Sandy Hook Illustrates Many Problems in America


These days, I normally stay away from blogging about societal woes and stick to my core of technical subjects. But there are times when an issue illustrates a problem in our society with such clarity, I feel the need to

In we look at things objectively, the Sandy Hook massacre is an anomaly. While incidents like this are more prevalent than 30 years ago, they are still rare events. Sandy Hook is a horrific anomaly, as it reaches deep inside each of us to a place where the fear stifles our thinking, as nobody wants to think their children are in danger when they go to school.

When something horrific happens, we want a solution, preferably a fast solution. But rather than accept there are multiple ways to attack a problem, we glom onto the first solution that we see as sensible. We ignore the fact that our bias often dictates what is “sensible”. And we start looking for silver bullets, despite the fact silver bullets only kill werewolves and werewolves only exist in the dark corners of our imagination.

But werewolves sell, as the Twilight saga shows (and so do vampires, of course). We all would like to be able to find a beast with an Achilles heal that can be slain with a simple solution. Sandy Hook, and Adam Lanza, are not these mythical, easily identified beasts, however, so any quick solution is more likely to have as many negative consequences as positive outcomes.

Solving the Problem

Thus far, the solutions for this problem have centered around three supposed ills: guns in America, mental health coverage and parenting. While all of these sound good, we have to look at the implications and ensure we are solving the problem in a reasonable manner, both in its effects on liberty and costs, monetary and societal. I will cover each of these topics.

Banning Guns

With guns, the belief is more control will solve the problem. But there are gun laws in Connecticut, which leads some to believe an outright gun ban in America is the solution.

Australia has been named as the sterling example of gun control’s effectiveness. People cite reductions in gun suicides and homicides. Examining the Australian statistics, the effect of gun banning has been most effective on suicides. The homicide numbers are down, but not enough to be statistically significant. So Australia is not the sterling example it is paraded to be when we look at homicides. In addition, the culture is different in Australia than it is in America. Even if Australia had statistically significant results, it might not work as effectively here.

We also have an issue with a pesky little thing we call the 2nd Amendment, which states the right to bear arms shall not be infringed. There is an acceptance of regulation in the Amendment, but regulations that ban bearing arms would not pass a Constitutional challenge.

One thing that cannot be argued is guns are very effective killing tools. It is much easier to aim at someone many feet away and pull a trigger than it is to get close enough to kill them with a knife. It is also much easier to kill many people, as it is harder to get close enough to disarm a person with a gun. We also have a psychological factor that perhaps if we keep our distance we won’t get shot, so we do not take the chance.

But if we focus on gun banning to stop another Sandy Hook, we ignore the real problem with guns. Madmen shooting up schools, malls and movie theaters comprise an extremely small portion of the gun homicides in America. The core of the gun problem exists in the inner city and is fueled largely by gang rivalries, drugs and societal unrest. Banning guns does nothing to solve these problems. And while we use the numbers to support stopping another Sandy Hook, the majority of us simply avoid the hot spots and live a very safe life.

Guns deaths are a symptom of a larger disease. We can alleviate the symptom through radical gun control measures, but it will not cure the disease. And disease finds a way to spread. As examples, think of ATM robberies, carjackings and armed robberies of convenience stores, all of which are far more common than Sandy Hook type incidents. A large reason why ATM robberies, carjackings and convenience store robberies are more common is the likelihood of engaging with an armed populace is very low. While a gun ban may reduce Sandy Hook type incidents, as the weapons were all legally obtained, it will also create opportunities for the spread of the larger disease.

We also have to take in account that without guns people still find a way. Adam Lanza killed 26 people with a few guns. Timothy McVeigh killed 168 using a bomb made of fertilizer and kerosene. Jim Jones killed 914 people by convincing them to drink cyanide laced grape kool aid. On 9/11, boxcutters were used to hijack planes, which were used to kill over 2,000 people. All far more horrific, and yet still anomalies.

