software, tech news and opinions

Win 8 vs 32

The title of this post is a joke. For you non-geeks out there, WIN 32 is basically the technical side of what’s behind your graphical user interface (GUI) windows.

I was given a brief tour of Windows 8 by a friend of mine who is really enjoying it. Between him and another friend, Windows 8 has an 8+ rating (pardon the A+ pun). For those of you who liked Windows 7, guess what: it’s Windows 7 but with some improvements. Behind the scenes, Microsoft has reduced the process-usage of each “app” or windows application that you aren’t using, and memory is also freed up, meaning you can open a bunch of apps and, as long as you have most of them minimized, you are hardly using your processor and ram. There are more details on the Microsoft blog about efficiency. Since Microsoft is practically doing iOS apps, Frasier Speirs’ breakdown the states of iOS apps is applicable:

  • Not running – the app has been terminated or has not been launched.
  • Inactive – the app is in the foreground but not receiving events (for example, the user has locked the device with the app active)
  • Active – the normal state of “in use” for an app
  • Background – the app is no longer on-screen but is still executing code
  • Suspended – the app is still resident in memory but is not executing code

Now, what’s going on in the foreground?…

Fear not: the desktop has not vanished nor has the task bar. However, Microsoft has copied what some consider to be the “nice”/sweet features of other operating systems, like the pop-out sidebar that lets you pick between recently opened programs for quicker access. The Start Button has disappeared because Microsoft has replaced the menu with a start screen showing your applications and such. Despite the Start Button’s disappearance, it looks as though it could be easily added back using third-party software (even one that looks and functions in the exact same way) given that you can add program icons onto your task bar. Hurray!

My friend pointed out that Microsoft is moving towards a more universal system – one in which knowing how to use a desktop will mean you automatically know how to use a tablet PC or a smart phone and thrice versa. This is nice for people who don’t want to learn every interface out there just to operate their new computer or phone. However, the traditional windows have remained. There is a new look to them, including Task Manager, which isn’t surprisingly reminiscent of Microsoft Office 2007. Task Manager now looks more efficient.

Considering the apps/applications aspect: what does this mean for open source or free software geeks? First, I haven’t heard anything from the Free Software Foundation this week, though undoubtedly someone is going to be looking over the licensuing (spelling mistake intended) (We already know it’s proprietary – there just might be some other fine-line details we don’t know about). Second, I’m not going to be surprised if more people in the free software community start copying features like this.

Frankly, I’m happy for the general computer user. As a geek, though, I don’t want to see a start screen in my face. I like my search bar in my start menu, and I hope those features stick around for many years to come. Now I just need to find those for my Linux distros.


Commentary: Somehow I missed this: Five days ago, FSF sent out an email with the following (related to the topic in this article):

In December, Microsoft apparently conceded to public pressure by quietly updating the Windows 8 logo certification requirements with a mandate that a desktop computer user must be able to control (and disable) the Secure Boot feature on any Windows 8 computer that is not based on ARM technology. This looks like a victory for free software users, as it will allow a person to install GNU/Linux or other free software operating system in place of Windows 8.

But, this is no time for celebration, because Microsoft has also added a treacherous mandate for makers of ARM-based computers — such as a tablets, netbooks, and smartphones — requiring them to build their machines with Restricted Boot technology. Such computers are designed to lock a user into only being able to run Windows 8, absolutely preventing her from being able to install a free software operating system on her computer. Since smartphones and tablets are some of the most commonly used computers, it’s vital that we get straightforward and clear information about this threat out to the public.


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