Random Thoughts – Randocity!

How to use your PS4’s DS4 controller on Windows

Posted in howto, video game, windows by commorancy on May 30, 2018

HowToBadgeIn a follow-up to the Randocity article How to pair your PS4 controller wirelessly, this article is an extension to explain how to use a DualShock 4 controller on Windows. Since that pairing article shows you how to pair a DS4, this article will show you how to make use of it on Windows.

DS4Windows

You’ll need to download DS4Windows for your system. Note that there are two releases of DS4Windows. One by Jay2Kings which has been abandoned and a newer fork being handled by Ryochan4. You’ll want to get this newer version from Ryochan4. This version is being updated constantly.

Requirements

  • Windows 7 or newer
  • Microsoft .NET 4.5.2 or higher (needed to unzip the driver and for macros to work properly)
  • SCP Virtual Bus Driver (Downloaded & Installed with DS4Windows)
  • Microsoft 360 Driver (link inside DS4Windows, already installed on Windows 7 SP1 and higher or if you’ve used a 360 controller before)
  • Sony DualShock 4 (This should be obvious)
  • Micro USB cable
  • (Optional) Bluetooth 2.1+, via adapter or built in pc (My recommendation) (Toshiba’s bluetooth adapters currently do not work)

Xbox 360 Controller Emulation

This driver works by latching onto the Xbox 360 controller emulation system that’s available as an add-on in Windows 7 or newer. As you’ll note, you’ll need to install the Microsoft 360 Driver if you’ve never used a 360 controller on Windows. If you have previously used a 360 controller or you are using Windows 8 or above, you can skip that installation step.

Downloading DS4Windows

To download the latest version of DS4Windows click through to this link:

Choose the top most release number. As I write this article, that number is version 1.4.119. However, if you’re reading this 6 months from now or later, it will likely have changed. If you’re running 64 bit Windows, download the x64 version. If you’re running 32 bit Windows, choose the x86 version.

After you download it, you’ll extract out the zip file which contains the following files:

filelist

From here, double-click the DS4Windows application icon. Note, Windows may warn you that this application is from an unknown developer, be sure to click ‘Run Anyway’. There’s no way around this issue because this developer has chosen not to code sign this application.

Once you run DS4Windows, you should see a window that looks like this:

ds4windows_installer

Follow these steps:

Step 1: Install the DS4 Driver — Click the Button highlighted in red

step1

Step 2: Install the 360 driver (only needed if Windows 7 or below). Skip this step on Windows 10.

step2

Step 3: Connect your DS4 Controller

step3

From here, you’ll need to choose if you’re going to use this controller via USB cable or via Bluetooth. If you have a USB cable, then follow the instructions at the top of the red box. If you intend to use the controller wirelessly, then follow the (optional) Bluetooth instructions at the bottom of the window above.

If you’ve chosen Bluetooth, then change settings by clicking the ‘Bluetooth Settings’ button and connect the controller to Windows through Windows’s control panel settings. Once you click on Bluetooth Settings, you should see a window appear like:

bt_settings

Make sure Bluetooth is enabled on your computer. Then, click add a new device. From here you should see a window like so:

btdevices

Click on Bluetooth type devices and make sure the controller is in pairing mode. It should show up as ‘Wireless Controller’. Select it and it will pair. After this, DS4Windows will ensure the proper drivers are loaded for this controller. You’ll see a few notifications pop up regarding installation of various controller drivers for this newly found controller.

Step 4 — Finished

step4

Once that’s all complete, you’ll see the DS4Windows main window now looks like this and contains your new controller:

ds4_windows

Your controller’s ID will be different than mine. Note, like the PS4, you can only connect a maximum of 4 controllers using this tool.

Using your new DS4 controller on Windows

After you get your controller set up to this point, you’ll need to select and/or create a profile. A profile maps the controller’s buttons and joysticks to actions on Windows (or a specific game). When you click on the Profiles tab across the top of the window, you can create new profiles or import existing profiles that you’ve downloaded.

I’m still on the lookout for a high quality archive of profiles for specific games. Unfortunately, I’ve not yet found any. For the time being, you’ll need to create your own. Setting up profiles goes beyond the scope of this installation tutorial. However, I will leave you with a few YouTube videos to get you started.

 

 

Note, the above video does not have sound.

 

Jump to 6:53 in the above video to begin the mapping setup tutorial.

Profiles

If I manage to find any preexisting game profiles, I will create a list below of their locations. If you have a specific game that needs a profile, please leave a comment below and I will attempt to locate a profile for you. Note, however, I can’t create any profiles where I don’t have the game installed. The best I can do is look for someone who has already created a profile and point you there.

Request for Profiles

For all readers, I have a request. If you have any existing DS4Windows profiles that you have successfully used on a game, please contact me. If you’re willing, I’d like to create an archive of your DS4Windows profile(s) here on Randocity. For every profile you upload, I will list your name in credit to the profile.

Now, here’s the challenge. To get this DS4Windows archive started, the first person who uploads 10 functional DS4Windows popular game profiles to this archive will receive a new Sony Dual Shock 4 controller as bounty. This offer is good throughout the world, but void where prohibited. This bounty is valid through December 31, 2018. All entries must be received before January 1, 2019. To submit your entries, leave a comment below. Be sure to use your contact email address in your WordPress account so it will appear with your comment. Do not leave your email address in the comment.

As always, if this article is helpful to you, please leave a comment below. If you like what Randocity offers, please click the Follow button in the upper right corner to receive notification of new Randocity articles.

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Windows 8 PC: No Linux?

Posted in botch, computers, linux, microsoft, redmond, windows by commorancy on August 5, 2012

According to the rumor mill, Windows 8 PC systems will come shipped with a new BIOS replacement using UEFI (the extension of the EFI standard).  This new replacement boot system apparently comes shipped with a secured booting system that, some say, will be locked to Windows 8 alone.   On the other hand, the Linux distributions are not entirely sure how the secure boot systems will be implemented.  Are Linux distributions being prematurely alarmist? Let’s explore.

What does this mean?

For Windows 8 users, probably not much.  Purchasing a new PC will be business as usual.  For Microsoft, and assuming UEFI secure boot cannot be disabled or reset, it means you can’t load another operating system on the hardware.  Think of locked and closed phones and you’ll get the idea.  For Linux, that would mean the end of Linux on PCs (at least, not unless Linux distributions jump thorough some secure booting hoops).  Ok, so that’s the grim view of this.  However, for Linux users, there will likely be other options.  That is, buying a PC that isn’t locked.  Or, alternatively, resetting the PC back to its factory default state of being unlocked (which the UEFI should support).

On the other hand, dual booting may no longer be an option with secure boot enabled.  That means, it may not be possible to install both Windows and Linux onto the system and choose to boot one or the other at boot time.  On other other hand, we do not know if Windows 8 requires UEFI secure boot to boot or whether it can be disabled.  So far it appears to be required, but if you buy a boxed retail edition of Windows 8 (which is not yet available), it may be possible to disable secure boot.  It may be that some of the released to manufacturing (OEM) editions require secure boot.  Some editions may not.

