Saturday, November 28, 2015

Beware the Free

As a boy, I enjoyed puzzles. The process of taking something apart and putting it back together was great fun, and nourished my still-developing brain.

Puzzles also encouraged deductive reasoning. Developing a way to sort through hundreds of pieces and plan the puzzle's reconstruction. Finding the road to make order out of chaos.

But as an adult? I hate them.

OK. Let me clarify. I hate puzzles when they're not labeled as such. Windows 10 makes a great example.

First off, I don't have a touch screen computer. I don't even have a touch screen phone, which, judging from the horrified reactions it generates in my fellow human beings, is probably something I should apologize in public for.

This guaranteed I would be mystified by Windows 8.1.

Swiping with a corded mouse ranks just below my ability to lip read on the hopelessness scale. Instead of yielding effortless navigation, it produces violent mouse-shaking and unmuted profanity.

Adding to its impenetrability is the fact that when I bought a new computer, I thoughtlessly denied the industry an opportunity to sell me a new monitor, since the old one worked just fine.

So the aspect ratio Microsoft anticipates in its consumers is lacking, leaving me with sawed-off images that are equally frustrating, especially when x-ing out becomes a blind game of pin the cursor on the icon.

The heart of eight's failure is that its smart phone-inspired navigation is designed for people who mostly aren't using computers. It is designed for people who use smart phones and tablets. It doesn't transfer to a PC.

I feel as if I have been found guilty in the court of consumerism for failing to keep up with the latest and greatest technology.

Sentencing is set at Windows 10.

It's a measure of Microsoft's desperation to bury Windows 8.1 that Windows 10 was rush released and offered as a free download.

It is a measure of my desperation that I bit.

Windows 10 couldn't be worse than 8.1, could it?

The good news is that Windows 10 doesn't require users to swipe. The bad news is that significant portions of it frequently don't work.

In my estimation, e-mail is a basic and fundamental component of a personal computer. A company like Microsoft should have it down cold—but they don't. It is the IT equivalent of a car-marker struggling to produce a reliable cupholder.

Outlook comes and goes, syncs and un-syncs. Messages disappear and re-appear (even the deleted ones). Eventually the envelope icon at the base of the screen vanished altogether, leaving me scrambling to access my e-mail.

If e-mail is a struggle, you can imagine what happens to something like Cortana, a multi-lingual interactive personal assistant also available on X-box, Android and iOS.

Nothing brightens my day like the dozen or so times I have received this message: CRITICAL ERROR Start Menu and CORTANA aren't working. We'll try to fix it the next time you log on. SIGN OUT NOW.

While I appreciate Microsoft trying, the message doesn't inspire a great deal of confidence. You'll try to have it fixed? Because I need it now. Which is kind of why I attempted to log on in the first place.

Cortana can spend the rest of the year in Ibiza for all I care, but I confess to being rather fond of my start menu. Computing is really tough without it.

(I did finally locate a fix, which was to repeatedly strike the F8 key. To date, neither the message nor the problem has reappeared.)

Feel like a movie? Flip a coin and pray that Windows 10 isn't having artistic differences with Power DVD. I'll never forget the night I spent half an hour fighting to hear the poignant dialog and Quincy Jones' score to The Pawnbroker.

I'm trying to remember how many times I struggled to watch (and hear) a DVD with Windows XP, but I can't. Which is mostly because it never happened.

Then there's the disabled news function, the disabled maps function, the disabled photo function and, for a time, the inexplicable disabling of Windows Media Player. Not to mention the creeping sense that anything could go at any time.

It doesn't lead one to believe that one's computer is especially reliable.

I could always remove Windows 10. But yanking out the second floor of the John Hancock Building would be easier. The removal of Windows 10 guts your computer, leaving you to reinstall several vital components yourself.

This succinctly answers the question how much time can I devote to fixing/repairing/maintaining my complimentary upgrade?

A long time ago, I was told that we get what we pay for. And lest we forget, Windows 10 is free.

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