Is Windows 10 Dumbing Us Down?


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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.

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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.

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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.


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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!

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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?

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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