Windows 8

The past 5 days have been something of a saga. If you read my Stumbling Blox post on Goodreads.com, you might remember that this past weekend  was going to mark my migration from Windows 7 to Windows 8.1. I had everything mapped out, everything planned and absolutely nothing went as expected. It all began when I ran a system-wide backup late Fri. afternoon. It went as expected and I was off to a good start – or so I thought.

That evening, I made a few minor changes to my files & on Saturday morning, I decided to do another system-wide backup in order for my back-up to reflect the current state of things. I started the back-up process & went to run a couple of errands. I was back home in less than an hour and the backup was done. Not a good sign since the thing usually takes 3 hours +/-. I restarted the application and this time around it took longer – like all afternoon and into the evening. Since this was well over twice the amount of time that a full back-up takes, I decided to investigate and discovered that absolutely nothing had been backed up.  Rather than waste any more time, I decided to manually make copies of the important stuff. I finally went to bed around 1:00 AM.

The following morning, everything was ready to go and I began the migration by inserting the upgrade DVD and powering up. The installation reached the point where it asked for my product key but none of my keys worked. I decided to quit the upgrade, reboot and look in a few other places for the right key. That was the intention, anyway. I quickly discovered that the installation had changed things on my hard drive and now, I couldn’t log in. My Windows 7 installation DVD was MIA so there was nothing for it but to go to Staples & buy a fresh copy of Win 8.

Staples was out of stock so I had to go to BestBuy where I stood in a queue to check out and had the anti-theft alarm go off when I tried to leave the building. On my way home, I stopped at Jimmy John’s and ordered a ham sandwich to go. When I got home, I discovered that I’d been given the wrong order.

After lunch, things got slightly better and I was finally able to install the new operating system and began re-installing the world. 48 hours later, I had things the way I wanted them and set about getting my notes in order so I could resume writing. I’ve been assisting a small business upgrade from Win XP to new laptops, go wireless & move to a new location for the past month so Urban Mermaid has been on hiatus.

Well folks, part of my notes for the novel have vanished completely – not all of them, mind you – just some of the more recent stuff. How much is missing is unknown and I can probably reconstruct a lot of things from other sources. It’s what I don’t know is missing that worries me.

I am on the horns of a dilemma. My Dell Studio XPS  machine – which will be 4 years old in May – is suffering from applications not playing well with the Operating System. Some of this is the result of installing and un-installing a multitude of applications over the past few years and a contributing factor is having forgotten applications still hanging around long after I stopped using them. That is, of course, if I ever did use them in the first place. Even the best PC clean-up utility available will still fail to get everything. Believe me, I’ve tried a number of them over the years.

[stextbox id=”Information” float=”true” align=”right” width=”300″ mright=”10″]Nuking is a technical term used by trained professionals to describe the process of wiping the hard disk and re-installing the Operating System.[/stextbox]A PC which has been around a while can definitely benefit from nuking the system and starting over.  One of the advantages of doing this  is that you have the opportunity to inventory your software applications, determine which ones you don’t like/need/want and vow not to re-install them on the pristine copy of the OS you’ll have after you’re through. This, of course, gives you the freedom to install new software applications that  you don’t like/need/want.

I am on the cusp of wiping the slate clean and starting over and my dilemma is that of deciding which OS to install once the hard drive has been sanitised. I have my choice of installing:

  1. Windows 7 – I currently use this OS
  2. Windows 8 – I’ve got this on my test machine and have found it not to be quite as bad as anticipated
  3. Linux – I have Ubuntu dual-booting on my test machine and Mint running as a virtual machine on the Dell Studio XPS

So which one should it be? On one hand, Win7 works for me. On the other hand, I hate to get Win 7 all set-up, configured & applications  installed only to have to do it all over again in 12 to 18 months time because of Win 8.

I could just go ahead & install Win 8 since there are work-arounds for most of the major interface complaints but there are still a few “why in the hell did they do that?” items – like scroll bars -that I am somewhat loathe do deal with on a daily basis. Hopefully, someone will cobble a work-around for those.

