“I consider myself more a consumer than a creator”

on July 4th, 2019 by Matt

The title of this post is a sentence that has crossed my mind and my lips a few times in the past couple of years. Until this week, I didn’t understand how accurate I was.

Most people can think of something, say, an apple, and visually imagine it in their mind. They can manipulate how it looks, where it is and what it’s doing. Until this week, I thought “visually” meant metaphorically. Theoretically. But no, when people say visually, they actually mean visually.

The lack of the ability to see in that way? The inability to use “the mind’s eye”? That’s called Aphantasia. And I have it.

Before you continue this blog post, watch this video. It explains the base concept much better than I can.

If you’re short on time, you only need to watch the first half of the video.

Now, after watching the video – where do you fall on the scale? 0-10. Try to be honest with yourself.

Most friends that I’ve asked have answered in the 6-8 range, including my brother. My dad, however, reports a 0. As do I.

I spent a lot of time on Wednesday talking to friends and reading stories from other people who are on both ends of the scale. All of it explains so much about how I think and how I go about things.

If someone tells me “imagine an apple”, I can of course tell you what an apple looks like. That it’s red, that it likely has a stem. Can I imagine it somewhere, change its shape, colour, texture? No, because I don’t actually see it. I’m drawing on memory, past experience, to define the apple using words and descriptions. I can’t manipulate my past experience, not even on-demand, and so the apple that I’m thinking of doesn’t change. It doesn’t even have detail.

This ability to actually see using the mind’s eye, to me, sounds like a super-power. It sounds like what I’d want VR, or AR, to be. What I’d want hands-free control of a computer to be. The thought of creating an image and manipulating it, without using tools in front of me like a pen and paper or a computer, is entirely a foreign concept.

When I say that this lack of a mind’s eye explains so much about my past, I mean it.

As a teenager, I read a lot of books. Literally hundreds. I read them for the story, the characters, the interactions. The order of words used to describe the situations they’re in. Did I see the places being described, as I read the words? No. Did I imagine what Ron Weasley looked like, before I saw the Harry Potter movies? Also no. Seeing Philosopher’s Stone on screen, my response was “oh so that’s what he looks like” rather than “that’s not how I pictured him”. Same goes for any character ever. I assume that’s why when movies/shows deviate from the books, it doesn’t bother me much.

There is, however, one book I never finished. Only one book. Keep in mind, in high school I could rent out a book for 2 weeks. I finished most novels within days, and in a 2-week period I’d rent out at least 6 or 7 books.

That book was The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings: Book 1), by J. R. R. Tolkien. He goes into incredible detail, often multiple pages, about the locations. For two weeks, I struggled reading through the mountain of words that didn’t enhance the experience for me. When it came time to return/renew, I returned it. I didn’t see myself enjoying reading the rest of the book. I couldn’t keep track of the story because more words were spent describing where the story took place rather than the events.

Other situations come to mind, too. I’ve listened to audio-books, guided meditation, experimented with ASMR. I stay up to date with Critical Role, and I’ve been a character in a D&D campaign myself. But now I understand why I struggled to connect the dots, why I need a refresher before the next episode: I have no visuals to draw from. I remember snippets of the conversations, the jokes that occurred. What the starting tavern looked like? Nope. Which character is tall, short, strong, slim? I got nothing. Which voice goes to which name? Eh, maybe. I’ve probably forgotten most of the names anyway.

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time playing The Sims, Minecraft, Age of Empires, Red Alert, Cities: Skylines. In each of these games, you design the area you work in. You design a city, or a house, or the layout of your base. In the Sims, I’d always use a pre-built house. Maybe one that someone shared online. Occasionally, I’d try to build the house I live in IRL, just to see how it would look. In Minecraft, I usually dig out a cave. Enough room to place a bed, space for a large farm, and a large storage area. If I do end up building a house, nine times out of ten it’ll be a box with rooms without much furniture, no external details, where getting from one room to the next is easy. I always thought “well I’m just not creative”.

You’re seeing that right. A wooden box for a house, 14 episodes into a survival series. It’s a glorified storage room with a bed.

How about designing a character in every RPG ever? I usually just base it on myself. Then I adjust from there, based on the tools the game gives me. What name should it have? Eh, let’s just put “WizardCM.” Hmm, only the first letter can be capital. Fine, “Wizardcm”. Whatever.

OH! How about that XKCD comic about remembering passwords? Yeah, I was never able to use that. I tried. I really did.

Source: XKCD.com

Then there are the questions I’ve always struggled with…

The ones asking about the future, the ones asking for me to come up with something creative. Let’s get some insight into how I legitimately respond to them.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” I dunno, with a job I assume. Likely living alone or with someone, a roommate or a girlfriend. Who knows.

What is your dream job?” I’m enjoying what I’m doing at the moment, if that’s what you mean. I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t a web developer. Maybe a game tester? Computer networking might be fun, the ability to interact with a variety of devices. Actually, the kind of stuff people are doing in terms of eSports video production is pretty cool, I’d love to try that sometime.

Describe your dream home.” Well, it’d have to be a house, everything else seems too small. There’d need to be a living area with enough space to fit 5+ friends and 3 TVs comfortably. A VR space at least 3m2. Obviously a bedroom, garage, kitchen, etc. At least one spare bedroom. Enough parking space out the front for friends.

Can you design a website for me?” Not really, I’m a developer – not a designer. Bring me a design and I can make it, pixel perfect if you want. But I can’t put something together for you without a guide. You want navigation along the top, a sidebar on the left? I can do that. Will it look good? Not without a design I can reference.

