A lot of us hear the word ping used a lot in gaming and when we are having network issues, but what exactly is ping?

ping

ping is a command line tool that is used to measure the round-trip time for messages sent from one computer to another. This is often used to test if there is a connection between your computer and a website.

Command Options
WindowsLinux
Option Description
-t Ping the specified host until stopped. To see statistics and continue – type Control-Break; To stop – type Control-C.
-a Resolve addresses to hostnames.
-n count Number of echo requests to send.
-l size Send buffer size.
-f Set Don’t Fragment flag in packet (IPv4-only).
-i TTL Time to Live.
-r count Record route for count hops (IPv4-only)
-s count Timestamp for count hops (IPv4-only).
-j host-list Loose source route along host-list (IPv4-only).
-k host-list Strict source route along host-list (IPv4-only).
-w timeout Timeout in milliseconds to wait for each reply.
-S srcaddr Source address to use.
-c compartment Routing compartment identifier.
-p Ping a Hyper-V Network Virtualization provider address.
-4 Force using IPv4.
-6 Force using IPv6.
Option Description
-a Audible ping.
-A Adaptive ping. Interpacket interval adapts to round-trip time, so that effectively not more than one (or more, if preload is set) unanswered probes present in the network. Minimal interval is 200msec for not super-user. On networks with low rtt this mode is essentially equivalent to flood mode.
-b Allow pinging a broadcast address.
-B Do not allow ping to change source address of probes. The address is bound to one selected when ping starts.
-c count Stop after sending count ECHO_REQUEST packets. With deadline option, ping waits for count ECHO_REPLY packets, until the timeout expires.
-d Set the SO_DEBUG option on the socket being used. Essentially, this socket option is not used by Linux kernel.
-F flow label Allocate and set 20 bit flow label on echo request packets. (Only ping6). If value is zero, kernel allocates random flow label.
-f Flood ping. For every ECHO_REQUEST sent a period ”.” is printed, while for ever ECHO_REPLY received a backspace is printed. This provides a rapid display of how many packets are being dropped. If interval is not given, it sets interval to zero and outputs packets as fast as they come back or one hundred times per second, whichever is more. Only the super-user may use this option with zero interval.
-i interval Wait interval seconds between sending each packet. The default is to wait for one second between each packet normally, or not to wait in flood mode. Only super-user may set interval to values less 0.2 seconds.
-I interface address Set source address to specified interface address. Argument may be numeric IP address or name of device. When pinging IPv6 link-local address this option is required.
-l preload If preload is specified, ping sends that many packets not waiting for reply. Only the super-user may select preload more than 3.
-L Suppress loopback of multicast packets. This flag only applies if the ping destination is a multicast address.
-n Numeric output only. No attempt will be made to lookup symbolic names for host addresses.
-Q tos Set Quality of Service -related bits in ICMP datagrams. tos can be either decimal or hex number. Traditionally (RFC1349), these have been interpreted as: 0 for reserved (currently being redefined as congestion control), 1-4 for Type of Service and 5-7 for Precedence. Possible settings for Type of Service are: minimal cost: 0x02, reliability: 0x04, throughput: 0x08, low delay: 0x10. Multiple TOS bits should not be set simultaneously. Possible settings for special Precedence range from priority (0x20) to net control (0xe0). You must be root (CAP_NET_ADMIN capability) to use Critical or higher precedence value. You cannot set bit 0x01 (reserved) unless ECN has been enabled in the kernel. In RFC2474, these fields has been redefined as 8-bit Differentiated Services (DS), consisting of: bits 0-1 of separate data (ECN will be used, here), and bits 2-7 of Differentiated Services Codepoint (DSCP).
-q Quiet output. Nothing is displayed except the summary lines at startup time and when finished.
-R Record route. Includes the RECORD_ROUTE option in the ECHO_REQUEST packet and displays the route buffer on returned packets. Note that the IP header is only large enough for nine such routes. Many hosts ignore or discard this option.
-r Bypass the normal routing tables and send directly to a host on an attached interface. If the host is not on a directly-attached network, an error is returned. This option can be used to ping a local host through an interface that has no route through it provided the option -I is also used.
-s packetsize Specifies the number of data bytes to be sent. The default is 56, which translates into 64 ICMP data bytes when combined with the 8 bytes of ICMP header data.
-S sndbuf Set socket sndbuf. If not specified, it is selected to buffer not more than one packet.
-t ttl Set the IP Time to Live.
-T timestamp option Set special IP timestamp options. timestamp option may be either tsonly (only timestamps), tsandaddr (timestamps and addresses) or tsprespec host1 [host2 [host3 [host4]]] (timestamp prespecified hops).
-M hint Select Path MTU Discovery strategy. hint may be either do (prohibit fragmentation, even local one), want (do PMTU discovery, fragment locally when packet size is large), or dont (do not set DF flag).
-U Print full user-to-user latency (the old behaviour). Normally ping prints network round trip time, which can be different f.e. due to DNS failures.
-v Verbose output.
-V Show version and exit.
-w deadline Specify a timeout, in seconds, before ping exits regardless of how many packets have been sent or received. In this case ping does not stop after count packet are sent, it waits either for deadline expire or until count probes are answered or for some error notification from network.
-W timeout Time to wait for a response, in seconds. The option affects only timeout in absense of any responses, otherwise ping waits for two RTTs.
Note: Linux uses ping and ping6 to distinuish between IPv4 and IPv6

