Classic Shell

Get enhanced functionality in Windows Explorer with this handy utility

classic shellOver the past few iterations of Windows, the UI has changed a great deal, between Window XP, Windows 7, Windows 8.x and Windows 10, there’s been only some very basic consistency in the user interface. Depending on where you work, the industry you work in and the size of your company, you may or may not have had to deal with any of those changes. Let’s face it, many IT departments simply lock you into a version of Windows and run THAT until it can’t any longer.

When changes come to the way Windows operates, looks and feels, user productivity can tank. In those cases, users spend more time trying to figure out HOW to do something than actually doing the task at hand. It’s at times like those that I really appreciate tools like Classic Shell. It’s a UI – or shell – modification tool for Windows, and it works with Windows 7, 8.x and Windows 10.

Classic Shell is freeware that improves your productivity, enhances the usability of Windows and empowers you to use the computer the way you like it. With it you can customize the Start Menu with multiple styles and skins; get quick access to recent, frequently-used, or pinned programs; as well as find programs, settings, files and documents. You can also customize the Start button in Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10.

You can also customize Windows Explorer (formerly File Manager). In Windows Explorer, you can customize both a custom Toolbar and the Status Bar. You also get the ability to customize the Caption and Status bars in IE.

Conclusion: I’ve been using Classic Shell on my work PC for about two and a half years now. It’s an awesome application, and one that I would highly recommend to anyone running a “modern’ version of Windows (anything from Windows 7 forward). The customizations if offers for both the Start Menu and Explorer make both of them a LOT easier to use, especially if you’re using a version of Windows NEWER than Windows 7.

I personally think that the application is worthwhile simply based on the modifications it makes to Windows Explorer. While the application is free, it really adds value. In fact, it adds more value than some paid shell enhancements I’ve played with over the years.

There are a few down sides, however. As of this writing, the app hasn’t been updated in over eight (8) months . Its last update came on 2016-07-30. Currently the app also supports the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, but users of the Creator’s Update may have compatibility issues. If you plan on updating to the Creator’s Update – and all Windows 10 users will – then you should use the Classic Shell Utility to remove the app prior to updating Windows 10. If you don’t, you may have issues with both the app and your PC after the Creator’s Update is installed. I am assuming the utility will be updated to support the Creator’s Update, but I can’t find any information to either confirm or deny that anywhere as of this writing.

download Classic Shell

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Microsoft OneDrive – Use Across Three Different Operating Systems

So… what’s the deal with all the OneDrive goofiness lately??

Ya know… maybe its just me, and if that’s the case, that’s fine. However, I’m not the only one that’s stated that they’re experiencing some really strange behavior with Microsoft OneDrive lately. Its gotten so bad, that it really got in the way of me finishing my two part review of Windows 10 (Part 1, > (Part 2). I nearly lost the review more than once as changes to the article wouldn’t sync right. I think I’ve got it straightened out, but I’m still watching things very closely.

Here’s what happened, what I did, and what Microsoft needs to do.

Microsoft OneDrive

OneDrive Installs
I’ve got OneDrive installed on a number of different computers. Notice, I said computers and not PC’s. I want to call out the distinction here. I’ve got OneDrive installed on a Windows 7 machine at work, my Surface Pro 3 running Windows 10 and my MacBook Pro running OS X 10.10.4.

The key thing to note here is that I don’t have a Windows 8.x computer any longer. Any PC that I have had that OS on has been upgraded to Windows 10, including my Surface Pro 3 and My Dell Latitude ST2. This means that the sync clients I have on my Windows 7 computer, my Windows 10 computer and my MacBook Pro, are relatively equivalent. None of them have Place Holder support (those awesome stub files that were actually local short cuts to your online data.

Place Holder files basically let you see everything that you had stored in OneDrive without actually having your entire cloud drive on your local computer. Instead, the operating systems I use have a OneDrive client that has what has been generally called the “Windows 7 client” experience – You get to choose which folders sync to your local computer. You get the entire contents of that folder, and that’s it. You also must sync to a physically, internal drive location. You can’t put content on an external drive, be that a USB hard drive (external or thumb drive) or any kind of SD Card. In Windows 8.x, you can.

