Windows 10, the source of much controversy over the last 6months or so, is finally upon us, and has been for a solid month or two now. Released officially on June 29th 2015, the first few machines of users who opted in to the free upgrade process began to take the plunge. I take a look at 10’s myriad of positives, pitfalls and cast a view point on whether Microsoft are onto a winner or not…
Yes, the addition of a “Mac like” Exposé/Mission Control window peek feature. This one I like a lot, a quick tap of Windows Key + Tab will spring your 10 desktop into life and display each open application in a handy easy to view minified group view. This scales seamlessly across multiple physical monitors too, on my office station I currently have 3 monitors, each heavily populated with application windows. Pro-Tip: Mapping the keyboard strokes to a spare macro button on your mouse really speeds this up.
The Start Menu.
It’s back! Ok now hear me out on this one. A lot of people swear by the metro interface of 8 and 8.1, and were early adopters from the first versions of Windows 8. The claims were that it was much quicker to find certain settings areas or applications by using the metro interfaces search functions. I agree, it may have been quicker to find, but having Metro shut off your view of any open apps and your task bar, on all monitors, whilst it did this, was such a massive hindrance to your workflow in a business environment, that it killed any hint of productivity that you might have had going at the time. And don’t get me started about the location of the shutdown/Reset buttons! For me, the return of a semi-traditional start menu layout, which doesn’t disrupt your desktop view when you open it, was critical for the success of Windows 10. Kudos to Microsoft on the integration of Metro Tiles into an otherwise unused space.
Restarts in windows are a necessity sometimes, whether it be to apply those pesky updates, or simply because your work machine that’s been up for 162days is starting to bog down a little bit… Getting back up and into your desktop is better if it happens as quickly as it can. Again taking my fairly solid work machine as a benchmark, I’ve timed this using extremely high tech scientific instruments (A Samsung Galaxy S5) to a fraction over 9 seconds. This is with an enterprise level Intel SSD as boot, and only timed to the login prompt (as our domain logon would add precious unfair seconds). So to summarise, speedy, yes, good.
At the time of writing this piece, I’m going to go ahead and give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt and credit them with the assumption that Windows Update, is simply not finished. Firstly, Microsoft have found the need to ‘hide’ Updates in the most illogical place, and to make matters worse, have left no breadcrumb to where they’ve put it. Naturally, you’d type “Update” into the search box, nope. Nothing. Okay, well it’s in Control Panel usually, so I’ll head there, nope. Nothing. Hmm. Turns out it’s hidden in the “All Settings” section of the notification panel that pops out of the right hand side of the screen. Why? And furthermore, why didn’t it come up in the search results for “Update”. Poor usability. Secondly, once you’ve managed to find and Launch Windows Updates, you’re greeted with a stripped down Metro App style interface, personal gripes aside, there simply isn’t the level of control in this interface that there needs to be. You have 200 updates to apply to a new install system? Ok, that’s fine, but you can’t de-select a single one of them. You have to install them all, and then go in and uninstall what you didn’t want afterwards from Programs & Features. Not cool. The final gripe about updates (and yes I’m aware a lot of this can be affected in GPO’s etc.) forced reboots at off peak times, or scheduled reboots within the next 4 days. Nope. No thank you. You do not have permission to reboot my machine at 3.30am, ever. And forcing me to pick a time in the next 4 days ONLY to force a reboot gets you a free ticket on the train to disabling the Windows Update Service.
My data is mine, which may seem like a silly statement, but it seems it needs to be re-iterated again and again. It’s mine, all of it, and I don’t want any of it being needlessly transmitted back to Redmond HQ. By default, if you don’t delve into the hidden options sections in the 10 install process, you’ll be sharing a lot more than the odd tracking cookie from a dodgy website with our pals over in the marketing team at Microsoft. Speech input, pen input, calendar details, contact information, geographic location and raw URL browser history are all openly shared and transmitted back to Microsoft at the drop of a hat. Along with the staggering misuse of trust of openly sharing your unique advertising ID with 3rd parties, you’d be excused for thinking that someone was pulling your leg? Nope. All of this is enabled by default in the Windows 10 installation procedure. You can disable it, but you’ll need super sharp eyes to catch the “Customize Settings” link at the bottom of one of the non-descript install screens. The good news is that you can turn everything off within the OS as well, so don’t fret too much if you did miss it. This sort of sharing of information is ok, if you want to help Microsoft improve its services, and you don’t think the data you’re transmitting is particularly security critical. For an enterprise user, working with customers’ entire company infrastructures daily. Leaking this sort of data is a crippling security flaw. These sorts of things should be offered as a default-disabled option, not enabled and hidden from the non tech savvy users.
As a hard-core enterprise user of Windows 7, I was dead against adoption of the previous efforts from Microsoft. 8 and 8.1 fell very short of what they were meant to be. To me it seemed like they used it simply as an exercise in practicing how to get the Metro Interface to work on the desktop environment. They were slow, clunky, poorly thought out, and just a downright chore to use on a daily basis. 10 has taken a fresh look at Metro and has condensed its best bits into the smallest impacting footprint they can in the newly restored 10 Start Menu. Taking myself as a benchmark, I believe this will win over a large number of the hard-core 7 supporters, as it has me. Coupled with the fancy new Multiple Desktops, Task View, Notification Panel and many other features, I do truly think that Microsoft have the basis of an OS that will become the new go-to/de facto standard of Enterprise desktop installations. That being said, I do think they are still missing a few tricks. Windows Update, is simply not in a finished state, and needs a complete overhaul. The mismatch of where some settings applications are, and why they’re not in Control Panel (EVERYTHING should be in control panel, no matter where else it is) is a mystery to me, and again smacks of “unfinished”-ness.
As we’re only a few months into 10, I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt and state that, YES, in fact Windows 10 could very well be a game changer. Certainly if the game is to win over the old-school 7 users, and tempt across the lazy 8 and 8.1 users. Windows 10 has great promise, Microsoft just need to finish it ;)
By Dave Byrne on September 24th, 2015