Tuesday, September 29, 2015

There Is Always a Reason Why Something is "Free"...

It was only last year that I was forced to abandon my trusted WinXP and upgrade to Win7. And I say forced because Microsoft made sure that key features of my OS was not working anymore, including security. So, Win7 was a brief yet not a bad altogether experience - if one disregards numerous lack of customization options and the palpable effort of Microsoft to make us abandon them as well, that is. Such as stopping our desktop widgets from working in order to promote the "brilliant" Win8 tiles! Nevertheless, I want to make clear that I am comparing Win10 to an extensive background on WinXP and an adequate experience with Win7.

Two words: forced updates. I was lucky enough to have opted for the Professional edition of the Win7, so when I got to switch to Win10, I received the Professional edition as well - which comes with the option to defer (yet still not pick between or even cancel) the installation of the latest updates. The Home edition, however, does not give the user any such option and all updates are forced onto him. Remember how after numerous "essential" updates in the past, our PCs encountered a myriad or mysterious problems? Yeah, there is no more avoiding them anymore.

From the initial Logging in only with a Microsoft-confirmed eMail account to the Groove Music and the Movies & TV Players amassing info on your files and personal habits, Win10 are a private person's worst nightmare. In a sense, Win10 are the basis of the most intrusive and abusive DRM ever to be slipped in with a piece of software. There had been an uproar even since the pre-release builds and some deactivation options are available but they are far from thorough. And the question is this: how much can one trust a company that silently downloaded Win10 to every WinVISTA, Win7 and Win8 PC without the consent of their owners?

Microsoft did not allow us to perform a clean install when upgrading from a previous Microsoft OS; however, using one's product Serial Number, it was possible to download the official image and burn it onto a disk (or transfer it to an empty USB). In preparation for the upgrade, I increased my system's RAM to 12GM and a few days after the initial update, I formated and did a clean install. Then I went on installing only software that was Win10 compatible. Keep this information in mind when I tell you that Win10 are SLOW. Slower than Win7 and definitely slower than WinXP! It takes forever to transfer files to and from a USB flash drive (a problem that started with Win7) and what is more aggravating, it takes forever to explore folders, especially those on my second HDD. Even if they were opened a few moments ago.
So, why is it not faster? Is it because of an increase in cosmetic additions and aesthetic customizations? No. Absolutely no.

The Windows interface and Menu options look worse than Win7. Aero Glass, for some unfathomable reason, is not available. The Windows borders are not customizable (for the first time since Win95!). Quick Launch can be made to appear with some Registry editing (I would advise Googling it - carefully) yet the icons now cannot be centered in the Toolbar and stay misaligned to the Task View button; the option of which icons and how to appear in the Taskbar is missing; whereas, this latest shinny OS refuses to learn that I do not like every shortcut to have a "Shortcut to" prefix to every shortcut I create - something Win98 had no problem learning after the third time I removed it on a new one.
There is a semi-official piece of software (no, I am not calling them Apps!) called Windows Ultimate Tweaker 4: it does offer a number of options, some of which very useful. However, one of the most important ones (specifically, which new templates and options to appear when right-clicking on the desktop) -you guessed it!- is missing. And do not get me started on the Start Menu!

Win8 were a complete failure mainly because of their Start menu. We all loved the WinXP Start Menu, easy to use, a breeze to customize and backup when needed. Win7 improved on it, even if, quite counter-intuitively, one had to use libraries in order to add personal folders in the Start Menu. Yet, everything was at the right place. Well, not so much with Win10.
Power is now a button like any other, found between(!) All-Apps and Settings - and when pressed (remember that this will also be needed to be done at 2:00AM after 12 hours of working on a screen) one has to read and carefully select between the Shut Down or Restart options that appear. Every single time. With no confirmation dialog.
The installed software (All-Apps) are alphabetized easy to navigate - yet its folders do not respond to Right-clicking them. They are just dead.
The Tiles Panel, however, this is where they screwed up again: none of the tiles are customizable in other aspects than total size (resulting in beautiful icons looking ridiculous in all that empty background). Why can we not readjust the sizes of the contained icons? And yet they even failed to adjust the tile sizes correctly!
The Tiles Panel allows resizing but only in huge pre-set steps. We can also move and group the tiles. Some (but not all) tiles come in 4 sizes, others in 3 yet most in only 2 sizes. The step-wise increments of the Tile Panel create space for 6 small tiles in each group. Have less than 6 tiles in a group and the empty space is an ugly waste. Moreover, no tile under them can grow to fill the space of 6 small tiles, so, once again, more ugly wasted space.
Oh, and for some another mysterious reason, not all installed software can be pinned to the Tile Panel, even if they do appear in the All-Apps list! You have to hunt for them in your Program Files and find the executable.

Drakensang: The Dark Eye is not an old game, barely 5-6 years old and it is supposed to be Win10 compatible. At least its expansion is, and that run fine. The original game, however, refused to run under any "compatibility mode". Does this thing finally do anything besides reducing the resolution, Microsoft? You know, running them under DirectX 9.0c or something?

The Recycle Bin still refuses to use its customized icons, just like with Win7. The Explorer folders are still unable to retain my Viewing preferences. And the Desktop still looses files (especially saved web-pages) one then has to hunt down with the Explorer (even if they are still in the Desktop folder).

Overall, not a failure of WinVISTA or Win8 proportions but nowhere near as good as WinXP or even Win7.

I am willing to accept this as a work in progress and give them 6 months to get their act together and patch things up.
Yet they should not think that they will get a free ride just because they claim to be giving it away for "free". Because it was not.
We had to exchange our perfectly working OS for it.

This goes to prove that, once more, there is no free lunch in this Universe.