pondělí 25. června 2012

Windows Phone sejmul i Nokii

Nechci si hrát na nějakého přemoudrého komentátora. Zanedbanost mého blogu ostatně svědčí o tom, že si své dojmy nechávám většinou pro sebe. Nicméně to, co se v oblasti IT událo minulý týden, je natolik komické, že mne to po dlouhé době opět přimělo obnažit svojí mozkovou kůru před okolním světem. Pravda, mohl bych jen odcitovat článek ze SmartMania.cz nebo nalinkovat video z MobilMania.cz, které se tomuto tématu věnují. Nakonec jsem se ale rozhodl, že nedávné události vylíčím po svém s důrazem na širší kontext, který celou situaci povyšuje do té míry, že by vás ani biják pod taktovkou Shana Blacka se Sascha Baron Cohenen a Johnny Knoxvillem v hlavních rolích nepobavil víc. Vlastně by se to všechno dalo sesumírovat i do stručného konstatování, že tonoucí Microsoft stáhl už tak notně přidušenou Nokii úplně ke dnu a jejich vrchní fanboy Hulán to ještě oslavuje (přejít na mojí reakci). Jistě se ale mezi námi najdou i fajnšmekři, kteří si rádi celý příběh vychutnají v celém svém rozměru (vynechat), chronologicky a včetně těch nejmenších detailů. Jelikož sám tak trochu spadám mezi podobně škodolibé jedince, pokusím se nám všem dopřát ono potěšení. :-)

Smoked by Windows Phone - Sejmul mě Windows Phone

pondělí 11. června 2012

Disappointing Windows 8 Release Preview

I've been using Windows since version 3.1 and over time, I've used or at least tried every single final release of this product family till today (I mean consumer versions, although I got in contact with those server ones like NT 4.0 and Windows 2000 Server too). At the moment, I'm a die-hard Windows XP fan, no matter how ancient the system is. I've used it for 9 years (almost third of my life!) with high level of satisfaction and effectivity thanks to lots of useful third-party utilities (let me name Softarium ActiveKeys, SillySot Iconoid and Darius Baczynski's Autoplay Repair), tweaks and, of course, the qualities of the OS itself, which reached almost rock-solid stability after Service Pack 3 was released in 2008 (although the system performed great since the original release already). But last year, I decided to exchange my dated nForce4 desktop for a convertible notebook/tablet in order to improve the ergonomics of me using a PC.

Official Windows 8 logo - forget about four-coloured window

Windows 8 seemed a perfect OS for me to upgrade. I really wanted to love it. I liked the concept. I enjoyed all of the public demonstrations. But my enthusiasm got strangled when I personally tried Windows 8 Release Preview 32bit (W8 RP) on my own rig: untolerable amount of bugs, inconsistencies and backlogs is still present even in such a progressive level of development. The problem is actually so serious that I had returned to my beloved XP prematurely, otherwise I would probably face a threat spending the rest of my life reporting my complaints. Is Microsoft able to fix all of these issues till the end of 2012, which was set as the current W8 release date? I'm skeptical, although I like positive surprises.

  ▌  1) Unsatisfying Media Playback Experience
  ▌  2) Not That Much to Complain About (Internet) Explorer
  ▌  3) User Interface, Inconsistencies, Suggestions
  ▌  4) Miscellaneous
  ▌  5) Compatibility Issues
  ▌  6) Wrap Up

At least for a moment, I'll try to put my fears aside, act constructively and share my thoughts and suggestions, as well as pointing out the for-no-reason removed features, imperfections and bugs that W8 RP is (unfortunately) full of. As we all know, Microsoft aims the system to the tablet market, occupied by Apple with iPads at the moment. After the years the tablets became well established, there is no doubt that a device like that suits best for a content consuming. Let's name just few kinds of these user actions: listening to music, watching videos, surfing the web or reading documents. Along with ordinary and mostly just evolutionized desktop features we all already know from past, the article will focus mainly on these "consuming" abilities, which are brand new to the Windows family. Unfortunately, there are no special tools to read (Office, PDF, e-book formats, ...) documents from Microsoft, so there is no place for me to express. To make it clear at the beginning: everytime I use an "app" term, I'm referring to a Metro app.  Everytime an "application" term appears, it refers to a desktop application. So, are you listening, Redmond?

Unsatisfying Media Playback Experience

Listening to music on a PC is a great priority for me, so expect no mercy. I haven't been building my large discotheque for years for nothing. This is what applies to music playback in general:

Unsatisfying music experience demonstrated on video

1) There is no way how to edit ID3 tags in music (even WMA!) files in default W8 applications ("Properties" of a file, Windows Media Player-WMP or Music app from Metro). In recent Windows 7, it works at least in "Properties" of a file. And in more that 10 years old XP, you can even attach an AlbumArt via Windows Media Player 10.

