Thursday 13 September 2012

"Build it and they will come..."

... somehow I don't think so... (time will tell...)

Using a something like a Twitter client as an example is possibly the most ridiculous case I've ever seen or heard of.  Lemme think about this.... a client for something that is almost as ubiquitous as the web itself gets what they are daring to call "a lot" of downloads.  Back in reality land, there are over 100 million twitter users, close to a billion Windows users.  Even if only a tenth of a percent of those users are trialling Win8, then the Win8 user base should be also over 100 million of them. In the unlikely reduction case of only having a 1% overlap of those groups (which is very unlikely as early adopter/tester types tend to want to talk about it), that would make for at least 1 million Twitter clients for Win8 being "necessary" to fill the market.  So, um, the sales only managed about 100,000, or a tenth of that potential market....

Now on one hand, that says that this is a "killer app" that has been the stuff of legend for decades, and forms a good business case.  However, a healthy dose of a reality check has proven time and again that the "killer app" is so rare that even the most rabid VC won’t pony-up cash unless they are looking for a tax write-off !

Microsoft *should* know that for a healthy OS, you need good, usable and *needed* applications.  After all, that is one of the key points that has kept Linux (as a viable desktop) at bay for over a decade.  So what they are *REALLY* saying is that they recognise that nothing in the Windows application market currently will look any good or work properly with their shiny new OS and now (finally) they are in damage control trying to get some apps ready for the release.  After all, who will buy a Win8-entombed desktop if nothing works right on it ?

Just when the stupidity of this seemed to have peaked, today's newsfeed contained another gem.

This time a "UI evangelist" touting the new interface as being a good thing and (in essence) saying that developers are the problem.

Now this guy is not your average marketing idiot, he does recognise a pigs ear when he sees one, so he made a comment that will undoubtedly come back to haunt Microsloth in the months ahead;

"Business apps, he said may not work in this context, with more familiar icon-driven UI elements still available for apps that just won't fit into TIFKAM's design paradigm."

Right, so the real bread-n-butter of the desktop PC market is likely to find the Metro/Win8 interface unworkable.  Let's say that word again, "unworkable".

Don't get me wrong, I'd *like* to see a UI that works as seamlessly as the SciFi style interfaces (think Star Trek or Babylon 5).  I'd *like* to have a programming language that apparently doesn't need a keyboard AT ALL (thinks of Scottie's classic comment when presented with a mouse, "how quiaint").  I'd *like* AI that doesn't turn into SkyNet and try and eliminate the invasive parasite that has infected the planet.... but seriously, a paradigm change does not take place over night and you can NOT just take your near-monopoly position and FORCE everyone to adopt it "just because they have no choice".  Ignoring the socio-political rants that could stem from that line of thought, Microsoft has already been slapped down by a totally retarded attempt to FORCE users to do something, it was called "Vista", and business users skipped "that upgrade" en-masse.

Contrary to some of the gaming press, I'm not so sure that Win8 is so dire in that sub-segment of the desktop market. The bulk of gamers may be perverse genetic freak variations of "Power Users", but ultimately, they tend mostly to use one HUGE full screen single interface, so this may be almost unnoticed by a lot of them unless they tend towards "windowed mode" (and we won't talk about why they feel the need for that configuration will we...).

Tuesday 3 July 2012

The Myth of Control

Freedom is an interesting concept. Freedom to live the lifestyle you choose. Freedom of religious belief. Freedom of speech. The list can be quite extensive, even tedious.

Freedom from being a serf, peon or slave is something of a universal desire crossing many boundaries of culture, race and faith.

This will seem like a diversion into The Twilight Zone, but how far do you trust your government ?  Not the greedy, self-righteous, self-serving cretins that we inevitably vote for called "politicians".  No, the real government. The multitude of largely faceless, bureaucrats who advise and implement government policy.  The self-same collective within whose ranks lobbyists find willing ears (and pockets) to grease the wheels of government towards some corporate or other pressure group's agenda.

If you have been fortunate to live in a democracy, throughout your life you will have been told that "government is elected by the people" and that the politicians are "servants of the nation". What utter tripe! In an idealized democracy described in books, that may well be the case. Regrettably for the real world; political campaigns cost money, lobbyist's cost money, advertising campaigns designed to sway public opinion cost money, and most importantly, "government" costs money.

So what is this apparent rant about ?  The progressive erosion of YOUR rights by pressure groups whose agenda have nothing to do with your freedoms and everything to do with grabs for money and power.

To avoid litigation, I'll steer clear of the core that drove me to write this since the group in question have far more money than morals and less scruples than is safe to publicly question. Let's keep this hypothetical since it will serve as well as the current concrete issues.

There is a belief within the circles of those currently in positions of extreme power that controlling what the public can and can not do is in everybody's best interest. Indeed, they would go so far as to claim that YOUR right to do what you will with products you purchased with your own money is outweighed by THEIR right to specify most of the terms under which you may use it. From tools to toys to movies and music, restrictive controls are being placed that do not serve either the original creators or the legitimate users. The only beneficiaries are those who sit in the middle making money while adding little or no value.

