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Saturday, February 20, 2016

After several months with Windows 10, I hate it even more

I've usually been fairly reluctant to upgrade to a new version of Windows, mostly because a new version will require me to relearn how to perform the same basic tasks in a different way.  In exchange for this, I get... well nothing.  Newer version rarely add anything useful.  Any new features are usually things that are done better by other third party programs.  Sometimes, I even lose features.

I work on multiple computers, which at this point are mostly Windows 7.  I still have a few running XP because they run much better for some of the games I still enjoy playing.  I've completely avoided Windows 8 and 8.1 because they were just horrible.

When Windows 10 came along, I figured I better start getting used to it.  Sooner or later security and support would become an issue on my Windows 7 machines.  Also, friends and family always assume I can help with their new computers, inevitably Windows 10.  Since I work in IT for a living, it would hurt my cred if I could not maneuver around a Windows 10 computer with ease.

Since I didn't want to risk problems by upgrading any of my existing computers, I got a new laptop with Windows 10 pre-installed.  As I expected, there was a little bit of a learning curve in using it. The new system offered nothing more that I wanted, and I ended up losing a few features, like my ability to play DVD videos without a third party program.  I figured I get used to it over time though. I forced myself to use the new Windows 10 laptop for most day to day tasks (such as writing this blog right now), but still go back to my older Windows 7 computers when I want to get things done quickly and easily.

One feature I really hate about Windows 10 is its obsession with updates.  Earlier today, I was writing a blog post (on a different topic).  Windows decided to pop up in the middle of my work and tell me it wanted to install updates and reboot right now.  I told it no and went back to work.  A short time later, I guess I got distracted by something on TV, because when I turned back to my laptop, I saw it was restarting and installing the update anyway.  I had to sit around fuming for quite some time while it did its thing, unable to stop it and get back to work.  Since it restarted without even letting me save my work, I lost some work as well.  To top it all off, once it restarted and I began my work again, I was interrupted with another pop-up message telling me that the update was unsuccessful and that I should try again.  I said no, but now I'm dreading when it tries to force another update and restart when I least suspect it.

Windows XP and 7 were annoying enough then they took 20 minutes to install updates after I shut down my laptop and was trying to catch a train.  Now with Windows 10, the update annoyance has gone a step further by interrupting me while in the middle of my work.  This is truly ridiculous and unacceptable.

I've always thought of my Windows PCs as my personal computer which I controlled.  More and more though, it seems Microsoft considers my PC as a terminal attached to a giant Microsoft network.  Anytime it wants, Microsoft thinks it is just fine to reach out and take information frrom my computer, and to make changes to it without my permission or sometimes even my knowledge.

I have long avoided the techie geek step of working on a Linux OS.  There are just so many programs made for Windows that will not work on Linux that I've always felt I'd be left without something I  needed.  I've stuck with Windows computers and used an Android tablet as my limited use light and nimble option.  But if Microsoft continues to interrupt and annoy me by treating my PC as a terminal attached to a larger Microsoft controlled network, perhaps I need to consider other options.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Stupid Uses of Smart Technology

Last year, the train station I use (PATCO) installed several LCD signs in each of its stations, some on the platform and some down by the gate.  I don't know the actual cost, but they look like pretty hardy all weather devices.  I'm sure the project cost at least several hundred thousand dollars.

Up until this time, PATCO had posted paper schedules at the stations, and also posted paper notices as needed.  Finally, I thought, PATCO was moving into the modern era with new signs.  I had visions of seeing postings of when the next train was leaving, so commuters did not have to run when they heard the train approaching, or unnecessarily hurry through ticket purchases, just in case one came.  I also thought we might look forward to real time postings of delays or other problems.

None of that happened though.  For a while, they posted all the times for all trains, in fine print, making it difficult to find the relevant information.  There was not even an attempt to highlight the next train on the list.  Eventually, I guess they decided the schedule was too difficult to read, so they want back to posting papers schedules.

When there were track problems and major delays recently, no information appeared on the signs.  Commuters had to rely on announcements made by train operators on the decades old PA systems that were often incomprehensible.

Lately, the signs have posted no useful information.  They are simply used to post those meaningless advice ads, like "be sure to keep your bags with you" or "don't take up two seats when you sit on the train."

My point in describing this example is not just to criticize PATCO (though it deserves the criticism) but to make the larger point about how great technology often fails when put to use by users who are unconcerned about getting much out of the technology.  The many benefits of the new electronic signage could have made commuters' lives easier, but the company never bothered to put them to use. They should have saved their money and stuck with the much cheaper method of posting paper signs and flyers from time to time.

Better yet, hire someone who understands how to use technology.  Hire someone who can publish real time information about train times or delays, who can make the signs relevant to commuters' lives.  Make the signs dynamic with useful information that is updated throughout the day.  This is the benefit the technology offers.

Many people mindlessly buy more technology than they need or want.  In my job, I support people who buy the latest iPhones, but never use it for anything other than making phone calls or perhaps occasionally checking email.  I know people who buy state of the art ultra thin laptops but never move the machine off of their desk.  I see companies who go through the time and trouble to build a web site, then never update the content on it for years.  All of this seems a bit like buying a million dollar Lamborghini and never taking it over 55 mph.

I suppose this is inevitable.  Waste is normal in a wealthy society.  People buy clothes that they never wear or wear only once.  People buy more food than they need, only to throw most of it away. People buy a 400 channel cable package but only ever watch the same six channels.  People buy houses so large that some of the rooms are only used on rare occasions.  Why should technology be different?

Still, it seems beyond frustrating when so much money is invested in technology, only to see it wasted because the user refuses to make use of it.