Windows 10, coming July 29…what you need to know

edgenewtabWindows 10. Microsoft’s apology for Windows 8.  Currently in testing and ‘Insider Preview’ modes, the operating system from Redmond now has a date…and a price.  The date? July 29,2015. The price, err prices? $119 for Home and $199 for Pro for consumers who are purchasing the operating system for a system that does not have Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. If it has Windows 8, the user will need to update it to Windows 8.1 (a free upgrade) and THEN to Windows 10.  The $119 would be for people who:

  • built a computer
  • got a computer with no operating system
  • has a computer with Linux or Windows XP
  • An Intel Macintosh that does not have either Windows 8.1 or Windows 7
  • Wants to use it in a virtual machine

These same scenarios also work for PRO. 

You CAN upgrade your tablet or PC to Windows 10, in its first year of release, for free IF you are ALREADY running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 

Now that we cleared that up…

Here are some things you will LOSE IF you upgrade from Windows 7 and, in some cases, Windows 8.1:

  • Windows Media Center
  • Windows DVD Movie playback (third party applications are not affected, ONLY Microsoft applications, like Windows Media Player and XBox Video will lose the DVD playback. Gabe Aul of Microsoft says A Microsoft alternative ‘may’ arrive later.)
  • Windows 7 desktop gadgets
  • The ability to hold off updates for Windows Home users (pro and Enterprise will have full control)
  • The Windows LIve OneDrive application
  • Solitaire, Minesweeper and Hearts. These have been replaced by Windows Store versions. You will have to download them.

So, Which version will you get? Well if you have…

  • Windows 7 Starter, Windows 7 Home or Home Premium, you get Windows 10 Home. If you have Windows 7 Ultimate or Pro, you get Windows 10 Pro.
  • Windows 8.1, Windows 8.1 with Bing, you get Windows 10 Home. Windows 8.1 Pro and Pro for Students, get Windows 10 Pro.
  • Windows RT…sorry, you get a minor update to RT and that’s it.

How to get the upgrade…

Microsoft has an application that allows you to ‘reserve’ your copy of Windows 10.  You will do so via a dialog box that explains the benefits of the new OS and allows you to enter your email address.  Microsoft will send you an email when the OS becomes available (July 29) and will pre-download the install files for you.  How sweet of them, eh?

This is all great, but will my computer run the new OS?

Yes, if…

  • You are running or capable of running Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1
  • A 1 gigahertz or faster processor
  • At least 1 gigabyte of RAM (2 gigabytes for Windows 10 64bit)
  • At least 16 GB HDD Space for 32 bit, 20 GB HDD Space for 64 bit
  • Direct X 9 or higher and WDDM 1.0 graphics driver and video card
  • Graphics card capable of 1024 by 600 minimum

In addition, your configuration and location will have an affect on features that get installed:

  • Cortana is only available in the US, UK, China, France, Italy, Germany and Spain at the time of this writing
  • Windows Hello requires special hardware
  • Continuum is for tablets
  • Audio and Video streaming via XBOX Music and Video applications are only available in certain regions
  • Speech recognition will vary by hardware quality
  • Application snapping is resolution dependent
  • A Microsoft account is required for some functionality
  • Secure boot requires UEFI 2.3.1
  • Bitlocker requires TPM 1.2, 2.0 or a USB flash drive
  • Hyper V requires a 64 bit system and an extra 2 GB of RAM
  • Miracast requires a display adapter which supports WDDM 1.3 and a Wi-Fi adapter that supports Wi-Fi direct
  • and more. See Microsoft. com for a more complete list.

There you have it, important things to know about the forthcoming operating system.  I’ll show you some of the new features in upcoming posts.

Windows 10: Living with the Insider Previews

So, I’ve been on the Insider ‘Fast Track’ for a few months now. That means as soon as Microsoft releases a new build in the Insider Preview, I get it. Those on the ‘slow ring’ will get it when a new fast track build is released. 

edgenewtabGetting new builds this quickly is both a cool thing and a real point of pain. Some of the builds have been just awesome and other just awful.  Mostly, they are just…not ready.  For a product that is supposedly going to ‘RTM’ in July and be generally available a short time later, they sure have a lot of work left.

The latest build, 10130, while better, still has showstopper issues.  The START MENU/PAGE for one. This thing is such a turd.  The concept is cool, the execution, not so much.  If Microsoft is going to insist on the damned desktop still being there, they need to nail the start page and nail it tight. For example, when you click/press/swipe the start button, the page need to pop right up, no delay. And, it needs to be complete. So far, this seems to have eluded them and is a huge step back from both Windows 7 and 8.1.  I have four computers, two desktops, a laptop and a tablet, that have the same version of Windows 10. All of them have Start Menu/Page problems. 

newstartpage2All four of those devices also have rendering issues. After a time, things just disappear.  This is mostly  a problem with Windows Store apps, like Mail, Edge, Health and others. Tonight, though, it happened with Firefox, a desktop application. Other nagging things include Windows Store applications that do not resize well and the half baked hamburger menus. Now, I don’t have a problem with the widget itself, I don’t care what it looks like, but the content needs to be responsive and it is not.

