THE SCARIEST THING

I was terrified.

Was it a big hairy spider? A home invader? A tornado? A threatened lawsuit? A burst pipe? A volcanic eruption (in New England, that would really be something else!) … ?

No. My computer refused to boot. It got to the “welcome” screen then just sat there. Going around and around and around. It has never done that. It was fine when we left to go to the grocery store. No blue screens of death or anything at all. It was computering along uncomplaining. Fine, thank you.

But. It. Would. Not. Boot.

I put it in “safe mode with networking” and restored it to the last save point … two days ago. And now, it’s fine again. No idea what happened except for a tiny, brief message that said “new drivers installed” then vanished — this while it was in “safe mode.” What drivers? I didn’t install any new equipment and the only driver I regularly upgrade is for my graphics card.

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So I have no idea what happened, but my heart is pounding and I’ve got a headache. I think my blood pressure just went into the stratosphere.

Although the computer is essential to my life, in fact everything on it would be easy enough to restore. Photographs and documents are safely stored on two external hard drives. My virtual life is on various clouds somewhere out in the Ether World — WordPress, Google, the bank, Amazon and probably a few others I can’t think of offhand. Other than Photoshop which I have on DVD, all my software is easy enough to replace by downloading.  Yet having my computer not boot filled me with dread and a horrible feeling of powerlessness. I think I’m less afraid of spiders … and that’s saying something because I’m really phobic about arachnids.

I will never know what happened. A virus? A bad download? Nothing is supposed to download to this system without my permission. It’s one of the reasons I don’t like Windows 10. You can’t turn off automatic downloads. I hate when things happen and I have no control over them.

If I wasn’t sure how important my computer is in my world, this absolutely showed me the bare, ugly truth. I need my computer like I need air. How did it come to this?

And wasn’t it a long way down.

ELEGANT SOLUTIONS?

According to the dictionary, an elegant solution is as follows:

“Refinement and simplicity are implied, rather than fussiness, or ostentation. An elegant solution, often referred to in relation to problems in disciplines such as mathematics, engineering, and programming, is one in which the maximum desired effect is achieved with the smallest, or simplest effort.”

I’m all about elegant solutions. I would add “least expensive” to “smallest, or simplest” because for me, elegant includes not having to buy it on credit.

Today, my elegant solution was delivered from the Microsoft store.

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It is a NuVision 32GB Windows 10 tablet. It cost (minimally on sale) $99 with free shipping.

I need some kind of compact tablet that can do email, a bit of blogging, and make an occasional typo correction. And listen to audiobooks. Not just the audiobooks in my library — all you can do on a Kindle.

I am one a judge for the Audies, kind of the Emmys for audiobooks. The genre I’m judging varies from year to year, but books for judges live in a separate judges library. Which I can’t get to using my Kindle. I can, of course, get there on this laptop, but I don’t always want to haul the whole laptop with me to listen to a book.

I looked at the iPad Mini, but that’s a lot of money for something I am not going to use a lot. I looked at the Galaxy S and liked it, but it’s also pricey. There are full size computers available for the same (sometimes lower) prices. I was all set to order the Galaxy because I also have a Galaxy phone and the two would be able to communicate … and I know how the system works, more or less.

Then, I saw this. The NuVision Windows 10 tablet. I wanted to give Win10 a run anyway and see if I can live with it. Because if I can’t, my next computer will be a Mac. Yeah, I know, but Microsoft is going in directions I don’t like, making everything proprietary. Meanwhile, this tablet has all the stuff you expect a tablet to have … except the big price tag. My kind of elegant solution.

The Windows 8 and 10 user interfaces are butt ugly. From a design point of view, I don’t think there’s a less attractive user interface anywhere. It’s also awkward and counter-intuitive. Win10 is not quite as awful as Win8, but Windows 7 is so much better in every way. I still don’t understand why they are off in this direction and why, even in this direction, they can’t make the interface smoother, more intuitive, and easier to understand. And less ugly.

There are also nasty rumors about Microsoft’s plans to make using their operating system a “rental” rather than letting you own it. I flat-out will not do it. I refuse. That’s my line in the sand.

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So, for now, my elegant solution is an 8″ Windows 10 NuVision tablet that — much to my surprise — works. After it finished installing updates, it settled down and did whatever I want. Cortana, the assistant … well. It think it’s  the replacement for Clippie, the aggravating know-it-all dancing paperclip. And about as useful.

The Win10 interface is not happy on an 8″ screen. It wants more real estate. However. With some sleight of hand and on-screen juggling, you can get it to do what you want. I’m sure with a bit more practice, I’ll be doing everything without any conscious thought.

