Windows 10, fun things to know

With Windows 10 about to launch, I thought I would share some tips on using the ‘new’ operating system.   If you have used Windows 8/8.1, some of these will be familiar.

EDGE – Internet Explorer’s replacement browser

  • When you fire up EDGE, you will notice, right away, thisedgefave is not Internet Explorer.  It does what all browsers do, and that’s serve up the now standard fare of HTML/Javascript/CSS based pages.  It does so very quickly and much more standards based than Internet Explorer ever did.  However, upon upgrading to Windows 10, EDGE knows nothing about your favorites. As you would with another browser, you must import your favorites.  Do so by clicking the ‘Hub’ icon, it’s the three uneven lines on your EDGE window, in the upper right corner.  When the panel opens, click the Star icon (your favorites) and then select Import Favorites and then the browser you wish to import from. It will take a few seconds, depending on the number of links you have.  Your favorites are now imported.
  • One of the things about tabbed browsing is having a tab play audio when you don’t want it win10EdgeNiceor expect it. Finding that tab, especially if you have many open, isn’t always obvious. With Edge, in Windows 10, it is a bit more obvious. Refer to the photo, the opened tab has an audio indicator and a play button. These let you know which tab or tabs have media playing. You can switch to that tab and take care of the offending media.

  • In the current version, 10240, EDGE does not have the ability to display multi levels of forward or backward pages.  For example, in IE or Chrome, if you right click the back button, you will see 10 levels or so of history. Not so in EDGE.

START Menu

newstartThe Start Menu, which Microsoft decided to bring back from the dead, has been greatly enhanced. It is also customizable.

  • In Desktop mode, the Start menu takes up little space. It has, on the left side, that traditional style Start Menu listing of applications and functionality. On the right side, is what remains of the Windows 8/8.1 Start Page.  You can pin things to the Start Page and the live tiles will work, provided the tile belongs to Windows Store application.   The whole thing can be resized by grabbing the upper right corner of the menu and dragging it up and to the right.
  • In Desktop mode, you can make the Start Menu take up the entire screen, if you like that. To do so, go to Settings->Personalization->Start. Click ‘Use Full Screen’ and close the settings.  Click the Start Button and you should see a full screen Start Menu/Page.
  • Right clicking on a live tile will pop up a menu giving more control over them.  You can unpin the tile, resize it, turn it on or off, pin to the taskbar or uninstall the application.
  • You can make the taskbar, action center and start page transparent by opening Settings->Personalization->Colors. Turn on the transparency by clicking ‘Make Start, taskbar, and action center Transparent’ slider.

Task Manager

taskmanThe ALT-Tab task switching, though looking different, still works the same. Microsoft has taken that notion, added in a bit of the Vista style task switching and went full screen with tiled representations of the running applications. You can select an application to switch to OR…and you LInux people will deride this as old, send an application to a new desktop. Yes, Windows 10 now has multiple desktops.  You can activate this feature by clicking on the desktop icon next to the Cortana icon on the task bar.

 

So, there you have a few nice features of Windows 10.  Check back for more.

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RIP, Windows XP, it was a heck of a ride

Windows xp ProfessionalWindows XP is nearing the end of its long run.  Microsoft pulls the plug on support for the dinosaur of operating systems.  What this means is that it will no longer be patched for security issues.  It also means that, as time goes on, fewer applications will run on the beast. 

For whatever reason, people are clinging to it for dear life. Granted, most of the remaining installations are at corporations, corporations that may have internal apps that will not work on newer operating systems. However, there are a fair number of people who just do not wish to upgrade. Many think that moving on to Vista, Windows 7 or 8 would be a ‘downgrade’. Well, sorry people, that’s just nonsense. Many of its supporters now say it is ‘tried and true.’

It might be ‘tried and true’ now, but, when it was released, it was a disaster. So much so that Microsoft put off development on its replacement to focus on XP’s problems. Among them was a security hole big enough for Jupiter to go through.  And, People HATED it. Hated it worse than Vista or Windows 8 today. I recall many, negative reviews, articles and such that just skewered it.

