Tag Archives: Windows 8

Windows 8 – Down with Metro

No, I haven’t managed to get the latest build or RTM of it yet and neither am I going to rush out to get it. I played with the Developer preview and then again with the Consumer preview plus I’ve been following online all the ‘progress’ (or lack thereof) and thoughts of other people and reviewers.

In recent news two ‘Gaming’ companies gave Windows 8 a thumb down for their own reasons. They probably also have alternative motives which I don’t even know about right now – and don’t care about. My ‘beef’ with it is more on the productivity and corporate fronts.

Let me try to explain a bit more.

The vast majority of ‘users’ I know use the desktop in Windows like a… {drumroll} real desktop with Icons cluttered all over the show. Some may say that is untidy and unproductive but most people (me included I admit) ‘know’ exactly where I left stuff in that mess (yes and my wife also hates that… hehe ). It all forms part of my thought or work processes as I may not be done with something yet and want to go on or repeat that action or process at some time again. Sounds familiar? That is why I create custom shortcuts or leave some files on my desktop. Lots, if not the majority of users do that.

Now, Retro (cough I mean… Metro) was probably (in part) made to help clean up that messy practice – but here is the problem – just like when my wife (or maid or whoever) go an clean or pack away stuff that I left there where I know about it, Microsoft went and try to ‘fix’ something that ain’t broken. I absolutely hate this! If they have to ‘fix’ Metro to do this it will become just another ‘desktop’, duhhh.

Further, Metro looks more like a toddler interface meant for babies or (cough) idiots. Yeh, I know, it is intended for the more ‘mobile’ space like tablets but I’m using a ‘desktop’ computer so why must I also be forced feed this ugly interface? I admit, it has its advantages but I can happily live without most of them for my purposes.

The ideal would simply have been that we still had the option to make the ‘classical’ desktop the default upon starting Windows. It can be system setting that you can choose either during set-up or through control panel or whatever system configuration tool they use. I have a suspicion that somewhere down the line they (MS) will be forced to implement this – mark my words!

Until then, Windows 8 will not see any of my computers where I have a say about it.

Update: Well, apparently the name ‘Metro’ itself has become almost poison to Microsoft themselves -due to trademark issues with a German retailer (Metro AG).

Microsoft announce tablet

I have to admit, the general feeling towards Windows 8 is still not a positive one – definitely if you look at it from a desktop/productivity perspective. BUT, seeing the pictures of the newly announced Microsoft tablets there may be some hope for Microsoft/Windows – as long as you are in the ‘tablet’ or consumer market. They are to be branded ‘Surface’ or Microsoft boutique multi-touch tablets. Looks awsum! (but then these are marketing pictures…)

Microsoft tablet

Microsoft tablet (shamelessly copied from techreport site ūüėČ )

One positive feature of both (yes that’s right two) models is the battery life. The ARM (NVidia) based one has something like a 31 watt-hour battery while the Intel one has 42 watt-hour. If that is true these little machines would really be nice for people that are always on the move. The Intel model features a full HD display while the ARM model has an expansion slot (Micro HD). Both models include an detachable ‘soft’ keyboard. Storage is not in the PC arena but still a useful 32 or 64GB on the ARM model and 64/128GB on the Intel one.

Keyboard choices

Keyboard choices

On a¬†slightly¬†negative side they only have USB 2.0 ports (not 100% sure about the Intel one) plus only the ARM model includes a copy of Office. The tablets will be sold in Microsoft ‘stores’ thus meaning it won’t be available in our beloved S of A. Our only option would be to try to buy it online or smuggle one in with a friend that was visiting the US of A.

Well, good luck Microsoft, perhaps there is some hope for ya.

Update: apparently the Intel based version does have USB 3.0. Nice.

Death to desktop development

Well, perhaps that is what Microsoft is trying to achieve with its latest move to remove all desktop development functionality from its Express versions of Visual Studio. Yes, you can still create desktop apps in the ‘pro’ version but at something like $500 it isn’t cheap for hobbyist op someone that is still learning. ¬†Lately they have been making all kind of wild and ridiculous decisions trying to push their new ‘Retro’, eh I mean ‘Metro’ interface down our¬†throats. I for one don’t like this new interface ‘on the desktop’ at all and I’m definitely not the only one!

