Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Relieve major source of holiday stress caused by your new Windows 8 PC

Call it a supreme act of public service.  You don't really want to spend the holiday season, and the weeks beyond, trying to make that nice new computer work properly. If you're running a business, this could save you many hours of downtime. [PS - here's an update].

I want you to know that this post is not an Appleholic rant; I am and remain a Microsoftie by preference.  I must be, as I have now invested some 24 real hours (not just 2 calendar days) working out how to get my nice new laptop to work.  Not "as I would like it to" - in the internet age (and computers that come without any DVD-ROM drives, a computer that cannot connect to the internet basically does not work at all. And that is what awaits the recipient of the gift of that nice new Windows 8 computer.

Whether you like it or not, you will have to get into Windows 8 soon enough.  I could deal with the reliable XP operating system going out of support, but not with Microsoft's parting gift being a patch that causes intermittent blue-screen-of-death failures.  And considering the age of the beast, it might be that I had a bad spot developing on the drive.  So Windows 8 it is.  Fortunately, most new laptops also have touchscreens so the tablet-like interface will not make you completely crazy poking your finger into a non-responsive monitor. Better yet, although not revealed in the non-existent documentation [tip #1 - get the book!], one can bypass the tablet look and get back to an operating system view that is a whole lot like Windows 7.  Once you have found that view (use the <flying-windows-button><D> command) you can now get to the Control Panel inside the Setting ribbon that pops out from the right-hand side of the screen.  [The Settings ribbon doesn't work that way in Tile World, the main Windows 8 screen].  But there is no program control button (the old Start button that we all hated and now want back) so anything you cannot do from the Control Panel you'll have to find in the program file folders somewhere - or better yet, download one of several freeware that put the Start button back in play! Are you with me still?  Welcome to Tile World) ...  Get the book ...

Until you get your Windows 8 machine tamed, if you have a tablet, it's a good idea to keep it handy so you can tell whether the wireless service is actually down, which does sometimes happen.

I can't say that the following actions will completely eliminate your issues, but at last I have 2-3 days of stable operations now.

  1. Download Windows 8.1.  Make the store do it to save yourself a few hours of aggravation with monster download.  And don't let them put just any old virus package on there; the package must disable the Windows security packages (Defender and Firewall) or it will be a waste of money (see below).
  2. Preferably before leaving the store, go to your wireless adapter properties (in Device Manager) and under the Advanced tab, in Power Management, un-check the block that allows the system to turn off the wireless adapter as a power-saving feature. Now at least 30% of the time you won't get disconnected from your perfectly-functioning router.
  3. Download another browser while you can.  Better yet download 2, just in case.  but... much as people love Firefox, it has a problem for this purpose, which is that it calls on services actually implemented in Chrome and Internet Explorer. Since IE is helping to create the problem, and there's no point in calling Google is the system isn't letting Chrome operate, Firefox just adds layers of complexity at this point.  Besides, I didn't find too many posts on how to fix this issue in Firefox, just Step 2, which is only part of the problem.  But suit yourself.
  4. Go into your new browser and if it is also new to you, then let it pick up your IE bookmarks (before you uninstall IE in step 6).
  5. If your browser of choice is Chrome, then in the settings Advanced section disable the option for predicting the next screen {huge difference]. 
  6. In the control panel, go into Add/Remove Programs and disable Internet Explorer. Unfortunately, you cannot uninstall it, nor can you replace it with a working version of IE (such as 8 or 9).  [If you are stuck having to use the 2 or 3 sites left in the world that only operate on IE, all of which are operated by the government or by Microsoft, then you'll have to leave it in place, but it appears to me that disabling IE-11 and therefore all of the other windows activities that default to IE-11 was one of the most successful steps].  Now go into Control Panel again and set your other browser as the default for "all of functions that it can perform"; just setting it as the default browser when it installs only reallocates about 1/2 of the functions.
  7. Your browser still will not open websites that your tablet tells you are working just fine. Download another firewall program.  I can't vouch of which ones will or won't work but one of the problems appears to be that Windows Firewall is set up to block everything except what is on its VERY short white-list, which basically translates to *microsoft* and *msn*.  You don't really want to have to enter every site you might want to visit before you visit it.  Nor do you want to get into the actual rules engine behind Windows firewall.  I am not flacking for AVG here, just telling you what worked for me: AVG is working just fine, and it has the advantage of disabling Windows Firewall as part of its install. Otherwise you have no GUI checkblocks to disable Windows Firewall, although you can open up the console and turn off the monitoring, which may or may not have the same effect.  While you are at it, disable Windows Defender (through the Control Panel programs section).  Now you won't have a collision between security systems.  Now install the new security system.
  8. You may still find sites that will not open.  A number of sites open as regular HTTP but somehow switch themselves to HTTPS and these seem to have difficulty opening. In the Windows Internet settings (from the Control Panel), open the advanced security settings and enable SSL 2.0. Doing this seems to work, but MS turned it off as a default for a reason; I am sure the CISSPs will have a cow over this idea and your comments are welcomed - the blog could use some flame traffic!  
  9. After all this, your computer may still be dropping off the network randomly.  Go to the computer manufacturer's site and get their version of the driver for the wireless adapter.  It may be older or newer,never mind, just do it.  (You could do this step earlier but the downloads can be huge, as you often don't get just the one driver in the download). Then launch it manually (which will override the Windows build that your store did).  I learned in this process that the Window's "search for latest driver" button always responds with "the best available driver is already loaded" if it finds one, and it will not find one that is inside a zip folder.  In future, whatever your system tells you based on Microsoft suggestions, always go to the manufacturer's site first; sometimes MS enhancements are too generic for your particular model.
After step 9 I have achieved 36 hours of stability and good speed.

If it saves you the days I have put into this issue so far, and helps you avoid looking like a tool while the kiddies are whining about not being able to use the new computer, then it may be worth it.