Having secured permission from the Chancellor of the Exchequer (aka, “The Boss” — namely, my wife Dina) I recently purchased a new Fujitsu Windows tablet convertible, model Stylistic Q704 Hybrid Tablet PC with the keyboard dock/extra battery option. The price came in at over $2K, which is kinda painful for a 12.5″ tablet, but when the Boss said I could go for it, go for it I did. Now I’m learning to live with it. Here’s a snazzy publicity still:
In the past two weeks, I’ve set up half a dozen PCs, mostly in the wake of clean installing or upgrading them to Windows 8.1. Along the way, I’ve encountered numerous software elements that seek to get users to install additional software programs so they can get access to sometimes essential plug-ins, programs, and other stuff.
To be more specific, I’ve encountered the Ask toobar and search replacement items along with adding Java to those machines, as well as the AVG toolbar and search tab insertion into most Web browsers (which means Chrome, IE, and Firefox on my production PC, and also includes Safari and Opera on other machines as well) for Adobe Flash player (here’s a whole list of vendors who include the AVG Toolbar as part of their product installs).
Booting the Secure Search tab in Chrome proved to be quite an effort.
I got stuck in a particularly nasty uninstall problem with AVG Secure Search and Chrome, in fact. I used Revo Uninstaller to get rid of the installed elements, and then had to go into the Web browsers to root AVG Secure Search out of their defaults and settings, one at a time. My issue with Chrome persisted until I realized that the “On Startup” item in Settings provides the ability to add multiple tabs when the program starts up. That was where the remaining invocation of AVG Secure Search remained untouched and unstopped, until I figured out I had to manually delete that entry from that part of the browser configuration.
I understand that companies often partner up when offering free and popular or widely-used software to the public, and permit third parties with money to spend on purchasing installs who feel like they have something to gain by paying to come along for that ride. But what I don’t understand is why some of those third parties feel like they have to resist user attempts to avoid such maneuvers, sometimes to the point of making such installs feel more like drive-by malware than like legitimate commercial software.
I have long regarded AVG as among the best of the free malware protection makers, and their consistently high ratings from Virus Bulletin, PC Magazine, and so forth indicate that their malware suite is decent software. I am dismayed that they would use their knowledge of how software hides from users against the very users they so ardently seek to protect.
I feel the same way about any tagalong items that don’t clearly advertise their presence and provide clear, obvious, and usable opt-out mechanisms so users don’t end up installing software on their machines that they don’t really want. I don’t exactly love the idea of having to watch installers closely at all times on vigilant lookout for opt-out messages when they appear, either, but it definitely beats having to take the extra software as a consequence of the software you want, and then having to uninstall and clean up after the unwanted stuff manually after the initial install is ended.
Here’s a list of instructions that I had to follow on my Lenovo X200 Tablet, to remove an issue with the WAN miniport (#2 and #3) drivers on that machine, whose failure to load up and register properly also rendered Bluetooth inoperable on that machine when running Windows 8 (or 8.1, as you might expect; this material is fully documented in KB article 2871372):
Who came up with this mysterious fix, and how they did figure this out? Wowie-zowie!
- Open Device Manager.
- Right-click the WAN miniport (Network monitor) device, and then click Update Driver Software.
- Click Browse my computer for driver software.
- Click Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer.
- Clear the Show compatible hardware check box.
- In the column on the left side, select Microsoft, and in the column on the right side, select Microsoft KM-TEST Loopback Adapter.
- In the Update Driver Warning dialog box, click Yes to continue installing this driver.
- After the driver is installed, right-click the device, and then click Uninstall.
- After the device is uninstalled, right-click the computer name in Device Manager, and then click Scan for hardware changes.
- On the View menu, click Show hidden devices.
The WAN Miniport (Network monitor) device should now be started and no longer have a yellow exclamation mark next to it.
For reasons that go way beyond my ken but that I find egregiously irritating, this bit of mumbo-jumbo actually worked! To me, it seems almost like turning widdershins thrice, hopping on one foot, while making an incantation, to try to make something happen. Arthur C. Clarke said that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and I’m damned if I can really tell what’s up here, other than the bizarre reality that installing and then uninstalling a nugatory driver actually results in proper recognition of the underlying hardware, and automatic installation of the correct driver when the next hardware rescan occurs.
There is just a glimmer of a suggestion of what’s really going on here in the “Resolution” section of the related KB article. It says that MS Update 2822241 must be “integrated with” (which I believe means slipstreamed into) the installation image (WIM file, probably) used during setup of Windows 8 for target hardware to avoid these contortions. That tells me that the update rollup in that particular update file somehow fixes the issues discussed in 2871372, even though it’s not specifically called out in the “Issues that this update fixes” in its supporting documentation.
What galls me about this fix (which I’m very grateful to have found, and am now able to use Bluetooth devices on the X220 Tablet) is that it’s so very arcane and non-intuitive. I’m able to address most driver issues in Windows on my own, with a bit of elbow grease, and lots of odd and interesting techniques for extracting driver files from installers for software that won’t run on my systems. I’m OK with that, and have learned how to cope. But installing a loopback driver, and then removing it, to provoke a proper hardware scan for device recognition? The mind reels…