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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Microsoft Windows Mixed Reality

In this video Tom Warren of The Verge uses some mixed reality headsets for Windows. Watching them I’m reminded just how far this industry has to go. I’d call much of what I see in this video very much beta-level hardware and software.

It has only been 5 months since I wrote the aforelinked piece and we’ve seen some major, major movement in this space during that time. Facebook, Apple, Google, and Microsoft have all thrown massive amounts of resources into mixed reality. I feel the pace of updates will only quicken over the next 24 months. By 2020 everything we see in this video will look ancient.

/via Dan Kimbrough on Twitter.

Colin Walker on macOS software

Colin Walker:

Using OSX can be more intuitive at times but it is visually inconsistent. It may have been through various aesthetic revisions but it can feel old. I think Microsoft has done a better job of enforcing a standard look for applications on the desktop and the Windows design language is now generally more modern.

In the early 2000s when I jumped from Windows to the Mac I felt this very same way … except I was describing the Mac as generally more modern and Windows as visually inconsistent. It is interesting to see a new Mac user’s perspective.

Even today, when I use a Windows 10 computer and click down a few screens I find it terribly inconsistent. I see stuff that looks like Windows 98 to my eyes sometimes. I don’t see that in macOS very often – if at all. But, I can see Walker’s perspective. macOS does feel a little long in the tooth to me too. Not compared to Windows 10 but just that the overall design language is stale. Perhaps High Sierra will spruce things up enough to keep it fresh.

My thoughts on Build 2017

I have a few thoughts on Build 2017.

First, how did Build 2017 measure up against my very short wishlist?

  • Windows Phone. Although a few presenters over the few days managed to get an applause from the crowd when referring to Windows Phone, we saw zero announcements from MSFT in this area. The complete opposite of what I was hoping for. For now, it seems they are embracing iOS and Android.
  • HoloLens. MSFT seems to be leaning away from a 1-brand approach and more towards providing all of the tools needed to do Mixed Reality. This approach, for a company like Microsoft, is likely better but I still wanted to see HoloLens (a standalone MR system) be invested in heavily. Maybe they’ll have announcements in the future.
  • Windows or Office being open source. This was a long shot. But, I’ll keep it on my list in perpetuity. Esp. Windows.
  • Band. I don’t think Microsoft mentioned wearables at all (besides the amazing Emma). Did they?

So I completely struck out. So it goes.

I’m not unhappy though. Microsoft had some amazing announcements and, overall, had an impressive amount of work accomplished since the last Build.

Sayta Nadella started the conference off by reaffirming their commitment to build hardware, software, and services responsibly and inclusively. It is obvious that Nadella’s Microsoft wants to build solutions for everyone (including even the smallest groups of individuals). I really enjoy seeing this from them and I hope it continues to be the driving force behind their decisions.

What Microsoft has been able to do with Azure (and its related services like Azure Stack), OneDrive, and other cloud-based services is really incredible. Between what Amazon and Microsoft currently offer developers – there is almost no excuse a start-up can make that they cannot bring software to the market at scale in an affordable way. And, even if you’re not worried about scale, the ease of development, testing, iteration, and deployment is much more simple. All developers know that these “one click demos” are never that in reality. But it is still very, very impressive to see what Microsoft has been able to create and is able to sell and support.

It was telling, too, that Microsoft swapped their Keynotes from last year. Day 1 was all Azure and day 2 was all Windows.

One more note about Azure; it seems to be a runaway hit in a similar way to Amazon’s S3. A few years ago S3 took over the entire cloud storage market backing so many services we use every day. When it has gone down (only a few times in recent memory) everything we use went down. I think the same could be said for Azure. Azure is the platform upon which an incredible amount of large scale services are built. I don’t know if this is still the case but Apple’s services were once built on top of Azure. If Azure goes down expect a similar blackout to S3 going down.

Windows 10 being on a twice-a-year release cycle is very refreshing. It makes Apple’s already aggressive once-per-year updates to macOS look snail-like. The pace of software updates for an OS are critical since software needs to be nimble to react to the market. Things like mobility, connectivity, speed, memory, device size and screen size, and wireless technologies seem to change weekly. The OSes need to keep up. Longer development cycles can no longer keep pace.

Microsoft also announced their own design framework called Fluent. I’m sure Windows developers will welcome this coherence across all of their devices but I do not think it will have the wide-reaching affects of both Apple’s flat iOS 7 design language (which is nameless?) and Google’s Material Design. I see iOS-inspired and Material-inspired design in every piece of software I use.

Overall, I continue to be super impressed with Microsoft under Satya Nadella. Seems I’m not alone.

I recommend watching the videos from Build 2017. There is a ton to glean and I’m sure we’ll start seeing some amazing things come of the announcements made. Well done yet again MSFT.

Bashing Windows

Ben Brooks likes the look of the new Surface Book Laptop. But he says this about Windows:

Still runs Windows though.

