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Home of my tech rants, free programs, and a story or two…

Windows 10… an unmitigated disaster

Recently Windows 10 has been plagued by a series of not just one but several Windows Updates that have had to be pulled from distribution because of, as Microsoft puts it… “unforeseen issues”. Unforeseen? Yeah… only because you fired your whole entire software QA team!!! Now had you, Microsoft, actually kept your internal software testing team instead of “dog fooding” it to their own users they would have caught the issues before they even came to light.

This has been an ongoing issue, Windows Updates causing issues that range from minor glitches to BSODs. This time, Windows 10 version 1803 Build 17134.441 (KB4467682) has been pulled according to this HardOCP front page article. Apparently the update is causing BSODs on get this… THEIR OWN DAMN HARDWARE!!! The update is causing issues with their older, yet still supported, Surface Book 2 lineup of products.

Come on Microsoft… you’re really taking the art of failing to an all new horrible level.

Windows 10 Diagnostic Data

OK so I did some deep diving into the app Windows Diagnostic Data Viewer that’s part of the new Windows 10 Fast Ring Build that was released recently and to be honest, it was an eye-opening experience.

If I am using the app correctly (and I most likely am) there is a toggle that will show you what is being collected and sent based upon the diagnostic level you have chosen (Basic vs Full). After seeing some of the data that’s being sent to Microsoft I would suggest that everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE changes their diagnostic mode to Basic. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200… CHANGE IT TO BASIC RIGHT NOW!!! I’m not even kidding here!

Now onto why. Oh man, yeah… this is a doozy even by my standards. So I opened Microsoft Edge and went to my web site, closed Microsoft Edge, and then launched the Windows Diagnostic Data Viewer app and did a search for a String in the data containing my domain name. Much to my horror, it was there!!! And worst of all, it was being sent to Microsoft as part of a sampling group. Microsoft even told me that my system was part of the sample group. Now I don’t know if this system is part of the sample group because I am running a Fast Ring build. No, I don’t use this system for every day usage; it’s only a VM for testing purposes.

With all of that said, I then toggled the mode to Basic meaning it would show only the data that your system is sending if your system was set to Basic mode and sure enough, the most damning of data was not included in the data set. Let me repeat that… in Basic mode the most damning of data was NOT included in the data set. Below are links to the two data sets.

Basic Mode Data
Full Mode Data

As you can see between the Basic Mode and the Full Mode that the Full Diagnostic Mode collects and sends a hell of a lot more data than Basic Diagnostic Mode. I have uploaded both files for people to see exactly what is being collected and sent to Microsoft.

Let’s just put it this way… if you have any want for privacy, even a little bit, Full Diagnostic Mode is DEFINITELY something you want to avoid like the plague!

Windows 10 Telemetry

I know that many of you may have read stuff about Windows 10’s telemetry and that Microsoft is using it to spy on their users. Every little thing that you do on your Windows machine is being tracked, collected, and sent to Microsoft. Every keystroke, every mouse movement, every word you say to Cortana is being sent to Microsoft for God knows what reason. And for all we know, Microsoft may be sending this information to government agencies around the world in their misguided attempts to protect us from “terrorism”.

We live in a world in which we can’t trust our governments to not be snooping on everything we do from sending an email or SMS message to talking on the phone. With that being said, Yahoo! was found snooping on everyone’s email and sending it straight to the US government’s spying agencies. How do we know that Microsoft isn’t doing the same thing and sending all of this telemetry that they’re collecting with Windows 10 straight to the US government? That’s right, we don’t.

I’m not saying that Microsoft is doing all of this but I’m also not saying that Microsoft isn’t doing all of this. Why? Because we don’t know. We don’t know what is being sent to Microsoft. Really! We don’t. The data is encrypted and we don’t know how to decrypt it to be able to find out what’s actually contained in said telemetry. So with that being said… call me a tin foil hat wearing nut job if you wish, because we don’t know we have to assume something is up. We have to assume that Microsoft is up to no good and that they’re spying on all of us.

The fact that you can’t turn the telemetry off in consumer versions of Windows 10 is even more worrisome. There’s no switch in Windows 10 that simply turns it all off. All we can do is either set the telemetry to Basic, Enhanced, or Full; there’s no “Off” switch.

