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Moving to New Computer and Windows 8.1
Old 05-13-2014, 11:06 AM   #1
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Moving to New Computer and Windows 8.1

I knew that it would be frustrating to change computer and OS, and I was right.

I got a 17" HP Envy with touchscreen and Windows 8.1.

First impressions:

The screen is brighter and nicer.

Unfortunately, windows is going with the current fashion of having some text be gray on white instead of black on white:



I hope I can change that.

I'm not sure I need such a big screen. With the new aspect ratio, it isn't much taller than my old computer's 15" screen (8.5" vs. 8.2").

The biggest problem is that the touchpad buttons are too hard to press. I noticed that when I tried it in the store, but figured that I would be using the touchscreen mostly, and it wouldn't be an issue. However, I find that the touchscreen isn't as convenient as the touchpad. It isn't a strength issue, but a convenience one.

You can't tap the buttons, you have to press them down -- it doesn't work well for double click or click and drag.

Touch to tap isn't a perfect solution.

So, that may be a deal breaker.

Also, the fan is on all the time. It's not too loud, but it's a constant annoying hum.

Windows 8.1 is OK.

Laplink PCMover Professional worked well at transferring most of my applications. You can get it for $24 if you call their 877-904-9644 number and ask for that.

The fingerprint scanner has potential, but I'd have to work out a few kinks.

It's nice to know I can just take it back to Costco if it's a thumbs down.
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Old 05-13-2014, 11:34 AM   #2
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Personally, I don't see any more need for a touchscreen with Windows 8.1 than I did with prior versions of Windows. But then I don't choose to use the Metro interface at all. I use a mouse and the built in keyboard.

I didn't set anything that I can recall, and don't see gray instead of black. That might be an HP thing. [Edited to add: Oh yeah! I do have gray. I never noticed it before.]Mine is a cheap Toshiba ($450 last October).
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Old 05-13-2014, 11:45 AM   #3
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I use a wireless mouse sitting on the arm of my chair. Mostly to avoid the awkward hand position on the touchpad since I'm on the laptop for so long. My touchpad has the same hard to press buttons, so I use either touch to tap or the mouse.
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Old 05-13-2014, 11:50 AM   #4
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Yes, I am coming to feel that way too (touchscreen not that useful). Even with a big screen, the menus and buttons are a little small. (I know, I can make them larger.)

This app:

Classic Shell - Start menu and other Windows enhancements

looks interesting.

I started using a mouse (again) a few years ago when the keypad on my E1505 broke. I much prefer it to the touchpad, but I'm wondering if that's simply because I've gotten used to it.

I had a funny episode while setting up the old computer to transfer settings, when I kept tapping on the screen and nothing happened.

I found a way to keep the fan from being on all the time (Bios setting).
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Old 05-13-2014, 12:41 PM   #5
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I normally balance my laptop on my lap, but fairly far from me (probably due to the aging eyes issues that some of us have). Anyway, it is sort of on my knees. This is a good distance for typing on the keyboard, but would be too far for a touch screen. The middle of the screen is an inch or two farther than the maximum length of my arms. I'd probably get a sore shoulder from trying to lunge at a touch screen.

I know, first world problem.

In your case, I gather that you work at a desk so maybe this wouldn't be a problem.

Classic Shell is supposed to be pretty good. I used Start Menu 8 briefly when I first had Windows 8.0. When I upgraded to 8.1 and simultaneously had become more familiar with Windows 8, it no longer seemed necessary and I got rid of it. Classic Shell may not be absolutely necessary but if it helps with the transition, I'd go for it.
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Old 05-13-2014, 01:15 PM   #6
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Hate the default gray text color. Really really hard for me to read.
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Old 05-13-2014, 01:38 PM   #7
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In your shoes, I would return the Windows 8.1 system with the touch screen and proceed directly to one of those big box office supply stores and purchase an old-fashioned Windows 7 desktop. I was much happier with the result when I dumped Windows 8.1, although a touchscreen was not part of the reason.

Lenovo and Dell were both making Windows 7 desktops and selling them at Staples last time I checked.
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Old 05-13-2014, 02:01 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Another Reader View Post
In your shoes, I would return the Windows 8.1 system with the touch screen and proceed directly to one of those big box office supply stores and purchase an old-fashioned Windows 7 desktop. I was much happier with the result when I dumped Windows 8.1, although a touchscreen was not part of the reason.

Lenovo and Dell were both making Windows 7 desktops and selling them at Staples last time I checked.
I'm curious why you think Win7 is preferable to the Win8.1 desktop UI? I have 8.1 and I installed 7 on my Mom & Dads PCs and spent large parts of three days working with it - they're very similar IME.

