My Thoughts on Steve Jobs

Since Steve Jobs died Wednesday, October 5, I had gotten to do some thinking about how Steve has affected all of our lives in one way or another. Everyday, no matter where we go, we carry a little piece of him with us. Whether it be an iPhone, iPod, iPad, or even Mac laptops, some part of the mind of Steve Jobs lies within. As of the writing of this article, I’m sitting on the floor of the communications building on campus with my iPad waiting for my next class to begin while looking at the words I have just written. What exactly do they mean to me?

Steve Jobs was a man of passion. He wouldn’t settle for second rate. He took what was best and made it even better. If only during his early pioneering years he had settled for mediocre quality, we certainly wouldn’t be where we are today in terms of modern day computing.

Steve’s eye for quality and detail was second to none. I would almost even dare say he was anal about it. I had heard stories over the years about him reducing Apple engineers to tears because the products they were working on didn’t meet his standard of excellence. He wanted to take good and make it better. And essentially, this is what has broken Apple out of the pack and has placed it as the most successful and profitable company in the world to date. But Apple didn’t just come out of the box working like it is now.

The now gigantic company we know today as Apple started out as Apple Computer in the form of a circuit board called the Apple I by three broke college dropouts in a garage in Cupertino, California in 1976. In 1977, the company received outside funding and began work on the successor to the Apple I, the Apple II. And as they say, the rest is history. But in that history are a lot of bumps in the road. Bumps that included Jobs resigning from his own company due to power struggles before being brought back after the acquisition of another company, NeXT, in which he founded. Fast forward through time, new and revolutionary devices (including some released years before their time) have been released unto the world changing how we do things forever all because of the vision of one man.

Through Steve’s vision, iDevices are now in the hands of people on the go, MacBooks are on the laps of eager college students, and iMacs on the desks of those turning the music and designing industry on its ear. We are now connected no matter where we go.

Sure you can call the man mean, tyrannical,or a perfectionist because of his methodology, but that is your opinion. I stated my opinion based on what Steve has accomplished, not on what pundits and fanboys are saying while some sling post-mortem mud. But even while he was alive, Jobs rose above the noise. Although he is no longer is here with us, his legacy will continue where he left off.

All in all, Steve Jobs had wanted to put a ding in the universe. I say he certainly has.

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Will We Use Cloud Storage To Host Our Primary Data In The Future?

Storage In The Cloud

We are in a world that was beyond imaginable just a few decades ago. By providing access to global information, to people all aroundCloud-Storage the world, and to a vast number of multimedia, the internet has gained grounds to becoming an integral part of our life. But consuming content isn’t what the internet is all about.

The internet has proven to be a valuable means for us to store our own data. This is often referred to as storing data in the cloud. The cloud is basically a fancy name for the internet. As CNN puts it, “the cloud is just a fancy term for all the computers — other than your own — that are connected to the internet.

Companies like Amazon and Google maintain huge networks of computers that are stored, row after row, in secret warehouses all over the world. These machines hold data that computer users don’t want to store on their own hard drives. Think about all the photos you have on Facebook; any documents you’ve stored with a service like Dropbox or Mozy; or all of your Web-based e-mail. Those files are stored somewhere out in the cloud instead of on a personal laptop.” (Sutter)

As the internet becomes more prevalent in our lives, and as portability becomes more important, storing our data in the cloud becomes more convenient and reliable. As such, in a future not too far from now, our primary means of storage will be in the cloud.

Mobile Convenience

flash_driveBefore looking at why our primary storage method will favor the cloud, it is important to take a look at where we stand, at the time of this writing, in regards to how we store data. In the 1990’s, people didn’t see the need to carry gigabytes of data in their pockets; but now, this is a common reality. We have reached a point where we want to have access to our data from anywhere, not just in a static desktop machine at our office desk.

Andrew Kantor, technology writer of USA Today, notes, “being able to carry a ton of information in a two-ounce package is…a necessity. We’re not only a more mobile society, but we’re also an almost entirely information-driven one. Data are everything — names, addresses, documents, images, music, video — and we feel the need to take it with us.”

“Being able to carry a ton of information in a two-ounce package is…a necessity.” 

So it is not surprising that having access to our personal and professional data is important, and that’s why many are carrying portable storage devices like USB flash drive and smartphones storing documents, music, and movies. However, storing data in these portable devices have its downfalls as well.

