Windows 10 “Upgrade” Experience

As a consultant, I often have to do things for the experience, not necessarily because I think it is something advisable.  Upgrading one of the computers I use to Windows 10 is one of those things.  Today I upgraded a Windows 8.1 PC to Windows 10.  Over the weekend my son upgraded his Windows 7 laptop to Windows 7, so I deemed it time to make sure I had gone through the process before advising others on the process.  My experience hasn’t changed my prior comments, but I do have some tips based on having gone through the process.

Before Upgrading:

  1. Make sure you have a good reason like a new feature or app, not just the lure of “new and free.”  I still posit that Windows 10 just makes you learn new ways of doing things you could already do in Windows 7.  If you want that challenge or like me just need to have that capacity, then go ahead.
  2. Have a good backup and plenty of time.  You don’t know what could go wrong and should not test Murphy’s Law.  Without a decent backup or if trying to squeeze the upgrade into a time slot before a critical deadline, you are just asking Murphy to remind you of the law.  Upgrading my newer Core i7 laptop with 8GB RAM only took an hour or so after the download started, but your computer may be older or internet connection slower.
  3. Check the specs on your computer and critical equipment and programs to see that they are Windows 10 compatible. Anti-virus, backup, and printers are probably the most important to check due to their dependency on the operating system.

After the Upgrade:

  1.  Use a local account on the computer as opposed to a Microsoft/hotmail/outlook.com account.  I just like controlling the security on the computer and not having to authenticate to a corporation in the cloud.
  2. When prompted to accept the recommended defaults, don’t.  You can try Microsoft Edge, Photos, Music, etc., but I’d think before the upgrade you had a reason to rely on a specific browser or photo app.  You can always search the settings for the checkbox to reset to Microsoft defaults.
  3. Disable One-Drive.  If youu use One-Drive already, then I guess leaving it on won’t hurt.  But I don’t use it and I don’t like Microsoft trying to duplicate my documents in their cloud without asking.  I right-clicked the One-Drive Cloud in the system tray and prevented it from starting automatically, then closed it.
  4. Allow time for updates and restarts.  Even though I logged in and was using Windows 10 quickly after the update, some of my equipment wasn’t working (specifically my USB3 docking station).  Not to worry, Windows detected and automatically update the drivers and it worked fine, after restarting.
  5. Test your various equipment soon after the upgrade.  Microsoft seems to have done a good job with the upgrade process, but you should check your scanner, printers, most important apps, etc. soon after the upgrade.  If not you may find they don’t work properly at a bad time or far enough down the line that you forget Windows 10 might be the cause.

I can’t really complain about the upgrade process.  It was a good experience compared to past ones.  I think Windows 10 will relegate Windows 8 to the junk heap that Windows ME and Vista established.  That said, Windows 7 and XP were very solid versions that did not need upgrading for their generation and Linux is still a better long-term alternative from my vantage-point.


Chromixium – Test Drive Your Computer as a Chromebook

chromixiumI love to test drive different Linux distributions.  Tools like YUMI make it so easy to see how new distros run on the computer you use daily, without losing what’s already there and running well.  One of the latest distros that impressed me is Chromixium 1.5.

Chromixium is maintained in the UK by a group of Linux guys trying to emulate the Google Chromebook experience as a Linux distribution anyone can download and run for free on their exiting computer hardware.  Now that Chromebooks have pushed the threshold of laptops into the $200 range, wouldn’t you like to just see if you could survive using what is essentially a cloud terminal?  Half the magic of Chromebooks are that the apps, and thus the processing, are in the cloud so the computer you are working on does not need much of a brain, just a decent internet connection.  Faster brains are also the reason we buy new computers, so the logic could be inverted to reason that running a Chromebook-like OS on your existing computer would breathe years more use into it.  If you apply that math to your organization, that is a lot of potential money savings.

So what did I think of Chromixium 1.5?  It’s the best way I’ve seen to test drive the Chromebook experience yet!  Google Apps are where I do most of my work, so it was a natural fit.  WordPress is also cloud-based, so yet another fitting piece.  YouTube, Netflix, Pandora, Facebook, pick your internet distraction; they worked for me.  Now that Google Photos is a decent app to organize pictures and I can use Pixlr to do more detailed edits, even basic photo graphics can be done.  Don’t like it on a laptop?  Run Chromixium on a desktop for the comfort of your keyboard, mouse, big screen, and desk.

There are other, more complete, Linux Distributions out there and several more that are light-weight for older equipment that are not so “Google-centric.”  Xubuntu still tends to be the best overall experience from my vantage point.  For those that have not even given reasonable chance for Linux though, I think Chromixium is a great gateway into that consideration, as a first step away from Windows into what could still be considered a viable mainstream platform.

For a more detailed analysis of Chomixium, check this review:



Windows 10 – Upgrade or Not?

windows-10July 29, 2015 is when Windows 10 becomes available at the tempting price of “free” for pretty much any computer that can handle it.  But I wouldn’t upgrade just yet.  Personal feelings of Linux superiority aside, it is way too early to try this fledgling PC OS.  “Let the pioneers take the arrows,” as they say.