I can agree with a change in gun policy in the United States, provided we do not trample on the 2nd Amendment (or bring the Amendment up to a vote to abolish it, if you feel that is a better solution). But I also think we have to look at the larger disease and stop tiptoeing around it because parts of the disease may fall on our sacred cows.

Mental Health

The next item on the list is mental health. There are those stating mental health coverage would solve the issue. While we can certainly advocate better mental health coverage and treating mental health diseases in a similar manner as other health concerns, the problem is not that simple.

The first problem is it is hard to single out mental health. We can certainly see that people have certain issues, but the question of whether the issue is enough to warrant treatment is a hard assessment, one which the average citizen is not qualified to make. Can you tell the difference between someone who is having a pity party and someone who is clinically depressed? Perhaps in extreme cases, but even the mild cases can lead to very radical circumstances.

Even trained professionals often have a problem diagnosing when something is a problem. My wife told me about a lady whose husband woke up one morning, reached over like he was getting his slippers, grabbed a gun and shot himself in the head in front of her. She was a trained mental health professional who realized he had some issues, but did not see them as suicidal issues.

So, do we assess everyone? Only people with issues? Only people with severe issues? Adam Lanza’s issues, as described, don’t sound like someone about to go off the deep end and shoot up a school, so this means you have to either assess everyone or at least anyone with any issues, no matter how small, which means nearly everyone. The majority of us will be found fine, even if we have issues, as life presents all of us with issues from time to time.

That leads to the second problem: expense. Now some may say we should not think of costs, but the reality is the bill has to be paid. Unlike most diseases, we don’t have a good grasp on mental illness. There are some illnesses we can medicate, but we don’t have a cure that is even remotely solid. And most of the “cures” we do have rely on the individual to have the discipline to keep up with his medication (using “his” here as most mass murderers are male). Since the medications have side effects, the mentally ill person will often skip meds when he feels good, thinking he will recognize when he is not feeling good. Unfortunately, the very organ that causes his disease is the organ making a decision whether or not he is ill.

The tough reality is even doing the most radical, and expensive, course may not stop these types of incidents from happening. Should we do more? Certainly.

Parenting

The last area that has been slammed is bad parenting. Of the three, I see bad parenting, or the lack of parenting, as a problem closer to the disease. I am not convinced that bad parenting alone causes mentally ill adults to go on a killing spree, but it can certainly be a cause. I am not sure what to think with Adam Lanza, however, as I currently have low confidence in the reports.

The problem with focusing on parenting, however, is any push we have to protect society takes away parental rights. Worse, we end up with more parents as victims than we do with people who are saved from our actions. In addition, we often give passes to the parents who are the most likely to end up with kids in these situations because they fit another protected class of people. Instead, we focus on smaller groups that are easy political targets.

How did we get here

It is a rather simple formula. First, you have a media hungry for viewers. To get more, you either have to be first or the best. You also have a public hungrily looking for answers and willing to accept the first “reasonable” answer, or one that passes their filter. Add these together with the human desire to make sense of things and wrap bad things up quickly, and we have a knee jerk reaction.

The Media

Let’s look first at the media. The media is searching for content to pull people to their site. The money proposition is a bit different for different news organizations, but advertising revenue is the primary focus. More hits equals more money from ads. To get more hits, you have to be the first with the scoop or have the best coverage. It is often easier to “be the first”.

How do you scoop the other media sources? You cull the blogs and look for a story angle that will pull in viewers. How do you know the blogs are reporting valid information? You wait until you find it on more than one blog and then report it.

The problem with this formula is blogs often copy from other blogs, so you may really be talking one source. But the fact that you have multiple websites using that one source, most often without attributing it to the other blog, it appears as if you have multiple sources to confirm. This covers the media, as they can state they have properly vetted the story, but it does not make it true.

