June 2011 Archives

June 27, 2011

Giving the Gift of Life: Donating Blood

Every day in the United States, 38,000 pints of blood are needed.  That's a lot of blood.  And up until recently, I haven't been able to give blood.  But today I did, and I'm very glad I did. I haven't been able to give blood until recently because I was in Europe, specifically Germany, during the big Mad Cow scare in Britain.  Because of that, a moratorium was placed on all blood donors who were in Europe during the 90's.  Not that I was sad, mind you, because I'm not very thrilled to have a massive needle stuck in my arm.  Still, it's something that is needed, particularly as I have type O blood, which is in great demand.  So I did some checking, and it seems that the moratorium is only permanent if you lived in Great Britain.  For Germany, as long as I didn't live there for longer than 5 years (and I was only there a little under 2 years), I'm clear to donate blood.  So today I went down to the blood bus, filled out the necessary forms, and let them stick me with a needle.  Within 6 minutes I was done and ready to get back to work.  Some things that made the experience great for me was being well hydrated.  I had done quite a bit of bike riding since Monday, and with the increase in exercise I'd increased my water intake.  I rarely drink soda (unless I'm at home, or need a little bit of energy), so it wasn't a problem keeping away from that.  And when I say increased my water intake, it was over the course of three days, not just the morning before I got stuck, so I was well hydrated.  As such I didn't even feel light-headed when I stood up.But the best thing about giving blood today was the coupon for a free pint of ice cream from Baskin Robbins, which I am sure will be a hit with the family.  Not only do I get to do my part to save a life, but I get to enjoy free ice cream.  That's just awesome.  

June 25, 2011

The Meltdown

Article first published as The Meltdown on Technorati.

Parenting a child with Autism has it's benefits. Children tend to be quiet much of the time because of their focus on their current project. But then there is the dreaded meltdown.

Children all have tantrums at some point, pushing their boundaries, testing their limitations, and trying to deal with their frustrations. But children with Autism have an additional cause: over-stimulation. It can happen at any time, and for any reason. Often it is caused by loud and unfamiliar noises, bright and/or flickering lights, or anything that is not part of the routine. This may sound like a typical tantrum that any child can have, but it is not. It's not something the child can control, but rather something that takes control of the child.

Luckily, there are ways to head off a typical meltdown. Helping the child focus on something to block out the cause of the meltdown is important. One way is to use music to block out strange noises. Many parents will pull out noise-cancelling headphones and turn on a favorite tune to help their child.

Others will provide some visual stimulation, such as pulling out a portable device and start a favorite video. Video games, favorite TV shows, and puzzles can all help a child visually block out the distraction and gain control.

Some need some tactile stimulation to help them gain control. Often this comes in the form of deep pressure on the limbs or around the body. My son responds to this very well. I press on his arms with my palms, giving him a constant, even pressure that helps him focus. I'll also give him deep pressure through bear hugs, which he absolutely adores. Autism service dogs are pretty much the same thing. When a child is close to a meltdown, the dog will press up against the child for short intervals, giving the child the same benefit of deep pressure.

What's interesting, and this is just an observation, is that methods of learning seem to run parallel to the methods of managing a meltdown. Perhaps it could be a way to help parents and teachers identify the best way to teach their child.

June 17, 2011

Should You Screen for Autism?

Article first published as Should You Screen for Autism? on Technorati.

Reports are coming in about an article published in the journal Pediatrics about Canadian researchers who, through a review, have pointed out the inconsistencies in Autism diagnosis, and therefore find no benefit for screening for Autism. To date I have been unable to locate this article, so I can't comment on the science behind it. From what I understand based on media reports, the researchers did a review of Autism literature regarding screening success, margins for error, and made their conclusions based on this review.

Without reading the article, I thought I would throw my own two cents in regarding this basic concept. Should screening be a priority for your child? The question is very much a "it depends" answer. You know your child best, and you know his behaviors. What's more, your pediatrician knows what behaviors are typical "Autistic" behaviors, and can be an excellent resource. But is screening really necessary?

Yes, in that many states with Autism resources (special schools, funding, etc.) require a diagnosis in order for families to have access. Without a screening by a licensed professional, you can't get access to those services. But if your health insurance policy doesn't cover Autism, then you are looking at one hefty bill, though many states with Autism services have a free screening as part of the services provided.

But, there are some stigmas that can be associated with an Autism diagnosis, I suppose. Your child will be "labeled", and become a subject of curiosity and conversation with family members to complete strangers. Though, honestly, not anything more than normal with melt-downs in public places, anti-social behavior, etc. that is typical of a child with Autism.

