I’ve been using Windows 10 as my daily driver on my production machine for a little over 96 hours to this point, and I’m impressed. When Windows 8 was first in the Developer Preview stage, I tried to use that for a few weeks, but couldn’t get past the bugs. And by ‘past the bugs,” I mean I couldn’t get past the fact that it was Metro (now-Modern), and I wasn’t ready for all the changes.
Over the years I’ve grown accustomed to, and even fond of, the Modern system – or whatever they’re calling it now. I know that the Windows 10 Technical Preview is mostly meant for Enterprise and Business customers, but I like to live on the bleeding edge of things.
When the first build of the preview came out, I installed it on a ThinkPad T500 with 8 gigabytes of RAM, but once Build 9860 was released, I took the dive and installed it on my T520 with the fancy i7 processor and 16 gigabytes of RAM.
This is a list of the applications I use on a daily basis:
- Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote (part of Microsoft’s Office suite)
- Spotify and Xbox Music
- Internet Explorer
- Google Chrome
- Mozilla Firefox
- Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, and Audition (part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud)
- Visual Studio (very infrequently)
So, based on the list you can tell that I’m an information worker most of the time. Between 88 Acres, I manage the More Than a Fan Digital Network and all of its digital assets which are located in Amazon’s Web Services Cloud and MediaTemple.
I do a lot.
And I wanted to make sure Windows 10 would be useable for me when I installed it as my main operating system, and it’s more than shown me that it is.
The only “real” problem that I’ve had here is that when the T520 is docked, it feels significantly slower than when it isn’t. I’m not sure if that’s because when I installed the OS that I didn’t install it while docked, or if there’s a driver I need to install.
I attempted to troubleshoot the issue by installing the latest version of NVIDIA’s driver for the NVS 4200M that’s installed on the machine, but that didn’t have any immediately visible effect. It could just be something that will adjust itself over time, or it could be something that improves with the next build.
Reminder: If your system is very important to you, and you can’t live with these types of issues, do NOT install Windows 10 on a production-type machine.
Return of the Start Menu
In Windows 8, Update 1 we got the Start Button back, and at the time I was OK with it. At this point in my computing life, I’m pretty good with just hitting the start key on my keyboard and typing in whatever I need. Microsoft made that really easy in Windows 7, and obviously that continued with the integrated search in windows 8. In Windows 10, however the full Start Menu has made its return. And, for someone who didn’t miss, I initially wanted to hate it.
In many respects, I do hate it. I understand that I can go back to the Start Screen if I want to, but sometimes I wish Microsoft would just do what they think is best for the future. It’s one of the things I admire most about Apple. When they do something, they do it, and consequences be damned. Microsoft’s biggest problem is they have no media support behind them.
Their biggest, but not most publicly vocal customers are enterprise and medium size corporations. For obvious reasons they want to keep upgrade paths for their users simple. I get it, people are sheep and hate change. “Don’t move my cheese.”
All that said, for most the Start Menu will be a welcome return. If you’re hoping for the Start Menu of Windows 7 though, you can forget it. That’s the part I like the most. The live tiles of the Start Screen are integrated into the new Start Menu. I think that’s a good balance for the tens of us who enjoyed the old-fashioned Start Screen.
My one issue with the Start Menu is the same one that I have with the Start Screen: I cannot arbitrarily place tiles where I want them.
I’d like to be able to fill these tiles from top to bottom, not from left to right. I know this is a small complaint, but let me put the tires where I want them. I also thought you were supposed to be able to stretch and move the Start Menu however you wanted, but I cannot do it. The taskbar isn’t locked, and it’s probably something easy I’m missing.
For many years, I’ve had an infatuation with Linux because of their ability to place items on different virtual desktops. I’ve been of the thought process, that I’d like to always have Outlook open for easy access, but not necessarily the need to know that it’s open all the time. In Linux, you can take infrequently used applications that you want to keep open and send them to another “desktop.” I believe this functionality exists in the same sort of way in OS X.
Finally, Microsoft has made this available. The rumor is that Microsoft has had this virtual desktoping ability for some years, but for whatever reason hasn’t turned it on for the masses. It’s on. Finally.
So, for someone like me who has a million things open at once, I can separate my production into different virtual desktops.
- Desktop 1: Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, Spotify or Xbox Music. Any application that doesn’t need my total and undivided attention.
- Desktop 2: Microsoft Outlook, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft Lync. These are communications applications. They need to be in their own space so that I’m not always focusing on them.
- Desktop 3: Microsoft Word, Excel, Visual Studio, Adobe products. Any application that deserves my full and undivided attention. Since it takes a physical effort to move from one desktop to another, siloing these applications in their own place should make me a touch more productive. The goal here is to only have one application open at a time. The only exception to this is if I need to have OneNote (desktop) open to copy notes from.
I believe the maximum number of virtual desktops you can have right now is four, and I cannot imagine a scenario in which you’d more than four, but I’m sure someone will come up with something.
Note: Lied, I discovered throwing movies and videos on the fourth desktop makes a ton of sense.
What I’d like to see
I’m sure this will happen at some point, but there are few things I’d like to see in an upcoming build:
The ability to pin live tiles to desktop. Right now you can link to Modern apps, but you can’t have live tiles on the desktop. In Windows 7, before a security flaw was revealed, Windows had gadgets, and they’re basically the first version of live tiles – even though they weren’t tiles. I’d like to see something like that return to the current Windows setup. I’d like to be able to pin the News, Calendar, or Music app to my desktop so I can see it at all times.
BitLocker on by default. FBI dudes will probably hate this, but I think Microsoft should turn their hard drive encrypting software on by default. BitLocker is about 50 years ahead of where it was when it went ‘mainstream’ with Windows 7. I remember the days where I was entering the long unlock code after every reboot. It’s grown and matured to the point where it should be enabled by default on at least the system partition. This probably wouldn’t work for most business and enterprise customers, but they’re most likely on a different SKU or can disable this through group policy objects.
What Isn’t Going To Change
I think there’s one thing that isn’t going anyway anytime soon. And by anytime soon, I’ll say by the time Windows 10 is RTM: Control Panel.
As Microsoft moves through the process of trying to move items from the old Desktop-style applications to the new Modern UI, they created PC Settings. PC Settings is very nice, and it’s very functional, but it won’t be replacing Control Panel anytime soon. There’s just too much there to move. It will happen, but probably not before Windows 10 is released.
In closing, I’ll say despite the few things that I’ve found with Windows 10 that don’t work awesomely for me, I’m sticking with this thing through the build process until RTM. It’s fast and “fluid” in many ways, just not while docked. That’s sort of an issue for me, but it isn’t a deal breaker. Yet. Ask me in two weeks when it takes 10 minutes to render a file in Adobe Audition.
I have no thoughts on how Windows 10 works with touch-enabled devices because the only one that I have daily access to is the original Surface RT, and Microsoft hasn’t even acknowledged that devices existence in about a year.
For a complete guide to Windows 10, check out Paul Thurrott’s Supersite for Windows.