I agree the "live tile" Metro UI is lame, not because it's so different, but the Metro apps are decidedly dumbed down/less capable. But you don't have to use the Metro UI at all, that's what alienated so many Microsoft users.

Presumably Win7 support will be withdrawn before Win8.1, so I'd rather have 8.1. And who knows, they might improve the Metro UI one day...

I agree the touchscreen integration for PC/laptops is more gimmick than useful, even for touch tablet users.
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Old 05-13-2014, 02:08 PM   #9
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All my software works seamlessly with it and I don't have to work around the tiles.

Microsoft makes a bad OS on every other try. People kept XP when it became clear Vista was a flop. Microsoft just stopped supporting XP. Windows 7 will be supported long after this Dell gives up the ghost.
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Old 05-13-2014, 02:27 PM   #10
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All my software works seamlessly with it and I don't have to work around the tiles.
The latter is simply out of date. Let me google that for you. And I'm not sure how your software applies to a recommendation for the OP.
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Old 05-13-2014, 02:31 PM   #11
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Not interested. The problem is solved. Call me when Windows 9 comes out.

The link is actually funny. How to "eradicate" "ditch" or "disable" Metro, The Metro Hater's Guide, How to keep the Windows 8.1 UI Out of Your Way.... noticing a trend here? Apparently, a lot of people hate this POS besides me.
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Old 05-13-2014, 05:13 PM   #12
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I was under the impression that Windows 8 was the devil, especially if you didn't have a touchscreen, but now I see that I was completely wrong.

So I'm going to avoid the touchscreen entirely on this system for a while and see how that goes. If I don't miss it, I won't put a high priority on that feature when I look for a new computer.

I like being wrong because it dampens down my know-it-all-ness. And knowing that sometimes I'm wrong helps with the annoyance toward designs that are obviously bad.

An example: Years ago someone came up with the idea that options that are not available should be grayed out. I see that as a bad design, because I often see a grayed out option, and I have no idea why it is grayed out. The new system wouldn't let me change the menu font size, and I couldn't figure out why. I finally rebooted. I also had no idea why, when I chose to customize the notification area, ALL the options were grayed out. better design, and what I did with my apps, is to let the user click it and then have the app say "Sorry, that option is not available because ... To make it available, do ..."

So anyway if I can say "Maybe I'm wrong about that" it's a good thing. Maybe there's some reason that the touchpad buttons are unusable. Maybe there's a good reason that I bought a computer with a nice high contrast screen, and the text is in low-contrast gray. Maybe there's a reason the taskbar buttons take up twice as much space as they need to.

The other thing I've noticed is that the 16x9 aspect ratio may be great for watching movies, but for text editing it's not so good. As mentioned the screen on this 17.3" notebook is only .25 inches taller than my old 15.6" screen. I have to buy a 17 or else the screen will be less tall, but much of the space on the side is wasted. I'd be fine with a smaller screen if it were taller.
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Old 05-13-2014, 09:00 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
...

An example: Years ago someone came up with the idea that options that are not available should be grayed out. I see that as a bad design, because I often see a grayed out option, and I have no idea why it is grayed out. The new system wouldn't let me change the menu font size, and I couldn't figure out why. I finally rebooted. I also had no idea why, when I chose to customize the notification area, ALL the options were grayed out. better design, and what I did with my apps, is to let the user click it and then have the app say "Sorry, that option is not available because ... To make it available, do ..."
As a counterpoint, I totally disagree that your approach is better. The grayed out menu items provide 'hinting' - the gray tells me at a glance that item is not available at this time. And depending on the app, some menu items are dynamic and may be available in one mode and not another. The gray tells me this instantly. It's one of those things you may need to learn once, but then it should be consistent and a normal work-flow. The sound editor program 'Audacity' for example, works this way - and I like it.

For your system, I need to click on it to find out. That's a waste of time and a lot of extra clicking adds to carpal tunnel issues. I could end up clicking dozens of menu items just to find that maybe only a single one is active? And in some apps, a little break in flow really throws off your concentration.

Now, the message as to why that menu item is not available can be provided by a 'tip-tool' balloon when you mouse over and hover a second, or click it. That would be handy.



Quote:
So anyway if I can say "Maybe I'm wrong about that" it's a good thing. Maybe there's some reason that the touchpad buttons are unusable. Maybe there's a good reason that I bought a computer with a nice high contrast screen, and the text is in low-contrast gray. Maybe there's a reason the taskbar buttons take up twice as much space as they need to.
Maybe I'm not a good reference for this, because I can't stand using the track-pad on any laptop I've tried for anything other than very general movements. So I pretty much ignore them and use a mouse and external keyboard.

