Windows 8 Ain’t That Great :(

This article started as another Today I Fixed It piece, but then morphed into a rant about why Windows 8 sucks, and how Google helped to make it not so bad.

When my Toshiba Satellite took a dump on me, it was a total bummer, but some good has since come from it.  This PC was the first time I had ever used a laptop as my primary computer. I have always made my desktop number one. Working on the go changed that.

My primary laptop recently became useless for a while. I used to give Toshiba high marks, but this recent experience has left a sour taste in my mouth that was already spoiled by having to stomach Windows 8. It failed when something went wrong with Windows, so I went to do a factory reset, but for some reason, Toshiba’s built-in software just wiped the HD clean.

I thought that this fault could be a good opportunity to put Windows 7 on my Toshiba because I did not enjoy Windows 8 and sadly, 8.1 wasn’t good enough for me either.

To my surprise, Windows 7 drivers for my network interface controllers simply do not exist. I probably could have used some tech trickery voodoo to make it work, but I’m not a kid anymore, hack job PCs are unreliable at best. It is the same reason I don’t root my mobile cloud device or jailbreak phones.

I was forced back to Windows 8.1! I could not even find my existing license key (it shoulda been a sticker on the computer), so I am using a 3-month trial of 8.1 Enterprise.

I tried to like the new Windows. The context menu from right-clicking the start button is nice, but meh. Some of the hidden menus and control panel items have nice new quick access features and have been redesigned with a more visual friendly interface. Some new features are nice, but I want a start menu to access applications and shortcuts–that’s how I like my PC to work. This new tiles interface is GARBAGE! I started using Windows at version 3.11 and that is the User Experience Microsoft has gone back to. Typing this makes me hit the keys hard because I’m angry about it. MS went back over 20 years! Take a look:

windows 311 ss01VS

Windows-81-new-Start-Screen-Customize-feature

Microsoft got rid of the way that I wanted to access their software, so Google stepped in and fixed that for me. Thanks Google! The new Google App Launcher sits right on my taskbar and displays web apps that I can launch right from the desktop. It would be nice if I could put shortcuts for my local applications in the launcher, but I haven’t figured out how to do that yet. By taking away my start menu, MS opened the door for Google to step-in and allow me to more easily launch Google Documents than it is for me to run MS Office.

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Today I Fixed It – Compaq Presario R3000 Laptop

For about four years, I have been keeping alive a semi-vintage Compaq Presario laptop. It is able to run Windows 7 just fine, and it has some high-end networking components in it. It is a hand-me-down laptop from my mother, it makes a great backup PC, and it has proved itself useful on multiple occasions. I replaced the hard drive and DVD player, upgraded the memory, and one time I had to open it up to re-seat the graphics card and solder a broken contact point for a USB port.

When my dad gave me the computer, the battery in it was no good, so he had rigged a zip-tie to keep the power cord plugged into the laptop. I used it as a stationary PC for a while, but I eventually got tired of needing it to be tethered to its charger. I purchased a new battery for cheap from Amazon and then I was able to use it without having to keep it plugged in.

After I had a battery that could hold a charge, I started having problems with the charging cable. Having the power cable and connector zip tied to the computer at an awkward angle for over a year put stress on some of the internal connections inside the cable. It got to the point where it would not charge the battery unless the connector was at the perfect angle, with a precise amount of pressure, and it could not be disturbed until the battery was recharged.

The faulty connector was annoying, but I dealt with it for over a year. One night a couple months ago, I got frustrated when I couldn’t get a good connection, so I yanked on the power cable and distinctly felt something give inside the shielding. The connector was completely broke now.

I thought about giving-up on my mom’s old laptop, but I decided I could just buy a new charger for it. After putting-off buying the charger for a couple weeks, I thought, “Why buy another charger when I am perfectly capable of fixing this one?” How complicated could it be? Just a broken wire or solder point. I got my exacto-knife out and carefully cut back the shielding around the connector and found the center wire connection had completely separated. Opening it up also caused the ground connection to separate.

To make a long story short, I’ll briefly summarize it and let you fill in the details. I brought-out my soldering iron and then went crazy for an hour while looking for solder. I did not find any, so I used copper pins and electrical tape. This fix worked for a couple days, but I ended-up crossing the connections while I was fiddling with it–small sparks. I needed a more permanent solution, so I found some solder. I tried to restore the original contact points and succeeded while also making a mess of the hot glue and plastic shielding. This fix lasted about a week until one of the solder points became loose. I tried to adjust it while it was still plugged in, and I received a mild shock with more sparks.

The electrical shock was harmless but shocking enough to put the project down for a week.

Today I decided to fix it properly. I tapped a new pin into the center connection, soldered new wire to the pin, soldered the new wire to the old wire, and put down a solid solder point with new wire on the outside ground connection.

Now the connector on the charging cable is solid and not easily disturbed. I should have done it right in the first place.