Dear Microsoft,

The “new, improved, consistent-across-all-devices” 4-column layout in OneNote sucks shit through a straw. Having full-height columns for notebooks, sections, and pages taking up half the window is an incredible waste of space, and a horrible navigation method. It sucks on a tablet. It sucks worse on a laptop.

Windows Subsystem for Linux

Very rough at the moment, with lots of issues that make it an early Beta, but it was nice to be able to scp over the save-hacking bash script I just wrote and have it Just Work, including creating a symlink to the save directory used by the Windows version of the game so that I could easily go back-and-forth between editing and testing. The supplied version of Ubuntu came with an old version of JQ, but I just grabbed the latest Linux binary with wget and all was well.

I’m going to try to build a decent Perl environment with Perlbrew, so that it survives reinstalls and upgrades. Then I can have some fun. If they ever get the Japanese IME working with WSL (or more precisely, their console window), I can have real fun.

Ain’t it the truth?

"It's taking a bit longer than usual, but it should be ready soon"
    -- Windows 10 installer on a Lenovo S12

That’s what she (Cortana) said.

Dear Microsoft,

[Update 10/15: Ars Technica reports that Microsoft has called this a “mistake” and promised to fix it in the next update.]

I’d like to say a hearty “fuck you” to the person who decided that the optional update “Upgrade to Windows 10 Pro” should be selected by default. I caught it in time, but damn. That’s “anal probe with a rusty crowbar” behavior.

Windows10 rat bastards

[Update: this isn’t happening to everyone, so I suspect the fact that this device is a Surface Pro 2 is the reason. They may pull this stunt on other users later, but someone likely decided that people who owned a Microsoft-branded tablet would be thrilled rather than appalled. They’re wrong, of course, since there’s no way to undo it and they removed full system backup/restore in Windows 8 (Acronis works nicely). They seem to think that their “system restore” functionality plus user-data backups is sufficient, neglecting the days of work it would take to reconfigure applications and restore data that isn’t covered by their partial backups.]

[Update: at this point, it looks like the auto-install kicks off if the background downloader has successfully finished copying the N-gig image to your hard drive. If you don’t leave your machine on unattended for long periods of time, you might not get the surprise for a while.]

Dear Microsoft,

I think I speak for every network manager and privacy advocate in the world when I say, “fuck you with a rusty crowbar”.

For those who don’t know, one of the features in the Windows 10 beta (and already in the field in Windows Phone 8.1) is WiFi Sense. The short version is, if you share your wireless access with someone, you’re now potentially sharing it with everyone on their contacts list from, Skype, and even Facebook if they link their accounts.

And the network owner can’t stop them from sharing the password, or even find out that it’s happened. MS offers only one way to prevent this from happening, and that’s changing your network’s SSID to contain the string “_optout”. (This article notes that Google has their own magic string to prevent your wireless from being mapped by their cars, so the new hotness is “_optout_nomap”. No doubt Apple will jump on the bandwagon as well, and next year it will have to be “_optout_nomap_nocandyfromstrangers”).

They claim it will only give limited access to all these strangers, and not let them see anything else that’s on your home network, but that requires that we not only believe that there are no security holes in a Microsoft product, but that the raw password is securely stored in three different online services and every stranger’s device.

The only real defense is to use WPA2 Enterprise authentication, which requires a Radius server. Unfortunately, a lot of consumer-grade wireless-only products won’t do that at all. Last time I tried to get a Kindle to use it, it detected it but never actually sent the username/password combination.

[Update: Microsoft’s FAQ for this misfeature includes the statement:

It can take several days for your network to be added to the opted-out list for Wi-Fi Sense. If you want to stop your network from being shared sooner than that, you can change your Wi-Fi network password.

Crowbar, Rusty. Rinse and repeat.]

[Update: just tested a Kindle Paperwhite against a WPA2 Enterprise wireless running TTLS/PAP user-based authentication. It sent an empty password, so no, you can’t protect your home wireless from Wifi Sense if you plan to connect common small devices to it.]

Looks like a hammer to me…

Our executive admin came by asking if there was anything she could use to convert some photos from color to black-and-white. Assorted people have Photoshop, but she didn’t want to take up anyone else’s time, she just needed something quick to paste into a slide/report/whatever.

Trivial with on a Mac (in fact, hard to avoid, since the misnamed app autosaves even accidental changes made to any image or PDF you view…), but she couldn’t find anything in a stock Windows 7 install that would do it. I vaguely remembered having tripped over some image-modifying tools in Microsoft Word, so I pasted a work-safe sample photo into a new document, right-clicked, selected the obvious-looking “Format Picture…” item, and found tools for cropping, resizing, and recoloring. Ten seconds later, I right-clicked the photo again, selected “Save as Picture…”, and we were done.

Microsoft Surface Power Cover

Microsoft finally released the Surface Power Cover recently, and it was worth the wait.

There is only one downside: the keys aren’t backlit, like the standard Touch and Type Covers. I can’t imagine why they did this, since the set of people who want significantly more battery life and don’t want a backlighting option has to be pretty small.

Physically, it’s twice as thick and twice as heavy as the standard Type Cover, giving my Surface Pro 2 more of a netbook feel to carry, but not unpleasantly so. It came with a warning label telling you to make sure you have all the latest software updates before attaching it, but since I preordered mine the moment they flipped the switch on the Microsoft site, I got it the day before the official release date, and the firmware updates didn’t show up until the next day. It worked fine, though, and after the update, the battery levels were tracked separately.

How well does it work? Well, I just finished 45 minutes on the elliptical with a ripped Bluray disc playing, at 2/3 volume and 100% brightness, with WiFi turned on. The system reported that I had just over 15 hours of battery life left, and based on how the Pro 2 has performed the past few months, I believe it.

Aero considered harmful

Outlook 2013 started breaking for our users last week. Only some of them, and not all at the same time, but the symptom was that the application would no longer start, hanging at the “loading profile…” screen.

The solution is to switch to the “Windows 7 Basic” graphical theme, turning off all the 3D UI decorations.

No, seriously.

And that’s about four days of sysadmin time that we’d like back, please.

“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”