Goodbye to Facebook

Recently, Facebook has been front-and-center in the news, concerning the data they collect on their subscribers.  It was reported that, during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a company connected with the Trump campaign was allowed access to a huge amount of personal data maintained by Facebook.

This Facebook news got me thinking about what Facebook was saving about me.  I started looking at my own Facebook account to see what was there.  I discovered that I had joined Facebook 8 years ago in 2010.  That was so long ago, I had forgotten how long I have been on Facebook.  I started digging around my account and found that I had hundreds of photos that were visible to anyone who went to my account online.  I also had thousands upon thousands of posts, likes, shares, tags, and so on.  These individual items spanned all the way back to 2010.  Like many Facebook users, I didn’t consider the fact that everything I was doing on Facebook was being saved, and I mean everything.

I had considered purging what wasn’t relevant to what is going on today.  I discovered that it wasn’t that simple.  Facebook clearly doesn’t want you to delete stuff.  There was no setting allowing the bulk deletion of individual activity items.  Over about 2 hours, I began systematically deleting photos, clearing search histories and location histories.  Yes, every time I checked in somewhere, all the way back to 2010, there was a notation of that in my Facebook account.

This morning, there was a segment on the Today Show on NBC about this topic.  After watching the segment, I learned that there is no way to delete things in the Activity Log unless they are delete one-by-one.  That was discouraging.  The report stated Facebook issued a statement that they would be making it easier for users to delete their content.  My question is, why did they make so difficult to delete content in the first place?

Ultimately, after reading a number of articles online, I came to the conclusion that the only way to delete stuff was to completely delete my account.  It felt a little odd contemplating the complete deletion of my Facebook account.  After all, I had been using Facebook for 8 years and there are people I maintain contact with through Facebook.  However, when I looked at the totality of all of the people listed as friends on my account, I came to the conclusion that most of the people listed as “friends” were people I hadn’t had contact with in years.  Many were people I had worked with during my working career.  Most of them were people who likely don’t hold the same political views as I hold.  I could not come up with a good reason to continue my Facebook account.

When you tell Facebook to delete, it doesn’t delete stuff right away.  Photos are deleted in 90 days.  When the command is sent to Facebook to delete an entire account, a notice advises you that your account will still be there for 2 weeks and that you can go back in and reactivate it, should you choose to do so.  Well, hopefully, in 2 weeks, I will be gone from Facebook.  I already feel a sense of relief.  Now, when I go some place, I won’t feel the conflict of whether or not to check-in on Facebook.  Freedom feels pretty good.

It is possible to say goodbye to Microsoft Windows

Shortly after the start of 2018, my Windows 10 computer had trouble with an automatic update pushed out by Microsoft.  Unfortunately, my system would not accept the update and the computer began an endless series of download, update attempt, update failure, and system restore.  I wrote about how I was able to turn off Windows Update in a previous blog post.  Getting the computer to stop trying to update itself was helpful.  However, it didn’t resolve the problem of not being able to update the operating system to the current version of Windows 10.

Many years ago, I had a similarly frustrating experience with Microsoft Windows.  It seems like, every few years, Windows just doesn’t want to play nicely with my computer hardware.  On that previous occasion, I experimented with another operating system.  The alternative operating system was Ubuntu, which was a version of Linux.  I had a lot of fun trying to get Ubuntu to work as a primary operating system.  Unfortunately, at the time, Ubuntu and Linux were still no match for Windows.  It took a lot of work to get Ubuntu to do some of the things I do on a computer.  After about a month, I decided that there were too many things I needed to do on my computer that Ubuntu wasn’t capable of doing.

After my latest issue with Windows, I did some research and found that Ubuntu was still alive and well.  After so many years of being away from Ubuntu, I was pleasantly surprised at how the operating system has matured.  I decided it was time to give Linux another go.

There are many versions of the Linux operating system.  All of them are open-source and free.  While I was bringing myself back up to speed with Linux, I discovered another version that is based on Ubuntu.  After reviewing my options, I settled on testing Linux Mint.

