Steampunk Widgets - Elements of the past and the future combining to make something not quite as good as either

Steampunk Desktop Widgets

This site is dedicated to provide interesting downloads, mainly Steampunk widgets for Xwidget, Rainmeter, Yahoo Widgets and KDE Plasma engines as well as wallpapers and icons. Please feel free to download and use any of these on your Windows or Linux system. Simply download the widgets for the widget engine of your choice and have fun. They are all entirely free.
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Sir, You are Being Hunted Max Difficulty Speed Run PDF Print
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I've always loved this game, it has a certain something that distinguishes it from other games. A sense of real fear is engendered, you feel under threat all the time. There is a familiarity in the landscape that makes you feel you understand your predicament even more so it is eve more real. The concept of polite and evil English-accented robots extends the evil English baddie metaphor quite cleverly. I love the game.

 

 
The Looking Planet PDF Print
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Rather a lot of fun, quite sweet too. Worth watching. Has won many awards so it should be! It explains how the universe was created - not really.

 

 
The Order: 1886 - The Movie PDF Print
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The Order 1886 - The computer game's plotline edited into a movie. Computer graphics are approaching the point where they can almost be taken for real. There is still some of that "happy valley" feel to the facial animation of human characters that causes a suspension of belief but in general, the plot, the graphics, the audio, the premise and the outstanding graphics are enough to let us be taken away by this 'film' to places that seem familiar but still unexpected. The combination of the steampunk alternate reality and the "happy valley" displacement actually works to make us feel alienated from the action whilst intrigued by the world presented to us.

We must realise that it is a computer game and not a film so the scripting and editing, acting and effects are not always as polished as you would expect them to be. However, they really are first rate when considered as merely being a by-product of some computer gameplay. 

The storyline is this - there have been a number of strange murders in Whitechapel. Follow the mysterious Order of Her Majesty's Royal Knights as they investigate these deaths, and the conspiracy surrounding them in this alternate take on history.

Very violent, a little too violent for my tastes and certainly not for children but very, very steampunk indeed. Worth watching to the end.

 

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 13 July 2016 )
 
The Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello PDF Print
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The Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello is one of those internet mysteries that have you wondering why and how it was made. From the start it is dark and mysterious, failing to explain what it is and why. It is of course made more wonderful by the mystery it engenders. Normally when you find a gem like this you've heard of it before but not had the chance to see it or you've thought better of going to watch it, instead opting for some piece of modern film art, only finally finding it and regretting that decision long ago. Not with this one. It seems to have appeared from the depths of nowhere and has slowly emerge just as one of Dr Claude Belgon's strange chrysalid creatures emerges from its cocoon. From the very start this short film fills you with both dread and wonder due in no small part due to the dark invention of its bleak but intriguing steampunk world. Instead of the Victorian self-belief and confidence in the Victorian modern world the film has the protagonist immersed in self-doubt and an over-arching impression of human failure despite technical prowess and significant achievement. It is a black film in thought and context and not just in the dark and muted colours it is filmed in. Try to enjoy it, you may not...but it is worth a watch! 

Last Updated ( Friday, 01 July 2016 )
 
XWidget conversion to a web widget PDF Print
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A good reason for avoiding using cores & doing it yourself in pure javascript (some may have seen my steampunk media player or the U-boat widget both of which use javascript to rotate the hands and perform other functions) is that the javascript code is often directly translatable into web widgets.

If the Xwidget engine does ever turn into abandonware (like the yahoo widget engine) then you may find yourself in the position of having a lot of widgets but nowhere to run them (all it takes is a little change in a future version of Windows and Xwidgets could simply stop working). To protect yourself from this, if your working functionality is achieved in javascript code rather than using Xwidget cores then you can create/convert to web widgets that work within the context of a browser.

I have a few widgets that are being converted by Harry Whitfield to run as web widgets at this moment. When I feel confident of the task then I may do the same to some other of my widgets. You may eventually start to see them appearing around the web...

This is the U-boat web widget running within a browser. It isn't just stuck on using Photoshop. It really is running in Firefox. It tells the time and switches from one face to another, the hands all turn and the buttons can be pressed. The rest of it remains to be done but it works.

You can see it operating here: g6auc.me.uk/UBOAT/
 
uboat-browser-650.jpg

The point of this post is to demonstrate that a Xwidget can be made to work on other environments but that can only be done without the use of the cores that avoid using javascript to fulfil certain functions. My U-Boat widget is a case in hand, it uses a smooth ticking function that is achieved in javascript which is directly translatable to a web widget.

If one starts at the KJC's/Cannuckens original Xwidget version of the U-boat (very good but all cores and very little javascript) that could only run on Xwidget, then my own U-boat Xwidget used javascript to provide functionality that the core does not (smoother ticks on the second hand &c - KJC adopted it too, resizing &c). Then there is my Yahoo widget version that does everything that the Xwidget version does but purely in code. From this final yahoo version it has been possible to create a web widget.