I also managed to pair a small blue-tooth speaker to it. I’ve had this speaker for a while. It would not pair with my computer. Absolutely would not recognize it as a computer. Insisted it’s a pair of headphones and remained silent. It also thinks the tablet is a pair of headphones, but it plays anyhow. Which is fortunate because whatever it is that passes for speakers in this tablet should be ashamed of themselves.

I’m pretty sure this will do the job I need done and let me see if I can live with this operating system. I’m not ready to give it a thumbs up or down yet, though i will say that for $99, this is a nice little tablet. It has pretty much everything you want a tablet to have (except usable speakers). Nice screen resolution. No one makes a proper case for it, but for the price, I’ll live without one.

The virtual keyboard is much more responsive than the one on any of my Kindles or my phone and praise the lord … there’s NO AUTOCORRECT!

I’ll let you know how it goes.

ELEGANT | THE DAILY POST

WRESTLING WITH THE COMPUTER

I spent a day and a night in mortal combat with my computer. It wasn’t my computer’s fault. It was some update that caused something else to malfunction. Like a house of cards, it just went down and stayed down. Wouldn’t boot, wouldn’t tell me what the problem was. Finally, I managed to grab the last few digits of the blue-screen message and determined the area of the problem was graphics, coaxed the computer into backing up to a time before the “update,” and everything began to settle down.

As I near the end of the “free installation” period for Windows 10, Microsoft has become ever more strident in its determination to install it, including trying to install it without my permission.

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Which doesn’t work. It just errors out and makes a mess. This computer with its fancy shmantzy graphics card doesn’t run properly with Windows 10. It slows to a crawl, loses it’s file structure. I’ve attempted to install it four times and gotten fatal errors. It either crashed and would not recover, or it recovered, but was inoperable after a reboot. Enough being enough, I decided I’m fine with Windows 7.

I’ll be glad when the “free installation” period is over and I can stop worrying about sneak attacks on my operating system.

Technically, nothing can install without my permission. My settings decree I have to start an update before anything installs. But Microsoft seems to have found a way around my settings. To keep my computer working the way I want it, I turn it OFF unless I am sitting in front of it. This is inconvenient, but not as inconvenient as having Windows 10 trying to install itself while I am in the shower.

I’m hoping I’ve got it back on track now. These wrestling matches with the operating system are no fun and I absolutely do not want to have to replace this computer. Not only do I not have the money, but I’m happy with this computer. I don’t want the hassles that go with setting up a new one — especially using a different operating system.

I think I’m back. So far, so good.

ONE SIZE NEVER FITS ALL

Just when I think this subject has been dealt with, finished, over and done … it pops back up again. For reasons that remain a bit murky to me, a few large software and other organizations still believe the tablets and mobile phones are going to replace computers. Laptops and desktops … gone. Everything now gets done on tiny little thingamabobs.

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NOT!

About four years ago, tablets were the thing. Articles everywhere explained why tablets — and other small devices — would replace computers. The laptop and desktop are dead! The techno-pundits agreed: no one would need a computer because everything would be done on a small, portable device.

The short-sightedness of that statement still echoes in the air. Of course it didn’t happen. Sure, everyone bought a tablet. Or two or more. But no one threw out their computer, either. Turns out that each device has a purpose and an appropriate use. It isn’t and never will be “either-or.”

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I don’t have anything against portable devices. I have a smart phone. Sometimes, I even use it. I have a couple of tablets and have had as many as four, including an iPad. I didn’t like the iPad (gasp!) and gave it to my granddaughter who had a valid need for it in school. The others, I passed on to people who didn’t already have a tablet or three. The price of tablets has dropped so much — frequently offered free when you buy a cell phone or laptop — it’s getting hard to give them away.

I have a terrific gaming 14-inch laptop on which I’m working right now. I also have a desktop with a big HD monitor. I rarely use the desktop, but I keep it because you never know. Garry has one too. Ditto.

The big desktop monitor is a touch screen. It used to go nuts if a fly or a mosquito walked across it. I eventually gave up and turned the touch functionality off. It was a viciously difficult angle at which to use ones fingers, especially if you have a semblance of fingernails. It killed my wrists and shoulders.

WHAT ARE TOUCHSCREENS GOOD FOR?

Not much, actually. The little ones are good for checking email and making brief responses … and sending texts. Taking a quick glance at a website. Reading a book. Looking at (but not editing) pictures. Listening to music.

SO WHAT’S MISSING?

The ability to create anything or do any actual work. Too small for a spreadsheet. Without a keyboard, no writer would try to do anything longer than a paragraph or a quick typo fix.

