Windows 10 Update 1804 - Agile Shmagile

Updated: June 25, 2018

It is time for another Windows 10 mini review, and this time, I'll be examining the update process and the post-upgrade experience with the biannual Windows 10 major version upgrade. This one was released in April, hence the number 1804 (well 1803 but still). From what I've been reading online, there seem to have been quite a lot of problems with this particular edition, so I waited a few weeks before testing.

And now we are testing. The Windows 10 resides in an eight-boot setup on a Lenovo G50 laptop, cozily nestled among various Linux distributions. The system uses a local (and limited) account, and it's configured for solid privacy, as I've outlined in my Windows 10 privacy guide. All right, let us commence.

Teaser

Upgrade process

This was long and tedious. It took about an hour to actually install the update, then no less than FOUR reboots until the process was finally complete, taking another 45 minutes or so. Four reboots! Four stones, four reboots! Now, when I compare this brave new "move fast break things nonsense" approach to what we had before, Windows XP/7/8, it is obvious that it is inferior in every way. With the previous versions of Windows, which I still happily use, my update process is simple: full system image followed by the update. The latter only takes about 20 minutes and a single reboot. Now, the new and modern, rapidly changing Windows takes unnecessary time to do the exact same thing. Time that you can't really use.

Update in progress

Notice the ugly scroll bar overlaying text - a visual bug.

After the update - problems!

The process was NOT smooth or seamless. There were crashes - and other issues.

First, as I've outlined in my Youtube video, some settings were changed. The login screen (only the first time) was set to the default image, but on second reboot, it was back to whatever I've configured previously. Then, most notably, the tracking service and Windows Defender were re-activated, even though I had them explicitly disabled before the update, and I had them disabled again. This is a violation of my rights as a user, and I can only imagine how much crap happens in a system that is configured with an online account. But we shall never surrender!

Tracking service turned on

Windows Defender turned on

I hate this bullshit so much, this attempt to normalize everyone into a box labeled "IQ90 idiots here". So I disabled the tracking service and the useless Defender, because proper computer security is done using a standard (limited) account and the superb EMET/Exploit Mitigation framework, and not pointless real-time monitors.

Then, the desktop was polluted with links to random crap. Free calls, music, what is this nonsense? Have I installed a BonziBuddy toolbar that I'm not aware of? I also didn't have an Edge shortcut on the desktop, but now it's here. This is a travesty.

Desktop after the update

Well, as a shareholder, I'd like to thank you for your quarterly earnings report, but I'd also like to point out that you can shove your aggressive marketing where it doth not shine. The more you push, the more I'll resist. Every time you try to bless me with a fresh sales turd, I will deliberately not use what you offer. Maybe there was room to consider testing the programs you suggested, now I will use whatever competitors offer, and do my best to share my displeasure and resentment with the world.

This of course brings about a bigger philosophical question, like what if you have no choice and must use Microsoft products (or other companies), which also holds true for me in some areas of the digital world. Indeed, most of the time, despite pragmatic necessities and lesser evils that come with software, my Microsoft-related experience is reasonable. Windows 7 is a peach. Windows 8 is okay. Windows 10 could be okay, if the sales and marketing team did not shower it with shit so often.

And so what to do? Well, it's simple. Positive experiences breed trust and loyalty. So over time, users are more inclined to buy into the company's ecosystem and try new things. Likewise, when sales people try to force encounters of the fourth kind onto users, they erode the company's image long term. Case in point, Edge, a direct result of all that happened with Internet Explorer 6. That lesson is still resonating strong and hard.

One day, there will be solutions that offer equivalent functionality in some of those areas where Microsoft currently reigns supreme (i.e. users don't really have any viable options and they must compromise in some way), and whenever that happens, I will deliberately use the alternative. Because I don't appreciate being shafted.

On a grand scale, it might not change much, because the vast majority of people can barely spell their name without getting confused, and to them, nothing really matters, but on behalf of the 1% non-morons out there, I will have done my part.

And so, I might have been inclined to try some of these Metro/Modern apps, maybe even use Edge. Now I don't want to. Ever. How's that for a desktop offer?

Back to the review, then ...

I also experienced application crashes. Normally, for me, Windows has always been extremely stable and robust. With decades of non-stop 24/7 uptime spread over multiple systems, there have really never been any big issues, and definitely not crashes of system components. Well, it finally happened.

