Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Gadget Goodies 28 - Windows 10

Copyright William E. Kraski, October 25, 2014
It's been two months since our last Gadget Goodies post.  We've already said these would be sporadic.  And it might have been even longer, except we've got several items that need sharing.

The first is illustrated by the screenshot to the right.  We've talked before about my netbooks.  I actually have two, both of which I had repurposed  with Linux Mint 17.  I was happy.  They both worked well, I could even get some of my Windows stuff to work, using WINE (a Windows emulator).  The plan was originally to keep one, sell the other.  That's at least temporarily changed.  I'll explain why after the break.

I played with linux on the netbook I intended to keep, first.  The other one was going to be set up much the same and I wanted one working the way I wanted it to before setting the other one up. Some of the same software was going on both.  By the time I had things worked out, other things in my schedule took precedence.  And then....

Early this month, Microsoft allowed those interested to beat on Windows 10 beta.  If you're wondering what about Windows 9, it's now 10.  I read the specs and decided to try it out.  There were some Windows programs that wouldn't run under WINE in linux.  If Windows 10 did the job, it might be worth buying the finished version to have everything I wanted running.  Then, depending on price and how many machines I can put Windows on, the machine I'm selling might end up with Windows 10 final, too. 

The screenshot at the beginning of the post shows the start menu.  If you think it looks like a mix of Windows 7 and Windows 8, that's a good starting point.  I happen to much prefer the desktop to the Start tiles in Windows 8.  So, I spent most of my time quite happily setting the desktop up.  When I installed it, I had read the requirements and misjudged one.  The screen resolution minimum requirement is 1024x768.  As it turns out, both netbooks are 1024x600,  Since I was initially focusing on desktop mode, that wasn't an issue.  But none of the Start apps would even think of running.  Disappointing, but not the death knell.  As I said, I was stuck on the desktop mode, anyway.

What might have killed my using Win10 was the limits of the original version.  Anyone using it would be well aware it was beta.  The finish was very rough.  The things I was ready to report as bugs were things I wasn't sure were really bugs or just missing features because it was early beta.  As it turns out, a lot of that was because of the beta level.  The feel was very clunky.

Last week, MS pumped out an update.  The screen requirements are still the same.  Yet much of what would come up from the Start tiles now works on my old netbook.  One of the two Bible apps I tried doesn't work.  Olivetree does, YOUversion doesn't.  One solitaire app works, the one I'm used to doesn't.  But that's great progress.  In the first iteration, they'd all argue and not run. Remember, my screen resolution is below minimum.  While there are a few things that don't run, the second version feels much more like a complete OS.  And what isn't running from the Start options is likely the fault of the hardware resolution, not the OS.  So, let's look at the potential.

As you can see from the screenshot, the Start tiles have been moved to part of the start menu.  I like it.  While having some of the more important functions readily available, it doesn't take over the entire screen like the Windows 8 tiling did.  Nor are there endless apps that require a huge screen area, sprawling to the right, far off screen.  I believe you can have it act that way, if you so choose. But, as I've said, I'm in favor of the desktop, so I haven't even looked for how to make it more like Win8.  The apps that used to be Start tiles are now also listed in the start menu.  And, when running, the apps can have a window border with the sizing and close buttons, just like the desktop programs.  Very desktop-like, which I like.  Or they can go full screen like the Win 8 Start mode.

Let's talk about speed.  In a way, it's a veritable gazelle.  You've probably noted, as I have, that each new version of Windows grew more resource hungry, with diminishing speed gains, despite faster and more powerful hardware.  Despite my dislike for a lot of the drastic changes in Windows 8, I appreciate that it reversed that trend.  Hardware that would create a sluggish experience with Windows 7 or before, now had a nicer user experience with Windows 8.  At least in the speed department.  Win10 follows in those footsteps.

My netbook would have been one of those sluggish machines.  Don't get me wrong. Windows 10 isn't quite as fast as Linux Mint 13 or 17,   Nothing is going to turn older hardware into a new fangled powerhouse.  And Windows includes a lot of flexibility that linux handles by installing just what's needed for the given hardware.  Is Windows 10 faster and leaner than 8 or 8.1?  I don't know.  I haven't tested them on the same hardware.  But the pace I'm seeing on my netbook makes me think it's probably faster than the 8s.

All in all, I really like it.  Having said that, this is still beta and there are still issues. Most I'm expecting to see fixed fairly quickly.  I'm hoping wifi is one of them.  My netbook has 802.11 a/b/g/n, but only in the 2.4 GHz range.  Win10's connection speed is slower than any of the previous OSes on the machine.  And, if I let it sit long enough,while I do other things, it will show being connected but without internet access.  Sometimes, shutting off the netbook's wifi and waiting a few seconds before turning it back on would fix it.  Other times, nothing short of a complete reboot would deal with it.  It could be a driver issue or it could be hardware.  I'm banking on the driver and that it will be fixed.

Overall, Windows 10 is already good and has the potential of becoming even better.  There were lots of enhancements and fixes that came with the first update.  That update came only three weeks after the original version went public.  And the bug reporting tool is almost too easy to use. All signs that Microsoft is aiming for the best version of Windows, yet.

Talking about the new Windows took more space and detail than I expected.  We'll get to the rest of the tech stuff next Wednesday.  In the meantime, are you excited about the newest Windows?

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