Category Archives: tips

Fix screen dimming unexpectedly in Windows 8

Symptom: you are working away on your laptop or tablet, and suddenly the screen dims. Moments later, it brightens. Annoying and distracting.

The reason is the ambient light sensor. Someone thought it would be smart if the brightness of the screen varied according to the level of ambient light. If the room is more dimly lit, your screen does not need to be so bright. Microsoft’s Surface Pro, for example, has this enabled by default.

The idea is reasonable, but the implementation is lacking. Instead of the brightness gradually varying so you do not notice it, it dims and brightens like a mad thing.

You can fix this in Windows 8 through the power options – no it is not in display options so don’t bother looking there.

If you have a battery/mains icon in the notification area in the task bar, you can right-click and choose Power Options. Otherwise, open Control Panel (desktop version), and search for Power options.

Now click Change plan settings for the currently selected power plan.

Then click Change advanced plan settings.

Now scroll down to Display and expand the tree.

image

The setting you want is Enable adaptive brightness. You can set this separately for mains and battery power. It does slightly extend battery life, so you might want to leave it On for battery and Off for when plugged in.

Then click Apply and close the dialog.

Fixing Windows blue screen using Internet Connection Sharing in Windows Phone 8

I have been reviewing a Nokia 620 – an excellent budget smartphone.

Yesterday I was travelling and used the Internet Connection Sharing feature. This is one of the best features of Windows Phone 8, allowing you to use your mobile data connection as a wireless hotspot.

Unfortunately it did not work properly. It could connect for a bit, then the PC (a Samsung Slate running Windows 8) would crash. The error is Driver_IRQL_Not_Less_Or_Equal and the driver mentioned is netwsw00.sys.

The fix is easy (once you know). Reboot, and before you connect to the hotspot (or before it crashes), view the properties of the wireless connection. Click Advanced, and enable Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) for the connection.

image

Presto! everything works.

If you want to know what FIPS is, see here. The question of what difference the setting makes though is not known to me, though there are some clues here.

Fortunately you do not need to know, just make the change.

I am glad Windows Phone 8 is FIPS compliant (why not?) but disappointed that some issues with Windows 7 and 8 (I repeated the problem in Windows 7) and this hotspot feature, possibly also involving third-party wireless drivers, causes such a catastrophic and repeatable crash.

Office 2013 annoyances: Avoiding the Backstage, slow typing in SkyDrive

I have been using Microsoft Office 2013 since the first public previews. It is a high quality release, though washed-out in appearance, but there is one thing I find annoying.

In previous versions of Office, if you start a new document and hit Save you get a Save As dialog pointing at your default save location. Type a document name, press Enter and you are done.

In Office 2013, the same steps open the Backstage, a full window view where you have first to select a location. You cannot type a document name immediately, even if you are saving to your default folder.

image

It is only one or two extra clicks, but it is annoying.

The fix is to go to File – Options and check Don’t show the Backstage when opening or saving files.

image

Now Save works in the same way as before.

If you also check Save to Computer by default, it will no longer try to save in SkyDrive every time.

This reminds me of another problem, which I doubt is unique to me. I like using SkyDrive, but there is something broken about the way Office communicates with SkyDrive. It seems to be chatty, checking perhaps whether another person is editing the online version of the document. The consequence is that sometimes (but not always) editing in Word slows to a crawl. You have to wait after each keystroke for the letter to appear. Usually this problem appears only after I have been working in a document for a while. The workaround I have found is to Save As to a local folder, and to remember to put your updated version back on SkyDrive afterwards.

Maybe there is a fix for this behaviour as well. If you know of one, please comment below.

Windows 8 survival guide for touch and tablet users

Many features of Microsoft’s new Windows are designed for touch control on tablets – or perhaps a touch screen on your desktop or laptop. If you have one of those, congratulations: you are set to get the best from Windows 8. Even so, finding your way around does take a bit of time to learn, thanks to some non-obvious features. Here is a brief survival guide for tablet and touch users – if you only have keyboard and mouse see here. If you have a hybrid with both, I suggest reading both survival guides; some things are easier with a keyboard and mouse.

That said, I have found that almost anything can be accomplished with touch alone; and it is worth persevering since it gets easier with practice. A slate without a keyboard is smaller and more convenient that a laptop or slate with loose keyboard. The exception: if I need to type a lengthy piece, a keyboard is worth the inconvenience.

