Here is a good article summarizing the major performance differences between Windows8 and Windows 8RT. The latter is the operating software for the new Microsoft Surface tablet, which is getting plenty of advertising play, what with the snapping covers and all. It’s important to realize that RT has some significant variations from what WIndows users might expect, and for the time being at least, RT users are locked into the Microsoft world. Not third party stuff will run on Surface.
Feast or famine; that’s usually the best way to describe the literature surrounding the launch of any new digital product. First comes the Spec & Hype wagon rolling down the street, driven by various ‘observers’ and ‘experts’. This is usually pre-launch and peri-launch designed to generate buzz during the run-up period. But there is no hard information and the actual gadget or product is kept firmly out of the hands of those who might really test it and say rude things about it. This S&H period can last for several days or even weeks before anything like real testing happens. But, it seems that the usual pattern is not being followed in the case of Windows 8. Microsoft did release copies of it to some techie writers, probably with some kind o “Shhhhhh” , and some rather detailed reviews of the product are appearing.. The techno web site “Ars Technica” has a five card straight of reviews appearing today, and that’s rather a lot of material this early in the game. Windows 8 is a very big deal in Softwaredom, and the implications for Microsoft are significant.
Professor Jacques Barzun died yesterday at his home in San Antonio at the age of 104. He was a scholar, critic and university administrator who was intensely involved in American intellectual life for more than half a century. For many years he was associated with Columbia University, but after his retirement moved to Texas, which he found stimulating and liberating because of the broad vistas and great overarching sky, all quite different from what one experiences in New York. Barzun was born in France, but moved to the USA as a student in the 1920s. He was a prolific author, with a clear expository style. He was no stranger to polemics, whether inside the Academy or on topics in the public sphere, and, when so when moved, wrote prose that could punch pretty hard. His last major work, a 900 page study of western civilization, was written in his 90s, partly to relieve persistent insomnia and partly to demonstrate that cognitive decline was not a necessary ingredient of aging. He had a well-stocked mind, was firm in his opinions but fair in dispute. He was a good teacher, who said what he meant and meant what he said, and he was not given over to any fad or fashionable ‘ism’. Very few of his like are to be found.
This morning’s New York Times has a rather detailed review of the new tablet/computer or whatever it is to be launched by Microsoft this coming Monday. The writer is deeply impressed by the unit,the device. It is very ‘spec-rich’: that’s a roundabout way of saying that the Surface has a lot of hardware features, plus ports and outlet for connecting other equipment. The design is very good; the keyboard gets high marks; everything seems to be just short of wonderful. Problems arise for the writer at least, when he tries to do something with the machine other than oooh! and ahhh! over the hardware. His view is that the software load is clunky, unreliable and slow. Also, it’s WiFI only. So, high marks for design, construction, utility on the machine. But a s/so grade on the software and its capacities. The Windows RT package is being used and it seems that not many of the previous Windows programs will run on the Surface. I’m not sure what’s going on here. MS is clearly pitching this machine as a desktop tablet or a tablet computer or some other beast that will allow customers to do all the things they would otherwise have done on a desktop/laptop, only on a tablet style device. So the absence of a robust software inventory of the company’s own products is very strange. Maybe the gnomes are Redmond are working on something.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had the strange feeling of lack, of deprivation almost. And for the longest while I couldn’t put my finger on why. But, now I know. WE DON’T HAVE ENOUGH TABLETS! Of course! What a dunce!. The dearth of choice in the tablet market has been painful, even crippling. But, Google is riding to the rescue with a new gadget slated to appear on this coming Monday. Informed sources (i.e. spec, based on leaks and half-understood hot air) are predicting a 10″ tablet with various features, to be launched alongside a new Android phone and some other things. Apple is having a product release show today and Microsoft on 10/29. Aren’t you excited? I know I am! More products with goofy code names: Ice Cream Sandwich. It all sounds like the Sixties when rock bands with deliberately concoted weird names were sprouting all over the place.
What can happen when you and Amazon disagree about something in the so called User Agreement? Well, Amazon can wipe out all your downloaded material, remotely. And you have nothing to say about it. You don’t own all the books you clicked the button for, even though the site encourages you to think so….like “Buy It Now” or something. But it’s not a sale: it’s a lease. All this is called Digital Rights Management or DRM, and the success of online books and the proliferation of e-readers has obscured the fact that the rights picture is exactly the same as it was 10 years ago. If Amazon, or any other content provider, thinks you have violated the terms of service, it can in a click erase everything you may have paid money for. So, walk carefully. And don’t talk about your rights because you don’t have any.
One of the most vexing questions to arise in recent years has been the matter of what to do with the vast amounts of experimental data large-scale scientific experiments are generating. One approach to the problem is to say that there is not problem at all, really. In point of fact, much data gathered during an experiment is relevant to that experiment alone, and would not ‘travel’ well if transferred to a different set of experimental conditions and assumptions. It may sound like wishful thinking taking over: declaring an insoluble problem to be unimportant, because we can’t solve it. But, hang on a sec. Some new thinking is raising the welcome possibility that much of our worrying on this question may have been misplaced, and the problem may be more tractable than we had thought. Read the post from the Scholarly Kitchen.
Google’s stock went through an unaccustomed retrograde movement today, a drop in fact, when the company’s quarterly economic data were released before the end of trading on Wall St. and not after, as was supposed to happen. Google’s PR guys/gals were caught flat-footed and had no idea what the reporters who were badgering them with questions were yammering about. It was a rather large faux-pas, but the company has a contract with some Street outfit to do this, and, perhaps a hair too efficiently, they released the information before the closing bell. Various explanations were offered as to why revenue dropped, but the real difficulty arose from the premature release. Heads will roll.
Consider the hospital: a place where the most dangerous and most defiantly drug resistant micro-organisms are concentrated; a place where persons of greatly divergent levels of competence are employed; a place in which these same persons are very often over-stressed because of skimpy scheduling policies and ‘work smarter not harder’ nonsense emanating from administration; and a place at which those same people are subject to the same pressures as the rest of us in our daily schlep through life. Is there any other reason why a sane person should avoid going there unless absolutely necessary? Why, yes! There is! And thank you for asking that, Virginia. The hospital is also a place in which a large number of those whirring, beeping, blinking gadgets to which we are connected as patients are quite often infected with malware. So far, nobody has been hurt. Or so they say. But as more and more devices are networked and as these devices are commonly run on Windows (Uh-oh!), and as very often the IS team doesn’t get around to updating protective patches, or, and get this, as device manufacturers prevent hospitals from changing the software configuration because of some goofball interpretation of FDA approval, the risk of somebody being given too much drug, the wrong drug, no drug rises. Wrong values reported? Crisis situations not caught and reported to staff? All bets are off. Sounds like SciFi doesn’t it? Or a horror story. But, read on:
Previously in these lines, I have noted the considerable attention that Google has been attracting on the part of DOJ anti-trust enforcement agencies. It’s been going on for a while, but over the weekend news stories appeared to the effect that regulators are very close to bringing legal action against the search giant. Being big has its benefits and its problems. And one of those problems is that unless people in the agencies are comatose or bought off or muzzled by higher-ups, your activities as a biggie will start drawing attention. No papers have been filed and Google is not sweating, at least not until the actual documents are revealed. The G has been in hot water before, on both sides of the Atlantic, but this one may be much more threatening, such as, the break-up of the company. Standard Oil, the granddaddy of Exon-Moblil, got the anti-trust treatment and had to break up into three companies. We shall see.