A Negative Rant about Windows 10
A macOS and Linux user’s experience of returning to Windows ten years later.
I am not going to be balanced, but try to give an explanation of why I strongly dislike Windows and prefer macOS and Linux. The first operating system I used at any length was AmigaOS. I then built my own PCs and ran Windows for a number of years until the Mac G4 Cube and Mac OS X came out around 2001, so almost 17 years ago.
My negative perceptions of the PC and Windows/DOS was shaped back in the Amiga days. We had a fully working pre-emptive multitasking operating system with a full windowing system, where you could play games, write articles, compose music or edit video.
I remember well the arrogance of PC users at the time. Using a PC was complicated at the time. You had to manually assign Interrupt line numbers to your graphics and sound card. There was no standardized way of writing device drivers. Getting your games to run required gymnastics with configuration files deciding how DOS was initialized, otherwise you ran out of memory. It was the famous 640K and 64k memory boundaries, that millennials probably have not even heard about. When complaining about the insane complexity of using a PC, and pointing out how much easier this was on an Amiga, I was always scoffed at and told this was only because Amiga was a toy, and the PC was a real computer for professionals.
Ever since they I’ve not been able to shake the feeling that the praise of Windows and the PC at times amounts to something similar to the emperors new clothes. Because this platform has dominated the business community, there is this sense that it is the only real computer. When I became a Linux and later a Mac user I felt the same attitude. Linux was dismissed as an OS for hobbyist, hackers and day dreamers. Nothing for serious work. Mac’s were dismissed as computers for fashionistas. Shallow minded people who liked shiny stuff.
I am pointing this out to clarify why I don’t feel particularly compelled to write a well balanced and objective view of Windows 10. It is the big top dog. Often picked by default rather than merit. And using any sort of product or system is a partially a question of emotional appeal. People don’t purely buy e.g. cars based on function alone. Even mathematicians which one may view as logical to a fault, can get emotionally attached to beautiful mathematics.
As someone who easily falls in love with elegant design whether aesthetically or in the more mathematical sense of functional elegance, it is very hard to love Windows.
I recently bought Windows for the first time. I had not done that since the Windows XP days where you put a CD or DVD into your CD/DVD drive which everybody had. This was the first time I installed software from a shrink wrapped package which contained a USB.
Installation of Windows 10
I have installed Linux and macOS numerous times over the years. I was curious what Windows installation was like today. I had a week earlier installed Ubuntu 18.04, which was a source of comparison.
It did not take long however before all my bad memories of Windows started coming back.
- It looks like crap. Fonts are bad.
- Ugh product keys are still a thing? I had to locate the product key and write it. Had not done that in ten years probably.
- Endless number of pointless choices, things you could easily configure later. Why do I have to sit around and answer all these questions during the installation?
- Opaqueness. You often don’t know quite what you are doing to your system. On Linux e.g. you have more control over partitioning, formatting and how your system is setup.
It feel like the whole installer is really old and has not evolved. It is clunky. Picking time zones, keyboard layout and language settings is very old fashioned. You select everything from lists. On Linux or macOS you select your time zone by clicking on a map.
Windows 10 was plainly annoying. I found no way of e.g. selecting a different OS language than British English. I suppose the versions of Windows sold are locked to one language based on the region it is sold in. That seems utterly archaic. Why should people not be able to pick whatever language? People speak different languages within one country.
First Impression of the User Interface
I don’t know what it is Windows does, but for some reasons login on Windows always seems to be oddly slow, regardless of hardware you run on. That had not changed with Windows 10.
I immediately hated the start button. At least before there was an attempt at organizing programs into logical groups. Now it is just a long jumbled lists of programs. Out of the box it contains a lot of stuff of only peripheral interest which one would have assumed ought to have been tucked away been something you can optionally install later.
The list seems utterly useless. Who wants to scroll down a long flat list of programs, with no seeming particular order?
Then you got the fascinatingly ugly and useless large squares sucking up lots of space. It looks like an attempt at following modern trendy design, but without any thought to actual utility. The constantly changing tiles are just distracting. There is no order to them. Why does Minecraft pop up as one of he most visible choices when I start the operating system? Is that really what a first time user needs to know where is located?