Why do you record a song or two with your phone when you’re at a concert?” It helps me remember how it felt to be there. Why wouldn’t I want something I can look at?
“But they’re low quality!” I mean, I usually have a steady hand, and I’ve always gone for phones with good microphones. It’s good enough that it can bring back memories from the rest of the concert. That’s all I need.

What do you want for lunch?” I dunno, what do we have? I can always just make toast.

You’ll notice none of these answers contain visuals. No descriptions of places, items, or people. Rather, fact-based. Information based. Based on past experience, on challenges I’ve run into in the past.

So, how many people have Aphantasia? How much research has been done on the topic?

To answer the first question, one poll put us at 2%. Of course, this isn’t a topic that comes up in normal conversation, and those of us who have it have absolutely no idea, so I’d bet that number is at least 5-10%. In terms of research, very little – and that’s why I’m putting this blog post up after years of not posting anything. It’s why I’ll be asking my friends a lot of questions, and answering a whole lot more.

You probably have more questions now

So did my friends and my brother, so I’ve put together my answers to a few of them below. As my perspective has changed so much since learning about this, I’m actually unsure about the terminology that’s best to use. I’ll likely continue using standard terms everyone else uses just to make it easier.

So, when someone told you to visualize something, what did you actually do?” This is a super interesting question, and I thought about it during my commute home. To me, visualizing has always been theoretical. A concept. Because of this, it’s more an idea of going “well, if A does this, and B does that, theoretically they could be C, and C would do these things.” If I was told “close your eyes, imagine you’re on a beach”, then literally all I did was close my eyes, stare at the blackness, and think about beaches. They have sand, and water, and people. When I then opened my eyes, that’s all that happened: I opened my eyes. From the blackness of my eyes being closed, to the room being bright because my eyes need to re-adjust.
It’s also interesting because the best I can do when visualising is the concept of motion. “Imagine someone tapping their foot”, nothing comes to mind automatically, I have to prompt it myself: “well, a foot tapping would have an up-and-down motion.” Even then, there’s no detail to the motion, just the actions of “up” and “down”, maybe to a rhythm, but no speed. “Imagine a person waving,” yep so there’d be motion left and right, performed by an arm. I’d assume the person waving is probably smiling. OK now I’ve just got the motion of waving in my head.

So then, to you, how is it that an artist is able to conjure up imagery from nothing, or can get an idea that they wanted to put to paper/film/screen?” I’ve always seen artists who can do that kind of thing as a.. let’s call it a completely different frame of mind. A different way of thinking. I didn’t actually realise it was so fundamental as “they can actually visualise things, and I can’t.” It wasn’t that low-level to me.

“Okay, the AoE II main menu. I can visualize it, and from that remember details of it. What details would you be able to recall?” I [think I] could tell you most of the things on the AoE II main menu.. I couldn’t tell you what the background image was. I mean, there was a sign and a building, I think? Um, I can tell you there were 6 or 8 buttons either on the left or the right. And there’s an Age of Empires logo at the top. Past that, I got nothing.

Let’s just say this isn’t what I was thinking. I was expecting the buttons on the left in a grid (2 columns).
Meanwhile, here’s what my friend said: “So, from the image in my head, I remembered the [multiplayer] shield was red that the single player icon was some other shield, the guy being knighted in the top left, that there was an alley with a stone path, the exit button was a wooden sign, and that the buttons on the right were in front of a building.”

Of course, seeing it now, I definitely recognize it as the AoE II main menu, and if you removed the logo I would have been able to guess that. The rest I can only name for as long as I see it on the screen.

You mentioned earlier that you understand what is meant more by visual learning, but what did you think it was before today?” I don’t know how I would describe it. And this is one of the reasons this doesn’t get discussed. Because no-one knows how to phrase [how they think]. What I understood visual learning to be before, is clearly not visual learning. I.. don’t know how to describe it.

How do you keep in your head the relationships between bits of code, or whole projects?” That’s where it gets interesting. Memory? I don’t know what the other way of describing something is. I remember the name of the function I needed to call, or which file contains the code I need. Or what the function looked like. And I remember enough to go “I wrote function X to call function Y to do action Z.”
Like, to me, I don’t know how anyone could comprehend Model-View-Controller without being able to visualize.” In the same way I needed to properly understand the concept of header files and source files in C. I can’t differentiate MVC as much. I couldn’t possibly tell you what goes in each. And I’ve definitely tried to learn it. The APIs at work use MVC, and I kind of just extend what’s already there by tiny amounts because I honestly don’t know where any extra functions would go.

So here’s a question then: In your dreams, are you ever in places you recognize? Can you navigate those spaces? Have you ever been able to recollect when a dream got a detail about a space wrong?

See, I find it interesting while you described that, because you were using hand gestures to match the things you were describing, and to me, something like what you could see out a window seems like a visual thing.

DillonEA, Twitch Chat

I’ve always described things with my hands. Now we know why. 🙂


And so, here we are. After learning about this around lunch time, I spent the rest of the day questioning many things. For the evening, I streamed with some friends, one of which rated himself a 0 too, and we discussed Aphantasia at length. I felt a tweet or two didn’t give this topic justice, so I ended up writing my first blog post in 5 years.

All of this being said, it’s nice to understand more about how my own mind works. I’ll probably be reading many things about Aphantasia for the next few days. Apparently there are ways to develop the skills to bypass it. Will I try it? Maybe, eventually. For now, this is how my brain has functioned for the first 25-ish years of my life. I’d rather learn more about my mind before considering trying to change it. (Fun fact: Google’s spellcheck doesn’t even recognise the word)

Now, am I going to put “Aphantasic” on every social media bio I have? No, that’s absurd. Am I super curious about how other people think, how they come up with ideas? Will I ask my friends questions? Hell yeah.