I downloaded the installation package for Linux Mint and burned the image file to a DVD.  At about the same time that I was doing my research, I ordered a new 2 TB hard drive.  I had a secondary hard drive on my system that I swapped out for the new drive.  I installed Linux Mint on the new drive and then instructed my computer to boot from the secondary drive.

For the past 2 weeks, I have been having a grand time with Linux Mint.  Since I am somewhat familiar with Linux, it took me very little time to get the operating system configured for my computer.  My biggest hurdles were getting my Brother laser printer and my Epson document scanner to work properly.  There was no comparison between my current experience with Linux Mint and what my experience was like with Ubuntu years ago.

When I finished my configuration of Linux Mint, it would be difficult to see any major differences from Windows.  I found that my document scanner works better now on Linux than it did on Windows.  I ended up with only 2 applications that I could not duplicate on Linux; one is H&R Block tax software, and the other is a computer sailing simulator, Sailaway.  Unfortunately, neither of these applications have Linux versions.  If not for these 2 hold-outs, I could wipe my Windows drive clean and be done with it.

So, if you have ever felt so frustrated with Microsoft Windows that you almost felt like switching to a Mac (I said almost), consider giving Linux a try.  I wrote this blog post on Opera, my favorite web browser, through the WordPress web interface running Linux Mint.  I’ve noticed that I occasionally forget that I’m not still using Windows.  It truly is possible to say goodbye to Microsoft Windows.

Windows 10 Version 1709 Failure

Of all the Windows versions, I have enjoyed Windows 10 the most, that is up until about 6 months ago.  My particular Windows 10 installation is an upgrade from Windows 7.  It always seems that, when you upgrade from one major Windows version to another, there are problems.

Windows 10 had one big difference from previous versions.  When updates were needed, it would do them mostly without letting me know what it was doing.  I wasn’t particularly comfortable with this arrangement, but such is progress.  It was possible to check on what updates were being installed.  To do this, one had to search for the information.

About 6 months ago, Windows 10 informed me that an update had failed.  In the update window, a button said Fix Issues.  I clicked that button and was ultimately presented with an ominous warning.  The new update might make some of the music and videos on my system unusable because Windows had changed Digital Rights Management.  This scared me from clicking the OK, I understand button, and Windows Update seemed to be somewhat satisfied for a while.

This past week, Windows 10 had clearly run out of patience with me.  My computer launched into a constant cycle of downloading the update, trying to install it, reporting that it was restoring my previous version, then saying that the update to version 1709 had failed.  I did a little research about what Windows had changed for DRM in version 1709.  It looked like the only music that would be affected were WMA files, of which I had none.  All of my music is MP3 format.

After a lot of troubleshooting, which resulted in my operating system crashing once, requiring a disc restoration, I finally clicked on the OK, I understand button and I thought I was good to go.

What followed was the same cycle of downloading the update, trying to install it, restoring to the previous update, which is version 1511, then advising that the update to version 1709 had again failed.  I did additional research to try to find a reason why the update was failing.  At some point, after wasting many hours trying to fix the problem, I decided I had enough.

My final option in this saga was to try to find a way to turn off Windows Update.  The computer with this update problem is over 5 years old and I decided that being stuck with version 1511 until the computer stopped working completely was my best option.  If you find that you are in the same situation that I have described, what follows is a description of what I did to pull the plug on Windows Update.