PC Manufacturers and Windows 8

The real question here, though, is what’s driving UEFI secure booting?  Is it Windows?  Is it the PC manufacturers?  Is it a consortium?  I’m not exactly sure.  Whatever the impetus is to move in this direction may lead Microsoft back down the antitrust path once again.  Excluding all other operating systems from PC hardware is a dangerous precedent as this has not been attempted on this hardware before.  Yes, with phones, iPads and other ‘closed’ devices, we accept this.  On PC hardware, we have not accepted this ‘closed’ nature because it has never been closed.  So, this is a dangerous game Microsoft is playing, once again.

Microsoft anti-trust suit renewed?

Microsoft should tread on this ground carefully.  Asking PC manufacturers to lock PCs to exclusively Windows 8 use is a lawsuit waiting to happen.  It’s just a matter of time before yet another class action lawsuit begins and, ultimately, turns into a DOJ antitrust suit.  You would think that Microsoft would have learned its lesson by its previous behaviors in the PC marketplace.  There is no reason that Windows needs to lock down the hardware in this way.

If every PC manufacturer begins producing PCs that preclude the loading of Linux or other UNIX distributions, this treads entirely too close to antitrust territory for Microsoft yet again.  If Linux is excluded from running on the majority of PCs, this is definitely not wanted behavior.  This rolls us back to the time when Microsoft used to lock down loading of Windows on the hardware over every other operating system on the market.  Except that last time, nothing stopped you from wiping the PC and loading Linux. You just had to pay the Microsoft tax to do it.  At that time, you couldn’t even buy a PC without Windows.  This time, according to reports, you cannot even load Linux with secure booting locked to Windows 8.  In fact, you can’t even load Windows 7 or Windows XP, either.  Using UEFI secure boot on Windows 8 PCs treads  within millimeters of this same collusionary behavior that Microsoft was called on many years back, and ultimately went to court over and lost much money on.

Microsoft needs to listen and tread carefully

Tread carefully, Microsoft.  Locking PCs to running only Windows 8 is as close as you can get to the antitrust suits you thought you were done with.  Unless PC manufacturers give ways of resetting and turning off the UEFI secure boot system to allow non-secure operating systems, Microsoft will once again be seen in collusion with PC manufacturers to exclude all other operating systems from UEFI secure boot PCs.  That is about as antitrust as you can get.

I’d fully expect to see Microsoft (and possibly some PC makers) in DOJ court over antitrust issues.  It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.  I predict by early 2014 another antitrust suit will have materialized, assuming the way that UEFI works comes true.  On the other hand, this issue is easily mitigated by UEFI PC makers allowing users to disable the UEFI secure boot to allow a BIOS boot and Linux to be loaded.  So, the antitrust suits will entirely hinge on how flexible the PC manufacturers set up the UEFI secure booting.  If both Microsoft and the PC makers have been smart about this change, UEFI booting can be disabled.   If not, we know the legal outcome.

Virtualization

For Windows 8, it’s likely that we’ll see more people moving to use Linux as their base OS with Windows 8 virtualized (except for gamers where direct hardware is required).  If Windows 8 is this locked down, then it’s better to lock down VirtualBox than the physical hardware.

Death Knell for Windows?

Note that should the UEFI secure boot system be as closed as predicted, this may be the final death knell for Windows and, ultimately, Microsoft.  The danger is in the UEFI secure boot system itself.  UEFI is new and untested in the mass market.  This means that not only is Windows 8 new (and we know how that goes bugwise), now we have an entirely new untested boot system in secure boot UEFI.  This means that if anything goes wrong in this secure booting system that Windows 8 simply won’t boot.  And believe me, I predict there will be many failures in the secure booting system itself.  The reason, we are still relying on mechanical hard drives that are highly prone to partial failures.  Even while solid state drives are better, they can also go bad.  So, whatever data the secure boot system relies on (i.e. decryption keys) will likely be stored somewhere on the hard drive.  If this sector of the hard drive fails, no more boot.  Worse, if this secure booting system requires an encrypted hard drive, that means no access to the data on the hard drive after failure ever.

I’d predict there will be many failures related to this new UEFI secure boot that will lead to dead PCs.  But, not only dead PCs, but PCs that offer no access to the data on the hard drives.  So people will lose everything on their computer.

As people realize this aspect of this local storage system on an extremely closed system, they will move toward cloud service devices to prevent data loss.  Once they realize the benefits of cloud storage, the appeal of storing things on local hard drives and most of the reasons to use Windows 8 will be lost.  Gamers may be able to keep the Windows market alive a bit longer, otherwise. On the other hand, this why a gaming company like Valve software is hedging its bets and releasing Linux versions of their games. For non-gamers, desktop and notebook PCs running Windows will be less and less needed and used.  In fact, I contend this is already happening.  Tablets and other cloud storage devices are already becoming the norm.  Perhaps not so much in the corporate world as yet, but once cloud based Office suites get better, all bets are off.  So, combining the already trending move towards limited storage cloud devices, closing down PC systems in this way is, at best, one more nail in Windows’ coffin.  At worst, Redmond is playing Taps for Windows.

Closing down the PC market in this way is not the answer.  Microsoft has stated it wants to be more innovative as Steve Balmer recently proclaimed.  Yet, I see moves like this and this proves that Microsoft has clearly not changed and has no innovation left.  Innovation doesn’t have to and shouldn’t lead to closed PC systems and antitrust lawsuits.

Bad Operating System Design Ideas Part 1

Posted in Apple, Mac OS X, windows by commorancy on November 6, 2011

Here is a new series I am putting together.  While we all need to use operating systems every day, there are lots of stupid ideas that abound on these devices that some developer thought would be ‘cool’.  Let’s explore these design ideas and why they’re stupid.  Let’s start with one company that people seem to think can do no wrong.. Apple.  Yeah, I could start with the easiest target, Windows, but I’ll save the best (er.. easiest) for last. :)

Apple isn’t immune

Spring Loaded Folders

Apple’s OS X most definitely has some quirky and, frankly, stupid design ideas that simply need to go away.  For very good reason, the first on this list is spring loaded folders. This is one design idea that breaks EVERY UI rulebook.  This functionality moves windows around under the cursor to unexpected places during, of all times, when you’re about to drop a file or folder on it.  It’s almost like some kind of bizarre practical joke. I mean, if this isn’t the absolute worst idea, I don’t know what is.  I’m not even sure what they were thinking at the time of conception, but windowing operating systems should never ever move windows or cursors automatically.  Let the user move things if they want them moved.  Worse, the idea of spring loaded folders has nothing at all to do with moving the windows around.  The spring loaded folder is supposed to open a folder when you are dragging and hovering over to the top of a folder name.  While opening a new window in the middle of holding drag-and-drop operation may seem like a great idea, it’s really obvious why this UI concept doesn’t work:  it will lead to dropping folders into the wrong place.  I don’t even want to say how many times I’ve inadvertently lost folders and files as a result of spring loaded folders. Yes, at least you can turn it off and it should be off by default.

