First experiences with Windows after 6 years of Mac

tl; dr: I’ve rarely had problems with Mac, but have multiple disappointments with Windows, and it’s software and hardware partner products.

I still have a Mac and sometimes work on Linux environments.  On these systems I have never had a catastrophic failure, or only occasionally (less than 10 times in 6 years) had the equivalent of the Windows blue screen of death.

I thought I’d try out Windows 10 on a 1 year old Asus to see what I’m missing.  I’m missing quite a lot of turns out… mainly the intense frustration and increased risk of heart attack that Windows brings.  Instead of having an empty rant (I forget easily) I thought I’d write down my first 5 minutes of experiences.

T minus 1 second;  Power supply:  Neutral:  The power cord is frayed after a year of use or abuse, I’m not sure which.  After a year, my mac power cord was also distorted and the plastic sheath had frayed.  Score: Mac is -1 to Windows/Asus of -1

T 0; launch:  Negative:  I received a functioning fully charged laptop.  As with Mac I closed the lid after I was done with it.  Unlike Mac it managed to drain it’s battery flat within 48 hours of sleeping… Mac: 0 Windows: -2

T +1; launch recovery:  Negative:  Unlike Mac which will retain enough power to display a message saying there’s not enough power to turn on, the Asus/Windows just stared blankly back at me as I politely pressed the power button and waited and repeated and waited.  Mac: +1 Windows: -3

T +2; startup:  Positive:  Power cord in, power button pressed, the machine quickly comes to life, no more 5 minutes of boot time, finally!  Not quite as fast as Mac but reasonable speed so +1 to both.  Mac: +2 Windows: -2

T +3; login:  Negative:  The login screen flashes up with my user name and box for password.  Then is hidden by a cover screen.  Why?  Why would you make some one hunt for the “login button” then not focus the password box.  Mac: +3 Windows: -3

T +4; entry and apps:  Positive:  The previous apps I was using are loaded and waiting.  Mac: +4 Windows -2

T +5; pointless message:  Negative:  An offensively large modal box is plastered over the top of everything saying: “Your battery is low, please plug in your computer”.  … 300 pixels down and to the right there’s a power charging battery symbol… it’s already plugged in.  Who ever is in charge of Window UI/UX needs to be fired.  Now.  Mac: +5 Windows -3

T +6; Edge – search:  Positive:  We now stray away from Mac vs Windows to “other options” vs Microsoft.  In this case Chrome vs Edge, Google vs Bing, etc.  There’s a search box front and centre that takes me to Bing.  Bing’s not bad vs Google which is provided on Chrome by default.  Other +1 Microsoft +1

T +7; Edge – bookmarks:  Negative:  I wanted to bookmark a Google spreadsheet.  I click the bookmark icon, in the background the sheet finished loading and Edge let it steal focus from the bookmark name box.  I’ll need to check but I doubt this is the same behaviour on Chrome.  Other +2 Microsoft 0

T +8; Edge bookmarks part 2:  Negative:  I have a lot of bookmarks so I save space by not giving them a name and instead remember their position… Edge doesn’t allow you to have a bookmark without a name.  No one knows why.  Other +3 Microsoft -1

T +9; Edge spelling:  Negative:  Type google, microsoft, chrome, bing and it only highlights Microsoft and Bing as “errors” even though bing is a legitimate word in it’s own right.  Other +4 Microsoft -2

microsoft errors

That’s five minutes in.  Not a good start.  Microsoft/Windows: -5 Mac/Google/Other: +9   Granted some of these points may have work arounds.  Some of these are just “the windows/Microsoft way”.  When I first started developing on Mac I was shocked how large and painful XCode was to use to develop software with… though we haven’t got to that yet with Microsoft I’m expecting it to be a lot smoother with more powerful tooling for software engineering.

A brand new machine

*update 1* 2018 A brand new machine dies

I had to buy a new hp windows machine.  It’s running windows 10.  I took it home and switched it on.

