Hands On With Windows 8

Before I begin, I have to say that I have been a little absent this week. Normally I try to post twice a week, but I have been busy preparing to bring you this.

I must admit that I began downloading my copy of Windows 8 with a lot of skepticism. The trend has been laid for a long time, that you really only want to upgrade at every other version of Windows. Windows 95 was good, but 98 set the standard. Millennium Edition (ME) was a failure on many fronts, which drew a lot of criticism from users and probably helped Apple build it’s base on the (then) new i-branded hardware. XP stands as the single most well received version of Windows ever. I personally liked Vista, but the vast majority of people thought it was unstable and not friendly with older software.

Windows 7 took it up to where Vista should have been at the start. Most people really like the software, and the “compatibility mode” actually works with most things now. You would be hard pressed to find anything really annoying about it, and I haven’t experienced a “Blue Screen of Death” since I installed it for the first time during the preview period. I think Microsoft may be trying to break the cycle… Finally!

The first thing you see, after logging in, is the new Windows Phone style of environment. After the initial reaction (for most it’s either WOW, or UGH!) you will have to start actually trying to use the  system. While everything is very responsive and quick, navigation is tricky, and compatibility will be an issue once again. You can move the icons around however you like, and change the background color, along with many other options for personalizing the look. I chose purple, because I like purple.

Prepare yourselves, because you are going to have to teach your grand-parents a whole new way to use the computer again. Some of it will be easier for them, and some of it will be harder. Navigating between the app-screen and the desktop is easy enough, but takes a bit of getting used to. You will notice that there is no longer a start button in the lower left of the desktop, which has been replaced by a pop-out menu system that is the basis for navigating your operating system. If you move your mouse to the lower-left corner of the screen, you will be able to quick-swap between whatever app you have open and the main start/app-screen. This process is very quick, and seamless. In the lower-right you get the menu shown below. The “start” icon takes you to the app-screen which, for all intents and purposes, has replaced the old start-menu.

Moving to the upper left will show you whatever app you had open last, and if you had more than one open, you can move the mouse down a little bit and see the whole list of apps that are currently running. This leads me to the single most important change… Switching to another app will NOT close the process, so you will have to check this app-list and close out the ones you’re no longer using. While this step may seem like a no-brainer to people like me, most people never bother doing this on their iPhones, Androids, or Windows Phones… I would be willing to bet that that trend will carry right over to their computers running Windows 8. Be prepared for all kinds of apps claiming to optimize the speed of your computer by automatically closing unused apps.

Something else to keep close in mind is that there will often be two types of apps to deal with, even if it is the same program. Internet Explorer for instance. In app-mode it will be very quick, and bare-bones, but right-clicking will no longer display a menu. It will show you the navigation bar (located at the bottom of the screen now) and the tab bar (located at the top.) If you open Internet Explorer in Desktop-Mode, it will be exactly the same as you use now in Windows 7. Another very noticeable thing is that Facebook apps cannot be used in the app-mode version of IE. You can browse facebook just fine, but using any flash-based apps will not work, and navigation bars like the one that WordPress uses do not show up.

Overall, I like the new system, but I am not someone to be annoyed by learning a new way to do things. Most people will start off very frustrated with the seemingly alien environment, and unless they manage to integrate Adobe Flash Player into the app version of IE, they will be causing a lot of people to downgrade simply because of the Facebook app issue. Most people will (probably) never bother with Desktop mode, and will not even be aware of how much power they are signing away by doing so. To be honest, the desktop behaves like an app, in that you can close it like any other.

Make no mistake, this is a transitional OS, designed to help people prepare for a world where we have more powerful machines that do less, only because of software limitations. The days of having hundreds of programs installed, and buying a laptop for a DVD-burner are over. This is meant to make you ready to give all that up for a slick touch-based user interface installed on a glorified net-book which will be dubbed “ultra-book.”