The biggest headache is the scattering of data. People storing data in multiple devices, portable or not, fall in the situation of having some data in one device and some other data in another device. Sometimes, it is difficult to remember where a particular data is stored. What’s worse is that data are not easily synced across devices. For example, one may have a Word document on two devices; however, if he/she updates the document in one device, that document isn’t updated in the other device.

Another problem with portable devices is that it has to be carried around. If one, for example, forgets to bring his/her USB flash drive containing essential data to work, that person does not have access to that data. Storing data in the cloud solves these issues, making it a much more convenient experience.

Cloud Storage You Can Access

It is, therefore, no wonder that cloud storage has gained such popularity. Companies like Dropbox are making storing data in the dropboxcloud as seamless and convenient as possible. PC Magazine author Edward Mendelson explains what the primary purpose of Dropbox. “Dropbox stores synchronized files in the cloud so they’re available at any machine on which you’ve installed Dropbox. You can also reach your files through a Web interface from any Internet-connected system.”

Essentially, Dropbox does what a portable storage device does. It gives the user access to his/her files from any computer using simply a web interface. However, unlike the portable devices, users do not have to carry anything around when using Dropbox.

Another plus for Dropbox is that it syncs the same data to the devices that the user specifies, as long as the devices have an internet connection. Thus, one can have his/her data stored on his/her personal devices as well as having that data available through the internet. And when that person makes changes to a document in one device, that document is updated across all his/her devices. This clearly resolves the syncing problem that portable devices created.

Mendelson also mentions that Dropbox takes the extra step to preserve earlier versions of the users’ data. This means the users does not have to do this manually, as he/she might have had to do if relying solely on portable storage devices. This makes it really easy for someone to undo errors, and all the processing for preserving these earlier versions happens in the background, in the cloud.

Dropbox also lets users sync the same data on their mobile phones, as stated on their own website (“Can I access”). Dropbox is not the only service around. Other competitors, like Microsoft Skydrive, and Box.net offer similar services to the users. Services like these offer gigabytes of storage absolutely free for the users, with paid options for additional storage space.

Benefits & Convenience

With all the benefits of online storage, it is not hard to see where the world is heading. People are storing more of their data in the cloud, and companies are investing more on companies offering cloud storage (Kopytoff). According to The New York Times, 60 percent of adults with internet access have at least two devices that can connect to the internet.

60 percent of adults with internet access have at least two devices that can connect to the internet.

 

As such, services offering cloud storage is seeing a boom in the number of users. For example, Dropbox has 25 million users uploading 300 million files a day! Box.net has six million users while another service, called Mozy now has three million (Kopytoff). This increase in the number of users is not coincidence as online storage has clear benefits over just using portable storage devices. It is only logical to assume that these numbers will go higher in the near future.

Privacy In The Cloud?

With all these benefits, where does cloud storage stand when it comes to privacy? While sites can get hacked and data can be stolen, this is nothing new. One can more likely loss his/her flash drive, say, by accidentally dropping it on the street. Another possibility is that an unprotected PC may be hacked and the data stored on that PC can be stolen. Stolen data is a possible risk when storing data anywhere, not just the cloud.

A possible way to secure data is to encrypt it. According to dictionary.com, encrypting data means “to cipher or encode” it. Encrypted data is essentially scrambled data that cannot be unscrambled without a password, which the owner of the data creates. Thus, only those with the correct password can access it. So, encrypted data stored in the cloud, or a personal device is very unlikely to get hacked because those who steal that data can’t read it.

Cloud storage is very popular for it convenience. It can be accessed from anywhere and from any device. It also stays synced, so the user does not have to worry about what version of their document they are using.

Finally, as internet connectivity improves and more people have access to the cloud, it only makes sense to store one’s primary data in the cloud for easy and efficient access. In the ever-changing world of technology, cloud storage might very well be an integral part of our lives in the near future.

 

References

“Can I access Dropbox on my mobile device?” Dropbox. Dropbox, 8 Apr. 2011. Web. 17 Oct. 2011. <http://www.dropbox.com/‌help/‌32>.

Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, LLC, 2011. Web. 17 Oct. 2011. <http://dictionary.reference.com/‌browse/‌encryption>.

