Windows 11 -- Not right now

Recently I was blessed with some updated hardware components for a computer I had sitting around, so after the upgrades were ordered, I decided to try Windows 11 -- so you don't have to. Here's what I've experienced...

Initial impressions
The Windows 11 installer was similar to the Windows 10 installer, so no huge differences there. What surprised me, though, is that Windows 11 would install even on meager hardware. My more powerful hardware upgrades were still in the mail, so I had to wait about a week for them to arrive. I didn't want to wait that long to see how Windows 11 worked, so I decided on installing and not activating Windows 11 on the slow computer parts and avoiding potentially wasting the one remaining Windows license I had. Despite what you see on the internet, Windows 11 will happily install on old junky computers, it just won't be fully supported by Microsoft.

After installing and being updated, Windows 11 acted 'okay', although very slow in some tasks, mostly because of the slow processor I was using. The looks of Windows 11 are a bit different than Windows 10, and it's quite obvious they 'borrowed' some design cues from Apple's modern-day macOS. All the windows have rounded corners, the default position of icons in the taskbar is centered instead of the age-old left-justified position of Windows 10 and prior, though this can be changed. Annoyingly, there is no way to turn on text labels for those taskbar icons either.

Simplified doesn't always mean 'useful'
One frustrating new Windows 11 'feature' is a 'simplified' right-click menu when right-clicking files or folders in the File Explorer. I call it the 'bouncer menu' because you have to get past it to do anything useful most of the time. Example: I wanted to delete Pidgin's installer program after use, so I right-clicked the installer and saw this silly menu and must have done an eye-roll. I could not find a 'Delete' item in this new menu and ended up dragging the installer to the trash a-la-early-MacOS-style. I was must have muttered "You've got to be kidding me!". As I right-clicked another file, I noticed that there were softly-drawn unlabeled icons at the top of this right-click menu. "Ahh, that's how you delete!" when I spotted the trash can icon. In a scenario where you'll be repeatedly deleting files, the mouse travel distance (and related hand movement) is unreasonable. People prone to repetitive motion injuries will not like this! Besides the trash-can icon, the other icons are also somewhat awkward to use. Do you remember what the 'cut' icon looks like, or 'paste'? I feel Microsoft messed up big-time on this, because now you're forcing the user to switch between two different recognition modes, icons and text labels. Please just make it one or the other (and preferably text labels).

God loves geeks too!
Why Jesus?

More frustration awaits when you want to do some other right-click action. Most of the interesting actions you'd want can only be accessed after clicking 'More options' at the bottom of this 'simplified' menu. So what would have taken me one right-click and one normal click now takes me one right-click and two normal clicks. Not good. When reporting my dislike of this new 'bouncer' right-click menu to Microsoft through their Feedback Hub, it appears that tens of thousands of other people also reported their displeasure with this. Microsoft felt the need to further justify this 'simplified' menu by issuing a blog post about it. Essentially they were telling users, oh-so-nicely, to just deal with it.

Beta-quality software at Release prices
More glitch-fun can be had by making windows cover up or dim the taskbar by a window's shadow effect, even though there's no clear way to make the taskbar be 'on top' all the time or not. I was able to reproduce this glitch pretty reliably by clicking the Start button, typing wordpad then hitting Enter. A WordPad window would appear. When you click in the title-bar of that WordPad window to move it, it suddenly changes it's simulated 'depth' and makes it cover the taskbar, even though it's not supposed to. I also reported this to Microsoft. In fact, I've reported just about any issue I find, but will Microsoft address these issues or ignore my reports like in the older days?

Image of a window covering the Windows 11 taskbar when its not supposed to
No, the window is not supposed to cover the taskbar

Mentioning the taskbar button labels again, I have to say that forcing users to not have text labels is a huge productivity-killer. I've used macOS on and off for many years, and not having separate labeled buttons for each window is a major pain. Windows 11 is squarely in this category now. You can't have separate buttons for separate windows and they can't each be labeled. It's like the Microsoft software designers are writing Apple a big fat love letter, and throwing long-time Windows users under the bus. Another taskbar issue: You can't resize the height of the taskbar -- at -- all. Well, actually, you can, but it requires a registry hack and typical users are not going to risk messing up their registry. I personally think the taskbar is way too high, while my beautiful wife says it's just right. So that's just the thing -- there is more than one person using Windows 11, Microsoft, let them choose the right height for themselves and not force 'one size fits all' on them.

It really is a shame that Microsoft is charging up to $139 US for such a glitchy unpolished operating system, while Pro users get to shell out up to $169 US! You can get better performance, (generally) less bugs and more done using an open-source desktop environment like MATE on Linux, and for free! I have a real problem with Microsoft charging customers for Windows 11. If this was purely a free upgrade from Windows 10, the glitches and issues might be a little more understandable, but that Microsoft actually charges people for new Windows 11 licenses shows a lack of regard for people's time, money and productivity.