I am mostly avoiding third-party utilities. This is for out-of-the-box Windows 8.

Options are shown a, b , c etc where they are alternatives. Steps are shown as 1, 2, 3 where needed.

How do you right-click an icon without a mouse?

In the Desktop, you can do the equivalent of a right-click by tapping and holding an item until a rectangle outline appears under your finger. Release to show the right-click menu (context menu).

How do you type in a desktop app when the keyboard does not appear?

Tap the Touch keyboard icon in the notification area at bottom right of the screen.

image

How do I stop the keyboard covering what I am typing in a desktop app?

Very annoying and I do not have a perfect solution. One option is to dock the on-screen keyboard by tapping the dock icon at top right of the keyboard:

image

In this mode, it will not overlap any apps. I find it annoying though since you now have a short screen, and when you hide the keyboard apps remain in the position the keyboard pushed them to, so I have to resize them.

Tap the icon when docked to undock.

My tip: try typing in portrait mode. Docked or undocked, this gives you a better chance of not having to type into the void.

How do you get back to the Start screen?

a. The Start menu is a now a full-screen Metro application. You can find it in several ways. Press the Windows key, which is present even on tablets as the solitary key under the display.

b. You can also swipe in from the right to display the Charms bar, then tap Start.

image

c. A third way is to swipe in from the left and then immediately out again. This brings up the app history bar. Tap the Start tile at the bottom.

How do I organize the Start screen into groups?

The new Start screen is not hierarchical, but does support named groups. Two things you need to know:

1. To create a group, tap on a tile and drag up slightly as if you were going to flick to select, but don’t lift your finger. An outline appears on the tile and you can drag a tile right or left until it passes a grey vertical bar. Release to start the new group, or drag further to add to a different group. You can drag past the end of the screen to have further groups scroll into view.

image_thumb1

Add further tiles to a new group by dragging them under one of the existing tiles in the group.

2. To name and/or move the group, put two fingers on the screen and pinch inwards. This will zoom out. Now, flick up on the group you want to name. This selects the group. Then you can tap Name group to name or rename it.image_thumb4

3. To move a group, use the same technique you used to move a tile – flick up, but do not lift your finger. Now you can drag the whole group to a new position.

I turned my tablet on and the logon screen comes up, but it does not respond to touch.

I hope this never happens to you, but I have seen it regularly on a Samsung Slate and guess it may happen on other models too. The only solution I have found is to reset the machine. To do this:

1. Hold down the power button until the unit turns off.

2. Now hold does the power button again. When the unit seems to be turning on, keep the button held down. Eventually it will turn off again. Now it is completely off. Turn on again in the normal way, and your touch control should be OK again.

I have the Start screen or a Metro app running. How do I get to the desktop?

You can go back to the Start screen and tap the Desktop tile. There is a better way though. Unless you are already at the Start screen, it is quicker to raise the app history bar by swiping in from the left and then out again. Then tap the Desktop tile.

image

I’m in a Metro app running full-screen. Where are the menus and settings?

There are two places to look. To get menus, like the tabs and address bar in Metro Internet Explorer, swipe in from the top or bottom of the screen. To get settings, swipe in from the right to show the Charms bar, and tap Settings. The settings are contextual, so you will get the settings for the current app.

I’m in a Metro app. Where is the search function?

I was surprised to see reviews of the Wikipedia app bemoaning the lack of a search function. How could an encyclopaedia app not have search?

It does of course. It is just that it is not obvious where to find it.

The reason is that Windows 8 has a system search feature. You summon by displaying the Charms bar (swipe from the right) and tapping Search. Search defaults to the current app, but you can search elsewhere by tapping another option.

I’m in a Metro app running full-screen. How I can see the on-screen clock?

This annoys me as well. However, swiping in from the right will show it temporarily.

I’m in a Metro app running full-screen. How do I close it?

The idea is that you don’t normally need to close an app. Rather, you switch away from it, which you can do using techniques already described: swipe in from the left and immediately out again, to show the app history bar.

Metro apps may be hibernated when not in use, so they do not grab system resources in the way desktop apps sometimes do.

However, you might want to close an app because it is misbehaving, or just because you have a tidy mind. Swipe in from the left and out again to show the app history bar, then press on an app, do not lift your finger but drag it down and off the bottom of the screen to close it (throw it away).

