There could yet be hope for Windows

I’m in rant mode, and Microsoft you’re next on my list. Seriously if you’re part of the Windows product team you might want to read this because I have some good feedback for you, something you guys with your research budget seem unable to figure out.

The good

Keeping this simple, the good thing about Windows is the existing ecosystem. Every player in the game knows their part. MS provide the API’s, Manufacturers the drivers and developers the applications.

A real world example of this would be a complex Logitech mouse. The end user is able to setup the device using Set point, and everyone has done their job well. The end user is really happy.

On Linux it isn’t that simple. Logitech don’t release the driver. Developers don’t have access to rich tooling and the end user gets told – USE THE COMMAND LINE. And then who or what is Linux? Exactly who’s responsibility is it to fix this?

So Windows wins hands down in terms of a logical ecosystem.

Tooling on Windows is also exceptional. Visual Studio / WPF / And all the good things that go with that. Easy to take for granted, but the tooling in Windows is second to none.

The concept of executables by extension too is something I’ve taken for granted but having installers and executables is logical. In Linux the closest thing to this is a .deb package and that too is good.

But don’t pat yourself on the back yet,

The bad

Closed source, one size fits all offering. Windows comes with a boat load of services and features a lot of people don’t actually want or need. A lot of super users are frustrated that no matter how much they want to tinker Windows, it remains FAT and bloaty. Indeed Windows is the most bloaty OS I know.

Isn’t it about time to modulate Windows a bit? Offering Windows as a series of layers that can be installed in a modular fashion, similar to how things are done in Linux. This would mean providing the building blocks for the operating system and handing over the reigns to the end user for the exact implementation.

If Windows was more modular, it could really compete as a modern desktop.

Ditch the registry already!

Seriously get rid of it.

Offer a standardized development approach.

I know .net offers a good suggestion for standardized development, but a lot of this isn’t enforced. It’s 2013 and we know enough about computer science to know what is the best way to store configuration (for example). Standardize it!

Expose a Desktop Environment API

Seriously give users the ability to tinker their system till their heart is content. Allow users the ability to create distributions based on Windows that for example resemble Chrome book. Exactly why are you so scared of relinquishing the control? Implement incentives for users to license these derived distributions and consider offering a percentage based payment scheme to authors.

Stop pushing the hybrid tablet UI

If you exposed the desktop Environment API, you would allow users to create full desktop mode or full tablet mode variations of Windows, instead you assume wrongly  what your users want and provide them with a terrible user experience.

Some food for thought!

Advertisements

My feedback to the Linux / Open source communities 2013

Most of the truly important people around Linux and open source are free agents who are not getting paid a dime. People who are contributing their time to helping others and build this great operating system – for this we thank you.

A point for project teams

I’m starting off with this initial feedback for project teams. Who exactly? Anyone who has (or is involved with) an open source project.

There are a lot of us who want to contribute to a variety of projects, but are finding it hard to bridge that gap from “just another Linux user / noob” to someone proficient at working with source code / understanding dependencies and compiling for distributions.

For this reason – PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE and PRETTY PLEASE focus on documentation. If there is no allocation in your team then recruit or get new members involved to document their “entry level” experiences.

Real world example:

I had been having major issues with my BT headphones. If you know anything about Linux, then you most likely know that Bluez is the BT stack on Linux and there is a great utility package out there called Bluez-tools. Bluetooth is also a fairly troublesome protocol, but I decided to roll up my sleeves and attempt to modify the source code. Simply put, at times my BT headphones would crash PulseAudio, not connect properly without requiring restarting whole BT service,  at other times stutter , etc. Many different problems.

First order of business was to download Bluez-tools. This went fine since the source is sitting in a GitHub repo. Then time to compile the code AS-IS just to ensure I can compile it, and at this time all hell broke lose with reference errors.

Now here is the thing, according to Distrowatch I am using the most popular distribution of Linux. I’m using Mint 15 Olivia 64bit. I would imagine in 2013 I don’t have to ask anyones permission to use a 64bit OS because imo everyone should be by now.

The few paragraphs of documentation on the Bluez-tools project site do list the dependencies exactly like this:

Requirements:
bluez-tools requires at least bluez-4.69 and obexd-0.30

THAT’S IT! Should be simple right? After all, I’m on at least one of the most widely used distributions and already meet the requirements?

WRONG For the love of God, no amount of tinkering seemed to help. In desperation after (many many) hours of googling, and trying new things, I fired up a VM, installed a copy of Arch and Boom! The package built right away, no fuss at all.

