I Bought a MacBook Air – Hell Just Froze Over…

MacBook Air 13"When I walked in the door with an expensive white box under my arm, my son, a writer, raised his eyes to the ceiling and announced loudly “Hell has frozen over…”

“Hell has frozen over…”

Why did I move to a 2015 Apple MacBook Air 13”, after using Windows PCs from Windows 3.11 onwards? I have made a living as a Windows software developer, system administrator, tech support person and more for decades.

I have long been aware of the limitations and failings of Windows. It has been a treasure trove of bugs, zero-day exploits, crashes and malware. Unscrupulous developers have become rich selling anti-virus software, registry cleaners, disk defragmenters and optimisers, firewalls and more. Computer companies, including mine, have made a good living removing viruses and installing expensive anti-virus software, and answering simple questions like “should I turn off macros in Office?”.

Some years ago, I discovered Linux as an alternative. It is fast, reliable and safe. It runs on old hardware. Linux has software that does what almost everything that can be done on Windows. Almost.

So for the last decade I have had a back and forth love affair with Windows and Linux, often dual booting my computers back and forth for features the other O/S lacked. Only my use of Google Docs prevented loss of data when switching constantly, but things did get lost between the cracks…

I discovered Chromebooks, and realised I could do everything a normal computer user does on a Chromebook, with no drama, and at a fraction of the cost. But there were a few limits. I worked around many, and went back to Windows or Linux for the few exceptions.

Windows 10Then came Windows 10. I have tried Windows 8 and 8.1 and not been fond of either of them. I installed Windows 10 on three laptops, looking to a better future. Each one had driver issues, overheating, power consumption issues or other problems. I reverted them all back to Windows 7. Microsoft began pushing Windows 10 silently back onto each machine. This was infuriating because I had gone to the trouble of downloading and burning both 64 and 32 Bit USB installers, to save my precious and expensive bandwidth.

My internet data usage ballooned… I wrote about my frustrations on my blog here: 

Ultimately, I decided to sleep with the enemy…

I bought a 2015 MacBook Air (It was a lot cheaper than a Dell XPS 13 and about the same price as the gorgeous Dell Chromebook 13 7310 here in Australia).I am tech savvy, so it has not been too difficult, but it has not been easy. But with one or two exceptions, it has been painless and smooth. And the operating system stays in the background.

I now see no reason EVER to go back to a Windows computer. If I don’t have a Windows computer, I will never want a Windows phone, despite being impressed by many things Microsoft is (finally) doing with Windows phone.

I do have a broken HP Laptop with no hard-drive. If I need to copy massive amounts of data across the network, I boot it from an Ubuntu Live CD, do the job, and put it back in the garage, OS X is slow on file transfers… Other than that, it is smooth and easy. Sometimes I have to search for features. But when you look, the most mundane looking OS X app has amazing hidden features. It will take me years to learn them all, but in the meantime, the 80% I use is easy to find and reliable.

And most of the open-source programs I love and use are available on the Mac as well as Windows and Linux. More about that later!

For me, the War is over. It is Apple OS X and Google Chrome OS all the way.

So Long Microsoft, and Thanks For All The Fish.

I am sure you will enjoy Why I Abandoned Windows, After 23 Years.

Why I Abandoned Windows, After 23 Years.

Windows 10Microsoft’s push to force Windows 10 on every user, want it or not, has,for me, poisoned a 34 year relationship with Microsoft, and a 23 year relationship with Windows.

I loved Windows ‘95, XP and 7. I was a developer and beta tester, and got invited to several launches. I met Bill Gates.

I lived through Windows ME, Vista, and 8. I forgave the promise and failure of “Cairo” and “Longhorn”, Magical Windows advances that never came.

My loyalty wavered with the Windows XP “Windows Genuine Advantage” fiasco, where hundreds of thousands of honest users had systems hosed because they had re-installed Windows XP at some time from the wrong disk (there was no licence verification before this, you just typed in the code on the box, and many companies bought multiple copies of Windows XP, and installed or re-installed from the one disk the tech. carried around in his bag)

Suddenly they were all asked to pay for a new copy of XP, simply because a friend had fixed their PC with HIS copy of Windows XP. A badly thought out money grab. If they did not pay, trouble for the user ensued.

I began experimenting with Linux. Linux is fast, reliable, and has a LOT of good, free software. But it has issues. Manufacturers of printers, scanners, video cards, web cameras, and a myriad of other devices write drivers and software for Windows, because it is the bulk of the market. The Linux community have to write their own drivers for most devices, and the do it because they want to use the device themselves. If you have a scanner no-one has heard of, it probably will have problems with Linux. Some major companies such as NVIDIA seen to enjoy making it hard for Linux users. Popular apps like Evernote do not work on Linux. As a result Linux is perfect 99% of the time, but the 1% is the problem. There is always ONE tool I really want that does not work in Linux, and calls me back to Windows.

Enter the Clowns, Windows 10.