Android isn’t immune

There is no easy way to manage running applications (at least not in 2.2) or really any other settings.  You have to dig through the ‘Settings’ area to get to Applications and then manage them from there after a few drill downs.  Same with most settings.  This is a mobile device.  These things need EASY and FAST access.  Digging through 5 menus to get to the Bluetooth area is both wasteful and dangerous while driving.  Let’s get these things front and center with one click.

IOS isn’t immune

Dragging icons from screen to screen to move them is near impossible.  Most times it drops onto the current screen at the edge.  You then have to pick it up and drag it again.  It would be far simpler to show a representation of all of the screens at once and then drop it onto the screen you want it on.  You can then put it in the exact location later.

Windows isn’t immune (but who said it was?)

When you’re hovering over a scrollable area of an Explorer window, you have to click to activate before you can scroll.  The trouble is, there is no empty place to click that doesn’t activate something.  If you’re hovering over the folder area, whatever you click on will activate.  If you’re in the files area, the same thing.  This is magnified when the Explorer window also happens to be a file requester.  So, you’re trying to scroll to the bottom of the files area.  If you click anywhere in the files area, it will fill in the filename with the file you have just clicked.  Annoying.  I don’t know why Windows can’t just realize the mouse pointer is over that area and activate at least the scrolling part.  There really should be no click necessary.

Why Windows can’t remember my folder settings in Windows 7, I have no idea.  Getting rid of the Quick Launch bar, bad idea.  Turning the ‘Start’ button into the ‘Windows’ button, stupid (at least from a support perspective).  Can we at least keep some consistency from one OS to the next?

These are my initial pet peeves.  There are tons more that have yet to be documented.  I will highlight these in part two of this series.

Enjoy (and comment if you have peeves of your own).

Installing the Apple Magic Mouse on Windows 7

Posted in Apple, windows by commorancy on October 25, 2011

Ok, so here’s a topic that you would think would be easy to do. Yet, thanks to Apple, it isn’t and, in fact, took me about 20 minutes to do something that should have taken me 2. Here’s one part of Apple that I hope changes with the new regime stepping in.  As much as I admired Steve Jobs, his ideas about an Apple-centric universe were a bit over-the-top. It really makes no sense to create peripherals and tie them to only a tiny fraction of the overall computer market, especially when they’ve already written drivers for the other half of the market! Here’s hoping for some change.

Installing the Magic Mouse

This part is easy.  Just turn on the mouse and add a new bluetooth device. Then, select the device and follow the wizard to complete the pairing. It’s not hard at all. The trouble is, it loads a 2006 generic Microsoft mouse driver. This driver doesn’t support any of the touch gestures.  Anyway, once you’ve gotten it paired and working, you’ll quickly notice something is missing.  Namely, vertical scrolling. Hmm, it makes this mouse less than ideal.  So, how do you get scrolling working? Note, if you need specific instructions on setting up a bluetooth device, leave a comment below and I’ll post step-by-step instructions.

Boot Camp

To get the full (or at least as full as you’re going to get with Windows) gestures working (like vertical scrolling) with the Magic Mouse, you need to install Apple’s drivers from Boot Camp. Oh, don’t bother running over to Apple.com and looking for them, you’ll only find a bunch of updates that don’t contain the driver. Instead, you need to locate a copy of the Snow Leopard (or perhaps even a Lion) DVD. Once inserted into Windows, the Boot Camp partition should pop up. This is exactly what you need.

From here (assuming your DVD mounts on M:), go to M:\Boot Camp\Drivers\Apple\x64 or M:\Boot Camp\Drivers\Apple (for 32 bit). In this folder you will find a file called AppleWirelessMouse64.exe / AppleWirelessMouse.exe. Run this file. It will install drivers. When complete, the gestures will be enabled. However, you may have to go to Control Panel->Mouse and readjust the speed and acceleration as it gets reset after the installation.

Simple, easy, fast.. assuming you have a Snow Leopard install disk. Note, I’ve heard the drivers may not persist past a reboot. If you find this is the case, let me know and I will see if I can find a way to make that happen. :)

Update: If you’re using High Sierra and looking for Bootcamp drivers (2018 latest MacOS, visit this article to learn more about Bootcamp drivers).

Mouse won’t connect?

This is a problem I’ve found with the Magic Mouse even on a Mac. However, this has a simple fix (even if not obvious). Click the mouse several times to wake the mouse up to ask it to reconnect to Windows (or Mac) after turning the mouse on.

Drivers

Note, I’ve found the drivers on the net located here. If you find that this link no longer works, please let me know in the comments below and I’ll see if I can find another location.

Good Luck

iTunes 10 and Windows 7: We’re Back (stupid fixable problems)

Posted in Apple, ipod, itunes, itunes bugs, windows by commorancy on September 14, 2010

In an earlier randosity article, I discuss permissions issues related to iTunes 8. We’ll, these issues have now returned with a vengeance in iTunes 10. Does Apple not actually test their software on Windows? I mean, seriously, it’s not that hard to fix this issue when installing.

Apple’s weak Windows developers

Clearly, Apple only focuses on Apple. When it comes to Windows, they just vomit out the software without thought to what crap it really is. Come on Apple, fix your crap. I’m tired of dealing with these issues that are so easily resolved.

How can Apple permanently fix this problem? Simple, the iTunes installer needs to uninstall iTunes fully and clean up all iTunes registry entries completely. Then, the installer should reinstall iTunes from a clean setup. Apple should NOT do the install-over-whats-existing-thing and hope it all works. This clearly doesn’t work.

Anyway…

If you are an iTunes 10 user and you continually keep seeing THIS WINDOW when launching iTunes:

Stupid iTunes 10 Startup Window

Stupid iTunes 10 Startup Window

… and that says “Please wait while Windows configures iTunes” …

Then, follow these instructions in my earlier randosity article to fix the registry permissions for iTunes.

Ok, so the earlier fix doesn’t work. But, you can read the article as it has some relevant information about what causes the issue. Anyway, this word doc attached contains the commands necessary to reset the registry permissions on iTunes and QuickTime registry keys.

Note, since WordPress doesn’t allow attaching functioning scripts as part of the media, I have created this Word doc with the commands. You will need to use the following steps to create the script. Note you will need to quit out of iTunes before you run this command.

