Thanks to MSPowerUser.com I stumbled upon a very interesting UK survey this morning. Its title tells much of the story: “Survey finds Laptops, Tablets steady while Desktop PC ownership plunges.” There’s an even better picture of what’s reported. I reproduce it from page 6 of the stunning interactive report around which the story is based. Basically it shows that in the period from 2008 to 2018, tablets and laptops increasingly represent the computing platform of choice for end-users. As the same time use of (desktop) PCs for computing has declined by more than half. If I read the chart correctly, only 30% of users now turn to PCs for computing. But just over 60% use laptops for that purpose, and just under 60% of users turn to tablets likewise. That’s why I say Tablets and Laptops Supplant Desktop PCs.
Note that tablets and laptops are up, while desktops are down, reflecting a sea change in computing device use patterns and preferences.
Tablets and Laptops Supplant Desktop PCs for Good Reasons
Ofcom is the UK government’s regulatory agency for communications services, including broadband, home and mobile phone services, TV and radio, postal services, and even wireless devices such as walkie talkies, wireless auto keyfobs and even wireless doorbells (often, with surveillance cameras embedded). As far as I can tell, it serves the same role in the UK that the FCC does in the USA, plus a lot more. The organization’s role includes an educational mandate for users, and to handle and respond to customer complaints. Thus, their report is very much media and communications focused, it doesn’t really delve much into computing practices and behaviors, except to observe and quantify Internet and smart phone use. That said, I think I understand what’s driving a long-term shift from desktop PCs to tablet and laptop alternatives:
- Price: laptops and tablets are often cheaper, sometimes much cheaper, than desktop PCs. With many families desiring device-per-member usage this makes more sense for many of them.
- Mobility: For most desktop PCs, the user has to go to the machine and work in front of it. More mobile devices go to (or with) their users and fit better into typical multi-device modern media consumption habits. (My 14-year-old son, for example, seldom watches TV without also interacting with his iPhone.)
- Apps not Applications: Most users want the same capability on their computing devices that they get from their smartphones. Mobile computing devices do a better job of supporting that kind of experience. Although its popular, fewer users want Office on their smartphone than want their iPhone or Android apps on their computers.
The whole Ofcom report is well worth reading. Besides the amazing interactive charts they’ve put together, the narrative that accompanies the charts is also worth reading (PDF format). Be sure to check it out!
I am NOT a Dinosaur!
I have a cheerful confession to share. Indeed, the foregoing survey shows clearly declining use of desktops. We own 5 laptops (2 of which are hybrid tablets), 2 full-time tablets (both iPads), 4 smartphones, and 3 desktops here at Chez Tittel. When I have work to do, though, I will always turn to my production PC by choice. That’s because it has two good (and big) monitors. Let me explain.
A lot of what I do requires reading and checking stuff in one or more “input windows” while writing something related in at least one “output window.” That’s still not something I can do well on the road on a laptop just yet (though it’s fun to try). My needs are pretty special, though, and I do consider myself primarily a writer/researcher. Thus my desktop PC is my primary work instrument. When I’m working that’s what I use. As I think of how my family uses PCs, and how I use them when I’m not working, I’m inclined to agree wholesale with the findings of the Ofcom survey myself. I just wanted to observe that special circumstances, like mine, explain why the usage rate is still at 30% for 2018, and likely to stay that way for some time to come.
I found a fascinating explanation for the withdrawal and re-release of Windows 10 1809 today at Windows Central. It’s entitled “How a major bug in the Windows 10 October 2018 Update slipped past Microsoft.” Essentially, it explains that MS was well-acquainted with a bug that caused apparent (but not real) data loss after an OS upgrade. This occurs when Windows 10 creates a temporary account into which users boot up when the upgrade completes. Of course, they can’t access their Documents, Downloads, and more. That’s because the (temporary) account has its own and different library folders. Unfortunately, users reported the 1809 bug the same way. But this time it involved genuine, sometimes traumatic data loss. According to WinCentral, it took MS some time to understand this. Only then did they withdraw the October 2 build. That’s why I aver a false bug ID causes 1809 re-release.
