Microsoft’s New Plan for Xbox

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Jun 5, 2019

Filed under: Column 107 comments

This week my column takes a look at Microsoft and their recent move to unify the PC and Xbox ecosystems. Actually, I guess it’s not a recent move so much as another re-commitment to an idea they keep flirting with and abandoning. If they could merge the Xbox and PC into a single group by allowing players to take their library, friends list, and save games with them between platforms, then that would make the resulting PC/Xbox hybrid the biggest console platform.

Back in the 90s and aughts, Microsoft’s grip on the PC market was really strong. You used Windows because everyone else used windows and everyone needed to be able to share documents. Your software collection was Windows-based and switching was difficult. Macs were nice, but they were really expensive and they had trouble sharing files with your business colleagues. Linux was free, but it was still a platform for gurus and it had a lot of the same data-sharing problems.

But today? Most programs are either multi-platform by design or universally available through the cloud. You can do word processing, spreadsheets, image editing, video editing, music editing, file sharing, spread sheeting, and web-browsing on any of these platforms and have a reasonable expectation of being able to share files with everyone else. We’re doing more and more on the cloud, and the OS matters less and less.

The two exceptions to this trend are:

  1. Enterprise customers. Large companies want to have everyone on the same OS, and Windows is the most convenient option for them.
  2. Gamers. Gaming on Mac and Linux are possible, but only if you’re not picky about selection. And most PC gamers are incredibly picky about selection.

Windows is still enjoying a ridiculous market share. Based on various charts around the web, it looks like 75%-80% of all desktop users are on Windows. Among Steam users, that percentage jumps to 95%.

Enterprise customers or home users might someday chafe at the Windows license and migrate to Linux. If you just use the machine for email, web, and basic productivity, then moving to Linux is viableIs it? It seems like it should be, but people don’t seem to be switching. This probably goes back to the idea that convenience is king.. On the other hand, if you have even a passing interest in PC gaming then you don’t really have much choice. It’s either use Windows or find a new hobby.

This makes this very interesting for Microsoft. On one hand, you could argue that Microsoft should take extra care to keep PC gamers happy, since that’s essentially your hardcore base. On the other hand, the lack of a viable alternative means that Microsoft is free to take gamers for granted.

Maybe this is why the Microsoft strategy seems so unfocused. They can’t seem to figure out if gaming is a pillar of their platform or a captive audience. To this day I don’t understand what Games for Windows Live was supposed to accomplish. It was this massive draconian thing that took over games and put itself in charge of critical dataLike keeping your save files safe, which it then utterly failed to do.. On the other hand, it was also this goofy-ass pile of broken technology that made no sense. Was this the result of apathy, or incompetence? Or was the system working as intended and making PC gaming miserable was a deliberate strategic decision? All of these things sound ridiculous, because the platform itself was so ridiculous. It’s like a mugger who steals all your money, and then sets it on fire and burns himself in the process. It’s obvious your plan failed, but what were you trying to accomplish?

If Microsoft actually wanted to keep this PC gamer happy, then here is a bunch of stuff I’d like to see:

  1. Make everything faster. Just spend an entire release on figuring out what makes Windows slow and fixing it. I will gladly pay for Windows 11, even if it has the same feature list as Windows 10 and the only change is that everything is snappier.Every release has a few useless new geegaws, but none of them justify the massive rise in system requirements. Why is it so slow to boot? What does it take up so much memory? Why is the file search so abysmal? It is completely nuts that I can search for documents on the internet dozens of times faster than I can search for a filename on my local SSD. What is the machine doing with all those CPU cycles?!
  2. Come up with some sort of coherent policy regarding full-screen applications and how programs are supposed to behave. Running fullscreen feels like a hack game developers discovered and not a feature of the operating system. Having a full-screen game change the display resolution on my main monitor should not shuffle around all of my other applications and move them to a different monitor. The full screen mode is obviously a temporary state.
  3. Task manager needs to be able to help me out when a game crashes. Barring that, the OS should. If something crashes when running full-screen, then I shouldn’t be trapped and unable to kill the process. (For example: Sometimes task manager appears BEHIND the program I’m trying to  kill.)
  4. Notifications should not pop up when I’m gaming. Obviously. That popup that appears behind games and asks me if the game is allowed to use network resources is double useless. Not only does it appear where I can’t see it until I’m done playing, but it doesn’t seem to stop games from working if I don’t grant them permission. What is this nonsense for?
  5. Forcing a surprise update is totally unacceptable and you need to stop that right now. It causes lots of problems. I understand that some idiots refuse to apply updates and their compromised machines cause problems for the rest of us, but having my machine yank me out of game for a popup to reboot now or annoy me again in an hour is unforgivable. I might be streaming. Or recording game footage. Or in the middle of a multiplayer match. Or doing work close to an important deadline. Or just, you know, having a good time. At least let the update sit there as an option for a couple of weeks before you strong-arm the user.
  6. Make everything faster. Yes, I said that already. Do it again. Trust me, there’s lots of stuff left to streamline.
  7. I’m sick of this problem: I open up an explorer window to look through the files. Windows sees a couple of the files are audio in nature, so it assumes the entire directory is part of my “music” collection. So it hides the fields for file size, creation date, and file type, and instead it shows album, artist, length, song name, and genre. In most cases the audio files are part of a game install and don’t contain that metadata. So Windows hid a bunch of information I need so it can show me blank fields for a bunch of stuff it couldn’t find. By all means, give the user a button for “media view”, but give us a way to turn that shit off when we’re trying to do something more complicated than putting files on a Zune. If Windows is going to be this stupid, then it shouldn’t go around trying to think for the user.
  8. No, I don’t want Cortana taking up a chunk of my taskbar. Please stop restoring her after every update. She’s useless. Give up. You can’t annoy me into liking her.
  9. I realize that UWP apps are locked away in a sandbox, but isn’t there any way to open that up? As it stands, games from the Windows 10 store can’t be used with capture software. No Bandicam. No capturing the window for streaming. That limitation is so severe that it basically makes the games useless for a non-trivial segment of the audience. Streaming and YouTube are big these days, you know?
  10. Make everything faster again. One more time. Just to be sure.

I’d consider all of these things to be more important than cross-play with Xbox.

I don’t really expect that Proton can save us from Microsoft’s machinations. Compatibility is hard, and compatibility with a closed OS that has 30+ years of accumulated cruft is even harder. It’s probably impossible, but I keep hoping something comes of it anyway.

I’m curious: What would you like to see Windows do to make gaming nicer on the PC?



[1] Is it? It seems like it should be, but people don’t seem to be switching. This probably goes back to the idea that convenience is king.

[2] Like keeping your save files safe, which it then utterly failed to do.

From The Archives:

107 thoughts on “Microsoft’s New Plan for Xbox

  1. tmtvl says:

    I don’t really expect that Proton can save us from Microsoft’s machinations. Compatibility is hard, and compatibility with a closed OS that has 30+ years of accumulated cruft is even harder. It’s probably impossible, but I keep hoping something comes of it anyway.

    5,000 games reported working, so it’s definitely not impossible.

    1. Groboclown says:

      Yep. I have a few “Windows only” games that won’t run for me on Windows (the most prominent one being Frostfall), but will run on Proton. I’m down to just three games that I play on Windows, then I’m looking at getting rid ofnthat computer and only gaming on Linux.

      1. Addie says:

        Decided to give Linux-only gaming a short trial period in January, and haven’t actually started up Windows since. Bye bye, Microsoft.

        It certainly helps that I’m not into online multiplayer – the vast majority of games that Proton / Wine won’t run have Denuvo / Battleye / friends as the reason. Or they use 32-bit .net 3.5, which Wine currently struggles with. But most everything else runs near-perfectly, even new things like Sekiro and DMC5.

        See new game, read the reviews, check what it says on protondb and pcgamingwiki, buy if it all looks good.

    2. Abnaxis says:

      It’s… Actually been a while since I tried windowless gaming. Last thing I tried was making Guild Wars 2 with Crossover (even paid for a premium support license) and just sort of gave up after a few hours if trying.

      Now I dual boot, because fuck writing CUDA code for Windows. Also fuck OpenCL. Also the cluster uses Linux so it’s easier to prototype this way

    3. Dotec says:

      Indeed. I know there are various reasons Shamus may not be inclined to mess with setting up a dual-boot with some flavor of Linux and sample a few Steam titles out of curiosity. It’s not hard by any means, but it is a bit of an investment. And I did have to spend a few hours unfucking GRUB and other bootloader options after switching out a few distros in rapid succession (finally settling on Mint). I’ll admit to being a little skeptical of Proton’s capability when it was released, and I expected I’d have success with a few games in my library, but not enough to justify the switch.

      To say I was pleasantly surprised is a vast understatement. There’s almost nothing I’ve had trouble running with Steam Play, and the few games I had some issues with (RtCW and Quake 2 for some reason) were made irrelevant with free sourceports you probably want to be using any way. And if you have a non-Steam game library, Lutris can often take care of anything else. Games like Minecraft or installers from GOG work great and are easy to set up with Lutris’ wizard. And while a game like WoW might take a little more work (mostly due to the Blizzard launcher its tied to), I actually found it performed even faster than on my Windows installation; load times seemed like they were cut in half and I even saw a framerate boost.

      Still, I can’t ditch the Windows partition just yet. My audio software (mainly Reason) is still a no-go on Linux and I’m kinda cold to Linux’s DAW offerings. I’m sure I could spend some time learning my way around a new suite, but that’s a pretty unappealing prospect when you’ve got 15 years of accumulated experience with your old standby. I honestly find a lot of them to be pretty drab and unable to capture the fun of messing around with Propellerheads’ software. So if you have a number of important non-game programs for Windows that can’t carry over, that can be reason enough to give it pause.

      But if you’re really only using your PC for games, now has never been a better time to jump in. You might be shocked how much of it Just Works ™.

    4. default_ex says:

      Not only does it work, it’s ridiculously fast. I have only tried protonified-wine on a handful of games so far but each of those games blew me away at how good they ran. Surviving Mars was the biggest surprise. Framerates over 100FPS on high settings, tightly packing structures barely impacted framerate. It’s like a whole different game not having to budget for framerate.

