Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Windows 8 Frustrations

I picked up a new computer this weekend and it came with Windows 8 pre-installed. I had been dreading this. My workplace doesn't yet support Windows 8, so I hadn't had any time to investigate it before it arrived in my home office. I had no idea what to expect, aside from the usual learning curve that accompanies any new operating system. I'm still learning the ropes, but, as of right now, there are a number of Windows 8 frustrations that are easily identifiable.

Problems With Windows 8

  • Windows 8 Start Screen. The new start screen, sometimes referred to as "Metro" (How very 90s!) , is, in theory, a great idea. I actually like having the Start Menu displayed in a more graphical interface. The problem is, the Windows 8 Start screen interface is designed for a tablet. So, in order to scroll through it, I have to roll my mouse-wheel up and down, which moves the screen side to side. It's counter-intuitive and is really annoying.
  • Windows 8 Media Player No Longer Plays DVDs. I guess I can understand the reasoning behind this one. The codecs that a computer needs to play DVDs and Blu-rays cost money. For every copy of Windows 7 that was sold, Microsoft had to pay $2 to the patent holder of the playback technologies as well as an unspecified amount to the holder of the Dolby Digital license. So, it's a money-saving decision. Still, it's annoying. Yet, it's easily fixed. You can either purchase the Windows Media Center upgrade or you can download a free program like VLC.
  • CMD.exe Is Missing In Windows 8. No longer do you have the option to go to Start->;Run in order to open up a command line interface. There's a quick way around that, though. You can either type cmd.exe in the address bar of any folder or you can hit Windows-R, or you can move your mouse pointer to the lower-left corner of the Desktop screen, right-click and then select "Run" in the Quick Access menu. 
  • Windows 8 Wants You To Sign In Via A Microsoft.Com Account. Again, this is indicative of the tablet-style interface that Microsoft is pushing. You can still sign in via a locally-created account on your computer, but Windows 8 doesn't make it immediately obvious that you can do so. 
  • The Shut Down Button Is Three Clicks Away. Supposedly, shutting down your PC only to restart it later is like wearing white after Labor Day. Studies have shown that just leaving your PC on rather than constantly shutting it down and powering it back on saves energy in the long run. So, I guess Microsoft thinks that you won't need to shut down your computer much, so they buried the Shut Down function in Windows 8. In order to shut down your computer, you have to gesture your mouse over to the far right of your screen, which will pull up your Charms menu. Click "Settings". Click "Power". Select "Shutdown". Screw that! Here's a way to add a "Shutdown" shortcut to your Windows 8 desktop:
    • Go to your desktop
    • Right-click anywhere on the desktop
    • Select New -> Shortcut
    • Type shutdown /s /t 0 where it says "Type the location of the item"
    • Click "Next"
    • Enter a name for the shortcut and click Finish. The shortcut will appear on your desktop
    • Once that is done, you can right-click the shortcut and Pin your Shutdown shortcut to the Windows 8 Start menu or the Task Bar
  • The Bing App Opens Results In Another App. Not that I use Bing much anyway, because, well, BING SUCKS! But, if you're compelled to use the Bing App to search in Windows 8, once you click a result, you will be transferred to IE 10. But, when you hit the "Back" button in IE 10, you won't be able to go back to your search results because they are still in the Bing App. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

When Do You Replace Your Computer?

As portable devices have been gaining more and more computing power, the need for a desktop machine or a high-end laptop has been diminishing. Personally, I'm still a fan of the desktop and I like having a centralized location I can go to in order to do work, play games or surf the web. The question arises then: when should you replace a computer? The realistic answer to that is "when you can afford to". But, in a perfect world, where money is less of a concern, you should look at replacing your desktop every four years.

My HP Pavilion was 5 years old. It took quite a beating over those five years and served as a favorite sleeping perch for my cat. I knew things were starting to go wrong when I put a CD into its drive and it spun so fast that the disc shattered into pieces. This was a few weeks after I noticed the strange noises emitting from the tower whenever I  powered it on. My HP Pavilion essentially acted and sounded like an old man trying to get up off of the couch. It was slow, noisy and unreliable. When those conditions arise, you know it's time to replace your computer.

What Are The Warning Signs That A Computer Needs To Be Replaced

Keep in mind that there are few components in a computer that can't be replaced individually. I could have easily replaced my computer's hard drive, DVD drive and motherboard. Just because one component is failing doesn't mean that you have to replace the entire computer. So, here are a few good rules to think of when deciding if you need to replace your computer.

  • It No Longer Does What You Want. There comes a time in a computer's life when the latest software just won't run on it. If you find that you keep running into this issue when you try to installs software that you want, then it might be time to replace your computer. 
  • Multiple Hardware Issues. A lot of little things failing can add up to one big frustration. At that point, when the cost replace the individual components is more than the cost of a new computer, it's a sure sign that it's time to get a new computer

My Poor Old HP Pavilion. It Served Me Well. Time To Harvest The Hard Drive

Monday, February 18, 2013

Why Do People Wear Horse Head Masks

While hanging around on campus with some co-workers the other day, I happened upon someone wearing a horse head mask. I assume that this person was a male because of his build. Anyway, he sat down, read his book for a bit, made some horse sounds and then galloped on his way. I managed to take a few pictures.

