The Sun does go around the Earth!

This sort of thing that really pisses me off:
It is actually based on a question used to assess science literacy according to OECD and similar organisations’ criteria about the place of the earth in the universe.

But that assessment is usually done with the question:
“Does the Earth go around the Sun or does the Sun go around the Earth?”
And the second of those gets marked incorrect!

There are lots of “respected” publications that quote the “poor” answer as evidence of ignorance. Ignorant the people might be, but this is not evidence. How can you take any author seriously if they deny the patent evidence and current orthodoxy and deride others because they don’t agree?

But most importantly, how can we expect kids to learn science and scientific method (as opposed to just answering questions about the “facts”), if we ask them to deny their observations and all experiments that they can perform, just because teacher tells them it isn’t true?!!!!!

In fact the Sun going around the earth wins 2-1. It goes around the Earth every 24 hours, and it goes around the Earth every year.

Now I come to think of it, I had a very pleasant time recently with my granddaughter at sunset in Israel explaining how the sun goes down and then comes back up again, having gone round the other side of the earth. It never crossed my mind to try to explain it from the sun’s or even the earth’s frame of reference – why do that? I used her frame of reference. Of course, it is hopefully part of an ongoing conversation that will of course include the rotation of the earth, as well as a heliocentric view of the solar system, and a something-centric view of the galaxy…, but I can’t bring myself to lie to her and suggest a non-relativistic mechanics.

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Windows 8 – It had to come

Don’t get me wrong – I actually like Windows. There are quite a few things it does better than OSX. And I have managed machines with almost every incarnation of the OS, by the way.

And while we are at it, there are a lot of things that Androids do better than IOS.

But starting to use Windows 8 really pisses me off.

Not so long ago I bought a new Mac; as best I recall, I fired it up, it understood (sorry about the anthropomorpism) I probably had an old one I wanted to move from, offered to help me do that, and a bit later I was up and running.
Similarly, every time I have upgraded the OSX system, I could work out how to do the basic things, even if I didn’t always like the changes (see blogs passim).

But Windows update, every time, takes the feckin’ biscuit.

I switched on the new laptop. Basically, I couldn’t actually get it to do anything without googling.

Let’s try email, I thought. There’s a button there, that’s exciting! Clicking on it actually took me into a Black Hole. It now wanted a MS email ID (which the owner doesn’t have); there was in fact no way out of this – WTF? Cancel and OK both did the same thing of suggesting I try and put the MS email ID in again.

Back to google – apparently if you push the mouse to various corners, things happen – thanks for being so obvious. Well excuse me, but there really should be visual cues somewhere that things can happen. So finally I get back to the button screen.

Let’s try some of the other exciting buttons. Every single mother’s son of them does the same thing as the Mail button. The whole thing is set up so that MS can get all he user’s login data and see the whole scope of the user’s online identity, through the MS ID.

In this respect it is just like Android – everything is linked to your Google email ID. And if you don’t have one, or want to let them link up all your online IDs, then it doesn’t work very well, and in fact keeps telling you how it could be working better.

And in this respect, both of them are unlike Apple. The “rapacious, closed” Apple devices just work fine without an Apple ID, and everything that can, does work and integrate well, and apps are fine that you don’t have an Apple ID.

Oh, I forgot, before all this it offered me the chance to install a bunch of browsers – the user likes to use Firefux, so I clicked on that. It installed it, but I couldn’t for the life of me find out how to get back to install other browsers, or even run the Firefux I just installed.

So I am still looking at this brick that I can’t actually get to do anything.

After a while, I realise that the Desktop button actually gets me a view that looks bit like the old windows thing. But no, I still can’t find Firefux or Control Panels, or anything useful.

More googling.

I finally find out the magic incantation. Apparently, what you do is go to the screens with all the buttons and *start typing*. Well stab me sideways with a laptop. That was completely obvious – I should use the *keyboard* to interact with all these buttons.

I interact with my computers (other than Unix command line) using a mouse for anything except text. That is what the mouse is for – my view of having to type to launch an app on a modern system is just – I am actually at a loss for words to describe just how brain-dead that is.

Actually, this is all a bit like a Unix command line. It gives you no help as to what to type, but if you do know, then you can drive it quite efficiently.

So now, remember that I will want to migrate from the old laptop? Fortunately I am sensible enough to realise that there really must be some way of doing that. But it did take quite a lot of googling (the system’s Help was no help) to find it. It was about as easy to find it as to find the right flags to tar to perform a similar function.

Since no-one will have read this far, I can report that in the end I did manage to get the apps the user needs installed.

Oh sorry, no, it turned out the the Skype button led me to one of those Black Holes, with no way to actually login using anything other than (you guessed it) the MS email ID. More googling found me the Skype for Desktop app that I had to download and install, which worked. Of course, I did try to put in the email associated with the Skype account, but the Skype app kept simply saying that the login had failed, which made me assume that the password was wrong – any half-way moronic programmer could have checked and actually reported that the email ID it was being given was not a MS email ID.

