Windows 8 tablet, part two

 Posted by (Visited 11744 times)  Art, Misc  Tagged with: ,
Mar 202013

Life with a new Windows 8 tablet.

Oh boy, are there teething pains. Here’s some of what I did, located after insane amounts of Googling and multiple days. I am posting it here to save other people all the pain.

An amazing resource: the forums at

Gosh, the storage is limited.

Yes, it is. First off, don’t even bother getting a 64GB model. You need the 128, I guarantee it. In the case of the Smart PC Pro, people are even buying 256 or 480GB SSD’s – unlike the Surface Pro, the machine has some user-serviceable parts, and you can replace the SSD without a huge amount of hassle. If you’re brave, check here:

If you’re not brave, well, then:

  • First, add a drive! Buy a 64GB SD microSDXC card. Stick it in, and leave it there. This gives you a second drive.
  • Second, pick up a 32GB USB stick.
    • Swipe in from the right side to get the charms bar.
    • Search for “recovery”
    • When the results come up, you’ll have nothing. But on the right side will be a column for filtering results.  Select “Settings” – that will give you the results you need.
    • There will be two columns of options. “Create a recovery drive” is the one you want.
    • Put in the USB stick, and make sure you select it as the destination recovery drive.
    • Don’t pick “delete the recovery partition” yet. Instead, we want to test that you can boot from USB first!
    • Make sure the tablet is actually off all the way. Put in the USB stick.
    • Then turn it on. When the Samsung logo appears, hit the Windows home button. You should then go to the BIOS.
    • Tap Advanced and disable Fast BIOS.
    • Tap Boot and disable Secure Boot. The key here is that you need the UEFI option to be available so it sees the USB drive.
    • then tap Boot Device Priority
    • Pull down to USB, which should now be there
    • Save and say yes when it asks to reset.
    • Try booting from the USB drive.
    • If it works, you’ll go to start installing Windows. You can bail at that point by turning the tablet off again
    • Now you can delete the recovery partition! There’s a bunch of ways to do this, such as easy to use software, or using command line stuff. I leave it to you to decide which to do. It should gain you about 17GB back, but I haven’t actually done it yet myself.

Set Windows Defender to actually scan regularly:

Microsoft in their infinite wisdom disabled the simple scheduling that was in Win7 Security Essentials. Instead, you have to use the incredibly confusing Task Scheduler that people don’t even know exists and never use.

Worse, Windows Defender isn’t turned on at all, unless you buy from the Microsoft Store (I did).

  • Press Windows-R to open the Run dialog
  • Type in taskschd.msc
  • In the leftmost pane, navigate to Task Scheduler Library > Microsoft > Windows > Windows Defender
  • In the topmost pane you will see Windows Defender Scheduled Scan as the third item. Double click it.
  • In the window that opens, click on the second Tab, labeled Triggers.
  • Click the New button at the bottom of the window. A new window will open called New Trigger.
  • Choose “On a Schedule” from the top pulldown.
  • Choose Daily or Weekly. Monthly will not work.
  • Set up the times you want (like 4am or whatever)
  • Make sure the checkbox that says “repeat task every” isn’t ticked.
  • Make sure the Enabled checkbox is. Then hit OK.
  • Now click the Actions tab and click Edit.
  • In the Program/Script field, put quotes around the pathname. They aren’t there by default, and it won’t work unless they are there.
  • If you want a full scan as opposed to a quick scan, then put “Scan -ScheduleJob -ScanType 2” in the “Add arguments (optional)” field.
  • If you want this to only run when you’re plugged into power, click the Conditions tab and check the appropriate checkbox.
  • Sound complicated? Here’s a walkthrough with pictures.

Fix the lack of keyboard popup when you click in a desktop text field

By default, even if you are using the computer as a tablet, you don’t get a keyboard when you click in a text field unless you are in Metro. At the desktop, you have to actually click on the keyboard icon on the toolbar to open it manually every time. So if you want it to act like iOS…

  • Be warned: this little tool is very CPU-hungry when active (like, 19% CPU usage!)
  • Go here:
  • Once you run this, it’ll stay running in the background. Clicking in a text field (including the text areas in stuff like Notepad!) will automatiucally pop up the keyboard. Click out of the textfield, and it’ll go away.
  • It’ll only do this when not docked, so if you have a real keyboard, no worries.
  • If you want to be scrolling around in a document without the keyboard up, then there’s a way to turn this off built in. Click the little keyboard icons in the Notifications area. Deactivating removes that CPU hit, if you need the processing power back.
  • If you like this, you want it permanently there. Add it to Startup Items!
  • Press Windows-R to open the command prompt.
  • Type shell:Startup to open the startup items window.
  • Drag a shortcut for Desktop Keyboard to the Startup window. Next time you reboot, you’ll get asked if you want to give this permission to run. Say yes.