And is it necessary to have an exact diagnosis of where on the Spectrum the child is? I contend that it is not important. As every person with Autism is unique, knowing where on the spectrum a child is becomes more a need for labeling, rather than benefiting the child's development. Schools will work out an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for your child based on continuous observation of the child. This continuous observation is far more useful to you as a parent than a "snapshot" diagnosis taken after only an hour or two of observation. Just having the diagnosis is enough, getting the precise label is not as important.

So when wouldn't you want to get a screening for Autism? When your child has no behavior that fits in the Autism spectrum. If your child is not compulsively stacking items or lining them up, doesn't walk really close to the wall, has no fear of strangers, doesn't give eye contact, doesn't yawn with others (did you know it was a social thing?), and doesn't speak or has speech delays. There are other signs of Autism, but these are pretty common and easy to spot.

But what about misdiagnosis, you may ask? Because Autism is currently defined by behavior instead of genetics, and as many different conditions out there can mimic autistic behavior, it's possible to misdiagnose a child on the Spectrum when they instead have something like Fragile-X, celiac disease, or a number of other genetic diagnoses that can cause acute behavior changes. The only way to be sure of an Autism diagnosis is to have a genetic test, which is currently in trial with a high accuracy rate.

So, back to the original question: should you get your child screened for Autism? If you want access to those services, then you had better get your child screened. If you don't think it's necessary, and your pediatrician agrees, it's not as important. Though there was one thing reported about that article with which I completely agree, and that is to learn how your child learns, and cater to it. Nothing can change your child's life more than to help them learn.

June 16, 2011

Family Heritage: Celebrating Our Roots

Article first published as Family Heritage: Celebrating Our Roots on Technorati.

Every year in June my family has a tradition: we attend the Utah Highland Games. We attend because of the food, the pipe music, the people, and our heritage. You see, most of my ancestors were from the British Isles, specifically from Scotland. And ever since I was little, my family has celebrated the ties that made us unique.

On this day, I feel a deep connection to my ancestors as I don the kilt and walk proudly amongst my fellow Scottish Americans. We celebrate those things that make our Scottish heritage: The tossing of the caber, the putting of the stone, the tossing of the sheaf, the pipes, the drums, the tartans, the clans, and, of course, the food.

The Games are fun to watch, just like any other sport. Seeing the large caber get thrown in the air, the expectation of it landing just right, it's exciting. And at noon, the Clans gather to the sounds of pipes and drums to march. The Gathering of the Clans shows that though we may come from different families and alliances, we can all get along. The kilts, switching back and forth with each step, feels comfortable in both hot and cold weather, and for the first year my wife thought about getting kilts for my boys (something to save for next year, I suppose).

Scottish food has been colored by tradition and myth. It is very humble, as oats and meats are a large part. And the meats can be a bit, well, different, I don't deny. Haggis has been defined by many to be made on a bet, but it is actually a food that was made to stave off starvation. Every part of the sheep is included, and I can say from experience that it tastes very good (unless you microwave it). This year was the first year both my sons had a taste, and they enjoyed it. I was quite proud.

We didn't stay long, because the noise and heat can be quite trying to children with Autism, but we stayed long enough to enjoy the experience. It gives me a chance to connect with my roots, and is one of three dates when I get to wear my kilt.

And this brings me back to the importance of celebrating one's family heritage. One of the benefits of studying family history is knowing who you are, where you came from, and how past experiences can help shape your decisions. And if you look hard enough, you can find lots of interesting characters to enjoy.

These connections are important. It is the simple carriage maker from Perth, the royal lines of England, Holland, Scotland, and Germany, the harrowed pioneers of the West, and the native Americans that sought alliance that can change your outlook on life. That connection to the past is what makes me want to improve on the future for my own family. And one day, they may look back on me with the same pride as I look back to my ancestors.

So whatever your heritage, celebrate it for what it is, a tie to who you are. It doesn't mean you can't accept others for who they are and where they are from, but it does mean you have a responsibility to make your life better, in honor of who they were.