Kantor, Andrew. “Finding places to carry all your digital stuff.” Editorial. USA Today. USA Today, 3 Dec. 2004. Web. 17 Oct. 2011. <http://www.usatoday.com/‌tech/‌columnist/‌andrewkantor/‌2004-12-03-kantor_x.htm>.

Kopytoff, Verne G. “Data Grows, and So Do Storage Sites.” Editorial. The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 5 June 2011. Web. 17 Oct. 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/‌2011/‌06/‌06/‌technology/‌internet/‌06dropbox.html>.

Mendelson, Edward. “Dropbox.” Editorial. PCMagazine. PCMag.com, 25 Mar. 2009. Web. 17 Oct. 2011. <http://www.pcmag.com/‌article2/‌0,2817,2343852,00.asp#fbid=n6rgw_SyYMO>.

Sutter, John D. “Why cloud storage is the future of music.” Editorial. CNNTech. Cable News Network, 30 Mar. 2011. Web. 17 Oct. 2011. <http://www.cnn.com/‌2011/‌TECH/‌web/‌03/‌30/‌cloud.music/‌index.html>.

 

Selling Windows Phone (…and Windows 8)

image

Window Phone has not gained traction in the Market like Microsoft and many of us Windows Phone fans would have loved. Yes, Microsoft rushed Windows Phone to Market we know. They were caught sleeping on turf by iPhone, which raised the bar so high MS had to return to the drawing table, to “re-imagine” Windows Mobile platform. An effort that took them years to complete. With the release of the Windows Phone Mango OS, Microsoft can now confidently say “It is finished!”. Yes Mango is now full-featured and on-par with iPhone and Android; if not better Smile.

So now we are left with the ultimate question, like the song goes: “Now that we’ve found Love, what are we gonna do with it?” How do we sell Windows Phones to the Masses?! I know Microsoft is going to be selling Windows Phone in their own shops, and they’ve got the strength of Nokia sales channel behind them, but is that enough?

image

We’ve been hearing the rumors of Phone shops refusing to sell Windows Phones to people, even discrediting it in the front of potential buyers, advising them to buy Android or iPhone instead. The mobile vendors are not doing enough themselves to promote the platform. When you go to any of their shops to see one “in action”, you are presented with a dead, or outright dummy phones. That will never sell the platform.

imageWhen you are lucky to find a working phone, the Sales rep. on the floor doesn’t have an inkling in what Windows Phone is all about. Most of them are Android or iPhone fanboys who have never used Windows phone before. Windows phones cannot be sold like any other platform. It is not a platform phone that you just pick-up in the shop and start pressing icons to see how it works. No, you have to use Windows Phone to get it, and to love it. Go ask anyone who have been skeptical about the platform; they all changed their opinion AFTER using it.

imageSo, there lies the problem of Windows Phone! It is a people-oriented phone. It is not just a phone, it is an extension of yourself. You are the center of the universe, Windows Phone enables all the planets that revolve around you. Its everything about you! How do you sell something like that in a shop, where a buyer only has maybe 10 to 15 minutes to have a look?

A vanilla Windows Phone that is sitting in the kiosk is a useless phone! Looking at it wont impress till you sign in to Windows Live and connect to Facebook and Twitter and Linked-In and what have you. This is something that happened to me. I only have two words for you to describe my reaction after connecting my Windows Phone for the first time: “It’s Alive!”. That was my exclamation. People I have forgotten started popping up. Nothing beats that first impression. You can’t have such experience in a shop. No potential buyer will dare to enter his/her credentials in a sample unit in a shop. So you see the dilemma. Windows Phone strength is its weakness in a shop for a potential buyer.

Now that Microsoft is going the Metro-route with the same “People-centered” features of Windows 8, I am afraid Microsoft will also face a daunting task of selling Windows 8 to the masses. So I hereby propose a solution. Let every Windows Phone and Windows 8 ship with a fictive Persona account. Just one Universal account that MS will maintain. It will reflect a true identity of a person, with everything that a typical person does online, in business and private lives. It will have to be a feature-complete account. You know, like those fictive companies MS use to demonstrate its platform, i.e. Contoso, Fabrikam etc.