A lot of the outrage regarding Windows 10 comes from the fact that we can’t turn the telemetry off, they’ve removed the choice to be able to do so. That right there folks is the major reason why myself and others like me have been so critical of Microsoft as of late. We can’t turn the telemetry off! Now had Microsoft given us the choice to be able to turn it off (if we so choose to do so) there wouldn’t be nearly the amount of hatred being flung Microsoft’s way concerning Windows 10. But again, there’s no “off switch”.

And for those people who are still running an earlier version of Windows such as Windows 7 to avoid this kind of telemetry collection, you aren’t safe from the telemetry either. Microsoft has been updating the telemetry components in Windows 7 and 8.1 to collect similar amounts of telemetry. And for those people who think that they’ll just avoid certain updates, you’re not safe either since Microsoft will be pushing cumulative updates to Windows 7 and 8.1 users just like Windows 10 receives. How do we know that Microsoft won’t slip additional telemetry updates into the cumulative updates for Windows 7 and 8.1? That’s right, we won’t know.

Microsoft… give us the choice, that’s all we ask for. If we don’t want our data going to you, that’s our business, that’s our choice. But in Windows 10 we don’t have that choice and that’s where it all begins… the removal of a choice. If Microsoft wants to rebuild their user’s trust and gain back some of the good will that they’ve shred over the last two years, they need to do the following three things. First and foremost, give the option to the users to be able to turn off the telemetry and not just make it available as a Registry hack; no, they need to release an easy to use tool to disable it. And second, come clean on what exactly is being collected and whether or not they’re sending this data to the governments of the world.

Microsoft OneDrive vs. Google Drive

And the winner is… Microsoft OneDrive.

Yes, I know… I have been critical of Microsoft and in a lot of cases they deserve it but when it comes to Microsoft OneDrive vs. Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive wins. The syncing of data between PCs using Microsoft OneDrive is far more stable, accurate, and faster than Google Drive in nearly every category. Google Drive used to be good but lately it’s become less and less stable at keeping files synced between multiple machines.

The Death of Windows Mobile

Paul Thurrott just released an article of his time at Microsoft Ignite and he brought up several key points in his article involving Windows Mobile during the developer conference.

Windows 10 Mobile is only for businesses. This was stressed repeatedly in different ways. There’s no consumer play here at all, and that is not changing going forward. Even the “More Personal” slide was about “Office 365 pre-installed, OneDrive for Business, Cortana for work,” and so. Businesses, not individuals/consumers.

It sure seems like it to me that Microsoft is throwing in the towel when it comes to Windows Mobile in the consumer space. What they basically said (without actually saying it) is that they have given up on Windows Mobile in anything but a business-type setting.

And why not? Let’s face facts here, Windows Mobile was a stillborn platform from the very beginning. Android and Apple iOS pretty much has the market cornered and up until a couple of week ago Microsoft Windows Mobile and Blackberry held onto a messily less than 1% of the market. According to this BusinessInsider article…

Windows 10 Mobile and BlackBerry OS make up 0.6% and 0.1% (of the market), respectively.

Those two platforms make up less than 1% of the market, pretty pathetic if you ask me. And according to this article… Android commands an impressive 86.2% of the market with Apple commanding 12.9% of the market. It’s plain to see that both Android and Apple iOS (albeit less Apple and more Android) are dominating the market. There’s not much room in the market left for a third competitor even if that competitor is Microsoft. And with Blackberry admitting defeat that leaves Android and Apple iOS dominating the market with Microsoft in very distant third place.

Windows 10 Mobile is for existing business customers, not for new customers. This one was interesting. At one point, one of the presenters said of the future, “our desire in this space is that Windows Mobile remain the safest, most manageable, most deploy-able solution for organizations that are already Microsoft customers. You will see that in the next year, and in the years after that.” That’s extremely limited, from an aspiration/goal standpoint. The question, by the way, was what success looked like for Windows phones.

Good God, with the way that part reads it looks like Microsoft is simply trying to desperately hold onto what little part of the market they have left and have lost all initiative to gain any more market share. It sure looks like it to me that Microsoft has given up when it comes to Windows Mobile.

Microsoft’s use of Windows phone internally. One attendee asked how Microsoft used Windows phone internally. Let me answer that one more accurately than the presenter did: They don’t. And at Microsoft Ignite this year, there was a dramatic drop in the number of Windows phones seen, especially among Microsoft employees. It was something many in the press remarked on.

