Jan 14

The Horrors of Windows 8, Hard to Downgrade Even!

Windows 8 WTF

Image courtesy burkeyavademy.blogspot.com.

I’ve had a heck of a time trying to downgrade a new box from Windows 8 to Windows 7.  For my own future reference and anyone else who runs into this trouble, here are some solutions that worked for me.

How to Power Down Windows 8 from the GUI

What kind of crazy engineering led to it being completely non-obvious how to even shut a Windows 8 machine down gracefully?!  Well, it’s hidden in the “charms bar”.. Mouse to the lower right corner > Settings > Power icon > choose shutdown method.

Clean Install of Windows 7 on GPT Partition Disc

Ignore all the stuff you see on the web telling you to disable UEFI, installing from boot media won’t work if UEFI is disabled.  Instead, go into the bios, enable UEFI but disable secure boot, then change the boot media order to boot from CD.  Voila.

Clean Install of Windows 7 – Product Key Activation Error

If you get an error that your (completely valid and legit) product key can only be used to upgrade the operating system but can’t be used for a clean install, you can change a registry setting to get around this issue.  (Thanks to LifeHacker for the steps.)

  1. Press the Windows key and type regedit. Press enter to open the Registry Editor.
  2. Navigate toHKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/Software/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion/Setup/OOBE/and double-click on the MediabootInstall key in the right pane.
  3. Change the key’s value from 1 to 0.
  4. Exit the Registry Editor, press the Windows key again, and type cmd. Right-click on the Command Prompt icon and run it as an administrator.
  5. Type slmgr /rearm and press Enter.
  6. Reboot Windows.

Let us hope this ends my nightmare experience with Windows 8, which I shall endeavor to avoid like the plague for as long as possible.

Jan 10

Backblaze – Solution for Cheap Offsite Backups?

Anyone using a computer has to think about backup solutions.   If you aren’t backing up your work – preferably through an automated system that doesn’t require you to remember to do it – then you’re a fool asking for disaster.  😉

Some time ago, I purchased a 2TB external hard drive to back up my PC at home.  After doing some shopping, I chose the Duo Pro Drive from Fabrik and it gave me some peace of mind to know that if my primary hard drive failed, I wouldn’t lose everything.

They also offered an offsite backup option for an additional monthly fee, and though I was tempted, the price tag seemed a little hefty and I chose to pass on the offer, but not having a reliable offsite back-up solution has been nagging at my conscience.  My external HD will be great if the hard drive in my PC crashes and burns, but what if my house catches on fire?  Or a power surge fries both my PC and my external HD?

This morning I caught up on some blog reading and a link from Cory Ondrejka’s collapsing geography blog caught my eye.  He mentioned Backblaze, a service offering unlimited offsite backup for $5 a month.

One of my concerns about using an offsite backup solution is security of my data – not that I have top sekret stuff to protect, really, but I’m sure there’s plenty of personally identifying data and other things I’d not like to have escape into the ether, either.  ;)   Backblaze addresses that with a mix of public/private and symmetric key encryption:

Read their full explanation in the blog post here.

I think I’m going to give this service a try and see how it goes.  $5 a month seems like a very small price to pay for the kind of peace of mind that comes from knowing you’re covered in the event of a data disaster.

Do you use an offsite backup system?  Any other suggestions or tips?

Nov 09

Twitter Lists, Google Wave, & Verizon’s Droid Phone

Twitter Lists

Twitter recently added the ability to categorize the people you follow into “Lists”, with quick links on your right sidebar to the status updates of all the people in that category.  Your lists can be public or private, with private lists only visible to you, and other people can follow your lists en masse or see the individual people you’ve added.

You can check out my Twitter lists to see if any of them interest you (though I’m not done adding people yet!).

TheNextWeb has a “how-to” guide if you’re not sure how Twitter Lists work, and so far it seems like it’s working out pretty well for me, despite the fact I’ve only got some small percentage of the people I follow categorized. Wow, talk about tedious work to add people!  New twitter users won’t have this problem since they can add folks to lists as they go along, but for those of us who have been around a while, this is a major chore.  I’m trying to do a few more each time I sit down at the PC, but it’s kind of slow going.

Still, the functionality seems worth the effort, since this gives you an easy way to “check in” with different categories or communities of people you follow, much like we’ve been able to do with 3rd party apps like Groups on TweetDeck.  As I posted to Twitter, I’m creating lists based on what’s most useful for _me_, not with the intention of creating a great list for someone else to follow, though if someone else finds a list of mine useful, more power to them.