I tried to check the Activity section in the System Settings Privacy window, and it would just close. Likewise, the Task View button on the taskbar, it did nothing. Checking the Event Viewer, I noticed there were quite a lot of errors and crashes, including System Settings and Explorer.

Faulting application name: SystemSettings.exe, version: 10.0.17134.1, time stamp: 0x2a3c4e62
Faulting module name: Windows.Data.Activities.dll, version: 10.0.17134.1, time stamp: 0x6f36625c
Exception code: 0xc0000005
Fault offset: 0x000000000001da19
Faulting process id: 0x1300
Faulting application start time: 0x01d400de0c2bfe6a
Faulting application path: C:\Windows\ImmersiveControlPanel\SystemSettings.exe
Faulting module path: C:\Windows\System32\Windows.Data.Activities.dll
Report Id: 51bd425d-e9fc-4fc9-93be-64b3e22600df
Faulting package full name: windows.immersivecontrolpanel_10.0.2.1000_neutral_neutral_cw5n1h2txyewy
Faulting package-relative application ID: microsoft.windows.immersivecontrolpanel

Faulting application name: explorer.exe, version: 10.0.17134.1, time stamp: 0x425b30b2
Faulting module name: Windows.UI.Xaml.dll, version: 10.0.17134.81, time stamp: 0x4f4899f8
Exception code: 0xc000027b
Fault offset: 0x00000000006a4e02
Faulting process id: 0x1ef0
Faulting application start time: 0x01d400ddcdda830a
Faulting application path: C:\WINDOWS\explorer.exe
Faulting module path: C:\Windows\System32\Windows.UI.Xaml.dll
Report Id: 44baa311-690a-4e7b-9963-20f731bd3641
Faulting package full name:
Faulting package-relative application ID:

Again, I must blame the new culture of pumping out software fast. It creates an illusion of activity, but it's nothing more than an empty gimmick. Pure and utter shit like every "modern" methodology in software. The only outcomes are reduced quality, which has so far been stellar for me in Windows, and reduced efficiency, as you need more and more mouse clicks and actions to achieve the same thing you could in older version of Windows. Control Panel vs Settings, for instance.

This isn't just a Microsoft thing - this is the whole dot io 2000 bullshitscape. Touch works fine on mobile, but the moment you put over-simplified, over-sized menus onto the desktop, you cut the IQ and efficiency in half each. Then, fast releases. Again, I know most idiots out there only use their devices transactionally, so they don't care if there's a crash or reboot. Rarely anything of value is ever made let alone lost. But there are also people who use their Windows seriously and expect 100% uptime and stability. This has been true for me for many many years. I've always praised how stable Windows is (check my older articles, if you want). Now, Windows 10 has joined the club of agile failures, like most Linux distributions. Sad. Pointless.

Philosophy kicks in again - what to do when I do buy a new machine in the coming months or years? I will not be using Windows 7 (or even 8) for that, so it will have to use Windows 10 (Pro of course), but then do I want to have my production machines run something that can whimsically go bust twice a year? And it's really a situation of having no choice, because Linux distributions aren't mature or stable or functional enough to compete, nor is the app space capable of offering the necessary equivalent functionality - in essence, office, graphical design and games. And no, I don't have enough experience with Apple products to comment on that.

In a nutshell, it's like someone asking you, what you'd rather lose, an arm or a leg? Either way, you lose.

I rebooted (this would be the fifth since the update), and after reboot, Windows 10 was behaving ok. Both System Settings and Explorer worked and did not crash. So two things here. One, you may say, another reboot, what's the big deal? Well, it is, because reboots are a waste of time. If your setup is properly configured, you'd only ever reboot when you update, once a month or once a quarter or whatever cadence. Otherwise, something is wrong with your setup. Two, despite the obvious failure earlier, Windows is quite resilient in recovering from errors. Having tried its various reset mechanisms in the past and now this, Windows 10 is capable of healing its wounds. This is a good thing, at least. Well, a great thing.

Desktop, final config

Menu

Now that things are finally stable - and random crap removed back to my baseline, let's review the new features and options introduced in this build.