Comparing one against the other gives a good understanding of the strengths and weakness of the two engines. The yahoo widget is elegant, uses re-usable javascript and can be used to achieve largely anything at the cost of a lot of scripting. The Xwidget engine does the heavy-lifting with a few cores but it does NOT promote use of industry standard javascript to do a lot of the central functionality. This is both good and bad depending upon your standpoint.

The use of desktop widgets is declining and it should be obvious to anyone that a good way to get your widgets out there is to have them running on as many platforms as possible. Web widgets run on all machines via the browser interface so it makes sense to think about targetting that platform.

The U-boat widget above is a good example of that conversion as this particular widget has undergone the conversion from Xwidget to web widget successfully, probably the only Xwidget that has done so (as far as I know). A lot of Xwidgets may have made the progression from the web to desktop but as far as I know none have gone the other way round.
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 25 May 2016 )
 
Steampunk Media Player Yahoo Widget vs Xwidget PDF Print
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There are now two versions of the steampunk media player, one an Xwidget and the other a Konfabulator or Yahoo widget. I created the Xwidget media player version first and chose the Xwidget engine as it would be easier to code and complete. The result was a working widget but it lacked certain key features. It looked good though.
http://i.imgur.com/SnOGDk5.png

Due to the limitations of the Xwidget engine's media player core I decided to create a Yahoo widget using the same design. It is worthwhile noting the differences between the two widgets. The design on the Xwidget was significantly easier to accomplish given the graphical GUI and the use of the media player core. The mediaplayer core in Xwidget does a lot of the heavy lifting for you so you can just set about creating a widget in a short time. I was able to assign functionality to various parts of the widget without much coding at all. The documentation of the mediaplayer and its controls is sketchy to say the least but by divination and looking at other's widgets I was able to see how the media player core operates. It is a working widget but it is awkward for the user to operate as the media player core does not easily allow you to play a file immediately, instead you have to open the actual media player in order to play a playlist. Rather defeats the purpose. Adding a file to the playlist is easily achieved but the widget won't play it straight away.

media-player-help-yahoo-650.png

Coding for the yahoo widget is a lot more tricky as there are nothing similar to Xwidget's 'cores' to interface into the Windows Media player, although there is complete and thorough documentation. You have to interface the widget via a COM object to the windows player OCX. You can then submit player commands to operate the player so you have complete control via code. Unfortunately you need to do everything by hand, things such as play/pause buttons changing and the widget reacting to the track duration all have to be controlled by timers, xml and javascript. The Yahoo widget took twice as long to create as the Xwidget version but saying that, the end result is much better than the Xwidget version as there is more complete functionality. The user can select the track to play, choose a complete folder to play and it will restart using the same default music folder. Some of the complexity is due to the use of the COM integration to the Windows Media player which is not a native player for the Yahoo widget engine. By default the Yahoo widget engine has a complete API for itunes and it would have been much easier to create an itunes-controlling widget. In the end the integration to the Windoows Media a Player was relatively simple enough to do but there was interaction between the various controls that needed to be considered and it required thought and careful programming in javascript.

http://i.imgur.com/BPEKBKD.gif

The end result is a working Konfabulator widget in javascript. It is now available for download, it has been tested and used on my desktop and you can try it now too. I will shortly update the Xwidget version too in order to keep them in synch with regard to fucntionality. The Konfabulator/Yahoo version will stand as a comparison as to how much extra complexity is required without the heavy-lifting being done by one of Tony's Xwidget cores. It will also show how limited Xwidget's mediaplayer core is and how much more functionality is required, as was stated on the Xwidget forums, the mediaplayer core in Xwidget is lacking functionality and some more work here from the Xwidget developer would be desirable...
Download the new player here: Steampunk Media Player Yahoo Konfabulator Widget by yereverluvinuncleber
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 11 May 2016 )
 
Continuum - is it needed? Intel pulling the plug on Atom processors PDF Print
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Some interesting information regarding Intel processors - Intel has just stopped any future development of their mobile processors after spending $10,000 million (10 x US billion) on development, meaning that in the future all those Atom powered little notebooks will have to be powered by conventional power-hungry Intel CPUs or utilise low powered processors from other manufacturers.

This is an essential bit of news for Windows developers as it may be another nail in the coffin for mobile Windows devices as there will be fewer mobile CPUs for it to run on. The Intel Atom was a good chip and it succeeded in powering a range of sub-laptops but it was always a bit of a niche market as Windows on small devices is very hard to use.

Microsoft is pulling out of the mobile device sector having failed so spectacularly with Windows Phone (a very nice phone that nobody wants), Windows Mobile (old, useless and dead) and Windows RT (Windows with all the useful bits removed). The Microsoft hardware offerings were also a failure, Surface and Lumia are noticeable by their absence from most users' hands despite any inherent hardware/software innovations they might have had. Microsoft are stuck with a failing device market that cost them several billion (US) to create but one which they can't now dump as it would be admitting defeat to Apple. That last fact is probably the only thing keeping them there.