The original Winver information for the first, much-maligned and occasionally buggy 1809 release from October 2. Luckily, none of my 4 PCs running this version fell prey to that bug.
Correcting False Bug ID Causes 1809 Re-Release
Here’s how WinCentral explains Microsoft’s initial take on the bug:
. . . Microsoft at some point added a popup in the temporary account that explains to the user that they have been booted into a different profile and provides support for how to get out of that state. This is why Microsoft seemingly dismissed the reports from Insiders that actually had their files deleted after installing the October Update. Engineers assumed those reports were related to the temporary account issue, which had already been addressed.
A long time ago, I took my first management job (1984, if you must know). Early on, my manager wrote this on his whiteboard: ASSUME = ASS+U+ME. His voice-over stated “When you assume things, you make an ass out of you and me.” Indeed, this homily remains as true now as it was back then, and seems to have bitten Microsoft soundly on the hindquarters this time around. MS is, however, trying to learn from this mistake, as you can see in the many mea culpas implicit in this recent Windows Insider Program blog post from Corporate VP Michael Fortin: “Windows 10 Quality approach for a complex ecosystem.”
All I can wonder is: “Can MS put itself back into good repute with Windows users?” Still way too early to tell. Saying the right things is easy. Doing them can be a completely different story. We’ll see, I guess!
Yesterday, while poking around on my Lenovo T520 I found something unexpected. A Windows.old folder was still hanging around. This, despite having upgraded more than 10 days ago to 1809, and also having cleaned up the previous OS install manually. “Hmmm,” I thought to myself, “wonder what it is this time?” When my usual techniques for stomping out persistent Windows.old failed, I turned to Google. I quickly learned that a specific command-line sequence kills resistant Windows.old files and folders.
This laconic answer to the lengthy MS.answers post fixed my problem, too.
I translated the network path shown into a purely local path so I could run the command right on the affected PC itself.
Which Command-line Sequence Kills Resistant Windows.old Files and Folders?
That command is:
rd /s /q %systemdrive%\Windows.old
Here rd stands for remove directory (also known as the rmdir command). /s stands for recurse, which instructs it to remove all dependent folders. /q stands for quiet, which means it ignores any error or other messages that Windows hands out during the deletion process. This turns out to be the key to extirpating the resistant folder structure.
When you run this command on your target PC, you will have to use the drive letter for its affected system drive. This may or may not be the usual C:. That’s because when you boot to an alternate OS image, drive assignments don’t often remain the same. I used Kyhi’s excellent Windows 10 Recovery Tools — Bootable Rescue Disk, which does preserve existing drive mappings. But if you use the built-in Windows Recovery environment, your old C: drive could show up as something else. Use diskpart to check, please!
Why This Folder Hierarchy Resists Deletion
The affected folder hierarchy explains why this item resists deletion. It looks like the following string, laid out in descending fashion. (It is, of course, all on one line in Windows. But I can’t reproduce that within a WordPress web page without unpredictable line breaks. Thus, I break it across 4 lines here.)
Users\<account-name>\AppData Local\Packages\ Cortana_cw5n1h2txyewy\ Localstate..
Note the two periods at the end of the final folder in the sequence. Note also that when I tried to examine this folder, Windows reports that the file can’t be found or doesn’t exist. Thus, what we’re dealing with here is a damaged file and folder structure. There’s actually no file at the bottom of this folder list — or at least, no file that I can see using File Explorer or normal command line inspection techniques. That also explains why my usual deletion methods don’t work. The preceding command sequence zaps whatever it finds, recursively (/s) and without stopping for error messages (/q) along the way. That does the trick!
[Note: I found this command string thanks to a post at Answers.Microsoft.com, which led me to this solution after my usual clean-up techniques failed. They work fine on intact file/folder structures, but this command is necessary to kill damaged or incomplete ones.]
