REVIEW: THE DELL VENUE PRO 8 TABLET

After the Kindle HDX washed out, I had a hole where a small, portable web-capable device should be. With hospitalization soon, I wanted to be able to do small footprint basic computing. My laptop is great, but too big and heavy for a hospital bed.

I’ve been using the Dell Venue Pro 8 every day for the past few weeks. I no longer find myself shouting at it — big improvement. The real problems were solved when Dell installed new drivers. The rest of the issues have gone away as I’ve gotten to know the hardware and operating system.

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I remain underwhelmed by Windows 8. It offers no advantage over Windows 7, at least to customers. My son pointed out it offers value to Microsoft by making everything proprietary. It blocks you from using applications not made specifically for Windows 8. Considering the whole advantage to Windows has always been its universality, this is a strange, self-destructive direction for Microsoft. They have a new CEO. Let’s see if he gets the company back on a sensible course. Otherwise, this will likely be my last Windows device. Sad, after such a long relationship.

Technically, you can run standard Windows applications on any Windows 8 machine, tablet or otherwise. Practically speaking, it’s not true. Some things run. Most don’t. The Venue 8 only lets you install by download, which eliminates a lot of my software by default. Most of the other applications I use on Windows 7 don’t run on 8 — or run so poorly it isn’t worth the effort. It’s ironic. Just as Apple is opening up their platform to all kinds of applications, Microsoft has gone the other way.

The tablet’s native software runs well. The email app is fine. IE runs smoothly. You better like IE because you won’t be using Firefox or Chrome — neither runs on the tablet. I’m not a big gamer, so the lack of games doesn’t bother me as much as it aggravates others, but still. Aside from Solitaire, there are no games. You can’t even get a download of Scrabble. That’s rough.

Photography apps? None worth the effort. I won’t be taking a lot of pictures using the onboard camera (which works pretty well), or uploading photographs to the tablet — even for viewing. There’s no USB port, no slot for an SD card other than one micro card which is an extension slot for memory.

If you want to play games, read books, watch movies, listen to music? The Kindle Fire HD (the old version, not the HDX), is just $139 from Amazon. It’s a far better choice for entertainment. Not as good for email and other Internet activities … but for entertainment, it’s a winner.

The Dell Venue Pro 8 is solidly built. It feels great in hand. It seamlessly connected to Netflix. Watching movies is easy. You can listen to music on Amazon’s Cloud Player, but it’s not straightforward. Microsoft really wants you to use its own software … but I find it confusing, complicated and lacking documentation or instructions, ultimately incomprehensible. It’s inexcusable to provide so little support.

The (free) copy of MS Office installed without a hitch. I don’t know if I’ll get out much use from it. That’s not what I bought the tablet for. I found a bunch of other useful small applications. Solitaire, a clock, calendar, alarm and stopwatch and installed them without incident. I uninstalled a few things too. Installation and uninstallation is really easy. And fast. If only there were more apps!

The speakers are great, though not terribly loud. Which is fine. I can use earphones if I need it louder. For such a little tablet, the graphics are fantastic. I watched “Jack Reacher” on Netflix and enjoyed it. My website looks great.

The cameras (1 front, 1 back) work but the lack of editing software limits their usefulness. It would be okay for Skyping — probably — but I don’t Skype, so it’s moot. The video camera seems fine as does the voice recorder, though I have little use for either.

It’s got a lot of bells and whistles, some of which I might use yet it’s missing important basic tools. Not being able to edit its own photos is bad, but not being able to upload my photos at all? Worse. All for the want of a USB port.

It’s good for reading (Kindle and maybe other reader apps), watching a movie on Netflix. I don’t know about other services but you can’t watch Amazon Prime. Or I can’t figure out how.

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It’s good for quick emails. I’m disinclined to write much on a virtual keyboard. I can  do small amounts of web editing but wouldn’t want to do more. But not because the tablet won’t. It loads this website fast and switches to editing mode with no problem.

The Venue Pro 8 is too small for web editing. It’s too small for a lot of things. My son has a 10″ device and he can do a lot more. The “OK” boxes and other targets on-screen are tiny. Even using a stylus, I miss as often as I hit. Fine editing is out of the question. That is not the fault of the tablet. I chose this size. I knew it would have limitations. I was right.