The only place this will really really shine is on a tablet device, which is the only reason why I can’t wait for it to come out. I think the Windows Phone OS has a lot of potential to compete with iOS where Android has failed. Microsoft will keep things a little more open, so we should see some incredible apps come up for sale on Windows-based tablets.

If there is demand for it, I will post an in-depth review of specific aspects of Windows 8 once a week. Would that be something you want to see?

Triumphant Return…

Or not.

I may have bitten off more than I can chew recently…

The problem I am having is the complete lack of experience when it comes to Adobe anything, other than Photoshop and Illustrator. I opened After Effects to check it out, and discovered what was obviously a video editing powerhouse; a powerhouse that I had absolutely no clue how to use.

I know that I could search for some tutorials for the After Effects basics, but I find those annoying. It’s always some James May type, blithering on about some mundane little thing like I am an idiot. I don’t need someone to guide me through as if I am a child who’s never seen a mouse. This means I will need to do this the same way I have done everything else in the computer graphics world… Trial and error. If you were to see this program you would understand how someone could feel a bit overwhelmed when first looking at it.

I wouldn’t even bother except that once I have it figured out, I can generate some pretty spectacular graphical effects and import them for use in Photoshop projects. It will also be handy for making future videos to go with this blog. This is one of the distractions things that caused me to not make a proper blog entry in a while.

Simple vs Complex.

One thing you learn from Photoshop is that sometimes the “simple” ideas are the ones that take forever, while very complex things can be accomplished with a few clicks of the mouse. Mind you, I’m a bit of a perfectionist so what I consider simple, may not be. The Modern Warfare 3 logo is simple. Yet, accomplishing a similar effect in a way that looks polished, with different letters, is a painstaking process involving two programs (Photoshop and Illustrator) and lots of caffeine.

Official MW3 logo:

“My” version: 

Mine looks more subdued than theirs, but mine was designed almost entirely from scratch, and theirs’ appears to be a screenshot of a sequence out of a game trailer. I’m still not quite happy with mine, but it looks pretty cool. Using After Effects, I will be able to create that audio-wave effect in the background in a matter of minutes.

And with that I have an announcement to make!

I have been in contact with someone from this KickStarter campaign. I have been invited to go take a look, and I will be taking pictures and asking a lot of questions. It will be my first “reporting” style entry. I feel it’s a very interesting project… Do you have any questions you would like me to ask?

Redbox and Universal Studios Joke!

Image representing redbox as depicted in Crunc...

Have you ever rented a movie from Redbox? I have many times, and mostly on DVD. This was great because I got to watch a number of pretty crappy movies without spending a great deal of money. Sometimes you want to watch something to find out if you like it, before you spend $25-$30 on a Blu-ray pack.

Bly-ray Disc logo

Take Real Steel for instance. This movie was actually pretty good, despite the obvious father-son bonding motif that is often ruined in Hollywood. It took a bit of a different path which I commend. I rented it on DVD to see if I wanted to bother buying it, and if I wanted to spend the extra cash on a Blu-ray bundle. I decided that it would be worth it and bought the movie the same night I watched it. No, it’s no American Gangster (which I also picked up on Blu-ray that night) but it is a special effects heavy movie which lends itself to the medium better than regular DVD.

Universal Studios has decided that you aren’t entitled to see any “bonus features” unless you actually go out and buy their movie. I discovered this after renting Cowboys and Aliens; a movie I would give 2.5 out of 5 stars. I saw it available in Blu-ray for an extra $0.50, which I figured was great because then I could really see it in HD and make a truly informed decision. Well, the movie was a disappointment, but what got me most was the menus and nag screens within the Blu-ray. You actually have to wait for some crud to load, then deal with it reminding you about some smartphone/tablet app that is supposed to “enhance your movie experience.” I just want to watch the damned movie, not try and watch it AND my iPhone at the same time.

Beyond this ridiculous nagging, I discovered that ALL of the special features were locked. Rather than allow me to watch the “making of,” I was treated to this fine little nag screen…

“This disc is intended for rental purposes

and only includes the feature film.