And then there’s the inaccuracy. You cannot edit a photograph — or anything really using a touchscreen.

my office and desktop computer

YOU CAN’T DO “BIG” USING “TINY”

Those who extol mini devices as a total computer solution have never designed a book, made a movie, edited a photograph, used Photoshop (or any Adobe product), converted a book to a PDF or edited a manuscript. I know this because it’s impossible. All other problems aside, little devices are too small.

This is not my opinion. It’s fact. Mac, PC, Android, Linux — size matters. You can argue this until you’re blue in the face. It won’t change anything. Oh, and some of us really can’t read tiny type. Like more than half the population, for example. Far-sighted people and anyone over 40. Just saying.

VIRTUAL KEYBOARDS ARE FOR VIRTUAL TYPISTS

I read an article that explained how you can type just fine on a virtual keyboard. No, you can’t.

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IT’S A BIG WORLD

I like choice. I like having different devices for specific tasks. You can’t replace everything with one thing  and there’s no reason you should.

Diversity makes life interesting. We don’t have to go to the same church, read the same books, believe the same stuff … or use the same computer

One size never fits all.

WHY TABLETS DIDN’T REPLACE COMPUTERS

A few years ago when tablets were the next big thing, there were articles everywhere explaining why tablets would replace everything else. All the techno-pundits said no one would need a computer because everything would be done on a small, portable device.

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It didn’t happen. Everyone bought a tablet, but no one threw out their computer.

I don’t have anything against portable devices. I have a smart phone. Sometimes, I even use it. I have two tablets and had as many as four until I gave two away.

tablets kindle iPad

I have a terrific 14-inch laptop and a desktop with a big monitor. I rarely use the desktop, but I keep it because you never know. The big desktop monitor is actually a touch screen. It used to reconfigure itself when a fly or a mosquito walked across it. I turned the touch functionality off and use a mouse. If I hadn’t been able to get rid of the touch technology, I would have been forced to defenestrate it.

Warning: You cannot edit a photograph — or really, anything — using a touchscreen.

my office and desktop computer

I’m sure those who extol mini devices as a total computer solution have never designed a book, made a movie, edited a photograph, used Photoshop (or any Adobe product), converted a book to a PDF or edited a manuscript. I know this because it’s impossible. All other problems aside, little devices are too small. You can’t edit a big thing on an itty-bitty screen.

This is not my opinion. It’s a fact. Operating system is irrelevant. Mac, PC, Android or Linux, size matters. You can argue this until you’re blue in the face. It won’t change anything.

VIRTUAL KEYBOARDS ARE FOR VIRTUAL TYPISTS

I read an article that explained how you can type just fine on a virtual keyboard. No, you can’t.

IT’S A BIG WORLD

If I’ve got room in my house for every kind of device, surely there’s ample room in our world for everything. Personally, I like choice. I like using different devices for different tasks. You can’t replace everything with one thing  and there’s no reason you should.

An office

One size never fits all. Diversity makes life interesting. Let’s celebrate our differences. We don’t have to go to the same church, read the same books, believe the same stuff … or use the same computer

If everybody would quit trying to force their opinions on others, life would be better. For everyone. So live. Enjoy. Let everyone else do the same.

IT WAS A FINE AFFAIR, BUT NOW IT’S OVER …

Four hours after I finished installing Windows 10, I restored Windows 7 Professional. Why, you ask? How fair an assessment of the operating system could I make in only four hours?

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Well, for a start, the boot time on Windows 10 is a return to the bad old days. Remember when you could turn on the computer, make dinner, eat dinner, wash the dishes… and when you got back, maybe your system would be ready to go? It’s that bad.

I’m not talking about a little bit slower. I mean a solid five-minute plus boot time.

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There are lots of bells and whistles on Windows 10. I deleted as many of them as I could, but I couldn’t get rid of nearly enough. This is supposed to be a professional system, yet its loaded down with music, movies, TV, games, more games, travel sites. Everything is entertainment-oriented. Nothing useful for work. Nothing.

We all use our systems differently, but there’s a reason I have had the professional versions of Windows.

Microsoft still hasn’t recovered from their belief that every computer should contain a party that never ends. Assuming a party is what I want, I’m entirely capable of finding it. I hate bloatware and Windows 10 it full of it.

The one thing in the package of ‘goodies’ I liked was the Solitaire Pack. I miss solitaire, but I can live without it. All the other crap? The addition of Xbox does not compensate for the loss of “preview” in the right-click pictures context menu. I don’t need special tiles for television, movie, news, maps, weather and the Microsoft store. I can easily make my own links to those sites in whatever browser I use.

Maybe all this crap is why the system is so abominably slow to boot?

