Tag: Windows 7

Windows 2000’s user interface was way better than Windows 10

This is part of a comment I left on a video about Windows 10. It seems like it should be here as well. It’s been modified for better presentation.


The Windows 2000 user interface was better than all that followed. Some improvements were made in each successive version but Windows 7 was the last one where the few bad UI change decisions could be easily worked around and adjusted to by users. Everything UI went straight to hell after Windows 7. The Charm bar is dead in 10 because it was an extremely poor UI decision from the get-go.

  • “Tablet Mode” on 10 is worse ON TABLETS than “normal” mode.
  • The “flat” design scheme with monochromatic ambiguous icons is more difficult for the human eye to scan and recognize.
  • A lack of borders, shadows, 3D edges, etc. makes UI elements mush together. Low contrast between UI elements greatly exacerbates the flat design issues.
  • Retracting Modern scrollbars are extremely annoying to use and greatly slow down anyone trying to use such scroll bars.
  • Removing the 3D appearance and dark borders from normal scrollbars and reducing the contrast between scrollbar buttons and the bar itself have made normal scrollbars much slower to use for experts and nearly impossible for novices.
  • The schizophrenic Control Panel/Settings dichotomy can only be described as a disaster, with every build of Windows 10 changing the names of categories, adding new ones, making Control Panel items kick over to Settings panels instead of doing what they’re supposed to do, moving settings around with no educational hints as to where the settings have moved to, etc.
  • There are no hints to educate users about how to use the system, what changes have been made, what features are available.
  • There is no longer any form of offline help available to learn about the system.
  • Things that can be clicked often don’t look clickable and vice-versa.
  • Things that can be dragged now have zero visual indication that they can be dragged; there are no drag handles on the Start menu edges and no border frames on scalable Modern program windows, for example.

Windows 10 is objectively a terrible user interface. People succeed in spite of it, not because of it.

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Sylvania G skips hard drive if partition 1 is less than 2GB, AKA “20,000 dumb BIOSes under the sea”

I previously posted about a problem with my Sylvania G netbook (original model GNET13001 with a VIA C7-M CPU, not the Meso) that I recently upgraded to a 32GB KingSpec 1.8″ ZIF SSD, where it would boot Windows XP just fine, but a Windows 7 installation on the same hard drive would do something extremely unusual: the system would not only fail to boot Windows 7, but the BIOS would not even load and execute the MBR at all, skipping the hard drive ENTIRELY in the boot order.

I figured this out late last night, powered by coffee, Doritos, and forum posts to distract me periodically. The major difference between XP and Windows 7 is the partitioning and MBR code, and the Windows 7 MBR code boots up Windows XP just fine, leaving partition tables as the most likely culprit. I modified the MBR assembly code to output a message indicating that the MBR was loaded and executed, and then halt the system. This way I would be certain that the MBR was executing at all and wouldn’t wonder if the code was somehow tripping over something that caused it to kick right back out. With a partition spanning the full disk, my message showed up. That was expected; XP worked fine, and the partition table was set up in the same fashion that it was under XP. Then, to test and see if we had some sort of issue relating to the cylinder/head/sector geometry values in the raw partition table data, I tweaked the values in the table to be slightly different, and saw no change. Then, to see if we were dealing with a problem with the starting sector for partition 1 being 2048 under Windows 7 instead of 63 under XP, I gradually bumped the partition entry up; first to 64, then 100, 200, 400, 1000, 2000, 2047, and 2048. None of these partition starting sectors caused the boot process to fail. Then, I started trimming the ending of the partition. From 31.6GB to 15GB, then to 4GB. No change, it still tried to boot.

I changed the ending cylinder from near 1000 all the way down to 100 and it stopped booting. YES!

From there, it was simply some intelligent logical bisection of the numbers: 200 failed, but 400 worked. Since 256 is 2^8 (powers of two being very significant) I tried 250, 255, and 256, which also failed. A greater jump straight to 300 passed, though; it was at that point that I realized I was dancing around another important number in terms of computer memory: 2,097,152 KB (4,194,304 512-byte sectors) which is also a power of 2, and happened to be right between the sector counts of 256 and 300 cylinders (these equations are in C/H/S format, and I’m ignoring the first 2048 or so skipped sectors just to annoy you):

256*255*63 = 4,112,640 sectors
300*255*63 = 4,819,500 sectors

With this new information, I changed over to LBA (sector) entry instead, and made the TOTAL number of sectors in this partition 4,194,303. It failed to boot.

