Broken Windows — March 2016

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Writer’s note:  I had planned on writing a different blog post this week on why I didn’t go to the Maine caucus a couple of weeks ago, however I feel this blog post is more fitting for my current situation along with many other people as well.  I plan on writing the intended blog post in the very near future, when my computer is much more stable.

 

As a member of the Windows Insider club, I put myself and my main computer on the line for the fast ring of Windows 10 updates.  Up until the most recent update, everything has been fairly smooth as far as functionality is concerned.

 

For those who don’t know what I am talking about, let me briefly explain.  Fast ring updates are pushes by Microsoft to release beta (or in their own imprint at the bottom of the screen “Evaluation Copy”) of new versions of Windows 10.  Comparatively, slow rings are more stable versions of the operating system, but still may have some bugs.

 

Everything was fairly well and good with my computer until last week when I installed Build 14279 of Windows 10.  Since installation I have had nothing but trouble.  Honestly I felt I have not seen so many problems since Windows ME many years ago.  Back then, you prayed that the computer would not crash while using it, but usually happened at least once per day.

 

Well, I have experienced just one huge crash yesterday when I received the blue screen of death with a “Memory Management” error.  I had thought given that I saw a funky frowning face with a countdown timer that my computer had somehow been infected by one of those horrible viruses.  Microsoft really needs to change their blue screen of death to look less like a virus and more like the old dark blue screens from older Windows versions.

 

Besides the awesome crash that I have experienced, here are some of the other problems that I have noticed.  This is not an exhaustive list just what I have experienced firsthand:

 

  • Unable to sign into Xbox live. Makes playing games like solitaire impossible.
  • Live tiles not working. Most of these tiles when you hit the start key are not flipping or updating to anything at all, in fact one of them is missing.
  • Web pages not loading in Chrome. While Firefox really don’t have this problem, it is like Microsoft is showing its hate to Google by impairing its browser.  I don’t use either Internet Explorer or Edge because these are really not good and I have never recommended them.
  • The Weather Channel application does not work at all. Up until this build, this program seemed to work fairly well, but now just refuses to work.
  • Microsoft Store does not update programs correctly. Some updates in this program want to update over and over again.
  • Notification icon does not update when new mail is received.

 

If you don’t have this build, I don’t recommend it.  If you do, let’s pray that the next update fixes some of the above mentioned problems.

 

Ironically, Microsoft had sent a feedback survey shortly before I started writing this that asked if its users like me had experienced lockups or crashes with this build of Windows.  Sadly when I clicked on the link, it crashed before I got to answer the survey.  I guess they will never get my opinion unless of course someone reads this blog.

 

I can now congratulate myself that I got through this post without having Windows crashing today.  Will I be so lucky next time?

 

 

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My Review of Windows 10

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This week’s post is all about my experiences with the Windows 10 operating system.

 

After a friend told me that I could create a disc and install the operating system that way, I decided to take the plunge.

 

First let me say that I was using Windows 7 Home Edition and I was rather happy with it, but knew at some point soon that this would become yet another unsupported operating system joining my Windows XP machine.

 

First let me say that Win 10 is a work in progress.  It is by no means perfect and does have bugs.  Some more of an annoyance, some could probably be avoided.

 

I have yet to see any blue screen of death scenarios yet as this is a good sign that the OS is somewhat bulletproof.  That pretty much ended a few operating systems ago and hopefully won’t come back again.

 

However, this OS does yearn back to another Windows version well hated and that was Windows ME.  As that operating system seemed like a beta product, so does Windows 10 in some regards as I will explain in a bit.

 

Installation

 

When I first put in my newly created installation disc in the cd drive, it churned for a couple of minutes before it loaded and was given the option to install the new OS.

 

After I decided to continue with the installation, a little graphic kept spinning for about 20 minutes while checking my system for any potential problems that would happen with the upgrade.

 

When the churning was finished, the installer only saw that the only program that would be uninstalled would be the “Media Center” program.  Now to many people, losing this program would be no big deal, but because I have a USB TV card that I use on occasion, I felt that losing this program may be a huge loss.  However, I researched and found that there were plenty of alternative programs out there that are “better” than what the Media Center program was.