There are no after market accessories — yet. Well,  there’s one, but it doesn’t work. I bought a secondary market keyboard — blue tooth — and returned it. It wasn’t broken, but you had to enter a generated key code. You couldn’t see the code because the virtual keyboard popped up and blocked it. By the time you got the keyboard out of the way, the code was gone. The codes are good for only 30 seconds. I don’t understand why they designed it like that. Just provide a printed code. Why make me jump through hoops to sync a keyboard?

Dell sells a keyboard that apparently works, but it’s $99. Too expensive. I’ll do without. I don’t know how well any blue tooth accessory will install. If it includes a “time out” code, it won’t. It’s a tactical rather than technical problem, but it stopped me.

If anyone wants to point out how I could use my iPhone, may I remind you I find an 8″ tablet too small. Do you think the iPhone would be better? Think before commenting.

Summary

What I like:

  • Great graphics
  • Excellent sound
  • Good camera and video (but no editing tools)
  • Free Microsoft Office, email and other workaday stuff
  • Fine build
  • No problem loading websites
  • Fast boot time; almost instant
  • Long battery life and short recharging cycle
  • Comes with a charger.

What I don’t like:

  • No USB port
  • No SD card slot
  • The cord is too short. Really, would it have broken the bank to add a foot and make it reach my desk from the electrical outlet? Serious inconvenience
  • No documentation. The PDF is just generated data. Useless
  • Windows 8.1 sucks
  • The graphical Interface feels like a bunch of pieces stuck together without a cohesive concept.

Related articles:

DELL VENUE PRO 8 TABLET – UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL | Serendipity

DELL VENUE PRO 8 TABLET – UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

Not long ago, I chronicled my adventure with Dell Customer Disservice and Dell Technical nonSupport. A few days later, I wrote ASK A SIMPLE QUESTION, GET A SIMPLE — WRONG — ANSWER. The following day, my Dell Venue Pro 8 tablet arrived. Such a little package. Well, what did I expect? It’s just a wee bit bigger than a Kindle.

dell-venue-8-pro

Why Do I Always Have Be the Fixer?

Yesterday was computer fixing day. My son used to be a professional computer repair guy but has apparently forgotten everything he ever knew. He handed me his laptop. Seven hours later, it was running pretty well, though it could use a full reload of the OS which I’m not going to do. Still, I think it’s at least a working computer.

With all the jokes they make about Old People and computers, how come I’m the ONLY one in this 3-generation household who understands how computers work? How come, huh? I wanted to beat the kid (all 6’4″ 240 lbs of nearly bald 44-year-old kid) to death with that 15″ laptop. I’m definitely getting old and cranky.

Back to the Review (Already In Progress)

The Dell Venue Pro 8 is well-built. It has a lovely, solid, silky feel. It easily connected to the Kindle application and Netflix. Without a hiccup. Chrome, on the other hand, would not work and I gave up. Some battles aren’t worth the effort. The (free) copy of MS Office installed without a hitch too. Eventually I found a variety of other useful applications, a reasonable version of Solitaire, a clock, calendar, alarm and stopwatch and installed them too. I uninstalled a few things I didn’t have any use for. Installation and uninstallation is really easy. And fast.

The tablet wasn’t working quite as it should. It dropped its Internet connection each time it went to sleep and it wasn’t sensitive enough to touch.

This meant – OMG!!!! – another call to Dell’s tech support. I didn’t hesitate. I have learned that thinking about it will make the inevitably horrible experience even worse. Moreover, I have no intention of keeping the tablet if it isn’t going to work properly.

The problems weren’t big ones, but they were annoying. Mostly I like the tablet. Good speakers, exceptional graphics. Watched “Jack Reacher” on Netflix. Not bad. The sound isn’t as loud as I might like, but the quality is excellent and it has an earphone jack. The cameras (1 front, 1 back) work pretty well, even in low light. I haven’t tried the video camera or the voice recorder yet. Overall, it’s got a lot of bells and whistles I might really use (be still my heart).