Ouch! Microsoft basically said that nobody in their own company uses Windows Mobile devices and that the average Microsoft employee uses either an Android or an Apple iPhone. If that doesn’t state the obvious I don’t know what does. Windows Mobile is dead and Microsoft basically said it without actually saying it.

If you want to read the article written by Paul Thurrott, click here Microsoft Discusses a Very Limited Future for Windows 10 Mobile

Microsoft, please get back to what made Windows successful…

If you have been paying attention to what Microsoft has been doing lately you’d notice that Microsoft has been pushing this whole “Universal Windows Platform” initiative. The idea is that if you write a program as a Universal Windows Platform app your app will be able to run on mobile devices (phones and tablets), PCs (desktops and notebooks), and the XBOX. But lately that whole initiative by Microsoft has failed in the market.

The first of many nails in the coffin of UWP is the news that Quantum Break, a game that was written to be a UWP app and a Windows 10 exclusive, will be transitioned from being a UWP app to a game that can be run on many more devices than just Windows 10 devices. Why? Well, the developer cited issues with DirectX 12 bugs in which the game had issues running on certain graphics cards and that they had far more experience writing games in DirectX 11.

The second of many nails in the coffin is that developers just aren’t writing any apps for UWP. Sure, you can find apps in the Windows Store but if you ask me the apps you can find on it are garbage, pure garbage. I don’t understand how many of the apps that are on the Windows Store even made it to the store to begin with, they’re just that horrible. They lack many of the user interface elements that I’ve come to expect from desktop programs. I don’t know if it’s because UWP apps are so limited when it comes to designing program user interfaces but outside a few apps I’ve come across (like NetFlix), most apps are pure garbage. Most look like they fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. And lets not forget that most apps you can find are so buggy that even a can of RAID won’t help you.

When I think of a desktop program I think of a user interface with a proper menu interface. You know what I mean… File, Edit, etc. or even the ribbon. The apps you can find on the Windows Store lack those kinds of things, they instead have a “hamburger menu”. Really? A “hamburger menu”? If you ask me, a “hamburger menu” has no place at all on a desktop.

I bet you are asking why I said that. Well, it comes down to what is known as design language. When users look at a desktop program they expect a desktop program to look and feel a certain way. A proper menu system and multi-window user interface has been something that users have used for more than twenty years, we expect this from desktop programs. This design is tried and true, it works; there’s no reason to change it. And then all of a sudden UWP comes along and with it comes the idea that you should make your program run on different platforms. I don’t have a problem with programs being able to run on different platforms but what I do have a problem with is when you try to shoehorn a program that was obviously written and designed to run on a phone onto a desktop, that does not work with me. To reiterate, I expect desktop programs to look and feel a certain way, I don’t expect a “hamburger menu”. The “hamburger menu” belongs on a phone, not a desktop.

The third of many nails in the coffin is that writing UWP apps is very limiting due to the way that UWP apps are sandboxed when running on the system. This restricts what developers can do in their programs. You can’t interact with system components, you can’t load outside libraries, you’re limited to using a specific set of APIs, etc. This of course limits what a UWP app can do and when it comes to games, it’s even more limiting. Gamers expect to be able to MOD or modify games, add levels, etc. You can’t do that with UWP apps because, as you might have guessed, they’re sandboxed. You, as the user, can’t even browse the folder location of where UWP apps are stored on your system; if you try Windows Explorer will give you a big nasty “Access denied” error message.

The fourth of many nails in the coffin is that the majority of the world is still running Windows 7 so as a developer you would be an absolute fool if you wrote your program or game as a Windows 10 exclusive. That would eliminate nearly 75% of the market and that would be like shooting yourself in the foot… with an RPG.

We know that the Windows 10 Mobile platform has failed and with it the Universal Windows Platform. There’s really no reason why developers should write apps for the Windows Store when the Windows 10 Mobile platform is in such horrible conditions. Windows 10 Mobile has less than 1% of the market with 99% of the mobile market being controlled by Apple and Android. This won’t change. Microsoft can throw all of the marketing and money it wants at the problem but it’s just not going to change, the two platforms (Apple and Android) are far too entrenched in the mobile market and the minds of people buying phones to make an ounce of difference.

