An Open-Window Admission 🪟

After years and years of basically being Mac and Linux only, I admit that I’ve grudgingly come to appreciate Windows. I would appreciate it a lot more if it had an easy-to-access third level key to type em dashes and curly quotes, but it’s better than I’ve given it credit for.

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Maybe it’s my revived appreciation for gaming. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m just trying to get a better understanding of other operating systems. Maybe it’s out of a basic desire to not just ditch something out of hand just because I always have.

But recently, I’ve found myself using Windows more, and not hating it. Sure, it’s not perfect. Recently, I tried reinstalling Windows (specifically, Windows 11) on my HP Spectre x360—a.k.a. the HackBook—for the first time in about three years, and found it to struggle out of the gate. But the truth is, I think it’s not bad in the modern day, even if I don’t necessarily see myself switching over to it full time.

Granted, I needed to take a few steps to find a level of comfort with it, including switching up a few keys on my keyboard. I generally put a super/start button on my Caps Lock key these days, to open up the spot where the Start button usually lives to behave more like a third-level or option key. (As a writer, easily accessible long dashes and curly quotes are a must.)

This type of setup is easily doable in Linux, but Windows struggles with it in part because it just doesn’t seem to be built for the idea of a keyboard with a way to easily tap accent keys or other secondary characters. (Sure, Windows, depending on the international keyboard type, has AltGr capability, but they seem to go out of their way to hide it!) Problem is, Windows doesn’t naturally handle the idea of a third-level key in its operating system, leading to a need for utilizing kludgey apps that are simply kludgier than their equivalents on MacOS or Linux.

Microsoft Surface

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Now, to be clear, there are some things that Windows does well, in my view. For one thing: I find that remote access software performs better in Windows than its equivalents do on MacOS or Linux, to the point where streaming video on a remote-access desktop appears at full-speed without choppiness. Its window management is way better than MacOS, in part because it can handle more than two windows on a fullscreen setup at a given time. And one can argue that Microsoft does a better job integrating search into its operating system than Apple does Spotlight.

I think, though, that Windows’ need to manage a broader array of hardware types often kneecaps it from a convenience standpoint. My Spectre, which Windows was built to support, has simply not performed that well since I took the time to reinstall it. And the reason for that is that trying to get all the drivers onto the machine has proven to be a total pain, leading to higher levels of heat and noise on a machine that otherwise was built for this. (As I upgraded the SSD on the Spectre about a year or two ago, I had to install it fresh. It’s clear Windows did not love that approach.)

But I think that, in a lot of ways, I’ve built up Windows in my head as no longer being worth my time, so stepping back into it after a few years has reminded me that maybe I’m underestimating it a little.

Maybe I was. But even if I don’t love it, I can appreciate it more than I had previously. Which means I can at least live with it long enough to play a game or two on it.

Time limit given ⏲: 30 minutes

Time left on clock ⏲: 7 minutes, 57 seconds

Ernie Smith

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Ernie Smith is the editor of Tedium, and an active internet snarker. Between his many internet side projects, he finds time to hang out with his wife Cat, who's funnier than he is.

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