I decided to ask some guys in IRC. Their reply was this isn’t a coding thing, its a distro specific thing. So I took the question to Mint support, only the guys there did not have the technical knowledge to help, since Mint support is for basic end user stuff. The guys over at Bluez-tools didn’t even bother to get back to me. At this point I was essentially screwed but not just yet. A question on askUbuntu, another one on Linux.StackExchange and yet another one on the Mint forums, but no one seemed to know.

So the very first project I tried to get involved with and tinker with and build ended up being an epic fail. But it did show me that for the most part in Linux you can get really fucked sometimes with no one seeming to care about your particular issue.

For this reason I leave the following feedback:

  1. Test out building your projects on the top 5 distros (or at least top 3) and give instructions to get guys up and running where the distro requires additional configuration.
  2. Try to check your emails and respond to requests from people.
  3. Take their questions and turn them into HOW TO articles on your project site.
  4. If you need an example – document like Arch Linux. I find it semi disgraceful that this one distribution is pushing out the best documentation, including documentation that the project owners have failed to write. But Arch Linux guys – Goddamn thank you 1000 times for this.

Stop pushing vim and archaic methodologies as gospel.

As time ticks you can expect more and more of us coming over from Windows backgrounds. Initially Linux is overwhelming. I get the need to embrace the command line, but separate fact from fiction. Vim is useful and extremely powerful, but for a beginner I would seriously recommend using a standard text editor like gEdit. Vim should be pushed as a 2nd year subject, not something essential to getting the most out of your Linux experience. Stop writing your learn Linux guides with Lesson 1 : VIM.

Windows guys moving across DO embrace the command line.

And now I’m talking to Windows developers. In Windows we hardly ever expose the Windows apps we write with command line alternatives, however when you step across to Linux you need to do this! The command line isn’t just for quick fingered kids who like to type, it is essentially the exposed API of your app. So no matter what app you write, try your very best to modulate it, and expose the calls via command line args. The better job you do at this, the better Linux becomes. For example if you wrote a media player application and have command line calls to SET_VOLUME or GET_CURRENT_ARTIST etc, a desktop environment widget can reuse those calls, someone might create a wrapper application around yours. Everything just talks better but – WE ARE USING THE COMMAND LINE FOR THIS.

IRC Mods – go out and get laid.

Irc was fairly dead to me roughly around 2002. And I remember those days with over bearing mods taking their jobs very seriously just waiting to exercise the only authority they most likely had in life some of their authority.

In 2013 I’ve had to take up IRC again because that is where you the Linux guys are at. While I actually love the technology behind IRC. I find that a lot of the mods tend to throw around their power and distract people on the real reasons they’re even on the chat in the first place.

If you’re like this fuck you stop doing this please. But if you’re like the many, many helpful people on IRC assisting others in their Linux quest – then Kudos!

Get your facts straight about Ubuntu.

Ubuntu and Shuttleworth seem to be target for a lot of hatred in the Linux community. After doing some research I realized that a great deal of the Linux community are a bunch of whiny piss ants (who I would classify as power users). Get it out of your head that it is somehow fashionable to hate on Ubuntu and look at the facts.

Myth 1: Ubuntu contributes nothing back to OSS

Ubuntu is that one distribution that has put Linux on the map as a mainstream desktop alternative to Windows and iOS. This is a massive contribution already. They’re the poster child for Linux at the moment. Just like you shouldn’t diss your home team, think of Ubuntu as a massive friend in your corner because the more people that use Linux the better it becomes all around. Many of the Arch user base started off on? Opensuse Slackware Debian Fedora Redhate That’s right – Ubuntu!

Myth 2: Ubuntu is closed source because they want to rewrite x-server (Wayland) and Unity.

x-server is massively outdated, and although I personally think Unity sucks it is just another DE and easy to replace. It isn’t harming OSS, nor have I seen any tangible evidence that Ubuntu are harming OSS or releasing closed source packages. ONLY EVER ACCUSATIONS. So stop propagating myth. If you really have a statement you want to make, back it up with facts.

Gnome 3 team – Go back to school and learn some basic UX

Seriously. I love the way Gnome renders, but the implementation is a real clown show. And I can see exactly why there are forks from Gnome and why people are saying “Gnome is dead to me”.

Honestly – get your heads out your asses, and think about the people who would actually use Gnome.

 

That is all.

Linux is the best shot at a granny proof OS in 2013.

Recently I made the decision to move my personal laptop over to Linux. Being a .net C# developer, I’ll still continue to use Windows for work purposes, however Linux is now my recreational OS of choice.

I guess in many ways it has given me a new found love for tinkering, scripting and learning new things. And good Lord, Linux offers fantastic opportunities for exploring.

