As I mentioned previously, I tend to carry a chip on my shoulder at work, which can increase or decrease in size depending on the derp that is being thrown my way by customers, coworkers, and the company I work for. I recently had an instance where working on a story during my lunch hour improved my mood and I felt happy throughout the remainder of the day.
It happened again. I got worked up into a lather one morning thanks to a coworker who couldn’t follow simple directions. I reached the point where I had to walk away from my desk because I wanted to hit something or someone. Lunch couldn’t come too soon because doggone it, I needed a break.
I returned to my desk and lunchtime soon arrived without incident. I tapped away on my tablet, looking for some mental respite from the day. I had earbuds on and was listening to music in an attempt to blot out the office noise. As is often the custom, I opened my ‘To Do’ directory and scrolled down the list of unfinished short stories, blog posts, podcast scripts, and book drafts for something to work on. I opened up the short story that I had started before. The words flew from my fingertips and I had a completed first draft by the time lunch was through. As was the case before, I felt better after the fact.
It then occurred to me that I hadn’t written any fiction in quite a few days; I had been spending them formatting “Fuzzy Words” for publication and recording and editing podcasts. I started to wonder: was I more easily upset because I hadn’t worked on any stories in a while? Have I gone from ‘I like to write’ to ‘I need to write?”
Well, that didn’t take long. Within 24 hours of installing Ubuntu (see previous post) onto my laptop, I found myself reaching for my Windows 7 restore discs. While wasn’t bad, it possessed one major flaw that kept it from staying on my laptop: it was horribly inefficient and significantly cut down its battery life.
I found that to be odd because one of the things I distinctly remembered about Linux was that it was efficient, but the fan on my laptop just wouldn’t stop spinning as I installed programs on it and got re-accustomed to the Ubuntu UI. While doing so, I had forgotten how convenient it was to have multiple desktops.
Getting back to my main point, running Ubuntu reduced the laptop’s battery life from 4-5 hours on Windows to under 3…and that was with Wi-Fi turned off. While I was processing that unfortunate turn of events, my screen started to glitch. This was a fresh install with all updates installed and barely any additional software on it. As awful as Windows supposedly is, I’ve NEVER had something like that happen so quickly. I have to say, I was very disappointed with the experience.
Already annoyed with the battery performance, I (metaphorically) flipped the table, opened the laptop’s DVD drive and inserted the first restore disc.
I first gave Windows 8 a spin when the Developer Preview was released back in 2011. As I have not purchased a new computer since then, I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing the final product, but judging from prevailing opinion as well as feedback from customers, it seemed that I wasn’t missing much. As I work in tech support, I figured that I was going to have to support Windows 8 sooner or later, so I decided to eat my peas and installed Windows 8 on my laptop: a 14″ Toshiba P745-S4102 with 6MB of RAM.
THERE AND BACK AGAIN
The install went fairly well, but I made the mistake of not wiping the drive beforehand, so I had lots of icky bits left over from years of Windows 7 use. I would open up my boot drive to find rouge directories sticking out their tongues at me in glee. Obviously the thing to do was to delete them, so I got delete happy and of course, deleted an important directory.
So just like I did during my adventures with OS X, I had to start all over again. I formatted the drive, reinstalled Windows 8, and was back in business. Windows 8 seemed to be a little more happier after the second install, so lesson learned: always format the hard drive before dropping in a new OS.
THROWN FOR A LEARNING CURVE
Up until Windows 8 you could count on a few things like the Start Menu and Control Panel to be there. No mas. The Start Menu has been replaced by the Start Screen and other options are accessed by pulling up a ‘Charms Bar’ that is accessed by moving the mouse to either the upper or lower-right hand corner of the screen. Moving the mouse to the lower-left hand corner reveals a shortcut to the Start Menu, and the upper-left corner pulls up the last program opened and a list of currently open programs if you move the pointer down from there. The interface is not intuitive and poorly explained, you get zero help and are tossed into the Start Screen with nary a tooltip to help you.
A great example of how obtuse things are is the method for shutting down the computer:
Bring up the Charms bar by moving the mouse to one of the right-hand corners…that is, assuming you know its there.
Click ‘Shut Down’ from the pop up menu.
Is it any wonder that people are upset about having to re-learn how to use their computer again? Expect to stumble around Windows 8 for a while (I certainly did) until you learn its intricacies or say ‘screw it’ and download a Start Menu replacement.
