Is Windows 10 Dumbing Us Down?


windows_10_product_family_microsoft_official

Which would you choose?

Imagine that you’ve decided to trade in your car for a newer and updated version, let’s say the 2015 model/year and the smooth salesman lends you a demo for a few weeks so you can drive it around town, impress your friends and generally put it through it’s paces. Your current model is of course your daily choice and never far from your thoughts, as it’s never let you down, you know where all the buttons and switches are, you’ve got all the comfort settings tweaked just right and you keep it tuned in tip top condition. After a couple of days test driving the new and much hyped model, you ask yourself why you need to upgrade at all.

minimalist-car

Although the new and updated version certainly feels livelier and nippier through the traffic, you begin to wonder why you don’t just stick with what you know. The new model feels like it was designed by an architect on steroids, ably assisted by his twelve year old son who added a few doodles on the dash. Apart from being strikingly minimalist, it also has the habit of nagging you about its features every ten seconds and you can’t help yearning for  what you’ve got used to, parked right next to it in the driveway. It’s not that you want to spend the rest of your life wearing the same old cardigan and driving around in a six year old car, but you do happen to attach a certain value to the things in your life that not only look good but actually function in an easily recognisable manner.

Windows 10 is flat chested

Alright, the comparison with upgrading your average Ford Mondeo is a cheap trick, but you get the idea. When Windows 8 was released, Microsoft introduced us all to their new and edgy flat-tile design that you either loved or hated. In Windows 10 this has been carried forward even further because of their need to create a unified OS across all platforms, including mobile and tablet. It’s hard to argue with the reasoning behind this, but frankly, on a PC it just looks well, flat.

windows10-desktop1

I’m sure we can all live with a change of icons, but lets remember that Windows comes as a package and what you see and how you interact with it, is the entire experience. Yes, experience, which is a word that Microsoft seems to have claimed as its very own recently, as if the experience of using Windows is supposed to bring us all to a collective orgasm. In the case of Windows 10, it feels more like an anti-climax in fact, and I happen to like curves, not only in women but also in design and here, Microsoft has taken such a profoundly minimalist approach, that a plastic surgeon would be tempted to comment, that this particular OS was last in the queue when God was handing out the soft and squidgy bits.


win10-settings

Of course some might say that nitpicking over a few icons and settings pages is just anal, but let’s not forget that whilst beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, many were accused of such pagan virtues when they complained about the famous Start Menu fiasco and look what happened there. When Windows XP was released I wanted to cuddle it, but with Windows 10 I feel like it’s a cold, corporate shard of ice that might cut me if I get too close to it. Just look at that settings page will you? What does it say to you? Precisely!

Distraction-free Bullsh*t

As I write this in Word Press, I’ve chosen a blank canvas mode, which at the click of the mouse can be changed back to the full bells and whistles mode at any time, much in the same way as previous versions of Windows could alternate between classic and default, but with Windows 10 we’re all stuck with this bland and uninspiring engineer feel.

win10-colour-settings-win7

To say that I felt like cuddling Windows XP is pretty much spot on and when you compare how Windows 10 and 7 handle desktop personalisation, all I can say is that Windows 7 has an almost lickable feel to it that 10 is sadly lacking. It’s all sharp edges and pastels, or accents as Microsoft would have you believe, which is the daftest description of a desktop theme I’ve ever heard, but then I wasn’t on the design team unfortunately.

The Windows 10 Hide and Seek Game

In case you’re wondering if I got out of bed the wrong way today, yes I did and writing this op-ed hasn’t improved my humour one little bit, I can tell you. I thought it was bad enough when I was literally thrown out of bed and penned 8 Reasons Why Windows 8 Sucks and had to postulate on that abortion of a feature, the Charms Bar, which required me to wash my mouth out with soap and water when I first clapped eyes on that monstrosity. Well, we don’t have fairy dust anymore, more’s the pity, because we’re all going to need some of it to find where the hell Microsoft has hidden everything.


win10-notification

Take the notification area for example, which is now lacking any form of obvious customisation at all and if you want to change these settings, you’ll need to burrow like a blind and busy mole into the bowels of the system until your fingers are bleeding. Why?

