It has been a while since I scribbled anything on here but I now have a few things to relating, starting with this one. Amazon now promotes a different app for use when reading its eBooks on PC’s and, with a certain reluctance, I have taken to using this because its page synchronisation is not as good as it should be.
Another irritation is that it does not open in a maximised window and it scarcely remembers your size settings from session to session. Finding solutions to this sizing issue is no easy task so I happened on one of my own that I previously used with Windows (or File) Explorer folder shortcuts.
The first step is to find the actual location of the Start Menu shortcut. Trying C:\Users\[User Name]\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Amazon\Amazon Kindle should do that.
Next, right click on the Kindle icon and choose Properties from the context menu that appears. In the dialogue box that causes to appear on the screen, look for the “Run:” setting. By default, this appears as “Normal Window” but you can change this to “Maximised”, which is what I did before clicking on Apply before doing the same for the OK button to dismiss the dialogue box.
If you have pinned the shortcut to the taskbar or elsewhere, you may need to unpin it and pin it again to carry over the change. After that, I found that the Kindle app opened up in a maximised window as I wanted.
With that done, I could get along better with the app and it does put a search box in a more obvious place that it was in the old one. You also can set up Collections so your books are organised so there is something new for a user. Other than that, it largely works as before though you may to hit the F5 key every now and again to synchronise reading progress across multiple devices.
Most of the time, GNOME Shell’s use of the Super (or Windows) key on a standard keyboard to open up its dash area is no issue and is a handy counterpart to what you might do in Windows, especially in its latest incarnations. However, it does cause trouble if you are using a VirtualBox virtual machine with Windows installed in there. While VMware Player is immune to this problem I thought that I would see if there was a workaround for it.
The issue might arise from VirtualBox’s non-grabbing of the Super key like others but a solution can be found in GNOME itself. Opening up dconf-editor and navigating to org > gnome > mutter. In there, you will find a setting called overlay-key and this can be changed. One option is to delete the SUPER_L value and leave it that way. My own preference was to set it to a different key and, to do that, I needed to know what the various key identifiers were. To get these, I ran the following command (just replace any quotes with alternatives in the shell before executing this):
xev | grep -A2 --line-buffered ‘^KeyRelease’ | sed -n ‘/keycode /s/^.*keycode \([0-9]*\).* (.*, \(.*\)).*$/\1 \2/p’
This opened up an Event Tester window that will need closing when testing is complete. More importantly, the aliases for any keys that were pressed to are issued to the terminal session so you can see what’s what. Initially, the one for the Alt Gr key appealed to me and I set “ISO_Level3_Shift” as the value of the overlay-key property in dconf-editor. When that didn’t work, I set the value to “Menu” and it behaved as expected. While this will mean that context menus will have to be accessed by right-clicking in a Windows session, that is what I do anyway so there isn’t going to be much of a loss in what I have done. A function key might have been another option but I reckon that the context menu key will do me.
Last week, Microsoft released a preview of Windows 8.1 and some hailed the return of the Start button but the reality is not as simple as that. Being a Linux user, I am left wondering if ideas have been borrowed from GNOME Shell instead of putting back the Start Menu like it was in Windows 7. What we have got is a smoothing of the interface that is there for those who like to tweak settings and not available be default. GNOME Shell has been controversial too so borrowing from it is not an uncontentious move even if there are people like me who are at home in that kind of interface.
What you get now is more configuration options to go with the new Start button. Right clicking on the latter does get you a menu but this is no Start Menu like we had before. Instead, we get a settings menu with a “Shut down” entry. That’s better than before, which might be saying something about what was done in Windows 8, and it produces a sub-menu with options of shutting down or restarting your PC as well as putting it to sleep. Otherwise, it is place for accessing system configuration items and not your more usual software, not a bad thing but it’s best to be clear about these things. Holding down the Windows key and pressing X will pop up the same menu if you prefer keyboard shortcuts and I have a soft spot for them too.
The real power is to be discovered when you right click on the task bar and select the Properties entry from the pop-up menu. Within the dialogue box box that appears, there is the Navigation tab that contains a whole plethora of interesting options. Corner navigation can be scaled back to remove the options of switching between applications at the upper left corner or getting the charms menu from the upper right corner. Things are interesting in the Start Screen section. This where you tell Windows to boot to the desktop instead of the Start Screen and adjust what the Start button gives you. For instance, you can make it use your desktop background and display the Start Screen Apps View. Both of these make the new Start interface less intrusive and make the Apps View feel not unlike the way GNOME Shell overlays your screen when you hit the Activities button or hover over the upper left corner of the desktop.
It all seems rather more like a series of little concessions and not the restoration that some (many?) would prefer. Classic Shell still works for all those seeking an actual Start Menu and even replaces the restored Microsoft Start button too. So, if the new improvements aren’t enough for you, you still can take matters into your own hands until you start to take advantage of what’s new in 8.1.
Apart from the refusal to give us back a Windows 7 style desktop experience, we now have a touchscreen keyboard button added to the taskbar.So far, it always appears there even when I try turning it off. For me, that’s a bug and it’s something that I’d like to see fixed before the final release.
All in all, Windows 8.1 feels more polished than Windows 8 was and will be a free update when the production version is released. My explorations have taken place within a separate VMware virtual machine because updating a Windows 8 installation to the 8.1 preview is forcing a complete re-installation on yourself later on. There are talks about Windows 9 now but I am left wondering if going for point releases like 8.2, 8.3, etc. might be a better strategy for Microsoft. It still looks as if Windows 8 could do with continual polishing before it gets more acceptable to users. 8.1 is a step forward and more like it may be needed yet.