It might be the best time as any to take that blue pill Microsoft’s been trying to shove down your throats. There are a lot of changes on the way for Windows 10, and the RedStone update is coming very soon. Say yes to those nagging update screens on your desktops, whenever you pop out Internet Explorer, or visit Microsoft’s download page for something you need.
If your Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 system can take it, (you won’t see the GWX logo if it can’t) give it a shot and say Yes. The process is often painless. Some folks say their systems became more responsive, but it could be just the fact that upgrading the OS removes most of the gunk data accumulated over time, otherwise known as ‘bit-rot’ that commonly slows down systems. Using more Universal Windows apps should prevent the problem entirely as per Microsoft.
Many sensible Windows users want to stick to tradition and wait for that ‘service pack 1’ which is just what RedStone is. Microsoft now calls it the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. Operating systems are always a work in progress. First releases often have debilitating bugs in them as well as promised features that missed the deadline, and the old practice of installing service packs solve most of those. With Windows 10’s first real ‘service pack’ on the way, it might be a good time to get acquainted with Windows 10 while it’s still free.
Speaking of free, a lot of users have been duped recently into upgrading their Windows 7 and 8.1 versions to Windows 10 adding to the increasing number of Windows 10 machines which Microsoft says is now over 270 million units. So far, aside from the initial disappointment of getting upgraded behind their backs, my bosses haven’t complained of any OS-related problems. They’re probably just glad to have the Start Menu back from their former Windows 8.1 machines. 270 million is a far cry from the 1 billion devices they predicted, but it makes Windows 10 the fastest growing OS in the company’s history. Many gamers before have reservations on moving past Windows 7 but according to Steam, a third of their users are already using Windows 10 and Xbox integration plus the upcoming Hololens should take the operating system further into the mainstream.
Speaking of integration, one of the biggest surprises of the recent Microsoft Build Conference is the inclusion of another command-line interface, the Linux Bourne-Again shell or bash. Users that live in two worlds (Windows and Linux) will be glad to be able to take advantage of the powerful tools and scripting that they love in Linux, particularly Ubuntu as Microsoft will soon be making an Ubuntu image available on the release of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. Bash will be run natively instead of being run in a virtual machine. It will be added to the two command-line interfaces in Windows, cmd and Powershell though they won’t be interchangeable. But what makes Linux appealing to many? Linux is free, and Linux is more secure so Bash for Windows 10 is more targeted to developers but could prove useful to the casual Linux/Windows user.
If you’re one of the many people excited for the Hololens, then getting acquainted with Windows 10 should be included in your to-do list since the device runs on Windows 10. Developers already have their hands on their 3,000-dollar Hololens devkits so the device could be released to the public by next year. Also, with Oculus Rift already out, your new machine would be better off with something better than Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.
Several of Windows 8’s deal breakers were the loss of the Start Menu and full-screen Metro Apps. Well, the Start Menu is back (though it still takes getting used to) and Metro Apps are now called Universal apps which can now be resized and snapped side-by-side or to all four corners of the screen. It’s a bit of a throwback to the Windows 1.0 days, but snapping apps seems to be the hype. Even Apple’s iOS 9 is into it. Not to worry, overlapping is still allowed. Also, the problem with Metro Apps is that there’s not much to go around and little support from 3rd parties. Microsoft continues to entice developers into building them. Big names such as Facebook and Instagram are currently on-board and for business, American Express and Bank of America.
So what other stuff has Windows 10 improved on? Windows finally enables virtual desktops natively. This capability previously couldn’t be done without 3rd party software. It’s another capability derived from Linux which allows better desktop organization for users. Desktops can get messy for some users and separating desktops for documents, emails and spreadsheets can be a big help for office workers as well as hiding that solitaire game from the bosses. Speaking of desktops, Windows 10 now has improved multi-monitor support. With previous versions, lacking virtual desktops, users content themselves with multiple monitors which greatly help in productivity like I do. I keep my email on one screen, do spreadsheets on another and work on other stuff on the third. Scaling different-size/resolution monitors can be an issue, though, but Windows 10 will use each monitor according to its capability.
When it comes to storage, one can never have enough. Imagine 20 years ago how you can possibly fill up a 10GB hard drive nor imagine that such a capacity could reside on something the size of your smallest fingernail. Now you probably yearn for cheap multi-terabyte SSDs to get to the market sooner. Windows 10 can help users better analyze how much storage various types of data take up. Just found out I have 10GB of gunk on my system composed of temporary files, downloads and previous Windows binaries and 12 GB of apps and games. Spring cleaning just got easier.
Updates are a pain, especially unexpected or unscheduled ones. I had a colleague who had to refrain from using her PC for a whole day due to a huge update queue when she didn’t turn off her PC for a week. She made due with a laptop while holding beads and chanting that her PC doesn’t brick itself. Updates can now be easily scheduled on Windows 10 so the system is updated when the user wants it. Also, updates can be downloaded via P2P sharing meaning that bits can be downloaded faster or gradually. Updates can be downloaded on a single computer on a network, and everyone else can point to that computer for his/her updates thus freeing a lot of internet bandwidth.
Then there’s Cortana. Wouldn’t it be fun to casually ask your PC about the weather instead of awkwardly addressing your colleague that worn-out opener? Microsoft promises to continuously update Cortana to be smarter and further integrate her to Office and Windows 10. Searching for files will be just as easy as asking her a question instead of typing on the search bar.
And lastly, spying? There’s plenty of material on the web to shut down Windows 10’s telemetry collection. It would be a shame to give up on the operating system’s new features and better performance for something built-in but avoidable. The real ‘service pack’ will be ready this summer with most of Windows 10’s promises when it was first announced. Take Windows 10 while it’s free and update to Redstone.