Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

First Impressions of Windows 8

This topic probably isn't one you'd find on a writer's blog, but then, neither is gardening, and it's hard for me to stick to straight writing topics (particularly when you're spending months working on the same book, LOL).

Anyway, as soon as it was available, I upgraded my stalwart Dell desktop to Windows 8. It seemed appropriate for Halloween--I'm a sucker for cheap terror. It's why I love this time of year and the fact that I can watch as many Hammer Studio horror movies as I want. Besides, until I quit and become a full-time writer, I'm also a computer specialist and I like to keep up, not to mention that I usually appreciate new versions of things. They're exciting and I almost always find that the media doesn't give you a really accurate assessment of anything.

The Upgrade to Windows 8
I upgraded from Windows 7 on my desktop. Took a few hours, but you don't have to sit there and watch it. It pulled over all my old programs and files, so there was no problem, there. I did use the compatibility checker and it pointed out a few really old programs that I will need to upgrade, though. No big deal as I don't use them that often, anyway.

The following won't be "news" to folks who have been following all the blogs and boards about Windows 8, but I was a little disappointed, though, to find that because I have two monitors, I ended up with what is basically Windows 7 with no start menu. I had it in the back of my mind that surely it couldn't be that stupid and it would stretch Metro across both of them.

Not so. The new Metro interface only displays on the main monitor and worse, as soon as I click on any of my installed programs (even the Office 2010 tiles on the Metro interface) it immediately flips to the old Windows 7 interface on both monitors.

I've spent a couple of days laboriously flipping back to the Metro interface after I finish running whatever I'm running and then finally said, to heck with it. Now, I've just got Outlook open on my main monitor and whatever else running on the other. My beefs now are that I've resigned myself to a Windows interface without all the wonderful gadgets I used to have like the weather and time, because I'd have to keep flipping back to the Metro interface to see those. What's the point? Every time I click on an email to read it, it goes back to pure Windows sans Metro.

Everything takes two or three extra clicks to get there. Not cool, Microsoft. You've just made it harder for me to do anything and taken away the things I'd grown used to like the clock and weather because I refuse to have to keep hiking over to the upper right corner, waiting for Charms to appear, clicking on the Metro icon to get the Metro interface back for the few seconds it stays there so I can see the clock and weather before I click on something in one of my apps that makes Metro disappear again. That sentence is as awkward as this interface.

What can't I stay in Metro?
Why won't Metro stretch across both screens?
Why do all my applications, even the Microsoft Office ones, flip me out of Metro to standard Windows?
Why can't you automatically bring back the Metro interface after I close an application, or at least when I move it to the secondary monitor, so I don't have to *blinking* go to the upper-right-corner to summon the Charms menu to bring back the interface just to *blinking* see the weather and time?

Maybe I'll just go to the command prompt and use Powershell all the time instead of any menus or interfaces at all like I do at work--because this really is irritating.

I'm still looking for a way to set it to "auto-return" to Metro after I close an app or when nothing is running on the main monitor. I mean, really, why should I have to work to see the Metro interface?

I see no speed increase and in fact have noticed sluggishness/lack of responsiveness when opening programs, so all-in-all it's kind of a blah event. It didn't do any damage, but it didn't exactly do anything for me, either. But at least if you upgrade now, it's cheap.

I have hopes that over time, they'll think about giving us more options to tailor this beast to do things like stretch across two monitors and perhaps "auto-return" to Metro so we don't have to do that all the time.

Just a few thoughts

Thursday, October 11, 2012

It may be October but there's still time for roses!

