First Impressions – Windows 10

With Microsoft’s latest operating system mere hours from being launched to the general public (midnight launch tonight), there has been much anticipation surrounding Windows 10 and whether or not Microsoft can right the wrongs that Windows 8 committed. Needless to say Microsoft have promised a number of great things which they are adamant Windows 10 will be able to deliver.  Perhaps the biggest change is that Windows 10 will be “the last operating system ever” as the business model of the OS has now shifted to being offered as a service.  What does that mean for us? By being offered as a service, Windows 10 will be part of a continuous improvement process as the OS is continuously upgraded and tweaked via mandatory system updates (more on that in a bit).

Pressing on, I have managed to obtain Windows 10 Pro Edition (x64 of course) and decided to format my Win 8.1 installation in order to put the new OS to the test.  Bearing in mind that this article is merely my first impression upon successfully installing the OS and there will most likely be a follow-up article where I take a much closer look at what’s on offer.

The familiar system information screen, almost identical to Windows 8 and still devoid of the Windows Experience Index.

The familiar system information screen, almost identical to Windows 8 and still devoid of the Windows Experience Index.

So perhaps the most important aspect of installing a new OS (at least for me) is its ability to maintain compatibility with existing hardware and software – will I be able to install all my favourite games and applications successfully?

Starting at the top, I installed my Asus motherboard drivers (via driver disk) followed by AMD’s Catalyst 15.7 GPU package – both installed quickly without error.  Secondly, I attempted to install Driver Navigator (extremely useful app) however the software would not install due to a compatibility issue.  ACDSee Pro 8, Java 8, Adobe Flash, VLC Player, CCCP, Office 2013, Winrar, Witcher 3, Dragon Age Inquisition, CCleaner, Firefox, VeraCrypt, Rocketdock and Inkscape 0.48.5 all installed successfully – tested working. Because I found Windows Defender to be a little too enthusiastic (where cracked games are concerned), I installed AVG Internet Security 2015 which rectified the problem.

As expected, UAC makes a return and as usual it's the first thing I disable.

As expected, UAC makes a return and as usual it’s the first thing I disable.

Next, I wanted to test Apple & Android devices, I installed the latest version of iTunes and connected my iPod – detected, tested working.  Plugging in Android devices proved to be painless as well as both my Samsung S4 and Lenovo IdeaTab A3000 connected and were accessible without errors.

As Driver Navigator wasn't an option, I attempted to update several drivers via device manager, working surprisingly well (for a change).

As Driver Navigator wasn’t an option, I attempted to update several drivers via device manager, working surprisingly well (for a change).

As previously stated, I experienced no issues installing the 15.7 Catalyst Suite – omitting the components I didn’t want (AMD HD Audio driver) and that’s where Windows decided to “help out”. At this point I decided to run the update service to see how it works, sure enough, there were a number of security updates as well as the AMD Audio driver I had omitted installing from the Catalyst Suite.  Annoyingly, there was no way to stop this, however Windows does allow you to uninstall problematic drivers.

This aggressive mandatory update policy for Windows will undoubtedly change sooner or later especially since KB3073930 has already been released.  These mandatory updates have already proven to be problematic for Nvidia GPU owner’s as the auto-updates conflict with Nvidia’s own GeForce Experience application – an issue that will undoubtedly be addressed shortly.

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The KB3073930 update allows you to stifle/alter the mandatory updates to a degree.

Needless to say, as promised, Windows 10 comes with DirectX 12, which is also backwards compatible with a lot of DX11 cards such as my AMD R9280 OC GPU – great news!  Microsoft’s proprietary apps work as well as expected, such as Photos, and the updated Music application which I am quite fond of – upgraded from Windows 8.  I have yet to test Cortana as there were a myriad of updates for it and as Microsoft so proudly stated, Edge is fast, really fast but it will unlikely replace Firefox as my browser of choice anytime soon.

The sought-after DirectX 12 - an integral part of Windows 10.

The sought-after DirectX 12 – an integral part of Windows 10.