Use Case

If you are having issues connecting to the internet many will try to test the issue by sending a ping request to a known working website. We will use google.com in this example.

If we run the command ping google.com we should get the following output:

Successful ping
Pinging google.com [172.217.5.78] with 32 bytes of data:

Reply from 172.217.5.78: bytes=32 time=22ms TTL=53

Reply from 172.217.5.78: bytes=32 time=26ms TTL=53

Reply from 172.217.5.78: bytes=32 time=23ms TTL=53

Reply from 172.217.5.78: bytes=32 time=68ms TTL=53

Ping statistics for 172.217.5.78:

   Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss),

Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:

    Minimum = 22ms, Maximum = 68ms, Average = 34ms

If all our packets get replies then we have a good connection. If some of them are lost it could mean that there is some network interference preventing a stable connection. If all of them are lost then we are looking at three different possible issues:

  1. The website is down.
  2. You are not connected to the internet.
  3. You are having DNS problems.

We can test number 3 by typing in the IP Address of the website you wish to ping. If you get no packets then the issue is not likely a DNS issue. If you receive your packets then we may be able to fix the issue by flushing our DNS Resolver Catch with ipconfig /flushdns. To learn more about ipconfig look at our article here.

Sometimes we need to know our IP Address or troubleshoot internet connection issues. How do we do that? Well we have a handy tool built into Windows, ipconfig.

ipconfig is a Windows command line utility and network troubleshooting tool. To access it you just need to open the windows command line by pressing start and typing in cmd.

ipconfig has many arguments and follows the syntax:

ipconfig /argument [adapter]

Arguments

Many command line programs can be given additional options called arguments. These arguments usually start with a /. Here is a list of all the arguments that ipconfig has:

Argument Description
/? Displays Help File
/all Display full configuration information
/release
/release6
Release the IP address for IPv4/IPv6 for specified addapter
/renew
/renew6
Renew the IPv4/IPv6 address for the specified addapter
/flushdns Purges the DNS Resolver cache
/registerdns Refreshes all DHCP leases and re-registers DNS names
/displaydns Display the contents of the DNS Resolver Cache
/showclassid
/showclassid6
Displays all the IPv4/IPv6 dhcp class IDs allowed for adapter
/setclassid
/setclassid6
Modifies the IPv4/IPv6 DHCP class id

With these commands you can find a lot out about your wireless and wireless connections. A lot of connectivity issues can be fixed simply by using /renew and /flushdns.

We will continue to cover command line programs in the future.

Many of us have old games laying around and realize that they just don’t work right. This can be due to many issues, but today we will cover DirectX issues using WineD3D for Windows.

WineD3D for Windows is a “DirectX 1-11 to OpenGL wrapper based on WineD3D”. Normally WineD3D is used to run DirectX games on Linux, but some old Windows games do not run on Windows anymore. Lets take Star Wars Battlefront 2 for example. On Windows 10, some maps have issues displaying the right colors. To fix this we will need a replacement for DirectX 9.

You can download WineD3D for Windows here.