I’ve been so focused on the under the hood stuff that I have all but ignored one of the best features of Linux – Linux for the basic end user aka the Granny.

So let’s just get this straight. In my mind I see computer users in terms of skill and ability in this order:

  1. Elite supreme hacker
  2. Scientific / raw low level developers  
  3. Implementers (developers) —> me
  4.  Super users
  5. Power users
  6. users
  7. grannies / basic end user

So what exactly is a granny?

When I talk about a granny, I am really talking about a user that has virtually no interest in computing. They see the device as a means to perform a certain function, and have absolutely no interest in exploring beyond that.

For example, a granny might be aware of a certain news site where they are able to read current articles or watch the odd video. Grannies have no clue what drives the web, they have never heard of technologies like flash or html or what a script is, or where web pages are stored, or what a browser is. They only know if they click or tap a certain icon it opens up this white box and from there they can see news. A lot of grannies have caught on to communication over the net, and so regularly use applications like Skype. Some even have email (most don’t), some are aware of Facebook, some aren’t.

Most grannies I’ve met aren’t stupid

They simply have no interest in computers and view the device as something that should work atomically, like a TV or a car or a vacuum cleaner. One thing is clear I’ve never met even one granny who explores any aspect outside of what they are doing with the device. This isn’t fear either, this is just complete and utter lack of interest in additional capabilities they do not need. But they can tell you when the stuff they expect to work isn’t. A lot of these grannies can tell you that their experience is slow or point out why it is frustrating.

Usher in Linux

At first glance it would seem ironic that Linux the system most suitable for tinkering would be up for my nomination for the most suitable granny proof OS. But no, let’s dig deeper.

Linux is modular. Now I have yet to find the perfect granny distribution. But let’s consider the following. Let’s say our granny needed 3 applications. Internet, Email and Skype – that’s it!

Although Linux is modular and you could most likely pull all of this off without a fluffy desktop environment. We can’t really expect our granny to be typing away in the console, now can we? So we need need at least a DE, once we consider a DE, we’re now including a mass of packages that drive the DE and the WM. But consider for example : http://www.zdnet.com/a-linux-computer-for-grandpa-and-grandma-7000000436/ – based on tiny core, so this is completely possible.

Now if we had not been lazy, and only used the exact packages we need to use Internet, Email and Skype – eg: remove all packages that aren’t required, and I mean everything! What we are left with is:

LESS STUFF = LESS CAN GO WRONG

That’s right we would have about a proficient implementation of an OS as we could possibly get in 2013. With mostly all the code sitting in native C++, save a few the browser plugins.

We could pull this off with Windows by using a visual overlay on top of explorer. However this would not be without problems, since underneath we would have full blown windows running. We could turn off some unneeded services, but the entire core OS would still be sitting there in the background.

And since computers are complex, and since things can go wrong. What we really want is :

LESS stuff, Less of everything, only the essentials. 

So it stands to reason then, that with a bit of training and a modern DE on a distribution like Ubuntu or Mint that even a  granny would be able to perform mundane computing tasks with little to no problems on Linux.

I cannot say the same for a raw Windows installation – from experience with the granny user base.

So my vote is for Linux on this one.

Nexus 10 review months later, a non circlejerk and objective look

I am not sure if I have a Nexus 10 from the first or second batch ever produced, but I had been waiting and watching daily for the N10 to release, and since it wasn’t available in my country on release date, I had to order it via a friend and have it reshipped.

I’ve been using it since then, so how has it held up?

The truth about the build quality

At launch, a lot of people said it felt cheap. Circlejerk fanboys responded with their “cheap is relative” and focused their argument on “is plastic cheap?”

The truth is the Nexus 10 build quality is questionable. It “creaks”. I kid you not! My Samsung Galaxy Tab in comparison exudes quality and feels like an atomic unit. The Nexus 10’s back cover has an air gap which means if you apply pressure (even gently) on the back, you the unit “creaks” and you can depress the back a bit.

“Creaking” aside, the rest of the device doesn’t feel like it will fall apart, but you can’t write this with the whole “plastic feels cheap is subjective” argument. The N10 in the hand does not feel truly atomic.

Speed

The Nexus 10 is a fast tablet, there is no doubt. This offers really tangible benefits for day to day use. Regardless of what idiots like Chris Pirillo have reported, the Nexus 10 is buttery and smooth.

 Battery life

This really depends heavily on the brightness setting of your display. In terms of general tablet computing the Nexus 10 has comparable battery life. So realistically don’t expect it to last all day with heavy usage. For the most part you’re using your Nexus 10 with the USB plugged in.

