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Home of my tech rants, free programs, and a story or two…

Intel better be running scared…

Until recently Intel used to be the king of the computing processor market while AMD languished on the side-lines with chips that were barely worth speaking about let alone buying. But things have changed, introducing the AMD Zen Architecture.

For the first time in more than five years, AMD has been making some really big moves. Yes, the company didn’t disappear but it was clearly struggling. The only thing that really kept AMD alive was the fact that many gaming consoles (Microsoft XBOX One and Sony Playstation 4) were using AMD APUs as part of the hardware design. Every single CPU that AMD made never measured up to anything Intel manufactured thus cementing Intel’s near monopoly in the computer processor market. Until today with AMD’s new Zen Architecture.

With AMD’s new Zen Architecture AMD has finally come up with something that has made Intel worried. Proof of that is Intel’s recent marketing slides stating that Ryzen and by extension AMD Threadripper chips are simply desktop chips glued together. While true that AMD’s chips are glued together it has shown that the Zen Architecture has the ability to scale far higher than anything Intel has because of this so-called “glue”. That glue being the AMD Infinity Fabric.

Eventually we’re going to need more processor cores, there’s no mistaking this. We are pushing the limits of the x86_64 architecture. Gone are the days of double, even triple, the performance from year to year. We have seen this with how recent Intel chips have been only increasing in performance by 10 to 15% year over year whereas in the past we were seeing leaps and bounds in terms of performance increases. What does this mean? It means that we are hitting the wall in terms of how much computing capacity we can squeeze out of the aging x86 architecture. The fact that the x86 architecture has stood the test of time for as long as it has has proven that the x86 architecture can scale but as with all things, there are limits.

So what do you do?

  1. You can increase clock speed.
  2. Throw more cores at the issue.
  3. Or both.

AMD has opted with the Zen Architecture to increase the amount of cores but as we have seen that strategy only works well when the software is built to handle more cores. Sadly, a lot of software isn’t built to handle a lot of processor cores. Gaming is a perfect example where more cores doesn’t translate to higher performance, high clock speed is what matters. Unfortunately the current crop of AMD Ryzen processors can’t clock above 4 GHz putting them at a disadvantage when it comes to Intel’s Core i7 7700k which can clock as high as 4.5 GHz and if you really push things, you can clock it to as high as 5 GHz. Will Ryzen v2.0 be able to scale the clock speeds higher and be able to push past the 4 GHz barrier? One can only hope.

Meanwhile, for those computing tasks that needs lots and lots of cores AMD is absolutely killing Intel. Situations that may need lots of cores are situations such as graphics and/or video rendering such as Pixar and even data centers and cloud computing systems in which you need to run multiple virtual machines on the same physical hardware. This is where AMD’s Zen Architecture scales far higher than anything Intel has to offer. For the first time in over five years there’s real competition for Intel in parts of the market where Intel had a near monopoly status and Intel should be very worried. Worried not just because of AMD but because of other sectors of the computing industry where Intel used to be king of the hill.

You see, Intel used to be at the top of the heap in so many different ways, not just processors. They used to be real innovators, pushing everything from processors, GPUs, memory, to storage, etc. AMD is making major inroads into the parts of the market where Intel enjoyed near monopoly status. As for memory and storage, other companies are handing Intel their heads. Samsung is the real innovator in terms of storage and SSDs, it’s down right amazing how far they’ve come in such a short amount of time with their 3D NAND. As for GPUs, nVidia is just kicking ass across the industry (both Intel and AMD).

Yeah, Intel better be scared. Their once near monopoly status in many markets is being threatened. This is what happens when you don’t continuously innovate and push technology forward, your competition sneaks up in back of you and whacks you upside the head with a baseball bat. It’s played out in multiple sectors of the economy with different players. We saw it in the United States cell phone market with T-Mobile; AT&T and Verizon didn’t worry about T-Mobile until all of a sudden they got collectively kicked in the balls by T-Mobile. The same thing is playing out right now in the cable TV market, the cord cutting revolution isn’t just some small fringe issue; it’s a full blown epidemic in the cable TV sector. Apple iTunes turned the music industry upside down first with the advent of cheap individual music tracks and now with Apple Music. All of these are examples of what happens when you fall asleep at the wheel, you end up getting hit from behind.