I hate the “live tiles” in the start menu, how can you turn off all the flickering activity?

Yes, I’m not sure about them either. In the Start screen, flick up on a live tile so a tick appears in the top right corner. Then tap Turn live tile off at the foot of the screen.

image

There is also an option to remove personal data from live tiles. To get this, display the Start screen, move the mouse to the bottom right corner of the screen, then tap Settings – Tiles. Tap Clear.

image

How do I start an application when I can’t even see it in the Start screen?

Can be a problem. Before you give up though, there are a few things to try:

a. The quickest way to find an application is by typing a search. Display the Start screen. Swipe in from the right to display the Charms bar, and tap Search. Then type a few letters on the on-screen keyboard; all the matching applications are listed.

b. Swipe up in the Start screen and tap the  All Apps button that appears in the app bar. Swipe through the entire list to find an app.

c. Still can’t see it? Try showing Administrative tools. From the Start screen, swipe in from the right to show the Charms menu. Tap Settings, then Tiles, Show administrative tools.

d. If you are really stuck, you might need to use Explorer in the desktop to find the application in Program Files or Program Files (x86).

How do I switch between applications, since Metro apps do not appear in the taskbar?

Swipe in from the left and then immediately out to show the app history bar. This shows all the running Metro apps as well as the current Desktop app. It is not ideal because it does not show all the Desktop apps. Then again, you can use the taskbar as your switcher for Desktop apps so it is just about viable.

How do I shut down or restart the computer?

Swipe in from the right to show the Charms menu, then tap Settings and then Power.

image

This is somewhat hidden because Microsoft intends that normally power management, or shutting the lid on a laptop, or the soft power-off on a tablet, will be enough. Still, some of us like to turn the PC off completely.

How do I log off or switch user?

Go to the Start screen and tap the user name at top right to display a menu, including Lock, Sign out, and Switch account.

image_thumb211

Having two versions of IE is confusing. I keep losing track of which sites are open in which browser.

Agreed. One solution is to make Metro IE the default, so that Desktop IE rarely opens, though this is not ideal since some web sites only work properly in Desktop IE.

If you do want to do this. go to Control Panel, type Internet in the search box, and tap on Internet Options. Tap the Programs tab, and under Choose how you open links, select Always in Internet Explorer on the desktop. Finally, make sure Open Internet Explorer tiles on the desktop is NOT checked.

image

How can I avoid going back to the Start screen when I am working in the Desktop?

a. Make sure your usual applications are pinned to the taskbar and start them from there. If you use lots of applications, you can make it double-height to fit more on, or it will scroll.

b. Put more shortcuts on the Desktop and use Windows – D to bring up the desktop when you need it.

Where is control panel? The real one, that is.

If you have read this far, you should know several ways to find it.

a. Start screen, search apps, type “control”, tap Control Panel

b. On the desktop, swipe from right for Charms, tap Settings, Control Panel.

How do I play a DVD?

Windows 8 does not include a DVD player. However your PC may come with DVD playing software bundled by the PC manufacturer. If not, download Videolan (VLC) from here. It’s free, and DVDs will play fine.

How can I stop PDF documents opening in Metro?

Windows 8 is set up to open PDF documents in the Metro-style Windows Reader. It is not too bad, but can be annoying and does not have the range of features in the Adobe reader. To fix this, make sure that the latest Adobe reader is installed by downloading it from here. Once installed, tap and hold a PDF file until a rectangle outline appears, and release to show the context menu. Tap Open With and then Choose Default program.

image

In the dialog that appears, tap Adobe Reader:

image

Now PDF documents will open on the desktop in Adobe Reader.

Where has backup gone in Windows 8?

It’s still there, but for reasons best known to Microsoft it is now called Windows 7 File Recovery. Open desktop Control Panel, type recovery top right and tap Enter. Tap Windows 7 File Recovery.

image_thumb21

How do you run an application as administrator?

Go to the Start screen find the application icon and flick up to select. Then tap Run as administrator from the menu bar at the foot of the screen.

image_thumb3

How do you capture a screenshot without a keyboard?

Use the Snipping tool by searching the Start screen. Tap New to capture all or part of the screen.

image

Where is the alt key on the touch keyboard?

Microsoft has made every effort to prevent you finding the alt key (and a few other useful things like function keys) if you are using the touch keyboard.