June 15, 2011

iOS Post-PC Features Missing

In the recent WWDC keynote, Steve et al had mentioned embracing the post-PC world, or using mobile devices like the iPad instead of a laptop/desktop to do your day to day work. And for the most part this is possible, when it comes to creating documents, viewing content, even creating websites and publishing them.  But there are a few pieces missing that would make it possible for me to give up my PC in lieu of my iPad.  So here is a wish list I have for iOS:

  1. iPhoto Publishing: Now, when I talk about publishing in iPhoto, I don't mean publishing to the web, or even syncing to the cloud, as will be available in the Fall with iOS 5.  No, what I am talking about is creating books, calendars, and cards from iPhoto on an iOS device, and submitting it to Apple to have it published.  This is an essential tool, at least to my wife, and something that is keeping her from being able to give up her PC for the iPad.  I don't think this would be a hugely difficult tool to add either, though it would essentially be on the scale as Garageband or iMovie for iPad.  But it's a feature I would like to see, as would my wife.  It was also a conversion point for my wife, as she loves scrapbooking, but found she didn't have enough time to get pages done the way she really wanted. 
  2. Xcode for iPad:  Another feature that I would love to see, though I doubt I can expect it because of the scope, is Xcode, or at least an Xcode editor.  Often I find it inconvenient to pull out my MacBook Pro to start working on code while commuting, and would find it far more useful to pull out an iPad (takes less space in cramped seating than a clamshell laptop).  It would also allow for editing on the fly.  Add iCloud support for Xcode or SVN support in Xcode for iPad, and it would allow me to edit my code with any device, make my changes, and then finish it up on a more robust device when I have the time.  That would be very convenient.  
  3. Microsoft Office for iPad:  While I'm getting to love Pages, Keynote, and Numbers on my iPad, Microsoft Office is still the dominant office suite in the business world.  Because of this, it would be in Microsoft's best interest to release a version of their software for the iPad (perhaps in conjunction with a Windows Phone 7 release?).  Do I think they ever will?  Nope, they want you to get a tablet with Windows 8 on it.  It's a pity though, because that is a lot of potential revenue for their software just waiting in the wings.  
  4. Video Chat for Skype:  This shouldn't be that hard, and though I like the idea of FaceTime now being available through 3G with iOS 5, I'd like additional options.  Of course, it could just dry up now that Microsoft purchased it.  

So that's my small list.  Is there anything out there that you would like to see in the post-PC world?  It doesn't matter what platform, as ultimately these features could be available to all.  

June 14, 2011

Autism Sanity in an Insane World

Article first published as Autism Sanity in an Insane World on Technorati.

Our world, with constant access to everyone's opinion through the Internet, seems insane. Political arguments abound, religious arguments continue, and social attacks continue. Everyone seems to want to find someone else to blame for their troubles, and those who get blamed are looking to shift that blame elsewhere. And even in the world of autism, this is true. Arguments between genetics and environment rage on, tearing the community apart when it comes to research and focus of those dollars.

So what, as a family with a child on the Spectrum, are you to do? This is a question I have asked myself often. I study the research (one of the benefits of working for a university), and so I get the real data and conclusions based on methods. But not a lot of people have that opportunity, increasing their confusion when this celebrity or that research scientist say one thing, with other contradicting voices out there.

So let me share with you my secret: I step back and ask one critical question, "Does this change the way I'm helping my son learn?" Most often, regardless of the points, the arguments, the research, the answer is no. All research tend to point to the same fact, which is that ABA instruction is the only proven method to significantly improve learning prospects for those with autism. While many talk about preventing autism, or developing a drug/treatment in X number of decades to "cure" autism, nothing is available now beyond the Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy already entrenched in most school districts.

There are, occasionally, some technologies and therapies that stand out as a promising method: using computers to teach kids instead of social situations tends to be more effective for children on the Spectrum. My son, for instance, loves using his apps on his iPod Touch or my iPad to learn his letters, numbers, spelling, writing, etc. He seems to do better than if I stand over him and try to teach him directly. Of course it's just self observing, but nonetheless it seems to be working and I like a working system. Other therapies seem to have shown some benefits as well, such as compression chambers that raise the air pressure slightly that above normal. But none have had the proven success rate that ABA has enjoyed.

So while my hackles may rise at the mention of vaccines/MSG/solar flares causing autism instead of genetics, it's only for a moment. I can explain my position, provide the research material that prove to me, at least, that genetics seem to be the cause, and let it go. Arguing never convinced anyone, and it's not worth the effort. I think of all that time and energy that could instead go toward benefiting my son, and realize the argument is simply a waste.

