Windows 10 is Now Here – What’s New and What’s Different?

Normally, I am well “behind the times”. Today, or let’s say, yesterday, I’m actually right on-par, keeping up with the “in crowd”. Going against my usual principles of letting someone else be the guinea pig, I went ahead and got Windows 10 the instant it was available.

A little backstory… I was familiar with Windows 98 and had it for several years. I had Windows 2000 and used it at work and school for several years. Then, eventually, we upgraded to XP and I used that for several years. I was reluctant to change to XP, but glad when I did. Then I bought a new computer and it had Windows 7 by default, so I had to get used to it.

Note, I did not mention Windows ME or Vista. Granted, I also didn’t mention 95, 3.1, or NT, but that’s because those were in my pre-computer days. That said, ME and Vista I didn’t mention because I loathed them. I didn’t have them because I did not want them. I did have brief experience with each and it further solidified my reasoning to avoid it.

Windows ME was a terrible hybrid between Windows 98 and Windows 2000. It had some look and feel of 2000, with all the instability of 98, possibly more. Vista I loathed similarly. It was the introduction of the constant, and I mean constant pop-up:

Windows UAC Pop-Up

Yes Windows, I wouldn’t have clicked it if I didn’t want to!

So here I am today, on a brand new laptop which I bought with (ugh) Windows 8 (8.1, to be specific).

While I don’t consider (my brief experience with) Windows 8/8.1 to be as bad as some people seem to think it is, I still could not go with it as my primary. So, when I had the opportunity to upgrade to Windows 10, I took it.

Look and Feel

The look and feel of Windows 10 or Windows 8/8.1 is incredibly different from Windows 7, Vista, and XP. All the fancy 3D looks, shaders, and effects are gone (except for transparency). For example, the Start button for Windows 7 looks like this:

Windows 7 Windows Vista Start

The Start button on Windows 7 and Vista is quite fancy.

On the other hand, on Windows 8 and 10 you get this:

Windows 8 10 Start Button

A little less fancy, don’t you think?

Now, technically on Windows 8.1, there is also a “Start” button shaped like a house, but the above is what you are stuck with. Likewise, it is evident on all your other screens.

In the Start Menu…

Windows 10 Start Menu

The new Windows 10 Start Menu

And everywhere…

Windows 10 System Tray Task Bar

My system tray and task bar

It honestly, to me, looks like a hybrid between Google’s new Material design, and Ubuntu 14.0.4 LTS. I can’t say that it’s great having a flashy new piece bland, I do appreciate the large, spacious images, buttons, and text that comes with not only the new operating system but also the corresponding apps.

Features and Functions

If there is one thing that I hate about this new version, it’s that it is a progression of further dumbing-down their software. Microsoft tends to have the impression that its users need their hand held through every step of the process. While that may be useful for some, it is incredibly obnoxious to others, particularly if you do know what you’re doing and can no longer find what you need.

Case in point: “Settings”.

In pretty much every version of Windows up until 8, you could tell anyone to go to “Start” > “Settings” > “Control Panel” and/or “Start” > “Control Panel”. In Windows 7, it was a direct option from Start, so it was even more handy.

In Windows 8.1, Control Panel still existed, with only a little hunting.

In Windows 10, Microsoft is trying to convince me they got rid of it.

Here is the Start Menu again, see if you can spot Control Panel:

Windows 10 Start Menu

Take your time…

Now here is what you get with Settings:

Windows 10 Settings Menu

Windows 10 Settings 

Do you see “Control Panel” anywhere? It is still around, but you have to hunt for it. The easiest way I found is to open File Explorer, and simply type “control panel” in the address bar. You will then reach ol’ faithful.

Windows 10 Control Panel

The REAL Control Panel, hidden in Windows 10

Also note, you cannot stop Windows from auto-updating on this version (short of being offline). I’m sure there’s technically a way, but the general setting in Windows 10 is to disallow the user from cancelling any update. Your options are “Automatically Install” or “Notify Me When to Restart”. Thanks Microsoft.

Also take note, installation/upgrade alone is a lot different. The “Express Options”, which it of course prompts you to use, are defaulted to allow all information – searches, possible malware, etc, – to be sent to Microsoft. This is under the guise of “helping to improve the software”. The option to change the settings before you upgrade is available, but it’s in small type on a link – basically, they want you to miss it.

Additionally, Windows 10 will automatically come with Microsoft Edge, Windows new browser. Internet Explorer is still installed but your task bar icon for Internet Explorer will be replaced by an icon for EdgeEdge follows the same simplistic look and feel of Windows 10 and seems to have few options for tweaks and settings. Again, I do appreciate the open space and large fonts/images, but I question the lack of control and flexibility in configuration.