Microsoft dumped Intel instead opting for low powered ARM CPUs for their Surface RT range of laptops and the rest of the world has followed their lead, looking elsewhere for mobile CPUs. Intel's efforts in this market have shown spectacularly low levels of sucess versus ever-increasing development costs. In addition the traditional Microsoft/Intel relationship has been abandoned by Microsoft for its ARM powered Surface hardware and that has not helped Intel scale their production of mobile processors in order to reduce costs and make returns on its investment. As a result, Intel has had to abandon an unprofitable market.

The knock-on effect of these failures is that new small-factor windows devices will become more and more hard to find as time goes on. Despite RT,  Windows (95-Win10) really only runs on x86 processors and without compatible low-power CPUs Windows isn't going anywhere else soon. Microsoft is not admitting defeat in the mobile market and will, in the medium term, be retrenching, just like Intel has, until it finds the next mobile avenue to pursue - but at the moment it is unclear which direction Microsoft will go. As a result of the entrenchment expect Windows RT to die, expect Windows Phone to fade away gradually. Continuum is supposed to be the next great step for Windows linking all the desktop and mobile forms of Windows into one over-arching and all-encompassing o/s but at the moment there is a big question as to exactly on which processor types it will run. Windows on x86 already works, so there's no need for Continuum there, if there are no other mobile CPU devices running Windows then there is little point in having Continuum in the first place, so Continuum looks to be dead before it even got started. Windows needs low power CPUs for mobile devices and soon there won't be any that work. Could the future be Windows on ARM (RT) after all? It may have to be, in the absence of other compatible CPUs, but I really do hope not, I don't want to have to run crippled software on a slow mobile device... it has to be x86.

The impact on Windows developers of Intel pulling out of the mobile market is that the future for Windows looks increasingly bleak. We may be hearing the very first notes of Windows death-knell, (well perhaps that it is a bit too bleak an assessment) it certainly is the first toll of the death knell for Windows on mobile devices - we can hear it being tolled now. The only way I can see this sorting itself out is for Microsoft to finance the development of the Intel Atom processor, Microsoft took a dip into hardware development with the Surface now it may have to take a dip into chip manufacture with the Intel Atom. The more obvious alternative is a compatibility layer for Continuum allowing it to run on different processors. Either way it is a big problem for Microsoft and it may not be resolvable and the end result acceptable to consumers. Do you want slow but compatible Windows or fast Android/Chrome/IOS?

Personally, I'm annoyed - We have had to suffer the indignities of having a mobile o/s interface foisted upon the traditional desktop, the result a schizophrenic dual-desktop mess. All this, for the sake of mobile devices that might never actually be...
Last Updated ( Monday, 23 May 2016 )
 
What is the future for o/s graphic design? PDF Print
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With Microsoft realising that the ONLY differentiator between one Windows o/s and another being the user interface (see Metro/Modern design) it means that any  customisation of the o/s is slowly being removed from newer versions of Windows. Venerable XP had some customisation features built-in from the very start through the use of themes, these were a part of the intrinsic design allowing you to customise the colours, backgrounds and font sizes. This feature was disabled before XP was released meaning that only Microsoft supplied themes would operate - only Microsoft would be allowed to theme XP. Users quickly worked around this imposed limitation so this feature could be re-enabled by some patching of the o/s files, meaning that third-party themes could be applied. Although this caught on within the relatively small customisation community it did not catch on with most home or business XP users, most were content with the bland corporate XP-look applied out of the box. That's the 'normal' world I suppose. The important thing here though, is that Microsoft originally planned to allow customisation to Windows look and feel but soon realised that with a stable o/s (that seldom ever changes) the main differentiator is a going to be the "look and feel" and this was going to be Microsoft's main selling point for new operating systems. A Microsoft executive probably made the decision to remove theme-ing and customisation from XP when this realisation dawned...

When Vista came out it revamped the GUI and added in some fundamental security improvements adding or changing a lot of newly created 'extras' but apart from the security changes the core o/s functions (handling of virtual memory and processes) are essentially exactly the same as XP with some tweaks to address locations. Microsoft revamped a lot of the o/s candy and the user interface so from the user point of view, it looked like a new o/s. Despite the GUI changes all the tools still did exactly what they should (as they also did in XP) and as a result the departure from XP was nowhere near as large as Microsoft would have liked you to have believed. From Microsoft's point of view the changes really were huge as Redmond had to incorporate enormous changes in project and coding methodologies to ensure security and quality of code were paramount in code delivery as well as in design.

An automotive analogy: Microsoft were building the same old car design with new bolt-on body panels, metallic colours and an updated interior but underneath the bonnet it was all the same old car. However, instead of building everything as they had done previously by hand, they had now introduced machines and robots to do the work to far better levels of accuracy and reliability. The trouble is, the end-user doesn't appreciate all of this, he only sees the nice paint job on the new car.

For Microsoft though this was a mindset change and it shows why they wanted us all to move from XP to Vista even though XP worked just as well as it always did.