Getting it Working

There is a readme in the zip folder that WineD3D come in. For Battlefront 2, we will copy the d3d9.dll, libwine.dll and wined3d.dll into the data directory that the game’s executable is located. BattlefrontII.exe is located here.

When you load it up, the game works as it should.

Battlefront2

Battlefront 2 Data Directory.

WineD3D

WineD3D for Windows Zip File.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The game should now run properly. This works with many games, but is not guaranteed.

WineD3D is far from perfect and has issues: Some games will not work, stutter, or lock to low resolutions. If you would like to help improve it, it is open source under the GNU LGPL Version 2.

Now that we have an understanding of how to get around, we will go over installing software and the internet. We will only cover the minimum here, in the future we will go over email, Facebook, and other things.

There are a couple of programs we will be installing to get you up and running properly on the internet. These would be a web browser and a firewall.

An Overview

The internet is, in its most basic form, a connection between computers. These computers can send data between one another. For our purposes your computer and a web-server will be communicating.

These servers hold the data that makes up websites and other things that you download.

Why access this data? For many reasons: The Internet holds vast amounts of information from encyclopedias to movies and games, you need to know how to use it effectively to hold a job and there is much fun to be had as well.

Getting Online

Wireless Icons

Wireless on the Left and Wired on the Right

Before you can do anything related with the internet you need to be connected. In the notifications area you should be able to see your connection status and if you are not connected, connect to a network. The icon for this will very depending on whether you are using a wired or a wireless connection.

If you are connected by Ethernet then you have nothing more to do, but if you are using wireless you will need to click the wireless icon. A new menu will appear showing all available networks. You will need to click on the network that belongs to you and enter the password for it.

If you do not know the password it may be on the router that you are using. A router is a devise that routs wireless connections, either your service provider sent you one or you will need to buy one to get wireless.

Now we have one more step, that is open up a web browser. We will be using Microsoft Edge at the start of this tutorial, but will be changing that really soon. There are multiple ways to open Edge, the ‘e’ icon that is on the task bar and start menu, in the start menu you can click all apps and find “Microsoft Edge”, or you can open the start menu and start typing “edge” and hit enter when it appears.MS Edge

Getting Around and Installing Better Programs

Now there are a couple of things you can do now; you can check the weather, make a Facebook account, or watch a movie, but we will be getting a new web browser and an anti-virus.

“Why do I need another browser?” Though Microsoft Edge is far better than what Microsoft had in the past, it is not powerful and is completely controlled by Microsoft. As said previously, we want to keep dependence on them to a minimal.

There are much better options out there than Edge, the two I recommend are Firefox and Google Chrome. This depends on your philosophy and how much power you wish over your browser. Firefox is founded on the principle of privacy and freedom to control the browser as you see fit. Google Chrome is controlled by one of the largest data collection organizations in the world, who just so happens to control a large amount of the internet. With Chrome you do not have control like in Firefox and privacy is questionable, but you have full integration with Google’s services and an easy to use interface.

I will be using Firefox for this tutorial, but the same principles apply to both browsers.

In the search box, the box on the top of the page, you should type wish to find, in this case “Firefox”. A web page should appear with a list of search results. Click on the blue text “Firefox Web Browser – The Official…”, this will take you to the Firefox website. There should be a button that says “Free Download”, click it.Firefox Bing Search

At the bottom of Edge there should be a download status that gives you information on the download.

The first thing you wish to do once the file is downloaded is click “Run”. You will see a green extraction bar and then a warning asking if you would like to run the file, say yes.

Installing Firefox

The installer is a fairly self-explanatory, click next once it opens. You are then presented with options for a Standard or Custom install. For most programs you will want to do a Custom Install when it is an option, as some software will do undesirable things to your computer unless you disable them. Firefox will not do said things, but it is best to get in the habit of doing things this way.

7 Firefox_Install_0

Next you will be asked where you wish to install the program. You are best leaving this alone, but take note how things are set up. You are given the folder that the program will be installed into, how much space is required for the program, and how much you have on your hard drive.8 Firefox_Install_1

The next option given you is to install the “Maintenance Service”, you will want to have this. You should always have your software up to date, this keeps it secure and keeps you from getting a virus.

There will also be the options to have an icon on your Desktop and in the Start Menu. You will want to have the start menu, but there is no need for a desktop icon as we will have a quick launch icon on the task bar shortly. Thus you will want to uncheck the desktop option.