      Gaming on Linux is significantly better now. Only config I have had to touch in the past month is checking the box for “virtual desktop” on unity based games. Fixes the game not retaking input focus when you tab out. Really liking Lutris, makes configuring wine for each game a lot easier than PlayOnLinux ever did.

  2. anon says:

    A lot of your points make it look like your installation is a bit fucked up, to put it gently.
    Besides those, point 2 is theoreticall unfixable because of how fullscreen was originally designed (exclusive control of video output), but in practice now windows has “fullscreen optimizations” that attempt to work around that obsolete design: they kinda work ok, but they’re not foolproof.
    Point 3 is similarly unfixable in theory, if an app with exclusive control of video output gets completely stuck there’s no way the OS can write anything to video output: in practice, you can almsot always use virtual desktops (CTRL+WIN+D creates a new one, CTRL+WIN+left/right arrow switches between them) to escape the stuck application, open task manager on a different desktop, and kill the program from there.
    For point 7, right click on the containing folder, go to property, then to customize, in the top part choose “general elements” and tick the “apply to subfolders” checkbox, then click ok.

    Also, try a friendly linux distro such as Ubuntu and you’ll probably feel like tearing your hair out, on screen instructions that completely lie to you aren’t uncommon.

    1. Higher Peanut says:

      That fix for point 7 works but only intermittently. You can get all files and sub-folders to behave the same but sometimes Windows in its infinite wisdom just decides some folders don’t need to be included and it goes back to showing media information. It drives me crazy when one random sub-folder ignores the default setting. Why even have the setting if it won’t work?

      1. anon says:

        Are you using cleaning programs such as CCleaner, by any chance?
        Quite a few of those tend to break windows in subtle ways, usually they mess up the search but file associations and explorer are other common victims.

        The only massive issue explorer has on its own is thumbnails and their caching, that one is such an absolute travesty it’s essentially mandatory to use Icaros instead.

    2. Gargamel Le Noir says:

      I was about to share the virtual desktop trick myself. I’m playing the otherwise excellent Pathfinder : Kingmaker these days and it HATES one of my by habits : F5 then alt+tab before it’s done. So yeah that trick helps a lot, but it shouldn’t be necessary, the task manager should be all powerful.

      1. anon says:

        You can actually use the task manager even if the video output is completely frozen, the problem is that you can’t see what you are doing because the video output is frozen.
        In theory windows could put the task manager in the CTRL ALT DEL screen since that one basically tells any fullscreen program to go fuck themselves, but such a solution would create other problems.

    3. Karma The Alligator says:

      For point 7, right click on the containing folder, go to property, then to customize, in the top part choose “general elements” and tick the “apply to subfolders” checkbox, then click ok.

      Dunno about you, but for me, it somehow gets undone pretty frequently, to the point I gave up trying to fix it.

      1. Shamus says:

        Also, that’s a really weird choice from a usability standpoint. I’m browsing a directory and I want to change how the information is presented, so I need to go to ANOTHER directory and open a dialog box. The entire region at the top of the window is dedicated to controlling how information is presented, so having this option located elsewhere makes no sense.

        1. anon says:

          You actually can do it from within the folder itself, by right clicking on empty space (you even get the “customize folder” option directly from there), but I agree that adding the option to the top menus would be good: those are a bit underutilized right now.

          1. Abnaxis says:

            This is giving me flashbacks on trying to remember where the fuck the “show hidden files and folders” option was in my last job. Another setting that liked to get blasted away periodically with updates, and it was completely unintuitive every time I had to re-up it

  3. John says:

    If you just use the machine for email, web, and basic productivity, then moving to Linux is viable. On the other hand, if you have even a passing interest in PC gaming then you don’t really have much choice. It’s either use Windows or find a new hobby.

    To the first point, yes, Linux is absolutely viable for e-mail, web- browsing, and light productivity computing. But people who just want a computer for those purposes are generally content to buy a pre-built Windows PC and aren’t interested in replacing what appears to be a perfectly functional OS. I don’t entirely blame them. I’m something of a Linux enthusiast–it’s so much less annoying than Windows 10, you have no idea–but even I haven’t replaced Windows 10 on my new notebook yet. Installing Linux is a fairly straightforward process, but it’s non-trivial. You’ve got to make a USB installer, configure BIOS to boot from USB, and then sit and wait nervously as the installer runs. If you’re new to Linux, you’ve also got to do some research to learn to do those things. And of course you’ve got to decide which distribution you want to use. There’s a lot of potentially terrifying work involved for what must seem to to the casual PC user like a very minor reward at best. Until system sellers really start pushing Linux–which they very well might never do–Linux is never going to be a popular OS.

    As for the second point, I have a more-than-passing interest in PC gaming and Linux is my gaming OS of choice. There are a lot of Linux-native games these days, both indie and otherwise, and compatibility layers (Wine, Proton) are improving all the time. Windows is really only necessary if you want or need–because, just for example, you run a gaming blog–to play absolutely everything or if you just can’t live without the biggest, latest, and greatest AAA games that require the very latest version of DirectX. The point is that there is plenty to play on Linux. My preferred genres, strategy and role-playing are particularly well-supported. There are a few games I regret missing out on, but not so many that I feel the need to switch to Windows or find a new hobby.

    1. Linus Torvalds' Baby Momma says:

      I also want to say that Linux is fine for gaming. (I use it exclusively at home.) I miss out on a few titles that are too new and also don’t have a native port, since Wine/Proton is too slow, but there’s a massive catalog of games to choose from.

      As for Linux being non-trivial to install…that’s an understatement, depending on the distribution and your luck with whatever hardware you happen to have. A lot of the tools, ecosystem, and community seem to be stuck in the 90s (I’d say 70s, but the 90s were angrier…), where everyone expects you to be an expert in everything.

    2. Nessus says:

      Disclaimer for normal people: When Linux evangelists say getting something to work in Linux is “easy”, what they’re really saying is merely that it’s possible, with no actual easy/hard value considered. Linux heads, and especially Linux evangelists fudge the numbers on easy vs difficult A LOT. Either they have sufficient system knowledge that what they consider “easy” does not map to a layman in ways they’re not self-ware of, or they’re actively lying in order to try and make a convert.

      I want to be a Linux enthusiast, but Linux keeps getting in the way. A LOT of what Linux people like to claim is simple is not.

      Every year I do a clean reinstall of Windows to de-cruft and de-glitch the OS (Windows needs this, and I would never fly with a preinstall OEM license because of it). Every year I take the opportunity to try a couple Linux distros for a few days instead. Every time I’m sent screaming back to Windows despite my not wanting it anymore. Been doing this for ten years now, and although Linux has been slowly getting better, you can really tell Linux devs have to be dragged kicking and screaming to make every tiny increment of that improvement. Even the mass-market friendly Linux distros are still visibly gouging fingernail troughs in the drywall trying to resist the UX epiphany that enabled Apple and Microsoft to popularize and then dominate the home PC 30 years ago.

      My last attempt was just a month ago. Trying to get ANY kind of clear information out of package managers about which version of a thing and which versions of what dependencies you need is still impossible. And god help the poor Mac/Win user who tries to skip that and download installables off webpages directly, as everything comes in folders full of loose parts that require multi-step command line arcanum to assemble. What should be a one-click process is instead like assembling Ikea furniture… except instead of assembling it yourself, you have to read the written instructions aloud to a robot that only understands Swedish. And the written instructions are in Spanish. And oh BTW, the robot was programmed by someone from a distant island colony that speaks an esoteric pigeon Swedish dialect, so the robot will fail to understand actual Swedish seemingly at random. Because an exe/misi style installer is too plebeian for Linux devs to dirty their vaunted programmer fingers with, or something. If you’re “lucky” they’ll be in a portable format that doesn’t require that… but can’t be added to the start menu or task bar without DLing ANOTHER app (which either can’t be installed, or does nothing when activated, or some other nonsense).

      And anything other than just basic folder browsing STILL requires googling and reciting command line incantations, with fingers crossed that the ones you found will be valid for this generation of this distro, because even core fucking CL syntax/vocab isn’t safe from dev tinkering. Last year actually went so far as to say “Fuck it: I (a complete non-programmer) will just learn whatever programming language this is JUST so I can fucking talk to my computer on the same intuitive level as a basic Windows/Mac GUI”, only upon researching it to find that THE COMMAND LINE DOESN’T EVEN USE A LANGUAGE: IT’S JUST SOME RANDO PERSONAL SCRIPTING PIGEON THAT’S DIFFERENT FOR EACH DEV. What. The. Fuck.

      So I try to install and run games. I think I’ve installed Wine. I lit the incense and copied the sacred command line chant as best I could from the online Necronomicon.The package manager says it’s installed, but fucked If I can find it on the hard drive. How do I start it? Will it start automatically when I load an applicable program? Is it always running in daemon form? The documentation I found online either glosses over it, or communicates only in unparsable bricks of jargon, so who knows?

      In the end, the only games I’ve been able to actually play were ones with native Linux ports, because everything else had some combo of issues that would require a whole day of googling and trying different things just to find an error report that I’d than have to google to get translated so I could collate the ten conflicting translations into fifteen different fixes each requiring it’s own extended chain of blind command line rituals, with no way of telling what went wrong where if they don’t work… and accompanying paranoia about unknowingly breaking something if one out of place character means I accidentally refer to an elder god’s personal secretary by the wrong pronoun in step 3 or some shit like that.

      After a week of having to do some form of that dance for seemingly every… little… thing… not just with games, but EVERYTHING, my blood is boiling, and I’m aching for the Windows/Mac experience where if I want to install something I can just doubleclick one thing and click though e few boxes, and I can always put anything I want where I want by either dragging or right clicking, and web documentation mostly speaks in plain English, things in general “just work” 99% of the time, and when they don’t, I can usually find and implement a solution in under 20 minutes without having to consider extra fucking schooling to understand it.

