Covered Topics

Please see the list of the topics I've covered. It's located near the bottom of the page. Thanks for stopping in!!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Current Trends in Computing

My regular readers have read my posts dealing with current trends in computing -  such as some of the new LINUX desktops which strikingly resemble iPhones and the "ribbon" interface in Micro$oft's Office.

A trend I find especially worrisome is the apparent decline in reliability and functionality of software I encounter and need to use. Blackboard LEARN,
Oracle Java, some LINUX distributions, and even Libre Office are a few outstanding examples. My previous post covered a java runtime auto-update that went horribly wrong, basically rendering my PC unusable at one of the worst times possible.

I, for one, would like to see a return to basic, solid functionality in software applications. I detest change merely for change's sake - especially when such changes remove useful features and/or break something else. I personally would like a return to straight forward, intuitive menu structures as we have had for many years, rather than the (in my opinion) mess that is Micro$oft's "ribbon". I won't even get into what I think of Windows 8 - other than its new interface is practically unusable for my purposes. But obviously mine is NOT the only viewpoint around - and I'd like to better understand what others either like or dislike about today's computing environment.

To anyone reading this - I'd love to hear your opinions on today's computing trends. If you're comfortable sharing, I'd like to know:

1) Do you like or dislike the new user interfaces? Why?

2) Are you adopting tablets, or do you (like me) still like or need the desktop/laptop paradigm? Why?

3) Have you noticed a change one way or the other in software reliability? Anything in particular stand out in your experience?

4) What OS do you favor and why?

5) Demographics? Example - occupation; level of tech savvy; approximate age group -  under 25, 26-45, 45-60, 60+, ...

6) Hobbies, interests, ...

I'd also like to hear from any software developers their design rationale, their intended audience, how long they have been in the business, ...

And don't forget to download any backups you might need of Java 1.6.34 BEFORE Oracle removes these from its web site.  See my previous post for details on why.

A Warning to Those Forced to Use JAVA: Get Your Backup copies of 1.6.34 NOW!

Well, here it is: Final exams week at school. Final graduate school research project due within a few days. I have a stack of papers to be graded for the classes I teach. But in the midst of all this I will be spending at least half a day completely reinstalling my Windows 7 system. I've already wasted several hours today in an utterly futile exercise, trying to repair it. Why?

 Three Words: Oracle Java auto-update.

 I ALWAYS make a habit of NOT having my computers auto-update ANYTHING so I can avoid situations like I'm in tonight. But Oracle's Java console decided it knew better than I do what I should have on my PC and went right ahead and "updated" my Java 1.6.34 installation to Java 1.7. So now:
1) I cannot log into my school email account that is java-based, because Java 1.7 doesn't work with it.
2) I cannot log into my university's Blackboard LEARN system to submit assignments, ... because Java 1.7 doesn't work with it.
3) My Open Office, which is java-based, is now unstable.
4) Atmel Win Studio 6.0 just doesn't work at all anymore.

Thank God I have LINUX - with that I at least can still read my email!

My final project (which needs a little more last-minute tweaking), deals with AVR microcontrollers and uses Win AVR Studio 6.0 from Atmel. Atmel doesn't cater to either LINUX or Mac users - it's Windows or nothing. This is the very last time I use one of their development boards - the STK600 in this case. If I used someone else's development board I'd at least have the option of using "AVR Dude", or even CodeBlocks, for LINUX.

 My telephone call to Oracle Tech Support was less than useless - all they would say is "Sorry sir. We offer no telephone support for java. You'll have to go to the web site." When I explained that I already HAD thoroughly explored their web site and gotten the same pablum about how to turn java support on in my browser, and that this also did NOT work, I got the same robotic answer - "you'll have to go to our web site ... we have no live support ... "

 When I explained that a graduate school research project is on the line and that I use this computer in my part-time teaching job, I got the same tired refrain "I understand your frustration, but we offer no support ... "

I wasted 45 minutes in telephone purgatory, clawing my way up the chain of command through several layers, yet getting nowhere.

 I think I might have gotten more done if I had stood outside my house, flailing my arms and screaming like a mad man at passing cars, than by bothering to call Oracle about their defective products. They really DON'T CARE.

 Here are the steps I took that did NOT work:

1) Tried un-installing java 1.7 and re-installing Java 1.6.34. The software would supposedly install, but when I would try to log into java-based web applications, all I got was the dreaded "There is no java runtime installed on this computer." error.

 2) Tried using the "System Restore" feature of Windows 7 to return it to a previously working configuration. The system became very unstable, and an examination of the installed software list in Control Panel showed that Java 1.7 was STILL installed. Oddly enough, the "Which Java do I have?" applet on the web site identified my installation as "An older, obsolete version", without specifying WHICH old, obsolete version I was using.  

What I Will Do Now to Correct The Problem

1) Wipe the hard drive and do a clean install of Windows 7 and all my applications. This alone will take several hours.

2) Install Java 1.6.37 - unfortunately, I'm forced to use it for several mission-critical applications.

3) Immediately make BACKUP copies of JAVA 1.6.34 for ALL PLATFORMS I use - Oracle says it will discontinue providing this critical download early next year - so get yours now while you still can!!

4) Make a clone of this drive onto another one so I have one I can immediately switch to at a moment's notice if something goes wrong.

5) BLOCK ALL ACCESS through the firewall to or once my system is fixed. This should prevent the software from deciding to "call home" and do this again. I regard them as malware sites and will treat them accordingly.

 6) This one deserves to be set apart: From now on, in any workplace in which I have any influence, do ANYTHING in my power to DISSUADE decision-makers from buying ANY Oracle product. I think even Micro$oft provides better product support - and THAT is a strong statement coming from me!

Oh, did I mention "Make several backups of Java 1.6.34 for both Windows and LINUX BEFORE Oracle removes these from its web site? "