Before reading the article posted today on Windows Central I have to admit I was nonplused by what was coming down the pike for Windows. The fact is Windows as an OS needs a make over but can’t get one because legacy keeps it afloat while drowning it.

And I know a lot of people need and require software built on top of x86 but it does prevent things moving forward.

Then Neon happened and my inner UI nerd fainted.

 

neon

image: New Creation

 

Metro 2.0

According to Zac Bowden at Windows Central and Cassim Kefti at Numerama Neon is the codename for the next interface update to Windows 10. Kefti says internally Neon is being described as “Metro 2.0” in reference to the UI introduced with Windows Phone. Windows Central describes it as a streamlining of various efforts to bring level of coherency throughout the system. Neon also looks to add new animations and transitions to Windows 10. Neon also appears to be an effort to integrate new UI elements for augmented and virtual reality headsets. The timeline for the changes according to both articles seems to be Redstone 3, the update planned for 2017.

Neon

So what do I think? Honestly I am hyped by the news nd the possibilities. The news follows reporting from ZDNet about x86 emulation running on ARM for Windows Mobile. The emulation news was preceded by new mobile features coming with Windows’ next update. All this adds up to interesting times ahead for Windows mobile users and enthusiasts.

Now that was the hope. Here is the wants and needs.

First, there needs to be a visual update to both the Start Screen of Windows mobile and the start menu/tablet mode on Windows 10. I include them together because those are the public facing parts of the OS and the ones users use when mobile or without a keyboard. Windows 10 is fine for tablets but can always use improvements.

Second more features for Live Tiles and the lock screen. Neon is the perfect opportunity for features like Interactive Tiles or anything that moves the Tile metaphor forward. Also the Lock screen has been there sitting waiting to be unleashed; maybe the work of Microsoft’s Arrow Launcher could help.

Last, seamless integration of mixed reality into the platform. Windows has merged touch with the mouse and keyboard and no it was not easy. Hopefully they learned from those growing pains.

Honestly it’s early days and I will be revisiting this topic in future.

So I’ve been off; away from tech writing but still glued to technology. And while I have not been posting about the latest rumblings around it, I do have opinions which I now present to you. Apologies for the bad sentence structures beforehand.

 

Cook’s Apple

It’s hard to remember how positively received Tim Cook was as Apple’s CEO. His leadership was a major change of pace from the days of Steve Jobs. I’m reminded of those days again because now the chorus has changed. I’ve noticed in some of my reading around Apple a serious discontent on the part of longtime Mac users as well as professional Mac users feeling uncertain about it’s future.

The introduction of the latest MacBook Pro line has led to a bit of a social media backlash; with some seriously thinking of switching platforms or simply holding onto older Macs longer. To be honest to have such discussions being out there is weird giving the nature of Apple. Or maybe not.

Apple is no longer the company Steve Jobs founded in the seventies. It is not the company built on the back of the Apple II or Lisa. It is the Apple that he rebuilt in the late 1990s and whose fortunes can be tied back to the iPod and forward to iOS. This new Apple needs to maintain the iOS train while getting to the next big thing; unfortunately MacOS isn’t that and only exists until iOS can at least replace Mac laptops.

 

Beyond Mobile

Given how much disruption is supposed to be an underlying part of technology, I don’t think I’ve heard anyone asked what will disrupt mobile. In fact it’s hard to really look past mobile to any emerging or potential trend.

I mean tablets, smartwatches, and virtual reality have all been tied to mobile. Smartwatches are literally just there to be phone extensions. Media dongles like the Chromecast exist to extend the phone’s reach to your TV.

So what exists beyond mobile or is mobile so big we haven’t reached the edge yet?

 

Nadella’s Windows

This is something I will revisit later, but I want to start here. Satya Nadella’s time as head of Microsoft has been interesting to watch. He became CEO after what was largely a dark period for the company; maybe not in terms of profit, but in direction. Microsoft failed to successfully modernized its mobile efforts with Windows Phone and made missteps with developers. It made some moves to successfully move the company forward (Azure) and has seen success in the cloud while stumbling in the consumer market.

Much of the failings of the last decade were pinned to former chief Steve Ballmer who three years ago decided to retire and hand the reins to then Cloud head Nadella.

Now I’m not going to bore you with the overview; tl;dr of it is Nadella has been credited with a renaissance at Microsoft with new products and a rejuvenated workforce. For me the focus is on where Microsoft is going with Windows under Nadella.

