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  • Windows 8 is OVER!!

    Posted on October 22nd, 2012 Finster No comments

    There are quite a few things about Windows 8 that really bug me. While the context switching of Desktop vs. Metro apps is certainly annoying, I can deal with it. I can even handle that I must look in three different places to get all my windows updates (Windows Update from desktop control panel, Windows Update from Start Screen settings panel, and the Windows app store). Then there’s my Bluetooth never staying on. Ugh. But really, it comes down to two things that have pretty much been deal breakers for me when it comes to Windows 8.

    Power Options are Underpowered

    When I tell my laptop that I don’t ever want it shutting down when it’s plugged in and I’m away, I actually mean it. I’m the kind of person that likes to have multiple machines at my finger tips at any given time. That usually means remote desktopping (via Windows Remote Desktop or the super handy Chrome Remote Desktop). It’s hard to Remote Desktop into my laptop when it’s shutdown because Windows 8 went ahead and decided that it needs to sleep even though I have explicitly set the sleep timer to “never” when plugged in.

    It’s possible this is a bug. It’s also possible that I could dig through the “Advanced” power settings to find some poorly named setting that will tell Windows 8 to actually not sleep. I don’t know. I thought “Put the computer to sleep: Never” would have covered that. Silly me.

    It’s My Computer, I’LL DO WHAT I WANT

    No, actually I won’t. Like most tech-savvy power users, the first thing I do on a new system is disable User Account Control. It’s annoying, it hampers functionality, and I hate it. However, I noticed something interesting on my Windows 8 install. And by interesting, I mean infuriating.

    When you disable User Account Control under previous versions of Windows, there’s an automatic elevation process that happens behind the scenes, so that when you do something that requires you to be the literal Administrator of the machine (and not just a member of the Administrators group). So, most of your programs will automatically run in the context of “Administrator”.

    Well, that doesn’t happen on Windows 8, anymore. At least by default. There is a group policy that allows this automatic elevation to take place. Well, I didn’t think that would be a big deal. That is, until I lost all permissions to one of my extra hard drives. For any file operations performed in Windows Explorer, I would get a pop-up saying I don’t have permissions to do that (remove a file or folder) but I can click “Continue” to be given those permissions. What. So, the annoyance that was User Account Control has returned, but this time with a vengeance. Since desktop programs you start don’t automatically elevate, when they try to write to my extra hard drive, they are flat out denied. No message. No prompt. Just denied. Took me forever to figure that out.

    So, I went in and decided to flip the group policy to allow the elevation. By the way, if you’re editing group policies to restore basic, core functionality, that’s probably not a good sign.

    Everything was hunky dory until I decided I wanted to try out the cool new Xbox SmartGlass app from the Windows Marketplace app store. I clicked “Store” and was met with a terse, “you can’t open Store unless you enable User Account Control. Click here to turn it on, you filthy plebian.” Wow. Okay. I guess I can kind of see why that would be an issue. Well, I’ll open up the Metro Chrome app. Same Message. Huh?

    Yeah. You can’t open ANY modern-style Windows 8 apps if you disable UAC and turn on the elevation. I turned off the elevation setting in group policy and my access was restored, however then I had the issue with my extra hard drive. What is one to do? I decided I would take a page out of my old Windows 2000 playbook. Let’s log in as ADMINISTRATOR!

    By default, the Administrator account is disabled in Windows 8. Of course, I enabled it, and then logged out of my normal user account and logged back in as Administrator. Odd, it didn’t ask for a password or anything, but I figured I would worry about that later. I tried using some Metro apps, and was told I can’t because those apps are not allowed to be opened using the Administrator account.

    This means I cannot use my computer the way I want to, until Microsoft figures out this fustercluck of a permissions model.

    Windows 8 Post-Mortem

    Like a zombie breakout, there’s just too much garbage in my way to actually accomplish the things I want in Windows 8. I can understand that Microsoft has seen the light of Apple’s closed system gospel, but if they’re going to hogtie me on my own computer unless I do something akin to jailbreaking my Windows 8 install, I’ll stick with Windows 7 for the foreseeable future. And if Windows 8 is wildly successful and this is the new Windows truth, then I’ll probably have to do something distasteful like use Linux as my default OS. Yuck.

    So, at least for now, I’ll probably wash my hands of Windows 8. At least until the inevitable Service Pack 1.

  • Sony Home: A true Metaverse?

    Posted on October 8th, 2008 Finster No comments

    As Hiro approaches the street, he sees two couples probably using their parent’s computer for a double date in the Metaverse. He’s not seeing real people, of course. It’s all part of a moving illustration created by his computer from specifications coming down the fiber optic cable. These people are pieces of software called avatars. They are the audiovisual bodies that people use to communicate with each other in the Metaverse.

    From Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson.

    For those that don’t know. The Metaverse was the fictional social virtual-reality MMO experience that featured prominently in Snow Crash, a cyberpunk novel by Neal Stephenson. Back in ’92 (when Snow Crash was published) virtual reality and the possibilities it brought to gaming were still extremely interesting, especially for the media. Cyber-this and Cyber-that. I figured that a global virtual network like the Metaverse was just a year or two away from fruition. (In fact, Snow Crash helped popularize the Sanskrit term “avatar” to denote online identities.)

    Forward 16 years to 2008 and we’re all a little wiser and a little more cynical, perhaps. The awe I had at “virtual reality” and “holodecks” has been replaced by a kind of “Where’s my flying car?” attitude.

    Then, there’s Sony’s Playstation Home concept. Much maligned as it has hobbled along through Beta, it certainly isn’t the first free-form virtual reality experience. Second Life is probably the most widespread at this point, being so popular that it’s even been featured in an episode of CSI: New York. But reading an article by Stephen Totilo at MTV’s multiplayer blog has shed some much needed light of optimism on Home.

