Tag Archives: Tops

Find the missing Windows 8.1 update on a Dell

We’re finally replacing the ancient Windows XP machine at home, and for various reasons went with a Dell Inspiron running Windows 8. In part I wanted to familiarize myself with the new operating system. It’s…a significant change, though Katie’s found it easier to adjust by thinking of it like a phone/tablet interface (which makes sense, because really, that’s what it’s designed for).

I wanted to upgrade it to Windows 8.1 before we really started transferring files* or installing applications in earnest, and was dismayed to find that…

  • You can only upgrade through the Windows Store. (There’s no stand-alone installer you can download.)
  • There was no sign of it in the store, or indication of where in the store I should look, or whether it was being hidden due to some incompatibility.

After running Windows Update again (no help), looking around for other settings and updates such as drivers, trying the compatibility tester, and digging around online for a while, I finally found a solution that worked for me:

  1. Open Control Panel, then go to Programs/View Installed Updates and uninstall update KB 2871389, the update that makes the Windows 8.1 update appear in the store. Reboot.
  2. Download KB 2871389 from Microsoft’s website instead and run the installer. Reboot.
  3. Open the Windows Store, go to Settings/App updates, and check for new updates. It won’t show up here, but…
  4. After you close the app updates screen, the far left of the store should have a giant, full-height/width entry for the Windows 8.1 update.

If it’s available, you can’t miss it. If it’s not, you can’t find it. It’s incredibly frustrating.

*And it turns out I should have done this in the other order, because the 8.1 version of Windows Easy Transfer drops support for XP and Vista, as well as transferring over the network. Just in time for the final get-off-of-XP push. REALLY, Microsoft? Here’s hoping it doesn’t have some stupid thing that blocks plain old file transfers…

Android App Crashing on Start? Clear the Cache

I ran into some problems with the ComiXology app on my Nexus 7 tablet the other day. I tried to add a comic I’d unlocked on the website (the backer pre-release of the next chapter of Code Monkey Save World), and it crashed. From that point on every time I tried to launch the app, it would crash immediately. At the time I was in a hurry, so I set it aside for later. Within a day, an update with “bushels of bugfixes” came out, so I figured it was probably a known issue and put it out of my mind.

I didn’t test it until this morning, though. Wednesday = new comics day, of course. The same thing happened, even though I’d powered the tablet off overnight.

Great.

I figured I’d follow the standard troubleshooting pattern of clearing data (but that would mean re-downloading all the comics that I hadn’t read yet, or was keeping on the tablet to re-read), uninstalling/reinstalling, etc. A pain, but a necessary step before submitting a bug report.

So I opened Settings, then Manage Apps, then the Comics app… Continue reading

Vizio E422VA: Connecting that Internet-Connected TV to Wi-Fi

If anyone’s having trouble connecting a Vizio E422VA or similar television to a wireless router to run Netflix, etc., here are some gotchas I ran into hooking it up to our FIOS-provided router:

  1. Update the firmware on the TV. You can do this by connecting to the router with an ethernet cable, verifying that it’s on the network, then turning the TV off and waiting a while. When you turn it on again, it should tell you it’s installing a firmware update. Repeat until it doesn’t offer any more, then you can disconnect the cable.
  2. Don’t use spaces in your WPA password. The device can’t handle it.
  3. Yes, it can connect to a WPA2-protected network even though it only says WPA.
  4. Update: It can’t connect to a network running 802.11n or newer, even with the updated firmware. It needs the older (and slower) b/g compatibility mode.

This has been bugging me forever – it worked just fine until we moved from a U-Verse area to a FIOS area and had to get a new router for the new service. It wasn’t critical, since we had other sources of TV and other devices we could use for Netflix (though with a much less useful interface), but every few months I would give it another shot. Finally I tracked down how to update the firmware in the manual, and found the recommendation on spaces. Put the two together, and BAM! Connected.

How I Actually Use My Nexus 7 Android Tablet

Nexus

I’ve been using desktop computers most of my life, laptops since my teens, a smartphone for about four years and a Nexus 7 tablet for about two months. I’m starting to get a sense of where the tablet fits in my overall computer usage, and with the release of the iPad Mini and upgraded Nexus 7 models, I figured it was time to write about it.

One thing I’ve found interesting is that, all other things being equal, I’d almost always prefer using the tablet to my smartphone for anything that takes longer than a minute. What makes the smartphone great is that it’s ultra-portable. If I’m running errands or anything else, I just put it in my pocket and forget about it. I walk around normally, and it’s there when I need it to check messages, post a status update, moderate comments, check directions, pull up a grocery list, take a picture, or yes, make or take a phone call.

