WINDOWS 10 FLOURISHES LIKE A BEAUTY!

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This is my third post on Microsoft newest OS in the market, Windows 10. In the previous two articles, I had introduced the new OS to the people worldwide, by telling its functions and features, how will it work on desktops and tablets, its usefulness and its versatility in the dropping desktop market and so on. Microsoft had described earlier that Windows 10 would be the ‘most comprehensive platform ever’, by unifying the entire ecosystem of Windows 10 products into a single product. Quite a bold decision, Microsoft has made!

Well, it seems that the Redmond giant has kept up its words, in order to win back the trust of the consumers, that it had lost virtually for the last three years, after the much criticised Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 versions were released in 2012 and 2014 respectively. After the success of Windows 7 and Windows XP, Microsoft had vowed that it would create a user and a traditional mouse and keyboard friendly OS, in order to match the comfort and the familiar use and interface of both the operating systems to a great extent. Also, it had skipped a version drastically, by not naming it ‘Windows 9’ and thereby, giving the name Windows 10, which was earlier called ‘Threshold’ during its development process.

And so, Windows 10 was born! Introduced for the first time at a Microsoft event in October 2014, the entire OS has been made, with the help of suggestions and feedbacks of the enthusiasts and the general public, through a platform, known as the ‘Windows Insider Preview’. Windows 10 underwent a significant change, in terms of the features and interface and thus, on July 29, 2015, the OS was made available worldwide for general use. One most important announcement prior to its release, was that, for the first time in the company’s history, it had made the new OS, a free upgrade for an year for those, who had Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 running on their machines.

I previously had Windows 7 Ultimate running on my laptop, and took advantage of the offer. I successfully reserved the new OS copy, downloaded it and successfully upgraded to Windows 10 Professional last month directly, without any glitches and interruptions. I must say, that Microsoft has done a brilliant job and has successfully revived its fortunes. It works flawlessly, is quicker in processing requests and has a very handsome and sleek interface. Below, is a screenshot of my computer running Windows 10, just to give an idea to those, who does not know how the new OS looks like. Now, I am going to write a small review, carefully describing Windows 10 overall.

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So, almost two months after its launch, how have the experts and users responded to the much-hyped Windows 10 operating system from Microsoft? For the large part, the reviews and tests have given it the thumbs up. I do agree with all reviews I read on the Internet earlier and for me, it is a big yes on my side and highly recommend to all my near and dear ones to check out Windows 10. The OS had reached the RTM (Release-To-Manufacturing) stage on July 15, 2015, but the company has never confirmed it.

However, a day later, Microsoft rolled out build version 10240 to Windows Insiders, giving testers the final chance to try out, what was supposed to be the final version of the OS before its public launch. One of the signs that the version had was the removal of the watermark from the desktop, with Microsoft confirming that only app updates and small improvements would be shipped before the launch. In the final saga, Microsoft rolled out a total of 15 preview builds of Windows 10, each coming with new features, apps and improvements that are or are not available in that stable build.

If you are upgrading from Windows 7, the first thing you will notice is the significantly faster boot up. Also it is quicker to go in and out of standby. Physical memory reserved by processes is also less compared to Windows 7. For those upgrading from Windows 8, you will not notice such sizeable gains in performance, but will find the new operating system snappier in general use. Also, the Windows 10 Pro version includes Secure Boot, which only allows apps signed by Microsoft or the hardware manufacturer to run during boot-up. Apart from secure app management, Windows 10 Pro also provides device management via Device Guard, along with Microsoft Passport and Windows Hello.

The Start menu is finally back in Windows 10 with modern features. The traditional design available in Windows 7 was improved with live tiles borrowed from the Windows 8 Start screen, but also with new context menus, icons and fonts for a fresh look. Microsoft uses the Start menu to promote Windows 10 all over the world, indirectly confirming that removing it in the Windows 8 series was a huge mistake. Some people now refer to the new OS as the ‘new Windows 7 in town’.

The Start menu is extremely easy to use, and those who do not like it, can always turn to the Start screen. A small option included in Windows 10, allows you to expand the Start menu in a fully working Start screen, just like in Windows 8. But again with modern tweaks that makes it look, work and feel better. There are plenty of customization options and visual tweaks available for the Start menu, as well as new effects when opening and closing it. Colours, transparency, and effects can all be customized and enabled or disabled, based on the user’s choice.

