Windows 10 - It Sucks Less

The Windows 10 Technical Preview sucks less than Windows 8; there, I said it. After downloading and installing the 32-bit version of build 10041 and spending some time with it I can say that by reversing some of the admittedly gutsy interface changes they made in Windows 8, Microsoft appears to have produced a PC operating system that should make sense for most users. 

I actively dislike Windows 8 as a PC operating system and while I still like Windows 7, I have used various flavors of Linux on my laptop for the past couple of years. I am not a Linux guru, but I like what Linux offers me and I have become very comfortable in that penguin-powered world. This post is based upon my first impressions of the technical preview as I found it, and is not particularly "in depth", as far as technical issues.

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Windows 10 starts and shuts down quickly; very quickly on my laptop - nice! Indeed, the preview runs well in general on my 3-year-old mid-range AMD-powered machine. I did need to reboot before the laptop touchpad would allow me to scroll anything, but whatever. Everything else appears to be working okay, and Device Manager did not show any hardware detection issues. Battery usage is also fine.

Like other contemporary operating systems from Apple and Google, Microsoft really wants you to use a (free) Windows Live account to be able to get the "whole experience"; while you can set up a traditional local user account as you would with Windows 7 (as I did), you will still need a Windows account to install apps from the app store, and to use the Cortana assistant, and so on. Not unexpected.

The Start menu - introduced with Windows 95 some 20 years ago - is back, after being pushed out of Windows 8. Powering on and logging in brings you to a Desktop that could be Windows 7, rather than the Windows 8 Start Screen. Clicking on the ersatz start button on the bottom left brings up most of the stuff you need to get work done, in the form of both a somewhat familiar list on the left as well as a collection of Windows 8-style tiles on the right. This compound menu can be expanded to go full screen. It's interesting that this menu is translucent (at least on the default settings), so that you can still see the desktop below - as if to reassure you that this isn't Windows 8, perhaps.

Right-clicking on this start menu brings up some more "technical" menu items, such as "Programs and Features", "Network Connections" and "Command Prompt", that sort of thing. The fly-out "Charms" menu from Windows 8 is nowhere to be seen in this incarnation.

One thing that I personally find a bit jarring is the mixture of interface styles present in Windows 10. There is the "modern" look made (in)famous by Windows 8, present in the native Windows Apps and the tiles to launch them. This is also present in the Task Manger, where is has that "clean", simplified look. Poke around too deep into the menus though and boink, you are apparently back in Windows 7. This happened in Windows 8 also. It reminds me in some perverse way when Windows 3.1 crashed back in the day and you would be staring at a command prompt - which sort of ruined the illusion.

I have not used Windows 10 (or 8) on a tablet device, so I can't tell you how Microsoft handles the interface quirks - is it simply stripped down, completely removing those areas where the "Windows 7" elements would show up in the Desktop version of the OS?

I did notice that when viewing the News or Money apps, there is a graphical quirk which causes me to lose the bottom line (or bottom lines) of text in the articles. This may be something to do with my laptop or may be something Microsoft is working on, but I tried both setting the App to full screen mode and to auto hiding the task bar, but neither seemed to help. It almost appears that the App window is not scaling correctly. You can't really scroll up or down in these native Apps, only from left to right. For whatever reason, the bottom line(s) in each column of text were missing for me, and some graphics appears to be cut off. Other windows and programs appear to display as expected.

Despite a tab in IE mentioning the new "Spartan" browser and how to access it, it does not appear to be present in this release. Not sure if will show up after a future update or not; I already installed several updates since installing the preview and no sign of Spartan yet....

Sadly, you will find that you still need to reboot for some seemingly minor things, like making changes to touchpad settings for instance. Really? C'mon Microsoft!

Overall, my first hands-on impression is that this is better that Windows 8 as a Desktop operating system, I'm not clear if Windows 10 becomes more "touch-y" if used on device with a touch screen - I would assume/hope so. I also hope that the preview version I am using is considerably less mature than what Microsoft is currently working on, as it seems that some polish is still needed for this to make more undecided users definitively say "Oh, now THIS is more like it!".

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