Notes from underground

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Archive for the tag “Windows”

Windows XP: to upgrade or not to upgrade?

Someone recently retweeted the following warning about the need to “upgrade” if one’s computer is running Windows XP. Here’s the warning:

Still Running Windows XP? Upgrade Now to Reduce Security Risks – Cloud Computing | Microsoft Trustworthy Computing Blog – Site Home – TechNet Blogs:

Back in April, Microsoft’s Windows team began reminding customers that the company would discontinue support for the Windows XP operating system in a year’s time. As of April 8, 2014, customers and partners will no longer receive security updates for Windows XP, or get Microsoft tech support for Windows XP.

I’d be a lot more willing to “upgrade” if Microsoft didn’t make it such a schlepp to do so.

For one thing, one might find that a new version might not run on one’s existing hardware, so that’s a lot of extra expense right there.

Then there’s the schlepp of reinstalling a lot of software.

First you have to find the original discs from which you installed the software, and that can take quite a lot of time. Then you find that you’ve updated it several times since you first installed it, and that can take yet more time.

Then you find that the “upgraded” operating system comes with little or no documentation, so you have to traipse from bookshop to bookshop to try to find third-party documentation, and eventually, at the fifth shop you go to, you find Windows Whizz-Bang11.35 for Dummies and lash out as much as you paid for the upgrade itself to buy it, and spend hours looking for the information you are seeking (like how to set the PATH to make your batch files work) and find that it still doesn’t tell you.

And until you find that piece of information you have to spend an hour each day transferring data files one by one from desktop to laptop and back again instead of simply typing the name of a batch file and letting the computer do the work.

When I upgraded from Windows 98 to XP (because the motherboard on my old computer died) it took about a year to get my computer working properly again. And there is still a lot of disk space taken up by software that doesn’t work because I haven’t reinstalled it in Windows XP yet.

And then there’s the uncertainty about whether ones software will work at all with an “upgrade”.

When my XP laptop was stolen, I replaced it with one that had Windows 7 pre-installed — the 64-bit version. I found most of my data was inaccessible because it would not run MS DOS programs. Fortunately it came with a DVD with the 32-bit version, so I was able to install that, and then the programs worked, but three years later the screen icons still show blank white squares, while with Windows XP I can put pictures in them.

So one of the problems with “upgrading” is that I fear losing access to my data — stuff that I have collected over the last 30 years. And if “upgrading” means that I have to start itn all from scratch, well I’m not going to live that long, am I?

This “upgrading” is a huge schlepp, and not just the operating system.

Some days I can’t work on my computer for an hour or more because it wants me to update my browser, and Flash-Player (which is disabled most of the time anyway) and this reader and that add-on and that widget, and something else — and all this before I can start my computer to look up a phone number or something.

I keep hoping that computers were made for man, not man for computers.

But “upgrading” swiftly dashes those hopes, and means I have to spend hours and hours and days and months working for my computer instead of my computer working for me.

Yes, the possibility of a virus means that there is a risk that you will have a lot of schlepp getting your computer working properly again.

But with an “upgrade”, there’s no risk, it’s an absolute certainty.

If Microsoft want us to “upgrade” they need to devise a simple way to install the new operating system, and have it update the registry so that it can find all the installed programs and have them work right after installation of the operating system, without having to reinstall them one by one.

If they did that, I bet a lot more people would be willing to upgrade.

And if the new operating system is so superior to the old one, then the software wizards at Microsoft could surely find a way of doing that, instead of filling the “upgrade” with useless bells and whistles.




Upgrading hardware

This is my first blog post on my new hardware, so it’s a kind of test to see if everything is working, and so far it does.

My old computer had a 30 Gig and a 40 Gig hard drive, and about 6 months ago I upgraded the 40 Gig one to 500 Gig. It was quite difficult to find one, as most of the hard drives being sold now are SATA, and I wanted an EIDE disk to match the other one. Eventually I found one, backed up all the data on the old drive using Acronis disk imaging software, installed it on the new drive, and everything still worked.

This time, however, was more ambitious.

The old computer was getting rickety. I dared not switch it off, because it might not restart. If the power went off, I’d have to sit pushing the power button for half an hour before it would run.

The CPU fan was also getting noisy, and it sounded rather ominous.

So that meant replacing the motherboard, and both hard drives (both now 500 Gig SATA). I’ll see if I can use the 500 Gig EIDE drive an an external housing as a backup USB drive – it’s only about 6 months old.