With all of that being said, listen up Microsoft… forget UWP. Just chuck it onto the trash heap of failure. You’re never going to have the power you once had to take control away from Apple and Android in the market so stop it already, to keep trying is a waste of money. Leave the mobile market up to Apple and Android, they were there first and they control the market and nothing’s going to change that. Sure, go ahead, make your various apps for iOS and Android but that’s it. Stop trying to chase a pipe dream.

For the love of God and all that is holy, get back to what made you successful… the desktop. You are king of the desktop market, you control such a gigantic portion of the desktop market that nobody else can touch you. But recently with your whole UWP push along with Windows 8.x and Windows 10 you have been annoying the very users that gave you the crown and throne of the desktop market. What Microsoft needs to do and they need to do it quickly is to do a complete 180 on their computing strategy and get back to what made them successful for decades, the desktop. The desktop is king, it will always be king. Don’t let the industry pundits tell you otherwise, the desktop will always be king. When I need to do real work, I sit down at my desktop with a keyboard and mouse. When businesses need to do real work, workers sit down at a desktop with a keyboard and mouse. Why? Because when it comes to real work there’s no comparison, the desktop is king.

Long live the desktop.

Is this the end of a Microsoft dominated world?

Here I am, and I can’t believe that I’m saying this, but I am seriously looking at the Mac as a future for my computing needs. Why? Well, I don’t like the way that Microsoft is going so if I were to switch to the Mac I really wouldn’t have that much trouble finding software to run on it. A lot of software, mainstream software, is cross platform compatible. It’s not like the dark days in which Windows was it; if you didn’t run Windows you were sunk.

In fact, that’s why I figure Microsoft is going the way they are. They see their one time desktop monopoly slipping away and they are grasping at straws trying to hold onto relevance in today’s cross platform, non-Microsoft dominated world. You can see that in how they are making apps for the iPhone and Android devices. Things like Office, OneNote, Skype, Outlook, OneDrive, etc. They aren’t making these apps for other platforms just for the sake of making them available, they are making them available because they need to or they’re dead.

The computing industry that we have today is not a Microsoft dominated industry anymore and Microsoft knows it. They sat on their desktop monopoly for too long and the rest of the industry flew past them while they were sleeping. But like any big ship it will take time for a gigantic behemoth such as Microsoft to change direction. Unfortunately for Microsoft, other companies that are smaller and more agile are slowly killing Microsoft.

Will Microsoft ever recover and get back to their glory days? I don’t think so. There’s too much competition and smaller companies that can quickly and easily change direction at a moment’s notice.

One of the problems that Microsoft has is that they are dragging behind them almost twenty years of code dating back to the early 1990s. One of the biggest advantages of Windows is that it’s compatible with legacy software but in doing so it’s dragging behind it twenty years of buggy, security hole ridden code from the dark old days of computing. It would be in Microsoft’s best interest to simply scrap Windows as we know it today and rewrite the thing, from the kernel upwards. But that’s never going to happen. Like a rusty bucket, it keep leaking and they keep patching it.

Other companies that are smaller, more agile, and don’t have to answer to decades of legacy software can change direction and make their software leaner, cleaner, more efficient, and faster than anything Microsoft has.

Windows 10… everything that Windows 8 should have been from the beginning.

I finally got my hands on the preview of Windows 10 and I have it installed in a virtual machine for testing purposes. At first glance, Windows 10 is everything that Windows 8 should’ve been from the beginning. If Windows 8 was what Windows 10 is today, it wouldn’t have been nearly as hated as Windows 8 was when it initially came out. And now, without further ado… my take on Windows 10.

Read More…Read More…

Windows 8.1 Update 1… it’s not that bad (REALLY!), Part 2

Here I am, July 1st. Still running Windows 8.1 Update 1. Yep, still running it and I haven’t at all thought about going back to Windows 7. I even bought a ModernUI app from the Windows Store! Very cool.

Now, there have been a few bugs that I have seen come up while using Windows 8.1 Update 1. It seems that when you close a ModernUI app the icon from it remains on the taskbar. It’s like the taskbar hasn’t been informed that the ModernUI app has closed. Could it be because of a weird interaction of Windows 8.1 Update 1 and ModernMIX? I don’t know. I have however did some testing.

Say I open a ModernUI app and force it to be full screen (bypassing ModernMIX) and then pull up the Windows Task Manager and then manually kill off the ModernUI app’s task, the icon for that task stays in the taskbar as if the app is still running. I have no idea why. I’m thinking that it may be an actual bug in Windows that Microsoft needs to know about and fix.