Items that were reported in the major media that we now know to be false:

  • Adam Lanza’s mother was a teacher at the school – she was unemployed. This does not mean she was never a teacher or a teacher’s aide (as some sites reported), but it appears nobody in the school knew who she was, so this was not recent.
  • The principle buzzed Adam Lanza into the building (recognizing him, since his mother was a teacher) – Police have now reported he blew out the security glass with gunfire.
  • Victoria Soto had a conversation with the gunman, telling him her students were in the gym, and he shot her in the face – This is much like the Cassie “she said yes” Bernall myth from the Columbine massacre. It does appear Soto tried to protect her students, but the story here has reach legendary proportions.

The Public

This problem is exacerbated when we can further link the story to our perception of ills in society. The Duke Lacrosse team and George Zimmerman come to mind. If the evil was perpetuated due to racism, we have an even bigger story. The Duke Lacrosse team case has now been shown to be a complete fraud perpetuated both by the woman accusing them of rape and the district attorney using the team as a means to get re-elected (he was, in the end, jailed for hiding evidence). Looking the latest evidence in the Zimmerman case, it appears he is telling the truth, after a rush to judgment.

We, the public, want Adam Lanza to be a weird loner who is insane, because that makes us feel safer. We want a teacher who was a hero of legendary proportions, because that makes us feel better about people. But we also want an immediate solution that stops the problem from every rearing its ugly head again. And these desires fuel the media.

The Solution

I am not certain there is one solution. The core problem is a societal issues that runs much deeper than a single point solution.

Attacking the problem from the gun direction may reduce the likelihood of another Sandy Hook, but as a single solution it will restrict freedoms and reduce the likelihood law abiding citizens will be able to protect themselves in adverse situations. We can outlaw “assault weapons” again, but assault weapons were not used in this tragedy. Gun control may be part of a solution, but it is focused more on symptoms than the disease, so I would not expect gun control, as a total solution, will work.

Attacking the problem from a mental health direction will most likely be either expensive and/or ineffective. As a society, we should do something about mental illness, but we should do it because it is the right thing to do, not to solve problems like Sandy Hook. If we are looking at mental health as the silver bullet to stop these mass murders, we are more likely to find it solves nothing.

Attacking the problem from the parenting aspect will be slow and we will have to get beyond our sacred cows. We have to start regarding the family as a very important aspect of parenting and work to avoid single parent situations, as there are ample studies to show the correlation of societal problems and single parent homes. This is not stating single parents are bad, as that is not the case, but rather that we, as a society, need to do something to strengthen the family. The problem here is we don’t want to touch the single parent problem, as it is more common in the inner city, and we don’t want to appear racist. But, this is where a great majority of our problems exist. Until we are willing to identify the problem, we won’t solve it.

Summary

There are a couple of things to consider.

  • Mass murders of this type are the exception, rather than the rule. We should focus on the rule, not the exception, as societal sickness is a bigger problem than a set of events.
  • There are no silver bullets, as there are no werewolves. Focusing on a single problem in society often fails to solve both the problem and the disease.
  • We have to take in account the effects of any changes we feel might solve a problem, to ensure we are not creating other problems.

Sandy Hook was a tragedy. As the father of four girls, I am heartbroken for the parents of the children who were murdered in cold blood. I also feel heartbreak for the father of the murderer, who must be agonizing over how his child got to this point. And I feel for people all over America who are in shock and want the problem resolve.

But I also realize we cannot completely prevent these types of incidents, no matter how much we spend to try. I know that removing guns from everyone is an unrealistic goal and most of the people who would give up their guns are not the problem. I see that mental health is a certain need, but there is no plan that would be feasible that can solve the problem. And I see that parenting, while an issue, must be addressed in light of the complete picture.

We live in a society that has illnesses we don’t want to address, as we fear the backlash. We live in a society where reasoning skills and compromise are neither taught nor lauded. We live in a society where we value our bias so deeply we are unwilling to see people with a different set of thoughts and beliefs as anything other than wrong. And we live in a society that wants instance solutions.

We need to take a deep breath and look at the entire problem. We also need to mourn with the people in Sandy Hook and give them our support and look at the problem when the grief is over.