Own it on Blu-ray to complete

your movie watching experience

with additional bonus features

and language options”

A similar message will appear if you try to watch the extended version. In fact, the only thing you CAN access is the movie and the previews for other Universal Studios products and movies. This would not be so bad except for one tiny little detail… Redbox sells used DVDs and Blu-rays after they no longer bring in the expected level of revenues. So eventually some poor sap is going to buy a Blu-ray from Redbox, or Blockbuster (they have blue rental boxes at many locations now) and discover that they got ripped off.

Needless to say, it will be very difficult for me to justify buying a movie from Universal in the near future. I will most certainly NOT be buying Cowboys and Aliens (it’s simply not good enough) and will probably pass on many others as well.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment

Anyone else think this is all just stupid? The price to go see a movie in the theaters is at an all time high, and that’s before getting any snacks. The discs now have nags and restrictions. The companies make crappier and crappier movies. Is there any wonder why they would have to try and get legislation to block video sites? I mean, there’s only so much we can afford to pay for movies in this economy. Maybe it’s about time that Hollywood figure out that they’d get more sales by dropping the prices just a little bit, or producing better quality movies, rather than trying to sell bonus features.

To be “legal”: I took a picture of the nag-screen with my camera, but I do not claim rights to the contents within said photograph. The rights to those contents remain with the respective copyright holders.

A reminder: The SOPA/PIPA fight isn’t over yet people, it’s just begun.

Superbowl ad-day…

Super Bowl XLVI

The confetti has fallen, the stars have left the stadium, and the cleanup begins. As per my prediction (my 5th straight) the Giants overcame the Patriots in Superbowl XLVI. 21-17 seems like a rather low score for such a big game with two seemingly explosive offensive programs.

I have to be honest. I did not watch, as I could care less about these two teams once again appearing. I stopped caring the moment Green Bay was knocked out of the playoffs, ironically getting taken out by the very same team who ended Brett Favre’s dreams of making a third Superbowl. They did it again at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, and again went on to win the Superbowl. It’s funny how the Pats forgot how that went down last time.

The reason this is titled “Superbowl ad-day” is because I get to talk about the commercials, which is a big part of the reason why anybody watches the game when their team isn’t in it. These are not “the most popular” or “most liked” commercials, just the ones I liked best. I will give you my 10 favorites, in order from least to most. So prepare for this to be a long post. I embedded the videos so that you don’t have to keep switching tabs or anything.

10) I think someone needs to sign this kid now. Forget college and high-school… Just get him on the field.

9) This is probably the best E*Trade baby commercial yet.

8) The Cola-Bears are back! I can just imagine the refs… “Upon further review, the catcher did not have control of the bottle when he crossed the line, pass is incomplete, third down”

7) At first I was like “OK, a hot chick who likes coffee, must be a coffee commercial” then… Just watch.

6) Three words: It fights crime!

5) Betty White rocks.

4) They didn’t think this plan through very much.

3) Much better than some of their previous commercials. For some reason they chose not to upload an HD version, which I do not understand. You can find an HD version on YouTube, but I chose to only show the “official” ones from the advertiser’s channels here.

2) I guess VW figured the Vader-kid from last year worked so well that they would tie it in this year as well. Vader-kid was better.

1) I’ll let my inner geek fly here for a moment and say this is my favorite only because it’s dogs barking out the “Death March” from Star Wars. This one was actually the teaser for the commercial posted above.

In my opinion, those are the ten best commercials of the day. Be sure to also check out Madonna’s Half-Time Show, because it was pretty good, with the exception of a couple stumbles on her part. This is not an official copy, and I will remove the link if I get a request to do so from the NFL, Madonna, RIAA, etc…

Congratulations to the NY Giants; thanks for keeping the trophy in the NFC, and away from the New England Patriots, even though you had to beat my Packers to do it.

The Vince Lombardi Trophy.