      Don’t get me wrong: I HATE the walled garden Windows is seeking to become, and when Win8.1 support is finally dropped, I’ll have some hard choices to make. That’s why I keep trying, keep hoping, even going so far (as noted above) to be willing to learn a programming language from a standing start of no CS knowledge if that will get me where I want (and that is NOT something most normal people would or should consider reasonable, no matter what programmers think). But Linux… STILL can’t meet me even halfway yet. I don’t care if the UI design is different or whatever, I just want the home PC equivalent of being able to own and operate a car without having to also own and know how to operate a machine shop in order to custom design and manufacture replacement parts on a regular basis.

      1. Vinsomer says:

        I don’t think Linux Evangelists are lying. I just think Linux users tend to be more experienced with computers, coding etc., so when they say ‘fixing it is easy!’ they mean it – it’s just that what’s easy to them is hard or even impossible for others. After all, you only need to learn how to fix something once. But, even then it’s hard to ignore the huge gulf in ease of use between Linux and Windows.

        1. Nessus says:

          First paragraph: “Either they have sufficient system knowledge that what they consider “easy” does not map to a layman in ways they’re not self-ware of…”

          Also in this context I question the applicability of “After all, you only need to learn how to fix something once”. If you have an eidetic memory, you might be able to remember what bit of specific argot will fix a specific problem in a year or two when you next need it. For everyone else, that shit needs to be re-googled every time.

          A programmer or systems engineer can have deep knowledge to intuit things they don’t remember by rote, but this won’t apply to average users. Nor will it apply in situations where the actual system logic is obscured by things like random alphanumeric codes or “languages” that are functionally asemic due to being developer-specific shorthand.

          A good UI is intuitive. You don’t need to remember, or even be exposed to, an entire manual’s worth of arbitrary codes to use it, because you can always follow the signposting to what you need. This is the philosophy that enabled Apple and Microsoft to bring the PC to the masses and dominate that market. Linux denies this to the max amount it can get away with because the loudest voices in linux are “if you don’t like it, roll your own” antisocials, and cloudcukoolanders who believe in a world where regular people can or will set aside a non-trivial chunk of their life learning to become professional level experts just in order to send emails and buy stuff off Amazon.

          1. Vinsomer says:

            Of course good UIs are intuitive, and on that level Linux is definitely lacking. But that’s not all a good OS is, and in recent editions Windows has ramped up the amount of bullshit, so really it’s a choice of which flavour of bullshit you prefer. Do you want a computer where you have to google something every 10 minutes and fiddle with the terminal constantly (an exaggeration, I know), or do you want an OS which is literally spyware, which wants to lock everything down into closed systems, and which regularly sacrifices usability in favour of pushing Microsoft’s latest scheme? I don’t think you can blame a lot of people for choosing the former over the latter. At least Linux only annoys me by accident. Windows annoys me on purpose.

            It’s also worth saying that Windows is so usable because it’s what most of us are used to. Most of our first computers are Windows, most of the computers we use in school are windows, and many of our workplaces use windows. If you ask someone who has only ever used Linux their whole life and switched over to Windows, they’ll probably say the opposite, that Linux is more useful than Windows.

            As Shamus pointed out with UWP, people like to game on computers because they are free, open systems. Microsoft, who know this, instead tried to turn PCs into expensive Xboxes. A lot of people like Linux because it’s in the spirit of computing.

            It’s also entirely possible that someone makes an actually convenient distro of Linux (and people have given it a go – Valve are an example), whereas Windows will never be without its bullshit unless Microsoft changes their policies, which is something they’re loathe to do even when they’re Hindenburg-level failures.

            1. Nessus says:

              Yup. Which is why I say I’m gonna have hard choices to make if Linux hasn’t improved by the time support ends for my current version of Windows (8.1; I never made the jump to 10, for the reasons you cite, and more).

              I REALLY REALLY WANT to like Linux. If switching were as easy as getting used to different UIs or file structure, I’d be there already. I’ve done that before, with both OSes and apps. It’s nothing hard, and any Linux person blaming my or IMO the markets reluctance on that is transparently using a straw man to deflect attention from Linux’s actual issues.

              Windows will still have the mass market. Don’t fool yourself about that. The vast majority of people don’t care about any of that privacy or versatility stuff as long as it’s more convenient to use. That’s why people still buy Macs. That’s why they buy consoles instead of PCs. That’s why there’s a growing segment of the population for whom a smartphone is the only computer they own or think they need. That’s why people still preorder games, or buy from publishers and/or devs with anti-consumer and anti-employee records straight out of the goddamn 1920s.

        2. anon says:

          Linux evangelists absolutely lie, it’s easier to provide evidence of foul play on the part of developers of course.
 for an attempt to sneak in security fixes without telling anyone that there was a vulnerability in the first place.
 for a dev lying about kernel security.
 for an example of distro devs disabling a program’s warning about using an old version and attempting to blame the security problems that arise on the original dev.
 here are game devs making games for linux and lying about compatibility.

          1. Wysinwyg says:

            Haha this is like the mirror image of Linux fanboys trashing Windows!

            Be careful gazing into that abyss, bro. ;)

      2. John says:

        I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had such a rough time with Linux. My own Linux experience has been limited to Ubuntu and Ubuntu derivatives (Lubuntu, Mint) and it’s been mostly painless.

        I almost never use the Package Manager. Ubuntu and Mint both come with a “Software Center” (or some such similarly named thing) that’s much more user-friendly. You can search for software by name or by function and if you decide to install something the Software Center will install all the necessary dependencies for you. I use the Software Center to get software like LibreOffice, Geany (my editor of choice), Wine, and even Steam up and running. Most really popular applications are going to be available from the Software Center.

        I only have to resort to the Package Manager on rare occasions. With Mint, I use it to install the OpenJDK. With Lubuntu, I once had to use to it to acquire the driver for my wireless network card. I can’t offer specific advice without knowing what you were trying to do, but in general when you’re installing things from the Package Manager, you’ll often want to look for what are called meta-packages. If a meta-package exists, say the OpenJDK meta-package, it’ll include all the packages and sub-packages you need, the compiler, the JRE, the Javadocs, etc. With or without meta-packages, the Package Manager should also handle dependencies for you automatically. I did recently have an issue where I needed to use the Package Manager to download two additional packages in order to get Battletech to run properly, but that’s the only time that’s happened to me in years of Linux gaming.

        Installing software by other means is also perfectly possible. That’s how I handle GOG games and most IDEs that I’ve used (Android Studio, Netbeans, IntelliJ IDEA). In these cases, you download an installer from a web page, just as you would in Windows. You can run the installer from your file browser, just as you would in Windows. The biggest difference between Linux and Windows in this regard is that Windows will prompt you for permission to run the executable while in Linux you may have to right click on the executable and manually change the permissions first.

        Wine is a pretty straightforward beast. If you’ve installed Wine, whether it’s from the Software Center, the Package Manager, or by other means, you start a Wine application (i.e., a Windows executable) by either clicking on it in the file browser or by typing “wine some.exe” on the command line (assuming you’ve navigated to the appropriate directory first). It is occasionally necessary to right-click on the executable in the file browser to choose an “Open with Wine” option, in the same sort of way that you would right-click on something in Windows to tell it which application you wanted to use it with. If the Windows executable you’ve just run is an installer, then it will add a program shortcut to your Start Menu (assuming that your desktop environment has such a thing), generally located in the Wine program group, and from that point forward you can use the application just as you would a Linux-native one.

        Finally, if you’re not sure whether or not you’ve installed Wine, you can type “man wine” on the command line. You do not need to be in a particular directory to do this. The command should work from anywhere. If Wine is properly installed, the command will show you some text explaining Wine’s command line syntax. If Wine isn’t properly installed, you’ll get some kind of error message instead.

        I hope this is helpful Nessus. I wish you luck if you ever decide to give Linux another go.

        1. Nessus says:

          Those are all among the distros I’ve tried. Same issues with all of them.

          I’ve never run across a clickable installer media for Linux. I’m sure such things exist, but they’re far from standard. Mostly I find TAR balls, which require talking to the Swedish robot to manually install. Occasionally I’d run into a newer portable style format (can’t remember what it’s called now), which is drag-and-drop, but Linux seems to have no way I can find for adding stuff lie that to the start menu or task bar/dock, so I’d have to manually navigate to the data folder every single time I want to start one of those.

          Usually I’d try to search the package manager first (or “software center” or whatever they’ve cosmetically renamed their package manager). If that failed, open the terminal and try sudo apt get. If that fails download directly from the website or git repository. Git pages usually have the best documentation, but the actual files seem to be no more reliable than those gotten elsewhere.

          Side note: people, myself included, like to bag on the Windows or Apple store apps as being walled gardens, but package managers are the same thing, and sudu apt get is kind of functionally just a GUI-less package manager. This bothers me.

          Probably 2/3 of the stuff I’d try to install would not work. If I’m lucky, they’ll be a data folder somewhere I can find the app and try to run it manually, but often enough there will be no sign of it existing on my machine apart from the package manager or CL’s insistence that it installed successfully. Can’t be searched for, can’t be run, but if I try to reinstall it it says it’s already installed, and if I uninstall it, it runs a thing and says it uninstalled successfully. Who knows.

          Try to google it, and get all kinds of hits from all kinds of distros and time periods, ’cause that’s how fragmented the user base is.

          All the while I’m thinking that in DECADES using Mac and Windows, I’ve had a problem like this maybe twice? Three or four times, if I’m forgetting? In decades. 99.9% of the time, I just download an installer, click it, and in less than five minutes I’m up and running. Only time in memory I had to go through anything like the kind of nonsense Linux seems to demand for everything to install something on Windows was QMK toolbox (overly complicated command line BS that could have been done with an installer), and LaTeX (multiple dependency sorting/sourcing hell w/ trollishly unclear documentation).

          After going through orders of magnitude (yes, plural) more of that BS in two days with Linux than I have in two decades with Win/Mac, my blood was boiling, and I wanted to choke the shit out of every chirpy-ass Linux evangelist who actually thinks this has a chance to take over the market, and every snooty sullen Linux pro who thinks Linux is “simple” because they’re not self aware about how much of a role their own IT/programming prior knowledge plays.

          And this is coming from someone who wants Linux! Imagine what that would be like to someone indifferent to it.

