Posts tagged: windows

Linux, 2017!

First of all, please do not read this post as a complain. Just as an analysis. I am a Linux user for decades. I remember using Linux in my first year of University, somewhere about 1996. I never stopped using Linux, in the server, but during some years, somewhere between 2002 and 2017 I was a Mac user for the desktop (one PPC Mac Book, two Intel Mac Book Pro). Back to the beginning of 2017 I needed an update, and decided to go back to Linux. Mostly because of the price of a decent Mac Book Pro when compared with a generic laptop. I decided on a Dell, and without a lot of thinking, decided on a Dell with a 4K display. Well, I had a hard time trying to install a distribution. Tried Mint, Debian and Ubuntu. Curiously, all gave trouble with UEFI boot, but the one that ended up installing a working Linux was Mint Given it is Debian based, I can keep up with the Debian updates, and install most packages available only for Ubuntu.

While I see some applications getting better, from 2002 to 2017, it seems Linux community continues rewriting the wheel. I can’t see any big difference from what I am experiencing today in the desktop with what I was experiencing earlier with Gnome 1. Yes, the code was changed. It might be more stable, faster, support a couple of new things. But it seems we continue rewriting and rewriting the same old applications.

Then there is the issue with a 4K display. Even if GTK3 has support for High DPI screens, a lot of  applications are not written for this toolkit. And I am not sure, at all, that this is something that need to be managed by the graphical toolkit. I still think it is a Xorg issue, where we should be able to define DPIs for each screen, and have the basic low-level tools scale everything. As this is how I see things, I decided today to look to the blog of Xorg. And it doesn’t have news since 2013. As I could read, now most work is done as independent libraries. Nevertheless, it is strange no changes were needed to be done in 4 years.

Also curious that a bunch of applications using node.js are being working great. Examples are GitKraken, Code, Atom, Franz… and even Sublime is working great on 4K (even if it has some other issues). Unfortunately Unity3d is not working properly in 4K, but that looks more like an issue with their own GUI system, than anything else (but then, if Xorg took care of things, maybe it would work great, just like it works acceptably under Windows). But other things, like old Gtk, Xlib, QT or even Java applications still look like needing a microscope to be read.

So, here I am, with a shiny new laptop, deciding to keep Linux, or getting back to.. huh.. windows! Yeah, I do dual boot, but I like Linux for most things. But some aren’t possible As a teacher, I know I will have problems when trying to use a beamer. When connecting an external display, everything will look monstrous. Or I can change the resolution on the built-in screen, go searching the HiDPI switch, turn it of, restart the session for it to be correctly applied, and then use the laptop. Shame.

And yes, I know a lot of this is my fault. If I did not change to Mac, and if like me other hundred of developers didn’t do the same, probably we would have a lot more Linux users, writing and patching these applications. Or we would just end up with a lot of more distributions, a lot more window manager, but with the same main issues.

At last, but not less important, I would like to thank you to everyone that is still working on Linux making it better. I know this is not a paid job. I know you (and I) do what we want, and what makes us happy. That is why this is not a complain text. Just looking to what I see, without pointing any fingers.



Windows 8.1, lock screen and flickering

Windows 8.1 Default Lock Screen

Windows 8.1 Default Lock Screen

Mostly sure you recognize this screen from Windows 8.1. This is the default picture, at least for some Windows 8.1 installations, used in the lock screen. A lot of users do not change it, as it is used in a few circumstances. Nevertheless, I changed it. And it made me shiver on Windows 8.1 implementation details. Although it is really fast booting, when compared with other Windows versions, I still see things I would prefer not to. Namely, before the picture I chose for the lock screen be shown, the screen flickers and I see.. yes, the default picture shown above. This means that the operating system is loading this image from disk, even when it is not needed. Couldn’t the system load the user defined picture and, only if it does not find it, load the default picture? Wouldn’t that be faster?

Also, Windows 8.1 is out, a lot of fixes, and the “dots animation” on the busy screens are not yet fixed? Any of my students would make that animation correctly. Yeah, look to it with caution, and you’ll see what I mean.

B62xj9FCUAA3YoC.png largeAbout two months ago I discovered the existence of, a free editor from the GitHub team. This fact, being from the GitHub team, made me wonder. There are not good editors for Windows. I usually use Notepad++ that is great, but somewhat limited on extensibility. When I use Mac OS X or Linux, I usually use Emacs or Vim. I know there are versions of Emacs or Vim for Windows, but I got curious on the editor. But unfortunately I did not like it. It is quite heavy starting, the UI is not very polished and there isn’t native support for LaTeX. I know the idea of this editor is to be extensible, but when something gets completely community driven, diverse modules or packages for the same purpose appear, and it gets difficult to know what to install.