Before recent reports; much of the news around Windows was about both the decline in the PC market and the innovation around Microsoft hardware. It’s weird but the PC’s decline has lead to a sort of resurgence. However for Nadella and Microsoft Windows and especially it’s mobile half are what keeps tongues wagging. And we may have an answer next year.

 

How bout dem Ghostbusters, huh?

Not crossing that red line? Okay then what about Man from U.N.C.L.E.? No

Divergent?

The Golden Compass?!

The movie franchise, a trend that has once again found it’s niche in the box office. Every movie company worth their salt wants one and will dig for any comic, game, book series, or web series to turn into the next big thing. Now the problem for most studios they tend to shoot the pistol before they pull it out the holster. They already making the sequel before they make a single buck on opening weekend.

So the that end let’s me provide my .02 cents on how to make a movie franchise work.

Step 1: Make the first movie GOOD
Okay so you have the next Star Wars on your hands. You know it, the writer knows it, the toy company knows it, and best of all the Execs know it. They’re already talking sequel, and this is where you need to walk gingerly. The first movie needs to introduce viewers to whatever world you’re imagining. Do not make a film that is essentially a 2 hour preview for its sequel. Just because you think there is another story to be told will mean it will. So make the first tale a complete one and worry about the sequel when you get it.

Step 2: Make sure you do Step 1
Remember the Golden Compass and I am Number Four

Step 3: Find a good Cat herder
Okay let’s be honest Paul Feig was a bad fit for Ghostbusters 2016. In fact the entire premise was if looked at from the larger plan SONY had for the IP. Feig is a director of R rated comedies and he had to both tone his stuff down and work on a franchise with a fan base outside his comfort zone and that he ended antagonizing/being antagonized by. So on the company side you need at least one person who get’s the mechanics of the franchise, potential/existing fan bases, and can manage the director if needs be. Yes this kills creativity but it’s your money.

Step 4: Picking the right Franchise
Easier said than done. For every Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, there is an Earagon. A premise may look good on paper but on film it flops hard. Sometimes it depends on timing. The 5th Wave was part of the post Hunger Games crop of YA Dystopian series; but it came after the craze was over. Also you need to be sure to think about any potential controversies that could derail a series. The Golden Compass series was one of the highest selling children series and made a no brainer except for the seemingly strong anti-religious tone of the series. Lastly, if you pull from the nostalgia files make sure there is some fans left; then try not to piss them off. This is the thing I think messed up the Lone Ranger, John Carter, and the Man from U.N.C.L.E.. People have to have some memory of the thing you’re pulling out of the bargain bin. And if they do you have to treat it with a modicum of respect. No one wants to see characters they love shat on.

Step 5: Make sure you’re doing Step 1, then Step 3, then 4
GO CHECK

Step 6: Determine whether you have a Franchise or a Cinematic Universe
Cinematic Universes have been the thing ever sense Marvel translated the titles it owned the film rights to into blockbusters. Now everybody wants one. But the question is do you? See there is a difference(SONY). A franchise is about one person or group that exists in a world where their the main actors. A Cinematic Universe on the other hand are a bunch of franchises that exist on their own but also in shared space/universe with others; their connected. So for example Marvel/Disney and DC/Warner have universes; they have individual titles and characters who share a world and interact in it. Ghostbusters on the other hand is a franchise. You can spin off a franchise into a cinematic universe but that involves creating a series that separates from the main into it’s own thing. But saying you have a universe when it’s just one series does not a universe make.

Step 7: Make friends with the Geeks (but not THAT close)
see Paul Feig and Ghostbusters 2016 or go on Twitter

Steps 8-10: Be China friendly, get good writers, Have Fun (duh)

Now the following is just me providing a slightly insightful opinion on the EU referendum. I am piecing together this opinion based on the some the stuff I’ve read and even then I am playing catch-up so there will be gaps. Also I’m limiting myself to talking about why the vote went the way it did so let’s start.

So that just happened.

Yesterday the United Kingdom held a referendum on whether to stay a part of the European Union (EU). The referendum went under the name Brexit for short.

Now you may have missed it (I’ll be honest it snuck up on me too) but you’re probably hearing about it now. Immediately following reports that the UK had voted “Leave”, the British Pound started falling in price and every type of market you could think off started dropping like flies.