          1. Purple Library Guy says:

            It sounds to me like you are a victim of your past experiences. You tried Linux in the past, and used the decidedly not-user-friendly methods of installing software that it had in the past. And true, those methods are still there, still available under the hood. So when you try Linux in the present, you go and use those methods again and they’re still not user friendly.

            But nobody uses those methods nowadays. They use the newer GUI tools that abstract away all the crap. Like really, tarballs? I started fiddling with Linux somewhere around the year 2000 and I occasionally had to mess with a tarball then. But I am not a techie and I’ve forgotten almost everything I ever had to learn about any of that stuff. I haven’t used the command line to install a piece of software in, I dunno, ten years? I use the command line at all maybe . . . once every year or two, if something goes wrong and people online’s suggestion is “Copy and paste this in a command line”.

            Just use the software centre in the main menu. All the even vaguely user friendly distros have one of those. It installs the software, and the dependencies, with a single click, and your distribution’s updater will keep all the software you installed up to date automatically too. For games, use the software centre to install Steam in one click, then use Steam to install the games. If you refuse to just use the software centre and insist on going into the command line to fiddle with apt-get or, God help us, tarballs, then of course the results aren’t going to be user friendly. Doesn’t really say anything about whether Linux is user-friendly though. If you avoid the easy way and do things the hard way, there isn’t a lot of force behind complaints that it’s hard.

      3. Sleeping Dragon says:

        For whatever it’s worth your post made me laugh. On a more serious note I remember in pre-GOG times doing quite an elaborate song and dance to get some things to work properly with DOSBox, as well as fiddling with some emultors, so I guess the lengths to which I’d be willing to go to run something I really want to play, though it bears pointing out that those were my only ways of playing certain titles.

        On a completely unrelated note, I think when you say “pigeon” you mean “pidgin”, which is a term for a sort of “hybrid” language created by two or more communities who do not share the same language, characterised by simplified and irregular grammar and a mixture of vocabulary from the participating languages. Though the idea of pigeon-Swedish pidgin is amusing in its own right.

      4. Wysinwyg says:

        1. My job requires installing software on Linux environments pretty much constantly. Its very rare that apt-get install or yum install fail even for weird esoteric software packages in my experience.
        2. Command line is absolutely a consistent language if you consistently use the same shell. Are there a bunch of different ways to do the same thing? Yes, of course…just like there’s a bunch of different ways to phrase the same thought in any natural language. (If you think bash is hard, check out MS Powershell some time.)

        1. Nessus says:

          1. This is why you you think it’s easier/simpler than it actually is. You have a lot of professional knowledge and training at your back that you forget to take into account. My experience has been years of almost nothing but failed installs and esoteric software packages. Maybe you can tell from a sentence fragment of jargon and alphanumeric gibberish which of these four possible dependancies I actually need (any or all of which may be mutually exclusive: it’s implied, but not clear. It’s like a carnival game!).

          2. What’s it called then? Like I said, I literally went looking for a book or something so I could skip over this whole learning the CL piecemeal thing and learn it properly, with maybe the added bonus of getting a potentially useful babby’s first programming language intro course in the process. It’s a “real” language in the sense that a lot-ish of people apparently understand it, but it’s not a “real” language in terms of having a name, or any use outside of just the linux CL. It’s the cockney rhyming slang of computers. As far as I can tell, EVERYONE learns piecemeal, with people who are already programmers having an advantage since they will recognized bits and pieces of the creole.

          I can find tutorials for it, but it appears to have literally zero utility outside of being a work around for Linux programmers’ allergy to UI design.

          And if I’m not expert enough to know if I’m dealing with one shell or another, or even what that means in this context, all I know is that the magic command line runes don’t work half the time even when copied exactly, even when those instructions are for the same distro I’m trying to use, just a couple years out of date (because often that’s the best case scenario when searching online). So that’s a non-defence. “It’s consistant except for when it isn’t for reasons you’d never know unless you’re already savvy enough for the inconsistency not to slow you down anyway” doesn’t help the problem I’m describing: that even just trying to learn this stuff efficiently isn’t straight forward.

          1. Kyte says:

            FYI the most common shell (and associated scripting language) is bash. If you google bash script you can get most of what you need. If the files end in .sh they’re bash scripts.

      5. default_ex says:

        I have been both a Windows and Linux user since the mid-90s. Your first point can be said about Windows equally as much as Linux. Windows isn’t as simple a “install thing and run” like everyone acts. It’s fraught with tracking down versions of libraries, often times with nothing more than the name of a file out of that library to go on. Just one example, only one to illustrate how horrible Visual C runtime roulette anyone?

        It honestly sounds like you have tried some seriously broken variants of Linux to have package managers and prompts that terrible. Any of the mature variants use one of a few package managers that tell you not just what dependencies your missing but also what versions. Usually they even prompt you to install them either all at once or one at a time. The bash prompt is so standardized I don’t remember the last time I had to use ‘man’ to figure out a new format. Even on my phone the bash prompt is identical give or take a couple standard programs BusyBox is missing on Android.

        Honestly you sound like your expecting to take everything you know about Windows with you into Linux. Your talking about learning a very different OS. Your going to have to treat it like your a dumb newbie. You can’t learn anything until you honestly say to yourself, “I don’t know”. In the end a lot of things are much easier in Linux but you have to actually learn to use the tools it presents you with, which means learning bash. Just like to learn to use Windows, you had to learn all the ins and outs of the GUI based system Windows has going for it.

        tldr; stop trying to drive a screw in with a hammer.

        1. Nessus says:

          Your first paragraph is BS. Both OS’s install cleanly and easily. But if I want to start installing other software on windows, the installer app itself usually auto-DL dependencies, and if it doesn’t it’s usually dead easy to find what I need online with a single search. When Linux apps have dependencies like 2/3 of the time, and they often don’t tell you about them clearly enough if at all, and the userbase is so fragmented that the result from a search will yield wildly conflicting solutions depending on what distro any given poster is using. It’s a complete crap shoot. Nearly everything outside the main big apps like Libre Office, GIMP, Bender, etc required some obtuse jerry rigging, with it being non-trivial possibility l that I’d simply never be able to make it work. I have NEVER had that kind of difficulty just getting stuff installed on Windows.

          And when I try Linux, I always go for the most recent stable versions of the most popular and established stuff, for exactly the reasons you say. Mint, Ubunto, Solus, etc. I think Manjaro is the closest to esoteric I’ve gotten. Package managers in every flavor and UI, but underneath they all have the same issues with frequently unclear or unstated dependencies, and going outside the package managers mostly gets me those same problems only with even less info and TAR folder command line Ikea kit hell on top of it.

          As to the last bit, again: no. I don’t have any objections to learning new UIs. I’ve done that before. What I have a problem with is having to use the command line for every other trivial thing, with having little to no feedback when things go wrong (Windows is terrible at this too, but at least they give me enough that I can google a solution).

          This line is the most unintentionally revealing part of your post:
          “In the end a lot of things are much easier in Linux but you have to actually learn to use the tools it presents you with, which means learning bash.”

          No one has to learn anything like bash to use Windows or Mac. People can and do use both of those OS competently, safely, and proficiently for their entire lives without ever even knowing command line even exists. That’s exactly the shit I’m talking about when I talk about not wanting to have to run a machine shop just to own a car. That’s why Windows and Mac dominate the consumer market. That’s the idea that Linux evangelists have been running from and making excuses to ignore for literally decades now. I made the switch from Mac to Windows in the mid-aughts, and it was effortless because even though the UI was different, It was still easy to use from a standing start, and anything I didn’t know could be learned in minutes just by browsing the system or a quick search. I’ve made similar switches with apps, going from one complex program to anther that does the same things, but with a different UI logic.

          Linux doesn’t just have a “different” but equivalent UI. Linux has a willfully obtuse and regressive UI. Linux takes the Sheldon Cooper/Maurice Moss route of expecting users to spend days/weeks/months learning stuff like bash or command line just to do the very basics that a total noob can learn in Mac or Windows in just 5 minutes. Yes, once you’ve learned and memorized the doorstopper manual, it’s more versatile, but that doesn’t matter if that up front learning curve is so steep relative to the competition that it prevents people from being able to use it like they actually need to in the real world.

          In product design there’s an axiom that usability always wins over versatility. A product that can be picked up and used by more people with less skill or training will always dominate one which can do a lot more, but requires more up-front learning investment from the user. This is why, for example, mobile devices are becoming more and more the dominant form of personal computer, despite their OSs being shrimpy limiting little jokes next to desktop OSs. I absolutely understand wanting to defend the use of more versatile but skill-intensive things: I will always prefer manual transmission cars, I can’t stand how modern cameras bury the manual settings, and I think many people who are using Fusion 360 or OpenSCAD instead of Blender for 3d-printing are doing themselves no favors. But you gotta realize when that stuff actually matters and when you’re just being an anorak.

          If you work in programming or IT, then it makes sense to cultivate deep knowledge. But for regular people who just want something they can use, trying to poo-poo them for not wanting to learn bash or CL just makes you the computer equivalent of a model train shut in.

  4. PPX14 says:

    Notifications should not pop up when I’m gaming. Obviously.

    The ONLY popup I’ve been getting during gaming on Windows 10 has been that INFERNAL popup telling me that during gaming Windows will silence popups!! With an toggle and option to take me to the settings for Focused Notifications that makes it ambiguous whether this feature is on, or if it is asking me if I want to turn it on!

    I do not need to see this every single time!

    I’ve had to turn Notifications popups off in general now, to stop this popup that was telling me that I wouldn’t get popups.

    I do not like Windows 10 and its strange settings menus.

    1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

      Fiddling around in the parameters allow you to make the notifications (including the “SEE HOW I’M NOT ANNOYING YOU RIGHT NOW??”) entirely silent. But it’s way more complicated than it should be (ie the default).

      1. PPX14 says:

        It would have been fine if they’d just shown it after a game had closed. Or after a game had installed. And only once.

        Also, pre-game splash screens are important! How dare they interrupt once I’ve clicked on the game icon!

