28 July 2014

Another bit of a M$ rant

I've been using Windows 8 for a while now. I upgraded it to 8.1 as soon as I could and I've been using Classic Start Menu (4.0.4) for a while because well it (or an M$ equivalent) should have been built-in to begin with.

There is something missing in the M$ camp these days and I'm not convinced just shedding jobs will fix their problems. They seem to have forgotten the customer. Let me explain what I mean by that. Around 10 years ago, my boss (back then) tried to introduce me to Linux, specifically a distribution called Slackware. I was slightly amused at the notion that you sometimes had to spend an hour trying to get the mouse & keyboard working. I'd been spoiled with Windows XP where if you set it up correctly, you could remove the drive, put it in another PC and at start-up it would try to match any drivers it knew about with the installed hardware and you usually ended up with a working system. Not necessarily a clean and efficient system and you might eventually run into issues with conflicting drivers, but it would get you out of a fix if your hardware died suddenly.

Eventually everything with drivers started to go the certified-for-Windows way. There would be logos on boxes and this stuff was supposed to be guaranteed to work on Windows (whichever version it sported the logo for). There is a lot of this old kit still out there which still works, but is no longer supported and the peripheral manufacturers are not that bothered about re-writing drivers (since they have made new products and certified them with newer versions of Windows and are now concentrating on that new market). This is why I think M$ have forgotten the customer.

This morning I tried to get an old usb wi-fi adapter working on Win 8.1. Now when I upgraded to Windows 8 (from XP) I did not consider how much additional hardware I had which might need replacing so again I think I can say that M$ have forgotten the customer. I may have skipped a few versions (which were downgrades from XP in my opinion) but I have things like USB drives, wi-fi adapters, hubs, digital cameras etc. which should still work; but some will undoubtedly not work with Windows 8. Still after 15 years in the tech industry I know there's usually people in the same situation who go on to fix these things and then post details for the benefit of others caught out in the same way. I even found an article on PC-Pro about how to turn off driver-signing enforcement to allow installation of custom drivers (always make sure these come from reliable sources).

So after finding the hard-to-find new app (it did not show up in search), I got thrown into Metrohell (where the app launches itself full-screen, hides the browser you had open and the easiest way to get back to the desktop is CTRL+ALT+DEL ->task manager -> minimise. I managed to re-read the instructions and then back to the app, through 2 or 3 other screens to find the reboot option I needed and rebooted. Then there were more options after the reboot but I eventually managed to turn off driver-signing protection. I hacked my driver .inf file, replacing the NTamd64.6.0 mentions with NTamd64.6.2. I got a warning about installing the unsigned driver which had a red-box around it (which reminded me of the old CBM-Amiga guru-meditation messages when something went wrong). After all that, the driver appeared to install ok but at the end, it came up with another error (the device cannot start - code 10)

At this point I plugged it into my Linux Mint box (v16) which instantly installed it and gave me a list of SSID's for my wi-fi network(s).

This functionality is what made XP great. Back then Linux was a chore if it didn't work properly but these days I'm finding more and more that it's Windows which is becoming a chore. From important control panel applets changing name with every new version to changes in how the sound mixer system works. I am being forced to re-learn Windows with every upgrade and then I discover there could be additional costs of replacing peripherals which are no longer supported. It's now Linux Mint which reminds me most of XP with it's robust desktop and compatability. I really hope M$ will at some point see what they are doing and bring the Windows franchise back to it's former glory (XP2 maybe?). Lets not forget they gave us XP, Kinect, the Xbox360, FSX etc. so it is sad to see M$ in a state of decline; but not unexpected.