Laptop replacement?

Yes and no. For vital computing it will get you there, but for content creation, every tablet sucks, sorry fan boys but this is true.

Take for instance, recently I took a trip to Dubai and was job hunting. I decided to leave my PC behind. I needed to reformat my CV, and used the best office application Android had to offer. The final document ended up with formatting issues. I decided just to buy a laptop.

Gaming?

Pretty good actually. Only problem is it heats up, and so playing for extended periods of time isn’t really possible but this is again a general tablet issue. remember the N10 is a passively cooled device, so it gets hot, sometimes you wonder “Is it supposed to get this hot”.

Overall / Verdict

All considering price and competition and build quality, not forgetting date. I would not recommend buying the Nexus 10 v1. I would wait for the refresh which should be coming out soon.

Localization : You’re doing it wrong.

I can’t really help but notice how many sites and services incorrectly implement localization. If you’re a developer. I urge you to please pay attention to this, especially if you work for Google!

Yes that is right even the big players in the game, such as Google haven’t yet learnt how to localize correctly.

Here is the typical incorrect approach:

Localization - New PageThis is the typical approach you see. Many web sites incorrectly implement this, but even services such as the Google Play store employ this method, and it is incorrect, let’s examine a bit further.

Consider Bob,  an American who travels a lot mainly through Europe. Bob primarily speaks English. Actually he only speaks english but frequents many websites that target an international audience, he’s also a Google fanboy, and has an Android phone and tablet. Bob takes a train from Paris, France and ends up in Prague, Czech Republic. The train has free public wifi, and Bob is pretty much sorted, except he notices that as he travels from country to country, the web sites he’s frequenting change language. Some sites deploy a cookie to keep track, others don’t bother. Bob notices that sub menus in his Google play store app on Android too appear in languages he simply cannot understand. He double checks his user settings, and sure enough he’s set them to English. There is nothing that Bob can do to fix this his side – the reason? Poorly implemented localization! Bob decides to invest $50 dollars a month in a VPN solution, so that to these sites and services it appears he is browsing from his home in the US.

What’s wrong with this approach?

  • Assumes the user is a native speaker of the local language in the country of request.
  • Assumes only 1 language per country
  • Bob can’t override his settings with a language preference

Localization done correctly

Localizationcorrect - New PageJust a few extra steps and not only Bob but everyone on the planet is content.

Why this works?

In the above correct implementation Bob continues his travels throughout Europe. Because Bob has already registered for Google applications and services and set his language preference to English – ALL offerings now pull his language preference correctly from his user profile.

When Bob visits a local news site in Germany, he doesn’t want to register. Instead on his first visit he is greeted with an overlay that asks him to select his language. He does and continues across to Czech Republic. On his return visit, Bob decides to check the news site again. With the cookie in place he views the site in English.

Bob decides to register. During registration the language preference is defaulted to the value set in the cookie. The site also has an Android app. Bob downloads it, and has to login. After login, Bob notices that the application is in his preferred language without any additional hassle.

Localization is semi useless if it’s not done correctly!

Final tips

  •  DON’T implement based on lazy IP check.
  • DO use an IP check to get most frequently used languages in that country
  • DO show a user a visible way to set language prior to showing them content on the site / service
  • DO use system settings to pull language preferences where possible – useful during app development
  • DO use cookies to allow the user to set a language preference without going through a registration process
  • DO cater for OUTSIDE THE BOX use cases, such as Spanish speakers in Korea, or English speakers in Europe!
  • DO offer a fallback to English!

My adventures in Linux: week 1

Up and running

I am now nearly fully up and running on Mint 15 Olivia. I still can’t get over how gorgeous the fonts look, and the screen layout crisp and uncluttered. 

Apps I’ve gone with

The “vitals I had in Windows” are for the most part not part of my journey anymore. Chrome, Firefox and Skype I’m still using, other apps I’ve found replacements for. 

Gaming

Any chess players? FICS? On Windows I used Babas chess. Swopped this out for Pychess : http://pychess.org/ . I’ts actually better.  

I’m really liking Battle for Wesnoth : http://www.wesnoth.org/. It’s a fun turn based game, that starts off easy, but as things progress gets difficult to beat the AI. Long single player campaigns. Many claim it’s their favorite open source game. Well so far I’m loving it. 

Archiving

On Windows I used WinRar, on Linux I can’t tell you what I’m using, everything just works. This is most likely a Mint thing. So far I’ve had no reason to install any archiving / extraction tools. 