  5. PPX14 says:

    but having my machine yank me out of game for a popup to reboot now or annoy me again in an hour is unforgivable

    I would like to see Windows 10 be more easily and flexibly customisable. In the case of the above I believe you can choose when updates are installed but I think it is a limited range of pre-set times like “outside 9am-5pm”. This limited range of presets in settings where there seems to be no need is rife – for example Screensaver Slideshow speed is Fast Medium or Slow. Why can I not choose the time? Slow is way too fast for me as I’ve chosen to make my screensaver a selection of world maps to try to learn them. The same can be said for some aesthetic settings/options, screensaver and desktop background selection options and the like. I think some of these things have been improved in updates. I get the feeling we’ve been given a basic tablet interface platform which is slowly regaining Windows 7 user-capabilities. And yet how odd considering it started out with the Windows 7 options available in parallel in many cases and then phased them out…

  6. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    Good articles, but that part surprised me “In practical terms this doesn’t mean much. I imagine that everyone who cares about Halo already has an Xbox.”

    That implies that people buy all the consoles for the exclusives they’re interested in. It can’t be true. I’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm from PC people who could see what the HALO fuss is about. I think I’ll give it a try myself.

    1. Shas'Ui says:

      Another consideration is the different control scheme: I can’t stand playing FPS’s with a controller, due to my thousands of hours with mouse/keyboard.

      When the “unofficial” port arrived, I gave it a try and quite enjoyed it: after all, there’s a reason these games were so popular. I look forward to seeing some of the newer installments, hopefully with a bit of professional polish in the port. (Knowing Microsoft, it’ll probably be controller only, or only let you switch between keybind presets…)

      1. Amstrad says:

        > (Knowing Microsoft, it’ll probably be controller only, or only let you switch between keybind presets…)

        In a recent hour+ livestream with gameplay of the first title that’s coming to PC (Halo: Reach) this topic among many others was touched on. The tl;dr is that mouse and keyboard with raw mouse input and a full keybind menu is in, They also discussed thing like FOV slider (difficult to implement but they’re looking into it), uncapped framerate (a planned feature) and modding (not a promised feature, but being considered)

        1. Shas'Ui says:

          Thanks for the info!
          I wonder how far they might go with modding; between the user-creation stuff (maps &/ gamemodes? IDK how deep it goes) in the recent halos, and their experience now owning minecraft, they might realize the value it can add, esp. for games that a lot of people have already played in the past.

    2. Vinsomer says:

      I don’t think he meant everyone, just most people.

      We have seen quite a few former console exclusives sell very well on Steam, so I think Halo would sell well, if nothing else because a lot of consumers would want to support it to prove to MS that releasing more games is the right idea.

  7. Ivan says:

    Dang. That is a list of things that annoy me every day. Buuut, I’m still on windows 7, cos my graphics card is old and Nvidia’s newest drivers for it break it. Possibly deliberately. Anyway, Windows 10 doesn’t let me not upgrade to those newer drivers, so I don’t use it. But dang, they fixed none of the things on that list between 7 and 10, huh?

    1. Thomas says:

      10 boots really quickly. I’m not sure why it doesn’t for Shamus. It’s a couple of seconds for me on a creaky 5 year old laptop, and the work Windows 10 machines boot up something like 10 minutes faster than the old Windows 7 ones. Even without an SSD I’ve seen Windows 10 boot a lot faster than my phone does.

      I’ve done a quick google though and it sounds like there’s a whole bunch of things that can make it boot up slowly.

      1. Richard says:

        Yeah, 10 does boot really quickly on all three of my machines.

        Case in point – I just updated Visual Studio 2017 on this machine, and the full reboot it demanded took 23 seconds.

        I’d prefer it if it didn’t require a reboot, however the fundamental file model of Windows will never allow that because you just cannot swap out files underneath a running process…

        The problems I have with Windows 10 are:
        1) The spying. Just **** off already.
        It’s even illegal, and sooner or later it’s going to cost MS billions of actual dollars once an EU data protection commission decides they’d like the money.

        2) The slow global locks in the Win32 and UWP APIs.
        Quite a lot of kernel calls and even user-mode calls use global locks that hold the lock for ages.
        The really nasty ones are related to process creation/destruction and some types of file access. And the Registry of course – which is why a lot of modern applications now use INI files again!
        These issues are becoming worse and worse as ‘normal’ core counts rise.

        It really hits me hard during compilation, as processes are spawned, max out a core for a moment and then die.
        While Task Manager shows 100% CPU utilisation, in reality most of those processes are just spinning inside Windows API waitlocks, and not actualy doing anything.

        3) Stop popping up esoteric and impossible-to-programmatically-disable misfeatures.
        I do not want the simulation application I write to pop up the “Game Bar” video recorder, just because the filename happens to match some random game that Microsoft know about.

        If I want the application I wrote to offer that feature, require me to opt in.
        I don’t care whether that’s by setting a Registry key or calling a UWP/Win32 API.

        Yet that’s not there. You know how to avoid the Game Bar?
        Make sure the executable name isn’t on the list.

        And you know how to get yopur game to offer the Game Bar?
        Make sure the executable is on the list.

        And where is that list?
        It’s not published anywhere, doesn’t exist if the PC is logged onto a corporate domain (so you can’t test) and changes every month (so you can’t test).

        Worse, there’s no way for the user to enable or disable it for any particular game.
        You can only globally disable it – for a while.

        BTW Shamus, the “Game Bar” is how you’re supposed to record UWP games.
        Good luck with that, because the publisher can’t enable it and neither can you!

      2. Lars says:

        Win 10 boots really quick, but not to the point of beeing usable, if you want to use anything internet related. I see my desktop in like 4 seconds, but than MS, realTEK Audio, etc. check for and download updates in the background which bust the WLAN-internet connection if I do anything else (Like starting a game – which starts client X).

  8. Redrock says:

    I know it’s not fashionable to compliment Microsoft around here, but in the last few years I’ve been increasingly impressed by their willingness to have their software play nice with other OS. At one point Outlook was easily the best mail app you could have on an iPhone. The OneDrive app works beautifully on my Android, integrates easily into any app with a sharing function, and is probably the most smooth and useful cloud storage account I use. Office on both iOS and Android is pretty great, and so on. Compare that to Google and Apple, where, for example, Apple Music is completely broken on Android and Google Play Music sucks on iOS. Sure, Microsoft has a lot of sins past, present and one should think future, but their dedication to breaking down at least some of the walls between platforms seems to be sincere, for what it’s worth.

  9. This might sound weird, but I’d like to have some native functionality for having your input devices affect multiple processes at once. So, for instance, if I want to dual-box an MMO, I’d like to be able to click the mouse or hit jump and have that input go to both instances of the game simultaneously. Or hold down a key to split them temporarily.

    Yeah, I know, that’s probably a weird edge case.

    1. Moss says:

      Why native? Are third party applications not an option?

    2. Richard says:

      It is natively supported.

      However, applications must explicitly request to get copies of events that are ‘normally’ delivered to something else.
      I don’t think you can force it upon them.

      – This is how keyloggers work of course, so this API is rather suspicious.

  10. TLN says:

    I find that Windows 10 is quite fast these days really. I mean I wouldn’t mind it being EVEN faster, sure, but idk.

    From powered off PC to logged into windows with a browser window open takes like 15-20 seconds, and ~5 seconds of that is because I increased the timeout for “Press [key] to enter BIOS setup” (because I always forget what key I’m supposed to press).

  11. Steve C says:

    I understand that some idiots refuse to apply updates and their compromised machines cause problems for the rest of us, but having my machine yank me out of game for a popup to reboot now or annoy me again in an hour is unforgivable.

    That’s exactly why I do not apply updates. Otherwise there’s no way to stop those popups, reboots and software conflicts. The updates protect me from boogiemen that have never actually caused me inconvenience nor ever seized control of my computer. However official updates have actually resulted in lost data, hours lost, and great deal of stress. And it tends to do it at the worst possible times, which means I definitely have lost control of my computer. I remember one day in particular that got wrecked because a friend’s computer decided updating was the most important thing. It would have been less destructive if it had burst into flames. For me, no malware has nor will ever come close to the amount of damage updates have done. I also know for a fact that going out of my way to disable updates has saved me on a few occasions.

    It is a simple cost/benefit analysis for me. I’m surprised so few do the same.

    1. FluffySquirrel says:

      I’ve wasted the equivalent of a full weekend fixing crap that Windows 10 updates broke on my machine. So, no.. don’t really consider myself an idiot for turning off updates. Frankly, Windows 10 updates have griefed me way more than viruses ever have. Had to disable them because they just kept flat out destroying all my sound drivers each time it updated

    2. RichardW says:

      I managed to stick it out for nearly 18 months without updating Windows 10, until it started claiming it wasn’t activated for some mysterious reason and the only way to “fix” this annoying watermark in the corner was to download the dreaded “Creator’s Update” which broke so many goddamn things I’m still not sure I have everything back in working order. Similar to how I have to readjust a bunch of settings in the Nvidia Slowforce Experience panel everytime that’s updated, I have to go and manually get rid of fullscreen optimizations so that half of my older games don’t fail to display.

  12. InThane says:

    Between Lutris and Steam/Proton, a LOT of modern games work fine on Linux, and while there’s a small amount of work to get things running in the first place (mainly install drivers – once Lutris and Steam are up, they handle everything else) I’ve actually been impressed enough to move fully over to Linux. How easy the install is depends on how much you have to control every facet. I’m using Ubuntu, and it’s enough to just accept defaults on the way through the installation process to get a usable desktop.

  13. MelTorefas says:

    If Windows is going to be this stupid, then it shouldn’t go around trying to think for the user.

    This, more than anything else, is what frustrates me about the “smart application” trend. I understand a need to cover the cases where the user does not really know what they are doing, but an option to disable this and give control back to the user should be considered mandatory. Which is why the entire argument of “It is done for the user’s sake” falls flat to me. If it was really for the user’s sake the user would have the option to turn it off. The fact that no such option exists tells the truth; it is done to ensure as much control as possible by the company.

  14. Anorak says:

    I have a dual boot set up between xubuntu and Windows 10 at home. It’s a more segregated dual boot than most people use, I actually have 2 hard drives, each with their own boot partition. 1 for windows, the other for Linux.
    I then select if I want to go to Windows by pressing the “Boot selection” key during the POST.
    I do this because I have had poor experiences with Windows updates nuking my GRUB set up, so in order to get Windows to play nicely with Linux I just had to wall them off from each other.