The introduction of virtual desktops, similar to workspaces in Linux or Mac, allowing better Windows management and task switching for the limited available screen real estate, is certainly a major lure to upgrade to Windows 10. It was one of the most requested features by users’, which was used in previous Windows versions. It can be easily accessed from the taskbar with just a single click, but keyboard shortcuts to jump from one desktop to another are also being offered. Microsoft describes this feature as an improved Alt + Tab app switcher, but it is a lot more than that. You can organize desktops depending on the type of apps you launch.

In the era of hands free interaction with technology, Windows 10 comes with Cortana, an intelligent personal assistant originally introduced in Windows Phone 8.1. Cortana can be used to search your PC for files and apps, as well as for Web searches. Being a personal assistant Cortana can monitor your calendar to provide alerts for scheduled meetings. Also upon integration with Microsoft’s PowerBI, it can provide business intelligence. Cortana can be easily launched from the dedicated icon or search box in the taskbar, but if “Hey Cortana” is turned on, you can simply call her by name.

Another feature that is borrowed from Windows Phone is the Action Center, which groups all notifications, alerts, and messages in one place. You can thus manage them much more easily than before, with Microsoft planning a number of other features, including quick reply for messages and other actions that can be performed on notifications. This feature comes with the same transparency effect as the rest of the operating system and matches the system colour, so it perfectly blends with the desktop. Touch support is also offered in case you use Windows 10 on a tablet, but you can also clear notifications, either all at a time or one by one, with a mouse. Also, you will be able to access missed notifications, unlike in Windows 8.1. It is also a clear advancement over Windows 7’s system tray notifications.

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Windows Hello is one of the new features added to Windows 10. Its main function is to take biometrics authentication to the next level by adding support for new security systems, letting you log into the operating system with your face or even your iris. For this feature, additional hardware is required, so you will not be able to use it on your current computer unless you buy a third-party accessory that lets you do that. Otherwise, new PCs coming with the needed hardware are the best choice, and Microsoft says that this is one of the reasons you should purchase a new computer. Windows Hello brings better protection for your Windows version, so if you want to make sure that no one else besides you accesses your data, this is the best addition to Windows 10.

Windows 10 comes with Continuum, a feature that is specifically designed for touch-capable devices. Instead of forcing users to switch to the Modern UI, which was introduced in Windows 8, Continuum makes the whole desktop and apps compatible with the touch, thus offering almost the same experience as with a mouse and keyboard. Continuum is specifically aimed at 2-in-1 devices. It is automatically turned on when you remove the keyboard. Tablet mode can obviously be disabled, so if you want to stick to the desktop, you can do that for as long as you want. There are also a few options to tweak Continuum, but the feature should do its job with the default configuration.

Windows 10 lets you find software you need through Windows Store similar to Windows 8, but the difference being that now you can run apps either windowed or on full screen. These Universal apps have user interfaces that adapt according to the screen layout, as well as user controls for instance user interaction via touch or mouse. One of the primary reasons behind Windows 10 being a free upgrade and the introduction of universal apps, that will operate on a common core that works across all platforms (from PCs and tablets to Windows Phones, Xbox and the Internet of things) is to entice developers like us. Microsoft offering Windows 10 for free equates to more people upgrading. Hence, developers will be able to work much faster and create better applications, leading to a healthier Windows Store and increased revenue through apps sales.

Both the Mail and the Calendar apps have been redesigned in Windows 10, with Microsoft making them universal apps to work across all devices. There is a completely new look for both of them, which seems to be inspired by the Outlook mail client that is already available on Android and iOS. They both look cleaner and are easier to use with a mouse and keyboard and with touch, and Microsoft promises that no third-party app would be needed to handle your email or appointments. Also, their notifications are now integrated into the system and can be viewed directly even from the Action Center.

Another app borrowed from Windows Phone is Alarms & Clock, which does exactly what its name suggests. You can set up alarms, configure multiple clocks, use a timer or a stopwatch, all right in Windows 10. This app is preinstalled on all versions of Windows 10, so it comes with the operating system from the very beginning. This is quite the easiest way to set up an alarm, but there are plenty of other apps in the store doing exactly the same thing.