There’s a lot of grief wrapped around the differences in the “Windows 7 Client experience” and what happens with OneDrive in Windows 8.x. Many people really like the Windows 8.x client experience, and have issues with the fact that Microsoft deprecated it.

There are other issues that I have with the reduction in functionality, and I may address then later, but for now, its enough for everyone to know that I do not have any computer running Windows 8.x with an active OneDrive client.

All of the computers I have running OneDrive are effectively running clients with identical features and with the same sync client. They are considered to be the same version, regardless of platform.

Problems on Windows 7
I have a Windows 7 machine at work. That’s not surprising, really, considering that most computers in the Enterprise are either Windows XP or Windows 7 machines. No one put Windows 8.x en mass on computers at work. They were too difficult to use, and the learning curve was much too high to have anyone or anything be truly productive with them.

Anyway… Windows 7 at work. If you remember, Windows 7, is the base design model for OneDrive’s sync client in Windows 7, Windows 10 and OS 10. It’s also on point to know and understand that the Windows 7 machine I’m using OneDrive on is an Enterprise managed machine. This means there may be network policies in place effecting the sync, but I don’t think there are, really. I’ll get to this in a bit…

The OneDrive experience I have at work started out rather well in November of 2014. The company doesn’t block Microsoft services, as I can not only sync OneDrive, but I can sync OneNote notebooks as well, without any problems. In fact, OneNote sync flawlessly and has despite all of the other sync issues that I’ve been having… which I find very concerning. More on that in a minute…

Under Windows 7 on the work computer – which again, seems to be totally unrestricted and free to sync OneDrive without issue – I have a boat load of sync problems.

OneDrive FREQUENTLY falls out of sync with the web or fails to sync files to the web. I can manually upload files to OneDrive.com without issue and that will sometimes resolve the sync conflicts, but often does not.

The most common problem I have is that the sync client seems to correctly identify objects that have changed either on the client side or the server side, and even transfers data back and forth. However, the file(s) in question – those that require synching – rarely, if ever, actually sync.

I have no idea what data is actually passing though the connection as I don’t’ have a packet sniffer and won’t be allowed to have one on the corporate network. This is also one of those situations where you don’t necessarily want to draw “unnecessary” attention to software you may have installed at work.

Sometimes, manually uploading content to OneDrive via its web interface solves the sync conflict. Other times it does not. Sometimes it does after deleting the local copy and letting the newly manually uploaded copy download to the appropriate folder, other times it doesn’t.

If that doesn’t work, then I usually quit OneDrive and then restart it. Sometimes that works. Other times, it doesn’t. Often, I have to completely disconnect OneDrive from this PC and then let the whole thing resync content back down to the work PC after deleting the entire local data store.

Troubleshooting Windows 7 Sync
This has been one of the most aggravating and frustrating experiences I’ve EVER had with a cloud sync data client. The problems seem to occur on newly updated files and not files that have been selected for sync, but haven’t changed. In other words, the initial sync always seems to go well. After that, things tend to degrade.

The problem here is that things either stay in a constant state of sync for one – say 54k – file, while the OneDrive sync client synchs over 20MB of data over a three week period, again, all for apparently a single 54k file. The OneNote tool tip or status window that displays on a single left mouse click to the One Drive icon in your System Tray shows that its synching xx.xMB of XX.XXMB. The time of last update can vary between as long as 4 days ago, to XX seconds ago.

Sync issues occur both on and off the corporate wired LAN, on and off the corporate wireless LAN, on my home network withOUT VPN enabled, and on my home network WITH VPN enabled.

Up to this point, I’ve been unsuccessful in detecting any kind of predictable, reproducible pattern. Things are just too random.

Problems on Windows 10
During the Windows 10 PRE-RTM Insider Preview, this was a total cluster.

At times, OneDrive was flawless. At other times, it didn’t seem anything would sync correctly. At times, the initial sync took well over 36 hours regardless of what network I was connected to (work, home or cellular) or how I was connected (wired or wireLESS). You just had to set it and forget it; as it seemed to have a mind of its own and would finish, when it was ready to finish. Period.

Post RTM, OneDrive has been much better, but interestingly enough, files that seem to be problematic in their sync on Windows 7, or appear unsynchable, also seem to take a long time to sync in Windows 10. I never have the days long synching issues of individual files on Windows 10. They usually sync after a number hours, but they often take all day to sync or are resolved with a series of reboots.

