This week I decided to upgrade the Windows 7 laptop to Windows 10. (Next week I will upgrade the Windows 8.1 laptop to Windows 10).
I generally use Linux full time at home but the rest of my family like to use Windows and it helps me to have Windows computers available when I am writing guides showing new users how to create Linux USB drives and how to dual boot Linux with Windows.
Before I start I want to assure any Windows users reading this article that this isn’t designed as a Microsoft bashing article and there will be an equal amount of positive and negative comments. I try to keep my reviews constructive.
At the end of the day it is important to remember that lots of people have put a lot of hard work into creating the operating systems and software that we use and so calling something rubbish just because we want to be a fan boy of one or other operating system is largely pointless.
So here we go then, The Everyday Linux User Review Of Windows 10.
Windows 7 and Windows 8 users have been given the opportunity to upgrade to Windows 10 for free via the update facility.
I have a terrible internet connection and I know that I am not the only person in the world that is going to have issues with downloading a file 4 gigabytes in size.
Downloading 4 gigabytes on my computer would be an overnight job. If you don’t live in a major city or town this is a common issue.
As well as slow internet connections some people will also have download limits with their broadband.
Getting Windows 10 for free for some users is going to be a fairly tricky affair.
I am lucky enough to have in my possession a genuine Microsoft Windows 10 USB drive with a valid key. Lucky if you can consider spending £99 in Currys fortunate. Yes this article has already cost me just short of £100.
The luxury of having the USB drive is that I can go for a completely clean installation and I always have that pen drive to fall back on if something goes wrong. Those of you who upgrade will need to create a system restore and through experience I can tell you this doesn’t always go well. I would always recommend a third party tool over Microsoft’s built in one.
The installation was a straight forward affair. Insert the USB drive, choose whether to upgrade or install fresh, choose which disk to put it on and let it go.
The amount of time it takes to install Windows 10 is a fair bit longer than most Linux distributions but hey, 99 smackeroonies, I am going to get quite a bit for that aren’t I?
After the main installation you get to choose a network to connect to and updates are installed to bring you up to date. You then get to log in using your Microsoft Online password. If you have another Windows computer, an XBOX or Windows phone then you will already have one of these.
That is pretty much it. Windows 10 booted up and away I went.
|Wallpaper from 7-themes.com|
My first impression was that I needed to update my display driver because my resolution was set at a lousy 1024 x 768. 4 gigabytes of USB drive and no display drivers for an AMD graphics card. Linux Mint is around 1.5 gigabytes and all my hardware is catered for.
After downloading and installing the appropriate drivers my resolution was sorted and everything looked good.
My view of Windows 10 is that it really is the natural succession to Windows 7. I think Windows 8 was a step too far too soon.
Other than the menu system changing to be a more visual affair there isn’t much difference for Windows 7 users other than some grand new features.
The best features of Windows 8 and 8.1 remain which includes the powerful search system. You can simply press the Windows key and start typing and the thing you are searching for is returned almost instantly.
The search feature looks everywhere for its results including the local computer and if nothing is available then the web becomes active.
This brings me on to the bit that Microsoft has been advertising so heavily about on television over the past few months. Cortana.
Cortana is Microsoft’s artificial intelligence voice recognition system similar to Apple’s Siri and Google’s OK Google.
Cortana can set it up so that you can simply ask a question and she, sorry I mean it, will respond with the best solution she can find.
For example you can say “Hey Cortana, what is the weather like” and Cortana will display the weather forecast and tell you what the weather is like vocally.
When I first tried it out a message appeared stating that my in built microphone wasn’t compatible with Cortana. I therefore switched to a pair of HP headphones with a microphone attached and I had more success.
You can ask Cortana for directions, get her to schedule meetings, read your emails and search for stuff on the internet. You can even ask Cortana questions about herself such as “Hey Cortana, how are you today?” and she will respond.
As a system Cortana really works very well and is probably a step up from Google’s version.
Here are my thoughts though. Using the text search is great. You can search the net or open applications very quickly without navigating menus. I really like that. I don’t ever see a situation where I would use the voice recognition to do any of this though.
I use OK Google on my phone because it is easier to ask for directions vocally than trying to use the tiny software keyboard on the mobile.
Sitting at home however I can’t envisage a point where I would think saying “Open Word” would be better than simply typing “Word”. For one thing it would annoy my wife.
Here is the other thing. It feels a bit creepy. I write a blog about Linux. I don’t need any extra nerd points by turning my computer into a friend. “Hey Cortana do you love me?”.
Companies are way behind with technology. I have worked all around Aberdeen in Scotland and no company uses Windows 8, many aren’t even on Windows 7. It will be ages before Windows 10 is embraced. However say that there comes a point that it is. Can you imagine people sitting in there office all speaking to their computers to make it do things?
There are certain people who will probably find it very useful. Managers, directors and people who work in their own offices who don’t really like using their computer will be happy to have the ability to just speak to their computers to schedule appointments and send emails and basically get rid of the stuff they currently have to do manually.
A part of me chuckles at the idea of the junior office assistant who has accidentally deleted important information trying to whisper to Cortana “Hey Cortana, where the hell are my files” so that their boss won’t hear.
It would be good if you could program Cortana to remember certain words to mean other things. For example I am sure the 15 year old boy would love to be able to program a cough to mean “Close all windows, clear browser history and display something educational” as his mum enters his bedroom.
A new icon appears on the panel for Windows 10 but Linux users will recognise the feature that lurks behind it.
Clicking on the task view brings up the option to use multiple workspaces.