YouTube is being torn apart by Google

on January 28th, 2014 by Matt

You know your company is doing something wrong when your users mistake bugs for new features. A fantastic recent example of this, especially for YouTube, is the pagination of the Subscriptions page. Recently, the button to ‘view more videos’ wasn’t showing up, leaving users with only 16 videos to view from the people they’re subscribed to.

Here’s the problem though. This isn’t a new issue, it’s simply becoming more obvious. Currently, YouTube is the most popular video sharing website in existence. Hell, it’s in the top 3 most popular websites overall, alongside Google and Facebook. The problem with this is that it makes Google think they can do whatever they want, and that users will stay. This is a big problem. If users are willing to stick through anything, and not complain, then the site in question has too much power.

Lets talk about some recent changes YouTube has been making that has been the opposite of improving the service.

Firstly, a little while back, Google decided to make the most useful page on YouTube hard to find. The Subscriptions page. Its been a while, but this change still doesn’t make any sense to me.

The biggest problem with this is that subscribing to channels is a core part of the YouTube experience. You watch a video, and if you like it you see what other videos the person posts, and then hit ‘Subscribe’ because you want to be notified about future videos. Even more importantly – the Subscribe button is the most obvious thing on the page.

The visibility of that button shows how badly Google want us to subscribe to the channel, even when you’re not logged in. But once you click it, what next? You don’t get email notifications for new videos (which at this point, would be the obvious way to go). Instead, you’re stuck with the most useless homepage in existence.

The ‘What to Watch’ page makes no sense. It gives me a list of recommended videos (I’m not subscribed to any of the people listed, and yet they think I want to watch them), then provides a (seemingly random) collection of videos from the people I’ve subscribed to. But here’s the thing – half the videos in that list I’ve already watched. The content creators aren’t even in alphabetical or chronological order. The grouping makes no sense. It’s as if Google want me to watch videos of people I haven’t subscribed to (I mean, look at that right sidebar!) more than the people I have subscribed to.

The page gets worse though – every 12 channels of those I have subscribed to, I get a “recommended channel for you” which looks like this –

Not only does it show 5 videos that were all posted 5+ months ago, it even shows that shiny red Subscribe button I keep mentioning. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

Now, you may be asking “alright, but how DO I properly see videos from the people I’ve subscribed to?” Ah yes, the question everyone’s asking, and only few know the answer to. On the What to Watch page, on the left sidebar, is a little link labelled ‘My Subscriptions.’ Once you click that, you may also have to click ‘Uploads only.’ THAT is where you’ll see all the latest videos from the people you’ve subscribed to.

But the issues don’t stop there. Many times I’ve watched a video where the person says “YouTube is having issues with their subscription boxes again, so if you haven’t seen videos from me during the past week, go check my channel.” What?! YouTube has a relatively hidden Subscription page and it frequently doesn’t even work?! Rubbish!

This shows another issue with the hiding of this page. YouTubers, the content creators, depend on consistent view counts. They depend on those people who click that shiny red Subscribe button and frequently come back to see new content. They expect their content to be easy to find, and easy for the viewer to figure out which videos they haven’t watched yet. By hiding the My Subscriptions page, these content creators get less views, and it makes it harder for them to make enough money from their videos to make a living. It just doesn’t make any sense.

Keep in mind – that’s only one of the many issues with this website. Lets move on to something that has recently been happening.

I use YouTube every day, so when something breaks, I notice very easily. Recently, very frequently, when clicking on new videos to try and watch them, I’ve come across this screen.

That’s right – I’m getting audio, and the rest of the page, but the video isn’t visible. The whole point of YouTube is to watch videos – and yet they can’t even get that right. In Google Chrome! The easiest way to make this occur is by right clicking on a video link, and clicking ‘Open link in new tab.’ Nine times out of ten, I can make it happen. The problem is, this has now been an issue for over a week. To fix it, I’ve either had to refresh the page, or copy the link and PASTE it in a new tab. While writing this post, I noticed that the video becomes visible (without a page refresh) if you resize the window. It happens with both Flash and HTML5. How does this make any sense?

Next issue – the “WATCHED” labels. They’re incredible useful – when they work. Below is a screenshot of a playlist. I have watched every video in this playlist. If I go to my ‘Watch History’ page, I can see a large number of these videos listed. However, only the latest 3 are actually labelled as ‘Watched.’

Google, if you make a feature that people will depend quite heavily on, make sure you get it right before releasing it.

Sure, in this situation, I know exactly which videos I’ve watched. But say I have a busy week, and don’t get a chance to catch up on videos from my Subscriptions page. Say I come back and go “alright then.. have I missed anything interesting?” You can’t do that. Apparently that’s too logical for YouTube. You have to remember the name, number and uploader of every single video you watch, in case another episode of that series is released so you know exactly what you’ve watched. I just don’t understand.

Next, an issue that’s more of a problem for the uploader than the viewer, though the viewer can also be affected: automatic content ID matching.

For those who don’t know, YouTube has a system that automatically scans every video that gets uploaded and gets for copyrighted material. Music, certain video clips, music videos, movies, etc. Some people get around this by either changing the pitch of the audio, flipping the video horizontally, or other minor adjustments.

Here’s the problem though. This Content ID system is a “flag immediately, ask questions later” kind of thing, rather than “hmm, this video might violate something, lets get a human to double check.” And that’s where it all falls apart.

The thing is, legitimate content gets flagged on a regular basis, even if the uploader provided proof in the description (as they’re supposed to). It gets even worse though – the content simply isn’t flagged, but if it’s monetized (which, 9 times out of 10, it is) then any money gained from ads on the video throughout the whole time the video is flagged, goes to the company/party who flagged it (not the uploader) even if after a week its proven that the content ID match was wrong, and it’s proven the uploader owns 100% of the content in the video.

