Windows 10: After The Dust Has Settled

It has been 171 days since Microsoft’s July 29th, 2015 release of their newest operating system, Windows 10.  What seems like multitudes of attention, feedback, compliments, and complaints boiled over the roiling pot we call the internet.  From people singing its praises, to people vehemently smashing the upgrade into the ground. All the while, the poor everyday consumer is in between, wondering what button they should push, Upgrade or Cancel?  I am here to take a step away from my projects within The Darkkarium, and address that very issue.

Microsoft has had a rocky experience with their last few iterations of Windows; specifically Windows Vista, 7, 8, and 8.1.  Between launch errors, security holes, incompatibility issues, and a host of resource management flaws, they were just rough to get through.  Windows Vista was a slow resource hog, and that was mostly due to adding a metric ton of new features, and visual effects, way before the technology was tuned enough not to use 80% of your RAM at all times.  Windows 7 was leaner, but not by much, and came with a handful of security issues Microsoft took an embarrassing amount of time to repair.  Windows 8 was a huge leap forward in what Microsoft envisioned the operating system should be,  but despite the vast improvement over many areas, the visual and operational changes were just too much for people to put up with.  Windows 8.1 addressed a large amount of the issues, but people were just too burned by Metro that the still remaining, full screen start menu was too much.

When I incrementalized the operating system transitions and flaws, I didn’t mention the usual stubborn folk who refuse to upgrade because they fear change.  Those being the people who wouldn’t upgrade to Windows 7 from Windows Vista, and that is just a completely silly thing to do --the only justifiable reason to have kept Windows Vista was simple; money--.  I leave them out of the equation because they are the “Soap Box Trolls” of new software.  No matter what you tell them, and how many times you address their concerns about the new things, they will not change their views.  Not much different than those comment thread trolls you find that start screaming their “opinion” as fact, and no matter how many people concretely prove them wrong, they prove the incapability to think any differently.  Don’t be that person.

When Windows 10 came along, there was a lot of pain and anger left over from so many attempts at getting it right.  So much so, that many people had given up hope that it could be any better, which resulted in two experiences; people who refused to get it or people that did and hated it.  A large amount of folks who did get the update, ended up hating it, and unfairly.  They were going in with high expectations, “Wow me, or I am out of here”.  However, Windows 10 naturally released with it’s fair share of bugs, and these people would latch onto a small bug like that, and use it to project from the heavens how bad Windows 10 was, too.  Sorry, but even the best operating systems have bugs upon initial release.  They judged it unfairly, and painted their thoughts with such hatred, they couldn’t see it for what it was.

Windows 10 is the best release of Windows to date

Bold statement?  Sure, but it is very true; Microsoft brought their “A” game when developing this operating system.  For the first time, you can actually see where they listened to their customer’s feedback in what we wanted in an operating system.  We wanted a faster, smaller, more reliable, and easier to use operating system.  We wanted our Start menu back.  We liked the apps, and live tiles, and fun little things like that, but we don’t want them to be the stars of the show.  Bring us cool apps we could never get before, but don’t only bring us that.  We still want to use our computers like they’re computers.  Most of the Windows users are not on mobile, or even on tablets, as much as Microsoft keeps pushing us to do so.  We are on desktops and laptops.  Take a look at the market share of users for Mobile, Windows may be increasing, but most of us still use Androids--and iPhones too, I guess--for mobile, and most of us are too far into those ecosystems to want to change.

But didn’t Windows 10 have system crashing bugs?

Windows 10 experienced its fair share of first release bugs.  I can say that, after seeing the many experiences with those who helped Beta test it before its release, they had nearly every one ironed out.  I myself experienced a bug that caused my PC to improperly power each time I initiated a shutdown.  Another fun one was when you attempt to quick switch users, the computer would Blue Screen Of Death, and shut down.  However, they have addressed many of these, and more, in just the first 6 months of updates.  “The November Update”, which is what they call the large scale update released in November 2015, took care of a lot of leftover errors in the system.  However, I found a much more interesting fix, and also subsequently discovering the cause to some, if not all of my problems with it.