You will be given a summery of the installation, where the program will be installed. All you need to do is click “Install”.

A green progress bar will show you how things are going and then you can just click “Finish”. Firefox will start automatic unless you unchecked it.Firefox, Gateway to the Internet

Follow similar steps if using Google Chrome.

Firefox and the Internet

You are finally here, you have a competent web browser and are connected to the internet. Now there is some simple setup needed for Firefox.

11_Firefox_Search_OptionsWithout a little work, Firefox is not as powerful as it could be. So we need to go into the menu and click on options. This menu is on the far right of the browser, just under the close button. Within the options you will find a tab that says Search, under that tab you will have the option to change search engines. You will want to change it to Google under the drop down list that says Yahoo. Just click on the button and it will open this list, then click Google. Yes, that Google.

Then you just close the options by clicking the ‘x’ on the tab that is in the top of the browser. These tabs will become very important in the future.

Windows comes with a simple Firewall and anti-virus, but they are rather simplistic and lacking in some areas. If you are comfortable with that, you are set for the internet. However we will be covering anti-virus software in our next article.

Sadly our short attention span culture means that this website would suffer if I continue here. Keep an eye out for our next step, installing an anti-virus and exploring the web.

We have gone over how to install Windows 10, now we will go over how to navigate the interface.

Getting Around

In Windows 10 you navigate using the mouse and keyboard. The mouse has to functions; the left button is used to activate whatever the cursor is on and the right button brings up additional options. The keyboard has many keys and many more functions, so we will introduce them slowly.

When you start up your computer and login, you will be greeted with the desktop. This place can contain files and program shortcuts, but it is always a good idea to keep it clean.

At the bottom of the screen you will see the task bar.

Widows 10 TaskbarThis is the key to the interface. From left to right: Start Button, Cortana Searchbar, Task View Shortcut, Quick Launch Shortcuts, Notifications Area, Time and Date, and the Show Desktop Shortcut.

As we will not be using Cortana and there are shortcuts using the keyboard for task view we will disable the buttons on the taskbar. To do so we need to right click on the taskbar. This will bring up a Context Menu, it is called such as it is different depending on where and when you right click.

Taskbar Context MenuYou will want to highlight the Cortana button in the menu, this will open up a submenu where you can chose to hide Cortana, click it. Click Show Task View button in the menu to hide it as well. Context Menus often give you access to many options that would otherwise be inconvenient to access.

Now that we have a clean looking taskbar, we can go over what everything is.

The Start Button gives you access to a menu of options and all of the installed programs. This will be the launching point of most of what you do on your computer. We will come back to this in a minute.

The Quick Launch Shortcuts give you the ability to access some programs without opening the Start Menu. This is useful for your most used programs.

The Notifications Area will tell you your internet connection status, volume settings, and many more. The button just left of the time will open up a list of notifications where you can see what has been happening to your computer. The arrow on the far left opens up a menu with more icons that will give you the status of certain programs. Some programs that you will install, such as a firewall, will place icons in this menu.

The time and date are displayed and when clicked will give you a monthly calendar.

The last button is a little hard to see by some, but it will hide all of your open programs and show the desktop when clicked. This is very useful when your screen is getting crowded.

The Start MenuThe Start Menu and Programs

Click the start button or press the meta key on the keyboard (It looks like the start button) to open the start menu. It is full of ads and looks unprofessional, but we will be replacing it soon and we need it.

This is the part of the interface that brings you to your programs. Lets open File Explorer by clicking on it in the menu.

File ExplorerAll files in Windows are stored in File(Also Called Directories). These file can hold pictures, music, videos, programs, and other files. You navigate these using a program named File Explore.

At the top you see the icon that represents the program, a properties, new folder, the name of the icon, a minimize, maximize, and exit button.

You should also note that the icon for File Explorer is highlighted with a blue bar under it in the taskbar. This indicates that it is open and active.

If you click the minimize button the program will be hidden from view, to bring it back up, just click on it in the taskbar. The Maximize button will make the program take up the whole screen. The Exit button will close the program.

If you hover the cursor along any of the edges of the program you can change its size. This is helpful if you have more than one program open at once.