Oh, but wait, it gets worse – if 3 videos get flagged, you try to defend yourself, and you lose all three claims, then your entire channel either gets deleted, or you can no longer monetize videos. What?! What idiot thought that was a fantastic idea?! There are people like CaptainSparklez with millions of subscribers, (in his case) a trillion total video views, and over a thousand videos, who make a living solely off uploading original content to YouTube.

Didn’t think it could get worse, right? Well you’re wrong. Many content creators decided to sign up to networks like Machinima who promised to help them out of their videos got flagged. Even better, the bigger people in such networks were 100% protected from such content ID claims, which meant they could upload video without having to worry about a poorly implemented system flagging them – but Google decided this was no longer a good idea so all those YouTubers were re-scanned by content ID. And many of them had hundreds of videos flagged in an instant. That means they’re no longer making money off those videos, and if they fight for the rights to more than 2 of those videos, they risk having their entire channels taken down by a stupid, inaccurate, unbelievably broken and unfair system. And there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

Now then, lets discuss the worst issue of all – Google+ “integration”. Google couldn’t have done this any worse, honestly.

Lets get something straight. YouTube and Google+ are two completely different services with different purposes, practices and most importantly users. YouTube has also existed for a long time, while Google+ is still relatively new. This makes YouTube mature, and Google+ basically a newborn child. These two should be going anywhere near each other.

However, Google decided that they might as well try. Google+ isn’t receiving the worldwide adoption they were hoping for, so why not force millions of YouTube users to make accounts on Google+?

The problem is, Google did not do a good job in the “integration” between the two. Google+ and YouTube accounts are still very much separate, and those who were forced to make a Google+ account are most likely not even visiting plus.google.com, as that is not where they get their content from.

When YouTube tells you that you have to make a Google+ account, and link it, the first thing most people did was dismiss it by pressing the hidden cancel button and try commenting again. When it showed up a second time, they decided not to comment because it’d be too much effort.

But for me, it was worse than that. I, like many content creators/uploaders, have multiple YouTube accounts, two to be exact, with their own Google accounts attached. Futhermore, I only have 1 Google+ account. And I only ever want ONE. This is where it gets incredibly messy.

On my primary account, it’s not too bad. I have one Google account that encompasses one Gmail account, Google+ & YouTube account. And that’s perfectly OK. I barely use my channel, and when I do, there’s no “brand” associated with it – it’s just me.

But my gaming channel – ooh, that’s where it all falls apart.

To be able to respond to comments on my own videos, I was given a choice – either use my real name as the “brand” associated with my channel (no way in hell), or, make a Google+ page to represent the YouTube account. Oh, did I mention that to make a Google+ page you have to have a regular account on Google+ first?

So by clicking “I want to continue using the name WizardCMGaming on YouTube” I, in effect, made 2 new accounts on Google+ – alongside my primary one on another Google account. Yet it makes even less sense.

YouTube decided to include a new page among all of this, labelled as a “channel switcher.” What this means, is you can now have multiple channels associated with a single Google account, with even more Google+ pages to administrate the comments. Confused yet?

This means I now have 2 Google accounts (with associated Gmail addresses), 2 channels, and 3 personas (two of which have my real name) on Google+. And I have absolutely no way to link any of these together.

The ideal situation here, especially on the channel switcher page, would be an Import button that allows me to MOVE the entire WizardCMGaming persona, that is, the YouTube channel + Google+ page, from one Google/Google+ account to my main one. This would allow me to delete the wizardcmgaming Google account, but still continue to have my YouTube channels under my main Google account. Less ideal, I’d be stuck with 2 personas – me, Matt Gajownik, and me, WizardCMGaming. But that’s not possible, and probably never will be.

This is not “integration” of any kind – it’s an utter mess. I’m stuck with a Google+ page I’m not allowed to delete, representing me with 0 posts, a useless cover image and 1 follower, a Google+ account to manage the Google+ page and YouTube channel, representing me without a picture, and 2 people with me in their circles, and then my most used Google[everything] account with 0 pages, a properly filled out profile, with 93 in my circles and another 34 people who have me in their circles. Utter rubbish rolled into a ball thrown into space, honestly.

The biggest issue with all of this is there’s nothing we can do to stop it – Google are well known for their lack of communication and support teams, and clearly a lack of a proper testing group that can tell them they’re utter rubbish and should be replaced. Go on, try contacting Google. Let me know if they ever respond to you.

That’s it with my rant  for now – I hope to post a lot more this year, I have at least 8 more ideas for blog posts I really want to write.

Features I’d like in Windows Phone Blue

on August 22nd, 2013 by Matt

As far as the news is concerned, Windows Phone Blue (or 8.1) will be released sometime early next year. As far as I can tell, up to this point, Windows Phone development has been much slower than it should be. Because of this, I’ve decided to write up a list of features I’d like to see in Blue, regardless of whether others want them too. Apologies if a few are duplicates from Obvious Microsoft Product Flaws.

