Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tech topics Tuesday

win 8.1Windows 8.1 became available today, offered through the Windows store. I have 8.0 installed on the Vaio Z, where it sits uncomfortably without a touchscreen.   I really wish that I hadn’t upgraded that machine from Windows 7 in the first place, but it seemed best to push on towards the new version with it’s many improvements and see if the edges got smoothed.

In particular, I’ve been having some graphics cache problems that prevented Windows Photo Editor from working, issues with Mail that seem to grow steadily worse, and the integration of Skype with IE /Chrome never worked well.  The general recommendation is always to wipe the system and start clean, but I don’t have a day to re-install everything and hope that I didn’t forget some critical key or document folder

So, off I went.

Win 8.1 is an online installation, much like the latest Office, and the computer cycles through the usual number of checks, downloads, and reboots. At 11:0 pm, it was still at it, so I gave up and headed to bed.

…and in the morning I returned toa dead screen.

I tried a few manual reboots, and I could get to a cursor but nothing more.  Windows now has safeguards that prevent entering Safe Mode, the usual way to fix driver and system issues, so the usual arran of F* keys DSC00927 (1157x1300)was useless.  Finally, something clicked and the computer entered VGA mode: low-res graphics and  distorted images.

I found new drivers for the GForce card and the Intel system, and tried to install them. No luck: Sony had created a custom version that NVidia wouldn’t support.  Sony says it won’t upgrade drivers for legacy machines.  So, for now, I’m out of luck.

Nor am I the only one. Many early adopters have been having problems with graphics drivers in particular.  It seems unbelievable that Microsoft wouldn’t do a better job with drivers and testing, but this is sadly becoming their normal. I had multiple driver issues when I upgraded from 7.

My advice would be to avoid any upgrade to the new system for a while until the bugs are shaken out.  And keep a good backup.

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On a separate topic, let’s touch on texting.

I can hammer at an on-screen keypad as fast as any (okay, most any) teen to get a message off to my far-flung network of correspondents.  Most devices now offer predictive inputs, where the device guesses at the next word I am wanting to type, and voice transcription of spoken messages.

The Nexus is particularly good at voice inputs, and I use it to transcribe notes into Evernote while driving.  It needs a mobile connection, so I have to hold while driving through the New Forest or various dips around Sandbanks.  But i does a recognizably good job,where my Windows Phone is absolutely awful at it.

DSC01016 (925x1300) DSC01017 (1300x752)

But the Lumia really shines at predictive texting (left, above, vs. Nexus right).  It offers a half-dozen possibilities and is crisp at updating as I type the first few letters of the next word.  Usually, it gets to the right word really quickly.  The Nexus offers fewer words, usually the wrong ones, and forces me to type everything in laborious keystrokes.

Its a bit surprising since the Nexus has better processors and Google’s statistical linguistics library behind it.  But it has a long way to go to catch the Lumia.

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bike…and, if you’re weary of computer things, check out the re-invention of the bicycle wheel.  It’s enough to gladden any Dutch heart.

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