Windows 8 Survival Guide

Started Dec 14, 2012 | Discussions
skyglider
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Windows 8 Survival Guide
Dec 14, 2012

Microsoft is selling Windows 8 Pro as a download for $39.99 until January 31, 2013. If you're wondering if you should take advantage of this introductory offer or whether to buy a new PC with Win8 or Win7, I hope sharing my experience can help you out. Please realize that these are just "MY" personal feelings as a first time user of Win8 and should not be interpreted as attacks if you like Win8. If you don't like reading negative comments about Win8, please stop reading now.

Will refer to "Windows 8 Pro" as Win8 in the following narrative. Will refer to Win8's user interface as Metro (although that name has been dropped by Microsoft).

When I decided to install a solid state drive (SSD) in my aging Dell Studio 1537 laptop, I had to decide whether to reinstall Vista or buy a copy of Win8. With many negative reviews and posts on the web, I was reluctant to buy Win8. I wasn't sure if Win8 would be compatible with the software that I was running in Vista (and on my Win7 tower PC). And I wasn't sure if I could get used to Win8's Metro interface. I took the plunge and bought an intro copy of Win8 Pro.

INSTALLATION:
Win8 clean installed in the 256GB SSD smoothly without glitches. I was pleased that it loaded all of the drivers for my Studio 1537 laptop without my having to hunt for, download and install all of the drivers myself. The screen, built-in optical drive, built-in touch pad, USB ports, eSATA port, Ethernet port, HDMI port and two audio out jacks all worked.

When I played youtube videos using the Ethernet cable, they all played fine. However when I played the same youtube videos using wireless, the data throughput was too slow causing halts every 5 to 10 seconds even at low resolutions. After some web research, I downloaded and installed a Dell wireless driver and was then able to play youtube videos at any resolution without problems. (There can be halting using wired or wireless due to internet routing but refreshing and getting a different path allows the video to play smoothly.)

THE WIN8 USER INTERFACE:
Win8 first opens to its Metro UI. I clicked on the calendar app and the calendar opened full screen. But there was nothing to click to close the calendar or minimize it. I fooled around but was lost. Had to Google on my Win7 PC to learn that to close a Win8 app, the mouse cursor has to be moved to the top of the screen until it changes to a hand. Then drag down to the bottom of the screen and out to close the app.

I clicked on the Music app and an xbox music app opened. One choice was a Glee sample so I clicked that. Music from Glee started playing but no controls were displayed. The audio was a bit soft but no volume control on screen. Fortunately my laptop has hardware volume controls so I was able to increase the volume that way. I have no idea how one would do that on a desktop with a keyboard that does not have volume controls. .... Now how do I pause the video??? Not even a pause icon. Moved the mouse all around the screen but nada. Finally clicked the screen and then some controls appeared as < o > where the o is the pause icon. The < icon restarts the music. The > did nothing. I felt as if my powerful computer had become a kids toy.

No controls on the Metro UI. Googled again and learned that the mouse cursor has to be moved to the corners of the screen to display additional controls. Moved the cursor to the corners and nothing happened. Then discovered that the cursor has to be moved to the very corner of the screen, like about 1/16 inch from the corner on my screen, for the controls to pop out.

I looked for a way to shutdown or restart. Could not find it. Mousing to the bottom left corner brought up a desktop icon so I clicked it and the Metro UI was replaced with a blank desktop. Moused to the corners but still could not see a way to shutdown or restart. Moused to the bottom left corner and clicked a Start icon displayed but clicking the Start icon just brought me back to the Metro UI. ..... Back to Googling again. Learned that one must mouse to a right corner to display the "charms" icons, click the Settings icon, click the power icon and then the options to restart or shutdown were displayed.

By this time I was feeling really sorry I bought Win8. Things looked and worked as if I had just bought a toy computer for a child with none of the in depth power that I'm used to with Vista and Win7.

*** I did learn .... by Googling again (more time searching) .... that by right clicking in the bottom left corner, a list of nice options appear which includes Device Manager, Disk Management, Command prompt, Task Manager, File Explorer (the normal windows explorer), search and a few more options. This is a nice touch that Win8 has.

But I couldn't find a way to see and run all of the things that are in a normal Windows Start menu because there is no usual Windows start menu! .... Darn, what was Microsoft thinking?