Note, this does seem to still be mildly twitchy, but it looks like you can report bugs to that thread and they’ll fix ‘em. My dislike is that it resizes the windows of the programs.

How do I get to My Computer?

There’s no icons for your computer, your network drives, any of that. Given that I have tons of stuff on shares, etc, this was annoying. I am not hating all of Win8 — actually quite like the Charms bar, for example — but I did want these back on the desktop for quick access.

  • Get to the desktop (that’s on the tiles by default)
  • Right click on the desktop and choose Personalize
  • Click Change Desktop Icons in the upper right
  • Tick the checkboxes for all the items you want
  • With the My Computer one now there, you can open that up, and if you want your network drives on the desktop, you can drag shortcuts out.
  • You can then right-click on any of these and choose “Pin to Start” to get tiles for them in Metro

You may also want to go buy Start8. It adds an oldschool Windows Start button to the desktop mode. I actually left most of Windows 8’s functionality intact with this, and just use the start menu in desktop mode, because it felt far easier to find apps and use the command prompt with it.

artdockDealing with tiny icons in Photoshop.

Sure, you can use the keyboard. But that defeats the purpose of being able to use this as just an art slate (portable Cintiq!). And the tiny icons in Photoshop are way too hard to tap with a stylus, much less fingers. What you want is Artdock. This is a set of scripts for AutoHotKey.

  • Download AutoHotKey from here: Install it.
  • Download Artdock from here:
  • Make a copy of AutoHotKey.exe and move it to where you have the Artdock folder. It needs to be in the same folder as Artdock.ahk.
  • Rename AutoHotKey.exe to Artdock.exe.
  • Next, fix a bug in the artdock script for Photoshop.  By default, it’s got a messed-up hotkey for switching to the eraser.
  • Go into artdock/ArtDock/txt/ and double-click on PhotoShopDock.txt
  • Find the block that says ROW 6.
  • Within that find the block that says #Control:VSliderDelay
  • Within that, find the line that says Downkey={i Down}{i Up}
  • Change it to  Downkey={e Down}{e Up} and save
  • Go back up in the directory tree and then drag Artdock.exe (the one you made) to the taskbar and pin it there.
  • Now when you go into Photoshop, you can tap that and launch a touch-sensitive toolbar that lives on the side of your screen.  It comes with menus for a host of art programs, which I have not tested, but you may want to check out the Windows level options, kinda handy too.
  • To get to the Photoshop one, tap the PS icon.
  • When your pen or cursor gets near it, it’ll close so it won’t interfere with menu access or drawing. But when you lift your pen away from the screen, you can tap these with your finger. The ones that have up and down arrows can be swiped up and down to get to more things (for example, tap the brush to get the brush – swipe down to get eraser, and swipe up to swap foreground and background colors.
  • Tap the arrow to get back to the top level dock, and then the X to exit it.

Everything is tiny

Windows 8 has terrible high-DPI handling. Meaning, it does not scale smoothly. For more on this, check out this great article:  If you use pixel-accurate font sizes, everything will be way way too tiny. You can set it at 200% to try to do what Apple does with retina screens, but you’ll find that tons of software does not work right with it and will go off screen! So by default, Windows 8 has this scaling factor set to 125%. This was still too small for me.

  • Swipe in from the right side.
  • Tap Settings
  • Tap Personalization
  • Tap Display in the bottom left
  • Choose the 150% radio button.
  • You can click on “custom sizing options” to try other sizes. Just be warned about the scaling thing.
  • A lot of legacy apps will have blurry text. Boo! For me, this was Chrome, it was a lot of older coding IDEs…. 😛 Made programming in them impossible! It was also remote desktop software like Splashtop2, etc. Basically, yuck.
  • If you tick the “Use Windows XP scaling” checkbox, then hit OK, then hit Apply on the Display window, then sign out, and sign back in, you MAY find that a lot of the text that was blurry before in legacy apps is now crisp. If you go back to the Custom Sizing options window, you’ll see that the box is unticked again. I don’t know whether it’s actually on or actually off that makes it look better… so flip it back and forth.
  • I found that using custom scaling of 200% resulted in text getting cut off all over the place, which is why I stuck with 150%. Some things are still cut off with the settings I described above, usually in pulldown menus. If that bugs you too much, turn XP scaling back off. (I now am unsure whether to go back to 125% or not, actually…)
  • Note! If you have crisp text, Artdock will be smaller. If you have blurry text (XP scaling off), ArtDock will be as tall as your screen. You can fix this by going into ArtDock/txt/ and manually changing the sizes of all the buttons. They’ll get uglier since you’re scaling the art, but you can just go through and for example, change all the 50’s to 75’s, and so on, and tweak size to taste.

