Surprisingly Smooth Transition into Windows 10

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I spent the past two weeks setting up a new laptop due to the unfortunate event that my original laptop being crushed in the plane while I was traveling back to Canada. Since I do not need my laptop during this period of time, I can use my desktop computer while setting up the new laptop slowly. The experience with the transition from a Windows 8 laptop into Windows 10 is, surprisingly, good.

The Incident

I use a backpack when I travel and my laptop is stored in the part for which thick protection foam is there all around it. I thought it is safe from physical harm. I could not be more wrong this time though. First my backpack was moved away from the overhead compartment where I put it due to someone else having a huge luggage forced the flight attendants to move luggage around to accommodate that. My backpack was moved somewhere else before i can even try to grab it back.

By the time the flight was over, I tried to locate my backpack. It was squeezed down under two hard surface carry on trolleys. I thought it should be alright because nothing bad really happened to my laptop ever through all these flights over the years. I could not be more wrong.

When I arrived home, I found a corner of my laptop was totally crushed. Amazingly, the laptop is still functional and boot up fine. The catch is that two of the ports I needed most are no longer usable.

A hard lesson learned – never store your laptop in a soft shell container.

Finding a Replacement

I am never comfortable with new versions of Windows. I wrote about that many times over the years. Microsoft is infamous in destroying compatible with everything from hardware to software with new versions of Windows. My experience was so bad I never buy a new computer with new versions of Windows. This time, however, I have no choice.

Microsoft has determined that they cannot continue to support their older versions of Windows. Windows XP and the major disgrace Vista are now discontinued from normal support. Windows 7 is still supported but probably not for long. Hence, it is very diffficult to buy any new laptop with older versions of Windows.

First, I would not want to buy a laptop with Windows 8 ever again. That leaves me with only Windows 10 to choose from. I thought, what the heck, Windows 10 is around for sometime already. Everything should be working fine now. Is it?

The Transition

It is not that easy for a road warrior to switch to a new laptop. This is especially true for professional traders. We have so many applications to install onto a computer, it takes a lot of time to get it done. This time around, it took me like a week to have all the necessary configuration done on Windows and the essential applications installed. The more auxiliary applications can wait.

Core applications like Microsoft Office has to be installed. I am very glad that my Office Enterprise 2010 still works on Windows 10. There was a point in time that Microsoft tried to force everyone to use the stupid Office 365. As a paid customer, I seriously cannot accept their proposition that I have to pay up again, as a subscription, that has no added value to my need. As far as I recall, I have been a paying customer of the Microsoft Office software since I was studying in university. Microsoft has to give me a very good reason to pay for another upgrade.

Many other applications are not working well on Windows 10 due to the Smart Scaling issue. That includes quite a number of trading applications. Smart scaling is the changing of pixel density dynamically so that the display device can show you things that you can really read. Given the laptop I get has 4K resolution, if the application is displaying its content using the pixel based method, it will be so small that I cannot see what is displayed at all.

Luckily, Windows 10, after several updates, has find a way to resolve this issue by offering multiple compatibility display options. I got two trading platforms working but one is still in trouble. I will not name names here. I think it is better I report the issues to the developers and see if they manage to come up with anything like a workaround or a quick new release to address the issue.

My Impression

I like Windows 10 a lot on this new laptop. Well, part of the reason is that the new laptop is very impressive on hardware basis alone. On the other hand, Windows 10 gives me a much more comfortable feel in terms of control and flexibility. Windows 10 is delivering what Windows 8 intended to do but failed to do so – a new paradigm without sacrificing the core power of Windows over platforms like Macs. Windows has always been a workhorse type of platform and it is the favorite platform for businesses and large enterprises. Windows 8 deviated from that (so did Vista) and it has been part of Microsoft’s painful memory since.

The truth is that I have to make a lot of adjustments to my usage routines from the last laptop but I am happy to make the transition this time. Unlike last time when I was forced to switch to Windows 8 and took the plunge to change all its settings to mimic Windows 7, I am happily learning to work within the new Windows 10 workflow. Part of this obviously thanks to all the software companies making the transition easier by having Windows 10 compatibility taken into account. The other part is that Microsoft learned from its users what has to be done to make Windows 10 functional.