APPY, APPY, APPY
One of the big reasons Windows 8 has received so much grief was because of the removal of the apparently-beloved Start Menu. I admittedly gave them static about this too, but having poked at it again, I now get what it is Microsoft had in mind when they removed it.
Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets have given us the concept of apps, or small programs that only do one thing or access a single service. Like many of you, I’ve gotten accustomed to doing things via apps. When done right, they’re great: you open up the app for whatever it is you want to do and take care of business instead of having to open up a browser, navigate to the website, login and all that.
Microsoft and Windows 8 want you to do everything in apps, and while I like this idea and would like to embrace it, the fact of the matter is that for whatever reason, the Windows 8 apps I have used have either fallen short of my expectations or just plain don’t exist.
The official Twitter app is one example. I have multiple Twitter accounts, randomizer9 is my main one and I have one set up for The Rules of Tech Support. The Twitter apps on my phone and iPad both allow me to switch back and forth between identities with a few taps, but the Windows 8 app only lets me login to one account, which reduces its usefulness.
Some apps just don’t exist. The most glaring omissions for me are Facebook and Gmail, though I can set up the Mail client for use with GMail. I’m also surprised that there isn’t a version of Office that uses the Metro interface. Granted, I don’t use very many apps to begin with, so its not that big of a deal to me, but other folks who love apps might be disappointed in the selection, though it should get better with time.
THE DOCKING DESKTOP
Luckily, the desktop is still around and is accessed by clicking the Desktop tile. While the Start Menu is persona non grata, much to the consternation of lots of folks (including myself) programs can be docked to the Taskbar just like in Windows 7. I found myself docking each one after installing them. This works pretty well for me and I haven’t really missed the Start Menu all that much, especially since discovering this handy list of Windows key shortcuts.
Unfortunately, installing legacy programs barfs icons all over the Start Screen just like it did before. It is a little jarring to see the a nice purdy Metro Start Screen morph into icky tile-o-rama with a tap of the Page Down key. The big problem with the Start Screen is that there is currently no good way to organize tiles that were installed by legacy programs. Sure, you can move them around, but one of the nice things about Ye Olde Start Menu was that it kept things you didn’t need out of the way. Hopefully the upcoming Windows 8.1 will resolve some of those issues, otherwise I’m not sure what I’m going to do once my Taskbar fills up with docked programs.
I have experienced no compatibility issues with older programs and hardware as of yet which is pretty darn lucky considering I still use Microsoft Money 2000 and WinAmp 2.9.
WHERE’S MY MEDIA CENTER?
I feel bad for Microsoft at times because even when they do things right they often don’t get credit for it or the Thing Done Right is completely ignored. Windows Media Center is one of those things. Media Center turns a TV-tuner equipped PC into a pretty decent PVR and can even stream TV from a PC to an Xbox 360, which is awesome. It was created during the Windows XP days (remember Media Center PCs? Yeah, me neither) and came included with certain versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7. It does not come with Windows 8. If you want Media Center you now have to pay an extra $9.99 even if you have the Super Mega Deluxe Happy Version of Windows.. So much for doing it right.
Despite all the wailing and gnashing of teeth you’ve probably heard, Windows 8 is not that bad. Yes, it does have some annoying habits, such as the made-for-touch interface and missing Start Menu, but I have learned to live with those inconveniences. That said, I understand why some people are upset: Windows users (such as myself) have grown accustomed to the Start button/menu being there for nearly twenty years. For Microsoft to just yank that football away like Lucy does to Charlie Brown is just not right. I know workarounds, but lots of folks either don’t or don’t want to go through the trouble/hassle. Microsoft reached just a little too far ahead in that regard.
I understand what Microsoft is trying to do with Windows 8. I even like the idea of doing everything quickly in apps instead of having to constantly go to the web browser. Unfortunately, the apps either don’t measure up in terms of functionality or they just aren’t there, which means I end up constantly having to go back to the desktop, which defeats the whole point of the new interface.
The much-touted quick startup and shutdown is nice and my laptop appears to be performing as well as it did before, though, as with any new system, one should be leery of potential conflicts with old hardware and software. I haven’t hit any snags yet in that department, but time will tell on that.