[stextbox id=”Information” float=”true” align=”right” width=”300″ mright=”10″]Dr. Data tried this approach on his test machine and – after hours of trying to make things work the way that they ought to – wound up Nuking the system and starting from scratch.[/stextbox]Before you say “Why not save time and trouble by upgrading Win 7 to Win8 and thus avoid having to re-install the world?”, I should mention that such an upgrade also migrates the bad settings, misconfigured applications and other gunk  from Win 7 to Win 8, often with less than desirable results. So much for the ease of migration between Windows Operating Systems.

[stextbox id=”Information” float=”true” width=”150″]WINE stands for “WINE Is Not an Emulator”. [/stextbox]Finally, I could do exactly what I’ve wanted to do for many moons and make the move to Linux. The problem is that I’ve got plenty of $$$ invested in Windows applications for which there is not a Linux version. Even when there is a version of, say,  XYZ available for Linux, I would most likely have to buy the Linux version as if I was buying the software for the very first time. Linux does have WINES which allows one to run things like MS Outlook in an X environment but it does not get along well with the Windows software. It’s dollars to doughnuts that Dr. Data has a bunch of applications that fit into this category.

Where will all this end up? It’s hard to say right now but sooner or later, Win 7 on the Studio XPS is going to get to the point where Dr. Data’s hand will be forced in one direction or another.

Well, the holidaze are over and the last of the bowl games – at least the ones that really matter – have been played so it’s time for me to get back to blogging and annoying readers like you. Here are a few items concerning Windows 8 that have come across my desk over the past week .

  • Not for Old-at-Heart PCs – Walt Mossberg is a regular contributor to the Personal Technology column of the Wall Street Journal and those columns are echoed on the Dow Jones’ All Things Digital site which is, BTW, powered by WordPress. While I don’t always quite agree with what Walt has to say, his opinions are well wroth considering. In his column for Jan 8, 2013, Walt discusses the perils of upgrading to Windows 8 on not-so-new hardware. By way of example, he mentions his trials and tribulations in upgrading a 2008 Lenovo laptop and a 2009 Hewlett-Packard touchscreen desktop. To cut to the chase, Microsoft’s Windows 8 Upgrade Advisor told him that both machines were good to go when in fact, they were not. Why am I not surprised? In the case of the Lenovo, 4 years is a good run for a laptop and by this point in time, the hardware is old by PC standards. The HP has – in theory – a couple more years left in it but in both cases, the manufacturers have apparently decided not to update the various drivers to handle Windows 8. Reading Walt’s column on this subject is well worth your time.
  • Windows 8 hardware ‘overpriced’ – Microsoft, Dell, Lenovo, et al have launched a slew of new devices to take advantage of Windows 8. Market analyst, Shaw Wu, believes that growth in the PC market as a result of Windows 8 will only be 2% rather than the 7 – 9% that everyone else is predicting. The reasons include confusion because of all the different form factors that have been put on the market to take advantage of – or cope with; your choice – Windows 8, the price points for this new hardware – Microsoft’s Surface tablets are a fine example – and the fact that these new machines offer “no clear benefit in switching from iOS or Android.” ZDNet’s Adrian Kingsley-Hughes will fill you in on the details.
  • Coping with Windows 8 – Adrian has also published a post that features two down-loads that make Windows 8 work as nature intended. One is Classic Shell which Dr. Data uses on his test machine and the other is RetroUI. Classic Shell is free but does not have all the features that RetroUI offers but it still has plenty of options. RetroUI, however, is not free and costs a budget busting $4.95! Either way, these add-ons are a big help if you use Windows 8 on a desktop or laptop sans Touch. Read Adrian’s post on ZDNet.
  • Dr. Data contemplates moving to Windows 8 – Yes this is a shocker but I have reasons that will be discussed in a future post. (Talk about a teaser!!!)