Despite all the hype, Vista turned out to be a failure as the GUI was universally hated (except for a very few diehards), "Windows for tele-tubbies" was a becoming an increasingly accurate description as newer versions of Windows came out. The security additions interrupted everyday usage due to what was simply a poor implementation of security for the end user. Despite the real improvements it also introduced DRM, licensing rules, driver and software incompatibility, greater hardware requirements &c and the result is, that as we all know, there are hardly any Vista systems out there anymore, while XP somehow still persists...even now it has 10% of market share and that's not bad for a 15 year old o/s. It should be noted that Windows XP outperforms Vista in several key productivity areas and is secure if operated correctly .

Vista had an advantage over later o/s in that although it revamped the GUI, it did not structurally change the method it operated, the desktop, start menu, taskbar and icon concepts carried forward from XP and other similar operating systems, still remained operable in the same manner. Themeing and customisation however were not improved or made more flexible, in fact some components were made slightly more difficult to theme, fonts, desktop icons &c with Microsoft realising that end-users saw the GUI changes as the real difference between XP and Vista.

In both XP and Vista third party tools such as WindowBlinds, Rainmeter, objectdock, rocketdock's task bars, desktop launchers, widget engines &c allowed a massive amount of themeing to be achieved by other means, often replacing Windows core functionality with improved alternatives. This is one of the strengths of the Windows o/s as perceived by customisers but Microsoft doesn't see it this way, as customising the o/s means Windows losing its essential corporate identity and the single main differentiator between one version of Windows and another. 

Windows 7 can be largely ignored in the scheme of things even though it is probably the best traditional Windows o/s to come out of Redmond. Although being called Windows 7, it was really only ever Windows 6.1, in that it only fixed Vista's issues, mainly performance and UAC pop-up issues. The only real change other than tweaks, being an improved taskbar, this change showing Microsoft appreciation that Windows 7 needed a changed GUI element for end-users to consider it as a completely new operating system, when in fact it was no such thing. Other than this there were no major changes to themeing at all. Windows 7 is really Vista Plus and despite the changes XP still outperforms Windows 7 in some respects (I'm harping on this to underline the point that for the high end-user, a lot has changed under the bonnet but the end result is more or less the same for the end user).

With Windows 8 and 10 the desktop was transformed. Icons are no longer so important, though they are still there. There are two desktops, one with big buttons and live tiles, big buttons for clumsy fingers on a high resolution and precise desktop controlled by a mouse? They don't seem to combine well. Microsoft, having no tablet o/s and scared about designing one from scratch only to end up with two distinct desktop/tablet systems (like Apple who are rapidly dumping desktop OS/X in favour of IOS), were left with shoe-horning Windows 7 onto tablet devices. They worked hard on this and the result worked but only partially. Windows 8 was a chunky, tile GUI with 'apps' but retaining the whole of Windows Vista/7, un-revamped behind it. On tablets the old desktop was still there but too small to view or use. The o/s interface had a split personality that would force a tile interface onto desktop users whilst forcing significant desktop remnants onto tablet users. For a while Windows 8 was fun to use on tablets simply because you had the whole Windows desktop in your hand. The trouble is that long term users did not find themselves wanting to use it. As an example my Windows tablet despite being very cheap and a technical marvel, remains unused, uncharged and I suppose unwanted. My laptop persists as my main device as it is useful... and I have to admit those ipads are great for casual usage. The fact is Windows 8 did not work for the majority of Windows users that remain om the desktop. I managed to customise Win8 and migrated a couple of working and pretty tablet applications from the desktop but interacting with them still required mouse-style precision that my chunky fingers just couldn't provide.

 b2qzg29.jpg


So, that leaves us with Windows 10, an o/s that has changed the desktop user interface again without us really wanting it. Why the changes? Microsoft just needs just one o/s that will adapt dynamically from the desktop to the phone, tablet or any other device and it doesn't have that o/s yet. Windows currently has Windows RT for ARM based tablets (dead in the water), Windows Phone (dead in the water but really rather good as a phone) and Windows 10 for desktops. How standard Windows 10 operates on Intel Atom based tablets is unknown to me as my Windows 8 tablets don't have enough space to upgrade... however, I suspect that the tablet experience will be better than the desktop one. Personally, I hate the split personality of Windows 10 desktop knowing that in order to focus on multiple environments Microsoft will have to pay less attention to each and so it means to fail a little more on each type. Apple got the IOS interface just right for tablets as they have only the one o/s to worry about (OS/X is as good as dead) but when it comes to turning IOS into a desktop OS, Apple will have a similar set of problems .