There were Windows 98 diehards still. There were those who were clinging to Windows NT 4. It’s look and feel was called ‘Fisher Price’. Many thought its hardware requirements were ridiculous. It’s bundled apps, like Movie Maker, were laughed at (even though it was quite functional.) And, consider this:

  • George W Bush was in his first year of his two terms
  • The World Trade Center had only ceased to exist just weeks before
  • We still had a Space Shuttle program with all orbiters (but Challenger and Columbia broke up years later)
  • No one knew who this Obama guy was
  • Compaq was still a big name
  • Apple was still pretty insignificant

It wasn’t until the second service pack that XP became robust and stable. By that time, most Windows users had made the switch.  Those who disliked the Fisher Price interface switched back to the old, battleship gray, 3D-ish UI that adorned 95,98, Me, NT and 2000. There were all kinds of third party tools available to alter its appearance and the way it worked.  This indicated that its users still were not happy with XP.  Indeed, most business did not begin to switch to XP until 2006 or later.  By the time most business had switched, Microsoft had released Vista, at which point, there was this sudden XP fanboy thing.  Suddenly, it seemed, everyone who hated XP suddenly LOVED it and began hating Vista. The hate for Vista was so bad, that Microsoft, very quickly for them, got Windows 7 ready and out the door. Windows 7 seemed to be what people wanted and the mass migration, among ‘normal’ people started. They all skipped over Vista. The XP diehards, however, still clung to it.  At that point, Microsoft announced its imminent demise. And, then, NETBOOKS saved XP. Microsoft practically gave it away. And, in doing so, moved its death sentence way out.

Well, now that day is upon us.  It will be interesting to see how many stay on the aging platform and how many will, begrudgingly, move on Windows 7 or 8. Or, GASP! onto Mac or, worse, Linux. I doubt many will go that far.

Now, just because XP is being buried by Microsoft, does not mean it will just stop working. Quite the contrary, if you are careful, keep your antivirus updated, don’t do anything funky on the Internet, you should be able to continue to safely use XP for a long time.  Sure, as time goes on, those hot new games or applications will not run or even install on XP, but there is still enough of a user base that that will be a year or two off before it becomes a real problem for you.  If you move to Windows 7, you can still use Windows XP via XP mode. For Windows 8, you can always install a virtual machine and run it, safely, there. Of course, you can always just unplug it from the Internet and you know it should be nice and safe.

So, lets hear it for XP one more time…hip, hip, hoorah!

Using your smartphone as a Windows or Mac secondary display: iDisplay

In an earlier blog post, I wrote about ways to use your old smartphone once you got a new one.  A reader asked that I expand on this post, so I am.

idisplay4One of my suggestions was to use it as a secondary display.  There are several apps out that will do this, for the iPhone/iPad and for Android.  The one I am writing about today is for iPhone/iPad/iPod touch.

Called iDisplay, this little gem does a terrific job at adding a second display to your Windows or Mac PC (because, you know, the Mac IS a PC.)

There are two parts to the setup: the iDisplay app for the phone and the desktop app that streams to the phone.  Installing on the phone is as easy as going to the App Store, searching for iDisplay, purchasing (it is .99) and downloading. Then, go to the iDisplay web site and download the appropriate desktop app and install that.  Please Note: it is also available on Android via the Google Play Store, but I am focusing on the iOS version here.

idisplay1Once running, the desktop server uses Bonjour and Wi-Fi to talk to the phone.  In Windows, it acts as a driver, allowing full video and audio as well as adding touch to a non-touch computer.  On my Windows 8 desktop that does not have touch, using this app on my iPhone adds touch.  And, works very, very well.

On my desktop, I let it use the default, which is to extend my display to the second device. The cool thing is that in the Windows 8 desktop, I get the full experience, task bar and right click action all work.  Apps that were running already, will remain on the primary display, apps that you start from the phone will display on the phone. I have to admit, I rather like seeing Windows on my iPhone.

idisplay3Among the features in the phone app are: gestures, integrated on screen keyboard, audio playback, touch, full interaction with your desktop.  From my desktop, I could even watch a video that was streaming from the desktop with relatively high frame rate. Of course, that will depend on your Wi-Fi network and how busy it is.  Also, the phone app works great with Windows 8 Start Page.  So far, it all seems to work nicely. One really nice feature is that the phone app can show you a list of currently running apps on the main display and allow you to move them to the secondary display, pretty nifty and useful. And for an application that has multiple windows or instances, you can select which one to view.

idisplay5I tried running the server app from my VivoTab Smart tablet running Windows 8.1 preview. It works, but only to a point.  I think it is a problem with the video driver and the Atom processor. It is slow and the only mode supported is mirror of the desktop, not very useful. And, really, for a tablet, you won’t need a second screen, but I had to try anyway.

