Posts Tagged ‘Microsoft’

Why do smart phones freeze (or hang or lock up)?

2014/04/22

Old Nokia phones (also known as dumb phones or features) almost never froze! I had a Nokia phone which froze only once (worked fine after restart) in 7 years of use! That is pretty impressive.

However, most smart phones often freeze. Some freeze quite often while some other freeze only occasionally.

Let us understand why it happens.

All smart phones are mini computers inside. They have an Operating System (OS) which interacts with the phone hardware. Users interact with the phone via application layers.

The core of OS is known as “kernel”. This is low level assembly language core which translates users’ requests (via apps) so that hardware can process it. For example, when you dial a number (via dialler app) the request is sent to kernel which instructs the hardware to perform the phone dialing operation. Both Android and iOS runs on highly customized flavors of Unix OS inside them.

The old dumb phones also had similar concept but there was a big difference. Those phones were only allowed to perform few predefined tasks like dialing a number, receiving phone calls and sending texts (along with alarm, calendar etc.).

But modern smart phones are expected to do a lot of things! As a result, it is often very difficult to predict what each app will request to kernel. There are just millions of instructions possible. When many apps send some instruction to kernel, it may get overloaded (takes too long to process which manifests as phone slow to respond) or just get confused (manifests as phone freezing). The freezing often happens due to kernel going into an infinite loop (and does not know how to come out of that) or just bogged down by too much work.

When you use heavy weight apps in lower end (or budget) smart phones, due to slow CPU and small amount of RAM, the hardware gets overloaded. So, those phones often become slow over times. When you install newer versions of apps, they usually take up more space and thus strains hardware even more!

Different manufactures try to handle this problem in different ways. Apple implements a strict control of what its apps are allowed to do and what hardware goes inside the phone. That’s why iOS is more restrictive and iOS users see less frequent freezing. Internally, iOS apps work in a sandbox mode. Each app gets a space in phone storage and it can’t access anything outside of its own sandbox. Once you delete the app, all its traces are gone. This is also the reason why users can’t access iOS file system (unless you jailbreak). Apple also doesn’t allow usage of external memory card which is often responsible for corrupt file systems and thus causing problems.

Android system (even though derived from Unix) is more like good old desktop Windows OS in its behavior. Apps can often access an equivalent of Windows registry style things. Various apps dump garbage in cache, which fills up phone’s internal storage (like hard disk) and phone becomes slower over time. Even if you install an app in SD card, it still leaves traces in internal storage space due to OS design. Android also allows access to file system (just like desktop PCs) which means users can fiddle with its system and may accidentally delete system files!

Microsoft has taken iOS like “sandbox” approach in its Windows phone system. So, in theory, Windows Phones are supposed to crash less! However, these still allow external SD cards so such issues will remain to some extent. Also, as Windows phones have less market share at present, it is difficult to predict if they are indeed superior to Android or iOS.

From empirical evidence, it can be stated that:

  • Apple phones crash the least. However, internet browsing is often unpredictable and quite often iOS browser just crashes but this does not usually lead to entire phone freezing up.
  • Blackberries and Android phones crash often. Lower end Android models crash more if you fiddle with them too much for the reason described in this article.
  • Less matured OS crashes more. For example, Windows phones OS have good architecture but it is still maturing so it may crash unexpectedly.
  • Poorly designed OS will crash often. This is why Nokia’s Symbian based smart phones were notorious for freezing!

If you are an Android user, make sure you clear cache often, manage your applications so that it does not store too much data in phone’s internal memory and refrain from heavy browsing or playing hardware heavy games. This should lead to less crash, especially in budget hardware Android models.

If you are an iOS user (iPhone or iPad), there is not much you can do to prevent freezing (if that happens at all). Sometimes one or two rogue apps may cause problem. In that case, simply get rid of those apps. Some apps when updated, tend to make use of newer features of latest OS. If your OS is older version, you may see apps crashing (but not entire device freezing up).

Windows phones are still maturing so nothing can be advised at this moment.

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Why Microsoft created Windows 8 Metro interface?

2013/04/21

There was nothing wrong as such in Windows 7. However, unless businesses can make working things obsolete via upgrade to newer versions they won’t make enough money!

So Microsoft introduced Windows 8. However, unlike previous versions of Windows, they tried to force new Metro interface which is more suitable for touch screen devices. Most users were unhappy and wanted to revert to Windows 7 like interface. But why Microsoft introduced it in first place?

Metro and legacy Windows applications are not compatible. An app designed for Metro interface won’t run in traditional Windows environment. Metro apps can only be downloaded via Windows Marketplace. Now this is a very crucial difference. In earlier Windows, you could download apps from literally millions of websites. However, in Metro interface, your only option is Windows market place. This is similar to Apple’s AppStore concept. Microsoft did at because they wanted to capture 30% of all app sales. They can only do it if those apps are sold using their own app store only.