Enabling these is a two-stage process. First, show the Charms menu, tap Settings, and then Change PC Settings. Tap General. and then under the heading Touch keyboard, select Make the standard keyboard layout available.

image

Now tap to show the touch keyboard and tap the keyboard icon at bottom right. This lets you select a keyboard mode such as the split keyboard. Select the full keyboard, second icon from the right in the screen grab below.

image

The touch keyboard now shows Alt, Fn and other useful keys.

All about Search in Windows 8: a feature every user has to understand

Windows 8 is a frustrating experience until you work out how Search works. Once it is discovered though, it is an elegant and powerful feature.

A confusing aspect of Windows 8 apps (on the tablet side) is that features such as menus and toolbars are hidden by default. There can be menu bars at top and bottom of an app, but you have to display them either by right-click or by swiping in from top or bottom. There is a philosophy behind this. Microsoft has called it the “immersive user interface”, one which puts content first and hides anything distracting.

Even this will not generally show Search though. Rather, Search is in the Charms bar, which you show by swiping from the right or pressing Windows key and C. There are also better shortcuts for Search, which I will come to in a moment.

When you click or tap Search in Windows 8, you are really in a kind of search centre. Take a look at the following screen, where I have displayed Search and typed “Keyboard”:

image

Note that the active search is restricted to Apps which have the word keyboard in their name. However, if you look at the right column, you can also see numbers: 25 against Settings, and 911 against Files.

This means Windows has found 25 settings for the keyboard, and 911 files. If you click or tap the different context, you see the new results.

image

Even this is not everything. The column below shows apps which have a search feature, such as Wikipedia, Store, Maps and Bing. If I tap or click Wikipedia, for example, I see encyclopaedia entries for keyboard.

image

Bing of course would give me an Internet search. Even Tunein Radio gives me results, and I can hear a broadcast about How does a QWERTY Keyboard work:

image

What this means is that the Search feature is a fast and efficient means of navigating the Windows user interface, finding documents and files, and discovering information from a variety of sources.

To get the most our of search, learn the following shortcuts:

  • Windows key and Q: Search apps
  • Windows key and W: Search settings
  • Windows key and F: Search documents and files

These shortcuts save you some clicks. If you use the mouse or Windows key and C to show charms, you have to then click or tap Search, and then choose the context you want. The shortcuts on the other hand get you a cursor ready to type your search. Search is incremental, so often just a few letters will do.

There is one subtlety. If you are  in the Start screen or on the Desktop and press Windows key and Q, you will search for an app by default. However, if you are in a Windows 8 tablet app, the shortcut will search within the current app by default. This is an inconsistency, and annoying if it comes up “This app can’t be searched”, but you can understand why it is designed that way. Otherwise, we would have four shortcuts to learn.

Desktop Windows 8 survival guide

Microsoft’s new Windows is its best yet, under the covers. It does have peculiarities though, thanks to its combination of a new touch-friendly user interface which I will call Metro, and the old Desktop user interface. The first encounter with Windows 8 is usually pretty painful, as you struggle to do things which are second nature for seasoned Windows 7 or Windows XP users. It is not really so bad though: most things still work once you have figured out how to find them. Here is a brief survival guide for keyboard and mouse users – no mention of touch here. I am also mostly avoiding third-party utilities. This is for out-of-the-box Windows 8 as far as possible.

If you have a Windows 8 machine with a touch screen, see here for tips specific to touch.

Options are shown a, b , c etc where they are alternatives. Steps are shown as 1, 2, 3 where needed.

Where is the Start menu?

The Start menu is a now a full-screen Metro application. You can find it in several ways. Press the Windows key, or Ctrl-Esc together, or put the mouse in the bottom left corner where the Start button used to be and click.

image

I have the Start menu or a Metro app running. How do I get back to the desktop?

Click the Desktop tile in the Start menu, or press Windows and D together, or put the mouse to the top left corner of the screen and click the desktop image that appears.

image

I hate the “live tiles” in the start menu, how can you turn off all the flickering activity?

Yes, I’m not sure about them either. In the Start screen, right-click a live tile so a tick appears in the top right corner. Then click Turn live tile off at the foot of the screen.

image

There is also an option to remove personal data from live tiles. To get this, display the Start screen, move the mouse to the bottom right corner of the screen, then click Settings – Tiles. Click Clear.

image

How do I organize the Start screen into groups?