Now, even though this app works very, very well, there are a couple of drawbacks.  One, it does put a load on your Wi-Fi network, so keep that in mind; two, using the Windows Desktop on an iPhone screen is a laborious task. The ‘chrome’, so to speak, is just too small. I had a difficult time closing windows or tapping on the address box to enter a URL. Now, you can zoom, which helps, but using full screen is pretty tough.  Using the extended mode on the phone app allows this.

Overall, I think this is a very well and highly useful application.  Not only is it a secondary display, but it also acts as a remote desktop as well.  Well worth the purchase price.

UPDATE:

I downloaded the Android version to my Kindle Fire. While I am still evaluating it, it looks just as good as the iOS version. Since the Kindle Fire is somewhat bigger than the iPhone, it is much easier to use Windows on the this device. It also works better with the system mouse. In addition, you can use USB to connect your Android device to the PC (or, presumably, your Mac.)  I have a Mac Mini, so I think I may try that as well. How about full Mac OS X on your Android or iPad?

Windows and Internet Explorer, still the most popular?

NOTE: This is a post that originated on HalfByte’s sister blog on SquareSpace.

One of the nicer things about Squarespace is the stats that you get for your blog. I can see who or what referred traffic to the blog, what browser is being used, operating system and more.

Interestingly, from the stats, I have a wide variety of users hitting this blog: Windows, Linux, Mac and mobile. So, just how do the numbers break down?  Have a look…

Browsers  

IE7

24.14%

Gecko(Firefox)

22.90%

Chrome

11.07%

Unknown

9.47%

Opera9

9.23%

IE6

6.69%

Safari

6.15%

Opera7

3.43%

IE8

3.25%

IE

2.37%

IE9

1.01%

KHTML

0.30%

As you can see, IE7 is the most popular, followed by Firefox. Chrome is a distant third. Mobile browsers, likely, make up the ‘unknown’ followed, surprisingly, by Opera. Now, Opera is in a variety of devices, including the Wii and a host of feature phones and Android devices. That last one, KHTML, surprised me. Seriously, people actually use that. Huh. Collectively, however, Internet Explorer is, by far, the most popular browser. 

Next, operating systems…

Operating Systems  
Win7
34.44%
WinXP 27.75%
WinNT 10.47%
Unknown 9.47%
WinVista 5.68%
Win2000 4.26%
Android 3.43%
MacOSX 3.08%
iPhone 0.59%
Win2003 0.47%
Linux 0.30%
Win 0.06%

Several things stand out here. First, the high percentage of people still using Windows XP. The ‘Win’ is even more surprising as that represents the Windows 9x family (including ME.)  I think Windows 8 may fall in the ‘WinNT’ category, but I am not positive. At any rate, the high percentages of Windows prior to Vista is just odd. Who still uses them?  I am also a bit surprised by the low percentage of iPhone  and Android.  Though, I think the higher Android numbers reflect the overall type of reader for this blog: more techie types, though by that line of thought, I would think the Linux numbers would be higher. But, once again, the majority of readers are Windows users.

Now, it would really be easy-and the numbers would back it up-to conclude that the majority of readers use Internet Explorers and Windows. I suppose I could be like other sites and extrapolate that to mean that Windows is the most popular operating system used and Internet Explorer is the most used browser.  HOWEVER…I also know that my blog is one tiny, miniscule sliver of the Internet and that it is NOT a destination for, what I think, is the most prevalent type of computing consumer on the planet: the mobile user.  While Windows is still the king of desktop/laptop computing, it is not king of mobile computing.  For now, that’s Android with iOS in second.  I would expect, however, that Windows Phone will gain even more traction and Windows RT/8 to pick up some of the tablet space.

While it is nice to see that the material I write is pertinent to the majority of readers of the blog, I am also a bit disappointed that my readership is not more diverse.  But, it is a changing landscape and I, too, must change and accept that the world I am comfortable with is changing. Microsoft knows this and they are trying to adapt. And, so do I.

More Windows 8…

If you want to install Windows 8 yourself, here are some useful links to get you started:

Download the ISO file

Installing from a USB Stick (Redmond PIE)e

Dual boot with Vista or Windows 7

Restore the Start Menu (It is really just a registry setting, but this little app hides it with a button.)

