2016 In A Nutshell

When we look back at 2016, we’ll remember a country divided almost in half, buoyed by an ignorant, uneducated mass of people who, while believing they were siding with people who would make their lives better, actually chose self-serving egomaniacs. Swayed by populist rhetoric, bringing out the worst in prejudice and xenophobia, and spurred on by vacuous promises, a hate machine was brought to power.

I could, of course, be referring to either the “Brexit” referendum or the US Presidential election. Both have galvanised people’s fears and contempt and blindly taken a swing at the status quo. Both have favoured promises based on empty statements over hard facts – even outright demeaning expert commentary to create a pseudo-elitist divide between the educated and uneducated.

Lies and fire-stoking played in to every aspect of each of the victor’s plans. In the case of Brexit, it’s already become starkly clear that there was no plan. The paper-thin veil of promises has already collapsed and now a frantic government is scrambling to achieve something that, it seems, wasn’t meant to happen. The Brexit campaigners had no idea how their vision should be achieved – just an over-arching need for dramatic change. Leave the EU – apparently at all costs – was the order of the day. No details necessary

Similarly, in the US, it’s that crass slogan, “Make America Great Again”, that is all that was needed. Still, no one can clearly state what that actually means. What part of US history is the vision we’re supposed to be aiming for? Trump’s plans to achieve this “greatness” are, as in the case of the Brexit campaign, equally non-existent. No depth necessary, as the “idea” of them appears to be enough to bring out the masses behind the extremist fervour run by the Trump campaign.

I heard that tired justification on TV, again. Trump “tells it like it is”. Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage also “tell it like it is”. Make uneducated, populist statements that pull at common folks’ fears and you can bring together a force of people that will blindly follow you. Trump no more tells it like it is than does a bully on a playground. The justification I heard on TV was followed by the comment that (and I’m paraphrasing here) “you have to decide which things to trust, but at least he spoke his mind”. This is an insane comment. Basically, the person that spouts their mouth off, with no regard to common decency, or even knowledge of the subject at hand, is apparently the one to be trusted. Sure, they may say some things that you shouldn’t  listen to, but those bits are just “fluff”, right? At least he’s telling it like it is!

We’re already starting to see that Brexit is analogous to a speeding car without a steering wheel – there’s no plot to course, and no clear way of taking the UK there anyway. At the moment, those that voted to leave the EU are still happy. With the long, drawn out process to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty (which starts the actual negotiation needed to leave) still months away from beginning, the actual reality of what a post-Brexit UK looks like is unknown. People are still happy that they won and frustrated when people try to stop this momentous thing from happening. Will that still be the case three years from now, when the stark reality of what has happened will be known and the real compromises that the UK government will have had to make will have watered down the original sentiment of the “Leave” campaign and their supporters will be left with a cheap version of the vision they were promised. The UK will become a lesser country on the global playing field. As it’s ability to act as a conduit into the European market is severed, other countries will find alternative methods of accessing the EU.

Will a Trump presidency look the same? There’s nothing in his manifesto that really addresses the fears and concerns of the bulk of the people that voted for him. Once he hits the White House, the slogans will have to be replaced with actual action. If, as many suspect, he has no real plans, this will become immediately apparent. He’s rallied a population that will want to see clear and definable changes to their lives, addressing the very problems he claims to have answers for. If that doesn’t happen, there will be a lot of frustrated people come the next election.


I’m rambling now, so I’ll finish with this: If Trump doesn’t achieve his promises, at least the country could just swing in a different direction assuming it hasn’t gone into meltdown by then. Brexit, once it’s been enacted, is a one-time deal. There’s no going back.


Windows 8 – Dual-Screen Goodness

So, on a dual-screen setup, Windows 8 does some things differently from Windows 7. For example, the Taskbar is now duplicated across both screens:



While this looks odd at first, where it really works is when running a full-screen Metro styled application, such as the Start screen itself:



Now, you can have the best of both worlds. This is especially beneficial when you consider developing a Metro app in the newly released Visual Studio 11 Beta

Windows 8 – Whither Backup and Restore?

After setting up Windows 8, I of course wanted to set up a backup. Under Windows 7, I used the built-in Windows Backup and Restore feature, so I promptly went to the Windows 8 Start screen and typed ‘backup’ and got two results under Settings:



OK, so “File History”. Let’s try that.



This doesn’t seem to allow the granular backup options that Backup and Restore had under Windows 7. Even the “Advanced settings” is somewhat dumbed down:



I was disappointed. So going back to the Start screen and searching ‘file’, I discovered Windows 7 File Recovery!



After running it, I found I had exactly what I was looking for:



So What Does All This Mean?

It looks as though Microsoft are moving to a simpler form of backup and recovery. My fear here is that so-called “power users” will lose the ability to perform a more detailed backup of their system.

For example, my backup settings look like this, based on having two partitions:



I do not seem to be able to setup such a backup scenario using the Windows 8 File History tool.

Windows 8 for Keyboard Users

This is just a quick repost of Tim Heuer’s post here

Shortcut Action
Windows key + spacebar Toggles between input languages and keyboard layout
Windows key + , Peeks at the desktop
Windows key + Enter Starts Narrator
Windows Key + PgUp Moves full screen window (i.e., the new Metro UI) to the monitor on the left in multi-mon situations.
Windows Key + PgDn Moves full screen to the right
Windows Key + Shift + .
Windows Key + .
Snaps application and/or moves the snapped app to left/right
Windows Key + c Opens charms bar
Windows Key + i Opens Settings
Windows Key + k Opens Devices charm
Windows Key + h Opens Share charm
Windows Key + q Opens Search charm
Windows Key + w Opens Settings search
Windows Key + f Opens Files search
Windows Key + z Toggle AppBar
Windows Key + x Opens System Context Menu
Windows Key + d Go to Desktop

Windows 8 – First Impressions

Like a lot of people Wednesday, I downloaded the Consumer Preview of Windows 8 (it can be downloaded at http://preview.windows.com).

