Slow progress

Wednesday, January 7th 2015

Yesterday afternoon seems a long time ago. I remember a ring on the doorbell, a cheerful delivery man dumping a big cardboard box on the doormat and then time becomes a blur.

Time was when I would switch on the PC, make tea while it was doing its spiritual exercises and then get right to work. I thought something similar would happen when I switched on the new laptop. I was wrong. I found myself engaged in a long progress of informing the computer (and presumably Microsoft) more about myself then I have told many friends, all this in aid of establishing an account and being given access to the Pandora’s Box called Windows 8.1.

In the weeks leading up to acquiring a new computer, I had continually flipped back and forth between pessimism (“I am going to hate Windows 8.1 and it’s going to hate me”) and optimism (“Hey, it’ll be OK. You’re a clever chap and you’ll soon sort it out”). Now suddenly, I was confronted with the monster that had haunted my dreams.

A few weeks before, we had bought  a book on Windows 8.1. I had given it some desultory attention but it had spent most of the time on the shelf gathering dust. I now reached it down and leafed through it again. The first thing to do was to move from the kiddies’ playground that is amusingly called the Start Screen to the Desktop. This is where the grownups gather and do serious work.

I was somewhat reassured by the fact that most of what I want to access on a computer could be accessed from here. I might have to hunt around a bit for it but it usually turned up sooner or later. I ran a few applications and learned to pin their icons to the Taskbar. I copied my set of portable programs from the old computer and soon discovered that you can’t pin them, even if you store them on the hard disk. So I put them all on a flash drive with a menu interface and ran them from there. Sorted!

By now I was feeling dangerously confident and this was, of course, the point at which things started going wrong. The main problem was with the display.

The point must be made that the “Windows 8.1 Experience” comprises two main elements, namely hardware and software. You know about the software – it’s the dreaded Windows 8.1 – so I will tell you about the hardware. This is a Toshiba Satellite P50T-B-113 laptop. It’s a nice piece of kit and I can’t fault it. (Well, I probably could if I tried but let’s not worry about that just now.) The only problem with it is the display which is splendid. In fact, it’s a bit too splendid. It is wider in relation to its height than my previous machine and the recommended resolution is 3840 X 2160. Applications, if they could feel, would feels like horses let out of a horse box into a big green field in the sunshine. Acres of space to play in.

But here’s the rub: they are just not used to so much space, poor darlings, and scrunch up small in one corner of the field. You need a magnifying glass to read the menus or recognize the icons in the menu bar. Changing the screen resolution doesn’t help. It just makes the display look ugly without solving the problem. Some of my most essential applications have become virtually impossible to use.

I will admit to going to bed feeling depressed. It seemed that I had bought an expensive piece of junk and would never get any sensible use out of it.

I awoke at 4:50 am (yes, I looked at the clock) and lay there thinking. My problem, I decided, was that I lacked a plan. Things always seem better when you have a plan. So my plan is 1. stop being depressed and think positive; 2. check whether the applications really are unusable or whether you can it fact get some sense out of them; 3. if they are unusable then ask for advice and/or seek for alternative applications, ones that will actually work on this system.

OK, it’s not much of a plan but it’s a starting point and it gave me enough optimism to start working on the computer again in a more positive mood. Since then, I have uninstalled some applications I didn’t want and installed some that I did want and have done some actual work. Yes, real work, not pretend work.

So there is hope.

Just a glimmer.

(P.S. This was written on, and sent from, Microsoft Live Writer, installed on the new machine.)

Copyright © 2015 SilverTiger,, All rights reserved.


About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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12 Responses to Slow progress

  1. cabbieblog says:

    Windows Live Writer works well for WordPress blogs, the only criticism I have of it is that when uploading pictures it defaults to a shadow. Why can’t those clever people at Microsoft make the default without embellishments? Also on Windows 8.0 the program for updates has broken. It seems as though I might have to rebuild my laptop from scratch.

    • SilverTiger says:

      I upload the photos separately and give Live Writer the URL. I also use my own HTML code for image placement. In that way, I get them as I want them, not as Live Writer thinks they ought to be.

      Windows 8 is by general agreement The OS That Should Never Have Been and we can only hope that MS regains its sanity in time for the next iteration.

      • BFG says:

        If you feel so disposed, you can get access to the next version as a work in progress and install it as a virtual machine implementation under Windows 8 (even if you lack the correct hardware). The VMware Player is free and seems to work very well IME; it also gives you the opportunity to create multiple VMs of different OS’, to explore and even perform productive work with them and associated applications.

        I have Office 2003 installed under both Windows 7 and Windows 10 Preview, and although my macros written under an XP installation of Office 2003 have some display issues when run under the two later OS’ (I’m exploring whether it’s worth the time and effort to rewrite them under a future implementation of new hardware/new OS), and it’s been useful to be able to run so many experiments using VMs – which is the future of non-cloud computing environments, IMHO.

        Interesting side note: Microsoft produce their own VM – and it can’t do what VMware’s free Player can do *with Microsoft’s own OS and apps*. The mind boggles.

        • SilverTiger says:

          For now I am content to work out how to cater for my rather simple needs. I am well on the way with that.

          My computer use has declined considerably in recent months. One of the reasons for that was the rediscovery of an ancient means of entertainment: books!

    • BFG says:

      The most common problem that affects Windows Update is one or more corrupt Services.
      This link might help:

  2. BFG says:

    Failure to pin to the taskbar might be down to permissions and/or attempting to perform an action that requires administrator rights.

    • SilverTiger says:

      It seems that portable apps, as opposed to installed ones, cannot be pinned. However, one can create a shortcut of the executable and put that on the desktop. Problem solved!

      I have now moved my my frequently used portable apps back onto the hard disk and made shortcuts to them as described. Sorted!

      • BFG says:

        I should have thought to mention that you wouldn’t pin the exe itself to the taskbar – d’oh!

        Glad you got it sorted.

        • SilverTiger says:

          Good point. That’ll be the explanation, then. Having shortcut icons on the desktop is the next best thing and allows easy access to my most frequently used applications.

          • BFG says:

            You should have no problems pinning shortcuts to the taskbar (and you can pin them to the Start screen, the equivalent to the Kodak Instamatic of computing).

            One thing that’s comparatively new to Windows users is the idea that for some actions you have to choose the Run as Administrator option in order to get things to work correctly. *nix/Linux users have always had to do that (although it has a different invocation).

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