Sunday, February 03, 2013

Windows Ocho, Week 1

Last week’s blog was about my dealings with Windows 8 within the first 12 or so hours of having gotten a new laptop with it preinstalled. Now that it’s been a full week and I’ve had more time to familiarize myself with it, I offer my personal insights and discoveries regarding this much maligned version of the most widely used PC Operating System in the world.1

One of the biggest things I’ve heard friends and colleagues say they dislike about Windows 8 is the new Interface; they don’t care for they tiles. They think that Microsoft is trying too hard to make Windows 8 look like a tablet or smartphone Operating System. Then, of course, there’s the theory that only every other version of Windows has been worth a tinker’s damn, and since Windows 7 was very stable, it’s been sort of expected that 8 would be a bomb. I’ve also come across many articles online about Windows 8 annoyances, or how-to’s on making Windows 8 look and feel more like Windows 7. So, naturally, when I decided that it was time for a new laptop and knowing that anything that would have the kind of hardware I was looking for, would pretty much by default have Windows 8, I’ll admit I was a apprehensive.

That being said, opinions do matter to me, which is why I did a lot of Google searches for anything that would make me possibly reconsider getting a Windows 8 machine and settling for slightly lesser hardware specifications to get Windows 7 instead. However, when an old college friend who was notorious for hating Microsoft back in the 90s begins talking about how much he loves his Windows Phone (whose interface is arguably a precursor to Windows 8) and made the switch to Windows 8 on almost the very day it was released, that says something; like maybe the OS is actually pretty good and MS finally got their shit together to make such a convert? So, I figured I’d give it a shot, and within the first 24 hours I didn’t hate the interface, even if it was causing me some annoyances with having to figure out just where the hell stuff had been moved to (it should be noted, however, that I had the same bout of “why the fuck did MS to do that?” when I switched from XP to 7 a couple of years ago).

What I like about Windows 8:

  • Boot Time - OMG! Windows 8 boots up way faster than any version of Windows before it - I shit you not. Any time I’ve ever had to restart Windows in previous versions, I’ve groaned because I knew that it would take several minutes. So, naturally, the first time Windows 8 had to download updates (28 of them, in fact, because it was right after I got it home and turned it on

  • Start Screen and Tiles - Call me crazy, but I actually like the Start Screen tiles. I’ve long been a fan of using the Quick Launch toolbar because I hate having my Desktop cluttered with icons; so much so, that in Windows 7 and 8 I used a little trick to add the Quick Launch back to the Taskbar list of Toolbars. By putting the applications I use most often on the far left of the Start Screen, I get almost the same effect as using Quick Launch without using up space on the Taskbar. So, everyone elses least favorite part of Windows 8 is actually something I find in its favor (go figure - it was also the one thing that I thought I would hate about it).

  • Apps  - I’ve been using an Android device for a few years now, and I really love having access to various types of apps. With Windows 8, I get a similar selection of apps, both free and paid, some of which are the same ones I have on my HTC Incredible 2.

  • Windows Charms - By pressing the Windows Key + C, a menu will open on the right hand side of the screen which Microsoft calls “Windows Charms”. This gives the ability to use Search and Settings for whatever app is currently on screen (including the Desktop). The nice thing about this is that getting to the settings for any app is the same for each app instead of having to figure out how to navigate each individual app to find its settings/options.

Annoyances:

  • Start Screen - Even though I mentioned above that I like the Start Screen tiles, I don’t like that I can’t change the background image from the stock selection of images and color schemes without first downloading a third party app such as Stardock’s Decor8. If the third party apps to do this were free, fine; but, while Stardock may only be around $5 US, I’m not willing to pay extra for functionality that should, frankly, be built in.

  • Apps - The selection of apps for Windows 8 still seems a bit limited; I can’t really blame Microsoft for this as it’s the fault of developers who have not (yet) created a Windows 8 version of an app that otherwise is available for iPhone or Android.

  • WinKey+Tab - I loved how, in Windows 7, using the Windows Key + Tab (as compared to the more traditional Alt-Tab to switch between applications) showed a kind of shuffle of all open windows. In 8, it displays a menu on the left side of the screen. Functionally, it does the same thing, but it lost its pizzaz in my opinion, so I might was well just use Alt-Tab instead. Also, WinKey+Tab treats the Desktop (the entire Desktop) as an app and doesn’t seem allow for switching between desktop apps so I still have to use Alt-Tab for that.

For another opinion on Windows 8 annoyances (not all of which I agree with) you can also read Laptop Magazine’s article, "8 Worst Windows 8 Annoyances and How to Fix Them".

Overall, I really don’t see what everyone’s bitching about. There’s nothing wrong with Windows 8. It runs what I need it to run, including World of Warcraft, not only just fine, but better (so far) than my Windows 7 desktop (admittedly, the hardware probably makes a bigger difference in that than the OS). Even the salesman where I bought the laptop admitted that they have a lot of returns on Windows 8 based computers because people “just don’t like it”. My opinion? They’re simply either too lazy or too stupid to learn the new interface - period! That’s not to say that there are things I would like to see Microsoft tweak with a Service Pack rather than waiting for 9, but overall, there’s nothing wrong with Windows 8 other than having to learn some changes in how to do some tasks.

~ JC



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Footnotes:

1. According to W3C, Windows, in its various versions, still claims well over 50% of market share globally - http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_os.asp. NetMarketShare.com, while showing slightly different numbers, confirms this as well - http://www.netmarketshare.com/operating-system-market-share.aspx?qprid=10
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