 

So the European Union is a bit of an amorphous entity. The EU is a weird mix of an economic trade organization and quasi super state. The EU started as a way for the various industrialized nations of Europe to come together around economic trade. As time as gone on the European Union has become a government without going all the way; almost the United States of Europe. The EU has a currency, a parliament, no army, but can create binding laws.

 

The basic issue behind Brexit and why it came to a head in a referendum vote is complicated; much more complicated than either the Leave or Remain sides say. For some the vote is about immigration and others national control.

The Brexit vote has been seen by some as a nationalist rebuke of global trade and globalism. For others the referendum vote is seen as an exercise in anti-intellectualism and anger. And in many ways Brexit was all those things. the vote also reflects the fact that the UK has always been iffy on the EU; it did not switch over to the Euro (EU currency) and it has in conflict with the EU over various policy issues. It was a move by the current Prime Minister of Britain David Cameron to appease members of his own party and maintain power. Another view is it was a referendum highlighting growing anti-immigrant and right-wing sentiment in the UK; or a vote for Britain to be in control of it’s destiny.

 

The Brexit vote then came and the result is the UK is leaving the EU. The fallout has been immediate.

For me the interesting thing has been reading the comments on Twitter. Most people in my timeline are/were for remaining in the EU; so they are upset. I think a lot of them thought that their fellow countryman would see through the rhetoric of the Leave campaign and vote to stay in the EU. And in the aftermath many are decrying the voters who turned out and voted to go as anti-immigrants, racists, bigots, xenophobic, and short-sighted.

Sort of how they viewed them all along.

In my opinion this is where the Remain side failed. The problem that faced those who wanted to remain in the European Union, the big one, was they couldn’t sell it. Any campaign that wants to win has to make a strong narrative and tie it to a simple slogan. You have to get voters attention and keep it long enough to have impact in the voting booth. The second problem with the remain camp, especially online, is they were too busy decrying the type of voter that voted Leave while not making sure their voters hit the polls. See talking shit only makes sense when you can insure yours turn out; and this hits on the third issue.

The people behind the Leave campaign seem to have been more organized than the Remain camp. I mean they had an easier time because they could make the case that leaving the EU was an act of reasserting control. They could appeal to national pride. What was the story for the Remain vote? I mean if I went by Twitter then much of it was about the type of voter that would vote to leave and EU benefit vagaries. It also didn’t help that most of the pro-EU talk sounded like veiled threats. Leave the EU and we won’t fuck with you says such and such business. I should point out here that another issue with the Remain side is they didn’t really confront the anti-EU sentiment of the public meaningfully.  A big unanswered question, in my opinion, was how do you answer those who feel left behind by this thing you’re for?

The fact is Brexit went the way it did for a lot of reasons, but the big one may be an undercurrent of real distrust with the system we have. And that is something to think about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If we see real gun control after the Orlando shooting, I will be surprised.

Actually it would be ironic given how much money is spent to protect 2nd Amendment rights after similar events.

You know fuck this shit.

I am glad people are tired of the homophobia (even if they practice it) and they wear the rainbow and holler love is love and bitch about Conservatives for their various sins against the country and politics.

I love the various think pieces describing the act as either anti-gay and/or terrorist. I love how we say shit gets better, while also getting reminded how much gun violence happens in the United States of America.

Thank you and fuck you all the same like we needed a reminder.

Why is it this event is the catalyst for all this soul searching?

I mean really?

Now we aren’t safe?  Shit we have never been safe or secure.

So now that Isis’s name has been tossed around, we can all get on board banning weapons that clearly are for the maiming of human life.

Where was this when inner city violence was spiking? Or is it no one gives a damn if random brown bodies have holes and neighborhoods get turned over for bullshit.

The cynic in me doesn’t believe the little rainbow pin on your chest nor the monologue coming out of your damn mouths.

I haven’t done a post about Windows Phone now Windows 10 Mobile. I mean I started on one but then everyone said it was dead; then Mary Jo Foley got a Nexus and the sky fell.

So let’s recap:

  • Windows Phone as it was first conceived and marketed was not successful.
  • Many of Microsoft’s partners when it was still Windows Phone 7 Series abandoned it.
  • Redmond had to buy the only real Windows Phone handset maker left but ending up firing a lot of the workers and reducing the amount of handsets they make. (When really the only value were the Camera team and HERE mapping)
  • Microsoft has refocused its mobile strategies on pushing apps and services for the big two (Android/iOS); and on refocusing Windows  10 Mobile’s target audiences.

