Posts Tagged ‘Windows’

On and off, I’ve dabbled into the Technical Previews prior to the official release of Windows 10 on July 29. I even installed the TP on my Transformer in the early months of the program but the build available back then was too unstable for the hybrid to be usable that I had to reinstall Windows 8.1. I confined TP testing to a virtual machine, but have not been using it much since then.

On Wednesday, I stayed up late to install the release build on the Transformer. I was actually eager to install Windows 10 on my Satellite as Internet Explorer has suddenly inexplicably started crashing Windows when I launch it. No logs, no nothing to work with.

Installation of Windows 10 on my Transformer took more than two hours – even with a fully downloaded ISO.

I had hoped it would not be the case, but Windows 10 still has the feel of an unfinished beta. Bugs abound.

The Start Menu, while a nice comeback, may take a little getting used to. I find it annoying that if you are in “All Apps” view, you won’t be able to type in and search for a program. Rendering bugs still afflict the menu, with tiles displaying in random disarray. Closing and launching the Start Menu usually resolves the layout issue, but that’s still a bad user experience. Even the notification area acted weird on me last night, showing a blank transparent square area at the bottom while the quick-access buttons that are usually found there are MIA. I had to log-out and back in for that to sort itself out.

On the apps front, the Store app has improved. I like the Music and Movies+TV sections. At least they show up and it looks like I can actually buy content this time. If this is because of the unbundling of the XBox brand – and thus, the need for the Xbox account – then I fully support the removal of the XBox branding.

Groove (the music player) is… new. But it looks to be better than the old music app. I haven’t used Movies & TV app much yet, but at least on the store, I was able to ‘buy’ a free episode of a TV Series, giving me hope that Microsoft will indeed enable buying content without the “your region is not supported” downer.

Twitter revamped its app, but it still is a subpar version compared to its offerings on other platforms, with a lot of features missing. Its design is a head-scratcher, wasting a lot of space, without good reason. You’re better off using TweetDeck.

At least the “Metro” modern apps appear to launch and open with less hassle now. Most are actually usable almost instantly.

With all that said, I think I’ll wait before updating my main laptop. I will just have to avoid using IE on my Satellite for now.

Does this mean it’s going to be an animated wallpaper?

 

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(Image swiped from www.geekwire.com)

Microsoft had plenty to announce this week – Windows 10, Windows 10 for phone, Project Spartan, and the pleasantly surprising HoloLens. It’s an exciting time for all Windows users.

But those are aimed for the future. What’s the plan for today? After all, despite hanging on to a huge chunk in the desktop stage, the landscape is admittedly becoming more focused on mobile. Despite a good offering, Microsoft hasn’t managed to break through significantly in the mobile space.

The leading problem that Microsoft has to overcome before it could gain any ground is itself. Microsoft is Microsoft’s biggest problem. Its reputation has been so tarnished by its past mistakes and questionable behavior that it completely undermines the good that it does today. Mention Microsoft to almost anyone and the best reaction you can get is indifference.

Compound that with the company’s inability to market itself and its technology, and you find yourself a company that is inching ever further on consumers’ minds and wallets.

Microsoft seems to have solid products on the pipeline, but it needs immediate actions to repair the blemishes that mire its consumer face lest those technologies suffer the same fate as Windows 8.1.

And that would be a crying shame.

There are now oodles of games on the Windows Store, meant for the Metro interface. Generally, the games are pretty at par with those released on other platforms when it comes to quality. But for games bearing the XBox mark, I find it increasingly difficult to justify even launching them. Upon launch, the game will try to sign in to the XBox service, and this process can take several minutes even on broadband. Add the loading time for the app itself and it becomes problematic, but it gets worse, because most of these games won’t let you play along until you’re signed in. Way to kill the urge to pop up a quick game for a quick fix.

I’ve had RE5, RE6, RE:Revelations and a bunch of other games I bought through Steam for a while, and have been happily killing off the mutated and the undead every chance I get.

This weekend, though, RE6 wouldn’t start. It would just show a blank screen where there used to be the loading cues. It would stay like that for a while, unresponsive except for the ALT+CTRL+Delete salute. I’ve been able to launch Task Manager this way and found the RE6 process eating up all available CPU, which explains the unresponsiveness.

The Issue:

My laptop comes with two display adapters – the built in HD4000 and a secondary discrete card NVIDIA GeForce GT 740m. On Device Manager, I saw that there’s a yellow exclamation icon plastered on the 740m. Uh oh, trouble. Opening the device’s properties, Windows offered this explanation:

Windows has stopped this device because it has reported problems. (Code 43)

Some useful information regarding this error can be found here.