    In practice, however, I’d not booted Windows in months, and months, and months. Mostly this was because of Proton being probably the most amazing piece of wizardy I’ve seen in a long time, but also because I have a PS4 and a busy home and work life.

    Anyway. I booted Windows 10 to check something, and the experience was abysmal. Slow to boot, slow to use, slow to search, locked up while doing something weird with the update manager.
    And cortana was back :(

    Windows 10 and my linux install are installed on identical SSDs, so it’s not a hardware related problem. Windows 10 is just that slow.

  15. Moss says:

    Shamus, I don’t think you appreciate just how difficult OS development is. Here’s a Hacker News forum answer to the question What’s the largest amount of bad code you have ever seen work? It isn’t about OS development but it paints the picture of what it looks like better than I could. The source code for Windows is a huge mess of frameworks and patches over older frameworks and patches. It’s an ecosystem where everything affects everything else, and the tiniest of changes have consequences that grow exponentially.

    My point is that your ten point list of changes are unrealistic (even banal points like no. 3). You might as well demand that Windows comes free of charge, delivered to your doorstep by twelve knights on horseback in shining armor who have ridden since dawn without rest from the magical realm of Narnia.

    1. Shamus says:

      OS development is hard, therefore all improvements are impossible?

      1. Moss says:

        That’s a strawman. Microsoft have been at work with all ten of these points for every iteration of Windows. Even for abysmal releases like Vista, I can promise you that a lot of changes were made with the motivation to “make everything faster” and to “make a coherent policy for full-screen applications.”

        You are, of course, fully in your rights to make however many impossible and outrageous demands as you want. As a critic, it is even your job to voice your opinion on this (it is why I enjoy reading your posts in fact). I am merely pointing out that in this case you need more grounded expectations. Your ten point list is not framed as “in this optimal dream scenario of mine, this is what I’d like to see,” but as “these are reasonable changes that shouldn’t take more than a development cycle to get implemented.”

        1. Shamus says:

          “That’s a strawman.”

          That’s literally what you said. You even repeated it here when you called the improvements “impossible and outrageous”.

          Like, really? Not having system pop-ups when a game is running is impossible? NOT forcing updates is impossible? There’s NO WAY to optimize ANYTHING?

          1. Moss says:

            No, what I said was “OS development is hard, therefore some improvements are unrealistic.”

            1. Kylroy says:

              Well, what you said was “My point is that your ten point list of changes are unrealistic (even banal points like no. 3).” You stated that the specific points he thought should be addressed are not…addressable. I *suppose* you’ve left open the possibility of other improvements Shamus *didn’t* mention. But for the purposes of this discussion, the difference between “OS development is hard, therefore all improvements are impossible” and “OS development is hard, therefore all improvements *that you suggested* are impossible” isn’t very meaningful.

              1. Moss says:

                Well, I’d agree with you that the distinction isn’t very meaningful, but look at what Shamus just wrote:

                Like, really? Not having system pop-ups when a game is running is impossible? NOT forcing updates is impossible? There’s NO WAY to optimize ANYTHING?

                This is not what I meant, and he knows it. He’s trying to prove his point by attacking a straw man. I’d say the distinction is meaningful here.

                EDIT: You know what, that’s unfair, he might not know that’s not what I meant.

                1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

                  Dude, you said his list including a banal point was unrealistic. He didn’t strawman you, you phrased it wrong.
                  And as a software engineer I find your defense of their shortcoming professionally offensive. It might be ok to say that if we were talking about a Linux distribution, but Microsoft has entire armies of some of the best programmers in the world, most of those changes are not only realistic, they’re expected.
                  This is most likely a management problem, a bunch of people in suit who push for new (mostly unwanted) features instead of improving what’s already there.

            2. newplan says:

              OS development is obviously hard but from everything I’ve read Windows 10 is worse in every way than Windows 7. If OS development is so hard that adding to the OS only makes it worse then maybe just declare it done.

              1. Richard says:

                The actual operating system is far, far better than Windows 7 is almost every way.
                (Except for some issues with the global locks)

                The GUI however, is a complete a total ballsup, and was deliberately and intentionally made almost as hideous and hostile as possible by none other than Steven Sinofsky.

                Which is strange, because he was also responsible for Windows 7 which had a really pretty good GUI.

      2. BlueHorus says:

        ^ This. (EDIT: What Shamus said.)

        But to elaborate: Windows is one of Microsoft’s biggest product, used and sold worldwide. The amount of experienced people they’ve got working on it – maybe even constantly – is going to be very, very high.
        Thought experiment: if a new Windows update was released that bricked computers everywhere, causing a global outcry and a mass of bad publicity…
        …how long do you think it would take them to find/fix the issue, no matter how complicated it was?

        It’s as much a matter of ‘they don’t HAVE to fix [X], so they don’t bother’ rather than ‘[X] is is to hard/complicated to fix.’

        How much of a priority is [X]?

    2. Kylroy says:

      Well, I think some of the things (better pop-up management, auto-formatting to “media view”, constantly reinstalling Cortana) aren’t that hard. But a simple directive to “make it faster” might be impossible without breaking compatibility with any of the half-dozen or more versions of the OS that are installed on a large portion of PCs.

      1. Chad says:

        Windows before NT 3.5 was known to be broken. MS had made the business decision to maintain compatibility with a bunch of design decisions dating back to a previous technological era, in some cases all the way back to middling days of MS-DOS. I can’t say that these were bad business decisions (they did build and maintain a monopoly), but they were bad technical decisions, acknowledged even by stalwarts inside MS. The intent was that NT would let them fox those problems, but unfortunately a combination of technical, business, and market issues turned that “clean slate” into “somewhat less crappy slate”, plus a series of mostly-unfulfilled options to improve later (Win9x, despite how the timeline might look; Win2k; etc).
        For Win10, the promise was twofold: break ties with the past, get everyone to update, and then actually fix some of the forever-problems. Unfortunately, the business model crept in too soon and derailed the effort. Win10 got a (well deserved!) reputation for forcing people to upgrade, for constantly spying on its users while shoving ads and bloatware at them, and for ignoring user preferences (which are often “essential, mandated corporate policy”) in favor of choices clearly at least sometimes driven by brand/marketing/alliances.
        There is still hope, because MS has realized that the best programmers don’t want to use Windows, and that hits them in the bottom line. Right now, we’re on the hook with Win10 as a obstreperous Steam/Docker substrate for a few more years, and then maybe enough of that ancient boat-anchor compatibility will be gone that they can start over, again (6th time’s the charm?)

    3. Vinsomer says:

      I really don’t think Shamus’ list is that unrealistic. Most of the things he’s complaining about are unnecessary features which slow down Windows, or small QOL/UI improvements that would help some users but which probably haven’t been implemented because of developer oversight.

      I shouldn’t have to disable Cortana multiple times. I shouldn’t have to spend an hour uninstalling bloatware on a clean install. I shouldn’t have to scour through several PC settings menus to get some modicum of privacy.

      And the thing is those things aren’t accidental. They’re deliberate design choices made by Microsoft. They’re at a stage where the biggest thing they could do to improve the experience is just not do things and streamline away unimportant features, which isn’t unrealistic in any way.

  16. Cilvre says:

    Not only does Proton have a ton of confirmed games working, you can just have proton enabled for all steam games and install whatever you like. I found that majority of my steam library works with proton, including games that are not reported working with it.

  17. Vavrek says:

    I have one tip that I’d like to share with the crowd, and Shamus particularly, because it’s an incredibly convenient tool I figured out:
    “Why is the file search so abysmal? It is completely nuts that I can search for documents on the internet dozens of times faster than I can search for a filename on my local SSD.”

    By default, Windows only indexes for search a few directories. Documents, maybe Desktop, the basic “these are your user files” locations. So, when you try to search for an arbitrary file name in an unknown directory, the OS has to scan through everything as thought it’s never been seen before. You can change what gets indexed. I have my entire System and Storage drives indexed, including file contents. If I hit Winkey and type ‘da5id’, the start menu immediately brings up a copy of Snow Crash I have lying around.

    The menu for this stuff is named Indexing Options. Like the rest of Windows settings, the quickest way to find it is just to search that name and have it pop up.

    1. Kylroy says:

      This then leads to the question – why doesn’t Windows do this by default? What is the cost of having all or most things indexed automatically? (Seriously, I don’t know and am curious.)

      1. Richard says:

        Disk space, and ‘here be dragons’ regions.

        There’s a heck of a lot of files (eg in %ProgramFiles%, %ProgramData%, %AppData% %LocalAppData%) that ‘normal’ users really should never touch because renaming, deleting or even opening them in the wrong editor would break one or more applications or cause you to lose documents/save files.

        So they don’t come up in a normal search.

        The trouble is that a lot of applications (I’m looking at you, Steam!) put user documents (screenshots, music, recordings) in those hidden places.

        And now we have user data mixed up with system data, and everybody is unhappy.

        Seriously, if Valve et al would just use the APIs that date back to Windows XP (and in some cases are even older), and put user data in USER DATA folders, then everybody would be much, much happier.

  18. Infinitron says:

    I realize that UWP apps are locked away in a sandbox, but isn’t there any way to open that up? As it stands, games from the Windows 10 store can’t be used with capture software. No Bandicam. No capturing the window for streaming. That limitation is so severe that it basically makes the games useless for a non-trivial segment of the audience. Streaming and YouTube are big these days, you know?<

    Wasn't there something about them bringing Win32 apps to the Windows Store?

  19. Geebs says:

    Forget Shamus’ list, why on Earth doesn’t Windows Explorer have a global setting to enable calculation of folder sizes yet?

    I know that people like to cite performance reasons for this, but a) macOS has no trouble doing it and b) Windows updates its estimate of total hard disk space being used in real time.

    1. Shamus says:

      This has bugged me for years.

    2. Richard says:

      The two sad things are that macOS lies (those numbers are usually way off), and it’s far, far easier to determine “total free space on the disk” than to work out how much is actually used by any given object.

