Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What's Wrong With Windows 8?

As people who use technology both for fun and for our livelihood, we're constantly embracing change.  Change is good, correct?  If a company spends millions on market research and makes "improvements" to their software, it should be better, right?

Not necessarily.  Sometimes even a smart company can overreact to a trend and produce software that is a step backwards.  I believe that Windows 8 falls into that category, both philosophically and pragmatically.  In trying to jump on the mobile computing bandwagon, Microsoft has thrown away most of the good ideas it spent the last thirty years developing.

The biggest idea behind Windows 8 is that a computer should operate like a cell phone, so Microsoft has done away with things that have existed for decades (for example, the "x" to close an app) and the Start Menu (which was a darn handy way to start things you didn't use all the time.)  Instead, you've got big ugly boxes you can touch (or more likely click, because almost no one has a touchscreen on their desktop computer)--a whole screen of them, because without the hierarchy of the Start Menu, there's other place to put them.  They aren't organized; they are simply displayed, all of them.

It's certainly ugly and confusing and unsettling when you try to use Windows 8 for the first time. But here's what amazes me:  Microsoft has abandoned a base of millions of computer users for an imaginary market of smartphone and tablet users that doesn't exist!  How many people do you know who use a Windows-based phone or tablet? Do you know one person?  Microsoft is changing everything about how their operating system works for devices they hope to sell some day in the future.

We can argue about how important mobile computing is, and how dominant it may become.  Personally, although I use my phone and my employer-issued iPad on a daily basis, when I need to get work done I sit down in front of a real computer, and that's not going to change anytime soon.  Sorry, but there's a reason why we're still using a mouse and a keyboard and why we can click to find a file faster than we can wave our arms about or swipe with a finger or try to give directions to the computer orally.

I'm typing this while I look at a 24 inch LCD screen, and many of us have double that amount of real estate on our desks now.  Why should the core system we use be defined by a four inch cell phone screen?  Mobile devices are different than desktop devices, and there's no reason they need to be the same.  Make mobile devices better, but don't cripple our desktops!

What did we need from a new Microsoft operating system?  We needed something reliable (no crashes) that  was secure (fewer chances for malware to steal from us).  Instead, Microsoft spent all their research dollars adding a touch interface that nobody needs on their desk.  In dumbing down the interface, they made it less logical and consequently more confusing.  Windows 8 is a weird mix of old and new in which nobody is going to be at home.

I didn't like the Ribbon when Microsoft introduced it years ago in MS Office, and still don't, because so often it makes no sense and has no logical order.  I didn't like it when Microsoft changed the START button to a blob without a name, because that made it more confusing.  Windows 8 is a giant leap into that void of confusion.

Welcome to Windows 8, the OS that people are going to hate.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

More "I Think It's Clean" Thinking

Just found another local computer company bragging that they don't have to reformat because they are experts at malware removal:

"At [name removed] , we are experts at malware removal and virus repair. The first thing many PC techs want to do is format your hard drive and reload your operating system. That shotgun approach works, but you then have to reinstall all your programs, printer software and data. We have the expertise to remove the infection while leaving your programs and data intact. We also have the track record to back this claim up. Rest assured that if we tell you that it will be necessary to back-up your data and reinstall your operating system it will be not only rare, but necessary."

Well, that sounds good--less trouble for them, and maybe less trouble for you.  Most computer folks really want to solve the problem, so it's natural for them to dive right in and try to "fix" an infection.  Trouble is, every tool you run will find different bits of malware.  Who has time to run them all when a single scan may take hours?  Which tools do you run? How do you know that you've found everything?  You don't!  You give the computer back to the customer telling them (and yourself) that it seems to be fine now, when in fact there could be a trojan waiting to trigger or a keylogger looking for the first time someone types a credit card number or bank password.  Remember, the best criminals don't get caught--even detected--until it is too late.  

At PCliferaft, we are not geniuses, but we've been disinfecting and reformatting (more often today, "system recovering") computers for over a decade now.  We can reformat and reinstall the most common software for you, minimizing the need for you to reinstall printers, etc. in less time than the "experts" above can run their scans.  If we deliver the computer, we'll set up the printer for you.  You get the benefit of knowing (at least as much is possible) that your computer is clean, and as a bonus you'll often find your system running faster and better than it did before malware slowed it down.  We install every driver and every patch and everything we know you need (but nothing you don't) to give you maximum protection for the future.

Disinfecting a computer is like vacuuming  a room without moving any of the furniture. Everything looks good from a distance, but when you finally have to move that sofa, the crud you find under there is not for the faint of heart.