For years now, Microsoft has released patches to its numerous operating systems on Tuesdays of each week (when patches are needed). Instead of having them come out on random days, IT administrators liked having a predictable release schedule. This made management of them a little easier (not much, but easier). At least predictable. So Patch Tuesday is when updates come (in large numbers at times).
With me being a developer (and playing video games in the evening), having a couple different computers is not that unusual. Couple that with us home schooling our four children and our demand for computing devices is pretty high. We also have a media center for the living room and a home server for file sharing and computer backups. All in all, it looks a lot like a computer lab around the office. So when a bunch of important patches hit on a Tuesday, my home server starts complaining (raising alerts) that I have machines that need updating. Even the home server (Windows Home Server 2011) needs to have patches installed. By Wednesday, I’m usually trying to tell each of the kids to install updates and reboot their computers.
You would think that it would happen automatically, but that’s not always something that you want. I don’t want anyone to loose school work and I don’t want the media center to update while recording a show. So usually that means checking the server alerts to see which machines haven’t completed the process and manually performing the update (and fixing any issues that might be unresolved). With the slow reboots on the old machines, it really makes me want to upgrade some hard drives to SSDs.
As much irritation as it creates, the whole process is a necessary one. In many households, updates go uninstalled and this will many times lead to a virus in the environment. The OS bugs need to be fixed, but unless you install these fixes then you leave yourself open to problems. Just remember, Microsoft will never send an update link via email. The only way that you should install updates is through the Windows Update portion of the control panel. To find it quickly, do a search for “Windows Update” from the Start menu. I know it’s a pain (believe me, I know), but you’ll save yourself an even bigger headache later.
Announced a few months ago at the Build 2014 conference, Microsoft is getting pretty close to the general availability of the Windows Phone 8.1 OS. Their Lumia 620, 630 and 930 phones come with 8.1 installed are being rolled out in Europe right now. In the next month or so, all devices that currently run the WP 8 OS will be updated by carriers to the latest version (along with an updated firmware to boot). I’ve been able to test out the new OS via the Developer Preview and it has been a real treat to use the new features that have been packed into the update. I thought that I’d comment a little on my experience so far.
Today Dartmouth is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the development of the BASIC programming language (Dartmouth – Basic at 50). Back in 1980, I learned the language on a Commodore Vic-20 (Wikipedia article on the Vic-20). At the age of 13, it was my first experience with a computer and for a kid living in the sticks, it was a pretty amazing experience. I started out with nothing but the user and reference manual for the Vic-20. It’s a hobby that I haven’t since outgrown. That first computer really cost my parents a lot at the time, but I’d like to think that it paid off for me.
I’m certainly glad that BASIC was a very simplistic and approachable language. I suppose C would have just scared me off. Looking back at that code now, it’s pretty amazing what myself and others were able to accomplish with it. Comparing it with modern programming languages, it probably only has 10% of what is available now. Yet even with those signs of age, you need something to pave the way and BASIC did that for a lot of people. Assembly language was there and we did fall back to that from time to time, but it was just too complicated for most beginners. No, we needed something like BASIC. So even though I consider it to be a terrible language to use for modern development, I must give credit where credit is due. Thanks for a great start and happy 50th.
Based on anecdotal evidence, I would say that I’m in the minority when I say that I love Windows 8 (and 8.1 even more). It’s not perfect, but using Windows 8 on my desktop and Windows 8 RT on my tablet has been great. I had a few things to learn, but since then things have gone well. As a side note, I don’t have anything against Windows 7 as it is fantastic as well. It’s just that the synchronization between desktops and browsers and the new touch controls have worked well.
Now that’s my own minority opinion. Most people are confused by the new Start screen on Windows 8. They find it difficult to close apps and they are somewhat disappointed by the lost mouse functionality (like right-clicking). That all changes next week with the release of Update 1 for Windows 8.1 (yes, that’s a mouthful). I had the opportunity to update both my tablet and desktop this week and it gives the mouse its power back. If you are using a tablet form factor (as defined by the manufacturer via a hardware id), then you’ll see only a few changes visually. For desktop users, you will now boot directly to the desktop instead of the Start screen. Not only that, you’ll be about to close Windows Store apps by clicking an “x” in the upper right corner of the app. On top of that, right clicks will now register in the Start screen to allow the resizing of tiles as well as pinning said apps to the Taskbar.
These changes should roll out to everyone running 8.1 on Tuesday next week (patch Tuesday). If you are still using version 8, then make sure you grab that update from the Windows App Store first. I don’t think the update will please everyone, but it should make a lot of desktop users very happy (or at least a little less mad). All in all, I’ll call that a win.
There’s an ongoing battle between the PS4 and the Xbox One to decide the “winner” of the next gen consoles. The numbers so far put the PS4 ahead of the Xbox One by around a couple million devices. Microsoft’s console passed the 2 million mark last month and Sony just announced that the PS4 has sold over 5 million worldwide. Sony has a number of things going for it in the number war. The first thing is that it’s available in more countries. The Kinect’s language barrier has kept it out of several markets. The other thing is that it is $100 cheaper. So things are proceeding about how I expected with Sony taking an early lead.
I happen to have one of the Xbox One consoles and although I think it is a nice gaming console, if I had it to do over again I would have waited (and not that I would have gotten the PS4). I really expected Microsoft to ramp up the software side of things much faster. I’m not sure if this is a matter of focus or if it’s just a hard problem to solve, but clearly they are moving more slowly than I expected. For one, there aren’t a lot of Kinect titles out and this is the one area that they have the advantage. Secondly, they haven’t leveraged their ecosystem enough (their Live service has gotten mixed reviews). Neither system can play a 3D Blu-ray at the moment and I find that to be a pretty big omission (especially since that’s the only thing keeping my PS3 in the living room).
Console and ecosystem quality aside, Sony really needs the PS4 to win this generation. Given the poor performance of their TV business (being spun off as a separate division), PC business (in the process of being sold off) and a lackluster movie business, it’s important for them to bring in some cash. More than that, they are being marginalized as a player in the market and that has a tendency to work against you long-term (being the 2 ton gorilla has its advantages when negotiating). So in a world that is revolving around Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft, Sony needs a win to stay relevant and in a practical sense to stay fiscally strong.
Microsoft really only needs to break even this generation (at least the first part of it). They have other businesses that are thriving (enterprise especially). They’ve got plenty of updates planned for the software side of the console and if they can stay in the game, then they’ll find ways to push their services through the device. So even if Sony wins the numbers game, Microsoft can still be considered as having “not lost” if they hold onto mindshare within their key markets (US in particular). With the new push for devices in the home (wearables especially), the software side of things (and the connectivity it will enable) is where the future is going to be won. At the moment, Sony is still executing and for the sake of competition I hope they do well.