Notes below apply to Windows Media Player 12, which MS chose as a default media player in the desktop environment. Alternative Microsoft Zune is not present in the default installation as someone could assume, but you can install it additionally of course.

2) "Now Playing" mode in fullscreen acts strange when an app is snapped to the edge of the screen.

3) "Now Playing" window lacks window title and is mostly empty in fullscreen.

4) When a tracklist is shown in "Play" bar or the player is switched to "Now Playing" mode and I change my current position in "Library", I can't jump over to associated album or artist in "Library" from here.

5) Although my music files include 500x500 JPEG AlbumArt, no matter where or how I play it, I can't see the picture in original resolution. It is always reduced in size. Today, we live in a world where Full-HD displays are easily available, and WMP should go hand in hand with time. Paradoxically, WMP10 shows an AlbumArt in a native resolution, so you can affect how the player displays it during playback.

6) "Switch to Now Playing"/"Switch to Library" button is once positioned at the top right corner and then at the right bottom corner when I go from "Now Playing" to "Library" and back. I criticized this in WMP11 back in 2009 already.

Windows Media Player 12: the default desktop media player

7) "Now Playing" mode shows unarranged and uncustomizable tracks in the playlist. I need my track numbers back as in WMP10! :-)

8) AlbumArt in library could stand above album name, artist, genre and year so more columns can be seen and AlbumArt can be larger.

9) I can't change column names in my music "Library". For example, "Play count" label is absurdly long and mostly remains the longest value in the column - I would change it just to "Count" as I can in excellent freeware MP3tag for example. I made a quick sketch where the blue arrow shows how WMP could integrate the function and red arrow shows best position for "Rename" button. The function would be useful in Explorer either.

10) When the user turns WMP on, put some tracks (or videos) in the playlist, and turn WMP off and on again, last played tracks are gone from the playlist and he can't follow up the listening where he previously interrupted it in any way.

11) "Preview" feature of the music tracks in "Library" could play an excerpt from the middle of the track, not the beginning as the current state is.

Notes below apply to Music app that is adapted for Metro user interface and is preinstalled to default app menu. What must be said at the moment is that most of the apps are incredibly buggy and half-assed in general and Music probably sucks most of all.

12) Even when I give it enough time to load, only some AlbumArts are loaded in "Now Playing" mode, so the "AlbumArt Wall" remains half-empty.

13) Library sometimes gets messed up, the app do not respond on user inputs (mainly when logging in) and I can't open any of the items (like an album, artist etc.).

Music app from Metro UI requires some more attention

14) I can't share ANYTHING via "Share" button in the charms bar no matter what I do. What about sharing  a song name, track path, an excerpt, an album art or send a link to buy a track or an album to a friend?

15) The app do not start into a state when the scrollbar lays absolutely in the left position like other apps do.

16) WMP interferences with the Music app (two songs can be played simultaneously, media keyboard buttons affect both of players).

17) Music app omits the "Track Artist" field in ID3 tag at all. Only "Album Artist" is shown everywhere. The difference between the two can sometimes be noticeable...

18) AlbumArt of the now-playing tracks is still reduced in size or is missing completely from the screen.

19) Rewind features do not work at all (unlike WMP, where everything works fine).

20) On one screen, I skip the track via >| and on other screen, I skip track via different > symbol. Inconsistent. Confusing. Unintuitive.

21) "My Music" tab does not show my entire music library that I have put into "Music Library" in WMP.

 The list below apply to Music app when snapped to the edge of the screen.

Music app pretends that Track Artist do not exist at all

22) Rewind features do not work at all again.

23) Scrollbars distracts you everywhere you look, tabs "overview" and "what's next" probably do not work as they should (shouldn't they be hidden completely in this mini-mode?).

24) "Track Number", "Album Name" and "Track Artist" fields of ID3 tags are not shown.

25) When I put a single track into the playlist and hide playback controls via right mouse click on them, I can't recover them by right clicking on the same place again.

26) When I apply right mouse click on items in the playlist, they get selected, but you are not offered the action (what about change an order of the track or remove it from the list?)  + surrounding boxes representing tracks inaesthetically blink.

27) Now-playing track is not highlighted in the playlist so it's hard to find out what track will play when I use skip controls.

28) What sense does it make when I can skip (or "skip back") the track via |< and >| control buttons at the bottom and do the same action via different < and > symbols at the top of the snap on the sides of the AlbumArt? This waste-space situation could result in displaying larger AlbumArt!  :-) It's inconsistent too.

29) When there sits only a single track in the playlist, I can replay it via |<, but sides of the AlbumArt lack  < symbol. If you already do something wrong, do it with care! :-D

30) Track order in the playlist cannot be changed.

31) When I open playlist in "Now Playing" mode and right click any of the track, something very useless happens.