So, as I was saying, it seems pretty good now, with the data nicely migrated, and the apps the user wants installed on the button screen, as short cuts on the desktop, and pinned to the task bar, no password on login, etc.. (On the other hand I have resisted the temptation to hack the Registry to get rid of the splash screen with all that stuff on which is only suitable for tablet machines).

And of course it is a nice machine, costs a third of what a Mac would have cost, and Windows 8 works very nicely.

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Apple is just so messy nowadays

Let’s look at the iCal that came with Lion.

Does that look like a Mac app to you? I think not.
Yes, I know it is a take-off of the Calendar on the iPad. So why do they piss about with where the buttons are?

Let’s find the “+” button to make a new entry. That’s right, it’s at the top-left. Except it isn’t – if you are using the iPad, it’s the bottom-right. Never mind, I’ll just click “Today” to find out what I’m doing. You know what’s coming: Top-right on the Mac, bottom-left on the iPad. Arrows to move though the screens: let’s spread them around differently.

Oh how are the mighty fallen – this was a completely new app for the Mac and they could have done anything they liked, but they chose to take the iPad App and then make it harder for people to move between them.

It actually beggars belief. When I first tried to use the Mac one, and found myself looking for the buttons, I had to check on the iPad that I was not imagining it.

And yes, I know this all happened a long time ago, but it still pisses me off.

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All these pop-ups on hover-over

I can’t seem to read web pages any more because I can’t see the page itself for flashy things that keep obscuring it.

I use Opera for Facebook (only, so sites I visit in Safari can’t get me to unwittingly “like” them or find my history), and every time I go to click on reload or back I can’t because the bloody browser has put some huge picture of the tab above it right over the buttons.

Worse still, when I try to read things on the page, Facebook keeps throwing up all sorts of crap I don’t want, about whatever my mouse happens to be over.

Browsing is meant to be a relaxing experience (it’s called browsing, not reading!), but I find myself moving the mouse like a maniac so it doesn’t pause long enough anywhere to get some great big bubble over the text I am looking at.

I get the same problem with these huge menus you get on modern web pages when you move over the tabs at the top. In fact, if I actually want to see a menu, I can manage the effort to move my finger and click on it. And then I come to and find that the latest upgrade to WordPress has moved to hover-over menus on my site!

Is this really the state of the art in user experience?

Or is it just that someone thought it was cool, and so everyone does it now?

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New Wikipedia is a parasite – is it just Yahoo on steroids?

I could really rant about the Wikipedia Police and how they impose their view on pages, even when they are ignorant of the topic. But there are more serious issues here. So I will rant about those.

The really exciting thing about Wikipedia in the early days was that it captured stuff that nothing else could capture. This meant that if you happened to know something about something, then by contributing to Wikipedia the world was able to access that information.

No more.

The only stuff that is acceptable to the New Wikipedia editors is stuff that has valid references, whatever “valid” might mean.

This has some bad consequences.

Firstly, nothing can find its way onto New Wikipedia unless it appears somewhere else, and somewhere else means on the Web. So New Wikipedia is not generating any new content at all! It has become more like perhaps Yahoo in its heyday, where it was an attempt to index and organise the information on and from the web.

Secondly, this means it is seriously skewed towards the last 20 years. Someone or something who has lived or happened in the last 20 years is far more likely to have reached New Wikipedia “notability” by being referred to in the press etc., with the articles available online. In contrast, someone of great “notability” living even in the middle of the last century is very unlikely to have any online presence, and therefore not be part of New Wikipedia History.

A third consequence of the two above is that people who might have usefully contributed their knowledge do not. Yes, I am talking about me, for example. There are people I know in Computing who were there are the start and shortly afterwards. Nobody I know would now do anything significant in trying to contribute to New Wikipedia – it is just too hard, with a low likelihood of success in getting the editors to accept the contribution. This is a Bad Thing; as I said, the excitement of Wikipedia was in that it actually captured stuff from experts. Now it is the very experts that used to contribute who shun it. And by the way, they are dying off, so all that knowledge is getting lost. So when you read that in practice there are very few people who contribute to New Wikipedia, be not surprised. They are the ignorant few, not the informed crowd source.

And by the way, don’t think that those golden nuggets of information from the early Wikipedia contributions stay there! They are being removed article by article as their lack of reference takes them below an acceptable level for the New Wikipedia.

Of course I understand some of why this has happened, not least because of the constant griping from people about the quality of the Wikipedia content. But it really pisses me off that the great innovative crowd-sourcing site has morphed into something that is very far from a real crowd-source, and in fact has left a vacuum where it used to be. And because it was once there, there is no chance of anything else replacing the need.

Or is there?

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