I was SO looking forward to Windows 10. This would be the solution to the nightmare of Windows 8.0 brought on the world by Steven Sinofsky, who refused to listen to anyone who did not share his vision of forcing a huge change in the look and feel of Windows. He decided to ship it as he wanted, and simply “let them eat cake”. It did not work for Marie-Thérèse, and did not work for Steven Sinofsky, who was shown the door shortly after Windows 8 shipped.

I have stuck tenaciously to Windows 7, a reliable and familiar interface, usually dual-booting into a Linux system. Windows 10 would bring back the familiar look, be lighter, more secure, and faster.

I am bandwidth limited. I have great internet speed at home, but am often on the road. I downloaded the Windows 10 ISO and burned bootable USB sticks for 32 and 64 Bit Windows 10. I installed it on two laptops, and immediately hit problems. Drivers did not work. Battery life plummeted. I spend a lot of time on the road, battery life is important. Bluetooth keyboards and mice, and WiFi network connections are vital. These had problems.

I rolled Windows 10 back on my Ultrabook. Happily back on Windows 7, I planned to give Windows 10 time to fix itself…

Or not…

Then Microsoft began it’s reign of terror.

Update Now!The “Reserve your copy now!” flag in the system tray went to a recommended update. Then Microsoft began silently downloading it (all 3+ Gigabytes of it) to a hidden folder, so when you decided to update, it would be there. If you deleted the folder, Microsoft started the download again, silently. As How-To Geek noted, Update Now went from “Yes or No” to “Now or Tonight”

Remember, I have already downloaded this OS as an ISO, and used a USB installer. I HAVE IT ALREADY, but Microsoft keeps pushing it down, over and over again, to every Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 device.

If you are a Digital Nomad living on coffee shop WiFi, you will have a battle with this. If you are a Grey Nomad (Snowbird in the USA) and are on the road using your phone as a WiFi hotspot and paying serious money for data, you are in a world of hurt. If you are the young, often homeless friend of mine trying to get off the street with a book deal using MacDonalds and library WiFi to send manuscripts and e-mail, you are screwed.

You CANNOT stop this. There are tools to stop the downloads. There is advice on changing settings to stop the updates. They work for a while, but Microsoft keeps bypassing everything, and forcing another download. People who think they have stopped this process report that it turns itself back on within a couple of hours. And the average mom and pop user knows nothing about these options. IT JUST KEEPS COMING!

I owned an amazing 8” Chinese tablet. It had 3Gb of RAM, a 64 Bit Intel processor, and a 32Gb disk. It ran Windows 8.1 and Android with a dual boot option. The constant downloads forced me to try Windows 10. The updater told me my device was compatible. The 32Gb disk was filling. I was running out of precious disk space, and my tablet was crashing.

I decided to upgrade. Big mistake.

The installer worked, the device rebooted. The on-screen keyboard put characters all over the place. it was impossible to even log in. The touch-screen was not working properly. I tried reboots, USB keyboards, and everything else, I could not login. After an hour of trying, I actually managed to get access.There was no rollback option. Reboots where impossible. the option to boot back to the 4Gb Android partition was gone.

After many hours of work, I smashed the tablet in frustration, and dropped it in the Recycling bin.

Microsoft’s scorched earth “Nothing but Windows 10” policy is hurting people, again and again.

And if you get Windows 10 working OK, you have no way to keep it that way.

Microsoft has decided that all updates are required. There are NO optional updates. Unless you are a corporate user, there is no way to hold, stop or postpone updates. Everything is quietly installed. In the end of 2015 the Windows 10 1511 “Threshold” update was more that 3Gb. That is a big download if you are on limited bandwidth. And there is no way to stop it.

Windows 10? No thank you, Microsoft!

How have I responded to this last failure?

  • I have discovered that Chromebooks can do the bulk of what I need.
  • I refuse to help friends with Windows problems.
  • I have installed Windows 10 on the two Laptops in my office, and have sold them cheap. To my amazement, the woman who bought my Ultrabook wants me to install Linux Mint!
  • I have Bought a 13” 2015 MacBook Air laptop. It is now my main machine.
  • In four weeks, I have not found anything I cannot do on a Chromebook or a Mac.
  • I will NEVER again buy a computer with Windows on it. Goodby Microsoft.
  • My Windows device purchases have supplied two years of Office 365. I may use the OneDrive storage, temporarily. Or not… Given my current Microsoft antipathy, I guess not.

Along the way I have found that for some of my attempts to install Windows 7, I went back to the original media, installed that and then tried to update.

It appears Microsoft’s Windows 7 update system is patchy or not working.

In one case the new install kept looking for updates for two days before I gave up.

The free update to Windows 10 offer ends in a few months. What happens then?

People who have not availed themselves of the upgrade offer will be stuck with a crippled Windows 7 or 8.1 and no way to continue using it without constantly being harassed by Microsoft. But once they install Windows 10, their existing key will not work, and they will have to pay for the upgrade.

This will, in my opinion, take Microsoft’s push for world domination from harassment to blackmail.

