Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Windows Apps-only revisited

Microsoft, it seems, is going ahead with its idea for Windows 10 S being a Windows Store Apps only design, and includes it by default on the Surface Laptop, a thin and light laptop it hopes to break the grip of the cheap and Internet-friendly Chromebooks in schools, businesses and beyond.  I’m setting aside my feelings on that strategy for the moment.
Surface Laptop
On the surface (pun intended) Windows 10 S looks like a dumbing-down for Windows 10 and an effort to force adoption of the App Store and provide a cheap alternative without cheapening its other versions, the Home and Pro edition. 

The real questions is the impact on individuals. People who use specialty software or play heavy games need not apply, so won’t bother with them until that changes.

I recently refreshed my Windows 10 installation and decided to take an inventory of store apps and desktop apps installed that I regularly use.  Using this, I am conceptualizing whether a Surface Laptop (or like device) would be usable by me or not. YMMV, but I hope it may help you outline your needs.

First off, let’s look at the Windows Store apps that I do use fairly regularly.  Some apps, marked in italic, could be done through the web browser and so does not need to use the app.  So at least there are alternatives.

Daily PictureI like the Bing Pictures of the Day, so this automatically changes my wallpaper and/or lock screen.

FacebookThis app sucks; takes a long time to load and crashes often. I use the web interface for now in hopes that someday this app will be improved.

FitbitI use my Windows phone to synchronize with my Fitbit currently.  If the computer has Bluetooth then maybe can use that to synchronize the Fitbit rather than only my phone.

Fresh PaintJust a fun application for drawing. Much more useful with a touch screen device, though.

MessengerAnother application that can be done on the web.  I just wish it would be integrated with the People shortcuts on the taskbar.

A couple of games that I use primarily on my phone but unfortunately when I move to Android (since MS is abandoned the phone) these games are not available as far as I can tell.

MinecraftOne of the few games I frequently play, and my system cannot run the Desktop (Java) version but can run this one pretty well.

Open Live WriterIt is what I wrote this on Smile !

PandoraI regularly listen to Pandora and have dozens of stations. The good thing is I can also run this through a web browser.

SkypeI don’t use this often, but I most of my family does use this on the infrequent times we video chat.

TwitterThis can be done through the web, but is a pain when you have >1 account you wish to go between.  The app allows me to easily switch which feed I am reading.

World of Tanks BlitzAnother fun game. Not as good a s the full-blown game on the desktop but good when I occasionally want to just blow things up!

WunderlistThis is my go-to list maker. I also have shopping lists shared with my wife so she can add things whenever I am going to stop by the store on my way home from work.

So now comes the applications that I use that are not readily available in the App Store or I have not found a good-enough alternative (for free).  Some apps I may be willing to pay a few bucks for but really, unless I know it does what is needed and maybe even better, I’m not going to bother with it.

Dungeons & Dragons Online

It’s an older game, but a fun game to waste some time.  Although if I were using a device like a Surface Laptop, I may opt to taking even an old desktop computer and setting it up with a larger monitor for playing so this could be a moot case.
GimpIt’s a powerful image editor.  It could be replaced with an App version of Adobe products though that would be overkill for what I use Gimp for.  There is also Pixlr on the web that should work as an alternative.

Google Chrome

Mozilla Firefox
Edge is alright except for 2 issues I have with it currently.
  1. Lack of extensions on Edge. There are a few extensions I use regularly that is not available or an equivalent available for Edge.
  2. With only a few tabs open, Edge will grind to a halt not only the browser, but the ENTIRE SYSTEM!  Nothing responds (Start menu, switching apps, closing apps, closing tabs, Ctl+Alt+Del, nothing!).  Task manager does not show it locked at 100%, and once I can close Edge (which takes minutes after hitting the close window), after a second or two the entire system returns to being responsive.
Google Drive
Google Photo Backup and
Google Music Manager)

Cannot complain about Google Photo’s unlimited storage, even if I have to reduce the quality of the pictures.  Google Drive and Music Manager allows for automatically uploading these files as I import them from my camera.  The only thing that keeps this from being a killer issue is that it can be done manually, using a web browser but automatically (and automatically resuming where you left off if you have to close the lid for going somewhere) is very, very handly.
Notepad++When  I do work, it is usually in script languages like bash and php. Notepad++ is quick to open, provides color syntax and plugins and allows me to do things quickly and easily.  I imagine Visual Studio Code may be able to do this but it is a bit more comlex and confusing for me and at this point is not a Windows Store App (but a likely candidate to eventually becoming one)
For editing scripts on one of my Linux servers, by using SSH into the server I will have access to CLI text editors that while not as good, are sufficient in most cases to do what I need to do.

PuTTYI look forward to when SSH is in Windows, which it is supposed to either have or is coming, and if it can handle making it easy to set up servers and logins so I don’t have to type it each time (bookmarks?) then that should suffice for me.

VLCI only use VLC for playing DVDs, since Windows 10 eliminated that feature.  On a Surface Laptop, however, there isn’t an optical drive so this application would not be needed anyway.

Windows Media PlayerLike VLC, I use this only for ripping CDs and if the device does not have an optical drive, then this is not so needed anymore.

WinSCPLike PuTTY, I use this for moving files between my computer and my Linux servers.  I may be able to work around it if when SSH is working, then maybe SCP would be available too.  I can hope.

So from looking at these lists, it seems that while moving to Windows 10 S would require adjustments, on a device like a Microsoft Surface Laptop (no optical drive) would be or should be suitable in most instances.  I can hope that Edge would be working on a new device, and the issue of it grinding the system to unusable is something my current laptop is alone in suffering.