Samba sharing

This is a hot one. Apparently - and I have not been able to verify this - Windows 10 will disable the SMBv1 protocol (components) if you don't use them (you can enable it if you want). The would-be reason is the whole fiasco from about a year or so ago, when various Internet-facing, unpatched servers were compromised through a Samba vulnerability. Of course, this is a server problem, but the security zealots are foaming on the mouth and trying to kill legitimate functionality.

The hysteria is so huge, it's almost a religious movement. Woe anyone who uses SMBv1 - it's used massively across the infrastructure stack in pretty much EVERYTHING. But now the "agile" crowd wants to break everything.

The thing is, there's a huge difference between home environments and enterprise environments. Most home systems are not directly exposed to the Web, and they can be patched relatively easily. In the corporate world, things are far more complex, of course. Often, companies CANNOT disable legacy protocols, because that will break critical functionality, often going back decades. And changing to new solutions will take years.

Alas, the impressionable crowds so intent on breaking things don't realize that you can't put a media server or some useless online crap on the same level as say financial or medical systems. The latter cannot be patched, because regulations are strict and the risks are immense. It's not the matter of rebooting your phone. It's the matter of life and death. Would you like your hospital systems to stop working because they were randomly patched - while you're getting your operation that is.

But the zeal and panic are so great, there's no place for reasoning. It's a black & white panic. Protocol, good, protocol, bad. And YES, the storm a year or two ago WAS caused by UNPATCHED software - this is true for any which vulnerability and it is NOT limited to Samba. And yes, hospitals were affected because of the breach in software. That's not the reason to remove the protocol (and cause permanent malfunction). Nor is it the linear conclusion of the incident.

The solution is to patch software - or minimize exposure where unnecessary - not to break or delete protocols. Tomorrow there's gonna be malware propagating via email. Should we delete SMTP? And then social networks are used to lure idiots into phishing scams? Should we disable social networks? What's left? Localhost in a safe guarded by a rabid honey badger? I've said this many times before:

The Internet is used to deliver malware; using the same logic, why don't we disable the Internet then?

The digital world is not a battlefield. For anyone who thinks this whole computer security is their private version of Saving Private Ryan, I'd recommend enlisting with the military services in their respective countries, and visiting one of the many war zones on our planet for some reeducation and enlightenment. Go for a mix of hot and cold climates for best effect (don't forget the sunscreen).

All that said, I had ZERO problems with Samba functionality, including SMBv1. It might have to do with the online account, or actual usage. Plus, you can always enable the component if you need. Plus, from what I've read, this might actually be caused by Windows Defender flagging SMB calls as bad; one more reason why you don't want it, in fact ALL and EVERY security alert/threat warning I've ever seen while using and testing security products over the years have been false positives. Reading some more, I learned that Microsoft is actually going to fix this in an upcoming patch.

Samba, no problems

New privacy options

There are all sorts of extras in the System Settings, giving you more control over what your "modern" applications do. In a manner similar to smartphones, you can allow/deny access to specific parts of your system, like Photos, Videos or Documents. This can be useful if you must use a pesky program that wants to read all your data. The best choice is to use desktop programs, but then, this is a nice gesture.

App permissions

Activities, Timeline & multiple desktops

Windows 10 also allows you to check your usage history via the Activity history setting. You can include both local (offline) and online activities, if you have any associated accounts. Or you can not use this at all. I am not 100% sure how useful this is going to be, but again, it's a nice gesture.

Activities

Timeline is the visual side of this setting. On your desktop, click on the icon next to the search box/icon in the taskbar, and you will see your activity for the current desktop - or any number of desktops you may have, 'tis another nice option - and if you have the history enabled, you can scroll through time. This gives you extra dimensions in your desktop work.

Timeline

So yeah, you can add desktops. As many as you like.

Multiple desktops

Fluent Design

I heard this mentioned. Apparently, flat apps aren't easy enough to distinguish visually, so some subtle hinting has been added, transforming Metro/Modern into Fluent. I'm not 100% sure, because I don't use these apps, so I can't really comment on the UI improvement progress. I do believe the Windows 10 desktop remains largely unchanged visually, with decent font contrast and clarity - superlative to pretty much all Linux distros, in fact.

Fluent Design

System startup

This is a real improvement. Instead of going into the task manager to manage startup programs, you have a proper, dedicated sub-menu in the System Settings. This is also better than msconfig. So this is the first time that I've seen a genuine, superlative administrative feature in Windows 10 that replaces old things in an efficient manner. This also works around the startup items management issue under a standard account.