.... More Googling ... and I learned that the development version of Win8 had a registry option to enable the usual Windows start menu. But Microsoft decided to remove that functionality for the release version of Win8. .... Darn, what were they thinking?

THE CLASSIC SHELL:
Now I was about to shelve Win8, re-install Vista on my laptop and accept the $40 loss. But during all of the Googling that I had to do, I had read about third party software that could simulate the normal Windows start menus. So I decided to give Win8 one last chance. I installed the "Classic Shell" which is free. ...... Amazing! Win8 was transformed to a normal Windows computer with a Start icon in the task bar. I always liked the XP start menu so I selected that. ... The taskbar using the Classic Shell includes the quick launch area, task area and notification area like it always has. Very nice indeed!

Running the Classic Shell, on power up Win8 boots directly into the desktop with the Start icon in the bottom left corner. Clicking the Start icon brings up all of the usual Start menu stuff and mousing to "Programs" displays all of the installed normal windows applications. Well, now we're getting someplace!!!

I tried to right click in the bottom left corner to bring up the nice list of links (see *** above) but that no longer works with the Classic Shell's task bar at the bottom of the screen. But no problem. Just press the Windows key + X and that nice list of links displays.

Since computer monitors are so wide now, I like the Window's taskbar on the right side of the screen instead of at the bottom. I moved the taskbar to the right side and it worked! Great! ... As a bonus, with the taskbar on the right side, clicking in the bottom left corner works as normal Win8. IOW, left clicking goes to the Metro UI and right clicking brings up that nice list of links.

Now that I'm thinking I'll keep using Win8, I installed most of my usual applications. I put the shortcuts to the applications on the desktop the way I always did in previous versions of Windows and they all work the same way. One glance at the desktop shows every application without having to scroll the screen to see more apps as in the Metro UI. One click on a desktop icon to launch any application. I pinned my favorite icons to the quick launch area of the taskbar as I did on my Win7 PC and that worked the same way.

The Start icon has the Shutdown option in it again... hooray! But I've always put shortcuts on my desktop to restart or shutdown so I did that. With those shortcuts I can restart or shutdown with one click on the icon.

SOFTWARE COMPATIBILITY:
To buy the intro version of Win8, one must run Microsoft's Compatibility Assistant which will list the software that is not compatible with Win8, and check the hardware for compatibility. In my case, Win8 said that Microsoft Office 2000 and Microsoft Visual C++ Express 2010 are not compatible with Win8. But Chris Lofty posted that MS Office 2000 installed in his Win8 fine so that convinced me to buy Win8.

I was able to install MS Office 2000 and MS Visual C++ Express 2010 successfully and both run fine so far. I can't fathom why the Win8 Compatibility Assistant said that they both were not compatible.

CONCLUSIONS:
My laptop now boots directly into the desktop and everything works just like it does in Win7. Any Win7 user could power on my laptop and never know that Win8 is the OS.
There are pros to running Win8 as the OS. Win8 boots and shuts down faster than Win7. It only costs $39.99 until 1/31/13.

My conclusion is that if you've been wondering if Win8 will work for you, there's no need to wonder. Just install Win8 along with the Classic Shell. Use Win8 just like you would Win7. Any differences between Win8 + Classic Shell and Win7 are so minute that they are negligible.

I also conclude that any program that installs and runs in Win7 Home Premium (what I'm running in my tower PC) will also install and run in Win8 Pro. My current thought is that Win8 is really Win7 with the Metro UI added on and the Win7 Start menu disabled. As such, anything that runs in Win7 Home Premium will run in Win8 Pro. .... The reason why Win8 boots faster than Win7 is that MS is using a type of hibernation to minimize boot time checks. (What I've read anyway)

So go buy Win8 for $39.99 before January 31, 2013 and save some cash!

Best regards,
Sky

skyglider
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Re: Windows 8 Survival Guide
In reply to skyglider, Dec 14, 2012

Wanted to add that running Win8+Classic Shell will allow using Win8 as if it is Win7.  Then there is all the time in the world to learn how to use the Metro user interface.  Once that's learned, one can have the best of both worlds.

Also, Microsoft is making Win8's Media Center free for Windows 8 Pro owners until January 31, 2013.  I applied for the Media Center product code but MS has not emailed it to me yet.  If there's any problems, I'll let you know. .... This offer does not apply to Windows 8 Basic.  The Basic version can be upgraded to the Pro version for about $65 or so.

