Dissecting the Microsoft Graffiti Surface Ads


Microsoft started its ads carpet-bombing yesterday by releasing a slew of covert graffiti Ads for its Surface devices. One of the Ads is shown above (borrowed from The Verge), and immediately I saw it a few things jumps to mind, and I have searched the Net and discovered almost everybody missed the subtle messages hidden in this picture above.

First let me start on the background. Why did Microsoft choose an old and dilapidated building to paint this Graffiti, they could have chosen a bridge or a nicer background, right? The house is standing next to a White-washed building. All this denotes the Old Windows Infrastructure, old and beaten of course. This Old building is Surfacing something new (pun intended). The white-washed building is the walled garden called Apple platform competing with this old platform.

Now, see those four lamps above the Graffiti? Five of them are burning (One is behind the board) and one is not burning. That denotes the release cycles of Windows 8, the fifth lamp is not burning because Windows/Surface is almost done. All the lamps burning will signify in this case that Windows and Surface fully ready.

Now comes my favorite part, the Stop signpost and the bikes. Anyone remembers what Steve Jobs called Windows when comparing it with the Mac? He called Windows a Truck, that trucks are dependable utility vehicles to get the job done, and Macs are Sports cars that you love to ride in the weekends or when you are feeling sexy, etc etc. Now, read what is on the signpost: “Truck Restriction” it says! Is this a coincidence? I think not.

The sign is saying Truck restriction here, this is a play-ground for the young and hip, denoted by those bikes. Look at that shiny Vespa posing for you right there like a model on a sidewalk. All these denotes hip youngsters. This Ad is telling you, “Windows is truck-no-more“, it is the playground of hipsters. That is what we are getting with Windows 8 and Surface. Sorry old people, Elvis has left the building! Microsoft cannot build its future on old dilapidated OS, it needs the new generation on-board, that is the future. You either take it or leave it. That is the strong message Microsoft has been sending out with Windows 8, the bold move to remove anything recognizable in Windows is a telling sign. You either come on-board and embrace the future, or be left behind in the dust of history.


I love this new bold Microsoft. The time of mediocrity is past, the time of a new future is here. Welcome new Microsoft, hello Sexy!

Image Credit: The Verge

Changing Windows System Folders

For some of you out there, installing applications on your C: drive may not be a wise choice. I can cite a few examples:

  1. You are short of Disk Space on your C: drive
  2. You have an SSD Drive and a normal magnetic HDD as secondary drive. And like me, knowing that SSDs have a limited Write Cycles compared to magnetic HDDs, you want to point your install folder away from your SSD.
  3. You are running in a VHD and for speed you want to point your sessions and users folders to a physical location.

In all these scenarios, it is wise to change your User Folders and System Folders to another location. To set these folders you need to open the Registry and update your keys. Be warned, messing up in the registry is only for people who are versed with computers, if you are not sure, stay away from the registry.

To Set System Folders:

InstallFolders - 2012-03-17_105316
Note: Be sure to set Program folders to different locations for x86 and x64 bits if you are running a 64bit OS.

To Set your User Folders:


As you can see I have set my User Folders to somewhere else.

You need to reboot to load these new settings after you’re done.

– McAkins

How Low Can You Go with Windows8?

Just out of curiosity, I wanted to know the minimum spec for Windows 8, so I tried to install it on the first-gen Linux Asus EEE PC, you know, the one that started the Netbook craze. The thing has a 4Gb first generation SSD drive. Its just gathering dust in our personal Gadget Museum. Well, now I know; to Install Windows 8, you need at least 6.4Gb of disk space!


Wonder if you can get vLite to reduce it further? Will get back with details, but now you know too!.

Selling Windows Phone (…and Windows 8)


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?


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.

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.

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.

Me and Windows8: The Update

As those of you following me know that I have published an article lamenting apparent lack of support of Portrait mode in Windows8, now that I have actually taken a look into the world of widescreen tablets, I must confess I have to rescind my earlier complaints. Please bear with me and read through.

I am a tablet PC buff. I have been using tablets since 2004, and with that I meant the traditional tablet PCs of the MS platform making, not the glorify toys of these days. I principally came from the 4:3 inch world, you know, the same dimension that your favorite toy iPad has. My tablet PC of choice was the HP’s TC1100, I not only have one, not two, but three of the device. One for me, one for my wife and kids, and one as backup in case of repairs. They don’t make them anymore you know Smile.

So you can understand my frustration when MS demoed Windows 8, without a single moment showing the screen in portrait mode. Coupled with their emphasis on true wide-screen format as basis and design reference for Windows 8, you can understand my frustration that my favorite format of 4:3 screens will not be supported.

