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Windows 8 Tips and Shortcuts

Bugs Bunny -courtesy of Warner Bros.

Bugs Bunny -courtesy of Warner Bros.

One thing is definite in the world of IT: change.

Windows 8 is a massive step away from the way we were doing things just four or five months ago. As our laptops and desktops age, and we turn to retail sales outlets to provide us with our much needed “tech fix,” we also get saddled with Windows 8. While it is possible to downgrade your system to Windows 7, provided the company who made your system provides drivers for each component, it is simply easier to adjust and roll with Windows 8.

Now I’m not a fan of the OS. It’s got a learning curve and while it’s not ridiculous, it’s not exactly intuitive. So the trick is to make Windows 8 work for you and you alone.

Here is the first step… getting your start menu back. There are three ways to do this. Methods 1 & 3 are free. Method 1 requires you to do some keyboard work. Steps 2 and 3 require you to download and install software on to your computer that will create a start menu for you.

1) a) right click anywhere where there is empty space on your Windows task bar (that’s the thing on the bottom of the screen with the icons for all over your open and running programs).
b) hover your mouse up to the Toolbars and select New Toolbar from the resulting Window.
c) copy and paste this line and paste it into the select folder Window that pops up: %ProgramData%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu and click on Select Folder.
d) Now you have a no-frills and free Start Menu with a list of your programs. You will have to move it over to the corner of the Task Bar wherever
you want it to reside.

2) Go to Stardock.com, pay $4.99 and download Start8. Install it and you’re good to go with something very similar to your old Windows 7, Vista, or XP start menu. It comes complete with file histories to make it easier to open files that you think are lost on your system.

3) Go to and download a free copy of ClassicShell. It not only gives you a Windows Start menu but it also gives you a chance to get rid of the Metro UI start screen. Again…it’s free and it works.

If you find anything else pretending to do the same thing, please be careful. A lot of malware is disguising itself as a free start menu or Metro UI interface remover.

Next time..we’ll talk about keyboard shortcuts that you can use to speed up your Windows 8 and maybe even your Windows 7 experience.

Windows 8: What It Is and Why You May Not Want It

I’ve been away from this blog for a while. Mostly because things have been in turmoil here at Casa de Campeogni. So today we are going to unravel Windows 8; what it is, how it works, where the experts say it is going to lead us to, and more importantly…do you need to run out and get a copy or if it comes on your new computer, do you need to wipe it out and downgrade back to Windows 7.

Hardware to firmware to EFI to the OS loads

Block diagram of the Intel and Microsoft UEFI firmware interface. This is stopping people from installing Linux on brand new computers the user has purchased.

First things first, if you are putting Windows 8 on an older system with an older motherboard and know how to properly configure your firewall, you’ll be in good enough shape to use it. I’ve been playing with it now since Beta 2 and I’m okay with the way it looks and feels. If you really want (or like me need) a “Start Menu” there are a couple of excellent utilities. The first is Start8 by Windows Blinds manufacturer, Stardock. It’s a $5 investment and in my humble estimation, worth it.

Option #2 a free version of a tool called Classic Shell created by a group of developers at MIT. It’s available at Sourceforge.net (links to both will be at the bottom of this article).

Functionality aside, let’s take a look at what is in it for Microsoft if you have a newer system and choose to stay with Windows 8. The crux of this argument is a replacement for your 30+ year old basic input output system (aka your BIOS). It’s old and it’s well passed its time in the sun. In the beginning it was never meant to be upgraded or flashed. Over the years, we just figured out ways to upgrade (flash) it and with that came a whole host of users who broke their computers (that is what happened to my last Sony laptop).

UEFI, uniform extensible firmware interface, is an upgradeable, programmable piece of software that runs before anything else does. With its current design and its current schema, when Microsoft and Intel (the only two companies planning the UEFI future currently), decide to ramp up the security and close off the Windows garden, and get updates on software signatures and approved license keys you’ll hear talk about using this to stop viruses, malware, spam, botnets, and other bad things we all loathe. When that happens, and it’s not a matter of if it will happen as much as it is a matter of when it will happen), many pirated copies of software will also cease running. Many bootleg copies of music, movies, or images will no longer be accessible. The possibilities for this technology is endless.

Sure..it’ll be Microsoft and Intel who will be doing the lion’s share of the work initially but with AMD, HP, Dell, Apple, and many many others onboard and the list growing, it is simply a matter of time before all major software manfacturer’s start paying the WinTel ransom to block their pirated software from running.

So…that’s part one of my theory on UEFI. If you have one, please let me know and I’ll post your 2ยข on its own separate post. I’ll write more about this issue next week…and I promise…no more long outages.