And talking of notifications, why should I be bombarded with idiotic pop-outs or toasts as the hipsters are calling them, that tell me I have apps that will open that kind of thing, when I want to open a picture of my cat? Or when I insert a pen drive, I’m asked what I want to do with it. Well, nothing at the moment, but I’ll let you know later. Geez!

personalise-win10

Right click on the desktop and see if you can find an option to change your screen resolution. It’s not there is it; they’ve gone and buried that somewhere in settings too as if you’re too much of a clumsy idiot to be let loose with that kind of advanced clickable concept.

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Ditto for putting the PC to sleep, which requires you to don your tunnel-rat outfit again and click on change settings that are currently unavailable. That’s a bit like going into a restaurant and discovering that today’s special isn’t on the menu because you didn’t mention it when you booked the table, but now that you’ve mentioned it, here’s the missing dish. Utterly senseless yes, but you must remember that Microsoft no longer sees you as a valued customer, no, they see you as a witless consumer who sits there with your mouth wide open as the corporation feeds you tidbits; just enough, but not too much.


Already articles are appearing all over the place with titles such as Windows 10 Hidden Secrets and How to Unlock Windows 10’s Hidden Gems, which begs so many questions, but so few answers.

What time is it in Redmond?

win10-date-time

I haven’t got a frigging clue because Microsoft has decided that I don’t need to know that kind of thing and would prefer me to talk to something called Bing instead. It’s actually quite handy to know what time it is in Wagga Wagga, Australia or Beggars Bush, Sussex and for some totally unfathomable reason, the option to add a world clock in Windows 10 is missing in action like so many other features.

Blimey, I need a lie down in a darkened room, but first, there are times when I’m so glad Dubya got into the White House you know, even though he outstayed his welcome by about 8 years, mainly because of this:

bush-fool-me

Well the boys at Microsoft have certainly got me fooled George and as a past president of the United States, were you to be offered a car with the aircon switch in the glove compartment or hidden in the trunk, you’d probably say shame on you, you fooled me again! I know I would.


We have you under our control

win10-update

It’s pretty clear that, as consumers we don’t have the collective brain power to make basic decisions, such as what enters our machines and what doesn’t, at least according to Microsoft. So if you want to wander around with an expression on your face like a blank piece of paper, you’d better accept the fact you are not to be trusted with your computer under any circumstances and thus will be controlled by a corporation who see you merely as a number, or to put it more succinctly, a product key and a future subscriber of spoon-fed technology.

I fail to see how Microsoft can justify this blatant use of force, by coercing their customers to accept all updates all the time without exception. Clearly we’re all too stupid to wish it otherwise, unless we all rise up in revolt, which is a distinct possibility bearing in mind what happened with the Charms Bar, which now resides six feet under, somewhere near Seattle.

Spartan – very

spartan-settings

In line with their desire to shove Xbox, Bing and all things Microsoft down our throats, in the beta version of Spartan, you’re stuck with that awful search provider Bing whether you like it or not. The settings are limited in the extreme and whilst everyone bar none wants a browser that’s lighter than air, it would be handy to tweak it just a little, don’t you think. I also think they copped out by renaming it Edge, just like they spoiled everything when they renamed Skydrive. Skydrive and Spartan, they just sound so cool together, don’t you think?

The Start Menu

win10_start1

Bring it on! This is where we get to the meat and three veg as far as I’m concerned and I’d like some gravy with that as well if you don’t mind. I don’t know about you, but I’m still trying to shake off the post traumatic stress we all suffered in 2012, a year that will go down in infamy, where a million keyboards were smashed to pieces and grown men wept openly in front of their wives and families and pretended they’d just remembered where they’d buried the cat last year.


One of the few things in Windows 10 that isn’t hidden is the start menu Start as it’s now called, which even dummies like us are allowed to customise and add stuff to with gay abandon. Having spent so many years in bed with our old friend of previous incarnations, I found myself abusing the right click of the mouse like a crazy thing, adding and deleting stuff as if my life depended on it or that my beloved Start Menu were about to be cruelly taken away from me at any moment. It really was that much fun, so all you fundamentalists out there take note: you no longer need to slap a bolt-on shell to this part of Windows 10; it just seems to work straight out of the tin as far as I can see, take my word on that.