Just looking at the comments in articles like these¬†you can get the impression that more and more people (developers) are really not liking this new direction that ‘they’ are taking. It is one thing to create something new and exciting but another to actively alienate/irritate your existing followers just to try and push them into a new direction (which might or might not¬†suit them). Is this rush to try and play ‘catch-up’ with ‘the fruit company’ so important that they actually are shooting themselves in the foot? Yes, that is right, they are actively playing the catch-up game but is loosing it with every move they are trying. Not a good move if you want to survive in the end. As big as they are (once) ‘they’ are now in the ‘failing’ game – as Adam Savage would say – Failure is always an option. Microsoft is now ‘living’ that lotto!

Was good knowing ya: RIP Microsoft 1975-2012

Lets take a step back…

Just could not resist posting this. Was reading a article on ‘TechReport.com‘ where one of the comments on the article goes like this:

What’s the deal with ruining interfaces everywhere? It’s almost like everyone is competing, who will make the worst one.

Ribbon, Linux Unity, now Windows 8… Why?!” – Madman

This is so ironic on so many levels… But it’s so true. Lately a lot of things feel like they are moving in the wrong direction (don’t even start on politics…).

The only good ‘step backwards’ is the one where you¬†retreat¬†a few steps to look at this bigger picture – just to realize it might actually look worse! haha (in a chokingly desperate voice…)

Windows 8 Consumer Preview – first impressions

First a little disclaimer – I’m no professional reviewer and do not work for Microsoft or (any of their) enemies. Views express here is strictly my own – to protect the guilty you know… ūüėČ

I’ve managed to download the rather hefty 3GB download of the 64-bit version of Windows 8 (ISO). Then I used VirtualBox to install it – this time without any issues with incompatible drive controllers. If you search my blog history you might remember the developer preview had a problem where VirtualBox could not install using a SATA drive controller – so you had to use old IDE. This time around a (virtual) SATA drive worked without any issues.

Unfortunately during the installation and first running of the VM I had no Internet connection – thanks to security policies at work (which I’m honouring). This means that some basic things could not be compeleted yet – like activating this copy of Windows. Because of that some features don’t work yet. Yep, that’s right, if you don’t have an activated copy of Windows (even this test version) some apps and features don’t work. Well, that isn’t a train smash since I’ll activate it later at home and then test more.

My first impressions of this version of Windows is not a bad one. They definitely did some polishing and tweaking since the developer preview. Then again, I haven’t installed anything other than the OS itself yet. Like so many others I’m not really a big fan of the Metro interface for PC’s. Tablets and other touch devices might be another thing but ‘heavy’ PC users that use multiple apps at the same time constantly is not impressed with the ‘too simple’ interface. Metro seems to force you to run apps full screen. This is understandable on a tablet or other small device but not for a PC. Also, what happens with machines that have multiple monitors? A ‘one fits all’ idea sounds wonderful for some things but there are things in life that just don’t work that way – you wouldn’t expect a car to do the job of a truck or a row boat the job of an aircraft carrier (just try to imagine that one…).

From the point of view of the people that build this interface (yes, I’m looking at you Microsoft hehe) it makes sense to have everything work the same for development and maintenance purposes but not for the end users. Anyway, I’m sure many others have¬†and will still be¬†discussing this issue in length.