Where does this leave the customisers? - out in the cold I am afraid. Microsoft does not want us to modify their o/s and in fact their tablet methodologies go quite well with bland chunky buttons leaving Microsoft and Apple's offerings looking very much the same. Customisation is not on the end-users lips at the moment and their focus is on tablet devices and ease-of-use rather than desktops and flexibility. Some clever chaps are trying to bring customisation to Android through desktop and widget engine development but the result and success of all this will be debatable. For IOS the environment is closed and customisation of the default "look and feel" is frankly discouraged by Apple and in fact largely prevented by the shape and form of the device. Customisation of the desktop graphical interface is no longer the focus of the majority of users which leaves a lot of us wondering what to do next with such graphical skills we have. Rainmeter, objectdock, rocketdock, windowblinds, winstep xtreme and widget engines all offer a level of customisation that is still applicable on the current Windows desktop but I can see focus shifting away from these useful tools as both the end user and the developer's focus shifts elsewhere. As new versions of Windows arrive some of these tools may no longer function (I have already seen this happening on OS/X) or the GUI changes will combine so that these tools are incompatible with Windows new methodologies (no desktop at all?). The environment is also dynamic as no-one knows which new consumer devices will appear. The future for Windows customisation and individual graphic design is bleak I fear and once again all your oses will sport the bland corporate interfaces that each big corporation foists upon you...

PS. I'll add some graphics to this long rambling rant when I get time.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 17 April 2016 )
 
Windows 10 is a crock of sh1t PDF Print
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 I don't normally get this het up about software and I don't normally say it out loud but it must be said - Windows 10 is a crock of sh 1 t. The poor interface on top of just another NT6 with no real improvements to the core o/s but instead just major changes to the GUI whilst adding a load more inconsistencies/bugs is really not good enough. Win 7 was really the last good o/s that has come out of Microdolts. Windows 10 is really as unstable as good old Windows 98 but not quite as bad as Windows ME. That's not saying much. To summarise I have to reboot daily, basic function are unstable and many of my applications simply do not work. That really sounds like Windows 98 to me.

On top of the apps that no longer work, so much in Win10 is tatty and unfinished, it is difficult to theme properly and it keeps generating fundamental errors that make it unusable for enterprise level software. There is this thing called WMI which is the Windows Management Instrumentation layer that is meant to provide system level information in a standard fashion to allow monitoring programs access to core data. This is vital stuff for businesses to test whether their PCs/servers are functioning correctly. In Win10 it either does not work, is corrupted or just stops working for no apparent reason. WMI is one of those fundamental building blocks that HAS to work in order for Win10 to be seen as a decent and grown-up o/s. It worked well enough in XP, Vista, Win 7 and 8 but not in 10. I suspect that the WMI repository was broken during the update from Win 8.1 to Win10 as straight blank installationsof Win10 don't seem to have exhibited this problem. As most casual users are not using WMI they would not be aware of this issue.

Recent updates to Win10 have broken other things like GDI font rendering, breaking any utility that uses pretty GDI fonts - Rocketdock, Objectdock and Winstep Extreme have all been affected, if only temporarily. These and other sorts of errors show that Windows 10 is flaky and should be avoided if at all possible until it is fixed. Rule 1: Don't install a new o/s, what you always need is the stable old o/s - not the new. I wish I'd followed my own advice. So far my experience of using Win10 is like using a new car where 50% of the bolts haven't been properly tightened yet - you don't know what is going to fall off next. Lots of people complaining about it, including me.

To give MS credit, some of these problems have been fixed but the interface itself coupled with apps that no-one wants is still not  good combination.


NVidia - BSOD


steampunk-bsod-299.jpg

The latest issues I was faced with were the regular crashes with a BSOD with "IRQ IS LESS THAN OR NOT EQUAL..." from the NVidia driver when playing videos and doing other graphical functions involving transparencies/animation simultaneously. Microsoft are pushing graphics driver updates automatically with Win10 which means that you get the latest driver whether or not it is stable for your machine to use it. The last few days the graphics sub-system has been made very unreliable. You may have to download and install an older version of the Nvidia drivers and then do that again in a week or two when Windows overwrites them. These initial graphics problems have started to subside since Nvidia and Microsoft have got to grips with how to create and distribute drivers for Win10, however this problem still persists for some that are using older hardware with Microsoft pushing driver updates that are inappropriate for their hardware (eg. AMD systems).

After 6 months of running Windows 10, graphics are still a problem.Video can pause when running youtube or on the BBC iplayer caausing it to run slowly, not good on a quad core i7, is it flash or Windows? Don't know but it didn't happen on XP/ Win7.


Sound Problems:

itunes-70.pngSome strange sound issues appear daily when using a browser to watch videos. The sound suddenly cuts out and the volume slider will no longer appear from the systray. Any changes to sound have no effect, the only solution is a soft reboot. Delving into the sound components attempting to make a change, results in the message "the device is currently locked by another application". These sound issues have been here since the beginning of Win10 but now they happen intermittently and frequently. In fact, it just happened as I write this, the words just stopped coming out of a commentator's mouth... nothing but the sound of silence. The volume icon sometimes fails to show itself on the systray. This problem has been happening every two days or so - a reboot ha been required almost daily. These initial sound problems have started to subside since Microsoft has worked on sorting its sound control in Win10.

Wireless Problems:

wireless-70.pngWireless disconnects are happening far more than I would expect in a operating system that is supposedly in general live use today. The symptoms are that the wireless connection is cut unexpectedly and repeatedly, especially after the system has been restarted from a system sleep/hibernation. From this point clicking on the wireless icon in the systray does not always cause the list of active wireless points to pop up. Shutting down has been the only course of action but after one of these wireless problems a shutdown seems to take an abnormally long period of time. It is as if the connection between the desktop, explorer and the wireless state has its knickers in a twist. A hard reboot has often been required to recover from one of these, sometimes a power off as the desktop is unresponsive.

