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I Tried Windows 10 and Rolled Back to 8.1

July 31st, 2015 by Paul Hutchinson

I tried out Windows 10 on my 2013 ASUS Q200E 11.6″ touchscreen netbook the other day. I primarily use it like a touch tablet for playing simple games, surfing the web, watching Netflix, etc. When I travel or go to a library for research it’s nice to have a good keyboard and track pad/USB mouse/Wacom tablet which makes it much more convenient for writing, data entry and media editing than a tablet. The desktop environment in Windows 10 is pretty good and if that was my primary usage I would have kept it installed. But with my primary usage as a touch screen device I very rapidly found Windows 10 to be far more difficult and less pleasant to use than Windows 8/8.1.

Below is part of a photo that shows the main problem I had with trying to use Windows 10 (click to see whole image in the original tweet). The tiny little icons you have to tap to work with Windows 10. In the picture that’s a pinky and ring finger showing and you can clearly see that you have to be very careful to hit the icon you want. If I was using a tablet like in the picture it would be easier but on a netbook there is a keyboard 90 degrees to that icon space making it very difficult to select the correct one. In Windows 8/8.1 I never need to try hit tiny targets like this, instead of a permanently showing tiny task bar, you swipe open the charms bar and tap nice big, finger friendly, targets. Far too often while trying out Win10 I had to switch from touch to the track pad so I could hit the targets accurately.

joebelfiore_tablet

Another change that I found annoying was the loss of the simple single swipe to switch between Metro (full screen) programs. In Windows 8/8.1 if I’ve got two running, e.g. a game plus a forum, I simply swipe left to right and the other program is there. In Windows 10 you have to swipe left to right which opens an Alt-Tab like display and then you tap on the program you want to see. I suppose the new way would be easier if you routinely have lots of Metro programs running at the same time but I never have more than three or four open. Another Win10 annoyance was that you can’t simply swipe between desktop and tablet mode, you have to select a tiny icon and turn off tablet mode to get to the desktop which makes all Metro apps act like maximized desktop apps with title bars using up more of the 768 pixel vertical screen space. Often I’ll want to have a traditional desktop type program running as well as a couple of tablet style Metro apps, on Win8.1 I simply swipe to move between the Metro apps and the desktop.

While I was playing around I opened the mail app and saw an email from Microsoft telling me I had exceeded the limit for how many devices can be connected to the store. This was rather surprising since I have only one device connected to the store and opening the store showed there was only one device registered. I guess the server software running the Windows Store has a big bug that makes it think one is greater than 10 :-). You can see a copy somebody else received here, Windows 10 “Device Limit Reached”.

With my evaluation done in just over an hour it was clear I would be far better off rolling back to Windows 8.1. The rollback appeared to go well but a few glitches made me spend some time getting things working the way they were before the upgrade.

  • It lost my account picture, I use one of the stock Microsoft Live.com images and Windows 10 used it. On rollback it was not in Win8.1 and I couldn’t locate it anywhere on the drive. So I copied the image from Live.com and put a copy on my hard drive.
  • I cancelled the reservation after rollback but on every reboot it started to re-download the 2G Win10 install. Had to uninstall the Windows update item then go back into update and when it showed up again as available I hid it so that it never comes back (hopefully). Went ahead and did the same with the get Win10 icon update too to stop it from showing up.
  • The Photos app ended up with a duplication of the Camera Roll folder that can’t be deleted in Photos (OneDrive error). So I deleted the whole Camera Roll folder via the OneDrive web interface which did delete both copies from Photos.
  • account.microsoft.com/devices still shows my Netbook as Windows 10 not sure what if any problems this is going to cause.
  • Google chrome got trashed causing it to duplicate all its bookmarks that of course synch across devices and then began to fail to start at all. I deleted all the duplicate bookmarks from a different PC and went to bed. The next morning when I fired up the system Chrome fixed itself and is running fine again, Google for the win!

Most reviewers seem to be excited about the return of the Start menu, something I’ve been sick of for more than a decade (was so glad that Vista/7/8/8.1 let me just press the Win key and type the name of the program to find it). The following posts are more in line with my feelings about this new touch version of Windows.