WMP can be used for music playback as well as video playback. If I omit that there are not many codecs supported in the start, there is nothing serious to complain about. Speaking about dedicated Video app from Metro UI, the situation is different. These are my comments:

Stig can chase Video app the same way as a car

32) Video app is not able to play formats that WMP can play from default. It doesn't make any sense to me.

33) I cannot make a playlist of videos.

34) The < arrows > and classic |< track skip >| symbols that serve for skipping a track in Music app now serve only as a rewind button - what an inconsistency!

35) When I move a cursor over now-playing video in fullscreen, the controls could disappear faster so they do not distract you from viewing.

36) When I leave an app without closing it (it remains in the background), the video pauses, but when I do the same in Music app, the playback continues. Have you thought about a situation when one wants to play a music video in Video app, Microsoft? Pausing it would be very inappropriate...

37) I can't quickly share video screenshot, video name or video properties via charms bar.

38) The app do not start into a state when the scrollbar lays absolutely in the left position like other apps do.

39) It's just buggy. :-)

The situation over DVD-Video playback is not as definite as it seemed when every tech-site wrote that "Microsoft dumped DVD". Even if you do not plan to buy third-party standalone software DVD player, there still exists a chance to play a DVD in Windows 8, but it's nothing to go for. Only Windows Media Center can do so, but it is not part of the original installation. The other problems are that...

40) Windows Media Center looks exactly like Metro app, but it isn't, so it makes you confused.

Comparison of playback controls among default players

41)  It brings even more inconsistency into the system.

42) Playing a DVD-Video from hard-disk is not possible no matter how hard you try.

Not That Much to Complain About iExplorer and Explorer

Windows 8 comes with "brand new" Internet Explorer (IE) - unlike WMP12, which was released for W7 already, IE 10 will premiere here. In case you don't require more than just basic features, there is not that much to complain about. Well, I found something after all:

43) IE for desktop miss the window title and icon completely, although any other system or non-system apps do not.

44) Some doubtful gimmicks are included. Sometimes it's hard to say whether you encountered a bug or a feature.

45) When I open more tabs of sites with Adobe Flash objects (videos), these objects do not load when the site's tab waits in the background.

46) In a rare case when Adobe Flash video is loaded in the background, you can't play it when you put the tab of it's site in the foreground.

47) I can drag a plain text, but I can't drop it anywhere. What's the purpose of the feature?

IE can't preload flash videos in the background

In Metro user interface, you can use default browser called just "Internet Explorer". It's pretty simple, but it's probably what it is suppose to be. These are my negative impressions:

48) A link got lost from Start menu mysteriously and I couldn't recover it even when I turned Internet Explorer on and off in Windows features menu. You can't download it in Microsoft Store either. At the end, I had to reinstall the system from ground in order to recover the app.

49) I can't "send a link" ("View on the desktop" option) from desktop IE to Metro. Reversibly, it is possible  (from Metro to desktop). Shouldn't the desktop representation of the application be more rich in function and not the other way around?

50) Scrollbars on the right side of the loaded page are almost invisible in my opinion - more contrasting colors would serve better.

51) Already loaded page sometimes gets blank.

52) Pop-up windows blocking feature could be included in order to keep the surfing experience simple.

The regular Explorer for managing files has just minor, mostly cosmetic problems:

53) Height of window title bar differs in "maximalized" and "restored down" mode. 

54) Available and unavailable options in context menus are not differentiated enough by color in my opinion.

Options and controls could be more contrasting

User Interface, Inconsistencies, Suggestions

This is what I would change in a desktop (the legacy of Aero) area or that seemed strange to me from the user interface point of view:

55) Left-clicking on any clickable object in notification area initiate different visual behavior: Aero and Metro visual elements are mixed up together. I would unify that. I would separate both of the worlds more resolutely.

56) When recently opened apps (left edge of the screen) are displayed, closing button "X" would be useful on every tile. At the current state, two steps are required in order to close the app. "Close all" option would be handy too.

57) When I make a (slightly slower) double click on "Show desktop" button at the right bottom corner, only the first click is accepted.

58) There's no additional device connected to my computer (flash drive, USB HDD, card reader, phone, ...), yet the icon that indicates connection of these devices appears in the notification area (and it's context menu do not offer to remove any device, which proves that I'm not kidding :-)).

59) Forcing Metro apps (picture viewer, video player or music apps) to desktop users will make them eat you alive. :-D

60) In most cases, when I switch from an app (Metro) to desktop (Aero), I want the desktop to cover most of the screen or the whole area of the screen, but it always requires more than one step. I would welcome if desktop would cover most of the screen when I drag it from recently opened apps bar. Snapped desktop seems useless to me.

What sense does a snapped desktop have? Close to zero.

In text below, I will talk about Start menu and Metro user interface.