All aboard the fail boat…

Millions of Android devices are getting hit by a new batch of malware called Gooligan.
Android ‘Gooligan’ Hackers Just Scored The Biggest Ever Theft Of Google Accounts
http://arstechnica.com/security/2016/11/1-million-android-accounts-compromised-by-android-malware-called-gooligan/
Gooligan malware roots 1M Android phones in “largest Google account breach to date”

As the Forbes article mentioned…

Once downloaded, Gooligan determines which Android phone it’s infected and launches the appropriate exploits to “root” the device – i.e. take complete control over it. To do that, the attackers have used long-known vulnerabilities, such as VROOT and Towelroot, on devices running Android 4 through 5, including Jelly Bean, KitKat and Lollipop. Together, those operating systems account for 74 per cent of Android devices in use today, totalling around 1.03 billion. Most infections (40 per cent) are in Asia, though 19 per cent are in the Americas, most of which are in North America, Shaulov said. Another 12 per cent are based in Europe.

And I bet you’re all asking why? Yeah… it’s because your Android device hasn’t received any critical software updates. This is why I switched to the iPhone. The reason… security updates and operating system updates.

To those that don’t know about all of this, let me inform you. Your device has two major software layers; the operating system and the apps that you use like Facebook, email, web browser, etc. What many people see as updates are just app updates, these aren’t patching issues with the operating system itself (Android). The problem is many devices don’t get these operating system updates. Think of operating system updates like Windows Updates. Well… your apps may have been updated but your operating system is still very very vulnerable to being hacked by hackers to steal your data.

I bet you’re asking why. Why doesn’t my device get these updates? Simple. Money. That’s right… money. Your carrier and your Android OEM (Samsung, LG, HTC, etc.) would much rather have you buy a new device instead. But here’s the kicker… if you buy that new device they’re only going to turn around and do the same thing that they did to your older device, that is… abandon it only to tell you to buy a new device instead. This keeps you forever on the upgrade treadmill because it makes them money, truckloads of money.

Now, you may have heard about something called the Apple iPhone. The difference between Android and iPhones is that when Apple came out with the iPhone they pretty much told the carriers (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) that they were going to do things their way. They were going to push the software updates themselves. This allows Apple is be able to push software updates to every iPhone across the world so that your iPhone gets the latest and patched iOS version the same day that everyone across the world gets it so that your device remains far more secure than any Android.

Security experts agree… if you care about security and that data on your phone, you buy an iPhone. They may be more expensive but in the end your device is getting supported by Apple unlike Android in which they don’t care about you.

Not only that but if you have a problem or question a simple trip to the Apple Store or a phone call to Apple is all you need, they will help you figure out what’s wrong and help you fix it. You don’t get that kind of safety net with Android devices.

Windows 10 Telemetry

I know that many of you may have read stuff about Windows 10’s telemetry and that Microsoft is using it to spy on their users. Every little thing that you do on your Windows machine is being tracked, collected, and sent to Microsoft. Every keystroke, every mouse movement, every word you say to Cortana is being sent to Microsoft for God knows what reason. And for all we know, Microsoft may be sending this information to government agencies around the world in their misguided attempts to protect us from “terrorism”.

We live in a world in which we can’t trust our governments to not be snooping on everything we do from sending an email or SMS message to talking on the phone. With that being said, Yahoo! was found snooping on everyone’s email and sending it straight to the US government’s spying agencies. How do we know that Microsoft isn’t doing the same thing and sending all of this telemetry that they’re collecting with Windows 10 straight to the US government? That’s right, we don’t.

