Adobe acknowledges Flash fade out

Today, open standards like HTML5 have matured and provide many of the capabilities that Flash ushered in.
Looking ahead, we encourage content creators to build with new web standards...

When we started rollApp, Flash was the only thing which could allow us what we planned to do – run applications in the cloud and make then feel like they are running locally.

Automatic download of Windows 10 installation files

Last week some started bashing Microsoft for pre-downloading Windows 10 installation files and thus taking up to as much as 6Gb of precious disk space.

There are two main problems cited:

  • small hard drives

For someone using a 2-in-1 with 32GB of flash memory, that's a hefty chunk of their storage being clogged up with an OS that they might not want yet, if at all.

  • metered Internet connections

"I know of two instances where people on metered connections went over their data cap for August because of this unwanted download."

Microsoft responded with a statement saying that

For individuals who have chosen to receive automatic updates through Windows Update, we help upgradable devices get ready for Windows 10 by downloading the files they’ll need if they decide to upgrade. When the upgrade is ready, the customer will be prompted to install Windows 10 on the device.

With that, let's stop looking for reasons for a rant and consider this from product and engineering perspective. It would not be a huge stretch to say that main driving forces there are:

  • new version is superior to older releases: better UI, improved performance, lots of new features. So, the faster we can get it to more users the better
  • new version it technologically more advanced: better hardware compatibility, improved security, lots of new system infrastructure for the developers to build upon. Again, the more users will have it the lower will be the support cost and the more resources can be allocated for new features

With that discussion now moves to the question of "how?" How to make the upgrade smooth and fast for most of the users.

If one has automatic download of Windows Updates enabled, pre-downloading the installation files does seem such a bad idea. Users already have part of their hard drive used by all the patches and service packs. If they did not turn this of by this time it have not bothered them. Why not save them from waiting for the update to be ready for installation, when they decide to do so?

But what if I have a device with as small as 32Gb disk drive. Well, we all can imagine what a disaster can happen when 15% (6Gb out of 32Gb) of already scarce disk space goes into a black hole. Now, let's put our engineering hat on.

I can imagine myself being a developer on Windows Update team. It would never occur to me that whenever new update becomes available I can go off use up all the available disk space for its files. I could not have foreseen this for the first release. But through all the years of Windows Update development, we, as a team, would have run into situations like this and do something smart about it.

Another thing, is that users of computers with small hard drives would try to do everything to get as much of the disk space for themselves as possible. And turning of automatic download of updates is one of the important steps to do so. Therefore, chances are these devices where not affected by this problem at all.

Same line of thinking goes for data caps on Internet connections. If you have one f those, you likely have automatic download of updates off.

What makes a great headline and a great theoretical discussion is not always a perfect match for reality.

Windows 10 Impressions – Start Menu

It is somewhat hard to make an impression about a new operating system without using it full-time, but I'll try.

First of all, I have to say that the system became snappier. At the very least, it feels like after I started the computer I was able to get to the Windows Explorer with the list of my files. I don't know what's happened: smarter startup sequence, less services launched during OS booting or something else, but it does the trick. With Windows 7 I many times decided not to even power on the machine to do something recalling how long it would take to get to the point, when I can start actually doing my thing.

Over the past week I've been using the laptop with all new and shiny Windows 10 as a secondary machine for some background tasks. This does not give me much data to discourse on the qualities of the OS, but there is one thing one cannot miss, when using Windows. And that is the Start menu.

Start menu after the installation

While many people are happy it is back, it looks to me I'm not going to use it much. The main reason: I do not see how it is going to help me with what I would previously do via the Start menu.

New and shiny tiles. While I understand why Microsoft put them all there – to promote their built-in apps, it makes little sense to users like me, who have their apps and workflow already setup. Why would I want to see their new Mail instead of the Outlook, which is already fully configured?

Bright, all blue tiles. The problem is they all indeed are blue (at least those on the first screen), they all look the same and to figure out what is where I have to pay too much attention. It can be possible to get used to it, but it hardly will be completely comfortable ever after long use.

Shiny tiles are ready to distract you

Shiny, flashing tiles. Twitter, feature promotion, Store, Candy Crush – all of that grabs your attention, when you open the Start menu. But how often to you click Start to check what Kim Kardashian is up for, see what's trending on the App Store or say "To hell with work! Let's play Candy Crush!" The Start menu aimed at (I supposed) helping you do your stuff now goes far enough to distract you from that.

Apps list (Start > All apps) comparing to Windows 7 also changed for the worse. All app icons appear on the same blue tiles making them almost indistinguishable. These tiles are fairly large making fewer apps appearing in the list at the same time. But the worst thing, I think, is that the list of apps is sorted alphabetically. I've seen that on fullscreen tiled apps list in Windows 8 and did not like it there already. How are you supposed to find Skype under G as "Get Skype"?

Have found Skype?

When you are looking for a system browser on freshly installed Windows 10, are you supposed to check B for Browser, I for the Internet (analogous to Mail, Photos, etc.), E for Edge or M for Microsoft Edge?

Are you on the Internet already?

Alphabetic sorting works great for your contacts, because contacts are regular – everyone has first name and last name. App names are anything but regular and alphabet sorting make very little sense there. This hardly helps the Start menu serve its purpose.

After all, Start > Settings seems to be only useful and useable option in the entire Start menu.

On the way to Windows 10. Day 6, the last day

This is day 6 of my way from Windows 7 to Windows 10. Well, technically that's more like the fourth day. Last two days were weekend days and I did not try to move the setup process forward. However, since I was waiting for the update to come through Windows Update, it is important that day 6 from the time I embarked on this update route and, actually, day 7 since the new version was released.

