Saturday, November 09, 2013

Windows 8 ReInstall on Ultrabook - Lessons Learned

If I had the technology problem on a Friday, a non-teaching day for me with the weekend after that, the whole thing would not have been such a big deal.  But it happened Thursday morning, around 7:30, with my class at 11.  So I panicked a bit.  To be sure, every step I took thereafter was rational, with perhaps the exception of repeatedly trying to get the ultrabook to start, hoping the next time around the problem would have resolved itself.  It never did.  But the other things I did made sense.  I had a 45 minute chat session with tech support, where we tried a few things to fix the problem.  They didn't work, which contributed to my feeling on edge, but I learned how to restore to the ultrabook to its original state, which was the critical thing to ultimately remedy the situation.  I also contacted the Econ department, got a loaner laptop from them, and in the process also got some excellent help from Tera, who staffs the front desk. 

I had issues teaching with that loaner, the third of three laptops Tera and I tried.  So lesson one is to appreciate having your own equipment and knowing how it works.  It makes life a lot easier. 

When I got home after class, I started in with the ultrabook restore.  There is an option to first back up all the files on the computer.  I did that.  It took quite a long time, maybe 5 hours.  The actual restore of the system only took a few minutes.  After that I tried to restore the files.  The utility that does this said it couldn't find the restore files.  I was tired by then, so I told myself let's have a drink and figure this out in the morning. 

In the morning (yesterday) the file restore still wouldn't wouldn't work.  So I sent a query email to tech support about what to do about it.  In auto-response, they said I could expect an answer within 24 hours.  I didn't want to wait that long so I proceeded to rebuilt what I had on the ultrabook - mostly applications more than files and mostly free applications or applications where I had purchased a subscription that I can re-use.  (This proved a good decision as I still haven't heard back from tech support.)  I create my files for teaching on my desktop computer, which runs Windows 7.  I only use the ultrabook to display some of those in class.  I backed up my desktop computer on Thursday, before heading to class.  And I backed up the ultrabook yesterday after I had restored it with all the applications I wanted to put on it and the few files (music) that I wanted. 

So the second lesson is this.  The cloud may be good for backing up files, but really you want to back up applications too, especially because it took me quite a while to reconfigure the ultrabook.  It would have been much easier to simply the restore everything in one fell swoop from a system image.  So having reasonably current system image backups is something I must do and pay more attention to.  Then I've got a bunch of files that I don't want in the cloud.  I suspect many people are in the same situation.  Partly for that reason and partly because it is simply easier for me to compose on the desktop computer, I personally will resist some of the call for mobile computing.  My ultrabook will never become my primary computer.  It my become my iPad replacement.  I'm still trying to decide that.  But as a primary computer, no.  There are too many risks with it. 

The third lesson is that I learned a fair amount about ultrabook function (really system 8 function) by going through this experience.  I'm much better at navigation on the ultrabook than I was, and I learned a variety of the shortcuts.  Also, I understand better all that is on the computer.  There is a lot of stuff pre-loaded.  Now I can see what's there.  Way back when I bought my first car I got a standard transmission without knowing how to use a clutch.  I had a friend give me a few lessons on his car, but I was far from comfortable with the clutch then.  I told myself I'd learn through use.  It was my choice.  This time around, the learning was imposed.  I wanted an 11" ultrabook.  Lightweight and small form factor is right for me.  System 8 was part of the package. 

One of the things I still don't have a good feel for is whether I want to  use the mouse and click or if I want to use the touch screen and let my finger do the work.  I've tried both.  System 8 seems more for the latter, and hence for true tablets or phones.  But it doesn't seem to generate an on screen keyboard most of the time, or if it can do that it is one thing I haven't figured out how to enable.  (That may be a project for later this morning.)  And here is the thing, using it as a touch screen but with a keyboard is not really a good combination, not because of the technology but because of me. 

I suffer from dry skin but my forehead, in particular, is quite oily and I must inadvertently have my fingers touch my forehead repeatedly, so they get oily too.  This means the that a screen used via touch will get oiled up, as will the keyboard, and after a while that will become uncomfortable.  On my desktop computer, the issue with keyboard remains, but the issue with the screen does not.  I can keep it fairly pristine.  While it has a touch capability, there I'm much less likely to use it and instead rely on the mouse.  So, that would be my inclination for the ultrabook as well, but as I said Windows 8 seems geared to touch screen use. 

When I had yet to restore the ultrabook, I started to have thoughts about whether I should switch to a Mac.  My main reason for not having done that earlier is Excel.  The way I use Excel, I'm quite sure Google Spreadsheets are not a good substitute.  I also suspect I'd find Excel for Mac limiting. Also for campus email I use Outlook and have gotten quite used to it. 

It appears that my use is being challenged by current "developments."  I don't know what caused the problem I was having Thursday morning (upon restart I'd get a blue screen that said there was a problem and that the machine would have to restart) but I decided that this time I would stay with Windows 8 and not upgrade to Windows 8.1 as I had done previously.  My thinking is that the older OS is likely to be more stable.  I've also experienced instability recently with Blogger, and enduring the end of life of iGoogle and earlier Google Reader.  I'm not enamored with the idea that things I've become accustomed to might simply go away.  I'm also kind of miffed at iTunes that they don't seems to allow ready movement of files between two PCs.  (You can access files when on the same same network, but the files remain on the original computer.) 

So I'm becoming less of a fan of Microsoft, Google, and Apple.  Facebook, too, has some practices that drive me bananas, particularly the placement of "suggested posts" in my News Feed.  We either need some upstarts in this sector who will give the big guys a run for their money or I've got to figure out how to spend more meaningful time away for the technology, to not be so dependent on them. 

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