Saturday, August 25, 2012

Windows 8

I do not yet run Windows 8. It hasn't been released to retail yet. Though it is available on MSDN and TechNet, I am not a subscriber to either.

I do, however, read everything I can about it, thanks to following many tech sites. I've come to the conclusion that Windows 8 is unconditionally better than Windows 7. Why?

For system administrators and power users, there's TechNet's "Explore Windows 8". It's quite an impressive list.

For power users and regular users, there's a great recent article, Windows 8 productivity: Who moved my cheese? Oh, there it is. It explains the most likely hurdles a new user will face, how to easily overcome them, and what new features Windows 8 offers to make day-to-day work easier.

Oh, there's also the small matter of unification between Windows 8 (on the desktop), Windows 8 Phone, and Windows RT for tablets. It's Microsoft's goal that new apps1 run on all three platforms! How amazing would it be to run the same app on any form-factor?

There has been a lot of interest in running Android on the desktop. People want the unification of apps and settings between their Android phone, tablet, and the desktop. I've not heard of anyone actually running Android as their primary operating system, however. Maybe it's that Android runs only Android apps—and Android apps have always been designed for a certain form-factor. Are there any Android apps that benefit from a 1920x1200 monitor? Probably not.

Similarly, iOS mobile apps cannot run on MacOS X.

Today's Windows landscape, however, would allow developers to create apps that, without any modification, can run on devices ranging from a smartphone to a powerful desktop machine with multiple giant monitors. Microsoft would be a first2 to make this unification a reality.

Devices and availability:
  • October 26th: Windows 8 for the desktop becomes available for all. Anyone running Windows XP or above can upgrade for $39.99.
  • Windows Surface: expected to be the first tablet running Windows RT. It's developed directly by Microsoft.
  • Windows Surface's release date is uncertain, but Engadget expects it on October 26th for as low as $199.
  • Lenovo, HP, Dell, and Samsung are also planning to launch their own tablets running Windows RT.
  • AT&T already offers at least one smartphone running Windows Phone 8, while Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile are preparing to launch them this year. Nokia Lumia 900, a WP8 handset on AT&T, has very positive reviews.
While iOS and Android are today's media darlings, let's not ignore Windows just yet. The triumvirate of Windows 8, Windows 8 Phone, and Windows RT has a lot of potential.

1 Metro-style, with certain limitations
2 May I ignore Java?

Friday, August 17, 2012


Overheard at work:
- Hmm, I have a troyan?
- That's troJan.  For trojan horse.
- What the hell is a trojan horse?
- You know what a trojan horse is, don't you?
- It's something from the gothic days, isn't it?
- You don't even know what a trojan horse is?
- Isn't it something that they worshipped?
- No!
- Oh, didn't they use trojan papers to smoke marijuana?
Now I want to never put my headphones back on.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Android 4.0 on older hardware

Unlike a PC, cell phone hardware is very proprietary and differs widely between handsets. While it's possible to install Windows 7 or Fedora Linux on any PC, it's not possible to simply download and install Android Jelly Bean on an arbitrary handset. You're relying on the kindness of both the manufacturer and your carrier to provide updates specific to your handset. Yet traditionally, manufacturers and carriers refuse to release Android updates for existing handsets. There's usually no technical limitation for this; they just prefer that you buy a new handset and renew your contract, while blaming each other for the lack of support.

One of Virgin Mobile's top-tier Android handsets is the Motorola Triumph. (It's the first time I've seen the ™ character in a URL.) It's the phone I use. This phone was released in June 2011—a bit over a year ago. They still offer it online and in stores; today it's listed online for $229, after a $50 rebate. (These days you can snag it on eBay for just about $70.) It came with Android 2.2 (Froyo), and that's the official version to this day! Motorola+Virgin ignored Android 2.3, Android 4.0, and now Android 4.1.

However, thanks to the hard work of the developer community, I now run Android 4.0.4 on it. This is a volunteer effort to integrate the new releases of the open source Android operating system with existing hardware. These developers breathe new life into existing hardware; this deserves my admiration and support. (I donated to the project.)

The phone's hardware remains powerful enough to run this version quickly and smoothly. The only downside that affects me is that the camera doesn't work yet. Supposedly HDMI doesn't work either. But everything else appears to work!

This is one of the reasons that I went with and remain with Android, rather than iOS or Windows Phone. All three are very capable mobile operating systems, but Android is unique in that it's open source and very well supported both by Google and by outside developers. It reminds me of the developer friendliness of WebOS. (Does anyone still remember it?)

If you have a Motorola Triumph, I recommend the MT-DEV CM9 ROM, which gives you Android 4.0.4. Flashing the ROM is very straightforward; I've already flashed a new version of Android onto my phone no fewer than three times without any issues.

For $70 one time plus $30/mo, you can end up with a great phone running Android Ice Cream Sandwich (or Gingerbread with a working camera; take your pick), 300 voice minutes per month, unlimited texting, and 2.5 GB/mo of Sprint's 3G data—all with no contract.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Smart Ass Cripple

I am vacationing along the US west coast, but I need to take the time to recommend the blog of Smart Ass Cripple, a man writing about the trials and tribulations of being crippled. This blog originally came to me by way of Roger Ebert, whose blog I also follow and read.