Archive | September 2016

Dear Apple, Microsoft: Give Us the Choice Regarding Updating Our Computers

Note:  though this article applies to MacIntosh systems as well, this article references Windows versions.

Remember the old days when you used to be able to turn on your computer, boot it up, and KNOW in a few seconds it was ABSOLUTELY GOING TO WORK?  No spinning wheels, no pins or passwords for your desktop unless you decided to lock your desktop specifically, and no automatic operating system updates?

windows-10

Hard to believe but we had exactly that on windows versions 95 through 7.  Computers were computers and you knew when you turned yours on that at very least your operating system was going to work smoothly and able to run the word processing, spreadsheet, and other essential programs that we all take for granted in a digital age where paper versions and typewriters are a thing of the past.  If you couldn’t connect to the internet (for whatever reason, including not having a dial-up modem back in the old days) you could still work on your computer. It was a machine like any other in your home or business.  Flip the switch and get to work.

That all started to change in 2012 when the first Windows 8 machines rolled out.  Windows 8 was the first Windows OS that imposed updates on users without the option of not updating.  Microsoft sees this as simplifying our lives–but it comes at a price for users.  When you control the updating process you are in control of the down time created by the updates and can break up the process to fit your schedule and needs.

Windows 8 saw the start of this automated process by forcing all updates on users — whether that update applied to the system or not.  That is to say that since Windows 8 treats smart phones, laptop computers, and desktop computers as the same an update that only applies to a smart phone is installed on regular computers.

But at least you could turn off the auto-updates and choose to update when you didn’t need to use your computer.

That key piece of control is OBLITERATED in Windows 10 and most noticeable recently with the new anniversary updates which take control over your machine (even if you are using it, though it’s not supposed to) and updates the system — kicking you out of your computer completely until it’s finished.  What is worse, information about the update is no longer being displayed.  Instead of telling you about the update’s progress and offering a specific time estimate the SCREEN GOES BLACK with ONLY A WHITE SPINNING WHEEL DISPLAYED.  Users have no way of knowing if the update is progressing or if it is stuck and the machine needs to be completely turned off.

In essence you are stuck with a spinning wheel, unable to get into your computer and unable to schedule work and home office activities around it.  Since you cannot decide when it hits and for how long, users lose control over their machines and their lives.

 

Microsoft and Apple both do this with their latest OS; they see it as streamlining our lives since there is nothing manual about the process.  But tell me, how is taking away my computer from me with no way to override it helping me?  I have a home office. My computer is a tower system run from a desk in my home.  I don’t just use this machine for the internet; it’s my job, my work, everything that is social, entertainment,and especially professional about my life.  I don’t want it controlled by Microsoft (or Apple if I used a Mac).  I NEED TO BE IN CHARGE OF MY COMPUTER AND MY OWN TIME.

All because Apple and Microsoft have stopped treating the OS as a product to be installed on a machine and now treat it as a SERVICE to be CONTINUOUSLY PROVIDED — like your subscription to Amazon prime.

But I can cancel my Amazon prime subscription if I don’t like it or don’t want it.  I can’t cancel my operating system on my computer.

 

Internally this concept is spreading across Microsoft with the release of Office 365 which makes Office programs like Word and Excel SERVICES NOT PROGRAMS.  Photoshop CC is also a service-based program — but given the traditional high expense of Photoshop (sometimes $2000 for a single user), I don’t mind paying $11 per month for Photoshop.  But my key programs — Windows, Word, Excel — without which I cannot work in a given day — different story!

 

And so I’m asking for a return to sense with computers.  It’s fine if Apple and Microsoft want to make these updates easier for those who don’t want to be in charge.  But DESKTOP AND LAPTOP/NOTEBOOK USERS NEED THE ABILITY TO CHOOSE.  Smart phones ARE different from traditional computers.  They need to be treated as different.  Windows 10 is FANTASTIC for smartphones — but it’s TERRIBLE for traditional PCs.  It’s time to bring back MORE personalization and MORE control of the home computer to the user.  Let people decide if they want a service-based or traditional program based (give me my windows on DVD as a backup!) operating system.  Let them decide how they want the interface to work.  STOP IMPOSING SMART PHONE NORMS onto keyboard/mouse systems.  Give me back control over my computing and my computer.

I deserve nothing less!

Review: Christopher Eccleston and Elizabeth (1998)

The 1998 film “Elizabeth” by “The Tudors” creator Michael Hurst has a longstanding reputation as a sort of guilty pleasure among those who love Tudor history and re-enact various facets of Elizabethan England.  Well written and often beautiful to watch, it can be great fun to watch — if you can stomach the many historical errors of course.

It’s a film I’ve more or less enjoyed (depending on my mood regarding the inaccuracies) since it first came out.

Standing out from the all star cast of Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush is one actor whose name I honestly never noticed in all these years.  The role:  Thomas Howard, the Fourth Duke of Norfolk (not to be confused with his grandfather, also named Thomas Howard, the Third Duke of Norfolk who was maternal uncle to Anne Boleyn).  The actor:  Christopher Eccleston.

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Christopher Eccleston is Thomas Howard, the Fourth Duke of Norfolk (1536-1572)

In a film fraught with constant historical licenses (for example early in the film Robert Dudley stands at Elizabeth’s side when she is notified she is accused of treason following the failed Wyatt Rebellion of 1554.  In fact Robert Dudley participated in Wyatt’s Rebellion and was arrested several weeks before Elizabeth), Christopher Eccleston’s performances stand strong.  They are, arguably, perhaps the best reason to watch “Elizabeth,” portraying Thomas Howard as accurately as the script allows with the coolness, detachment, and stage presence that audiences came to love seven years later in the role that has made Eccleston a household name.

The Doctor.

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In 2005 Christopher Eccleston took on the iconic role of The Doctor in the revival of Dr Who.

In both roles Eccleston dominates each scene — even when he is standing (or in the case of Elizabeth, often bowing) still.  You literally cannot take your eyes off him; he stands out from every ensemble, no matter how large.

And so despite all Elizabeth’s errors, I find myself watching this film time and time again, sucking up the annoying part and fast forwarding past the explicit sections (including some very explicit sex scenes featuring a very naked Eccleston where nothing is left to the imagination).  The history of the film is often dreadful — more so now than ever for me following the 2015 release of “Queen Elizabeth Tudor: Journey to Gloriana” and all the research I put into it.  But Eccleston’s performances are truly that good. He is the best reason to watch this film and the best reason to watch Dr. Who, a series I have, until very very recently ignored.

Whether your passion is history or Dr. Who, Christopher Eccleston makes “Elizabeth” a film worth watching.