Saturday, June 6, 2015

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS SATURDAY: Windows 10 Is Coming! Run For Your Lives!

This past Monday Lifehacker provided information on how to reserve my copy of the much-ballyhooed Windows 10. “Just click the Windows icon in the system tray, and we’ll get all the infomation from you and add you to the list” blah blah blah. So, I check the system tray. No icon. So I go to Microsoft’s website, and they tell me there should be something on my Windows Update page, and lo and behold, nothing there. So I start digging, and find out that the icon was added in a patch they made last month. So I check my list of patches, and it’s there. So, I figure, okay, I’ll just uninstall and reinstall, and after hunting down the patch on their website, I have said Windows icon, and I’ve managed to pre-order my copy of Windows 10 when it becomes available on or about July 29.

I can hear you now: “But John, don’t you have a Mac?” Yes, I have a Mac Mini at home running Mac OS X 10.10 (Yosemite) and it’s my main computer, and where I do about ninety percent of my work. But I also have a Sony VAIO running Windows 7, and while I’m perfectly happy with it, Microsoft has intimated that they’re going to stop supporting Windows 7 in the not-too-distant future. That means no more patches to resolve issues caused by black-hat hackers who exploit the weaknesses and flaws in Windows 7. Besides, the upgrade is free, and from everything I’ve read, they won’t turn around in a year or so and demand money to be able to use my computer.

The VAIO is my going-to-Starbucks machine. When Mary says, “let’s go out for the afternoon,” she takes it and I happily bang on it for the two or three hours we’re there, then we take it home, where I charge it and leave it on my table until we’re ready to go again. It’s really the only time I use it.

About 99 44//100% of the work I do on either computer is done in the browser. I use Firefox on both machines (and, for that matter, my Kindle Fire, and would on my phone if they wrote a version for the iPhone). I’m used to it, it doesn’t use every byte of memory on my machine like Chrome (please, spare me lectures about how Chrome is the greatest browser ever, it’s brought every machine I’ve run it on to its knees), Safari is okay but ugly, Opera is weird, and Internet Exploder… well, I think you know how I feel about that.

Anyway, I figured that, as long as I’m thinking about it, I might as well learn something about what I’m getting myself into. So, after reserving my copy, I decide to watch some of the marketing hoopla Microsoft assembled for everyone’s benefit about what to expect when I unleash this beast on my VAIO.

Anyway, one of the bits of marketing collateral on that page is a seven-minute video by Joe Belfiore, who heads the team that’s building Windows 10. Joe, who bears a strange resemblance to White Sox announcer Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, is positively giddy about the wonderful things they’ve added to Windows.

The most time is dedicated to Cortana, which Joe claims is “the first ever personal digital assistant EVER!” Much like Siri, the actual first personal digital assistant, you can ask questions of Cortana and she answers them for you. You can either type your questions to her or ask them by saying, “Hey, Cortana” and following with your question, such as the first one I want to ask her, “Hey Cortana, how can I make you go away for good and never come back?” It can be done, as documented here, and I plan on making this the first thing I do when Win10 is installed at last.

Seems that Cortana, if left unchecked, will spend all of her time learning things about you and your online activities so that she can be “helpful.” Evidently, she will then make suggestions for you, as in, “I found more pages that explain how to build an atomic bomb,” or “You might want to look at these pages that feature women with big butts.” One has to wonder, if she’s learning all this stuff, who’s she telling? Are there certain keywords that make her call the NSA or Department of Homeland Security? J. Edgar Hoover lives, and Cortana is there to help him!

You would think that Microsoft had learned from the Clippy debacle about digital assistants, but noooo….

Cortana is woven heavily into the warp and woof of Windows 10, particularly their brand-new browser, Microsoft Edge. It took them twenty years, but it would seem that Microsoft has grown to hate Internet Exploder as much as the rest of us. Some of the things Edge offers that IE didn’t are a reader view (Safari has had that for some time) and the ability to save and annotate web pages (kind of like Evernote does for so many of us already). They say it’s fast, and they say the graphics are great, but apart from that, it’s a browser by Microsoft, so how well it’ll actually perform when it goes out to the unwashed masses is anyone’s guess. I don’t plan on using it, at least until Microsoft gets it right. I’m not holding my breath.

The whole operating system has been beta tested extensively, of course; it’s been available in preview mode for some time now. The beta testers are all familiar with Windows and how it’s supposed to work. I’ve worked for software companies, and know that, when the software is generally available and people either start installing it or buying new PC’s with Windows 10 installed, they’ll find a whole raft of trouble they never anticipated.

Windows Hello looks like a pretty good feature. It uses biometrics rather than a password (most of which, I’m certain, were set to “password” when their users were first confronted with the need to create one) to authenticate that it’s really you signing on to your computer. Now, it does require you have a camera installed on your computer, and one must wonder whether the camera will be turned off after it does its job or if someone at Microsoft will be watching you as you work.

Best of all, you can use Windows 10 to integrate all your Windows devices, like your Windows phone, tablet, and Xbox! You don’t have a Windows phone, tablet, or Xbox? Tough shit! You’re stuck with it, anyway!

And maybe that’s the thing that bothers me. Most of the “improvements” Microsoft has added to the operating system are things I don’t need, will never use, can’t get rid of, and will get in the way if I let them. In fairness, Apple did it, too, along with making several changes to applications that rendered them useless. Still, just because it’s there doesn’t mean I have to use it. So, I’ll install the upgrade and figure out ways to either get rid of the crap I don’t need, or at least isolate it somewhere where I don’t have to look at it. It’s a small price to pay for a supported operating system.

And, push comes to shove, there’s always Ubuntu…


This was another Stream of Consciousness Saturday entry. More of a flood, really. It’s hosted every Saturday by Linda Hill. Click on this link to be taken to the page for this week; there you’ll find the instructions for SoCS and links to the blogs of everyone participating this week (in the comments).

from The Sound of One Hand Typing

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