20 years ago today…

…the Internet was launched at CERN.

The news today is full of enough stories about how far we have come since then, so I won’t bother adding yet another one.

Instead I will try to remember where I was back then. That would be as a first year university student who was elected to get access to the university’s Unix server AND to get my own email address. Then I followed computer science classes in front of huge CRT screens and looked at the info on the network between exercises (we didn’t call it browsing yet) . I remember looking for R.E.M. lyrics with the gopher, playing a MUD and telling friends about this amazing database wealth of all sorts of thinkable and unthinkable information that I had suddenly gained access to. And then week by week the www moved in and NCSA’s Mosaic become the place to spend idle time between classes.

What a privilege to have been right there when it happened.

And what a reminder to always be open to emerging technologies, some of which may just fade away as easily and better forgotten fads, and others that will transform the world in ways we can’t even start to imagine.

MIUI Test Run – Part 2

Thursday
After several days of MIUI leaving good impressions, I have decided to add a handful of social network apps to see what happens to performance with those running in the background. Again Link2SD is needed to squeeze it all in: Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. And somewhere during the installations of these four, with their checks for status and integrations to contact list etc. the phone start being more sluggish.

Friday
more  sluggishness, also the Play store is moving down towards the slow performance on the other phone. So the more apps that are running, the more sluggish the device. No big surprise and certainly not the  fault of the OS. Just a reminder how much smartphones have evolved since the 2010 launch of the Desire.

Saturday
I settle for the final theme, called something Chinese and “Iphone”. Surely some icons look familiar from Apple screenshots I have seen and surely there are more Chinese  Characters showing up on screen, though nothing that impedes usage in any way.

Sunday again – conclusion 
My initial expectation when I started this test run was that it would be different from the Android experience that I am used to. Not necessarily better or worse, just different. As it turned out,  I am pleasantly surprised (which maybe I shouldn’t be – MIUI is one of the major custom ROMs).

In use the system is running at least as smoothly as I am used to,  and the different themes are a fun to customize the experience to my own mood and preference. Not surprising it looks like packing more apps unto the device slows it down regardless the ROM being used, so in this very qualitative study I will not draw any conclusion of MIUI vs. CM7 performance. Perhaps more interesting to investigate are the launchers where ADWLauncher EX offers a lot more customization that the MIUI launchers,  customization that must come with some cost on performance (that could also be said about MIUI’s theme support –  is it coincidence that I first noted performance  degradation when I started applying new themes?)

I am back on my usual phone now (its camera is better), but look forward to trying out a newer version of MIUI if it supports whatever my next handset will be.

Windows 8 – Teething Troubles

Yesterday we got a new laptop for my wife, since the time had come where her old Acer 4810T with its Intel Core 2 Solo CPU has become too slow (probably some update to OS security or anti virus). The new one is an Asus ux32vd laptop. Nice piece of hardware. It is running Windows 8 which my wife is looking forward to get properly acquainted with. She is an experienced computer user, by the way, having worked with scientific computing for many years and even designed a cluster computer for high performance calculations.

I have used Windows 8 for almost 6 months now and has grown quite happy with it, in spite of its eccentricities (especially the Start screen, once rightly configured, is a powerful new feature). Still, it is interesting to observe someone new that start using the OS. And so, with a little guidance from me, for example on hidden functionality like the active corners on the screen and the sometimes peculiar menus, she was up and running quite soon and growing comfortable with the new OS.

However, things got difficult when we went through the different apps. The Games app had to be updated before it could be used and so we duly went to Store app to update it together with 22 other apps. And we selected update and nothing more happened: app updates froze in pending state with no download/install progress. Error messages were initially useless, but finally they started at least including error codes like “8024001e” which still isn’t informative, but is an identifier that can be used to find a solution on the www. And so we googled the code and found frustrations and suggested solutions which many couldn’t get to work.

What worked for us was this instruction from answers.microsoft.com:

Method 3: Rename the Windows Update components folder.
a) Press “Windows key + X” and click “Command Prompt (Admin)”.
b) Type “net stop wuauserv” and press enter.
c) Type “rename c:WindowsSoftwareDistribution softwaredistribution.old” and press enter.
d) Type “net start wuauserv”and press enter.