Startup programs, better control

Data cleanup

Storage sense makes a desktop entry - forgive me if you've seen this in the Creators update. You get data cleanup - what you could previously do in a very convoluted way via advanced system settings in My Computer. An ergonomic improvement, although some extra granularity would be welcome. For example, per-app cleanup control. After all, it's all about the apps, no? This is turned off by default, but you can also use auto-cleanup for temporary files. Not bad at all.

Storage sense

Security

I don't like flashy security, but I do like sensible security. The inclusion of the Exploit Mitigation framework into the Windows Defender Security Center (not to be confused with Defender anti-malware program) is a really good thing, although the actual efficiency is behind EMET at the moment. You also have some additional security measures available, like core isolation and memory protection. Very nice. Do note this depends on your actual platform/processor capabilities and BIOS/UEFI settings. System health overview can also be helpful, as a quick glance into some of the common system areas.

Health

Core isolation

Core isolation, details

Why do some Settings tools have borders and others don't?

Application aliases

Apparently, you can rename your apps. Why though?

App aliases

Updates

Windows 10 has had the option to download (and upload) - basically share - updates with peers on the local network and the wider Internet. In other words, rather than just pulling updates from Microsoft server, you're sort of P2P-ing updates. I have always had this disabled, so it's not an issue, but for those who do use this, they have an option to throttle bandwidth. A built-in update torrent thingie!

Advanced update options

Phone sharing

Another new option - you can link your phones to your Windows 10 system. Not bad, only it requires that you turn Shared experiences on, and also provide a phone number to which a link will be sent to configure the sharing. I guess some kind of app. I'm not really keen on this. But I believe most people will like this.

Phone sharing

Link phone

Other things

I spent some more time digging around the system, trying to figure out what gives. I did come across some odd features, which must have been introduced between then and now, but I'm not certain if they're part of this spring update or an earlier addition. Like apps for websites. Why? 'Tis a desktop not a phone. And why is Dailymotion there? Is this some kind of preferred app included with the Store bundle or something?

Apps for websites

On the more positive side, you can tweak the performance of each program individually - standard software as well as Store apps (universal apps). This can be useful on mobile systems, as it can help conserve battery life. On the other hand, Windows 10 Pro (for Workstations) offers a new power policy called Ultimate Performance, but this is only currently available for desktops.

Graphics tweaks

Battery life

Windows 10 remains a frugal player. Very neat. I've always said that it beats Linux on this particular machine, and that most distros struggle to match the Windows 10 times. This remains true three years down the lifetime line for this machine, including the deterioration in the total battery capacity. At 50% brightness and about 75% charge, it gives about 3 hours 45 minutes. The numbers are very consistent, and this is even without the battery saver. On a new full-capacity battery, this would be a full 5 hours of light to moderate usage. This is roughly an hour more than most recent Linux distros on the very same box. Only MX Linux comes close to matching this properly. Some Plasma-based systems are also making a decent effort. 

Battery life

Conclusion

Windows 10 could be a very reasonable system - if they left it alone. Alas, it is impossible to achieve good results with the neverending tactical nightmare of continuous development that kills creativity and turns people into mindless robots surviving on trivial daily tasks. It makes people average, scares talent away, and the resulting product is rife with problems caused by mediocrity and insufficient quality assurance. The worst thing is, it will get worse. The more Microsoft (and every other company) invests in agile nonsense, the less quality it will have in its product. Perhaps that's the idea. Maybe having "good enough" crap that 99% of people will use is the intended state. Perhaps the old school approach of doing superb results on the first go is not profitable enough. That's something that smart people will have to accept. From now on, software will be different shades of bad, so it will become a constant effort of minimizing suffering rather than increasing productivity and fun. In this game, I officially declare defeat on behalf of non-idiots out there.

Well, if that's the case, then Update 1804 fits the bill well. I am so disappointed by the update process and its immediate aftermath. A real shame, because there are some pretty decent additions here. It could have been just another update, and it might even have been a solid update with exciting new options, only I can't get past the update problems and settings reset, and so, it's another scar on my soul. Ah well. Take care.

Cheers.

You may also like: