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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.

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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.

 

 

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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

 

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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.

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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:

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Do Not Track Solution to Network Device Access

February 25th, 2014 by Paul Hutchinson

I was doing some maintenance on my network devices and I could not get the password to work on my AP’s web interface in Firefox. To get the job done I simply used Internet Explorer and it worked OK. The solution is to change the Firefox Do Not Track setting. Here’s the whole chain needed to get there: Firefox menu –> Options –> Options select the Privacy tab and change the Tracking radio button to Do not tell sites anything about my tracking preferences.

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Print Preview Problem in LibreOffice Calc

February 25th, 2014 by Paul Hutchinson

I’ve had a problem with the LibreOffice Calc print preview function for a while. The problem is not showing the selected sheet(s) and I’ve always assumed it was more a problem with me than with the software. I finally got annoyed enough with my work around for the problem that I decided to search for an answer. The answer I found was 2½ years old making me feel even dumber for not looking sooner. So if you can’t get some sheets to show in print preview simply go to the sheets that do show and delete the defined print ranges (Format –> Print Ranges –> Remove). When you think about it this is the proper behavior, setting a print range tells Calc to not print anything else in the spreadsheet.

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Windows for Workgroups 3.11 Virtually

February 24th, 2014 by Paul Hutchinson

I needed to install a program on my replacement PC the other day so I had to dig through my installation disks looking for the CD. That’s when I saw the original Packard Bell Multi-Media Master CD for my 1994 Packard Bell Force 53CD PC. The CD contained the full version of MS-DOS 6.00 and Windows for Workgroups 3.11 so I just couldn’t resist installing this in a virtual machine. The process turned out to be a very fun and time wasting trip down memory lane.

Since both DOS 6 & WFW3.11 are still under copyright, I can’t provide a VHD file like I’ve done for the Linux distros. So if you want to play around with this 20 year old OS you’ll need to roll your own VM. Here are a bunch of tips for getting a Windows Virtual PC going with WFW. At the very end of this post is a list of downloadable drivers, updates and programs with links.

VM Setup

  • Give the VM 128MiB of RAM and don’t make the virtual disk bigger than 2GiB (old size limit). In my trials I found a 200MiB drive was large enough to install everything including keeping a full copy of the WFW installation files.
  • Use a fixed size virtual disk, I saw a number of disk read errors when I tried using a dynamic disk.

DOS & WFW Setup

  • You can’t run MS-DOS setup from a normal CD or from a hard disk. Since my Master CD had a copy of the files from after installation I just copied that directory to the disk and used a DOS 6 boot disk to partition and format the drive. If you really want or need to install DOS 6.x make three physical bootable CDs with the three installation disk images. Then set the VM to use your real drive, boot off of disk one and when prompted to put the next disk in A: change the CD.
  • Use the /S option when formatting so that you don’t have to run SYS on the disk after formatting.
  • Copy all the files from the 8 WFW floppy disks into a single directory e.g. WIN_INST. This makes installation faster and comes in handy later when you are prompted for install disks during driver installations.
  • Don’t use EMM386 in you DOS CONFIG.SYS file, it seems to cause a lot of GPF’s in Windows.
  • The WFW Express install option always crashed at the network adapter screen but simply choosing custom setup and taking the default options avoided the crash.
  • After you finish installing all of the drivers and programs set the swap file to none. With 128MiB of RAM a swap file is not needed.
  • When you’re finished installing everything run a full DEFRAG on the drive, it speeds up operations significantly.
  • Add EMMExclude=A000-CBFF to the [386Enh] section of the SYSTEM.INI file. I found this tip here (comment by Zinc) and here.
  • When I had 15 program groups in Program Manager, groups would randomly disappear from the screen at start up. I merged some groups until I had only 8 total and it solved the problem. I didn’t take the time to see what number of groups makes the problem occur.

