Turning It Up To…

Hey, did you hear about Windows 11?

Remember when Microsoft said Windows 10 would be the last version of Windows?

To be fair, times have changed since then. That statement was made back when Apple was still cheerfully turning out version after version of OS X with no hint they’d ever turn up macOS to 11. So now Microsoft has to keep pace, lest they be seen as behind the times. That means updating the user interface to match current fashion trends and, yes, updating the version number.

Still, I wish one company or the other would have invoked Spinal Tap in their product announcement, instead of leaving it up to the tech press.

Anyway, it looks like Windows 11 is going to be more of an evolution than a radical departure. Microsoft has clearly learned from the Windows 8 debacle, and isn’t going to give us something so wildly different that we’ll have to totally readjust our muscle memory just to carry out basic tasks. Like launching programs. From what I’ve seen so far, we’ll all be able to manage the learning curve.

For appropriate values of “all”, anyway. Because it’s important to realize that not everyone is going to get Windows 11 on Day One*. And hurray for that.

* Which won’t be until “holiday season”. Which, given that it’s a marketing term with no agreed-upon meaning, could be anything from September–when the stores start pushing Christmas and Christmas gifting–to January or February. Wouldn’t you like your loved one to give you an upgrade to Windows 11 for Valentines Day? Don’t sneer: it may be a free download, but I’m sure not going to install the upgrade without first backing up my systems, and you should too. Let a competent loved one (or paid professional) spend the time and effort, while you eat the chocolate you were going to give them. You do give chocolate to your computer repair person, right? Much safer for your equipment than alcohol.

Even once it’s released, not everyone is going to get Windows 11.

Microsoft is still fine-tuning the limits, but right now it appears that Windows 11 won’t even try to install on systems that are more than about five years old.

Unlike most of the rest of the tech industry, I’m okay with that. One doesn’t run Windows 10 on machines that were originally sold with Windows 7 (or, Goddess help us, Vista). At best, one walks it; more often, one crawls it.

And Microsoft will continue to support and update Windows 10 for at least five years. That means that, by the time Windows 10 is fully retired*, all those computers that can’t run Windows 11 will be at least a decade old. That’s about 90 in human years. Let them retire gracefully. Please.

* In the same sense that Windows 7 is now fully retired, of course. Which means there are still millions of people using it.

Another bit of good news: Apparently Microsoft has finally admitted that Cortana is massively annoying. She’ll still be in Windows 11, but somewhat harder to find. And computer technicians around the world are still celebrating the news that she’s being removed from the setup workflow. I know people who have to set up multiple machines every day; they hear that awful “Hi, there!” in their sleep. Good riddance.

And, just to close out my rambling, a bit of bad news; the only thing we’ve been told about Windows 11 that makes my head hurt: Windows 11 Home (the version pre-installed on over 90% of the Windows computers sold in stores) will require a Microsoft account to get through the initial setup. There are a lot of open questions around this little nugget of information. In theory, Windows 10 has a similar requirement, but you can get around it by not connecting the computer to the Internet until after the setup workflow is finished. Maybe 11 will work the same way. Maybe not–but if not, how will Microsoft handle it if there legitimately isn’t an available Internet connection?

Because, let’s be blunt here: not everyone wants to give Microsoft that much control over their computer. (Want to see a techie froth at the mouth? Ask them to help you with a Bitlocker recovery.) Even Apple, that vociferous proponent of the “walled garden”, doesn’t force you to enter your Apple ID when you set up a Mac. They’ll nag you if you don’t, but they won’t stop you. And their setup workflow always creates a local user account. You create the account and then, several steps later, they ask you to enter the Apple ID–and most recent versions of macOS have a prominent “Ask me later” or “No thanks” option.

I’d be willing to bet that Microsoft will back down from their current “must” stance. But it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if they do it quietly and in a highly non-obvious way.

About ten minutes after the formal release of Windows 11, some repair technician or security analyst will discover that the requirement can by bypassed by entering “microsoft.accounts@sucks.rocks” as the Microsoft account name. Word will spread, and eventually Microsoft will blame it on a rogue programmer–but not remove the capability.

At least, that’s what I’m hoping.

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