We will go over File Explorer in depth in the future. For now you should have an understanding of how the widows interface works.

Last time we went over computer hardware. Today we will be installing Windows 10. Windows 10 is the most recent version of the Windows Operating system (OS). We will first go over installing the OS from a disk, if you bought a computer with Windows 10 on it you can skip ahead to part two.

You will want to Select your Language

Windows 10’s Localization Selection

Part 1: Installing from Disk

To interact with menus in windows you will use the left mouse button to select items and the keyboard to type information.

The first thing you will see when you start installing the system is the localization settings. You will want to select your language, time and currency format, and keyboard to mach your region. In the screen shot we have everything setup for a United States computer. Then hit Next.

On the next screen you should screen Install now and a Repair your computer button. Click Install now.

02 Enter CD KeyWindows will ask you for your serial number. It will be on the case of the installation disk. If you do not have it you can click I don’t have a product key, but you will run into trouble later if you cannot find it.

The next window will ask if you want to Upgrade or do a Custom install. We want to do the second. Click Custom.

You will just need to click on your hard drive and then the next button on the next screen, unless you know what you are doing.

We will go over partitioning in a later article.

Windows 10 Install

Windows 10 is installing, it will only take a minute.

The next window will show the installation progress of Windows 10. This will take a few minutes. After it is done your computer will restart.

Part Two: Setting up Windows 10

Now we start setting up Windows 10 for use. This is where things get tricky for the uneducated user. Windows 10 will do everything in its power to get you to consent to giving more information than you should. If you do not care about your privacy you can ignore the next part of the article, but you should care. “but I have nothing to hide.” is an evil and dumb statement, never consent to giving your information when it is not required.

05 Express vs CustomizeThe next screen will ask you if you want to Use Express settings, you do not want to. Each point that the installer makes about why you want to use them is another piece of your private life that Microsoft can use for marketing and something that can be used against you.

There is a small Customize settings button near the bottom left of the screen, click it.

The next few windows will have a lot of options you will want to click off.

Microsoft's Privact Setting

Oh where art thou, oh where art thou privacy?

You will want to click each one of these option to off. These options will allow Microsoft to track everything you type, your location, your calendar information, and the

contact information of others. Most of the programs that use these “features” are more prevalent on cellphones, so you do not benefit much by giving this information to Microsoft.

Once you have everything off click next.

Connectivity and error reporting:

Computer security 101: Never connect to a network you trust, ever. The next three options are more dangerous to have on than just giving Microsoft your information. When you connect to a network you make your computer open to what is on it. You will want to change these to off.

Sending error reports to Microsoft actually sounds like a good idea, but in my experience diagnostics never return results. It is better not to give Microsoft this information as you will not see results and Microsoft will sell what they get from you.

More options to turn off:

Settings to turn off.

More things to turn off, hooray!

Windows 10’s SmartScreen feature is useful if you go to less savory websites, but in exchange, Microsoft gets to know where you have been online and what you are downloading.

Page prediction will be useless for us as we will be using a third party program to brows the internet. If left on, Windows 10 will send your internet and download history to Microsoft. Even if you do use the integrated web browser, you will not benefit much by having this on.

The last option will use your computer to send updates to others and allow you to receive them from others. This will use your internet connection, thus wasting bandwidth and slowing down your internet.

Turn these off.

Windows will restart after you click next.

Part Three: Creating a Local Account

We are almost done! Unfortunately Microsoft tries to ware on your willpower by making it easier to just hand over the keys to your life.

Windows 10 Account Setup.

It is a trap! Do not fall for it.

Windows 10 will ask you to sign in to or make a Microsoft account. This account will allow you to connect your devices and will allow Microsoft to put a name, address, email, and phone number to all the data they collect.

They make it hard to say no by making the Skip this step and Microsoft privacy statement buttons small. Read that privacy statement, it is vague and misleading, but it basically states that Microsoft will be sharing your information with the government, sending it to advertisers, and using it for the improvement of Windows 10.

We will want to Skip this step. There are some honest benefits to using a Microsoft account, parental controls and online backups, but there are alternatives that do not want to sell you ever chance they get.

Creating a Local Account

Local account setup.

This is the screen that they should greet you with.

We are going to setup the account for the first user on this computer, this will be the system administrator and will have full control over the system.