I don’t know if Ben has used the very latest Windows 10 builds but if he hasn’t he should give it a try. I’ve already said not to bet against Microsoft but I would also say, at this point, not to bet against Windows 10. It is so so so much better than it used to be. Comparable to macOS at every level.

It used to be no question that macOS was better than Windows 10. Less viruses, better file management, easier app installs and uninstalls, polish. Now I believe it simply a matter of preference.

Removing the pro from Apple

John Gruber regarding Sal Soghoian being axed from Apple:

If they had simply fired him, that’d be one thing, but the fact that they’ve eliminated his position is another. This is shitty news. I find this to be a profoundly worrisome turn of events for the future of the Mac. I hope I’m wrong.

I noted this on Twitter without any comment. But I’m slowly seeing us pros being shown the door at Apple and Sal is just further evidence of this.

When Dan Kimbrough and I were at the Apple Store last week to look at the new MacBook Pro we were speaking to a retail store employee who, after hearing how we use computers said, “Oh, you are a ‘Pro User’“. He said it in such a way that made me think we weren’t welcome. Dan felt it too. He said so immediately as we were walking out the door.

My thinking is this; the consumer market is enormous compared to the pro market. Yes, there is a lot of money in Enterprise but Apple doesn’t consider themselves an Enterprise company. They slowly stopped chasing that dream long ago. Remember the X-Serve? Now, they are also slowly backing away from the pro market as well. Their entire business, for decades, was built on top of those that use Photoshop and Illustrator to do their work. Then, with their switch to a Unix-based OS, they picked up a ton of us that do programming for a living. But now they are removing ports and power in favor of small and thin. And they aren’t updating their beast of a computer either. And, to top of off, they eliminated a position at Apple that was arguably a very important part of why pro people could use macOS.

We keep asking Apple if they are going to leave the Mac behind. And they keep saying no. What we should be asking is if they are going to be leaving the professional users of the Mac behind.

This does not mean I think this is the wrong strategy for Apple. Apple is chasing revenue. They will sell more Macs to “normals” by making them as approachable, thin and light as possible. It just happens to not be the right strategy for me to continue using the Mac. So I’m making the jump to Windows 10. We’ll see if I’ve made the right decision in three years or so.

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Lobby, Scranton Enterprise Center – November 2016

Published: November 13, 2016

Cape May Island, May 2016

Published: May 16, 2016

The Cooperage Project, Honesdale, PA, December 2015

Published: March 24, 2016

Windows 10 update

Terry Myerson:

Today, we reach our next milestone as the first major update to Windows 10 is now available* for PCs and tablets. With this update, there are improvements in all aspects of the platform and experience, including thousands of partners updating their device drivers and applications for great Windows 10 compatibility.

Looks like a good update especially for older devices. One update, multiple device categories, on the same day. How I wish someone else was doing this same sorta thing!

Windows 10 privacy problems

David Auerbach, writing for Slate:

By default, Windows 10 gives itself the right to pass loads of your data to Microsoft’s servers, use your bandwidth for Microsoft’s own purposes, and profile your Windows usage. Despite the accolades Microsoft has earned for finally doing its job, Windows 10 is currently a privacy morass in dire need of reform.

Oh boy. Fortunately, Auerbach goes on and shows you how to restrict the information that Windows 10 can collect.

/via Nick Semon.

Windows 10 launch

Microsoft is reporting 14,000,000 Windows 10 installs in 24 hours. Not bad.

Me, in May:

I want Microsoft to do great things. I want Windows Phone to be as amazing as it is but with thousands more applications. I want HoloLens to exist. I want to see whether Microsoft’s unified Windows Platform will be a better idea than Apple’s bifurcated one.

From what I’ve seen and heard so far people are enjoying Windows 10. That’s great. I hope what they’re doing will be a home run. Like I said back in May — it is going to be an exciting 5 years.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 Vision Isn’t Simple

Cade Metz for Wired on Microsoft’s vision for Windows 10 to be on a billion devices and for applications from Android, iOS, and Windows all running on them “easily”:

But this kind of thing is never as easy as it seems. “I’m skeptical of anything that pretends to be the magic bullet,” says one coder, who requested anonymity because he works closely with Windows. In many cases, coders must manually modify their apps so that they run on disparate devices (these devices, after all, are quite different). And even if Microsoft’s tools provide an onramp to all Windows devices that’s as simple as promised, that’s no guarantee that coders will actually use them to build apps for things like Windows phones or Hololens—particularly if these coders are already focused on other operating systems.

What Microsoft showed at Build is obviously not the best way to build an application for Windows. However, for now, for today, to get up-and-running, it may be the quickest way to get something on Windows so that you’re able to support the new Windows 10 users.

I hope developers port their apps to Windows 10 using Microsoft’s toolset to do so and then go back and rethink them from the beginning if they get any traction there.