Sunday Rants: Microsoft Windows

January 30, 2011

Computers make our world go round these days. We use them in pretty much every aspect of our modern lives, so it’s quite important that they work. However a vast amount of them don’t, a vast amount of them run Microsoft Windows.

91% of them in fact run on one of Microsoft’s operating systems leaving a measly 9% shared by Mac, Linux and other smaller OS’s. But the problem is that Microsoft and Windows seem to have got a bit too big for their boots and their software doesn’t seem to do what it says on the tin.

Don’t get me wrong. The early days of Windows was great. In fact 95 through to 2000 were well built operating systems (well excusing ME). Sure there were a few random message such as ‘You have performed an illegal operation’ (since when did Microsoft decide on the law?!), but on the whole they worked.

XP brought some extra bugs and compatibility issues. It became harder to do what I wanted on these machines than on the earlier devices. But after a few Service Pack upgrades, XP became useable and wasn’t a bad operating system either. Not a patch on Mac OS X, but still a useable machine which is all you need.

And then everything changed. In 2007 Windows released Vista and destroyed the personal computer as we know it. I just do not know what they were thinking with Vista. Every single thing I thought I knew about how a Windows computer operated or was organised was changed. The system that worked by staying basic, was decorated in a vile looking ‘glass effect’ to try and make Windows compete on the ‘pretty’ stakes win Apple’s OS X. But it completely lost the userability.

I used to know how to add/remove programs, change the desktop, configure internet settings, use firewalls, transfer/view pictures and video. Not anymore. I have of course re-learned these processes using Vista’s new fangled way of doing things, but was there really a reason for changing everything other than to give a big ‘up-yours’ to the people who used their previous systems?

Then there’s the fact that since Vista, things that were always simple in the past don’t seem to work anymore. I am primarilly a Mac user, but as our family computer is running Windows Vista, I still use it frequently. However, software I have that ran perfectly on Windows XP, cannot even open in Vista. Microsoft have included a compatibility wizard to help with this, but thus far that has been totally crap in getting anything to run. It may just be me, but I thought backwards-compatibility was quite a big thing to include in an updated operating system.

Even Microsoft’s own programs work worse since Vista. Internet Explorer 8 is a total joke. Yesterday I was trying to load BBC iPlayer on IE8. After 5 minutes of waiting I opened Firefox (which was also loading no less that eight tabs on launch) and gave it the same request. Firefox was able to open iPlayer and start playing the content I wanted before IE even made it to the page. It’s the worst browser I’ve ever had the misfortune to use. And as for Windows Media player, I can’t remember the last time that actually opened without an error.

So Vista was bad and I think most people agree there. But what I can’t understand is how everyone things Windows 7 is any better. I’d heard great things about this OS and so when my sister got a new laptop using it, I couldn’t wait to see if Windows had started getting it right again.

They hadn’t.

Windows 7 is just as bad if not worse than Vista. Things still crash multiple times a day, IE is still just as bad, compatibility is worse than ever and to make things worse, Microsoft have added new annoyances such as the new taskbar which seems to always open the window I don’t want.

As far as I’m concerned, Windows has completely lost it since Vista (perhaps thats why no business I have ever worked for have upgraded past XP). Why people still buy Windows is beyond me. Well actually I suppose it’s obvious. Windows is still the cheap option compared to Mac and the often alien Linux. But surely this is proof that cheap isn’t always better. I would never trust my data on a Windows machine anymore, it’s just not worth the hassle.

Enjoy your Sunday 🙂


TV’s Future – 3D TV?

January 29, 2011

In the second of my articles looking at where telly is headed, I thought I’d tackle one of the biggest innovations around at the moment, 3D entertainment.

Well I say it’s a big modern innovation, of course 3D films have been around for a very long time, since the 1950’s. It’s come and gone several times throughout the last 60 years, each time looking like nothing more than a novelty. But the latest wave looks like it might be sticking around just a little bit longer.

Now we have the stereoscopic method using clear glassed (as opposed to the old magenta and blue lenses) we can see the visuals in the full colour they are supposed to be. And they can actually look pretty amazing. Avatar for example may not have the most original stories, but the 3D really brought the world of Pandora to life. I also felt more engaged in the world of Toy Story 3 thanks to the subtle 3D effect. It has been a very popular and impressive addition to cinema.