The music app in Windows 10 is now called Groove Music and comes with the same feature lineup, but with some improvements, including a new UI, that is supposed to mimic the one on phones and make everything more eye candy. The same goes for the Movies & TV app, which is mostly supposed to help you manage the content you purchase from the store. All these apps are meant to help make Windows 10 a bit more enjoyable when it comes to entertainment.

Microsoft Edge has now replaced Internet Explorer in Windows 10, for the first time in 20 years as the default browser and comes not only with a new engine but also with plenty of new features and a redesigned UI. There will also be an extension support for Edge, that will debut later this year. It is also blazing fast thanks to the engine bearing the same name, and Microsoft says that all of these will be improved in the coming updates. A dark theme is also offered to match the new Windows 10 look. The browser comes with an interface that looks fresh and modern and also incorporates Cortana, letting you perform a number of tasks without touching the mouse or keyboard. Edge is supposed to make collaboration easier, so you can annotate pages and share notes with your friends straight from the browser, without the need for any additional tool.

Windows 10 provides heavier integration with the Xbox ecosystem: an updated Xbox app allows users to browse their game library (including both PC and Xbox console games), and Game DVR is also available using a keyboard shortcut, allowing users to save the last 30 seconds of gameplay as a video that can be shared to Xbox Live, OneDrive, or elsewhere. Windows 10 also allows users to control and play games from an Xbox One console over a local network. The Xbox Live SDK allows application developers to incorporate Xbox Live functionality into their apps, and future wireless Xbox One accessories, such as controllers, are supported on Windows with an adapter. Now, popular games like Candy Crush Saga and Microsoft Solitaire Collection are also bundled with Windows 10.

Windows 10 now includes DirectX 12, alongside WDDM 2.0. The all new DirectX 12 aims to provide “console-level efficiency” with good access to hardware resources, and reduced CPU and graphics driver overhead. Most of the performance improvements are achieved through low-level programming, which allow developers to use resources more efficiently and reduce single-threaded CPU bottlenecking caused by abstraction through higher level APIs. DirectX 12 will also feature support for vendor agnostic multi-GPU setups. WDDM 2.0 introduces a new virtual memory management and allocation system to reduce workload on the kernel-mode driver. Windows 10 adds FLAC and HEVC codecs and support for the Matroska media container, allowing these formats to be opened in Windows Media Player and other applications.

Microsoft Family Safety has been replaced by Microsoft Family, a parental control system that applies across Windows platforms and Microsoft online services. Users can create a designated “family”, and monitor and restrict the actions of users designated as children, such as access to websites, enforcing age ratings on Windows Store purchases, and other restrictions. The service can also send weekly e-mail reports to parents detailing a child’s computer usage. Unlike previous versions of Windows, child accounts in a family must be associated with a Microsoft account, which allows these settings to apply across all Windows 10 devices that a particular child is using.

Windows 10 also offers a Wi-Fi Sense feature originating from Windows Phone 8.1. Here, users can optionally have their device automatically connect to suggested open hotspots, and share their home network’s password with contacts (either via Skype, People or Facebook), so that they may automatically connect to the network on a Windows 10 device without needing to manually enter its password. Credentials are stored in an encrypted form on Microsoft servers, and sent to the devices of the selected contacts. Passwords are not viewable by the guest user, and the guest user is not allowed to access other computers or devices on the network.

To reduce the storage footprint of the operating system, Windows 10 automatically compresses system files. The system can reduce the storage footprint of Windows by approximately 1.5 GB for 32-bit systems and 2.6 GB for 64-bit systems. The level of compression used is dependent on a performance assessment performed during installations or by OEMs, which tests how much compression can be used without harming operating system performance.

Furthermore, the Refresh and Reset functions use runtime system files instead, making a separate recovery partition redundant, allowing patches and updates to remain installed following the operation, and further reducing the amount of space required for Windows 10 by up to 12 GB. It also includes a function in its Settings app that allows users to view a breakdown of how their device’s storage capacity is being used by different types of files, and determine whether certain types of files are saved to internal storage or an SD card by default.