I’m not saying that Microsoft is doing all of this but I’m also not saying that Microsoft isn’t doing all of this. Why? Because we don’t know. We don’t know what is being sent to Microsoft. Really! We don’t. The data is encrypted and we don’t know how to decrypt it to be able to find out what’s actually contained in said telemetry. So with that being said… call me a tin foil hat wearing nut job if you wish, because we don’t know we have to assume something is up. We have to assume that Microsoft is up to no good and that they’re spying on all of us.

The fact that you can’t turn the telemetry off in consumer versions of Windows 10 is even more worrisome. There’s no switch in Windows 10 that simply turns it all off. All we can do is either set the telemetry to Basic, Enhanced, or Full; there’s no “Off” switch.

A lot of the outrage regarding Windows 10 comes from the fact that we can’t turn the telemetry off, they’ve removed the choice to be able to do so. That right there folks is the major reason why myself and others like me have been so critical of Microsoft as of late. We can’t turn the telemetry off! Now had Microsoft given us the choice to be able to turn it off (if we so choose to do so) there wouldn’t be nearly the amount of hatred being flung Microsoft’s way concerning Windows 10. But again, there’s no “off switch”.

And for those people who are still running an earlier version of Windows such as Windows 7 to avoid this kind of telemetry collection, you aren’t safe from the telemetry either. Microsoft has been updating the telemetry components in Windows 7 and 8.1 to collect similar amounts of telemetry. And for those people who think that they’ll just avoid certain updates, you’re not safe either since Microsoft will be pushing cumulative updates to Windows 7 and 8.1 users just like Windows 10 receives. How do we know that Microsoft won’t slip additional telemetry updates into the cumulative updates for Windows 7 and 8.1? That’s right, we won’t know.

Microsoft… give us the choice, that’s all we ask for. If we don’t want our data going to you, that’s our business, that’s our choice. But in Windows 10 we don’t have that choice and that’s where it all begins… the removal of a choice. If Microsoft wants to rebuild their user’s trust and gain back some of the good will that they’ve shred over the last two years, they need to do the following three things. First and foremost, give the option to the users to be able to turn off the telemetry and not just make it available as a Registry hack; no, they need to release an easy to use tool to disable it. And second, come clean on what exactly is being collected and whether or not they’re sending this data to the governments of the world.

Microsoft OneDrive vs. Google Drive

And the winner is… Microsoft OneDrive.

Yes, I know… I have been critical of Microsoft and in a lot of cases they deserve it but when it comes to Microsoft OneDrive vs. Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive wins. The syncing of data between PCs using Microsoft OneDrive is far more stable, accurate, and faster than Google Drive in nearly every category. Google Drive used to be good but lately it’s become less and less stable at keeping files synced between multiple machines.

The Death of Windows Mobile

Paul Thurrott just released an article of his time at Microsoft Ignite and he brought up several key points in his article involving Windows Mobile during the developer conference.

Windows 10 Mobile is only for businesses. This was stressed repeatedly in different ways. There’s no consumer play here at all, and that is not changing going forward. Even the “More Personal” slide was about “Office 365 pre-installed, OneDrive for Business, Cortana for work,” and so. Businesses, not individuals/consumers.

It sure seems like it to me that Microsoft is throwing in the towel when it comes to Windows Mobile in the consumer space. What they basically said (without actually saying it) is that they have given up on Windows Mobile in anything but a business-type setting.

And why not? Let’s face facts here, Windows Mobile was a stillborn platform from the very beginning. Android and Apple iOS pretty much has the market cornered and up until a couple of week ago Microsoft Windows Mobile and Blackberry held onto a messily less than 1% of the market. According to this BusinessInsider article…

Windows 10 Mobile and BlackBerry OS make up 0.6% and 0.1% (of the market), respectively.