Here’s an interesting Windows 10 gotcha to ponder. By default, on screens with True HD resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels) or better, Windows 10 defaults to 125% for its Scale and Layout in Settings → Display. At the same time, this very default prevents Event Viewer from offering event log choices in its “Create Custom …” dialog box. How do I know that default screen res kills event viewer log filtering? Simple. If you try to access the pull-down list for Event logs in the aforementioned dialog box, it works fine if the Scale and Layout setting is at 100%. Try it at the default 125% value on higher-res displays, and the pull down list fails to appear. You can try it yourself, if you like. This is what it looks like:
If you click the “By log” radio button, and its pulldown list shows nada, reset your Scale and Layout value to 100%. Then, it will work!
Fixing Defaults Screen Res Kills Event Viewer Log Filtering
I tried this issue on all of my PCs (every one of which has a True HD class monitor or better) and it affects every single one of them. That includes 1809 production releases (Build 17763), and the current Insider Preview (Build 18282). Over at TenForums, other users report that 1803 (Build 177134) is likewise affected. The fix is easy, if cumbersome: one need only reset the Scale and Layout value to 100% long enough to define the desired log filter, after which it can be reset to the default (or some other) value. If you make that Display settings change, here’s what you’ll see when you click the pulldown arrow for that item:
At 100% Scale and Layout, the pulldown is easily made visible.
Bizarre! It just goes to show you that Windows 10 is big, complex and convoluted enough that the odd eccentricity here or there is inevitable. I have no clue why or how this happens. That said, the gotcha is easily reproduced. It’s also worked around quite easily, too. This is a case of “fix it when you must; otherwise ignore.”
[Note: this gotcha is nicely documented at TenForums in a thread entitled “Event viewer on laptop–unable to create a custom view.” That thread’s original poster, user tfwul, also came up with the workaround I describe here. And so it goes, here in Windows-World!]
After installing Insider Preview 18227.1006 on my two test PCs earlier this week, I immediately encountered an interesting problem. Those two PCs are both Dells. One is a 2013 vintage Venue Pro 11 7130 (hybrid tablet PC, i5 mobile CPU, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB M.2 SATA SSD). The other is a 2014 XPS 2720 All-in-One (27″ touchscreen, Haswell i7, 16 GB RAM, 256 mSATA SSD). I usually remote into those PCs to work on them from my primary desktop. Imagine my shock and consternation when attempting to establish an RDP session to either one post-upgrade only to see . . . nothing. Or a black screen if you prefer something more descriptive, sometimes with the cursor showing, sometimes not. Troubleshooting that issue led me to some potentially useful RDP Win10 black screen fixes.
Try as I might, with all available tricks and sleights of hand, I still can’t see the remote desktop on the XPS 2720.
Initial Troubleshooting Before Finding RDP Win10 Black Screen Fixes
Alas, I’ve been down this road before, on earlier Insider Preview Win10 builds. So I checked all the more typical RDP-related settings before seeking other fixes out. The network status for both machines remained Private, as it should. Sharing options were correct, too: Discovery turned on, file and printer sharing turned on, password protected sharing off, public folder sharing turned on, and low-strength encryption likewise selected. I was also able to access shared folders in either direction across the network (from the production PC to the Insider Preview unit, and vice-versa). All things as they should be. So why the black screen?
Itemizing Potential RDP Win10 Black Screen Fixes
On the Venue Pro 11, I was able to verify the keyboard was working in the remote session. How? By entering CTRL-SHIFT-ESC I could see that Task Manager had launched on that machine when I returned to local control over the desktop. Knowing that the focus on the remote PC was inside that tool, I used the keyboard command Alt-F-N to open the “Run new task” window. Then, by running Explorer.exe I got my desktop back. It’s now working for remote access as it should be.