When I set the total number of sectors in the first partition to 4,194,304 sectors (exactly 2GB), the Sylvania G loaded and executed the MBR normally, where just one sector less would cause the entire hard drive to be skipped in the boot order.

This effectively means that a stock Windows 7 can never boot on this system without major trickery. I consider this a very severe and stupid BIOS bug. What I don’t understand is how it is possible that this check even exists in the first place. (Edit 2017-03-12: I realized it could be for skipping a small “utility partition” like older laptops do, but that’s what the partition table ACTIVE flag is used for already.) The computer would have to read the MBR from the hard drive into memory and intentionally check the first partition’s size for a minimum amount to make this bug happen, so someone either at VIA, Phoenix (it’s a Phoenix BIOS), or Sylvania (Digital Gadgets, Inc.) had to go out of their way to put this bug into place. Worse yet, there are absolutely no BIOS updates in existence for the Sylvania G, and never will be, so this bug is permanent. Fortunately, if your first partition is larger than 2GB in size, you can blissfully ignore this problem, which means that Linux installations using a compatible partitioning scheme, Windows XP, and Windows Vista all should run on the Sylvania G without hitting this problem at all. Windows 7 is effectively not an option, though. In the next few days, I plan to attempt to overcome this bug and get Windows 7 working on the Sylvania G anyway, as a personal challenge if nothing else.

I am left to ponder what other systems might be having this same issue. The BIOS has no business whatsoever attempting to “verify” my partition table of choice, in my opinion, and I want to know at what point and for what purpose this bug/misfeature was introduced. If anyone has a system that seems to skip the hard drive in the boot order with Windows 7, when Windows Vista or especially Windows XP would work just fine, please leave a comment below with your experiences and insights. I’d love to engage in a discussion with anyone else who feels they may have hit this type of bug.

UPDATE: I have verified that the problem boils down to one single check against the LBA “number of sectors” in partition 1 on the drive being equal to 0x400000 (4194304) or higher, and nothing more. I was able to get Windows 7 to boot normally by copying everything from partition 1 into partition 2, deleting partition 1, then using a hex editor to change byte 0x1CC to 0x40. Since all other parts of partition 1’s table entry are zeroed out, it isn’t seen as a valid partition on the disk, but the BIOS is only checking the DWORD value at 0x1CA-0x1CD to be 0x400000 or greater, so it simultaneously bypasses the bug/misfeature in the BIOS and doesn’t confuse the MBR nor Windows 7 at all, as the partition structure is completely valid. If I was adventurous, I’d shuffle the partition down to sector 2048 and reclaim the missing 100MB, but since I’d lose that space under Windows 7’s out-of-the-box partitioning scheme anyway, and it’s 0.1GB of a 31.6GB SSD, that kind of capacity loss isn’t significant at all.

Since the workaround is as simple as using a dummy entry where partition 1 is supposed to be, this trick should work for any operating system. Just start partitions at number 2 instead of 1, and apply the change 1 with a hex editor when you’re done, and you can have a tiny “first” partition without consequence! The only time you’ll ever need to redo the hack is if you run something that rewrites that portion of the partition table.

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Chatham County Computer Repair Services and Networking: Siler City, Pittsboro, Goldston, Fearrington, Bonlee, Bennett, Silk Hope, and more

I’ve been sitting in front of a computer almost every day of my life since I was three years old, so I eventually got around to thinking, “why not use all the experience I’ve accumulated to create a team of amazingly skilled computer aficionados?” Since I set out to do just that and opened up shop, we’ve been in Siler City for around half a year now, starting with just myself and one other technician. Since then, we have clearly provided a sorely needed service in Chatham County, because I now have four in-shop and at least two regional on-site computer techs doing work for me. You see, we have some “crazy” ideas about doing business, such as **putting customers first** instead of our own wallets, and we’re willing to tell you exactly what’s going on without holding back information or making pie-in-the-sky promises. Here, it’s not about the bottom line, it’s about YOU.