Archive for ottobre, 2011

Ott 20

Short version:
the place is great and the admission is free: go visit it!

Long version:
The Royal Air Force Museum of Colindale is one of the best aviation museum a person could visit. There are so many aircrafts that an enthusiast will spend an entire day to see everything.
The visit is enjoyable at all ages, in fact there are many interactive panels and monitors showing the history, the facts and trivia of every aircraft ( including quizzes I passed with an average of 9.7 / 10 per aircraft ).
The various halls, from the smaller one of the “aviation milestones” to the larger bombers’ one, all contain something unique that could be hardly seen in other places or museums around the World.
From hystorical aircrafts like the Sopwith Triplane or the Vickers Vimy, to the Supermarine Spitfire ( a total of four version are on display! ), the Hawker Hurricane and Typhoon, the Avro Lancaster, the English Electric Lightning and Camberra, the Blackburn Buccaneer, the Avro Vulcan and the latest Panavia Tornado and Eurofighter Typhoon ( the unique english DA2 “Black Typhoon” is on display ).
There are a lot of other aircrafts that served with the RAF but were not designed or build in the United Kingdom, like the Boeing B-17, the Consolidated B-24, the North American B-25 and P-51 and the McDonnell F-4 Phantom ( with the Rolls-Royce Spey engines, of course: what did you expect? ).
There is an entire hall dedicated to the Battle of Britain in which all the four bombers used by the german Luftwaffe, the Messerschmitt BF-110, the Junker JU-87 and JU-88 and the Heinkel HE-111 stand together. On the other side of this hall, it’s also possible to enter in a Short Sutherland flying boat.

During my visit at the beginning of October I had some small talks with a really nice attendant in the “aviation milestones” hall about the situation of the air forces and the navies in our respective countries. Needless to say we were both skeptical about the future.
Seeing how simple and yet how complicated were the aircraft of the past is something that always make people thinks.
The wreck of an ill-fated Avro Halifax, retrieved from the sea of Norway after many years under the water, stay in the bomber area, rembembering us what being a bomber’s crew meant during WWII.
Walking under the wing of the Avro Vulcan and standing under the bomb bay ( that now contains an LCD panel on which are showed some clips of the aircraft during the Cold War era ) is just great because really gives you the idea of how big the airplane really is and how advanced

The museum continuosly acquire new aircrafts. Always in the aviation milestones hall, there were two “brand new” ( well, sort of ) items: a WWII Gloster Meteor, that at the time of the visit was still undergoing re-assembly, and the mock-up of a Lockheed-Martin F-35A. The aforementioned attendant told me that there are about 20 aircrafts in storage they’re unable to show because of space issues.

So, in the end, if you’re an aviation enthusiast and you’re planning a trip to London, just add a day to visit the RAF museum at Colindale ( you can reach it via underground, is in zone 4 Link to Google Maps ) because… the place is great and the admission is free: go visit it!


Ott 3

Being a Microsoft Student Partner simply means I like most of Microsoft’s technologies and products because they work the way I expect them to work, my expectations based on a 17 years old experience with Microsoft’s products.

For instance, as far as other desktop OSs can arrive, nothing, in my opinion, beats Windows 7 nowadays.
MacOS X is a very good OS, but as long as it’ll run only on Apple hardware, I’ll never gonna use it.
GNU/Linux-based distros like Red Hat, Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSUSE, Debian, etc. are today very good OSs, but there’s an overall lack of agreement between developers and, even worse, an incompatibility issue between licenses that lead to a “reinvention of wheel” time after time ( the Big example: ZFS and btrfs ).

So, while I usually like Microsoft products, sometimes I think that some little or big decisions have been made without thinking too much to a certain part of the users.

My first criticism was about Windows Phone 7, that is a really good mobile OS for the average user. But as long as I want to: sync my contacts with Outlook rather than Windows Live, join a domain, run native C++ applications and other things, Windows Phone 7 is not a choice for me. I’m still fine with Windows Mobile 6.x.

But MetroUI caught my attention when I first tried the developers’ preview of Windows 8 some days ago.
The concept behind MetroUI is the “unification of the user experience”, a marketing expression used instead of “users are getting more and more lazy and they don’t want to bother about what’s under the hood” ( meaning they don’t care what they’re using: a mobile phone, a desktop computer, an ATM or a washing machine ).
Many people think touchscreens were one of the biggest revolution in the late ’00s market. Probably they’re the same people whose jaw drops on the floor when I tell them my first experience with a touchscreen was in 1994, in a ship command bridge on a green phosphor CRT monitor used to manage the course ( Yeah, I actually steered a 200 yards-long ship ). By the way, they’re right if considering only the consumer market.
The idea of unifying the UI between “handy” devices ( mobile phones and tablets ) is hardly new and, most important thing, it works. After all, they’re similar and they’re expected to work in a similar way.
But, in my opinion, if the differences between a mobile phone and a tablet are like the differences between a car and a van, those between a tablet and a PC are more like those between a GA aircraft and an airliner.
They’re not similar, they’re not expected to be used in the same way. I don’t expect to find a manifold pressure gauge in the cockpit of a Boeing 737 ( or an ATR-42 or an Airbus A380 ) in the same way I don’t expect to find a FMS console in a Cessna 172 ( or in a Piper PA28 ).

Saying that I don’t like MetroUI would be wrong. I just think that MetroUI has no reason to be the default UI on a desktop OS. I also think that standard utilities should remain non-Metro applications. I find unacceptable that the remote desktop connection client is available only as a MetroUI application on a desktop machine, as I find wrong not giving the user the option to actually kill the application, even by some abstruse key combination, I don’t care, and not just suspending it.
For seventeen years I closed an application in Windows by clicking on the top left ( top right starting with Windows 95 ) corner button of the application window, or by pressing Alt + F4. In MetroUI I can’t quit application like this. I find it a bit ( well more than just a bit ) disappointing.

In the end, considering that there’s a lot of research behind the dvelopment of an operating system ( and Microsoft really care about what users think, or wouldn’t have released Windows 8 Developer Preview publicly ), what I’m starting to think is that average users are beginning to be afraid ( I could have used the word “tired”, but I didn’t ) of the keyboard as well as, following Windows 95, users started to be afraid of the command line.

What I’d really like, as a power user, as an enthusiast and as an experienced user, is a choice. As there are six versions of Windows 7, I’d like the Professional and Enterprise versions of Windows 8 use explorer as the default UI instead of MetroUI.
We will wait for the beta versions to see what will appens.