Maybe Microsoft will bring back parts of the Win8.1 touch interface that I find easier to use as either options or defaults in the future. If they do and Win 10 is still free I’ll try it again but it doesn’t really matter since the end of support for Win8.1 is long past the time this netbook will be useful or possibly even functioning. If they keep the harder to use touch screen UI, I’ll just move on to another brand, I like the IOS & Android touch UIs almost as much as the Win 8.1 touch UI. Heck after over a decade of usage I dumped Office when it got harder for me to use than OpenOffice. I still have Office on a work PC because my employer is stuck paying for it whether I use it or not due to Microsoft’s licensing rules. Every once in awhile I fire it up and every time it’s still slower and more frustrating to use than LibreOffice. At least Microsoft will get my business for new Desktop PCs at work and my home office every 5 years or so because the Windows 10 desktop UI is at least as good as the Win 7 UI.

I really wish Microsoft had made better decisions once they got slammed over Win 8. All they needed to do was bring back the Start menu and have a selectable option in setup to turn off all the Win8 touch features. All the people I know who where going ballistic hating on Win 8 would have been 100% satisfied with that solution. But nope, Microsoft releases Win 8.1 with a stupid Windows button on the task bar which did not satisfy any of the people who were pissed off. Then they spend enormous effort on Windows 10 and instead of simply leaving the touch UI as it was (I don’t recall anyone complaining about it for touch devices) they completely re-write it. They probably spent a huge amount of money on the re-write and other than a few Microsoft fanboys I haven’t seen anyone say the new touch UI is significantly better than the one in Win 8.1.

Posted in Tech | Comments Off on I Tried Windows 10 and Rolled Back to 8.1

Weather Gadget Replacement

May 14th, 2015 by Paul Hutchinson

My previous post on this topic had a fix for the built-in gadget however I found that the gadget kept breaking so I looked for a replacement. I chose the Weather Center Gadget and have been very happy with it.

 

 

Posted in Tech | Comments Off on Weather Gadget Replacement

Updated Google Earth Files

April 21st, 2015 by Paul Hutchinson

I’ve not posted much about the BRVNHC here, or on my static site, in the past couple years due to other things taking up my free time. Much of my non-work time had to go towards items related to the death of my older brother in 2013, recovering from breaking my right ankle very badly last August (two surgeries last one at years end, just started driving again last month) and fixing long neglected IT infrastructure. Now that I’m on my own for therapy I’m getting a little free time back so I hope to post updates more frequently this year.

I’ve updated two of the BRVNHC Google Earth files this week. The first is a very minor edit, I added the proposed canal restoration in Worcester to the Waterways file. The other is more substantial and comes about due to my self therapy for ankle/knee recovery. I hiked 3 miles on the Burrillville Bike Path and trails with my brother, my youngest niece and her boyfriend this past weekend. In preparation for the hike I drew the path/trails in Google Earth and then used GPS Essentials to track and document the hike. I’ve added the Burrillville Bike Path to the Bike Trails file and also updated the introductory info for the SNETT.

Posted in Blackstone Valley, General | Comments Off on Updated Google Earth Files

Weather Gadget Fix

March 19th, 2015 by Paul Hutchinson

The Windows sidebar weather gadget stopped working this morning on my work PC. All it showed was the message “cannot connect to service“. A simple fix was posted by Kot86 on the Tech Support Guy forums (full thread here).

Basically all you do is:

  1. Close the gadget
  2. Open C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Live\Services\Cache\Config.xml in a text editor
  3. Save the file without changing anything
  4. Wait about 20 seconds
  5. Add the gadget back

 

Posted in Tech | Comments Off on Weather Gadget Fix

Windows 7 Update Breaks XP Mode

June 8th, 2014 by Paul Hutchinson

There is an optional Windows update, KB2830477, that causes intermittent crashes in Windows Virtual PC XP Mode. The only solution is to uninstall (or avoid installing) the update. For more information see this site.