Dave Bitcoin Saved My Day (and My Bitcoin Piggy Bank)

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I thought I unloaded last portion of my stash of bitcoin last year. Not really. It turned out I have this old bitcoin wallet that I have forgotten on my computer. When I opened it, there was some bitcoin left there. I guess this is how it feels like when someone found out they have won the lottery.

From Heaven to Hell in Hours

The euphoria ended shortly afterwards.

When I try to transfer the bitcoin out to an online service to cash it out, my passphrase was not accepted.

I actually panicked.

Until I resolve this problem I cannot use the bitcoin I have in this wallet at all. After so many attempts to guess what is the correct passphrase, I finally gave up.

There is Hope

Suddenly, I recall reading about a service that they will help you recover your bitcoin. There is no upfront fee, just a percentage of your wallet if they manage to recover the bitcoin for you.

So I looked it up and found Dave Bitcoin and his bitcoin recovery service walletrecoveryservices.com

I contacted Dave through email and explained my situation to him.

After just a few email exchanges, I have decided to give Dave a try.

I struggled a bit with the decision originally because:

1. the fees may sound steep at 20% but in reality it takes a lot of computing power to brute force your way into finding the correct password

2. even if Dave managed to crack the wallet, I have no assurance that he would return the bitcoin to me if he plans to runaway with the bitcoin

However, the fact that the bitcoin in the wallet is as good as nothing if it cannot be accessed anyway. That understand helps me make up my mind.

My Wallet is Saved

The rest of the process was easy. I send an email to Dave with the bitcoin wallet, my knowledge about the password and stated my agreement to his terms and conditions.

Dave is fast. Within a day, he helped me recover my bitcoin already.

Literally, I get my lottery ticket back.

Everything is done as promised professionally.

Bitcoin community is lucky to have Dave offering such a valuable service.

 

If you encounter a problem like mine, I highly recommend that you contact Dave Bitcoin.

Things I Learned from My Hard Disk Trouble While Traveling

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My hard disk trouble started in the early part of February yet I was not able to get it replaced for various reasons. Anyhow, I finally have it replaced by a new hard drive and everything looks fine so far. Throughout this ordeal, I learned quite a few things that’s worth sharing.

Must Have Items While Traveling

Portable Hard Drive is a must-have for quick backup and restore. Without one, trying to buy a decent one with large capacity from a remote city may be very difficult. I have a 3TB one with me all the time while I am traveling. Even if my laptop is reporting a potential failure, I can immediately backup everything so that I know all the latest work I have done with my projects and researches are safe.

USB Boot Drive is another must-have since you cannot really backup your computer efficiently without it. The one I use is the one I recommended for years called Active Boot Disk. I use it to backup my computers regularly and in this situation, I managed to take a snapshot of my laptop the night when I first see the warning message.

With the first two items above, the issue of protecting your valuable data is taken care of. Even if your laptop is toasted while you were seeking for a replacement hard disk, you can still get things working on a new laptop.

To replace the hard disk inside your laptop is a more complicated question depending heavily if you are going to let a computer shop does the replacement for you, or, your laptop can be easily taken apart. Well, I have way too many bad experience with computer stores repair services that I almost always do my own upgrades and replacements now. Even if you are not good with handling computer parts, you should be able to find disassembly videos on YouTube on almost all types of laptops.

You need the following items to complete the hard disk replacement process:

A screwdriver set that can handle all the screw types on your laptop. In my case, my trusted 30+ years old Swiss Army Knife does not work with my Lenovo laptop. I was forced to buy a screwdriver set at the computer store eventually. The story about the computer store in next section.

A replacement hard disk that is at least equal in capacity as your original hard disk.

Finding a Replacement Hard Disk is an Adventure

It took me two weeks in three cities to find a computer store that actually sell decent size internal hard disk. The first two cities are not major ones so my hope was kept really low. But then the third one, being a large city, it still took me multiple attempts before finding a computer store that really sells slightly better hard disk models.

Maybe it is because I am in Europe, but it seems that all these stores are selling both external and internal hard drives at half the capacity we find in America. They are also priced more expensively. The funny thing is that in a big retail electronics store I visited with all kinds of computer related products, their sales people do not even know where the portable external hard drives are located within the store. They have to search the store for like ten minutes before finding the items.