The XPS 27270 remains stubbornly resistant, though. My Win10.Guru business partner and friend Kari mentioned that the CTRL-ALT-END key sequence will often restore the desktop to visibility, or provide a menu entry to get to Task Manager. No dice. Not even CTRL-SHIFT-ESC works on that connection to open up Task Manager more directly. Even the graphics card reset sequence (SHIFT-CTRL-WinKey-B) doesn’t help. I even tried to launch an RDP session from a different PC. It takes me through the login sequence, shows me the certificate warning, and then I see the same black screen. No cursor, no apparent keyboard input working. Looks like this one’s well and truly stuck!
So I’ve filed a problem report with Microsoft via the Feedback Hub for that PC. Hopefully, a fix will be forthcoming soon. Plus, I’ll keep trying to see if I can figure out some way to get the RDP link to the XPS 2720 to work by hook or by crook.
[NOTE: Added 11/28 late afternoon]
I don’t know what MS did, but RDP has resumed working normally on both Dell test machines. I kept beavering away at the XPS 2720 to get RDP working on my own, but went through Builds 18277 and 18282 with no success. Today, after installing Build 18290, RDP has returned to normal, dependable operation. Such is life for those who test the Insider Previews. But because I use RDP to work on my test machines, I’m very, very glad that this glitch has been fixed. I did learn a lot about working with RDP connections though, so it was a positive experience overall.
OK, then. MS fired off a series of items on November 13. This includes a cumulative update that takes existing 1809 installs to Build 17763.134, plus access to 1809 in upgrade or ISO form on the Download Windows 10 page. Thus, 40 days after the first release was withdrawn on October 5, 1809 makes its official reappearance. That’s why I declaim: Win10 1809 is re-released!
Once again the Win10 Download Page is serving up 1809!
[Click image for full-sized view.]
How Win10 1809 Is Re-released Affects Those Already Running 1809
If you, like me, jumped on 1809 and got it installed before that release was withdrawn, no worries. You need simply install KB4567708, which is available through Windows Update (WU) or via download from the Microsoft Catalog (32-bit/x86 and 64-bit/x64 versions). On all machines I’d upgraded in October, they went from Build 17763.55 to 17763.134 without difficulty or undue delay.
If you, also like me, decided to join the Insider Preview for apps, updates and hotfixes only, you can return to the main branch as I did yesterday. This means updating first to KB4464455, which takes you to Build 17763.107. Then, you must visit the Insider Preview page under Settings → Update & Security, and exit the Insider Program there. You will have to restart your PC once (or twice, as in my case, for whatever odd reason). Then, you’re back in the 1809 mainstream. After you apply KB4567708, your PC will be at Build 17763.134, all caught up. This took some time (for all the reboots, mostly) but worked without issue, too.
How Win10 1809 Is Re-released Affects Those Running 1803
You have two paths to get to Build 17763.134. First, you can wait for WU to offer you the upgrade. This offer seems to be pretty readily forthcoming for the membership at TenForums, where over 50 people reported receiving the upgrade via WU yesterday. Or, you can visit the afore-linked Windows 10 Download Page and use the Update Assistant or build yourself an installation UFD using the Media Creation Tool.
Let the games begin! 1809 is back.
Here’s a shout-out to my business partner’s take on the re-release over at Win10.Guru. It’s entitled “Windows 10 October Update version 1809 finally released” and it shares a more nuanced and jaundiced view of what the Windows and Insider teams are up to at Microsoft.
OK, let’s start today’s blog post with an assumption. Let’s assume that you actually succeeded in installing the 1809 release on one or more PCs. This must have occurred during the 3-day period between release on Tuesday October 2 and Friday October 5. That’s when MS withdrew the release from circulation upon discovery of a data loss bug related to OneDrive and User folder contents. I myself successfully installed 1809 on 4 PCs here at Chez Tittel. These included my production desktop, both Lenovo laptops, and my wife’s mini-ITX desktop PC. Imagine my horror and consternation when I saw a HowToGeek story last Friday. It’s entitled “Millions of PCs Running Windows 10’s October Update Haven’t Received Critical Fixes.” That’s right: 1809 users missing critical fixes is the way things stand for those who did achieve the upgrade. What’s up with that?