Sky

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skyglider
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Re: Windows 8 Survival Guide
In reply to skyglider, Dec 14, 2012

Just remembered another thing.

Networking my Win8 laptop to my Win7 desktop was very easy.  Used the HomeGroup method on both computers.  There are shared folders for Desktop, Documents, Pictures, Music and Videos.

At first I didn't think about it but then I realized that my Win8 desktop has shortcuts to all of my installed applications.  I don't want that compromised if someone is able to hack into my network.  So I disabled sharing of the Desktop.  Problem is that the Desktop icon still displays in the laptop's Homegroup, though it does not display in Control Panel's Homegroup.  A Win8 bug?

Sharing of my HP inkjet printer and HP laserjet all-in-one unit that are both cabled to my Win7 tower PC was very easy.  I can print to either printer from my laptop.

Very nice networking using Homegroup if you have Win7 or Win8 PCs.  I don't think Homegroup is available in Windows versions prior to Win7.

Sky

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Shalom2006
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Re: Windows 8 Survival Guide
In reply to skyglider, Dec 14, 2012

Thanks Sky, very similar thoughts here. I now use Start8 which is a little better than classic shell. For folks that don't like add ons they can use the ALT/F4 to Shutdown/Hibernate etc.

Overall Windows 8  boots much faster than Windows 7, using hibernate it shuts down with my SSD in around 2 secs and starts up again in around 3 secs, so, no complaints whatsoever.

Also I've yet to manage to crash Windows 8, which I did a few times with Windows 7 

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lanef
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Re: Windows 8 Survival Guide
In reply to skyglider, Dec 14, 2012

I am fully converted, the more I use Win 8 the more I like it.  Being mad about apps on my iPhone 5, now I can have some fun with apps on Windows though it is still a long way to match the apps on iOS and Android. Win 8 is fast and you have a bit of both world.

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joey_B
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Re: Windows 8 Survival Guide
In reply to skyglider, Dec 14, 2012

Nice piece, thank you for that. Altough I wonder if I would want to spend so much time and effort in customizing and learning a system that worked for me earlier without so much hassle. There are many instances where you were asking yourself 'what were they thinking'. I have the same issue, and my consumer-trust in MS is down to freezing point right now. Sure, I am able to tweak Win8 to give me a workable desktop, but I shouldn't have to do that. For me it's more about quality than 'being able to'.

Next to that, your setup probably is a single-boot. The way MS uses the UEFI-boot gives problems when you would like to boot alternative OS's on the same PC. Again an example of MS not giving the user control over his machine. And again lack of quality.

I think you are right when you state that Win8 is just Win7 with some features turned off... For that I will be fine using Win7 right now, and let's see what the future brings... Win8 hasn't got any advantages for me at this moment.

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QuicksilverCA
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Re: Windows 8 Survival Guide
In reply to skyglider, Dec 14, 2012

Thanks for the writeup

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skyglider
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Re: Windows 8 Survival Guide
In reply to skyglider, Dec 15, 2012

Shalom2006, lanef, joey_B and QuicksilverCA,
Thanks for your comments.


lanef,

Since you're mostly using Win8 now, could you tell me how you control the volume of the music app? When I click the music app, I can't figure out how to change the volume on desktops that have a standard keyboard with no hardware volume controls. I would like to learn about this aspect of the Win8 music app.

Thanks.


joey_B,

I agree with your acessment. For folks already running Win7, just staying with Win7 for now is a good way to go.

For folks running Vista (especially the 64bit version) buying Win8 at the intro price of $39.99 and running it with the Classic Shell might be worthwhile. They will notice faster boot and shutdown times, have better networking capability if they have other Win7 PCs, and will not have to put up with Vista's constant accessing of the hard drive and using up more disk space as time goes by.


Thanks all,
Sky

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skyglider
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Re: Windows 8 Survival Guide
In reply to skyglider, Dec 15, 2012

I have another comment to add regarding Windows 8.

I think Microsoft should have allowed Win8 to boot to the standard windows desktop with the standard start menu.  Also put icons on the desktop and quick launch bar to open the Win8 user interface.

Then Microsoft should have made the Win8 UI so good that users would naturally migrate to using that instead of the standard Windows UI.  This would have given windows users time to learn the Win8 UI while still being able to do productive work using the standard windows UI.

With this approach, I think everyone who likes windows as it is now would have loved Win8 and praised it for its faster booting and shutdown with access to a new user interface.

