New primary computer – Windows 10


Tiles – big and small

Well, it’s been almost a year since I ordered a new “main Windows box” – the primary computer I use at home for photo processing and such (I use my Linux server for backups and other CRON-type tasks).

I knew it was going to take some time to set up, because I use this main Windows box very differently than most people use their computer.

Most folks just have Microsoft Office installed on their new computer, and just use a thumb drive to move the items in the Documents directory to the new computer. Maybe add an anti-virus product (if not already in place), maybe install iTunes and they are good to go.

My box is a little different:

  • I partition my hard drive to make things a little easier to organize – web backups, backups from other sources, image “drives.”
  • I install an FTP server (Filezilla) for local uses. Have to install, set up users, make sure ports are configured correctly for uploads and downloads (and only for local access).
  • One partition has a directory that is backups of the more vital info I have on my Linux server (which does a lot of heavy lifting). For example, I have a directory of scripts that I run as CRON jobs at various intervals. Don’t want to risk losing those (the scripts) if a hard drive fails or whatever, so each night I tar/gzip that directory up and FTP to the Windows machine. I keep a rolling backup of items like this; different backups are kept longer than other (between a week’s and a month’s worth of backups).
  • I also do some Windoze=>Linux backups via CRON/batch files. Test this, fix this, verify this. Yeah, it takes time.
  • While I process my photos on the box – not that unusual – I do use Picasa (sadly abandoned by Google in 2016), Photoshop & Lightroom. And I have about 35G of photos on the box. So it’s a little different. Also, “processing photos” is kind of a lost art – people are now just snapping with their phones and uploading to Instagram/Facebook/whatever’s hot today…
  • Moving Picasa was especially challenging: Had to find a good install (clean, no adware/malware etc.) for a program not supported since 2016, move files AND maintain metadata properly. I had done this once before (years ago), and while it worked out (then and now), it was still a painful procedure.
  • I also needed to install (and configure) some decidedly, for the average user, non-standard programs: Putty, a FTP client (again, Filezilla, but the client), Thunderbird (for non-cloud email accounts) and so on.
  • And since I have a LAN in my office, have to find (pain in the ass) and update the host file.

So it did take a lot of time and work to get the box – Dell Precision, 64G RAM, 2TB hard drive with separate 256G SSD for the OS (fast boots!) – “switched over” from the old one (also a Dell Precision).

One note – this is my first Win10 box I’ve ever used (much less set up).

My thoughts on Win10:

  • It’s Windows – so, ultimately relatable to users of earlier versions, with many of the same flaws and strengths of older versions.
  • That said, it’s the best version of Windows I’ve used (and I go back to Windows 3.11).
  • There are some new irritations in this latest version of Windows: Having to set up a MS account to start the set-up; the way the common stuff is “hidden” and you have to use Cortana to find stuff (more on Cortana below); the fact that you have to Google like crazy to find out how to shut off the MS account login on reboot.
  • Cortana – the computer-wide (and beyond) search – works very well. I don’t have that much stuff on this box yet, so it’s hard to say how the indexing holds up – but, first impressions are a thumbs-up.
  • Tiles – brilliant. Busts open a different way to view “start menu” and/or pinned tabs. Yes!
  • Live tiles: This was the only reason I was sad that the MS phone died (well, that and reduces competition, never good for consumers) – the different interface was intriguing – and made sense (“live tiles” show up-to-the moment info – weather, who called etc.). I liked it on the MS phone (the couple of times I handled one), and I like it on Windows 10.
  • Drivers were a hugh problem, especially for my Canon flatbed scanner (purchased and used on Win7 box). It got so bad that I thought, what the hell, buy a new scanner…but I could not find a scanner that was for Win10, only Win8/Win8.1. WTF? I’m sure they’d have worked with Win10, but, again, WTF? As always, Google (and Canon’s site) saved me. Install this, then this, then this, then nuke second “this” and so on. Works now, but needed the secret handshake/decoder ring. And I’m a dork – imagine the non-dorks. (NOTE: I did an Amazon search just now for “flatbed scanner Windows 10” and all results did [that I viewed] NOT have Win10 as a supported [or mentioned] OS. Window 8.x and Mac 10.x but no explicit Windows 10 support – an OS released 7/2015. Weird.)
  • Bottom line: for the vast majority of users, Windows 10 is Windows with a very small learning curve. Don’t upgrade on a weak RAM machine (Win10 is beefier than earlier versions), but – beyond that: Embrace the change. Best Windows yet.

Update 3/9/2018: The new Dell box that I have has “whatever*shrug*” one weirdness: The optical drive is like one that one sees on laptops – the half-tray. Seriously, I paid for a (powerful) desktop, and I gots this weenie drive. Yes, the “burned disk” is going away, but still….