I have gotten over not being able to use WindowBlinds and the look of the UI doesn’t even matter to me anymore. I have gotten used to it.

As I stated in Part 1 of this blog post, now that I have actually taken the time to actually use Windows 8.1 and customize it what I need it be (more of a desktop OS than it was out of the box) I can’t see why I hated it so much. I look forward to the future Windows 9 and will probably be in line to buy a license of it when it becomes available to consumers.

I did test on a Windows 8.1 Update 1 virtual machine installation. I have two installations of Windows 8.1 Update 1; one in a virtual machine and one running on bare metal running on the same hardware. The virtual machine version doesn’t have ModernMIX installed in it. I opened up the Weatherbug ModernUI app, minimized it, loaded the Windows Task Manager window and selected the app instance and pressed End Task. The icon stays on the taskbar. Yep, it’s a bug in Windows and Microsoft needs to know about this. If anyone has a way to contact someone at Microsoft to report this bug, please send that info to me so I can report this bug.

Windows 8.1 Update 1… it’s not that bad (REALLY!)

Another Windows 8.1 blog post… crap, you’re going to be hating on it again. Aren’t you? No, not this time.

So I had to reload my computer’s operating system because things were getting “glitchy.” At the time I was running Windows 7. And by “glitchy” I mean things wouldn’t work correctly for no good reason. Programs would steal focus ripping me out of a full-screen game (Diablo 3). Needless to say, being ripped out of Diablo 3 while your character’s in a fight might just end up with your character dead. Windows Explorer would crash for no good reason when right-clicking on a file. What was causing it? I really don’t know but my working theory is that the Windows Registry was probably… uh… broken? Corrupt? Oh well, whatever the reason, things weren’t working correctly. So I reloaded my operating system.

I unplugged all of my SATA hard drives from their power connectors except for my SSD on which my OS will be installed on. I then popped in a freshly burned copy of Windows 8.1 64-bit into the DVD-RW drive and did a clean install. Now, I have an upgrade key so installing Windows 8.1 with an upgrade key is a bit more complicated than with a full license. I’m not going to go into the process of doing that here because that’ll just bore you and that’s not the point of this blog post.

Anyways, I installed Windows 8.1 and updated it to Update 1 and so far things have not been that bad at all. I have been using it for about a week now and have started to even use some of the ModernUI apps that are on the Windows Store (with ModernMIX of course). Oh yeah, I installed Start8 and ModernMIX to bring back a more desktop-like experience. With these programs installed the Windows 8.1 user interface isn’t really that bad.

I have WindowBlinds installed but I’m still using the default Windows 8.1 theme because there’s some kind of bug in WindowBlinds in which if you use any other theme other than the default Windows 8.1 theme the secondary taskbars on secondary monitors keep jumping up and down like a kangaroo.

What does that leave me? The default Windows 8.1 theme, the bland colored theme that comes with Windows 8.1. Do I care? Honestly, at first I cared but I guess as time progressed and I used the operating system more the user interface design started to not matter to me more and more. So what if I don’t have a stylish theme? Big deal!

Oh, back to Start8 and ModernMIX. I use several ModernUI apps including Facebook, Twitter, Slacker Radio, and WeatherBug. These apps are great. Now that I look back on the hate that I spewed regarding Windows 8/8.1 in the past, I have to wonder why I did that. Some of these ModernUI apps are great and with ModernMIX it makes them coexist with the traditional desktop just like any other desktop program that I have installed on my machine. And Start8 makes it so that I can completely avoid the ModernUI Start Screen. Yes, I have not seen the ModernUI Start Screen at all since I installed Start8. Again I ask… why did I hate Windows 8/8.1 in the past? I really don’t know.

OK, so how is Windows 8.1 Update 1 running on the same hardware when compared to Windows 7? Actually… Windows 8.1 Update 1 runs better than Windows 7 ever did on the same hardware. it runs smoother and faster than Windows 7. I did have problems in the past with Windows 8/8.1 but I think that was because I upgraded to Windows 8 from Windows 7. Now that I look back on it, I think that was a major source of all the pain that I had with Windows 8/8.1 in the past. Upgrade bad! Clean install good!

So there you have it… a positive Windows 8/8.1 blog post from me. Did you ever think that you’d see one on this site? Probably not.