The Last Post of 2016

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To say that this year was not a tough year, would be an understatement.  

At least, for me, it probably was the worst year I ever had or close to it.

Everything seemed to be going smoothly for the first half of the year, then it seemed everything went wrong.

First, my computer became the victim of a bad Windows 10 update, which made me having to start from scratch.

After I got that pretty much solved, I became technically blind in my left eye and not much better in my right.

The healing process has been long and hard, but hopefully in January, it will be pretty much over.

Beyond those issues, 2016 also saw a number of longtime friends decide to become former friends for reasons unknown to me.  However, with one of those friends, I know it was them just being a jerk for not accepting my opinion on a political topic.

It seems that anger dominated the political process this year as it was less about who you voted for rather who you voted against.  I found myself a couple of times showing anger against some of the candidates even going as far as writing emails to my own party criticizing their choice of candidate.  Ironically, the more times that I responded to their email donation unsubscribe list, the more of them I received.  Eventually, it appeared that they blocked my email address as I noticed that my later emails bounced back to me despite that I was still receiving contribution emails from them.

In the end neither candidate deserved to win as we now see that the swamp that should be drained is now being loaded with billionaire alligators.  So much for supporting the little guy.

I suspect that the next 4 years will be great for the rich while the dwindling middle class continues to suffer.  I don’t expect to see my own situation to improve over the next year as my health still seems to waining somewhat.

This brings me to the ongoing continuation of this blog.  I plan on alternating writing for this blog and my newly renamed “Retail Land” on alternating weeks.

At least that is my plan for now, however there may be times when one blog may go for a couple of weeks without a post.  The reason for that is that sometimes I just don’t have a good topic for that blog for that week.  Hopefully, that does not happen often and that I remain healthy enough to write for both blogs.

For now, I am using the WordPress mobile app to write my blogs and it seems to get better all the time.  I recommend this app for those who want to do mobile blogging.

Finally, I want to briefly discuss this holiday season.  As some of you may know, I don’t really celebrate this time of year nor do I say any holiday greetings to anyone.  I started doing that many years ago as I felt that it was inappropriate to do so.  

This year it seems that people are more ignorant and rude more than ever in public.  Add to this that many sales associates are uncooperative and it leads to a very unhappy holiday season and many angry people.  Combine this with the ongoing political anger and nobody seems happy anymore.

Overall, I feel that 2017 will become another so-so year as much of the anger will last for several months.

Now what is ahead for the new year.

First up is my annual crystal ball look back and forward.  I will then go into highlighting my Florida trip from last year.  Along the way, I also expect to see a major upgrade to the Spectrum (former Time Warner Cable) system.  I will report on that when it becomes available in my area.  Some areas may already have it so maybe it might be more refined by the time I get it.  As far as any other topic goes, that will be a surprise.  As always, things can change as events warrant.

For now, this is all I have.  It you wish to contact me, you can do so through Facebook, Twitter, or email.  I will usually respond within a few hours.

Until then, I will return in January.

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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?

 

 

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.

Time Warner’s Version of Windows ME

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Remember Windows ME?

 

Remember how it looked so pretty, but usually ended with the famous blue screen at least once a day?

 

Well, relive all that fun now with Time Warner Cable’s latest navigator update to version 7 (7.2.0.5 actually).

 

Last week over a 2 night period, this massive update happened.  On night one, the update took approximately 2 hours to fully install, the first part of version 7.  The next night, a second update installed the ODN extensions, which took about 15 minutes total.

 

First the good news (to some), DVR compensation is back and still just as cryptic as ever.  As I pointed out in the past, this is a horrible feature and seeing it return is stomach churning.

 

Another good news item for some is that the guide is now available in 16×9 format with 7 channels showing at once.  Bad news is that the block showing the current running program is distorted somewhat.  Even in standard mode, the guide has a new larger font with bigger spacing between lines, which is good for aging eyes like me.

 

Now for the bad news.  When the “B” button is pressed on the remote, gone is the old search page.  In its place is a menu of 3 or 4 items depending on recent activity.  They are from top to bottom: “What’s Hot”, “Search”, “Genre”, and “In-Progress” (optional if watching something on demand).

 

“What’s Hot” shows a sort of twitter-like trending list of top shows with graphics (sometimes). “Genre” shows a list of different types of programs and clicking on one of them expands to a long list of programs fitting that genre.  I find this the least effective and dumbest feature in this update.

 

The largest change comes with the “Search” option.  Here you can search by title, cast, channel, sports (why single this out?), or all of them at once.  The block to pick the letters and numbers has shrunk considerably and is extremely hard to read especially on a small TV.  However, when selecting say a cast member and typing in part of their name and then clicking on the desired name may bring up a long list of programs.  In this list, there might be some series programs as well.  Click on the program title and you may get a long list of episodes divided up by season number.  While I have felt that this feature is long needed, it is made excessively more difficult to find when a particular person appeared on a particular episode using this new search.  The search should be limited to the particular episode and not be an exhaustive list of airings of a series for that week.  This seems to be more of a bug than a feature.

 

Speaking of bugs, here is a list of other bugs I have noticed during my week of testing:

 

  • Resolving conflicts is no longer easy.  One must go into the guide and delete unwanted conflicts or click on the shows that they don’t want to tape, then hit cancel recording.  Either way, it is more key presses than in the past.
  • Graphics in the “What’s Hot” screen and the program screen may not appear.  It seems that this is a cloud based feature which is downloaded when a graphic is available or when the box can access its server.  I find many of these graphics annoying as they appear to be mostly scans of old DVD front art.
  • Shows that you delete for not wanting to record keep reappearing day after day.  Once you say that you don’t want to tape a show for a particular time it should be gone for good not keep coming back.
  • The star rating system from movies is gone.  This feature I found to be one of the most desirable as it gave me some idea of how good or bad a film was.  This feature needs to be returned.
  • Shows marked for removal of space for new recordings don’t work when new recordings are added and space is limited.  The new recording is either not recorded or truncated.

 

Overall, there are other minor bugs that creep in once in a while, but these are the major ones.  While this is certainly a first step in being a modern system, it like Windows ME has a lot of bugs that prevent full enjoyment.  Hopefully we get another update in the near future correcting some of the above mentioned problems.

 

I am not giving this product a score because this upgrade is incomplete as far as I am concerned, but if I was to give it a grade it would be a 6.

 

 

Please note:  There will be no posting next week in celebration of Thanksgiving.  I will be back in 2 weeks with a new posting at that time.

 

 

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.

 

 

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