The Solution:

In my case, the fix was straightforward.

  1. Right-click the device on Device Manager, select Uninstall. Select not to remove the driver if prompted.
  2. Click Scan for hardware changes. Wait until the device is recognized and Windows reconfigures the drivers. It should take a couple of minutes and a few screen flickers but no reboot necessary.

That took care of it. Easy peasy.

Update: 2014.05.24 It looks like a culprit to the volume-lowering behavior is none other than Steam. Woke up this morning to this:

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There I was enjoying some alone time watching videos on my Satellite S40t, when suddenly the volume gets knocked down for no apparent reason.

I never had this issue, or at least never noticed it before since I tend to just use earphones whenever I want to watch something. Lately, I’ve been viewing the movies with the ear sets unplugged and listening to the sound directly out of the laptop speakers (Satellite S40t audio is phenomenal, btw).

That’s when I started noticing it. Randomly, the audio would diminish. Still audible, but it’s really annoying and a tad bothersome. I suspected bad drivers, hardware problems, even VLC itself.

The culprit? A seemingly innocuous little setting nestled deep in the audio settings that Windows (using 8.1 here) helpfully enables by default. Fastest way to access the setting is to right-click the speaker icon on the Notification Area, select Sounds and then click the Communications tab. By default, this is set to Reduce the volume of other sounds by 80%.

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I don’t know what triggers it but Windows seem to think that there is some communication activity going on at random points and decides to swoop in and adjust the sound of my video playback. Setting it to “Do nothing” does the trick.

The Windows world was set abuzz with the recent reveals at Microsoft’s Build conference just this week. Updates to Microsoft’s Windows and Windows Phone were shown off. And honestly, they both impress.

Windows 8.1 Update

The update to Windows 8.1 is now available via MSDN to developers, and on April 8th, it will be released to the general public. I know I’m excited, with two – nay, three – machines already running Windows 8.1 ready for the new bits. This latest update focuses on Desktop users, with consideration for making life easier on those who use the mouse and keyboard as opposed to touch-first interfaces of tablets.

Windows 8 saw polarized acceptance when it was released. It’s dual-personality confused and angered a lot of users, bloggers and the Technorati. Personally, despite not finding much use or purpose for the interface formerly known as Metro, I enjoyed the OS from the start. I was part of the public beta after all.

I wasn’t bothered at all with the lack of a start button. I never felt the jarring feeling a lot of folks complained about, having to drop in and out of the modern interface to run desktop applications. Frankly, though, I find the metro apps lacking. Not a lot of developers were on board at the start and those who were seemed to not give too much effort with their app offerings. The result is a rather less-than-satisfying experience compared to already established platforms, such as the ones found in iOS. Modern apps are slow, particularly those needing internet connectivity, and a lot are not as feature-rich as their counterparts on other platforms. For a long while, there weren’t even official apps for the major services common today.

But the desktop experience – what an improvement! I do miss the aero interface at times. The 8.1 update was a welcome improvement. It added a start button to appease the critics, but it’s no Start Menu. By now, people should realize that it’s not coming back. Or is it?

Windows8.1Update

Above screenshot is what we can expect of the update to Windows 8.1 – and more. Universal apps – cross-platform apps that work on phone, computers and yes, even the XBox One –, windowed modern apps, taskbar on both desktop and modern interface for mouse/keyboard users, and, your eyes don’t deceive you, the return of the Start Menu.

Update: Wndows 8.1 Update is now live. No windowed modern apps. No Start Menu. Looks like they’re gonna be part of another update to the Windows 8.1 Update or even Windows 9. 

There is another update announced that will come to Windows 8.1, but no new information on when and what it will contain as of now.

Windows Phone 8.1

The only reason I haven’t bought a Lumia Phone is because I cant justify Nokia’s decision to not include a card slot on their high-end phones. I wanted the 920 or 925 but crippling the storage front turned me away. I do have the Lumia 520, the cheapest Windows Phone available, from my company. And surprise, it has microSD support!

After seeing the features lined-up for Windows Phone 8.1 though, I’m contemplating getting the 32GB version of either 920/925 again. Or perhaps go with their phablets, since both the 1320 and 1520 have microSD support. The just-announced 930 looks absolutely incredible, but a) it’s not available ‘til June, and then only in Europe and b) even if it is, it will really be expensive. I can get the 920 legitimately today for about Php14,000 (~$310).

The live tiles on WP are a nice touch, but the toast notification is seriously not enough. If you missed a toast, then there’s no way to check what it was about unless you scan your apps’ tiles for updates. A central notification area where all notifications can be glimpsed upon would really simplify matters. Thankfully, this is coming, along with access to quick settings like Bluetooth, Wi-fi and Airplane Modes. All customizable of course.