Epilogue

mini-house

Whilst Windows 10 Preview is known to be in beta stage, pretty much like this house above, I think it’s a safe bet to assume that what we see today is likely what we’ll get on July 29th, so before the queues start forming to bash me over the head for being a whinging Pommy/Limey, it’s worth bearing that in mind. It’s true that I wrote about Windows 10 last October and if you read that article you’d think I’d found my true love once again, which at the time was true as I was on the rebound from Windows 8 and you know what they say about rebound relationships don’t you?

But I’m babbling on again and the truth is that I will almost certainly take up Microsoft’s generous offer of a free upgrade and that will be to upgrade Windows 8, which has lain dormant on my PC for longer than I can remember. And who said there was no such thing as a free lunch? But I will maintain Windows 7 as my default operating system for the very reasons that I stuck with XP and skipped Vista, it just works, end of. Directx 12 will one day be the next big thing, but since there are only a small handful of DX12 games around at the moment, I see no compelling reason to switch.

In truth, what I really don’t like about the new OS is the patronising style and general dumbing down of Windows. This started with 8 and whilst for me at least, decamping to Linux is an impossibility for gaming reasons, I’ll keep Windows 10 as an alternative boot system and play with it as it matures.

Have fun and please let us know what your impressions of Windows 10 are in the comments section below.

 

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About the Author

Marc Thomas

Marc is an avid traveler, motorcyclist, entrepreneur, and gamer from Buenos Aires, Argentina. His interest in computers and technology began in the early 1990's when he was introduced by a friend to a Zenith Data Systems computer running DOS. In the years following he has experienced all versions of the Windows operating system, built hundreds of systems, and fixed many more for his customers. Marc also has an interesting forum you might like to check out at Argentina Expats

40 Comments

  1. Well that was a great read that has just about tipped the scales for me, i was considering 10 but i will make sure i keep my Windows 7 backups very close by. Cheers.

  2. “Windows 10 is flat chested”

    I tend to agree with you but if I were you I would have chosen other words, being as if you are not politically correct these days the world seems to get pissed at you.

    I hope you don’t get attacked by FCWA (Flat Chested Women of America) !

      • It’s not being politically incorrect, as you all too blithely assert, but being in bad taste. There is something profoundly immature and limiting about not being able to find a more suitable metaphor for the “flatness” and “uncurved” aspects of an OS than female anatomy. Not only that, your column contributes to the notion that computing is maintained as a boys [only] club.

        • Gosh, you’ve left us with some delicious similes there Gordon and if my metaphorical use of the female anatomy offends your sensitivity, then perhaps I should use the male anatomy instead, but frankly it would be hard to know where to begin.

        • Thank you, Gordon. You wrote what I was about to write. I get the feeling that Marc is one of those guys sitting in his Mom’s basement with his video games and comic books and doesn’t actually know how to interact with real women. Marc, this isn’t 1981. There are as many women interested in the goings-on of technology as there are men. And we read articles. And, although I was interested in reading your article, you lost me early on and I simply couldn’t continue reading after “I happen to like curves, not only in women but also in design” and then the above-mentioned “flat chested” stupidity. Grow up, Marc. It’s childish, banal, and just stupid. You lost all your credibility. Oh, and before the trolls make sexist comments, this comment is coming from a woman who is most certainly not flat chested nor a prude. I just find your metaphors irrelevant and offensive.

      • HERE HERE! if the doylem’s get up a height with it, then they need to get over themselves AND their inflated ego. there’s a lot more important things in this world to be radgie over than this petty bollocks. as for win 10? TOTAL PANTS! sorry, but i’ll stick to my win 7, which has been absolute champion as far as microsoft os’s go.

  3. Well said Marc.
    I will say this one thing to MS, I may be getting old but I am not brain dead, yet, and I do still know how to setup a PC and what updates I wish to have installed. How about the extension to Bing called Cortana, or that is what I call it.

