Windows 10 - Don't forget about ... God Mode

Posted on: July 17, 2015 by Mike Smith

A little over two years ago I posted a story about Microsoft's then new Windows 8 Operating System; reflecting on the new interface it introduced for the dual world of traditional computers and those new-fangled tablet devices. The article elicited many comments and remains the most "popular" article on the Ascent hub (on which you are reading this article) to this day. Let's see what we can do with this new tale.

Windows is now grabbing the headlines again. Windows 10 will become available to the masses later this month and for the consumer - you and I at home - it's a free upgrade (for Windows 7 and 8.1 users ... for the next calendar year only. Terms and conditions may apply.) But what about the corporate environment? What are the implications for the CxO here?

Let's get that interface issue we discussed last time out of the way first. Users back in 2013 found the new interface a big change, a change too far perhaps. The juxtaposition of the traditional desktop and start screen was too jarring, and different styles of applications (those "Metro" Apps if we're still permitted to use the phrase) giving a different user experience too. There has been resistance in the corporate world to move forward from Windows 7, partly for these reasons I would suggest.

Well we now know that this interface issue has been addressed with the return of an enhanced Start Menu in Windows 10. Hurray!! I hear you cheer.

So the familiar (and now turbo-charged) Start Menu is back. Is that enough to persuade you to modernise? I doubt it. For me there's a much more compelling reason to consider upgrading to a Windows 10-based workplace service. And for once that compelling event is NOT the end of support for an old version of software.

Microsoft is introducing a new mode of support for enterprises. And I like it.

Historically we have had essentially two modes of operation. In the consumer world we configure automatic updates and permit patches to be downloaded and installed automatically. It's efficient, normally low-impacting and the machines just get on with it - downloading from Microsoft servers over the Internet. By and large, this works well for us - the odd unexpected reboot perhaps, but this simplicity to keep up-to-date (and secure; we'll come back to that) far outweighs the odd hindrance.

In the Enterprise, however, we are much more worried about the stability of the working environment for our users. The machines may not be able to directly download patches from the Internet - or if thousands of them do at once it could use up all the precious bandwidth that those business applications need. And we absolutely need those applications not to break due to unexpected changes. So in the corporate world we have adopted a very stringent and controlled philosophy; only approved, fully tested, updates are permitted to enter the environment. It's a locked-down world, often associated with a Software Assurance programme - with strict control of all assets, software ... and licensing.

Woe betide any user who dares to deviate from our corporate gold build. It may be slow, and clunky, and out of date, but it's safe and the lowest common denominator for all our users.

So hang on. Today we're either in the Wild West or under the ultimate control regime of the East. We need something new.

What is this new mode then?

A new middle-ground delivery model is being introduced for corporate environments. Every 3-6 months we'll see a new "current branch for business" release. That is, a selected set of updates taken from the consumer world, bundled, packaged, checked. This will enable a more up-to-date and flexible corporate environment; not locked down. These regular releases will push out not only patches, but new features too. It will be very much like the way we see smartphone Operating System releases today. Little and often.

The current locked-down enterprise regime will be reserved for those truly mission critical environments - just where it's needed.

So this is an exciting new way of providing and supporting workplace services. It'll enable a more modern-feeling working environment. Fresh. Regularly updated. And together with a corporate application testing regime to coincide with Microsoft releases, safe enough to provide corporate stability.

What more is there to Windows 10 though?

Of course we're going to see a long list of updates happening in Windows 10, but in order to focus my main message of the new support model outlined above, I'll just mention in passing a handful of the most significant changes as I see them:

  • Fellow Halo players will already know Cortana, our digital assistant, who now comes to the desktop.
  • We all also love, at least the project name, project Spartan too. This new web browser for Windows 10 will be released as "Edge".
  • There are new biometric security features - facial recognition using infrared cameras (to prove you're alive, and not a photo!) Indeed Microsoft will major on the whole security landscape of Windows 10, including secure boot mechanisms, trusted computing and encryption.
  • One Windows to rule them all - across phone, tablet, desktop, laptop (and a bit of Xbox integration thrown in).
  • Finally, I'll mention more client and user experience virtualisation technologies which could provide additional application delivery techniques.

I quipped two years ago that users may forget about the handy (indeed, once normal) keyboard combinations for performing common activities - like simply closing an application. I was reminded the other day of an old Windows 7 secret. As we move to Windows 10 I wonder how many advanced users will forget about some of those old tricks we used to use; a favourite of mine is "God Mode". One can create a folder with a specially constructed name to unlock a vast array of tools and links to perform advanced functions within the Operating System. If you've never tried it yourself just create a folder, perhaps on your desktop, called "GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}" (no quotes). It works on Windows 8.1 too.

I wonder what will happen on Windows 10?

Picture: "Windows 10 Pro Technical Preview", by okubax - Licensed under CC-BY-20.

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About Mike Smith
Chief Technology Officer, Atos Distinguished Expert, Founding member of the Atos Scientific Community
Mike has been in the IT industry for over 20 years, designing and implementing complex infrastructures that underpin key Government and private sector solutions. Setting Atos technical strategy, researching new technologies and supporting the consulting and architect communities. Previously Mike has held technical and management positions in British Rail, Sema Group and Schlumberger. He has a daughter and a son, both keen on anything but technology. Mike's sporting passion rests with Test Match Special, and is jealous/proud of his son's Ice Hockey skills.

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