Peace and Grace,
Greg

Twitter: @gbworld

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Windows 8 Start Menu


I wrote earlier today about Windows 8 and I wanted to go through what I found that might help with the menu issue (meaning what to do when you know what program you need to find, but cannot find it on the new Modern UI start menu). In my search, I found a few programs that I wanted to share. I blogged about it as a “bad” feature in my Windows 8: The good, the bad and the ugly blog entry.

You, of course, have the option of a registry hack to get the menu back, but this means you are choosing to use the Windows 7 style menu perpetually. NOTE: If you are not an advanced user, I would not start hacking around in the registry, as you can kill your machine.

Pokki

Pokki is a very flexible Windows start menu application. Very flexible and allows you to easily customize, although it does not really look much like the Windows start menu. One nice thing is it does not coopt the windows key, so you can go to Modern UI easily (Windows 8 start menu does not).

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One thing that is neat about the program is it is very customizable. But it also duplicates some features that are present in WIndows 8 desktop. Once it starts, it is there. If you decide not to use it, you will have to kill the process via the Task Manager. If you uninstall the application, you will have to reboot to get rid of the icon.

Also note that the application pulls up items from the App store, so you can easily find some popular applications. The start menu allows you to anchor programs up front, so you don’t have to search.

Windows 8 Start Menu

The Windows 8 Start menu looks like a more “classic” Windows menu, pretty much replicating the look and feel of the Windows menu, as you can see below.

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By default, it makes it difficult to get to the Modern UI start menu, but you can configure this. You can also exit the program, if it is problematic for you, leaving no icons on the taskbar, like Pokki.

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Watch the installer and make sure you choose custom, as it wants to install a variety of additional programs. None are dangerous, but this is something that gets me a bit off. It installs a browser and a media player.

Power 8

Power 8 is another Windows like start menu. It is open source and rather limited. You can see a screencap below.

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My personal feeling is the program is still a bit buggy. For some reason the lower right corner icon is munged up on my install. In addition, it does not contain the many folders Windows 8 Start Menu has,so it is of no use in solving my issue (blogged here). I am not overly thrilled for my purpose, as my main reason for desiring a start menu is to find programs that are hard to find through the Modern UI menu.

Iobit Start Menu 8

Iobit Start Menu 8 is another Windows 7 menu lookalike, like Windows 8 Start Menu. The coloring is a bit different than the Windows 7 menu, but the functionality is very much like Windows 7.

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Also like Windows 8 Start Menu, it absconds the windows key, but there is hope as you can easily move to metro by right clicking or using Alt + X.

Others

I tried to download Stardock’s start menu, but the email to the download link did not work. So I did not get a chance to try it. Since it is $5, I have opted to not push to try it.

Summary

Since I like the Modern UI, I prefer Pokki at this point in time. It is also the most flexible of the tools, as you can easily customize. It also pulls up popular apps, which is a nice little plus.

Peace and Grace,
Greg

Twitter: @gbworld

Windows 8: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly


I installed the release bits for Windows 8 in August, so I wanted to take some time to give my feedback on what I think about Windows 8, now that I have had time to get used to it. I would say it is a bit of a love hate relationship. On one hand, I love the quick response to the keyboard and I don’t miss the start menu much (there are some exceptions). On the other, there are times it can get downright annoying and aggravating.

If I were to sum it up in a word, the word would be schizophrenic (others have suggested bipolar). On one hand, you have the new Modern UI, which is probably ideal for installs on tablets, and then you have the standard windows. The problem is the two seem like night and day as you switch back and forth between them. Once “everything” is in modern UI?

I will post something about Office 2013 (semi-Windows 8 feeling) in a separate post.

Good – Keyboard Driven (Touch Driven for Tablet)

For those with tablet, touch driven is probably the better experience, but I am on a notebook, so being able to quickly drive from the keyboard, without using a mouse, is an ideal experience. Microsoft attempted this with Windows 7, but the indexing of applications was not optimal, so it often took time to find the right application. With Windows 8, I hit the windows key and start typing in the application name. For example, to start Photoshop, I only need to type in ph before Windows has isolated it as the main application. This is 4 keystrokes: windows key, p, h and then enter.