When I double-quadruple-checked the Windows Update in the morning, nothing changed: all up-to-date, no recommended updates selected. I decided to upgrade to Windows 10 without waiting in line. And so it begins:

Off to a start

After some downloading and waiting we are finally ready to install

Ready to install

Somehow the idea that you may not want to keep your files during the upgrade seems weird:

Do you want to keep your files?

Now the setup is on full autopilot:

Nothing you can do about it

After the first reboot the setup tool pressingly asks to "sit back and relax". The difference between following photos is about 40 minutes.

0% done 25% done

Now some 4.5 hours later we are on the last mile. Login and check settings.

Hi there!

On the settings screens be careful to make sure you checked all the settings. Sometimes they are hidden behind the scroll in completely obscure way.

Be careful and always double check

After all the configuration, less than 5 hours of install my way to Windows 10 has finally ended. I will never know how long it would take to get the upgrade through Windows Update, but at least I have the new system now.

On the way to Windows 10. What others think

Nothing happens on my way to Windows 10: the experimental laptop is in the office and I'm at home trying to have a weekend. Meanwhile, it's interesting to see what others have to say about the windows 10 land, where I'm only trying to get.

The Verge has a bit review of Windows 10 summarized as

Windows 10 has some great additions over Windows 8 and Windows 7, and it really feels like a good blend of the familiarity of Windows 7 and some of the new features of Windows 8. It’s not irritating to use, and you don’t need a tutorial to find the Start menu. It just works like you’d expect.

One of their highlights describes an improvement I can wholeheartedly appreciate:

The annoying hot corners in Windows 8 that made you pull your hair out just trying to access settings or even the Start screen have been removed — thank god.

Everytime I sat down to pair program with a colleague on his Windows 8 laptop, I would accidentally open something by moving the mouse around and then fight to get back to where I was.

Engadget has a nice summary of all the various reviews by media and users.

There have been some issues discovered related to configuration defaults of the new system. In particular, default provacy settings look disturbing and the new feature Windows Update Delivery Optimization, enabled by default, allows to use your computer to deliver Windows Update files to other users, which can consume considarable amount of your bandwith. Definitely worth checking these settings after you get your new system.

The new system is complex and multifaceted so that depending on where you look it will appear that Windows 10 is unfinished, or that it is, actually, pretty good.

I'm still waiting to see that all myself.

On the way to Windows 10. Day 3

Compared to day 2 today was relatively uneventful.

When I checked in the morning, compatibility report appeared saying that everything would be fine:

This PC works with Windows 10

Other than that I've installed a number of recommended updates, which kept appearing after each run, trying to get Windows 10 to start downloading. To help that I've tried free some more space on the system drive and found around 20Gb of orphaned iPod backups. I've even tried to force Windows to start downloading the Windows 10 update files at no avail.

Still at "We're validating Windows 10 for your PC". Let's wait.

On the way to Windows 10. Day 2

As you may already know Microsoft has released it's new and shiny Windows 10 yesterday. Although I've heard many good words from colleagues about the new version, I was reluctant to try pre-release builds myself mainly for the lack of time. And when the general release became available I knew the time has come for me to install it, try it and make my own opinion.

So I grabbed my old Windows 7 Dell laptop, which is now mainly used as a test machine in the rollApp office, and began the journey. This is the first post in the series and it has "Day 2" in the title. That is not a mistake. Indeed this post is about the second day of updating, because on the yeasterday I did not realize it would take days to update and did not bother to record what was going on.

Anyway, getting a Windows installation last updated roughly 1.5 years ago up-to-date so that Windows 10 could be installed seemed like no easy task. Windows wanted to download around 1.4Gb to install some 130 recommended updates. Some of that got done yesterday. But today we are for a fresh start:

Starting off with 112 updates to go

After quite a time of seemingly doing nothing Window Update got back to me with

Error "Error" happened

But after some black magic reboot, some waiting and taking some photos

Hands off! Applying update! 9261? Thats a lot!

Turned out all of that was not in vein. I was down to only 89 important updates selected

Only 89 updates to go!

I started the update, but after a while, when the progress indicator has not moved even to 1%, Windows started screaming showing notifications that it was running out of the disk space. I've managed to free some space and although there was out-of-space situation at least one more time, Windows Update did not warn me a single time that this is going to be a problem. Not until the update operation completes with failures:

Worked for over an hour. Something done, something is not. But that's OK, I guess...

Keep calm, reboot and carry on. Down to only 1 selected update!

Getting close!

Anticipating that more than that may be required I selected 3 more recommended updates related to system components. And started the update

Hold on! Downloading updates...

Overall in this entire process I've been so often stuck at the screen like this. 0% done for tens of minutes and no way of knowing if it is doing something useful, or trying to fix some problem, or simply stuck forever. Very uncomforting progress indicator. Especially if later on it is followed by

You, stupid! Didn't you know that I can not update system files while I'm running?!

Luckily, after the reboot I got the desired "Get Windows 10" icon in the system tray. Now I'm on to another wait

The hard part is now over. Right?

I started writing this post in the morning fearing that it will take several days to get to this point. But here I am in just one day, which is not bad given the hoops I had to jump through to get to a "reserved upgrade".

PS While waiting for the update to arrive, make sure you have at least 3Gb of available disk space for it to download in the background.

Automatic Developer Platform

Automatic released a set of APIs to power applications with automobile driving and even real-time events data.

This can be first widely available Internet of Things type of system, where data gathered from thousands of drivers can each of them improve driving experience. Just a few ideas:

  • plan routes for drivers in a given area such that they all spend minimal time on the road
  • optimize engine parameters for particular driving patterns to maximize MPG