I love 3D, I think it can enhance viewing (as long as it’s not overused with objects flying into your face every few seconds) . But will it work on TV?

The cinema is a very different place to the front room of your house. In the cinema you are in a darkened room with a massive screen so your focus is entirely on this one point. At home you will most likely have lights on and a smaller screen. Maybe you will dim them for watching a gripping drama or film, but most of the time there will be too much light, likely to ruin the 3D effect.

There’s also the problem of where you are sitting. In the cinema, everyone faces forward at a fairly similar angle. But at home, I don’t think I have ever looked directly square on into a TV, doing so would be impractical due to the way our front room is laid out. So therefore you may not get the full effect of the 3D, rendering the technology a bot pointless.

But by far the biggest boundary to 3DTV right now is those pesky glasses. It just doesn’t feel natural to wear glasses to watch TV (unless you already do, but in that case you’d have to wear two pairs!). It’s not something I can see catching on and imagine if there is a group of over 10 people all watching the telly. They’d all need glasses and those things don’t come cheap.

Now there is of course developments being made in this field all the time and showcased at CES this year were a few TV’s which can achieve a 3D effect without the need for glasses. It’s this technology that we need to drive the idea of 3D television forward. As I understand, 3D without glasses is still in it’s infancy right now. It isn’t as good as what we have when wearing glasses and it is even more important to view it from the right angle. But give it time and this could be solved. The handheld console the Nintendo 3DS launches in March and I guess it’s at that point that we’ll start to get an idea as to whether this tech is ready for telly.

The other key factor needed to ensure 3D success is of course the programmes. Sky have been very heavily involved in driving this by broadcasting many premier league football matches in 3D to pubs as well as providing their own 3D TV channel at the end of last year. At the moment they are the only main provider of 3D content, but normally when Sky join a market, others are sure to follow. Certainly watching some of Sky’s sports in 3D does look pretty impressive.

3D TV has the potential to succeed, but it will be a tricky climb. There are many factors which could cause it to fail, but there is that little glimmer that it might be the way we view our favourite shows in a couple of decades time.

As for what I think, I love 3D, really enjoy the effect, but I wonder if it can ever be as powerful on the small screen as it is on the big screen, or whether it will just appear a cheap looking gimmick. I guess the March release of the 3DS will help us to see if this 3D wave really does have future the media believes it has.

Scrapping EMA is a good thing!

January 27, 2011

Now there’s been a lot of chat about the Education Maintenance Allowance recently. It turns out that our Government are scrapping it. Pretty much all of the press about this subject has been negative, saying it’s a bad thing, saying 70% of students will drop out if it’s scrapped.

But that’s rubbish! I’ve been against EMA ever since I first head about it because it is a total waste of money.

Now, I should point out that I never received EMA during my sixth form studies, but I know people who did. And every single person I knew who got EMA did NOT need it to continue their studies. After all, why would a student (normally still living at home) attending college need £30 per week to continue their studies. The argument is that it funded books, equipment, meals and transport. But I needed to buy no more that 5 books in the two years I was at my Sixth Form. I hardly needed £30 per week for that.

So what do students spend their money on? Well some still brought things to read, but they were more likely ‘Nuts’ than Shakespeare. Some brought equipment, but it was normally to smoke. Some brought transport, but not to and from education, it was more likely put towards petrol to drag their car wherever they wanted.

I was left to watch all this with little money to my name (as I wasn’t able to get a job until my second year of Sixth Form), wondering why the world had turned so unfair. Why were people the same age as me being funded to have fun? It made no sense.

I am a realist and I understand that some people from less well-off background do need a certain amount of funding during their sixth form/college courses. But it’s not like the government have left them with nothing. The Learners’ Support Fund is being increased to around £70m a year, aiming to help those who actually need it with their transport and studies. It may not be the £560m which was being wasted on EMA, but these are hard economic times and we need to be realistic.

As I have personally not seen a single penny of EMA spent for any educational good, I think this decision is correct. I may not agree with most things our Coalition Government have suggested, but this is the right one. The replacement may not be the complete answer, but it’s a heck of a lot better than the massive waste that was being made.