Let Windows 8 and Windows Phones be logged into this account by default in shops. Teach sales reps to know this account by heart. Then a potential buyer will see what these applications and platform is all about. It will show the strength of this platform like the way it will if you’ve been using the phone or PC the whole year. No amount of advert can sell Windows Phone or Windows 8 without its People-centric feature. Then sell the devices with this default account, but give the user the chance to wipe it at first install.

So, there you have it. What do you people think of this idea? Leave a comment behind, or tweet me on @McAkins.

Techtronica Remembers Steve Jobs

Just a matter of hours ago, Steve Jobs passed away leaving us with his legacy. All of us here at Techtronica were shocked and saddened about his passing and have decided to honor him here on the site. Our graphic designer, Jacob McCauley, designed our new logo which would’ve gone up tonight, but the unforeseen has happened. With that said, the memorial logo will be up for one week and then will be retired. The official new logo will then take it’s place at the top of the site.

Below is the official new logo for you to see.

Remembering Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

The news came as a shock to the tech community not moments ago that computer luminary, Steve Jobs, has passed away. It has been known that Steve had been battling cancer for some time and now that battle has come to an end. Jobs has done a great deal in changing the world we now live in.

He brought has the original Macintosh computer that turned the electronics world on it’s ear. Soon came the iPod, which changed how we listened to music. Then it was the iPhone, which changed how we communicated. The latest iteration of the iPhone series, the iPhone 4S, was just announced yesterday. Now the visionary behind Apple has bowed to the world and had the lights dim on him for the final time.

Steve Jobs is survived by his wife, Laurene, and his four children.

If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.

-Steve Jobs

The family has released a statement:

Steve died peacefully today surrounded by his family. In his public life, Steve was known as a visionary; in his private life, he cherished his family. We are thankful to the many people who have shared their wishes and prayers during the last year of Steve’s illness; a website will be provided for those who wish to offer tributes and memories. We are grateful for the support and kindness of those who share our feelings for Steve. We know many of you will mourn with us, and we ask that you respect our privacy during our time of grief.

If you wish to express your thoughts about Steve, you can do so in the comments below as well as rememberingsteve@apple.com

 

Rest in peace Steve Jobs. He was 56.

iPhone 4S Pricing…wait…a FREE iPhone?!!?

Well, Apple made the announcements about its next generation iPhone, namely, the iPhone 4S. It has some pretty nifty features. But what about the price? Well, whether not the new pricing is a treat is up for you to decide. Here they are:

The iPhone 4S

  • The iPhone 4S will cost starting at $199
  • 16GB devices will cost $199, 32GB devices will cost $299, and the, newly announced, 64GB devices will cost $399.
The iPods
  • The new iPods Nanos, which has a few new features, will cost $129 for the 8GB device and $149 for the 16GB device.
  • The iPod touches will be priced like the iPhones, with $199 for the 8GB model, $299 for the 32GB model, and $399 for the 64GB model.
iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS
  • Apple will continue to sell previous generations of its iPhone product line.
  • The iPhone 4 will now cost only $99 with contract
  • Amazingly, the iPhone 3GS will be absolutely free with no contract!
  • Remember that both of these devices can be upgraded to the latest iOS version, namely, iOS5.
That’s it for the pricing! Stay tuned in to Techtronica for more tech news from Apple, Microsoft, Google, etc!

Bing Update Brings A New Look

Hello again! Today was a very big day, with the iPhone announcements! If you haven’t had a chance to see what’s been announced, take a look at this article.

With the big updates on the Apple side, Microsoft rolled out a small, cosmetic, update to it’s bing search engine. This new bing update brings a dynamic, cosmic, bing homepage. While Google is still my search engine of choice, I must admit, I did spend a minute looking at the bing homepage today. It looks beautiful. It may be worth while to spend 30 seconds to take a look at the bing update.

However, the new homepage doesn’t really increase the efficiency of search (unless looking at beautiful things makes your brain better at finding content…I don’t know). So, I guess this post was just a post about spending a minute watching the stars. :P But hey, it is beautiful to look at.

Stay tuned on techtronica.net, and we will deliver you the latest tech talks! Follow @techtronica on twitter, or subscribe via RSS.

Specs for the iPhone 4S and What YOU Need to Know

Today at the Apple Event, Let’s Talk iPhone, Apple talked about their new iPhone. The iPhone 4s will be more beefed up and have a better camera, 1080p! Apple said the release date for iOS 5 would be Oct.12, but you are not here for the whole event, are you? What about the 4s specs? Well, keep on reading for the specs.

