Windows 10 Review, Part 2 – It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

March 25, 2015 at 3:20 pm | Posted in Microsoft, Technical Tips, Vendor news | 1 Comment
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After my introductory foray into Windows 10, I was ready to get down to brass tacks and really discover what Microsoft’s new OS was all about. When, suddenly, this happened:

app_error_message

You can’t always get what you want… but if you try, sometimes you might find that you don’t have to re-install. Well, actually that doesn’t really work for Windows, especially with a Technical Preview. But maybe this is a good starting point to discuss how Windows will treat this kind of error, from Windows 8 going forward.

Refreshing Your PC

Windows 10 comes with the fairly painless re-install option introduced in Windows 8, called refresh. Refreshing your PC leaves all of your files and personal settings alone, but reinstalls Windows Store apps for you. Bully for you if you have any of those applications, but more than likely you’ll need to re-install any legacy applications by hand, e.g. the ones that every business user works in. So don’t go throwing away those InstallShield downloads and installer DVDs. But, hey, it’s better than having to reinstall everything, right? Certainly it’s a quick enough procedure if it fixes the problem.

In this case, though, it didn’t fix the problem. Okay, so now I had some investigation to do. Nurse, scalpel, STAT!

Reinstallation

Yeah, so surgery didn’t go so well. Good news is I have updated to the latest build (9926). Bad news is my first patient didn’t make it, but, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. So, after three hours of alternating between Candy Crush and Trivia Crack, I’m back on the review beat… Oh, did I plug our great mobile app time-waster yet? Who knows? You might learn something.

Okay, skip the ad — let’s break into the hyped stuff first.

Start Menu 2.0

Fair is foul, and foul is fair. It’s not the same compact program listing you remember. Gentleman, they rebuilt him; they had the technology. That’s right, meet the new Start Menu. Granted, you don’t have to dive into full-screen unless you’re in tablet mode.

Here's the Start Menu!

On the left is your old Programs listing, with fewer functions than the Windows 7 edition, but thankfully more simplistic. If you can’t find the application or document you want, then try clicking on the All apps link. Once here, it helps to know the name of the app you’re searching, because you’re staring at a phonebook-like listing. Reminds me of scrolling through Windows Phone contacts. Or you can get cozy with Cortana (see more about that below) to avoid hunting and pecking every time you need to open something new.

Another note about the lovely new Windows 10 Start Screen, each application displays as a tile and supports live updates, so that you can keep up with the latest Facebook flame war and your cousin’s selfies. If that’s a distraction, then you can move the tiles around, group them, and set them in one of four sizes – small, medium, wide, or large. Not a whole lot of custom options, but hey, at least it’s simple to use.

Browser

Internet Explorer 11 comes pre-packaged with two different browser platforms: Edge and Compatibility. Eventually, this will make its way into two completely different browser applications – Spartan and Trident. Spartan will be the experimental, lightning-fast HTML5 engine, while Trident will be the old, reliable browser with the compatibility to handle older web pages with ActiveX, Silverlight, and other retired or soon-to-be-shelved technology.

When in automatic mode, I experienced no lag loading web pages with multimedia, and scrolling and touch-to-zoom seemed responsive and snappy. So I went ahead and ran a quick HTML5 benchmark to get some objective measures … and was quickly disappointed.

Windows 10 IE 11 Edge Peacekeeper Rating

According to the Peacekeeper universal browser test, IE 11 running with Edge scored a measly 406, and only 388 with Compatibility enabled. That’s lower than an iPhone 4s scores, and trust me, that stock browser is sluggish by anybody’s standards! To test whether it was the fault of Windows 10 or Internet Explorer, I installed Google Chrome as a control. Chrome scored a whopping 616. Let’s hope that the new IE only gets better as we move towards the general release.

Cortana

So, after the limited success of voice activation on the Xbox, the folks at Microsoft brought the voice recognition application Cortana (named after the AI in the Halo franchise) over to the desktop/tablet. She knows your name (after you type it in) and keeps you in the know with the latest news. I tried making friends with Cortana. You should too. But approach with caution. Go ahead and ask her what the weather is today and where Washington, DC is located and you’ll be pleased. But if you ask, “How far am I away from Washington DC?”, she may stop talking to you and instead launch the Bing website. Although, when I asked, “How long would it take for me to get to Washington DC?”, she took a minute or two, and then returned a detailed answer. Of course had I followed her directions I would have ended up in the state of Washington  and not the District. D’oh!

Hello, Cortana.

That said, this is early going for Microsoft’s voice recognition system. But I have no doubt it will rise to the standards of Google’s Speech and Apple’s Siri by general release.

Look out for the third and final installment of my Window 10 Review – What Lies Beneath!

Until then,

Josh Hester aka codeguru

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  1. […] the exciting bits of my Windows 10 review happened in the middle (A Tale of Two OSes and It was the best of times, it was the worst of times). Although this chapter doesn’t have as many plot holes as my previous posts, or the […]


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