Friday Tech Roundup: Windows 8.1, Vine’s Crash & Burn, Creative Cloud Fail

So Microsoft released a preview of Windows 8.1 on Wednesday, and of course my bleeding edge heart was quick to install it on two of my computers.  I made the mistake of and ignored the warning against installing it on my work computer. I learned the hard way that Enterprise Edition requires the CD to upgrade (as I think it takes you to Professional Edition), and I ended up having to reinstall all of my software, but at least it was a good opportunity to have a clean slate.  My regular edition of Windows 8 upgraded just fine, with everything in tact.

I don’t know how, but Microsoft managed to make the Start Screen worse. When they announced it was a button, I realized that they were not bringing the menu back, but it still seems like the interface was hacked together. at the last minute. When I set up my desktop, I like to put my taskbar on the top of the screen, yet there’s no way to configure the start menu to come in from anywhere but the bottom.  Now I have start buttons in two corners of the screen, basically eliminating the quick-switch on the upper left hand corner.  However, in re-sorting all of my programs, so that my desktop that was previously out of the left hand side, it’s all the way to the right.  It just seems pretty half-baked.  At least you can boot directly to the desktop now, and the people at StarDock have already released a beta version of Start8 that restores the functionality I’ve enjoyed.  Start8 was still the best $5 I’ve ever spent. I’m looking forward to playing with 8.1 some more to see what else they’ve (hopefully) improved.


I took my first Instagram video this evening, and the interface was awesome.  Pretty much the only feature that I’m missing from Vine is the ability to embed videos in other web pages (like my blog), but that should only be a matter of time.  You can tell Vine is in a panic mode, even before this story about Vine shares plummeting since InstaVine showed up last week.  They’re backed into a corner, and are swinging in every direction, pushing out 2 updates in the same week after not pushing out for three weeks they were released their Android version.  I’m not sure what Vine can do to save themselves at this point, except for making their app experience more compelling than Instagram.  Maybe they can be the first ones to introduce the novel concept of allowing people to mute videos on playback. I still believe that Vine’s demise is the result of a repressed desire to have a quality video app on Android.


Well that was quick, Adobe’s vaunted new Creative Cloud  has already been pirated. I thought one of the benefits of their rental-only model was that it would curb piracy, but it doesn’t appear to be the case.  I despise Creative Cloud, and it’s not because I support piracy or fear the future – but rather that it takes away Adobe’s incentive to improve their software, no longer compelling you to buy the next version.  Subscription services like Creative Cloud (and Office 365 similarly) are to software what “Green” is to company revenues: it’s about making money while trying to appear forward-thinking.  Software manufactures are enticed by the constant revenue streams these rental models provide. As they project revenue, they can count on your $50 per month regardless of whether they put out good releases that month or not.  They can talk all they want about how this enables them to continue to push out constant updates, but in reality it’ll allow them to grow complacent and justify replacing innovative updates with incremental bolt-tightening updates.  The worst part about is is that you can spend $600 over a year and should you decide to cancel your account, you have nothing to show for it.  At least when you bought the software, you have an (albeit outdated) version that you own.

Listening to your customers–what a concept!

Reacting To:  Microsoft reverses Xbox One online check and used games policies following backlash

Thank you, Microsoft, for actually listening to your customers.  After so many of them complained about your draconian online policy, they finally saw the light and realized they need to rethink their decision.  Microsoft could have easily kept their arrogance, telling their customers to just deal with the decision.  They didn’t make it in a vacuum – there were definitely new features and benefits this policy would introduce (like their family-sharing feature, full hard drive installations of the games), but the price was too much for many (including soldiers stationed in areas without pervasive internet).

Some companies – like Apple – can get away with the “just deal with it” attitude, but not Microsoft, not when Sony is looking to eat your lunch with a console going in a different direction.  I’m glad they were smart enough to realize this before it’s too late.

Now if only someone at the NFL would take a lesson in this and reconsider their stupid bag policy.  Come on NFL, Microsoft demonstrated that no company is beyond reproach, just come to your senses and follow suit.  There difference here, unfortunately is that the NFL doesn’t feel the pressure of competitors.  They can be as arrogant as they want. Just remember NFL, the MLB had the same level of arrogance about their sport, and gave up their superiority in the process.

I’m not buying an Xbox One

The Verge (which is now my favorite tech news site) has some excellent write-ups for all of the video came console news that happened yesterday between the Playstation 4 and the X-box One:

Xbox at E3 2013: everything you need to know

Sony PlayStation 4 at E3 2013: everything you need to know


I love my Xbox 360, so much so that I actually justified having two of them at the same time – largely due to the Media Center functionality. I’ve gone to great lengths to digitize our movie collection and offering them through the Media Center Extender My Movies plug-in.  I (begrudgingly) pay for an Xbox Live account to unlock features like Netflix, ESPN and my Xfinity content – content for which I feel I’m paying double for one thing.  I’m not a huge gamer, but over the 7 years I’ve owned an Xbox I’ve accumulated nearly 2 dozen games (1/3 of them being that year’s version of Madden). In all the hours the Xbox is on, I’m only playing games less than 25% of the time.

