NSF graduate student fellowship

I was spammed by the NSF multiple times to fill out some silly little survey on their graduate student fellowship program (GRFP), so I got annoyed and did it. I call it a silly little survey because I suspect no learning will occur from it, where by “learning” I mean “corrective action.” The cynic in me suspects these surveys are to prove whatever they want to prove — in this case, that the program is “working.” I, however, don’t believe the program is working at a core level.
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phone vs. tablet vs. laptop vs. desktop vs. server

It seems that Microsoft’s all-in-one strategy on support for different devices is still progressing. Windows 8 will have interfaces for both the desktop and touchscreen devices. This is akin to how Windows Media Center works. This model must have an unusual level of attraction to Microsoft due to the large base of existing applications, but it makes assumption that you’d want to use all the applications on all the devices, if only you could — that may turn out not to be right.

Microsoft has for years tried to get into mobile devices. Here you see Bill Gates really uncomfortable with the notion that Apple has succeeded more than Microsoft in this space. He is not wrong, since for a time Windows phones and tablets were the only ones out there, while Apple’s Newton was forgotten memory. Those devices either used a slightly modified Windows OS or one that copied all of its metaphors. The latest Windows phones are an exception, but with Windows 8, it will no longer be. It cannot be disputed that there are important applications that do not exist on mobile devices (currently), and therefore mobile devices are not complete (currently). So people argue that mobile devices will be full-fledged computers or desktops will not die. The idea of a dual interface seems to be aimed in this direction. However, a third possibility exists. Applications, after all, merely solve real life problems. They are not themselves holy. If there were a different way of accomplishing the same things, the applications could be replaced. One could argue that data is the rather more holy object. Back to this later.
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Vista blah

Memory management: Despite running on 256MB (actually 274MB is what it’s set to, to be precise), memory management in Vista seems to be working well. The paging policy is persistently keeping physical RAM usage at around 200MB, +/- 20MB. This isn’t too different from XP.

Disk management: There appears to be some rudimentary non-destructive repartitioning functions like “extend” and “shrink,” much like gpart. The disk is also versioned. Creating and destroying symbolic links, however, is still not exposed in the shell.

Network management: A crapload of changes in network management — too much to figure out what’s going on there right now. Most notable is probably exposing IPv6 support.

Privilege escalation: Windows itself now makes the request for administrative privilege if it is needed, instead of saying the current user privileges are insufficient. So far this is saving a lot of time.

Foreign languages: Display of East Asian languages are enabled by the default installation (I guess that just means the fonts and codepages are installed by default). The input methods I use are still the same, although there are a lot more input methods now, including a half dozen minority languages of China. That’s amazing. But, I can’t believe that the language bar is still having issues, not knowing whether to hide itself on the taskbar or how it’s supposed to be aligned.

Other stuff: There is this “Windows Cardspace” thing which seems to be a online accounts manager. There is also a “People Near Me” function that uses the Messenger social network. Some lame games and a “game manager.” BitLocker and ReadyBoost are nice, but kind of over-engineered. I doubt these will be used extensively.

In general, I think there are many good and needed changes here, but very little that I find compelling. From 2000 to XP, remote desktop, multiple user logon, system restore, and wireless support were compelling. From XP to Vista, the only thing I see is Media Center. But that isn’t in most versions of Vista. Add packet writing of optical discs, also, that might come in handy. Some of the other changes might have been compelling years ago (like Sidebars), but at this point are too little too late. If new applications turn up either from Microsoft or others to make a compelling case for the new graphics subsystem or anything else that has been included (pen input? speech recognition? text-to-speech? imaging/color codecs?), things may be different.

In other trials:

  • RDP 6 works fine. Sound quality seems better. Not much else exciting going on here. I thought there might be application publishing support, but that requires the server OS.
  • Office 12 is fine. XML file format and some UI changes. The thing seems to be the same to me. Outlook doesn’t use the new UI but has improved IMAP support including remote sent-mail folder and auto-purge support, but I had those working with scripts anyway.