Windows 10 is like no other iteration of Windows before it.  If you upgrade for free, you own a full copy of the operating system.  What does that mean?  It means, when time comes that you are forced to completely wipe your computer and reinstall Windows, you are not forced to install the last full version of Windows you had, and then upgrade it away multiple times.  You can just plug in the Windows 10 installation media, and install fresh right there.  When I discovered that, I was floored.  Up until Windows 10, when I had to perform a wipe, I had to start at Windows Vista.  Once that was done installing, and activated, I could upgrade to Windows 7, then 8, then 8.1.  It was gruelling because each installation would take hours to complete.  Which leads me to another great point.

Windows 10 installs fresh in an insanely quick fashion

My computer is old.  However, when I say my computer is old, I don’t mean it in the same way a normal off the shelf computer would be old.  I built my computer 4 years ago, but I built it for performance.  Which means it has stood the test of time as far as many advancements go.  It is still better than most computers you can buy at Best Buy.  However, it does act its age more often now.  No computer stays 100% the same speed the entire time you own it; circuits get tired, heat stresses the chips, memory blocks die, voltage is slowly lost as the components degrade in your power supply.  So, installing Windows 10 for the first time was a little nerve racking.  What would break?  Would I lose anything important?

I have installed Windows 10 on this machine twice; once when I initially upgraded my PC on 10’s release and once recently to give the machine a full reinstall to try to hammer out some bugs that had developed.  The first time, the upgrade, was done over download, when everyone was downloading the update at the same time.  That took hours to complete.  So moving forward I had no real idea how just a straight install would go.  To which I found out recently, when I plugged in that thumb drive and proceeded to reinstall.  15 minutes later I was using a fully functional Windows 10 operating system, and I could not believe it, not one bit.

With the knowledge of my system’s higher tier, one might wonder how Windows 10 would install on a computer with specs a lot less impressive.  Lucky for you, dear reader, I own a laptop.  Said laptop is not much newer than my PC, and moreover it is so wildly unimpressive on hardware, it is hardly worth using.  It is nearly a Black Friday Special laptop, one which I did not purchase.  Given to me well after its prime, and with the full description of, “It’s not ever going to be like it was”.  Of course, I know this not to be entirely true.  I can recover just about any computer from slowness and recapture its potential.  To shorten this story, let’s just say I did just that.  So when Windows 10 came along, I was ready.

I was afraid to even attempt the install, because the laptop was still just a basic beast, nothing impressive, not super fast even at its best.  However, I did it anyway, and I couldn’t have been happier.  Windows 10, even as an upgrade, made the laptop faster.  Yes, faster.  I have heard many a complaint that people’s older machines struggled with Windows 10, and feared I would fall into a trap of super slow computing, but it didn’t happen.  It booted faster, it loaded faster, it ran smoother, and it was just an absolute turnaround for its viability.  I can now use it to produce and edit podcasts, to edit and fix the website, hell, I can play Minecraft on it!  Minecraft playability is a feat for this computer, because it just is so graphically underpowered, and that’s because it’s a cheap laptop.  You have to spend a lot of money to get a laptop that even kind of plays games on it.

Fast forward to recently, while my second in command, John Zander, and I were recording, editing, and releasing a new Drakkarium Update.  I had decided to perform a fresh install from scratch, on the laptop just for the purposes of portraying the results to you here.  The results were astounding.  It clocked in at 18 minutes to desktop launch, and another 10 minutes of updates.  So I had a completely usable Windows 10 laptop in under half of an hour.  When I installed Windows 7 onto it shortly after I got it, it tooks hours.  Yet, this install took minutes.  What a wonderful win for Microsoft.

It’s better looking than any other version of Windows

The entire minimal meets high tech look of the visual interface is fantastic.  They didn’t try to fluff it up with unnecessary 3D elements, or take the animations too far.  It just fits well with itself.  They also incorporated a much more comprehensive, yet easy to operate, customizing system to make it your own even further.  A customized greeting screen every time you turn your computer on is also a nice touch, and the image you choose carries with your user, and isn’t universal, making multiple user customization a much more pleasant experience as well.  The background system is a little more limited in that you can no longer set different backgrounds per monitor--for those of us with multiple monitors--but the feature isn’t completely lost, as it picks back up when you set a slideshow as your background.  At that point, the backgrounds change on the monitors at different paces, and with different images.  They have places all your customization needs in one place, instead of packed here and there, easily lost.

The bootup sequence is one of my favorite things about the system.  Not only is bootup much faster than the old, but it is much less “trying to be high tech” than the others.  No more left to right scrolling bars, no more overly colored logos; just the simple windows logo and a wheel of dots.