What Does 109 Users Missing Critical Fixes Mean?
According to the HowToGeek story’s lead paragraph this is the situation:
Microsoft has spent that last month frantically fixing bugs in Windows 10’s October 2018 Update. But, if you’re one of the millions of people who installed the update when it was available, you haven’t actually been getting those bug-fix updates!
HowToGeek turns to another Friday ZDNet news story from Ed Bott to obtain this news, and to describe a fix. The story is “Windows-as-a-service fail: Microsoft keeps customers in the dark.” Here’s the net-net, straight from Mr. Bott himself:
Microsoft says all of those issues were fixed in cumulative updates that were released on October 16 and October 20, respectively. But if you were one of the enthusiastic souls who downloaded and installed version 1809 in the first week that it was available, you have not received those updates. To get the fixes for what are undeniably serious bugs in a version of Windows 10 that was released through public channels, you have to add your device to the Windows Insider Program and choose the Slow or Release Preview Ring.
Mr. Bott goes onto observe that it’s “not right” that 1809 users must sign up for Insider Preview access to fix an OS released to production. FWIW, I agree. He also opines that MS hasn’t been doing anywhere near an optimal or even acceptable job of communicating with Win10 users about bugs, fixes, and open issues. I concur with that, too. But fortunately the fix for this issue is pretty easy.
Implementing the Fix for 1809 Users
Assuming that some readers, like me, did upgrade one or more machines to 1809 already, here’s a relevant screen cap that shows the proper Insider Preview settings to open WU to deliver you those missing updates:
This level of sign-up won’t queue you up for additional Insider Preview upgrades. It only signs you up for updates and fixes to your current OS level at the preview level.
You do have to restart your PC to put this setting in effect. After I did this, KB4464455 showed up, ready for installation (and another restart) on my PCs. [Note: KB4464455 is NOT available through the Update Catalog, either.] Interestingly, the PC restarted twice while installing the update. The first time it didn’t show the spinning balls and the “Installing updates” message prior to the restart; the second time it did. There’s something interesting involved in climbing into the Insider Preview program for updates only, apparently.
Holy Moly! I ran into an interesting issue yesterday when trying to update one of my Insider Preview test machines to Build 18277. The update kept failing with error messages that indicated access/permission problems downloading updates. When I switched from Windows Update to David Xanatos’ excellent Windows Update Manager (WUMgr.exe) program, I saw an endless series of HTTP 403 “access forbidden” error messages each time the update engine tried to grab a package. “Hmmmm” I thought to myself, “something odd going on here.” Then I remembered a TenForums post I’d seen earlier in the day: MSFT acknowledges some Win10 Pro licenses being mistakenly deactivated. “Could this be my problem?,” I wondered. Sure enough, when I visited the activation page in Settings, I confirmed for myself that MS Activation Server issues temporarily negate Win10 licenses. Check it out:
Not only does the license show up as deactivated, the troubleshooter claims it’s Win10 Home and needs a reinstall. Ouch!
Fixing MS Activation Server Issues Temporarily Negate Win10 Licenses Is Easy
Once MS realized it had this problem, it went all out to fix it. Within half a day, two simple methods now set things right if this happens to you. (Note: some reports affecting Windows 10 Enterprise users have surfaced, as well as Windows 10 Pro users. The symptoms and fixes are the same for both editions.)
Re-run the Troubleshooter
Now that the Activation Server issues have been addressed, running the Activation Troubleshooter will restore the digital license that belongs to affected installations. Appears as a link labeled “Activation Troubleshooter” on PCs in need of activation on the afore-depicted Activation Settings page. Takes a minute or so to complete.
