It can only get better

Friday, January 9th 2015

Well, that’s what I tell myself, anyway.

Three days after taking delivery of the laptops  running Windows 8.1, I am feeling, if not happy, somewhat less frustrated. Partly, this is because I have found how to do some things that I could not do before and partly, because I have given up on certain other things that it seems I will never be able to do.

As an example of the latter, Faststone, the photo viewer and editor that I used so extensively on the old computer, is impossible to use on the new one because the display is incompatible with the screen resolution. I will have to find other other applications to use instead.

My favourite editor is UltraEdit and this too suffers from display problems. The PC’s screen resolution reduced the size of the icons on the menu bars to the point where they were indistinguishable from one another. An email to UltraEdit support elicited the suggestion that I right click on the menu bar and this would allow me to select “Large Buttons”. It works, but only slightly. I can now just about access the buttons but for many purposes I have adopted keyboard shortcuts instead.

Yesterday evening, we suffered our first Traumatic Event.

“My touchpad cursor has disappeared,” said Tigger. “I can’t see it and it’s not merely invisible. It simply doesn’t work.”

Now of course, if the touchpad isn’t working, it’s hard to manage the PC. Happily, we had invested in touch screens, providing some measure of manageability but this left unanswered what, exactly, we should do to restore the missing cursor.

On my PC I searched the Web for “Windows 8.1 missing cursor” and found hundreds or, more likely, thousands, of hits. This seems to be an all too common problem. The question I had to answer, however, was how to cure it and bring back the absentee. I searched and searched and didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. Many of the hits were concerned with specific makes of hardware or had instructions that were confusing or hard to follow.

I eventually found one entry written by someone who seemed to know his stuff and set about following his instructions on my machine so as to be able to replicate the solution on Tigger’s. I found that the writer’s machine had a different set up from mine and that I couldn’t follow the steps he outlined. So I did a search on the PC and by a mixture of luck and determination, found the settings screen shown in the article.

When I brought up this screen on Tigger’s PC, the reason for the problem was obvious: the button to disable the touchpad was set. It just needed us to click the Enable button and the cursor reappeared.

Why had it disappeared in the first place? I have no idea. Perhaps a chance combination of key-presses jinxed the settings or maybe the gremlins were playing a joke on us.

I use quite a few portable applications. I like these because they can be moved from machine to machine simply by copying, they don’t need to be installed and they can be “uninstalled” simply by deleting them. I reported previously that portable applications cannot be pinned to the Desktop Taskbar and that you have to use shortcuts on the Desktop instead. Today I discovered that this isn’t exactly true. You can pin portable apps but you need to do it in two stages. First, you create a shortcut and put this on the Desktop. Having made sure it actually runs the program, you right click on it and up pops a menu which includes the item “Pin to Taskbar”. Click this and – voilà! – you have a pin in your Taskbar. It means that when you click it to run the program, you get a second icon for it in the Taskbar as long as the program is running but that hardly matters.

These adventures confirmed my belief that buying two identical computers running the same OS (I had thought of going for Windows 7 instead) was a good idea. We have each discovered things that we have passed on to the other and, as the Traumatic Event shows, when trouble strikes, it’s useful to have the other machine to experiment on to find the solution.

As I said at the start, I am not exactly happy with Windows 8.1 but, to be honest, I am a lot less unhappy than I was on Tuesday. Progress of a sort.

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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4 Responses to It can only get better

  1. BFG says:

    One known issue with 8x is the we-know-best syndrome that Microsoft exhibit all too frequently. Their background updates sometimes reset settings to defaults, overriding your own (and not saving them first). I’ve had to implement all sorts of defences against Microsoft’s insistence on replacing a working wi-fi driver on my wife’s 8x machine with some BS driver of their own that doesn’t work at all.

    If you don’t have it, I recommend installing ZoneAlarm’s free firewall on your systems. Everyone does firewalls better than Microsoft, and these days ZA does whitelisting and file protection better than MS too.

    • SilverTiger says:

      We use Kaspersky Internet Security. It was the first thing we installed, replacing the protective software installed by the manufacturer. Kaspersky is designed to protect against viruses and malware. Whether it also protects against Microsoft remains to be seen.

  2. WOL says:

    My BFF has windows 8 on her laptop and it drives her crazy.

    • SilverTiger says:

      I am getting to grips with Win 8.1 and can now do most of the usual things that I do. I often find that doing something that used to be simple is now complicated without there being any good reason for the added complication. However, as I am stuck with it, I am trying not to think about the disadvantages and to just get on with it. I believe in creating a routine for each task and once you get used to the routine, it becomes second nature and you no longer notice whether it is complicated or not.

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