My Review of Windows 10

Leave a comment

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Odds and Ends

Leave a comment

This week I am going to be doing short little bursts of different topics.  Consider these to be updates to past postings.

 

In my “Enough About Me, Let’s Talk About Me” post, I discussed the former high school classmate that wanted to be part of the graduation ceremonies.  Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your outlook), this person was allowed to participate with others at the graduation.  While the person didn’t march, they were allowed to sit on stage with the superintendent and principal, making it seem that they got special treatment.  I believe that the superintendent caved into the pressure of the outpouring of support for them.  I don’t believe that this person should ever have been special treatment especially given that people who graduate with a GED in the past have never been part of the real high school graduates.  Shame on the superintendent and shame on my fellow classmates for allowing this thing to happen, I really expected better from everyone.

 

In my “Good to Be Dead” post, I discussed that the site logmein.com was no longer had a free version.  Well, after doing much checking and research I decided to go with the program TeamViewer.  Honestly, I found that this program installed fairly easy on both my Windows 7 and XP machines.  After telling each installation about the other machine, I was up and running in a matter of minutes.  Best thing of all, unlike my previous program, I was not disconnected as I had been in a matter of inactivity.  Everything was smooth and I am very happy with my new program.  Note, however, that this program is free only for non-commercial use like as I am doing.  I highly recommend this program.

 

In my “Time Warner Cable Kicks Standard Definition to the Curb?” post, I discussed that TWC had changed many of their channels to the HD format on their low numbers.  I also mentioned that I did not have AutoHD enabled.  Well, apparently TWC had decided to kill and remove the AutoHD feature once and for all.  When they changed over to the new program lineup, the AutoHD option was no longer needed or required.  However, the problems still remain with their HD channels and a new one has cropped up.  When some channels are set up for recording that has both a channel below 100 and one above 100, sometimes it shows up as recording on 2 different channels even though only one recording was ever set up.  This is usually only noticed when setting up a second (or third, so the DVR box thinks) at the same time.  Hopefully, TWC will fix this bug soon as it is yet another annoying bug.

 

Just a reminder, comments are always appreciated and certainly liking any of my posts are always appreciated as well.  I hope that this update closes some of my past posts, yet may open myself up to future updates on this posting.

 

 

The Windows E-XP-losion

Leave a comment

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giveaway of the Day

Leave a comment

Everybody loves FREE.

 

What if somebody said that you get a new software program every day for FREE?

 

You might jump on that idea, right?

 

However, you may want to reconsider that idea if you belong to the site “Giveaway of the Day (link here).

 

While this site does offer a few decent programs (emphasis on few), the majority of the programs could be considered either junk or just simply crap.  All of the programs are utility type programs (sorry no games here) that range from disc defraggers to uninstallers to video players.  This is what the bulk of programs are in their daily selection.

 

Some of the programs are gems as I have downloaded a few and use them many times.  However, there are some things to keep in mind before downloading any programs from this site along with things to avoid:

  • AVOID crippleware.  These are programs that stop working after 6 months or a year and give no warning that it does until it is too late.  It is bad to get attached to using a program only to find out that it no longer works.
  • AVOID programs from foreign countries.  While “Made in the USA” might be great, many of these programs come from foreign lands and could possibly contain spyware or worse unknown viruses.
  • Read user comments carefully.  Many times they will offer alternatives that are better than what is offered and be 100% free with no strings attached.
  • Only install a program if you REALLY need that kind of program.  While having 50 defraggers may be nice, you don’t really need that many nor should you have that many.
  • AVOID blocked websites.  Trust your antivirus program if it blocks the home page of the program’s creator.  This could be sure sign of trouble.
  • Check system requirements.

 

I recommend this website, but only if proper care is taken.  Consider downloading a program if and only if you have an absolute need for it and not just because you want a new toy as it could cause trouble with other installed programs.

 

I am nor giving a rating to this site as the product changes daily, but everything on this site well organized enough to make an educated decision as to whether to download a program or not.

 

Happy downloading!

Skype Thrashes and Crashes; TWC DVR problems

Leave a comment

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

2 Comments

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.

 

 

My New Tax Prep Choice – TaxAct

Leave a comment

Over the years, my choice for tax preparation software has always been H&R Block tax program.  I never used TurboTax since it has been reported in the past to having spyware within it.  However, this year I decided to try something new or at least new to me.  Let’s welcome TaxAct to the corral.

I was intrigued by the fact that this program cost under $25, where the others are $40 or more.  To add more to my interest was that the program also allowed for one Free State e-file.  This was the selling point to me since all I needed was just one state filing only anyway.  So let’s take a look at the product.

When opening the box, inside you will find the disc and an actual instruction manual.  Not just an installation card, but a manual to tell you how to install, print and other basic functions.  This is certainly a welcome change from the past products that send you on your own after install.

Installing the product on Windows XP machine was quick and downloading the required product update was just as fast.  After about 15 minutes, I was up and running.  The program ran pretty much like the H&R Block program that I had been used to and the whole tax process took about an hour including the state.  Help was well written and in English unlike many others that are written with a CPA knowledge in mind.

The only problem I had was when I went to e-file the state and it didn’t like the previous year information for the federal taxes.  After getting the proper information that the program needed, both the federal and state e-files went smoothly, but could have been avoided if I was notified for the federal before I even tried to submit the state.  Unfortunately, the program submits both at the same time and results aren’t known until everything is done.

My only gripe with the program (and it is a fairly big one) is that the program is paranoid of itself and displays a constant copyright notice in the bottom of the display.  Out of all the thousands of programs I have run over the years this is the first one I have ever seen that does anything like that.  For that reason I am dropping my score by 1 point just for this annoyance.

Overall, my experience with the program was better than I expected.  It was quick and didn’t crash at any point as I have seen with previous products that I have used.  It is cheap and works well.  I highly recommend this program.

My score:  8

 

Pros:

  • Good manual with detailed instructions
  • Fast install
  • Free state e-file included
  • Help is in English not tax talk

Cons:

  • State program required to be downloaded a second time after first install didn’t seem to work.  Ok with second attempt.
  • Annoying copyright notice occupies the bottom of screen taking up precious screen space.  One point was deducted from my score because of this annoyance.

Summary:

This is a highly capable program for both seasoned users and beginners.  Don’t be fooled by the cheap price as this program is as good as the competition, if not better.  This is certainly goes to the top of my preferred tax software list.

Older Entries