Use the Software Licensing Management Tool (Command Line)
A faster, more direct method involves running either an administrative Command Prompt or Power Shell session with a single command. Here’s an illustrative snapshot. I ran this on those two of my PCs affected by the issue and it worked in 30 seconds or so. Easy-peasy.
After you run the slmgr /ato command, wait for the WSH pop-up and click OK. That’s it!
All’s well that ends well, they say. I’m guessing that Microsoft, perhaps even more than those with PCs affected by this issue, wishes it had never happened in the first place. Alas, however, that’s life in WindowsWorld!
Here’s an interesting feature that’s just appeared in the latest insider preview (Build 18272). If you hold down the Control (CTRL) key and use stretch controls, you can shrink or grow PowerShell, Command Prompt, or Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) windows. Here, stretch controls encompass shrink/grow gestures on trackpads as well as up or down motions on mouse scroll wheels. This beats the stuffing out of right-clicking on the title bar to manage font size selection, and using more traditional method to shrink and grow windows. Because new Win10 zoom controls are coming to future versions, only insiders can play with this capability right now. But I just tried it out on both PowerShell and Command Prompt windows and it’s way cool and convenient.
Soon, you’ll be able to use stretch controls to resize command window text as well as window size.
How Soon New Win10 Zoom Controls Are Coming?
Unless MS decides to slide this functionality into Windows Update sooner, these new controls won’t hit Win10 until next year. If history is any guide, that means everyday users will gain this nifty function between April and June of 2019. I learned this tidbit from Martin Brinkmann at ghacks.net. He posted “Windows 10 version 1903 may feature command prompt zooming” on November 7. His description of this process is accurate and concise:
All you need to do is hold down the Ctrl-key on the keyboard and use the mousewheel or trackpad to zoom in or out. The shortcut is the same that you may use in modern desktop browsers to zoom in or out of page content but the effect is different.
What’s cool, of course, is that the zoom effect here works for the entire command window (PowerShell, cmd.exe, or WSL). The best part is that text size increases based on window dimensions (bigger windows have bigger text, smaller windows vice-versa). For somebody my age who now squints at the fine print even wearing glasses, this is very welcome. Helps make Windows 10 more geezer-friendly, and I’m all for that!
Lord knows, Win10 has occasional gotchas and weirdnesses. Browsing TenForums, I noticed an interesting discussion on ejecting USB drives. Users may click the toolbar item labeled “Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media” at their discretion. But apparently, it doesn’t always produce the “Safe to Remove Hardware” notification shown below. Though there are ways that sometimes work to restore notifications — see this TF thread for discussion — this doesn’t always work for all users. That’s when this handy Win10 USB eject tool comes in handy. It’s free from Quick and Easy Software and it’s called USB Disk Ejector.
When notifications work as they should, this is what Win10 shows when you use its built-in Safe to Remove utility.
Why Use a Handy Win10 USB Eject Tool Instead?
When the confirmation message fails to appear, there’s a certain amount of trepidation as to whether or not it really IS safe to remove the selected USB (or removable media) item. And because some users can’t fix the notification issue using Settings or underlying registry keys, an alternative makes sense. USB Disk Ejector is one such alternative. It pops up in the lower right-hand corner of the display (in the same place as Taskbar notifications). It lets you interact with USB and removable media devices directly. And when a device is ejected or removed, it changes the display to reflect that change in status immediately.
With something to eject, USB Disk Ejector lets you pick an item from its interface.
Once ejected, the device entry is removed from USB Disk Eject’s list of devices.
In my book, this is a useful little utility that can help some users work around a minor Win10 gotcha. Use it if you need it, but feel free to skip it if you don’t. In my recent experience, USB Disk Eject is quick and easy to use, entirely portable (runs just fine from a UFD), and even works from the command line. Best of all, if its developers have things right the tool succeeds in ejecting disks even when the built-in facility fails in that job. Oh, and it’s Open Source, too (code available from GitHub).
[Note: Thanks to long-time TenForums Pro User Callendar for bringing this excellent utility to my attention. Always glad to find cool tools!]