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

Perhaps Microsoft has finally woken up from their drunken stupor…

Word on the street is that Microsoft has finally decided to admit that they were completely wrong with their “let’s shove ModernUI down everyone’s throats” idea. Did it really take Microsoft this long to realize that nobody in their right mind actually likes ModernUI? Did it really take Microsoft this long to realize that nobody likes the Windows Start Screen?

Apparently, it has. Unfortunately, they woke up too late. They have virtually killed the traditional desktop market. A lot of big-box stores that sell computers are struggling to sell new PCs because of Windows 8. A lot of people ask “Can I put Windows 7 on it?” If you have that many people asking that, you royally messed up!

Microsoft has finally woken up from their drunken stupor and realized that nobody likes Windows 8/8.1. We have only been screaming on the top of our lungs for the last year! How could you not have heard us!?!? Oh wait, I forgot… you had passed out from drinking too much of your Koolaid.

After nearly a year of the Internet community screaming that they want the old Start Menu back, Microsoft has finally admitted that they made a grave mistake. They have finally admitted that they hear our cries and that the Start Screen has caused a lot of negative feedback in the community.

A lot? Really? That’s like saying that the Cold War was a little tense. “A lot” doesn’t even start to cover the amount of negative feedback that was given when they took out the Start Menu.

Plus, not only that but the window dressings need some serious work. Square windows? No translucent window borders? Seriously?! Did we just step into the TARDIS and go back in time to 1995? It’s like you practically need WindowBlinds on Windows 8/8.1 to make it even come close to looking decent! I didn’t build a desktop with a decent graphics card in it to have Windows look like something that came from Windows 95!

Windows 8.1… more of the same train wreck, part 2.

Until Microsoft wakes up and realized that the ModernUI stuff just doesn’t work on a traditional desktop, future versions of Windows will be a turd. ModernUI along with all of the various touch gestures is fine on a touch screen device but that’s because those two interface functions were built for touch screen environments. Getting them to work on a non-touch screen device is a chore.

For instance, the Charms Bar. OK, where do I put my mouse cursor to get it? Do I put my mouse cursor in the corner or on the side? Do I just put the mouse cursor there or do I have to drag the mouse cursor? Do I have to hold the mouse cursor down then drag? Or do I just drag the mouse cursor with no mouse button down? Of all of the interface changes that make absolutely no damned sense on a traditional desktop environment, it’s the Charms Bar. On a touch screen device the chances of getting the Charms Bar is more successful since the finger on the screen isn’t as accurate as the mouse is. Maybe if they made the activation region for the Charms Bar larger so that mouse users could use it properly it wouldn’t be so bad.

As for the Start Screen, that is an abomination on the desktop. It may make sense on touch screens since you have a finger to be able to swipe the many, many times you’re going to need to to find your programs but for a mouse user it’s a complete pain in the ass.

Yes, you can install many of the various Start Menu replacement apps such as StartIsBack, ClassicShell, or Start8 but there are many PC settings/Control Panel applets that send you right back into the abomination for desktop users that’s known as ModernUI.

Windows 8 wouldn’t be so damned bad for traditional desktop users if it wasn’t for these glaring issues. Listen up Microsoft, for Windows 9 check to see if the user has a touch screen, if they do give the ModernUI stuff but if they don’t give the user the traditional desktop environment that we’ve all be using for more than a decade. You’re alienating your biggest customer base, the traditional desktop user by shoving a user interface that was never intended for a traditional desktop down those user’s throats. Look at your user statistics! If a majority of users are installing a Start Menu replacement app such as StartIsBack, ClassicShell, or Start8… you have a serious problem on your hands! Open your eyes Microsoft… before it’s too late!

Patent rant

If you think this is going to be another rant about Apple then you’re right, in a way, but this is going to be more of a rant on the patent system as a whole.

The wonderful thing about patents is that it allows a company who put the time and money in terms of research and development into making a product/technology to be able to hold a monopoly on the product/technology for a specified amount of time. That’s not the issue here, I have no problems with the idea of patents; just the patent system as a whole.

