Linux and Microsoft

Windows 8.1 is still being supported, and they say will be until  January 9th, 2018. Windows 7 has, according to their site, been cut off though. A terrible decision, in my opinion, given the huge success of that OS. A lot of people have jumped ship because of Windows 10, and I don’t blame them.

Linux has a bit over 3% of the market share, according to Wiki’s graphs. Linux has been gaining ground for many years, while interest in various Windows iterations is dropping. Fewer people are using Windows as time goes by.

I use Linux (PeppermintOS 7, built on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS) more than ever now; it’s my primary OS and I rarely go near Windows. Thanks to privacy and glaring security concerns, I don’t think I’ll ever feel safe using Windows anymore, despite having used and loved them since Windows 3.1 at primary school. Linux has opened my eyes to a new way, ‘though it wasn’t an easy journey.

I don’t like the way Microsoft conducts their business and I don’t think they care about the customers at all, only money. I find them deceptive, manipulative, and underhanded.

Linux, however, is open source; it’s all about sharing, creativity, and freedom. There’s even a Hannah Montana distribution; ridiculous? Sure, but wonderful that someone was able to create that and freely share it. At least if you don’t like a developer of your chosen distribution, you can jump to another; it’s not like you’re short of options.

That said, I am, or at least was a gamer. I still dabble. I’d need Windows for gaming. Linux does support games, and I do have Steam on it, but the graphical performance in many games seems terrible or lackluster in comparison, at least in my experience.

I have a feeling I’ll eventually just let go of the many Windows-only games on my Steam account and stick with Linux indefinitely. I barely game anymore anyway.

With Linux gradually gaining ground and Windows steadfastly losing it, that leaves Linux an opportunity to really step up. I think it needs some serious work in both gaming performance and a more approachable UI for those uninterested in the command line interface (Terminal) before it’ll have a shot at some day besting Windows.

I’m all for choice though, so if Microsoft is offering what you want, that’s fine. There’s a lot of Linux fans that generally make it all really personal against users of Windows and probably Mac too, but that’s not where I’m coming from here — not at all.

My issue is with Microsoft.

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Linux fails me yet again!

When will I learn?

Sorry Linux fans, I know you’re probably sniggering behind your screens, trying not to have a hernia at my expense, but every single time I delve into the Linux world, it ends up in weird freezes, crashes, choppy sound, random bugs, and even the OS flat-out refusing to boot. It’s disappointing, really it is, because there’s a lot I like about Linux, and I’m gathering a little interest in the Terminal.

Last night, after watching videos and learning more about the Terminal, I installed the 64-bit version of Linux Mint 17.2, codenamed Rafaela, with KDE onto my spare 500GB HDD, and even disconnected my SSD with Windows 8.1 on it. I was enjoying the idea of leaving Windows 8.1 behind, or at least partly.

Because it had been a long time since I installed Linux, I made the newbie mistake of installing the bootloader to the wrong place, although you can thank an incorrect guide for that. I got it right the 3rd time. Unfortunately, even after that hiccup, which, I should add, is not at all “simple” or “easy” as so many of the exclusive Linux users like to say, and if you get it wrong, you risk screwing something up that takes yet more knowhow to fix.

In Windows, you don’t have to worry about where to install the Bootloader and you don’t have to create several NTFS partitions; granted, you don’t in Linux, but I don’t see the point in not doing it. Of course, once you know what to do, and more importantly, what not to do, it’s all fine and dandy, but for a beginner, or, hell, even an old amateur Linux user coming back after a while, it’s hardly straight-forward.

I want to enjoy Linux as a whole, but there are so many things wrong with it and even some of the Linux users seem to acknowledge that, at least to some extent.

Linux has so many distributions, known as distros, which makes things difficult for new users because they probably haven’t a clue which one to use! Fair enough, I get that it encourages creativity, thanks to Linux being open source, allowing people to try different things without the restriction of, say, a version of Windows or Mac.