      Especially when there’s hardlinks involved (Windows doesn’t do symlinks).

      It’s possible to hardlink a folder back to its parent in Windows/NTFS. Do Not Do This!

    3. Kyte says:

      Without saving the size in a field within the folder entry (which has its own costs, starting with having to keep the number updated), the only way to calculate the disk size of a folder is to manually traverse the entire file tree all the way to the end. This is extremely expensive. The fact you can see the estimate update as it progresses is proof of it: Most calculations in a computer are made faster than you can perceive them.
      It has to open the directory entry, follow each link to the file entries, open those file entries and read the file size. Recursively all the way down to the bottom. And in some cases there is no bottom! (Mostly weird-ass situations involving hard links and whatnot so it’s not really relevant). And because the disk can only do one thing at once, it’s going to slow down all file accesses. (Nowadays it’s not much of a slowdown but it’s still worth considering)
      It’s not an operation you want to fire up willy-nilly.

      The great difference with estimating total hard disk space is that you don’t need to distinguish what files or folders is a given bit of disk assigned to. You can just count up the sectors being used, do some math over the totals and off you go.

      MacOS’s estimates are just that, estimates. Because if they had to keep track of true disk usage they’d have just as much overhead.

  20. Leeward says:

    I’ve been playing video games on Linux for a long time, and these days it’s easier than ever. Granted, I mostly care about indie stuff like Oxygen Not Included and Kerbal Space Program, but major titles like Borderlands run fine without any fiddling with WINE on my end. I’ve also clocked a few hours of Cities: Skylines. I think there’s only 1 game that I play regularly that doesn’t run natively on Linux.

    I’m not going to claim that Linux is where you should go if you’re a serious gamer, but for my needs it actually does pretty well. I think the fact that Unity supports it is a major factor. Steam support has also made a huge difference.

  21. Sven says:

    I work for Microsoft, and “making things go faster” is a main part of my mission. I’m focused on only a small part of that (the Windows Subsystem for Linux), but my work often intersects with a major part of what makes Windows “slow” compared to Linux: file systems. And let me tell you, we’d love to make things faster here, but things are just not that simple.

    Linux has a very simple API for file system drivers. There’s no layering (unless the file system does that explicitly, like overlayfs for containers), and everything’s just a simple function pointer callback. On top of that, the top level VFS caches lots of things, so many things (such as metadata operations) don’t even have to go to the file system drivers at all once they’re in the cache.

    Windows has no top level cache. It uses a system where IO requests are encapsulated in IRP packets, which are passed down a chain of filter drivers before reaching the OS. Filter drivers can provide anything from virus scanning to encryption to file virtualization (e.g. OneDrive placeholders). They are used extensively by Microsoft itself, and there are literally hundreds of third-party filters.

    We’ve done lots of work the last few releases to improve the performance of many file system related things, but the real differences are architectural, and we just can’t change them, at least not without telling dozens of important partners that write filters to fuck off. I know from experience that even small changes that require filter driver buy-in can take years to roll out.

    I’m not saying it’s impossible, and we continue to do lots of work on this every single release, but I’m just saying it’s not as simple as saying “spend a release working on perf.” We work on perf every release, but improving perf without impacting back compat or requiring dozens of third-party vendors to update their code before it can work is hard.

    1. Shamus says:

      Thanks for the perspective. I believe you that it’s really hard and I accept everything you’ve said about this being a large system with not a lot of room to make sweeping changes.

      But I hope you can understand how frustrating and perplexing it is for those of us stuck on the outside. CPUs are thousands of times faster than they were 20 years ago. Hard drives have ~20 times faster throughput and SSD are far ahead of that. We’ve got more than 100 times more memory. And that’s not even counting being able to offload some rendering tasks to a dedicated GPU.

      The machines are so powerful now, and yet we still see the same oddities: Boot time is quicker now than in 1999, but it’s maybe a quarter what it used to be, not 100 times faster. You still get inexplicable 1 or 2 second delays when jumping to a directory in explorer*, even though the same listing would be instant in DOS.

      Anyway, the greater point was that responsiveness and usability are now my top concerns as a consumer. All of my feature requests (Cortana, forced updates) are subtractive. The OS does everything I need it to, and has done so for the last couple of versions. I believe you that optimizing this giant complex system with decades of backwards compatibility is very difficult and slow. But as a consumer, it’s the one thing I value most.

      * I just upgraded my PC so this isn’t a problem now, but it was last month on a machine at was still pretty decent. I don’t know if my current speed is due to the fast hardware or the fact that this is a fresh install of Windows 10. Time will tell.

      1. Sven says:

        Oh, you’ll have no argument from me there. If we could get more people to spend time on optimizing performance for a whole release, I’d be ecstatic. Unfortunately, those kinds of decisions are made well above my pay grade.

    2. Vinsomer says:

      As someone with no knowledge of what programming an OS takes, do you think it might be time to just completely start fresh with newer architecture, backwards compatibility and business partners be damned? Will there ever come a point where that decision has to be made – and if so, when?

      1. Syal says:

        Also no knowledge, but I would assume the point for that would be when all the business partners you’d be damning have already abandoned you for a newer system, and not a moment before. Don’t burn your bridges before they hatch.

        1. Vinsomer says:

          Isn’t that exactly the worst time?

          Microsoft have up to 80% market share. Right now, even if they piss off every partner they have by creating a whole new OS, they’ll still make deals with them – there are only 2 other options in the game and neither are good options business-wise. Waiting for them to leave for another system is just waiting for them to have leverage.

          Also, if Linux users can manage to code programs like WINE or Photon, then I think it’s possible for MS to create a program to run win32 programs in real time, or just create a stripped-down version of windows to run in a virtual machine, meaning that they don’t have to sacrifice backwards compatibility.

          But, then again I have no idea how hard this would actually be.

          1. Syal says:

            If they already have the whole market, it’s pure cost. Consistency is a selling point, and you’re replacing it with a new technology that competitors can learn from and copy, and if you’re successful you end up where you started.

            And when I hear “business partners” I specifically think of a symbiotic relationship; you provide something to them (consistent features they don’t have to relearn) and they provide something to you (advertising/hardware/soda pop). Forcefully removing their consistency is going to make them A) actively seek out alternatives, since they have to learn a new thing anyway and you’ve proven willing to disrupt them, and B) reciprocate as much as they can (we’re redesigning your marketing to exclusively target grandmas/replacing our hardware with new designs that you’ll have to design your system around/shaking every one of your sodas).

            1. Duoae says:

              I agree… plus, you can’t beat commercial inertia/standards.

              We use absolutely terrible corporate software (not speaking about windows) such as JD Edwards and Empower which are so entrenched in the industry because auditors will not ask difficult questions about their implementations because they are so well known and used by everyone.

              However, they are terrible pieces of crapware that lack basic usability, ease of customisation (without spending a fortune) and much, much worse issues with regards to speed than Windows ever has even in such demonic incarnations as ME or Win 8 at release.

              This is, of course, all because they support data structures and types going back to the mid-90s – they are fully backward compatible solutions which are guaranteed to work and be future proof. This is, of course, their huge selling point. However, this does bring randomly stupid issues such as a “database” (on a local machine – not network!) of 300 MB being considered large and thus being prone to crashing or slowdown… or being unable to handle data entries with special characters (slashes are the devil!).

              Competing software (which also has its own issues) is better and more flexible in many ways but these behemoths have such inertia that even our company has moved from the other software vendors onto these platforms and, barring any sort of rapture event, will likely stay on them for the remaining lifetime of the company’s operations.

            2. Vinsomer says:

              Consistency is a big thing, of course, but part of me thinks that there’s a sense of putting off the inevitable. At least if MS make moves now, they can make an easier transition that lessens the impact of switching over to whatever next-gen OS they come out with next. And I doubt it’d be like learning something completely new – MS have always been fans of skeuomorphism, so whatever new OS they make will probably at least on a UI level be similar, and therefore far less of a learning curve than switching to a Linux distro or Mac OS.

              At the very least, right now MS’ competitors don’t have any plans to push for a bigger market share. MS could catch everyone with their pants down and develop a completely new OS architecture that’s chopped away most of the antiquated code and depencencies, or they can wait til it’s too late, til all those problems meet a critical mass, and they’ll have a much harder time of it.

              1. Syal says:

                there’s a sense of putting off the inevitable.

                A few parts to this:

                Upgrades will always be inevitable, including immediately after an upgrade. There’s always higher to go, and the question is what’s waiting for you there.

                The longer you wait, the more problems will have been solved by other people who needed to innovate to compete with you, at which point you can take their solution, implement it in your established framework, and save yourself a lot of R&D. It’s more efficient to be second to the party.

      2. Sven says:

        We attempted that with the Midori project, which was basically an attempt to create an OS from the ground up using modern engineering practices. Hundreds of extremely skilled (which means, high paid) engineers worked on it for over seven years (and that’s not counting the time spent on the Singularity project at Microsoft Research, on which Midori was based), and it never got to the point where it was really useful. It was ultimately cancelled, which was a shame since the technology behind it was awesome. They just couldn’t find a way to productize it, and ultimately leadership decided there were better things (i.e. things more likely to make the company money, like Azure) those expensive engineers could be working on.

        OS’s are big and complex, and need many pieces. Getting up to anything remotely resembling feature parity with current Windows releases would probably take the entire Microsoft OS team (tens of thousands of people) the better part of a decade. And even then, no existing software would run on it. And during that time, you aren’t releasing any, or at least far fewer, updates to your existing OS.

        If we’re asking enterprises to just hang on, and switch to something entirely different in five to ten years, then why wouldn’t they just switch to Linux now? And that’s assuming they even want the new thing; enterprises are notoriously hesitant to upgrade.

        As much as it’d be great to get rid of some of these design decisions that were made in the 80s and 90s, it just doesn’t make sense from a business perspective.

        1. Olivier FAURE says:

          Holy crap, you worked on Midori? That’s awesome.

    3. Pinkhair says:

      And here I’d hoped it was as simple as bringing more blue pages…

  22. Thomas Steven Slater says:

    I would say just stop releasing new versions period. Ever new version means that more and more things either don’t work so require fiddling to work. It pretty much killed my interest in amateur game development, barely anybody can actually play the game I release, even if I learn and new engine its only a matter of time until they ruin that too.