Programming

I had no expectation of fully replacing Visual Studio and C# with Project Mono. I still think that later on down the road I will find a use for Mono, but as they say “When in Rome…” 

On Linux I’ve opted for Qt (http://qt.digia.com/) , I know it’s possible to use QML for interface design, but  I decided to use HTML5 instead. Qt is pretty amazing. The HTML5 rendering is handled by webkit and you hookup functions to expose strongly typed “server side” code. It is possible to use Qt with languages other than C++, but I’m really new to the world of Linux and wanted the easiest approach. The Qt creator IDE is designed exclusively for C++ (This might change), but coming from a C# background C++ is a relatively easy language to learn. Since knowing C++ will come in handy on Linux, it’s the language I’ve gone for. 

As for HTML editing, Sublime seems to be where the fun is at: http://www.sublimetext.com/, so far love the color schemes. 

Things I’m noticing

  • Applications start faster on Linux, I guess there is far less bloat in Window creation? This could be a DE specific thing. I have no idea. 
  • Created my first permanent alias, no jokes it’s to kill Skype. Skype on Linux is a bit better than the Windows 8 client, but it still hangs from time to time and requires a hard kill. 
  • Google play music has a native Linux client – frigging sweet, but it needs work. It’s slightly worse than the Windows one, but it does the job. 
  • System is using a lot less Swop space, where applicable “none”, so for this reason much less HDD IO. SSD’s WILL last longer if you use Linux, but for me the notebook I have comes with a dog slow HDD, any less IO vastly improves the system performance. 
  • Had one or 2 strange hangs. One where all my windows minimized and couldn’t get them maximised. Can’t reproduce it and it only happened once. 
  • Everything feels more responsive. 

If you’re using Windows, the distribution of Linux I am using can be found here: http://www.linuxmint.com/

Why I use Linux and why you should consider it too

I’ll start by saying I’m one of the least likely candidates for Linux. Haha, but it’s true.

I’m a .net developer who earns a “Microsoft” lunch. I’ve exclusively used Windows professionally speaking. The few times I did take Linux for a spin around the block, the conclusion was “It’s not ready yet”.

Was Linux just a fanboy OS? The apps I had come to love and trust were primarily Windows apps. Finally I’m also a gamer. So as I paint this picture you can see it is doubtful that someone like me has decided to make Linux my primary operating system of choice.

My first taste of Linux was Redhat, around the time when desktop environments were cutting their teeth. DE’s were ridiculously new, when trying to load up Redhat I discovered my graphics card had no supporting drivers. I asked a friend what to do? “Well you’ll need to write your own graphics driver!”. Linux went back in the box and it wasn’t for many years that I revisited it again.

Then came a few more tries over the years, now with early versions of Ubuntu and Mint. And yet each time I found some or other annoyance that prevented me from really enjoying the experience. Back to Windows.

Windows 8 has changed all that, I’ve been following Win 8 closely, initially out of interest, but lately more out of concern. Microsoft, in the past have released some pretty terrible operating systems such as Millenium and Vista, but they’ve too also released quality such as Windows 95, Windows 98,  Windows 2000 Professional, XP and Windows 7. All these previous operating systems had 1 thing in common, they were targeted specifically for the device they ran on i.e: netbooks, laptops and desktops.

Windows 8 might not be a pure tablet operating system, but it is by no means a fully fledged dedicated desktop operating system either. It would be safe to classify it as a hybrid OS with strong bias towards tablet computing.

This presents a dilemma.  Not being on an actual tablet device with a touch screen. And exactly how much “suck ass” I am willing to tolerate.

Now I know a fair amount of people who would just stick with Windows 7 and call it a day. I’m not one of those people.

I know the workarounds too:

  1. Windows 7 shell on Windows 8
  2. Classic “shell”, Classic Menu
  3. Start 8
  4. All the rest.

I tried them all, still elements of the tablet OS remained. Being expected to emulate finger movements with my mouse, while on a desktop is cheap.

Windows 8.1 is on the scene now, soon to be released as the “great fix” to the general public. But sadly it’s another compromise.

After doing more research on Windows 8.1 – The light bulb came on, and I really questioned my reasons for using Windows. I recall the exact moment while waiting for my computer to complete yet another action and all those background services pushing my HDD IO to the max, after uninstalling some malware I managed to pick up from a reputable site, and while looking at my somewhat amatuer desktop look and feel, even though I had Window Blinds and given skinning my best effort, While skype crashed and getting an access denied message while trying to kill the task off in task manager. While the task manager too was about to crash. I guess it just hit me – It’s time to check if Linux is there yet….

Linux is there already

Let me tell you, after using Linux Mint 15 Olivia over the past few days you would need an extremely compelling reason to be using Windows.

