Change is a pain in the ……….

Forums > Newsgroups > forums

Microsoft technical support used to be fed through the Compuserve forums. This is where the beginnings of the Microsoft MVP program were rooted. Microsoft then set up their own newsgroup servers to boos and hisses from some of the community. Eventually, the noise settled down as the contributors adapted to the new ways.

Unfortunately, the Microsoft newsgroups didn’t always attract the nicest of people, and because it was based in USENET, there was a notion that one could do, say, act, and type exactly what one wanted to type, regardless of the morality of the contributions. The XP General newsgroup  could be quite wild, but the Vista General and IE7 groups brought pretty much every Microsoft hater to the surface..

They were not nice places to be and professionalism was  , so Microsoft decided to introduce their own forums in 2006.

Compuserve forums were moderated by their creators who were known, I think, as Sysops.. Newsgroups in general were not moderated, although Microsoft did try, but ultimately failed because the USENET rules were pushed to their absolute limits as mentioned above. The Microsoft forums are moderated.

The great thing about newsgroups was speed. An OP could post a problem and within minutes get a reply from multiple sources. Its speed was attributable to the fact that it was a ‘text’ service, for the most part run in the Outlook Express newsreader function.

Forums today require a fast connection and minimalist design if they are going to match the speed of a newsgroup/newsreader combo, and it has taken Microsoft a while to get there. MS Answers version 1 could be a real dog, so bad that I stayed in the Vista newsgroups almost up to the date of their closure. I went in on a meeting of Microsoft people who were looking at how to attract former newsgroup MVPs and campaigned hard for a method which piped MS Answers 1 into a newsgroup reader.

It was quite successful until Microsoft brought out Microsoft Answers version 2. Since then, piping into a newsgroup has not been too successful, certainly not from my standpoint, and I have adapted to interacting directly in the MS Answers forum. I have to say that access and speed of replies is way better than it used to be and matching the speed of newsgroups, so nothing lost.

Boxes > Start menu > boxes

Starting with Windows 3.0/3.1 which is when Windows really took off, we were presented with a screen in which we could create ‘windows’ and then place our program icons in the appropriate window.


See the group icons at the bottom? They could all be opened up and the windows all resized such that everything was on show and all fitted in nicely.

Then along came Windows 95 and completely spoiled the show..


See that nasty Stat button in the bottom left hand corner? Looking back, Windows 95 took off big time, followed by a plethora of applications, games and utilities. Windows 3.0 Program Manager would never have coped.

Anyway, it came to pass that we all lived happily with the Start button for seventeen years, and then..

Win 8 Start

Well, it says Start, but clicking on it does NOTHING. Where is the button? And there are masses of little boxes! In it’s way, it is not too unlike Windows 3.0/3.1. The screen is split into two parts, Official Windows 8 ‘apps’ take precedence to the left of the screen, and everything else shuffles along behind them.

So, clicking on the desktop ‘app’ takes you to the ‘other side’. Waaaaaaaa, still no Start button. I would have included a screenshot, but I can’t find one that doesn’t show a 3rd party Start button alternative (mine included), which just about says it all, eh.

After seventeen years which in computer life is four generations, changing the way in which we find what we want is not going to go down particularly well, especially those of us who have a lot of stuff installed. As smart as the new front end looks, as smart as some of the apps look, it is too different and far less intuitive than the conventional and more natural way of manipulating a Windows operating system running on a PC.

Change is ok as long as we still get what we want..

Of course forums are better than newsgroups. Any browser can handle them, and as long as we know how to log in, access is a breeze. However, if the forum is slow to respond, life is not so good, and the person asking the question will feel the same pain as the person trying to furnish the answer. Why is it all taking so long?

Connection speeds and the code used to make up a forum has changed, got better to the point where we don’t have to wait too long. Everybody wins..

Going back to a operating system without a distinctive start menu is not so clear cut. While the Windows 8 set up shows how to use the new interface while it is installing, when it finally appears, it is a definite culture shock. Opening an ‘app’ is easy, but seeing how to close it down or move to another is not clear cut at all.

Fishing for the Windows 8 Start menu is not quite like darting to a Start button and clicking on an application in the Start Window. You have to search/scroll for it. For sure, you can move it across the screen to be more easily accessible, but for every app that you bring forward, another moves further back.

The way that I have Windows 8 set up, with Start8 and Quick Launch, I have what I had in Windows 7 and have lost almost nothing, just the ability to see which of the computers on the network are connected to the reality.

Two major OEMs are going to include a Start menu alternative with their desktop and laptop machines, and no doubt others will follow. At least we will all get what we want.. finally..


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