Lottery Post Journal

Reinstate gadgets on Windows 8!

I have always liked the concept of gadgets in Windows, delivering whatever real-time information you like right on your Windows desktop.  In fact, I like gadgets so much that a few years ago I developed the Lottery Results Gadget, which has been installed by people around the world hundreds of thousands of times, and is still running strong today.

Now Windows 8 is upon us, and Microsoft has ditched gadgets in favor of "live tiles" in the start screen.  The problem for me is that I spend most of my time on the Windows desktop, and not in the start screen, so live tiles are not as useful for me.

Fortunately, there is a quick and easy solution available.

Some nice guy has released some free software called the "8GadgetPack", which reinstall all the original Microsoft gadget files that were part of Windows 7.  Not only is the software free, but there is no "crapware", advertisements, or anything else installed — just the original files and a few extra popular gadgets.

I did the installation, and it worked perfectly.  The software initially puts a few gadgets on your desktop, which I immediately removed.  One of them is the Sidebar gadget, which mimics the original Windows Vista Sidebar, so that was the first thing I removed.  Putting the gadgets right on the desktop is so much better than the Sidebar.

After getting rid of the initial slate of gadgets installed on your desktop, it is time to put the ones you want on there.  Just do the normal right-click on the desktop and select "Gadgets" to see the familiar gadget box containing all the gadgets you can drag to the desktop.  Everything works as it always did in Windows 7 and Vista.

Here's a link to the 8GadgetPack:

Took the Windows 8 plunge

I've been running Windows 8 on some test computers for severals months, so I'm comfortable with the new version of Windows and what to expect from it, but it is very different testing a brand new operating system than it is to convert your primary computer to it.

And so this weekend was the time I chose to convert my primary computer to Windows 8, and finally go do-or-die with it.

You know what?  Not only is everything working great on my PC, but there are surprisingly few hiccups, and I'm really digging the new OS.

There are so many cool new things about Windows 8 it would be impossible to list them all, but I guess the most important thing for anyone considering the upgrade is that despite the new "metro" Start screen that replaces the Start Menu, you can operate your PC very much like you're used to with Windows 7 (or Windows Vista, or whatever you're using now).

In fact, if you just think of the metro Start screen as merely a replacement for the Start Menu, you'll be 90% along in understanding the changes to Windows.  If you want, you can exist in the traditional Windows desktop mode most of the time, and just use the Start screen as a launcher of programs.  In that respect, not much has changed.

But then once you get the hang of the Start screen, and you realize all the additional benefits that the metro interface gives you, there is a whole new world to explore, with a "Windows App Store" that works just like the Apple App Store, in which you can quickly find and download new programs ("apps") instead of having to search around the Internet for them.  There are lots of free apps, in addition to cheap paid apps.

Another very cool thing about Windows 8 is if you have multiple PCs and/or devices.  Because a Microsoft account is now linked directly into Windows, when you sign into your different Windows devices, it instantly synchronizes all of your settings to each device.

For example, I purchased a new Microsoft Surface tablet running Windows RT (the low-cost tablet version of Windows 8), and when I sign in on the tablet, changes I made on my PC are also instantly visible on the tablet.  For example, when I changed the desktop background graphics on my PC, the same background graphic appeared on the Surface tablet.  It's kind of freaky-cool the first time you see it happen.

Again, there is so much to like about Windows 8 there is hardly room to list it all, but suffice to say that it's really great.  I was really nervous about switching over my primary PC, but I'm really happy I did so now.

iPhone 5 support on the way

I finally got my new iPhone 5 this week so that I could start testing Lottery Post on the larger screen.  It became immediately clear that people who pin the site to their start screen (to see the "web app" view of the site) don't see the site filling the whole screen.

(People who simply view Lottery Post in their iPhone 5 web browser rather than pinning the site to the start screen will see it fill the whole screen just fine.)

So I have made some updates to support the iPhone 5's bigger screen, and I'm going through testing this week.  It looks pretty good, and if everything continues going well it should be released perhaps by this weekend.

Apart for the web site, just evaluating the iPhone 5 itself, I must say it is an engineering marvel.  After carrying around an iPhone 4 for two years, the new iPhone 5 feels light as a feather and incredibly thin.  Almost impossibly thin and light.

Despite the fact that the new iPhone is taller than the old one and the same exact width, it somehow feels smaller because of it is so light and thin.  It's hard to describe.

As with all Apple mobile device upgrades, it was simple but just a bit time-consuming to go through the process of changing phones.  It would be nice if Apple had switched to a USB 3 connection, instead of the slower USB 2, which would have made loading up the new phone much quicker.

Speaking of connections, many are aware that Apple is changing over to a new type of connector called the "lightning" connector, instead of using the wide 30-pin connector that they've been using for so long.  The new connector is fantastic, but is also probably the biggest pain in the neck about the new phone right now.

The worst thing about the new connector is just that there are almost no accessories available for it right now.  You can buy two different type of adapters to connect the phone to old accessories, but everyone hates using adapters because they really don't solve the problem.  For example, I always keep my phone in a dock, but now I can't because strangely, Apple has not created a dock for the new iPhone yet.  And because the lightning connector is a proprietary Apple invention that will require other companies to license the technology from Apple, nobody else has produced a dock yet either.

It's a problem that will be solved over time, but for people who own an iPhone 5 right now, it's a source of frustration.

However, even with the lightning connection frustrations, the new iPhone is well worth upgrading to if your cell phone plan is ready to upgrade.  It remains the best phone on the market for someone who wants high-end technology without having to tinker with the phone.

Excellent write-up of how Windows 8 works, plus strengths & weaknesses

Paul Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft (who has not worked for Microsoft for many years) published an excellent article detailing his experience with Windows 8 on both a desktop computer and a tablet.

If you are thinking about upgrading to Windows 8 or buying a new computer, I'd highly recommend checking it out.