Learning to Walk Again

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This week has been an interesting combination of learning and re-acquaintance opportunities. Learning because I finally got fully switched over to Windows 8, at the same time as discovering how many parts of your body are involved in the simple act of walking.

A couple of weeks ago I suffered a reoccurrence of the trapped nerve syndrome associated with sciatica, which left me hobbling about with a stick like the old man I guess I’m turning into. The process of walking across a room became a whole new re-acquaintance experience, which clearly identified all of the muscles and tendons that delineate the upright posture of the human race from the four-legged approach used by most of the rest of the animal kingdom. And it’s an experience I really don’t want to repeat.

Meanwhile, the concurrent learning experience has been with Windows 8 and Office 365, now that my new company computer has arrived (yes, I did decide it was safe to use despite the warnings from last week). Coincidently, my non-work email provider upgraded their systems last week so that I’m now on Exchange Server 2013. In both cases it’s been like learning to walk again as I figure out how to do things in Windows 8, Office 2013, and the Outlook Web App, which were second nature in previous versions.

For example, I prefer to turn off the Preview pane and open messages in a new window to avoid downloading all the crud in the junk emails in my Inbox. However, I can’t get Outlook Web App to open the next message when I close the current one, no matter what option settings I choose. And when I reply to a message it leaves the existing one open instead of closing it automatically. Previous versions of Outlook Web Access managed to do this. And as much as I’ve got used to the Modern interface style, the shortcut menu looks very odd without capitalized words. I’m not sure why, but it seems to make it harder to find the option you want.

In Office 2013 I’ve generally come to terms with the new version of Word, which is the application I use most. But this week I tackled Visio for the first time, and it hurt. Screen updates seem really slow, and often all I get when dragging items is a grey outline. OK, so the computer isn’t the fastest in the world (Intel Core 2 Duo and on-board graphics) but it managed OK in Visio 2010. And just drawing a simple line arrow the first time took ages until I discovered that they’ve moved them to the “Connector” option in the ribbon.

So even after a week of creating documents and schematics I often still feel like I’m lost in Office 2013. Compared to the changes between earlier versions (such as from 2007 to 2010), the latest upgrade sometimes seems like a step too far. Colleagues who have been switched for a while say they find the new version easier to use, and more productive, but I suspect it will take some time before I’m fully competent with it. I wonder if the typical learning process means everything seems harder at first as you try to do things the way you’re accustomed to, and before you discover the new way to do them that provides the productivity increase.

But I am converting nicely to Windows 8, though like many people I do miss the Start button in the desktop. Hitting the Windows key and then Windows key + Q to get the search box just to start an application seems a retrograde step, and I’m looking forward to the 8.1 refresh that will solve this. Otherwise, all was going really well until I came to install our custom Word add-in that we use to generate p&p documents. The installer politely informed me that it needed .NET 3.5, and helpfully provided a link to download it. Except that you can’t do this on Windows 8; you have to enable .NET 3.5 in the “Turn Windows features on and off” section of the Programs and Features dialog.   

So I do this and get error 0x800F0906 (download failure). It seems that it’s a common problem with .NET 3.5 and many other Windows 8 features if, like me, you use Windows Software Update Service (WSUS) to manage patching machines on your network. The solution (and a description of why it occurs) is provided in this blog post. You need to change the Group Policy setting named “Specify settings for optional component installation and component repair”, which is located under Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\System, to Enabled and then set the “Contact Windows Update directly to download repair content instead of Windows Server Update Service (WSUS)” checkbox. If your domain controllers still run Windows Server 2008 you’ll have to apply the Group Policy setting locally on each Windows 8 computer.

And if you are considering choosing between sciatica and a Windows/Office upgrade, I’d suggest that the latter. It’s far less painful…

  • Just for to speed things up a bit - you don't need to type <win>-Q to bring up the search box. All you need to do is hit <win> to go to the start screen (I have muscle memory that still hits <ctrl>-<esc> from time to time) and then just type to search apps.

    I have a horrible feeling they may have broken this in Win8.1 because its too hard to teach people new tricks (specifically "if in doubt, just type to search") even when those tricks are a net improvement... so we have retrograde steps about the way search is implemented.

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Learning to Walk Again