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With this feature alone, I really don’t miss the start menu, at least most of the time.

I have focused on keyboard here, as I have a notebook. While playing with the tablet, I found the touch driven paradigm is even better, as you can use gestures to open the various menus rather than focus on hovering in the correct place. I am torn on whether a tablet is in my future, since I already have a nook to fill that void, but I see the tablet as a viable option. In fact, I see the tablet as the most viable option, as Windows 8 is more focused on the touch driven paradigm.

Good – Response

Windows 8 is much faster than Windows 7. Programs load faster. And when you are using properly designed applications for Windows 8, so much more is done in the background, leading to a much more responsive user interface. Please note that newer Microsoft programs are doing this as well (Visual Studio comes to mind), so you will see more and more focus in this direction.

Good – Windows Store

There is not enough in the store yet, compared to Apple’s store, but it is nice to finally have a no nonsense, non-complicated way to set up a program and get it running. Thus far I have used it more for games (many of which my children found online), but I can see a lot of potential in having a store on the desktop. Fortunately, all of the applications in the store are Modern UI, so the fit in without the schizophrenic desktop (see the ugly).

Good – New Task Manager (and more)

Not only cleaner, but more functionality. I mean, just look at this baby:

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Everything is nicely laid out and you have more information on each screen. And I just lost any non-geeks who came to this page because they found it in a Google search (I would say Bing search, but despite being a Microsoft MVP, I find it hard to find my content in Bing – In fact, I generally get pissed off when I accidentally use Bing on a browser that is still defaulted to Bing and end up typing in www.google.com and finding what I need – wow, did I really just have an ADHD moment and start ranting about Bing – sounds like a blog topic).

For those who are non-geeks, one of the best uses of the Task Manager, from your perspective, is to kill a pesky application that has hung. Hopefully that is very rare, but there are still some application vendors that have applications that do not play well with Windows. I do not generally recommend using this option as a way to shut down an application (the close button is a better option, or exit menu choice), but I will say I do kill some programs this way (Visual Studio comes to mind at times) as winding the program down takes too long. Fast machines often lead people to be impatient (okay, not people, just me).

One thing I don’t like is the new App history tab, but that is only because I just looked at it and found I have spent over 3 hours playing Jetpack Joyride. Actually I do like this tab, as you can see your CPU and networking use. The startup tab is also nice, as you can disable start up programs rather quickly and users is useful on the multi-user home scenarios. Speaking of …

Good – Multiple Users

The multi-user scenario is much nicer in Windows 8. As proof, I don’t hear as much complaining about one of my daughters using another daughter’s game. In Windows 7, the switch was clunky enough they would often just pick up the machine and start playing on their sister’s still open account. With Windows 8, they are more prone to switch users.

Good – Windows Live Account Synchronization

This is bigger than just Windows 8, so I will warn you I may go on for a bit. When I first installed Windows 8, I did not link to my Windows Live account. As Microsoft got closer to RTM (release to manufacturing, or the final version), I finally agreed to try it. And I love this.

When you use your live account for your login, the Modern UI bits are automatically linked in. This means you get messages from any service you have linked into. Since I already have Windows Phone, I have already linked in Facebook and Twitter, so Windows 8 automatically pulled in my contacts and I can get my messages from all of the linked sites in one place. That may not sound like much, but it gets better when you get out of Windows 8.

Using Office 2013, Windows Live synchronization allows you to keep your documents on the cloud, via SkyDrive. I have used previous Microsoft solutions in this area, like LiveMesh (and groove, although it is more of a synchronization of files than storage – not enough time to cover this now). This is an Office feature, of course, but it should be seen as a direction. Microsoft IS moving to the cloud and you should consider embracing it, as it  does make your life easier.

