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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.