Those two platforms make up less than 1% of the market, pretty pathetic if you ask me. And according to this article… Android commands an impressive 86.2% of the market with Apple commanding 12.9% of the market. It’s plain to see that both Android and Apple iOS (albeit less Apple and more Android) are dominating the market. There’s not much room in the market left for a third competitor even if that competitor is Microsoft. And with Blackberry admitting defeat that leaves Android and Apple iOS dominating the market with Microsoft in very distant third place.

Windows 10 Mobile is for existing business customers, not for new customers. This one was interesting. At one point, one of the presenters said of the future, “our desire in this space is that Windows Mobile remain the safest, most manageable, most deploy-able solution for organizations that are already Microsoft customers. You will see that in the next year, and in the years after that.” That’s extremely limited, from an aspiration/goal standpoint. The question, by the way, was what success looked like for Windows phones.

Good God, with the way that part reads it looks like Microsoft is simply trying to desperately hold onto what little part of the market they have left and have lost all initiative to gain any more market share. It sure looks like it to me that Microsoft has given up when it comes to Windows Mobile.

Microsoft’s use of Windows phone internally. One attendee asked how Microsoft used Windows phone internally. Let me answer that one more accurately than the presenter did: They don’t. And at Microsoft Ignite this year, there was a dramatic drop in the number of Windows phones seen, especially among Microsoft employees. It was something many in the press remarked on.

Ouch! Microsoft basically said that nobody in their own company uses Windows Mobile devices and that the average Microsoft employee uses either an Android or an Apple iPhone. If that doesn’t state the obvious I don’t know what does. Windows Mobile is dead and Microsoft basically said it without actually saying it.

If you want to read the article written by Paul Thurrott, click here Microsoft Discusses a Very Limited Future for Windows 10 Mobile

Agile programming and the stupidity of the Windows Insider Preview Program

About a year ago Microsoft laid off much of their internal quality assurance team (article) and with the advent of Windows 10 we can see how that decision has affected the quality of Windows 10. I’ll give you a hint… it’s suffered badly, quite badly.

I bet you’re asking what Microsoft replaced the QA team with. The answer is… The Windows Insider Preview Program. Yeah, that thing.

Outsourcing your quality assurance to outside your company is a recipe for disaster. What do you think the The Windows Insider Preview Program is? That’s right, the outsourcing of quality assurance onto the backs of amateurs. Do you see how this could cause things to blow up and go wrong?

Let’s explain some things here. To do proper software testing you need a team that’s willing to run a beta version of the software full time and not only that but a team made up of intelligent people who are capable of reporting bugs in a concise and detailed manner. They also need to understand that things aren’t going to work right all the time and that things may suddenly blow up in their faces at any moment taking their data with it. Guess what? That’s not The Windows Insider Preview Program. If you look at some of the complaints on The Windows Insider Preview Program they read like some whiny sixteen year old kid wrote them, not the kind of concise and detailed reports that developers need to fix software bugs. “It doesn’t work” or “It crashes” is not helpful but that’s the kind of things that you’ll often read as comments and reports in The Windows Insider Preview Program. Are you starting to see why The Windows Insider Preview Program was destined for failure? Yeah…

As for the bugs that made their way into the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, Microsoft claims that the Anniversary Update was the most highly tested version of Windows to date which is a flat-out lie. Nobody in their right mind runs those preview builds as a full time OS (unless you’re a masochist and you like punching yourself in the gut). So no wonder why so many bugs got through. And let’s not forget that to install an upgrade from one Insider Preview Program build to the next involves a process that’s very similar to installing a whole new operating system. Again, nobody in their right mind would run an Insider Preview Program build as a full time OS, even at home. Only a masochist would agree to running one of these builds as a full time OS.

A couple of months ago people were complaining on the Insider Preview Program that Microsoft was releasing too many builds back-to-back and these were people who were just testing this in lab conditions or people like me who were testing this stuff in virtual machines. Now imagine if someone was actually running these builds as a full-time OS? They would be pulling their hair out.