Note the capital “W” in the path – we couldn’t get the method to work with small “w” like it is posted on the Microsoft support sites, so that might be the reason that the method didn’t work for some. Also we had to do step a) twice before the service actually stopped.

So we solved the problem. Still I am annoyed that my wife’s first experience of an OS that I have pitched should be problematic like this. A bug is a bug (to fixed according severity etc.), but how come one like this, that effectively disables the app store has not been fixed? If nothing else, then by making restart of the service available in “Advanced settings” somewhere in the system (but why doesn’t restarting the computer not restart the update service?).

The computer is fixed and it looks like my wife’s disappointment with something new computer that didn’t work properly is gone as well. My annoyance with an bug in an otherwise excellent OS may last a little longer. Then again, having found the solution and having shared it already makes me feel better.

MIUI Test Run – Part 1

With the (DK) availability dates of the year’s last top Androids getting closer(even the HTC One) there probably won’t come a better time to do a test run of MIUI on one of my older phones. I tried it before, but quickly had the feeling that it wasn’t something for me and went back to the more standard android experience with CyanogenMod 7.2 on an HTC Desire S (I have read that MIUI is supposed to deliver a more iPhone-like experience and maybe it does: I have next to no experience with those devices – guess I should ask an owner for a demo). Now, usually when I meet such an attitude I encourage openness of mind and some patience when facing the New. So I will eat my own words and give it a serious chance, that is, use an MIUI phone as my primary for at least a week. So here we go, starting Sunday Apr 21, installing an HTC Desire with MIUI version 2.4.13 (based on Android 2.3.7). I expect a lot can have happened to the MIUI experience since then, so I should revisit this once I get a new device. In any case diversity is great.

Sunday
MIUI is installed painlessly on the Desire. I get it connected to Wi-Fi at home and setup mail, starting with the Exchange 2010 connection to outlook.com for calendar & contacts and my primary IMAP mail account. It all seems to work. Got some other commitments in the day, so I keep the SIM card in my other phone.

Monday
I move the SIM to the MIUI phone and go to work. On the way in the train I start installing my apps as I need them: Swiftkey, Spotify and Tasks are first. To get a fair result, I will keep the number of installed apps down, to avoid overloading an older device that was not build for today’s heavier apps. Quickly I remember to also install Link2SD, without which I run out of space almost immediately.

After few hours use I also note the first small annoyance, namely the automatic brightness setting that doesn’t adapt well with my office. It is easy to find the right checkbox in settings though.

Over the day and evening I install more and more stuff, so that I can use the phone as I always would.. An interesting fact is that it actually seem more responsive than the CM 7.2 running on the other phone. The way apps are stored on the screen instead of app library takes some getting used to and extra work setting up folders. I wonder is it more a question about launchers being different? At the end of the days I find out how the theme selection feature works and start downloading some – interesting stuff, and weird/fun to see Chinese named stuff downloading on the phone (as long as it done by my intention).

Tuesday
A New morning and I found out that the standard MIUI calendar (or contacts list) includes a Birthday notification feature. Very nice. Am bringing the phone to work today with no backup (well, got a company BB Curve 9300 which can used for calling and company, but not really other smartphone stuff, except Spotify).

Another nice surprise with MIUI is that so far the Play Store app is much faster than on my other phone. I don’t know the inner workings of the app, so perhaps I will also see performance dip over time as I install more and more apps. Or perhaps there is one or more apps that kills the performance, and sooner or later I will install one of those.

The grievance of the day is that MIUI’s mail client does not support push of messages, so instead messages are checked every 15 minutes. Should be easy to adapt to.

Wednesday
Bringing the MIUI phone along all of yesterday as my single phone went well and I could dial and receive without issue. Which isn’t as trivial as it sounds – not only because of the tendency smartphones have of being more smart than phone, but because the phone app works well, letting me dial back with a single tap on the number in the calling log. In comparison the CM 7.2 call log requires two taps for this task, but offers a more detailed log and some other actions when tapping a call log. Won’t say one is better than the other.

Adding to the list of little funny things in the system, the default search engine is note google.com, but instead I meet baidu.com. Good to be reminded that not everything is *Google* and that many things in China are different from what I am used to.

In the late evening I see the phone restart for the first time. It happened just as I was going to read a new text message by accessing from the lock screen, so there is several links in the chain that could have been broken.