Sunday, 2 August 2015

Windows 10 on more machines

I've written another poem, made entirely out of the names of Auk-class minesweepers, which were built by the Americans in the Second World War. Most were scrapped but at least one remained in active service until the 2000s. Those lost are highlighted in bold:

Seer and sentinel
staff and spear
skylark and starling
herald and heed

Ptarmigan oracle
champion broadbill and
ruddy roselle and
swift steady speed

tumult and tide and
threat and triumph
and redstart and broadbill
waxwing and

The orcs were the baddies in Lord of the Rings and in the previous-but-one post I installed Windows 10 on an old laptop and that seemed to go well so what's it like on some other machines eh?

What's it like? What's it like on a Dell D630, which I didn't photograph so you'll have to imagine it? The D630 is cheap as chips on eBay and as a favour I installed Windows 10 for a friend / coughed plague sputum onto the lymph nodes of an unwitting victim. The machine has a notorious design flaw whereby the CPU and the GPU share a heatpipe, but the BIOS only blows the fan when the CPU gets hot, so if you play games that tax the GPU - but not the CPU - the GPU fries. Dell eventually released a BIOS fix that blew the fans more often. Some D630s are tougher than others, and on the whole upgrading it from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 was exactly the same as upgrading a ThinkPad X61. Boring.

A HP Compaq TC4400 Windows pen tablet.

What about an old-fashioned Windows tablet, in this case a Hewlett-Packard Compaq TC4400? Mine has the same basic hardware as my X61 - a 2ghz Core II Duo - but feels a lot slower, not just because it has a conventional hard drive. I upgraded from Windows 7 Pro, which was again unproblematic. However Windows 10 isn't so fine on a TC4400. There are two problems, which presumably apply to the earlier TC4200 and perhaps TC1100 as well.

The machine has some extra things. When folded into a tablet the designers intended for you to hold it in portrait orientation, cradled in your left arm, with your right hand using the stylus and your left hand giving it the reach-around. The bezel-mounted jog-wheel works, but HP's special buttons don't. The Q and Stylus buttons are basically superfluous but the rotation button is dead handy. Alas, HP gave up on the TC4400 long ago - the most recent drivers are for Windows Vista. In contrast Lenovo has a couple of Windows 10 drivers for the X61, and all of its things - the fingerprint reader, the trackpoint, the little keyboard lamp, the hotkeys - work.

The second problem is that the on-screen keyboard defaults to this horrible handwriting recognition nonsense. Handwriting recognition was one of those clever-until-you-think-about-it ideas that contributed to the total failure of pen computing throughout the 1990s and 2000s. You can manually switch to the tappy-tappy keyboard, but seemingly there's no way of making this the default, so you have to do it all the time. As a consequence the TC4400 doesn't work very well as a tablet.

But at least they fixed one of the Windows 8 keyboard's biggest irritants - the CLOSE X is now large and clearly separated from the backspace button. I often found myself tediously entering passwords, hitting enter, and then hitting X to close the keyboard, but accidentally hitting the backspace button - which navigates back to the previous page in Chrome and other browsers - thus forcing me to enter the password again. This did not make me a mellow man. Against it, the keyboard still doesn't pop up automatically as it did when Windows 7 was used in tablet mode.

Let's have a look at my Linx 10, which is one of those Windows 8.1 with Bing tablets. Windows 10 upgrades into conventional Windows 10 Home, which is aimed at women who want to download recipes or something. I can tolerate this in a tablet.

Not Windows 10 Home with Bing, just Windows 10. My device has a 32gb flash drive, with about 15gb used up by Windows and other things. The installation process came close to filling this up - once I had finished there was only 3gb of free space left. Disk Cleanup removes a tonne of stuff although this obliterates any hope of returning back to Windows 8.1, but on the other hand the tablet is essentially disposable.

Windows 10 takes up much the same amount of space as Windows 8.1.

The Disk Clean-up dialogue is one of the few hold-overs from ancient versions of Windows. You can't resize it even though it's very important. Remember when the Windows display menu had a drawing of a CRT? I wonder if there are any dialogue boxes hidden away in Windows 10 that date back to Windows 95. That would be an interesting project. The system properties window that lets you change swap file space is basically the same as it was in 1995. Still, Windows 10 seems to work fine on a Linx 10, but then again it is essentially Windows 8.1 with a mass of tweaks.

