Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image


yoga 2-500 wide.jpg

“Hey, Contra Boy! Are you dead or something?”

Me? No. C’mon, if I were dead I would have mentioned it. So I’m not dead, though I am something, and while I can tell you it isn’t ill-health (for either of us) I can’t say much more about the something beyond that.

It’s certainly gotten in the way of other pursuits.

Anyway. For the first time I am hands-up-to-the-elbows in Windows 8. Carol wanted a new ultrabook-class laptop for Christmas, and we shopped together. She chose the 11.5″ version of the Lenovo Yoga 2, which (like my Transformer Prime) attempts to be both a loptop and a tablet. Unlike my Transformer Prime, I think it actually succeeds. The pivoting display (see above) lets it work as a tablet, and while I’m still not used to grabbing keys on its virtual backside while gripping the little slab in tablet mode, the machine ignores the keypresses. If the keys themselves are robust, no harm will come of it. The 1366 X 768 display isn’t retina-class, but it’s gorgeous and good enough. It’s got a 1.5 GHz Core i3 and 500 GB hard drive, which is more than sufficient for how we intend to use it.

Like all retail machines, the Yoga 2 is loaded with crapware, some of which I’ve never heard of and haven’t looked up yet, like the Maxthon Cloud Browser. Some of the crapware is crapware by virtue of being preinstalled; Evernote is a worthy item but I do not want it on the machines I buy. Ditto Zinio. Doubtless a lot of the other dozens of thingies cluttering up the display are there for Lenovo’s benefit and not ours; remember that crapware slots on consumer machines generate lots of money for their vendors through sales conversions, and Lenovo gets a cut.

My biggest problem is that I will eventually have to replace the MacAfee crapware with something that works. We standardize on Avast at our house, but getting rid of security suite crapware is notoriously difficult. Most people eventually just give up and pay for it. Not me.

I’m spending considerable time on the project not only because Carol needs a machine that works well, but also because I need a new laptop myself. A 13″ Yoga might do the job, assuming I can learn to love Windows 8, or at least hold hands with it. A big tablet would be useful for reading PDF-format technical ebooks. Now, having been set up the way Carol likes, it goes back in its box, the box gets wrapped, and it joins the pile under the Christmas tree. Much better that way than trying to figure out what’s crapware and what isn’t on Christmas morning.

Quick summary of what I’ve been reading:

  • The Call of Distant Mammoths, by Peter T Ward (Copernicus Books, 1997.) Why did the ice age mammals vanish? It wasn’t simply human predation or climate change. It was a combination of things, especially human predation and climate change. (Wow! The brilliance!) Cost me a buck plus shipping, and the gruel was thick enough so that I won’t claim the time spent on it was totally wasted. Still, not recommended.
  • Neanderthal Man, by Svante Paabo (Basic Books, 2014.) It seems like carping, but the book is mis-titled. It’s not about the Neanderthals themselves but rather the sequencing of their genome, which the author spearheaded. Paabo’s writing style is solid and amiable, and he does a good job explaining how DNA can be found in very old bones (with tremendous difficulty and peculiar luck) and how it was teased out over a period of almost twenty years. I must emphasize that if you have no grounding at all in gene sequencing, it will be a bit of a slog. However, if you pay attention, you will learn a lot. Highly recommended.
  • 1848: The Year of Revolution, by Mike Rapport (Basic Books, 2008.) My Duntemann ancestors arrived in the US in 1849 or 1850. We haven’t found the crossing records yet, but we have a strong hunch why they left: the European upheavals of 1848. Like WWI, 1848 doesn’t summarize well. The people rose up against their elites, who were in many cases so afraid they were facing Jacobin 2.0 that kings resigned, constitutions were given, and (alas) the roots of commoner suffering remained misunderstood and mostly uncorrected. Again, this may be a slog even if you have some grounding in European history. History doesn’t always make sense. Sometimes you just have to describe the squirming details of what will always remain chaos. Cautiously recommended.

The odd lots are piling up too. Will try to get some posted tomorrow.


  1. Alex says:

    Hi Jeff

    Here’s a couple of tips that will make the Windows 8 transition easier. First tip: if you haven’t already, upgrade to 8.1. You can find the update in the Windows Store, it is completely free, and adds a few bits and pieces that make the OS a lot easier to use.

    The other tip is, if you hold WinKey and press ‘x’ you get a great little advanced menu that gives you options for things like opening a command window as admin and the like.

  2. TRX says:

    I put a program called “Classic Shell” on all the Win8 machines at a client site. I think there are ways to do something similar with 8.1 now, but the users were threatening torches and pitchforks if I didn’t do something about 8 *fast*. Since they didn’t want to upgrade to Linux, Classic Shell was the easiest path.