The theory runs that this continued tightening of controls is for our own good; be they airport scanners, GPS in phones, warrantless wire-taps, smart-chips in passes and cards or even simple statistical collection of your online shopping habits.

Fine, but where's the "opt out" option ?  Increasingly, there is not one available. Some of the controls are not even transparent, nor are the records on YOUR activities available for you to review. That is of course assuming you even know that it is being done or sometimes more importantly, by whom ?

Control is important.  You would not fly in a plane that had little or no controls.  A microwave oven would be potentially lethal with no controls.  This post would not be viewable without controls.

Too much control however is quite patently bad, especially if it is done in a ham-fisted manner.

There is an old saying about love that runs; "If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it is truly yours. If it doesn't, it never was."  The point is much like many other analogies; the tighter you grasp some things, the harder they are to hold on to.  From eels to dreams, the result is much the same.

An interesting comment was made some time back about revolutions. Trying to squash them by force is ultimately doomed to failure. Some things will be free. You may kill a hundred or a million, but eventually oppressive regimes fall.

A favorite quote of mine is "the price of freedom is eternal vigilance" and a more disturbing cousin "when repression becomes Law, rebellion becomes duty". Both are frequently misquoted (I may even have mistyped here), but the message is clear.

Those who would be our masters are steadily eroding our rights in the name of Law and claiming to do so to protect us. Across the globe we see new sections written into Law that effectively remove YOUR rights. We do not have to look to the Third World for would-be dictators, politicians with similar aspirations in all but name are in our parliaments and other governing bodies. Right to freedom of association, limited. Right to public assembly, limited. Right to withhold your labour in protest, revoked. Right to trial by a jury of your peers, limited and in some cases revoked.

At the same time, those in power who seek more controls to be placed on "we the people" get them with almost no debate or opposition in the corridors of power.

History is a harsh and implacable teacher.  At every turn in recorded history where the general populace get pushed into a corner, whipped and told to like it, they do what even the lowliest cur in the street would do, they bite back. Sadly, when they do, many innocents suffer while the true guilty parties make deals to avoid any form of punishment.

So the wheel will turn.... but who will it crush in the relentless strivings of those who wish to control "we the people" and when the the pendulum swings the other way as "we the people" make a break for freedom ?

Wednesday 27 June 2012

When noise becomes music

For all the decades of recorded music, members of each generation have at some point famously described the next generation's music as "noise".  The phase varies as does the context, but the word persists.

The first time people heard some of the early sounds of "industrial metal', I know that many would have been amazed that some of the most brilliant and gifted composers and performers of the art were classically trained. Some of the best of various sub-genres in metal have been trained in classical styles; from classical piano to opera, and guitar to percussion. The past has aided, even seeded the future.

Now to the point.  Anyone who has followed Linkin Park's evolution will recognise the fusion that is typical of the band's sound which is as unique as Chester's vocals.  There has always been an edge to their sound.

Distortion has frequently been a prominent part of music since the first electric guitar screeched into life. LP have a history of making synth sounds that are reminiscent of the noise between stations on an old AM radio. That is not a bad thing.  It works.

Since their latest album arrived, I've been amazed by one thing.  No, not the "noise" or the "distortion". The amazing thing is how it demands premium audio equipment.

Every artist deserves to have their art shown or heard in the way they intended. In fact, some art loses so much by poor delivery that it could almost be dismissed as a waste.  Cruel and unfair, but so is life.  LP's new collection of songs really sound dreadful on cheaper equipment.  Even mid-range gear sounds scratchy and irritating.

At first I thought my CD was faulty or a new generation of quality-destroying DRM was incompatible with my equipment.  Playing it on premium headphones and speakers however disabused me of that notion. No, this was LP as they intended to be heard and it is as magic as their earlier offerings, although I still think Hybrid Theory stands out as a classic "how do we create a follow-up for this?!?!" moment in musical history.

The lessons and questions this raise are disturbing. Avoiding litigation, I'll resist naming (and shaming) any specific vendors of portable noise gear, but suffice to say that anything less than a lossless digital copy would be worse than a waste of everybody's time. It would be a crime against the music.  This is one piece of musical history that may emphasize the merits of analogue over digital media. I'll forego the lecture on sampling and loss (even in "lossless" formats) of precision in the recording, but suspect that this is an album that really needs a vinyl version to fully appreciate it.

Returning to the headline topic, it is staggering how much of the distortion used on this album overwhelms less-than-premium audio equipment by failing to render the finer points of the music. You want to listen to LP's latest album ?  Advice, don't skimp on the gear you use!

Sunday 29 April 2012

Transitions for the lazy user....

Inertia or laziness.... both apparently can be overcome by the threat of the imminent demise of something you would rather keep....

Welcome to The Unenlightened Oracle's rebirth (courtesy of Google's *nudge* to transfer my old account).

For those who have been receiving emails, I'll spare you long diatribes in future and post the interminable trivia I dig up and unutterable inanities that pass for brainspasms.  Instead, I'll just flick a link when the blog is updated.... (don't hold your breath.... those of you who know me well, know it is a classic "feast or famine" scenario!)

Damn the torpedoes! Full spam ahead !!