Steps to create the reset.cmd command from resetit.doc:

  • Save the ResetIt.doc file to your hard drive
  • Open it with MSOffice or OpenOffice
  • Press ctrl-a to select everything in the doc, ctrl-c to copy it
  • Launch Notepad (Start->All Programs->Accessories->Notepad or Windows Button->All Programs->Accessories->Notepad)
  • In the Notepad window, press ctrl-v to paste
  • In Notepad, File->Save As… and save the file as Reset.cmd in a location you can easily find*
  • Launch a command prompt with Start->All Programs->Accessories->Command Prompt using right-click selecting ‘Run As Administrator’
  • In the command prompt, cd to where you saved Reset.cmd
  • Type in ‘reset.cmd’ into the command shell

Note that this script will take a few minutes to run. Once the script completes, try starting iTunes. If you no longer get this panel, it’s fixed. If you do, then you may need to run this reset script 2 or 3 times more to fully repair the permissions. The reason is that subinacl (the command that’s used to reset each key in the registry) doesn’t continue locating more keys and repairing them once an error occurs (even when it’s successful at changing things). Make sure your login account in Windows 7 is an administrator account.

I have found that the permissions were relatively easy to fix, but the difficulty is with Microsoft’s subinacl.exe command. This command doesn’t seem to work properly to drill down to keys below. This is why you will see lots of duplication in the script. The script needs to run the command multiple times to drill down and get all of the keys. This is also why you may need to run the script several times. If you find you don’t have subinacl.exe, you will need to download subinacl.exe from Microsoft.

Second Note, uninstallation of iTunes and reinstallation may not resolve this issue as the registry keys may not be deleted on uninstallation (due to permissions problems). Therefore, uninstalling and reinstalling probably won’t work. Even still, the new keys may install with the crap permissions that the existing ones already have and you’ll be right back in the same boat. The fix is to make the keys readable and writable by the current user and the administrator.

Come on Apple, fix your crap software.

*Make sure that notepad saves the file as reset.cmd and not reset.cmd.txt. To do this, in the Save As requester, make sure to type in only reset.cmd. Double check to make sure it didn’t append the .txt extension. If it does, you will need to rename this file and remove the .txt portion to run the script.

Disclaimer: The script described above modifies registry keys and is used at your own risk. These keys have been checked against what Apple uses, but following the steps above and modifying the registry is not without risk. Therefore, each user who follows these instructions assumes all risk when creating and running the above reset.cmd script.

Deep Tech #1: Momentus XT, Microsoft Kinect, Micro PCs

Posted in computers, windows by commorancy on July 25, 2010

Momentus XT

Here’s something that holds some promise for notebook hard drives, but don’t get your hopes up too high. Seagate has released the Momentus XT notebook hard drive. It’s a hybrid drive that combines solid state cache technology and a 7200 RPM mechanical spindle. The thought behind this drive technology is to help speed up your notebook’s hard drive performance. The upside, the SSD cache apparently does help speed the system up. The downside is that it only works on notebooks where the bottleneck is the hard drive.

The reality is, in many notebooks, this drive technology may not help speed up the system. The reality is, most notebook manufacturers cut corners on underlying bus architectures so that the motherboard ends up being the bottleneck, not the hard drive. For this reason, notebook makers put in 5400 RPM drives to 1) increase battery life and 2) reduce the heat. A faster drive requires more power and also radiates more heat. So, if you’re looking to keep your system as cool and quiet with the longest amount of battery, the Momentus XT may not be a great choice. Considering that the drive costs around $120-200 for a 500GB drive and no guarantee of performance improvement, it may not be worth the gamble if your notebook is older than 1 year.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a portable USB 2 or 3 drive without the need for extra power supplies, this drive may well be the answer. Although, I have not found the drive prepackaged to purchase, it’s simple enough to put together your own portable drive from this drive and an external USB 3 case.

The bad news about this drive, however… don’t expect to find it at your local tech retailer. Fry’s, Best Buy and Microcenter don’t carry it. Neither do Target, Walmart, Sears or any other local retailer. If you want this drive, you will need to order it from an Internet technology e-tailer like Newegg or Amazon and then wait for it to be delivered.

Microsoft Kinect

This device, formerly known as Project Natal, turns your body into a game controller. I don’t know about you, but this really doesn’t sound that appealing. Back in the late 90s, I’d seen a full body controller game at an arcade. Not only did it require a large amount of space, so you don’t knock things over or fall over and hurt yourself, it just seemed clumsy and awkward. Fast forward to the Microsoft Kinect. I see the same issue here. I’m not actually thrilled by standing around all day flailing my arms and legs to play a video game. Perhaps for 20 or 30 minutes to get a workout (ala, Wii Fit), I just don’t think I’d want to stand around all day flailing my arms and legs to play Red Dead Redemption. I just don’t really see it happening.

Considering the price tag of $150 for this device (which, BTW, is only $50 less than the cost of an Xbox 360), I’m just not feeling the love here. Overall, I think this novelty device will garner some support in small circles, but as with most Microsoft novelty tech, it’s pretty much dead in the water at $150. If they could bundle it in with an Xbox 360 for a $250-300 price tag including a game, then maybe. But, as for now, I’m not predicting that this device will last.

The Micro PC

If you’re looking for a small computer to fill that niche in your entertainment center, then perhaps the Dell Zino HD or the Viewsonic VOT 550 will fit the bill as both appear to be quite capable tiny computers. I’ve been looking for a small well designed PC for a specific purpose. A computer about the size of an Apple MacMini, but that runs Windows. Yes, I could probably get a MacMini and load Windows on it, but I’d really rather get a PC designed for that task. With an Apple MacMini, it feels like a square-peg-round-hole situation. With a PC designed for Windows, loading Windows would work with much less problems and probably have better driver support.

Overall, I like both the idea of the Zino HD and the Viewsonic VOT 550, I’d just like to see something as small as the MacMini. If Apple can produce such a small PC, I’m not sure why Dell, Gateway or other manufacturers can’t do it with PC hardware.

Clickity Click – The Microsoft Dilemma

Posted in computers, microsoft, windows by commorancy on April 30, 2010

Once upon a time, the mouse didn’t exist. So, the keyboard drove the interface. Later, Xerox came along and changed all of that (with the help of Steve Jobs and Apple). Of course, as it always does, Microsoft absconded with the mouse functionality and built that into Windows… not that there was really much choice with this decision.

We flash a decade forward or so and we’re at Windows XP. A reasonably streamlined Windows operating system from Microsoft. In fact, this is probably and arguably the most streamlined that Microsoft’s Windows has ever been (and will likely ever be). Granted, security was a bit weak, but the user interface experience was about as good as it can get. With only a few clicks you could get to just about anything you needed.

Flash forward nearly another decade to see the release of the dog that was Windows Vista. Actually, Windows Vista’s look was not too bad. But, that’s pretty much where it ends. Microsoft must not have done much usability testing with Vista because what used to take one or two clicks of the mouse now adds 1-3 extra clicks. The reason, Microsoft has decided to open useless windows as launchpads to get to underlying components. Added layers that are pointless and unnecessary. For example, you used to be able to right click ‘My Network Places’, release on properties and get right to the lan adapters to set them up. No more. Now this same properties panel opens a launchpad interface that requires clicking ‘Change Adapter Settings’ just to get the adapters. Pointless. Why was this added layer necessary? And this is the best of the worst.