    Don’t forget to build a restore/reinstall DVD once you’ve degunked the computer, or you’ll have to do it all over again should you have to reinstall later…

  3. TRX says:

    > History doesn’t always make sense.

    1) intelligence and sanity are not requirements for leaders

    2) sometimes we’re missing important details that could explain things

    3) “The perversity of the universe tends toward the maximum.”

    4) “I’m not saying it’s aliens, but…”

  4. Erbo says:

    I’m more inclined to wait for Windows 10 myself. Microsoft seems to be in a pattern similar to the old Star Trek movies, where every other major release is good, and the ones in between are crap. For now, “Win7 is the new XP.” Will Win10 be the new Win7? Signs point to “yes,” though the final verdict isn’t in yet.

    1. Tom Roderick says:

      We used to say wait for the third upgrade after a major change from Microsoft, but it is hard to tell with the number soup now.

      I have avoided 8.0 and 8.1 since I first saw them just after 8.0 was released, but have been hearing good things about 10 too. However, there has been some talk that Microsoft may not release 10 as an OS to buy at all but just lease it on an annual basis. That would be a complete deal breaker for me.

      1. Erbo says:

        It might for me too. Honestly, I have fewer and fewer reasons to boot into Windows all the time; Ubuntu lets me get to what I need to do much faster, and doesn’t disrupt my workflow by requiring me to reboot every single time stuff gets updated. (You do have to reboot it after an update sometimes, but not all the time and nowhere near as often as that happens with Windows.)

  5. Rich S. says:

    I found that the switch between the desktop and the Start Screen was jarring. By synchronizing the desktop and Start Screen backgrounds it made the transition much smoother mentally. Much more than I would have thought.

    I think this was added as an option with Windows 8.1. Right click the task bar, Properties, Navigation Tab. Check the “Show my desktop background on Start.”

    I also use Start8 and ModernMix from Stardock. Start8 restores the Start Menu allowing me to explore the Windows 8/8.1 features at my leisure And ModernMix allows me to see the new Windows Store Apps on the desktop. Both are inexpensive and kept my blood pressure down.

    I do miss Aero. Steve Jobs was right, rounded corners are nice.

  6. I also picked up a new laptop while we were in Vegas. (Carol may have told you I said I’d killed it – happily my diagnosis proved wrong.)

    Windows 8 frequently felt it had things to do that were more important than me at the keyboard, and it was also refusing to update. I went with the Aliens solution: take off, nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure. The thing runs Xubuntu like a champ. 🙂

    I’m with Erbo. Win10 seems much better. I’ve been trying the tech preview in a VM.


  7. Stickmaker says:

    I read an article recently which revealed that these recent studies have shown that the physical differences between Neanderthals and current humans are more due to which epigenetic switches are flipped which way than the actual genes.

    Which reminds me of that Niven story of the extrasolar colony where the children of the colonists are homo Habilis or something.

  8. To get rid of crapware on retail machines what I generally do is first back up the activation files and then do a clean/fresh reinstall of Windows and reinstate the backed-up activation files. Following that process there is no ‘crapware’ at all, or even the slightest remnant of there having ever been any (uninstalls are usually not perfect). On Windows XP and Windows 7 the activation can be backed-up manually — it is presumably possible to manually backup Windows 8/8.1 activation as well but I have never attempted to demonstrate that. There also exists software specifically designed to backup XP, 7 and 8/8.1 activations. Unfortunately 8 and 8.1 currently don’t always work correctly with the various activation backup techniques. My guess is that Windows 8 is new enough still that the activation subsystem isn’t fully understood yet. I haven’t got any experience with Windows 8 or 8.1 and can’t really comment on what the issue is or if there is a workaround. So, if you attempt backing up an 8/8.1 activation (or honestly even an XP or 7 activation) it would probably be a good idea to save an image of the machine in a working state with Windows activated. That way you are protected in the event attempts to restore the backup activation are not successful. You don’t want to get stuck in a situation where the easiest solution is to buy a new Windows license.

    As far as reinstalling Windows is concerned, I recently discovered that it is possible to integrate the various security updates that Microsoft issues over time into the Windows installation media. The technique is generally referred to as ‘slipstreaming’. That eliminates the need to install all those updates after you install the operating system. Saves a lot of time if you need to install Windows more than once in a short period. There exist a number of Microsoft provided and third party slipstreaming tools for XP, 7 and 8/8.1

  9. Michael Brian Bentley says:

    “Like all retail machines, the Yoga 2 is loaded with crapware…”

    The last six retail weapons of mass computation I bought during the last couple years weren’t “loaded with crapware.” Your choice of vendors is seemingly regrettable.

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