Like a glass of chilled rosé wine while reclining on a deck, a computer column in July should not be taken too seriously. Thus, for your amusement, we offer these tidbits.
A Bunch of Blocks
Somehow, a purchase of great importance slipped my notice back in September. Microsoft bought game company Mojang, the maker of Minecraft. If you’re wondering, “What is Minecraft, and why would I care,” you obviously do not have middle-school-aged children or grandchildren. On that note, I’ve observed a 12-year-old playing on her computer with two friends in the same room who brought over their laptops so they could all play online together. While not restricted to that age group, it seems to have taken over that population completely.
Add in Facetime, the video/voice app on their phones, and they can also play when apart, commenting on the game and sending warnings via phone while playing on their computers. It’s the game equivalent of crack.
This has been accomplished using some of the lowest grade graphics around: The people, animals, scenery and objects all appear to be made of Lego blocks. Seriously, while games on graphics consoles contain stunningly realistic graphics, Minecraft looks like a refugee from 1976. But it’s addictive enough that nobody cares.
So what do you do in Minecraft? Well, that’s one of the addictive parts; you can create your own world, with its own rules. You can do things to survive, such as grow food, build buildings and collect tools and weapons. You can fight other players online, or duck bands of zombies.
A big part of the process is creating things; to get an axe, for instance, you must mine the iron ore, create a furnace to melt it, get wood for a handle and assemble it, in precise order. There are whole rafts of YouTube videos posted by other players to show you how.
What Game Plan?
Apparently the creators of the game had no idea it would explode as it has, with the resultant stress of running a large company. As one said, “I make games because it’s fun, and because I love games and I love to program. But I don’t make games with the intention of them becoming huge hits.”
He also commented, “I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m not a CEO. I’m a nerdy computer programmer who likes to have opinions on Twitter.”
So what does a nerdy programmer get to sooth his jangled nerves? He and two partners will split $2.5 billion. That should help.
What does Microsoft get? While the basic game is free, if you want to host your own personal world that you and your friends can occupy, you have to rent space on Mojang’s servers for $13/month. Multiply that by all of the players in all of the countries (the game started in Sweden), and that’s a bunch.
That’s probably enough to buy a few bottles of excellent rosé, as well as an iceberg to keep them cold.
It’s Coming (Really)
So the latest announced release date for Windows 10 is July 29 (at the time of this writing). If you have Windows 7 or 8.1, you’ve probably noticed a Windows icon show up in the bottom taskbar. Click on that, and you can sign up to download the upgrade when it’s released. Microsoft will probably stagger releases, so the Internet is not completely hogged on the first day.
As always, I advise not being among the first. Listen for cries of joy or cries of pain from the “gotta-have-it” crowd, then decide.
Microsoft held its annual Ignite event in May, where it attempts to highlight new products, etc. One of the things announced, while it looks like it is only of interest to the techno bunch, will probably affect everyone.
It’s stopping the process known as Patch Tuesday, when Microsoft would release bug fixes and updates to Windows and other products on a scheduled basis. Instead, it plans (under Windows 10) to release updates whenever it wants, 24/7.
Does this remind you of the old AOL routines, where it constantly installed updates whenever it wanted, usually at the most inconvenient times? Yes, it does. The bigger problem is, however, that “upgrades” are often the cause of machine misbehavior. When someone calls me about a frozen machine or a blue screen of death and says, “But it was working fine yesterday,” the first thing I check for is upgrades installed during the night. So now you know what to look for when this happens on a random basis with Win10. Get to know and love System Restore.
Interestingly enough, this “feature” is not going to be implemented on the Enterprise edition of Windows. That’s the one sold to corporations and others who normally have an information technology staff that wants to test things before it rollsthem out, to avoid conflicts and snafus.
So the big guys get to control their environment, but you, sap consumer, do not.
We’ll have to see if Win10 has the equivalent of the “Notify me of upgrades, but do not install them” choice of present systems. From what was said at Ignite, that’s a no. Stand by.
Now, back to wine on the deck ….
Cliff Feldwick is the owner of Riverside Computing and does PC troubleshooting, network setups and such for small businesses — when not ducking herds of zombie Microsoft executives. He can be reached at 410-880-0171 or at [email protected]. Older columns are available online at http://feldwick.com.