Regards,
Sky

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migibson99
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Re: Windows 8 Survival Guide
In reply to skyglider, Dec 15, 2012

skyglider wrote:

THE CLASSIC SHELL:
Now I was about to shelve Win8, re-install Vista on my laptop and accept the $40 loss. But during all of the Googling that I had to do, I had read about third party software that could simulate the normal Windows start menus. So I decided to give Win8 one last chance. I installed the "Classic Shell" which is free. ...... Amazing! Win8 was transformed to a normal Windows computer with a Start icon in the task bar. I always liked the XP start menu so I selected that. ... The taskbar using the Classic Shell includes the quick launch area, task area and notification area like it always has. Very nice indeed!

Sky

I hear so much about Classic Shell and similar programs.  My concern would be that MS could at some point disable the functionality of these aps.  If you were forced to go back to the original W8 interface, I suspect that you would not be a happy camper (to put it mildly).

Why would MS disable these W7 emulation aps?  There could be several reasons, not the least of which is that they are obviously trying to coax users into adopting the Metro interface.  If large numbers of users choose to bypass Metro entirely, that could be an issue for MS.

As far back as I can remember, there have always been 3rd party programs designed to do something in Windows better than Windows does itself, but until W8, I have never known an ap or program to actually offer a better experience at the core functionality of Windows.

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skyglider
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Re: Windows 8 Survival Guide
In reply to migibson99, Dec 15, 2012

migibson99 wrote:

I hear so much about Classic Shell and similar programs. My concern would be that MS could at some point disable the functionality of these aps. If you were forced to go back to the original W8 interface, I suspect that you would not be a happy camper (to put it mildly).

I highly, highly doubt that Microsoft would disable functionality of the Start Menu type shell programs.

In fact, if there are a large number of new Win8 computer returns with the reason stated that they couldn't get used to the "Metro" user interface, Microsoft might enable a new upgrade for Win8 called the "Windows Start Menu" upgrade .... or release Windows 9 that has it.

Sky

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Jeff in Va
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Re: Windows 8 Survival Guide
In reply to skyglider, Dec 15, 2012

You can read my own experience earlier in this forum with my dell 630 laptop.  I too have not been impressed with the Microsoft apps.  Hard to believe they could not do better.  Now if you all want to see a great app, check out Pandora.  It is pretty and has volume, pause, etc controls shown.  One thing you need to get used to and try with apps, is just start typing, which for example on Pandora, does a search for a music group.   Most apps I have tried just plain suck and get uninstalled, although I have tried the paid apps yet.  For example youtube crashes (black screen of death).  Playing the same selection on the desktop was fine--go figure.

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kcbeatty
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Re: Windows 8 Survival Guide
In reply to skyglider, Dec 15, 2012

Thanks for sharing Sky.  Keep us informed on your issues going forward.

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skyglider
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Re: Windows 8 Survival Guide
In reply to Jeff in Va, Dec 15, 2012

Jeff in Va wrote:

You can read my own experience earlier in this forum with my dell 630 laptop. I too have not been impressed with the Microsoft apps. Hard to believe they could not do better. Now if you all want to see a great app, check out Pandora. It is pretty and has volume, pause, etc controls shown. One thing you need to get used to and try with apps, is just start typing, which for example on Pandora, does a search for a music group. Most apps I have tried just plain suck and get uninstalled, although I have tried the paid apps yet. For example youtube crashes (black screen of death). Playing the same selection on the desktop was fine--go figure.

That is a nice thread you started about Win8 on older PCs.  Appreciated it very much since I was in the same boat.  What is Pandora about?

Thanks,
Sky

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skyglider
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Windows Defender
In reply to kcbeatty, Dec 15, 2012

kcbeatty wrote:

Thanks for sharing Sky. Keep us informed on your issues going forward.

Welcome.  Your post just reminded me about another Win8 feature.

Windows 8 comes with Windows Defender (WD) built-in.  WD is said to be MS Security Essentials (an anti-virus program for folks who are not familiar with it) with a different name.

The nice thing is that when Win8 is installed, one does not have to worry as much when connecting to the internet for the first time.  I know that Security Essentials has received low scores in some comparison tests but I personally like that it's included in Win8 and the price is right (free)

The odd thing is that Win8 does not give any indication that WD is installed and running.  Security Essentials displays a green icon in the notifications area of the taskbar but WD doesn't display anything.

