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:
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:
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.
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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