The new Start screen is not hierarchical, but does support named groups. Two things you need to know:

1. To create a group, click and drag a tile right until it passes a grey vertical bar. Release to start the new group.

image

Add further tiles to the group by dragging them under one of the existing tiles in the group.

2. To name and/or move the group, click the tiny horizontal bar at bottom right of the the Start screen.

image

This will zoom out. Now, right-click the group you want to name. This selects the group. Then you can click Name group to name or rename it, or drag the group elsewhere on the Start screen.

image

How do I start an application when I can’t even see it in the Start screen?

Can be a problem. Before you give up though, there are a few things to try:

a. The quickest way to find an application is by typing a search. Display the Start screen and type a few letters; all the matching applications are listed.

b. Right-click on the Start screen and click All apps in the bottom right corner to display all the icons in a smaller size. If you can’t find it in the alphabetical list (maybe you forget the name) scroll right to see the grouped list which follows.

c. Still can’t see it? Try showing Administrative tools. Mouse bottom right or press Windows key and C, settings, Tiles, Show administrative tools.

d. Still stuck? Windows key and R together brings up the Run dialog. Type the name of the executable, or click Browse to find the executable, which is most often somewhere in Program Files or Program Files (x86).

How can I avoid the Start screen? It is jarring to have it occupy the full screen when I am working in the Desktop.

a. Make sure your usual applications are pinned to the taskbar and start them from there. If you use lots of applications, you can make it double-height to fit more on, or it will scroll.

b. Use Windows key and R together to bring up the Run dialog and start an application there.

c. Right-click in the bottom left corner to show the Administrative menu. Here you can start most of the utilities that can be tricky to find. You can also get this with Windows – X.

image

d. Put more shortcuts on the Desktop and use Windows – D to bring up the desktop when you need it.

Where is control panel? The real one, that is.

If you have read this far, you should know several ways to find it.

a. Start screen, type control, click Control Panel

b. On the desktop, mouse bottom left corner, right-click, choose Control Panel.

c. On the desktop, mouse button bottom right or press Windows – C for Charms, Settings, Control Panel.

d. Right-click in the bottom left corner for the Administrative menu, or press Windows – X.

How do I switch between applications, since Metro apps do not appear in the taskbar?

Annoying I agree, presuming you use both Metro and Desktop apps. The only thing that really works properly is pressing Alt and Tab together. This brings up a program switcher. Press tab again until you get where you want.

image

Another thing you can do is to move the mouse top left of the screen and drag down. An odd movement at first but it works; or you can use Windows and Tab together. This shows all the running Metro apps as well as the current Desktop app. It is a bit hopeless though because it does not show all the Desktop apps. Then again, you can use the taskbar as your switcher for Desktop apps so it is just about viable.

I’m in a Metro app running full-screen. Where are the menus and settings?

There are two places to look. To get menus, like the tabs and address bar in Metro Internet Explorer, right-click with the mouse. To get settings, mouse to top or bottom right corner or press Windows key and C, and click Settings. The settings are contextual, so you will get the settings for the current app.

I’m in a Metro app. Where is the search function?

Quick answer: Press Windows key and Q.

Long answer: I was surprised to see reviews of the Wikipedia app bemoaning the lack of a search function. How could an encyclopaedia app not have search?

It does of course. It is just that it is not obvious where to find it.

The reason is that Windows 8 has a system search feature. You summon by displaying the Charms bar (Windows key + C, or mouse to top or bottom left corner) and clicking Search. Search defaults to the current app, but you can search elsewhere by clicking another option.

Better still, learn the following keyboard shortcuts:

Windows key and Q: Search apps

Windows key and F: Search files

Windows key and W: Search settings

I’m in a Metro app running full-screen. How I can see the on-screen clock?

This annoys me as well. However, Windows key and C will show it temporarily.

I’m in a Metro app running full-screen. How do I close it?

The idea is that you don’t normally need to close an app. Rather, you switch away from it, which you can do using techniques already described: Windows key, or alt-tab, or mouse to top left and (if necessary) drag down.

Metro apps may be hibernated when not in use, so they do not grab system resources in the way desktop apps sometimes do.

However, you might want to close an app because it is misbehaving, or just because you have a tidy mind. You can use alt-F4, which works here as it has done is Windows forever.

If you prefer to use the mouse, move the mouse to the top of the screen so it becomes a hand cursor. Hold the left button down, and drag down the screen and off the bottom. This closes the app.