It took me a day to get this far — backing up the 30 Gigs of data on the G: drive took 9 hours, and nearly 2 hours to restore on the new drive. And the C: drive was the critical one, because that had the operating system (Windows XP) — would it work on the new drive? It did. Everything seems to be working fine.

The only problem is, Windows thinks there have been too many hardware changes, and wants to be revalidated. If that goes as smoothly as the rest of it, all will be well.

Oh, and my printer has a parallel cable, and the new hardware has no parallel port. But perhaps a USB cable will work, or I can nick a parallel card from the old one, if it fits the new motherboard.

My demonized computer

My computer has a demon, it really has.

OK, it’s probably a daemon, but it’s a demonic daemon.

It takes control of my computer most mornings about 9:20, just when I’m trying to get some work done, and wastes about half-an hour every day.

What happens is that the hard disk starts churning, and the computer then takes an age to respond to anything. The only way to gain control again is to press and hold down the power button until the thing stops, and then reboot.

But this morning I decided to do it the long way. When I clicked a few times and there was no response, I checked, and sure enough, the disk activity light showed that the hard disk was churning. I’d been viewing a web page, and tried to close it, as I thought it might be trying to send me something long and expensive, like a video. When it took a long time to close, I realised what was happening.

09:23 – Decide to shut down
09:26 – clicked the Restart button
09:28 – htqtra08 closing, then computer closed down and time disappeared
09:36 – time reappeared on reboot
09:43 – Loading ZoneAlarm
09:45 – Reboot complete.

OK, so that is 22 minutes, but from the time the problem starts to the time I get back to where I was working and start working agan, it’s more like 30 minutes.

It’s possible to save 5-7 minutes by switching off with the power switch instead of going through the close-down but it’s still a long long time.

I’m running Windows XP, and if ever I have to replace this computer, I’ll probably be forced to use Vista, which to all accounts is worse.

One of the problems is that Windows never tells you what it’s doing half the time. Microsoft don’t see fit to tell you. Press Ctrl-Alt-Del to see what program is running and misbehaving so one can close it down, and there’s nothing there. When you boot up, there are all kinds of “processes”, and I’ve read that you can speed things up by omitting some of them, but how do you know what they do and whether you need them or not? Microsoft doesn’t tell you.

There are other things Microsoft doesn’t tell you, or someone doesn’t tell you.

Some program, I don’t know which, underlines things it regard as spelling mistakes in some documents. But it underlines some spellings that are correct. So where is it, and can one adjust the settings and update it’s spelling dictionary?

There is another (or perhaps the same one) that “suggests” things to use to fill in fields on web pages. The trouble is, it “suggests” every typo I’ve ever made. What is this program, where can one find it, how can one adjust its settings and remove the typos?

Are there any fundis out there who can answer some of these questions?

Someone I know had a hard disk crash recently, and when her hardware had been repaired, she had a problem “revalidating” the Windows operating system. She tried every available method, but nothing worked.

Eventually a friend helped her by loading a pirate version of Windows XP on her computer. It was half the size, booted in half them time, and ran at about twice the speed. It was a stripped down version that was an improvement on the original.

Actually for most of my work I’d be quite happy to use MS DOS. The only trouble is that it hasn’t been updated and can’t handle modern hardware — disk drives, controllers, video cards etc.

People say use a better OS, like Linux, but I don’t know whether the programs I use most often would run under Linux. I have 20 years of work on my computer, if not more. I really don’t have time to start all over again and redo all that stuff.

So perhaps it’s time to exorcise my computer.

Does Windows update block Internet access?

Last night my wife lost Internet access on her computer. We checked connections, rebooted, but it still didn’t work. This morning I saw pending Windows updates on my laptop, installed them and went off to read a book waiting for it to reboot. And then I could no longer access the Internet.

Similar updates were waiting on my desktop computer, and I installed them, rebooted, and there was no Internet access.

I returned to the laptop, did a system restore, and Internet access was restored.

I wonder if there will be a massive shutdown right across the Internet, as Windows XP users are cut off.

Twenty-one years old — the best word processor

It’s now 21 years since I began using XyWrite III+, a program whose word processing functionality has never been surpassed.

It seems that rival word processors, unable to compete directly, have got ahead by reducing hardware functionality.

How do they do that?