General Sync Issues
The ONLY thing that seems to be consistent with all of this is that sync issues nearly always occur with Office files. Word files are the most problematic. Whether that’s because Word is more problematic than any other OR because I tend to create or modify files more than any others is unknown. I’ve also had issues synching Excel files and to an infinitely less degree PowerPoint and Visio files, but that I think is more of a modification sync issue with those than with Excel or Word files.

Funny thing… I never had any issues synching OneDrive files on my Mac. This is seems to be a Windows based problem.

Are you having issues with OneDrive? Does it happen more with Windows 7 or Windows 10 for you? Do you use one, the other or both of these Windows operating systems at the same time, but on different machines? Are you having issues synching files with OneDrive for Mac? Are sync issues more problematic with Office files or just any ol’ file?

Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area, below, and let me know?

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Microsoft Acquires Acompli

…and now they have a cool mobile email app.

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When a company doesn’t really have a US focused mobile device strategy – and let’s face it… Microsoft really doesn’t – things can get a bit stressful. Yes. You’re right… Windows Phones exist. Yes. I have one. No, it obviously ISN’T my daily driver; but you also have to understand one thing – Microsoft’s target market for all of its Windows Phone is NOT the United States (or other First World countries).

Microsoft isn’t making high end Windows Phones any longer. They have instead decided to concentrate their efforts on Third World countries. Very quickly, here’s why that’s very smart
1. There’s no way they are going to overtake Android or iOS devices in any kind of market share race. They just don’t have the legs to do it. Both Android and iOS are too firmly well established to nudge out of the way.
2. Microsoft’s Mobile strategy is still largely unknown. Without any real presence in the US, we’re left to people like Mary Jo Foley and Paul Thurrott and to give us any kind of clue on what Microsoft is going to do with itself in the mobile space.

Let’s face it… even though the Surface Pro 3 may be an interesting ultrabook, Microsoft has no real content consumption device or smartphone that it can really point to or rely on in any of the markets that will either garner a lot of press or a lot of money via flagship sales. They want to concentrate on third world sales, and while that WILL perhaps produce a lot of global share, in the markets that really drive innovation and enterprise sales – First World markets – they’ve got next to nothing…

So, to help address that issue, early on during the morning of 2014-12-01, Microsoft announced it had acquired the email app developer Acompli for somewhere in the neighborhood of $200M USD.

The acquisition is a good move for Microsoft on a number of different fronts. They acquired not only the app and its IP, but also the people that coded it. Acompli has a really good Exchange interface on both iOS and Android devices, and they plug a hole where something is CLEARLY missing from Microsoft’s mobile Office Suite – Outlook.

Microsoft doesn’t have an “Outlook Mobile App” to speak of on either iOS or Android before this acquisition. According to Rajesh Jha, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of Outlook and Office 365, “This acquisition brings us an app with innovative technology and a set of talented people who are passionate about reinventing email and communications on mobile screens. It will expedite our work to deliver the full power of Office to mobile devices.”

It’s clear that Microsoft is intending Acompli to be “Outlook mobile.” How the app is rebranded or actually integrated into their newly forming mobile suite for iOS and Android is yet to be totally understood. However, one would think that users would see something for those mobile suites sooner rather than later…if not before they intend to release the “touch” version of Microsoft Office for their Surface and Surface Pro tablets, currently codenamed Gemini.

This is a developing story, and I intend to follow up with either an update or a new post if something interesting comes to light. Please stay tuned.

In the meantime, what do you think of this development? Do you use Acompli? How badly do you feel “Outlook mobile” is either missing or is needed on the iOS and Android side of the world? Why don’t you join me in the discussion area and let me know what you think?

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…Now with less suckage…

I have it on good authority that Windows 8.1 Update doesn’t suck…

Windows8.1

About 18 months ago, I wrote a column for InformationWeek’s BYTE on the state of Windows 8 and its UI at the time. Unfortunately, BYTE is no more. You can’t even find any REAL reference to the project on InformationWeek at this point, though if you know the right search criteria, you can still find many of the articles from most, if not all of its contributors (see the example above…); and in many cases, they may still be relevant today.