Negative: The first thing it showed me was a error message about corrupted bios and that it was going to try to restart to repair it.  Wow.  That is pathetic.  It’s so bad it’s impressive.  I can’t reproduce the error message for you because in classic style the error was only shown for a brief time before it moved on.

Once the machine was working…

Edge crashes, reproducibly.  I have a window with 5 tabs.  I want to open another window for my second monitor.  Clicking to create a new tab then dragging off to form a new window works as expected.  Clicking back to the first window crashes edge.  Other +5 Microsoft -3

*update 2* Does Microsoft employ anyone in UX?

Negative: When a new program tries to access the internet / network for the first time Windows 10 helpfully prompts with a message so you can allow or deny access for the program.  There are two optional checkboxes (TODO insert screen shot):

  • allow on private networks only
  • allow on public networks

The latter comes with a helpful message along the lines of: “this is not recommended as public networks can have little or no security”.  Which one do you think the default is checked for?… that’s right, public networks… the not recommended option.

Negative: Automatic updates force you computer to restart.  You don’t get to choose when.  Neutral: It seems you can disable the automatic updates.  Negative: Well no I was just forced to update: “Update then sleep” or “Update then shutdown”… and this probably eventually bricked the machine, see update 4 & 5 below.

Positive:  Mac has really broken their audio stack with their Sierra update.  Windows gives you a fuller though initially confusing control options.

*update 3*

Negative:  Trying to uninstall a piece of software using Windows “Add Remove programs”.  Stops me by saying something is already installing and to try again later… I did not start anything else installing.  What is it installing?  Why has it not informed me of this?  Why does it stop the user from doing something based on an arbitrary decision by another program?  How long should I wait for?  Why does it not offer to prompt me once it’s ready for me?  Very poor UX.

Negative:  Edge not remembering anything about an email address let alone the password for a site I use very often.  Perhaps the HTML is not sufficient to prompt it to use the input fields as email and password fields but Chrome is smart enough.  Poor UX.

*update 4* 2019-07

Negative: I was using the windows successfully. Upon attempting to “sleep” it I was forced to updated it. This took time that I would otherwise not have chosen as I was in a rush to leave.

Negative: Upon turning on the machine it booted slower than normal as it had to finish the installation but otherwise was fine. The mouse moved. But nothing else worked. I was forced to use hard power off.

Negative: On switching it back on the screen was black for minutes after the initial boot loader messages.  Eventually a tiny loading icon appeared.  After another few minutes of no progress I hard powered off again.

Negative: I switched it on and held down shift+f8.  It booted straight into windows.

Negative: I tried to type into the “Type here to search” box to try to find process explorer.  It’s not installed anymore?  Did I imagine it.  On Mac you get activity monitor bundled in.  No matter; the act of typing in “process” has caused the whole search pane to become unresponsive.  It incessantly showed the little loading blue dots at the top and nothing else.  This was doubly annoying as I thought I would manually look through the program list but this was displayed under the search pane so I couldn’t do that either.

Negative: I eventually realise this is a separate program that you now have to install: .  And surprise surprise, on maximising the Process Activity Summary window the column headings disappear but reappear when you mouse over them.  Everything windows is beyond unpolished it is corroded, creaking.

*update 5* 2019-07-31

Part 1: Windows self destruction and Automatic Non Repair

When I last left my Windows machine on the desk it was working.  Now when I open the lid it says

Automatic Repair

Followed by

Automatic Repair couldn’t repair your PC

LogFile: C:\windows\System32\Logfiles\Srt\SrtTrail.txt

Wow we didn’t even make it to the end of the month… Meanwhile my MacBook Air of 10 times the age is still working. It’s travelled across town multiple times and run multiple different bits of software. All the Windows machine had to do was not spontaneously break itself.

Part 2: Want to see the LogFile?… it’s gunna cost you.

Try to debug via command prompt (buried deep in some advanced options menu). It loads a command prompt with X:\Windows\System32 … what is the X drive? And why is there no Srt directory in the X:\Windows\System32\LogFiles directory?

