So, I ended up installing Windows 10 instead of 7 and it did a much better job of detecting hardware. It even downloaded NVIDIA drivers (not the latest) and set a sensible resolution.
To get SLI working though I had to open Task Manager & kill the shell Explorer process, otherwise NVIDIA Control Panel just complained about things which you can’t shut down needing to be shut down. Tedious and took quite a bit of fiddling about with Services before I realised it was mainly Explorer.
There have been a few spectacular crashes, by which I mean a sustained whine through the speakers and a completely black screen requiring a hard reboot, but on the whole it’s OK. Definitely some rough edges and I do wonder if it will really be ready for release in a month’s time, but it could be worse!
Apparently Windows Update will use something like Bittorrent to distribute updates, so if other computers on your network already have the update it won’t have to be downloaded again. Very sensible idea which will save bandwidth, but I’ll bet they over-complicate it.
The most striking thing about Windows 10 is its almost brutalist pursuit of a plain, flat look. After years of pursuing ever more elaborate 3D illusion, it seems flat is where it’s at. Flatness has had its devotees in the Linux world for a while (Exhibit A: Libra GTK 3 theme, Exhibit B: Super flat remix icon theme), so maybe this is another case of Windows trying to grab some geek chic?
The only concession to graphic processing power is a drop-shadow around the window. Even the window corners are square and somehow make me think of paper cuts. It’s all teetering on the edge of cleverly understated and downright ugly.
Microsoft Edge (still badged as Project Spartan in the preview—see pic above) is a nice attempt at a simpler browser to fit in with this aesthetic, but as a Firefox user it offers me nothing compelling.
Another thing that sticks out is that familiar Microsoft feel of yet another bolted on layer. Windows is an accretion of software over many years now and it makes for a sometimes less than consistent whole. It’s particularly obvious coming from 6 months of using only Ubuntu. Now Linux (& Unix) is entirely made up of bits, but because a lot of those bits have to work with other bits that can be interchanged, these days you end up with a pretty consistent look and feel whether it’s in the Ubuntu Unity, GNOME or KDE desktops. But Microsoft often have a problem getting their older components to look consistent with newer styles.
This was very apparent when I tried using the scaling slider (something GNOME has had for some time) in Display Settings. Incidentally, this is another example of inconsistency—there is now a Settings ‘app’ as well as the plethora of Control Panels, so you have two places to look for settings. The default text size is pretty small on my 1920×1200 monitor, so I bumped it up to the next available (125%). The text in new apps looked deliciously crisp, but in old apps (e.g. Device Manager) the text was bloated, black and blobby. It seems the Windows family has its favourite children.
In trying to make some screenshots for this post, I encountered another small oddity which is either suggestive of the minds behind this kind of design or a sign of the general dumbing down that convergence (writing software for desktop & mobile) brings. I thought I’d set a background colour that showed up the window drop shadow and went to Display Settings. Unfortunately you can only choose from ‘Standard Colors’ and though I vaguely remember there being a customisation options in the old Personalization Control Panel (i.e Themes), that’s now been disappeared. So the only ways to choose a simple coloured background of your choice is to create an image that colour and set it as a background or edit the registry with the RGB colour value.
Ah Microsoft, the more you change the more you stay the same!
My more abstract edit of this may never be finished, so in the meantime there’s this.
I watched an excellent French documentary last week about Immigration and Delinquency, which I started writing about, but never quite finished.
Last Tuesday, along came this very affecting doco in the same series, in which lesbians and gays tell about the violence and discrimination they’ve experienced. I’m busy translating sub-titles for it at the moment, so thought I’d share their teaser video.
As amply parodied by Monty Python, it’s often hard to keep up with the splintering and renaming of organisations in the Middle East, but it’s also been interesting of late to try and keep up with the naming in our own media. The struggle for control of meaning never ends. So what’re we supposed to call these guys now? ISIS? IS? ISIL?
(The) Islamic State · الدولة الإسلامية · ad-Dawlah l-ʾIslāmiyyah
This is what they officially call themselves now. Straightforward and to-the-point branding that highlights their view that they’re the go-to guys for Islam. And that’s probably exactly why politicians in the west are starting to avoid using the term—it all sounds a bit too legitimising.
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Syria) · الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام · ad-Dawlah l-ʾIslāmiyyah fil-‘Irāq wash-Shām
This was their name prior to 29 June 2014. An accurate geographical definition perhaps, but it ultimately didn’t suit their goal of a worldwide caliphate. This name gives rise to the two acronyms you hear most often in the English language media—ISIS and ISIL.
ISIS vs ISIL
Why two acronyms? Because the Arabic name الشام ash-Shām is a little ambiguous. In everyday speech it can refer to Damascus (دمشق Dimashq) or to Syria (سورية / سوريا Sūriyā / Sūrīyah) or to the historical region of Greater Syria which we might call the Levant.
So it becomes a point of contention which translation you choose: ISIL implies a larger area and a larger threat; ISIS implies a more closely defined (but still innaccurate) area and co-incides with the name of a pagan goddess. ISIS seemed to hold sway for a long time, but Barak Obama seems to have settled firmly on ISIL and Australian politicians seem to be following suit. It’s hard to see which of these is ‘better’ or why, but obviously someone somewhere has decided there’s something about ISIL. Personally I found the name ISIS hard to take seriously because it always made me think of Sterling Archer.
Another odd coincidence that occurred to me recently is that Isil is the name for the Moon in J. R. R. Tolkien’s contructed Elvish language Quenya (Ithil in Sindarin).
And then there’s the question of pronunciation. I’ve mostly heard /ˈaɪsəl/ (igh-suhl), but today I heard an American journalist on the radio call it /ˈɪsəl/ (iss-suhl).
But wait, there is apparently yet another choice.
Dāʿesh · داعش
Although they had previously been calling it L’État islamique, in the last couple of weeks the French government has started using the term Daech. This is simply the Arabic version of the ISIL acronym (the letters Dāl, ʾAlif, ʿAyn and Šīn), but it’s largely been used by competing rebel groups and ISIL/Da‘esh themselves consider it so derogatory that its use will win you 70 lashes.
Unfortunately every time I hear it I just think of this.