Microsoft and the Gordian knot
Did you ever hear the story of the Gordian knot? Supposedly the legend went that whoever could untie this knot would become king of all Asia – not bad, just for untying a knot!
But it was so tangled and tied, with no loose ends that you could see, that although lots tried, no-one managed to untie it.
What’s this got to do with Microsoft, you ask? Well, sometimes their policies remind me of that knot – so tangled no-one can untangle them. And this is one of those times.
There’s been lots of fuss in the press about how Windows 10 “can’t play DVDs”. Well, it’s not true. Not quite. Or at least not for everyone… but it might be for you (you see what I mean about it being all tangled?)
In order to play DVDs on Windows 10 you need a program to do it and the one Microsoft have developed for it is called Windows DVD Player. (At least they gave it a sensible name!)
And it’s included when you upgrade to Windows 10… if you’re upgrading from Windows 8 with Media Center, Windows 7 Pro or Windows 7 Home Premium.
But if you have one of the other versions (and lots of people who have Windows 8 don’t have Media Center) then you’re out of luck and once you’ve upgraded it won’t play DVDs.
All is not lost, though – you can go to the Microsoft Store and download Windows DVD Player. For the sum of £11.59. Seems a bit cheeky to charge for it, though I suppose they’d argue that they haven’t charged for the Windows 10 upgrade itself and they have to pay licences for some of the code inside a DVD player.
But remember the Gordian Knot? Well, no-one managed to untie it. Not exactly. Instead, Alexander the Great came along and sliced through it with his sword. I suppose that’s what they call “thinking outside of the box”.
And the solution if you can’t play DVDs? Well, you could splash out the £11.59 on Windows DVD player from the Windows store. But instead I’d recommend bypassing Microsoft altogether and downloading VLC media player, which plays DVDs fine. It has the distinct advantage it’s free – and in many ways it’s better anyway. In a strained analogy, instead of untying the knot (and doing it Microsoft’s way), cut the knot and get a free, better program instead. That’s what I’d suggest anyway.
By the way, if you’ve bought any of my videos about using a PC or whatever, they aren’t technically DVDs, so they should still play, even if you don’t have Windows DVD Player OR VLC player.
BT and the slower, faster hub…
While I’m talking about classical legends, I’m tempted to make an analogy between the next thing I want to write about and the Tortoise and the Hare. (You know the story – the Tortoise and the Hare have a race, the Hare is confident of winning so takes a nap, meanwhile the Tortoise plods on to win.)
Quite a few people have “upgraded” from an old BT hub (Hub 3) to a new one, which is supposed to be faster – Hub 5. And despite being assured by BT that it’s faster, they’ve found their internet speed slows down.
Some people have only noticed because they’ve run speed tests – others have found it’s gone from quick to almost unusably slow.
What’s going on – is it BT deliberately slowing things down? Shoddy equipment? Well, probably not.
In fact there are two things that can cause this – and they’ve both to do with settings.
The first is that Hub 5 turns on “parental controls” even if you haven’t set any up. So, for example, every time you visit a webpage, it checks to see it isn’t on the list of ones you’ve “banned” – even if there aren’t actually any webpages on that list, so it’s a bit pointless. And that sort of thing slows it down.
You can tell it not to, though, by turning off “Smart Setup” – here are BT’s instructions on how to do that.
For lots of people, that’ll do the trick. But as I said, there are two causes… so if that doesn’t help (or doesn’t help enough), here’s the other thing:
It’s slightly more complicated – but in a nutshell most routers nowadays are “dual band”. They send out the wifi signal on a slower band (called 5GHz) that pretty much all wifi devices can use and a faster band (called 2.4GHz) that newer devices can use, but is much faster. In practice, just about all modern devices can use the faster one.
But the way Hub 5 is set up, there’s a good chance that some devices that could use the faster one will actually find the slower one first and use that.
But you can separate the two – and that means you can tell the faster devices to use the faster band.
Log into the router in the same way as in the link above and go to Advanced Settings. Then click on the 5GHz setting and click to select “no” next to “sync with 2.4Ghz”
Then it’ll give you a box to give a different name for the slower band – you could just add “5GHz” to the end of it or to make it easier to remember, add “slow” to the end of it instead.
Then when you first connect one of your devices and it asks you to choose a wifi network (yours, your neighbours or whatever), don’t choose the one that says “slow” at the end! In fact, you probably won’t even have to do this as the fast one will still have the same name as they both shared before (because you only changed the name of the slow one), so your devices will automatically connect to the fast one.
This will help on all sorts of devices – laptops, tablets, smartphones… anything that connects through wifi.
And with this set up right, you should find that Hub 5 is indeed faster than Hub 3.