In terms of the things that are ‘in’ Windows 8 everything seems to work great and smoothly. Fortunately from the experience I had from the developer preview I knew how to do and use same basic things already. ¬†For example, shutting down the PC (or VM) requires you to go to settings (move mouse to top-right corner) that are hidden from normal view. ¬†Again (for the PC), “really?” why do they have to make something as basic as that so hard to do? In a tablet I can understand that the shut down option isn’t important since it would normally go into some kind of hibernate when you don’t use it. Even perhaps on a laptop… but not something like a home or gaming PC. A simple suggestion – just add a plain ‘Shutdown’ icon/shortcut on the Metro menu interface… At least the shutdown /s command in Admin command prompt works… hehe

Now that I’ve ‘Activated’ Windows (it happens automatically once you have a valid Internet connection) things seems to be rolling on again. One of the first things I did as soon as ‘on-line’ is available is to check for updates – and yes, there are already something like 6 ‘Important’/’Critical’ updates available – a whole 20MB more to download. Sheesh! There are two ways to interpret this…. I don’t think I need to explain…

Mail and instant messaging integration seems to work good. I just wonder, why do we still have outlook… hehe. The apps still are¬†labelled ‘App preview’ which probably means they are also kanda ‘beta’. Seems all the ‘usual suspect’ online apps are there, even Facebook hmm.

Then, Internet explorer… I don’t think I like the way they completely rearrange and over simplified the interface. It took me a good few moments just to find the URL bar and the ‘Application’ seems to be doing things on its own while you are looking around how to do old familiar stuff. Perhaps I need more practice or something. At least I could still install Firefox and return some ‘sensibility’ to web browsing…

As a general comment I have to say, the way the old and new ‘user interfaces’ has been set up is really stupid. They give an inconsistent experience and makes it feel like MS is trying to have two interfaces that compete rather than word together. Metro on the one side and the old desktop on the other… somewhere between them there is a ‘generation gap’…

Well, Windows 8 will be a ‘mind-shift’ to get used to. No matter whether you like it or not it is coming and things are going to change – for better or for worse (not sure which). I personally will be using Windows 7 for quite a while still (heck, I still got one XP machine at home). Perhaps when I one day manage to get a tablet or computer with a touch screen then Windows 8 would make more sense. Till then…

Updates:

I must admit there are a couple of nice features with this preview like the ability to natively mount ISO images as a drive, built in Anti-virus and so. One not so nice thing is that once you loose internet connection (on boot up) Windows ‘un’activate itself meaning ‘stuff’ stop working again… This could be because I booted the VM up on another physical host that doesn’t have an Internet connection. Perhaps the change in hosts unactivated it.

Windows 8 Consumer preview ISO and VS11 Beta downloads

In case you were looking for these:

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/iso

http://www.microsoft.com/visualstudio/11/en-us/downloads

The VS11 downloads also include the new TFS Express Beta…

The big wheel of progress

Lots of things follow the big turning wheel of success/failure through time. Sometimes you go up and other times down. Take share prices and/or market share in the IT industry. There was a time (some many moons ago) that Microsoft was soaring high among the clouds but lately it has been skimming the ground and loosing altitude with every flap of their (cripple) wings.

As if being passed by Apple in many market segments aren’t bad enough it now seems another old ally/opponent is passing it by in its way up – The big Blue company – IBM. Reading a post on Ars technica showing a few graphs about share prices over the last decade (or two) it is clear Microsoft is on the downward side of the big wheel of business.
Looking at the graph (below) some interesting events can be seen (like launch of Windows 95/Vista/7). However, the general direction of the ‘Microsoft’ graph is not an ‘upward’ one – oppose to Apple/IBM. It remains to be seen if Microsoft as a company can change this with new products like Windows 8/Phone/Tablet stuff. The perceived position of the company isn’t that of great strength – looking at the management as seen from outside. That doesn’t mean that Microsoft is totally doomed but the shareholders should be starting to worry (if they aren’t already hehe). A lot will ride on Windows 8 as a product and as a new direction for the once monolithic desktop OS company. There is always a chance that history can repeat itself and Microsoft can fight from humble/small beginnings to cover the majority of (a/the) market. Trouble is just that they have more than one powerful adversary this time (not just IBM). This time there are Apple and Google as well. Things certainly are not as simple as in the 80’s…Borrowed from Ars Technica… shamelessly.