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Another great feature to look forward to is the Word Flow keyboard. I suck at these touchscreen phones because of my stubby hands.

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Then we have the new ability to set a background image for tiles. Just wonderful, it can’t get any more personal than that! The update will also allow for up to three columns of medium-sized tiles.

Tiles

The new OS debuts Cortana, a digital assistant similar to Apple’s Siri, but does a lot more. Although, it will be available for US-based users upon launch only. Microsoft is also making it clear that they’re releasing Cortana as a beta.

Of course, there’s a lot more features coming our way. Look here and here for a definitive list.

The world’s most personal smartphone sounds right!

Windows 8 Annoyances

Posted: December 9, 2012 in Blurbs, Technoloy
Tags: , ,

I’ve been using Windows 8 since the public test versions, and I like it. I don’t get the issue other people have with the Metro modern UI – I find it a nice change actually. I liked it enough that I’ve upgraded my laptop’s OS the day Windows 8 officially got released.

That said, I do have a few complaints. Some minor, others, well, just see for yourself.

First thing is I miss the aero glass of Vista and 7. While I understand the idea of a chrome-less simplistic interface, the aero glass feature is something I quite grew fond of. I find these flat opaque windows boring.

On the browser sider, IE10 has gotten better, especially when you compare it to older versions. It’s responsive and niceties that Microsoft added (finally!) such as the ability to remember your session elevated it to be my primary desktop browser. What I don’t like, however, is it tends to have amnesia, particularly when I use the Metro version.

There are two versions of IE in Windows 8, one is for the modern UI, the other for the classic desktop. My issue is that whenever I launch the modern version, and then drop back down to the classic desktop, when I launch IE, it loses all of the pages I had left open on my last visit. It’s annoying as hell!

I have two user accounts set up on this laptop. One is the primary, Live-linked account. The second one is purely local.

Being that these are separate accounts, I expected they’d use separate sets of applications and data, exclusive to the current account logged in. But not IE, apparently. I was logged in my primary account and decided to switch to my local account. I fired up IE and opened Outlook.com. Lo and behold, my session from the other account appears and is loaded. I thought at first that I might have saved my login information from a previous session so I logged out of there, and logged back in using another Live account. I closed the browser without logging out when I was done. Then, realizing I still needed to check something online, I opened IE again. IE has managed to keep its head so my previous sessions were reloaded automatically (note that this behavior needs to be set explicitly in the Options).  Or so I thought until I got to the Outlook tab. Instead of the account I used last time, the page opened with my other account. Puzzled, I cleared everything – history, cache, cookies, and restarted IE. When I surfed to Outlook.com, still my other account came up, all without me entering the username and password.

So I unpinned IE, and now using Firefox exclusively on that one account. I added a third, Live-linked account but I didn’t observe the problem.

Social apps are still missing from the Microsoft store. No official Facebook or Twitter apps, and those free third-party ones, are not really up to par. I’ve been using Tweetro, but recent changes in the API forced it to go as a paid app. I’m not shelling out $9.99 for this.

At least there is a Music and a Video app already available on the stock install of Windows 8. Both are for the modern UI. These are library-aware, whatever media you link to your library will appear on these two apps.

Inside the Music app, you’ll be greeted by the XBox Music brand, with your collection taking the leftmost side. I’ve played a song or two before, but last night I left it playing before going to bed. It stopped and I didn’t bother to check ‘til this morning. When I finally did, I saw a message to the effect of it asking if I’d been travelling and then, helpfully, asked me to register for a music pass to continue playback. Get that? I have to get a premium service to continue playing songs I have on my computer? What the hell is wrong with you, Microsoft?

Then there is this weird and confusing, not to mention disconcerting, message that suggests my Windows OS is not activated! I’ve come across this when setting the lock screen using images I have saved on my local drives. I fully expected that such a mundane task as setting a wallpaper will go along without a hitch. But no, even this simplest of tasks is riddled with hurdles the likes of which pirate people will likely scoff at.

LockScreen

LockScreen2

I need to what now?

This last message had me rushing to check on my PC activation status. As can be seen here, my Windows is genuinely legit, so why am I being harassed by this message? It doesn’t make sense.

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Oh, Windows 8, sometimes you make it hard for me to really like  you!

This may sound like an advertisement.

If you’re looking to upgrade your OS (Windows from XP beyond), and your machine still is newish or you think you may still get some years off it, then take a look at the new Windows 8.