In general, check this quick list based on your Windows version to see what I think:

  • Windows 8/8.1 users: Wait until mid-August and see what other non-pundits are saying and then give it a spin since it’s free and probably what you hoped Windows 8 was already.
  • Windows 7 users: Wait until September to see if other Windows 7 users actually find value in the new interface.  Make sure you have enough RAM, since upgrades to Windows typically slow your computer down.  You have until July 2016 to take the free upgrade, so take your time and consider if getting a new PC in that timeframe is not a better decision.
  • Windows XP users: You stuck it out this long and your PC is old.  If you want a change consider Linux first, then a new computer with Windows 10 if you have to.  IF your computer is fast enough to run Windows 10, you probably would have quit this article already 😉

For a more complete look at Windows 10, this TechRadar article has great details:



Batteries vs Convenience

amazon-dash-buttonI love gadgets.  But I don’t like the environmental unfriendliness that their batteries typically create.  So I draw the line on many gadgets where I feel that batteries are a bigger negative than the small labor they are bypassing or perhaps the wire that really isn’t a nuisance.  A simple example of this is using a wired mouse and keyboard at my desktop.  I don’t care that the wires may look messy if the price is wasting batteries.  Besides, you’d be surprised how often I’m beckoned to troubleshoot a problem caused by dead batteries that the user didn’t realize were part of the system.

The arrival of the “smart home” and “the internet of things” has brought some cool things within economic and practical reach of many American consumers.  The most recent news-worthy gadget is the Amazon Dash Button.  It is a button for a specific product that you get from Amazon and place near where you would typically use the product.  When you see you might be running low, you simply press the button and it pops up on your smart phone as an Amazon order item and you can choose whether or not to order it.  Convenient?  Sure!  But do we really need it?  Probably not, so you can bet the marketing departments at these big companies will be giving them to us to push their product.  I’m not against clever marketing, but I do think those folks have a propensity for masking the waste involved.  The stack of unsolicited college fliers addressed to my daughter in our mailbox each day is testament to that.  That’s why I look past the “cool factor” on these and say “c’mon man, do you really need this?”

Read more about the Amazon Dash at The Gadgeteer.


Open Source Software to Liberate Your I.T.

libreofficeI became interested in open-source software in 2000, when I first learned Linux.  My passion for it now is based on improved IT operations.  Not having to worry about versions of software across an organization being out of sync because of licensing costs and management is so liberating.  So many resources are wasted on tracking licenses and keeping up to date on purchasing new ones or determining what new equipment you can buy and how it impacts the software you own versus must pay to get upgrades for.  Also, do you have to buy the new version of Microsoft software to be able to test it?  What if you want to consider another product, do you have to buy those to test them?  Licensing truly makes for a tangled web.

tuxEnter open-source “free” software.  Not all open-source software is free, but enough of it is that the terms are often used interchangeably.  Download and try the programs.  The cost is typically the time it takes you to learn them.  Most are designed using accepted operating standards to lessen the learning and adapting curve for users.  Each typically works with the data of commonly used programs, so adapting them into your environment does not typically force you to change the standards that you exchange documents with (ie docx and xlsx).

Linux is probably the best known Open Source software, but hot on its trails is Libre Office.  Where various distributions of Linux typically serve as a replacement for Windows operating systems, Libre Office replaces “Office” applications like Word and Excel.  Many successful apps like Libre Office are written with versions for Windows, Linux, and Macintosh.  So even if you don’t want to switch to Linux, you can take advantage of Libre Office.  Try downloading a copy to your computer and see what I mean

Want to give Linux a try?  Start with YUMI, a free tool that you can use in Windows to find and download different Linux versions.  You start with a simple USB thumb drive and YUMI will help you download multiple versions of Linux to try out.  It steps you through the process and you then have a tool to start-up any computer with to try out Linux.  Most versions are test-drive that you can use without impacting the existing installation of Windows with.  I use it frequently since many Linux distributions are utilities I use to fix computers with.  It can be a great tool to clean viruses off of your friends Windows computers with.

So what are you waiting for?  Give open source software a try.  Certainly you have better things to do with the money you are spending on vendors like Microsoft and Apple that try to lock you into their perpetual renewal systems that lock you in tighter every cycle.


Storage Keeps Getting Smaller

sandisk-200gb-microsdSmaller storage seems great and is an advantage, but don’t be careless with it.  Sandisk’s new 200GB microSD card looks great.  Data CD’s used to seem big but you could fit 300 of them on this device that may be smaller than your pinky fingernail!  Sounds amazing, right?

My cautionary advice is three-fold:

  1. It is so small that it might be easy to lose.
  2. Aside from whether it is your only backup or whether you will need to spend a lot to buy a new one if lost, can you recall what data was on the lost, miniscule device in the first place?  The more it holds, the less likely you are to recall the inventory of data you entrusted to it.
  3. Something that small makes data piracy that much easier.  You employees and visitors can download lots of your company’s data onto their smartphone, key-chain, or whatever device mounts and hides this tiny vault.

So, enjoy the fact that something so tiny, with no moving parts, is available.  It makes the last generation of stuff that much more affordable to all of us.  But please use it wisely.  Keep track of it, and perhaps keep an inventory of the directories you write to it.  I still use DirPrint as a free utility to print directories of important locations, but there are lots of free directory listing apps out there.


Android Update Delays Explained

androidpit-nexus-4-bootloaderSmartphones can be so neat because new features come out constantly.  Unfortunately, sometimes we are stuck waiting for system updates to get those features on our current phones.  Why does it take so long for them to get to us?  The site Android Pit has published a very good article lending some sense to the delays.

Basically, the Android change which starts at Google has to go to the phone manufacturer to be updated for your device and then to your cellular carrier for their updates to make sure it functions properly on their network.  All three of those parties have programers trying to make new stuff that they can get paid for, so you can imagine that your year old phone will take a back seat to writing new things for new devices they want to get paid for.  Your device will bring no new money to them, so guess who gets thrown on the back burner.

Before you get too dejected, some new features really don’t work that well on older phones.  Sometimes enabling the cool new feature or compatibility drives your performance, stability, or battery life down the tubes.  So be careful what you wish for.  Choose your updates wisely, both the software, and when you might want to replace the device.

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