I seriously do not know what to say about that.

Plan Your Backup

It took about 6 hours to backup my laptop with 400G of data. The time it takes is much longer than a typical laptop with same amount of data because I have a lot of highly compressed tick data stored on my laptop. It is very time consuming to backup such data because they cannot be compressed any further by the backup application.

Knowing the amount of time it takes to backup can help you plan ahead of time to schedule a down time for your laptop so that it will not disrupt your normal work schedule. What I did was starting the backup late in the night so that early next morning I can continue with the installation of the new hard disk with restoration right after. Just in case that does not work out as planned, I would quickly swap the old drive back into the laptop to continue my day.

Restoring the hard disk image onto the laptop with the new hard disk is actually a breeze. All it took was just an hour and 20 minutes. Once it was done I just shutdown the laptop completely. When I turned it back on, it was able to boot normally and everything feels the same. Well, in my case, the replacement hard disk is a faster model than the one that came with my laptop so everything actually run much faster.

Lessons Learned

1. Have a traveller set of computer screwdrivers while I am on the road.

You never know when you are going to need to take your computer apart. You do not need to carry the whole set. Just bring the bits for your devices and the handle will do.

2. Do not use SSD on your laptop.

SSD has great feedback from all computer users due to their faster speed. They are also perceived to be safer than the regular hard drives because they do not have moving parts. In reality, however, SSD drives are more likely to fail and have bad blocks developed quickly within first 2 years of usage. Yep, you may suddenly lose some part of your important files on an SSD without knowing it has already happened.

In comparison, the classic hard drives have come a long way as manufacturers of these drives have keep advancing the technology. In my situation, I am very glad that I chose my laptop with a hard drive instead of SSD. My decision at the time was based on the capacity that I need which was not available with SSD. I do not even know that the smart warning ability of the regular hard drives until I get one in this incident.

This smart warning ability gave me the precious time window to replace the drive with ease.

When SSDs eventually fail, they just die on you and you will not get the chance to backup your data first. Hence you will lose your latest work on your laptop one day no matter how frequent you backup your data.

3. Do not use SSD external drives as your backup drive.

For the same reason above, if your data is important to you, you should keep a regular hard drive as your backup drive.

I am sure that going into the future, the SSD technology will improve a lot just like the regular hard drives with better safe guard for our data. Until then, I will avoid SSD on my laptops.

4. Know your USB 3.0 Port on the laptop

The latest external backup drives use the USB 3.0 port for much faster performance. On many laptops, however, not every USB port are USB 3.0 port. Plugging in your external drive to the wrong port, will result in much slower data transfer speed. For example, my backup time of 6 hours will likely turn into 12 hours or more if I plug my backup drive to the wrong USB port on my laptop.

I made this mistake before with my regular backup routine. You can imagine what happen the next morning when I woke up seeing my laptop is not even half way through the backup process …

End Notes

It is not my first time seeing my laptops getting into trouble while I am on the road. To name a few, I have experienced RAM failure, overheating that killed the screen on the spot and bad electricity outlet that fried the power adaptor and the laptop (yes, fire too for those looking for excitement). There are many blizzard situations that we road warriors just cannot be prepared for. My advice is that have the essentials packed with you but don’t panic when things go wrong. There is no point to get upset since computer failure is part of life.

Deal with it and you have another story to tell your friends.

Products Mentioned in this Article

Western Digital 3TB Portable External Hard Drive

List of Western Digital Portable External Hard Drive on Amazon

Active Boot Disk

Portable Screwdriver Set for Electronic Devices

A Failure Might Be Imminent: Surviving a Dying Hard Disk

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Well, just days into my trip the unimaginable happened. My trusted laptop suddenly popped out a warning message telling me that the hard disk has encountered hardware failure and it is going to die soon. I am told to backup the computer as soon as possible.

I have not seen this message for at least 10 years. Not on my computers for sure.

Before that, I have seen it once or twice happening on someone else laptops.

I have dealt with hardware failures many times. Hence the recommendation I always make to others that they should backup their computers regularly. And I backup my computers religiously all the time.