No, there's one major irritant. In Windows 8.1 it was easy to put Microsoft's OneDrive cloud storage folder onto your SD / MicroSD card, which is pretty crucial if you only have 12.9gb of free space on your main drive. For no reason whatsoever Windows 10 removes this option. There is a workaround, which involves mounting the card onto a folder on your main drive, but why?

Next up, my desktop machine. I'm going to upgrade at some point. The thrill of danger excites me. It's like having teeth pulled out or walking into a room full of strangers, or appearing nude on stage or putting the shotgun in your mouth and pulling the trigger; it's going to happen at some point, why not get it over with now? It is only after death that we become immortal, but it is not us that survives, it is our work; or rather it is other people's perception of our work that survives.

A perverted, misunderstood reduction of our work survives. In fact it would be more accurate to say that nothing survives. The present has its way with the past. Even though digital archiving and cloud storage will ensure that present-day media will remain perfectly preserved forever, what does that matter if no-one ever looks at it? If instead people only read summaries, or second-hand descriptions? Moby-Dick is as far as I know in the public domain, but who reads it?

I occasionally think about John Diamond. He was a British journalist and exceptionally minor TV celebrity, notable for appearing as a panellist in the consumer-affairs-and-talking-dog show That's Life. Nowadays he is remembered entirely for being Nigella Lawson's first husband and for dying of cancer, at the age of 47 in March 2001. On the positive side he spent the last nine years of his life in a position where he could watch Nigella Lawson taking a shower if he wanted; millions of people have died of cancer without ever seeing Nigella Lawson naked, or indeed ever having had a full stomach or a day without pain. Diamond wrote a newspaper column about his battle with and eventual defeat at the hands of his illness, but although the column attracted a huge amount of attention at the time, none of it is on the internet and he isn't likely to wow the Imgur crowd. But what does it matter that he will fade into obscurity? He died knowing that his struggle had inspired others; people of the future will have to help themselves.

I was installing Windows 10 on my desktop machine. I know every nut and bolt and cog. I built it with my own hands. It's an i5-2500K with 8gb of memory, a couple of conventional hard drives, a bog-standard AMD graphics card, running 64-bit Windows 7 Pro. I bought the Pro version entirely for Windows XP Mode, which was essentially a VM with a Windows XP image. Windows 8 ditched XP Mode and Windows 10 doesn't bring it back; the shortcuts remain but they don't work. It's a shame that you can't keep the Windows XP image to use with e.g. VMWare Player.

Still, life is full of sacrifices. Especially if you live in Cornwall, eh? No, seriously, again the installation went without a hitch. Of course I have to say this because I'm being paid handsomely by Microsoft to advertise their products, but the company must have done a tonne of work to keep all my applications working through the install. I didn't have to reinstall anything. Steam works. Flight Simulator X works, at least until I try to quit, at which point the screen goes black. It was always a bit flaky. There's a Steam version, apparently. Photoshop CS4 works. Premiere works. VLC works.

Windows 10 is much less obnoxious than I expected when it comes to default file handling. In my opinion the whole "text search to find configuration panels" aspect is executed better in OS X, but on the other hand Windows 10's use of widget things - they call them apps nowadays - is less pointless than OS X's dashboard but on the other, other hand, on a desktop machine the apps are now essentially just ordinary Windows applications that run in a window like any other Windows applications, e.g. the calculator above, so what's the point of them?

There appears to be no way to make the new start menu wider. One of those entries is Microsoft Flight Simulator X with default settings or something - I don't remember - but which one? Right-clicking is unhelpful. And there seems to be no way to rename the tiles. They're shortcuts, and you can rename the shortcuts, but I just want to right-click and make the tile say Photoshop CS4 32-Bit without fiddling around with the shortcut and I can't.

I haven't tried to install it on my ThinkPad 600X - a 500mhz Pentium III with half a gigabyte of memory - but I'm not hopeful that it would work. Still, isn't it nice of Uncle Microsoft to give us a free new operating system out of the goodness of their hearts? You should be thankful. I've seen people on the internet mocking Windows 10. Don't listen to them! Their words are poison. And so are they. One day they will find themselves swirling around in a cesspool of their own making, and it will be all their fault because Uncle Microsoft will find them and fix them.

"Everybody now has the chance to choose the part which he will play in a film a hundred years hence. I can assure you that it will be a fine and elevating picture. And for the sake of this prospect it is worth standing fast. Hold out now, so that a hundred years hence the audience does not hoot and whistle when you appear on the screen."