At the same time, Windows 10 has new context menus across the operating system for a more modern feel, so for instance, you can right-click any taskbar icon to see them. And speaking of new icons, Windows 10 also boasts a new icon pack that looks more modern, sleek and fresh. There are also new effects for opening, minimizing, maximizing and closing apps, but also a thicker border for all windows, which makes it look even flatter.

Windows 10 is available in four main editions, of which the Home and Pro versions are sold at retail in most countries, and as pre-loaded software on new computers. Home is aimed at home users, while Pro is aimed at small businesses and enthusiasts. Each edition of Windows 10 includes all of the capabilities and features of the edition below it, and add additional features oriented towards their market segments and the ability to join a domain. The remaining editions, Enterprise and Education, contain additional features aimed towards business environments, and are only available through volume licensing.

With all these exciting new and improved features, Windows 10 also removes some features, that were prevalent in the previous Windows versions. Windows Media Center has been discontinued, and is uninstalled when upgrading from a previous version of Windows. Those who performed upgrades using a Windows installation that included Media Center, receive the universal app Windows DVD Player at no charge, to maintain DVD playback functionality.

Users are no longer able to synchronize Start menu layouts across all devices associated with a Microsoft account. A Microsoft developer justified the change by explaining that a user may have different applications they want to emphasize on each device that they use, rather than use the same configuration across each device. The ability to automatically install a Windows Store app across all devices associated with an account was also removed. The MSN Food & Drink, MSN Health & Fitness, and MSN Travel apps have been discontinued.

The option to select various methods for downloading Windows Updates or ignoring them completely has been removed. Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise users, if configured by the administrator, may defer updates, but only for a limited time. Users consent to the automatic installation of all updates, features and drivers provided by the service, and to the automatic removal or changes to features being modified or no longer provided, under the end-user license agreement.

Windows 10 is serviced in a significantly different manner, as from the previous releases of Windows. Its delivery is often described by Microsoft as a “Service”, due to its ongoing updates, with Terry Myerson explaining that Microsoft’s aim is that “the question ‘what version of Windows are you running’ will cease to make sense.” Users can only choose whether their system will reboot automatically to install updates when the system is inactive, or be notified to schedule a reboot.

Windows Update also uses a peer to peer system for distributing updates; by default, users’ bandwidth is used to distribute previously downloaded updates to other users, in combination with Microsoft servers. Users can instead choose to only use peer-to-peer updates within their local area network. This is the best way for keeping a computer updated everytime, even if users does not want to update. However, this move has been criticised by some, citing that people having a slower internet connection, along with a lower bandwidth and limited data cap, saying that the data was being wasted unnecessarily.

For those users, who are not eligible for the upgrade or running a pirated Windows copy, be ready to shell out $119.99 for the Home version, whereas the Pro version costs $199.99. For those in India, it costs Rs 7999 for the Home version and Rs 14,999 for the Pro version. The Windows 10 OS can be purchased from the Microsoft’s official online store. In addition to downloads and DVDs, you can also get Windows 10 on a USB stick. Pricing is exactly the same as above. Windows 10 is currently running on more than 80 million devices, as reported by Microsoft in August 29, 2015, a month after the new OS was officially launched. Also, Windows 10 captured the fourth position (5.21%), behind Windows 8.1 (11.15%), Windows XP (12.75%) and Windows 7 (57.70%), according to NetMarketShare in September 2015.

Windows 10 is definitely a step forward for Microsoft, and there’s no doubt that the Windows Insider program, which allowed the company to build the operating system together with its users, was the best decision the new CEO and the Windows team have recently made. As the Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says – “We want people to love Windows a lot”. The Windows Insider Program will continue even after the official launch of Windows 10, and the first update is supposed to arrive later this year, most likely in October or November, again with improvements based on the suggestions of testers.

Windows 8 performed well below expectations and its successor Windows 8.1 made almost no difference, while Windows Phone was still losing users until the debut of the Insider Program. In other words, without a new product, Microsoft kept losing ground, so bringing Windows 10 to the market as soon as possible was critical. There are many more things to do in Windows 10, but Microsoft promises to to tackle this in the coming updates, as work on the new OS still continues. Finally, I end my long article with Myerson making a statement – “Windows 10 will never be done. ‘Windows as a Service’ is alive and kicking.”

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