  4. I have to agree Marc.

    Admittedly based only on a cursory look around but Windows 10 immediately conjured up three words to me – bland, flat, and uninspiring.

  5. Very well written.

    What is described here in the epilogue corresponds to my feelings as they arise and are confirmed with what I’ve read up to now about Windows 10. Before that, there is Microsoft’s harassment to upgrade, to get ready to upgrade : I’ve hidden Windows 7 updates that actually have nothing to do with security but only with Windows 7′ D-DAY : a pain. One year for free? Make it 12 months, rather 365 days, before that: move off.

    Talking about Windows Updates : the article here describes it well : all will be automatic. The article shows as well several points which are so numerous they seem to draw a line : the user has less and less authority on his own machine/OS and anything to do with basic settings appears to require brain-storming…

    I am not at all brain-ready for Windows 10. If — if — I decide to accept the one year free upgrade offer it won’t be immediately, for sure. Not to mention how complicated it seems to understand how a Windows 10 ISO install file will be valid should the user install — now, later on — the OS on another machine.

    Happy with Windows 7. Windows 10 at this time appears not attractive to put it mildly, as sexy as a rich but ugly widow searching for a prisoner.

    My English is so far from the Marc Thomas’ talent, stating it isn’t my mother-tongue won’t be necessary.

    • You could have fooled me Ali Gator, your written English is perfect.
      The point you make about an ISO is important as there’s nothing quite like a clean install.
      Many thanks for your comments.

  6. Thanks Marc, I’ve really enjoyed your take on MS’s latest offering. As for being a whingeing Limey, well, this Limey appreciated your down to earth comments. I have not looked at Win10, and after what you,ve told us all, I don’t think I’ll bother. I find that Win7 does all that I ask, and am now very familiar with it. Never took the Win8 route, and am glad, from all the negativity that floated around, I’m glad I didn’t. Anyway, why should I take all the risks that appear to be involved with a forced upgrade, and with the uncertain future around upgrades and possible charges. If at some time I do consider changing then maybe I’ll go the Linux path. It’s apparently a lot more user friendly these days.
    Once again, thanks for the info.

    • Hence the moniker ‘whinging pom’ I suppose mate, but then we all have our shortcomings.
      Far be it for me to be seen as judge and jury, perhaps we all want the best of both worlds.
      Thanks for the comment Peter.

  7. Well, feeling a bit pissy today, eh?

    I cringed 2 years ago when my Windows 7 machine took a lightning strike and had to be replaced. Certainly I had read all the negative media about Windows 8 (well, not ALL of it, no one could have possibly read it all) and was not looking forward to the switch.

    So I booted up my new Samsung Windows 8 All in One touch screen PC and prepared myself for much swearing and throwing of things. The wife took a walk, the kids left the room and even the dog went into hiding. This was NOT going to be pleasant.

    20 minutes later I had everything customized just the way I wanted it and to this day I don’t get all the angst and ado about Windows 8.

    Don’t misunderstand – I am the very model of a modern major conventionalist. I like things the way I like them and don’t like unnecessary mucking about with things that generally work as they are. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! My car is 10 years old and approaching 300k miles. All things considered, I’d rather restore it to new condition than waste the time, effort and money on buying a new vehicle.

    But I’m looking forward to Windows 10 and don’t think it can arrive quickly enough.

    • You ain’t seen nothin yet Gary, just wait till I really get started.
      Your car simile is interesting and one that I use a lot when it comes to operating systems, although 300k miles could well be in Win 98 territory.

  8. I am in the process of preparing a presentation to a senior’s computer club about Win 10 [I am a senior myself with a 40 yr computer history and running Win 10] for September. I am sure that I will be expected to “recommend or not”, which will not be easy for that audience many of whom are still on XP. So I found your article both helpful,and amusing. I would also like to add as an ex-Brit [now Canadian] and Yorkshireman I readily identified with the sense of humour :). It is very much the same as my own, which often gets me into trouble with those who don’t get it!!

    • Appreciate the comments mate and being from Yorkshire you’ll no doubt tell it as it is, which is right.
      I think the choice between XP and 10 is pretty much a done deal though.