Currently the patent system allows for patents that are too broad, broad in the sense that a single patent could have ramifications throughout the entire industry. Take for instance the patent that some company named “Rockstar Consortium” owns. Rockstar Consortium has sued Google along with most of the major Android phone makers (Asustek, HTC, Huawei, LG Electronics, Pantech, Samsung, and ZTE) claiming they violate a bunch of old Nortel patents. This is yet another example of situations in which patents are shuffled off to patent troll shell companies to avoid having countersuits launched against their own products. And guess what? Microsoft and Apple both have their hands in Rockstar Consortium. Gee… doesn’t this start to sound a bit dirty? Yeah, it does. This may sound like a conspiracy theory but I think that this is happening because Apple and Microsoft are afraid of Android and they both want to kill it off.

For instance… US Patent Number 6,098,065 “Associative search engine” owned by none other than “Rockstar Consortium”. OK, here’s the description. “This invention relates to an advertisment machine which provides advertisements to a user searching for desired information within a data network. The machine receives, from the user, a search request including a search argument corresponding to the desired information and searches, based upon the received search argument, a first database having data network related information to generate search results. It also correlates the received search argument to a particular advertisement in a second database having advertisement related information. The search results together with the particular advertisement are provided by the machine to the user.”

Gee… what is wrong with this patent? Nearly everything! There’s nothing good about this patent, this patent is complete garbage and should’ve never been allowed to become a patent in the first place. Why is that? Simple. It could be applied to just about every single piece of technology we use in everyday life. Google, Yahoo, Bing, the Windows 7 Start Menu search function, the Windows 8/8.1 Start Screen search function, Apple Siri, Google Now!, Android search, GMail, Google Calendar… the list goes on and on forever. Just about anything that includes a “Search” box this patent can be applied to. Am I taking and interpreting this patent too broadly? Maybe, but if I can interpret this patent this broadly then a patent lawyer can as well. Can you start to see why this patent is bad? It’s glaringly obvious how bad this patent is!

Apple bought PrimeSense the company that’s responsible for the technology behind the original Microsoft Kinect and with the purchasing of the company they most likely got the whole of PrimeSense’s patent portfolio. Now, why did Apple buy this company? Who knows, but I do know for sure that they wanted PrimeSense’s patent portfolio so they can later use it like a hammer and beat some other company to death with future lawsuits.

I’m not singling out Apple here; Microsoft, Intel, Sony, Google, AMD, nVidia, etc. They all do it, they are all guilty of committing this sin. How is this good for the future of the technology world? I’ll let you in on a little secret, it’s not. It’s not good for the technology world because it hinders innovation, brings on needless lawsuits, and ultimately the only people who win are the lawyers and we the consumer lose in the sense that we have to pay in the form of more expensive products, less innovation, and less new products. Again, how is this good for the future of the technology world? It isn’t!

Can you imagine where we would be in terms of technology and gadgets if not for these constant patent lawsuits and constant bickering and fighting? We will never know. Can you imagine of Blackberry patented the idea of the “smart phone” and sued everyone else that made something like it? We would all be walking about with nothing but Blackberry’s and nothing else. Innovation would have ground to a halt and we the consumer would have lost.

The issues with the Healthcare.gov web site

The thoughts of having to get health care is on the minds of millions of Americans at this time of the year and for Ohioans, this means having to go to the Healthcare.gov web site. Many people have experienced issues with using the Healthcare.gov web site. These issues include filling out forms and getting random errors to the web site simply not loading even in the most basic form. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Myself, I have been around computer for years and have worked to develop a web site that had a lot of traffic. I worked as a help desk technician for a web hosting provider in my past and worked to help optimize the community forums for a well-known open source web development software known as Joomla. With that being said, I know how to develop an optimized web front end for web sites that need to handle a lot of traffic in an optimized way.