More than this, though, is that sometimes the labeling of the links to get to the underlying components is obscure or misleading. So, you’re not really sure what link to click to get to the thing you need. That means you end up clicking several things just to find the thing you need. Yes, you can use the help to find things, but that then means opening even more windows and clicking through even more time wasting events just to locate something that should have been one-click anyway.

Server Operating Systems

This issue is not limited to the desktop OS world. In the server world, such as Windows 2008 R2, these launch pads are now excessive and in-your-face. For example, when you first install Windows 2008 R2, two of these panels open as the first thing after you log in. So now, I’m already starting out having to click closed two windows that I didn’t even need to see at that point just so I can get to the desktop. Likely, if you’re installing a server operating system, you’re planning on hooking it into a domain controller. So, setting up anything on the local administrative user is pointless. That means I have to close out of these useless panels in order to get to the panel where I can import this machine into the domain. It would have been far more helpful to have the first thing open be the join-the-domain panel. I don’t need to set up anything else on that newly installed machine until it’s in the domain.

Desktop Systems

Most people are much more familiar with the desktop operating systems than the server versions. But, these added clicks are all throughout not only Vista, but now Windows 7. Because Windows 7 is effectively a refresh of Vista with added compatibility features, these extra clicks are still there and still annoying. Why Microsoft had to take a streamlined interface and make it less efficient for users, I’ll never know. But, these added clicks to get to standard operating system tools is a waste of time and productivity. It also requires a higher learning curve to teach people the new method.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”

This motto needs to be ingrained into the engineering team at Microsoft because they clearly do not understand this. Added extra layers of windows does not make the OS more efficient. It makes it bloated, cumbersome and extremely inefficient. That extra click might only take an extra second, but those seconds add up when you’re doing a repetitive task that involves dealing with those windows as part of your job.

As another example, opening the default setup for control panel in XP shows the control panels themselves. In Vista / Windows 7, it now brings up a launch pad of abstract tasks. Tasks like ‘System and Security’ and ‘User accounts and family safety’. Clicking these leads to more sub concept tasks. So, instead of just showing the actual control panels, you have to click through a series of abstract task pages that ultimately lead you to a tool. No no no. Pointless and inefficient. Let’s go back to opening up the actual control panel view. I want to see the actual control panels. The abstract task idea is great for beginners. For advanced users, we want to turn this crap off. It’s pointless, slow and unnecessary. Power users do not need this.

Windows for beginners

Microsoft Bob is dead. Let’s not go there again. So, why is it that Microsoft insists on trying to spoon feed us an interface this dumbed down and with excessively clicky features? This interface would have been a great first step in 1990. But, not today. Taking this step today is a step backward in OS design. Anyone who has used Windows for more than 6 months doesn’t need these added inconveniences and inefficiencies. In fact, most average computer users don’t need this level of basics. Only the very beginner beginners need this level of spoon feeding.

Microsoft needs a to create new version (or, alternatively, a preference to turn ‘Newbie mode’ off). Simply put, they need Windows for the Power User. A stripped down design that gets back to basics. A design that eliminates these cumbersome beginner features and brings back the single click features that let us navigate the operating system fast and using the mouse efficiently (read, as few clicks as possible). Obviously, if you’re running ANY server edition, this automatically implies the power user interface. Let’s get rid of these helper panels on startup, mkay?

Microsoft, can we make this a priority for Windows 8?

Windows 7: Should I upgrade / install?

Posted in botch, corruption, microsoft, redmond, Uncategorized, windows by commorancy on December 6, 2009

After having used Windows 7 for at least a month now regularly, I’ve come to realize one thing… Windows 7 is not stable!  Things that had been fixed in Vista are now clearly broken again.  For example, I could run Vista for probably a month or longer without the need to reboot.  If I’m lucky, I can get away with running Windows 7 for about a week or two before its innards get flakey.  For example, there are now processes that hang and cannot be killed by Task Manager.  This forces the need to reboot.  Once the apps hang, it’s impossible to reboot cleanly.  So, I have yet to be able to reboot Windows 7 without having to force power off the system.  Just today, I once again tried to use the ‘Restart’ function which did absolutely nothing.  Windows 7 appeared to start the shutdown process and then clearly hung and did not finish.

I have also had a problem with Windows 7 drivers.  For example, the ATI driver I now have installed on Windows 7 is clearly bugged.  When I run Daz Studio 3, I can load a specific 3D model set and crash the system with a BSOD.  Worse, Windows 7 knows that it crashed, but it doesn’t have any clue what crashed it.  It knows it was a driver crash, but not the specific driver.  When I click the troubleshoot panel that appears after the system reboots, the panel goes away and offers no advice.

These are clearly the problems of yet another immature and sad operating system attempt by Microsoft.  Windows 7 should be more stable than Vista (which was, according to a lot of people, very unstable).  Well, I’m here to say that Vista is a ton more stable than Windows 7 is.  Yes, Vista is quirky and odd in places, but the underlying OS is pretty much rock steady.  I rarely had crashes or BSODs.  I could leave the system running for long periods of time without instability.  Windows 7, on the other hand, is just completely unstable.  This thing should never have made it out of Beta, let alone to the store shelves.

Should you install?

To answer this question is… no, do not install this disaster of an OS.  Wait until at least Service Pack 1.  When that arrives, Microsoft might actually be able to make this disaster workable.  Right now, it’s an unmitigated unstable mess.  In fact, this OS is far worse than Vista in a lot of respects at this point.  If you are on XP, stay there.  Since there is no upgrade path from XP, you probably don’t want to try an upgrade anyway.. let alone to something that’s much more unstable than XP.  Not to mention, Windows 7 has a far bigger disk usage footprint than XP.

If you are running Vista, carefully examine if you really need this OS.  Frankly, the bells and whistles that Microsoft added aren’t enough to justify an upgrade or the expense.  If you happen to buy a new computer with Windows 7 loaded, then take it.  If you want to upgrade an existing system, don’t do it.

Side by Side installs no longer available

Since the release of Vista, Microsoft has done away with side by side installs.  You used to be able to install a new operating system on the same disk drive as an existing other Windows version.  As of Vista, Microsoft stopped that.  Instead, you are now required to buy a new disk and install it on that fresh drive.  You cannot install it on the same partition as an existing other Windows install.  Windows 7 will rename the old installation to Windows.old and make it no longer bootable.  You might be able to get away with a side-by-side install on a separate partition, but I’ve never tested this.   So, if you’re thinking of taking Windows 7 for a test spin first, you should buy a new disk and install it on that blank disk.  Then, decide if you want to upgrade your Vista partition based on that test drive.  Alternatively, I’d recommend using something like Ghost to clone your existing partition for a test drive upgrade onto that blank new drive.  If you don’t like it, put your old disk back in and boot your system back into Vista (or whatever).

If you really must have Windows 7 on your machine, go for it.  But, be warned that it is not stable by any stretch.  Perhaps Service Pack 1 will fix these issues, but right now be warned that you will likely experience the same issues I have.  If you are an IT professional thinking of upgrading an employee’s computer, you should wait until Windows 7 is far more stable than it is today.