  • A consolidated notifications manager (notification center) – sometimes you don’t want a certain app pinned to your Start screen, but still want to know what you’ve missed
  • Orientation lock – while a few developers have already built this into their own apps, an orientation lock should be system-wide
  • Less Non-US limitations – a key feature here includes Podcast support in the Xbox Music app
  • Audio profiles, possibly even based on time/day – for example, I’d like my phone to automatically be on silent after midnight, until 6am
  • Ability to choose the maximum tile width on the Start screen – currently it’s limited to 4 ‘small’ tiles horizontally, but on a Lumia 920 with a large screen, I feel 5 would be better
  • Better Facebook Chat compatibility – in this case, it seems to be using Jabber/XMPP which means no group chat, image sending/recieving, and many messages (from both directions) are skipped/missing
  • Custom text message sound – existing ones are too quiet or just bad
  • Native Remote Desktop compatibility – this one speaks for itself
  • Wireless synchronization with either the Sync Tool (which is still horrible) or Xbox Music on Windows 8 (which is getting better)
  • Ability to customize the search button’s functionality – don’t limit it to opening Bing
  • Ability to stream the screen/ANY media via either USB or DLNA (or both) to other devices – regardless of that media’s DRM
  • Proper, detailed Skype integration – including adding/removing/editing contacts
  • Categorized, grouped or better organised settings pane – currently it’s the weirdest list of random options (brightness being further down than kid’s corner, which I’d never use)
  • A proper colour palette for use with accent colours – the choice of red I have on my phone is diminished by the colour options of the screen
  • Improved Microsoft TellMe functionality – something similar to this dream (currently it’s not even close to compete with Google Now or Siri)
  • Better contact/account management, editing, grouping – nicknames as default view, bulk editing, filtering, searching
  • Picture password – Windows 8 has it, and it’s great, so Windows Phone should too
  • App/Games list sorting/grouping/tagging/categories – favorites, most used, newly installed, ‘productivity,’ etc
  • Start screen folders – small square icons within a single tile that can be opened and viewed
  • Downloads page – sorting by file size, % progress, auto retry for failed downloads
  • Better ‘screenshot’ management and control – auto upload to SkyDrive, instant sharing capabilities
  • Improved notifications area in Me – refresh should be in the App Bar instead of on tab-and-hold, hiding certain notifications, limits of how many show and how frequently it checks for new ones, as well as grouping/filtering, like only showing Facebook notifications
  • Better IE development tools – ability to troubleshoot code issues, with a console and built in on-the-fly editor
  • File Manager – we need something to figure out locally what’s using all our space, and delete it directly without needing a cable and a PC
  • Improved external storage functionality, including storage of music, apps, and photos
  • Battery percentage on the status bar – kind of a must-have
  • Ability to disable haptic feedback on the main three buttons
  • VPN functionality
  • Backup application/game data along with everything else – mostly for game progress’ sake
  • Allow built-in apps to be updated via the Store, so that we don’t have to wait for major updates like this to get functionality updates
  • Manual ‘checking for app updates’ – sometimes a user has to go to the app’s page in the store to be told that there’s an update

Obvious Microsoft Product Flaws

on June 23rd, 2013 by Matt

For those who don’t already know, I’m a huge Microsoft fan. However, there are some flaws where even I sometimes think “did they even test this from a user’s standpoint?” Obviously Microsoft does do a lot of testing, but sometimes.. they overlook the smallest and most important things. Below is a listing of many small functions/bugs I’ve seen from everyday use among many of their products that should have been fixed long ago.

Xbox 360 & Xbox Live

  • Metro Dashboard – ads, ads, ads, even for people who pay for Live – I mean really?!
  • Xbox Guide – takes at least 4+ seconds to load, when it should be instant – complete hell in multiplayer
  • You need Live to use Internet Explorer – who would pay to use a freaking web browser
  • Need Live to use YouTube – fine, I’ll just watch on my phone, tablet, pc or push it via Leanback to my Smart TV for free
  • Separate subscriptions for Xbox Music, Skype Premium, Foxtel/Netflix, etc, even when you have Live

Windows 7

  • So many pre-XP icons within Control Panel menus
  • The Control Panel is a mess of dialogs and windows – David Taraso showed this off really well here during the Windows 7 Taskforce days
  • Dialogs stealing focus when you’re typing – so you accidentally say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ without realising what it’s for
  • No multi-monitor taskbar support – people had been using multiple monitors and 3rd party tools for years beforehand
  • UAC screen fadeout – shouldn’t have to disable all usability to allow the user to confirm running a program

Windows Phone 8

  • Lack of Notification Centre – back in 2010 when WP7 was released everyone requested this, and yet we won’t be getting it until late 2013
  • 3G Video Calling – such an obvious feature that every Symbian phone has had for years, I shouldn’t have to use Skype for this
  • Inability to choose a custom text tone – WHY? All the existing ones are either bad or quiet
  • Scaling – resolution wise, text is the same on phones with tiny and large screens – we as users should be able to decide
  • Ability to set nicknames as a default name display – I can’t show my dad on my phone as ‘Dad,’ instead it shows his full name
  • The sync tool is horrible – what happened to the awesome Zune client? Even Windows Media Player does a better job. Most notable issue with the Sync Tool is song duplication – you get 2x of all songs
  • No native DLNA/Xbox play-to within the Music+Videos app – I would have expected this to exist
  • No official Remote Desktop tool – your own product
  • Can’t link two Windows Live accounts into one contact – if you didn’t know, many people have secondary accounts
  • Skype integration isn’t really integrated – for Skype contacts to show in People, you have to have the Skype app, and even then it only syncs their name and not their profile picture or other contact details
  • Hardware search button currently sends you to Bing instead of searching within the app – that was a killer feature in early WP7 days!
  • On the ‘downloads’ page, progress is shown by a bar – however, it’d be nice if it also included a progress count (30mb/50mb downloaded) and speed if requested by the user (and a ‘launch when dowloaded’ or a notification like in Windows 8)

