Sunday, October 02, 2016

Hypothetical for Microsoft and other Software Companies

Since my Windows XP computer died, I have been finding using a computer more and more irritating, everything seems to be going backwards. The same goes for digital TV: analogue TV was getting close to perfection, so it seems someone decided to break it by cutting the analogue signal and forcing everyone over to unstable and less robust digital TV broadcasts. I say less robust because when an analogue signal is poor, still likely to get a snowy picture and gain some information. When a digital signal is poor, then get pixelated garbage. Digital TV was imposed by government without any democratic vote on the matter. It however is an infrastructure issue. Computer hardware and the software that runs on it, however is not an infrastructure issue. There is no good reason to remove one technology from the market and replace it with an alternative.

As I have mentioned previously the different versions of MS Windows are not upgrades, they are different products. If the software that I had running on Windows XP will not run on Windows 7 or Windows 10, then it clearly is not an upgrade. If the user interface changes and operation changes then its different not an upgrade. A power driver is not an upgrade of a ordinary screwdriver, it represents a single optimised function and single capability of an ordinary screwdriver. A power driver is less useful than an ordinary screwdriver. Likewise as another example a nail gun is not an upgrade of a hammer, it also is less useful than an ordinary hammer.

So my problem. My hardware fails, and my software is locked by OEM licensing to the failed device and I cannot get new hardware with required operating system. More importantly two of main software packages won't install or run under Windows 7 or Windows 10. I went with the upgrade to Windows 10, as I didn't like Windows 7 and my software didn't work anyway.

Proposal 1

If buy hardware from same manufacturer, then OEM license permitted to transfer to new hardware.

Proposal 2

Microsoft releases a new operating system, which contains pre-installed virtual boxes for all its previous operating systems.

Proposal 3

Microsoft releases Windows XP and Office 2003 under a GPL or similar license.

As far as I'm concerned this software worked perfectly fine out off the box. If a computer virus is something which interferes with and hinders being able to use a computer as intended: then Microsoft automatic updates are a computer virus. A computer does not need to be connected to the internet. Computer software does not need to be updated on a regular basis. Most people are not computer geeks or technology geeks, they are not waiting for the latest release, and they don't care about some tweak discovered by some geek. In the main they just want to get on with what they were doing or are doing. To have computer resources suddenly tied up by updates is not acceptable. To be unable to carry out a simple lookup on the internet because updates are being downloaded and consuming data allowance is not acceptable.

I understand, need to protect copyright, and need to keep selling something to make a living.

But here's the thing. Windows XP is massive operating system, compared to CPM/80 on a 360 kbyte floppy disk, or MS DOS on a 720 kbyte floppy disk. When I started using computers I would have liked a Unix based machine, but it required a massive 20 Mbytes for a full install: that was the size of the average harddisk on a PC, so no where for data. Now people are trying to get Linux installations down to 100 Mbytes: such as damn small linux or puppy linux. These still have graphical user interfaces: so what is all the stuff in Windows XP? Unix was once desirable because it was the main operating system for scientific and engineering software. Now most such software is written for MS Windows, that which is available for Linux is incomplete or typically cumbersome to use.

Windows XP doesn't even have to be released as open source. The source can be protected. The main requirement is that can modify the system and can distribute the modifications: and do not require the source code to do that.

The first variation that is likely to arise is reducing the system size, and making it modular. Delete everything that is unnecessary on a stand alone PC which is not networked and does not have internet connection. Rip the system back to launching a simple command prompt, and having no more capability than a old MS DOS bootable disk. Then have separate installers for adding extra capabilities. My current Windows 10 folder is about 34.8Gbytes . Now I don't know how much of that is unneeded remnants from Windows 7, or how much is due to low quality software dumping files in the Windows folder because the software developers haven't figured out the fundamentals of their software finding itself. It does however seem excessively large.

A personal computer should be simple enough that a user can explain the presence of every file and folder on that computer. If they do not know what it is, then they should be able to delete it. If not then the file doesn't belong their. The operating system may belong to Microsoft, however the computer belongs to the user. A company has no right to be modifying the contents of a personal computer, and certainly no right to be recording history in typically hidden folders. The history typically has no value to the user: it is not like they can retrieve the data and then invert every command issued to undo something that went wrong. I probably open about 100 or more files every day: the recent file list is of no use to me. Now whilst its display can be switched off, it doesn't stop the system recording and wasting hard disk space. How many people have bought new computers because they are unaware of how much junk the system and other software produces in the background?