So what is task view? In Linux terms they are known as virtual workspaces and it allows you to open applications on what appears to be different views.
Prior to Windows 10 if you opened an application it would appear. Opening a second application would load that window and place it above the window you already had open. A third application would sit on top of that and so on. You could resize the windows and snap them so they were side by side but basically everything sat on the same screen.
With Windows 10 you can open a web browser and email on one view and then open a music application on another view, have Word open on a third view and so on.
To open the task view either click on the task view icon on the panel or press the Windows key and tab on your keyboard at the same time.
You will see a list of the desktops you currently have open at the bottom. To add a new one click on the “New Desktop” icon in the bottom right.
It is also possible to move applications from one desktop to another simply by dragging it to the desktop you want it to go to.
I think this is a must have feature that Windows has been missing for so long and it has been implemented very well.
I wonder how much of the 4 gigabytes of download is taken up by Cortana because it is hard to see what else required so much space.
Windows doesn’t come with an office application installed by default and when I ran the music and videos applications it took a while for them to load (I think they were downloading).
Other than that there is a program called 3D builder which is a useful tool for anybody who owns a 3D printer. I would love to try this feature out but alas I do not own one.
OneNote is installed and there is a photo application, calendar, calculator and the new web browser called Edge.
Microsoft finally got around to getting rid of Internet Explorer and now Windows 10 ships with the new Edge browser.
First impressions are good. The interface is nice and clean, you can use multiple tabs, the search bar/address bar is nice and big (my main criticism for the previous version of IE). There are also no toolbars in sight. Toolbars are the scurge of the web browser in my opinion.
A really nice feature is the reading view. It takes an article like this one and gets rid of all the parts of the web page that are distracting including the title bar, side bars and footers. This could mean sites that make money by advertising have to get a lot more creative.
Another nice feature is the ability to save pages either as a favourite or to your reading list. For instance youtube videos, useful sites, forums and your internet banking would be useful as favourites but reviews and articles can be stored for reading.
What is more, if you are storing articles for research for maybe a dissertation or school project you can add web notes and highlight parts of the article and save the highlights.
Add to all this the feature to share articles with OneNote and friends and you have one really useful web browser.
The Windows Store
Another good feature of Windows 10 which comes from Windows 8 is the store. In theory this should make it less likely to get nasties such as viruses but it depends how well the store is managed.
What users may or may not appreciate as we move forward is the fact that there is less of a distinction between desktop applications and web applications.
Windows 10 is somewhere between a traditional desktop operating system and the Google Chromebook. Many of the applications are like apps that you would find on your tablet or phone such as Twitter or Facebook.
Obviously the biggest flaw with Microsoft’s operating systems over the years has been security. Having such a large user base it is a breeding ground for every scumbag on earth to try and extort money from unsuspecting users with viruses, malware and more recently ransomware.
In the past Windows made it easy for the scurge of society to prey on people like you and me meaning that we all had to pay out for extra security software.
Time will tell whether Windows 10 is any more secure than other versions of Windows. I can’t be a judge on this subject. I have been using the software for a very short period of time and I haven’t picked up any nasties.
One thing I won’t be leaving to chance is the backup and restore software. This has failed me in the past and I will continue using third party software for this purpose.
Microsoft Office (Office 365)
There is no dedicated office tool which comes as default with Windows 10. Seriously, they can’t even give a lite version of Word and Excel (as they used to with Microsoft Works).
You can of course buy a subscription to Office 365. A home subscription costs £7.99 a month and allows for using Office on up to 5 machines. You can also go for a personal subscription which allows the use on just one machine for £5.99.
The benefits of a subscription service over buying the product outright is the fact that your software will always be up to date. For instance I have just download the 2016 version and it costs me no more than when I was running 2015.
As I said at the outset, this was not going to be about Microsoft bashing and hopefully you will appreciate that actually all in all this is a very positive review.
If you are on Windows 7 or Windows 8 and you have a good internet connection or a lot of patience then you may as well upgrade to Windows 10 because you get a much better interface with better integration to the internet and some really nice new features.
For those of you on Windows XP or Windows Vista you have a choice to make. You can either buy a new computer which will hopefully now come with Windows 10 and not Windows 8 or you can replace what you have on the computer you have with Linux.
I think Windows 10 is going to make it harder to persuade people to switch to Linux which is really quite unbelievable for the following reasons:
- Linux is free, Windows costs £99
- Most distributions come with an office suite and many other applications for free, Windows requires a subscription to its premier office suite (although you can install a free one from the store).
- Linux has always been more secure.
- Linux has all the features that Windows has. Ubuntu has just as good an interface if not better, as does Mint and any GNOME based distro. Even KDE Plasma looks great.
The largest loss for Microsoft over the past few years has been to Google’s Chromebooks and Apple’s MacBooks. This version of Windows will probably claw some of those users back.
As for Linux, well I wrote about that a few weeks ago. The actual desktop market is growing smaller because of the adoption of tablets and smartphones. Linux however caters for a completely different kind of person.
Linux users tend to have requirements that Windows just can’t or doesn’t cater for and for that there will always be a steady enough flow of people moving to the Linux platform.
In reality it doesn’t have to be a case of Windows or Google or Apple or Linux. There is a case for using the right tool in the right circumstances.
For instance the Chromebook is instantly on and makes it very easy to search the web. Windows provides ease of use to people who aren’t necessarily adept at using computers and MacBooks provide a level of style that some users require. Linux provides specialist applications and tools and as has been shown with Windows 10 some of the features are so useful other operating systems adopt them.
I will sign off by saying well done to Microsoft. This is a very good return to form.