Windows RT & Windows 8

  • No DLNA sharing to non-Samsung/Xbox (read: Microsoft certified) products – not even my LG Smart TV
  • Random bouts of high disk usage from the ‘System’ process – at least explain what’s going on here!
  • Xbox Music is a piece of crap – why didn’t you guys just port Zune or even Windows Media Player?
  • Facebook constantly freezes on Metro IE – everyone I’ve spoken to has complained about it
  • Users should be able to manually decide exactly how many tiles they want to see (vertically) – it shouldn’t just be defined by resolution
  • Unable to customize non-App Store tiles – instead we’re stuck with a 32px icon and the label, coloured based on theme settings
  • Win+X menu – not only is it a basic context menu rather than something fancy, it is also not very customizable – usually requires some sort of registry change just to add/remove entries
  • No ‘quick switch’ for audio devices – I’d like to be able to quickly switch main audio between my usb headset and usb speakers
  • Can’t ‘link’ stereo mix and microphone into a custom source natively – need a third party program like Virtual Audio Cables (which isn’t free)

Windows Live Messenger -> Skype

  • The Windows Live Messenger client was way better than the Skype client ever has been
  • The transition has been messy so far – duplicate users, contacts disappearing, and more
  • Skype doesn’t close when you hit ‘Close’ – instead it minimises and hides in the notification area (I thought Microsoft already said applications are not supposed to be in there?)

Windows Live Domains

  • No wildcard custom email addresses – can’t make *@wizardcm.com redirect all emails to matt[at]wizardcm.com for example
  • Requires a lot of initial configuration – can’t just point a domain with a single DNS entry and be done with it

Games for Windows Client

  • Unless in a game, cannot access friends list
  • Like the Xbox 360 Guide button, takes at least 4 seconds to load

Xbox Music

  • Horribly inaccurate content ID matching – keeps thinking covers by Tiffany Alvord and the other 20 YouTubers I listen to are the originals – when they’re very clearly not

Social Networking & Instant Messaging

on May 10th, 2013 by Matt

To this day, I do not understand why people moved from MySpace to Facebook, honestly. MySpace profiles were highly customizable (plus it taught 13-15 year olds HTML and CSS, something no social network does anymore), the interface was much nicer than Facebook’s, and it was very easy to navigate.

I have a real issue with both social networking and instant messaging today. Firstly, in my eye, Facebook was old from the beginning. It should already be dead. It’s ugly, it’s bland, and too many people are too addicted to it. They keep bringing out crap that somehow people magically want after seeing it, like Facebook Home. Nobody truly wants to replace their home screen on their phone with pictures from Facebook. Can you imagine the kind of crap you’ll see? Poorly photoshop-ed memes reposted from Tumblr which were reposted from either 4chan or reddit. Low resolution photos from people who don’t know the first thing about using a camera, and highly filtered photos re-shared from Instagram! I just do not understand.

Twitter, while being very nice to look at, is degrading itself very quickly. The moment it bought TweetDeck and turned it into a horrible, less-than-functional mess, I knew what was to come. Before being bought, TweetDeck was my absolute favourite application on my computer. I would always have it running, usually fullscreen on my second monitor, and it was my main source of information coming from 5 twitter accounts, Facebook, MySpace, and at least 3 or 4 other social networks. It was beautifully designed, fully functional, and even had fancy, grouped, desktop notifications. Twitter itself started off nicely, then added nice improvements like inline images and videos (although they removed Instagram functionality, which really ruins the experience, as a large amount of people share from Instagram to Twitter), and a simple, to-the-point interface. Now they’re exploring #music and probably something else that doesn’t suit them.

Next, i’m going to move on to instant messaging. MSN/Windows Live Messenger will always be the best, cleanest, and most functional messaging client out there. It did what it was supposed to do, and did it in a way that was never annoying or in the way. Now what are we stuck with? Skype, which has always been an ugly, unorganised mess (which has been added on as they’ve stuffed in Microsoft contacts, Facebook friends and a bunch of other things that don’t suit the Skype interface), and is only getting worse. We also have the very ugly and in-the-way Facebook desktop chat client (which I would never in a thousand years want to install). And what else? Nothing. Just nothing.

Here’s what I’ve started to see myself doing. I never have Skype running, instead I have an IRC client that is always somewhere on one of my screens, helping me keep an eye on my server without being in the way. I’ve also started using Myspace again, especially because it’s even more beautiful than it used to be (although we’ve lost the full profile customization we once had, which is a shame). You guys let me know when you’ve come to your senses.

Changes I’d like to see in Windows 8/RT

on March 26th, 2013 by Matt

Note: this isn’t specifically limited to the OS itself, but also encompasses some of Microsoft’s pre-packaged apps too.

So, as most people would know, I’ve been using Windows 8 since around mid-last-year, and Windows RT since Christmas. Since then, I’ve noticed a number of things that Microsoft could possibly improve on in time for Windows Blue (or before).
Firstly, and I know this could just be limited to my installation of Windows RT, or specific apps themselves, but app stability is a big issue for me. I use my Surface as a companion device to my laptop and Xbox 360, and due to how much I’ve used it, it’s clear that apps have a tendency to crash, hang, or freeze the Operating System altogether. The most OS-freezing issues seem to arise from the Metro version of Internet Explorer, which is severely disappointing.

There have been many times where I may be trying to download something off the Store, read a news article on Nextgen Reader, watch a video on YouTubeRT, check where my next class is in Calendar, check my emails in Mail, check the weather in AU Weather Pro or even browse /r/Minecraft on Reddit To Go! when suddenly the app just stops. Now, I don’t mean the kind where I could tap the Start and Power button together and open Task Manager and kill the process, but where swiping from the right to access Charms is impossible (ie. nothing happens). In these cases, if I’m lucky, the app crashes and closes without an error, allowing me to try doing something else rather than sit there waiting for it to unfreeze. Otherwise, in the most extreme cases, I have to hold the power button and wait for the device to reboot.