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Windows 7: Vista Rehashed — Missing the Mark

Posted in computers, microsoft, windows by commorancy on November 27, 2009

While the initial response of Windows 7 seems to have been positive from beta users, I have personally found it really no better than Windows Vista.  In fact, most of the touted improvements really aren’t there.  Here is a basic review of Windows 7 as compared to Vista.

Not much improved

Windows 7 has not really improved enough over Windows Vista.  It’s no wonder why Microsoft was able to shove this one out the door so rapidly.  Effectively, Microsoft gave Vista a slight UI facelift, added a couple of tweaks here and there and then pushed the product to the shelves.  In fact, I’m really wondering why it took as long as it did with so little improvement.  The same issues that exist in Vista still exist in Windows 7.  Namely, these include limited driver support, application compatibility and enhanced security that gets in the way.  I’ll discuss these issues below.

Driver Compatibility

When Vista was released, one of the main issues was driver support.  This issue is exactly the same with Windows 7.  For example, I have a Dell Studio XPS system running Vista 64 Home Premium edition.  It’s running 64 bit because I have 12GB of memory and that won’t work on 32 bit Vista (or Win 7).  Dell has had months to ready drivers for this brand new system (purchased July 2009).  Yet, Dell does not offer any drivers on their support site for this hardware.  Yes, they did support an upgrade disc, but that’s about it.  Dell expects you to accept the drivers that come with Windows 7 rather than obtaining the proper and updated drivers.  Worse, Windows 7 driver support is still very bare.  I wouldn’t expect to see full driver support for Win 7 until at least this time 2010 (possibly longer depending on adoption rate).

Note that 64 bit Windows requires 64 bit drivers.  Windows 7 cannot load or use 32 bit drivers under the 64 bit edition.  So, if you need to use 32 bit drivers, you should use the 32 bit version.  Of course, that means you are limited to 4GB of memory.  So, if you have older printer drivers that do not support 64 bit edition, you will have to hope that Windows 7 has a driver or be prepared to throw the printer out and buy something new.  This also follows with devices like Dlink’s Skype phone adapter.

You may be able to get around some of these issues using Sun’s Virtualbox or MS’s Virtual PC and loading 32 bit XP under a virtual environment.  Note, however, that not all devices offer passthrough to the virtual machine, so you may not be able to run those older devices requiring 32 bit drivers.  You may be able to get this working under Win 7 Ultimate’s XP mode.

Overall, driver support is rated 1.5 stars out of 5: poor

Application Compatibility

As with Vista, Windows 7 fails in this area still.  Frankly, because Windows 7 is effective Vista with a face lift, all of the same compatibility problems still exist in Windows 7.  So, don’t expect your old XP apps to run properly under Windows 7 in many cases.  This is especially true of apps that also tie to hardware devices that require drivers.

Worse, I have some 3D apps that work fine on Vista, but do not work at all under Windows 7.  This indicates to me that Microsoft has further broken application compatibility between Vista and Windows 7.  So, be prepared to lose some apps that may have worked under Vista.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars: fair

Enhanced Security – User Access Controls (UAC)

Security of your operating system and data is a big priority and is understood.  Any level of security has to straddle a fine line between securing the system and not getting in the way of using the system.  Frankly, UAC is a complete and utter failure.  This system is so in-your-face about security that it is a turn off.  Combine this with its constant verbose ‘Are you really sure’ messaging, people will soon ignore the messages just to get the work done.  Basically, this system is likened to ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’.  If you make every alert important and nothing ever happens, people stop listening.  Will UAC stop a system from being infected?  Probably not.  People will still run apps they shouldn’t run.

Beyond UAC, Windows 7 changed nothing over Vista.  Windows 7’s UAC appears identical to Vista for all intents and purposes.  Frankly, it’s still so much of a hassle that I still turn it off.

Rating: 3.0 out of 5 stars: in-the-way

Other problems

Other than the above, not much else has changed.  All of the main usability problems that were introduced in Vista are still in Windows 7.  For example, when you open file requesters, they tend to default to large icons.  I prefer ALL of my file lists (whether a file requester or a Windows explorer window) to be in list formatted with the columns Name, Size and Date Modified.  Both Vista and Windows 7 default to Name, Tags, Rating and Date. Sometimes it even adds Date Taken. I have no intention of rating or tagging every file on my filesystem.  For files in a photos folder or a music folder, yes.  Definitely not every file on the filesystem, so these columns are completely inappropriate for 98% of the filesystem.  Yet, the headers are there each time a new file requester opens. Why?

When you’re constantly having to change the columns to show the data you need, that’s very inefficient and wasteful.  Let me set it once and forget it.  No, can’t do that.  I have wasted a ton of time just rearranging these windows each and every time I open a new file requester.  Please Microsoft, figure out a way to let us save our favorite columns and make it actually STICK.

In Windows explorer, this USED to work in XP.  In Vista, and it also now appears Win 7, you could set up your preferred folder view and go into the options and ‘Make all folders like this one’.  That works for a while.  However, inexplicably the folders eventually revert back to their old column headers without any warning.  So, changing this setting and saving it doesn’t work.  Again, it’s another inefficient use of my time.

Time Wasters

On top of the above inefficiencies, Microsoft has decided to bury many functions down up to three layers deep to change system settings.  For example, you used to be able to right-click ‘My Network Places’ and get right to the settings for the network adapters.  Now, however, if you do this you get to a new UI interface that requires you to click one or two additional links to get to the configuration panel.  In some cases, they’ve split features out into multiple separate windows to do the same thing that one panel used to do in XP.  Again, this requires not only digging through multiple places, you now have to dig through multiple panels.

Windows 7 should have been redesigned in a major way.  Instead, we get a rehash of Vista.  The learning curve is still there.  Nothing has been done to increase user efficiency in the UI.  Overall, I’d give Windows 7 a 3 stars out of 5. Microsoft has a lot of work to get Windows 7 even close to the efficiency level of XP.  They also need to address the lack of drivers, driver compatibility and application compatibility issues.  Eventually, they won’t be issues once developers redesign their apps to work with Windows 7, but there are still lots of legacy apps that do not work.

Should you buy Windows 7?

That’s really the question of the year.  If you are buying a new machine that comes with Windows 7 loaded, go for it.  If you are running Windows XP, you might want to think twice.  Windows 7 does not solve all of the XP compatibility problems.  So, if you’re looking at upgrading an existing system, I would recommend against that.  In fact, you can’t directly upgrade (see below).  You will find that most of your apps may no longer work.  So, be careful when thinking about an XP upgrade. Note that you can’t directly upgrade XP to Windows 7 anyway.  Windows 7 will move Windows to Windows.old and then install a fresh copy of Windows 7.  This means you will need to find all of your app discs and reinstall (assuming that that he apps are Windows 7 compatible).  So, this is a real pain.