Image of Windows 11 Start menu icons with lines instead of text
There should be text where those lines are, unless this is a new 'feature'

For those who don't know much about software development, there have been some shifts to 'new age' approaches in the last few decades. These 'modern' approaches, in my mind, are all about sounding productive, but are really just excuses for companies to come out with substandard software products. Before these 'new age' software development paradigms, companies still made buggy software, but I think the urgency of getting something right the first time around was higher back then. Before the internet was widely available, companies couldn't just ship something half-baked out the door then promise to patch up the bugs later in an online update. No, they either shipped something really good, or they were avoided by people because of their buggy software. Now everyone can just throw junk out there and promise fixes in the next update. Bleahgh!*

* Just please don't ask me how to pronounce this Emoji of face sticking tongue

Perceived performance
After receiving my faster computer components, I reinstalled Windows 11 and tried the whole thing again, and yes, all of the bugs are still there, just faster Emoji of
                  face sticking tongue out. Overall performance is very good with a decent processor and you'll only really notice slow-downs for the most intensive tasks. I personally use the very minimalistic mpv media player, on Linux, macOS and now Windows. I don't need fancy features, don't need distracting visualizations, don't need cruft. I just want to watch my video file or listen to my sound file and that's it! Well on Windows 11, my finger would not even be off the mouse button after double-clicking a file and mpv would already be playing my file. I think it launches on Windows 11 faster than Linux on the same machine. Pretty good! I also did my typical 7-zip benchmarking and found that Windows 11 was just slightly slower than Linux on the same computer when using the same version of 7-zip. No surprises there, really.

I installed Microsoft Visual Studio so I could attempt to port over some of my Linux open-source software projects, such as SpiritVNC, and overall Visual Studio performed fine without too much lag. But Visual Studio being the ginormous and complex behemoth that it is, and me being the silly guy that I am, I prefer coding using Geany and compiling on the command-line. On Windows, that takes some big adjustments compared to Linux, but after seeking help on StackOverflow, I got things adjusted properly.

Day to day use
So I could honestly tell my customers and others about how Windows 11 is to use on a regular basis, I did just that. I didn't just dip my toe in the water then spend the rest of the time on the beach, so-to-speak. Day-to-day usage of Windows 11 was a challenge for me at times, because MATE and other things on Linux have spoiled me. In Linux, you can customize stuff however you want (usually) and if you can't customize stuff through normal means, you can view the source-code of the software and modify it as you see fit. You just can't do that with any version of Windows, so you either have to adapt to what Microsoft is pushing you or you go elsewhere. Most businesses and home users are too nervous to switch to something else, so they stay with Windows. Trust me folks, there is more than Windows out there, and those who try out other options often find something that works better for them. Trust me, I've been there, and certainly done that. I was a Windows-only user for the longest time, but after trying Linux regularly for years, I finally made the leap, and have been (mostly) happy about it.

Nearly all of the apps I use on Linux are available on Windows, so I didn't need to make huge adjustments there. I use things like Thunderbird for e-mail, Firefox for web browsing, Geany for text-editing and programming, mpv for media playing and so-on. I did actually use Window's Groove media player to play my 'all day' music (background music, if you will) and it was okay for that. Even Linux-y things like the gcc compiler, make, etc are available through MSYS2, although I frequently had issues making Linux-first things run correctly on Windows using MSYS2. Other programs like Pidgin, GIMP and LibreOffice are also available on Windows, so I wasn't lacking too many of my 'quality of life' apps except for the fact that I was on Windows and keenly aware of it. I did not have the conveniences of being able to read whatever file-system I wanted, didn't have an (easy) way of transferring files from my desktop to another computer running ssh and so on. The best way I can describe using Windows instead of Linux: It's like staying at a motel with most of your personal things around you, but not enjoying the comfort of your own home.

For the Windows 10 users
For those people who are using Windows 10, some things in Windows 11 will seem familiar. Other things, like the Settings screen, have been redesigned. That Settings redesign is actually not too bad. Things are a little more organized, but navigating them takes a little practice and probably could be improved. Windows 11 still maintains the schism between old-fashioned desktop apps and "modern" apps. You see this when using the Control Panel, User Account settings, etc. While Windows 10 still looks odd and quirky, at least you have a higher degree of customization compared to Windows 11. For Windows 10 users, at least for right now, I highly urge you to avoid upgrading from 10, and also avoid purchasing a Windows 11 computer right now (unless it can be downgraded easily to Windows 10).

Wrapping up
I had planned to write this post all along, first as an explanation to my customers, family and friends as to why they should avoid Windows 11 for now, but today was the last straw: I right-clicked something on Windows 11's desktop, and the little 'system busy' animated mouse cursor just stayed that way, and never displayed the right-click menu. In fact the whole desktop was frozen. I could interact with the taskbar, Start button and already-opened-windows, but the desktop was down for the count. I closed all my apps, rebooted into Linux and now I can actually get some work done.

Image of an icon on the Windows 11 desktop with the system busy mouse cursor
I right-clicked it, and it just stayed like that -- forever

As I already mentioned, my verdict, at least for now, is to avoid Windows 11 unless you are absolutely forced to use it, and most definitely do not purchase it until Microsoft sorts out the bugs (or, I should say, current Windows 11 users report the bugs to Microsoft, then Microsoft sorts out the bugs).

Microsoft had a real opportunity to make a better operating system than Windows 10, but truly missed the mark. Do I think Windows 11 might be okay someday? Probably, but I'd wait a good long while before plunking any money down for it, or investing time in upgrading your Windows 10 system.

God bless you, and thank you for reading! Emoji of face grinning big




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