Windows 10: Really Good, Horrible, or Both?

Reviews of Windows 10, which was released this week and made available for free for the next year by Microsoft for those who bought a computer that was pre-loaded with Windows 7 or 8, are in. Most celebrate its unified personality: We have our desktops back and the Start icon has been restored to the bottom-left-corner.

Click on “Start” and up pops the classic “All programs,” in which TileWorld now resides, a happy citizen of Windows rather than the dominating thing that sat on top of Windows that it used to be.

TileWorld was Windows 8’s “user experience.” (I do not think TileWorld was its official name.) Windows 8 asked its users to embrace having a split personality: one either enjoyed and used the landscape of tiles, each of which represented an app or in some cases a program or top-tier folder—which left this user, me, thinking, “I don’t own a smartphone, but now I own a 16-inch non-touchscreen smartphone that is not at all a phone”—or one celebrated the fact that one of the tiles was labeled “Desktop,” because clicking this brought one to the classic Windows desktop. As a user, I knew that TileWorld existed and that on my laptop was this whole world that I was ignoring every time I powered on and clicked “Desktop” to live and play where I knew how to live and play.

And then when I wanted to power down, I returned to TileWorld, where the “Sleep, Restart, Off” controls resided. As a Windows 8 user, I lived with the knowledge that I was aware that I was choosing to ignore the operating system that I owned. And I know that I was not the only person who did this.

As with Windows 8, the tiles, which again represent apps, are easily edited, moved about, deleted (or “unpinned from start,” as it is phrased). I have the weather, a clock and calendar, and Netflix on mine. And something called Cortana. The start screen that Microsoft gives users upon download includes XBox controls and CandyCrush. Those are easily disappeared. Here is a screenshot from a 2014 article that depicts what I am explaining:

unpin-a-tile

Pins, no needles

By the way, there was no Windows 9; apparently the drama of rapid change to Windows 7 and then to 8 and then to 8.1 required the declaration that this change was not an incremental one, a mere remedy. It required a new name altogether, but Microsoft has not had great luck with “named” operating systems. (“Vista?”) Because Microsoft indeed changed the very look of the operating system and—the drama!—did away with Internet Explorer, the company’s web browser that I have not used in over a decade except to have different Twitter accounts open at the same time, it definitely was time for a name that leap-frogged one entire ordinal number.

A second by-the-way: I once owned an Apple computer and I loved it. It was a PowerBook 150 and I bought it for $1200 in 1995. Twenty years later, $1200 is still more than I earn in a month. The PowerBook had only 4MB of RAM and it ran the entire newspaper I was then working for. When my friends were using Windows 95, the operating system that gave us the desktop that Windows users still employ and that I extol, I was using a computer that already was desktop-based. If I could afford an Apple laptop now, I probably would own one, and, just like in 1995, I would be looking on in wonderment at all the Windows users writing reviews like mine today. I do not know the history of Apple’s operating systems as I do Microsoft’s.

Back to Windows 10. The download took about an hour on Wednesday and went seamlessly. Everything that I have downloaded or added onto this computer, like the Netflix app, or Chrome as my web browser, or my security software, remained functional, remembered passwords, was happy to see me. I did not need to re-log in to anything, or I have not yet had to.

Is it worth the free upgrade? I do not have a verdict. Two things about Windows 10 are extremely un-useful, but maybe a helpful reader can help me out in fixing these.

Windows 10 seems to be a battery hog and runs hot. One of the first things that I noticed was the unceasing sound of the laptop’s fans. This laptop, an Asus bought for $225 at a well-known retailer, has been one of the most reliable laptops I have owned (I know, I just cursed myself to an eternity of technological heck) … and it has been mostly silent and usually cool, just like I like most everything in my life. From the moment the upgrade was complete, the laptop started to sound like a 747 making an emergency landing at an airport with short runways. And it is that loud for every moment that it is powered on. And it is too hot to place on one’s lap, which is sort of the point to a laptop.

An investigation showed that “Battery Saver” is turned on by default, and that default setting makes the screen dim whenever the battery drops below a certain percentage, but the battery dropped below that percentage after only about 30 minutes of use. The default screen dimness is also dark enough to require night vision goggles. Isn’t “Battery Saver” supposed to save the battery?

No. I found a Gizmodo article today that describes the issue. The writer details one of the things that Windows 10 users will either hatehatehate or will grudgingly accept because it is not something that can be changed: unlike previous versions of Windows that would notify users that an update was available (sometimes abruptly, while in the middle of doing something) and request permission to download or delay download to a better time, Windows 10 is continuously communicating with the MotherShip and not so silently updating itself. We no longer live in a world in which our computers are not online, so there is no need to pretend we do. (Come to think of it, this Asus has not yet been powered on in its life without being connected.)

In Gizmodo’s article, Sean Hollister gives a solution and a graphic, which I reproduce here:

battery controls

Drill down into Power & Sleep, then Additional Power Settings, then turn on Power Saver. As of this writing, 11:38 a.m., this seems to have had an effect. The battery did indeed last longer, and silence was (mostly) restored.

You can turn off the updates. Instructions are here, and here. I am not smart enough to understand either instruction.

Here is the other thing I noticed, and I DO NOT LIKE IT: using an external mouse is apparently frowned upon in today’s world. I use an external mouse, a wireless and silent Bornd, and I ignore the touchpad. I possess neither the dexterity nor sensation detection in my fingers to tie my own shoelaces much less control a computer with the touchpad. Windows 8 presented users like me with a setting, and it was the default setting: when a USB mouse is plugged in, it rules.

