Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Some of you will have a new task-bar icon.

And some won't, especially if you're running OSX or Linux.

Microsoft included an 'upgrade to Windows 10' button with their weekly updates today, to 'encourage' a more enthusiastic uptake than they had with W8. I've been curious about W10 for some time anyway, and today I joined the windows insider program, downloaded the W10 Insider preview evaluation copy & installed it on the same partition as my current W8.1 Pro installation. Installation wasn't completely without hiccups, since after the initial install I was required to make some choices about the setup, resulting in a download that froze the screen, requiring an eventual hard off & reboot.

Initial reactions are very positive compared to the evaluation copy of W8 that I tried a couple of years back. Most things seem to work OK, the interface is clean and simple, with many icons as line drawings. Colours can be a bit mungy, but nothing like as ghastly as Windows 7 icons. The task-switching facility in the taskbar is nice and Project Spartan (otherwise known as Explorer for W10) seems quick, clean and crisp. It also has a wonderful facility designed to help with reading the text on a web site, where side menus and other distractions are moved out of the main window, text is enlarged into a single clean font and any images are left embedded in the text. The result is a very clean web page experience - sure you lose the original formatting, but most of the time that's no loss at all.

I have the feeling there's LOADS of new features here that I'll never see or use, simply because I'm not that nerdy any more.

Desktop is running on Windows basic drivers because I've not yet installed Nvidia's driver (325Mb!) but unlike yesteryear, it will deliver the monitor's native 1650X1080 resolution and looks tidy into the bargain.

In some ways this is still very traditional Windows. The visual makeover is only skin-deep, and although the new menus look fresh, drilling down quickly brings up a W8.1 style control panel, which isn't a bad thing really if one is already familiar with such things.

And in some ways this looks just like a Linux distro running an older KDE 4.n version of the desktop, with the dark, semi-translucent taskbar and line-drawing icons, the flatish desktop icons, the different backgrounds, the odd behaviours of screen edges etc etc. This is none the worse for it, except that where windows was once slick & crisp compared to the competition, now it seems to have copied the competition from a few years back. For comparison's sake, I'd say that OSX icons are much more polished, but the OSX screen font is very poor beside windows' own.

Compared to that Debian/Gnome install I did last week this looks a bit clunky and unsophisticated. It was telling for me too, how the Debian install 'just worked' for me as a user, with minimal need to learn where things were or what to do, while this install feels like a leap into the unknown, and needs much exploring. Having said that as though it were a negative, it feels like, for the first time in many years, Microsoft are developing exciting software again. However conversing we Chris, we also both feel that we'd like an OS to 'just work' for us, rather than provide lots of exciting tools and diversions that get in the way. But no OS designer was ever going to strip out the bells & whistles, now were they?

In a while I'll install Libreoffice, lightroom and some other applications, but I shall probably download that Nvidia driver at work over a connection that's around 10X faster than this one.

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