To wrap up: Windows 8 isn’t quite The Future just yet. It takes steps in the right direction with its app-centric design but is hamstrung by sub-par apps that will have you going back to the desktop over and over again. If you are one of these folks that just can’t live without the Start Menu, there are third party add-ons, but I can’t vouch for their usefulness or reliability. Once you get over the steep learning curve, 8 isn’t all that bad, but it isn’t as great as it could have been, either. The upcoming Windows 8.1 should make things better so we’ll have to wait and see what happens. While I’ll be sticking with Windows 8 for the short-term, I won’t be tossing away my Windows 7 install disc anytime soon.
I don’t know when the light finally came on, but when it did, I’m pretty sure I did a facepalm. After weeks of negotiating prices, repairs, dates and all that yadda yadda yadda on the house I want to buy, I realized that I had overlooked one important little thing:
You know, those little things that make life more convenient: a refrigerator to store food in, a stove to cook that food on, and a washer and dryer to wash clothes that have gotten dirty after cooking and eating said food. Since the disposition of the appliances is not in the home purchase contract, I could open up the door on Thursday to find the aforementioned modern conveniences waiting for me….or I’ll be making an emergency trip to Ye Olde Electronics or Department Store for a new refrigerator and stove.
It’s not as bad as it seems: If there is no washer and dryer, then its back to hanging out with the freakos at the laundromat. As far as the stove goes, I plan on replacing the it anyway because the home has an electric stove, something which I have learned to loathe during my many years of apartment living. Things might get a little dicey without a refrigerator, though, because I really like cold sodas and dairy.
One guy trying to explain Furry Fiesta to an older person got “What? Fairy Fiesta?” as a reply. That explains a lot, actually.
I’m not sure which made my attempt to record the fursuit parade worse: the lighting, my iPad mini, or the two rubes that stood next to me…seriously, I kept expecting to hear one playing a banjo and the other a jug.
The Furry Psychology panel filled up quick, they should just give Dr. Nuka a video room next time, it’ll be like college but much less boring.
Final Update: 1/9, 1030PM: Looks like the hot water’s back, w00t.
2nd Update: 1/9, 620PM: Still nothing, purchased a “Homer Bucket” from Home Depot to assist with bathing. Not bad for two-fifty or so, though I wish they had tops for them.
UPDATE 1/8, 430PM: After sending a link to this blog to the regional manager via Venterra Realty’s website, I got a call from the complex at about 4PM. I was unable to answer because I was busy at work. They left a message essentially saying they’re really sorry (again) but they don’t have an ETA for a fix. Whoopee. I called back but got a message saying they’re weren’t available. They called me back again and apparently the entire boiler went kerplotz, so they need to get a new one…yeah, I think that’s going to be awhile.
If you’ve lived in an apartment for any decent amount of time, it’s a question that you get to ask yourself every year or so. As the day your lease ends gets closer, you think it over and think it over until finally the ‘renew your lease’ letter drops into your mailbox or gets left on your door. If you’re lucky, your rent stays the same, or only goes up a few bucks, so assuming things haven’t been too crazy, you re-up, and stand pat for another year or so.
If you aren’t lucky, your rent goes up just enough to make you think over whether you want to pay more to stay in a place that you are not completely happy living in. My renewal letter came in the mail about a week ago. I opened it to learn that my rent is going to be going up $50 a month. Crap.
I initially had a few issues with my current apartment complex after I moved in. The buildings are a bit on the older side and so it seemed that the maintenance guys were coming in at least once a month to fix or do something or other. I also had problems with the office hours not being consistent, I would occasionally have to go to the office to pay my rent during my lunch break to find it closed. Things did seem to be getting a little bit better as time went on, but still I winced when I saw that fifty dollar increase and thus began the internal debate.
Then last Saturday the hot water went out. On a 40-degree morning.
After making that discovery and stewing in my own juices for an hour, I boiled a bunch of water, took a hot bath, and life went on. I received an email later that day containing the management’s apology for the outage. It also said that there was a temporary fix in place and that the boiler would be fully repaired on Monday.
I think to myself: “Okay. These guys have got a handle on this. The boiler will be fixed on Monday. Awesome.’
I spoke too soon. I got home to find the lovely e-mail above waiting for me in my inbox. I turned on the tap, and of course, no hot water. No telling when its going to be fixed, either. All I have is a poorly-written message about ‘a part that needs to be ordered’ that I’m sure was hurriedly banged out by someone before they got out of Dodge.