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

Windows 10… Very good Microsoft!

Well, I upgraded all on my computers to Windows 10 and so far it been an excellent experience. Well done, Microsoft, well done; you’ve really pulled through with Windows 10!

The Windows 10 Start Menu

My Windows 10 Start Menu

That above is my Windows 10 Start Menu.

I spent about five minutes customizing it, pinning program icons, and categorizing them under headers on my Start Menu. All of my most used programs and apps, all there, pinned and ready to go.

This new Start Menu is actually more useful than the Windows 7 Start Menu. You couldn’t do the kind of categorizing I did on Windows 7’s Start Menu, hell… you couldn’t pin that many apps to the Windows 7 Start Menu. The Windows 10 Start Menu is infinitely more useful than Windows 7’s Start Menu because everything you need can be right there, ready for your click.

Yes it takes some time to set it up to be the way you want it to be but once it’s set up, it’s excellent!


Upgrading to Windows 10 under very adverse conditions…

I installed Windows 10 as an upgrade from Windows 7 on my father’s notebook and it went perfectly. Note, this is a machine that flat-out refused to run Windows 8.x because the notebook has one of those funky dual-GPU setups in which it has an ATi/AMD Radeon GPU and an Intel GPU (yes, I said it was a funky setup).

Under Windows 8.x the ATi/AMD and Intel GPU drivers never meshed right under Windows 8.x which resulted in video card support being well… completely FUBAR.

I said, what the hell… it’s a free upgrade, might as well try it. I did a Macrium Reflect disk image of the system disk just in case Windows 10 resulted in a FUBAR video situation. But, much to my surprise, Windows 10 supports this dual-GPU setup flawlessly.

WELL DONE MICROSOFT! God, I can’t believe I just said that. Let me go wash out my mouth, it tastes bad now.

Windows 10’s release date is near…

Windows 10’s release date is near and I’m excited. The moment Windows 10 is released on July 29th is the moment I’ll be telling my computer to start downloading Windows 10.

Windows 10 Build 10166, A “Hail Mary” if I’ve ever seen one

A month ago I talked about how I thought that Windows 10 wasn’t going to be ready by July 29th because of how many bugs still existed in the older Build 10130. I also said that Microsoft would have to pull off a Hail Mary of a miracle to get this thing together for the July 29th release.

Well, with Build 10166 it appears that Microsoft managed to do just that, pull off a Hail Mary of a miracle because Build 10166 is stable, rock-solid stable. I didn’t at all think it was possible but they did it, they actually did it! I even ran 10166 as an every-day use OS for some time before I went back to Windows 8.1 to reserve my free Genuine copy of Windows 10. (To see why I did this, read this post)

A warning to those people thinking about upgrading to Windows 10 Technical Preview…

Those people who have upgraded to Windows 10 Technical Preview WILL NOT be eligible for the free upgrade to Windows 10. Those users will be forced to reformat and reinstall a prior version of Windows (Windows 7 or 8.1) before they can get their free version of Windows 10. Not only that but their prior version of Windows 7 or 8.1 MUST BE A GENUINE license or they WILL NOT be eligible for the free upgrade to Windows 10.

If you want to upgrade from Windows 10 Technical Preview to Windows 10 RTM, you have to ask yourself these three questions…

* Do you want to continue as a Windows Insider and keep getting preview builds after 7/29?
* Or do you want to upgrade your Genuine Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 system that has been getting Windows 10 Insider Preview builds to the 7/29 release and stop being an Insider?

I want to continue as a Windows Insider!
If you want to continue as a Windows Insider past 7/29 there is nothing you need to do. You’re already opted in and receiving builds in the Fast or Slow ring depending upon your selection. This is prerelease software and is activated with a prerelease key. Each individual build will expire after a time, but you’ll continue to receive new builds so by the time an older prerelease build expires you’ll have received a new one. Since we’re continuing the Windows Insider Program you’ll be able to continue receiving builds and those builds will continue to be activated under the terms of the Windows Insider Program. We provide ISOs for these builds for recovery from any significant problems, but they are still pre-release software. As part of the program we’ll upgrade Insiders to what is for all intents and purposes the same build as what other customers will get on 7/29, but that will be just another build for Insiders, and those who stay in the program will simply get the next build after as well.

I want to opt out of the Windows Insider Program on 7/29.
If you decide to opt-out of the program and upgrade to the 7/29 build you will be subject to exactly the same terms and conditions that govern the offer that was extended to all Genuine Windows 7 and 8.1 customers. This is not a path to attain a license for Windows XP or Windows Vista systems. If your system upgraded from a Genuine Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 license it will remain activated, but if not, you will be required to roll back to your previous OS version or acquire a new Windows 10 license. If you do not roll back or acquire a new license the build will eventually expire.