The Terminal is a big annoyance to me, despite my general interest in it. I honestly feel many Linux users are blinded by loyalty to the point at which they seem to think it’s totally not counter-intuitive to have to use the Terminal so much. By default, for setting up your Linux firewall within, let’s say, the edition of Linux I tried last night, you have to install separate software in order to get just the GUI for the Firewall, which, by the way, is, for some asinine reason, completely and utterly disabled by default! Sure, that’s safe. Nice way to welcome new users, eh?

Linux seems fantastic if you’re already an experienced Linux user and somehow manage to get past the bugs, freezes, crashes, boot fails, and whatever else.

“I never have any of these issues.” – I expect most Linux fanatics say this, and I expect it’s a right load of CL4P-TP, unless you have the perfect hardware for Linux and are otherwise very lucky.

I have to ask myself how Linux users even manage to use Linux, especially for their work! Given how temperamental the Linux versions I’ve tried are, I’d be scared to do any work in-case one simple setting implodes the system. I once changed to a theme readily available from within the installation and Linux crashed then refused to boot again! How the buggery farts is that stable and welcoming for new users? I’m terrified of changing anything in Linux because it’s practically a ticking time bomb.

I have a feeling the standard server-style of Linux with just the command line interface would probably be more stable, but unless you’re running a server or something, I can’t imagine much use in it.

I want to like Linux, I really do, but it doesn’t want me to like it.

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Windows 10 Notification in the Windows 8.1 System Tray

Before I begin, “Windows 10 is coming on 29 July 2015,” to quote Microsoft on the Q&A page of their website. For those that don’t know, the offer explained below is open for a year after release, after which we have to pay for it.

I had mostly kept my distance from Windows 10, thinking it’d just be another mess that would take ages to fix, and end up a PR mess, but I saw my way to being excited when I saw the following on the system tray:

Windows 10

Windows 10 Download,” the highlighted item reads, followed by, “Reserve Free Upgrade,” “Run Windows Update,” and “Get to Know Windows 10.” I say, Microsoft, you sure do know how to whet my appetite.

Upon clicking the download option, we’re met with a nice little window:

Windows 10 2

This window tells us that this free Windows 10 upgrade can be reserved and the download will begin when the upgrade is actually available. Apparently, you can also cancel the reservation at any time, so fear not, if you change your mind, it’s all good. The window also states that the free upgrade is for the full version, and not a test version. I would assume that to be obvious, since you can already freely download the Technical Preview of Windows 10. The download will be 3GB in size, which will fit nicely onto a DVD, assuming they’ll make the ISO available.

Once you’ve set your reservation, you are you to wait for a notification, after which Windows 10 will be downloaded onto your device. Once available, and presumably downloaded, you can carry out the installation another time or immediately.

Microsoft tell us here, “Viel spaß,” German for “Have fun.” I’m not sure if I should make a sarcastic comment about how we’ll probably all have a severe headache on launch day, as opposed to actual fun … oh wait, I just did. After the installation, you’ll have Windows 10 as is currently available.

So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. If you don’t have Windows 7 or 8.1, then I suppose this will be an interesting read, otherwise I imagine you’ll have already read in on the window itself!

Are you excited for Windows 10?

If you observed the white title bar text atop the black border, then perhaps you might be interested in knowing how to do that. Head on over to The Return of Black within Windows 8.1, to learn how to make your cheerful Windows 8.1 go to the dark side.

Update…

Apologies, I completely missed the arrow that revealed more information!

In a nut-shell, it’s Windows selling their product; making it sound super hot. To translate the German I’m seeing: “Windows 10 is trusted and user-friendly,” Microsoft claim. “The start menu is here again and with that you can use a mouse, keyboard, or touchpad.” Apparently you’ll find, “all the trusted features and much more.”

Microsoft are claiming that Windows 10 “starts and wakes up from standby quickly,” which, to be fair, is exactly what we already have with Windows 8.1—my copy of Windows 8.1, with decent hardware and an SSD, boots up and logs in from nothing extremely quickly, and as far as standby is concerned, well, it typically wakes up and goes to sleep faster than I can sit down and stand up.

Microsoft are showing off the multitasking and ability to have 4 windows on one screen; big deal! We’ve been doing that for ages. Come on, Microsoft, show off something new. Windows 8.1 already lets you tile 4 windows neatly on the screen. Surely people don’t want to buy the same old crap—stick with the new stuff that shows it’s worth the upgrade.