Given my love for streaming media through my Xbox, I was eagerly anticipating the reveal of the next-gen console. After digesting the reveal from a few weeks ago, combined with the data we learned in yesterday’s E3 announcements, I find myself more drawn to the PS4 rather than the Xbox One, boiling down to a few, key reasons:

          • Xbox One is going to require internet connectivity to authenticate the games.  I know we live in a connected world, but the Xbox is a device that I use for relaxation/recreation.  That doesn’t help when I want to take it up to the mountain cabin where 1x internet is spotty at best, or when I want to take my Xbox when I travel to blow off steam in the hotels. Internet is pervasive,  but unless the Xbox can navigate one of those quirky hotel WiFi interfaces, you’re hosed.  I realize Microsoft wants to appease the game manufactures (especially since they get a cut from game licensing), but this has been done at the expense of their customers.
          • XBox 360 games won’t be able to be played on the Xbox One.  Given that I have nearly 2 dozen games, I’m going to have to leave/put another box below the TV. In an era where I’m looking to consolidate devices, this is the last thing I want.
          • Xbox One wants to give you the full TV experience, but the best it can do is supplement your cable box, not replace it. So again it’s not helping me consolidate the number of boxes under my TV, and to make matters worse it’s going to use the crappy IR Blaster hack to navigate the cable box. The Blaster experience is barely tolerable on the Slingbox, but is absolutely unacceptable when I’m sitting in the same room.
          • They’re charging you $500!

          Over the years I’ve detested Playstation 3 for various reasons, but yesterday they made a very compelling case to reconsider them. They have a response for pretty much every problem I have with the Xbox for $100 cheaper. Even if the PS4 doesn’t deliver the streaming experience I want (and there’s no indication it doesn’t), I could get a Roku and PS4 and still save money. Given that Xbox is already saying “screw your old games” with the One, I might as well go out and get the cheaper next-gen box.

          So thanks for the memories, Microsoft. It’s been fun – but I think you’re learning the hard way that in the effort of being everything to everyone, you’re everything to no one.

          Mac v PC thoughts

          The Internets are abuzz with the latest round of shots in the ongoing Mac v PC battle, this time lobbed by Microsoft in an ad that began running Thursday night – a pretty effective one at that.

          It’s been funny watching the Mac faithful take arms and begin poking holes in the ad.  This blog on Fortune does an effective job of recapping the issue and that it’s worth the read.

          Some of the complaints according to Fortune:

          • “Lauren” is an actress, not the ordinary American shopper the ad claims
          • The Apple Store scene was faked; before-and-after photos suggest that she never actually went into the store to try the computers
          • The $699 HP Pavillion dv7 she chose over a $999 MacBook is a mess. “It is the epitome of what people dislike about PCs,” writes Computerworld‘s Seth Weintraub. “It runs Vista Home on a slow AMD mobile processor . its screen is abysmal . its networking is five years old . it is loaded with crapware and trial antivirus software that will have to be purchased or wiped off the machine.”

          I find the first two points pretty funny. First off, “Lauren” may be an actress, just like nearly everyone who appears in commercials is an actor/actress.  Does this make the situation any less realistic? “Lauren” may have actually never gone into the Apple store, but if she did she wouldn’t have found any 17″ laptops under the $1000 range (or perhaps even under the $2000 price range).

          As for the third point, if I was in the same situation I would have gone ahead with the Intel processor, which would have likely added $100 to the price, still well below $1000.  I can’t speak to the screen quality, but the networking part is laughable too – haven’t WiFi standards been stagnant for the last five years? You still don’t see N-class networking widely adopted.  As for the crapware and adware, that is an unfortunate reality of PC’s, but crapware can be removed (with tools like Decrapifier) and there are plenty of free antivirus utilities that can be installed.

          Don’t get me wrong, I like Macs and I think the OS is beautiful and stylish, but when people talk about buying a Mac, I tell them that buying a Mac for your next computer is essentially the same as saying your next car should be a BMW: They’re well-built, they give a good experience, but people who own them swear by the quality, while people who don’t own them cite the price and see them as a status symbol.

          It’ll be interesting to see how Apple responds. I believe Fortune nailed a point when Engadget’s Joshua Topolsky said “This is almost a red-state-blue-state ad.”

          Live Wave Beta Gripes

          I love the Windows Live Suite of software, especially when it comes to using Live Writer for blogging, and Live Photo Gallery for managing my photos.  I was using the first technical preview of Live Writer, so when it was announced that the Windows Live team released the “Wave 3” beta, I jumped on it and upgraded all of my machines.  However, I’m not regretting upgrading my home desktop and am especially unhappy with how the installation packages of these suites work.

          On my home machine I easily have 20,000 pictures and the previous version has been great at managing it.  Though after upgrading, the beta of Live Photo Gallery started to freak out on me and kept shutting down on Vista.  When I tried to remove the Gallery beta the installer kept failing, and I was forced to uninstall the entire suite.  I figured that Photo Gallery may not be ready for large photo collections and I can simply install the previous version and still use the betas of Live Writer and MovieMaker.  Unfortunately I’ve come to find out that you can’t upgrade or downgrade individual applications – it’s all or nothing. Furthermore, you can’t run both the previous and beta versions at the same time.  This has prevented in me using the Live Writer beta (which as been fantastic) on my home computer.

          I realize this is a personal gripe, and of course this is part of using beta software and sure enough will be fixed soon.  I just wanted to throw my issue out there to see if anyone else trying out Live Wave was experiencing this issue?  Has anyone else had trouble with Live Photo Gallery, especially if you have a large photo collection?