And as I said above, you need the kind of people who are willing to test something full time and don’t care if something goes horribly wrong. You have to have a dedicated team to do this kind of testing, you can’t expect normal people to be testing this stuff. You need people who are willing (and paid) to run test builds of an OS that don’t care if their system is thrown into complete chaos and thus forced to be reinstalled clean.

The Windows Insider Preview Program (and others like it) is not and will never be the answer to proper software testing. Software companies still need internal testing teams to do the hard work before releasing beta versions. What passes as Insider Preview Program Builds these days smell more like very early beta versions, I’d even go so far as to say they’re alpha versions. Unfortunately Microsoft fired much of their internal testing teams to be replaced by the developers themselves and that’s another recipe for disaster. Developers make the worst testers just like medical professionals make the worst patients. They know how things are supposed to work and thus they can’t test something adequately because they’re testing it from the perspective of someone who knows how it should work and aren’t testing for those edge-cases. You need people who are willing to bang on something and intentionally break it. And sometimes, breaking something is an art. I know people who can break stuff easily while I sit back and scratch my head wondering just what the hell they did.

Touch, I don’t want touch!

Touch, touch, touch, touch, touch… I don’t want touch! Touch belongs on a smartphone, not a computer! A computer is operated with a keyboard and mouse! Long live the desktop!

Hey Microsoft… you messed up!

Not only did the Windows 10 Anniversary Update manage to destroy webcam functionality for users across the world but you gone ahead and messed up again and broke Powershell too. Seriously Microsoft, what the heck is wrong with you? Didn’t you test this kind of stuff before you released it? Oh wait I forgot… you fired your QA team and replaced it with the Insider Preview program.

The Insider Preview program is a nice thing but there’s a problem… YOU DON’T LISTEN TO THEM! We were filing bugs for months before the release of the Anniversary Update but did you listen? Nope. In one ear and out the other. We were telling you that webcams were broken, but did you listen? Of course not! The whole Insider Preview program is nothing but a farce, a great big farce!

And of course because of Windows 10’s mandatory updates if something comes along and breaks things again, God forbid sending computers around the world into Blue Screen hell, we as users can’t escape from it because even if we managed to recover our systems from the botched update that same botched update will be downloaded and installed sending our machines once again into Blue Screen hell. Oh joy of joys! NOT!

To quote Paul Thurrot…

If Microsoft wants us to accept automatic updates without question, it needs to ship high-quality updates that do not break things. And so far, it is not living up to its end of this contract. You can complain all you want about Android or iPhone, but this is the type of thing that will really kill Windows. And the lack of trust that these kinds of mistakes engenders is irreversible.

If you ask me, Microsoft has managed to burn every shred of trust and goodwill that it had with their users. First the spying on everything we do on our Windows 10 systems and now this. If there was any other alternative platform where I could play my games I would jump ship from Microsoft so fast they would be able to hear the sonic boom all the way to Redmond.

Hey Tim Cook and Apple… there’s a whole untapped portion of the market begging to be let out of the Microsoft jail!

Microsoft, please get back to what made Windows successful…

If you have been paying attention to what Microsoft has been doing lately you’d notice that Microsoft has been pushing this whole “Universal Windows Platform” initiative. The idea is that if you write a program as a Universal Windows Platform app your app will be able to run on mobile devices (phones and tablets), PCs (desktops and notebooks), and the XBOX. But lately that whole initiative by Microsoft has failed in the market.

The first of many nails in the coffin of UWP is the news that Quantum Break, a game that was written to be a UWP app and a Windows 10 exclusive, will be transitioned from being a UWP app to a game that can be run on many more devices than just Windows 10 devices. Why? Well, the developer cited issues with DirectX 12 bugs in which the game had issues running on certain graphics cards and that they had far more experience writing games in DirectX 11.

