I've spent quite a bit of time testing out Windows 10 on a secondary computer. And like any operating system upgrade, the change takes a bit to get used to. Since I feel more comfortable with Linux distributions than with Windows, I thought it would be interesting to see what Microsoft has done since Windows 7 and 8.
In this article, I'll walk you through how I see Windows 10. What it did well, where it falls flat on its face and how this appears to a hardcore Linux enthusiast.
Upgrading was easy
Putting aside the fact that wires were crossed with regard to reserving and waiting or being able to just run the upgrade tool yourself, the upgrade itself went smoothly on my PC. Others I've heard, have had mixed experiences – some of them bad. But my upgrade from Windows 7 Starter on my old netbook to Windows 10 Home was quite smooth.
With the upgrade completed, I was shocked to see that Windows actually detected everything correctly. Historically, each release has been hit and miss when detecting older hardware. From here, I was presented with the new Windows material design. I have mixed feeling about material design. On the one hand, it looks a world better than the UI presented by Windows 8. But despite the improved, minimalist appearance offered by Windows 10, there were visual inconsistencies that bothered me.
UI duplication and other inconsistencies
As this article illustrates, Windows 10 feels very much like it was rushed from a user interface standpoint. Elements dating back to Windows XP appear here, such as the Control Panel, Screen Resolution, even the Windows Updates section is duplicated. Much of this duplication comes from the Control Panel vs Settings sections.
The Control Panel looks and feels like old fish from Windows XP. It's dated, looks completely out of place and needs to be removed. Windows 10's Settings area by contrast, looks much better and clearly needs to be the standalone solution.
And then we have the Start menu (launcher) layout. The only thing I liked about it was how fast it launches when you click it. Even on my older hardware, it launched quickly. Unfortunately this is where the good experience dissipates. Once launched, the Start menu is essentially a space dedicated to animated tiles. Some of the launch area can be restricted down a touch with a mouse drag. I also found that by right-clicking on each tile, I could unpin the tiles one at a time. One might think that there's a setting for disabling all of these. However, based on my research, you're out of luck on a bulk-disable option. After I spent the past few minutes disabling a ton of useless tiles, I was finally able to use my mouse to further condense the launch area of the Start menu.
From here the launcher feels like it did in older versions of Windows. Then I chose "All Apps" and was presented with an alphabetical (I'm not kidding) list of my applications. Fun fact: A is for Alarms and Clock...according to Windows 10. I was half expecting something that had my applications organized by say, category. Seems Windows 10 users are going to have to learn their ABCs instead.
The one saving grace near the Start menu is the search box. It allowed me to look for everything I needed while being able to avoid the Start menu as much as humanly possible. It did a pretty good job of listing my queries based on locally available, store and Web results.
Next up is the wired and wireless networking configuration. The wired connection works as you'd expect. However when I unplugged it in order to test out wifi, things didn't work out too well.
First, the networking applet window area was full of dead space. Next I tried to get anything to appear with regard to access points, but nothing shows up at all. After a bit of troubleshooting and determining that my adapter was correctly detected I discovered that the issue is that my blue function keys won't activate the adapter. Worked fine under Windows 7 and it also worked perfectly under Ubuntu MATE.
For whatever reason, my blue function keys are depending on software that appears to be missing. Finally I found an ASUS specific scanner utility that addressed the issue. For an advanced user like myself, this wasn't huge. However for a casual Windows user, this would have likely been a call to a repair shop.
All of the websites I tested in Edge appeared to work out as expected. I also found the settings to be fairly straight-forward. The fact that they chose to not show the favorites bar by default is an interesting choice. It could confuse some users, but it's not really a show-stopper. It's easy to find the toggle to make it reappear.
The browser itself is fast – really fast. It definitely gives the competition a run for the money in terms of speed. When I compared this to Chrome, there was no contest.
One area where it fell flat on its face was with WebRTC technology. I tested out Jitsi Meet to see how it did there, just in case it was simply a Jitsi issue. Sure enough, I had the same issue with OpenTok as well. Good thing Microsoft owns Skype I guess, because WebRTC isn't a viable option in Edge. Otherwise, one would need to install Chrome for their Windows 10 desktop.
The privacy issues with Windows 10 have recently been compared to Google's privacy tendencies. My argument here is that with Google, you're free to simply use another search engine. With your OS, it's a bit more involved.
If you use Express setup when you're installing Windows 10, you're essentially duplicating the same sort of tracking behavior found with Google. Ads, performance data, location, stuff like that. Again, this isn't your browser – this is your operating system. Short of never connecting to the Internet, your only way to avoid this is to manually customize your settings. Anyone comparing this to a search engine is reaching pretty hard here.
Now the next privacy concern is something that has been the subject of much debate. Windows sharing your wifi "password" with friends over social media using a tool called Wi-Fi Sense. In reality, it's sharing an encrypted version of your wifi password with other social media accounts. The idea being, if all of your friends use Windows 10, asking them for their wifi password will be a thing of the past.
Because it's encrypted, I see this as less of a security issue and more of an instance of Microsoft stepping out bounds. See, users like myself may not want their friends to magically have full LAN access on their network. If I want them to connect, I'd have them use my guest access point that is isolated from the rest of my LAN. The idea that Windows knows best is asinine and done in poor taste. If the feature must be included, prompt folks to turn it on after explaining what it does. Don't assume everyone wants this sort of thing by default.
Because I don't trust Microsoft any further than I can throw them, I did some digging to make sure this password information wasn't foolishly being stored in plain text within the registry. From what I can determine, it looks like they at least keep it out of a plain text environment.
Windows 10 isn't for me
Windows 10 is most definitely better in terms of appearance than past Windows releases. But it still has need for polish, consistency and better support for stuff like function keys. The company line is that Windows 10 is an ongoing work in progress, and they'll continue to provide us with updates. But that's just the way Microsoft does things. Windows updates has two ways to provide updates and in both cases it's set to install updates by default. Security is fine, but sometimes updates break operating systems. Windows, OS X and Linux distributions all suffer from this sometimes.
No, I won't be using Windows anytime soon. It was interesting to try, but I'm afraid I prefer a deeper level of control than Windows 10 is willing to give me. Heck, if this was Linux, I'd be able to easily switch to another desktop where redundant menus weren't a consideration. Sadly with Windows 10, Microsoft is firmly in the drivers seat and those who use Windows are merely along for the ride.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.