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28 Jan 2015 07:20 | cortana edgehtml metro modernui projectspartan win10 windows

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While Windows 10 makes giant leaps in the right direction, there are a few areas that I feel they've gone backwards on. Looking at user reviews on multiple sites, it seems that most agree.

I loaded up Windows 10 Technical Preview Build 9926 onto a VMWare virtual machine for testing and reviewing purposes. I wanted to play around with Microsoft's new operating system, and compare it to what I use on a daily basis - Windows 8.0 on a 16 GB Core i7 machine at work, and Windows 8.1 on an original Surface Pro at home and while traveling.

For the most part, this is Windows. And Windows is about as familiar as it's always been - the core parts of the OS haven't changed much over the years, and even with the highly controversial Windows 8, the biggest change was to convert the Start menu into a Start screen. Once you get used to it, it isn't an issue at all. And for tablet users, it really makes many daily tasks a lot easier.

Startup experience

When I finished my clean install of Windows 10, it prompted me in much the same way that Windows 8 does, to log into my Microsoft account. I obliged, and as soon as I was shown the Desktop my settings from Windows 8 had already synced across - my desktop background mirrored all of my other computers, my phone's camera photos were already in the Photos app, and the Store knew what I had already purchased. Once it finally stopped crashing.

Remember, this is a technical preview - I don't expect everything to go smoothly. But so far, the only issues I've had was the Store refusing to open for the first 10 minutes, and Cortana not being available in my region.

Cortana on Windows 10

Yes - Cortana has made the leap into Windows. For those of you familiar with Windows Phone 8.1, Cortana is the personal digital assistant that rivals Siri and Google Now. She has the voice of Jen Taylor, who also voiced the AI of the same name in the Halo game series, and often has a witty remark or two if you ask her questions about herself, popular technology companies, the Halo game series, or her iOS rival.

If you look up a review for Cortana elsewhere (I don't have one on this blog - yet!), you'll find that most of what is said about the Windows Phone version applies to Windows 10 as well. She pulls recommendations from Foursquare, pulls up the weather and latest news for you automatically, and has both time- and location-based reminders included.

At the moment, Cortana is only available in the USA and UK on Windows Phone, and exclusively in the USA for Windows 10. Enabling Cortana is as simple as changing your region settings on either device, and I expect the service to be deployed to other parts of the world within the next few years.

Project Spartan

Project Spartan is another aspect of Windows 10 that has many onlookers eager to try out the OS, but unfortunately it isn't directly included in the Technical Preview that I am trialing. Spartan is the new browser that Microsoft is building from the ground up, designed to be faster and improved upon Internet Explorer in every way. There are a number of reasons why a new browser makes sense, including technical ones, but I won't go into those here.

At the moment, Spartan's new rendering engine (EdgeHTML) has been included as part of Internet Explorer on Windows 10, and therefore by simply using IE in the new browser you're already using a part of Spartan. The UI and other improvements will have to wait for a future release.

What's been removed?

The giant glaring exception that I've found so far to how Windows 10 improves upon its predecessor, is that the Charms bar introduced in Windows 8 is now gone. This feature was mostly beneficial to touch screen users, and it's removal feels unnecessary.

On Windows 8 and 8.1, swiping from the right edge of the screen pulled up Charms. This showed you a shortcut to Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings. To reach similar options in Windows 10 (Search, Share, Settings) you need to click on a small hamburger-style icon in the top-left of an application's window.

However, what Microsoft has failed to notice is that for many tablet users of Windows 8.x, is that many tablet users were using the Charms bar as a quick access to the Start screen. It's so much easier to swipe across and tap the Start icon with your right thumb, when you're already holding the tablet from that part of the screen, than it is to touch the Start button.

At the moment, in the latest Technical Preview, swiping from the right brings up the Notifications / Action Centre (another excellent feature ported across from Windows Phone). In my humble opinion, it would be better to add this as a shortcut to the Charms bar, rather than replacing the Charms bar entirely. Leave the hamburger-like menu for mouse-and-keyboard users, and leave the Charms bar for tablet users. Best of both worlds.

Summary

I want to play around with the operating system a lot more, and to potentially make the move onto actual hardware rather than using it only in a virtual machine. At the moment, the operating system feels very solid, and for the most part it's making giant leaps in the right direction.

My intention is to write another article or two about the OS, as I continue to use it and learn more about what the team in Redmond have changed.

There are a few choices that Microsoft has made that I disagree with, but I can see where they're going and I can see myself upgrading my day-to-day machines as soon as the stable release is available.

For an operating system that still has more than half a year's worth of development time remaining, it feels almost complete.


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28 Jan 2015 07:31

Thanks Shane!
For the information and summary of situation now.

I have not always time to read or even test the new version(s) of Windows.

At the moment:

  • Windows Vista (!) on great battleship HP Laptop with all a player ( my grandchildren and I ) want …
  • Windows 7 on my Dell Business Laptop - daily work on travel and home ( and playing together over LAN)
  • Windows 8.1 on my Nokia / Microsoft Lumia 1020 ( with Zeiss Icon Camera 41 MP - best I have ever seen on smartphones)

Planned is in near future a Tablet (Windows) 9''-10''

I am since 48 years first an IBM-man, and after DOS - a windows man till today.


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29 Jan 2015 04:26

Yes, the Lumia 1020's camera is insane. 36 MP large photo + 5 MP smaller digital copy, for every shot you take.

Windows 10 will most likely be coming to your phone within the year.

And your Windows 7 machine will be able to upgrade to Windows 10 for free, too! They're offering a free upgrade for the first year.


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