Apple A5 Chip

 

 

 

A5 Chip:

The same A5 chip that has been in the iPad and many other Apple products, is now in the iPhone 4s. Allowing for greater performance and greater graphics for mobile gaming. 7x faster graphics to be exact.

 

 

 

Longer Battery:

Apple, as always, was able to squeeze a little bit more battery life out of the new 4s. With 6hrs on browsing, 9 on WiFi, 10hrs of videos and 40hrs of music.

 

 

 

 

Camera:

Apple was actually able to make a phone camera that can shoot 1080p videos and photos. With better color accuracy, more uniformity, and an 8 megapixel sensor (3264×2448), it might end up being most peoples only camera.

 

 

 

Siri:

Siri is Apple’s new app that will allow you to ask the app what the weather is, to change your meetings, or send a text. This app really does a lot of things for you. Siri will be released as a beta app as they add more languages to the app.

 

 

 

Other Specs:

Wireless – Being able to switch between two antennas between transmit and receive.

2x Faster Downloads – I would guess that would explain itself.

 

(Images stolen…I mean borrowed from Engadget.)

Apple iPhone Press Event [Liveblog]

It’s almost showtime! The much anticipated Apple press event is happening tomorrow and has the Internet buzzing with excitement and speculation. Will the iPhone 5 be announced or will it be the iPhone 4S? Maybe both? It’s only guesses until the clock strikes 1PM EST tomorrow and the show will begin. Make sure you stayed tuned here to get the play by play live coverage.

The press event starts at 1PM EST (6PM GMT, 12PM CST, 11AM MST, 10AM PST)

Storage and Drive issues in Windows 8

 

We are all proud of the progress made so far with Windows 8 by Microsoft in the storage services. There has been tremendous improvement with packet throughput and support for USB 3.0, also the visibility efforts are greatly appreciated on the Copy dialog.

But there are still issues that need to be addressed by Microsoft before releasing Windows 8 to the General public. I will try to summarize my points in this blog, but if any of you have any input please let me know via my Twitter account: @McAkins

 

Issue 1 – SSD Disk usage:
imageSSD technology is still at its infant stage, these drives are expensive at the moment so we need to use them as efficiently as possible. So what has Windows 8 got in house to use these devices efficiently? Hopefully BuildWindows blog will inform in time what they’ve done specifically to improve on SDD drives. To my knowledge these are the points I think should be taken into consideration:

1.    SSD Lifetime: We know these disks have long but limited write cycles. The less we write to these disks, the longer they’ll live. So why is windows still using these drives for %Temp% files where a lot of write events takes place? Why not give users a chance to move all %Temp% environment variable to another disk if its available by default? I know you can move it manually in the Computer Advanced properties. Not all users know this, and its inconvenient.
2.    Price per Gigabyte is high: Most tablets and ultrabooks come these days with standard 64Gb SSDs. Awesome to run windows, but with Windows eating already a third of this space there is little over for users for storage. Why is still there no way to install Windows componentized or as lean as possible. Why is my C:\Windows folders still 13GB approx. on an SSD drive! The WinSxS folder is taking too  much space!

Issue 2 – Semi-fixed SD Card Storage:
imageGiven the expensive nature of SSD storage at the moment, and the need to write as little as possible to these drives, why is Windows still refusing to support SD-Cards/Micro-Cards as semi-fixed? Some of you have run into the same situation like me, trying to designate the SD card as the storage for certain services, but the services refuse to accept SD card as possible storage location because it is not a fixed drive. Good example is the Library feature of Windows 7 and Windows 8. You cannot add a folder located on an SD card to the library as library location. But lo and behold, if you’ve got a USB external drive, the services will accept these external drives as possible Library locations. Hello @BuildWindows, external USB HDDs are also removable disks, so why discriminate against my 32Gb SD card? It doesn’t make sense.

Here am I trying to limit my write cycles to my SSD drive. It won’t let me add folders on my SD card to the library, and it won’t sync a folder on the SD card with Windows Live’s Live Mesh. Microsoft, please be notified, my SD card sits permanently in the slot. Yes, I can remove it, but I don’t. I’ll rather you give me an option to designate the Card as semi-fixed so I can us it like harddisk! If you can support USB HDDs as semi-fixed, why not my SD card that I never take out?

