Technology Reviews

Dealing with Windows 8

The Dell Inspiron 14z laptop I bought for Angie in January when hers failed while I was on the road came with Windows 8. Angie worked hard to adjust to the new OS, but it was obvious it remained very frustrating for her several months later. And I must admit I found it unfriendly. It was never clear when things might be on the desktop or in the new tiles interface. Sometimes while moving the mouse you’d end up switching apps. It wouldn’t be clear how to switch back. Things would take more clicks than it should – a fine example was the lock screen that you needed to click on first to get to the login screen to wake up the computer after it went to sleep. Angie uses Libre Office to create text documents, a web browser, and a java app to do billing with the State of Illinois. That last app doesn’t work with Linux, so replacing Win8 with Linux wasn’t an option if we wanted her to keep getting paid for her job. That the laptop came with the 64-bit version of Windows 8 Home meant that legally we couldn’t downgrade to Windows 7. So this left me trying to at least tame some of the worst problems. Oh, and one other problem was that the trial version of McAfee that Dell ships had expired but was keeping Windows Defender from running, and me from hesitating to install the Kaspersky that we had purchased for her old laptop.

Step 1) Install Classic Shell. This free program gives you back your start button and a classic toolbar and status bar for Internet Explorer.

Step 2) Disable many of the gesture options for the Dell trackpad (under Control Panel -> Mouse). I wonder if the trackpad was sensitive enough to see 3 and 4 finger gestures which switch between apps, for instance, even when we thought we were just using a single finger to move the mouse around the screen.

Step 3) From the command line use “appwiz.cpl” to remove McAfee. Then download install Kaspersky.

Step 4) From the command line use “regedit” to disable the lock screen. The relavent key is found under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Personalization  In my case, that key didn’t exist, so I needed to create the new key, double click on it, and change the value from 0 to 1. I found the directions to do so here.

Just those few steps have really cleaned things up. Looking back they seem so simple. Why it took me the better part of the afternoon (after spending the morning creating all the restore DVDs) is an indication of how obfuscated Windows and Dell have made these steps. They have a market incentive for me to pay for McAfee instead of spending almost an hour figuring out how to get rid of it. They have a market incentive to drive me towards tablets and captive portals. That is, they have a clear incentive to take choice away. May these instructions help bring back choice.

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