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TMCNet:  The Joplin Globe, Mo., Joe Hadsall column

[November 09, 2012]

The Joplin Globe, Mo., Joe Hadsall column

JOPLIN, Mo., Nov 09, 2012 (The Joplin Globe - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- A quick note about the presidential election before diving into truly geekworthy matters: For three presidential elections now, I've said that moderates control presidential elections.

I enjoy being right for three elections now.

I would have voted for Bush Jr. in 2004 had I not been so mad about the passage of the Patriot Act. One of the things he talked about that election cycle was the need to widen the party's tent, and he was met with general scoff and disdain by his fellow party members.

Yet, he pursued that platform in the election, and won without the need for a Florida-style recount.

Moderates are nebulous and hard to define, which is why strong party backers hate them with a passion. But over the last decade, moderates have tended to be fiscally conservative and socially liberal.

I say this without providing details, facts or data, but I may look into such things later. Like, in December -- the election has put me behind schedule for National Novel Writing Month.

Someone may have facts and data that prove me wrong, and I welcome it. Until then, any party who wants to stay in power would do well to remember that moderates hold the keys to the future, not the base. And with that, I will stop talking about politics for at least a couple of years.

This has been a disgusting, dogmatic, depressing, demoralizing election cycle for so many reasons -- most of which regard a willful disregard of facts. I'm happy to see it end. Good riddance to you, 2012 election.

A step up from Windows 7 For the first time in my life, I was excited about a Windows upgrade last week, but not for the well-publicized reasons. Sure, the new Start menu filled with tablet-style apps looked interesting, but what really attracted me was how it was built to run better on computers than Windows 7. A $40 upgrade cost was pretty nice, too -- that won't last long.

Windows 8 breaks a pattern for Microsoft, in that every other operating system release is crappy. Windows XP rescued Windows 2000; Windows 7 rescued Windows Vista. So, history states that Windows 8 should stink. But I actually like it.

In a nutshell: I'm running it on my Asus Eee PC, a netbook running at 1.66 GHz with an Intel Atom N450 processor. It has 2 GB of RAM and an Intel graphics accelerator (whatever that means, because it's not exactly a video card).

It ran Windows 7 Starter decently, but chunkily. The slick, glassy look of the Aero windows was nice, but caused occasional lag.

Windows 8 runs a leaner, simpler version of 7 that benefits its performance. Gone are the glassy looks, exchanged for some bulky boxes. Apple fans will be offended simply from looking at a Windows 8 screen. But the payoff is nice. Here's a rundown of the pros and cons: PRO: Better system performance. My computer is running all the stuff I use better and more quickly. Basic functions are easier to find, and contextual menus make more sense.

PRO: The upgrade went relatively smoothly. Easy download, easy upgrade. All of my existing software worked fine. I had issues with the Asus keyboard shortcuts -- some of my function controls no longer work. I imagine a fix is coming.

PRO: A good antivirus program comes as part of the software. I was using Microsoft Security Essentials, a free program that did an outstanding job of protecting the netbook and my two desktop computers at home. Windows Defender is a change in name only -- the program is basically the same, and it was already loaded with the install.

PRO: Better graphic performance. I feel kind of silly reviewing the graphic performance of a netbook, which is like reviewing the horsepower of a Geo Metro. But there's less lag and chunking when browsing through different windows now.

Legitimate gripes Windows 8 has its share of problems, too. Some deal with change, others are pretty serious.

The biggest gripe is the new Start menu. No more Start button in the corner, waiting like the front door of a shopping mall. It's gone.

In its place is an entire tablet-style OS. This is what you've seen on the commercials -- those squares and rectangles are not just program shortcuts. They are full running apps, as vibrant and functional as any tablet. Many have functionality at just a glance, without starting them up.

Windows fans generally do not like the new menu. It took some learning and frustration, but I'm used to it now. The main reason is because I really have no use for the tablet OS, and that leads to my biggest gripe: BIG TIME CON: The tablet OS, called Metro, requires a resolution bigger than my netbook regularly offers. Apps won't even run: All that pops up is a box offering to change your resolution.

My netbook's 10.1-inch screen renders 1024x600 pretty beautifully. That's a solid widescreen display. But most of the 10.1-sized tablets running Windows 8 are taller, requiring a resolution of 1024x768. That means I had to do several things: I had to tweak the registry to allow a non-typical screen size. Now that I did that, I'm at least able to toggle between the two resolutions.

But setting my screen, perfectly designed for the former resolution, squishes the latter. At 1024x768, everything is portly, illegible and squat. Even the gorgeous Metro apps, with their beautiful, Frutiger-inspired font (I heart Frutiger) look smashed by Wreck-it Ralph.

The ultimate insult is that the Metro OS renders JUST FINE. It's just the apps that don't work. This is a problem that Microsoft needs to fix, because even though netbooks are on the way out, there's still plenty of them in use.

Other gripes I have: CON: Loss of some contextual menus. Metro has some Oright-clicko functionality, but not much. Finding things at first is daunting.

CON: Bigger learning curve. Standard functions are hidden -- Metro changed up the Start menu so much that finding the restart and shut down commands was a challenge. The taskbar and menus activated by mousing to the corners are functional, but not intuitive. And figuring out how to close a Metro app requires searching for help on the Internet.

CON: Metro apps are somewhat limited. I could extend this gripe to most apps that replace a website's functionality. Take eBay, for example: The apps on Apple, BlackBerry, Droid and now Windows 8 don't have all the ease-of-use functions that I can find on with Google Chrome or any other browser. There's no good Twitter or Facebook app yet, and Skype hogs screen space.

This is why the resolution-switching problem above doesn't bug me much: As of now, Windows 8 apps are too unimpressive for me to use them.

Still glad for upgrade Despite those pretty big cons, I'm glad I switched. My netbook is running better. If I installed Windows 8 on my monster desktop computers at home, I'd have no issues with screen resolution.

But the OS switch would not be popular to the other users of my desktops. The Start menu change is too drastic, and the apps just aren't dazzling enough to make a change.

So, while I'm happy with the netbook running a more efficient system, I'm not getting Windows 8 for the machines better suited to handle it. Typical Microsoft experience, I guess.

Novel progress As of Tuesday, I was at more than 6,000 words. And I still think that NaNoWriMo is one of the dumbest names ever created. Even worse than the names of sandwiches at Schlotzsky's (Bacon Beefy Smokecheesy: delicious sandwich, but ridiculous name).

But it feels good to see some progress. Several other people in the newsroom are doing it this year, and it's cool to hear progress being made.

___ (c)2012 The Joplin Globe (Joplin, Mo.) Visit The Joplin Globe (Joplin, Mo.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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