After initially installing it in a VM (Virtual Machine), I was able to test the various software pieces I need for work and found that everything would work fine so, late Wednesday night, I took the plunge and reformatted my Windows 7 laptop and installed Windows 8.


What I Like…

First off, I think the interface has improved immeasurably since the Developer Preview in September of last year. It seems much more polished and refined. There’s still the issue of the jarring between the Metro UI and the traditional desktop, but, again, it seems more fluid than in the earlier release.


After a day of using it, I’ve already become accustomed to hitting the Windows key and jumping to the Start screen, typing the first couple of characters of the program I want to run and hitting enter to start it – much like in Windows 7.

Here’s me looking for “Word”:


Behind the scenes is the traditional, Windows 7-style desktop:


(I’ve styled mine the way I like it with the taskbar at the top. The wallpaper is from http://browse.deviantart.com/customization/wallpaper/apple/#/d4qx06e)

When running a non-Metro application, you are taken to the this desktop and to all intents and purposes, it’s like running on Windows 7. Here’s Word 2010 and Excel 2010 running together:


Obviously, a lot of focus has been placed on the Metro side of Windows 8, with its highly stylised applications. Here’s a taster of some of the built-in applications:






Photos (showing some of my Facebook albums)

There’s also the new Microsoft Store app showing an expanding set of new apps built just for Windows 8 Metro:


All of this makes for a fun version of Windows with enough of the “old” Windows to get work done.


So, What Do I Not Like?

Well, there are inconsistencies. Primarily in the use of the Metro UI with regards to “Legacy Hardware”. To you and I, this means anything without touch capability. Microsoft have tried to do good job mimicking a touch interface for those of us with unfortunate enough to have only a mouse and a keyboard. However, the gestures used are poorly implemented and lack consistency from application to application.

Take for example the initial lock screen:


To log in without a touch-based screen, you click the mouse anywhere near the bottom of the screen and drag up. You will then see the login page:


This seems intuitive enough. However, it appears to be the only place in Windows 8 where the click-hold-drag approach is used to simulate finger-swiping.

On the Start screen for example, click-hold-drag does nothing. Instead, you use the mouse-wheel (if equipped) to scroll left or right. The type of functionality is used again in some of the Metro apps. The key word here is “sometimes”. Some of the third-party apps in the store present the same type of horizontal-scrolling scenario, but do not implement the mouse-wheel scrolling, so you’re left to manually drag a scroll bar along by yourself. This severely breaks the immersion and brings it home to you that you’re using outdated equipment. An example of this is the Telegraph application:


Worse still, when the mouse scrolling approach is used, there are some interesting side effects. Take the Weather app for example:


As you can see, there’s more information off to the right, but as you start scrolling right using the mouse wheel, you hit the hourly forecast table. This table has a scrollable list of hourly weather information.


As you pass over it in your “pretending to swipe by mouse scrolling”, your scroll messages also reach the table, which also starts scrolling down while you’re scrolling right! It makes for one messy UI.


For me, the whole experience is marred by the poor accommodation towards mouse/keyboard users. The feeling of “not quite being invited to the party” is there when you hit the issues mentioned above. Microsoft must make this work equally well for legacy input devices as well as touch-enabled devices if it has any chance of getting traction outside of the tablet market with Windows 8. Either that, or face an uproar from the anti-Microsoft crowd.

What would help would be some type of consistency. Pick any of the approaches and stick to it. Preferably something along the lines of a click-hold-drag, which seems more akin to the finger-swiping it is trying to emulate. An unrelated example of this working is the Windows version of Angry Birds where the click-hold-drag is used in lieu of the touch-based finger swiping of the mobile version.

Lowering Wi-Fi Transmit Power in Android

For some reason my ASUS Transformer has it’s Wi-Fi transmitter running at 1.6 watts (32dBm). This increases power consumption and so shortens battery time.

The standard for most netbooks is 14dBm. The ASUS Transformer allows for the following values: 4dBM, 11dBm, 18dBm and 32dBm. Fortunately, there is a way to lower the power used by the Wi-Fi transmitter.

YOU NEED TO BE ROOTED and have some kind of terminal emulator

Simply download this file: iwconfig.tar (registration required!) and do the following from the terminal emulator


cd /mnt/sdcard/download — this assumes the download location of the file

tar –xf iwconfig.tar

mount –o rw,remount /system

cp iwconfig /system/xbin

chmod 755 /system/xbin/iwconfig

You can see the current value by running the following command:


You should see that the current, default value is 32dBm for the wi-fi transmitter. You can change the value by typing the following (for example):

iwconfig wlan0 tx 11dBm

You can also set this up in cron to always lower the setting on boot. Again, in terminal emulator:

crontab –e

In the editor (vi for me) that opens add a line that says:

@reboot /system/xbin/iwconfig wlan0 tx 11dBm

Save the file and reboot. After successfully rebooting, check the current value by running iwconfig again. It should show the value you used in crontab (11dBm in my case)

PROPS to woti23 on XDA for highlighting this. Links to posts: here and here

Fixing Broken Market Links In Android

Thanks to some googling, I found what appears to be a foolproof way to fix broken market links in Android. This typically happens after flashing a new ROM and restoring your apps via some backup tool like Titanium Backup.

Open titanium backup
go to Market
Click it and clear the data.
Now go to menu > Market Doctor and follow those steps to repair.
Go to your market and accept the disclosure.
Menu > My apps.

Source: http://bit.ly/gCvPyM