They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me

  • Music:

Unnecessary Variations on a Theme

In music -- or writing -- sometimes you just go on a riff. Despite our devotion to recorded music, to the point where the definitive version is not whatever the band is playing now, but that one recording that you've listened to all your life, there is a whole world of other versions. And variations. The Grateful Dead allowed recordings of all their concerts, so you can listen a different Grateful Dead concert probably from now until forever, and Jerry Garcia died nearly ten years ago!

Many jazz standards were not, at the time, written down. Improvisation is a thing. Classical musicians have long taken one theme and produced countless variations. Variation is a thing.

It shouldn't be with computers.

Sometimes it has to do with technology. My copy of IBM PC-DOS 1.10, for example, doesn't know about hard drives or networks. Which made it perfect for booting up in a computer lab during the infancy of networked computers and early viruses. PC-DOS 1.00 felt "different" than 1.10, not only because it had different commands and subcommands, but 1.00 didn't even have COMMAND.COM so that certain functions like DATE and TIME were DATE.COM and TIME.COM programs, which had to be loaded every time.

Similarly with IBM PC-DOS 2.10 and MS-DOS 2.11, which were similar. PC-DOS 3.20 and 3.30 were variations. And PC-DOS 5.00. And early Windows 1.04, 2.03, 286 and 386.

The Windows 95 and NT 4.0 Professional era brought things closer -- but there were differences. If you wanted to open an MS-DOS box it was MS-DOS.EXE versus CMD.EXE. And the DOS subcommands are different between those. My numerous DOS batch files had to test for 95/98/SE/Me versus NT4/2000/XP. And now some of those NT-class batch files don't work right in Windows 7.

Same with all the variations of Microsoft Word and Office. I've railed about this before.

This essay, however, is about Windows 7. Sure, it's past its due date according to Microsoft. We're deep in sales of Windows 8/8.1 and Windows 10 is in beta testing -- as if they are seriously going to address even 30% of the things wrong with Windows 10 before it ships.

So this is old hat to most of you Windows users. Uncaring for those who just do a few things. Smirking contempt for those of you are/were Windows 7 whizzes.

OUEST, the Dell laptop I've been given at work, is technically my fourth Windows 7 machine. KATNISS is an Asus netbook running Windows 7 Stupid, er, I mean Windows 7 Basic. You can't even change the wallpaper. Really? ZEPPELIN is Wendy's Toshiba laptop running Windows 7 Home Premium. CAROUSEL is Wendy's desktop, which I haven't booted since Georgia -- I think it has Windows 7 Home Premium as well.

OUEST is running Windows 7 Enterprise Service Pack 1.

Yes, I know there are lots of technical reasons for all these versions, but Microsoft could have made those changes internal so that the user didn't have to know anything about it. Home and Professional, with a Server version for powering the back end properties. Instead there are an appalling number of versions.

That plus this is the only machine I have running Microsoft Office 2013 and there are a bunch of things which "don't quite work right" from my point of view. Yes, I have a tendency to do things in an unorthodox manner, but the bottom line is:

It shouldn't be so hard to get the machine into a familiar configuration so I can browse and type. Really?

The College of Arts Sciences owns this machine and so, like Windows 7 Basic, I am locked in with a BRIGHT WHITE SCREAMING wallpaper. Yuck. Without the Y. With another letter. As in, "what the ..." It took a while to get Word 2013 to have the background stick and stay with a light gray, instead of INTENSE SCREAMING WHITE. Whoever was the keyboard jockey setting the defaults is either blind, wears dark glasses at work, or is getting kickbacks from the university's health care providers of vision and epilepsy coverage.

Little niggling details. On KATNISS and ZEPPELIN I get readable icons in the Task Bar, and a two-line Time over DATE display. Handy to have both those bits of information. Have had that through many versions of Windows -- the old CLOCK program put the date into the tab in the Taskbar, too. On OUEST, the icons in the task bar were tiny -- and because they were small the pre-start icons for Firefox and Chrome were both tiny and widely spaced apart. And I only go the Time in the right hand corner. Oh sure, you can hover the mouse over the Time and get more info.

Surely there was an option to toggle to get Time AND Date? In an Enterprise Edition of Windows 7? Hmm? Alas, could not find anything. (What do you mean go and ASK someone? Are you crazy? That's no fun! Plus I should be able to figure this out -- ANY user should be able to figure this out -- that we can't tells us the problem is not about asking someone else a question. Plus-plus the Physics Dept. is filled with a bunch of people who either take Windows as they come or are Mac users.) I'm only coming to this issue late, because I stuck with Windows XP Professional SP2 on KATSUMI, WINTER, SUMMER and LARA for a very long time.

So yesterday, it occurred to me that maybe I was looking at this wrong. It wasn't a setting for the clock display in the Taskbar, it was the Taskbar itself.

Today on my once-a-week office visit I did a right-click on OUEST's Taskbar | Properties | (uncheck) Use Small Icons -- and voila! The Taskbar is now twice as high, the icons are readable -- and I get a two-line Time over Date display. Silly rabbit, you weren't looking to change the time display, you wanted to change icon size. Obvious. (rolls-eyes)

And look, in the old days you could grab the top of the Taskbar and yank it up to make for a second row of tabs if you had a lot of programs open. That didn't work either, and yes I unlocked the Taskbar first.

I have long complained that Microsoft's programmers have too little depth of knowledge -- no Institutional Memory, which is something I very strongly believe in for any large organization. They don't care, or don't know, how things were done one, two, five versions ago. They just wing it any old way now.

Corporations have learned they have to pay people to do IT training and whole companies are built on teaching people how to use Windows and Office and other programs. Never mind that some of these clients include slow-to-learn older folks who have been using computers for several computer generations and would really rather things got back to Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect 5.1.

So, it's a success. And yes, I added in the Additional Clocks so I can hover over the Time and Date to get the current time in Central Europe and Tokyo (DW) (LJ). Rather than have industrial images burned into all of the machines and complicated Windows Registry machinations, what users really would like would be a portable User Profile. But that's not needed, because We Know How You Should Set Up Your Machine.

And... There Is Nothing We Can Bother To Learn From The Past.

Uh-huh. And:
Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

George Santayana
We simply do not need so many useless variations. Not until we have A.I. computers smart enough to handle sixty-zillion different ways of asking for the same thing. And then, like Ex Machina (DW) (LJ), they may no longer be interested in our agendas, but their own.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
Tags: computers, microsoft, rants, upgrades, windows

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