I mentioned sometime last week that my Windows 8 installation DVD finally arrived. I found some time on Saturday afternoon to try & complete the installation that I had begun 1 month ago. I wasn’t expecting it to be painless but I was not expecting what I did encounter either.

To begin, I unplugged the Linux OS hard drive. I dual-boot on this machine and Windows & Linux are on separate internal hard drives.  I did a clean boot & (re)started the installation from the DVD. The process went through the initial stages until a screen popped up asking if I wanted to check online for updates. Since this was recommended to ensure a smoother installation, I clicked “Yes”. There was another question asking me if I wanted to share installation information with Microsoft. Figuring that my installation could help make things easier for someone down the line, I clicked “Yes” as well. Once I was all set, I clicked the button to proceed.

After taking what seemed forever to look for updates, the installation process suddenly threw up a screen saying that it was unable to install Windows 8 and that I needed to close out the installation and restart it. That is exactly what I did. After a clean boot, I restarted the installation and guess what? I got the same message again.

After doing this cycle for five installation attempts, I decided that I would try something different. I said “No” to looking for updates and sharing information with Microsoft. This time, I didn’t get the message and as the installation process chugged along, it . . . looked . . . like . . . it . . . was. . .  going . . . to . . . go . . . all . . .the. . . way!!! Not. The installation got as far as the spot where I was to select the background colour for the infamous Start screen. I made my selection & clicked “Next”. The installation process threw up a screen saying that the installation had failed and that it was rolling back everything to Windows 7.

Once again, I rebooted. This time, there was an automatic CHKDISK session that was apparently initiated by the rollback procedure. CHKDISK found a few things wrong with the HDD but nothing major and the repairs went smoothly. When I restarted the installation process – remembering to just say NO to updates and sharing information – it finally did go all the way.

Overall, the entire process took between 5 & 6 hours.

The moment the process was done, I downloaded and installed Classic Shell. This is a freebie which doth restoreth what Microsoft tooketh away. The interface will not win any beauty contest but at least it’s useable. Everything looks flat; no depth to icons, windows, etc. This is probably great if you’ve got a tablet but if you’ve got a desk/laptop, not so much. Like I said, it’s use-able.

The one thing that makes me want to consider moving to Window 8 on my main machine is the free app for London’s Daily Telegraph. It gives you selected stories from the most recent editions and I really like what it does and how it does it.

I have noticed a couple of problems:

  1. I am unable to type the “@” sign into any browser-based web form. I tried this with both Chrome & Internet Explorer; No Joy. I can type an “@” in something like Notepad and then do a cut & paste into the browser form but that’s going around your elbow to get to your thumb.
  2. Windows updates fail on installation. I’ve tried this 3 or 4 times but with no luck. My main machine – Windows 7 – has been doing the same thing for a couple of months so now I’ve got two machines to sort out instead of one.

I’ll keep you apprised of further developments.

At last, some numbers are starting to emerge from Redmond, WA. To date the only sales figures Microsoft has released were about the 4 million upgrade licences sold within the first three days after Windows 8 became available. During her talk at the Credit Suisse Annual Tech Conference held on Tuesday, the Chief Marketing & Financial Officer for Windows – Tami Reller – stated that 40 million licences for Windows 8 had been sold in the past month. By way of comparison, Microsoft sold 60 million Windows 7 licences in the two months after the launch of that OS.

Does this mean that Windows 8 is on track to out perform its immediate predecessor? A wee bit of analysis is in order here. First and foremost, computer manufacturers are not like you and me. While we as individuals may purchase one or two upgrade licences for our machines, the manufacturers buy their licences in bulk; hundreds of thousands if not millions of copies of Windows x – along with crapware and adware – which are sprayed on to desktops, laptops and now tablets as they roll off the assembly lines and are pushed out the door.

The second item to note is that tablets are the hot thing at the moment and will be for some time to come. Manufacturers who have not been able to offer a Windows-based tablet before are now adding them to their lineups and to do that, a Windows 8 licence is required. It is obvious that the anticipated tablet stampede is driving the purported sales figures. The manufacturers are banking on the hope that tablets will be a big seller over the holiday season and thereafter.

