Thursday, August 6, 2015

Windows 10 Install and first look

I received the ominous tidings of joy from Microsoft, titled, "You’ve reserved Windows 10 – what’s next?"  This message was sent out to apparently reassure those waiting for their promised free upgrade - in my case from Windows 7 to Windows 10.  Being a techno-sadist, I read the email and felt my pulse quicken when I reached the bottom of the message which stated "Absolutely can't wait? You have a couple of options to get your upgrade sooner".  The second option was to "Use the Media Creation Tool to install immediately on one or more devices (recommended for tech-savvy users only)."  Upon further reading, I learned that you could burn the ISO and then use that to perform your install.  This got me excited as I'd much rather do a "clean" install.  Yes, I realize that by doing the standard "upgrade" install Microsoft has advertised the ability to set your computer back but my trust level is low and I'd much rather giver it a whirl using a spare hard drive so in the event of a debacle, I could simply swap back my working Windows 7.

In reading the FAQs, Microsoft describes finding you Certificate of Authenticity (COA) and also states, "You can also install Windows on your current device by opening the ISO file, selecting the Setup and following the instructions."  I was easily able to find my COA (and wrote it down and triple checked that it was correct); however, when I went to do the installation from the ISO, the Windows 7 COA was not accepted (contrary to Microsoft's posted installation information).  I called customer service and like Mick Jagger, didn't get no satisfaction... even after escalating to a supervisor I was told that I needed to wait until I received my notice on my Windows 7 machine and then follow the upgrade path.  I found this extremely poor customer service - the supervisor agreed with me that Microsoft has posted information indicating that you can boot and install from the ISO but apparently this is not true.
Another nuisance type road bump for me is that I had Linux installed on the spare hard drive that I was going to test Windows 10 on.  The ISO install utility would not read this drive and the "Format" option is greyed out unlike other Windows install disks which are able to format the drive.  I used an earlier Windows install disk that I had to get the drive formatted for so that Windows 10 would install.

One final notation on the install is that initially I downloaded the ISO for the 64 bit version of the ISO and burned it onto DVD.  I noticed that the download site provided an option to download the 32 bit or 64 bit or both which I thought might be handy to have so I performed the download to obtain both versions in a single ISO.  After performing this download, I attempted to burn the ISO to a DVD and received a message that there is insufficient space.  Apparently you can burn the individual ISO for either 32 bit or 64 bit to a DVD, but if you download the option for both that will need to go onto a USB drive.  It would have been nice to know this before downloading the ISO for both as this was a big download and I did not want to use an USB drive.

Although I was not able to validate my Windows 10 from my Windows 7 COA, the install does permit you to skip the validation and complete the installation which I did.  Windows 10 will place a watermark in the lower right hand corner of your desktop to "Activate Windows".  This is not intrusive and you can continue a trial of Windows 10.  Although I haven't seen official confirmation, I suspect Microsoft will likely give you 90 days as was done in earlier releases.

Aside from the failure to validate, the installation went without a hitch and Windows 10 installed on my Lenovo Thinkpad (i3) smoothly.  As with Windows 8, the current versions of Windows attempt to connect common user applications to the operating system.  For instance, I use a Gmail account and connected my Gmail account to the Windows 10 mail application.  I find the settings for this very confusing and still haven't worked out all the kinks.  Similarly, Windows 10 attempt to organize your photos and provide weather information to your location as many are accustomed to from using mobile devices.  Another integration is Microsoft's cloud storage, OneDrive into the operating system to appear within File Explorer.  Microsoft Bing is also tightly integrated as the search default throughout Windows 10 - in Cortana, Edge and Internet Explorer 11.  There are some opportunities to select other search providers such as Google, but they are often not as apparent as this user would like.  It is my belief that those design choices were made in support of the home team (Bing) and to the exclusion of competitors.

Windows 7 users who made the wise choice to skip Windows 8 will be happy to find Windows 10 to be a much friendlier migration path.  Specifically, the "start button" which now appears as a Windows logo, will expose easy entry to both familiar programs as well as the "Metro" tiled screen from Windows 8.  I was happy to see that I could right click the Windows logo (start button) and find "File Explorer".  Overall, I was satisfied with the start up and shut down speeds - I didn't take an official time, but would estimate it to be around 40 seconds or so.  It is too early to tell whether Windows 10 will be able to sustain this after programs are installed over time.  I will remark that Windows 7 seemed ok at first in regards to start up / shut down but over time I found the Windows 7 shut down to be particularly annoying with it often taking about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.  As alluded to this isn't all Microsoft's fault as when I ran the MSCONFIG utility on the Windows 7 machine, I was surprised to see how many programs thought they were so important that they needed to be included in the start up.

The most useful feature that comes baked into Windows 10 is Cortana which is Microsoft's digital assistant.  This is long overdue as both Google and Apple (Siri) have had voice type assists for many years.  I envisioned the "Hey, Cortana" feature to be particularly useful to me.  I find it much quicker to say "Hey, Cortana go to Craig's list" than for me to manually open the browser and then start typing the URL.  I found it surprising that this feature is turned off by default and was also surprised that the "Settings" for this feature are somewhat buried - You click in the "Ask me anything" box, then click the icon below the House icon - assumedly this is a Notepad icon, but hovering over does not reveal this nor is it clear why you'd think settings would be found here).  Once you click on this "Notepad" then there is the familiar gear icon that is marked "Settings".  I think most users would prefer "Settings" be available as soon as you click in the "Ask me anything" box or minimally that you could right click in the box to get to settings (you can't).  In the short amount of time that I used this feature, it failed about half the time and gave me a response that "Something went wrong.  Try again in a little bit."  On another occasion, Cortana responded that she could only provide text messages to cell phones - huh? That wasn't exactly as advertised.  I will also note that I worked my way through providing the 6 samples of my voice so that Cortana could understand my voice.  This was done prior to experiencing the issues noted above.  In further experimentation, I found that Cortana is not too forgiving - you must precede you inquiry with "Hey" - don't just say "Cortana... whatever".  Also, I was disappointed that I did not find a way to get Cortana to bring me directly to my local Craig's List site; instead Cortana consistently brought me to search results which provided the link to the local Craig's List site.  Overall, I found Cortana a bit quirky and unreliable.  For best results I found that I had to keep my requests very short and simple.  I encountered way too many instances of "sorry, I didn't get that."

If I were starting fresh, I would certainly be willing to give Windows 10 a go; however, I remain leery in regards to wiping out a functional Windows 7 system to make this change.  I wish that Microsoft would fix the install issue so that Windows 7 users could do a fresh install.  Such a fix would be more conducive to encouraging me to make the change.  There are many commonly used applications that have not been adjusted for Windows 10.  Blogger did not have the option to "paste as plain text" when using Microsoft Edge.  I looked for an install of Chrome for Windows 10 but did not spot one.  If you rely on an application that is working under Windows 7, it may be wise to postpone a migration to Windows 10.

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