But if I’m going to sit down for 10 minutes or more to read, to reply to email, to blog, or really much of anything else, I’d rather use the tablet. It’s easier to read. It’s easier to see things at a glance. Websites designed for desktop use work better since the screen is bigger. Apps are easier to use on the tablet than the phone, at least those designed to take advantage of it. The 7″ tablet is a great size for reading, just a little wider than a paperback book, easy to hold up while on the couch, in bed, at a table, or anywhere else.

I’m a lot faster at typing on the tablet than on the phone, and it’s certainly easier to compose when you can see more of what you’re writing. One downside of a 7″ tablet rather than a 10″: The keyboard takes up a lot of screen space in landscape mode, which is the mode I type fastest in because of my years typing on real keyboards.

When we were on vacation for 10 days, I used the Nexus 7 heavily. The only times I fired up the laptop were for photo management (this seems to be a recurring theme) and for one round of blogging.

As far as the tablet vs. the desktop, I like the tablet because I can so easily take it anywhere in the house. It’s the way to get through a morning’s email, Facebook, and news site rounds while eating breakfast. I can lie on the couch (well, in theory), kick back in the easy chair, prop myself up in bed — anywhere. I’m not tied to my desk, or to the places I can set a laptop, and I don’t have close it and wake it up again if I want to move to another room.

The main obstacle I find to using the tablet at home is that my almost-2-year old son loves using it himself to play games, read interactive kids’ books, and watch videos. We limit his time, but whenever I pick it up, it reminds him it’s here, and we have to go through another round of “Not now.” and “Ninja!” and “No, I’m using this right now, you’ve already had plenty of time on it tonight” before he decides he’s happy going back to his toys or books (which of course he wants me to read to him now…)

A desktop is still better for some tasks, though. A full (or at least laptop) sized physical keyboard trumps a virtual keyboard for serious writing or especially editing, whether it’s text or code. (A mouse makes editing a lot easier. I keep fat-fingering when trying to use a touchscreen to select & rearrange text, and I’m a lot slower with a touchpad than an actual mouse.) I’m still trying out image editors on Android. And of course there’s the storage factor: you can always plug another hard drive into your desktop to store more photos (or music, or video, or raw images, or…), but mobile devices are a lot more limited. (No, I haven’t migrated all my personal data to the cloud.)

Even with web applications and cross-platform services that offer mobile apps, there are a lot of sites that haven’t quite figured out how to tell a tablet from a smartphone, or that leave out functionality in their mobile apps. For example: until a couple of weeks ago, you couldn’t manage a Google+ page using the Android app (and you still can’t with the mobile-optimized website as far as I know), and even now it’s kind of clunky: you have to sign out and sign back in as the page.

So there you have it: One data point of how a 7″ tablet gets used in real life. It’s different enough from a smartphone that it’s worth having both, though I can’t really compare usage of the 7″ and 10″ form factors. That said, having the smaller tablet, I don’t really feel a need for a larger one.

Update: Something that came up in the Google+ discussion is connectivity. The model I have is wi-fi only, which was a calculated trade-off at the time, but is basically my only regret when it comes to buying the Nexus 7. It works great where wi-fi is available (home, office, coffee shops, hotel lobbies), and I can use my phone as a mobile hotspot where it isn’t…but that drains the battery, and it means fiddling with an extra device, waiting for it to start up, etc. Of course, now Google has a Nexus 7 with mobile data access, so if I were buying it today, that’s what I’d get.

Nexus 7 + USB Cable = Finally! Upload Photos Without a Laptop!

Nexus 7 connected to camera.

All right! I’ve verified that my Nexus 7 can read photos from my camera!

The tablet supports a subset of USB OTG (On The Go), which also lets it connect to keyboards, mice and external storage. It only has a micro-USB port, which means I had to get a $1 USB cable adapter, but for that price? Big deal.

If I put the camera in PTP mode, it can import directly to the gallery. If I put it in PC mode, I can use the Nexus Media Importer app. And I can use FlickFolio to upload multiple photos to Flickr at once.

The next time we go on vacation (OK, the next time we go to Comic-Con — I don’t mass-post vacation photos during a trip), I won’t have to hog the laptop just to upload photos!

This is something I’ve wanted the ability to do for a long time, since before Apple redefined tablet computing and I was considering getting a netbook. And unlike a netbook, which I would have only used while traveling, I use the tablet every day.

On the downside, even though I won’t be competing with Katie for laptop time, I’ll be competing with J for tablet time….

Photo: Why I still need a good camera in addition to my phone. OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration: The phone isn’t really that bad when used under good lighting, or with the flash (though the Lumix is a lot better, and has an awesome optical zoom). It’s just that the picture with the flash, while sharp, showed the smudges better than the images on the screen.