Posted in Tech, Windows Virtual PC | Comments Off on Windows 7 Update Breaks XP Mode

Postal Scam

June 8th, 2014 by Paul Hutchinson

Here’s a clever postal scam of some sort. A post card in UPS colors claiming there is a package waiting for you. No idea what they would try to scam you for if you call their toll free number but I’m sure it can’t be good.

SCAM20140604A

SCAM20140604B

Posted in Frauds | Comments Off on Postal Scam

Public Domain Images

April 20th, 2014 by Paul Hutchinson

I was about to take some quick photos of household objects for a demo home inventory system today when it dawned on me to simply look for suitable ones online. Searching around I found one great site and one that is totally clueless as to what public domain means.

First the great site, PublicDomainArchive.com, an absolutely wonderful collection of images that are truly public domain.

Now the clueless site, PublicDomainPictures.net, I found one picture that I thought I might use but then I read this on the images page.

License: Public Domain. If you are going to redistribute this image online, a hyperlink to this particular page is mandatory.

The highlighted part is completely contradictory to the concept of public domain. The CC public domain license they link to disagrees with the highlighted text.

The person who associated a work with this deed has dedicated the work to the public domain by waiving all of his or her rights to the work worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.

When you waive all of your rights you can’t have a mandatory attribution provision, you can ask for a link and many people would freely give one but making it mandatory is right out. Because they want attribution in the form of a link they need to use one of the CC attribution licenses. Considering how clueless they are, and that their one image I was considering was not that good anyway, I’ll pass on ever using or recommending their site. People who are this clueless on copyright and public domain I’ve found are often trouble waiting to happen so I strongly recommend you stay well away from their site.

Again if you want fantastic unencumbered by licenses images, click this: public domain images.

Posted in Copyright, Photography | Comments Off on Public Domain Images

A Lubuntu LAMP VM

March 4th, 2014 by Paul Hutchinson

I wrote previously about the pre-made OpenSUSE 10.2 LAMP Server for Windows Virtual PC and it has been helpful in brushing up on command line Linux with a LAMP stack. After playing around it dawned on me that if I had a virtual LAMP server with a more recent version of PHP I could have a development mirror of this WordPress blog. So starting with the Lubuntu VM I created I’ve added a LAMP solution stack and a cloned copy of this blog.

Installing the LAMP Stack

Most of the pages I found about installing a LAMP stack on Lubuntu where very old (in Linux years) so they had far more steps than necessary. The fastest way I found was in a Comment on the Installing LAMP On Ubuntu For Newbies page.

Its really easy to install LAMP with ONE single command in ubuntu:

sudo apt-get install lamp-server^ phpmyadmin

When the installation nears the end you’ll be prompted to do these steps.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Linux, Windows Virtual PC | Comments Off on A Lubuntu LAMP VM

Compacting a Linux VHD

March 2nd, 2014 by Paul Hutchinson

When you compact a Linux dynamic virtual disk in Windows Virtual PC you’ll find that almost no space is saved. This is because the compact routine only compacts disk area that is filled with zeros. For Windows guest OS’s Microsoft provides a Precompactor tool that zeroes out the unused space so that compaction works.

I thought I’d found a solution in  Ben Armstrong’s MSDN Blog, Compacting the virtual hard disk of a Linux virtual machine. You run the following command, turn off the VM and then run the Compact virtual hard disk function.

cat /dev/zero > zero.dat ; sync ; sleep 1 ; sync ; rm zero.dat

It didn’t work for me then I thought, probably needs a sudo before the commands but that didn’t seem to work either. Searching around the net I found many sites suggesting the same or similar commands and others suggesting dd to do the job. After reading a lot of information I came to the conclusion that these methods are more of a hack than an elegant solution and there are quite a few technical reasons why they are sub-optimal.

That’s when I learned about the zerofree program for Linux from Ron Yorston. Read about this nice utility at his Keeping filesystem images sparse page.

Searching for use case examples for zerofree yielded many different recommendations most of which involved what seemed like unnecessary complications. These include installing zerofree on the system you want to run it, restarting in single user mode and remounting the file system read-only to run it.