Windows 10 is apparently, “full of innovations.” Microsoft says, like Cortana, your, “entirely personal, digital assistant.” Riiiiight—because we’ve never seen a personal assistent before! Totally innovative, Microsoft. Bravo. I’ll try to hold my pessimism, but it strikes me as a lot easier to do things the normal way, rather than faffing about with some “entirely personal, digital assistant,” that may or may not work reliably.

For those of you interested in apps, Windows 10 looks like it’s going app-crazy. This Windows 10 Download window isn’t really saying anything about what the new app features or the new apps actually are, but I was impressed by their claim of having 47,000,000 popular music titles on the app store, films in HD, TV series, and of course games.

So, that’s really it! We’ll have to wait and see what happens next.

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The Return of Black within Windows 8.1

It took me a lot of faffing about over such a long period of time to finally stumble across the right stuff at the right time.

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The reason I put up the timer is because I wanted to demonstrate that it even themes properly with an obscure application like this simple Flash-based one. Notice the title bar isn’t black text? It took me a long time to discover a fix for that little problem. The start menu is there courtesy of a third-party program (obviously) which I’ll get to below.

Before doing this, backup your OS partition(s) using something like the Windows “Shadow Copy” feature, a third-party tool, or just gamble with System Restore; this is just in the event that something goes wrong, and for our peace of mind.

Everything was smooth-sailing for me, but should something go awry for you, I won’t be held responsible, for the decision to follow these instructions are solely your own. I also cannot be held responsibile for the pages to which this blog entry links, nor can I do anything about the software I point you towards. I hope you understand.

Now that we’ve got the prelude out of the way, here are the steps I took in order to finally get a fully-functional black theme going in Windows 8.1:

Step #1:
I enlarged the window borders (preference – further ensures the black stands out) by using a similar (Winaero Tweaker) tool to this: Tiny Windows Borders for Windows 8 It wasn’t damaging, does not need to be repeated, and seems to stick even when other settings change, such as another theme. Please ensure you scan all downloads prior to opening them.

Step #2:
I had previously downloaded and installed a brilliant (entirely free, without ads and nags) application that’s small, functional, and, in my opinion, aesthetically pleasing. You can get ClassicShell here: Classic Shell – Start menu and other Windows enhancements This will bring back the start menu, allowing for extra configurations, as well as most of the usual you’d expect from before this OS. Remember to play with the options to get it how you like, clicking “show all settings”, and especially set the skin to “Windows Aero” in order to get that Windows 7 look that goes so well when this is all done.

Step #3:
I downloaded and used UxStyle, which you can download for free. It’s absolutely imperative that you heed my advice of backing up (I used Windows’ own backup feature; use Google something like, “Shadow Copy Windows 8.1” to discover this hidden gem) just in-case something goes awry. I’ve used it a couple of times (and many more with Windows XP and Windows 7) without a problem, but it’s better safe than sorry, as they say. I had to restart the computer after patching Windows with it.

Step #4:
When I had Windows 7, I would use a sleek, black cursor pack called Obsidian, which you can freely download from this link; it goes very well with almost any black theme, I’ve found.

Step #5:
You can of course choose any background you like – I was gravitated pretty strongly towards this one, because I felt it matched it well.

Step #6:
If you use Firefox and would like the matching theme I use on the browser, then follow this step, but if not, skip to #7:

I use, “FT DeepDark,” version 12.0.1, made freely and publicly available by Stefano Rosselli.

Step #7:
The piece de resistance of it all is the main theme (or ‘skin’) which can be downloaded from this link. This pack containers 3 variations, if you fancy a change.

I’ve also recently discovered another theme that works properly and looks great: Base for Windows 8.1 I strongly recommend it. I also recommend checking out the Ribbon Disabler, which also works in Windows 8.1, because it’s handy for certain themes, and good for those who just hate the new ribbon in Windows 8.1!

That’s all there is to it. If this guide was helpful to you, then it would be fantastic if you would share this blog post so others can also benefit.

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