What’s missing…

Because this is just the developer preview, I would not get too excited or disappointed by what appears to be missing. Having said that, here’s short list of some things that appear to be missing:

  • task switching – while you can swipe from left to right to cycle through Metro apps, there does not appear to be an easy way to close them or shut them down nor to switch from Metro to non-Metro apps
  • customizing the start screen – it appears that you cannot change the color scheme. I’m sure this is just for the developer preview.
  • no easy way to find apps not on the start screen- you have to go to the desktop and perform a search from Explorer. You can, however, pin apps to the task bar or the start screen
  • integration with Windows Live – it’s there, but does not seem to be fully baked yet
  • no ‘nice’ transition from ‘classic’ to metro windows-because metro looks so nice, when you transition to or from a classic app, the transition is jarring. I don’t see an easy way around this either.

I will follow up as I get more time with time with the operating system.

What you do and don’t need to do if you run Windows: keeping your computer healthy

Recently, my main Windows 7 machine seemed rather sluggish. While the machine is a few years old, it is no slouch either.  So, I got to poking around to figure out what was slowing it down.  I did the usual, clearing out caches, checking the hard drive, uninstalling needless software, updating drivers, etc.  I was doing a lot, but, as it turns out, if you run Vista or Windows 7, most of the ‘usual’ stuff just isn’t necessary. And the problem I was having?  Well, as it turns out, there are several things that have been impacting my machine:  Zune Marketplace downloading podcasts and music subscription tracks, Firefox (yes, even version five seems to have a memory leak or some process that, after a time, start to hang and slow it and the computer down) and a USB external drive.

What you don’t need to do if you run Vista or Windows 7

 

Re-Install Windows:

There was a time when re-installing Windows, especially XP, was necessary every six months to a year.  Windows XP was a magnet for cruft.  Uninstall something here, install something there and, after just  a few months, your machine had lots of crap hanging around.  Windows XP would just kind of give up and you’d have to re-install. No more.  The latest versions of Windows do a much better job of keeping things straight. They aren’t perfect, but they have come a long way.  Rules that govern where apps can put things are enforced and Windows just does a better job of cleaning up now. Which leads me to…

Registry Cleaners.

You do not really need to mess around with the registry.  Going through and cleaning out unused settings is just a waste of time and will do little, if anything, to speed your computer. Ignore those silly ads, they are just trying to get your money.

 

Defrag your disk:

  Again, unless you are on Windows XP or earlier, you do not need to do this.  Windows Vista and 7 do it on a regular basis and do a fairly good job too.

What you should do if you run Windows Vista or 7 (or XP too)

Download and install Microsoft Security Essentials.

If you have not already done so, you need to go to the Security Essentials website and download and install this software.  It is probably the best solution for keeping most malware off your computer.

Use a decent, modern browser.

Internet Explorer 9, Firefox 5, Chrome or Safari are all decent and modern browser (I suppose Opera whatever is OK too.) Each has their own issues (Firefox seems to get bogged down after a time, Safari doesn’t always render correctly, Chrome also has rendering issues) Each of these browsers does a much better job with providing a safer browsing experience.

Clean up the junk.

Even though they are far better than any previous version of  Windows, they still aren’t perfect and you will still need to do some periodic housecleaning.  Just not nearly as much or as often as you once did.  Use the usual tools, CC Cleaner or any similar tools you like.  CC Cleaner does a nice job.

Keep Windows up to date.

Make sure Windows Update is on and you have it scheduled. Microsoft releases updates generally once a month, but will also offer ‘out of band’ patches and updates as needed. 

Keep your drivers updated.

Nothing affects performance more than out of date drivers.  What was once a blazing fast video driver can actually degrade your system if Windows or other software are updated but not your drivers.  System improvements like a newer version of DirectX (the underlying graphics system in Windows) may not be completely compatible with an old driver and could slow you down. Likewise, drivers for disk drives, external devices, etc. could also slow you down.  Windows Update will only notify you of drivers supplied by Microsoft or vendors who submit their drivers to Microsoft.  Make sure you check these when diagnosing slow downs.

Reboot.

This is probably the first thing you should try. Sometimes a process just gets ‘hung’ and can really affect your computer.  This may be all you need to do. Do it the right way, if possible.  That is, click the Windows Orb, click the right arrow next to ‘Shutdown’ and then select Restart.  Of course, selecting Shut Down is fine too and could give you even better results, especially if you’ve been on the computer a long time. In this case, click the Orb, select Shut Down and then go outside and get some fresh air.  That always helps me.

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