Monday, June 29, 2015

Font rendering on Windows

There are a lot of articles on the Internet comparing font rendering philosophies between Windows and Mac, including Damien's,  Jeff Atwood's, and Joel Spolsky's. The articles come with a vibrant set of comments that advocate one rendering philosophy over the other based on aesthetics, readability, and eye comfort.

So far I have been oblivious to the difference, since I have been using the Mac exclusively for the last 15 years. But with my recent switch to Windows the rendering difference popped up, and it was not the font aesthetics since the font rendering on both platforms looked good to me.

Rather I noticed that I can read on Windows for a long period of time without my eyes getting tired. On the Mac I needed AntiRSI or Timeout to help me take work breaks every half hour to alleviate eye soreness. After I switched to Windows I have not had a need to search for their equivalents.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Windows 10 "Cannot update system reserved partition"

I've been using an earlier version of Windows 10 preview for a couple of weeks, and have been pleased with it. However when I tried to upgrade to a new drop, I was greeted with a cryptic message: "Cannot update the system reserved partition".

A little bit of research internally and on the Web exposed that the message appears when the system partition is full. To see the details of your drive: partitions, volumes and all, the command "diskpart" is your friend.

First list the volumes on the disk you're interested in:

diskpart> list volume

Some of the volumes might not have a drive letter associated with them. You can assign drive letters to the volumes you'd like to explore through

diskpart> select volume=N

Then assigning a drive letter through

diskpart> assign letter=E

Now you can look around the drive and figure out how to create some free space for the install, and all will be well.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Back to Windows

I joined Microsoft a couple of weeks ago, and after 15 years of only using Macs and OS X for my work and personal computers, I traded both for their Windows equivalent.

For my laptop, I got a Lenovo X1 Carbon that is growing on me. It reminds me of my Mac Book Air: it is very light, with a great design, and an excellent battery life—with a ton of applications running, I usually get 6 or 7 hours of battery life. And the icing on the cake is the touch screen, and the great tactile feel ThinkPad keyboards are well known for.

The laptop had Windows 8.1 on it, but since I have access to any Windows build, I decided to image it with a prebuild of Windows 10. After a couple of weeks of usage, I can safely say I like Windows 10. It has definitely come a long way since the last time I used it 15 years ago. 

For one, hibernation and wakeup are much faster now, and file operations—which I remember were slow and infuriating, are now acceptable. I also like Cortana, and the new Edge browser. But what I am enjoying the most is the 1st class platform support for all drivers and applications I can think of. Connecting my old and aging printer was no longer a painful process, and using the newest Logitech wireless headphones was a breeze.

There are a couple of things I miss about my Mac, but they are both minor. One is the native Unix environment, but Cygwin and Cygwin-X are a good substitute. Also running Linux under Hyper-V is a good alternative. The second is swapping the Caps Lock and Control keys—which makes using Emacs a lot easier. On OSX it is an easy task through the keyboard settings, while on Windows I recall it is a convoluted editing of a registry key.


Monday, June 15, 2015

Adventures restoring the Mac Book Air from a Time machine backup

Taking backups with Time Machine on Mac OS X is a breeze: you plug in the backup drive, and wait for the magic to happen. Restoring the backup to a misbehaving laptop though appears to be a different story. I had to go through multiple iterations before I finally got the data back on the laptop. Since my backup setup is not atypical with the exception of an encrypted drive and backups, I was surprised it took that many times to successfully restore the data.

Initially I tried restoring the backups by booting the Mac in recovery mode, and using the restore from Time Machine option. The restore started, but after roughly 12 hours it silently failed.

For my second attempt I decided to install Yosemite from scratch and use the user migration assistant to recover my data. After progressing for a long time, the restore silently failed as well.

My third attempt was a bit more drastic: I wiped out the drive, and attempted to restore the backup from Time Machine. That too failed after progressing for roughly 12 hours.

For my final attempt I decided to wipe out the drive, reformat the drive to a different file system--case-sensitive journaled unencrypted file system, install Yosemite from scratch, and use the user migration assistant to recover the data. For some reason that worked, and after the migration was complete, I turned on File Vault to encrypt the drive, and everything was back to normal again.