HP Stream 7 - To Windows 10 and back


Updated: October 21, 2015

This is almost like our favorite journey from The Hobbit. Except the topic is completely different and less enjoyable. Namely, I have purchased HP Stream 7 on impulse, because it was darn cheap, and I did not need it whatsoever, but I thought it would be a good example to see how Windows 8 behaves on a touch-enabled tablet.

Now, it turns out the little device might be useful after all. I am going to try to upgrade it to Windows 10. After my laptop test, where Windows 10 proved to be average, slightly intrusive and completely unnecessary, the upgrade on a seven-inch tablet with a 32-bit version and limited space ought to be quite interesting. Moreover, the touch aspect. Does Windows 10 rectify the Metro moronity that Windows 8 brought us? Follow me.

Teaser

Upgrade

After pimping up Windows 8.1 updates to the max, strangely, I did not get the GWX notification on the tablet. Therefore, I decided to take things into my own hands and upgraded on my own, using the media creation tool. Overall, the procedure took less time than on the G50 machine. This is a good sign, because even the modest tablet managed to get the upgrade complete rather quickly and smoothly. Yup, no problems. Spotless.

After the upgrade

Windows 10 loaded with an interface that is somewhat tricky. On one hand, you get the desktop and the menu, no more flippery Metro nonsense. But then, you still get the tiles on the desktop, a-la icons, which is extremely confusing. They made sense in Windows 8, but they no longer make sense in Windows 10, because there's no separate desktop, and the desktop comes with a menu that has the tiles, so we have a functional redundancy here. I quickly got rid of the desktop noise.

I was also using an online account, to see if this would make any difference compared to the local account setup I tried on the Lenovo laptop. Here, the same way it did on the laptop, Windows downloaded all the extra crap applications that I did not need. The removal was slow and painful. The ones that could be deleted, that is.

Then, I spent the first two hours battling the array of privacy, customization and security settings, which are horrendously difficult to control using touch. The new settings menu is easier to navigate than in Windows 8, but it is still sub-optimized for any desktop related use without the precision and fine control of an external mouse. A simple solution would be a virtual mouse, to allow simple and fast interaction with the system.

Usability issues

Problems erupted after only a few minutes of use, adding to my frustration. Speed wise, Windows 10 was actually slower than Windows 8.1 on the HP Stream 7. Pressing the menu button would always result in laggy response. Moreover, you actually have two buttons, and I'm not sure what they do.

Menu Second menu

If you click the Windows logo in the bottom left corner, nothing happens. If you click the three-horizontal-stripes icon in the top left corner, the menu opens. Why, no idea. Furthermore, there are no applications shown on the taskbar. You do not know what programs you have open, and you must click the deck icon right of the search icon to actually get your application and program windows. Almost like Win-Tab or Alt-Tab.

The search remains stupid and, of course, Cortana did not work in my region. The system was slow, always doing something in the background, always downloading more, always making more silly changes. Top that with my frustration around updates and Windows Defender.

Logging in was also slow. Again, Windows 10 was probably too busy doing background stuff that I did not want, including changing the state of backgrounded apps to on, even thought I've explicitly toggled them off. This is the brave new world. Morons dictate how computers should be used.

Keyboard nightmare

The biggest problem was the virtual keyboard. It did not work well. While the keyboard icon was always present in the system tray on Windows 8.1, and I could always summon it, there was no such equivalent in Windows 10. Making things worse, the keyboard did not work in quite a few programs. Firefox, Chrome, Windows Explorer, and PowerShell! I kid you not. These programs never displayed a prompt for keyboard.

In other words, I could only browse using the crappola called Edge, I could not rename files or use PowerShell to delete the built-in Metro applications. I was actually forced to use remote assistance and connect from my laptop to the tablet to be able to do some basic administration and delete the turdy apps.

Cleaning apps

However, on next reboot, they were back. When using the online account, Microsoft carefully replenished the loss of its default set of apps that I've had deleted by giving them back to them on next login. And yes, I did set the app updates to manual in the Store.

Back to Windows 8.1

After about a total of three hours of having to endure this nonsense, I decided to revert back to Windows 8.1. This new operating system was not doing what it should be. It was intrusive, slower, buggier, with a wonky keyboard, and not a single useful aspect to it that would make me stay. The problems were so bad that sometimes it wouldn't even let me slide the screen down to power off the tablet. Without the keyboard, the desktop aspect of this operating system was horribly crippled. And that means everything.

Recovery Back to Windows 8.1

Reverting

Sure, it's a paradox. Windows 8 sucks balls, but then in this particular case, it is less useless than Windows 10. However, that still makes it useless, and the end result is, a device plus an operating system that cannot be used in any meaningful, productive manner. The choice of the lesser cretinism. Especially considering how well designed the tiled interface is on smartphones. Because once you mix touch with desktop, you get this unholy combination that needs to be purged with napalm. One way or the other. The mix does not work.

Windows 8, tiles Windows 8 desktop

Windows 8 keyboard works Windows 8 updates

The restore to Windows 8.1 took only about 10 minutes, so I'd assume Windows 10 kept all the files backed up, and then simply restored the registry and the bootloader. I was back to using an inferior system that was better than the other inferior system, but at the very least, it resembled something I could actually use if I wanted, the keyboard was working, the speed was reasonable. And I could actually mark Windows updates, rather than being force-fed the lowest common denominator stupidity.

After the downgrade, or upgrade, however you want to call it, I had the GWX icon. But it is going to stay day and die once the one year cycle of free "upgrades" expires. The tablet is not doing anything special, but at the very least, it is functional. Crippled but functional.

Conclusion

Microsoft does one thing well. Upgrades. Flawless in two separate cases, on two radically different devices. Plus you get a flawless downgrade, too. Nothing to complain. Apart from that, everything else was bad. While Windows 10 was okay on the laptop, in the sense it sort of worked without being compelling or better in any way over Windows 7/8, it was totally messed up on the HP Stream 7. I don't care whose fault it is, and if the drivers need fixing, or whatnot. Not my problem. If there's an upgrade, it'd better work.

Performance was bad, the keyboard did not work, the user interface is counter-intuitive, and you have to fight the system not to be doing all the things you'd expect not to be there in the first place, like the shitty Wi-Fi Sense sharing nonsense and other pseudo-happy we-are-all-friends crap they are trying to sell.

I did not experience the online world, the integration, the Store, the ads, and such, simply because I turned off everything early on, and I have slash had no incentive to explore that venue at all. Anything available in the Store is automatically inferior to its desktop equivalent, and it's one giant insult to computer science.

In the end, Windows 10 might work on desktops or laptops, with proper mouse and keyboard. You might actually tame the system to your liking, while still feeling violated and dirty and not quite at ease with all the privacy-personalization bullshit. It might also work well on smartphones. In fact, I think it probably will. But in the gray area between touch and intelligence, it fails miserably. Just as badly as Windows 8. There's no saving this situation really. Microsoft should simply ctrl + alt + shift + delete everything it tried to do in this field, and focus on a brighter future. The hybrid model is the worst thing to affect humanity since the late Bubonic Plague in the 17th Century.

Bottom line, Windows 10 is just as good or bad as Windows 8, with only tiny overall differences. No advantage whatsoever, and in some cases, like the HP Stream 7 tablet, some extra drawbacks. At least you're no worse than you were before. Fail x 10 still equals fail. Stick to Windows 7 where you can, and if you must buy new hardware, maybe you can consider it, with all the online/privacy caveats we talked about before. On the phones, though, it is the best mobile operating system. Anything else, nope. That's all.

Cheers.

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