The often single colored squares makes it hard to identify different programs at a glance because nothing really stick out shape or color-wise.
Installation and Configuration
Next step was to install drivers and software. That was utterly disappointing. All the old flaws of Windows which I had believed had been solved long time ago was still there.
- Almost any kind of system or driver installation I did require 1 or more reboots. I remember this as a typical annoying Windows thing you tend to avoid on Linux and macOS.
- The majority of software still seems to be distributed
setup.exefiles. A self unpacking executable does not exactly seem like the safest way of distributing software. Linux and macOS tend to use packages of some form which you either drag and drop or install using a built in installer.
- Terribly annoying bundling. Almost anything I installed the first day came bundled with all sorts of other crap and lots of annoying ads. I had entirely forgotten about this aspect of Windows.
- A diarrhea of pop up dialogs. For some reason Microsoft and anybody making software for Windows has a natural inclination to terrorize its users with an endless row of pop up dialogs asking you to do all sorts of stuff.
- A mismatch of styles. Colors, fonts and icons are very poorly coordinated. One can see icons which create poor contrast with the color of the toolbar. Different applications use entirely different fonts. Many installers have non-aliased pixelated fonts.
The latter part is hard to put a finger on, why it happens so often in Windows and so seldom in other operating systems. Windows has this habit of throwing dialogs at you asking you if you want to enable a particular feature or toggle a particular setting. Often it is very annoying the way they do it. E.g. anti-virus software was in my face all the time with arrows jumping up and down imploring me to click a button to enable it. When I foolishly did that, I suddenly got another toolbar in my Internet Explorer. This made it dawn on me why I see windows users with an explosion of toolbars in their Internet Explorer.
While installing some software, so many dialogs popped up at the same time that I could not keep track of what I was installing and I suddenly I got complaints that I was trying to install multiple software at the same time. Apparently that was not possible to do.
I tried setting up my iCloud email. That failed, but I never got any kind of error messages or feedback. Windows mail acted as if everything was find, but simply did not work. When I tried to send emails, they stuck in the Outbox without any explanation of why, or any obvious ability to diagnose the reason.
I tried clicking on some forward and send buttons, but they were disabled. However it was not visible that they were disabled. I could only learn this by noticing that they would not get highlighted when I hovered over them.
Before that I tried adding users. Strangely you cannot add users like your family members/children without having an internet connection? Why? This is bizarre. In fact lots of things did not seem to work in Windows without an internet connection.
User Interface Design and Organization
I absolutely hate the Windows 10 user interface. You often cannot tell what is a button and whether it is enabled. Things that are functionally different tend to look very similar. They seem to make everything look like some web page and mostly white.
There is a poor usage of color to signal different functional areas. Navigation is confusing. Getting to any kind of setting, seems to imply clicking through multiple stages, often without being able to keep a good track of where you are in the user interface.
I think a lot of the problems stems from the confused choice of trying to bridge a touch and mouse/keyboard interface. When using a mouse and keyboard the interface followed on macOS and Linux makes a lot more sense.
Microsoft is throwing away a long established interface paradigm that has been refined over many years.
But even as a touch interface it is lacking. E.g. if you look at iOS which also has a flat design it is more clever in how it uses colors to convey functionality. Interactive elements are marked in different colors from pure information.
Microsoft has also failed in a way that Apple has been far better at which is to get everybody to pull in the same direction with respect to appearance, look and behavior of applications. Windows Applications today are a hodgepodge of styles. Different types of layouts, backgrounds, font type and font rendering. Colors of elements from one app matches poorly elements from other apps. It is a Zoo.
In 2018 is particularly grievous to see so many apps have text which is pixelated. And it is not just that they are pixelated, but the main text of the application uses an entirely different font size, which is jarring to look at.
These are things I could excuse for Linux which is after all developed by widely different volunteer groups of people. There is no overall company setting the style. Ironically Linux applications today seem to actually present a far more consistent style. That is not something one would expect.