The trouble for Microsoft started when consumers did not like Windows 8. In fact various statistics show PC sales have been slowed down because consumers shunned Windows 8. Now Microsoft is caught between devil and deep sea. Backtracking from their Metro interface means potential loss of profit in future and acceptant strategic failure. However, if they continue to force Windows 8 Metro interface to consumers they may face continued backlash.

This is also the reason why Microsoft does not offer any option to start Windows 8 straight into legacy desktop! Because they want consumers to adopt their new Metro interface. Some consumers are using third oath apps to make Windows 8 behave like Windows 7.

But now you know why Microsoft did not offer these simple options themselves!

How does Microsoft verify whether your Windows copy is genuine?

2012/07/25

For retail version of Windows, usually you can install it on a single computer at same time. With each retail version of Windows, you are provided a license key. When you activate your copy of Windows, Microsoft checks against their database to verify whether it is a valid license key and whether it has been used before.

If it is valid and key has not been used before (it also takes a note of computer’s configuration), it will activate the copy of Windows without any problem. However, if you use same Windows DVD to install another copy in second computer, it will see that same license key has already been activated. So now it will flag both copies of Windows as non-genuine!

What if your computer crashes and you want to install it in second computer? Then you can call Microsoft support and explain the situation. Then they will reset the license key as not used so that you can install Windows on second computer. However, if your original computer did not crash (and you lied as it crashed) then very soon it will flag up in Microsoft’s database (Windows service packs contain codes to talk with Microsoft over the web) as being used in more computers than its license term allows. So Microsoft will flag them as non-genuine!

When you buy new computer, Windows usually come as preloaded and pre-activated. So more often than not, this Windows activation is transparent to you. Microsoft charges the Original Equipment Manufacturers (i.e. OEM or your computer makers) a fee for supplying Windows which is included in retail price. So, you don’t really get free copies of Windows with your new laptop!

How do hackers develop bootleg copies of Windows then?

There are various way to hack this but the most common one is to patch the license checking module. A well known hack RemoveWAT (i.e. Remove Windows Activation Technology) simply makes this module as inaccessible. When Microsoft’s genuine Windows check code block tries to execute, this patch feeds them to believe everything is in place and there is nothing to check for them. There is another hack called 7Loader, which (when executed over a non-genuine Windows version) makes Windows believe that installed version was by OEM and hence Windows activates it permanently.

The hacking process is a cat-and-mouse game between hackers and Microsoft. Once a patch works, Microsoft finds a way to defeat it, then hackers find another way to make it work again and this process goes on.

Some versions of Windows do have have genuine checking in same way. This is especially true for corporate multi-PC licenses.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purpose only and does not encourage to bypass Windows Genuine Advantage checking.

Why do people think Windows 8 will be bad?

2012/07/24

Within next few months, Windows 8 will be available to retail consumers. It is very likely that all new computers will come with preinstalled Windows 8.

Most people is actually not looking forward to Windows 8. This is because Microsoft is making some big changes to their new operating system!

So what exactly are the changes?

For the first time, Windows will have 2 different flavors. One is traditional Windows 7/XP/Vista like appearance which is now known as legacy interface and the other one is new Metro interface.

It is the Metro interface which may cause problem to users! This is more suitable for touch screen tablet devices rather than PCs. So far, all Windows have been mostly backward compatible i.e. programs for older version of Windows worked in newer versions of Windows [with few exceptions].

But the new Metro interface will be a totally new environment. It looks similar to Apple’s Mac OS/iOS interface to a great extent. For example, you don’t close programs in traditional sense.  Windows will auto close them depending on memory load.

Also some Microsoft development tools will now work only for Metro interface. For example free version of Visual Studio can be used to develop applications for Metro only.

Although you can still get traditional interface via legacy mode, Microsoft has removed Start button and you have to use Charm bar instead! But don’t worry – you can get back Start button via some 3rd party apps.

Business users are naturally not looking forward to Windows 8.

 

Why iOS applications do not offer time limited trial version?

2012/05/28

In Windows environment, many applications offer time limited trial version after which the software is disabled or feature restricted. But in Apple’s iPhone or iPad, you can’t find similar apps. You can get feature limited apps but nothing based on time trial.

 

This is down to the fact how iOS was designed. In Windows, you have a registry where every application can write something. But in iOS, each application runs within its sandbox. It can’t access anything outside its sandbox. When an app is deleted, all traces of the app is just gone from the device (although Appstore remembers that you installed the app so that it won’t charge you next time). So iOS apps are unable to access anything outside their own sandboxes. This is also good for preventing any malware as damage is minimal and once app is removed, nothing to worry about.

 

In Windows since any application can mess with registry, any rogue application can create lots of trouble. Microsoft addressed this issue in later version of Windows (Windows Vista upward) where one needs admin password to update some system areas.

 

The sandbox design does create a problem though. In Windows, say you have a document file. You can either open it using Microsoft Word or Open Office Writer. Both applications can access your file wherever you kept it in your file system. But in iOS, each app can only access documents within its own sandbox. Thus, in iOS, you must have local copies of your data file specific to each app.