You may have noted the use of the phrase “purported sales figures” in the paragraph above. Microsoft has been known to use creative accounting to come up with sales figures for new software and operating systems. If you add this, that and the other thing together, yes the numbers will come out around 17, 40 or 60 million. What Microsoft has yet to reveal is just what exactly this, that and the other thing are. After all, a sale is a sale.

The real test will come with how many of those 40 million licences are actually implemented. In other words, the OS is used for an extended period of time and the machine is not downgraded to Windows 7. Windows tablets have no downgrade options available but many could be transmogrified as Android devices.

It is natural for companies to juggle the numbers in order to look good to investors and potential buyers of their products. Microsoft is no exception. It will be some time, however before we get a complete picture of just what 40 million really means.

Sources:

One measurement of the success of an operating system is how quickly it is adopted by the user community. If adoption goes like gangbusters then it will most likely be a roaring success. On the other hand, if the pace of adoption is slower – or even glacial – then its success is doubtful and it may even be possible that the operating system is unnecessary or will only serve a certain niche market.

So how does Windows 8 fare? Is it something of a success? The answer appears to be: “Not so much”. Unfortunately, figures don’t lie and at this point, Windows 8 is looking like an “also ran”. After three weeks on the market, the share claimed by Windows 8 is an astounding 1.19 %. If this were a NASCAR race. the crew chief would pull the car off the track and take it back to the garage. Even Vista has a larger market share and Linux is not quite the underdog it was earlier.

After one week on the market, Windows 7 had a 2.15 percent share and now claims the largest slice of the pie with 45.5 %. Windows 8 does have some good points in that it runs just as fast as its predecessor, Windows 7 and is, overall, a more stable platform; it shows the blue screen of death – BSOD – much less Windows 7 or XP. For the record, Dr. Data has yet to see the BSOD on either his main machine or on the test box. But will these factors matter in the long run?

It seems that Windows 8 is crippled by the turkey of an interface that was formally known as Metro. Usability experts – the folks who scientifically prove stuff that the rest of us already know – cite the confusion occurring from Windows 8 trying to use a start screen geared to tablets and a desktop geared towards PC’s. This schizophrenia was pointed out by Dr. Data over this past summer as more and more geeks got their hands on the consumer preview of what is quickly proving to be an interface failure of epic proportions.

Windows 8 has been referred to as a “disaster of design” and a sure candidate for being “Auf’d” on Project Runway. Companies like Stardock Corporation have been turning out add-ons to bypass this or that and restore features that Redmond dumped in the interest of looking more cool and hip. As good a job as Stardock does with add-ons, they really should not be necessary. Instead of providing additional features, these tools are actually retro-fitting Windows 8 so that it will be more useable from a base state.

The central question is: “Where does Microsoft go from here?” Does it admit defeat and correct things with the first Service Pack or will Redmond try to tough it out hoping that consumers will come around? The hand-writing may well be on the wall now. The Desktop/Laptop market is shaky at the moment because tablets are the big thing. Many good tablets have either failed or own only a minuscule market share because they are simply not an iPad. There is still a good ways to go for Windows 8 though it may very well earn the dubious title as the only operating system that is loved less than Vista.

The president of Microsoft’s Windows division has already been shown the door. Whether that was a scheduled change or retribution for a looming debacle is debatable. Dr. Data is of the opinion that some design engineers in Redmond, WA may wish to dust off their resumes.

SOURCES:

My Windows 8 upgrade is still on hold. If you’ve missed my previous posts, I tried upgrading via the download gizmo which at first said that I was good to go w/ Win 8 and the install process ended when it said that my PC was not compatible. I ordered a DVD but it has yet to arrive and we’re heading out the back-end of November.