Recently, my good friend and former BYTE Editorial Director, Larry Seltzer wrote a piece on how Windows 8.1 doesn’t suck, and it was recently published on ZDNet. He made a couple big points in the article. You can read it if you want to, (it’s a good read and well worth the time) but I’ve summarized them here and added some of my own commentary.

1. Windows 8.1 with Update, is now usable
I’ve got a lot of experience with Windows 8. I’ve been using it since it’s very early days in 2011 when the Developer Preview came out. I had it installed on a touch netbook at the time; and it was a damned mess with both interfaces conflicting with one another, making use of your Windows 8.x device very difficult. It got better with 8.1. It’s gotten better still with Windows 8.1 Update. In fact, you can now use Windows 8.1 on a desktop machine without wanting to rip your hair out. The experience is nearly tolerable. By the time Threshold gets here (Windows 8.2, Windows 9, or whatever they brand it as), it should be just as desktop friendly as Windows 7, in my opinion. (Which I think is the best version of Windows ever, but that’s a discussion for another day).

2. Start Menu Replacements have a limited shelf life with Threshold on the way
This is where Larry and I [may] disagree. I say may, because there’s still one huge wild card left to be played – Windows Threshold. No one knows what it’s going to look like. No one knows exactly when it’s supposed to be released. Microsoft is playing with its release schedule, and while we know there’s supposed to be a release in Q1/Early Q2 of calendar 2015, we don’t know if that’s going to be Threshold or just another “incremental” update. The full Start Menu is supposed to appear in Windows Threshold; and until it’s revealed, it’s impossible to say if it will be positively or negatively reviewed.

Start button/menu apps like Start8 offer as true a Windows 7-like experience as you can get on Windows 8. It’s more about the Start Menu than the button with Start8; and while Windows 8.x may now allow for a more desktop friendly (or Windows 7-like) experience, depending on how the new/revived Start Menu in the NEXT version of Windows is implemented, some users may still want apps like Start8. So I don’t agree with him when he says that Start Menu/button apps are living on borrowed time.

While I think they may not be as popular as they were before Threshold, some users may still prefer them (or at least the one they’ve been using). It all depends on the great unknown – the next version of Windows. Currently, no one knows what that looks like…

3. Windows 8.x is a branding Nightmare
Larry is dead on here. I think just about everyone in the Windows community, outside of Microsoft, that is, will agree. Windows 8.x branding is a worse leper than Windows Vista was. Microsoft needs to get themselves off of Windows 8.x as soon as they can and get to the next version of Windows.

If Microsoft wants to keep the MetroUI/ModernUI look and feel, they will need to draw the line in the sand and make Mobile Windows only for Windows Phone and for their tablets (don’t’ you really want to say Windows Tablet..? I know I do). That will leave MetroUI/ModernUI for the Windows RT/ Windows Surface/2, non-legacy-desktop capable tablets, and leave Windows #.x for their compatible tablets/ultrabooks, laptops and desktops (which, quite honestly, is what they should have done in the first place…)

Anyway you cut it, Microsoft needs to leave the Windows 8.x brand in the past and move on to something – nearly anything – else. If they don’t, they’re going to continue to have sales and revenue issues, going forward.

So, all things being equal at this point, it’s true – Windows 8.1 Update really doesn’t suck. I got it the first day that it was made available to everyone and I’ve been very pleased with what it’s been able to provide.

It seems that Microsoft is listening to the feedback of its customers. It seems as though, under its new leadership from Satya Nadella, Microsoft is getting its act together and is beginning to find its way back to the beaten path. Though many will say that “taking the road less travelled” provides you with a more robust journey, I think that journey has proved to be nothing more than a “bust” for Microsoft up to this point. Getting themselves back to a more traditional version of Windows for their legacy desktop users now insures that their enterprise business is no longer in as risky a position as it used to be.

What do you think? Do you use Windows 8? Have you upgraded to Windows 8.1? Have you upgraded to Microsoft Windows 8.1 Update? Do you use a Start Menu replacement app on top of Windows 8? Is Microsoft getting back on track with its recent releases? Are you more satisfied with Windows 8.1 Update than with previous versions of Windows?

The comments section is just below, and I really would appreciate your thoughts. I know that others would appreciate them as well, as there’s a great deal of opinion on this; and I’d really like to know what you have to say on the whole subject. Please join me in the discussion below and tell me what you think.

