After Aerogate, Vista’s Aero partially returns for Windows 10

Windows 10 build 10125, featuring touches of the dark Windows Vista Aero glass on the Start menu and the notification center.
Windows 10 build 10125, featuring touches of the dark Windows Vista Aero Glass on the Start menu and the notification center.

When Vista debuted, one of the first things people noticed was the beautiful user interface, assuming they had a graphics adapter capable of rendering it. Glass windows, a frosted glass Start menu and taskbar, insanely huge and detailed icons, Flip 3D, and several other enhancements. All of these made the move to Windows 7, sans the black Start menu and taskbar, which changed to a basic glass style.

However, Windows 8, which retained the technology behind this UI, dumped the glassy windows but kept the icons and taskbar, presenting a jarring mixture of 2006 and 2012. The UI was largely flattened, while retaining many Vista elements on the desktop. This was the beginning of what I call Aerogate, with users of the new OS upset that it didn’t look like Windows 7.

With Windows 10, beta testers and tech media have been clamoring for Aero Glass to fully return, with Windows 7 often cited as the prefered appearance, and Microsoft has taken note. But rather than looking to Windows 7, Microsoft has reached back to Windows Vista for the color of the taskbar, Start menu, and the notification center.

Several of the new icons which had originally been seen in early builds have now been replaced with updated Windows Vista icons, with a few notable exceptions. Ironically, the current Recycle Bin icon debuted on Earth Day to much fanfare. The faux outrage over the icons which arrived in early Windows 10 builds was what I refer to as Icongate, which has now been largely resolved.

Even with these concessions, I think it is safe to assume that Aero Glass will not resurrected in full, and I’d even argue that Aero Glass would look awful alongside the Metro Design Language. Kudos to Microsoft for finding the middle ground.

After Aerogate, Vista’s Aero partially returns for Windows 10

Google and Pebble troll Windows Phone users.

CaptureIf you use a Windows Phone, you were trolled today. Twice.

Imagine, if you will, Microsoft suddenly yanking Minecraft from Google’s Play Store. They offer no public explanation, the apps are just gone and there’s no refund either. It’s a $10 app! This would be Microsoft saying, “Fuck you too, Google.”

Okay, this isn’t going to happen, ever. But something similar it is about to happen on the Windows Phone Store, with Google playing the role of the dick waving lunatic.

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Google hates Microsoft. They hate Windows Phone even more. Their refusal to allow Microsoft to make an official Youtube app, and refusing the write one themselves, is the finest example of this. They don’t mind trolling Windows Phone users.

This week, Google, realizing that Apple Pay is a threat, bought the “technology” behind Softcard, an NFC wallet app for Android and Windows Phone, which only debuted in late 2014. Google is wasting no time rolling that infrastructure into its existing Wallet app, which is available on both Android and iOS. Softcard, as a company, still exists, but just what it’s doing is anyones guess at this point.

It was revealed today, as part of that sell off, that Softcard will be removing its app from the Windows Phone Store and also from the Play Store, because the best of the app and its backend are being merged into Google Wallet. This isn’t an issue for Android users, as carriers will now stop blocking Google Wallet as part of the deal, and the iOS app will benefit from these new additions as well.

On the Windows side however, this is a major middle finger. Getting the Softcard app already involved several hurdles. You have to have an Enhanced SIM. You also need a third-party app installed on the phone to act as the NFC wallet.

Microsoft’s native Wallet app has technically supported NFC payments since the launch of Windows Phone 8 in 2012, but it’s never been implemented because Microsoft saw the carriers blocking Google Wallet when it appeared on the scene. Microsoft opted to wait for Softcard, which didn’t arrive until late 2014.

In fact, other NFC wallet apps, like Google Wallet, Apple Pay, and CurrentC could function on Windows Phone, but those apps are not coming. Softcard, made by the carriers, was the only option for American users.

Once the Softcard app is gone, Windows Phone users will once again be without an NFC wallet solution. They won’t be tapping to pay for the foreseeable future. With the success of Apple Pay, perhaps Microsoft will just raise its middle finger to the carriers on this one and build out its existing Wallet app to support NFC. We can only hope.

Pebble

But, the trolling didn’t stop there. Several people, myself included, reported that a Pebble app may be coming to Windows Phone. This was hours before the Softcard announcement, so technically, Pebble got the first and last lulz of the day.

Shortly after the Softcard announcement, Daniel Rubino published a bombshell of a story on Windows Central. It’s really a must read. He reported that Microsoft wrote an app for Pebble, with Pebble’s blessing. Not just an app, but they wanted to partner with Pebble just like they have recently done with Fitbit. There are Fitbit bands in every Microsoft Store, on their webstore, and Fitbit bands are even being given away with Lumia phones.

Imagine the surge in publicity the already moderately known Pebble would get. Their watches would be on TV, at AT&T, in Microsoft’s stores.

Microsoft was even offering to update and maintain the Pebble app, on their own dime, like they already do for Facebook’s app on Windows Phone. Mark Zuckerberg likes Microsoft though. He likes them a lot. Microsoft even invested an obscene amount of money into Facebook back when it was basically just another wouldbe Myspace killer. Facebook had no qualms with Microsoft doing as they wished with the Facebook app on Windows Phone.CaptureSo, Pebble was going to get the Fitbit and the Facebook treatment from Microsoft. How could they say no? All Microsoft wanted some preferential treatment, so maybe some Pebble updates and apps arrive on Windows Phone first. No big deal.