It now seems to be virtually impossible to get a computer printer that doesn’t require Windows to work (what do Linux users do?)

So I find that XyWrite and other MS-DOS programs I use every day cannot have their output printed directly. Hardware limitations reduce the efficiency of the program to that of its bloated competitors. Any time saved by greater ease of use is lost by having to find workarounds for less capable hardware.

One of the hardware limitations was introduced quite early — the “enhanced” unergonomic keyboard. Whoever decided to move the function keys on keyboards from the left to the top must have hired a whole team of inefficency experts to come up with the most ergonomically clumsy design.

The result is that the two-finger XyWrite functions for delete word, delete sentence, delete line etc now become two-hand ones, which take longer to perform, and probably increase the liklihood that one will get carpal tunnel syndrome and some other weird typing diseases.

After all, how difficult is it to manufacture an ergonomic keyboard with function keys on the left?
After learning to do things the easy way, I still, after 15 years, find it annoying to be forced to do things the hard way by the stupidity of keyboard manufacturers.

One has to jump through all sorts of hoops to print a doccument, like finding a way of importing the output into a Windows document.

One of the programs I use for this is XyWrite 4.0. It can convert documents to RTF, which can then be imported into Windows word processors like Open Office or MS Word to be printed. And Open Office and MS Word are still clunky compared with XyWrite. Oh yes, they have lots of bells and whistles. What they lack is basic motive power.

The analogy of bells and whistles is taken from old-fashioned steam locomotives. You can design a steam locvomotive that can play tunes on its whistles in four-part harmony, which is just the thing if you want to park it at a fairground and use it as a steam-organ once a year. But if it means that you have to break a train in half and haul one half up the hill and then go back for the other half, and you have to do this every day, are the bells and whistles worth it?

The fancy Windows word processors can do all sorts of things you might want to do once a year, or once every five yesrs. What they don’t do as well is process words — the kind of stuff you want to do once every five minutes.

XyWrite remains the best word processor I have ever seen. I still use XyWrite III+ every day, even though it is now 21 years old.

One of the nice things it does is that it can take output from other programs and turn it into fully-formatted word porcessing documents. One can write a report for a database program that does this.

It was very useful for writing journal abstracts. Just enter the abstract into the database, and set up a report that inserts XyWrite formatting commands (which are Ascii, and similar to HTML codes). One can’t do that with MS Word, and not even with WordPerfect (though at least with WordPerfect you could see the formatting codes in a document).

Why is it that whenever you have to upgrade your computer, you have to accept a downgrade as well?

Another problem — I keep getting urged to upgrade to MacroMedia Flash 9.0, and every time I do so, it breaks my batch files, and I have to go to a system restore point and undo the installation. I use my batch files every day. I use Flash 9.0 once a month or less, and when I see something that needed Flash 9.0, it wasn’t really worth it.

So there’s my rant on computer development — that minor conveniences come at the cost of major inconveniences. Now we’re offered Windows Vista. I’ve looked at a list of stuff that it’s supposed to be able to do, and can’t think why I’d ever want to do those things. Not one of them.

Free software to use after Windows reinstallation

I’ve saved this in case I ever have to reinstall Windows!

One day all software will be free, is the message at the top of the page, and the author created the page/site after reinstalling windows clean, and outfitting the system with free and open source software. He goes through his installation step by step, and there are user comments under his post, with feedback and other freeware suggestions by users.

Gparted screenshotDescription: I recently clean installed Windows XP on my laptop, and this meant that I had to re-install all the essential software that I use. It also presented an opportunity to write a posting about how you can outfit your computer with all the essential (and non-essential) software you need using strictly 100% freeware and/or open source titles.This posting could have been titled any of the following:

  • How to never use a paid program again (aside from Windows).
  • 53 essential freeware programs that can take care of the majority of your computing needs.
  • I am writing this from the perspective of myself clean-installing Windows and re-installing all the software I find to be essential afterwards. This post took a long time to write, please Digg and/or Stumble it ;).

    Pre-installation: before reformatting my hard drive, I used the following programs:

    1. Gparted Live CD

    Gparted screenshot

    2. Unstoppable Copier

    Unstoppable Copier Screenshot

    3. Amic Email Backup

    Amic Email Backup Screenshot

    4. DriverMax:


    5. Produkey

    Produkey Screenshot

    Post installation: now the fun begins.

    6. PC Decrapifier

    PC Decrapifier Screenshot
      blog it

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