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The New Mac Pro Doesn’t do Windows 7

If you’re looking at running Windows 7 via Boot Camp, you’re not going to do it with the new Mac Pro.

I’ve heard (generally) nothing but praise from those Mac Pro users who have finally been able to get their hands on one of these highly anticipated and highly coveted computers from Cupertino’s Apple. Once received and setup, the newly redesigned Mac Pro is said to deliver top computing performance in a very small and chic package.

nowin7

One of the best things about any Intel based Mac is that it natively runs just about any desktop operating system you throw at it. With the right tools, you can likely make it triple-boot OS X, Linux AND Windows…though, not Windows 7.  Apple has surprisingly ended Windows 7 support on their newest, flagship desktop computer.  If users want to install Windows on their Mac Pro, it’s going to have to be a version of Windows 8.x or later.  Boot Camp drivers for their newer hardware won’t be Windows 7 compatible.

The change was originally discovered by Mac developer Twocanoes and later confirmed by Apple. Users who will be moving to the Mac Pro will either need to upgrade to Windows 8, migrate their Windows 7 based Boot Camp partition to a VM package like Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion, or will need to forego use of the Mac Pro and choose another Mac. Windows 8’s lack of popularity and low adoption rates have made Windows 7 a much more attractive choice in the enterprise where the touch based systems Windows 8 is really intended for, have generally not appeared.

Apple has chosen the Mac Pro as the first computer that will not support Windows 7. It’s logical to assume that future systems will also lack support for earlier versions of Windows.  Apple stopped supporting Windows XP and Windows Vista in 2011.

Apple’s discontinuation of Windows 7 Boot Camp support this early in the Windows 8 life cycle, at least in my mind, is a bit of a surprise. Windows 8 is vastly unpopular, even with traditional Microsoft supporters. I’m certain many consumer users will either stick with Windows 7 or wait until Windows 9 – currently codenamed Threshold – is released before making a decision to abandon Windows 7 for a more current version.  Enterprise OS lifecycles are usually, very elongated, and I don’t expect any IT department to leave Windows 7 behind – heck, many IT departments are just now migrating off Windows XP and on to Windows 7 – any time soon. The fact that Apple has discontinued support for Windows 7 and earlier just means they don’t want to deal with the OS mess that Microsoft let out of Redmond any longer than they absolutely have to.

Do you have a Mac that you run Windows on via Boot Camp? Does Apple’s discontinuation of Windows 7 support negatively impact you and the way you work with your Mac?  Can you move your Windows install to either Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion?  I’d love to know what you think of this interesting development. Why don’t you join me in the discussion, below and give me your thoughts?

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Rule #1 – Thou Shalt not Throw a Tantrum at Work

It’s a moot point now, but I’m certain Ballmer is probably kicking himself…

SteveBallmer.jpgYa know… you have to ask yourself… What is it with guys named Steve that run world famous computer companies and their temper? Jobs was famous for it. If you disagreed with him, not only did you lose your job; but it was probably one of the most memorable firings of your career. Some of those are things of legend. I think the last guy that Jobs screamed at still has ringing in his ears.

Ballmer was apparently the same way. Interestingly enough, new information regarding his exit from Microsoft (I don’t like to say firing… it just gives me the willies…at least for Ballmer. I don’t know why.) is just now coming to light. Apparently during a June 2013 Board meeting where Ballmer outlined his acquisition plans for the Nokia buyout, the Board initially rejected the idea. They didn’t see what Ballmer saw when he proposed turning Microsoft into a hardware AND software company. When the Board initially said, “no,” Ballmer hit the ceiling. It was so bad and so loud that it carried out of (an apparently VERY well sound insulated) board room and could be heard down the halls. While the board eventually did back him, it’s obvious that they didn’t take well to Ballmer acting out.

There are other instances that my friend, Preston Gralla cites in an article regarding Ballmer’s temper (by the way, it’s VERY rarely acceptable to drop the “F-bomb” at work. I don’t care if you’re Steve Jobs or Steve Ballmer…you just don’t do it).

Anyway, the current rumor has it that this particular rant is what ultimately lead the board to suggest that they and Ballmer part ways. It was the F-bomb that broke the camel’s back, and the last tantrum – among many over the years – that Ballmer (at least officially) threw at Microsoft.

