Saturday, April 19, 2014

What the *fuck* are Microsoft smoking?

So, seeing as I'm blogging again, here's a bit of a rant.

Boy #1, who is now 14, decided that his computer, which had been happily running some form of Ubuntu, wasn't up to scratch.  Specifically, that he couldn't get in on the F2P revolution - his friends had moved on from Minecraft to League of Legends.  As such, he *needed* Windows.

"Okay", say I.  I have a valid license for Win7 Pro that I don't use (came with my new laptop, which is *ahem* hackintoshed *ahem*), you can use that.  But beyond doing the install and owning the administrator password, as they say around here, "demerdez-vous".  I deal with Macs and unix boxes, I know nothing much about Windows apart from "when I have to use it, I don't like it".  In short, I'm willing to set him up a machine, and occasionally bung in the administrator password, but it it gets pwnt, or stops working, or generally starts buggering about, the response is going to be "Reinstall.  From scratch."

Now, as he's 14, computer time is restricted.  With Ubuntu, I'd installed timekpr, which is an impressively flexible tool for managing computer time usage.

Windows 7 comes with "parental controls", which purport to do something similar.  Well, on the surface, it looks like they do, anyway.  Once you've scratched the surface, it becomes patently clear that Microsoft's parental controls are seriously lacking.

Time usage controls come down to "user x can use the computer between hour y and hour z".

That's it.  Nothing more.  Want to allow your kid to use the computer between 10am and midday, and from 6 to 8 pm, with a maximum screen time of 2 hours?  No, can't do that.  Even better is Microsoft's response to its customers.  It's "brillant", for those who remember The Daily WTF :

Only administrators can set the parental control and not the standard user. So if you wnat to set the time frame of 3 hours per day usage, you will have to ask the user first as to when they want to use the computer and set it under parental controls.

This shows a(nother) complete misunderstanding of what people might actually want to do with their computers.

So, anyway, parental controls are out.  They suck, and MS don't seem to understand why, or care enough about their clients to try and improve them.  Which leaves 3rd party solutions.

The only one I've found which doesn't suck (indeed, it's better than timekpr, which I considered to be pretty damned good) is timeboss, from

Time limits, times when you can't use the computer at all, forced breaks, it's got everything you need to properly restrict usage.

The *only* downside to it is that, even allowing for the massive flexibility it provides, the UI is over-confusing and cluttered.

It's an enormously powerful piece of software, reasonably priced for the peace of mind it provides (although it should be said that no piece of software can replace proper parental oversight); Microsoft would do well to ask themselves why companies like nicekit are making money providing something that should be standard.

Still, if you're a parent who, like most of the world, is tied to Windows, it's definitely software to have.

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