Nevertheless, I did not quit at first. I got into the package manager and tried to install a LaTeX package. The first package I found should, at least, allow me to compile a tex file directly from the editor. After about 3 minutes installing a package (too much time for such a limited package) I tried to compile the LaTeX document and I did not get any feedback. Neither that the plugin was invoked or that it wasn’t; if the file was compiled, or not. Nothing. I didn’t even get LaTeX highlight.

Please, crew. Look into Notepad++. Look to its size. Look to how fast it starts. Look to the amount of different languages syntax he supports.

So, at the moment, wondering if I’ll install Sublime, Gvim or some Emacs.

Windows 8.1, 32bits, 64bits, and MBR or EFI or GPT disks

Laptop-hard-drive-exposedI am no expert, so I am sorry if I say anything wrong. Please correct me, in that case. But I had some experiments installing Windows 8.1 from DVD into a recent Lenovo laptop, and had some issues with hard disk drive and the format it was into.

Well, it seems that recent laptops (and probably also workstations) use a new kind of format to store the partition table of the disks. It is, somehow, related to EFI. So, if you have a disk drive in EFI mode, you will be able to create more than 4 primary partitions (no need for creating an extended one, and then create others inside).

If you try to install Windows 8.1, 32 bits, it will expect a disk to be in MBR (master boot record) mode. If your disk is in EFI mode, your best solution is to delete all partitions (be careful, you will lose data) and create new ones. Probably you will need to delete them all, use the next button and let Windows use the entire disk, or if you want a specific partition schema, cancel the installation, reboot, and with luck you will be able to create a typical MBR partition table.

The other way around, if you try to install Windows 8.1, 64 bits, it will expect a disk to be in EFI mode, and if it is in MBR mode you will need to… you guess it… delete all partitions, and go next.

You might also find gParted to be helpful in this process.

Another interesting information: Windows 8.1 32 bits does not detect a Full HD display.  With the 64 bits display, installation procedure was all in Full HD. Also, the 64 bits was able to pull drivers automatically (namely for wireless). The 32 bits didn’t.

Nine tools I can’t live without (for Windows)

First, a relevant disclaimer: I use Windows mostly for two purposes, test my Perl modules under a Windows environment, and printing some stuff as my Mac sometimes can’t find some Windows printers in the network. This said, my Windows runs in a virtual machine, and I install these tools right after installing Windows.


The first thing you need to know is that Windows does not include a web browser. It includes a tool that is mainly used to download a Web browser. Its name is Internet Explorer, and you can use it to download Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari or Opera. In my main machine, I use Firefox. There are some features that I like that are not available on other browsers. But for my virtual machine I need a tool to check my mail, and to download some other tools. Not much more.


Now I am cheating. In my virtual machine I do not have an antivirus installed. It is too easy to reinstall a new virtual machine, and you all know that an antivirus running is wasting some resources that can be relevant for virtual machines. Nevertheless, I want to suggest two antivirus. In fact, I suggest these two because they are the two I install when I need one (note that I do not install both, I install one or other). I am not sure what is the best. Avira seems to be lighter, AVG seems to be more professional and heavy.

Both these antivirus software have their professional paid version. This means that if you like their performance, you can buy the paid version for better protection. They also include some functionality that are common on current antivirus software, like trojan detection and web site security.



I need to transfer files to and from my Mac and/or Linux servers to the Windows machine. For that I can make the file available to download, or I can use a tool to copy files. As FTP is not that secure, the best approach is to use SCP or Secure Copy. For that, I suggest WinSCP tool. It also support FTP, but its main strength is the ability to use the SSH protocol.

A similar necessity raises when I need to connect to a Linux server from Windows. Again, I do not need this when using a virtual machine, as I can use a terminal from the host machine to ssh anywhere I want. But if you have a dual boot machine, or you just work on windows, then you will need this. Putty is the better telnet/ssh client I ever seen for Windows. It not only supports ssh, but it also supports ssh keys, making your connection even more secure.

Version Control

My main repository of code is still a SubVersion one. I am now using GitHub a lot, too, but my main tools are still in the old SVN repository. To checkout and commit from Windows I use TortoiseSVN. Not only because it has a nice and cute logo, but because it integrates perfectly in Explorer. Also, I love a recent feature, where TortoiseSVN commit message window auto-completes your commit messages with the filenames or contents of the modified files. Very cool.