Back to Windows 8. One nice thing about this synchronization is you can keep your Windows 8 look and feel wherever you go. Yes, this is a bit minor, but I think other things will come of this. Suppose you have a personal computer and a family computer. If you set up one to the look and feel you like, and use Windows Live accounts, you will find the changes when you log into another computer. Today, this is likely your kids computer (or a shared family computer), but tomorrow it might be at the library. And I see even more potential as we become more cloud centric.

Not everyone will like this feature and my advice would be to not link your live account. You can always do it later. I would also suggest, with Office, being a bit careful where you store your documents if you are worried they might be snooped on the cloud. I find this unlikely for a variety of reasons, but some people have a lower paranoia threshold than I do.

I see some room for improvement here to allow other types of accounts, as some users will not want to use live, but it is not a huge deal for me.

Good and Bad – Modern UI

Overall, I like the clean look of “Modern UI” and I have gotten used to the lack of menus (not really lack, but the application fills the whole screen and you rely on items like the “charms menu” to access certain functionality. And it is rather nice to have the full screen experience. But (a big BUT), it takes a lot of time to get used to. I am not adverse to change, but realize you will probably hate it before you like it if you have ever used a computer before.

Modern UI is clean and gets you focused on the task at hand, which is good. You use the entire screen. But you can’t stack programs, as you can in the desktop mode. I don’t find this to be a huge problem overall, but I do find myself tapping the windows key a lot when I am in Modern UI applications and the start menu. This, unfortunately, leads me to keep the Modern UI for less serious things, like playing games. Almost said reading news, which I do in the Modern UI, but I am more likely to hit a news site in Firefox.

On a touch device, this is probably less of an issue and it can all go to good rather quickly.

Bad – Internet Exploder 10

Yes, I just called it exploder, because that is what I find it doing more often than any previous version. YouTube blows up so regularly, I have opted to use Firefox. Microsoft has also disabled some third party functionality for security reasons (security is a good thing, but I think driving people to other browsers is the likely outcome). I still use IE, but I am finding it less and less of a friend. At this point we are still frenemies, but I find myself severing ties on a regular basis.

This is bad, since IE has been my primary browser for a long time. Other than surfing for fun, I find the Modern UI version to really suck bad. It ticks me off that it is not easy to get back to the address bar (I don’t have touch on this notebook), so I will open it up in desktop mode and then it will crash. Perhaps I should explore if there are easy ways around this, like keystrokes, but I have just given up on the damned thing. I don’t think I have opened Internet Explorer in Modern UI in weeks. It is open right now because I have been too sentimental, or lazy, to go to control panel and make Firefox my primary browser.

Okay, so this is not exactly Windows 8, but a program in Windows 8, but it is a big enough thorn for me to notice it.

Bad – Program Compatibility

This has been a bane for me in many ways. My company does a lot of meetings on WebEx, and the WebEx client will not run on Windows 8. This means I am now setting up a virtual machine for Windows 7, just so I can attend meetings. Sounds good, but I had issues using Hyper-V to set up the virtual machine and found that VMWare would not install when Hyper-V is installed (by default in Windows Ultimate). Yes, this is a bit of a rant, but I have found a few other programs that are not sterling.

It seems like many of the manufacturers of non-Windows store applications have not upgraded to be compatible with Windows 8, which is a bit of a pain.

This should not be an issue for most home users, however, so it is not a complete negative.

Bad – When You Would Be Better Served with the Start Menu

Yes, I am back on the topic of the start menu. While keyboard driven is nice, there are times it would be nice to have a real start menu. To understand why, this is the start menu in Windows 8.

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Due to the number of programs I have installed, the screen scrolls about 3-4 screens across. Not a big deal, overall, but once I am off of the main screen, all I see is a bunch of ungrouped icons, as shown below:

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This is not a huge problem with most programs, as typing finds them. But I had an issue with setting up a new profile in Outlook (for work). I can’t type profile to get to this functionality. I can’t right click the Outlook icon, as I could in previous versions of windows (as that gives me the option to pin and not much more), so I had to open control panel, search for mail and set up the profile. That is a pain. There are other programs that are non optimized, as well, and it would be nice to have a start menu for when you get stuck.