A quick note on the National Television Awards

January 27, 2011

Oh dear! For those of you who saw my preview for the NTA’s, you were no doubt aware that I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it. But my goodness, wasn’t it dreadful!

The ceremony itself was perhaps slightly better than last years disaster, it did after all feel a little bit like an awards ceremony. The set was also annoyingly quite impressive, if a bit OTT.

However, I don’t agree with Stacey Soloman, Matt Cradle and Louis Spence parading all over the place doing some kind of song or dance routine. Can’t we skip that out and keep with the awards? The people on to present awards was also a little questionable. The Chilean Miners rescue was without doubt a great good news story of 2010, but why on earth would you choose one of them to present the Best Drama award? Is there no strange level ITV won’t stoop to?

I also HATE the fact that this award ceremony seems not to credit anyone behind the scenes. As anyone who works in TV (and most people who don’t) know, producers and directors have just as much if not more to do with the creation of a show as the main cast. Yet ITV did not allow these people to even be shown when they came up for awards. In the case of ‘I’m A Celeb’s’ victory, two nobody’s called Stacey Soloman and Sean Ryder accepted the award. Where were the people who actually made the programme. I thought this was a celebration of all things TV.

Now, going back to my article yesterday, you’ve probably realised that I was also very unhappy with the winners. I cannot fathom how Benidorm won the best comedy show (even if it was a poor bunch), I have no idea why ‘Ant and Dec’ are still the nations favourite presenters and ‘Waterloo Road’ – best drama…. what?!

It seems (I suppose unsurprisingly) that the awards were voted for by a load of ITV indoctrinated fools. The whole show seemed very bias towards their shows and although not all awards were won by ITV, the kind of shows which did were well within their demographic (excepting the marvellous Inbetweeners)

Some people online have been saying that people like me should keep quiet about this sort of thing. The awards were voted for by the public and I should respect their opinion instead of thinking mine is best. But I just simply wont. Opinions are what make the world work and in my opinion last nights show was a disgrace.

Maybe I shouldn’t complain so much about this sort of thing, but I worry that if people like this rubbish, that’s how all TV will eventually go. God help us!

Who should win at tonight’s NTA’s

January 26, 2011

Hot on the heels of the Comedy Awards (which I thought ended up being quite lackluster actually), it’s time for the National Television Awards. I’m dubious about watching the actual ceremony after last years Cowell-fest , but I will tell you the shows and people I’d vote for in the 12 awards.

Here goes…

Talent Show

  • Britain’s Got Talent
  • Dancing On Ice
  • Strictly Come Dancing
  • The X Factor

Eurgh! I suppose this category sums up what a lot of TV has become, but I have to say I hate all of it! I’ve gone for Strictly for Bruce Forsythe. He’s amazingly the person I find most professional, entertaining and funny out of this sorry bunch of shows. As for the actual content, couldn’t care less… move on!

Comedy Show

  • Benidorm
  • Harry Hill’s TV Burp
  • Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow
  • Outnumbered

Tough one. I love comedy – but this isn’t the best choice. I don’t rate Benidorm and Michael McIntyre’s show is just a poor mans ‘Live At The Apollo’. That leaves us with TV Burp and Outnumbered, both of which had disappointing series in 2011. But I’ve decided to stick with Outnumbered as it’s a brilliant original show and as Series 3 was it’s final one, we won’t be getting any more! Sorry Harry.

Outstanding Serial Drama Performance

  • Katherine Kelly (Corrie)
  • Steve McFadden (EastEnders)
  • Lacey Turner (EastEnders)
  • Danny Miller (Emmerdale)

I hate soaps (or serial drama’s as they are dressed up to be for awards) and so I know none of these people. But whenever I happen to see an episode of Emmerdale, they always seem to be doing something ridiculous like blowing up a house, having a fire or even a plane crash. Therefore I suppose Danny Miller can have the award, well done… I think.

Outstanding Drama Performance

  • Philip Glenister
  • David Jason
  • Matt Smith
  • Benedict Cumberbatch

At last, some quality! I love all four of these actors and it’s been a very tough decision (not least because the current Doctor always seems to win this), but Matt Smith has been a revelation. Be honest, no-one gave him a chance against David Tennant, yet in my opinion, Smith has not only levelled, but surpassed Tennant’s portrayal of the Mad Man with a Box. He thoroughly deserves this one!