I use Firefox for my browser most of the time. You may want to try these add-ons:

  • Theme Font and Size Changer
  • Default Full Zoom Level

But what I did instead that made me happiest was to change the settings in Firefox itself.

  • Type about:config in the address bar. Click past the warning that comes up.
  • Look for layout.css.devPixelsPerPx, and set the value to 1.5 or 2.0, and see how you like it. The buttons should get easier to tap, the text in the pages will all get bigger, etc.
  • You may also want to go into the regular options settings and up the minimum font size, say to 13.

Random other things:

Windows 8 mail app sucks. I installed Outlook, and then iCloud to sync all my contact and calendars over.

I had to disable the ambient light detection, because brightness would basically just change randomly.

The People app got stuck, and kept saying I needed to re-enter my password, and wouldn’t authenticate me into all my social media. It turned out that the servers had not sent me a text to my phone to authenticate me, the way they were supposed to. What eventually fixed it for me:

  • Uninstall it.
  • Search on the Store for “Mail” – search matches the front of the name, so it wouldn’t find People if you searched for it
  • Reinstall it, but don’t launch it.
  • Swipe in from the right side and tap settings.
  • Tap “pc settings” at the bottom
  • Tap users
  • Switch to a local account. You’ll basically be disconnecting from your MS account.
  • After it’s set up, log in that way, and go right back again to users. Now set up the MS account all over again.
  • The text message will be re-sent, so you can auth the computer.
  • I also found ALL the approvals for the various social sites were stuck in my spam filter.

Bottom line on Windows 8

First, it gets a bit of a bad rap. But basically, it feels unfinished. Yes, Modern UI and the desktop have an odd coexistence, but I can see where they are going with it. It has a long way to go to match up to iOS and its simple ease of use. Even looking for stuff on the App Store is well behind. And there are definitely elements of Metro that are not only good but should stay and become part of the desktop experience.

Worse, though, is all the little usability messes like the stuff above. And there are more. A lot of stuff where existing functionality has been buried or made harder to use.

Everyone is hyped about Android and about iOS, but the fact is that Windows still has a truly enormous ecosystem and a library of software that cannot be matched the others. For many types of work, it’s your only choice, just as there are some types of work for which you want OSX or Linux. Windows certainly needed updated for the new world of more mobile computing, but as the relative responses to Win RT & Win 8 show, as well as the relatively slow pace of Win 8 adoption, what core Windows users need is Windows, that software library, access to all those old files, and so on. Don’t break it.

  9 Responses to “Windows 8 tablet, part two”

  1. Awesome resource Raph!

  2. […] Raph’s Website » Windows 8 tablet, part two – Raph on Windows 8 Not RT Edition – "First, it gets a bit of a bad rap. But basically, it feels unfinished." – hard to read this as anything but a litany of irritating niggles and workarounds. […]

  3. Good read! It is funny how much better your review is than a ‘professional’ review you find online.

    I bought a acer aspire S7 with W8 and touchscreen and I have been using it for about 6 months now. I like the software but I am having some problems with the (crappy) acer hardware already. I am selling it on ebay now, and replacing it with a surface RT. I have PC’s at home and work so I think I can handle not having photoshop available every moment of the day, but it will be interesting to see how I fare with RT. Probably the biggest challenge will be not having MediaMonkey or iTunes, but there are some great W8 music apps coming out that make that less of a problem (I will be using the gMusic W8 app).

  4. I just got one of these on Saturday night at our school auction. Mine is an RT 64… and it comes with a one-hour tutorial from the guy who designed the RT interface. So that should help. 🙂 (Really though I’ll probably just tell him if he wants to answer a couple email questions from me that’d be enough) Anyway I’m glad you posted about this, and if you find out anything awesome, let me know. 😛 I accidentally figured out how to send videos to the xbox last night — I was flabbergasted. 😀

  5. Hmm, I was thinking of getting a Windows 8 tablet so I could give presentations without having to lug around my notebook. From what you say here, I think maybe instead I’ll look for a presentation app for my phone instead.

  6. […] game designer Raph Koster wrote an epic post about his experience with a new Windows 8 tablet. His first sentence says it all: “Oh boy, are […]

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