June 9, 2011

iCloud: First Impressions

I like Apple products.  There, my bias has been shared right up front.  I don't like them because they are "Apple", and I don't like them because I live in a distortion field of unreality.  I like them because they give me a stable OS (UNIX) that I don't have to compile and configure every day.  It just works so I can move on with my life.  So when iOS 5 and iCloud was announced, I was impressed.  Now that I've had a couple of days to digest the announcements, I'd like to share my thoughts. For iCloud, this was a long time coming, and I'm really impressed with what will be available in Fall.  Why?  Because once you purchase something, you should always have access to that regardless of whether or not the original media had been backed up.  For instance, if a catastrophic hardware failure takes out your music collection, you should be able to download it again for free.  This has not been the case with any music distribution channel of which I am aware (please correct me if I'm wrong).  I don't blame Apple or the distribution companies, but rather the record labels.  This concept of having access to purchased material is great, and I love it. I also like the idea of the cloud being a central hub, as opposed to the processing center.  Part of this is because of the lack of a persistent high-speed connection required for computing to run in the cloud instead of locally, where as file repositories and syncing do not need to be persistent.  Can't get a signal?  Your computer will still work, all your apps are available, and all your files are available.  Let them update to the cloud later, it doesn't matter that much.  This will perhaps change in the future when persistent networks are more ubiquitous and reliable, but until then let me have a local OS with cloud accessible items. So what specifically do I like about iCloud?  

  1. Access to Purchases:  This is awesome, and something I have wanted for a long time. 
  2. Song Matching:  This is nice, because there are lots of people out there who have "borrowed" or "backed up" music they haven't specifically paid for, and they now have a chance to protect themselves from the auspices of "piracy".  I don't like the fact that I would have to pay to access music that I have already purchased in CD form, but from a piracy standpoint, this is a win for the record labels by giving pirates a chance to come clean without threat of prosecution. 
  3. Documents in the Cloud:  I already use Dropbox for this, but the space is limited for the types of files I use.  but being able to edit on any device and then have it updated, ready to go elsewhere without having to specifically tell it to save to Dropbox?  That's a win.  I will, of course, still use Dropbox (how could I not?), but now I would no longer need to use it for documents.  Here is hoping that Microsoft embraces iCloud with an Office for iPad/iPhone release, and integrate it with Office 2010/2011 or later.  Otherwise, I might just permanently convert to iWork.  
  4. PC-Free:  This has been a goal of mine since the PocketPC first came out.  I had an old NEC MobilePro 400 with Windows CE 1.0 on it, and I loved it.  Since then I have had PocketPCs (one with Familiar installed), an iPod Touch, and an iPad, and each one I have tried to go PC-less with them.  There was always something that would stop me with each one.  The PocketPC didn't have networking on it by default.  the iPod Touch was too small to do any real work.  The iPad still needed to be tethered for file transfers.  But now no more with iCloud (activation is also taken care of with iOS 5, but that is another post).  We are now finally living in a post-PC world that began with those first pioneers, championed by several companies like Google, and made mainstream by Apple.  
  5. Photo-Stream:  This is awesome, because it means I don't need to worry about transferring everything to the Mac and then to my iPad for additional editing.  It may only keep 1,000 photos at any given time, but archiving them on the Mac isn't the problem.  Generally it's getting it from one device to another.  That's now taken care of. 
  6. Backup:  Backing up your device is critical.  One reason why I often didn't use a computer to take notes in college, despite being able to type at about 80 words per minute, was because of the chance of a hard drive crash.  Now that the iPad is working as a great device for note taking, or recording the lecture, having a back up is critical.  Having it back up to the cloud for free is even better. 
  7. Shared Calendars:  Having a family calendar that everyone has access to is something I have been trying to get running at home.  To date it has meant having a Mac OS X Server running with iCal Server to get it working properly.  With iCloud, it's no longer necessary.  That means $50.00 less in cost with OS X 10.7 Lion, and that's a good thing.  
  8. The Price:  Free is always a good thing, but even if you are matching your music, $24.99 a year is far better for the amount of music my wife and I have than, say, $200.00 a year.  And that is only if I want to bother, which I am still up in the air about.  We shall see. 