Pebble said no. Pebble said no even when Microsoft’s own CEO asked Pebble’s CEO, Eric Migicovsky, to enter into this partnership. Eric Migicovsky does not like Microsoft, but he does believe that there must be three smartwatch platforms.

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Minecraft creator, Notch, and Steve Jobs, made it cool to hate Microsoft, and now some people are all too happy to stick it to the software giant.

Microsoft poured thousands of dollars into the Pebble endeavour, only to walk in on Pebble dick riding Apple and Google.

And it’s only safe to assume that Microsoft went through similar hoops to woo Snapchat onto the platform, only the catch Snapchat in the act of dick riding too. At least Nokia was able to drag Vine and a beta version of Instagram to the maligned OS.

Need some salve? Ello, that plucky upstart that had everyone talking last September, has expressed interest in making a Windows Phone app. Yeah, I just trolled some of you, sorry.

More trolling.

Oh yes, there’s more. Several media outlets, including Yahoo! have been loudly pounding the nails into the Windows Phone coffin over the last two days, and some even have latched onto Windows 10, declaring the mobile version of the OS dead on arrival, even though it’s hardly a beta yet. Windows Phone just can’t catch a break. Not from the media, and not from dick riding CEOs. And standing between Microsoft and the hail of bullets? Windows Phone users.

Google and Pebble troll Windows Phone users.

Those rounded toggles in Cortana are likely going systemwide in Windows 10.

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The “new” rounded toggles in Cortana’s settings, with the Xbox app settings open in the background.

You likely know what the toggle switches look like on Windows Phone and in Windows 8.x – They are squared sliders, matching the Modern interface nicely. In Cortana on the latest Windows 10 Technical Preview, many people noticed that the service uses different toggles; ones which are rounded. Initially, I didn’t spot them anywhere else in the OS and wrote them off as a designer just trying something new, something that would go away in the next build.

For a comparison of the old style and the new style, below is a screenshot of the Settings app, which still uses the old style, and above are Cortana’s settings and the settings of the Xbox app as well.

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The “old” squared style toggle switches.

Since this new toggle design has made an appearance in the Xbox app, I think it’s safe to assume that this design will migrate out to the rest of the OS, and on the phone side as well. It really makes sense, when you factor in the wireframe icon styling which is apparent here and there on both the phone and PC versions on the Windows 10 Preview.

Those rounded toggles in Cortana are likely going systemwide in Windows 10.

Goodbye, Win32 Calculator. Windows 10 moves Modern apps to center stage.

Windows 10 CalculatorSo long, Windows 7 calculator. You were quite the upgrade over the version that shipped with Windows Vista and older operating systems. You had a scientific mode that most people have no use for. My college professors wouldn’t let me use you instead of a TI 83. You also looked gaudy and didn’t match Windows 8. In Windows 8, you had a successor lurking on the Start screen, so we knew your days were limited. That day has arrived.

When Microsoft released Windows 10 Technical Preview Build 9926, they began removing many redundant features and suppressing others. The old Win32 calculator was one of the casualties. With a Modern version present since Windows 8, it’s an obvious move now that these apps can reside in resizeable windows on the desktop.

Don’t fret however, all the functionality of the old Calculator appears to be present in the Modern version. The only real issue I have is that the Calculator button on my Sidewinder X4 keyboard is bipolar about launching the app, but I’m sure this will be fixed in a later build.

Goodbye, Win32 Calculator. Windows 10 moves Modern apps to center stage.

Emoji Engaged! Using Emoji on Windows 8.x and Windows 10 PCs

Emoji began in Japan, but have been increasingly becoming part of how we communicate on the web and in texts. You’re more likely to see them employed on Instagram and Facebook rather than by users on Twitter, where all characters are quite precious. You’re also not likely to see them dropped into Word documents and Excel spreadsheets, but if you so desire, they can be plopped just about anywhere. Whether they render or not is another story.

So, how do you access Emoji on a PC running Windows 8/8.1/10? It’s actually pretty straight forward. Right click on the taskbar and navigate to Toolbars > Touch keyboard and click on it, assuming it’s not already checked.
UntitledYou will see a new icon on the taskbar, next to the system tray on the right side of the screen. When you are typing something, and would like to drop an Emoji into the mix without picking up your phone or tablet, just click that new keyboard icon and the touch keyboard will be invoked. You can find nearly all existing Emoji categorized nicely by clicking on the smiley face icon next to the spacebar. From there, you can explore the Emoji simply by clicking through the menus.

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As you will see, Microsoft has made the appearance of the Emoji match the Modern design language used in Windows Phone 7/8/8.1 and Windows 8/8.1/10. Android and iOS each have a unique take on the emoji as well.

In the real world example in the screenshot below, you can see that I like to insert Emoji into my Facebook posts. You’ll also see that the OS is not rendering Emoji as I type it, but don’t fret about that, the unicode is there and capable devices and websites will display the emoji you used. Some Emoji show up fine on the PC, but most will not unless you’re on a touch screen. Call it a “feature” of Windows if you will.

Many websites, like WordPress and Facebook, will render the emojis after you post using their own appearance, allowing most PC users to see the Emoji you just used instead of blank squares.Untitled1To dismiss the keyboard, just start typing with the physical keyboard, or click something with the mouse.

Lastly, yes, I really did manage to kill the cord on my headphones. 😭

Emoji Engaged! Using Emoji on Windows 8.x and Windows 10 PCs