Windows 11… or 10+1
Windows 11 launched in early October and I wanted to do a quick overview of what’s new, what it can do, and what it won’t do. Windows 11 isn’t a totally new experience, just a more polished one. It does have a handful of new features. It has a cleaner look, and some neat things like WSLg and Xbox App built in (and Xbox Game Pass starting for just $1.00). Xbox Game Pass gives you access to hundreds of XBOX games, including day-one releases.
Sometimes, appearances are everything
Windows 11 could have just been an update to Windows 10. One of the biggest things you’ll notice immediately is the UI (User Interface). It may be because it’s “new”, but it feels reminiscent of the Mac that I am using to write this article on. The taskbar is now centered (this can be changed in settings), the icons are overhauled, and the font is a cleaner version of the Windows 10 “Segoe UI” font.
There are also a handful of simplified views. There is now a “mostly” proper light theme and dark theme for Windows 11. I say “mostly” because not all applications respect your theme preferences, and there are still legacy menus within Windows itself that don’t follow the new UI style. If Microsoft were to completely overhaul these legacy menus in a 2022 patch for Windows 11, I would give the user interface a standing ovation. As it is now, there is a large improvement, and it feels more thought out.
Sometimes you just don’t get it
I would bet that most people who just go to their Windows 10 system and click on “update” will get a prompt saying their system is not compatible. That’s probably because most people either don’t have compatible hardware or have the needed settings disabled. Windows 11 requires TPM (Trusted Platform Module) enabled in the BIOS, along with a compatible TPM module or TPM support on their CPU. Even then the list of supported CPUs is very small, considering the performance requirements are so minimal. A two core 64-bit processor that can operate at 1GHz should make most processors made in the last decade eligible. But Microsoft has a list of “compatible” CPUs.
There is hope, even if you don’t have a system that is marked as compatible. You can still download the media creation tool, make an installer USB and cleanly install Windows 11. But if your system is not “compatible” you may not receive proper updates including security patches. So do this at your own risk.
Windows 11 Subsystems, WSL …g
As a software engineer who also games, I’ve always found that I need to balance two lives. On one hand, I love to game. So naturally, I have a Windows PC in my house. Linux gaming has made strides over the last year or so, though. Check out the Linux for Everyone podcast for more about that.
On the other hand, as a software engineer 90% of my work lives in Linux. That used to require a separate machine, or a VM (virtual machine). However, as of Windows 10 WSL (Windows Subsystems of Linux) and now WSLg, there is now a linux kernel living alongside the standard Windows kernel. This allows a user to run Linux apps (command line applications) alongside Windows. With WSLg (the “g” stands for “graphical”), I can install Linux apps that have a UI and be able to launch it and use its graphical user interface as if it were a native Windows app. This includes mounted folder and file paths right in File Explorer
A friend and fellow Linux advocate, Jason Evangilo, and I had a fun picking back and forth about WSL. He (on Linux) just gets the “real thing” but for industries where Windows may be required due to some C-Level exec making a decision (even though you work in Linux), this really is a life saver. It removes layers of distraction that would otherwise interfere with getting work done.
Windows 11 Performance
Performance is key. Think “function before form”. Things should work before they should be “pretty”. In my time with Windows 11 thus far, it does perform just fine. There are reports that AMD CPUs, particularly those with 8+ cores and or higher than 65w TDP, have taken a substantial performance hit for as much as 15%, as reported by WCCFTech. This has to do with the way Windows 11 splits workloads across cores and how AMD cores are split across chipsets (CCX), and partly to do with L3 cache. However, as of this week it seems to have been resolved. Although, with daily use, I haven’t noticed any performance hit — but I haven’t spent a lot of time gaming or doing demanding workloads.
So where does this leave us?
Honestly, if you don’t need Windows 11, you are fine to hang on to Windows 10 until Windows 11 is a little more mature and more devices have drivers released for it. We’re talking about an OS that is barely a month old at this point. And as of last week, it seems that those AMD CPU performance patches got cracked out. So if you have a compatible system and everything checks out, it is refreshing and absolutely worth the update.