If you look back at what happened to Jobs when he left Apple, it was largely because of his temper and mouth. As I said, I’m not sure what it is about computer companies with CEO’s named, “Steve;” but they sure do get angry a lot. Gralla sees this as poetic justice, saying that, “for once, the bully got bullied.” It may be bullying. I don’t know. I’ve never met either Jobs or Ballmer, so I really can’t say for certain. However, I would like to say that it wasn’t anger, or a bad temper, or anything else other than “passion.” Perhaps it was misplaced or mismanaged passion, but from what I’ve been able to see, I don’t think Ballmer MEANT to be a jerk. He may have thought YOU were one when you didn’t agree with him or couldn’t understand his message/point/vision, etc.; and that’s why he screamed at your, but I don’t think he meant to be a jerk. I think it may have been a bit different with Jobs. If you didn’t “get it,” I think he thought you were a moron and didn’t want you around.

But that’s (at least part of) the price of genius, isn’t it? Some of them are a bit “out there.”

I don’t know too much about Satya Nadella just yet, but it’s clear he’s making changes to how Microsoft works and functions. This isn’t going to be the same Microsoft that Gates gave to Ballmer. Nadella is definitely going to put his own mark on the company, which is good. He needs to if he’s going to be taken seriously and if the company is going to have any real chance at surviving.

We’ll have to wait and see how Nadella does. 2014 is going to be an interesting year for Microsoft. While it’s not necessarily going to be the making or breaking point, it’s going to set the stage for what is to come for the company, for certain.

What do you think? Are Nadella’s initial management changes good ones? Is his mobile strategy on target? Will he be a better CEO than either Gates or Ballmer? Why don’t you join me in the discussion below and tell me what you think

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Microsoft sets Windows 7 End of Sales Date

If you’re a consumer, you have until 2014-10-31 to get a new PC with Windows 7 on it.

windows-7

Microsoft’s been busy; and I’m not entirely certain that it’s a good thing.

They have a new CEO and a new technical advisor. They’ve announced a target date/timeframe for the release of Windows 8.1 Update 1. Oh yes… the ‘Softies have been busy; and I’m not entirely convinced that all of the developments have been good, either.

Case in point – Microsoft has set 2014-10-31 as the end of sales date for new consumer-grade Windows 7 PCs. This means that if you want a new PC with Windows 7 on it by default, you need to purchase it before 2014-10-31. This would include PC’s with Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium or Ultimate. If you go look for one on 2014-11-01, you may not be able to purchase it. Interestingly enough, they have not set the do-not-sell-after-this-date for business machines.

Microsoft’s been trying to force its partners to stop selling an older OS to retail customers one year after the release of its latest desktop OS since at least 2010, after its release of Windows 7 in 2009. They are desperately trying to prevent the creation of another Windows XP-like scenario where users can continue to buy the OS long after 1-2 generations of successors has hit the market. Windows 8 was shipped in October of 2012, so the world has already gotten a bit of a reprieve.

The problem is that Windows 8…well, it kinda sucks. Windows 8.1 goes a ways to resolve some of the issues that Windows users have with Windows 8’s dueling and competing user interfaces, but it doesn’t go far enough for many. Windows 9 is supposed to put the issue to bed; but that’s after the release of Windows 8.1 Update 1, and the word that I’m hearing from people in the know, is that Microsoft seems hell bent on not doing itself any favors.

Windows 8.1 Update 1, based on the bits that have leaked thus far, seems to be a bit of a bust. Some of the UI updates that come with it are again, a third to a half of what you’d want to see in another “release” of Windows 8.x from Microsoft. The OS has a bad reputation to begin with. You would think with such large obstacles for Windows 8.x to overcome, Microsoft would be a bit more committed to righting them as quickly as possible. Instead, they are waiting until what the world is currently calling Windows 9, but is currently known, at least internally, as Threshold, is released to bring back the full desktop experience. While this includes a REAL Start Menu and more – and that’s all seen as a good thing by many business and CoIT/BYOD users – Microsoft IS going to make everyone wait at least another year for it all.