But having this trouble in the middle of a trip where I needed the computer most is a first time.

I have already backup the computer completely over the past 10 hours. It took that long to backup everything I have on the laptop. I am taking no chances.

But now what?

I could not find a computer store nearby that is open. I am not sure if I can buy a replacement hard disk in coming few days.

The wait and see is getting me slowly.

Feeling Stupid

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We were working on a computer with Multicharts to test our trading models on a live trading account this morning. But we were stuck at the very first step. We just couldn’t get the damn thing to connect to CQG for some mysterious reason. My team freaked out as that computer was completely clean installed for just this purpose. And it was working perfectly several months ago. Once we have it working we never look at it again until now.

So WTF gone wrong?

I was told that it was not working earlier in the morning so I simply asked my team to figure it out. I thought it must be something trivial and told them so.

The first thing they tried was looking for help. My team talked to technical support with the brokerage. They recommended us to turn off the firewall, opening ports with our routers and even turning off our anti-virus program. All things were done. Nothing helped.

My team were so desperate that they literally tweaked everything they could before talking to me again that they could not fix the problem.

I then joined them walking through everything they had done so far.

Something did not feel right though … and I popped the question,

“Is everything up-to-date?”

Shockingly, that damn Multicharts installed on the computer was on version 9.1 BETA.

I asked my team to check with the brokerage again to make sure that version still works. Of course, it is not and the currently supported version is version 10. My team waited anxiously over the next few moments for the download to complete and rushed to do the installation.

Voila! Problem solved.

What a reminder of overthinking and missing the most basic things by a group of accomplished programmers and engineers. Not just them, same goes for the support with the brokerage.

If I were the first person handling the situation, I would probably do the same whole routines of messing with the computer and the network. Lucky me that I was the one who sit out of the diagnosis process and got to join them later with a fresh look. Otherwise we would still be struggling at this point.

At the end, everyone has a laugh though.

Double Whammy: Two Credit Cards of Mine Hacked

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Don’t know what to say when I was called this morning from the bank that one of my credit cards is compromised. I was told that the card is disabled and a new card will be sent to me in a few days. I thought that was no big deal because it has happened to me several years ago. Credit card information being stolen is just part of life when everything are paid with credit cards these days.

I was kept on the phone to verify every transactions happened lately whether each of them were legitimate purchases I made. It took couple of hours over the phone to get things cleared up. I thought the trouble was over until I checked online to see which credit card of mine can be used in place of the one that was compromised.

Crazy as it may seems, I found another credit card of mine has quite a number of Uber charges that I do not recognize. Within moments I realized that this other credit card was hacked as well. After another round of marathon phone calls to handle the situation, most of my day was used up already.

This is so frustrating. I have no idea how my credit card information were stolen. I do not visit questionable websites. My computer is clean from malwares. I shop at normal places. It is something I like to dig deeper to see if I can prevent this from happening in the future.

For now, I am keeping my fingers crossed that the credit card thieves / hackers will spare me for a long long time.

Long Lives Windows XP or Is That a Major Time Bomb Ticking

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One worrisome thing I noticed during my trip to Asia several months ago was that Windows XP is everywhere. I am not joking here. Even though Windows XP has been discontinued by Microsoft with no updates and totally open to all kinds of exploits, it is still heavily in use. This gets me thinking, maybe those end of day prophecies are not about bombing, wars or whatever humanity issues but just that Windows XP stops working one day in the near future.

Odd Encounters

Official support for Windows XP has ended in year 2014 yet almost all the government services I have to deal with are still using Windows XP. Remember I travelled to quite a number of countries in Asia. This means all these countries, assuming they are using legitimate copies of Windows XP, have not upgraded their computers nor the operating system for at least 10 years already.

Originally I intended to take photos of these computers but I was challenged multiple times with serious threats to my personal safety for trying. Seriously, I did not, like, pull out a big ass camera to take a picture. All I tried to do was to take a quick photo with my cell phone. And nope, it is not allowed everywhere. The hassle I have to went through for even attempting to take a photo or asking about the computers is unbelievable. It is as if I was trying to spy on them or catching them for doing something criminal.