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If you have a valid license from a previous Desktop PC or laptop, be it XP, Vista or 7, then you are eligible to a special upgrade price of $39.99. And that’s the Pro Edition.

You can add Windows Media Center for free, too.

But do a little research before you jump the gun. If this is the first time you’ve heard of Windows 8, better read about the change in the interface. Be aware for example, that the Start Menu has been removed, that you boot up to the Start Screen with live tiles representing your installed apps, and that you have to click on the Desktop tile (or use shortcut keys) to get to the familiar Windows-7-like desktop. This can be disconcerting, but as a user of the Public Preview of the OS, my advice is to just take a few moments to get used to the interface. Once you get past the initial shock, you may end up liking this new way of doing things in your desktop after all.

If you’ve done your due diligence and would like to get your hands on the new OS, go to http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/buy and take advantage of the cheap promotional price. The offer stands until January 31, 2013.

Now if you are a Windows Media Center fan, the bad news is that Microsoft has unbundled it from the OS. WMC is now available as a paid-for feature. The good news is, it’s free for Windows 8! Go to http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/feature-packs to download. Like the Windows 8 promo, WMC is also offered for free until January 31 next year.

Windows 8 went live midnight of October 26, with events all around the world to kick-off the launch. If you’re in the Philippines, go visit the Cyberzone at SM North EDSA to check out what they have in store.

As for this blogger, I’m now officially running Windows 8 Pro with Media Center!

Windows8

If you’re curious about my computer’s name, it’s a reference to Apple CEO Tim Cook comparing the Microsoft Surface (the tablet pitted against iPads) to a flying car.

Tim Cook: “I suppose you could design a car that flies and floats, but don’t think it would do any of those things well.

In 1996, I took a summer class that offered a crash course on MS-DOS. Would you believe? Back then a single floppy disk – the large, and floppy, 5-1/4” as well as its more robust cousin, the 3-1/2” variant – can hold a game, a word-processing program, a simple graphics program for creating cards and banners and still has room to spare. All with a little more than a megabyte of capacity!

Technology has come a long way from those simple (and very expensive) days. MS-DOS evolved into Windows. You know, that operating system that most everyone uses, and every self-professed tech pundit love to hate?

On some – or maybe a lot of, I don’t keep count – occasions the criticism is very much deserved. Windows ME, Vista, anyone? But for all the evils the modern world likes to paint on its creator, Microsoft, I would argue that Windows helped the world a lot more than those guys ditching it would admit. BSODs aside, without it, personal computing might not have gone as popular as it had in the past couple decades.

Sure, Microsoft has been evil, and has paid a hefty sum for its questionable past actions. And up until recently, you can’t even use Microsoft and innovation in the same sentence without eliciting mocking laughter from people.

After the Vista debacle, everyone and their mother had only contempt for Microsoft. The OS, like its predecessor, Windows XP, was riddled with problems at first. The difference is, Microsoft promised a lot on Vista’s launch, but delivered so little. The OS improved over time with Service Packs, but it was too late. The brand has already been badly tarnished, and no amount of reason can persuade the public to change its negative opinion of the derided OS.

Then Apple got popular. The underdog found fangs, and was shameless to use its new-found power. The new Goliath earned itself a staunch (and sometimes rabid) following. Reality Distortion Field was invented, and even more blind sheep got snared by the glow. Apple has since become a powerhouse.

On the other side, where the open source failed in penetrating the desktop market, it managed to claw its way up to the emerging mobile computing market through Google’s Android operating system. Slow and steady. Today, even Apple is threatened by the newest player, even stooping to a level so embarrassingly low trying to stifle the competition through frivolous lawsuits.

Sadly, during all this, Microsoft was still very slow to move.

Only when Windows 7 came out did I again believe that Microsoft isn’t yet out of the game.

And now, that belief is further reinforced with a string of their recent announcements.

538197_10150912718999285_385494878_nOn Monday, two models of the new Surface tablets, designed by no other than Microsoft itself, impressed a lot of people. The devices were visually appealing, and it’s apparent that a lot of thought went through them this time. They’re no iPad copy-cats. And while one is arguably a direct iPad competitor, the other is a fully functional personal computer. Anything you can do on the Desktop, theoretically you can do on that tablet. Oh, and those keyboards that double as covers, pure genius. As Apple likes to say, magical!

Then, Windows Phone 8 was announced. On the same week.

While WP8 is bad news for existing Windows Phone owners, still, it’s a giant leap ahead. I, for one, am looking forward to the time new phones sporting this latest OS come out.

With these latest development, maybe, just maybe, people will learn to forgive Microsoft. I’m hoping this will keep them back on track. I’d hate for a future with Apple dominating the world.