Tag Archives: Microsoft

Windows 10 – Should I Take The Plunge?

I have a feeling Windows 10 is going to be a recurring theme on “Trube on Tech” Tuesday for a little while, but the one question that probably needs to be answered first is: Should I install Windows 10?

Let’s back up. If you own a Windows 7 or Windows 8 (or 8.1) machine, you probably noticed a little app a couple of months ago in the bottom right of your screen asking if you’d like to reserve a free copy of Windows 10. If you didn’t see this app, you’re not alone, but don’t worry, you’ve got about a year to reserve your free copy and Microsoft is here to help.

Should I Reserve My Free Copy of Windows 10?

For my money, there’s no harm in reserving the free copy. The pre-setup download is a couple 100 MB (not a big chunk of most hard drives) and you can always decide not to upgrade. If you’re on the fence, free isn’t bad. Just don’t install until you’re ready. Install speeds have been slow since a lot of people are upgrading now, so you can always wait until Microsoft’s server traffic is a little lighter.

What Am I Getting?

This is a complicated question but from playing with the new OS the high-points are:

1) The new Edge browser which looks more like a tablet browser to me both in functionality and features. It’ll probably be good for casual use, but businesses will still want to use IE11 (or better yet Chrome).

2) A new start menu, the bastard child of the Metro screen and the old program menu. This is certainly an improvement, but many people have already solved this problem on Windows 8 with tools like ClassicShell. And for my money, the new menu still has too much of the Metro screen look and feel.

NewStartMenu

3) Longer support. Windows 8 support ends in 2023, Windows 7 in 2020. New features for Windows 7 stopped earlier this year, and Windows 8’s should stop in a few more. So theoretically, you’re set till 2025. On the other hand, your laptop probably won’t last that long.

Otherwise what you’re getting looks an awful lot like Windows 8. There’s some subtle changes to the file windows, but they’re still not as pretty as Windows 7.

I have Windows 7, should I upgrade?

If you bought your laptop today, maybe. Otherwise I’d say Windows 7 is more like the Windows we all know and love. Eventually it’ll go the way of XP, but that’s a long way off. For context, most open-source Long Term Support operating systems (Ubuntu for one) have only a five year support cycle. So you’re still doing pretty good.

I have Windows 8.1, should I upgrade?

Aside from the Start Menu I’m not convinced yet you’re getting something drastically better than what you have. A lot of people don’t like upgrading simply because they’re worried about losing files or programs will stop working. And that is always a risk, though the Windows update says it will maintain files and programs, I doubt this is completely seamless. If your Windows 8 machine is new, then maybe go ahead. If you’re used to how Windows 8.1 works, even if you don’t love it, this isn’t going to be enough of an improvement to justify the hassle.

I like new things and want to do the install, what’s your advice?

DO NOT let Microsoft choose the default settings for the device. There have already been some security concerns raised about the WiFi sharing capability of the new OS, and there seems to be even more ways the OS tracks where you are and what you do. My advice … choose “customize my settings”, then click NO to everything.

As always when doing an upgrade, backup your files. And of course leave the computer plugged-in. Also be sure you’re ready because this is a one-way trip. The only way back I can think of is a factory reformat and a restore disk. Trust me, that is a BIG hassle.

If you have Word 2007 you may be in for some bad news. Windows 10 may or may not support it, and Microsoft support for 2007 ends in a couple of years. You may need to buy a new version of Word, though have you tried OpenOffice?

I’ve got a copy of Windows 10 Pro in a virtual machine that I’ll be playing with for the next few weeks. Feel free to ask me questions. Despite my reservations, I’m probably going to upgrade one of my laptops to 10 to get a feel for real-time performance, though that’ll be a while.

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What’s this I hear about IE going away?

You may have heard from some of the more hyperbolic news sources that Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is dead.

Would that it were so.

Here’s the truth as I understand it. Microsoft is developing a new browser, code-named “Project Spartan”, designed to work on the modern web and built from the ground up. It’ll be geared to both mobile and computer views, and have options for distraction free viewing (because apparently Microsoft finally heard of Evernote’s Clearly plug-in). Older sites that run only in IE11 should run in the browser and will run on the IE11 rendering engine behind the scenes, with newer sites running on Spartan’s engine.

For enterprise users (i.e. businesses that run software that only works in Internet Explorer) IE will still be available though the exact nature of that is unknown. And since we don’t have a version of Spartan to play with there’s not a whole lot we know about that browser either.