 

So I decided to continue and let the installation go on and uninstall this program.

 

Now the real fun began.  The churning of the installation watching slowly as a circle slowly grew with each percentage completed and the computer rebooting a couple different times during the installation.

 

Time passed…and more time passed.

 

Minutes turned hours and the installation was still churning slowly for a total of a mind-blowing 4 ½ hours when the installation finally completed.  I have never seen any installation take so long and was wondering why this seemed to take forever and then some.

 

However, I would soon find out what really happened behind the curtain.

 

The First Time

 

When this program started up for the first time, it asked me to input a 4 digit PIN.  As far as Windows is concerned, this is your new password.  While this seems better, it opens it up to being much easier hacked than a lengthy alphanumeric password.  However, maybe simplicity is where they are heading to.

 

The desktop at startup looked pretty much the same as the same wallpaper and icons existed as before the update.  However, the taskbar included new icons for a new desktop flipper, Microsoft Edge (the new slim browser – sorry no add-ons allowed with it), and an icon for the Microsoft store.

 

The most notable icon on the right side of the taskbar is the “Action Center” icon.  When some notification is presented, this icon lights up and just gets annoying until the icon is pressed and cleared out.

 

I will say that the startup process was cut in half with this operating system.  However, my security software was uninstalled during the installation.  Apparently, it was not compatible with the new OS.  I do feel that the installer should have warned me ahead of time if it was going to uninstall this vital software before continuing and give me the opportunity to not to install the OS.

 

It is no wonder why this upgrade took so long as it was uninstalling incompatible software, but I still think that warnings would still have been appreciated.

 

Overall, the experience with the new OS has been pretty smooth.  Both Chrome and Firefox load faster and my internet connection seem a little perkier.

 

This doesn’t mean that all was completely flawless.  When I went to install Microsoft Bingo, at one point of its installation it stated that it was at “Step 40 of 9”.  Certainly while this laughable, bugs like this could have been avoided with a little better programming.  This really makes the OS look more like a beta product than a finished product.

 

Sound familiar?  To me this sounds like the way Windows ME performed as it acted more like a beta than a finished product.

 

This is why I am part of the Windows Insider group.  This group allows me to get sent to my computer the latest builds of the OS as they become available.  However, this process is not without its problems.  I see in my list of available updates, the latest build however it has yet to be installed for about the last 2 weeks.  The way they deliver updates now is similar to how the file sharing services worked of years gone by.  You got files delivered in pieces hoping that eventually you got the whole file.  Hopefully, Microsoft will realize how dumb this idea was and change it back to how updates were previously delivered.

 

Finally, the start menu is back for those who had Windows 8.  It sort of looks like the child of the old Win 7 start menu and the Win 8 start screen.  I find it too busy constantly flipping tiles and for the most part I just ignore it.

 

I have also found a couple of my games don’t work anymore even though they were not uninstalled by the OS installation process.  I expect that a future OS patch may make them work again.

 

Conclusion

 

If you have Windows 8/8.1, I recommend upgrading now.  If you have Windows 7 like I did, the picture is a little cloudier, but I decided to take the plunge as I saw this as the future and that at some point it will be required no matter what.  If you are hesitant on this update, you have roughly a little less than a year to get this update free.  Since this is the “last update” according to Microsoft, this is basically a no-brainer.  If you own any other older operating system and your computer is capable of running Win 10, then I would get this version from your local retailer as soon as possible.  I don’t expect that this product will remain on shelves for a long time or go on sale because it is available online.

 

Overall, I am fairly happy with Windows 10. It does have bugs and quirks, but it certainly better than Windows ME was years ago.

 

My Grade:

 

Installation:  3 (Depending on what software you have installed, it could be faster than the 4 ½ hours it took on my computer. Just don’t expect to be forewarned of everything it decides to uninstall on its own.)

