I made my employer buy a couple of full copies of Windows 8.1 so that I can test our SquirrelSave backup software against a variety of situations, including upgrading to Windows 10 (which works, BTW 0 I had no problems with SquirrelSave under Windows 10 – either as a new install or an upgrade from Windows 8.1).
Bloody hell – what a horrific mess Microsoft has made of the free upgrade and the use of product keys / identifying machine hardware.
Firstly, I’m running anything Windows related under virtualisation because for the past 10+ years I’ve been a staunch Mac user. Ever since I was introduced to OS X back in my days within visual effects by a VFX producer who had asked me to look at her machine, I’ve been a big fan of OS X – despite fairly recent versions being a little buggier than usual.
I only have to upgrade my Mac hardware every three to four years (which is reasonable, I’d say) to receive unlimited free minor and major upgrades to my OS. There is no product key, there is no fuss. It Just Works(tm).
I’m currently trialing VMWare Fusion 8 Pro (I gave up on Parallels after not getting a response from their support department for several days regarding a subscription/activation issue).
Fusion 8 Pro is a lovely product which fixes a long standing problem (I’ve been a Fusion license owner since version 1, but gave up after version 3 thanks to this bug) in which UK Apple keyboards were not mapping the @ symbol (and other characters) properly. Fusion 8 fixes this. As such, I’ll hopefully be able to convince work to buy a full license of Fusion 8 Pro . ’tis a tad pricey for my personal use.
Upgrading Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 is simple enough. I can revert to Windows 8.1 from Windows 10, or do a fresh reinstall which fires up the Windows 10 system recovery. But God help me if I want to do a completely and utterly fresh install of Windows 10 because it absolutely wants a Windows 10 (not a Windows 8.1) product key. It doesn’t try to identify the virtual hardware.
I’ve been through the horrific (and it is absolutely horrific) Microsoft product voice activation system twice when tinkering with my Windows 8.1/Windows 10 virtual machines because Microsoft are relying on your hardware to determine eligibility. Which is complete and utter nonsense if you’re running Windows under virtualisation.
Clearly charging for a consumer OS still seems to be profitable for Microsoft which is why they’re not giving away fresh installs for free – but I think this is a big mistake. We did pay £99 for a new Windows 10 license only to discover that Windows 10 – at launch – was far too buggy to be of any use and got a refund. Trying to go through the upgrade route is better, but an enormous pain in the arse just trying to save money.
It’s no wonder many organisations are ditching PCs and Microsoft technology and heading towards Macs, Chromebooks or Linux along with Google Apps, some other SaaS (software as a service), or self-hosted open source products. Microsoft does not represent good value in a crowded marketplace.
We ditched Windows for the most part in VFX because (a) we saved an enormous amount of money in Windows licenses on the desktop and server, and (b) the VFX industry has Unix-based roots, and much of that is in part thanks to SGI and the IRIX operating system. That said, the Arri film recorder software had to run under Windows NT.
Don’t get me started as to how much I hate Microsoft’s Windows Server products. All I will do is to leave this image here. Trust me when I say that I should NOT have to reboot a Windows Server as often as I do, and especially not to upgrade a backup component because of the way the Windows driver ecosystem works.