So, what do I like? The concept. I like the notion of the combined Start Page and Menu.  I like the icons.  I like the typography. I like the boot speed.  Overall, I like Windows 10.  I realize these are incomplete builds, but some of the issues, like the Start menu/page, have been there since that first insider release. Surely, I am not the only one who has experienced this, so, why not fix it?

I am looking forward to the ‘final bits’. I will eagerly upgrade my machines. I just hope they get these things fixed.

Windows 8.1 upgrade process a mixed bag (for halfbyte)

win81startMicrosoft began pushing out Windows 8.1 today.  So, naturally,  I had to upgrade two of my Windows 8 machines (the third has a failed HDD.) On my development desktop, I started the install before having to leave for several hours. I *THOUGHT* it was just going to download and I’d have to do something when I got back.  No, it downloaded AND installed. I was gone about two and a half hours and, when I got back, it had just finished the primary upgrade and was in the process of downloading the Windows Store Apps. Note: my desktop apps were still there. The upgrade went well and the machine is working just fine. If FEELS snappier that it has, but it could be my imagination, not sure.

Upgrading the Asus VivoTab Smart, however, was not as easy.  My first three attempts all met a quick and painless death. The install would start the download, hang for a minute and then tell me it could not install.  After scratching my head for a moment, I remembered that the primary ‘drive’ only had about 4.5GB free. SO, I MOVED a bunch of stuff-8GB worth-off to the SD card. This included PICTURES and some video that I had not yet saved anywhere else (BACKUP, people! sigh.) Once I had enough space cleared, the download process appeared to work. After about 15 minutes or so, the little “installing update” message disappeared.  Nothing appeared to be happening, so I tried again. I was met with a quicker failure message, so I thought “well, maybe it is doing something.”  After another ten or so minutes, I finally got a screen wide message telling me that I would lose all of my files.  I knew this and tapped the OK button. Little did I know how true this would be.

Again, for quite a while, over a half hour, the tablet appeared to do nothing. Then another screen wide message instructs me that the machine has to reboot. I sighed and tapped OK.  Another ten or so minutes pass and I’m greeted with the EULA page. I tap ‘I Agree’ and go on.  Looking around, things appeared OK, until I tried to access the SD card. I was greeted with the nice little message telling the card was corrupt. I restart the tablet and try again. Same message. I put the card in another computer and, same thing. After several desparate and futile attempts to read it, I finally clicked the FORMAT button and formatted the card. 

I’ve lost I don’t know what. Fortunately, many, if not most, of the pictures were copied to one of my other computers, SkyDrive and/or Facebook. 

Once the tablet had completed all of the post install stuff, it is working fine. I got my battery indicator back (it disappeared in the preview release) and the tablet is running significantly faster. I do have some desktop apps to install, but I think I will leave most of the crap I had installed off of the device.

Overall, I am pleased with the upgrade (NOT about losing my data, though) and the performance increase is decent on the tablet. I’m not going into the details of whats new or changed here, that may be another post. Instead, you can head over to the VERGE and check them out.

Just remember, BEFORE you do the upgrade, BACKUP YOUR DATA. I thought I was good to go, but…alas, I was not. Don’t make my mistake!

Windows 8.1 Preview Released…what’s inside and other news from Build

Microsoft’s developer’s conference, Build, began with the keynote from Steve Ballmer. Ballmer began by talking about hardware, new phones and tablets (there will be an 8 inch form factor, beginning with Acer) but quickly got into Windows 8.1, which was released today in a preview build.

Among the changes, a more functional Start button that includes the ability to shut down the computer-something that was a complete surprise. Also in the build, the boot to desktop-another feature we didn’t think would make it into this build. 

There were tons of goodies either shown or talked about. They include a Windows 8 style Office release for 2014, Outlook for Windows RT that looks really, really nice. A new version of OneNote is also in the works.  XBOX Music is not only gaining a cloud version, but has been completely re written and includes RADIO, a free streaming service.  It, too, looks good. 

win81searchPerhaps the biggest surprise was from Bing. Bing is now the in-built Windows search engine. Not only that, but Microsoft has released a set of tools for developers that gives them very tight integration with Bing.  This, to me, is probably the biggest news yet, from Microsoft.

Another surprise was an announcement from Dell that they will be selling a Windows RT tablet, giving credence to the notion that Microsoft has not abandoned the struggling operating system.

Sprint is, finally, going to be carrying two Windows Phone 8 devices, one from HTC and the other from Samsung.

Two other announcements of note: Windows 8.1 includes built in support for 3D printers and high resolution, retina like, displays. 

If you want to read more in depth reviews, the Verge has a really nice write up and MIcrosoft’s preview site has a video the explains many of the changes. You can also download the preview here. (If you are already running Windows 8, the download is an update to the Store, which is where you actually download the preview.)

I’ll have more on the preview once it is installed on my tablet.