My co-workers knew that there was some sort of Horse Head Mask Meme but were unsure of what it was supposed to represent or what its origins were. Some time before 2006, Tom Green made a video where he ran around wearing a horse head mask. The meme garnered further popularity when a man named Dobbin Horsome of Aberdeen, Scotland was photographed wearing the mask by a Google Street View car. Dobbin, nicknamed Horse Boy, became an instant viral sensation.

These days, the horse head mask is used less as a meme and more for a means of universally recognized anonymity. People often show up at protests and picket lines wearing them. This particular kid wasn't trying to be a jackass, he was heading towards a sexual assault rally. But, that's a horse of a different color.

Don't mind This Fellow. He's Just Horsing Around

Monday, February 11, 2013

The New Monopoly Token

Last month, Hasbro, makers of the iconic Monopoly board game, announced that they were looking to update the game by removing one token and adding a new playing piece. Hasbro invited Monopoly fans to vote on which of its Monopoly tokens would be dropped in favor of a new token "that's more representative of today's Monopoly players," Eric Nyman, senior vice president for Hasbro Gaming, said at the start of the campaign last month. The voting was conducted via Facebook and the results are now in: The iron is getting dropped in favor of a cat. Let me say that again for emphasis so that it can sink in properly: The new Monopoly token is a cat.

Monopoly Fans Outraged

Hardcore Monopoly fans quickly vented their anger via Facebook, Twitter and various blogs. And, in some ways, I can understand their frustration. First off, the iron is clearly the best Monopoly token as it has the maximum amount of surface area on its underside compared to the other tokens. Therefore, is basically impossible to knock over. And, as for looks, the iron is the best looking Monopoly token due to its elegant simplicity. And, as much as I like cats, part of the whole point of the Monopoly tokens is that they are a random assortment of unrelated items. You can't have both a Cat token and a Dog token. Besides, how in the world could the robot have lost? It had a mustache! And how could the iron have lost to the wheelbarrow? The Monopoly wheelbarrow never stands up straight!

A Money Making Opportunity? 

The thing about Monopoly and many other board games is that, once you buy the game, you're done. There's no way for Hasbro to get more money out of you. That is, unless they can get you to buy more Monopoly tokens. I imagine that Monopoly might offer new content packs that feature both old a new tokens. Want to get your hands on the rejected Monopoly tokens from this campaign? Feeling nostalgic for the iron and want to get your hands on one? Well, maybe you'll be able'll just have to pony up $10 or so. And perhaps Hasbro will even offer an expansion pack for Monopoly, complete with a new neighborhood, new tokens, new challenges and new Chance/Community Chest cards. This is all speculation on my part, of course.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Minecraft PE Graphic Glitches

I encountered an interesting set of graphics rendering glitches in Minecraft PE 0.6.1 last night. I had been playing for about two hours on my Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 with "Fancy Graphics" turned on.

This Is Supposed To Be A Yellow Flower

Looks Like The Fence Is On Fire Here

This Is A Sapling. I should have hit it with Bone Meal to see what would have happened.

This Actually Makes The Chest Look Kinda Pretty

The Other Side Of This Stone Cutter Looks Like A TNT Block

Monday, February 4, 2013

I Nearly Choked To Death

If you saw someone choking in a restaurant, would you know what to do? 

Over the weekend, the girlfriend and I were sitting down for a late breakfast at Cracker Barrel. I was particularly hungry and ended up ordering the Big Country Breakfast which comes with steak, eggs, hash brown casserole, biscuits and gravy, grits and cinnamon apples. It felt like I hadn't eaten in days, so I was really excited to take that first bite of my (rather too rare) steak. My excitement soon turned to fear as that very first bite of steak got lodged in my throat.

It never ceases to amaze me at how poorly designed the human body really is. What idiot would make an animal that ingests food via the same orifice which it uses to breathe? I briefly pondered my possible death being ruled a design flaw as I worked to free the steak from my airway. My attempts were unsuccessful and I looked at my girlfriend with abject terror as I realized that I simply did not know what to do. As I rose to my feet in order to try to summon help, my throat muscles expelled the steak and I spit it out onto the table. Air! Fresh air! My breathing had only been cut off for a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity.

After things had settled down and I had stopped contemplating what it would have been like to die on the floor of a Cracker Barrel, I considered how I had no clue what to do when you're choking. Had I needed to get help from someone, how many people in the packed restaurant would have known what to do? If I had seen someone choking, what should I have done? My first inclination was to do the Heimlich, but, apparently that's not the "go-to" resolution that it once was.

What To Do When Someone Is Choking


1. Confirm That They Are Choking

It sounds pretty dumb, but you should make sure that the person in question is indeed choking and not having a heart attack or an allergic reaction. Personally, I'd also check to see what they were eating in order to ensure that I wouldn't order that very same thing myself.

2. Back Blows

Using the heel of your hand, smack the victim on the back up to five times between the shoulder blades.

3. Abdominal Thusts

  • Standing behind the victim, wrap your arms around his/her waist.
  • Clench your first and place it just above the victims’s navel. 
  • Grab your fist with your other hand.
  • Quickly pull inward and upward.


4. Repetition

If choking continues, repeat the cycle. Five back blows, then five abdominal thrusts until the object is coughed up.