Then I saw some sites saying to run zerofree from a Linux live CD and that struck me as the smartest and fastest way to do this process. The SystemRescueCd, a great live CD that I’ve used before, includes zerofree and nearly every other Linux disk utility there is.

Here is the process I came up with that is fast and really shrinks your Linux virtual hard disk.

  1. Shut down the virtual machine and if you have the undo disk feature enabled apply or discard the changes and then disable the feature.
  2. Backup the VHD file because low level manipulation of the disk file system could break it.
  3. Boot the virtual machine from the SystemRescueCd ISO.
  4. Check the file system before zeroing it out.
    fsck /dev/sda1
  5. Zero out the file system, it took 13 minutes to complete on my VHD.
    zerofree -v /dev/sda1
  6. Check the file system after zeroing it out.
    fsck /dev/sda1
  7. Shut down the VM.
    poweroff
  8. Compact the VHD, Settings -> Hard Disk 1 -> Modify button -> Compact virtual hard disk button and remove the ISO from the DVD Drive setting.

That’s all there is to it, I think this is by far the fastest and easiest way of getting this done.

Posted in Linux, Windows Virtual PC | Comments Off on Compacting a Linux VHD

Disable Windows Magnifier

February 26th, 2014 by Paul Hutchinson

Soon after Netflix added profiles I started using one, unfortunately the Windows Media Center plugin has not been updated to use profiles and likely never will. At first I tried the Kylo browser plugin for Media Center but it was a bit difficult to use with the remote. So I’ve been using a little program called RemoteKCWin7 that allows you to make the Media Center Remote control act as a mouse or keyboard.

This has worked well with one exception. When I accidentally press the clear key Windows Magnifier would come up and then I’d have to get up shut down magnifier and rewind the show (happens frequently since the main mode key, *, is right above it). Searching around I found a lot of people accidentally starting the screen magnifier and wondering how to truly disable it. For those people the problem is that Windows 7 has a hard wired shortcut key of Win + Num Pad Plus. FYI – Microsoft does not mention this hard wired shortcut in its official page of shortcuts, Microsoft.com – Windows 7 Keyboard shortcuts.

Some applications use Ctrl + Num Pad Plus for zoom so it’s easy to accidentally hit the magnifier shortcut. The only way to disable magnifier start from the shortcut key is to rename the Magnify.exe which of course isn’t easy because it is a system file. This post, Tampa Bay Times – Solutions: Getting rid of the Windows Magnifier, has good instructions on how to get this done. However it didn’t work on my Win7 x64 Pro. Browsing the file system I found that on Win7 x64 there is second copy of Magnify.exe in \Windows\sysWOW64\, a 64bit version I assume. By following the disable instructions I finally got both copies disabled and the keyboard shortcut is truly disabled. Although it doesn’t apply to me here’s instructions for Windows 8, Permanently Turn Off Windows 8 Magnifier.

If the magnifier is starting at boot time then you need to change ease of use settings as detailed in this long thread, Microsoft Community – How do I disable the Windows 7 Magnifier?.

Believing I had this all sorted out I was surprised the other night to have an error message pop-up when I accidentally hit the clear key on my remote. Reading the error message it was clear that the error message was coming from RemoteKCWin7 which is an  AutoHotkey application. Since AutoHotkey is my language of choice for writing tiny utilities for Windows I decided to look at the source code to see what was up. Unfortunately I had never downloaded the RemoteKCWin7 source code for the version modified to work in Win7. So I went looking for it, that’s when I found out about the loss of all the old code links when AutoHotkey moved from a .net domain to a .com domain. Searching around I found out that a number of AutoHotkey users had gathered up and archived all of the old source code and applications. Thank you to all the users who gathered up all that useful code it helped me solve the problem.

Reading through the source code I found that the clear button acts as the keyboard Esc key. The code was set to start Magnifier on the first press and close it on the second press. Trying it out I found that unfortunately on my PC the second key press only closed the Magnifier tool bar dialog not the magnified view window. So I commented out the code that starts magnifier, re-compiled it and voila, no more magnifier from the remote. You can download an archive with the source code and executable from here.

References:

Posted in Tech | Comments Off on Disable Windows Magnifier

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