Text Editor

I do not use that much Windows to have a dedicated IDE. I usually use Notepad++ for my editing needs. It knows about file encoding, it knows about end-of-line differences among operating systems, it knows how to highlight main programming languages, it is light and easy to use. It is not full of features, but I do not need them. Or at least, I think I don’t. Also, I confess I never dig much all of its potentialities.

Programming Language

My main programming language is Perl. I occasionally need some C, and some of my Perl modules link to C and C++. So, to fill my need for these three programming languages I choose to install Strawberry Perl. I never ever used Perl with so ease in Windows before Strawberry Perl. It supports more than 90% of CPAN modules, and it includes a C and C++ compilers (gcc based) and a make command. What else one needs?

Compression Tool

Windows knows (it its recent incarnations) about what are zip files. But it ignores all about rar, gzip, bzip2 or tar files. Most Perl modules come in tgz format, so I need a tool to extract them. Most people tend to use WinRar or 7zip. I am not sure why, but I prefer IzArc. It is lightweight, supports most compression algorithms, and integrate pretty well with explorer.

PDF Visualizer

If up to now I defended the use of lightweight applications, now I’m going to the other side, and my choice to read PDF documents is Adobe Reader. There are other free and more lightweight applications, like FoxIt Reader, but I had so many trouble with PDFs and PDFs compatibility that I prefer to have the application from the PDF creators. I know that doesn’t mean much, but at least it can work as an excuse.

What I miss…

There are some tools that I miss. First, I miss a decent command prompt window. One that let me select text, copy and paste easily, that let me make full screen, that let me change easily the font, and not just some stupid predefined sizes. Together with this, a decent command prompt, or shell, with better completion, better prompt configuration, better history, etc. To install cygwin is not an option. For that, I would use linux.

Also, and as I stated above, now I am using GitHub a lot. Then, I miss a Git client. I tried TortoiseGit but it didn’t work well for me. Probably it was a beta release, and now it is better. I need to test. I used the Git binary, that includes a Git shell, and mostly works. But it do not integrate well with the operating system.

Microsoft punishes the web, once more.

Microsoft just released Internet Explorer 9. With it, it included some valuable improvements on the way IE visualize current Web standard. We can argue that it doesn’t support what it should, but any improvement Microsoft can do in IE is positive, so that people stop using relics like IE5.

But this is not the case.

Microsoft take the chance to advertise Windows 7 and make people spend their (few) money on new licenses. Yes, Internet Explorer 9 is only available if you are running the last version of Windows 7. This basically means that everybody that still used IE5 or IE6 will continue to use IE5 or IE6.

Unfortunately, once more, Microsoft punishes the Web in favor of their own good.

Windows Versions

winLast night was thinking on Windows, and its version numbering. I remember Windows 3.1. It was the last windows to have a number version before the recent Windows 7. That means we had 3 versions of windows that had being named other things. As we had more than 3 windows versions in this time, that means that some of them were not considered by Microsoft as major versions but as revisions (or crap).

Let us look at the list (I am omitting NT versions deliberately):

  • Windows 95
  • Windows 98
  • Windows 2000
  • Windows ME
  • Windows XP
  • Windows Vista

I think there is no doubt that Windows 95 was a new version, major release. Let’s call it Windows 4. In turn, Windows 98, while more stable than Windows 95, did not bring much novelty. At the moment the biggest change I recall is USB support. But there are other enhancements, I am sure. But we can not call it Windows 5 or we waste all versions too fast.

Windows 2000 was the first try to merge NT with Windows desktop.  I recall to use it a lot of time, and it was stable (well, stable for a Windows). News? At least NTFS support and the supposed stability of NT. I think we should call it Windows 5.

About Windows ME, I think I do not have to make any comment. It is not a major version nor a minor version. I think it is not an operating system at all. I think that, from the list, it is the worst piece of software to date. Including Vista.

Follows Windows XP. This one is running for some time, and did not disappear with Vista. Unfortunately (for Microsoft), it made the Windows XP usage higher. Nobody really used or use Vista for work. If they say they do, they do not work. Therefore, Windows XP is Windows 6. No doubts, there.

Vista, accordingly with Microsoft, should be the successor, a major release. Unfortunately (for them) this piece of software is crap. I can not call it a minor version of Windows XP, nor a major version of Windows. I think Microsoft understood that, and that is why they are calling 7 to the new Windows version.