Mum’s computer, Windows 10 and testing ‘The Captain’

The one thing with having a family that has a mixed computing environment means that I always keep in touch with what the Windows world is doing and having a good grounding of what is happening in the real world as to avoid being sucked into the vortex of some very good marketing by Microsoft. I went around to upgrade my mum’s computer to Windows 10 and also upgrade their installation of Microsoft Office to the latest version available (Office 2013 plus all updates) since I already have an Office 365 subscription. I decided not to do a clean install but rather I uninstalled every piece of software that was installed then cleared out the stuff left over followed by installing it. The installation took around 1 1/2 hours or so but once up and running I tried to configure mum’s email account (through Spark/Xtra which use Yahoo for their email hosting) however the built in application doesn’t support folders in IMAP so I had to setup Outlook 2013 but that required me pulling the contacts of the Yahoo server then importing them into Outlook. Unfortunately there is no way to manually setup a CalDAV or CardDAV account in Windows 10 without attempting to butcher up an iCloud configuration but if you try to replace the IMAP settings with the Yahoo ones then it fails to connect. I would have thought something as basic as setting up CalDAV and CardDAV within the accounts option would be relatively easy but it appears that it is yet another oversight by Microsoft. If you use Gmail, iCloud, Outlook or Exchange then everything will be cool beans but if your host falls outside those 4 options then you’re pretty much shit out of luck.

In terms of the UI consistency unfortunately if you’re expecting major improvements over Windows 8.x or previous versions then prepared to be disappointed – a minor improvement over a previous release in terms of UI consistency and the differences are definitely present in terms of what is a WinRT application, a Universal application and a traditional win32 just by looking at it. For example, the File Explorer is still very much a win32 application with all the throwback cues to previous Windows releases not to mention the disjointed nature the over all theme that is overly ‘light’ and ‘white’ to the point that it is ‘burning white’ rather than a pleasant off white or even grey that you’d find in the case of OS X. I say this in contrast with Edge which is actually a really nice browser with a minimalist GUI design that if File Explorer was re-written as a universal application with the same look and feel as Edge would provide a much more coherent experience could be delivered. Keeping in mind that my whining and whinging isn’t about obscure parts of the operating system or something that a third party invokes but the lack of attention to detail that appears to be Microsoft’s raison d’être in spite of their insistence at each BUILD conference that there needs to be an increasing focus on fit and finish.

In terms of compatibility I didn’t notice any issues but the scalability issues relating to high DPI screens is still there but that is a side effect of having a mishmash of win32 and Universal applications. I honestly wish that Windows 10 is an example of a long term drive towards relegating Win32 to that of compatibility status and the GUI to be totally written around the Universal application platform but alas I’m skeptical whether Microsoft is the will or the stamina to actually carry it through long term or will they eventually loose interest then move onto the next ‘big thing’ whilst leaving lots of loose ends dangling as they’ve done with past UI changes (the control panel and the myriad of different GUI paradigms serve as good example of what happens in the world of Microsoft). That is the biggest problem with Windows when compared to OS X – although OS X does on occasions have the rough edges these rough edges rather than being ignores are seen as bugs and are actually corrected in a timely manner. A good example of that would be the volume overlay when you press the volume up/down/mute where if you enable ‘reduced transparency’ within the ‘System Preferences’ accessibility section there would be black fill ins where the corners are supposed to be rounded off – within 1-2 updates the bug was fixed. When QuickTIme first appeared in OS X it had an atrocious GUI that sounded nice on paper but the idea of having a draw that drops down with volume being round knobs results in something that is highly unusable with the net result was it being quickly fixed with a more traditional approach. When you go through Windows 10 there are still the same issues that existed 15 years ago and unfortunately I don’t think we’ll see these things addressed in the coming 15 years – hopes spring eternal but reality seems to have it that Microsoft have all the consistency of Linux desktops from 10 years ago.

Regarding El Capitan, Apple released a third public beta that coincides with the fifth beta that Apple released to developers and so far things are going well in terms of bugs being fixed, lessons seemed to have been learned from 10.10 by not replacing stuff that isn’t broken (discoveryd vs. mDNSresponder being a good example of a fiasco that needn’t of happened). Metal will be interesting because for many years I tended towards the preference of wanting well documented open standards but given the ‘design by a committee’ results I wonder whether there is sufficient advantage in Metal going forward to provide a counter balance to OpenGL especially when one considers the fact that the Demo at WWDC was about showing off how Adobe were taking advantage of Metal which makes me wonder whether we’ll start seeing traditional OpenGL users such as the CAD and creative industry take another look at an alternative especially if better performance can be obtained out of existing hardware with a set of frameworks that are clean, modern and designed for how things are being developed today rather than assumptions on how developers did things 20+ years ago. I’ve given the early previous two public beta’s a go but I’m not really all that gung-ho about the idea of running a beta build – I might have cared for such things when I was younger but these days I’ll let some other poor soul deal with the issues of compatibility and instability. On a good side though 10.10.5 is currently in development so hopefully that’ll translate into it being made available in the next month or so.

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