As I recollect Windows XP was around 1 to 2 Gbytes, and I didn't and don't need all its capabilities. So what is all the stuff required by Windows 10? Its graphics have been deteriorated, so that not as clear where one element starts and another ends. Office 2016 seems unstable, with displays becoming split or distorted. Plus Office 2016 doesn't seem to like file association, it typically generates an error when attempting to open a file the first time. Loss of multiple document interface (MDI), single container for Excel is also a backwards step. It is more inconsistent now than when had MDI. With MDI can organise files inside Excel without messing desktop organisation of other applications. Whilst it may be possible to organise the Excel files separately than other applications, its necessary to remember that some of those Windows on the desktop belong to one application, and only want to arrange them, so don't arrange the desktop, arrange from within Excel. Even so there is still loss of control over the size of workbook Windows. Multiple workbook and multiple Window Excel applications become inconvenient. I'm not convinced that the UI/UX professionals really have any understanding of human behaviour.

Whilst LibreOffice is useful, its spreadsheet application is no where as convenient to use and automate as MS Excel 1997. However the primary requirement for a computer user is that files created yesterday can be read and edited tomorrow. Having standards for data exchange is important. Such standards should be flexible enough that content can be added or deleted without causing the readers and writers to crash.

The difference between AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT is that the LT version cannot create or edit certains features of a drawing: however it is able to either display those features or identify that they exist but cannot be displayed. The file can also be edited without loss of those features.The difference between AutoCAD and IntelliCAD is that AutoCAD commands typically execute faster and screen displays update correctly, thus providing proper feedback to  the user. So IntelliCAD maybe able to open the drawing files, and it maybe lower priced, but its operation is less user friendly. However, interacting with software tends to be wasteful compared to automating that software: and if objective is to remove or minimise human interaction, then the automation capabilities of IntelliCAD make it a suitable substitute for AutoCAD. However parametric CAD is still less time consuming and more flexible than automation and parameterizing via a general programming language.

Now whilst Microsoft and Autodesk both acquired a dominant position in their respective markets, they cannot maintain that dominance with their current product offerings. The population at large does not need nor want the current product offerings. It was important that Ford only offered black cars, so as to make cars affordable to the public at large. But now that the basic need has been essentially saturated in the industrialise west, cars need to be produced in smaller batch sizes to meet niche markets. Likewise mobile phones cannot be sustained on an assumption of a consumer market with regular updates of new models. Most of the capabilities of mobile phones are gimmicks: junk with no real long term value to the end users. However having put capability there, it is not acceptable to abandon such feature in future releases and leave some people stranded.

Whilst there may occasionally be issues associated with infrastructure and connectivity, the primary issue is loss of capability when modern technology is used in its stand alone isolated mode. A pocket calculator is still faster and more reliable than a mobile phone or desktop computer. However a computer has the potential to replace the 1000 or more books I own, and take up considerable less space. More over a computer can do this without need to be connected to the internet. The internet of things at this point in time is more gimmick than anything useful. Most likely fueled by TV shows and movies which show unrealistic capabilities of computers. Computers cannot break the laws of physics. Control requires more than simply connecting sensors, it requires electric motors attached to the equipment, and motors require a power supply. Rather than electronic sensors reducing maintenance costs of remote equipment, it is likely to increase the costs: as the robust mechanical equipment which only occasionally needed maintenance is now appended with fragile electronic junk. The internet and the web does not equate to technology.

[Case in point. Around 15:30 blogger has problems automatically saving work, but manual saving works for a time. Then saving hangs. I can copy the post to clipboard. But Notepad won't open, so cannot save. Task manager also doesn't open: not sure about the point of a task manager that is resource intensive and frequently fails to open. Switch power off, and reboot. Check power off settings: can shutdown and install updates or restart and install updates. Either way no choice about accepting updates. So basically can attribute the source of the hanging being updates hijacking web resources and other computing resources. So decide to restart with the updates: 17:42 computer reboots, I think its the final reboot, but no: its still only 75% way through. 18:11 get to log back on and it says "Hi". Are you kidding me! You effectively hijack my computer, to make changes I didn't ask for, and waste my time and consider you can be jovial about it. 18:20 can actually do something with the computer: with my computer.]

So if Windows XP and Office 2003 are considered too old to support then release them to the community to support. I'm reasonably certain that they will rip it back to the absolute minimum install. As for the internet it has very little to do with computing, so develop it without messing up the systems used for computing.

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[02/10/2016] : Original