Tech Support Again (Oy)

I am not going to go into details. Suffice to say, I was on the phone with this doofus for 4-1/2 hours. When the conversation started I had 2 relatively minor issues. After he fixed things (reinstalling the drivers, etc.), the tablet was dead. Unresponsive. He said he wanted to try one more thing. It was getting late, past dinner time and I said, “No, I’ve had enough. Either you put me on with someone who actually knows what needs to be done and can speak English well enough for us to understand each other (this guy not only didn’t speak English, he didn’t understand it either) or I swear I will return this tablet to Dell, explain that YOU are the reason why and never, ever buy anything from Dell again in this lifetime.” Which, if I didn’t get my blood pressure under control, might not be very long.

He threw in the towel and passed me to a Supervisor. Who spoke and understood English. And knew how to get the tablet up and running.

The secret of getting a dead Windows 8 computer up and running is 3 successive cold reboots. Third time, it goes into “self-repair and diagnostic mode” — the new version of Safe Mode.  Which doesn’t require a password. So finally, I was able to adjust the setting after which it began to connect automatically to WiFi. Problem solved.

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Next, I insisted I make the table NOT password protected. Which is when I discovered Windows 8.1 is still — as all Windows have been — a hack over DOS. It was comforting in a weird way. There was the old DOS prompt in its little black window, like an old friend. It meant I was not really learning a new OS. I was just learning to work around the changed GUI. I felt better.

Eliminating Password Protection

For anyone who wants to get rid of password protection in Windows 8.1, here’s how to do it:

(1) Use Search to find the command prompt. Start typing “Command” and before you hit the second “m,” you’ll see command prompt as a clickable link. Click it.

(2) Type: control userpasswords2

(3) Up comes a little window, a little window you’ve seen on every version of Windows since 3.1.

(4) UNCHECK “require all users to have a password,” then enter your password as requested. Exit all the way out and reboot. That should do it. Sometimes you have to do it twice.

Win 8.1 has the identical sub-structure as every version of Windows. Control panel, menus, SysConfig, Uninstall. It’s all there, buried a level deeper under a new — pointless and unattractive — user interface. You can change the interface using “Personalize” and make it less ugly.

My over all opinion of Windows 8.1 remains unchanged. It is not an improvement over 7. If anything, it’s a step backward. It requires significant relearning without offering any noticeable advantage to users. After you get the hang of it, it’s not hard to work with, but it’s unnecessary and adds an unfamiliar layer to what ought to be simple.

Summary

What I like:

  • Great graphics
  • Excellent sound
  • Surprisingly good camera and video
  • Useful apps that work and most of them are free
  • Feels nice to the touch with a fine build quality
  • Good battery life.

What I don’t like:

  • The cord is much too short. Really, would it have broken the bank to add a foot and make it reach my desk from the electrical outlet? This is a serious inconvenience, not a quibble
  • Horrible documentation. I’ve seen the PDF and it isn’t much more informative than the leaflet. It’s not that Win 8 is difficult. The documentation is totally inadequate
  • I don’t like Windows 8.1. Now that I can use it, it’s a lot of flash and dash. It isn’t an improvement over Windows 7 — quite the opposite. Sorry dudes. I still don’t understand why you took a good OS (Win 7) and made it harder to use
  • The graphical Interface is neither tablet or user-friendly. It doesn’t feel integrated or smooth. More like a bunch of pieces stuck together without a cohesive concept.

FOR THE PROMPTLESS: BRAND – Charter (Name Brand) the Cloud

Promptless Branding

It started yesterday evening, but I didn’t get to really thinking about it until this morning. I got up a lot earlier than I needed to. My husband was trying to be quiet. But I’m a light sleeper and I heard him tiptoeing around the bedroom and realized I was hearing Heart and Soul in my head. Not a good sign.

I was humming it while pouring my coffee. It just kept looping until I wanted to scream at myself to shut up. I have an Energizer Bunny (brand name) brain that keeps going and going and going.

Philco Clock Radio CD

When My Brain is unhappy it wants me to hum. My mother hummed constantly, probably for the same reason I do. It’s calming. I do it when I’m worried, even when I’m angry. I don’t choose the song; it chooses itself. Apparently humming inane tunes calms the Brain while annoying me. Never mind. Anything to make Brain happy.