Conclusion

I haven’t had Windows 8.1 long enough to comment much on it, and I’ve had Windows 10 for even less time. I greatly dislike Microsoft’s push towards a simpler and simpler layout that reduces flexibility and user control over their own computer. It almost has a feel of software that’s borrowed, rather than owned. However, I do prefer the general look, feel, and options to Windows 8.1, though I still love my Windows 7.

All users of genuine Windows 7, 8, and obviously 8.1 will have the option for a free upgrade to Windows 10. What do you currently use, and are you looking forward to (or have) the upgrade? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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Android Gallery Thumbnails Folder Size – Solved!

OK, OK, I know. This isn’t really much about “beginners” or even tech, but I had a problem that has been just disastrously annoying to me and so when I found the solution, I had to share it.

If you have an Android Smartphone, and take a lot of photos, then you may be very well aware of the obnoxious “Thumbnails” folder that takes up all your freaking space on your phone. My problems with this folder are two-fold.

  1. It takes up all the freaking space on my phone!
  2. It makes your SD card worthless for photos because no matter how big your SD card is or how much it holds, the Thumbnails folder is on your phone and cannot be routed to your SD card (certainly not without rooting it, if it’s even possible) so you are still limited by the space available on your “USB storage” partition. Mine is just slightly over a gig so it’s pretty frustrating.

The easiest solution – deleting it – only works until you have to use your camera or gallery again, and it causes your camera to take forever to load as well. It also seems to leave corrupt files, or file fragments, or index records – whatever exactly the phone sees them as.

So… How to get around it?!

Wait, let me take a step back. If you aren’t familiar with the folder, it might be because you have a newer version of Android. I’ve read that it’s only in…Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) or earlier? Maybe prior to that. By Kit Kat, it’s apparently resolved by Android.

Also, you may not know where it’s at because it’s hidden. To locate:

  1. Tap “Applications” from the home screen.
  2. Tap “Files”.
  3. Tap “DCIM”.
  4. Tap your “Menu” button.
  5. Tap “Settings” from the list of options.
  6. Tap the checkbox for “Show Hidden Files”.

You should now see a folder called “.thumbnails”. That’s your evil culprit!!

The easiest fix requires just about disabling your gallery.

  1. Make sure all your photos are saved to a folder on your SD card, not on your phone.
  2. Go back to “Files” and tap “Android”.
  3. Tap “Data”.
  4. Scroll down to the bottom and you should see a little file called “.nomedia”. That file will prevent your gallery from reading the folder.
  5. Long-tap the “.nomedia” file and choose “Copy”.
  6. Go back to the the folder you have set up as the default location for photos.
  7. Tap the “Settings” button and choose “Paste”.
  8. After that, go back to the actual “Settings” menu (tap the “Menu” button from the home screen and then choose “Settings”).
  9. Tap “Storage”.
  10. Choose “Format USB Storage” (**note: I always take my SD card out before doing this, but I honestly can’t tell you if it’s necessary or not. I’m paranoid so I do it anyway.)

Voila! You have now cleared out your gallery, you should have regained the space from the “Thumbnails”, and you can take all the photos your actual SD card can hold.

Repeat the process with any other folders you don’t want the gallery to read photos from, though I would recommend leaving at least one or two folders that you don’t have many photos in, so that the gallery has something.

I’m not pretending to be an expert in these here smartphone things ;) so I try to stay within my limits!

Good luck!

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The Fifty Dollar Mistake Anyone Can Make And You Can Avoid

My inspiration to write this post comes from something stupid I was just doing in Photoshop. But first, let me share a story with you. I promise it’ll be brief because I don’t remember any of the details.

When I was in tech school, my instructor shared this story with our class. He had been doing something on his computer, putting it together, I think. I don’t remember. Anyway, something on his CD-ROM drive wasn’t working. He tried all sorts of things but he was ready to pull his hair out so he had to call tech support. (There’s always someone out there that knows more than you!)

The tech support went over the usual basics, which he confirmed he had already tried. They had to send someone out to his home.

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Easiest Orton Effect for Photoshop or GIMP

A lot of tutorials cover the coveted “Orton Effect” for Photoshop and GIMP, but they also make things sound so complicated, far more than need be. Well, I have a habit of getting long-winded, but let’s see how much I can condense this one. :)
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How To Lock Your iPod Screen

Even though this isn’t an Apple blog, I am adding bits about the iPod as I learn to use it, like how to stop the screen from rotating.

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