Sorry if I get pedantic here, but I am going to get into the specific things I’ve noticed.

It’s gorgeous

Linux is gorgeous. I don’t think this is a Mint only thing either. I recall Ubuntu looking equally as good, but the best analogy I can think of is. Interacting with Linux is akin to watching a sexy woman stip off expensive lingerie while you sip on velvet beer. Using Windows 8, once everything is loaded up. Feels like going to the circus and watching monkeys banging on tambourines loudly, with flashing and annoying christmas lights everywhere.

Linux is an OS by users for users. Because of this small things make a huge difference. Icons for example – unified. I have a start menu again, a real one – and it’s more targeted than my Windows one because it has items grouped by function.

 It’s stable

Lately this is a bit like comparing Apples to Apples because Windows too is stable. My point is Linux is when considering a move to a new OS stability is a massive deciding factor. You can safely give Linux a big fat green tick next to stability.

It’s better at BlueTooth

Recently bought a set of BlueTooth headphones and they’ve always given problems with Windows. Linux is way better than Windows at handling your BT devices. Firstly out of the box better, but also with a bit of tweaking you have much more control over the devices in Linux, making automation easier such as automatically enabling BT sound when connected.

Applications are ready too

There might be a few applications you think you can’t live without that only run on Windows, but then again there is Wine. If you really need to use Photoshop for example and don’t mind an older version then Wine and CS4 should suffice. But Linux is getting more native apps. Take for example Google Music – I was amazed that there is a native Linux client for the offering. Applications like Skype for Linux have also gotten love over the years. Generally speaking there seems to be an alternative Linux app for what you need.

Games are up and coming

I was surprised to see such variety. Not only that but when I downloaded Steam for Linux, some of my already purchased games apparently run on Linux, such as Half Life 2. I couldn’t help but notice some awesome up and coming games. The Indie scene have also shown dues to Linux, so I noticed that a lot of games you get on Linux aren’t your typical Windows games, a lot get right down to the business of gaming, games designed for playability, not graphics, cut scenes and profit.

I’m blown away by the software manager

I love the freedom on Windows to download software from any site and install just what I please -freedom is good. Or wait, is it really?

At first glance the benefits of having a centrally managed repository of applications might not be so obvious, but it is a much better idea than expecting your users to download everything rouge style, why?

  • Central repository means you can explore virtually everything in 1 place. So you’re much more likely to be made aware of decent applications as a newbie.
  • 1 download, official, no bundled malware or toolbars. Even the most reputable sites such as download.com (CNet) bundle in stuff like toolbars and search engine malware.
  • A user rating system.

Fonts on Linux look better out of the box

Now this might seem minor, trust me it’s not a minor issue to me. The fonts used for rendering web pages appear better. Any Gurus reading this what are your thoughts?

Linux a no bullshit OS that is what it says it is

The version of Mint I am running has been designed with one thing in mind, the device I use it on. My tablet (Nexus 10) also runs Linux (technically speaking Android is just another distribution). This is important if you want the best possible experience.

 Conclusion

Linux is “ready”. I know if you’ve been using Linux for a while and have the skills to tweak it the way you want it, you might be infuriated by this late in the day statement. But remember I’m not a Linux guru, I’m still learning the basics such as “What is a tarball?”, and Linux is proving to be a better overall experience than Windows.

And don’t forget – On Linux you don’t run Anti virus, so your system isn’t constantly churning away in the background, hogging up HDD I/O.

Why Arcane legends will always be just another casual MMO

Yes, I’ve spent a fair amount of time playing MMORPG’s and up until now all of this has been on the PC. So since purchasing a Nexus 10, I’ve extended my gaming to Android. Mainly because the tablet is the controller, and because of its portability it can at times be comfortable to play when on the go, or when you otherwise do not want to power up your laptop / computer.

Now I didn’t just randomly pick up Arcane Legends. Prior to finding this title I had become somewhat frustrated at the casual nature of Android gaming and was looking for something deeper. Something perhaps that did not require rigorous button mashing, and involved more thought,  a game adapted to the limitations of a touch interface. I would originally out to find a game like Eve.

Sadly Arcane Legends is not that game, but it did come up in my search for “Deepest Android game”. And this says a lot because Arcane Legends although deeper than the myriads of casual games out there, is really nothing more than a casual MMORPG.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do like the game, and I play it. I want to get my teeth into it so bad, I want to get lost in the game, but there are a few things which make this impossible.