  1. Open the Control Panel.
  2. Click on Administrative Tools.
  3. Double-click on Services.
  4. Right-click on Update Orchestrator Service.
  5. Select Properties.
  6. Click the Stop button.
  7. Above the Service Status (which should now say Stopped), there is a drop-down menu. Select Disabled, then click Apply and click OK.
  8. Scroll down and right-click on Windows Update.
  9. Select Properties.
  10. Click the Stop button.
  11. Above the Service Status (which should now say Stopped), there is a drop-down menu. Select Disabled, then click Apply and click OK.
  12. Close the Services window.
  13. Double-click on Task Scheduler.
  14. In the left window pane, drill down to the directory Task Scheduler Library / Microsoft / Windows.
  15. Click on UpdateOrchestrator so that it is highlighted.
  16. In the center top window pane, I had 10 scheduled tasks.  For each of these tasks, click to highlight, then in the right window pane, find Disable and click.  The corresponding task in the center top window pane should now show Disabled for a status.  Do this for each task until they all show a status of Disabled.
  17. In the left window pane, click on WindowsUpdate to select it.
  18. In the center top window pane, I had 4 scheduled tasks.  For each of these tasks, click to highlight, then in the right window pane, find Disable and click.  The corresponding task in the center top window pane should now show Disabled for a status.  Do this for each task until they all show a status of Disabled.
  19. Close the Task Scheduler window.
  20. Close the Administrative Tools window.
  21. Close the Control Panel.
  22. Click the Windows Start MenuPowerRestart.

If, during the above procedure, Windows tries to interrupt you with the update it is trying to install, I was able to interrupt the update by just restarting the computer.  So far, I haven’t heard from Windows Update.  If my situation changes, I will update this post.  My computer will no longer update itself, which is a downside.  The upside is that I am spared the endless update/restore cycles.

Sometimes software upgrades are not a good idea

The computers of today have come a long way from what I was using back in 1976.  Almost 40 years ago, the personal computer was mostly a toy and a novelty.  Today, I would find it hard to live without the use of my computer and my connection to the Internet.

There is one fact that is as true today as it was nearly 40 years ago.  Computer systems are not 100% reliable.  They sometimes fail and, if there is not a proper backup scheme in place, important data can be lost.  My computer in 1976 used an audio cassette recorder as a storage medium.  I frequently lost data because the magnetic tape in the audio cassette was easily corrupted.

The backup scheme I employ today is much more complex.  I learned, after several hard drive failures and data corruption, that having a reliable backup was an absolute necessity.  Since all of my finances are managed on my computer, the loss of that data would be catastrophic.  The best way to ensure the data is not lost is to have more than one copy of the data.  The copies should include an image of all data on the computer’s main hard drive.  After suffering from a computer crash about 10 years ago, which resulted in the loss of a significant amount of my data, I adopted the following backup routine.  Each day, before I shut down my computer, I make a backup image of the main hard drive.  Throughout the day, I have a second program making periodic backups of important data, such as from my financial program.  I have 3 external hard drives, one is for the continual backups of data throughout the day, and the other 2 are used to save images of my main hard drive. When one of the image backup drives fills, I switch to the second.  When the second fills, the first is wiped clean and the process begins again.  At any given time, I have nearly a month of backups.

This process was invaluable about 5 years ago when I experienced my first complete failure of the main hard drive.  I purchased a replacement hard drive, installed it, and my computer was back up, having only lost what work I had done since turning on the computer in the morning.  I considered myself to be very lucky.  It wasn’t really luck, it was planning.

Last week, Windows 10 was released to the general public.  I had read good reviews about this newest Windows operating system.  I decided to give it a spin, especially since I have such a reliable backup system in place.  If I decided Windows 10 wasn’t for me, it would be simple to revert back to the computer’s hard drive image from before the operating system upgrade.

For many years, my backup software of choice has been from Acronis.  Each year, Acronis would send a notice out for an upgraded version of their backup software True Image.  At the end of last year, I was given a chance to upgrade to the latest version, True Image 2015.  In general, using the most recent version of computer software is a best practice.  My upgrade to True Image 2015 reminded me that using the most recent software version is not always the best practice.

Two years ago, I used my external hard drive image of my computer’s main hard drive to replace a still functioning hard drive.  Hard drives in my computer get a lot of use.  Other than the microprocessor cooling fan, the hard drive is the only mechanical part of the computer that wears out because of how much it is used.  It seemed logical to periodically replace the hard drive, even though it might still be functioning properly.  I decided that, with the upgrade to Windows 10, this would be a good time to install a fresh hard drive.