I would recommend that you buy a new hard drive and place it into your XP machine and install onto the new hard drive.  Then set it up to dual boot.  So, then you can boot into Windows 7 or XP depending on what you need. Dual booting is a hassle, but at least it retains your apps.  You can even create a virtual environment out of your XP hard drive and run it under Virtualbox or Virtual PC in Windows 7.  So, you might want to consider a virtual environment for your XP system for compatibility (assuming you aren’t running games).  Note that virtual environments work great for Windows desktop apps.  Games, on the other hand, don’t always work that well… so be careful with games as they may not work in a virtual environment.

In answer to this question,  only upgrade to Windows 7 from Vista.  Do not upgrade XP  to Windows 7 as it’s a waste.  Instead, buy a new hard drive and install Windows 7 fresh. Then, copy over your files from your XP hard drive that are important to you.  Consider the age of XP, you probably need to buy a new hard drive anyway just strictly considering the hard drive’s age.  Hard drives are only rated to last about 5 years reliably and XP is long older than 5 years since it was released.

[Update 2/11/2010] After upgrading several systems, I highly recommend against upgrading from Vista to Windows 7 using the upgrade process.  The reason: while it appears to work, you may find the system somewhat strange during use.  Some things won’t install and work properly. Basically, the system just doesn’t always work 100% after an upgrade. It seems that Windows 7 retains too many Vista files and settings and leaves the system in a slightly unstable state.  A state that no amount of repair can fix.  If you have Vista and want to upgrade, don’t.  Instead, install a fresh copy of Windows 7 and reinstall all of your apps. Windows 7 doesn’t have to format your hard drive, so you won’t lose your data.  However, you will need to find it all again after installing Windows 7 fresh.  So, if you aren’t familiar with reattaching existing data to newly installed apps, you may need to enlist the help of the Geek Squad or someone who knows what they are doing.

Good luck.

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What’s wrong with Vista / Windows?

Posted in microsoft, tanking, windows by commorancy on July 6, 2009
This post comes from a variety of issues that I’ve had with Vista (specifically Vista 64 Home Premium).  And, chances are, these problems will not be resolved in Windows 7.  Yet, here they are in all their glory.
Memory Leaks
Vista has huge and horrible memory leaks.  After using Vista for a period of time (a week or two without a reboot) and using a variety of memory intensive 3D applications (Daz Studio, Carrara, The Gimp and Poser.. just to name a few), the system’s memory usage goes from 1.69GB to nearly 3GB in usage.  To answer the burning question… yes, I have killed all apps completely and I am comparing empty system to empty system.  Worse, there is no way to recover this memory short of rebooting.  If you had ever wondered why you need to reboot Windows so often, this is the exact reason.  For this reason alone, this is why Windows is not considered ‘stable’ by any stretch and why UNIX outperforms Windows for this reason alone.
Startup and Shutdown
Microsoft plays games with both of these procedures.
On Startup, Microsoft’s engineers have tricked you into thinking the system is functional even when it isn’t.  Basically, once the desktop appears, you think you can begin working.  In reality, even once the desktop appears, you still cannot work.  The system is still in the process of starting up the Windowing interface on top of about 100 background services (on many of which the windowing interface relies).  This trick makes Windows appear snappier to start up than it really is.  In fact, I would prefer it to just ready the system fully, then present the Windowing interface when everything is 100% complete.  I don’t want these tricks.  When I see the windowing interface, I want to know I can begin using it immediately… not before.
On Shutdown, we have other issues.  With Vista, Microsoft Engineers have done something to this process to make it, at times, ridiculously slow.  I have seen 8-15 minute ‘Shutting Down’ screens where the hard drive grinds the entire time.  I’m sorry, but shutdown time is not housekeeping time.  That needs to be done when the system is running.  It should not be done during shutdown procedures.  A shutdown should take no more than about 1-2 minutes to complete flushing buffers to disk and killing all processes.  If it can’t be done in 1-2 minutes, shut the system down anyway as there is nothing that can be done to finish those tasks anyway.
Windows Updates
Microsoft was supposed to eliminate the need to shutdown/reboot for most Windows updates.  For some updates, this is true.  For the majority of Windows updates, this is still not true.  In fact, Microsoft has, once again, made this process multistep and tediously slow in the process.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful that they are now at least verbose in, sort of, what’s going on.. but that doesn’t negate the fact that it’s horribly slow.  The steps now are as follows:
Windows installation process (downloading and installation through the Windows dialog box).  You think it’s over when you..
Restart the system and it goes through finishing Step 2 of this process during shutdown… and then you think it’s over again when
The system starts back up and goes through Step 3 of the update process.
Ok, I’m at a loss.  With Windows XP, we had two steps.  Those first during Windows updater and the second when the system starts back up.   Now with Vista, we have to introduce another step?
Windows Explorer
For whatever reason, Windows Explorer in Vista is horribly broken.  In Window XP, you used to be able to configure your Windows how you liked then lock it in with Tools->Folder Options  and then View->Apply to Folders.  This would lock in exactly how every window should appear (list or icon format, size of icons, etc).  With Windows Vista, this is completely and uterly broken.  This functionality just no longer works.  I’ve tried many many times to lock in a format and Windows just randomly changes the folders back to whatever it feels like doing.
For example, I like my windows to look like this:
Unfortunately, Windows has its down agenda.  If I open a file requester (the standard Vista requester… the one that looks like the above) and I change the view to ANY other folder than this one, it randomly changes folders on the system.  So, I might open the above folder and it will later look like any of these:

This post comes from a variety of issues that I’ve had with Vista (specifically Vista 64 Home Premium).  And, chances are, these problems will not be resolved in Windows 7.  Yet, here they are in all their glory.

Memory Leaks

Vista has huge and horrible memory leaks.  After using Vista for a period of time (a week or two without a reboot) and using a variety of memory intensive 3D applications (Daz Studio, Carrara, The Gimp and Poser.. just to name a few), the system’s memory usage goes from 1.69GB to nearly 3GB in usage.  To answer the burning question… yes, I have killed all apps completely and I am comparing empty system to empty system.  Worse, there is no way to recover this memory short of rebooting.  If you had ever wondered why you need to reboot Windows so often, this is the exact reason.  For this reason alone, this is why Windows is not considered ‘stable’ by any stretch and why UNIX outperforms Windows for this reason alone.

Startup and Shutdown

Microsoft plays games with both of these procedures.

On Startup, Microsoft’s engineers have tricked you into thinking the system is functional even when it isn’t.  Basically, once the desktop appears, you think you can begin working.  In reality, even once the desktop appears, you still cannot work.  The system is still in the process of starting up the Windowing interface on top of about 100 background services (on many of which the windowing interface relies).  This trick makes Windows appear snappier to start up than it really is.  In fact, I would prefer it to just ready the system fully, then present the Windowing interface when everything is 100% complete.  I don’t want these tricks.  When I see the windowing interface, I want to know I can begin using it immediately… not before.