However, what I’ve written about above is the most extreme case, and only happens a couple times a day (though, it shouldn’t happen at all). My next issue is more of a pet-peeve, but would really help in making the experience of using the OS better: pre-loading.

By pre-loading I mean in a case similar to this: Say there are some App Updates. I tap on the Store tile, and have to wait for the app to load up (this can take anywhere from 5-30 seconds, and in some unusual cases more). Once it has, I tap on the little “Updates (5)” notification in the top right corner, and then have to wait for the Store to figure out what those 5 apps are and list them (this can also take 5-15 seconds). Then, once it has, I tap on “Install” because I want the updates. Surprise surpise, I have to wait for the Store to switch to a different list that includes a progress bar for each app (this can also take another 5-15 seconds). And there you go, even though the app by now should know that if I notice that there are updates, my most likely action is to open the Store and install them, instead I’m waiting almost a minute for the installation to start!

This issue is definitely not limited to the Store, but it might be a limitation of the app platform. Apps should pre-load at least 1-2 screens ahead, especially when you’ve only just resumed the app. It’s unlikely you’re going to sit on the home screen of the Store for very long.

Next, an issue specific to the Store: updating Apps. More specifically, showing the Release Notes besides the list of updates. Currently, our choice is to look at the release notes BEFORE updating (tap on the app that has an update, click “view details” and read what it has to say), or, if you want to look later, you have to do it manually: open Charms, click Search, type in the App name, find it, then click on View Details. This is a painfully long process that shouldn’t need to be.

How about a complaint about Microsoft’s way of doing release notes? Lets do a comparison, shall we?

YouTubeRT “Release Notes” Section (a very nice app developed by CensoredUser)

added French language support
fixed a bug that was causing crashes when attempting to play a video

Complete rewrite of the home screen
– Pin channels to home
– Pin custom searches to home
– Pin custom feeds to home
Fixed artist info for music videos
Added local watch history
Cleaned up settings menu

(etc, etc. You get the idea. The v1.5.0x changelist is actually very long)

Now, lets compare that to today’s update to Microsoft’s Music app

This update fixes several bugs.

That’s all it says! Do you want to know what some of the actual changes are?

Independent volume control, letting you play music quietly in the background
Performance improvements on Windows RT
Simplifies control over music on the cloud
– Preferences panel lets you add songs from your collection and have them replicated on other Xbox Music devices
– Option to automatically add matched songs from PCs into music in the cloud
Refreshed Now Playing UI that lets you list all the tracks from an album alongside the song currently playing
(Source: The Verge)

Come on Microsoft, is that so hard to do? When an app update is released, we want to know what has changed. Like, specifically. An actual list.

I could go on and on about little annoyances that I’ve noticed around the place, the poor design and functionality of the People App’s Notifications area, limitations to how many apps can run in the background at the same time to update the Live Tiles, the fact that having 4 rows on a Surface RT is better than the default 3, and so on, but the ones above are the ones that have annoyed me the most as of late.

So, have you come across any of the above issues, had any of the same complaints? Let me know below!

Why is there so much hate in the tech world?

on March 9th, 2013 by Matt

I’d like to start off by saying that I’m a big fan of technological advancement, and that without it society wouldn’t be what it is today. That being said, it’s amazing how much of this advancement gets hate from all sorts of people, including executives in large corporations (like Samsung and Valve).

And this isn’t limited to a single individual here and there, you can find a large amount of hate for technology from many people that work in the industry. You have people hating Windows Vista, Windows 8, changes to Facebook’s layout, MySpace, Twitter, hashtags, Minecraft, the Xbox, the PlayStation, portable consoles, certain brands of mobile devices, desktops vs laptops, contollers vs keyboard/mouse, Windows vs MacOS vs Linux, Chrome vs Firefox vs Internet Explorer, iTunes vs other media players, and the list goes on and on and on and on and on.

Who is all this hate helping? I mean, think about it logically. Lots of people hate Windows 8 for either the lack of a start button (which is ridiculous in itself), the fullscreen Start screen (which isn’t that bad one you actually play around with it), the idea of fullscreen Modern/Metro apps (seriously? you realise you can just stick to the desktop.. right?), and every other little thing that’s different to Windows 7. Many people voice this hate, repeatedly, on sites they either write for (I’m looking at you, Neowin and The Verge), or simply to publications (take people from Samsung and Valve, as just two examples, but you can easily find more).

What I think none of these people get is that, whenever they bring up the subject, they’re not pointing something out to Microsoft, they’re just causing even more discussion on a topic that should’ve been dead 3 months ago. Microsoft will not drastically change Windows 8 back to Windows 7. It doesn’t make sense for them to do so. Yell all you like, changes like these are here to stay.

In short, complaining repeatedly about a non-issue like any of the ones I listed above, is a waste of time, effort and energy. Nobody cares about your petty complains, they just want you to finish so they can move on with their lives and actually read news.

The End of Thirteen Years of Schooling

on December 1st, 2012 by Matt

Well, that’s it. I’ve graduated, and now I have a long, busy and exciting life waiting for me.

My education has been fairly standard. I started Primary School with Prep in 2000, and finished in 2006. I then went to High School from 2007 to 2012, with a campus change in the middle. And that’s it. No moving schools in the middle of the year, no skipping or repeating years. Quite nice really.

Now, the reason why I’m writing this now, rather than right at the end of Year 12 (which was a few weeks back now) or after I get my results mid-December, is because I’m trying to be as unbiased as possible. By doing it right after graduating, I would have probably been full of excitement about finally finishing and rambled on about unimportant bits and pieces, sounding incoherent and probably slightly crazy. If I decided to wait until getting my results in 15 days or so, this post would probably be more of a summary of my results for this year, rather than 13 years of schooling.

