Since Microsoft has really stirred up a buzz with their Hololens preview at the 2015 //Build event a week ago for the upcoming release of Windows 10 and the unified one OS for all devices, I thought I should give my take on the Windows 10 Tech preview I have been using thus far. I have been running the Windows 10 enterprise tech preview (Build 9926) for nearly 2 months now on my laptop workstation I use at work so I feel quite at home already with over 200-300 hours already spent. The setup was easy (I did a clean install) just like any other OS installation, however, do take note that Windows 10 demands a GPT partition to be installed correctly and can confuse some of the less experienced users in form of error messages that say that ”windows 10 cannot be installed on MBR Disks.” If that is the case for you, what you need to do is first make sure that your drive is a GPT formatted partition, second, make sure that your USB or other form of bootable device you are using is also GPT format (use Rufus and choose UEFI/GPT when creating the drive). If you are running a MBT formatted USB drive and trying to install Windows 10, you are going to have a bad time. Third, in the bootmenu of your PC, select UEFI mode. You should be having no issues installing windows 10 now.
Now on to the good stuff, first and foremost, thank you Microsoft for bringing back the Start menu to it’s former glory. While I do embrace new thinking and shaking things up, I really felt that the Windows 8 Metro UI start menu was much more aimed at the Surface (tablet) user than for the traditional desktop, which I think we all can agree upon. I myself use the Windows key + X or Windows key + R to get to where I want, I did still find it quite annoying to have my entire monitor go into Metro mode when you press the Win key out of habit. I really do feel that Microsoft is atoning for this great sin in Windows 10, where rather than focusing on desktop apps alone, the Start menu now mixes in a dash of the Metro Start screen’s functionality, sprinkling Live Tiles of Windows 8-style apps next to shortcuts to more traditional PC software. You can now turn off that Live Tile functionality if you’d like, and even unpin all the Metro apps from the Start menu, returning it to purely desktop-focused glory. Or, if you really really like to, expand the Start menu to full screen, and resize Metro apps to recreate a more Windows 8-like experience. The choice is yours.
On to the Metro apps… The horrendous Metro apps from Windows 8 aren’t removed completely, but instead they have been reshaped to fit desktop sensibilities. In Windows 10, launching a Metro app on your PC opens it in a desktop window, rather than dumping you into a full-screen app. While a great step forward, you still cannot copy or paste text from a metro app to a normal app. It is bad, but you won’t be doing that all too much I suppose and I truly think this is going to be fixed before release.
Cortana has finally taken a leap of faith on to the desktop stage from her comfy phone setting. I must say that I love Cortana on my windows phone 8.1, I tried to move away to iPhone 6 from my Microsoft Lumia 1520, but I simply couldn’t handle the monotone and depressive robot that is Siri and sold the iphone only a month after I got it. Now I use Cortana to handle all my day to day planning such as the alarm, directions, calender invites, shopping lists to reminders (the function where you can ask Cortana to remind you of something when a specific person calls is fantastic!). Also, her voice sounds very natural and real (much thanks to the incredible voice actress Jen Taylor). Cortana will want to access your calendar appointments, contacts, and location, among other things. Nothing out of the ordinary, especially if you’ve used Cortana on a Windows Phone. You can also tell Cortana what to call you, including your name, “Master,” “Khaleesi,” or anything else your imagination thinks up. I do feel that Cortana really is’nt up to par on the desktop side just yet, as she simply have been completely or partially broken through my experience. Attracting her attention via spoken commands seems to work only intermittently. Ssaying “Hey Cortana” usually works, but her attention will wander quickly, so if you don’t say what you want almost immediately, she’ll begin “thinking” about your request, which is quite annoying. Another annoying, but not really surprising, feature is that Cortana can only search the web by using Bing!.I get the same feeling from Microsoft trying to shove Bing on you as I get from Google trying to force Google+ on you with every click you make on Youtube.
Project Spartan, is the name of Microsoft’s new internet browser. Internet Explorer is a thing of the past, and it is all spartan moving forward. Well, you can still find good old Internet Explorer in Windows 10 for legacy compatibility. Spartan uses the new Microsoft Edge rendering engine and has some pretty cool features. Ocasionally Cortana pops up with supplementary information while you search the web, such as Yelp reviews or Bing Maps directions when you’re viewing a restaurant website. Digital inking tools let you easily mark up a website and share it with others. Spartan also contains a nifty Reading View, which allows you to stow away articles in the Reading List app for later. The browser is also packed with HTML5 compatibility and stacks up well on the scoreboard on HTML5TEST.com, where it is given a score of 370 out of 555 points. A step-up from 343 which Internet Explorer received but still have need more time to catch up to competitors like Mozilla and Chrome.
Also noteworthy is that, as of Build 9926, Windows 10 includes the “Continuum” feature that automatically switches the view from the PC-friendly desktop mode to a Windows 8-like mode that’s better suited for tablet use. Windows tablets will default to the latter, while PCs to the former. And hybrids, such as the surface pro, will intelligently switch between the two modes depending on whether you have a keyboard attached. In tablet mode, the Start menu expands to fit the full screen, as do Metro apps. If you’d like to force a switch, the new Action Center has a dedicated “Tablet Mode” button that you can enable or disable at will.
All in all, I think Windows 10 is definitely a step in the right direction for Microsoft, and together with Hololens, I think we are glimpsing a bit into the future of Windows and augmented reality.
All the best,