Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Windows 8

I've spent the last while testing Windows 8 Developer Preview and I thought I would share a few thoughts with you.
I'm sure you have seen some screenshots of the new Windows Metro look.  That look is a leftover from the Windows Phone software which was a miserable failure to begin with.  I guess MS didn't want to waste the investment so they carried it over to Windows 8.  Among the first thing I did was remove the Metro look.  At first I left in the Ribbon Bars that are used extensively in W8.  I have found then quite convenient in some of the other Software like MS Office.  Microsoft over-used them this time and they are now gone as well or at least gone in the sense that I had to do a lot of hacking to get a standard menu bar back and just not use the Ribbons at all.  I also had to do a lot of work with IE 10 which is used in W8 and I must say that no matter how much you do to IE 10 it is still fraught with problems; but more on that in a later post.
Of course when you are modifying an operating system to get it working the way you want; you are bound to mess up and have to restore once in a while.  The first tendency is to go to good old System Restore.  It's bailed me out in the past.  Alas MS manged to turn that into utter crap as well.  The onlt recorded restore points are from the Windows updates.  Whats the next step?  Well we now have a new one called System Refresh so lets give that a try and see what happens.  I got suspicious at the first step when it asked for the install disk and sure enough my suspicions were well founded.  Any 3rd party software you have installed will be gone.  That is of course if it came from someplace other than the MS Apps Store.  Oh yes; I forgot to mention that MS decided that Apple had a better plan and they have adopted the store approach.  I've avoided Apple products primarily because of that thought process and that may also be on the agenda for Windows apps as well.  Now after the System Refresh was completed they were at least kind enough to leave an HTML page on my desktop that listed everything that had been removed.  Anything saved on your computer will be removed unless you have saved it in a personal folder.  Never save to your desktop as it is not considered to be a personal folder by Windows.  Put the files safely away someplace like your Documents folder.  Of course after everything was redone I discovered that it was a Windows Driver update that had broken the system to begin with and a simple Driver rollback would have solved the issue or at least the part where it was throwing erros at shutdown.  The actual driver involved was the audio driver and of course the system still has no sound.  I'm used to that since that has been a consistant issue with every new Windows release.  Before you ask; the Windows 7 drivers will not work for the AC97 audio and I'm doing all my testing on a notebook computer so I don't have the option of playing with other audio cards to see if anything will work.
One thing my Windows 8 Experience has given me is a lot of practice at cloning drives.  I do that after every shutdown as long as everything is working at that point.  Then all I stand to lose is whatever I have done since the machine was started.  See my post about Active Boot Disk; it is the best way I've seen yet to be sure I have the system properly backed up.
Forget about having a Start Menu as you have come to know it since Windows 95.  That is gone unless you disable Metro and even then it's not as functional as it was in Vista and Windows 7.
After making several changes to W8 I have ended up with what resembles a very fast Windows 7.  That in itself is good but I don't understand why MS thinks people prefer eye-candy over performance.  Was there something wrong with the concept of leaving the UI alone and just improving system performance?
If I was asked right now to rate Windows 8 on a 10 point basis then I would give it about a 2.

This is just the first of what I hope will be several installments about Windows 8.  I will continue to post these topics as long as I am able to stand working with an operating system that drives me crazy everytime I try to do anything with it.
As for the Windows App Store, I've written it off as just another money grab and I will not use it now or at anytime in the future.  Since I also do some of my own software development I'll continue to use those apps that I've written and I will continue to do it whether or not Microsoft objects.  I really suspect that after all my testing on that machine is finished I will be installing Linux on it;  I've used it before and did get used to it's idiosyncracies as well.  I've always been a Windows fan but there comes a time when you have to consider changes and this is the time as far as I'm concerned.  Too bad since I've been using Windows since 3.0 which is also the time when I switched all of our systems from the old Apple 2* series machines to PCs.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Great software find...Active@Boot Disk.

Active Boot Disk is primarily a compilation of several tools, a few of which I had already tested and found to be extremely good for the advanced user so I am going to post some of the information here.

Active@ Boot Disk is a bootable CD that gives you a lightweight Windows 7 (WinPE 3.0) environment with disk image, data recovery, password resetting, data erasure and network access tools.  The tools available are;
•Active@ Disk Image *** Works very well when I have to replace a drive.