Microsoft has finally realised it cannot ignore competing platforms. They have lost the mobile phone war. Their only hope for long term survival is to become relevant on other platforms including smartphones with software and services.

The Windows 10 land grab has left a bad taste in my mouth, and I am sure I am not alone. I will be forced, through business dealings, to use Microsoft file formats from time to time, but the range of software I can use for that is growing.

The days of using Microsoft Word to print faxes with company letterheads on them is fast fading. I got rid of my fax machine five years ago. My multifunction printer has fax capabilities, but I have never bothered to plug it into a phone socket.

Google Docs, ZoHo, LibreOffice, and a host of other tools can do the formatting I need. If Microsoft had allowed a slow transition to Windows 10, it would have come as people bought new PCs.

Microsoft may be surprised at how many people had never heard of Windows 10, didn’t even notice the upgrade now notifications, and have no interest in change.

Disrupting these often older people will not endear them to Microsoft when the wake up one morning and find the Windows 10 EULA on their screens after a recommended update.

If they say NO to the EULA, the already installed Windows 10 will attempt to roll back, removing the Gigabytes of installed files and trying to replace the originals. Often it works, but not always. And when it fails, the confused user is stuck with a poorly functioning computer, or even one that is completely hosed, thanks to Microsoft’s arrogance.

If they accept, Windows 10 will confuse them. It will probably kill or remove apps and drivers they have relied on for years. many cannot afford to pay a service technician to spend hours sorting their computers out for them. Many are on limited and expensive internet connections.

They rely on a computer to keep them in touch with family and friends. They use PCs to work as volunteers for clubs, groups and associations.

I have stopped counting the number of visits by family and friends that have turned into impromptu tech-support sessions. I am getting sick of it, and am now recommending they look at a Chromebook.

Their family will most likely move many of them to an iPad. Savvy family members will buy a Chromebook or Chromebox.

HP Chromebook 11If they go to a retailer, he will listen with sympathy, rub his hands together with glee, and point them at a Mac as something that just works, and not mention it has the highest commission for him.

The good news for me is that this has moved me to make a personal decision. One of my businesses has been closed with little fanfare, and I will be looking in a different direction. I like helping people, I love technology. The worst part of my business was the repetitious cleanup of infected Windows PCs. I will now focus on helping people in different ways.

Thank you Microsoft, so long, and thanks for all the fish.

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Beware – Microsoft is Downloading Windows 10 Without Asking

Microsoft is silently pushing Windows 10 onto every PC running a current version of Windows

Windows 10 Screen

It is now becoming clear that Microsoft is silently pushing Windows 10 onto every PC running a current version of Windows. This is a huge 3 Gigabyte download, silently saved to a hidden folder on your Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 computer.

For those with desktop computers and fast Internet connections this is little more than an annoyance. It may even be a benefit if you plan to upgrade soon.

If you are a nomad, digital or grey, you have a problem.

But if you are a nomad, digital or grey, you have a problem. Nomads are often using very slow  or expensive metered data plans. Often public WiFi is all that is available. It may be free, but is often limited to 200 or 500 Megabytes per day.

Telstra’s pre-paid mobile data plans typically are 10$ per Gigabyte. Mobile plans start at $35 per Gigabyte. And heaven help anyone who is overseas and paying Telstra’s $3 per Megabyte roaming charges!

Microsoft is assuming everyone will want to upgrade sooner or later, so we might as well download it and hide it on your computer now.  This is, in my opinion and  egregious violation of people’s confidence and trust in the Microsoft upgrade process.

Microsoft told the Enquirer: “For individuals who have chosen to receive automatic updates through Windows Update, we help upgradable devices get ready for Windows 10 by downloading the files they’ll need if they decide to upgrade.

“When the upgrade is ready, the customer will be prompted to install Windows 10 on the device.”

Many web sites say that by removing one Windows update, KB3035583 the process can be stopped. Unfortunately, this information is out of date. Microsoft has worked around that, and is once again starting the downloads.

If you are using Windows 8 or 8.1 you can set your connection to “Metered” and updates will wait. Microsoft has an article on Metered Internet Connections here

I can offer no easy solution for those on slow connections or Windows 7. There is one fix discussed on a Microsoft Forum, but it is technical, and a mistake may break your computer. Use it at your own peril.

I have decided that the best way to stop Windows 7 trying to download Windows 10 was to simply remove it.

I have installed Ubuntu 14.04, a version of Linux as a replacement on my only Windows PC. My ASUS UX31E Ultrabook cannot handle Windows 10 properly. Some drivers do not work, and It uses the battery too fast. I will try it again soon, but for now Linux is my Laptop operating system of choice.

Since I use my Chromebooks 95% of the time, this is not an issue for me.

If you Decide to Install Windows 10

If you have decided to go ahead and install Windows 10 despite the privacy and compatibility issues, there is an excellent video on Youtube that steps you through the changes necessary to regain some privacy. Check it out here: