Wednesday, July 15, 2015

IE11 and broken scrolling

When I first installed Windows 10 preview on my laptop, IE11 scrolling stopped working when using the touchpad to scroll. Interestingly scrolling worked great in all other programs: explorer, outlook, one note, and many others. For IE11, unless I click on the tab title, and avoid clicking on anything else in the tab area, scrolling did not work. It was quite an annoying behavior, but not a show stopper for trying out Windows 10. I ended up learning how to use the keyboard for scrolling through the web pages in lieu of touchpad goodness.

With preview updates, the problem did not get any better, so I searched on the web to see if the issue was widespread. It turns out that it was, and it was not restricted to Windows 10 preview either. There were a lot of solutions online, that did not make much sense, like resetting IE11, going to the advanced tab and disabling smooth scrolling, and a slew of others. The one that made sense was a problem in the Synaptics driver, which for older style applications such as IE11 sends the wrong scroll messages to the scrollbars. The fix was obvious, upgrade the driver to the latest version. After upgrading  to 19.0.12.61, touchpad scrolling worked again in IE11. I still use the keyboard shortcuts though.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Limited Wi-Fi Internet connectivity

While using my preview build of windows 10, sometimes I face the dreaded "Limited Wi-Fi Internet" connectivity issues, where the Wi-Fi adapter seems to be connected to the Wi-Fi router, but full Internet access is not possible. I often attributed these issues to quirks in the preview builds, and a simple computer restart--reminiscent of the older Windows releases--seemed to fix the issue.

But not yesterday, where multiple restarts did not ease the pain. Even deleting the Wi-Fi network and recreating it again did not help. The dreaded "Limited Wi-Fi" banner under the Wi-Fi network name continued to rear its ugly head.

Luckily I had an Ethernet cable handy, so I hard wired the laptop and checked online to see if others have faced a similar issue. There was a considerable number of people experiencing the issue, with various solutions. The one that made sense for me was a bad wireless driver install, which was easy to fix. Before you attempt to replicate the solution, make sure you are connected to the Internet via an Ethernet cable since you'd need to download the latest drivers from the Internet.

First I deleted the Wi-Fi network definition, and did not create a new one. Then I went to the device manager--Win Key+X, selected the Device Manager, and selected the wireless adapter. For my computer, that was the Intel Dual Band wireless adapter.

I right-clicked on the adapter, and selected uninstall, and in the dialog boxes choose to remove the driver from the computer. This gave me a clean slate to reinstall the driver from the Internet.

After the uninstall was successful, from the Device Manager Action Menu, I selected scan for new hardware, which popped up the Intel Dual Band wireless adapter again. I then right-clicked on the adapter, and selected update the driver, and selected update from the Internet. After the download was complete, I recreated my Wi-Fi network, and things worked again like a charm.

I am not sure why the wireless driver got corrupt in the first place, but it is good to know that the "Limited Wi-Fi Internet Connectivity" issue can be easily fixed.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Thunderstorms and Lightening

The other day I heard a great educational segment on thunderstorms and lightening on NPR. The segment highlighted that since thunderstorms and lightening strikes were not very common on the west coast, a lot of the older buildings and houses are not equipped to handle them well like their counterparts on the east coast.

And because lightening strikes are relatively rare here, when one occurs it becomes news around the area. The segment mentioned that the most famous one was when lightening struck a tree in an arboretum and caused the tree to explode. The lightening passed through the core of the tree, and generated a lot of energy that heated up the moisture within the bark, and turned it into steam. The steam expanded and turned the tree into projectile shards that flew 30 yards away from the tree and got embedded in the soil. It must have been scary to witness such an event.

The segment ended by offering some practical advice on what to do if you're caught in a thunderstorm outside. Best to be in a car, since the car body will protect you, and if you are no where near, then seek the lowest area you can find and crouch closer to the ground. I don't want to ever use these tips.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Lumia 640XL

Over the long weekend I got a Nokia Lumia 640XL phone. I decided to graduate to the new ridiculously large screen size phone after sticking with the more manageable screen sizes of the iPhone 5 and its predecessors. I would have stayed within the iOS/Android eco-systems, but I wanted to give a Windows phone a try, and see why the platform has not been successful in the past.

The phone is nice and relatively inexpensive ($240 without a contract), with a ridiculous screen size, great graphics and battery life. The screen size is a blessing when reading emails, Kindle books, and surfing the Internet, and I believe my usage has increased accordingly. The screen is sharp, and the sound quality of calls is great. With heavy email and web browsing the battery lasted 2 days. The phone comes with crippled memory though (8GB which used be good, but after years of using iOS phones, it is not enough). Luckily the phone is expandable through Micro SD cards, and a 128 GB MicroSD would set you back around$70 from Amazon.

Windows phones have some usability idiosyncrasies compared with their iOS counterparts, and I am not sure if these are because of patents, or design choices. One is killing applications in the app center, where instead of swiping up as in iOS, you swipe down, and the other is the excessive reliance on the back button instead of swiping left to go back except in Internet Explorer. I also found that loading up web sites in IE takes a longer time unlike Safari or Chrome.

And despite the minimal set of apps that I use, I was surprised to see that a few of them were not available for Windows. For the platform to become successful, the Windows store has to attract a whole lot of developers than it has done so far, and perhaps that's the plan in Windows 10. For now since I rely a lot on my phone for work, I'll stick with the official 8.2 builds instead of trying a preview one until I hear what other people's experiences are.