Bureaucrats Do Not Really Care

I do not see this as an issue of the frontline government workers. They have to use whatever they are given. I wonder who gave them the instructions to forbid people from taking pictures of their computers showing the Windows XP desktop or logo. And more importantly, what is the reason for being such paranoia?

My theory is that those who made the decision to use Windows XP computers could have been long retired in all these countries. If not, they probably moved higher up in their ranking or positions already. Hence those who inherited the existing equipment have no idea that computers are not furniture. Maybe those who originally made the purchase decision also have no idea that computers are waste asset that have to be replaced while they are still working.

Since we all know how bureaucracy functions in the real world, it is not hard to figure out the rest. Replace a broken computer is allowed. Repairing a broken computer is part of the maintenance program. But upgrading to new computers with operating system that may not work well with the rest of the deployed frontend computers, is definitely not a good idea for any smart bureaucrats who care about the safety of their jobs.

As long as these computers are still kicking, the bureaucrats in power would leave the headache of computer upgrades to the next bureaucrats.

Windows XP Is Common in Many Critical Government Services

I will not name names here. In the countries I have visited, Windows XP is used in customs, police stations, fire stations, centralized control centres for major bridges and tunnels. We are talking about critical government services here. We are also talking about the most vulnerable version of Windows being used for such purpose.

If these governments want to reduce the upgrade overhead, they have to bite the bullet and switch to something cheaper like Linux. Of course there will be huge up front cost to switch over and likely firing many of the IT staff too because they may not be tech savvy enough to maintain Linux based computers. In other words, either way these government departments are facing large expenses that the politicians will not approve. This is the other reason why many countries are stuck with their trusted Windows XP computers.

Time Bomb is Ticking

I am not saying Windows XP does not work well. In fact, the matured version of Windows XP was much better than the initial releases of Windows 7. Windows XP is also much less demanding in terms of CPU power. In short it is more efficient.

The problem though, is that Windows XP was released so long ago, that the components in those old computers with Windows XP can stop working anytime. When that happens, it is still possible to get new computer hardware to work with Windows XP now. In a few more years, however, it may no longer be the case.

A good example is the newer generation of USB ports. Currently, we are having the 3rd generation of USB being adopted everywhere. Windows XP can barely working with the components supporting this generation of USB. Soon, when the 4th generation becoming the standard, it is likely it may not even work with Windows XP at all.

I can foresee already that massive computer failures on these Windows XP machines happening in the near future. When that happens, I wonder if the government officials and the politicians understand what it takes to resolve the problem.

Defusing the Time Bomb

Hopefully, some government workers and high up bureaucrats, get the chance to read my post here. The important thing now is not to panic since they cannot suddenly upgrade all the computers anyway. By having a disaster management plan in place, it will take care of the crisis faster and minimize the impact of normal government operations. I think that is the number one priority for these government departments.

Many IT departments already adopted the practice of taking complete image of their deployed computers. Such backup image is great for dumping onto another computer should the original machine break down. It minimizes the down time but it only works if the target computer is having almost exactly the same configuration with very similar components. This is where the real bottleneck is as I discussed earlier in the article. Basic image of the computer hard drive is not good enough any more.

To improve the situation, the IT departments can create virtual machines of these frontline Windows XP computers. There are many solutions out there that do not cost much and can handle this task perfectly. What it means is that when new computers are needed, any hardware available can be used and having the cheapest stable operating system installed on such computer will be enough. The actual solution is just deploying the virtual machines onto these new computers.

Of course there are technical details that has to be attended to but it is well worth the effort. If anyone cares about the continuity of their computer systems operate smoothly with minimal down time, using virtual machine technology is probably the best solution right now.

Personal Agenda

I have my personal agenda here when I am writing this article. I actually talked to some high up government officials who understand the problem but they do not know what to do about it. Obviously, their people who manage the computers have not keep up their knowledge with the current technology we have nowadays.

I do not wish that one day I am stuck at a airport just because the computers suddenly not working and they have no way in restoring the service quickly.

I do not want to spend days waiting for something from a government just because their Windows XP computers are out of commission.

Hopefully, more people are aware of this crisis in the making so that it will be defused before major impact is felt when these Windows XP computers failing massively in the future.