Selecting the Perfect English Rose
For a lot of folks, October is pretty much the end of the gardening season and there are only a few cleanup tasks remaining. However, if you’re lucky and live in warmer climes, there’s still time to plant roses and a few other things like garlic and lettuce (which I plan to do this evening, in fact).
Fall really is the best time to plant roses. It gives them the entire winter to settle into their spot in the garden and prepare for a lovely spring.
David Austin’s English Roses are becoming more popular every day since they have a reputation for being easy to care for and bloom fairly freely during the growing season.  Unfortunately, many of them don’t always behave and conform to the growth habits promised in Austin’s literature when grown in warmer areas.  A good number throw up very, very long canes which can overwhelm a small or medium-sized garden very quickly.
From my own personal experiences, I’ve learned to read rose descriptions very carefully and make adjustments for our warmer climate. My local area falls between U.S. zones 7 and 8, where the ground never freezes solid, and I can grow lettuce and radishes under floating row covers during the winter. Roses that grow medium-sized in England are often large here in North Carolina. The varieties listed in this article are older ones, but I wanted to stick to roses that I have grown.
The following is a very brief description of a few Austin roses, classed by size, which may be helpful when planning fall purchases.  These are roses that I have personal experience with and know can be grown here in coastal North Carolina. Don’t forget:  new roses don’t necessarily have to go into the ground if your garden is already full!  You can grow beautiful roses in large pots, as well, so you can always find room for one more specimen.
Special note: we’ve discovered that large pots of roses do very well around pool areas, particularly pools used by folks who like to belly-flop or cannonball and splash water everywhere. The reason? The heavily chlorinated pool water lightly splashing the roses seems to cut down on powdery mildew and even black spot! I’m not sure I’d actually spray the roses deliberately with pool water, but the occasional splashing does seem to help.
Small Roses
These roses will stay small--no more than three feet in height and perhaps that same in width.  They will not throw up large canes, so you generally won’t have to worry about cutting them back except to remove dead or diseased wood.
v  Ambridge Rose (1990); pale apricot pink; fragrant
v  Charlotte (1993); clear yellow; slightly fragrant
v  Charles Darwin (2001); tawny yellow; slightly fragrant
v  Cymbeline (1983); grayish pink; fragrant
v  Dove (1986); pale pink; fragrant
v  Immortal Juno (1992); medium pink; fragrant
v  Mary Rose (1983); medium pink; fragrant
v  Miss Alice (2001); Light pink; fragrant
v  Molineux (1994); yellow with apricot tinge to some center petals; fragrant
v  Noble Antony (1995); wine red; fragrant
v  Pretty Jessica (1992); medium pink; fragrant
v  Prospero (1982); deep red with mauve undertones; fragrant
v  Queen Nefertiti (1988); apricot blend; fragrant
v  Sharifa Asma (1989); pale pink; richly fragrant
v  Wife of Bath (1969); warm pink; richly fragrant
v  Wise Portia (1983); wine-red; fragrant
Medium Roses
These roses will grow into medium-sized bushes--no more than five feet in height and smaller in width.  They will not throw up large canes, so you generally won’t have to worry about cutting them back except to remove dead or diseased wood, although you may want to trim them back to keep them within the constraints of your garden.
v  Chaucer (1981); pale pink; fragrant
v  Golden Celebration (1992); deep yellow; slight fragrant
v  Hero (1983); clear pink; semi-double
v  Lilian Austin (1981); salmon-orange; semi-double
v  The Dark Lady (1991); pinkish-red; fragrant
v  The Nun (1987); white; semi-double (tulip-shaped); slight fragrance
Large Roses
These roses will grow into large bushes and can often be used as climbers.  They may throw up long canes.  Most likely, unless you have a very large garden, you’ll have to train them as a short (8’) climber or trim them back. They make great pillar roses, though, if you want to add height to your garden by placing them in the middle or back.
v  Abraham Darby (1990); Apricot blend; fragrant
v  Bow Bells (1994); Medium pink; semi-double (shaped like tulips); slight fragrance
v  Graham Thomas (1983); deep yellow
v  Heritage (1984); light pink; fragrant
v  Jude the Obscure (1995); apricot; fragrant
v  L.D. Braithewaite (1988); Crimson
v  Mayor of Casterbridge (1997); light pink; medium-sized blooms; slight fragrance
v  Othello (1986); dusky crimson
v  St. Swithun (1994); pale pink; very fragrant
v  Winchester Cathedral (1988); white; fragrant

I hope you'll take the time to visit your favorite fall rose garden and smell the roses. The cooler weather really brings out the best in them and rose gardens are great places to relax with a book!

Happy Gardening from Amy Corwin, author of Escaping Notice, a Regency romance.