The problem? A series of events starting when, a few minutes after midnight, Charter Communications (brand name) went down. Charter (brand name) is a wretched organization. It controls our lives by controlling our connectivity including the telephone and TV. It has an unbreakable monopoly in our area, a position it uses to charge exorbitant prices while doing a genuinely inept job and providing horrible service.

Charter’s (brand name) signal has been erratic for at least a week, but now, it was gone. No Internet. No telephone. Barely television. I heaved a sigh. After expelling three small dogs and a collie from my lap I stood up, groaned to let the world know how much I suffer (I don’t believe in silent suffering). And went to reboot The Modem, hub of my universe.

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I rebooted. Which is to say I unplugged it, counted, plugged it back in and waited for the lights to come on. For the magic to happen. The lights flickered then faded. So I did it again, counting longer and a bit slower while unplugging and replugging the router too.

Same result. I looked around for something else to do. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything. I didn’t know if the problem was hardware or Charter (brand name) or some bizarre issue I hadn’t yet thought of. The router and modem are both Cisco (brand name) and not old. Until now, totally dependable.

When things go wrong with techno stuff, I have Dark Thoughts. I know too much but not enough. If the modem won’t reboot, is it dead? How long will it take to get a new one? Installed? Dark Thoughts indeed.

To prove I had not failed in my duty as 24/7 tech support for the household’s 12 computers (five people, 12 computers including three tablets but not counting iPods (brand name), iPhones (brand name) and other small WiFi-based devices such as the Roku (brand name). I turned off all the computers on this floor (seven) and then tried rebooting the modem again. Because amidst the many messages telling me to reboot the modem, I’d gotten one that said two computers were trying to use the same IP address and I should talk to the administrator (me). I figured if I rebooted all the computers, they’d do whatever it is they do and that would take care of the IP problem, if indeed there was one (there wasn’t).

Panic. Fear. Trembling. I starting humming loudly. Heart and Soul. Heart and Soul. I fell in love with you. Heart and Soul.

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I do not panic quickly or easily. There are two things on earth which do it to me. Finding a spider in my bed and losing my WiFi connection. Otherwise, I’m pretty level-headed. I have put out fires including putting out a friend in flames. I have dealt with a husband having a heart attack and a child having a seizure without panicking. But losing WiFi? Irrational, frantic, don’t-talk-to-me-I’m-a-crazy-person panic.

I figured I ought to call Charter (brand name), except how could I get their telephone number without the computer? Then I thought I might have it in the address book of my iPhone (brand name). Which made me wonder when I’d last charged the phone (last week?). Where is the phone? I couldn’t do what I usually do and call it from the house phone because we didn’t have a house phone. No cable. No modem. No signal.

I found the phone, remarkably enough right where it belonged. Hmm. Imagine that. I plugged it into life support (electricity) and called Charter (brand name). I hate calling Charter (brand name). I hate Charter’s (brand name) so-called customer service. I know everyone hates their cable company but that’s not comforting. The whole “misery loves company” thing eludes me. Miserable company doesn’t make me happier. It just reminds me I’m miserable.

I called Charter (brand name).

After I got through the robot wall of prompts (press 1 or 2 or 7 or 9 or STAR to do what?) and finally got a person by shouting “AGENT, AGENT, AGENT” into the handset until the robot said “Oh FINE, I’ll connect you with an agent.”

And the agent said “Oh, yes, uh huh. There’s an outage. A big one. Your whole area is out.”

She didn’t seem to find this alarming. She had no idea how long it will take to fix. I found that alarming. “Would you like us to call you with updates?”

I said my phone was out and all I had was a cell phone. She offered to call my cell phone. I said sure, why not because by then, everything would be fixed and who would care anyhow? She said “Have a nice evening and thank you for using Charter Communications (brand name).”

I was humming Heart and Soul very loudly and rocking.

I gave up and went to bed. I couldn’t read the book I wanted on my Kindle (brand name) because it’s somewhere in Amazon’s (brand name) cloud. I can’t get it delivered without WiFi. It got me thinking (again) about abandoning internal and external hard drives in favor of putting everything in The Mythical Cloud. How dangerous and stupid it is. BECAUSE THERE IS NO CLOUD.