  1.  Ok let’s get this out of the way – It’s a mini MMORPG trying very hard to be a real MMORPG, but it simply doesn’t have the maturity. It has a lot of resemblance to the real deal, such as the ability for players to join a guild, team, do instances, upgrade weapons and armour, upgrade skills etc. Unfortunately though the implementation of these mechanisms is going to need a lot of work to sort this title out.
    1. Take for example the drop rates. Uncommon and rare seem to drop more than common
    2. Regardless of quality, the item price is by level, and only ever fetching a few gold coins. What this boils down to is, keep the legendary items and sell them at the auction, the rest, and I mean all of the rest sells for pocket money.
    3. The guild functionality is “guild lite” the type of thing you would expect to find in a casual game. The guild vault has not been implemented for example.
  2. Mobile games are still casual, and I’ve noticed that players tend to treat this game as casual. Gaming on Android tends to be younger too. So along with that don’t expect very many dedicated players like you would find in WoW for example.
  3. Poorly implemented boss fights, and players have learnt to adapt. Here is my pet hate with this game, the bosses are so impossible to beat that 9/10 all your team drops off just prior to the boss fight. Now a part of this is that when gaming on a mobile, I can imagine people are doing this for example while catching a tram, while sitting on the toilet, while passing 5 minutes, and a boss fight simply takes too long. Another reason is that the game around mid way puts you up against nearly impossible bosses, which means that by end game players are already trained just not to attempt boss fights. They’re simply levelling up. I can’t tell you how frustrating this is because when you need to pass a level, and you know you could beat the boss if everyone pulls their weight, you need an incredible amount of luck to actually get the team assembled because 9/10 players just refuse to participate in a boss fight. If there was ever a reason for a rage quit, it would be this.
  4. MMO’s in general become great when you play with others and form friendships, etc. Now it stands to reason that communication is key. Typing on a keyboard = absolute bliss. Trying to communicate on an awkward touch screen means that for me anyways – I only communicate when it is absolutely bloody essential, and even then I despise it. A lot of people think this way too, hence communication in this game sucks. Don’t expect any elaborate chats with Guild mates.
  5. The business model. If you look at a traditional MMORPG, its subscription based, and for this reason all items in the game are fair to all. In Arcane Legends which is FTP (Free to play), you are able to purchase platinum, which will get you ridiculously good gear and pets. The problem is this platinum is also ridiculously priced. It’s insanely priced for currency in a casual game.
  6. Point 5 means a completely unstable and unrealistic economy.
  7. But another reason I’m on the verge of rage quitting this title is because of the lag. Are mobile devices really up for real time gaming? Possibly some are. But the server side code for this game has some major flaws, there is nothing more frustrating than executing an attack and it just doesn’t fire because of LAG. Sure your mana goes down if you’ve cast the spell, but it hits nothing. This happens A LOT. Enough to be a noticeable annoyance. Likewise when you heal, the action seems to fire, but nothing happens.

All in all I think the developers have tried their best with this title, and it is already a good game in its own right, but the practicalities of it, a lot of which is out of the developers control might mean this game will never achieve true greatness.

Windows 8.1 another try and another strike

Windows 8.1 hasn’t technically been released yet, but I think I can afford a few predictions.

This will be strike 2 for the big guy. I was spot on the money with what I said about Windows 8.0. At the time a lot of Microsoft fan boys spoke out against my views. I had a reality check, and thought “Well either I am wrong or Windows 8 is going to be the most epic failure since Millenium”. Time has certainly ticked and Windows 8 has just about become that failure.

So to really put this in basic terms. Microsoft had Windows 7 and people were loving it. Prior to 7, Vista was another epic failure, and 7 restored all the bad blood. Most of us were thinking ok finally they’re on the right track and the news of 8 got us all super excited because surely you can’t fuck this one up right?

Microsoft however released a tablet / mobile OS. Desktop users recoiled and explained exactly why they were unhappy, and explained exactly what they wanted.

Microsoft took that feedback, and basically were not willing to back peddle completely. Instead they’re now pushing 8.1 – which is again a compromise on what their users really want, but it is again an attempt at pushing their mobile offering.

This could end up with Windows 9 being the hero of the day, Infact I wouldn’t be surprised if the code name for nine was something like “Windows roots” or “Codename : Tree” And essentially provide that real desktop experience once again.

Failing that Microsoft, since the departure of Balmer could start showing us all a new face, providing a full open source implementation of Windows, OR at least completely rethinking the GUI, and having the GUI completely replaceable. While the core of Windows steadily improves the tablet OS stuff has to go for it to remain seated in corporate life or taken seriously as a workhorse OS.