(Interestingly enough, you can get just about all of Threshold’s native features now with a few, low priced trialware titles from Stardock – Start8 and ModernMix.) Windows 8 isn’t a bad OS, in and of itself…that is, if you can find a way around MetroUI and the Start Screen. If you can, you should find that Windows 8 is more stable and faster than Windows 7; and its TabletPC features are better integrated, should you have a Surface or other Windows-based tablet.

If you’re looking for a copy of Windows 7, you can try Amazon or NewEgg. I hear both of those online vendors have ample supply of Windows 7 consumer editions.

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Gates Can’t Install Windows 8.1

It’s pretty telling when the creator of Windows can’t get the latest version to install on a Windows compatible PC…

RRT

I’ve seen a couple of posts on this so far today; and I’m sorry to say, I fell for it… The New Yorker is the first article I saw, and not only was it was my WFT of the day, but I fell, hook line and sinker. It took me a bit to figure this out; but it did provide me with a chuckle or two in the interim.

The story goes that Satya Nadella’s first day as CEO looks like it went well.  Bill Gates’ first day, and Nadella’s second, however wasn’t as positive.  According to the article, the Microsoft founder spent the entire day trying to install Windows 8.1 on his Windows compatible PC.  When he couldn’t get passed a specific point, due to a recurring error, he contacted Nadella. The two of them spent the rest of the afternoon banging their heads against a brick wall.

The article described the situation as tense. Both Nadella and Gates tried to weather the moment where a hardware error message prevented Gates’ PC from continuing with the install and would need to restart. Apparently, some of the language coming out of the executive suite hadn’t been heard for a while. So what did Bill do..?

He did what nearly every frustrated consumer has done – he dumped Windows 8.1 and installed Windows 7 instead.

This is where I got hooked, because, how many technically savvy people do YOU know that bumped into something as frustrating as this with Windows. I know I can raise my hand. Its actually the story of my life. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been there.

All I can say is, “welcome to our hell.”

That may come off a little harsher than I really intend it to, but anybody who’s built or rebuilt a Windows box after a malware infection or after some kind of hardware/software snafu knows what I’m talking about. Going back to factory fresh isn’t always the easiest thing in the world with Windows.

In this situation, and in all seriousness, I think the humor here can be put to good use. Putting the public’s dislike for MetroUI/ModernUI aside for a moment, I think one of the first things that Gates should likely advise Nadella on is getting a handle on the hot mess that Windows has turned into.  If the company’s co-founder and former chief software architect really did have problems installing the latest version of the OS on his Windows compatible computer, then there’s certainly something wrong. When this happens to other technically savvy people, its just as frustrating as if it really did happen to Gates.

As a technology writer and product reviewer, I install software on computers all the time, every day, out loud. I regularly have to blow a box and reinstall everything on it. With both Mac OS and Linux, I haven’t had many problems with this.  Both of those are pretty easy to rebuild (and the reinstallation of end user apps is really very easy thanks to system utilities like Apple’s Time Machine on OS X). However, both of those are built on a Unix backbone; and that may have something to do with it.  With Windows, this has historically been much more difficult.

Troubleshooting Windows PC problems has been more difficult as well. Usually, when you bump into driver conflicts, a BSoD or some kind of Registry error or corruption, its better just to pack it in, nuke the drive and reinstall Windows from scratch.  While it doesn’t address the root cause of the problem – which drivers conflicted, where and how you got a malware infection, or what corrupted your Registry – it does get you back to operational mode faster. It’s also a lot less frustrating.

Having a restore DVD or some kind of drive image that has your entire, or most of, your needed setup and configuration and software, is a big help.  This is one of the things I like about Apple’s OS X and Microsoft’s Windows 8.x.  You can take a Windows 8.x box back to factory fresh from within the defective PC…but with Windows, that version of the OS has to already be on the computer; and the recovery partition already been created.  Windows 8 is the first version of Windows to create a recovery partition during installation.

Windows 9 (or whatever the successor to Windows 8 is officially called), currently code named Threshold is due for release in the Spring of 2015. While the recovery partition is an important part of Windows, there’s a lot more that Microsoft could do from an engineering perspective to make the OS easier for both consumer and enterprise users to manage. Getting rid of the Registry would be a start…

What does Microsoft need to do to improve Windows? What do you think Bill Gates can do to advise Satya Nadella? I’d really like to hear what you have to say in the discussion, below.

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