There are just lots of huge servers all over the world storing your data. When we put our stuff and our faith in “the cloud,” we are actually handing our stuff over to corporate servers. You and me and everyone else will be at the mercy of whoever owns the servers. How honest are they or their employees? How safe is your data? Who manages the servers? And where are they? Pakistan? Russia? Kyrgyzstan? China? Anyone can run a server farm anywhere without any kind of license. You just need a climate controlled space and equipment.

After we’ve given up control of our files, photos, music, books and videos, we need a high-speed data line and we need it all the time. If you think you are dependent on the company which provides your connectivity now, after you are locked into The Cloud, that dependency rises to a whole new level. Too high for me.

Still feel like trusting everything to the Cloud? It’s a scam and we’re buying it. As soon as enough of us are in their clutches, the “free cloud storage” won’t be free. Worse, the big brand software companies — Adobe (brand name) Microsoft (brand name) and many more — are already refusing to sell their products outright. We will have to rent from them and it isn’t cheap. How does $49/month for Photoshop (brand name) sound to you? Sounds like a big piece of my fixed income to me.

We won’t own anything, not our files, software, nothing. In addition to the mega-bill we already pay for cable or other high-speed service, we’ll pay a monthly fee for each piece of software. Our cost of living will keep going up, but not our incomes.

Remember, you heard it here on Serendipity (brand name).

 

Daily Prompt: Earworm — Heart and Soul

Stuff comes together. Not necessarily in any logical way. Usually, things sort of glue themselves into a messy ball then have to be dealt with, avoiding all the stick’um. Yuk.

Energizer Bunny

Energizer Bunny (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I got up a lot earlier than I wanted to this morning. Heart and Soul was still rolling around my brain. It latches on to bits of music and replays them interminably until I’m ready to scream. I have the Energizer Bunny of brains,  and apparently, it likes music but has very poor taste. Actually, this means Brain is not happy about something. The music is supposed to have a calming effect, but just irritates me.

What’s was the real problem? Oh, right.

A few minutes after midnight last night, Charter Communications, a remarkably poorly run organization which controls our lives — connectivity, telephone and television — in an unbreakable monopolistic grip and does a particularly inept job while charging exorbitant prices experienced an outage. That’s cable-speak for no nothing. No WiFi, telephone and very minimal TV.

Panic time.

I heaved a sigh, expelling three small dogs and a collie from my lap and with a groan, stood up. The groan is to let the world know how much I suffer. I don’t believe in silent suffering. Then I went to the office to reboot The Modem, hub of my universe.

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I rebooted (that is, I unplugged it, counted to some number or other, replugged it) and waited for the lights to come on. For the magic to happen. The lights flickered weakly, but nothing more. So I did it again, counting up more numbers (a bit slower) and also unplugging and replugging the router.

Same result. I started to look around for something else to do. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything more I could do. I didn’t know (yet) if the problem was hardware (dead modem?) or Charter or some bizarre other issue I hadn’t thought of. The router and modem are both Cisco and newish. Until now, totally dependable. Still no lights, or not the lights I wanted to see.

To prove to myself that I had not failed in my duty as 24/7 tech support for the household’s 12 computers (five people, 12 computers including three tablets but not counting iPods, iPhones and other small WiFi-based devices because I lost count of them years ago), I turned off all the computers on this floor (7) and then tried rebooting the modem because amidst the messages telling me to reboot the modem, I’d gotten one saying two computers were trying to use the same IP address and I should talk to the administrator (me) and frankly, I was flummoxed. I figured if I rebooted all the computers, they’d do whatever it is they do and that would take care of the IP problem, if indeed there was one (there wasn’t).

My World

My World

Panic. Fear. Trembling. I starting humming loudly. Heart and Soul. Heart and Soul. I fell in love with you. Heart and Soul.

Very few things cause me to panic. I have put out fires including one flaming friend. I have dealt with a husband having a heart attack and a child having a seizure — without panic. But losing my WiFi? Panic. Irrational, hysterical, don’t talk to me I’m a crazy person panic.

I thought I should call Charter, except their telephone number is on the computer, but then I wondered if I might have it in the address book of my iPhone, then contemplated when I’d last charged the iPhone (last week?). Where is the phone? I couldn’t do what I usually do and call the cell from the house phone because we didn’t have a house phone. No cable. No signal. Breathe, Marilyn, breathe.