Instead, I’m writing this a day after returning from Schoolies, an exciting week of playing Halo Reach multiplayer, partying, and general hanging out with friends at Phillip Island.

I guess I want to really start off by thanking all the educators I’ve met over the years and who have taught me much of what I know. Though I’m sure very few know of this site, let alone would be interested in reading my little rant about my life up to this point, I appreciate all they’ve done for me over the past thirteen years. Without them, I wouldn’t be who I am, or know what I do.

But teachers haven’t been the only educational influence on my life. My dad, back in 2001 or so got me interested in computers, and since then I’ve been learning from others and teaching myself. I’ve also had support from friends all across the globe, willing to help me expand my horizons and range of future endeavours.

Honestly, I don’t know what’s next. I plan on doing a University course next year that is computer-oriented, but I cannot decide (at the current moment) between programming or networking. The biggest issue with the world today is the range of opportunities and possibilities is overwhelming. It’s both brilliant and terrifying. I also have some plans that’ll keep me occupied for the next month or two, mostly developing/designing websites for friends and relatives, learning a new programming language and, in general, getting myself more organised for the future. Mostly I want to ensure I have a central calendar, and figure out how I’m going to utilise cloud storage on SkyDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive and all the other places I’ve simply been dumping files. Not to mention the mess of social networks and forums I no longer use.

I also plan on continuing administering my Minecraft Server, as not only is it great fun to play on, but it gives me the experience of constant server maintenance and troubleshooting, remaining on the ball when my help is required by players and friends alike.

Once I’m a little more organised, I also want to clean up my website a bit, start posting more on this blog, and in general become a little more active online, as I’ve noticed that my Tweeting has really slowed down over the past few months.

If you’ve continued reading this far, I appreciate your dedication and congratulate you on successfully reading through another rant of mine. If you’ve got the time, be sure to comment below and say hello. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for your support.

How To: Run Multiple Minecraft Profiles

on August 2nd, 2012 by Matt

Click here to view the file itself in a new tab (I recommend it).

Minecraft Profile Manager Download: wizrd.tk/mpm
Minecraft.exe Download: minecraft.net/download

YouTube Gaming Channel: WizardCMGaming

My Negative Thoughts Towards Mac OS

on June 2nd, 2012 by Matt

So anyone who knows me also knows that I’ve always had a special disgust towards Apple’s products, especially their desktop operating system. And while it began as a hate that didn’t specifically have much of a reason behind it, over the past year and a half I’ve had to use an iMac for one of my school subjects, VET: Multimedia. Sure, I may be biased towards Windows, but I have no complaints about Linux Mint, which I’ve willingly installed on my netbook, and am using it to type up this post, as well as yesterday’s.

And guess what? Using the iMac at school has, over time, given me more and more reason to have such negative thoughts towards the operating system. There hasn’t been a single VET Multimedia lesson, and anyone in that class can tell you, where I haven’t yelled at the screen or facepalmed repeatedly in frustration.

I’m not going to talk about restrictions that were obviously put in place by the school administrators, because even using Windows 7 at school is a limited experience. But a number of minor annoyances have merged into a stronger, and very logical annoyance.

First and foremost, is the limited capability to ‘maximise’ a window. The majority of classes we’re either using Microsoft Office Word and PowerPoint, Safari, Adobe Illustrator, Flash and Photoshop. Many of these programs work best in fullscreen, especially on the screen size of the iMacs we have at school (yes, they’re quite big).

Every time I use a Mac, I have to manually resize each window fullscreen. Simple as that. And if it’s because of some hidden setting I can’t access, then that’s not my problem, because it should be obvious.

This leads me to my next point, and that is the horrible combination of the dock and the Alt-Tab menu (more specifically, window management). When I minimise a window, pressing Alt+Tab should allow me to bring that window back into view. But it doesn’t. Instead, it goes back to the program (or I should say, puts the program’s menu up on screen), but leaves me with that. It gets even worse when running multiple windows of Safari. Sometimes they literally get lost in the dock, or just hidden behind another window, because cycling using Alt+Tab selects the application and not the window.

Next, a minor annoyance, but one that drives me insane. The bouncing animation on dock icons. When an icon bounces in the dock, it reminds me of an annoying 6-year-old (not to say all 6 year olds are annoying, or that kids are annoying) repeatedly trying to get into your face to get your attention. Here’s a hint: that’s the wrong way to get someone’s attention. The icons in the Mac OS dock bounce continuously, while in Windows, when an item in the taskbar wants your attention, blinks 4-5 times then simply sits there patiently in a bright colour. Enough to get your attention calmly, and not “yell at you,” as it were.

Next an annoyance that drives me insane, the right click menu. Now, I suppose this could be associated with the mouse settings, although those are unsurprisingly very limited in terms of customzation. When I open a context menu, I expect quick access to the menu item. Instead, and this is most prominent in nestled menus, is that selecting an item is buggy as heck. If you want to go deeper in a menu, be VERY careful not to click on the arrow, because instead of navigating deeper as it should, IT CLOSES THE DAMN MENU. In what world does that make ANY sense. One selects it to speed up the process, not make it x2 slower.

As a final note, I’m going to say this (because writing this post is starting to make me extremely annoyed). An installation wizard makes 300% more sense than drag-and-drop, because a wizard tells you what’s going on. Drag and drop is extremely meaningless, and is degrading, to say the least.

That’s all from me. Probably won’t see any more blog posts from me any time soon, I should really go write a couple essays for school..
thanks for reading my rant, it shows real dedication towards either your operating system of choice (more likely) or.. well, me.