I made a backup of my system right before activating the Windows 10 upgrade.  The upgrade was surprisingly smooth.  The Windows 10 upgrade was the easiest Microsoft upgrade I’ve ever experienced.  All of my Windows 7 settings, programs, desktop, wallpaper, etc, were there when Windows 10 came alive on my computer.  It wasn’t long before I decided that I was good to go with Windows 10 and said goodbye to Windows 7.

My next task was to install the new hard drive.  I started Acronis True Image 2015 from the DVD recovery disc.  Within 10 minutes of the hard disk restoration, the program halted and reported that the restoration had failed.  This is not a good sign when one is dealing with hard disk restoration.  I checked the program’s log and it reported that my backup was corrupted.  Also not a good sign.  I reconnected the original hard drive and made another back.  Some of my backups have been what are known as incremental backups.  This is when only changed data on the hard drive is archived, which saves time and disk space.  The backup I made this time was a full backup.

When the backup was complete, I installed the new hard drive and initiated True Image 2015 from the DVD.  Once again, after less than 10 minutes, the program halted and reported that the restoration had failed.  I checked the program’s log and the same error was there, the backup was reported as being corrupted.

Google is a wonderful tool.  Whenever I have a computer-related issue, or just about any other kind of issue, I do a search on Google and can usually find a resolution.  I was shocked when I searched for this error when using True Image 2015.  Apparently the error I was receiving was not uncommon.  In fact, on the Acronis web site, they have a troubleshooting matrix, which suggests that an internal hard drive should be used if a corruption error is received while using an external drive.  Why is True Image 2015 not able to restore from an image on an external drive when previous versions of True Image did not have this problem.  As I read further about issues with True Image 2015, I noted that several users were advocating going back to previous versions of the software because of the major changes that were implemented in the 2015 version.

This created a real problem for me.  Thank goodness it was only during a routine swap of main hard drives.  I don’t even want to think about what would have happened if I had experienced a hard drive failure and tried to restore from my backups.  I have a second hard drive in my computer, but it is used for data storage and there was not sufficient space available for me to save an image of the main hard drive on this secondary hard drive.  In the end, I had to transfer enough data off the internal secondary drive to make room for a main drive image.

I went back to my original main hard drive, instructed True Image 2015 to save an image of the main drive on the secondary internal drive.  When I ran the True Image 2015 DVD to restore to the new main hard drive, the process was successful.  My computer was now running as before, but with a brand new main hard drive.

The articles I read online suggested that True Image 2015 was a major mistake by Acronis.  The overwhelming advice was to revert back to a previous version.  Unfortunately, I had not saved any of the installation files for previous versions of True Image.  I did a quick search on Amazon and found True Image 2014 for $30.  I immediately ordered it.  Once I receive the 2014 version, I’ll do a test restore using my external backups.  If the backups are successful, it looks as though I will just stay with the 2014 version.  Not that it will make any difference to Acronis, but I sent them feedback telling how they had lost a loyal customer.  I’m pretty flexible with most things, but having reliable backups of my computer data is no place for flexibility.  Reliability is the key.

Exit Full Screen in Windows 10

I got my notice from Microsoft that I could install Windows 10 yesterday.  I must say, it was the easiest Microsoft upgrade I’ve ever experienced.  I had a complete backup of my system before I did the upgrade, so I wasn’t very concerned about something going wrong.  Much to my surprise, after the upgrade, my desktop looked very similar to how it looked in Windows 7.

I ran into one problem that didn’t seem to have an obvious resolution.  With Windows 7, once an application was in full-screen mode, pressing the ESC key would bring you out of full screen.  When I pressed the ESC key in Windows 10, nothing happened. It took some experimenting, but I found that if I moved the mouse cursor to the top of the screen and left it there, a bar would drop down and there was the icon to exit full screen.  Very simple, once you know the trick.