Wednesday, August 12, 2015

If it ain't broke, don't fix (or upgrade) Windows.

Windows 10 – the Grand Revolution. All the features you want (that Apple already had). Cortana (the name and voice of the AI in the videogame Halo, developed by ex-Mac programmers), multiple desktops, integrated apps and features, huzzah. All new. Well my PC told me that Windows 10 was ready to install. The previous week I had made a clone of the SSD drive to a backup SATA drive using Macrium Reflect 5. Worked like a charm. I was ready. I could install Windows 10 without worry and revert if I need to. So I did.

The install had downloaded the files already and it was just setting up. So I watched it go for a bit, then I returned to work. There was a big percentage readout on the screen telling me how much was left. Then it said it was “cleaning up a few things.” Then this curious message. “This is taking a little longer than expected, but we’re almost done.” Then the desktop appeared with a big black box around it, like it was no using the full resolution of the screen. Ha, I said, I can fix that.

Then I tried to go to the Start menu. Nothing. Clicked in the Taskbar. Nothing. Search box? Nope. Icons on the desktop seemed to respond to clicks so I launched Chrome. Opened up. But I still couldn’t access anything at the bottom... Maybe I wasn’t waiting long enough. But the hype said Windows 10 would be faster. Didn’t seem so here. Maybe I need to restart. So I did. And lo, it was better. A little. The display was up to full resolution, and the Search box yielded a popup. Once. Then was silent. The speed hadn’t changed much.

Did a search (on my iMac), and found others with a similar problem. Microsoft said there might be a software conflict and to try a clean boot by disabling the startup files. Except I couldn’t get to msconfig because the Search wouldn’t respond. I found I could right click on the Start menu icon and get a contextual menu, and there were some options I was able to use to get to Start Up tab and disable some stuff, but it wasn’t msconfig so I didn’t think it would prove useful. I was right.

Then... then I had a thought. I opened the Disk Management app and looked at the hard drives. Um, what? Windows 10 had gone ahead and upgraded my backup on the SATA drive, not the SSD drive. Huh? What was I gonna do now? I powered down and disconnected the SATA drive. Booted back up and voila! back in Windows 7. Grrr. Well, that was a waste of time. I will have to reclone the SSD drive and then disconnect the SATA drive in order to try again. If I want to. Maybe I don’t. I was having no issues with Windows 7, and now that I did the upgrade once, I can do it again should I choose. It would be interesting to see how it runs on the SSD. And even if I compared the Win 10 install on the SATA to Win 7 on the SATA, I might be inclined to say it may have been faster. But I will have to choose wisely...

So, to sum up, if it ain’t broke, don’t go installing Windows 10 – especially without a backup, a disconnected backup. Perhaps wait until the first Service Pack... Hope Apple’s upcoming El Capitan OS X upgrade fairs better.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Gimme Some Ooma

In a continuing effort to reduce our cable bill, I recently decided to switch our home phone service to VoIP service. A long time ago, I tried Vonage, and was not happy at all with the service – voice quality was bad and it didn't work with my security system, not to mention it wasn't much of a cost savings. It left a bad taste in my mouth, so I didn't even consider trying them out again. But once again, Pete, my daughter's boyfriend, stepped up and recommended an alternate service called Ooma.

Now you may recall, Pete also was the one who recommended the Republic Wireless cellular service, which I am still happy with. And I don't want you to think that I consider each syllable that leaves his tongue to be golden. However, past experience did suggest he may be offering another worthy nugget.

My phone service was provided by Verizon Digital Phone and came with all the standard features like caller ID, call waiting and voice mail. It was offered at the price of $30.00/month, but as part of the TriplePlay bundle, it was essentially free. But I wanted to get rid of my TV subscription as well, leaving only the internet. Well, that was the plan, anyway.

The Ooma service works with a network enabled box called Teleo. It's $129.00, but you can find discount coupons and signup offers or even refurbished models that will bring the price down by up to $40. And that's about all you pay for, other than taxes and fees, which for me was under $4.00/month. That's it. Plug it into your network, plug your phone system into it, and you're done.

Although you can't take advantage of the existing house phone wiring, most phone systems are wireless anyway and you can add several additional phones if you want. I think our systems supports 6 phones, right now we have 2, one for upstairs, one for my office. What I was really surprised with was how easily the phone adapted to Ooma. All of Ooma's functions worked perfectly through the phone. Voice message notifications, menu items, caller ID, call waiting, it all worked with zero modifications.

Of course, you need to place the phone system in proximity to the Teleo and a network connection, so unless you have a hardline in your kitchen or a powerline connector, you need to have the Teleo and the phone base unit near your router. This was fine for me, everything was in my office already.

Voice quality was very good. There seems to be a very slight delay at times, and you quickly adjust to it. I have had one or two call drops, but can't ascertain whether it was the other party's fault or Ooma's. They seem to be rare in any case. So far, I am fairly pleased. Be aware of the 911 emergency call guidelines for this type of service, there are some occasions where it may not function appropriately, and they recommend a cell phone for emergency/backup use.

Back to the money saving part. After I got Ooma up and running, I transferred my existing number over to it (cost $40). This took about 2 weeks. When it was completed, Verizon sent me an email saying that I should call them to review my current package in the light of the removal. So I did, and come to find out, my bundle was still intact, even though I removed a service, which was cool, I thought I was going to have to pay a $230 bundle cancellation fee. However, when I spoke to them regarding the removal of the cable TV, they said that if I dropped that, my internet service would be $89/month – more than I was paying now! If I kept local TV and internet, it would drop to $69/month about what I was paying, and a further $12/month could be gained by returning my cable box.

Net result, when I return the box, I will be saving $12/month. Seems like a lot of effort for little return, but I guess it all adds up.