I have personally looked “under the hood” of the Healthcare.gov web site using the built-in developer tools of Google Chrome. I conducted an audit of Healthcare.gov using those development tools and found that many of the frontend components (images, Javascript, CSS) that make up the web site are not using web known web site optimization techniques such as compression and web browser caching.

Compression allows for things like Javascript and CSS files which are mainly simple text files to take less bandwidth or space “on the wire” to send to the user. Web browser caching allows for often used components that make up a web site to be cached on the user’s computer as versus having to go back to the web site to re-download them every time the user clicks to go to the next web page or part of the web site’s many user fillable forms.

Sadly, many of the components that make up the Healthcare.gov web site are not using these well-known web site optimization techniques and thus putting far more stress on the frontend web servers than is needed to be. Caching the content on the user’s computer in the web browser’s disk cache could reduce the load on the Healthcare.gov web site by nearly half. Half may not seem like much but when you’re talking about millions of page loads per second from all over the United States it can go a long way to helping the site perform faster with less load on the backend servers that power the web site and that means a faster web site and less issues and frustration for the user trying to sign up for healthcare.

Windows 8.1, more of the same train wreck…

Windows 8.1 is much like the original Windows 8 that came before it. It’s like a train wreck, a horrible and nasty train wreck, but you can’t help but to watch.

Windows 8.1 promised to fix many of the issues that were plaguing Windows 8. The lack of a Start button was one. Yep, they brought it back but before you jump out of your seat and rejoice that they finally brought the good old Start Menu of old back you can sit right back down in that chair you were in because… they didn’t. Yep, press the Start button and what do you get? That train wreck known known as the Start Screen.

For a person who still uses Windows 7 I use the Start Menu every day I use my computer. I essentially use the Start Menu as my Run command. If I want to run a program I simply press the Windows key on my keyboard, type the name of the program that I want to use, and press Enter. It’s like the Windows 7 Start Menu has become The Ultimate Shortcut for me. If I want the calculator I simply bring up the Start Menu, start typing “calc” and then immediately press the Enter key on my keyboard. Oh yay, the calculator!

This does not work on Windows 8/8.1! How does it not work? I press the Windows key and I’m like… what the hell happened to the program window I was working with before? Oh yeah, I forgot… this version of Windows doesn’t like to multitask. I have anywhere from six to eight programs running all at the same time. I have a machine that’s got enough horsepower in it to do all of the multitasking that I want it to do. I didn’t build a computer with a Quad-Core CPU, 16 GBs of RAM, and an SSD to be told that I can only run one program at a time!

The color of Windows was also changed. The default color that Microsoft chose reminds me of the cheap beer that people get when they want a lot of it. It’s yellow, it’s ugly. Why did they choose this color? For the love of God, anything but yellow!

Windows 8.1 promises even more of that train wreck known as Modern UI. If you can’t stand Modern UI, stay away from Windows 8.1 because you’re just going to be getting more of what you hate.

So again… Windows 8.1 is much like the original Windows 8 that came before it. It’s like a train wreck, a horrible and nasty train wreck, but you can’t help but to watch.

Windows 8… I tried to like it, again.

So I braved Windows 8 again, I told myself that maybe things will be different this time around with the likes of WindowBlinds and ModernMix from Stardock being available.  Well, I did that.  I installed Windows 8 along with Start8, WindowBlinds, and ModernMix.  I tried to like it again, I really did.  Yes, I’ll admit that things were better this time around but still things didn’t work right.

I had shortcuts that didn’t have icons and I couldn’t for the life of me find a fix for it.  I’ve never had this problem with Windows 7.  Even with ModernMix it was a fight to stay in desktop mode.  Listen up Microsoft… I am a desktop users!  A DESKTOP USER!  Quit foisting that ModernUI garbage on me, I am a desktop user!  Not a tablet user!

Needless to say, I’m back on Windows 7.  Long live Windows 7!