And I really can't see using a laptop touchscreen. A large screen is just too big for that, unless the keyboard is completely out of the way, and the screen would be at a good position.

Quote:
The other thing I've noticed is that the 16x9 aspect ratio may be great for watching movies, but for text editing it's not so good. As mentioned the screen on this 17.3" notebook is only .25 inches taller than my old 15.6" screen. I have to buy a 17 or else the screen will be less tall, but much of the space on the side is wasted. I'd be fine with a smaller screen if it were taller.
I'm often working with two documents open at the same time - so I like the wide screen so I can have them side/side.

An option for you - get an external monitor and turn it 'sideways'. Then you have a full screen vertically for your document, and can keep misc other stuff available on the laptop screen. Hopefully, Win 8.1 supports extending the desktop to a rotated monitor.

-ERD50
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Old 05-14-2014, 05:12 AM   #14
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W8 takes a few weeks of open-minded, open-hearted attention to master, after which W7 is nice but you begin to realize the downsides of W7 which you overlooked because at that time you didn't know better.

I agree that touchscreen is a bit oversold in desktops and laptops. It's necessary, of course, when you don't have a keyboard and mouse/touchpad. Otherwise, it's not much use. I'm getting very good at using touchscreen controls, but I cannot ever imagine becoming faster using touchscreen controls.
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Old 05-14-2014, 07:30 AM   #15
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All my software works seamlessly with it and I don't have to work around the tiles.

Microsoft makes a bad OS on every other try. People kept XP when it became clear Vista was a flop. Microsoft just stopped supporting XP. Windows 7 will be supported long after this Dell gives up the ghost.
I believe the plan is to end support for Win 7 on around 2020.

Windows lifecycle fact sheet - Microsoft Windows Help
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Old 05-14-2014, 07:48 AM   #16
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That's when they'll end extended support for W7. You pay extra for extended support (though security updates, only, are generally provided to all customers during the extended support period, even those that don't pay for extended support).

They'll end mainstream support next year.
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Old 05-14-2014, 09:24 AM   #17
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Wait a minute, it stopped hailing,
Guys are swimming, guys are sailing,
Playing baseball, gee that's better,
Muddah Fadduh kindly disregard this letter.

OK, I'm changing my tune, and no longer singing:

Take me home, oh muddah fadduh, take me home, I hate Grenada
Don't leave me out in the forest where I might get eaten by a bear.

The constant hum of the fan has been solved with the BIOS change, and I've gotten used to the tap-to-click options on the touchpad (plus I'm using my mouse most of the time). There are also some nice multi-touch options, such as using two fingers for scrolling.

Putting the taskbar on the left and using autohide gives me an effectively taller screen.

So, at this point, it looks like I might keep this computer. They keyboard is nice, and I like the fingerprint swipe device.

The fingerprint scanner solves this problem: Strong passwords are a pain if you have to enter them frequently. If someone breaks into the house and steals the laptop, I don't want him or her to have access to everything. But I don't want to have to enter something like "Ssy66((5eul_abit" every time the computer comes out of sleep mode.

The scanner solves this, because it's fast, easy, and secure.
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Old 05-14-2014, 09:28 AM   #18
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For your system, I need to click on it to find out. That's a waste of time and a lot of extra clicking adds to carpal tunnel issues. I could end up clicking dozens of menu items just to find that maybe only a single one is active? And in some apps, a little break in flow really throws off your concentration.

Now, the message as to why that menu item is not available can be provided by a 'tip-tool' balloon when you mouse over and hover a second, or click it. That would be handy.
I had an interface designer friend who argued the same thing. I agree, that's a great solution, but I've never seen it implemented. I can't recall ever seeing a tooltip or status line message that starts "This item is disabled because ..."

In learning this new system, every day I've had at least one time when something was grayed out, and it wasn't obvious as to why.
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Old 05-14-2014, 09:36 AM   #19
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Wow 19 posts on the subject and not one snide Mac comment. Oh, the times they are a changing.
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Old 05-14-2014, 11:23 PM   #20
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I had an interface designer friend who argued the same thing. I agree, that's a great solution, but I've never seen it implemented. I can't recall ever seeing a tooltip or status line message that starts "This item is disabled because ..."
I know nothing about programming so it might be a bear to implement, but I'm starting to see it more often in Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. It helps a lot and is appreciated.
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