Need help using Windows 8? Confused? Don’t be

So, you have Windows 8. Now what? Confused? What do you do with those ‘tiles’?  What the hell are those for anyway?

wintilesTiles are replacements for the traditional icon that has been a staple of graphical user interfaces for 25 years.  Tiles not only show you what the application is, they can also be ‘live’ tiles and present information from the application.  Like current time and temp, what your favorite driver is doing, what’s going on in DC or the latest piece of email you received. Click on them to reveal the app and more.

Tiles are not the only new thing in Windows 8.  Some of the changes are with the traditional desktop, like the loss of the Start button or removal of the Aero theme that Microsoft pushed so hard with Vista and Windows 7.

There are also gestures for non-touch devices. For example, to close an RT app, move the mouse to the top of the screen, it will turn into a hand. Now, drag it down to the bottom and release the button. The app will close.

You can learn all of this and more by reading this blog AND going to Start Screen Tips to see videos on how to use the new start page and other useful bits.  Sam does a nice job explaining what you see in the video. I highly recommend this site.

Stay tuned here as well. I am compiling some useful information and will also review some of the RT apps that are in the app store.

Upgrading to Windows 8: easy, but time consuming

win8setup1Windows 8 has many new and innovative features. For Windows, one of those features is the ability to upgrade your previous Windows 7 to Windows 8 with all of your applications and files intact. I decided to test this feature on my primary desktop. Risky, I know, but I had a degree of confidence that Microsoft could pull this off. After all, if a fruity company could do so, they could too, right?

So, how did it turn out? So far, pretty well. However, the journey was not without some level of pain. Pain mostly in the amount of time it took.

I chose the download and install method, so as a first step, the upgrade advisor had to run. windows8install2Pretty much everything would work, save about five applications, which, interestingly enough, included Windows Security Essentials and parts of Windows Live Essentials.  There are, however, updates for Windows Live Essentials that will work. Security Essentials is built into the operating system.

It took the advisor about 45 minutes to complete. Once that completed and I reviewed the report, I purchased the upgrade and it downloaded. The download took, possibly, a half hour. I didn’t really time it, but I did get about three full Call of Duty matches in and they are about ten minutes in length.

Once downloaded, it presented me with the options for upgrading: upgrade with personal files and applications intact, personal files only or new install. I upgraded files and apps.  The process then started. It stayed on the same ‘preparing your files’ screen for an hour. I went to bed. Over night, it seemed to have done all of the copying, but was stuck on a confirmation page. After clicking OK the next morning, it took an additional three hours to complete the installation. Once it restarted after the install, I had to set it up.  That was fairly easy. I used my Live mail account and it synced (much to my delight) with my Windows 8 Release Candidate machine.

Post setup included downloading apps from the store and checking out the refreshed operating system.

So far, I’m liking…no, loving…what I see. 

The store has quite a few selections that are broken up by categories like Games, Social, News and so onWin8StartPage. Most of the apps appear to be free or very low cost.  And, so far, look terrific.  These apps are, however, just begging for a touch screen. I find using the mouse pretty easy, but still want to reach out with my finger and interact with my apps.

The Windows RT style is just nice to look at. I love the fluidity of them and the overall clean appearance.  They are, dare I say, gorgeous.  They are, however, not as feature rich as they could be, but I suspect this will change as developers get a handle on the new operating system and its UI.

The performance is outstanding.  Boot times are incredibly fast, even on the old clunker that is my desktop machine. Moving from app to app is quick and smooth.  This is a worthwhile upgrade if for nothing else than the improvement in performance.

If you are on the fence, I would advise going to a Best Buy or somewhere similar and just playing with a Windows 8 machine. You will be surprised at how easy and nice to use the OS is and you can see how much the performance has improved.

While I am not yet convinced it is the best version of Windows ever, it certainly ranks up there with Windows 95 and Windows 7.

The upgrade is $39.95 through January. If you purchase the download, you have the option for a DVD for an additional $14.95. This is still cheaper than the $69.95 package being offered at retail or mail order.

More Windows 8…

If you want to install Windows 8 yourself, here are some useful links to get you started:

Download the ISO file

Installing from a USB Stick (Redmond PIE)e

Dual boot with Vista or Windows 7

Restore the Start Menu (It is really just a registry setting, but this little app hides it with a button.)

What’s missing…

Because this is just the developer preview, I would not get too excited or disappointed by what appears to be missing. Having said that, here’s short list of some things that appear to be missing:

  • task switching – while you can swipe from left to right to cycle through Metro apps, there does not appear to be an easy way to close them or shut them down nor to switch from Metro to non-Metro apps
  • customizing the start screen – it appears that you cannot change the color scheme. I’m sure this is just for the developer preview.
  • no easy way to find apps not on the start screen- you have to go to the desktop and perform a search from Explorer. You can, however, pin apps to the task bar or the start screen
  • integration with Windows Live – it’s there, but does not seem to be fully baked yet
  • no ‘nice’ transition from ‘classic’ to metro windows-because metro looks so nice, when you transition to or from a classic app, the transition is jarring. I don’t see an easy way around this either.

I will follow up as I get more time with time with the operating system.