Alternatively, switch to another app, then do the mouse to top left corner and drag down move. Right-click the app icon you want to close, and click Close.

image

Having two versions of IE is confusing. I keep losing track of which sites are open in which browser.

Agreed. The best solution is to make Desktop IE the default, so that Metro IE rarely opens. Go to Control Panel, type Internet in the search box, and click on Internet Options. Click the Programs tab, and under Choose how you open links, select Always in Internet Explorer on the desktop. Finally, check Open Internet Explorer tiles on the desktop.

image

How do I play a DVD?

Windows 8 does not include a DVD player. However your PC may come with DVD playing software bundled by the PC manufacturer. If not, download Videolan (VLC) from here. It’s free, and DVDs will play fine.

How do I shut down or restart the computer?

Windows key and I brings up the Power menu.

Alternatively, Windows key and C, or mouse to bottom right corner, and click Settings, then Power.

image

This is somewhat hidden because Microsoft intends that normally power management, or shutting the lid on a laptop, or the soft power-off on a tablet, will be enough. Still, some of us like to turn the PC off completely.

If you want a quicker way to do this with the mouse, it is trivial to create a single short-cut. Right-click the desktop and choose New – shortcut. In the dialogue that appears, type:

shutdown -s

image

Click Next, name it as you like, and then Finish. For a restart, use:

shutdown -r

These commands also work in batch files or in the Run dialog.

How do I log off or switch user?

Go to the Start screen and click the user name at top right to display a menu, including Lock, Sign out, and Switch account.

image

How can I stop PDF documents opening in Metro?

Windows 8 is set up to open PDF documents in the Metro-style Windows Reader. It is not too bad, but can be annoying and does not have the range of features in the Adobe reader. To fix this, make sure that the latest Adobe reader is installed by downloading it from here. Once installed, right-click a PDF file and click Open With and then Choose Default program.

image

In the dialog that appears, click Adobe Reader:

image

Now PDF documents will open on the desktop in Adobe Reader.

Where has backup gone in Windows 8?

It’s still there, but for reasons best known to Microsoft it is now called Windows 7 File Recovery. Open desktop Control Panel, type recovery top right and press Enter. Click Windows 7 File Recovery.

image

How do you run an application as administrator?

Several ways, but these are the easiest:

a. Hold down Ctrl and Shift together, then click the icon in the taskbar (for an application pinned to the taskbar)

b. Go to the Start screen (Windows Key), find the application icon and right-click. Then click Run as administrator from the menu bar at the foot of the screen.

image

The incredible moving cursor: why your cursor jumps around when typing on your Windows 7 laptop

Here is the problem: you are typing on your laptop and suddenly the input cursor jumps to a different place and you are typing somewhere in a previous paragraph.

It is infuriating and there are long threads on the subject on Microsoft Answers here and here, for example.

I have just been speaking to a user with exactly this problem. The clue: he had recently created a new profile, which resets your Windows user settings to the default.

The answer was simple. Laptops have touchpads or trackpads which have a feature called tapping. Just tap with the finger and it registers a mouse click. Double tap and it registers a double-click.

Nice idea, but it is a vile feature for some – possibly most – users since it is so easy to trigger accidentally. Anything might happen: emails sent by mistake, documents closed, buttons clicked, and so on. It is as if your computer is being remote controlled by a malevolent third party, especially if you have a slight tremor for any reason.

Fortunately you can disable the setting, but it is among the most buried in Windows. The instructions on my Toshiba are as follows:

Go to Control Panel, Mouse, Change Mouse Settings, Advanced tab, click Advanced Feature Settings, then click Settings under Detailed Settings for Touch Pad operations, then uncheck Enable Tapping.

The path may be different for you, particularly if you have a different brand of touchpad. The above is for a Synaptics; Alps has different dialogs, for example. Poke around in mouse settings until you find it.

The setting “Disable tapping while typing” is not sufficient for some reason.

Why does this make your cursor jump, even if you do not use your touchpad? It is the vibration from your typing that is enough to trigger a tap on some machines, registering a “click” wherever the pointer happens to be (and the pointer is usually hidden when typing, making this appear even more mysterious).

The question which puzzles me is why this annoying feature is enabled by default, when it should be disabled, and second, why it is so hard to find the setting, when it is something that many people need?