 

 

Windows 8 – A couple of follow-up thoughts

I must admit I haven’t done extreme testing or anything hectic with it yet but there are a couple of irritating things about the Windows 8 Developer Preview. Hopefully these will only be issues that is due to the ‘test/beta’ status of Windows 8 and that they improve some things along the way.

At the moment I have two big’ish issues with the Developer Preview.

1. The Metro interface – I don’t have an actual problem with it as such except that you don’t have the option to easily disable it and return to the more classical Windows 7 desktop. It may be great for tablets or other portable devices with touch screens but not on a work related PC – and definitely not for legacy applications.

2. Internet connectivity is absolutely required – Not everyone has super fast and uncapped connections – even today. For me the problem is even worse because I have to run it inside a VM (VirtualBox) on a network where it is not allowed to have such test stuff accessing the Internet. The problem it creates is that this developer preview ‘absolutely’ requires a connection even to do something as simple as adding Windows components (through the add/remove programs control panel). Why it has to go to the Windows Update site just to get something that should be on the local install media is beyond me!

On the positive side I’m really impressed with the boot-up speed. General performance/response is really good (yes, even inside a VM). I only have 2GB memory allocated to it and it doesn’t feel too sluggish – but yes, I’m not running any hectic applications inside it.

Windows 8 – Initial impressions

Well, I managed to get the Windows 8 Developer Preview installed (in a VM, see previews post) and my initial feeling is…. {drumroll} well, I like it mostly. There may be one or two little things that is ‘different’ or weird or feels wrong but mostly it looks good and works good.

Unless you have some kind of touch-screen (which I don’t) I doubt I’ll use the ‘Metro’ menu screen much. It may make sense on a phone device or tablet where you can use touch but with the mouse and keyboard – I don’t think so. I’ll fall back to the more traditional start-menu with task bar as soon as I can (when I can figure out how…)

The Windows Task manager has been changed quite a bit. There are lots more information available and the way it has been laid out looks better – What took them so long! ūüôā

Unfortunately virtually none of the example apps on the Metro menu work – probably since I don’t have a network connection set up for the VM. Ok, so I figured out that some apps simply fail to start because the screen resolution was too low. A warning message might have been useful.

The Ribbon control in Windows Explorer is actually nice (at least I seem to like it after getting use to ribbons using Office etc). Only pain is the lack of the ‘fine-zoom’ for the View-Layout like we use to have in Windows 7. That was sometime useful because I could resize image thumbnails to something between one of the preset sizes. That is not possible anymore.

Something I had some trouble with initially was how to get a plain command prompt window from Metro. Launching apps from the metro interface that’s not there already is at first not an obvious thing. Then I discovered that just by starting typing in the keyboard the search functionality kicks in and you should find what you’re looking for. I just wonder how good it would be for things that are not in any paths included by the search engine…

Another thing I could not initially figure out is how to get the machine to do a shutdown… Weird I know but apparently it is only available after you logged off or go to the ‘Settings’ screen and click on the ‘Power’ button. Perhaps in the tablet/phone world you might want to use different ways to put the machine to ‘bed’ but for a PC where you don’t want it running all the time this is a pain.

Well, let my ‘play’ some more…

So far so good Windows 8 team ūüôā

 

Update: One thing I forgot to mention – which is more a VM/VirtualBox issue, is that hardware virtualization must be enabled in the BIOS otherwise things don’t work so lekker… switching off hw-virtualization is possible but then things would be real slooooowwww’

Another Update: If you like to disable the Metro interface and return to the more ‘classical’ Windows 7 look try this (at your own risk): rename C:\Windows\system32\shsxs.dll to something like shsxs.old (but don’t delete it in case you have to restore it)

Windows 8 Developer Preview in a VM

Well, I managed to download the developer preview (full 64-bit one) and tried to run it using VirtualBox. Unfortunately the standard settings of VirtualBox doesn’t work for this Beta/Alpha/Test version for Windows but fortunately someone managed to figure out how to change the settings to at least get this VM started (without the lovely new BSOD)

See http://forums.virtualbox.org/viewtopic.php?p=200748

Now touch wood everything else in the set up works.