I found the phone, oddly enough where it belonged. Imagine that. I plugged it into life support (aka electricity) and called Charter. I hate calling Charter. I hate Charter’s so-called customer service. Everyone I know seems to hate their cable company but that’s not especially comforting. The whole “misery loves company” thing eludes me. Miserable company doesn’t make me happier. It just reminds me I’m miserable.

I called Charter. After I got through the maze of prompts (press 1 or 2 or 7 or 9 or STAR to do what?) and got a person, she said oh, yeah, there’s an outage. A big one. No idea how long it will take to fix. Would you like us to call you with updates? I said my phone was out and all I had was a cell phone. She offered to call my cell phone. I said sure, why not because by then, everything would be fixed and I wouldn’t care anymore.

She said “Have a nice evening and thank you for using Charter Communications.”  I was humming Heart and Soul very loudly and had begun to rock back and forth, rhythmically, mindlessly.

I gave up, hung up and went to bed. I couldn’t read the book I wanted on my Kindle because it’s somewhere in Amazon’s cloud and I can’t get it delivered without WiFi.

It got me thinking, especially when I got up this morning and all the computers were very funky and needed multiple restarts because Microsoft sent down a ton of updates overnight and they seemed to have gotten stuck, that this whole concept of abandoning hard drives and personal storage and putting all your stuff up in The Cloud is moronic and dangerous because (are you ready?) — THERE IS NO CLOUD.

There are just lots of great big servers all over the place that store data, some better than others, who knows where, accessible to who knows who. Worse, all of us — you and me and everyone — is entirely at the mercy of whatever company provides our high-speed connectivity. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Pass the pipe, while you are at it.

Heart and soul, heart and soul. 

Heart and soul, I fell in love with you,
Heart and soul, the way a fool would do,
Madly…
Because you held me tight,
And stole a kiss in the night…

Heart and soul, I begged to be adored,
Lost control, and tumbled overboard,
Gladly…
That magic night we kissed,
There in the moon mist.

Oh! but your lips were thrilling, much too thrilling,
Never before were mine so strangely willing.

But now I see, what one embrace can do,
Look at me, it’s got me loving you,
Madly…
That little kiss you stole,
Held all my heart and soul.

Still feel like trusting your world to The Cloud? It’s the biggest scam ever! And we’re buying it. How many kinds of stupid are we? You know as soon as we all are safely in their clutches, the “free cloud storage” won’t be free. Adobe and Microsoft and other companies want to stop selling us our software and rent it to us, so we won’t own anything at all, not our own files, software, nothing. In addition to the mega-bill we pay for our high-speed services, we’ll also be paying separately for each piece of software we use. Our cost of living will keep going up, but not our incomes.

Remember, you heard it here on Serendipity.

Try Windows 8.1? I think not.

I’ve given this thought. I reviewed the video from Microsoft. I read the FAQ. I’ve read the articles in ZDNet and anything else that seems to have detailed information. I watched the video a second time. I read the email you sent me and looked at the poll results. I still can’t find any advantage for me in using — or even testing — Windows 8.1.

I  don’t have a machine appropriate for testing anyhow. If I install it on a little notebook, the inadequacy of the machine would so limit what I could test I’m not sure I would learn anything meaningful. I couldn’t use such a little machine to run any important applications. I don’t even know if Chrome will run on 8.1. The information in the FAQ was vague.

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Installing and testing would steal time from other projects to which I’m already committed. Others things take priority. If I could install it on one of my real working computers and use it for regular stuff I do … no, I don’t think so. I’ve heard rumors. Ugly rumors. I’m not willing to risk my computers … or waste my time. In the end, I’m merely curious about the system. And that isn’t enough motivation.

Windows 8 does not appear to be a work-oriented operating system. I’m a work-oriented user. The Dell XPS tablet I gave my son runs RT and that’s fine. RT was designed for a tablet and it does well in that environment.

But what’s in it for me? A bunch of apps I don’t need and won’t use? I have no interest in or need for basic photo editing apps. I don’t need simplified anything. I’m way past grade school versions of real tools I’ve been using for years.

Who does Windows 8.1 target? Not me. You? Anyone out there?