Microsoft Edge performs better than Google Chrome

Let’s face it, when it comes down to what the best overall browser is, it’s Google Chrome right?  Arguments could be made for Mozilla’s Firefox, but ultimately it will always end in Chrome, because it just offers more of the things that are actually important.  Speed, security, convenience, and ease of use.  The features it has all by itself outpace anything available, and the apps and extensions available for it rival any mobile apps store.  Google built an entire Operating System based off Chrome, because it is just so versatile.  It takes the cake, right?

Wrong.  It used to take the entire cake.  Microsoft Edge has taken a few of those categories for itself.  Speed for one.  It is leagues faster than Chrome is.  I am ashamed by how much I choose a Microsoft browser for quick browsing than I do Chrome.  Convenience is another big one, and that’s always been the leaning factor for Microsoft.  Their browser is the easiest to get to, and is already there when you install Windows.  Chrome only becomes easy when you get it, and set it all up, and even then some links or browser intents in apps and programs will open the Operating Systems browser over Chrome in many cases.  

Not only does it stand out in performance, it stands out in looks.  It is so much cleaner than the previous browser Microsoft used (I will not dare speak its name).  No matter how much they tweaked that ‘waste of space’ browser that came on every version of Windows previous to this, it never looked good.  Edge adopts the sleek, minimal, yet high tech appearance Windows 10 brought with it, and it is a beautiful marriage.  The settings and operations are much like Windows 10 itself as well.  Overall, they just brought a great unified experience top to bottom.

I feel like I need to step in here and make a new statement regarding Microsoft Edge.  At the time of this writing I had yet to fully jump ship and start using Microsoft Edge exclusively.  I have done so recently, and I will say the Edge browser is still very much BETA as it goes to overall performance.  It loads everything faster, but does in fact have a list of bugs I have discovered, that need to be addressed.  It may not yet be ready for you to use full time, but if they polish out the issues, it will be much better than Chrome.

Cortana on PC is a thing of magnificence

I am an avid Google Now and Moto Voice user.  Both are voice activated search and operations systems built into things like Android and Chrome (Google Now) and Moto X Smartphones (Moto Voice).  They afford me the ability to use my phone without touching it.  I can set alarms, set reminders (E.G. “Remind me to get milk the next time I am in a grocery store” and it will notify me when I walk into Safeway to shop), Start playing specific playlists in my music player, and so much more.  This is helpful on the road big time.  Hands free control of our devices is not only convenient, but time saving.  Microsoft brought along Cortana, a system that offers similar features to their Windows Mobile devices.  It was a big hit with Windows Mobile users, and I guess someone in the developer room at Microsoft had a spark of genius when they were crafting Windows 10.

They brought Cortana to PC.  Yes, they added the feature rich personal assistant to a PC operating system, and it was exactly what was missing from Windows.  I can do anything from my computer, in any way I want now.  I can talk to it from across the room, and tell it to play my music, or I can be writing this article right now, need a few images to show you readers what I mean when I say the boot sequence is better looking, just by telling it to look up images of Windows logos and bars.  I never thought I would use it very much, but it comes in handy a lot more often than people will think.

If you are on Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 and haven’t taken the free upgrade, do it

Don’t hesitate to get this upgrade.  It is worth learning the new aspects of Windows, just to experience this gem of an operating system.  For the best possible experience out the gate, I would highly recommend you do a full, flat, install.  Do not try to keep your files and programs.  Fetch any software installation media you need, find the places to download any others you bought online, and backup all your files onto an external storage device, and just wipe and start fresh.  If you are unable to backup your things due to lack of an external storage space, Google Drive is cheap, and can be activated long enough for you to upload everything to the cloud, reinstall, and download.  After you have downloaded all your things again, you can cancel the service, and only be out one month’s payment.  If you are in dire need of assistance in doing this, you can hire a tech geek to help you, either on site or remotely, or you can take it into any computer shop for them to assist.

The upgrade will not be free forever.  It will be going back to full retail value in July of this year (2016), and you will be left behind should you decide not to upgrade.  

 

A couple fun facts to end this Operating System rant:

 

  • Microsoft is no longer supporting Windows 8 for updates.

 

  • Microsoft is getting more aggressive in its campaign to convince you to upgrade, and may soon require the upgrade, leaving you with no choice.