The user name can be your name or anything you want. On this system I will be using “Random Thoughts”. The password is very important. This is what keeps others out of your computer. It would be a shame to have gone through all that effort to lessen Microsoft’s grip just to hand the keys over to someone else. Use the keyboard to enter one that uses a combination of Upper and lower case letters, symbols, and numbers. Unless you are expecting someone with physical access to your computer to brake into your computer, it does not need to be overly strong.

An example password could look something like this: hTF1%g%#Gl#6U

Never use password as a password.

The password hint can help you remember what you have entered here, if you forget your password you will not be able to access your computer.

Now Windows 10 will play an animation as it sets things up for the new user. Just wait wist it finishes.

We are done.

We are done, just one more thing to do.

Congratulations, Windows 10 is now installed. There is just one more step. If you have your computer connected to the internet already, you will want to decide if you want your computer viable to others on the network. If you are at home you can select yes. If you are using a laptop or a computer that is on a public network you will want to say no.

If you have no plans on running a server or doing anything regarding computers interacting with each other you are better off saying no, you can always change this option.

We will be going over the windows interface next time and setting things up for you to use. We will also install our first few programs in the next article.

This year Random Thoughts will start an Introduction to Computers series of posts to give readers a better understanding of how to use computers and their important in society.

School and work have prevented me from keeping this blog up to date, but with the upcoming year I will dedicate some time each month to writing.

The Plan:

The series will be geared towards people who have little experience with computers. I have found that the majority of people are woefully ignorant of how to use a computer for more than simple searching and Facebook. In our connected and computer filled world everybody needs to know at least the basics of computers.

The series will start off with a general introduction to computers and then get into Windows 10’s User Interface, settings, and basic software needs that open-source software can provide. Wist this may seem remedial to some, I have encountered many people who have hardly touched a computer or who only know enough to post on Facebook. That is who this series is for.

As time progresses Random Thoughts will cover more advanced topics such as networking, basic web markup (HTML & CSS), etc. As we cover software we will go over the necessities first, what is needed to get the job done. We will go in depth in separate articles.

As an example of the structure we will use LibreOffice Writer:

Most users will need to know typing, character formatting, header and footer formatting, and paragraph spacing. That is all that is required for most college papers in MLA and APA format and more than what most people will ever need in an introductory level office job.

After covering the basics an advanced article will be available to people who need a little more guidance. In such we would cover page and paragraph formatting, advanced keyboard shortcuts, tables, and using images.

You will find that Random Thoughts will always encourage you to experiment and find your own answers, but we will try our best get you where you need to go.

Our plan is to be helpful to you in the coming year. Feel free to ask about anything to do with consumer and small business level computing.

Hopefully we will see you in 2016.

 

The Problem:

Microsoft did not include Solitaire or MineSweeper in Windows 10, instead you can get Microsoft Solitaire Collection. This is Microsoft’s attempt at making solitaire into a service that you will pay for. You will either pay a fee to get an ad-free experience or get bombarded with obtrusive advertising. To top it all off you need a Microsoft Account to use it. Who would have ever thought that you would have to pay to play something computer users have enjoyed for free for so long. Microsoft Solitaire Collection is a bad joke.

The Solution:

PySol is an open-source version of Solitaire written in Python. Sadly development has stopped and it has not aged well.

Look at all of them.

Look at all of them.

Fortunately it works on Windows 10 and has more than a thousand solitaire games, including Mahjong Solitaire. The interface is intuitive and the games work.

Disclaimer: I do not play Solitaire and am not qualified to review PySol’s quality in regard to game-play.

PySol is under the GPL and can be modified and improved. If you know a little bit of Python and love Solitaire I encourage you to bring the project back to life as no one wishes to give Microsoft any more than they must.

PySol can be downloaded from Sourceforge here.

windows_10_Logo_725

 

On the twenty-ninth of July, many of you received your upgrade to Windows 10. The operating system is great as long as you ignore the blatant security problems and the problems in the new start menu. Fortunately the latter is easily fixed with the program Classic Shell.

What is wrong with the Start Menu?