I understand what Microsoft is selling. The problem? I don’t want or need it. It’s not a business environment. My wish list for a new operating system is for more and better business tools. Easily organized, searchable databases for graphics, photos, and documents. Tools to help me quickly locate files on huge hard drives. A better media player for audio.

I want an improved email client and a versatile calendar application I can share on a network. And I don’t want to lease or even buy it. I want it to be part of the operating system. I want dependable, easy access to the Internet and in particular, this website. I don’t like Internet Explorer. I hate being prevented from going where I want because my browser is a wimp. I’m not 12 and I don’t need to be protected from myself.

Microsoft urgently needs folks like me to test drive this operating system. They need core users — like me — to work with it, accept it, and enthusiastically endorse it. To talk it up on the Internet. To vouch for it to friends and co-workers.

Instead, we are the people most reluctant to try it and unless something dramatically changes are least likely to adopt it in the forseeable future.

XPS 10 Tablet Details — Dell Windows 8 Tablet - Dell

Does Windows 8.1 work? Probably with a lot of bugs. Eventually Microsoft will fix it. They usually do, though not nearly fast enough. Two very basic questions remain unanswered:

  1. Why should I switch to a new operating system that’s anti-intuitive, ill-suited to my needs, and requires I relearn basic computer tasks?
  2. What advantages does Windows 8.1 offer that might motivate me to use it?

The answers are “no reason” and “none.”

Two words: Why bother?

I have read every article, watched all the videos, played with my son’s RT tablet and I cannot see anything tempting — for my purposes.

Maybe in the future Microsoft will do something to change my mind. But far as I can tell, they don’t know I exist. Or don’t care. One way or the other, they’ve chosen to ignore me and everyone like me, effectively disenfranchising the whole class of business users. That’s a crazy choice for a corporation which depends on business clients. Mind blowing and well … dumb.

Does this mean that there’s no merit in this operating system? I’m sure it has value to someone, but it doesn’t have any to me, at least none I can find. And I’ve really looked. I want to want it. I want to like it.

Sorry, Microsoft. Not happening for me.

 

To try Windows 8.1 or not … THAT is the question!

I got an email from Microsoft asking me if I would like to try the new Windows 8.1. It came out in Beta today. I am not, as you probably know if you’ve been following me for a while, thrilled about Windows 8. I like Windows 7 and can’t see a single reason why Microsoft can’t support both a standard interface operating system — Windows 7 — plus their new tablet operating system, Windows 8. They have supported more than one operating system before and are doing it now. Why not let us — their customers — have an operating system with which we are comfortable and familiar? Why force us to relearn everything when we don’t (a) want to, and/or (b) don’t need to.

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I work on my computer. I process photographs. I blog. I edit. I write. I design. I don’t see what I have to gain from Windows 8. It seems to be aimed at stuff in which I have no interest.

But here’s the dilemma. I’m not the kind of reviewer who writes about products she hasn’t used. I wouldn’t put Windows 8.1 on any of the three computers on which I depend, but I have an entirely functional, if emaciated 10-inch Dell notebook. It doesn’t have much horsepower. But, it has a full Windows 7 operating system and it works. There’s nothing wrong with it except it was never powerful enough to do anything except light surfing and email.

Maybe I could install Windows 8.1 and use it for testing? It has a 1.7 GH board, just 1 GB of RAM, but a 320 GB hard drive, so it is a real, if slow, computer. I don’t use it any more so it’s just sitting in a bag getting old. What do you think? Should I give it a trial and see if there’s anything in Windows 8.1 I might like?

Daily Prompt: Do Not Disturb — Through A Prism

Author John Scalzi in his blog Whatever posted what I think is a sane, intelligent answer to the uproar and outrage over “discovering” that the government is spying on us. The article is titled Hey Scalzi, Don’t You Have Anything Angry to Say About That PRISM Thing? He points out that we all know the government is spying on us. We certainly have to know that Google and Facebook are spying on us. Microsoft has been spying on us for years as has Apple and Amazon. Depending on the security level of your home network, your entire neighborhood could by spying on you. There’s nothing new about this and if you had for some weird reason assumed your government which has been ramping up surveillance activities for more than a decade is not spying on all of us, it leaves only one question: How naïve are you?

