Return to Windows

There’s a Windows machine back in my house. That’s right, after 14 years of Mac OS, I’ve shifted my OS back to Windows…on my primary computer!

Windows? WTF?

So, Mac OSX is still a superior operating system. But the gap between Windows and OSX has shrunk considerably with the launch of Windows 10, but that’s hardly a good reason to leave behind the most simple, well-designed and usable OS out there.

But Apple is steadily closing the noose on what computer users can do with their machines and this has really rubbed me the wrong way.

Besides, I had a dream. A dream to build a dream machine, that is. I wanted to build my own ‘Adobe Machine’ for home use and also be able to swap out hardware over time. In Apple’s ultra-controlled ecosystem, building such a device would be very, very costly and also fail to really expand over time. And for very practical reasons, relying on a finicky Hacitosh was out of the picture.

So, fed up with the self-imposed limitations of Mac, I went back to Windows…and this is my experience.

First Impressions

desktopSo, the design of Windows 10 is actually quite pleasant. The modern ‘Metro’ UI is very pleasant (I only wish it was applied uniformly across the OS–more on that later).

The Start (menu) is actually a great way to tuck all of your most important apps out of sight. And I love that it’s flexible, allowing you to organize apps and folders however you want. There are even ways to label and group apps however you wish. The librarian in me sings with these kind of organizational features.

I’ve found that I actually use the Start Menu as a replacement for not only my Desktop but also the Task Bar, which I only keep visible so I have the clock visible.

Maybe it’s the OSXer in me, but there are parts of Windows 10 that feel like redundant re-thinks of more familiar features. For example, the Action Center has quick access icons for things like VPN and creating Notes, all of which, one would expect would be handled by the Start Menu. There’s also the little arrow-thingy on the task bar where certain background apps live. Why?

An Unfinished OS?

As I began customizing and exploring Windows 10, I began to realize that Microsoft must have pushed Windows 10 out the door before the pain was dry. There are odd discontinuities you the pleasantly designed Metro aesthetic ends and you’re suddenly thrown into some god-awful old-school Windows environment. This happens in the Settings panel often, for example, once you get a couple levels down.

Uh, guys, the Metro thing really works. Did you not have time to reskin the old Windows 7/XP UI sections? Please do this soon. It’s like you drove up in a super sweet ride, with designer shades on your face and then you get out of the car and you’re not wearing pants! Actually, you’re wearing tighty-whities.

Also, what’s up with the VPN workflow? As it currently works, it takes no less than four clicks to connect to my VPN. This should be one or two clicks, really. Please fix.

There’s a very nice dark theme, but, alas, it only applies to certain top-level sections of the OS. The File Explorer (a heavily used part of the UI), actually does not inherit the dark theme. There are hacks out there, but seriously, this should be as universal as setting your color scheme.

Can’t wait for Windows 10 to get all grow’d up.

Privacy

I’m going to write an entire blog on this, but Privacy is the biggest issue with this OS. Readers of my blog will know my personal feelings on this issue run strong. So I spent considerable time fighting Microsoft’s defaults, configuring privacy settings, messing with the registry (really?) and even doing a few hacks to lock this computer down.

Microsoft is really doing a number on its users. Windows 10 users are handing over unconscionable amounts of personal information over to Microsoft’s servers, their advertising partners and, if this info ever gets hacked (won’t happen, right?), to whoever wants to do a number on Windows 10 users.

Anyway, needless to say, I had to forgo using Cortana, which is sad because I’m very interested in these kinds of proto-AI tools. But as long as their phoning home, I just unplug them. Did the same to all the “Modern Apps” like Maps, News, etc.

Bottom Line

Breaking up with OSX was actually not as painful as I had expected. And I’m really enjoying Windows 10, save for a few frustration points as outlined above. Overall, it’s well worth the trade offs.

And my Dream Machine, which I christened Sith Lord (because it’s a big, dark beast), is running Adobe CC, rendering at light speed and could probably do the Kessel Run in less than 12 Parsecs.

Back to Firefox – Update on Sync

This goes out to all you paraoid netizens out there, and if you’re not one, you should be…

As a follow-up to my last post on moving off Chrome and back to Firefox for privacy and security reasons, I wanted to document that I gave Firefox Sync a closer look.

Mozilla, the folks that develop Firefox, has a very detailed information page on Firefox Sync, but to sum up, this feature allows one to share add-ons, bookmarks, passwords, preferences, history and tabs across all your computers and other devices.

Firefox Sync PreferencesDouble-plus-good: you can decide what to sync and what not to. Because I’m trying to be extra careful with my data, I opted for syncing only my add-ons, bookmarks and preferences. One important note on syncing add-ons, this will install your add-ons across your devices, but not necessarily configure them, so you might have to do that part manually.

If you opt to sync your history, it will do so up to 60 days.

Reading over the security details of Firefox Sync, it seems like you’re in pretty good hands since sync uses an encryption key. I consider passwords and history going beyond my tolerance threshold, but these are likely pretty secure for most folks. My rule is to assume that hackers access my sync data: What can I live with leaking out to the public?

Add-ons? okay
Bookmarks? I guess so.
History? Not really
Passwords? Are you kidding?

When I set up sync, I also added Firefox as my default phone browser which I find no problems with yet and it’s nice to know that I’m surfing as privately on Android as on OSX.