      • I’ve just got to say that even though I’ve registered for the Win10 update, I’ll be holding back on actual installation for a while to see the reactions of those who’ve installed it.
        I’ve been using Win7 pro since it came out and have found it ‘ok’, but, it really pissed me off that I couldn’t customize it and get it as easy to use as my all time favourite, Win XP SP2.
        Back in the day, I used a free program called FreshUI to customize XP and it was brilliant, but trying to do the same with Win7 was hopeless to some extent as the O.S. reminded me of that great line from the British comedy show ‘Little Britain’, “computer says no”

  9. Hi Marc
    Just had to drop one more comment on this subject.
    It seems that users are looking to W10 as their savior from W8, just as XP users were looking to Vista as the next big thing. All I see in W10 is a watered down version of W8.1, with a few things added to try and make it attractive but all in all their isn’t a nickel’s worth of difference. Right now Vista even looks good, at least it had Windows Media Center.
    I have been installing updates as standalone installs for a long time and hardly ever run auto updates. I download updates and put them in a file for that OS version and install them offline. I guess MS just thinks most users are just not qualified to install updates.

  10. Unfortunately, many computer users actually need something like W10. My brother in law considers himself a computer expert because he has had his system “in the shop” so many times.
    I think that Microsoft is not aiming W10 at the likes of your readers, who have some degree of expertise. They are trying for the mass market, if there is one.

    • You are right and the mass market will adopt W10 just because MS puts the word “FREE” on it’s handle and not from technical knowledge about the OS.

  11. Taking a cue from the screeshots shown here, there’s another horrendous decision which has been made : colour icons (or grey text) on a black background. Graphic designers might find this elegant, but it’s probably because they can’t read anyway.

    For the millionth time, folks : text is supposed to be black on a white background, and icons are supposed to be of a dark colour on a white background. Anything else is a pain to read, slows up work and make you want to shoot the dog.

    Light-coloured text on a white background is bad enough, white text on a dark background is pretty but a strain on the eyes, grey text on black is simply daft, and dark-coloured icons on a black background should be grounds for arrest.

    That’s the way the human brain has been wired to read things for eons, and you’re not going to change that. Never mind how many million marketing dollars you pour onto that.

  12. Hmmmm!! “Spartan” Isn’t that the Guys that got killed off by the Turks? Wonder if there’s a message in the name?

  13. At the risk of appearing flexible, what do you recommend for a seventy-plus year old person that would fit growing older gracefully? Gracefully must mean free for limited income for the future. One might grow old richly, but still prickly. How do people learn and retain as years limit them? Even little children learn a letter and picture at a time. It is slow at first, but it grows faster like lightening. As one becomes an Old Fart getting younger is easy. All one has to do is wait for theirs. Then someone will hack you reducing your fortune.

    Make a pass at the old man you too will become by answering my question: What do you recommend for those who are experienced with Microsoft, adapted, assimilated, and helped the process of burying the dog on top of the cat so they had to get along for eternity? Yep! My car is fifteen years old running, looking, and working perfectly like DOS still does no matter what language changes come or go.

    As an old person I am neither fundamentalist nor avant-garde, but looking clearly for the Word of God, which no programmer is.

  14. Enjoyed your article and saw that it is possible to retain the Windows 7 version as default OS while ‘trying’ the new Windows 10. How can I do this? I do own the software for Windows 7 Pro and like this OS but would like to see what 10 is all about. I’m not totally computer illiterate but close.

  15. I’m a repair tech so it behooved me to sample the win10 preview in order to keep up with customer needs and I like the stimulation of change.
    When I view a extremely technical document like a particular flavor of a MS OS, you can see that their corporate model often insinuates itself into the engineering process. This has resulted in fiascoes as the transitional failures of moving from one OS to another. Can we say ME OS.
    An ugly, crippled child cast out into the cruelty of the real world to beg for users by antsy pants marketing freaks… and finally thrown under the steam rollers of solid XP.
    Then we have Balmer pushing the vexations and molasses weakness of Vista before the engineers had finished what would become 7.
    8 and 8.1 are win10’s ME. It’s definitely a trend.
    I think the market people and pop trender has won the day and is pushing MS to become a strictly cloud based leasing oriented model.

    win10, even though a definite improvement over 8.1 insofar as some user choices are re-offered is not at all necessary for the desktop environment.