Windows 10 recognizes my mouse but also truly privileges the touchpad over it: if I so much as breathe somewhere near the touchpad while I am typing, the cursor is moved to a random spot on the screen. I have so far typed paragraphs in the middle of words and even launched programs without meaning to. I am not a heavy breather, so don’t get your hopes up if you want to phone me. I am an average-sized person, six-feet-plus, so my breathing apparati are no closer to the touchpad than anyone else’s. I do not usually type while garbed in a puffy-sleeved shirt that drags across the touchpad. This phenomenon more than mystifies me, it affects my relationship with typing, period. It has taken me far longer to compose this column than usual.

My theory is that because we live in a smartphone world, touch is important; further, because Windows 10 is an operating system for all platforms: desktops, laptops, tablets (touchscreens), and phones (touchscreens), it grants premium control to any touchable surface a device offers.

The closest thing I have found to a solution is one that scares me, so any and all advice is welcome: Right-click on Start, click on Device Manager, click on Mice and Other Pointing Devices, and disable the touchpad altogether. This feels like something that would have unintended consequences, and those are my least favorite sort of consequences.

Please advise in the comments section below.

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15 comments

  1. angloswiss · July 31, 2015

    Interesting and thanks for an good description of the pitfalls and triumps of Windows 10.. I am an apple person but still use my Acer (usually in the morning when I am eating breakfast – to save the milk from my cereal spilling on my wonderful apple machine). My Acer has an Acer problem, after 2 years, in the morning when I switch on, not all the keys want to co-operate. The web is full of forums about this problem. Usually after 10 minutes everything works with the exception of the “o” and the “i”, but even that cures itself after a further 10 minutes. Do I really have to insult my Windows 7 with a windows 10 programme? After reading your blog I am still thinking about it. Of course I have my Apple, but perhaps one fine day I will buy again a Microsoft computer and then I will have to go Windows 10. Decisions, decisions. I am not a technical wizard and changing things from touch pad to mouse mystify me. Oh the good old days of Windows 98 when we knew what we were doing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • berryduchess · August 1, 2015

      I also have an Acer (11-inch) and put of all the arrow keys, only the left key is working.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. wscottling · July 31, 2015

    I would totally disable the touch pad. In a second. I also use an external mouse instead of a touch pad because, like you, I also lack the dexterity and touch to use the stupid things. You can go back at any time and enable the touch pad should you need it (my computer actually has a button to do this) but don’t be afraid. It’s not only doable, but reversible.

    I’m considering changing my OP to Windows 10 because I have Win 8.1 on this computer… but I fear change when it comes to Windows. It took me years to quit Windows XP.

    Liked by 1 person

    • wscottling · July 31, 2015

      OS… changing my OS (not OP)… stupid brain

      Like

  3. Relax · July 31, 2015

    Don’t do it! Don’t do it! I don’t know why, but don’t do it!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jeffrey Meranto · July 31, 2015

    I hit “update java” on my pc. I have Windows 7 with chrome. Big mistake lost everything. My laptop has (had) Windows 8 it went into an update right as I was beginning to work with a new client and I couldn’t stop it! Never did update either. Not able to Config.
    Looking at Apple stuff this week..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · August 10, 2015

      Sorry to read that. Nothing started on its own for me—I would hate that, of course. If I could afford an Apple …

      Like

  5. dcmontreal · July 31, 2015

    Thank you for such an insightful post. My PC is running Vista but my laptop is Windows 8 so that’s where any update will occur. I think I’ll wait for early bug ironings before taking the leap. But then I am a sucker for new things, especially free new things. Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Catherine · July 31, 2015

    One of my friends had similar views about the new program. As for me. Um. I’ll stick to my old program. I AM happy to read that you like the ASUS. I’m thinking about getting a laptop but don’t want to spend a lot of money that I don’t have!!! Thanks for the post!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. loisajay · July 31, 2015

    I refuse to ask my husband anything computer-related because his first words are always: “Mind if I sit down?” And then he clicks. and clicks. and clicks. For the love of god, will you please do something????!!! He drills down, and looks and reclicks. The technical types confound me. Click, fix, done. Please. I still don’t have my free WIndows so I guess I was not invited to the party….bummer.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. katemccseattle · July 31, 2015

    My son hates touchpads and tapes an index card over his so that he cannot inadvertently hit it. Low tech solution for a high tech world.
    I am watching other people experience Windows 10 before jumping in so I appreciate both your post and the comments people have left. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. berryduchess · August 1, 2015

    Im a windows user since time in memorial and i just changed my system to Apple and like i have been saying, it seems that once you go Mac, you cant go back. I love the interface. I had a really bad “breakup” with my Acer because for one, the keys are no longer working. Second, it takes 5-7 minutes to complete the start up and then i had to disable a lot of things so it will run faster than it usually does. Third, it seems like every other day, it has updates and these updates that prompts on your screen is simply annoying and not to mention they make your system slower (i am still in Vista). I havent seen nor experienced windows 10 yet but now i got curious. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks for a review update Mark. Keeping an eye on what you’re saying, along with some of the techie sites before I take the plunge. Appreciate your honesty and “normal” person’s perspective on it (vs the oft too technical descriptions I see on the websites). Marianne

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Windows 10: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly | The World Through My Eyes
  12. Pingback: Windows Wishes: Some Windows 10 Solutions | The Gad About Town

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