Friday, January 01, 2016

Windows 10 and hardware incompatibility

A few months ago, I replaced my laptop and my desktop.  The move was motivated by a need to reinstall the OS (Windows 8) due to slowness and broken system components.  My desktop was particularly nasty - the Windows update mechanism broke, causing it to take 3 hours to boot up.  I spent the 2 months leading up deftly avoiding reboots, lest I lose a half-day of productivity.  Reinstalling the OS is somewhat traumatic, as I have lots of configuration to do, so I decided that I might as well update my hardware as well.  I also decided 2 other things:
  1. Try to switch away from Windows dependency as much as possible.
  2. For things that require Windows, try Windows 10, since it will eventually be the only Windows choice anyway.

Linux

On both my laptop and desktop, I am running Ubuntu 14.04 LTS - and I have to say, I am doing remarkably well.  To my amazement, I can still do all of my mixing in Reaper, on Wine.   The MOTU 896 FW interface is another story - Apparently MOTU is not friendly to Linux, so I have gotten rid of it and gotten a Focusrite Sapphire Pro 40 instead.  

There are a few things I need Windows for - such as Quickbooks, Corel Draw, Sketchup, Vegas, and some apps I need to run for development work... But for now I am doing okay by running these things in a Windows 7 Virtualbox VM.

Windows 10

I have also set up dual boot to Windows 10 (on demand, not the default) on my desktop and laptop.  I wish I could report as much success with my Windows 10 tests.  Unfortunately, I have had no joy, due to the following issues thus far:
  • Touchpad driver in my new HP Spectre x360 is buggy (jumpy and misses clicks). No fix found (Note: this may seem minor, but stuff like this really pisses me off, and reinforces the fact that paying top dollar for a laptop doesn't mean everything is going to work right, or even better than a cheap laptop).
  • Behringer X-Air audio driver is buggy (audio interface shows up intermittently, and sometimes stops responding in the middle of a recording). 
  • MOTU 896 doesn't work on Windows 10 either.

All told, these issues are significant the point where I will have to roll back to Windows 7 or 8 until things settle out a little more. 

Sweetwater.com has published this list - sort of a "state of Windows 10 compatibility" for various recording hardware.  As of now, it's rather bleak - with some pretty notable entries not being compatible at this time.  But I suppose if you are a "real recording engineer", you only use a Mac anyway, right? (Bleahhhh...)

It is pretty clear that, despite Microsoft's big push to roll out Windows 10, there are hardware vendors who are just not ready.  If you are on the fence and depend on a lot on certain hardware, make extra sure that everything works perfectly before you plan to leap.  However, since that's probably a lot of trial and error, I would just hold out as long as possible, until the hardware vendors get a chance to catch up.

Bonus tip:  You can take advantage of Microsoft's free Windows 10 upgrade offer without having to switch! 

I may go into more detail in another post, but here are the steps in a nutshell:

  1. Temporarily install a blank hard drive in place of your existing hard drive.
  2. Install a fresh, stock Windows 7 or 8 onto it (must be the exact version that came with your computer), and activate using your product key.
  3. Upgrade to Windows 10  - this will create a NEW product key associated with your hardware fingerprint, and stored on Microsoft's servers.  If you ever want to install Windows 10 on this computer in the future, it will use the same product registration automatically. 
  4. Remove the drive and replace with your original.  You don't need to keep Windows 10 installed on the spare drive, but it may be handy.
  5. Switch to Windows 10 whenever YOU want - even after the free upgrade deadline.
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