Topical Magazine Programme

  • BBC Breakfast
  • Loose Women
  • This Morning

Oh dear, you can tell this is an ITV awards ceremony can’t you. BBC Breakfast is the only one of these that I can stand and therefore it gets my vote. It’s not perfect though, far too much programme promotion in it. Hey, that reminds me, why isn’t Daybreak nominated for anything??!

Most Popular Drama

  • Doctor Who
  • Shameless
  • Sherlock
  • Waterloo Road

It was always going to be between two for me, Sherlock and Doctor Who. Sherlock has been a brilliantly written gem on BBC1, it’s only problem being it was too short. But this years Doctor Who has been the best since it came back. Every episode (excluding that crappy Dalek one) was brilliantly written and what an excellent finale. It wins every year, but this year it deserves to!

Most Popular Serial Drama

  • Coronation Street
  • EastEnders
  • Emmerdale
  • Hollyoaks

Crossroads!! See earlier, I don’t care… well done Emmerdale!

Most Popular Entertainment Programme

  • Big Brother
  • I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here
  • Mock The Week
  • QI

I’d like to see it win one last time. Whatever you say about Big Brother and what it became, it had a massive influence on our screens and always will into the future. A lot of it was absolute rubbish, but it was worth watching for those gems that were quite frankly hilarious. It was the only reality show I watched by the end and it will always be my favourite.

Digital Choice

  • Glee
  • Peter Andre: The Next Chapter
  • The Inbetweeners

Why is that Peter Andre rubbish even in this section, is digital TV really that bad? Where’s Being Human for example?? Anyway, this is elementary surely? The Inbetweeners is one of the best sitcoms around and stayed side splittingly funny (and cringeworthy) through to the end. Although I fear that glamourised musical will win this one…

Most Popular Entertainment Presenter

  • Ant and Dec
  • Davina McCall
  • Dermot O’Leary
  • Paul O’Grady

What an awful and extremely ITV bias lineup that is. Where’s Charlie Brooker?! I’ve gone for Davina, not for her talent so much, but because she’s the only one on the list who isn’t locked into an ITV only contract…

Most Popular Factual Programme

  • Celebrity Masterchef
  • Junior Apprentice
  • Top Gear
  • Who Do You Think You Are?

I think the word factual has been used very loosely here. In what way is Celeb Masterchef or Top Gear factual… I was expecting documentaries! Anyway, I will succumb to this thanks to constant indoctrination from Lord Sugar on Twitter. I vote for Junior Apprentice. Well it was quite funny!

Most Popular Newcomer

  • Paula Lane (Coronation Street)
  • Ricky Norwood (EastEnders)
  • Marc Silcock (Emmerdale)
  • Olga Fedori (Holby City)

Aaargh! Are there no newcomers on the whole of TV that didn’t come from a Soap??? I’m abstaining from this one for the sure ludicrous of it (that and the fact that I’ve watched none of those shows this year).

And that is the National Television Awards 2011. I remember quite enjoying this ceremony a few years ago, but it seems to me it’s been tainted with ITV’s ‘flashy lights at expense of content’ brush. Tonight we’ll be ‘treated’ to Dermot O’Leary presenting, Cowell in the front row and a performance from some painter called Matt Cardle. Oh and I’m sure Jedward will turn up somewhere.

I can’t contain my excitement….

Let me know who you’ve voted for/want to win/think will win, below!

Square Eyes #4 – They’re still Being Human!

January 24, 2011

BBC Three’s ‘Being Human’ has for me always been a show of varying success. When it’s at it’s best it can be some of the best drama on the box, but at other times it leaves me disappointed, being ‘just another vampire show’. So how did last night’s Season 3 premiere.

We were left on a massive cliffhanger at the end of the last series. Mitchell (a vampire) and George (a werewolf) had escaped their fate, but Annie (a ghost) was exorcised and dragged through the door into…. Purgatory it seems.

