Tag Archives: Speed

Windows 8 Boots Too Quickly to Be Interrupted

Boot Options Menu

We previously told you that Windows 8 could manage a cold boot in eight seconds flat, and that still holds true, but now there are reports that an SSD-equipped PC can manage it in under seven seconds. It’s not a huge difference in boot time, but it does create a minor and rather curious problem. Mainly, the user no longer has enough time to interrupt the boot menu.

Chris Clark, program manager at Microsoft’s User Experience team, explains in a Building Windows 8 blog post that a mere 200 millisecond window is all the time available to users if they want to make changes to a PC’s boot setup.

A new method

Since the Windows software and general computer hardware have become too fast for us puny humans, the days of reading “Press F2 to enter setup” are over and Microsoft recognizes the need to offer an alternate way of accessing the familiar boot menu. They found their top tappers could only manage about a 250ms frequency and catching that elusive 200ms opportunity was based a lot on chance. In other words, the added speed became the opposite of user friendly.

In response, the team came up with three solutions that work together to solve the issue. Clark notes in his post that “no one should need to learn how Windows is built” and the team wanted the new boot options to “just work”. A refreshing choice of words as Windows is notorious for requiring complicated work arounds for simple problems depending on hardware, software version, and general computer skills of the user. But keeping with their new, simplified design aesthetic Microsoft has decided to make a single menu for every boot option.

How it works

Microsoft’s solution is a three-pronged approach:

  1. The various boot settings that have previously been scattered from one end of Windows to the other will now be available in a single boot options group
  2. The menu will automatically appear whenever Windows is prevented from booting up correctly
  3. Microsoft is providing the user with plenty of different ways to bring up the new menu at will.

Basically, although you will no longer be able to access the boot menu from the start up screen, you’ll still be able to check it out once your PC has finished booting up. Specifically, you can bring up the menu through Advanced startup on the General tab of your PC’s settings. From there, you can choose to Restart now and choose a new start up volume during a reboot.

There’s an even quicker method built-in, simply holding down the Shift key while click Restart in your computer’s shutdown menu will cause Windows 8 to reboot into the boot menu as well.

One important note is that these changes are only applicable to newer PCs with UEFI BIOS. This exclusion, according to Chris Clark, can be chalked up to the speed restricitions of older hardware, meaning they will spend enough time booting up for a user to interrupt with the F8 or F2 keys.

Windows 8 Can Do A Cold Boot In 8 Seconds Flat

We said what everyone was thinking. A coat of paint on a sub-par system does not a successful operating system make. Okay, my colleague said it better than that, but the message is the same. Regardless, we’d still like to give credit where it’s due and highlight something that Microsoft has done really, really well so far: Start-up time.

Praise be to whoever made this miracle happen, because Windows no longer takes an eternity to load. Now it takes 8 seconds. Yes. I’ll repeat that. 8 seconds. There’s proof in the video below. From fully powered-off to fully powered-on in just under 8 seconds. Even Apple can’t touch that.

Windows 8 has changed the way your computer shuts down. In Windows 7, everything (including the services and devices in the kernel session) are completely turned off. But in 8, the kernel session is put into hibernation mode, rather than being shut down. This allows Windows to avoid restoring the kernel session at every start-up. It’s a change that has improved boot times of PCs by 30-70%.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcH8n_oFf0c

And that is not all folks. The boot process is also going to look better, a detail that may not seem that important until you boot up a MacBook next to a current version of Windows. With Apple, you see a nice spinning wheel with an Apple logo above it, but with the PC, well you’re going to get a mess. Scary scrolling text, jarring screen changes, and finally a couple of graphic screens.

But that’s all changed. Windows 8 will now show the logo of the company that made your computer and follow that up with a graphic windows bootloader. Clean and simple. Two adjectives that Windows have been lacking for a large amount of years. You may have noticed the improved boot screens in the video as well.

But what if you need to do something else during boot up? Like booting into a different operating system? They’ve got a simple user interface for that. They even beautified the screen that allows you to choose which attached media to boot from. Using Windows 7 is starting to look a lot like living in the dark ages. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the ugly, ugly interface that makes up the command prompt. When will this be fixed? Nobody knows. Anyway, I know you don’t believe me, but there is proof in this video:

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_PXsY9E3lc

How to Test Your Internet Connection Speed

Do you ever  wonder if you are getting the upload and download speeds promised by your provider? DSL users especially may find themselves scratching their heads wondering why their Internet connection is so slow. Many providers have their own testing tools.  But again what if their testing tools are lying to us?

Here’s an easy way to do a quick test; go to SpeedTest.net.

Once you get on the site, there are a few advertisements you need to be aware of.  Do not click on the “Start Scan Now” button.  This is not the Internet speed test, this is an advertisement.  A map will be displayed with your location identified. It will also automatically identify the closest connection to apply a test to your PC.

Starting the Test
Start the Test

After initiating the test, the test will download a large file from the remote location (identified by the test tool). The file size is known to the test so based on the time it takes to download the file it will estimate your download speed (in Mb/s). The upload test does the opposite. It puts the downloaded file on the remote server. The user does not have any visibility of the file moved. I am assuming it goes to a temp location somewhere on your PC.

When the test is complete you will see the results (see the image below). You are able to verify the results again but choosing a different remote server.  Click on the new server button and choose a different server.

You should also be able to look at the final results by clicking the icon saying “My Results”.

One useful option is to see how your speeds are compared to similar users in your area. There are also some other options that I have not yet explored, but feel free to let us know if you test them.

Happy Testing!

Firebug add-on for Firefox is known to slow Gmail

Firebug is a free, open source add-on for Firefox that provides essential tools for web developers. If you have Firebug installed and have logged into Gmail recently, however, you’ll be greeted with an intimidating message that states:

“Firebug is known to make Gmail slow unless it is configured correctly.”

This message also contains a link to “Fix This”, but you will notice that Google only provides a few vague sentences explaining that you need to disable Firebug for Gmail, and if that doesn’t work you should disable Firebug altogether. That isn’t very helpful, so in this article I’ll explain the procedure with more detail.

First off, I don’t know exactly why Firebug and Gmail aren’t getting along. I’ve been running Firebug for years and have never noticed excessive slowness with Gmail, but apparently others have not been so fortunate.

The easiest way to disable Firebug for a specific site is to browse to the site causing problems and press Shift + F12. This hotkey automatically disables Firebug for the current website you are browsing.

Alternatively, you can open the Firebug development panel by clicking the small bug icon in the Firefox status bar (if your status bar is hidden, you can also press the F12 key to open Firebug). In the top left corner of the Firebug panel, click the orange bug icon and select “Deactivate Firebug for This Site”.

Firebug will continue to operate on other websites, but when you browse to sites you explicitly disabled, the Firebug logo will turn grey to indicate it is no longer working.

If you continue having problems after deactivating Firebug for Gmail, you may be required to disable the add-on entirely. To do this, open Firefox add-ons by pressing CTRL + SHIFT + A, locate Firebug, click Disable, and restart your browser.

Disabling the Firebug add-on in Firefox