In closing, Windows 10 has made a good first impression with me, unlike the horrific ordeal I had with Vista back in 2006 (an unmitigated disaster).  I will continue to test and unearth what Windows 10 has to offer and if they manage to resolve this whole mandatory update fiasco they will earn further brownie points with users undoubtedly.  My opinion on all these “reasons not to upgrade to Windows 10” articles that are floating around? Ignore them.  The minimal requirements are negligible where the modern PC user is concerned and even older PC’s will run it quite comfortably.  Microsoft have learned their lesson since Windows 8 and I look forward to seeing how Windows 10 evolves in the coming months.

[Update – 2015-07-29:] I installed the latest version of Driver Navigator (version 3.6), installed successfully – tested working.

[Update – 2015-07-29:] Cortana Would not run due to my region (South Africa) not being supported.

Lenovo IdeaTab A3000

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With so many options to choose from in the tablet-PC market, it can be tough choosing the right device for you.  While Apple’s iPad, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and Amazon’s Kindle are well-known to hardened technology enthusiasts and casual users alike, there are many alternatives available, one such alternative being Lenovo’s IdeaTab range.

The IdeaTab A3000 is Lenovo’s mid-range offering, but not to be overlooked as this device has plenty of power beneath its chassis.  With its 1.2GHz quad-core processor, it easily competes with its more popular brethren. Combine that with 1GB of LP-DDR2 memory and the   PowerVR SGX544 GPU and you have a pretty beefy piece of kit, especially if you intend on gaming with it.

I on the other hand chose the A3000 purely for comics and books, and thanks to the IPS (in-plane switching) display, it was my reader of choice over its Samsung counterpart in the same price range.  While I definitely considered the superior Lenovo S5000, a lack of any sort of memory expansion (no microSD support) meant choosing the A3000 over it, especially when one is able to effortlessly slap in an extra 64GB of space.

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As one would expect, the A3000 comes preloaded with Android’s Jelly Bean 4.2.2 as well as a multitude of preinstalled apps that people have become accustomed to (Gmail, AccuWeather, Skype and so forth).  However, as is life, one must tweak a device based on their personal preferences and tastes so in my case I replaced the default image viewer with the superior QuickPic and downloaded Moon+ Reader as my reader of choice.  Moon+ is feature-rich and does an excellent job of managing a multitude of formats such as mobi (Kindle files), epub, txt, html and cbr (comics) and facilitates night-time reading.

Since Lenovo doesn’t fall under the aforementioned ‘big 3’, I struggled to find any sort of accessories, covers or protective sleeves for the A3000 however, a quick browse of the Lenovo site enabled me to purchase the Folio Case and Film.

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The Folio case protects the screen together with a protective film covering the glass. The front section connects to a hard plastic cover that replaces the default back cover.

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The front of the cover is made of a stylish leather.

The overall look and feel of the A3000 is satisfying.  The device is stylish in its design (available in Black Slate and White Satin) and small enough (11mm (0.43″) thick and weighing in at a mere 345g (0.76 lbs)) to facilitate one-handed reading making it an ideal companion for commuters.  The device’s 3500mAh Li-Polymer battery offers up to 7 hours of WiFi browsing and can remain idle for an impressive 2 weeks before needing recharging.  The A3000 offers a maximum resolution of 1024×600 and manages to produce a sharp, crisp picture and bright colours ideal for reading comics, books and watching movies.  While a resolution of 1024×600 may seem meager, especially in comparison to the iPad 3’s ridiculous resolution of 2048×1536, in terms of a reader and competitor to dedicated readers such as Kindle, the A3000 shines.

Additional features include a 0.3MP front-facing webcam as well as a 5MP rear-facing camera ideal for photos and so forth and apart from WiFi connectivity, the A3000 facilitates dual sim cards (3G/2G + 2G) – an extremely lucrative feature for the device.  All-in-all, I’d recommend the A3000 as a perfect mid-range offering in a flooded tablet-PC market, especially for the budget conscious looking for maximum bang for their buck.  Slim, stylish, functional and fast, the A3000 won’t disappoint.