Reflections About Windows 10
My escapade with updating Windows 7 to Windows 10 was not fun. Lots of wasted time. I learned a lot, so perhaps not wasted. I have no plans to use Windows 10 for anything most people consider productive, such as surf the web, listen to tunes, exchange email, write, etc. Just a testing and curiosity system. I run the operating system through the prophylactic of a virtual machine inside an Ubuntu Mate 16.04 system.
The web is filled with documentation and tutorials about Windows 10. I offer only some personal observations.
Windows 10 is a computer operating system. Nothing to drool about.
During my escapade and researching various related problems I noticed that
answers.microsoft.com is inaccessible unless cookies are enabled. So much for being Ms. Congeniality.
A clean, crisp interface. No dark themes, which clash with my eyesight.
During installation I chose the custom install to disable some of the data mining and privacy intrusion options. Just click off every offered option.
After installing I disabled more data mining and privacy intrusion options.
I accept that despite customizing efforts, some data mining remains. Free is not really free.
I disabled the P2P update mechanism. I face low bandwidth caps. The local WISP is frustrated because many customers using Windows 10 are exceeding caps and don’t know why.
I disabled Cortana. Cortana is embedded into the system and cannot be truly disabled, which is creepy. I do not use a microphone.
I unpinned all live tiles. For me live tiles are distracting. I do not need to develop Attention Deficit Disorder.
No live tiles, no advertising in the start menu.
I unpinned the store and IE icons from the panel. I have no intentions of using the app store. No advertising.
I do not use IE, Edge, or Bing. No advertising.
I disabled automatic web snooping, er, searching. I reduced the search bar to an icon.
I enabled system restore and disabled fast boot.
In the registry I disabled OneDrive. I don’t knowingly store data online on other people’s computers.
I configured the update options to restart the system when I want.
I do not use a smart phone. Nothing to sync, nothing to snoop. No advertising.
I do not use any Microsoft accounts, which I suspect should reduce the amount of tracking and advertising if I used the system daily and productively.
Windows 10 seems mundane without the distractions and overhead. On the surface that is, like observing a hornet’s nest from 100 yards. Nobody knows how much tracking really occurs or what exactly is tracked. Conspiracy theories aside, I am guessing much of the tracking is anonymized although I am sure skilled people can connect the dots with the data. Conspiracy theories aside, I am guessing most of the data is used to reflect system usage to help improve the product. That said, all of the potential tracking and built-in advertising is surreal and a data miner’s wet dream.
In my server where I use dnsmasq for DNS caching, I blocked a long list of Microsoft domains. Probably a game of wack-a-mole, but fulfilling nonetheless. Possibly fruitless in the long run because I expect the more people try to block related domains the more the Microsoft folks will hard-code IP addresses into their system. Since Windows 10 Home and Pro users can’t block updates, the only remaining option is IP address blockage with an external firewall.
Be careful with blindly blocking Microsoft domains. Some are needed for updates and to maintain the activation. Blocking the latter results in broken system that requires reactivation. A short list of those domains are available online.
I run Windows 10 inside a virtual machine (VM). I can toggle the network cable with a few mouse clicks.
While tempting to learn how much traffic is generated and to where by running a packet sniffer in a Linux host while running Windows 10 in a VM, the tests would be inconclusive because I do not use the system for anything meaningful. I would need to use the system productively, such as surf the web, manage email, edit and search for files, etc.
I will continue using Windows only as a curiosity and testing system. The only way I will use Windows regularly is if required professionally. Even then I would strive to continue using the system in a VM and on a VLAN. My usage would be limited to the contract requirements.