For the last year Microsoft under Nadella has been, in my opinion, trying to make Windows Mobile work. And by work I mean start making profits and being credible competition.

Now let me say upfront, Windows Phone failed. I hate writing that because like its spiritual ancestor the Zune, it was ahead of its time. It faced a number of hurdles that it could not overcome (no matter how hard they tried). So now we on.

I’ve been playing with Windows 10 Mobile since its Insider Preview started. There are a lot things about it I think need serious work. For me most of it is surface stuff. I like the personalization options, but I wish I could group apps to break up the Start Screen. I think the basic layout for UI needs refining and more needs to be done to make apps really pop.

But I also find myself intrigued by what the new Win Mobile is.

I complain about Action Center, but I also really like it. Controls are better. I like the fact this interacts better with the PC. And I like the fact I want to see it on larger screens.

So I think Windows  Mobile has legs, but how does Microsoft make it compelling?

Windows Mobile’s biggest issue out of the gate will be the legacy of Windows Phone: no one uses it and there are no apps. So first question will be, “Why Windows Mobile?”

In some ways Microsoft has already telegraphed that going forward Windows Mobile will be first and foremost about the Enterprise. While Microsoft has also talked about creating experiences for fans of the platform it is clear the focus will be on where they saw growth. Fans are just a bonus.

Beyond the business focus, Windows Mobile will need a consumer story. And I think this where the Surface team comes in.

Despite the appearance of Acer and HP with high end devices, Microsoft is going to have to raise the flag for Windows 10 Mobile. The rumored Surface phone is going to be the point device for Windows Mobile. It will need to be more than just a pretty phone; it’ll need to be a new experience.

This experience goes beyond just having hardware.

Recent reporting around Windows Mobile is indicating that it will be the focus of the next major update to Windows 10. If this is the case, then I think Microsoft should focus on refining the interface and building robust features into the platform.

In my opinion the biggest assets Windows Mobile has is it’s NT kernel underpinnings and Continuum. The NT kernel means this is real Windows. With Continuum Windows Mobile becomes less of an also ran to be a versatile platform. In order for Windows Mobile to get over the “no apps” rep, it will need to push versatility and Continuum hard. To me that means when dock, the phone just becomes a PC (including multitasking).

(Continuum allows a Windows phone to function like a PC with a desktop; apps built to make use of the feature fit the screen. It’s a lot like Windows on ARM or Windows RT)

In some ways what I am suggesting is Microsoft should run with the idea that Windows Mobile as the new Pocket PC. Keep it nerdy. Make it business friendly. Make it versatile and flexible in ways Android and iOS can’t.  Revisit the ideas from the old Win Mobile but reimagined for current mobile audiences.

hp-ipaq-hx-2490c-pocket-pc.jpg

 

(Honestly, I got more but I hit over 700 words and I’ll live it here)

 

So………

Microsoft has this thing called the Universal Windows Platform. It is essentially software that allows programs to run across the types of devices that run Windows 10. The UWP acts like a container which means the programs can’t reach out and make drastic changes that users may have to go in and fix if something goes wrong with an application. The platform is essentially what you get when downloading an app on a mobile phone or a tablet.

Okay so here is the thing with the UWP, some people do not like it. They feel it’s this infringement on their use of a PC. Some developers feel like it is a step to wall off the PC gaming garden.

This is BULLSHIT

The Universal Platform at its basest nature, is about modernizing application development. Windows over its 30 plus years has accumulated clogs of coding languages, tools, and workarounds for running software; but not a modern one.

Think of those times your PC ran slow or you thought you deleted a program or game and it’s still there in the system; this is the stuff some like to call good thing.

The second part of the UWP is to make it easier on USERS. Easy installs, quick up and runtimes, safely contained, and most importantly easily deleted without issue. I mean when was the last time you went to a site to download an application?  Most don’t, and if you do how do you know that site is legit? Bitch about the Windows store, but it’s vetted.

Now the third reason is simple; the PC as you and I knows it needs to DIE.

The PC market is fast becoming a niche but also long in the tooth. User expectation for devices has changed. Most people work within the browser screen or off a mobile phone. The legacy and past have forced Microsoft to maintain a status quo that now hinders. The development model needed changing to be competitive; to make PCs strong.

So suck it up kiddies cause change is coming.