The second of many nails in the coffin is that developers just aren’t writing any apps for UWP. Sure, you can find apps in the Windows Store but if you ask me the apps you can find on it are garbage, pure garbage. I don’t understand how many of the apps that are on the Windows Store even made it to the store to begin with, they’re just that horrible. They lack many of the user interface elements that I’ve come to expect from desktop programs. I don’t know if it’s because UWP apps are so limited when it comes to designing program user interfaces but outside a few apps I’ve come across (like NetFlix), most apps are pure garbage. Most look like they fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. And lets not forget that most apps you can find are so buggy that even a can of RAID won’t help you.

When I think of a desktop program I think of a user interface with a proper menu interface. You know what I mean… File, Edit, etc. or even the ribbon. The apps you can find on the Windows Store lack those kinds of things, they instead have a “hamburger menu”. Really? A “hamburger menu”? If you ask me, a “hamburger menu” has no place at all on a desktop.

I bet you are asking why I said that. Well, it comes down to what is known as design language. When users look at a desktop program they expect a desktop program to look and feel a certain way. A proper menu system and multi-window user interface has been something that users have used for more than twenty years, we expect this from desktop programs. This design is tried and true, it works; there’s no reason to change it. And then all of a sudden UWP comes along and with it comes the idea that you should make your program run on different platforms. I don’t have a problem with programs being able to run on different platforms but what I do have a problem with is when you try to shoehorn a program that was obviously written and designed to run on a phone onto a desktop, that does not work with me. To reiterate, I expect desktop programs to look and feel a certain way, I don’t expect a “hamburger menu”. The “hamburger menu” belongs on a phone, not a desktop.

The third of many nails in the coffin is that writing UWP apps is very limiting due to the way that UWP apps are sandboxed when running on the system. This restricts what developers can do in their programs. You can’t interact with system components, you can’t load outside libraries, you’re limited to using a specific set of APIs, etc. This of course limits what a UWP app can do and when it comes to games, it’s even more limiting. Gamers expect to be able to MOD or modify games, add levels, etc. You can’t do that with UWP apps because, as you might have guessed, they’re sandboxed. You, as the user, can’t even browse the folder location of where UWP apps are stored on your system; if you try Windows Explorer will give you a big nasty “Access denied” error message.

The fourth of many nails in the coffin is that the majority of the world is still running Windows 7 so as a developer you would be an absolute fool if you wrote your program or game as a Windows 10 exclusive. That would eliminate nearly 75% of the market and that would be like shooting yourself in the foot… with an RPG.

We know that the Windows 10 Mobile platform has failed and with it the Universal Windows Platform. There’s really no reason why developers should write apps for the Windows Store when the Windows 10 Mobile platform is in such horrible conditions. Windows 10 Mobile has less than 1% of the market with 99% of the mobile market being controlled by Apple and Android. This won’t change. Microsoft can throw all of the marketing and money it wants at the problem but it’s just not going to change, the two platforms (Apple and Android) are far too entrenched in the mobile market and the minds of people buying phones to make an ounce of difference.

With all of that being said, listen up Microsoft… forget UWP. Just chuck it onto the trash heap of failure. You’re never going to have the power you once had to take control away from Apple and Android in the market so stop it already, to keep trying is a waste of money. Leave the mobile market up to Apple and Android, they were there first and they control the market and nothing’s going to change that. Sure, go ahead, make your various apps for iOS and Android but that’s it. Stop trying to chase a pipe dream.

For the love of God and all that is holy, get back to what made you successful… the desktop. You are king of the desktop market, you control such a gigantic portion of the desktop market that nobody else can touch you. But recently with your whole UWP push along with Windows 8.x and Windows 10 you have been annoying the very users that gave you the crown and throne of the desktop market. What Microsoft needs to do and they need to do it quickly is to do a complete 180 on their computing strategy and get back to what made them successful for decades, the desktop. The desktop is king, it will always be king. Don’t let the industry pundits tell you otherwise, the desktop will always be king. When I need to do real work, I sit down at my desktop with a keyboard and mouse. When businesses need to do real work, workers sit down at a desktop with a keyboard and mouse. Why? Because when it comes to real work there’s no comparison, the desktop is king.

Long live the desktop.