 

Issue 3 – Windows Live Services storage:
Yes, I have mentioned in 2 above some of my frustration with Live Mesh, I want to dive in further here. Normally I don’t mind on my desktop or laptop that Windows Live local storage is invisible to me. I know that all the services are using local storage to sync mail, calendar etc. If you use Windows Live a lot like me, you are having Gigabytes of data saved locally and synced with the net in your ..\AppData subfolders. Again, this is saved by default on your C: drive.
Funny thing is Windows allows you to move all your major folders like Documents, Music, Videos etc to another location but it will not allow you to move your “AppData” to another location. For an SSD storage, this is exactly the folder that should be moved to a non-expensive storage location like the SD card. There is a lot of write cycles going on in this location. If your SSD dies, its because of the amount writes taking place in AppData. I know I could move my Internet Explorer’s temp location, but I’ll rather move the whole AppData folder.

So why can’t we move AppData Microsoft? And why is Windows Live services storage location not movable on a tablet device that is short on storage? And why can’t they be moved to an SD-Card?

These are the things I feel Microsoft needs to address before going live with Windows 8. If we are “re-imagining” Windows like Steve said, lets go all the way and address the issues modern users are facing with modern devices. Use SSD drives judiciously, and support SD cards Semi-fixed option. If I designate an SD card as semi-fixed and remove it, then the problem is mine that services using it will not work anymore. As long as the services can recover after I re-insert the card, this is OK with me.

I am curious to know what other Storage issues you guys are facing. Drop me a tweet. If you’ve got a good point, I will update this blog to include yours. So, thanks people for your attention, now spread the word so MS may listen.

Third-party Application Updates in Windows 8?

The blogosphere and the Internet in general is awash with request to Microsoft to unify application updates on its Windows Platform. Many have deride MS for taking a lax attitude to Application updates from its partners and application developers in general, and since the Security attacks on the Windows platform has become the number 1 focus of MS, many have asked it why not go the extra step and unify Application updates across its platform.

MS bolted down Windows Kernel and Windows Services and Microsoft Application in general. Since Vista, MS platform that was the playground of script-kiddies have become a daunting challenge that only wintered Hackers can dare to tackle. Which left the script-kiddies no other alternatives than to start attacking third-party apps on the windows platform. And which application is most available on any Windows machine? You guessed it right, Adobe apps. You are all aware of recent attacks on Windows through Adobe Flash and Adobe Reader. There has not been a unified way to make sure every user is updated like we’ve all come to rely on Windows Update to keep our machines up to date. Asking users to manually update by going to vendor’s site is putting responsibility on users, that doesn’t work well as we’ve seen through the ages.

So, something flashed in my face this evening while having a look in my Windows 8 tablet. There, sitting in the list of Microsoft Installed Updates is Adobe Reader update! What? A day or two ago, I saw Adobe flashing my Notification area to update which I did, now seeing this, it came via Windows Update!

Third-party Updates in Windows Update!

I couldn’t believe my eyes. Is this what I think it is? It is there right before me. What does this all mean? Actually it will not be a rocket science for Microsoft to implement Third Party update mechanism. MS is the king of Integration. They already have mechanism in house to distribute Third-party drivers. Third-party updates is a feature of .NET also. So this is something they could easily achieve. Why haven’t they done it before?

Now, Windows 8 is making a debut with Windows Marketplace (or whatever they’ll call it), since MS has informed us they are integrating existing Win32 apps in the marketplace, it will be natural that the updates to such apps will now become part of Windows Update. Third-party Critical updates most especially will benefit from this, and of course we the end users benefit the long run.

Well done Microsoft for going this extra step. Keep up the good work, and keep listening to your fans all around the world.

The Start Menu Wars: In defense of Windows 8 Start Menu


Welcome to Windows 8 Serenity

OK picture this, you got a call from a friend or family that they are fed-up with the slow performance of their PC. Its been acting up lately. Its thoroughly messed up! You made an appointment to take a look for them in the weekend. You went there, you start-up the darn thing, and the first thing that confronts you is the Start Menu, with never-ending lists of folders, stacked or in perpetual scroll mode. You just wanna puke. How do you tell these people they’ve turned their system into a dumping ground, now they have to live with it. Most of you reading this know what I am talking about. You’ve found yourselves time and again in the same situation as me. The start menu is a mess. You can’t find anything in it in 2 seconds. You just want to avoid it.