Besides the obvious, I see a few other good or interesting uses for Twitter Lists:

  • Vanity list checking: It may be completely vain on my part, but I’m finding it interesting to see how people categorize my tweets and what tags they use to describe me when they put me on a list.  Many of them are obvious like “secondlife” or “education” but some of them have been surprising.  It’s also another example of how YOU are not always in control of your “brand” or your identity on the web.  What if someone put me on a list called “totaljerks” or something?
  • Making lists for your followers, instead of for yourself. I’ve seen some folks making lists called “recommended” or “moversandshakers” where it seems like people are aggregating lists less for their own consumption and more to help their followers find OTHERS to follow.  If that makes sense.  I definitely would be more judicious in my choices if I made a “recommended tweeters” list than I have been with the lists I’ve created so far, so perhaps curating a good list will become a useful Twitter skill.  I think I might try that once I get through the first phase of adding folks to lists.
  • Lists as another metric of quality. I don’t think this is very useful yet, as most established twitterers are probably, like me, still in the process of getting all their followers categorized.  But once lists are being used ubiquitously (and I think they will be), this feature adds a new metric to judge the quality of a tweeter before you add them.  Now, in addition to their profile and number of people they follow/follow them, you can also see how many people took the time to add them to a list, and what kinds of tags they use to describe them.   Hopefully this will be a less game-able metric than sheer numbers of followers, but I guess we’ll see.
  • Lists will be great for newbie Twitterers. I hope lists will help people new to Twitter get engaged with communities of interest more quickly than before.  If I introduce someone to Twitter and I know they also dig Second Life, I can point to that list as a great starting point.   They can either follow the whole list, or sort through it to pick and choose individual people to follow.
  • As a corollary, raiding your friends’ lists for new people to follow just got a whole lot easier since you can follow people only from the communities you’re most interested in.

My biggest complaint, other than not having an easy way to add multiple people to a list quickly, is that Twitter perversely orders your lists in the REVERSE order you created them, so my most frequently used lists are at the bottom rather than the top.  I hope they fix that little issue quickly.

Also, has anyone come across any iPod/iPhone apps that include list functionality yet?  It looks like Tweetie2, my favorite Twitter app, doesn’t do that yet.

Other than those complaints, I’d say Twitter Lists is two thumbs up.  Yay for tools that help break big info streams down into more manageable chunks!

Google Wave

Wish I could offer the same enthusiasm about Google Wave, touted as an alternative to email, but I must say my initial experience is “less than impressed”.  (And no, I don’t have any invites to give yet, I’ll let you know as soon as I do!)

I know this is still a beta service (what google service isn’t in perpetual beta?) but I guess I expected something more.. intuitive? easy? fast? useful?    At least on my machine, Google Wave is very slow to load everything – contact lists, inbox, and especially the content of the wave.   I even get such terrible typing lag when I try to make a reply that it sometimes takes 3 or 4 seconds for what I’ve typed to show up on the screen.  Reminds me of the 1200 baud modem days, waiting for things to appear.

Other sundry complaints:   Navigating through a wave is kind of tedious, I can’t tell what I’ve already seen and what’s new.  The scroll bar dealie on the right confuses me, the arrows at the top and bottom don’t actually jump you to the top or bottom of the wave.  Playback on a big wave either doesn’t work at all or goes very slowly and I can’t figure out how to speed it up (plus it seems to crash FF from time to time).  In general, I just can’t figure out why I would use this instead of email..?

I’ll give it some time and keep playing.   As I said, I know it’s early days for Wave, so perhaps I’ll see more utility when it’s more useable from a lag/organization standpoint.  But first impressions can be tough to shake and my first impression of Wave is it’s doing the opposite of Twitter Lists, instead of making big info streams more manageable, it seems to turn manageable email chunks into one big info stream.  Not a fan yet.

Verizon’s Droid Phone

Ok, I lied, I haven’t actually gotten my hands on one yet, even though @tom_streeter had one in the office last week, I was too darned busy at work to pester him about it.

For those of us who are on Verizon’s network, and thus unable to get an iPhone (insert major annoyance here), we’ve been waiting and waiting for a smartphone alternative to the iPhone and the web chatter says the Motorola Droid is Verizon’s first possible competitor.    CNet has the best review I’ve seen so far, and several Cincinnati area tweeters were given a first look through a Verizon promotion #droiddoescincy so you can see some real people reviews.

Me, I’m definitely keep an eye on it, but I don’t want “the next best thing” to an iPhone.  I want something equal to or better than an iPhone, otherwise, I think I’ve got most bases covered between my current phone and the iPod Touch I recently picked up.

So, uh, Tom, if you still have it next week, can I take a peek?  🙂

Oct 09

Better late than never – ipod touch

Though I confess the touch typing on the iPod touch is far slower and more annoying than on my LG Touch (which flips open to a nice qwerty keyboard), I must admit that I suddenly understand what all the rave is about with th iPhone and iPod touch. It truly is paradigm shifting to have access to mobile browsing that actually _works_.

I don’t know yet how annoying it will be when out of range of wifi, but considering all of the apps available that store content for offline browsing, from movies to games to podcasts to books tweets and more, at least you won’t be bored even if you are offline.

At the moment, im kicking myself for waiting so long and even more annoyed with apple for tying the iPhone to AT&T. This is really good tech and it’s a shame it’s limited to the AT&T network to have phone functionality. Fortunately, I discovered that the skype app turns even the iPod touch into a phone when you have wifi, so that’s something anyway.

Might post more as Iearn about the device and get a better feel for it, but suffice to say, my initial reaction is very impressed.

Posted from my iPod touch.

Dec 07

BugLab Gadget

Now this is something interesting. I don’t know what to call it other than a gadget, but I can see how something like this might be fun to play with.