The problem with the second scenario is that this only holds true if your machine had a prior version of Windows installed (7 or 8.1) and it was a Genuine License. How will Windows 10 know that you had a Genuine version of Windows 7 or 8.1 installed prior to the installation of Windows 10 Technical Preview? It won’t, therefore you will not have a genuine version of Windows 10 after the RTM upgrade.

Those users will have to go back to a prior version of Windows with a Genuine license of Windows before going to Windows 10 to get a free version of Windows 10.

I don’t know how it’ll work for OEM machines that have a key for a prior version of Windows tattooed on the motherboard in BIOS/UEFI but for those of us who have vanilla home-built machines with no OEM key tattooed on the motherboard, those users will have to go back to a prior version of Windows before going to Windows 10 to get a Genuine version of Windows.

My iPhone Experience… Four Months Later

I have had my iPhone 6 Plus for four month now and like anything there’s some things that annoy me about it.

The biggest issue is that sometimes, for no reason at all, Safari on my iPhone 6 Plus will trigger a full page refresh of tabs in Safari. Some people say that it’s because the iPhone still only has 1 GB of RAM whereas most Android phones have 2 GBs of RAM and sometimes even 3 GBs of RAM and that often times is one of the biggest criticisms that hardcore Android users say about the iPhone.

I have done a lot of experimentation on my iPhone. I’d open two tabs in Safari and then go back to the home screen. I would then proceed to open an app, play with the app for a couple of seconds, close it, open another app, play with it, close the app, open another app, lather, rinse, repeat. Every five apps I’d open and play with I’d go back to Safari and check it, my tabs would still be there and not cause a page refresh. Strange. So I would repeat the open app and play with it scenario with five more app and then check Safari again, no page refreshes. What’s going on here? I would have thought by now that I would have exhausted the system RAM and would have triggered a page refresh in Safari; but I didn’t. Very weird, very weird indeed.

Sometimes these Safari tab refreshes would be completely random and the strangest part is, I can’t manually trigger a page refresh in Safari even though I pushed the device pretty damn hard.

One of the greatest thing that I love about the iPhone is that it gives the best battery life I’ve ever seen in a mobile device.

Let’s take a look back at the time I had a Samsung Note 3. I would wake up in the morning after having the phone charging all night. I would go to my computer and put the phone next to me on my desk. I would most often do this on my days off from work. I would just let the phone sit there; I wouldn’t touch it, I wouldn’t do anything with it. It would sometimes sit there for two to three hours at a time without anything being done on the phone. And what was the battery life? 95%, sometimes even 92%. What the hell?! I wasn’t using the device, it was just sitting there doing absolutely nothing. Why did the battery drain that badly? I’ll never know. There’s no reason on this Earth that a device that was just sitting there doing absolutely nothing with no one touching it for hours on end should be down 5% to 8% on the battery.

Compare that experience to the iPhone. I unplugged my iPhone at 10:30 AM this morning. It’s 2:30 PM now. Same exact scenario plays out, nobody touched the phone for four hours. What’s the battery life on my iPhone 6 Plus? 100%. Yes, 100%! I have been able to go as much as three days on a single charge on my iPhone 6 Plus. Last night my battery was at 27% and that was after three days and during the third day I was streaming NetFlix for nearly an hour on LTE and we all know how LTE can chew through your battery like a child to a juice box.

Overall, the Apple iPhone has got to be hands down one of the best mobile devices I’ve ever owned. The battery life is one of the best in the industry. Everything just works. I can’t say that about Android. Android is a hot mess; it’s garbage.

Is Windows 10 ready? Not by a long shot!

From the looks of things with the Windows 10 Technical Preview that if this is what Windows 10 is going to look like, they are going to be in for a lot of trouble. If the release date is really going to be August 31st, 2015 like what Newegg has said it’s going to be, it’s going to be a mess. That’s three months away and there’s still serious issues with Windows 10 code. Correction, two months away.

Why two months? You may ask. Well, you have to remember the release cycle for Windows. In two months Microsoft will release the “gold code” to the OEMs and their distribution partners. That means the OEMs and their partners and other various distribution chain partners will have a month of time to get their products ready before the “official” launch date of August 31st, 2015.

With that being said, Microsoft has exactly two months to get things ready for the “gold code” release and sadly, it doesn’t look at all like Windows 10 is going to be ready for that. There’s still a massive load of bugs that plague Windows 10 and it seems that for every bug they fix they seem to add ten more.

It’s going to take a Hail Mary of a miracle for Microsoft to get things shaped up for the release of Windows 10 based upon what I’ve seen with Build 10130. For being this late into the development process, Microsoft should be simply polishing things up and fixing minor bugs, not the kinds of showstopping bugs that I’ve seen in Build 10130.