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Living where I live and doing what I do, I recognized long ago there is no “off the grid” for me. Unless we were to go live in a cave in the far northern reaches of somewhere or other — if you know Garry and I,  that’s about as unlikely a scenario as anyone could create — I’m no cave dweller. The idea of living anywhere without a high-speed Internet connection gives me the willies.

That the government is using its capabilities to keep an ear and an eye on our transmissions, just in case something sounds suspicious and/or terroristic not only doesn’t surprise me, it would surprise me if they weren’t doing it. Land’s End monitors my purchases and browsing to create advertisements likely to lure me to buy from them. So does L.L. Bean, Dell, Amazon and everyone else from whom I shop. Google probably knows what color underwear I put on this morning. They’ve got my email and every photograph I’ve ever posted. Moreover, like most of the rest of you, I have a blog. Everything I write, every picture I publish goes off into cyberspace where it lives forever. If I Google myself, I find that like a mosquito captured in amber, my previous identities are still floating around out there, unchanged by time.

Years ago I accepted reality. If I want to belong to the world, I’m will be exposed to and by it. If you think otherwise, you are in denial.

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All of those agreements we sign because if we don’t, we can’t use the software or that website, explicitly say we are granting permission to collect information, read our posts, access our applications and mine our data. I am mindful of what I post on the Internet. I write a lot, but I never post anything online that would embarrass me if someone announced it from the pulpit in church. If I have secrets, they stay secrets by the simple, primitive expedient of keeping my mouth shut.

Living out here in the middle of nowhere, we are less invaded by cameras and spy satellites than more heavily populated areas. It’s not because we aren’t as likely as anywhere else to be engaged in some kind of nefarious activity. It’s simply a matter of using available resources. There are only so many cameras and people to monitor them. We just aren’t worth the effort. Besides, if you want to know everything that is going on in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, drop by. Hang around the grocery store for a couple of hours. You’ll know everything and everybody in very short order.

The truth is that I don’t have much to hide. There’s stuff I did in my past that could potentially embarrass me, but it wouldn’t land me in jail. Probably my husband knows more interesting stuff than I do, but he was a reporter for a long time. And he isn’t talking. Not to me, not to anyone. He subscribes to the belief that a secret is something you don’t tell anybody. I’ve been trying to worm information out of him for more than 40 years. He just smiles and keeps watching whatever show is on TV. You have no idea how frustrating I find it, but comforting too. Because he’s not telling anyone my secrets either.

English: The logo of the blogging software Wor...

The government isn’t looking for me. I’m not buying guns, building bombs or selling drugs. I’m not traveling anywhere much, unless you count the occasional friend and doctor’s appointment. You could monitor my telephone traffic 24/7 and learn absolutely nothing because I don’t spend any time on the phone except when arguing with customer service reps, usually the cable company. And while it might be entertaining, it isn’t likely to be particularly exciting or enlightening. It certainly has nothing to do with anybody’s security, not even mine.

Spying? I’m more worried about Facebook and Google, WordPress and Amazon. They really do want to know what I’m doing so they can sell me stuff. They are very good at doing it, too. If the government were to question them, I guess the entire U.S. Government infrastructure would know my shoe size, what software I use to edit photographs and write, and that I still dress in essentially the same styles I was wearing 40 years ago. They’d know what dogs I’ve got, what food they eat. What food we eat, for that matter and probably what medications we take. I cannot imagine what use they might find this information. It doesn’t even interest me much.

This is the world we have chosen, designed and bought into. We have GPS units that broadcast our location to anyone who wants to find us. Virtually all of us have cell phones that are easily tapped and tracked. All of our bank transactions can be accessed by Lord knows how many people. If we are on Social Security and Medicare, the entire government is aware of our income, medical issues and who knows how much more. That would be assuming they are actually interested enough to look, which frankly, I doubt.

My office by window light

My government is not hunting for me. If they were, all they have to do is give me a call or drop by the house. They know where to find me. They know where to find you, too. That they can collect mountains of data is one thing. I very much doubt they have sufficient personnel to sift through more than an infinitesimal percentage of it. And if they are as efficient at mining data as they are at everything else, your guilty secrets are safer with the government than with your best friend.

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