It could also be that soon we see entire workgroups being replaced with Linux desktops, and only servers running critical Windows functions. Exchange for example, with Outlook not being the client of choice for emails.

It could also be that shell replacements become the norm.

Putting smart phones in perspective

If you look at the overall picture of mankind I am sure that many people will agree that primarily we are explorers. I am sure all people concur that at same stage in our history mankind did not have access to all this gadgetry instead understood the very basics of survival. Making a fire and the use of primitive tools. 

So from this point on, we’ve been exploring at a rapid rate. Gaining access to language and mathematics. What started off primarily as land exploration soon developed into shore trips. We quickly developed the ability to map out our surroundings and it didn’t take us too long to cross continents. We have since been exploring everything and anything and making discoveries across the board, because ultimately we are explorers.

Now there have been some really great milestones along the way which has greatly improved our quality of living. I don’t think many people in 2013 can even fathom what it would be like to live without electricity. One can easily take for granted just basic transportation.

I remember the days when the only phones were land lines. When it was cool to have a car phone. And then cell phones came into our lives and that my friends has been a massive game changer. Cellphones made the world appear smaller, and added convenience.

The early phones were fairly basic. They were basically just a dialer and an offline contact manager. Some phones included the odd game. They didn’t have internet, there was no way to load software onto them, but they did do 1 thing very well, they were phones!

Along came the internet, and WAP. WAP was used to create versions of a web site that could be browsed using a “dumb phone”. Let’s be honest WAP was shitty and it never really caught on. At the time mobile data was way too expensive and slow too.

Now a lot of people credit the iPhone as being the first real smart phone, but this simply isn’t true. It was indeed possibly to browse the web prior to iPhones, but the experience wasn’t very good. It was also possible with Symbian based phones to install and run applications. All of this had got there from phones taking on functions from PDA’s. However I will credit the iPhone as that moment the light bulb went on. From that point in time a phone became much more than just a phone and almost overnight PDAs died.

So what’s been happening since then? Well an extreme amount of improvement – that’s what. Phones have all but become an essential extension for busy professionals. Tons of app development, and gaming has in a massive way taken off on the mobile platform. CPU’s, Screens, Peripherals have all been upgraded multiple times. Battery life too has improved a bit. Storage space and cloud extensions all but full the gap. Big names in desktop OS’s have joined the party too. Ubuntu has tried very hard to launch Edge, and Microsoft risked alienating their entire desktop audience in an attempt to sell them a mobile platform. Hell Microsofts new server operating systems have incorporated the mobile interface!

But where are we heading with this?

Well we clearly have a winner in terms of OS, and that would be Android. Android is full of apps. The market is bursting at the seams with novelty “fart button” and “scare your friend” type of gimmick apps. There are also a fair amount of useful applications. Weather apps, readers, photo touch up apps etc.

In terms of battery life. Phone CPU’s get upgraded, Screen gets upgraded – battery life suffers. Battery life gets improved on – screen and CPU get upgraded – battery life sucks again. This seems to be the trend.

But ok enough of this, what is the actual point of all this crap?

  • Well I’m hoping that if anything it in the long term (human evolution type of way) leads to free global communication and information sharing or virtually free / cheap.
  • Advances in nano computing and bio computing
  • A strong push towards energy efficiency and bio degradable batteries
  • Cheaper electronics

I really hope we get back to the core roots of what we want to achieve in the first place with mobile development. And putting less effort in the gimmicky stuff.

All of these things can then aid us in continuing our exploration, because there is still a considerable amount to explore out there. While you’re sitting there faffing over which new phone you’ll be buying just consider that as a species we have a long way to go. We still haven’t mastered completely renewable energy. We’re still fighting wars over the remaining fossil fuels. We’re still slaves to capitalism, which means we’re still unenlightened. But in terms of grand exploration then cosmology would be the leading edge and we need to really start putting in more effort to getting off this rock! The point of life was never to get side tracked with gimmicky mobile gadgets, and it really pains me to see the enormous amount of attention mobile phones get, purely because they’re profit spinners.

No people lets put things in perspective here. When you see the latest phones coming out marketed as “Sleek and elegant with great battery life”, and yet its essentially a “dumb phone” and the kids saying “Yeah I’ll take one of those since the battery life lasts for 48 days” Then I can’t help wonder if we’ve just done a full circle. Likewise when you see 20 year old games marketed as “classic games” making their rounds, you’re left wondering why are we reiterating? Where is the progress.

What I want to see is the punky crap left behind and the real awesome stuff like true control over your phone just by using voice, including the ability to really type 120 WPM using voice! True real time language translation across continents with minimal latency. Things like this that are actually useful.