  23. Tyler says:

    To add to anon’s comment above I quite often have the impression that you’re quite often dealt a bad deck when it comes to your IT equipment. ?

    1. Make everything faster.

    I can get fully on board with this. I despise the influx of Electron apps and the general idea that it just takes some web developers with React.js knowledge to create great applications. We’re throwing piles of memory and CPU cycles at Google’s v8 Javascript engine in the hopes that it can emulate a well-written native application. I do get that multi-platform development can be hard and expensive and that desktop apps are second class citizens in a mobile-first world (see also: Apple’s project Catalyst), but it’s sad that “use Javascript” has been the most popular choice.

    Can’t complain about boot times though – 8 seconds on a Samsung Pro SSD sounds “fine” to me (and I didn’t do any fancy tuning).

    2. Come up with some sort of coherent policy regarding full-screen applications.

    3. Task manager needs to be able to help me out when a game crashes.

    Just like anon mentioned, those two are connected – the “classic” full screen mode grants exclusive video output access to the given application (it runs outside of Windows’ UI compositing). Microsoft does have a more modern “hybrid” full screen mode which retains some control for the OS but still allows games to use custom buffering methods (e.g. to use “true” triple buffering instead of DirectX’ default flip queue). It seems that DirectX 12 games use this by default and modern games have switched to this (e.g. Overwatch, Battlefield V) and Unity games in general don’t seem to use exclusive full screen at all.

    So Microsoft invented what you wanted, now it’s up to game developers to give up their old ways and get on with the program. The mess that is Win32 is not exactly enticing them to, more on that below.

    4. Notifications should not pop up when I’m gaming.

    A current version of Windows 10 does detect game activity and will mute notifications accordingly. Additionally Windows allows you – like macOS – to mute notifications by enabling “Quiet Hours” in the notification pane. So once again: There are solutions to your gripes.

    As for the firewall alerts – these usually come up with games that use P2P functionality for matchmaking or voice chat. Without it, you will still be able to play the game, but voice chat might not work or you just won’t be elected to become the host of multiplayer sessions.

    Once again – if games would use the more modern fullscreen API, you’d see those prompts when the game actually requires this functionality.

    5. Forcing a surprise update is totally unacceptable

    I agree in general, but I never had a OS update automatically install on me. How do you achieve such a thing?

    9. I realize that UWP apps are locked away in a sandbox, but isn’t there any way to open that up?

    It’s not 2017 anymore – OBS, ShadowPlay and other more modern capture apps can capture those games when installed into the default “program files” folder (where Windows will automatically set the permissions necessary for those apps to capture game output).

    nVidias NVFBC is still more performant that UWP capturing, but it’s possible and usually(!) doesn’t require any extra effort.

    The elephant in the room when it comes to UWP though is that Windows mobile is dead and thus a main pillar of that strategy is gone. And contrary to macOS/iOS, where APIs are introduced/updated/removed nearly every year (and Apple deprecating old stuff left and right) Windows developers haven’t really been forced to more modern APIs in ages. Hence the reliance on Win32 (and Microsoft opening up its store for Win32-based apps).

    Win32 is an ugly, outdated, horrible mess. Look at the dependencies of some “modern” windows apps and you’ll still find ancient stuff like Windows GDI. Modern Windows is a mishmash of old APIs, new APIs, some new APIs which just wrap old Win32 APIs, few to no guidance from Microsoft and even internal Microsoft teams reinventing the wheel, coming up with their own APIs and frameworks and Explorer, Visual Studio, Office and Windows 10 all having their own UI paradigms.

    Some OS functions even trigger file browsing dialogues that haven’t changed since Windows 3.1!

    As such Win32 doesn’t enforce restrictions and safeguards in a way that a modern OS API would and that’s kind of what game developers like about it, but also leads to games stuck in full screen, games being able to lock up the whole OS, etc. And I’m afraid it’s far too late for Microsoft to put that genie back in the bottle (except maybe with Windows 11 but imagine the outrage if 80% of old Windows apps and games will stop working without being updated.)

  24. Jabberwok says:

    Could unifying them be a way of trying to sell more consoles, rather than an attempt to actually make things better for PC users? Just get them used to the interface and have a way of constantly reminding them about MS’s hardware.

    Until the past year, I had always gamed on a Mac. Not by choice, just because that’s what I had. It’s fine, there are still more good games than a (reasonable) person could ever play. I just wasn’t necessarily following all of the big trends. The early 2000s were the toughest IMO, but the past 5 to 10 years have been decent for Mac gaming.

  25. Agammamon says:

    If I really like a game, then I’d much prefer to own it permanently rather than have temporary access to it.

    Yeah, well, that’s not really an option any more. :(

  26. Agammamon says:

    If you just use the machine for email, web, and basic productivity, then moving to Linux is viable[1]

    Is it? It seems like it should be, but people don’t seem to be switching. This probably goes back to the idea that convenience is king.

    I think is convenience – the ones where its most viable to switch to Linux have the least to gain from doing so. If all you’re doing is email, surfing, and word processing/spreadsheets/etc then you’re probably not deep into the PC *internals* community so you’re not worrying anymore about how much data MS is collecting about you than you are about Facebook, Amazon, or Twitter.

    What is the machine doing with all those CPU cycles?!

    Bitcoin mining.

  27. Decius says:

    1: Don’t ever, ever, EVER install an update while I’m working. Don’t even ask.
    2: Don’t tell me an update is super duper important to security and it’s being installed now, then reboot and tell me about all the nifty new features that it added.
    3. Don’t gradually add shit until there’s several gigs of random update cruft that can’t be deleted or merged with the kernel and removed.
    4. Don’t name permanent directories long strings of random letters and numbers- if it’s important enough to be there, it’s important enough to name.
    5. Don’t even ask me to install an update while I’m working. And don’t just automatically do it.
    6. Let me turn off updates and turn them back on again without destroying large portions of the operating system.

  28. Higher Peanut says:

    Reading all the comments about Cortana makes me glad it was never released here in NZ so I don’t have to deal with it.

    To make my gaming on Windows easier what I’m looking for is that they turn stuff off. If I’m running a game, at most I’m going to have a video or browser on a 2nd screen. Background stuff including updates, notifications, Cortana or stuff that makes Office open faster don’t need to be there. At some point they also tried adding a game bar and DVR which I had to go turn off since it ran all the time and 3rd parties do it better if you need it.

    Bonus points if when I run an old game in a low resolution it doesn’t mangle my desktop and open windows at the time.

  29. SkySC says:

    I sometimes wonder if what keeps Windows dominant isn’t the benefits of the existing monopoly, but sheer inertia. Personally, I probably wouldn’t switch even if Windows lost most of its market share and 3rd party developers started focusing more on other OSs. And that’s for the same reason I still use Windows 7: better the devil I know than the devil I don’t.

    If that’s generally true, and not just me, then the reason Windows is dominant now is that it was dominant 10 years ago (and 15, and 20, etc.). People are used to it, and nobody likes having to switch. Even long-time users tend to complain about problems that are easily fixable if they’d only spend a little time looking (I do this a lot). If we’re so averse to spending the tiny amount of time researching to learn how to deal with minor problems, it makes sense that most people are incredibly reluctant to switch to a new system with lots of new things to learn and guaranteed major annoyances. Even if the new system is better than the old one in every way.

  30. Duoae says:

    My one big gripe about windows (I haven’t tried to use anything else in over 10 years) is focus-switching.

    i.e. You might want to open an app in the background whilst doing something else in the meantime. Windows, however, despite you switching back to the original app in the period where the new app is loading into memory, will immediately catapult you into the new app regardless of your activity.

    It’s like as if opening a link (in a new tab) in an existing window would automatically drag you to that new tab in a browser.

    I don’t get it and I hate it. Sometimes, I want to be typing away in a text editor and open my emails – let them update in the background and THEN check them. There are many other scenarios where this happens as well. It’s mostly a problem on my work laptop because they upgraded to win 10 with only 4 GB of memory and opening up a new app takes a long time as something in RAM is shifted over to the pagefile to make room for the new app.

    I wouldn’t mind but our IT department won’t listen to my pleas for an upgrade to 8 GB and refuse to believe me when I tell them that windows is designed to not allow 100% usage of the available RAM pool…. so they look at my task manager screenshots with 75-81% RAM utilisation (at boot) and tell me there’s still overhead there. Meanwhile, I’m sitting there waiting for 30-50 seconds for programmes like Chrome and Office to start up, each and every time I use them.

  31. K. says:

    What would you like to see Windows do to make gaming nicer on the PC?

    Create the unified game launcher / shop on OS level.
    GOG GALAXY 2.0 (and others) have the right idea.
    Would potentially increase performance, by removing the need for many different auto-updating apps running all the time.

    I admit though, this request is mostly out of morbid curiosity. I want to see a what a winner-takes-it-all “Warchest Battle Royale” would look like, with Microsoft, Valve, Epic, EA, Ubi, and Activision in the ring.

  32. byter says:

    In the options menu of the task manager you can select for it to be “always on top”. I remember having the same problem with being unable to close fullscreen games and it has almost always worked. The main exception to is when a game is bugging out when trying to alt tab back to my desktop (because I wanted to change music or youtube video on my single screen), when the screen is flickering back and forth constantly between the desktop and the game, the location of the task manager changes and you only have half a second to click anything on it, you can eventually close the program and save yourself but it wouldn’t have been so much trouble if task manager just worked in the crl atl delete space like back in the day.

  33. Matt says:

    I would love a windows update that let me play old games without trouble on Windows. I would love to play Medieval: Total War without having to set up a Windows 98 Virtual machine and fiddle with cd-rom and anti-piracy settings.

  34. MadTinkerer says:

    What would you like to see Windows do to make gaming nicer on the PC?

    Hurry up and release Halo on Steam. And also Rare Replay. And put Windows Entertainment Packs on And fix the combat in Minecraft Java Edition so it’s like pre 1.9 again. And stop pretending Notch doesn’t exist, because that’s a dick move.

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