 

User Experience:  7 (Not perfect, but work in progress.  I expect it to improve with time.)

 

Windows Update:  4 (Seriously, this is NOT Napster.  Don’t make us get our updates like it is.)

 

Overall:  6 (Yes, it has its problems.  However, so hasn’t all the Microsoft OSs?  I expect frequent updates to fix problems, if you can get the updates.)

 

This OS may not be a 10, but when is Windows 11 coming out?  Or will that be called 12?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Updates — One Now and One Coming Soon?

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This week’s post is about two very different updates to 2 devices, one of the updates should be available to everyone, the other limited to a slow rollout.

 

First up is the Microsoft Windows 10 update.

 

This upgrade is supposed to be “free” to everyone with Windows 7/8.  This is a wonderful idea at least in concept.  As I and possibly many others have done, they clicked the Windows 10 icon in the system area and set up a reservation awaiting their shiny new operating system.

 

The problem is that now a week later, I have reserved the update twice and have yet to see any indication that the update is coming anytime soon.  As Microsoft states on their website, the update could be coming in the “coming days or weeks”.  Who really wants to wait weeks while everyone else is joining the party now?  Rumors are that nearly 14 million machines have already been updated with the new software.

 

As a person who was part of their “Insider” program, I should have been amongst the first to receive the update, but it seemed that I just wasn’t on their list of people at the head of the line.

 

So my frustration had been building and I went and checked out another page on Microsoft’s website.  On that page, it said that I could upgrade now with their “media tool”, which effectively made a DVD version of the software that I could install on multiple machines if wanted.  I actually prefer this idea more so that way I have a hard copy in case something goes wrong and I wish to revert back to Windows 7.  It is nice that Microsoft is giving its customers a year to decide on the free upgrade as I have heard of some problems with the update.  My plan is to update tomorrow to the new OS and I hope all goes well with it.  I will report back in a future post with my thoughts on this new toy.

 

The other update I am waiting for is for my android phone.

 

When I bought my phone last year, it updated from version 4.3 to 4.4.4 immediately after setting up the phone.  However, the phone did have some problems with the update and showed the picture of a “dead android” guy, when I updated.  This was scary but resolved after the phone downloaded the update a second time and seemed to repair itself of its own problems.

 

So now since last November, we have seen the latest version lollipop 5 released.  There are a few different releases out there and depending on carrier and phone would determine which version update that phone would receive.

 

While most carriers throughout the world have received the version 5 update, U.S. carriers have been rather slow at rolling out the update.  Mind you, if you buy a shiny new phone, chances are it may have version 5 already on it, but older phones such as mine are still waiting for the update.

 

In the meantime, Android version M has already been announced for a release this fall.  I highly doubt that my phone will ever receive this update as it has yet to receive the current version.  I would rather wait now for M then have version 5 given the length of time it has been already.

 

I expect any update which should have happened at the end of July may not happen until as late as September given the current release pace.  I will let you know if and when I receive my long yearned for update.

 

Overall, it seems that updates should not be difficult.  When an update is available, it should be available to all not just a select few or even worse everyone but me.

 

Stay tuned for updates.

The Windows E-XP-losion

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Writer’s Note:  This week’s writing is being put into all my blogs as I feel it is important enough to be posted for all to read.  Hopefully, you all agree with that.

 

We all survived the Y2K problem or so we hoped.

 

However, next week on April 8th, a new threat is going to happen.

 

The threat is the end of support for Windows XP.

 

Now some of you are probably thinking that you haven’t used this operating system for years, but many of the things that we come in contact with everyday does.

 

If you go to your favorite store, chances are that their register system uses some form of it.

 

If you use an ATM, it probably has it as well.

 

If you go to a doctor, he/she probably uses it to keep track of your medical records or look up other information.

 

In other words, at some point, you will come in contact with a machine running WinXP.

 

So why is all this important?

 

The hackers are lining up to attack these systems because Microsoft is no longer releasing monthly security patches to this operating system.  Nobody is safe.

 

Let me repeat that:  NOBODY IS SAFE!