Desktop Configuration:

desktop-70.pngThe taskbar cannot be resized below a certain point. Windows XP's taskbar is superior in this respect, you can make it shrink to a very small size, Windows 10 has a minimum set size. On top of that Explorer gets in a tizzy sometimes and refuses to auto-hide the task bar due to some unknown explorer systray issue. So, if  you have moved your taskbar to the top of the screen, it can end up sitting on top of the title bar for some of your overlapped windows meaning that you can't minimise or move them about. Annoying. I kill the explorer process when this happens, this used to fix it on Win7 allowing the taskbar to auto-hide again. Killing the explorer process used to be an easy option under XP just open task manager and kill explorer.exe. Doing so on earlier versions of Win10 resulted in the desktop not coming back properly... Doubly-annoying, as a reboot was required. This latter issue seems to have been sorted now though the inability to reduce the taskbar height by dragging it edge is a facility that is still missing.

Task Bar:

I just don't like it, luckily I don't have to use it as I use the Classic Shel program that provides me with a more conventional taskbar. However, I am still lumbered with the Windows 10 systray. The Microsoft systray has never been particularly good, old versions leaving dead icons to be manually removed, the tray extending and closing just when you don't want it to. The new version is just as bad. The icons are now shown in a drop-down box rather than in a 'tray' but they astill jupa bout, reordering themselves dynamically as your mouse hovers over. In addition my systray jumps from right to left across the whole length of the screen, why?

Task Manager:

The new task manager uses up more resources, uses up too much space and has been optimised for touch devices. The layout and operation is just different enough from the old task manager to make it annoying to use. To improve my experience, on every Win10 machine that I operate, I now copy the Win7 task manager to the windows system 32 folder and thankfully I have the old familiar task manager working again in Win10. How to get this working for yourself? Try here: How to get the old task manager working again.

Split Personality:

glass-clipboard-70.pngWin10 has this strange split personality, it has a settings windows when called from the metro menu bar which does some of what I want (but in a manner that makes it difficult for me to find the things I want to manipulate) but what I'd really like is the old control panel which I can get to only with some difficulty (it is however, easily available in its proper location using the classic shell utility). There are also these tablet style 'apps'. The difference between apps and programs? So far it seems to be that apps are things I never, ever use, not once have I found myself wanting them. My Win10 computer seems to run programs such as photoshop, thunderbird, firefox &c. Win10 has a large number of customisations for tablets that are basically unwanted on a Windows desktop. What were MS thinking? This is their flagship product and it is full of unwanted and unused junkware - see OneDrive*...

OneDrive:

dropbox-70.pngOnedrive was foisted upon us as Microsoft's answer to your cloud storage requirements. It comes installed on Windows 10 by default and as a result it aimed to displace dropbox as everyone's favoured cloud storage/file transfer option. It could have worked too, being as Microsoft's space allocation was generous at 15gb with an extra 15gb for the use of the camera roll function...however, Microsoft have just pulled the plug on that 15gb, reducing it to 5gb, meaning that a service that was previously useful for storing a 'normal' amount of data for a standard user, is now quite useless as 5gb is just not enough. Microsoft responded to complaints by allowing users that complained the ability to retain those original amounts. However, MS  did not publicise this fact widely and so, for those that never complained and did not receive the message until it was too late, all their accounts will be reduced to 5gb. Despite the unexpected downgrade users that want to transfer their storage to other providers (Dropbox, Google Drive) will still find that annoying OneDrive icon on Explorer as Microsoft do not provide an uninstall option for OneDrive. To get rid of OneDrive you need to remove the oneDrive folder in your user folders, run a couple of commands to remove OneDrive altogether, then a couple of registry commands to remove that annoying OneDrive icon...

Can't say I'm impressed with OneDrive. It was useful but now it is not. Instead I  recommend Dropbox or Google Drive that comes with a lot of space by default.

Privacy and spying:

Windows 10 out of the box sends a lot of information back to Microsoft by default. If you don't want this (you should never actually want this to happen) then you need to disable it with a tool such as https://www.oo-software.com/de/shutup10

Just install it and disable as much as you can, use the recommended settings and you should be OK. Microsoft - what is this rubbish that you are doing?

-oOo-

Conclusion:

Having said all this, I am using Windows 10 daily and despite the regular crashes and hard reboots (one per day is not unusual) for ordinary use, initially it was bearable, but only just. Since then, a myriad number of bugfixes have been applied and the system today is much more stable. My Win10 desktop is heavily customised to remove most of the new metro tiled interface and also to replace the massive metro menu with the Classic Menu replacement. With the replacement of the Windows 7 task manager, the system becomes somewhat similar to Win7 or XP in operation. The majority of current Windows applications and games work out of the box - so, for most people Windows 10 will be good enough - as long as their hardware/software is up to date and works. However, some of the advanced functions are still rather buggy and that is where I come to grief. My biggest gripes so far are the interface, the bugs, the crashes and the absence of some DRM support for older applications.