I imagine this single feature has driven some users to the Mac. Most users never discover the fix, but just have the impression that Windows is buggy.

Why your new 2TB or 3TB drive will not work with Windows Backup

When Windows Vista and Server 2008 were released, Microsoft turned its back on tape backup. The built-in backup utility only backs up to hard drives. Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 continue this policy. The recommended strategy for Small Business Server 2008 and 2011, for example, is to have a bunch of external USB drives and to use them in rotation.

Windows Server Backup, and its command-line version wbadmin, work well enough, but users with growing storage requirements have been buying larger external drives. That seems fine: external USB drives with 2TB and 3TB capacities are now commonplace. Except that they often run into problems when used with Windows Server Backup. You might see error 2155348010 or 0x8078002A, or “The request could not be performed because of an I/O device error”, or some other error.

The reason is that most of these large drives have a 4K sector size, rather than the older 512 byte sector size. You can get a patch for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 that fixes most problems, but it does not fix the backup issue.

The further reason is that Windows Server Backup uses VHD virtual drives as its file format. The VHD format presumes the use of 512byte sectors, and the drivers that read and write data are optimised for this. You cannot create or mount VHDs on a disk with 4K sectors.

Microsoft has more information here and here.

Some drives have a firmware option to emulate 512byte sectors. These drives work, but with a performance penalty. Western Digital is one such, and you have a WD drive you may be in luck. See this post for details.

What is disappointing here is that these drives are mostly sold without any warning about these compatibility issues. The drive vendors will say that Microsoft should update its backup software; this is correct, but since the problem seems to be inherent to the VHD format it is not trivial to do so.

Another problem is that discovering whether or not the drive you are about to buy has a 4K sector size is not easy. Once purchased, you can find out by attaching the drive. opening an administrative command prompt, and running:

fsutil fsinfo ntfsinfo x:

where x is the drive letter of the target drive. This will show the sector size, and may even include the words “Not supported” in the output.

Windows Server 8 introduces the .VHDX format which both supports larger drives, and also fixes the issues with 4K sector sizes.

 

Windows 8 Consumer Preview tip: use compatibility mode for driver installation

I have a Kodak ESP 725o network printer, and was trying to set it up on Windows 8 Consumer Preview. The setup software detected the printer OK, then gave a strange error:

image

“The application called an interface that was marshalled for a different thread.” Hmm.

The solution is to run the installer in Windows 7 compatibility mode. Doing this in Windows 8 takes a few steps. First, find the setup app in the Start menu:

image

then right-click to show the options menu, or if using touch, drag the shortcut up slightly and release for the same result. Then click or tap Open file location.

image

This shows the application in Explorer on the desktop. If you prefer to get there by another route, that is fine too. Right-click the executable, choose Properties, and then Compatibility. Select Windows 7 and click OK.

image

Run the printer setup utility, and if you are lucky (as I was in this case) it will install the driver for you perfectly.

image

What to do when your Nokia Lumia 800 will not turn on?

Nokia Lumia 800: delightful smartphone but with a few irritations. If you have one, I recommend that you do not let the battery fully discharge – a challenge since the battery life is not the greatest – since if you do, you may have problems turning the phone on again.

I am not sure what proportion of Lumias are affected, but what happens is this. The battery runs out and the phone turns itself off as you would expect. You plug it into the charger, but even after several hours it appears to remain uncharged and will not turn on. The problem is discussed in this thread: Lumia 800 won’t power on or charge.

This has happened with my review Lumia. In my case, the phone vibrated when plugged into the charger and the charging screen appeared, with a red line showing an empty battery, and there it stayed.

So what is the fix? I have had the problem a couple of times, and each time it eventually fixed itself, though it is hard to pinpoint the exact fix. Things people have tried:

  • Unplugging and reconnecting the charger to the phone
  • Attaching the phone to a PC, then to a charger
  • Reset the charging cycle by holding down the power button, while charging, for 8 seconds or so
  • Warming the device to create a small charge in the battery, then starting to charge it

One theory is the battery discharges so deeply that there is not enough power to detect the charger, therefore it never charges. Kind-of too smart for its own good.

If the phone had a removable battery, I would suggest removing and replacing it, an old trick to revive a frozen phone. Should your Lumia not be covered by a warranty, you could try disassembly in order to do this.

The best hope is that a further firmware update will fix the problem.