 

Of course, Microsoft offers solutions to the problem.  You can upgrade your system to either Windows 7 or 8.  That is if your system can handle it.

 

Case in point:  I have a Windows XP machine that I use all the time which is hooked up to my network.  However, my machine doesn’t anywhere near meet the system requirements of either Win 7 or 8.  Of course, I have no intention on dumping my perfectly good machine just because Microsoft is ending its love for it.

 

Another alternative I have read is to install a form of Linux on the machine.  If I don’t want any of my existing software to work again, this is a great suggestion.  I would do this as much as I would perform open heart surgery on myself.

 

Finally, one could go out and buy themselves a new computer.  This is almost as bad the previous suggestion as many older programs would not work under the new operating systems.  I know this for a fact as I try to use some of my older programs on Win7 machine.  No gratification for the amount of frustration, it is to port an older program to a newer OS.

 

So what about everyone else doing one of the things listed above to save themselves and others?

 

I don’t expect it to happen as any of these options would take years to implement.  Yes, I said “years” as upgrading is not an option in most cases.

 

The biggest threat in all this is the protection of personal information.  Any information that you give to anybody and they input into a computer is not safe whatsoever.

 

I know from firsthand experience that companies store your private information together.  In other words, if you write a check at your local store and give them a driver’s license for it, the information about your check and driver’s license are stored on the store’s computers together.  This is the perfect way of storage for a hacker to grab your identity.

 

As a victim of identity theft myself, I can attest to the fact that a company can and will let any information about you become freely available if they want.

 

And many of these companies will comply to hackers because they use outdated operating systems and unsecure connections.

 

So how can one save themselves from this nightmare?

 

Most importantly is to question why identification is needed for any reason like a return or a purchase.  I recommend refusing giving this information out because most of the time it is not needed.  If a person is determined for identification, ask them the following questions:

  • How long is my information stored?  Honestly, the answer should be “not at all”, but they would be lying if they said otherwise.
  • Is my information encrypted?  Again, they will lie and tell you it is, when most information is hardly ever encrypted.
  • What information do you take from me?  If they can’t detail what they take, just say no.

 

Overall, the end of Windows XP is less than a week away and nobody is safe.

 

Nobody at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Halloweenie From Microsoft

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Recently Microsoft released a new beta version of Internet Explorer for Windows 7.  This new version is version 11 and during this Halloween week, it is the perfect time to review it.

 

After previously installing and uninstalling version 10 because it didn’t work with sites like Facebook. I decided to see if 11 would be better.

 

This would be mistake # 1.  There is no official webpage for it except for a download page to announce it as “preview release candidate”.  Unfortunately, this candidate should get the boot.

 

Installing this update seemed to take forever as the little wait symbol churned for about 15 minutes while it installed itself after the initial reboot.  After I gained control back of my machine, I launched the browser only to find out that the same problems that existed with 10 still existed with 11.

 

I decided to launch Windows Update to see if this program had a patch and low and behold, it had a cumulative patch.  Of course, this patch REALLY should have been installed at the initial installation and not be an afterthought.

 

After installing this update and waiting for what seemed to be yet another eternity, I launched the browser only to crash without even loading a single page.  Then I tried it again.  Same result.  Then I tried it a third time and it happened yet again.

 

So once again, I uninstalled another useless web browser from Microsoft.  However, this time when I went back to my working version 9, it too failed and crashed by refusing to load some pages properly.

 

So then I decided to uninstall version 9 and revert back to the last functioning version 8.  It seems to handle all the websites pretty well without crashing despite being significantly slower than either Firefox or Google Chrome.

 

I do NOT recommend anybody download Internet Explorer 11 preview version at all.  It is not ready for prime time or any time for that matter.  I think I will stick with version 8 for a while.

 

My score:  0

 

Summary:  Microsoft’s latest attempt at a browser fails with not loading at all and crashing continuously.  Don’t even bother trying this one unless you like installing and uninstalling useless software.