After moving to a new house on Barry Island (no Gavin and Stacey jokes please), Mitchell keeps seeing Annie on a TV set. She’s stuck in purgatory, which seems to be some sort of cage like environment. And hereon in lies the plot to episode 1, get Annie back.

Now I should point out that the things I love most about Being Human is it’s quirkyness and imagination. I loved the original tagline of ‘a Vampire, Werewolf and Ghost sharing a house in Bristol’. It had the spirit of a supernatural show, but with a funny slant. There was of course a serious story, but a lot of humour. I thought this humour was pretty much lost in series 2 which I found far too dark for the original tone of the programme.

And I do think humour retuned to this episode. Russell Tovey as George gave an amusing performance, particularly the scene in the bedroom and at the bedside of a dying patient (sounds quite grim, but was funny in the circumstances!)

I also love Toby Whithouse’s (series creator) clever visions 0f the afterlife and his re-invetion of Vampires (that don’t sparkle) for the 21st century.

I was therefore thrilled by Whithouse’s portrayal of purgatory, an endless corridor, filled with all the things you did wrong and right in your life. Mitchell finds himself here and having to go on something of a journey to remember his horrific past and realise the pain he’s caused others. I understand that this storyline was partially necessary to claim back Annie, but at the same, isn’t this what Mitchell has been doing for the past two years of the show…. a bit unoriginal!

But hey, the darkness subsided when Mitchell was reunited with Annie and was able to take her home to George and Nina. The ending was at best cheesey, but it was nice to feel that some happiness has returned to the show as it can at times feel all too depressing!

There was great, believable acting all round. I do think the cast of this show are great and a true credit to the reason this show succeeds!

But of course, I couldn’t possibly end this review without mentioning Robson Green. No it’s not an obsession of mine, he’s one of two new characters making their way into the show. Robson plays a man called McNair who it turns out is also a Warewolf. He has quite a nasty opening episode as he is thrust into a cage battle which he would easily win, like it or not, as he transforms to his wolf form. He later escapes this as his son (also a warewolf) saves him.

I’m not too keen on these new characters. I just worry it might have a bit of a ‘Heroes’ effect on the show (as in too many people with powers were brought into the show). But it’s early days and like him or not, Robson is a very established actor. Maybe he can bring yet another angle to this diverse show.

So in short, I enjoyed last nights Being Human. It wasn’t an amazing episode, but it was an captivating watch and it felt like the ‘true’ Being Human was back.

And next week…. Henrik’s back!

Sunday Rants: Those Phantom Roadworks

January 23, 2011

You know the ones I mean. You’re driving happily along the dual carriageway or motorway and then you come across the signs. The great big red circle with great big black figures in the middle saying ’50’ (and sometimes even less). You sigh as you realise you must slow for yet more roadworks on the road, but throughout the entire duration of the slower speed limit, do you see a single soul working on the road?

Of course you flipping don’t! So why have you been asked to reduce your speed to 50. Well lets see what the supporting yellow signs have to say. ‘Speed limit for safety reasons’. Oh, that makes sense I suppose. Or rather it would, if there was anything on this stretch of road that could cause significant danger…

A smaller sign on the road reads that there is work continuing here overnight. But this writing is so small it is dwarfed by it’s massive 50 MPH instruction signs. And you therefore get a problem. Some cars slow worried about the speed limit, whereas others simply continue at their full speed as there is clearly no real danger. And by doing this we have a much more dangerous situation that we ever had without the ‘phantom roadworks’. Obviously when you see a speed limit sign you are supposed to slow down, but we all know that that’s not what happens and so this is a very real safety risk.

Now I’m a realist and I understand that roadworks need to be carried out (after all it would be great to remove some of the countless potholes on my way to work), but I just can’t justify these phantom roadworks. We are slowing down for CONES! If the work only needs to be done overnight, then only out the speed limit signs up overnight. Heck, it doesn’t take long to turn them around!

For the last three months I have had phantom roadworks on my way to work and back, changing their location every few weeks. I am yet to discover exactly what it being done there, I have never seen anyone working there yet I have seen many cars suddenly slow there (or not) which can lead to accidents, especially in the frosty weather.

This is something that needs to be sorted and fast. Phantom Roadworks are more than an annoyance, their a very real safety problem.

Enjoy your Sunday 🙂