Archive for January, 2013

Apparently I’m not the only one…

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

I’m a regular reader of John Scalzi’s blog. He recently bought a snazzy new computer that, of course, came with Windows 8. He’s been posting his reactions, and today he added the following opinion about the Windows 8 workflow, and the Start Page in particular:

You have to stop what you’re doing, fire up a separate screen that obscures everything you’re working on, and locate a program in a tile (you can also type in the program name and then click on the result, but you still have to first leave your work environment). It’s a hassle, but more than a hassle it’s an arbitrary imposition of the UI on actual workflow. Or to put it more bluntly: Windows 8 is wasting my time, and for no good reason.

It’s not the sparkly computer’s fault, it was Win8. So now I’ve fixed that part of Win8 that was annoying me.

He’s using Stardock’s “Start 8” program to serve this purpose. I will probably be checking this out (or some similar alternate) myself.

8 Days of Windows 8: Part 2, GUIs Gone Wild!

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

Technically we’re up to 12 days now, and no, this isn’t some sort-of voyeuristic post for graphics designers. It is, as before, a few comments on my initial take on Windows 8.

Any readers who’ve had a cell phone longer than they could drive, probably won’t understand this analogy, but for those who do, consider for a moment Windows 3.1 (aka “Windows for Workgroups“).[1] Remember when you tried to find your programs (before they were called applications, let a lone “apps”), and you sort-of visually searched around for a little rectangle that represented the thing you wanted? Sometimes though, it wouldn’t work quite right until you exited to DOS and ran the program from the real operating system hiding in the background? Sure there were a few snazzy programs (mostly written by Microsoft) that would actually work within the Windows environment, but most of the really powerful stuff (or really good games) left Windows behind and lived elsewhere. This, my friends, is pretty much how Windows 8 feels to me.

If you want some examples of why Win8 feels more like a colorful paint-job than an operating system, keep on below the fold. Otherwise, there is some good news which I’ll save for the next post.

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  1. For what it’s worth, I have Windows 3.1.1 floppy disks in my lower left desk drawer. They are, in fact, the beginning of the long chain of Windows OS upgrades that leads my upgrade licenses all the way to this post. []

8 Days of Windows 8: Part 1: Quiet, too quiet?

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I installed Windows 8 on my game computer. A few weeks prior, the Win8 pro upgrades were on sale for $40. Inevitably, they were on sale for even less (perhaps $25?) a week or so later. In any case, I’m sure that over the long run they’ll cost more. So I picked up to upgrade licenses, one for my machine, and one for another of the three Win7 boxes we have in the house.

I also picked up a free (until the end of January) Windows Media Center add-on since this is a feature we use on K’s machine currently to record broadcast TV.

The install was, well, mostly-harmless. Not exactly a glowing review, but I think appropriate so far. Details on the install follow. More on what works and what doesn’t work (so far) tomorrow.

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How to Make CH Products Controllers Wake Up in Windows 7 (and 8)

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

A while back I picked up a set of CH Products game controllers on eBay. This set included the Pro Pedals[1], the Pro Throttle, and the Fighterstick [2].

They are very well built and I expect them to last essentially forever (or at least until USB is obsolete). There was only one problem, when my PC[3] woke back up from hibernate, the controllers wouldn’t work. I discovered that I could use the CH Control Manager to rescan for them to workaround the problem, but this was still a bit annoying.

After contacting CH Products about the issue, they told me that if I sent them the controllers they would update the firmware to resolve the issue. The charge was only $10 per controller (for return shipping), but having just gotten used to them, I didn’t want to be without them for several weeks. Instead, I did a bit more troubleshooting.

My workaround is quite effective and involves four parts:

  1. USBDeview.exe: An application which allows you to view, enable and disable any USB attached devices.
  2. resetChProducts.bat: A batch file which uses USBDeview to disable, then enable all CH Products devices by product ID. (in attached zip file)
  3. runResetChProducts.vbs: A VisualBasic script which runs a batch file without opening a window[4] (in attached zip file)
  4. wscript.exe: A built-in component of Windows which allows execution of Visual Basic Scripts.

I installed USBDeview and used it to determine the Product ID of the CH products devices (0x068e). The scripts expect the install location to be C:\Program Files\USBDeview. I also put them in the same folder. The VB Script simply invokes the batch script without creating a window. The batch script disables all the devices which match this ID, then immediately enables them again. The final piece of the puzzle, was to use the Windows Task Scheduler to run the whole shebang automatically. In this case I used “On workstation unlock of any user” as a trigger for the command: wscript.exe “C:\Program Files\USBDeview\runResetChProducts.vbs”

Now every time I log in, the lights on the controllers blink once, and they’re good to go.

Update:
I discovered an issue in Win8 I didn’t have in Win7, which is that my devices seem to enable in an arbitrary order. As a result, the joystick mappings (i.e. numbers) in my games change from one start-up to the next. To work around this, I change the bat file to enable the devices in an order I prescribe. As follows:

REM Disable, then re-enable all devices with the CH Products VendorID
"C:\Program Files\USBDeview\USBDeview.exe" /disable_by_pid 068e
"C:\Program Files\USBDeview\USBDeview.exe" /enable_by_pid 068e;00f3
"C:\Program Files\USBDeview\USBDeview.exe" /enable_by_pid 068e;00f2
"C:\Program Files\USBDeview\USBDeview.exe" /enable_by_pid 068e;00f1

  1. Replacing a heavily worn, but still working set I’ve had for over a decade of the old game-port variety. []
  2. Replacing a MS Precision 2. []
  3. Running Windows 7 Pro, 64-bit. I’ve since determined that this continues to work for Windows 8 Pro 64-bit. []
  4. Thanks to Hey, Scripting Guy Blog for the code I generated this from. []

Because I can.

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

I’m simultaneously hacking the installer for the 1997 classic X-Wing vs Tie Fighter so it will run on my 64-bit Windows 7 machine[1] AND preparing another machine for a Windows 8 upgrade.

So for the new year I’m looking forwards while enjoying the past.

How’s your day?

  1. Thanks to Markus Egger []