Jury Duty Observations

To me, the jury pool is a representation of the great melting pot. They really try to create a random cross section of the people that make up the community and just from a casual observation, I’d say they do a good job of it. All ages, genders and races. Being stuck in the same room with everyone (that no one really wanted to be stuck in) isn’t a great experience however I didn’t meet anyone that wasn’t friendly. Some seemed a little odd, but the others didn’t mind me being that way.

As the media tries to play up the discord among the people of the nation, I’m reminded of just how much we all have in common as we try to work toward a better community. To that end, there was a group missing and that is those who don’t drive and don’t vote. Perhaps there we have a group that would not be characterized by my above statement (although I can’t be sure of that either). Regardless, I did leave my jury duty with the feeling that I live in a community with lots of people just trying to make it a better place for their family.

This was my shortest week of jury duty so far: just one day. It was my fourth or fifth time (lost count) and it was nice to get off sooner rather than later. It might be the best justice system out there, but it’s not the fastest (and we should be very thankful for that).

Lenovo Goes Too Far

It’s been the habit of PC manufacturers to pre-load software onto their computers before selling them. The software that gets loaded was originally suppose to be software drivers that was specific to the hardware (hard drives, CD drives, video card, etc…). That quickly turned into software to promote other services that the companies sold. The next thing to happen made matters much worse, software companies would pay the PC manufacturers to pre-install their software on the machines (limited function software that would get the consumer to buy a paid version, virus checkers, adware, etc.). It was this class of software that led to people to consider Windows as being slow and bloated. It was actually the manufacturers that were the root cause of the problem (though OS design did play a part).

Dell, HP and many other PC makers follow this practice, but Lenovo has crossed the line as of late. It was discovered that Lenovo was pre-installing Superfish software. From the linked article on ArsTechnica above:

The critical threat is present on Lenovo PCs that have adware from a company called Superfish installed. As unsavory as many people find software that injects ads into Web pages, there’s something much more nefarious about the Superfish package. It installs a self-signed root HTTPS certificate that can intercept encrypted traffic for every website a user visits. When a user visits an HTTPS site, the site certificate is signed and controlled by Superfish and falsely represents itself as the official website certificate.

Translation: This is bad…. really bad. Read the article for all of the details.

If you have a Lenovo system, you will want to make sure that you use a software tool to remove it. Microsoft recently updated their Windows Defender software to detect and remove it as well.

The action should be a wake up call for consumers. Do not purchase PCs from manufacturers that load their computers down with trial versions and adware. Microsoft offers a “Signature Edition” of many popular PC models (including their own) without any additional pre-loaded software. It’s a clean OS install that should run faster and be more stable over the long term. It’s not just an annoyance anymore, it’s actually a danger to your privacy as well. If Microsoft doesn’t reign this behavior in (which they are limited as to the tools they can use by the anti-trust consent decree), then I suggest using Apple as an alternate vendor (Google already has too many privacy issues for me to recommend). Manufacturers have already proven that they will not do it on their own.

Nice Valentine Weekend

We had a very enjoyable visit with the Johnson’s this weekend. Unfortunately their trip was cut short by the threat of a winter storm blocking their way home. That threat ended up being a real threat as they are now experiencing both ice and snow at their house. Our four kids enjoyed the time with their five kids and although it did get a little noisy at times, it was a good kind of noise. Catching up with Mark and Kim is always great. We share a lot in common and Mark is one of a handful of friends that I can instantly reconnect with and discuss life matters. The kids walked over to the part with the ladies to enjoy the beautiful weather and Mark & I got in a 5K run in neighborhood (well done Mark!). We even got to share a Valentine’s Day meal with them and another couple (mutual friends) at Carrabba’s.

Our Valentine’s Day is generally pretty quiet as it follows closely to our anniversary. This year was a little different and that was nice. I truly love my wife. She’s a wonderful person and a very attractive and intelligent wife. Spending a little extra time celebrating that was pretty easy. My children are wonderful as well and I got to enjoy seeing them having a good time with some friends they don’t see often enough.

Windows 10 Technical Preview

In my post last week, I posted a number of guesses as to what Microsoft might be adding to the Windows 10 OS (or at least announcing in their big Jan 21st press event). Looks like I got a lot right, some wrong and completely missed one of the biggest pieces. I was hoping for better Xbox One integration and got voice/text chat and a remote play option (within a home) like I hoped. We got to see Windows 10 running on phone devices (and it looked great). We also got to see how Universal Apps would run across every Windows 10 device.

HoloLens

The biggest surprise: Hololens. Hololens is Microsoft’s augmented reality device (large visors) that augment your view with holograms. Right now the scope of the eventual consumer device will be limited, but expect the technology to change the way we view software and devices. Coming up with the software to use the new technology will be its biggest limitation. All that considered, hololens is completely amazing. Really looking forward to seeing this personally.

I’ve been testing out their latest Windows 10 Technical Preview in a virtual machine on my main desktop. My initial reaction was, “Meh, it’s a nice tweak of Windows 8.1″. After using it a little, I think that Microsoft is really nailing this new OS. It really is something that both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users will love. Knowing that I can write one set of code that will run across all devices has me pretty excited as a developer. The completely rebuilt browser engine is another great feature. Shame it took this long. By the way, when you have multiple devices running 8.1 or higher then there is very little configuration involved. Setup took about 20 minutes and I had all of my apps, email, desktop background, etc. I’m sort of shocked that Windows 10 will run on the hardware requirements of Windows 7.

When you combine the fantastic features of Windows 10 (Xbox integration, switching screen layouts between desktop and tablet, new browser, etc.) with the free upgrade from Windows 7, 8, 8.1 for the first year, this is going to be the time when I’ll move all of the PCs in my house to Windows 10. At the same time, I’ll probably start a subscription to Office 365 as well. This will get everyone on the same version of Office and provide cloud storage for all of my photos and videos.

The biggest piece of the puzzle that was missing in their presentation was their vision for digital media moving forward. By that I’m referencing Windows Media Center. We still use MCE to power the media in our house (recording shows, viewing photos and recorded media). Other than a series of individual apps, I didn’t see a unified vision presented. Perhaps they will eventually release their Digital TV Tuner for the Xbox One in the US. If they would do that and support it in Windows 10 (DVR capabilities), then that might suffice.

If you use Microsoft software in your house, prepare for a very exciting Fall 2015. You may want to hold off any hardware purchases until then as you’ll see a whole host of new devices when Win 10 hits the market.

20th Anniversary

Wedding Photo

Today is our platinum wedding anniversary. Connie and I have now been married for 20 years. I’ve had my up times and my down times, but Connie has been there 100% of the time. I could always depend on her to stick with me and that’s the one thing that allowed me to go out and fight another day.

Rarely does a man find such a wonderful treasure and rare beauty as she is to me and I hope that I never take for granted what a true blessing that she is to me and our family. As non-conventional as our decisions have been through the years (as compared to pop culture), we’ve made those decisions together. I love her today much more completely than I knew existed back in 1995.

20th Anniversary

Updated: We had a fun time going out eat at Chimes tonight. We followed that up with a trip to Starbucks for coffee and dessert.

Stop by for a few words on what is happening with the Callahan's.