To open WD, type "Def" in the search box and "Windows Defender" will pop up as one of the search finds.  Click it and WD opens.  When WD opens, it looks just like Security Essentials which seems to confirm that it is Security Essentials rebranded. Click the Update tab and update WD with the latest virus and spyware definitions before browsing the web.

I've read that if a different antivirus software is installed, WD will automatically be disabled and if the different antivirus is removed, that WD will automatically be re-enabled.  I don't know how true this is but that's what I read.

Sky

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lanef
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Re: Windows 8 Survival Guide
In reply to skyglider, Dec 15, 2012

skyglider wrote:

Shalom2006, lanef, joey_B and QuicksilverCA,
Thanks for your comments.


lanef,

Since you're mostly using Win8 now, could you tell me how you control the volume of the music app? When I click the music app, I can't figure out how to change the volume on desktops that have a standard keyboard with no hardware volume controls. I would like to learn about this aspect of the Win8 music app.

I have never used the Win8 music app, I will give it a try, I am addicted to Winamp.

OK, Just tried it, surprisingly when I am using my H800 Logitech wireless headset, and If if hit the volume button on my headset, a window comes up where you have the volume adjustment, and the next forward backward button. But when I am using my Logitech speakers which are connected to the audio output of my computer, that window option does not come up. So I can adjust volume by clicking the speaker button at the right hand corner of my screen and then use the volume button on the speaker itself.


joey_B,

I agree with your acessment. For folks already running Win7, just staying with Win7 for now is a good way to go.

For folks running Vista (especially the 64bit version) buying Win8 at the intro price of $39.99 and running it with the Classic Shell might be worthwhile.

I have tried both Classis Shell and Start 8 and I have now opted to Start 8 as I can configure it so that each time I hit the Windows Key, it will switch from my desktop to Metro and vice versa, also I have change the picture of the Start8 button to the Windows Start button, so now I am not even aware if I am using Win 8 when I am on my desktop and will occasionally browse the App store to hunt some new cool apps.

Cheers

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lanef
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Re: Hi Sky
In reply to skyglider, Dec 15, 2012

Here is what comes up on my screen when playing Win 8 Music player and using my Logitech H800 Headset, and adjusting the volume on the headset.

This one playing off my Logitech speakers connected to the audio out of the PC.

So here you are, the volume control does come up here too at the bottom right.

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lanef
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Re: Hi Sky (rectification)
In reply to lanef, Dec 15, 2012

lanef wrote:

Here is what comes up on my screen when playing Win 8 Music player and using my Logitech H800 Headset, and adjusting the volume on the headset.

This one playing off my Logitech speakers connected to the audio out of the PC.

So here you are, the volume control does come up here too at the bottom right.

Sorry my mistake, only the Previous, Play/Pause, Next and playback options come up, but volume has to be done with the volume control on the speakers.

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Henry Richardson
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Re: Windows Defender
In reply to skyglider, Dec 15, 2012

skyglider wrote:

I've read that if a different antivirus software is installed, WD will automatically be disabled and if the different antivirus is removed, that WD will automatically be re-enabled. I don't know how true this is but that's what I read.

I received my Dell Win8 laptop yesterday.  It has trial version of McAfee on it and Windows Defender is disabled.  The McAfee expires next month and when it does I will use WD.  I use MSE/WD on my Win7 computer.  Last night I tried to disable McAfee and enable WD, but it wouldn't let me do it.  I guess when the McAfee trial expires it will let me do that.  I suppose I could uninstall McAfee now, but I guess I will wait until it expires.

By the way, thanks for your write up on using Win8.  I am finding that it isn't just that things have moved around and are hard to find, but that it takes many more clicks and also trying to find hidden stuff.  For example, I have an admin account, a user account for me, and a user account for my wife.  On Win7 when it boots up I can choose which one to log into and once logged in I can easily switch to another one.  With Win8 it doesn't give me a choice to select which one to log onto when I boot up and switching is more difficult.

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Henry Richardson
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kcbeatty
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Re: Windows Defender
In reply to skyglider, Dec 15, 2012

I don't know if I would trust WD.  I have worked on several PCs recently that were running WSE and they were full of Malware.  One of the infections had disabled WSE silently and then the PC was wide open for whatever wanted to come down.  Hopefully Win 8 is different enough that it doesn't have the same exploitable weaknesses that Win 7 has.

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I wise man once told me that "Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect "
Kevin

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