Google Play Music All Access Review

The new Google Play Music All Access service seems like a decent idea at first.  You can discover new music, play whatever you want, all with a single monthly fee.  You can stream what ever you want, all you want, all without restrictions.

You can even make a playlist of songs you do like using the thumbs-up feature.  They do give you a thumbs-down but largely that’s useless, it doesn’t do anything.  You can thumbs-down a song until the cows come home or the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse come, it literally does NOTHING!  Does the song play again?  Yes.  Does the song come back like the whack-a-mole mole?  Yes.  OK, so why is there a thumbs-down for a song when it does nothing?  I would expect that if I thumbs-down a song it would never play again.  But sadly, this isn’t the case.

They say that they have a set of curated music stations but they seem too genre-oriented and based too heavily on what artists are classified as part of the genre.  This seems to me like that there’s no professional people behind the curated stations.  It’s like some person at Google Headquarters was bored and put songs together and called it a “curated music station”.  They need to hire some professional DJs, people who know the genres inside and out and professionally program the stations so as to provide for a mix of genre-based music.  They also need to get more stations online.

So lets go down the list of things that need to be fixed.

  • When I thumbs-down a song… get rid of it!  I never want to hear it again!  I thumbs-downed it for a reason!  I hate the song!  Never play it again!
  • Get professional DJs to program the stations because Google says they are curated but they are far from it.

My new wireless carrier… AT&T Wireless

After spending almost six months in hell with Verizon dealing with horribly bad signal and dropped calls, I finally switched to another wireless carrier.  AT&T Wireless.

They are like a breath of fresh air, I can finally make and receive calls and texts all without worrying if my phone is going to drop the signal.  Plus, the 4G network is far better than Verizon’s Network was.  There are small tiny pockets where AT&T doesn’t have LTE in but they are by far smaller than Verizon had in my city.  Not only that, if I don’t have LTE with AT&T I drop down to their HSPA+ network which delivers 4g LTE-like speeds, unlike Verizon in which I dropped down to 3G more often than not and their 3G CDMA network was extremely overloaded to the point where their 3G CDMA data network was near useless.

So yes, AT&T is like a breath of fresh air for me.

Audio Glitches, MalwareBytes, and High DPC Latencies

After troubleshooting what has got to be one of the most tiring and lengthy troubleshooting experiences I’ve ever had to deal with, I have finally narrowed down where the problem exists.  MalwareBytes AntiMalware Web Site Blocking.

Now, to give some background on the issue.  Every so often I’d hear pops and other forms of audio glitches in my audio while playing music on my computer.  So I opened a tool called DPC Latency Checker and yep, DPC latency spikes were everywhere.  And you know what, those audio glitches would appear right when a bunch of those DPC latency spikes occured.  So I closed that program and opened LatencyMon and the number one culprit for DPC Latency Spikes was NDIS.SYS.  So I was looking around the Internet and someone started mentioning in another forum about restarting the “Base Filtering Engine” service which one of the dependencies was the Windows Firewall Service.

I executed the following…

Yay, no more DPC latency spikes and no more audio glitches either.  Problem is that running without the Windows Firewall isn’t a recommended thing to do.  So I started doing some more research into the issue, specifically I Googled for “windows firewall high dpc” and one of the things that it linked to was a page that stated someone had MalwareBytes AntiMalware installed, the pro version to be specific.

Well, knowing that I didn’t want to uninstall it I began to think about what component of MalwareBytes hooks into the Windows Firewall.  Website Blocking!

I unchecked those options in MalwareBytes and EUREKA!  No more DPC latency spikes and no more audio glitches!

So if you’re one of the few that seem to having this issue with MalwareBytes AntiMalware installed and you’re hearing glitches in your audio, try disabling Web Site Blocking in the Protection tab of MalwareBytes AntiMalware.  Note, you don’t have to uninstall MalwareBytes AntiMalware, just disable this small portion of the program and you’ll no longer be hearing these audio glitches and you’ll once again have perfect sound.