 

Skype Thrashes and Crashes; TWC DVR problems

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Last week I discussed my hatred to Skype.  Apparently the program has ears.  On both of my test computers, Skype crashes regularly.

No, make that daily and it is not a simple crash.  It is reminiscent of the kind of full system crashes that I haven’t seen since Windows ME.

The crashes involve stealing all the system resources and taking every other program with it that you may want to run after the crash.  Closing the program before a crash doesn’t help as apparently it still doesn’t want to free its resources leading to problems.  I haven’t seen this much misbehaving programs since back in the day of the old terminate-and-stay resident (TSRs) of the DOS era.  But then again, this is now a Microsoft program anyway.  This program needs to be replaced back to the old Messenger program ASAP.

 

On a separate unrelated issue, a month ago Time Warner Cable upgraded their DVRs to version 6.  At the time, I gave the upgrade a 7, however, in the past few days, problems have been rampant.  Among the problems are:

  • Recording starts on shows recorded days earlier.  I have had as many as 3 shows (?) recording at once from totally different times of day.  Two from mid-afternoon and one from early evening all going at the same time.  Every time I stop the recordings, minutes later the recordings start again and keep doing this cycle.
  • Inability to receive some channels without rebooting the box.
  • Partial recordings starting halfway through or ending at the halfway point.
  • Constant breaking up of picture on some channels.

Overall, TWC needs to fix these issues and send out a fix ASAP.  We can’t wait 6 months or so for the next upgrade cycle.  These need to be fixed now.

 

So here we have 2 of the country’s largest companies with faulty software sent out to the masses and then failing.  Does anybody do quality control testing anymore?  It doesn’t seem that way at all.

 

 

Microsoft’s Latest 2 Mistakes

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Imagine going into your local hardware store.  You want to buy a new hammer and the salesclerk tells you that the hammer has a lifetime warranty.  All you need is just bring it back for an exchange if anything ever happens to it.  Simple, right?  Not if Microsoft ran the store.

The first product that Microsoft gives to you for your broken hammer is a wooden pencil.  Their claim is that they are both made of wood, but the store no longer carries hammers so they can’t give you a new one.  Unfortunately, you are forced to take the pencil in exchange and try using it like a hammer with very little success. 

Welcome to the disappearance of the long-lasting Windows/MSN Messenger.  Last week, Microsoft forced everybody running their Messenger program to suck up to their inferior product of Skype.  Unfortunately, Skype is NO Messenger.  Here is a list of items missing that I use that SHOULD HAVE BEEN IN Skype:

  • Hotmail email notification. 
  • MSN Today (their newsfeed in a startup area)
  • Microsoft group contacts — these just disappeared with no way of recovering these connections/people.
  • Connections to multiple services – only Messenger and Facebook are accepted, forget all the others.

I really wonder why Microsoft released this product to the masses with so many missing features.  Apparently I am not alone with these missing features as many people have commented on Microsoft’s forums on these omissions.  Their response is that they may show up in a future release.  For now I am stuck with an unusable program with no features I can use.

 

The second product that Microsoft can give you for your broken hammer is a giant inflatable hammer.  Their claim is that it is a hammer despite not being made of wood.  Good luck on using nails with that.  This is exactly the way Microsoft upgraded customers from Hotmail to the lamer and ad-ridden Outlook.  Previously I called it “promising” now I call it “cluttered with ads”.  Don’t get too close to the edge of the screen otherwise ads will pop up and invade screen space.  As far as speed is concerned, it is a little faster than Hotmail, but the ads definitely are a turnoff.  Of course I could spend $20/year to have these ads eliminated, but who wants to give Microsoft more money?

Neither of these products are great and unfortunately both are forced on customers whether they like it or not.  Both needs a lot of work to make them workable and being a useful hammer.

 

My score: 

  • Skype:  2  (Not recommended but forced upon those who used MSN/Windows Messenger)
  • Outlook.com:  3 (A drop from my previous beta grade because of the irritating ads that take precious screen space.)

In conclusion:  Maybe someday Microsoft will give us a REAL hammer for the wooden ones we lost recently.

 

 

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