Everyone was excited about the implementation of the Start Menu in Windows 10, but this is not the menu of yesteryear. It has numerous improvements over the old menus:

  • Better SearchWindows_10_Start
  • Live Tiles (Questionable improvement, but we will get to that in a minute.)
  • New Animations
  • Cortana Integration

The better search in Windows 10 is wonderful, in earlier versions of Windows search was almost entirely useless. Now you can start typing in the name of whatever you need to find and it will find it, though application launchers still do a better job. The animations are smooth and have a nice feel to them.

Cortana is a feature I do not use for the privacy reasons, but if you are okay with sacrificing privacy for convenience it may be a boon.

Now the problems that come with the menu:

  • Most of the Live Tiles are useless advertisements for Microsoft programs, not something you should expect for a professional operating system. The other programs connect your start menu to the internet. This sounds nice to some, but first, this is a security risk and second, why would you want to be bombarded with information every time you try to launch a program?

The new search is everywhere in Windows 10 so there is no reason to use the default start menu there either. You could use an application launcher to search and launch programs instead.

  • Then there is the problem of customization. Wist you can pin programs the menu as bulky live tiles, you can not change the menu’s appearance much, other than accent color and its size.
  • Some programs do not even show up in the apps menu. The uninstallers and sub-folders do not show up at all. How is one to be productive if they must make new program shortcuts for their programs and place them on the desktop or if they must go into the control panel whenever they wish to uninstall a program?

How do we fix it?

We can use Classic Shell. This is a free program that will add a new start menu and replace the old one. This will work on other versions of Windows so do not fell left out if you have not upgraded yet.

The first thing that you need to do is download and install Classic Shell form their site here: http://www.classicshell.net/

After the install you will be prompted with an options screen.

Classic_Shell_SettingsStart Menu Style

The first option available to you in Classic Shell is to choose the style of the start menu. The classic style is similar to the Windows 95 and 98 menus, this has little advantage over the default menu in Windows 10. The next option looks more like Windows Xp’s menu with multiple columns for the programs menu, this is useful if you do not want to scroll through a list of programs as everything will be on the screen at once. The last option looks more like the Windows 7 with a single column programs menu.

At this point you can hit OK if you do not want to go through the host of configuration settings available. The style serves as a base for what your menu will look like, but there is more customization to be had.

The next option available to you is to replace the start button. You can change the start button (Start Orb). You have three options: Aero, the Classic Shell Logo; Classic, the Classic Shell Logo on what looks like a Windows 98 start button; and Custom, this is where you can get creative.

Start orbs can be downloaded from websites like Deviantart or make yourself. They are images that have three frames, the first is when the menu is idle, the next is when the mouse is hovering over the button, the last is when the menu is open.

Basic Settings

To get a little bit more power out of Classic Shell you can go to the Basic Settings tab. To some of you this may look like a lot, but it is only scratching the surface of what Classic Shell can do.

As there are many options I will list them and what they do along with any comments or recommendations I have. I will be omitting self explanatory options.

  • Shift + Click: Self Explanatory, Classic Star Menu is the one for Classic Shell, Windows Start is the default one of your OS. I recommend leaving this on the default menu as you never know when you will need it.
  • All Programs style: Cascading will make the all programs menu multi-columned like in Windows XP and earlier. Inside main menu will have your programs in a scrollable list much like Windows 7.
  • Show recent or frequent programs: On the bottom of the Classic Shell start menu you will have a list of programs, this setting allows you to choose what is displayed. Recent programs will show a list of the last run programs. Frequent programs lists the most used programs.
  • Shutdown Command: This allows you to decide what the Shutdown button will do. There is a drop-down menu for the other options by default so this option is only useful if you need to default to something else a lot.

Skin

This is where you will do most of your basic cosmetic changes in Classic Shell. The options are simple. First you have a drop down for what skin you wish to use and underneath a few options for changing skin specific details. Windows Aero is the default Windows 7 look. I will not go into detail about this as it is dependent on your style, skin, and personal preference.

Customize Start Menu

The links you see on the right of the Windows XP and 7 menus are under this tab. This is a feature that they took out of Windows 8 and 10 that is most useful. You can decide to hide or show any menu item.

But There is More

If you click the Show All settings at the top of the settings window it will reveal multitudes of new options. You can change the color of Windows 10’s task bar or change the height and width of the start menu by the pixel, but we will not cover these setting here. We have covered a lot today and will explore more about Classic Shell in the future.