The other day I figured to browse Best Buy. I spied a 15″ Toshiba laptop, the kind that can pivot the screen 180 degrees into a tablet. With a full sized keyboard. And a 4k screen. And 12GB of RAM. For $1,000. The catch? A non-SSD 1TB hard drive and stock graphics. And … Windows 10.
But it appealed to me because I’ve been thinking I want a computer I can use on the couch. My home workstation is very nice, a desktop with a 4k screen, but it is very much a workstation. Especially because of the 4k screen it is poorly suited to sitting back and browsing … so, I went home, thought on it over dinner, then drove back to the store and bought a toy. (Oh boy! Oh boy!!)
Every few years I flirt with Microsoft stuff — trying to prove that despite the fact I’m a Unix guy I still have an open mind. I almost usually throw up my hands in exasperation after a few weeks. The only time I ever sort of appreciated Microsoft was around the Windows XP days, it was a pretty decent OS managing folders full of pictures. A lot nicer than OS X, anyway.
This time, out of the gate, Windows 10 was a dog. The non-SSD hard drive slowed things down a great deal. Once I got up and running though, it isn’t bad. It took a little getting used to the sluggishness — a combination of my adapting to the trackpad mouse thing and I swear that under load the Windows UI is less responsive than what I’m used to. The 4k stuff works reasonably well … a lot of apps are just transparently pixel-doubled, which isn’t always pretty but it beats squinting. I can flip the thing around into a landscape tablet — which is kind of nice, though, given its size, a bit awkward — for reading. I can tap the screen or pinch around to zoom text. The UI, so far, is back to the good old Windows-and-Icons stuff old-timers like me are used to.
Mind you, I haven’t tried anything as nutty as setting up OpenVPN to auto-launch on user login. Trying to make that happen for one of my users at work on Windows 8 left me twitchy for weeks afterward.
Anyway, a little bit of time will tell .. I have until January 15 to make a return. The use case is web browsing, maybe some gaming, and sorting photos which are synced via Dropbox. This will likely do the trick. As a little bonus, McAfee anti-virus is paid for for the first year!
I did try Ubuntu, though. Despite UEFI and all the secure boot crud, Ubuntu 15.10 managed the install like it was nothing, re-sizing the hard drive and all. No driver issues … touchscreen even worked. Nice! Normally, I hate Unity, but it is okay for a casual computing environment. Unlike Windows 10, though, I can’t three-finger-swipe-up to show all the windows. Windows+W will do that but really … and I couldn’t figure out how to get “middle mouse button” working on the track pad. For me, probably 70% of why I like Unix as an interface is the ease of copy-paste.
But things got really dark when I tried to try KDE and XFCE. Installing either kubuntu-desktop or xubuntu-desktop actually made the computer unusable. The first had a weird package conflict that caused X to just not display at all. I had to boot into safe mode and manually remove the kubuntu dependencies. The XFCE was slightly less traumatic: it just broke all the window managers in weird ways until I again figured out how to manually remove the dependencies.
It is just as easy to pull up a Terminal on Windows 10 or Ubuntu … you hit Start and type “term” but Windows 10 doesn’t come with an SSH client, which is all I really ask. From what I can tell, my old friend PuTTY is still the State of the Art. It is like the 1990s never died.
Ah, and out of the gate, Windows 10 allows you multiple desktops. Looks similar to Mac. I haven’t really played with it but it is a heartening sign.
And the Toshiba is nice. If I return it I think I’ll look for something with a matte screen and maybe actual buttons around the track pad so that if I do Unix it up, I can middle-click. Oh, and maybe an SSD and nicer graphics … but you can always upgrade the hard drive after the fact. I prefer matte screens, and being a touch screen means this thing hoovers up fingerprints faster than you can say chamois.
Maybe I’ll try FreeBSD on the Linux partition. See how a very old friend fares on this new toy. :)