     Imaged-based data backup and restoration tool
•Active@ File Recovery
     Deleted data recovery software
•Active@ Partition Recovery
     Lost partition recovery software
•Active@ Hex Editor
     Tool for editing disk in a binary format
•Active@ Password Changer
     Windows password resetting tool
•Active@ KillDisk *** Excellent for those times when I need to zero-fill a drive
     Secure data erasure and disk wiping software
•PC Disk Partition Manager *** Saved my backside when I accidentally deleted a partition.
     Add, edit, delete, format and manage the partitions in your computer
•Active@ CD/DVD Data Burner
     CD/DVD burning software
•Network operations utilities
  1. Map Network Drive
  2. Remote Desktop Connection
  3. Web browser
  4. FTP Client
  5. Telnet Client
  6. Network Configuration Utility

 •Other Utilities *** perhaps of lesser importance but nice to have.

  •  File Explorer
  •  Task Manager
  •  On-Fly Drivers Loader
  •  Display Configuration Utility
  •  Notepad
  •  Command Prompt shell

 All-in-all I find the utilities to be excellent and well worth the cost to have them in your toolkit.
There are also free versions available of several of these tools but each is restricted in some way and I personally recommend that you use the full versions instead.
The Details can all be found here.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

More crap from Microsoft

Well it has been a while since I bothered to post anything here but the time has come again.

Microsoft has exceeded all previous attempts to screw up something that was starting to look promising and I'm talking about Internet Explorer 9.

All they had to do was bring IE up to meet current standards; primarily HTML5.

Instead of that they had to mess with everything including the user interface.  Are they ever going to listen to users?  The answer is a resounding NO!

They don't care what you and I think about anything they do, after all they are Microsoft - Kings of the jungle so people will take whatever garbage they want to push our way.
Try the "New" search feature in IE 9.  I don't know about you but when I search for a term I want to see what I searched for show up in the search field of my preferred search engine (certainly not BING) but instead they have to send it with the URL encoding.  Is that serious?  No but it certainly is annoying.  I know what %20 means but does everyone else?  No they don't.  Do search engines understand plain text without the encoding?  They certainly do or they would be long gone.  Fortunately I only installed IE9 on one of my operating systems, Windows 7.  After an hour of trying to customize it to work the way I want it to I spent 2 minutes ripping it out by the throat.  Forget about sending feedback because they are not accepting any more comments from the users, unless of course you like it.

The above is only one example of several things I found to be irritating.  Now don't get me wrong here.  There is no such a thing as the perfect browser and I'm not yet ready to go with something because it's prettier and I certainly don't intend to install any of the current "geekware" browsers.  I'm just going to stay with IE 8 for now even though it's not HTML5 compliant.

This did draw something I have been considering for a while to the forefront though.
I've toyed with the idea of dropping support for all Microsoft software from my web site.  I think it's a good time to start working on that.  I will be replacing it with pages where you can vote on a User Experience index based on what you think of any individual piece of MS software by version.  I'm probably not going to make it so you can leave comments there but the votes will continually be tallied and charted so they are displayed on the pages.

I can see where I won't even stay with Microsoft software for much longer.  Each generation seems to get worse and with Microsoft making a move towards cloud computing it will soon be time to make the switch.  I've never had a problem working comfortably in any OS so for me it's not a problem to make the switch in fact I very often use a linux distro to fix Windows issues.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Win 7 Beef of the day

As any of you who have followed me over the years will be aware, I've always been a staunch Microsoft supporter but that doesn't mean that I also think they are without fault.  This time they are definitly messed up and I'm not happy about it.
I run a Multi-Boot system with 3 operating systems on it.  Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7.  In XP or Vista, if I open "My Computer" Then the drives appear in the order I wanted them to where C: is the primary system boot drive so the layout becomes.
  • C: = Drive 0, Partition 0
  • D: = Drive 1, Partition 0
  • E: = Drive 2, Partition 0
  • F: = Drive 2, Partition 1
But that isn't good enough for Windows 7, oh no, they have to change the drive order to always make the drive/partition that Windows 7 is installed on the C: drive.
  • C: = Drive 2, Partition 1
  • D: = Drive 0, Partition 0
  • E: = Drive 1, Partition 0
  • F: = Drive 2, Partition 0
Now you may ask "What difference does it make?".  Plenty.  I have a lot of software that i don't want to install on each hard drive but I do want to access it from each OS.  In the past, if there were registry settings involved all I had to do was export the registry settings from one OS into the registry of another OS by way of a *.reg file.

