Archive | June 2014

PC Vendors and Windows Gripes: Part 01

This is the first in what will surely be a an ongoing series. Yes, I am a big Apple fan. I have been using their products since 1986. While I have some issues with some of their products and software, the list in no way compares to my list of grievances on the PC/Windows side of things. In many cases, the reason I find it necessary to comment is because at least one other manufacturer does it better/right/smarter, etc.

So, here goes:

1. Incomplete or Useless Information provided

I’m sitting here looking at a client’s HP/Compaq laptop and I’d like to know the size of the hard disk – which failed the internal Hard Disk Diagnostic – so I can tell the client prices for a replacement. I need the size so that I can make sure the replacement is at least as big as the failing one.

I’ve looked in the BIOS information, the 2-3 various Diagnostics screens, and the “System Information” screen available at startup. That information is simply not to be found. I do know the Model Name, the Product Number, Serial Number, Warranty Start Date, Product Configuration ID, BIOS Version, Total Memory, Processor Type and Speed and even the Battery Serial Number (really?!) but nothing at all about the hard disk. Useless!!! The only options are to either actually start Windows and find out there, or to open the system and look at the disk. Incredible!

Many PC and BIOS manufacturers do provide this information, so it’s quite frustrating when one model doesn’t. And I can’t understand why they would omit something so basic, especially since it’s one of the things in a computer which can be replaced so easily.

2. There are no Standard Keys during boot up

Every time I look at a client’s computer, I want to first look at the BIOS. So, what hot key do I use? Delete? Escape? F2? F9? F10? F11? F12? Something with Alt? That IBM/Lenovo blue button? Something else? On many computers, it used to be that during the first few seconds of startup, the various hot keys would be listed, but these days it’s not shown by default.

It would be so nice if all manufacturers could just agree to use the Escape key to interrupt the normal boot sequence and provide an on-screen, textual menu of options (BIOS Setup, System Diagnostics, Boot Device Menu, Create Recovery Disks, etc.). Even better would be that each of those options would have a standard F-key default so those who knew could go straight to the desired menu option without needing the Escape key first.

3. Windows Drive Letters

The fact that Windows continues to use letters to access drives/disks continues to astound me. I don’t care about backwards compatibility with 1985. It used to be that accessing anything beyond F: was not possible without modifying the CONFIG.SYS file (remember that?!), but that self-made problem has apparently been rectified.

But, what about A: and B:? What, you don’t have two floppy drives in your system? Why not? Your BIOS certainly gives you the option to have floppy drives. Wow. So, that’s two wasted drive letters.

Now, I don’t know anyone who will actually use the remaining 24 letters for disk volumes, but that artificial barrier is only there because our alphabet has 26 letters. What if we spoke Rotokas? We’d only have 12 letters, i.e. disk volumes, available.

But, here’s a real world scenario which illustrates the idiocy of this letter-based naming scheme: I had a client call me saying he didn’t think his automatic backup system was working. I had a look and saw that the Backup Job was defined to synchronize files from a directory on C: to a directory on his 1.0 TB external disk E:. It had worked before, but no longer.

So I looked at E:. It was an 8 GB USB key. Oops. Order matters. And that’s just stupid.

It seems that at some point, the client had disconnected the external disk and before reconnecting, he had connected a USB key, which means it was now E: and the external disk was F: So, the backup system failed, because the external drive was no longer E: as previous defined/assumed.

That’s it for now. But, I’m sure I’ll be back with more.