During the demo of Windows 8, Microsoft showed a tablet, the ASUS EP121. This is the most powerful tablet at the moment, having a CPU that most desktops can only dream of. I have been keeping an eye on this tablet for some time before MS demoed it, and now that MS have confirmed it will support Windows 8, I decided to make the jump. I can’t wait any longer. My trustworthy TC1100 tablet has been screaming for a replacement with a thinner, touch compatible, more mobile replacement. I believe I have found it with the EP121. What tipped me over is the inclusion of an active digitizer with a Wacom pen, built in like the TC1100. Anyone knows that Wacom pens cannot be compared to anything in the market today as far as pen-computing is concerned. So the choice is easily made.

So I ordered the EP121, got it delivered. Salivated to get it unboxed and boy, it was impressive. Then I turned it portrait mode and my heart sank! It was ugly in portrait mode. Any of you informed about this tablet knows that it is not a true wide-screen, it is not 16:9 but 16:10 dimension. I.e. 1200×800 which I thought should be easier to the eyes in portrait mode compared to Microsoft’s default reference of 1350×768 true widescreen.

I was shocked to discover that portrait mode for widescreen of any size is weirdly; and that is putting it mildly. If this EP121 is so unsightly in portrait mode, then the true widescreen tablets will be ridiculous. Tablet are made to be 4:3 dimension I concluded. HP got it right in TC1100, and Apple of course copied the design in their iPad which is also 4:3. They are made for reading in portrait mode. Reading in portrait mode of any widescreen seems out of place. I quickly returned to reading in landscape mode on my new EP121 in the Kindle app that came with it. Compare the two in this picture:

Widescreen is ugly in Portrait mode
Widescreen too portrait!

So, yes I griped with portrait mode in Windows 8, but that was before I discovered Widescreen and portrait modes don’t go together. The question that remained, now that we’ve clarified that portrait mode and widescreens a no-go area is, will Windows 8 support portrait mode with 4:3 screens? I know MS mentioned they’ll support 4:3 screens, but will they support portrait mode in it? So, my curiosity still remain. What is MS take on portrait mode? They still need to answer to the public on that matter. I hope those of you at Build this year will ask this question if MS is again mum on portrait mode in Build sessions. I will specifically request Paul Thurrot to dig into this for those of us that can’t attend build this year because we don’t live in US.

My Gripe with Windows8 so far

OK guys, We all welcome Microsoft innovation on the new Windows8 platform, we all think its going to be a success and give the competition a run for their money. However, I have two points to gripe with, things that are getting me worried about what MS has shown so far about Windows8:

1. Portrait Mode:
I guess this is still too early to bitch, but I have a nasty feeling Windows8 is being designed Landscape-centric. This will be a big put-off on Tablets which is made for data consumption. I.e. browsing and reading. Like Arguino said in the Computex video, the browser is most used App; 60% of computing time is done in the browser, and browsers are made for reading like a paper, i.e. portrait mode! I hope they come clean quickly on Portrait mode. I don’t care how they handled tiles in portrait, maybe reflow them or something, but please give a great portrait experience.

2. 16:10 Docking:
I hate the fact that Windows8 SNAP will not support 16:10 screens. What is wrong with a 1200×800 resolution? It is bridge between 16:9 and 4:3 screens, and perfect for portrait computing! Anyone ever held a 16:9 screen in portrait mode? It feels out of place, it doesn’t obey Fibonacci numbers, the shape of nature. Its like you are holding a slab instead of holding a slate. And they are horrible for pen-computing. I’ll prefer 16:10 screen anytime over 16:9 because I have more portrait screen estate. Your printing paper format is in 16:10(Fibonacci compliant, very natural). So why Microsoft? What is so bad about docking apps on the EP121 slate? Give us a break here will ya? We all agree that 4:3 screen have no place for docking but, please reconsider docking for 1200×800.

What about Larger Monitors?
And while we are still at it, what happens if I have a ginormous monitor, even a 4:3 at that? I consider it a waste of screen estate if I can only dock vertically on a larger screen. Anything above 20 inch should dock both vertically and horizontally! Why can’t I have some kind of a ticker app running horizontally at the bottom of my screen and have my main window in the middle. What if I have a 30 inch screen? Please let Windows8 adapt for more docking possibilities.

[Update: 2012-06-15] For those of you reading this piece after such a long time of its original publication, I have confirmed Windows 8 supports Portrait mode, and like someone commented here below, SNAP is supported on any screen with Horizontal resolution greater than or equal to 1376. Also I have concluded that Windows 8 is primarily built for Horizontal mode. No doubt we will see 4:3 portrait Win8 tablets, but they are all primarily 16:9 designed. I have in meantime gotten used to using Windows 8 in its horizontal mode. It took getting used to, but now I enjoy the horizontal panning on the OS.

For Fibonacci natural shapes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F…