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A Virtual Puppy Named Slacko

February 23rd, 2014 by Paul Hutchinson

I first played around with Puppy Linux about eight years ago to extend the useful life of an old PC for relatives. With Puppy’s low PC resource requirements and my previous experience it was a natural choice for my second distro to run in WVPC. In addition to getting Slacko Puppy running in WVPC I also wanted to have it on a USB thumb drive to use for rescue operations on other PCs. Since most PCs I deal with currently are fairly new I chose to use the PAE version of Slacko. Before I dig into the WVPC implementation a quick note on the standard usage of Slacko Puppy. Read the release notes before you start! I did not do this and it cost me about a half hour of head scratching trying to get my main workstation to boot on the CD (it needed the radeon.modeset=0 boot option).

If you don’t want to roll your own virtual machine you can can download an archive containing the virtual disk and settings files. Simply extract the files to your virtual machines folder (usually C:\Users\xxxxxx\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Virtual PC\Virtual Machines where xxxxxx is your user name) and then run the VM. The archive, Slacko_Puppy_5_6_0_PAE.7z, contains Slacko_Puppy_5_6_0_PAE.7z.vmc (settings) and Slacko_Puppy_5_6_0_PAE.7z.vhd (virtual disk).

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Lubuntu on Windows Virtual PC

February 8th, 2014 by Paul Hutchinson

For my second Linux distro to try out in Windows 7 Virtual PC I wanted to try an X-Windows based desktop distro. I chose Lubuntu for two reasons, it is very lightweight and I am somewhat familiar with recent Ubuntu installations.

Searching around the web I found that many people never get X-Windows running at greater than 800×600 resolution. There also appears to have been a problem with using 24bit color on earlier versions of Virtual PC. Having done quick test installs for a few different distros I found that X installs on WVPC end up at 800x600x24 and run OK. For my usage 800×600 is just too small and 24 bit color is not needed (I don’t expect to watch video or view/edit images in a VM). So I’ve set a target of getting X to run at 1024x768x16 for all desktop client distros that I’ll use. The larger screen size makes it practical to use multiple windows for finding solutions on the web and copying text from the web browser to a terminal or text editor to save on typing.

Another common problem I see people having is getting the middle mouse button (X button 2) and scroll wheel (X buttons 4 & 5) to work. Scrolling with the wheel and opening new Firefox tabs with a middle button click have become essential to me so this is the other major target for all my VMs. Unless I can get the mouse wheel/button and 1024×768 working I won’t consider a distro to be functional for me in WVPC.

The final problem I’ve seen many web sites mention is the use of dynamic virtual disks. A dynamic disk saves space on your host PC by keeping the file small while still allowing it to grow as needed. Most sites say to only use the fixed disk type in VPC however these sites are working with older versions of VPC, not WVPC, and older distros. The first VM I documented using was created with a dynamic disk and all of the VMs I’ve created myself work fine using a dynamic disk. I suspect the problem no longer applies to recent distros/kernels and WVPC. I did find one case where a dynamic disk did not work, I tried to expand the size of the Q&D LAMP VM by creating a larger virtual disk and using Clonezilla to copy the old disk into the new one. Clonezilla said it worked but when I looked at the size of the new dynamic disk it was clear it hadn’t worked. In that situation I had to use a fixed size virtual disk to make the cloning work.

The rest of this post is primarily a description of the steps I took to get Lubuntu 13.10 running in Windows Virtual PC. If you don’t want to perform these steps yourself you can download an archive containing the virtual disk and settings files. Simply extract the files to your virtual machines folder (usually C:\Users\xxxxxx\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Virtual PC\Virtual Machines where xxxxxx is your user name) and then run the VM. The archive, Lubuntu_13_1_upd8.7z, contains Lubuntu_13_1_upd8.vmc (settings) and Lubuntu_13_1_upd8.vhd (virtual disk). For this pre-made VHD I used these settings for names and password:  Name: W7VPC, PC Name: w7vpc-Virtual-Machine, Username: w7vpc, Password: w7vpc2014, and set it to Log in automatically.

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