Technology in the Law Office–Windows 10 on a Small Tablet

Trying to force an upgrade to Windows 10 on a Dell Venue 8 Pro
Trying to force an upgrade to Windows 10 on a Dell Venue 8 Pro

While the upgrade to Windows 10 has been relatively painless for my laptops, getting my Dell Venue 8 Pro to accept the upgrade has been less than smooth.

Pros and Cons of the V8P

The V8P has been both exhilarating and incredibly frustrating.  (Why I don’t have the same sort of anger toward it as I do my iPhone is something of a mystery, but I suspect it has to do with the fact that it only cost a couple of hundred dollars.) It is exhilarating because, when it works, it shows just how useful it can be. Taking notes with a stylus and then being able to pull up the notes months later with little hassle is fantastically productive.  Having an 8″ device which can function as a fully-capable computer is also quite useful.  It also is fairly responsive and presents an enjoyable reading experience–I read the entirety of Andy Weir’s The Martian through the Kindle App, and my eyes never got tired, and I found the text easy to read.  Browsing the web, so long as you don’t mind using Internet Explorer works just fine 99% of the time.  The microSD slot allows you to expand storage significantly (more on that in a moment, though). It’s a very decent and capable small tablet.

It’s frustrating though, because the stylus and the active digitizer have been fraught with problems from the get-go.  When you’re scrawling on the screen and getting nothing as a result, you don’t know if it’s a computer error, a stylus error, or a dead battery–there’s absolutely no information presented that can help you figure it out.  The micro-USB charging port is also laughably weak.  I’ve already had to send it back to Dell early in its life to fix the thing, and now, about a year later, it’s showing signs of weakness again.  It’s also a bit small for the type of work I want to do on it.  8″ seems like it would be great for taking notes by holding it in your hand, much like a steno pad, but there’s something limiting about having only 8″ to work with.  (The Surface 3 seems like a great size for what I want to do, and maybe someday I’ll get one of those.)  Finally, the 32GB of standard storage is extremely limiting, especially when more than half of it is devoted to the operating system.  Yes, you can expand storage by adding a microSD, but you can’t use that storage for anything but, well, storage.  Store Apps–under Windows 8.1, at least–can’t install in that space, and even if they could, it would probably prove to be too slow to be pleasant.

All in all, while I like it enough, as a Windows 8.1 device, I’d say that I’d recommend it only to people who don’t want to spend too much to have a small tablet, who don’t mind having some frustrating limitations.

All this to say: that’s why I don’t mind sacrificing the V8P to experimentation. If I mess it up, I can (or should be able to) go back to 8.1 without a problem, and it isn’t the end of the world even if I completely kill it. Yes, I’ll be mad that $200 bought me only about 18 months of computing, but it is not a device that I rely on every single day.

Forcing the Upgrade

I am currently on my fourth (yes, yesterday I said second) attempt to get the thing to accept the Windows 10 update. The first three attempts all ended with a dialog box which said something to the effect of “Something Happened; The Update Failed to Initialize.”  I searched for solutions on the web, and came across two solutions.  The first recommended doing a factory reset to give the upgrade files more space to work with (remember, in it’s factory state, the 32GB drive really only has about 12-14GB of usable space) and the other recommended changing Registry permissions to allow access to all users.  Not wanting to wipe the device (even though there was very little that wasn’t saved elsewhere) I tried changing the Registry permissions.  That did nothing.

So this morning, I reset the device, got it to bare-bones status, and then immediately hunted down the upgrade in the manner I detailed in previous posts.

This time, it appears to be working.  I’ve made it through the media download, it’s initialized, it’s checked for updates, and now it’s asking me whether I want to Install Windows 10 Home by keeping personal files and apps.

Making it to the second round with the Windows 10 preview.
Making it to the second round with the Windows 10 installation.

I decided to keep nothing; as I mentioned, very little is actually stored on the c:\ drive (since, well, there’s typically no space), and I want this thing as pristine as possible.  It performed one last check to see if there is enough space, and then it’s off to the races.  In a couple of hours, I’ll see if the thing works or not.  And whether the concern I’ve read about how Windows 10 is great in a traditional desktop environment but not on a tablet is merited.  That’s coming up in the next post in this series.