With Windows 7 arbitrarily, and without my permission, changing drive letters, I now have to manually edit each of those reg files to make sure the paths are correct.  In my case there are so many files involved that it's almost enough to make me stop using Windows 7 all together.  It's already gotten me to the point where I just don't bother booting into Win 7 more than once or twice a week and I get back out of there as quickly as possible.

Take note Microsoft,  all is not well in the world of Windows and people do have viable options now.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Windows 7

I've been asked quite a bit lately if I like and/or use Windows 7 so I'm just going to make a fast submission here.

Do I think that Win 7 is the best OS to ever come down the pipe? No, I don't.  I will say that it is better than Windows Vista, hands down, and that it has features and performance superior to what you find with Windows XP.  I'm not sure that those comments will help you decide if you should switch to Win 7 or not and they really were not intended to answer that.  There are just too many other determining factors in each individual scenario.

I basiclly like Win 7 and I have it installed in a multi-boot configuration on my primary system along with XP and Vista.  I don't currently use 7 as my primary OS at bootup but I'm sure that will change with time.  As a matter of fact I use the one that I dislike the most of the 3 choices.  That's probably just some sort of inclination towards self-punishment.

Whether or not you upgrade to Windows 7 is a choice which you have to make for yourself.  Now, I stated above that it has features that were not available in XP and/or Vista, the other side of the coin is that there are also some features missing that you will have to replace with third party software.  The most notable of these is an email client.  You had Outlook Express in XP and Windows Mail in Vista.  You have nothing to replace them in Windows 7 so you will have to install one yourself.  Microsoft will try to convince you that the way to go is with Windows Live! Mail.  When it comes to add-on applications, I personally prefer to stay away from anything that has Live! in the title with the possible exception of Live! Messenger and only then if you need the features it gives you.  If you only want a simple chat program then there are better alternatives which are not laden with features that you don't want or need.  Another consideration about the upgrade is, will your current hardware support Windows 7 efficiently?  Download and run the Windows 7 compatibility wizard to find out.  It's available on the Microsoft website in the download section.  be sure that your system doesn't barely meet the requirements.  If you don't have some headroom as far as hardware is concerned then don't even attempt a change.  If you are already running Vista then the odds of good success with an upgrade are greatly in your favor and believe me whaen I say that you will be much happier with 7 than Vista.

If you have more questions about this topic, I will attempt to answer them for you but an adequate answer is not guaranteed.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Whoa!! This looks like good stuff.

Since that beautiful weather we had yesterday has turned to crap today it was time to start seeing what's new in the way of software.  After a tip about the upcoming Content Aware Fill in PhotoShop I started looking around at what some other graphics apps now have to offer and landed at the following page.
It seems that GIMP already has it.

Here is the YouTube link for the demonstration as provided by the folks of the PhotoShop development team

I just downloaded a fresh copy of GIMP and I'll let you know later what I think of it, if I can find the plugin that is.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It's great being where I am

I must live in the best area of this whole country.  years ago you could not have convinced me that living on a chunk of rock on Canada's west coast could be this nice and, even after all these years, springtime is still amazing.  The flowers are blooming and the birds are singing with the usual springtime mating ritual happening all day long.  This year everything about spring seems to be about a month ahead of schedule.

It's a beautiful day outside and here I am sitting in front of a computer with boredom quickly setting in, I must be out of my ever-loving mind.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Welcome one and all

Well, here we go with another new venture. I'm hoping to add some interesting content here most of which will primarily concern computers and possibly some scripting. In the meantime I hope you bookmark the site for future reference.

I am also toying with the idea of adding a slideshow to the mix so we will just have to wait and see what happens next.

Don't forget, as usual I'm open to suggestions so if you want anything in particular covered in this blog then feel free to let me know and I'll see what I can do to make it happen.