Bear in mind that I use the following apps - firefox, text editors, photoshop, graphical Konfabulator and Xwidgets, thunderbird almost continuously. Occasionally I might play an old game or two or a current one like World of Tanks. This should not tax a normal system and should not be stretching the capabilities of Windows10. This is NOT real 'power' usage and if Win10 is not stable enough for me in the use of these ordinary applications then it might not be for you.

When I open my old XP laptop I see what a great o/s it was in comparison, the interface is consistent and designed for a desktop usage, no feely, touchy-crap for tablets, everything works, it is easily cutomisable and it is lovely to use. However, I am stuck with Win10 on my new lappie and I have persisted with it but I am starting to hate the Win10 specific features.

So with this in mind at the moment I can only suggest that you continue to use the last stable o/s from Microsoft, not Vista which screwed up XP, not Windows 8, nor 8.1 both of which broke the Windows desktop interface, not Win10 -  which is just again attempting to fix those Win8 GUI things already broken (whilst introducing a raft of new changes and bugs) - yes, the last stable and usable o/s from Microsoft really was Windows 7.

Note: Between them, at the time of writing, Win7 and XP still have 60% of the installed user base whilst Windows 10 has only 10% of the market.

Personally, I can only pray for ReactOS! An O/S that will run win32 programs and drivers without MS MicroShafting us with an unfinished GUI every year or so.


REACTOS
The above is ReactOS - does that not look like Windows? As soon as ReactOS becomes stable for my suite of apps I will start to switch.

Software that fails under Windows 10 that worked perfectly under previous versions of windows.

Battleground Ardennes (16bit stub does not work on a 64bit o/s)
Rome Total War (DRM)
Mediaeval War (DRM)
Oracle VM Virtualbox (now fixed)
Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds PC game (DRM)
Photoshop CS ver 8.0 - a problem or two causing crashes, the magic wand tool using a colour fill.
Adobe Premiere Pro version 2.0 does not run at all
Windows MovieMaker 

It seems that I still need my XP system to run my favourite software...

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 09 August 2016 )
 
World of Tanks Guide to playing the Crusader PDF Print
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Horrible bad Crusader? You must be a bad player if you think that.

Unlike the rather bad Covenanter the Crusader is a potential 55% plus tank, a game changer even - just learn to play it. Some say WoT IS biased against the Brits and I would agree with them in general, however, it is still possible to play very well in them. The trouble is that the Brits are a skill line and if you are not exhibiting general skill, you may do badly with the Crusader. Knowing how to play the Crusader is the key, some tanks just carry you, the Crusader won't.

It should also be stated that tanks were not Britain's priority. In fact the army was always the poor relation right up to the war's start. The security of Britain itself always depended upon the Navy and from the 1930s the brand new Royal Air Force. Both had access to the Lion's share of the budget as Britain could not survive without them. The army just had to be good enough to protect the Empire and to act as a potential force strong enough to form a cadre in case a European war ever occurred. The end result is an under-funded tank arm always trying to catch up. In 1940 after Dunkirk the army was asked how many tanks it needed to prosecute the war in all theatres, they stated 8,000 new tanks were required but at that time there were only a hundred and twenty or so tanks in the whole of Great Britain.

When you look at Britain's tank designs in this light it is clear that the armoured corps could never receive what material they actually wanted as production was always struggling just to catch up. Aero engines, the best engines for tanks were in short supply, all those lovely Merlins had to go in Lancaster bombers, four apiece or Spitfires and Hurricanes just for essential defence. Gun lathes were required to make gun tubes for the biggest Navy in the world, welders were busy welding hulls for destroyers and other ships just to allow Britain to survive the U-boat blockade. Tank design and production was just another expenditure on the balance sheet while Britain was building other costly war-winning weapons elsewhere, the invention, deployment and intelligent use of radar, the development of electro-mechanical computing (Bombes, Colossus) for code-breaking &c. By 1941 Britain was fighting three first class nations and all its foreign allies had been defeated. With these elements in mind it is almost surprising that Britain came up with any good tank designs at all.

-oOo-

The one thing you learn in WoT is that you have to adapt to a poor tank's characteristics to find the best from it. In real life, the same. The Brits adapted, it took time and effort but it was possible to win battles with sheer guts, determination, a reasonable gun and a little armour. They proved it time and again in the desert then again in Italy and in Normandy. It has to be said though, if there had been a real-life win rate it might have been closer to 40% for the first few years until all the new weapons and more importantly new methods came on stream.

The Germans had a tank nut on their side, Hitler. It is so much easier to get what you want when you are the supreme ruler.

