of Kings
A Storm of Swords
A Feast for Crows
A Dance with Dragons
The Extraordinary Tale of Nicholas Pierce
Ok, I’ve brought back the photo section of the site after much work. I apologize ahead of time for anybody using Internet Explorer 8 or earlier. The page will break for you. Well, break in the sense that the image will not re-size for your window. I figure that very few visitors actually use IE8, in favor of non-IE browsers and IE9.
For those of you who get to enjoy the neat feature, enjoy. This should be an improvement over the old design as in the photo is the focus of the page. I’m also excited to get to use a feature of the site that’ll let me directly link to a photo from the front page!
If you haven’t figured out how to get to the photos page by now, click here!
For the year that I had an Android device, I fairly regularly updated my location on Google Latitude. It was great, since my location data (and how often I check into a place) helped Google recommend places to me, and is usually good about it. An on the Android platform, Google Latitude is very good. It ties in with Google+ (allowing you to make a post rather than just a check-in), Places, and Maps. If your location didn’t exist, you can make one. And there was a little feature that kept track of how many times you went to a place, meaning you could become a “regular” at a place via Latitude.
That’s great an all, and while Android garners more than 50% of the smartphone market, iPhones are not devices to be ignored if Google really wants your location data, as that’s another 25% of the market. Since I switched to the iPhone, I’ve noticed how much Google has neglected the platform. The iPhone version is more true to the old “location on map only” model that was once Latitude. You can only share you location with Latitude friends (which I have very few of), you can’t create new locations, and there’s no real incentive to bother using it. I am highly disappointed, Google. I’m going to stop using Latitude because of how terrible your iPhone app is. Good job.