Yeah, life is a bitch. The computers then were supposed to make life easier, we’ve discovered, nothing is less than the truth. The weakest link in the chain is the carbon-entity behind the monitor. “Garbage in, is garbage out” is a universal law that has to be obeyed time and time again. So how do we fix this mess? What is a Start Menu actually?

A Start Menu is just a collection of shortcuts to your programs. Period. Does it matter how you access it? In Windows 8, the Star Menu has transformed from the static repository of shortcut folders to dynamic, informative place where you can interact with you programs without even having to open them.

Yes, it is true. Change bites real hard. We all resist change. It is the inertia built into our biological systems. Newton law of motion applies also to human nature. It is Deja-vu all over again. We had it transiting from DOS to Windows 3.1 to WinNT to Windows 95 to WinXP to Vista, now to Windows 8. We the geeks are always the first to try to restore the old shell, old menu etc. Look at the furore over the Ribbon, now that you’re getting touch devices, you’ll know why the Ribbon is a life-saver. Now some folks are hacking their win8 install to disable the new start menu and bring back old start menu. Why not stay with Win7? Why bother?

Which brings me back to the topic in Question. Where do I start my programs in Windows 8, the new Start Menu is a weird place. No it is not weird, you just need to get used to it. Before, the Start Menu opens in the same screen as pop-up, now it opens as a pop-out. It still contains you good-old icons, albeit in a peculiar way, in large blocks called Tiles, but shortcuts they are, and as usual, organizable they are.

Of all the zillion shortcuts folders you have in your current old style Start Menu, tell yourself honestly, how many of those do you really launch per day; per month. Your frequently used applications sit directly in your start menu root, the most used in the Taskbar since Windows7. The same will hold true in Windows 8. Installed apps will dump their icons in the new Start Menu, it is now left for you to you to decide if you want it there or not. Your Start Menu is now a complete reflection of yourself.

I have heard people complain it takes more effort now to start a program, so be it if that’s what it takes to use touch on our devices. Personally I don’t agree with that notion, it depends on where you put your shortcut. You can’t have your cake and eat it. Touch is the future whether you like it or not. It’s a paradigm shift. This is Microsoft implementation. Better get used to it or jump ship.


Search is the future

Which brings me to the conclusion: App Search. Remember my opening with zillions of shortcut folders in that messed up PC? Yes the one you’ll rather throw out of the window. How do you find anything on that one. I’ll bet you, you’ll find things faster in that Start Menu with search than looking for it yourself. Since Vista Start Menu search, I seldom see my installed apps folders. We are approaching a time of casual games and applications. Remember how many apps are in Apple’s App Store? Yes, we are getting something like that on Microsoft platform, it will drown out Apple’s store. Yes, all the millions of existing Win32 apps, and now zillion of casual free Metro games and apps, and a lot premium paid Metro apps, easily available in the Marketplace at the touch of you finger.

There is going to be an explosion of installed apps, especially Metro apps in Windows 8. The time you have an average of 30 apps on a machine is coming to an end. You can’t manage that anymore with shortcut folders. It doesn’t make sense. App Search makes sense in a case like this. Folders are for categorization. To organize. But psychology has taught that the ability to remember categories after 8 unique categories breaks down very quickly. How many of you have used SAP or any LOB Applications. You know its no use trying to remember in which menu hides what module. That is why all these apps have search functions in their Menu. To easily find what you are looking for, and to discover what you didn’t know exist. Discoverability it is called. Don’t even get me started on using folders to organize your mail in Outlook. If you’re like me, getting an average of 250 mails a day at work, I have given up trying to organize. Everything lives now in my Inbox, even wrote script to move items from my Sent Items to my Inbox so I can view by conversation. All archived per month. Windows Search is my saviour. I’ll bet in 5 year’s time we’ll all be wondering how we put up with the old Start Menu for so long. Time will tell.

In the meantime, enjoy your Windows 8 Developer Preview, the most stable pre-beta OS I have ever seen in my lifetime, and believe me, I have been around a long time in the tech industry. I know MS has got a winner in Windows 8 with Metro.