Admittedly, most of this is probably functionality the normal home user does not use, so it is not a big deal for the masses. It is also functionality I rarely use, so I am not overly concerned. But when I need to find a program, it would be nice to have something like a start menu, with applications organized by installing application, so I can quickly find what I need.

There is a registry hack to go back to desktop, but I don’t think it is a good option, as you lose the benefits of the Modern UI start screen. You essentially revert to a faster Windows 7 if you registry hack your machine. I am currently investigating third party options and I am going to carefully choose one that allows me the benefits of the new while using the old in cases where the new really sucks.

Bad – Multi-monitor

Windows 8 works fine with multi-monitors, overall, but there are some gotchas. First, only one of the monitors moves into Modern UI. This is actually a plus in most ways, but it feels funky seeing two different UIs side by side. One thing that is a bit painful is the slide out menus, like the charms menu.The problem is the slide out menus are available on every monitor, so an accidental hover near the seem (where the file menu is on so many programs, or the shutdown red X-ed box on the other side) you end up pulling up a menu and often end up opening programs unintentionally. This conflicts with the “don’t make me think” rule of user interfaces.

Actually, this feature is present on a single monitor, as well, although I don’t find myself hitting either the “open program menu” (upper left) or the “charms menu” (upper right) that often on a single monitor. It is more common when I am near the seem between the monitors.

The problem is exacerbated when I stick the new Office applications on the right most monitor. The File menu is now down the side (very touch oriented?):

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But so is the running programs menu:
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And the later completely covers the former. This happens if you hover too close to the top, right where the key to return to the main ribbon bar sits (the arrow with the circle), and it is quite easy to then pull down and see the entire menu, as shown below:

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This problem is largely caused by having two OS user interfaces in one OS. Which gets us to “the ugly”.

Ugly – The Schizophrenic User Interface

The Windows 8 start menu is rather useful, especially for those who spend their time in email, on social sites, and the like. The apps you need to use for this type of functionality are prominently displayed front and center when you start up. And, as long as the application is designed for Windows 8 (aka modern UI, formerly known as Metro), there is no big deal.

But, when you start an application that is not Modern UI, you end up opening a window that looks like Windows 7, sans the start menu. You then end up using the Windows key to navigate back and forth between the new UI, or using the running programs menu, or similar. This could be okay, but only modern UI applications appear in the running programs menu on the left side of the screen (as is shown in one of the screen caps in the last section), so I have to switch back to desktop. BTW, this is one area where multiple monitors makes things easier, as only one monitor at a time has the Windows 8 Modern UI look, as shown below (my notebook screen is on the left and my monitor on the right).

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All I have to do is click on the right screen when the Windows 8 start menu is up and I will get a Windows 7 look and feel and be able to access my non-Modern UI programs. If I have a Modern UI application open and do not click on the other monitor, I have to hit the Windows key and then click on the icon for the desktop (bottom left in the first grouping of icons in the screenshot above) or use the running programs menu and go all the way to the bottom left. Apparently desktop is a third class citizen, so it is always the farthest away (not a problem with touch, I would assume).

Summary

Overall, I find Windows 8 to be a good experience, although I will admit I wanted to shoot the Windows 8 team when I first started with it (I am over that now and have some joy in my heart). I now have no intention on going back. I would like to see a few of the items altered or even fixed. Here is my list (not exhaustive, as I am sure I can come up with more):

  • Fix Internet Explorer or you will completely lose market share (of course, since browsers are not direct money makers, this might not be a big deal?). I also think fixing Bing is in order, as it really ticks me off, but that is a topic for another day.
  • Find a way to make the schizophrenic desktop a bit less jarring. My computer should not feel like it has a split personality.
  • Explore options other than swipes for those of us who are touch challenged. This primarily applies to Internet Explorer today, but I am sure I will find other programs that hide stuff from me and have options that make it much easier to swipe (or perhaps only allow swiping).
    Peace and Grace,
    Greg
    Twitter: @gbworld