As usual, they’ve scrambled the menus. Typical of software designers, if they can’t make something better, they can at least make stuff you need hard to find. I had to go hunting for the power controls (Restart, Shut Down, Hibernate, Sleep, etc.) and the Control Panel. They moved the Startup controller to the Task Manager which was merely annoying. What was wrong with where it had been for the past 20 years?

The Windows 10 audio controls are even less intuitive than they are in Windows 7. Some of them are — far as I can tell — missing. Maybe they’ve moved them elsewhere too.

Good things? Yes, a few. It’s a huge improvement over Windows 8. If I had Win 8 on my computer, I’d be thrilled with Windows 10.

My Adobe applications open and load faster in Windows 10, and the WiFi connection seems more stable. The task bar icons are nice and streamlined. I don’t know that they’re better, but they are different.

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Windows 10

I started installing Windows 10 at 10:30 am. I finished at 3:10 pm. Just short of five hours including errors, restarts, and many reboots. Although 99 % of the installation is automatic, the other 1% is critical. Had I not been there, the installation would have crashed and burned, likely leaving me without a working operating system.

It took just 15 minutes to restore Windows 7 Professional. No one can say I didn’t give it a try.

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Windows 7 Professional

The deal-breaker was the extremely slow boot time. It was this slow with an empty startup file and after deleting as much bloatware as I could. If they had less junk on the system, it would probably move faster. It couldn’t move much slower.

I am pretty sure it would have run well enough after booting, but I do not like the hybrid “Start Menu.” It has pieces of the classic Start Menu, plus those hateful tiles they couldn’t give away in Windows 8. What makes Microsoft think something I hated in Windows 8 would be more lovable in Windows 10?

Although the version of Windows 10 I installed was officially the professional version, my best guess is that it’s identical to the “Home” edition.

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Will I try it again? Not soon. Maybe if they assure me they’ve dealt with the problems by first acknowledging there are problems. I’m sure there’s an up side to Windows 10 (especially if you are coming from Windows 8), but for me, it doesn’t outweigh the bloatware and slow boot time.

INSTALLING WINDOWS 10 – FINALLY

I won’t be dropping by to read your posts today and for this, I apologize. But I’ve got a great excuse.

It is the first day of November and autumn is fading into winter. Taking courage in hand … setting aside a whole bundle of concerns about how this upgrade would affect this computer … I upgraded my laptop for which I still owe a ton of money … to Windows 10.

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To say this wasn’t an action taken lightly would be a massive understatement. I waited until I could get testimony from people I know and trust that they had done it. That their computers were still working weeks or months after installation. That they hadn’t lost their applications or data. And most of all, that they were pleased with how it worked compared to Windows 7.

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It turned out to be as scary as I expected. It errored out during the download. Eventually, I deduced the problem was I had to set “Windows Updates” to allow automatic installation. I changed the setting, after which the download picked up where it had left off.

A bigger scare occurred during the actual install. It stopped, announced a fatal error because it had encountered my video board. This was one of the things I was most afraid would happen. I have some highly specialized hardware and associated software in this machine. But, surprise! It rebooted, apparently found whatever it needed, then continued.

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All of this took considerable time, but I knew this was going to be a lost day anyhow.

Finally, when it had downloaded and completed it’s “preparation,” it got lost, couldn’t find the computer’s identifier. I think it was actually having trouble connecting with the router.

Finding the connection has — especially recently — been a frequent problem. Charter Communication’s WiFi is unstable. Not to mention the company is doing a lot of work on the poles and wires all along our road, from here into Rhode Island.

Then, after it rebooted a couple of times, but couldn’t get itself organized, I turned it off and rebooted it cold. After that, it found the WiFi and successfully identified the machine.

So far as I can tell — about 10 minutes after completing the installation — it looks okay. All my applications seem to be where they ought to be, though I have not checked to see if they are actually working.

I started this installation this morning at around 10:30. It finished at 3 in the afternoon. Four and a half hours. I had to be here to monitor it and make sure I didn’t need to answer a question — there were four or five questions to be answered along the way. It’s almost entirely automatic … but not quite.

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Questions pop up and if there are any problems — as there were with mine — you need to be there to tell the computer to try again, to reboot, or whatever. Otherwise, I think you might wind up with some serious problems of incomplete or corrupted installation of the operating system.

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How is it going to work? I don’t really know yet. Will I like it? I guess I’ll find out. Am I glad I did it? I don’t know that yet either. I’m glad I’m done sitting here and monitoring the process. Talk about watching paint dry.

You will please forgive me if I don’t go and read everyone’s blogs today. It’s late, I’m tired. Tomorrow is another day. I’ve got my fingers crossed that when I got to turn this machine on tomorrow, it is still alive and kicking!