The British line suffers from neglect and misunderstanding as WoT's development team, being Russian, won't buff those tanks as much as they would do if they were Soviet (Cromwell is the only tank to provide an exception to that rule). Some British tanks that are available in the game are still not even in the British tech tree. Other nationalities get regular and numerous HD buffs and well distributed 'unobtanium', the Brits will receive an occasional HD remodel but the Russkis just aren't interested in the line. To them it is the Great Patriotic War and it is the battle between the Nazis and the Soviets that moves them. The fact that the Brits invented the tank and had hundreds of real-life, paper and non-paper designs from all over the commonwealth means nothing to them. They don't even understand what the commonwealth of nations means in the context of WWII, see RAM.

That's the history over. Now to gameplay. 

When utilising the Crusader flanking is not just a word nor a concept, nor is camo... you need to use/have them both in order to control this tank properly. Don't shoot at all until you know that it will be a definite penetration and even then only when you are in absolutely no danger from a return shot.

liberty12-300.png The Crusader could do with a little buff in the speed department as the genuine article was known to be a real mover (with governor detached). This sort of buff will never happen as the Russkis that control the game give the Brits very little attention. The Crusader shares its DNA with a series of Russian tanks but despite this commonality the Russki equipment all seem to exhibit better general handling qualities. We have to accept then that speed is not the Crusader's main ability unlike its real-life counterpart in the desert. The tank shares its engine with the Covenanter but boosted slightly in performance, this boost is absorbed by the heavier Crusader and it does not result in a speed increase.

The Crusader has some fine points though which mark it out as an all-round better tank than its predecessor the Covenanter . The Crusader has the hard hitting 6pdr. It will penetrate most tanks armour although gold rounds will be needed for the heavy tanks, take a lot of them into battle with you but try not to use them for anything other than heavies or you'll lose credits heavily.

The Crusader is a stealthy tank, not a true scout due to its size but stealthy enough to stay hidden when it is required. Use folds in the ground, ridge lines to conceal your progression. Flanking is the Crusader's true forte. As a sniper it has its moments but when sniping from flanks, this tank is a killer. Always go for a flank.

Use it as a flanker then as a spotter and a sniper. Find a hull-down position in a depression, behind a bush and rip them to bits attacking their weakspots. Use the tank's low profile and use ridges to conceal your advance, don't shoot targets unless there is no risk to yourself. Passive scouting is possible in this tank due to the light tank camo rating the Crusader receives.

The tank is not nimble, quick relocations are not one of its abilities but it can out-manouevre heavies and circle them using the 6pdr to ravage and wreak destruction. It also has a decent turn rate when turning while stationary using its tracks in a neutral steer. This can really help when circling.

The Crusader is not a medium nor is it a light and this makes it hard to classify within WoT. It is a Cruiser, a breakthrough tank, the tank equivalent of cavalry. Within the game though it has neither a big enough gun nor thick enough armour to deal with any mediums it meets. It is also definitely not a light tank not being fast or nimble. It sits firmly in between as a light medium tank.

In the game though, it plays like a light without the speed, so, as with all  lights plan your route with care as you don't want to come face-to-face with the enemy. Be doubly careful as quick reverse is not an option. Despite its weaknesses the Crusader is a good all round package, don't brawl with it, don't expect to carry, collapsing teams will almost always take you with them.

The Crusader is not one of the tanks that you retreat to when your account is being nerfed (remember all those bad teams during that losing streak?). It is not a tank that you can carry a game in though a good WN8 is certainly achievable when things are going well and the Matchmaker smiles on you...

Modules? The light tank gun rammer is a good addition as good DPM is always useful especially in close encounters. Binoculars and camouflage are necessary.

Skills? Camouflage for all your crew, sixth sense, recon, eagle eye, snap shot, the usual.

Other reasons for learning how to play the Crusader? Well, with regard to the progression from the Crusader to the Comet (ignoring the Cromwell), there is a need to get to grips with the Crusader if you want to master the style of the Comet and attain a good win rate from the very start. The Comet and Crusader play in a similar style, the Comet feels like an upgraded Crusader, slightly wanting in all departments but the mix of speed, armour and gun isn't bad at all.

Image below shows the MkIII Crusader in action in Tunisia.

 

crusader-650.jpg

The driver seems to be working out his position with the help of an Ipad...

Remember, British tanks never receive the same love as the Soviets, so don't expect to rush in and win. You won't.

Could the Crusader mount a bigger gun?

The Staghound was an armoured car that mounted spare Crusader turrets that were designed knowing that one day they would have to take the 57mm 6pdr gun. The British 3" 75mm QF gun was the same size as the 6pdr, had similar recoil characteristics (lower pressure but heavier shells) and as a result fitted perfectly in that turret but only by reducing the crew in the turret to two.

The Crusader turret is definitely capable of taking the recoil of a gun that fires 12-13lb projectile at medium velocities without falling to bits. It has the space at the rear of the breech to take the recoil. It has the strength to handle the recoil forces, it has the space to store long case 75mm single piece shells, it also has the ability to hold the gun in a large cradle incorporating an internal mantlet just as per the 6pdr. There is also space in the turret for two crew.

 

stag-iii-650.jpg


 
Last Updated ( Saturday, 20 August 2016 )
 
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