So that is my list of what I like. Is it all exclusive to Apple?  Probably not, as I'm sure everyone else has something similar or can set up something similar with a lot of coding/compiling/chanting in binary with five black candles burning.  But with Apple, it just works (those parts that are in beta anyway, we shall see what happens in Fall), and that's what I like the most about Apple and their products.  I'm optimistic that there will not be another "MobileMeGate".  But what about the missing features?  Here are some things I'd like to see: 

  • Video Purchases:  We have audio, what about video?  I'd like to see purchases for TV and movies be available on all devices without needing to back them up.  I'm sure Apple is just waiting for approval from the Studios for this one, and if it's like anything else with those guys, it will be pulling teeth.  From a T-Rex.  On speed.  Hopefully they can reach an agreement by Fall, but I'm not sure I'm that optimistic.  
  • Video Files:  We have Photo Stream, what about Video Stream?  Can I backup my videos to the cloud when I take them, and have them sync to other devices?  Nothing was said, so I guess we will have to wait and see. 
  • Video Viewing from the Cloud:  If I purchase a TV show or movie, I may not really want to store it locally, just watch it whenever I want on my Apple TV.  As part of the whole "Move away from cable" plan, this would be a huge bonus.  I'd like to be able to stream my purchases from the Cloud in future.  Again, just like purchase syncing, this may be like pulling teeth, but would be awesome. 
  • Audio Listening from the Cloud: Same as watching video, but I'd like to have access to listen to my audio I purchased without having to download it first.  Streaming your audio playlists from the cloud to devices like the Apple TV would be awesome, and I would love to see it happen. 

Who knows what final announcements will be coming in Fall for iCloud?  Perhaps I'll get to see what I want.  But for now, what I'm getting is plenty for me to enjoy the cloud with my Mac devices.  Anyone else have an opinion?  What do you want to see in a cloud environment for your platform?

June 7, 2011

Autism In The Family

Article first published as Autism In The Family on Technorati.

Autism is a devastating diagnosis for any family. It's not fully understood, causes are hotly debated, and there is so much misleading information out there that no one really knows what to do. When we found out our son had Autism, we were expecting another child. Instantly we were afraid that the same diagnosis would be attributed to him, and our dreams of the perfect normal family would be shattered.

Then, we learned more about autism. We learned how our first son's mind worked, and how we could help him learn and grow like any other child. There are still a lot of things we need to teach him and there are plenty of struggles, but overall our son is doing great.

And now our second son is starting to show signs of autism, having turned two years old just recently. His behavior is not as pronounced as our first son, as he is far more verbal than our oldest had ever been, but his signs of frustration, tendency to line up objects, and various other clues indicate to us a form of autism. Most likely he will have Aspergers Syndrome based on the observations we have seen, though we still need to get him formally diagnosed.

I thought it might be scary, having two children with autism. My mind kept flashing back to the horror, fear, anger, etc. of discovery about our first son's diagnosis, I wasn't sure I wanted to repeat it. The frustration that came from learning about autism, the various theories, and finally starting to get into the real clinical research to get a better understanding threatened to overwhelm me. But then I remembered I had already been through all of that.

Our oldest is 6, finished Kindergarten with such high praise from his teacher that he is advancing to the next level, even though she doesn't want to lose him as a student. His performance has been spectacular, his academic achievement has exceeded expectations for his class. And he is, with only a few exceptions to sensory sensitivity and being non-verbal, a perfectly normal little boy.

So I no longer fear the diagnosis for our youngest son. He's also very exceptional. He is quick to see connections and make them work for his favor. He has a slight edge over our oldest in that he is likely to give eye contact, is somewhat verbal, and is less animated in his need to express himself. Having been through the gambit with our oldest, I'm prepared with our youngest. There are bound to be differences, but the autism diagnosis no longer terrifies me.

June 6, 2011

Article first published as The School Dilemma: When Do You Advance Your Child? on Technorati.

 

Recently, while my wife was working with my son's teacher in his class, she was asked a question: would we mind if our son was moved up into a more advanced Autism class? The question was asked because of an influx of new students and my son's ability to get bored very quickly when not challenged enough. The only concern would be my son's lack of verbal communication.

 

The question may seem to have an obvious answer, but it isn't as simple as putting him in a faster-paced classroom. You see, he loves working with the current teacher and aides, one of which lives nearby. There are some classmates he has had since preschool in the same classroom, which gives him a sense of comfort and continuity. And the teacher loves having my wife and I come to help when we can.

 

But the benefits are pretty exciting. My son is excelling in his academics in the current class and gets bored rather quickly (and the same thing happened in preschool at the end of the year). He would be challenged more in the more advanced class, focusing a lot on his academics that he loves so much. He would be closer to home, taking only about 10 minutes to drive over to the school as opposed to 30 or 40 minutes. He would still be bussed, which is exciting for him as he loves riding the bus to school. It just comes down to whether or not his verbal skills, or lack thereof, would be a problem.