Apparently, I’m not the only one with compatibility issues. A story on CNN’s MONEY site tells a rather sad tale of the frustrations one guy is experiencing trying to upgrade his relatively new Lenovo Z580 laptop. Read the story and you’ll see that he’s not the only one with this sort of frustration. Many of the users experiencing problems migrating to Windows 8 report that their systems have completely crashed because of the upgrade. Dr. Data has not been so unlucky but still . . .

Users report that their apps consistently crash under Windows 8 while others report that some of their essential device and software drivers aren’t compatible between Windows 7 and Windows 8. This means that parts of their system aren’t working now even though they once did under Windows 7. One can imagine that this sort of thing might happen with home-brew systems that have been cobbled together with odd parts or off-brand machines from less than well-known manufacturers. No, these complaints are coming from users with new – or almost so – PCs from mainstream manufacturers/vendors.

It seems that there are some parts of some PCs have no Windows 8 drivers available. In other cases, Microsoft did not pick up Windows 8 drivers from many of those manufacturers that did indeed make them available. If you can remember back to the dark days of Vista, the same thing happened with drivers in that situation. History is repeating itself. What can you expect of an OS that a majority of users have not heard about and are not really interested in?

I TOLD YOU SO

Back in the summer, Dr. Data opined that Microsoft was headed for a Vista-like debacle with Windows 8 and that was just due to the interface formally known as Metro. Redmond was able to recover from Vista with Windows 7. Can Microsoft survive another round of falling flat on its face? Is this a golden opportunity for Linux?

One other thing from this past summer’s posts about the rapidly approaching technological cliff called Windows 8; Dr. Data hinted that those holding shares in Microsoft might want to consider unloading them. That is more and more sounding like sage advice now.

SOURCES:

It’s been three weeks since Windows 8 launched and we should have some numbers coming in . . . except we don’t. Microsoft has been keeping mum about just how well – or otherwise – Windows 8 has been doing. There was a press release mentioning 4 million copies sold the first weekend after the launch but “sold” does not mean “installed”. Knowing how Redmond loves – like any company – to trumpet its sales figures, that press release is more of a piccolo right now.

Perhaps this may have something to do with an article in the Wall Street Journal today which reports that in October, companies showed the most drastic cuts in growth and investments in hardware/software since 2009. Yes, it might have something to do with the apparently disappointing sales except that the number of companies expected to be early adopters of Windows 8 was fairly small. This cutback may have had some impact on the numbers but Dr. Data believes that it was pretty darn small.

A significant number of the sales for any operating systems comes from pre-installations on new PCs/Laptops and the manufacturers are clearing out the Windows 7 machines first before pushing Windows 8 machines out the door. Microsoft may find some bit of comfort there but the early numbers and analysis indicate that there will not be much change over the next month and a half.

A lot of the initial sales of any operating system comes directly from consumers; the early adopters who want to have a go at the latest and greatest as soon as possible. Dr. Data has been following a thread on the Windows BBS forum that asks the simple question: “Do you plan to move to Windows 8”. So far, the response has been a resounding “NO”. Of course, a good many of the people who use websites like this are experienced Windows users; people who use Windows a lot and might thus be somewhat less inclined to make an early move because of sheer inertia. That leaves Mr. & Mrs. Average Consumer and they don’t seem to be very interested at the moment.

Meanwhile, the Windows 8 DVD that Dr. Data ordered from Redmond has yet to turn up in the Parsonage mail-box. Not very encouraging, is it? The only bright spot is a shimmering mirage of popularity with regard to the Windows Surface RT tablet. It is the most popular Windows 8 device with an 11% share of sales. That sounds great but one must keep in mind that the Surface tablet is a so-so sized fish in a rather small pond.

All of this leaves Dr. Data to conclude that with Thanksgiving just a few days away, there’s more than one turkey gobbling out there. Linux anyone?

Sources:

You may – or may not – remember my announcement earlier this year that I planned to be an “early adopter” of Windows 8 – at least as far as my test machine goes. I finally found a bit of time two weeks ago, fired up the # 2 PC and set about upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 8.

