Apple fans like to accuse Microsoft of stealing ideas from Apple. They also like to give Steve Jobs credit for inventing things actually invented by others. A recent example of this is the apparent belief among some Apple diehards that Jobs invented tablet computing.
Another common misconception is that Apple (and Jobs) invented the graphical user interface and mouse. In fact that honour goes to the wonderfully creative folks who worked at the Xerox Parc research facility in Palo Alto in the 1980s. Jobs saw a demonstration of a graphical interface at Parc and soon afterward, the Mac appeared on the scene.
In fact, all creative work builds on what came before, whether we’re talking about art or technology. These days, there’s far too much emphasis on ownership of ideas, with hopelessly broken patent and copyright systems making lawyers rich and causing untold misery for everyone else. Don’t get me started.
Raluca Budiu is a computer usability expert who previously worked at both Xerox Parc and Microsoft. She was recently interviewed by laptopmag.com, and was asked about the Windows 8 UI. What she says will surprise nobody who has given any thought to the new tablet/touch-focused UI. It’s confusing. It’s cognitively jarring. It’s more work than previous Windows UIs. Her comments were based on her own personal use of the new O/S and not the result of any kind of formal study, but I think we can agree that her observations have merit. I hope she decides to study the new UI in detail; the results could encourage Microsoft to provide workarounds for some of the more awkward UI issues in Windows 8.
I was encouraged by Microsoft’s recent announcement that pricing for Windows 8 was going to be lower than previous Windows offerings. In particular, $40 for the retail Windows 8 Pro Upgrade is a lot more reasonable than I had expected. Of course, that’s the download-only version; the retail box will be priced at $70. The non-upgrade version of Windows 8 Pro will be $70, which is still better than it was for Windows 7.
Alas, these prices are only going to be in effect for a brief period, from the retail release on October 26, 2012 to January 31, 2013. After that, the non-upgrade Pro version will increase from $70 to $200 (gag), while the Pro Upgrade price will increase from $40 to something higher (exactly what remains unclear). These prices are all in US dollars.
In related news, Microsoft has revamped their licensing for Windows. Among other changes, users will now be able to – for the first time! – legitimately install Windows on a self-built PC without paying full price for a retail version. The new license type is called “Personal Use License for System Builder (PULSB)” and although pricing is not yet know, it will hopefully be significantly lower than the full retail version. Ed Bott has additional analysis over at ZDNet, and he’ll be posting more as his analysis continues. ARS Technica has more info on the new licensing and PULSB.
Another day, another reason to hate Windows 8. And I haven’t even installed it yet. According to ghacks.net, using the Windows HOSTS file to block web sites will no longer work reliably in Windows 8.
Modifying the Windows HOSTS file is a simple and effective way to fiddle with the way domain names are translated into IP addresses. I use it on development PCs to allow access to locally-hosted web sites using their public URLs. It can also be used to redirect unwanted web sites to LOCALHOST, effectively blocking them. This can be used as a rudimentary form of ad blocking, although there are some risks involved.
Microsoft apparently doesn’t want people using the HOSTS file that way, because it silently updates the file, even if it’s marked as read-only, removing entries for facebook.com and ad.doubleclick.net (a major advertising source), and presumably others.
It turns out that the culprit is Windows Defender, which is enabled by default in Windows 8. Exactly why Windows Defender is doing this is not certain, but it’s safe to assume that Microsoft was pressured to do this by Facebook, Doubleclick, and others. Microsoft will probably claim that it was done for reasons of security, in which case it will be interesting to hear their explanation.
Meanwhile, disabling Windows Defender apparently resolves this issue. You should probably use real anti-malware software anyway. There are plenty of free alternatives.
Windows 8 is now available for computer manufacturers. The RTM release gives manufacturers some lead time to complete their preparations and testing before the general consumer (retail) release on October 26.
The new Windows O/S is also now available through Technet, MSDN and other Microsoft subscription services. A three month evaluation copy of Windows 8 for developers can also be downloaded.
Another Patch Tuesday is here, and this time there are nine bulletins, with associated patches affecting most versions of Windows and Microsoft Office. Several of the Windows patches are classified as critical.
Details on the August 2012 patches are posted on the Microsoft Security Bulletin site.
The patches are now available via Microsoft Update. Computers configured for automatic updates should start receiving them overnight.
As predicted by many, Microsoft has officially adopted Apple’s “take what we give you and like it” approach to software development. The hopelessly clunky, nameless, tablet-oriented new user interface in Windows 8 will not be avoidable.
Microsoft apparently really does think that everyone will like the new UI, and anyone who doesn’t is just not important. Since that last group of people includes everyone who uses their computer for more than web browsing, Skype and email, as well as everyone who reviews and evaluates software and makes software purchasing recommendations for organizations, I’m calling it now: Windows 8 is going to be a disaster.
On the other hand, intrepid developers out there have found ways around Microsoft’s idiocy before, and they’ll no doubt do it again. With any luck, they’re working right now on ways to make Windows 8 a usable O/S. UPDATE: Indeed they are – see how to bring back the Start menu in Windows 8 and Samsung’s attempt to revive the Start menu.
Microsoft will be issuing several patches for Windows, Office, and other software on August 14, 2012. According to the advance bulletin, there are nine updates in all, with five affecting various versions of Windows, and three affecting various versions of Office.
A total of 14 vulnerabilities will be addressed by the patches. Five of the bulletins are rated critical.
Additional details will be posted here as they are made available in the lead-up to Patch Tuesday.
Microsoft has completed preparations for the release of Windows 8. System builders and participants in various related programs will get access in the next few weeks, and retail copies will appear on store shelves on October 26.
Technet subscribers will get access to the new O/S on August 15.
Ars Technica and The Verge have more details.
According to The Verge, the next version of Microsoft Office (2013) will not run on Windows Vista or XP.
So, now there’s another good reason to avoid the latest version of Office, as if you needed one. Microsoft has struggled to get people to upgrade Office. Many users still run – and are perfectly happy with – much earlier versions. The general perception is that while new versions may look fancy, they tend to increase bloat, while randomly removing useful features, adding useless new features, introducing fun new bugs, and changing the user interface to make everything harder to find.
I predict that people will stay away from Office 2013 in even greater numbers than for previous versions.