If Windows 10 is released the day that Newegg supposedly says that it’s going to be released on, good God almighty, we’re going to be in for a real rough ride. I don’t at all have any kind of faith in Microsoft to pull this thing together. I figure that the first few months after Windows 10’s release it’s going to be hell for their users.

Maybe the Microsoft of yesteryear could pull off a Hail Mary of this importance but not this Microsoft. This is the same Microsoft that has released not one, not two, but several Windows Updates that have broken thousands of computers across the globe.

Their overall code quality, hell, the entire computing industry’s code quality has really gone down the toilet as of late. Microsoft, Google, Adobe, Mozilla, hell, even Apple are all guilty of the same issues with overall code quality as of late. They have all sucked in this quite vital department.

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.

Samsung 840 EVO and the NAND flash 20nm wall

A new firmware has been released for the Samsung 840 EVO and it appears to have fixed the issue with speed degradation of older data but… and you knew that was coming, it has some side effects.

Samsung has stated that there will be periodic refreshes of the data in the background either by the firmware of the SSD itself or by a tool in the Samsung SSD Magician. To quote Anandtech…

Ultimately Samsung’s second fix is a bit of a brute force solution to the problem, but at this point there doesn’t seem to be anything Samsung can do about 19nm TLC cell charge decay other than to refresh the data, as the problem is intrinsic to the NAND itself. Pre-release versions of the firmware show that this fix works, and conceptually this is much more likely to work over the long run than Samsung’s initial fix. The tradeoff is that it does consume P/E cycles to refresh the data, but by our own calculations even 5 years of refreshes at 1/week would only be 26% of the drive’s rated 1000 cycle lifetime.

And it seems that TLC NAND isn’t the only type of NAND that’s having a problem at process nodes of 19nm or less. The Crucial MX200 SSD which uses 16nm MLC 128Gb NAND flash chips appears to be having the same very issue that the Samsung 840 EVO had, namely NAND flash voltage drifting which causes read speed performance issues on older data.

What does this mean? Well, it means that pretty much NAND flash memory becomes unreliable as the process node shrinks past 20nm. NAND flash manufacturers have hit the wall when it comes to planar NAND. From this point on the only way to make NAND flash reliable is to reverse the process node shrinkage and go to 3D-NAND where NAND cells are stacked on one another instead of laid out flat.

Samsung started this trend in which they released their 3D-VNAND and reversed the process shrinkage to 40nm with their 850 line of SSDs. Other manufacturers are also doing the same with their own approach to 3D-NAND. Ultimately it comes down to the fact that NAND flash memory manufacturers have hit the wall in terms of shrinking NAND and that as you shrink the process node the NAND has far more of a chance of voltage drifting that can effect read speed performance as the data ages.

Avoid Samsung SSDs at all costs! (Part 2)

Alright, some more information to go on.

As you can see in the above image, you can see how TLC NAND Flash works. TLC which stands for Triple Level Cell and is named that because it stores three bits or three binary states per cell. 000, 001, 101, 011, 100, 101, 110, and 111

Each binary state requires a different voltage state to represent the binary state in the NAND flash cell, specifically eight different states. This is much different from traditional MLC NAND in which it only has to hold four different binary states.

What is being theorized is that there is voltage drift inside the NAND flash cell. To show what’s going on, we have another image.

Notice how you have two voltage states, the 010 and 011 states. They are closer together because the voltage state drifted. When we read the cell and we get a cell voltage back we have an issue. Does that cell contain a 010 or 011?

So now, we have to read the flash cell multiple times to come to a general consensus on what that cell is storing. If a majority of reads come back with a voltage state that represents 011 then it must be 011.

Therein lies the problem. Because of voltage drift in the NAND Flash Cell a Flash Cell must be read multiple times because we need to figure out what that cell is storing because of voltage drift.

Because both the 840 and 840 EVO use much smaller NAND Flash Cells, 21nm and 19nm respectively. Because the flash cell is so small there’s not a lot of room to store a lot of electrons thus any change in voltage state caused by an electron or two escaping the flash cell can cause the voltage drift to be very detrimental to reading the binary state back from the NAND flash cell.

Samsung has gone back to 40nm with their new 3D NAND technology which should in theory solve the issues with voltage drift but like the 840 EVO, the 850 EVO is also TLC or Triple Level Cell and thus open once again to voltage drift inside the cell effecting read speeds because of the many various forms of voltage states needed to represent eight voltage states for eight binary states.

With that being said, Samsung should be forced to do a massive world wide recall of the 840 and 840 EVO because the voltage drifts can become a bigger issue with reading data back as the NAND flash cells become older and more writes have been done to the flash cell. More voltage drifts means more time needed to read data and quite possibly lead to mass data corruption due to the inability to read data back from older flash cells.

But, Samsung won’t do this. This is why I call for a boycott on Samsung SSDs until they do right for the owners of the 840 and 840 EVO. They are playing with people’s data integrity here.