The first thing that happens when you arrive at the Windows 8 Upgrade Site is that Microsoft downloads a widget to check your system for compatibility issues:

  • Do you even have Windows 7 to begin with
  • Is your machine capable of running Windows 8
  • Do you have any software applications on your machine that won’t work with the new OS

That bit of folderol seemed to take forever took forever but the widget finally announced that my machine was good to go. I handed over my credit card information and initiated the download of the upgrade package. Once that was done, the widget started work on the upgrade itself. Now here’s where the fun begins.

The upgrade widget told me that to continue the process, my PC would have to reboot. Nothing unusual about that request so I let the widget have its way with my machine. Following the reboot, the widget announced that it was resuming the upgrade. So far, so good. After a bit of thumb-twiddling on my part, the widget suddenly announced that my test PC was incapable of running Windows 8 and went to EOJ. Did the widget change its mind somewhere along the way?

Rebooting my PC did not result in the widget restarting the upgrade. To do that, I had to go back to square one where I downloaded the widget in the first place. Once again, it told me that my PC was good to go and then asked for my credit card information . . . again. Obviously, I was not going to pay twice to upgrade the same copy of Windows 7 so I fished around in the downloads folder and found the ISO image for the upgrade. I burned the ISO on to a DVD and tried to restart the upgrade process. I was duly informed that I was trying to upgrade a 32-bit system with a 64-bit upgrade DVD and that I should use the 32-bit DVD instead. Trouble is, there is no 32-bit DVD!

After stewing over this for a week and checking with WindowsBBS.com – a great resource, by the way – I was advised to buy a copy of the Upgrade DVD from Microsoft and use that to run the upgrade; exactly what I was trying to avoid in the first place. At this point, my upgrade to Windows 8 – all done purely in the interest of science – is now costing me $56.00.

Microsoft has informed me that the DVD is on its way to me. I’ll keep you apprised of future developments in this saga.

Well, it’s Monday again. No matter how hard we try, this things seems to come around about this time every week. So, to start your week, here are a few items of note for those interested in technology:

  • Windows 8 Ho-Hum –The holiday shopping season – which seems to have already kicked off, may change things but a survey conducted by the Associated Press and GfK revealed the following:
    • 52% of  the 1,200 US Adults polled in this survey have never heard of Windows 8
    • Adding insult to injury, 61% had no interest in buying a desktop/laptop with Windows 8
    • And for a coup de grace, only 35% thought that Windows 8 was an improvement over Windows 7
    • It was probably a substantial portion of that 35% who comprised  the 31% of respondents who were actually interested in Microsoft’s Surface tablet.
    • Read the full story on the PC Magazine website.
  • No Help From the Business Sector –While Windows in the workplace has been a mainstay of Microsoft’s revenue stream, it looks like organisations will be slow to hop on the Windows 8 bandwagon. In October, TechRepublic  asked its members to talk about their organisation’s deployment plans. This was a voluntary survey drawn from a pool of people who frequent a particular website so the results are most likely skewed to some degree. Nonetheless, the responses were eye-opening:
    • 49.9 % of organisations have no plans in place to deploy Windows 8 but may do so at some future date.
    • 23.8 % plan to skip Windows 8 entirely
    • 11 % will deploy Windows 8 but have not set a target date
    • 10.7 % plan to deploy Windows 8 sometime in the next 12 months
    • 4.6 % are waiting until Service Pack 1 to deploy Windows 8
    • Hardly a stampede to adopt Windows 8 early on. Read TechRepublic’s complete article.
  • Some Hope for Surface – Opra Winfrey likes the Surface RT tablet saying that it feels like a Mercedes-Benz to her. It is worth noting that Opra gushed over the iPad in 2010 by saying “Words cannot describe what I feel for this magnificent device . . .” Opra – who has her own network, BTW – has added the Surface to her list of favourite things that will be featured in a 2-hour TV special scheduled on for Nov. 18th at 8:00 PM. There is no record of how Opra felt about the Microsoft Zune. Read PC Magazine’s full story on Opra’s endorsement.

That’s it for this morning. Have a good day!

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