    7 is fantastic. Personally I prefer stick shift and owning rather than leasing the car I drive.

    Good article by the way

  16. Nice, fun-to-read article…..

    I’m just hoping that 10 is better than Vista was.

    As far as car analogies go…I can think of 3 cars in general that didn’t quite make a hit.
    Tucker – A car well ahead of its time. Forced out of the market by competition.
    Edsel – Publicly hated when introduced but a collectors item now.
    AMC Pacer – Still can’t find anyone that likes driving in a fishbowl.

    I adapted to Windows 8/8.1 without too much difficulty and hope that 10 will be the same.

    I have gone from TI-994a to Windows 3 to 3.1 to 3.5 to 95 to 98SE to 2000 Pro to XP Pro to Vista (yuck) to 7 Home premium to 8/8.1. Every version except Vista took a little getting used to but ended up better than the one before it.

    Only time will tell……….Alan

  17. Snark is always fun to read, but this is kinda wacky, and I’ve been doing Windows betas since the very first one. Was online BEFORE Windows,

    Most of the new preview builds have a fair number of improvements, so don’t be so quick to dismiss changes over the next month.. And as a marketing pro I’m impressed by how often they bug me for feedback. The author seems unaware of what could be the best feature of all. 10 is the last version of Windows. They say everything will be in updates, instead of waiting for new versions (like 10!). We’ll see how that works, but ignoring it is a major flaw in this hissy fit.

    • Snark – check.
      Hissy fit – check.
      Vast online experience – check.
      Prodigious beta tester – check.
      Marketing pro – check.
      Windows consultant – check.
      With all those credentials under your belt Mike, you should at least consider imparting your seemingly wide array of knowledge by writing in a major technical blog.
      How about it?

    • “10 is the last version of Windows” If this is the last version of Windows, which I doubt, then MS should leave W7 as the last desktop version and let W10 be installed on all the other devices that consumers so desire.
      I just kind not find a logical reason to install W10 over either W7 or W8.1. Daniel.

  18. I agree totally. In fact I’d call this Windows 8.1.5 at best and it’s a dog.

    Ubuntu is miles better and with Steam releasing more and more games on Linux, if you switched you wouldn’t miss it long. You can always double-boot Windows 7 (top Windows upgrade)/Linux for those few games that haven’t made the Linux update yet.

    Just imagine if you could say “I like Windows 10 functionality but it’s too patronizing, I want the Windows XP interface back while keeping the Windows 10 engine.” Well in Linux you can do that and have been able for fifteen years. No reason Microsloth couldn’t either.

  19. Other then niche stuff on Steam there isn’t really any SOFTWARE for 10 and most of what’s available was made for with 7.

    There is a reason you can’t find software anymore and it’s not because of online stores as most of that is stuff that can run on 7. It’s because there is no real developers.

    What is available for 10 is ont he cloud only with subscriptions like Office 365 model paywalls.

    Remember let’s rewind back to 1999 when you could walk into any computer store and see shelves upon shelves of software on various types. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Software_companies_established_in_1999
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:1999_software

    If you lived in a mid sized town like Salem OR there would be at least two computer stores which were independently owned and operated and like Dad did a lot of us could build our own computer and have an 800$ computer for only 400$ Floor models were known as a rip off unless you were an idiot.

  20. The point I’m trying to say is unless your a geek that just loves fooling around with an OS most power users buy an OS FOR SOFTWARE!

    An OS is dead without any real software for it. Just like the Xbone which is mostly FPS games and it requires always online DRM which made a lot of negative comments and paid trolls.

    • I’m trying to decipher your messages Sorting Hat, but I’m not getting it.
      Every single software program I ran on Windows 7 runs perfectly on Windows 10.
      This article is about the dumbing down of the OS interface, which will one day resemble Android or iOS. The point being that Win 10 is a computer OS and not a mobile OS.