 

I'm sure every parent has a point where their child's education needs to make change. Some need to worry about their child getting advanced too quickly into grades higher than their age group. Others worry about their children being held back a year to repeat grades for their benefit. Still others worry about getting their children in the "right" schools to reflect better on their potential collegiate careers. Personally, I'll just be happy to see my son grow into the skills he loves so much, and if that means moving him to a closer school that will better challenge him, then all the better.

 

So, after a lot of thought and discussion, we have decided to let our son advance to the next level in the autism program. He will be with more social and verbal children, which could encourage his verbal development. And, of course, he will be advancing his education at a pace with which he is more comfortable. It's exciting, and places all other debates on education, insurance, and causes of autism in perspective. This is what parenting a child with autism is really about: making those decisions that will better their lives in the future.

June 2, 2011

Windows 8: First Impressions

This morning I started my daily news review by reading articles on the new Windows 8 OS that Microsoft demoed.  Reviews are ranging from lackluster to stellar, which has to be very frustrating to Redmond right now.  The key features of Windows 8 is that it focuses on the tablet world, almost seeming to leave the PC world behind.  Personally, I think the move shows just how badly Microsoft wants to get into the Tablet game again, one that it started years ago but couldn't get to take off.  They needed something dramatic, and looked to their Windows Phone 7 and Zune roots to find it.  And they did, with the default Windows 8 environment being the result. This works, in that they have shown their investors that they do not intend to be left behind in the Tablet world, particularly with ARM processors being so popular in iOS and Android devices.  They also seem to be mimicking Apple with their centralized Windows App Store, though the apps will be written in HTML5 and Javascript, al-la WebOS.But the whole problem with Windows up to now has not been their dedication to a platform, but their user interface.  When the Windows GUI first came out, it was clunky, but was a huge improvement for most people over the original DOS based interface options.  Now they could see, use a mouse, drag things, and have pictures of their kids staring back at them all day long.  The interface became the standard, one that has seen duplicates and "reinventions" that were the same but different in other OS releases.  But was it the best interface?  I don't think so, and I say that with years of being a PC technician under my belt.  But it didn't matter, because it was an interface with which people were familiar.  Change the interface, and you change the experience.  Years dominating a market no longer counts, as you have rebooted the whole game with a new player. So what do I think of the new OS?  I love it!  Why?  Because it emphasizes the coming Tablet market as the new computing platform, and Microsoft getting into the game throws the final nail into the need for huge towers and clunky monitors.  Microsoft finally shows that they get it!  They know that the way to compete in the new world of the iPad, Zoom, and the TouchPad is to develop an OS that caters to the user, not to convention.  User-friendly is not enough anymore, you have to be almost invisible to the User, getting them to their apps without knowing they are on the OS.  That is the future of computing, and Microsoft seems to have seen the light. That being said, there is going to be a huge learning curve when it comes to the new OS, particularly by those who have stuck with Microsoft through the Me fiasco, and the recent Windows Vista debacle.  Much like the interface complaints of Office 2007, Windows 8 is going to take some getting used to.  The saving grace is the ability to go back to the original Windows 8 interface if wanted.  That will keep just about everyone happy, I would think. So why do I like Windows 8?  From the slideshows and the reports that I've heard, it seems to me that Windows 8 is giving you a more streamlined experience.  I'll reserve any final judgements when I finally get my hands on a copy, but it looks like it will be a great day for users who just want to get to their apps and not have to worry about how to get there.  Apple has done this with their Launchpad in 10.7, and I think it's no coincidence that Microsoft planned this announcement ahead of Apple's WWDC next week.  They wanted to show Apple what they have planned, and it is promising for Microsoft as it looks like it's going to be a good move for the tablet world. What would I like to see in Windows 8?  Stability.  And by stability, I mean no Registry.  Microsoft has owned XENIX for decades, their licensed version of UNIX, and have the ability to bring the stability and reliability of UNIX to Windows by getting rid of that registry. Do I think they did it?  Not in the least, but one can dream.  On the other hand, with the new apps being a combination of HTML5 and Javascript, programming for a Windows computer has never been easier.  Also, since this technology is hardly system intensive and most likely would not need registry entries, it could provide a level of stability unseen in Windows since, well, since I could remember.  So I think as a whole Microsoft is finally asserting themselves as a new Tech company, and it seems they are primarily targeting Apple and Google in their quest for relevancy.  It really does look like they are pandering to stockholders here, but, as stockholders have a vested interest in the company's success, perhaps a little pandering isn't a bad thing. What do you think of the new Windows 8 OS?

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