61) Allow "Start" and search results to be snapped to the edge of the screen (which is impossible now) and adapt it to the smaller size the same way other apps are please: users that complain over classic Start menu absence will be satisfied, because you'll see Start and desktop at the same time + when you make a search and select one of the results (mainly desktop application), the specific search (and its results) is still available to change the selection.

62)  Give a user an option to boot to Start or to Desktop or both (see point 61): desktop could be on the right and snapped Start could be on the left (the same way it used to be in the past) as shown here (just a quick sketch; maybe just category names could be shown).

63) Use free screen space in search results for unwrapped categories and make the category names (Apps, Settings, Files, ...) shown horizontally at the top of the screen clickable (as are the boxes under the search field) so you can filter the results more specifically (i.e. Files: All, Documents, Pictures, ...) after the click (what would happen after clicking "Files" can be seen here - the "Back" arrow at the top left position was added).

64) At one time, I cannot move more than one tile - yes, several tiles ca be selected, but when I perform the drag, only one tile moves.

65) Make it easier to copy (create) application links from Start (and taskbar) to desktop please (it is impossible now - user always have to go to C:\Program Files folder and execute the action from here, which sucks).

66) I tried to open menus in "Region" window and search an item by a keyboard twice. In both cases, I typed "germ" on my keyboard in order to find "Germany". Surprisingly, I got two different results. Video's worth million words.

67) Keyboard and mouse inputs in Metro requires some more tuning.

Nobody expect you to change this in such a progressive stage...


These comments do not fit in any of the categories above.

68) "Refresh PC" feature do not recognize the correct installation medium in the process of refreshing the PC.

69) Since Movie Maker allows a direct upload of a movie to video streaming servers, shouldn't Paint allow the same thing with photo hosting servers?

70)  In every single default application, Ctrl+Scroll is reserved for zooming. The scroll wheel alone is used mostly for regular scrolling so you can pan the document - except Photo Viewer, which use "scrolling wheel only" for zooming too - wouldn't "skip image" suits better?

71) When I capture a screenshot via pressing Print Screen key on my keyboard, the PC do not react for a few seconds.

72) I can't even save a crop of a map from Maps app! The app is incredibly poor in functions!!!

Compatibility Issues

I didn't expect that I will encounter so many compatibility issues. These are some of them:

73) I was not allowed to install 64bit version of Release Preview, although 64bit driver were prepared on plugged-in USB flash memory. Well, my PC is probably too old, but the message is vague (what does the "media driver" mean?) and confusing.

Leadtek WinFast DTV2000 H Plus is incompatible with W8

74) I was not successful in persuading my TV receiver to work, although W7 drivers were used and Winfast PVR2 officially supports W7. All I get is error message ("Fails to build graph") when I try to launch Winfast PVR2 application. The tuner performs well in W7 Media Center. Different error message appears when I try to manually put the drivers in place.

75) Serious graphics driver crashes occur. It happens mostly when using "Music" or "Video" apps. Even unrecoverable crash occurs with hard reset needed (using W8 default driver), or the PC restarts automatically (with 296.17 NVIDIA drivers). Fortunately, I haven't lost any unsaved documents.

76) I have adjusted Logitech Setpoint's "Keystroke assignments" feature in order to switch applications (Alt+Tab in default on keyboard) via pressing two premium buttons on my mouse.  I can't live without that today. It worked well in XP.  This specific settings are ignored in W8 and I can't perform the "trick" anymore. (Note: There was a finding recently that there was something wrong with my mouse, but I already uninstalled W8, so I can't try it again and confirm this.)

77) Jing does not start at all after absolving regular installation process, only error message "This application is expired." is shown. I tried to manually install NET Framework 3.5 SP1 from here, but the installation didn't start; I guess 4.0 version cumulates those old ones and is sufficient enough to run the program. The application works fine in W7.

78) CamStudio does not start at all after absolving regular installation process. It reportedly works fine on W7.

79) Simply Capture does not start at all after absolving regular installation process.

80) Free Screen to Video sometimes crashes.

Aero Internet Explorer handles HTML5 <video> tag well

Wrap Up

I've been intensively testing W8 RP for more than a week. I could go on, but, frankly, I got tired of finding a problem on almost every step. Simply said, there are lots of things to improve from my perspective. The current development stage would be acceptable if the release date was more distant and W8 Build 8400, that is presented as a Release Preview, was called beta instead. My biggest concern is that most of the Metro apps suck. It feels unfinished and poor in functions. I would expect Microsoft to showcase the new advances of the Metro platform on it, but they rather drives you away from the new UI, which undoubtedly has a special magic in it. Let's hope in a happy-end, because there is a lot to love too: ribbon UI integration across the system ease file management, lots of under-the-hood improvements result in faster response, advanced Task Manager gives you more control over your system, revolutionary picture password feature degrade additional-charge fingerprint readers, fast boot saves time and more.