This answer solved it:

Hilariously now the key which has both \ and | is seemingly broken… which is pretty fundamentally limiting when it comes to trying to type in a path to the log file or trying to pipe from one command to another. I don’t think you could write such a comedy catalog of failures. And people use this in critical systems?

Part 3: The error

Boot critical file C:\efi\microshit\boot\resources\custom\bootres.dll is corrupt. How did it get corrupted?

Tried various approaches. No \ or | key makes it very hard so have given up and selected the option to reinstall windows (wipe it clean). After 10 minutes it’s on “Resetting this PC 2%”

Windows: -1000

Part 4: The final nail

After over 2 hours of waiting it’s got to 49% and I go to sleep. In the morning I see it has the hp logo on the screen, I foolishly let a brief moment of joy wash over me, then a second later it powers off, then it powers on, the hp logo, then it powers off. Ad infinitum.

The machine is dead. windows / hp has lost. It will be returned to the shop. I’ll buy a MacBook at twice the price thanks (except I won’t for now as my 6 year old MacBook Air is *still working*). You get what you pay for.

Update 2019-08

John Lewis thinks this level of stability is normal for Windows machine so I can’t return it yet.

Update 2019-10

I’m working on a Mac and the PC and pushing code between the two. It’s 2019, it’s Windows 10, and it still chokes on file names longer than 260 characters.
I take it back. The registry key to allow longer file names was already set but the git for Windows tool defaults to not allowing the longer file names.

Update 2019-10-01

Updates. During EGX games conference I interacted closely with 3 teams. I either directly witnessed or heard after the fact that all 3 teams had to battle to keep their computers running their demo games during the conference in the onslaught of Windows aggressive automatic updating.

Apart from the unnecessary anxiety this inflicted and the poor UX of having to dismiss the dialog every 10 minutes (you only had 90 seconds to do it before it restarted your computer and took almost an hour to process the update) the additional poor UX was the “friendly” dialog that would not suspend your previous program but block you interacting with your game / presentation / video until the dialog was dealt with. Why would you a) plaster it in the middle of the screen and then b) make it modal. You wonder if Window’s actually has UX designers at all.

Needless to say everyone finished the conference successfully as would have been the case if the update was delayed a while.

Update 2020-02

I’ll stop updating this after this last list of fails. There are too many bugs or poor or absent UX decisions in Windows or it’s related hardware or software partners.

  • News App. It refreshes articles periodically. Good. But it will show you an old (interesting) picture and then the new news article with it’s image rolls into place followed by the new headline. If you try to click on the first image it won’t take you to that news article. It will take you to a random news article. I’ve removed the news app. Far simpler.
  • My almost 7 year old Apple machine was working away crunching 12 Gigabytes of data. I accidentally moved the mouse of the windows machine. It woke then immediately went back to sleep. Then showed the HP logo but I couldn’t interact with it any more. Completely unresponsive. Hard power off. Power back on. Shows HP logo & loading icon for 1 minute then 3 minutes of loud fan and a completely black screen. Nothing. 0 user feedback. No loading icon. Just darkness.
  • Paint 3D. You can’t increase the canvas size by crop drag or number.
  • Working using the laptop, on my lap. It’s not plugged into mains. It’s at 20% battery. Periodically checking the battery, it’s going down quickly. At 7% you’d think it’d be fine. No it just powered off. Forced to stop working for the evening and plug it into power. In the morning it starts up and says it’s recovering from a hardware failure then classic completely dark start up screen for 10 minutes. During which time 5 minutes in I moved the mouse and the fan tries to get the computer airborne.
  • Type “virus” into the start bar to find the security settings. Get shown “Virus and threat protection” from “System Settings”. So far so good. Try click on it. Told you need an app to open “Windows Defender”. Didn’t accept that. Navigated through a System settings menu to the “Virus and threat protection”. Works as expected. Repeating steps above then it started working without ever needing to install an app.

It would be difficult to imagine so many fails. And this is at most 10% of them.

Update 2021-01

Opening the settings menu after turning on the Windows computer took 30 seconds to render the settings screen.

Then without asking it to do anything, the fan was flat out for 30 minutes.

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