    [Jack] Buser [director of Home] didn’t say the things you might think of when you see “Home.” He didn’t mention virtual world “Second Life” or the current most ambitious interface for a console community, Xbox Live, as he walked me through the version of “Home’ that is currently available to select PS3 owners as part of an “expanded beta.” He described this PS3 service, this 3D virtual world as “something that hasn’t been done before.”

    I had expected to hear about features. I hadn’t, however, expected his pitch for the service to be so psychological. Buser seemed excited about what “Home” could do, but even more motivated to explain to me why gamers would want in. He talked to me about “the life of a gamer,” and how “Home” is designed to improve it.

    How do gamers meet each other these days? Buser asked me this question a number of ways, arguing that there isn’t really a place where this is easily done. There hasn’t been a good place for gamers to meet since the arcades, he said. “Home” can fix that.

    Interesting. I remember the arcades. I also remember the other places gamers would meet. The basement of the South Dakota State administration building, affectionately known as “The Dungeon”, where I could log onto the internet and download new “stuff” onto 3.5″ floppies. I got to know a couple of the regulars down there. Those were the days… but those days are gone. With ubiquitous internet and powerful gaming consoles available in every home, there’s no longer any need to travel someplace else to “get connected.” Thus, no need to meet anyone face to face, either.

    In Snow Crash, the main character, Hiro Protaganist, goes online to head to virtual bars and clubs (built by him and his hacker buddies, of course) where they can meet up, socialize, sword fight, and naturally, something interesting happens and away we go. However, there is this idea that we don’t go to bars and arcades to socialize as gamers. We go online. We have a Gamerscore. We have a Friend Code. We build our own online identity.

    My impression has been changed. What I hadn’t seen or had explained to me when I entered “Home” on my own those few months ago, was the function and helpfulness of the community. “Home” will be pointless if no one’s in it, if its central plazas are empty. Buser said they won’t even launch “Home” — an event scheduled for this fall — until they meet their goal to “have a kind of community to show people around.” The idea is it’s all social. You go to an area of “Uncharted” to find out what people there think of the game or to ask for a hint. Yes, some of us would go to NeoGAF or Metacritic or GameFAQs for that kind of stuff. But perhaps the average PS3 owner wouldn’t. For them, perhaps “Home” is the answer to questions they barely knew they had: Where do they go to meet people just like them?

    This is truly fascinating if it can catch on. If not, it’ll probably be because it was too early. Just like the virtual reality goggles. A little too much, too soon, perhaps? We’ll see. It’s still not enough to get me to buy a PS3… but maybe… just maybe it can recapture the magic of those olden days. Maybe the days of “The Dungeon” are on their way back. Maybe we’ll have a true Metaverse.

    That would be really cool.

  • Dell For The Lose!

    Posted on May 19th, 2006 Finster No comments

    South Dakota Political Blogger and Official TopOfCool Father, Radioactive Chief, provides some evidence as to why Dell has seen falling profits lately.

    When the package was received, Mrs. Chief was GREATLY dismayed to discover that the set up, AS SHIPPED BY DELL was totally unusable. It seemed that the Axim had MS Portable Windows 5, which REQUIRES Outlook 2003 to allow synchronization of the handheld with the desk computer. Dell thoughtfully provided a copy of Outlook 2002 with the package, which is, in the words of a Dakota farmer or rancher “Useless as teats on a boar!”

    Fascinating that Dell could be so dense. And what’s worse, is that Dell then REFUSED to provide compatible software. Instead, the product had to be returned and refunded.

    Nice job, Dell!

    But apparently, that wasn’t all.

    To add injury to insult, before we reached that impass, their tech support had suggested some configuration changes to Mrs. Chief’s computer (a Dell laptop) to try to get the setup to work. These had the result of rendering the computer unbootable! After a couple hours of further hassle, another Dell tech support was at least able to get the machine to run again – albeit with an outboard USB hard drive now being inoperable!

    Wow. Just… wow.

    I think this is what we at TopOfCool would rate as Bottom of Suck!

  • My Home is a Supercomputer

    Posted on April 26th, 2006 Finster No comments

    This is just a filler post to push Peter Moore’s picture further down the page. It makes me feel weird when I pull up the site and see him glaring at me like that…

    I realized today that I have more computing power in my living room (measure in FLOPS) than the most powerful computer in the world had in 1997.

    Between the Xbox 360 my laptop, and my old modded Xbox, I think I should have more than the 1.338 TFLOPS that the Intel ASCI Red/9152 was capable of at Sandia National Labs.

    That’s crazy.

  • PC Market gets more Topsy Turvy

    Posted on April 5th, 2006 Finster No comments

    Remember how Apple was going to be selling Intel-based Macs?

    Well, now they will start OFFICIALLY allowing multi-boot configurations on Apple hardware.

    I’m not even sure how to react to this. I mean, it’s undeniably a good thing, but the effects of such a strange development in the PC market are… unpredictable at best.

    I guess it depends on whether or not Apple allows Mac OS X to run on standard non-Apple PC hardware. There are hacks and workarounds to get such a thing done, but if Apple gives it’s blessing to run Mac OS X on 95% of the home PC market…

    Well, let me put it this way. If Apple legally allows Mac OS X to run on my non-Apple PC, I’m getting into that, so fast! I am somewhat familiar with the Unix-like OS’s, and there is something pure and wholesome about having access to a meaningful command line interface.

    I don’t know, I mean… this whole thing is CRAZY! DOGS AND CATS LIVING TOGETHER! MASS HYSTERIA!