Also, Microsoft is ending support for all IE versions lower than 11 in January of 2016. IE11 runs on Windows 7 and 8 and is probably what you have installed if you’ve been doing regular updates. Given Microsoft’s extended support patterns IE11 may be supported until 2023 (and given how long IE6 was around it could be longer).

So why should you give a hoot? Well, if you don’t use software that only runs in IE and you’ve been using Chrome for a long time, you shouldn’t. I doubt Microsoft, no matter what Spartan ends up being, is going to come up with something so good that it’s worth switching if you have something you like already.

If you’re like me and you have to write software that’s supported in IE as well as other browsers, well, good luck. Cross-browser programming is a pain, and all this really means is that you’ll probably have to accommodate both. Hey, at least you probably finally got to drop support for IE6 recently, right?

I switch browsers every 3-5 years. I used IE at first (maybe actually Netscape), I adopted Firefox in college (2004), Chrome sometime later (2009) and Opera a few years ago (2013). I like early versions of browsers because they don’t tend to be bogged down with all of the features these companies think I need. I like the plug-in and extension model. I add a couple of specific features I actually want and will use, and take the rest out. Even Opera, which I generally like, has been getting a little slower since it started adding synchronization features (which I’m not going to use), and did something to slow-down my speed-dial (which was one of the reasons I switched to them in the first place).

Personally, I’m not sure why Microsoft is wasting its time. I think there’s a case to be made for Microsoft taking all of the engineers working on the browser and instead focusing on improving their other products: Surface, Windows, Visual Studio, App Stores, etc. I know it seems like Microsoft needs to be a player here, but I doubt they’re going to turn the head of anyone who’s happy with Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Opera (and countless other fringe entries). Sure it might mean cutting off a data stream, or an ad-stream. But it’s not like Windows can’t track your every movement and beam it back to the mother-ship if it wanted to.

Take the bold step, Microsoft, and admit you can’t write a good browser. Then get back to being really good at the things you actually know how to do (and yes, these exist).

I probably have to try Spartan. You, on the other hand, stick with Chrome.

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XPocalypse Next

Well, you’ve survived the XPocalypse, but you’ve only got a few years to prepare for Microsoft’s next disaster, the end of Vista. We’ve got the XPocalypse, but what should we call the last days of Vista?

windows-vista

Here are a few suggestions. Feel free to submit your own in the comments:

  • eVisteration
  • Vistactomy
  • God help the Vista who gets between me and my sista
  • Visteria
  • Vistopia
  • Hasta la Vista, Baby
  • And God help the Vista who gets between me and my man
  • Vistastrophe
  • Die Die Die
  • Vistacular
  • Vistalitus
  • Alta Vista
  • C’est la Vista

Any thoughts?

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After the XPocalypse: How to take the Vista out of 8.1

Windows 8.1 is Microsoft’s latest operating system, but it’s hardly the greatest. It has little business adoption, switching between apps and real programs is frustrating and disruptive, and it made all the visuals flat and boring so that they could maintain a consistent look between their laptops, desktops  and the partial OS they run on the Surface.

Windows-8-1

But all is not completely lost. You can make Windows 8.1 into a system you’ll love, or at least won’t hate quite as much. And hey Microsoft’s gonna support you for another 9 years so if you can get used to it, you might learn to love it.

Get Office all the time, not 365 days a year

For starters buy yourself a copy of Office 2010 or 2013. It’ll cost between $85 to $139 for Home and Student, and into the $200s for anything pro or multi-user. But trust me, if you need Office, and unfortunately for a lot of you OpenOffice doesn’t quite cut it, this is a far better solution than Office 365. Don’t be seduced by fancy words like “Cloud” and”Your documents on all your devices” or “always up to date”. Since when has Word really gotten all that better? I like the equation editor they added in 2007 (used it extensively for my fractal book), but other than that and maybe native save as PDF support, I’m unimpressed. Unless you’re a student Office 365 is going to cost you $99 A YEAR! Where does Microsoft get off charging something like that?

Have you met Windows 7?

You could downgrade to Windows 7, if you owned Windows 8.1 Pro, which if you don’t know, you probably don’t. There are ways to try to do it yourself. This guide from PC Magazine might help.

Not Metro?