On Shutdown, we have other issues.  With Vista, Microsoft Engineers have done something to this process to make it, at times, ridiculously slow.  I have seen 8-15 minute ‘Shutting Down’ screens where the hard drive grinds the entire time.  I’m sorry, but shutdown time is not housekeeping time.  That needs to be done when the system is running.  It should not be done during shutdown procedures.  A shutdown should take no more than about 1-2 minutes to complete flushing buffers to disk and killing all processes.  If it can’t be done in 1-2 minutes, shut the system down anyway as there is nothing that can be done to finish those tasks anyway.

Windows Updates

Microsoft was supposed to eliminate the need to shutdown/reboot for most Windows updates.  For some updates, this is true.  For the majority of Windows updates, this is still not true.  In fact, Microsoft has, once again, made this process multistep and tediously slow in the process.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful that they are now at least verbose in, sort of, what’s going on.. but that doesn’t negate the fact that it’s horribly slow.  The steps now are as follows:

  1. Windows installation process (downloading and installation through the Windows dialog box).  You think it’s over when you..
  2. Restart the system and it goes through finishing Step 2 of this process during shutdown… and then you think it’s over again when
  3. The system starts back up and goes through Step 3 of the update process.

Ok, I’m at a loss.  With Windows XP, we had two steps.  Those first during Windows updater and the second when the system starts back up.   Now with Vista, we have to introduce another step?

Windows Explorer

For whatever reason, Windows Explorer in Vista is horribly broken.  In Window XP, you used to be able to configure your Windows how you liked then lock it in with Tools->Folder Options  and then View->Apply to Folders.  This would lock in exactly how every window should appear (list or icon format, size of icons, etc).  With Windows Vista, this is completely and utterly broken.  Basically, this functionality simply no longer works.  I’ve tried many many times to lock in a format and Windows just randomly changes the folders back to whatever it feels like doing.

For example, I like my windows to look like this:

Favorite Format

Favorite Format

Unfortunately, Windows has its own agenda.  If I open a file requester (the standard Vista requester… the one that looks like the above) and I change the view to ANY other style than the one above, this change randomly changes other folder views on the system permanently.  So, I might open the above folder and it will later look like any of these:

Format Changed 1

Format Changed 1

Format Changed 2

Format Changed 2

or even

Format Changed 3

Format Changed 3

All of which is highly frustrating.  So, I’ll visit this folder later and see the entire headers have changed, or it’s changed to icon format or some other random format.  Worse, though, is that I’ve specifically changed to the folder to be my favorite format with Tools->Options.  In fact, I’ve gone through this permanent change at least 3-4 times after random changes  have happened and inevitably it changes to some other format later.  Again, highly frustrating.

Access Denied / Enhanced Security

For whatever reason, Microsoft has made shortcuts to certain folders.  Like for example, in your profile directory they have renamed ‘My Documents’ to simply ‘Documents’.  Yet, for whatever reason, Microsoft has created shortcuts that don’t work.  For example, if I click on ‘My Documents’ shortcut, I see ‘Access Denied’.  I don’t get why they would create a shortcut and then prevent it from working.

The only thing the enhanced security has done for Windows users is make it more of a problem to work.  Security goes both ways.  It helps protect you from malicious intent, but it can also get in the way of usability.  Security that ultimately gets in the way, like UAC, has failed to provide adequate security.  In fact, it has gone too far.  UAC is a complete and utter failure.  Combining this with making nearly every security issue tied to the SYSTEM user (with practically zero privileges), makes for stupid and exasperating usability.

Filesystem

To date, Windows still relies heavily and ONLY on NTFS.  Linux has about 5-6 different filesystems to choose from (Reiser, VxFS, XFS, Ext2, Ext3, JFS, BSD and several others).  This allows systems administrators to build an operating system that functions for the application need.  For example, some filesystems perform better for database use than others.   On Windows, you’re stuck with NTFS.  Not only is NTFS non-standard and proprietary (written by Veritas), it also doesn’t perform as well as it should under all conditions.  For database use, this filesystem is only barely acceptable.  It has hidden limits that Microsoft doesn’t publish that will ultimately bite you.  Microsoft wants this to become a pre-eminent datacenter system, but that’s a laugh.  You can’t trust NTFS enough for that.  There are way too many hidden problems in NTFS.  For example, if you hit a random limit, it can easily and swiftly corrupt NTFS’ MFT table (directory table).  Once the MFT table is corrupt, there’s no easy way to repair it other than CHKDSK. Note that CHKDSK is the ONLY tool that can truly and completely fix NTFS issues.  And, even CHKDSK doesn’t always work.  Yes, there are third party tools from Veritas and other companies, but these aren’t necessarily any better than CHKDSK.  Basically, if CHKDSK can’t fix your volume, you have to format and restore.

Note, however, that this isn’t a general Vista issue.  This problem has persisted back to the introduction of NTFS in Windows NT.  But, Microsoft has made no strides to allow or offer better more complete filesystems with better repair tools.  For example, Reiser and EXT3 both offer more complete repair tools than NTFS ever has.

Registry

The registry has got to be one of the most extensive hacks ever placed into any operating system.  This kludge of a database system is so completely botched from a design perspective, that there’s really nothing to say.  Basically, this system needs to be tossed and redesigned.  In fact, Microsoft has a real database system in MSSQL.  There is no reason why the registry is not based on MSSQL rather than that stupid hack of a thing call a hive/SAM.  Whomever decided on this design, well.. let’s just hope they no longer work at Microsoft.

Failure

For the above reasons (and others), Microsoft has completely failed with Windows Vista.  This failure was already in the making, though, when Longhorn was announced ages ago.  In fact, Microsoft had planned even more draconian measures to enable heavy DRM on Windows.  Thankfully, that was removed from Vista.  But, what remains makes Vista so encumbered and exasperating to use, it’s no wonder users are frustrated using Vista.  Combining that with its incredibly large footprint (1.6GB of memory just to boot the OS), and you have a complete loser of an OS.

Windows 7 is a glimmer of hope, but it is still heavily tied to Vista.  If UAC and these stupid SYSTEM user security measures remain, then nothing will really change.  Microsoft needs to take Windows back to the drawing board and decide what is necessary and what isn’t.  Preventing the user from actually using the operating system is not and should not be a core value, let alone part of security.  Yet, here we are.

Microsoft, you need to take a look at the bigger picture.  This is your final chance to get Windows right.  There are plenty of other unencumbered operating systems out there that do not get in the way of desktop computing.  These operating systems are definitely a threat to Microsoft’s continued viability… especially with blundering mistakes like Vista.  Windows will never win any awards for Best Operating System with issues such as these.  Consider Microsoft’s stupid filesystem layout that allows operating system and application files to be thrown all over the hard drive and you’ll begin to understand why Windows continues to fail.

The single reason why Microsoft continues to exist is because users feel compelled to buy this antiquated dog of an operating system strictly due to application support.  If developers would finally and completely jump ship to other more thoughtfully designed operating systems, then Windows would finally wither and die… eventually, this will happen.

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