Hate booting to the Metro Screen? Here’s a few things you can do:

  1. Right Click on the taskbar and click “Properties”.
  2. On the box that pops up, click on the tab that says “Navigation”.
  3. There’s two cool things you can do from here:

GoToDeskop

  • In the “Start Screen” section there are two boxes you should check. The first is “When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, got to the desktp instead of Start”. Otherwise known as “Boot to Desktop”. If you want Windows 8 to work like every other computer you’ve ever owned. Do this step.
  • The second is “Show the Apps view automatically when I got Start”. This is as close to the traditional start button as you’ll get without third party add-ons. Make sure the second box underneath is checked as well (as shown). You can click the up arrow on this screen to get to the Metro view if you ever want to.

Shut it down

You know what else the start menu had that this one doesn’t? A proper shut down button. Now you could go into the power settings and tell the computer to shut down when you close the lid. But if you want to watch what it’s doing, and bypass updates you weren’t planning on waiting for, do this instead:

  1. Right-click anywhere on the desktop and select New–>Shortcut.
  2. Type “shutdown /s /t 0” into the “location” line. This is an old DOS command Windows still recognizes. A full reference can be found here, but this line basically means shutdown this computer “/s” in 0 seconds “/t 0”.

shutdown

This won’t have  fancy icon, but you can pick one by right clicking on the shortcut, selecting “properties” and clicking “change icon”.

Command your computer

There’s a surprising amount you can still do with old DOS commands and I highly recommend you learn some. But one thing’s clear, you need a command prompt (or terminal as the Linux people like to say). The Apps view you brought up has this under the Windows System line:

Clipboard-3

Right click on the icon and click “Pin to taskbar” to send this to your desktop taskbar. While you’re there you can also get the task manager if you want it or the run command.

But command prompt does it all. Type the following for a few useful commands and programs:

  • msconfig – Brings up your system configuration and allows you to change what programs are running at startup.
  • taskmgr – Brings up the task manager. Which also changes startup configuration apparently.
  • regedit – Brings up the registry editor.
  • dir /s /b > output.txt – Takes the current folder and creates a human readable text file with basic information about every file and subfolder in that directory.
  • calc – The old school desktop calculator, not the app.

Send it in a letter

Your best friend is the send to desktop icon. If your program is not listed in the Apps view (and it won’t catch them all), go the the program’s location on your computer and right click, hover over “send” and select “to desktop”. Between the taskbar and the desktop you should be able to put most of the programs you use on a daily basis without even having to bother with the start button. I use the left side for applications and the right side for games, and the task bar for stuff I get into all the time. If you’re a gamer, this is Steam and Desura’s time to shine, as one icon can get you access to a whole library of games.

&*%$! Homegroup Icon!

Noticed that, eh? Microsoft has a bug on some computers which causes the Homegroup icon to mysteriously appear on your desktop. You can’t delete it, can’t even move it. And you probably would never use it.

  1. Right click on the desktop and select “personalize”.
  2. Click “Change Desktop Icons” on the left.
  3. Check the box that says “Network” and hit apply.
  4. Uncheck the box that says “Network and hit apply.

The icon should now be gone, but probably not forever. Hopefully a more permanent solution will be released soon.

I want my Start Menu!!!

Don’t we all. Two programs to try are Classic Shell and Start8. Start 8 is $4.99 and Classic Shell is better. From what I’ve read Start8 is closer to the real experience, and works better with 8 so it may be worth the money. For the moment I’m toughing it out to see if I can get used to the current configuration, but if not I’ll probably try Classic Shell. I personally don’t like to try a lot of third party programs I don’t know until I get to know an OS a little better.

Microsoft did recently announce it was bringing back the start menu, but with no clear roadmap as to when the update will be rolled out. Also the ability to use apps in the desktop environment. Probably by the time we’re ready for Windows 9, Windows 8 will be all it can be.

I have a feeling I could write another one of these guides in another six months with a whole bunch more useful information, but hopefully this will be enough to get you started. Please post any questions you have in the comments. I’ll play around and try to solve any new problems you might pose.

Tomorrow we’ll cover Zorin-Lite for the Windows crowd that doesn’t want to spend any money, and is really new to linux.

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Disclaimer: Any advice or tips given here will not be valid for all users in all circumstances. Do what makes sense to you and don’t do what doesn’t make sense. These posts are for educational, informative purposes only. Show these posts to your computer friends and have them tell you if I’m right on the money or out to lunch. In any case, please realize that anything you do to your computer is your responsibility. If you have a specific problem and need help, shoot me a comment, but if your computer bricks you were warned.

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