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Thursday, April 05, 2012

Windows 8: Thumbs down

This is a Win 8 review. Your feedback is welcome. But remember our rules: No "Get a Mac" or "Get Linux" remarks. I'm not slamming Mac and Linux aficionados -- but let's face it: They have nothing to say that we all haven't heard before. In this regard, they are like fundamentalist Christians. Or evangelical atheists. Or Ayn Randroids.

(Note: I've expanded this post since original publication.)

Please understand that I am not a Microsoft basher. Far from it. Reluctantly, though, I must advise readers to skip Windows 8. The improvements are real but comparatively unimportant. The drawbacks are infuriating. Here are the major problems that I have encountered:

1. Safe Mode is a thing of the past. Yeesh! Safe Mode has bailed me out on a number of occasions. Without it, I would feel like someone facing winter without a coat.

Actually, there is a way to bring back Safe Mode, but the method is quite difficult.

2. The Metro Interface is for tablets ONLY. This damned thing has no business on a desktop computer. It's like a stripper: Lots of fun on your lap, but annoying as hell if you're at your desk trying to work.

(Some of my feminist readers will never forgive that metaphor...)

Fortunately, there's a relatively easy hack (No. 11 here) which allows you to boot right into your desktop.

The problem is simple: Microsoft tried to create a square that is also a circle. They attempted to design an OS that will shine on everything from 24gb workstations to their (soon to be unveiled) ARM-powered iPad-slayers. Sorry. One size does not fit all. You can't write a piece of music that will please fans of both Donizetti and Cannibal Corpse.

The Metro Apps are full-screen, which looks absurd in a desktop environment. Why should we refer to the Metro UI as "Windows"? No windows are involved.

I think that Microsoft saw the money being spent on iPhone and iPad apps and started salivating. "We need to get in on that action!" the Microsofters cried. Here's the thing: Apple products are for people who like to spend money. PCs are for cheap bastards like me.

On a desktop, who needs an App store? Just fire up Google or (better) Stealth. Someone somewhere has written a good freeware app for just about everything you need to do on a computer. Your search engine is your App store -- and most of the time, you don't have to pay a dime.

3. The Start Menu button is gone. Some people may ask: "How often do you use the Start button, anyways?" The answer: More often than you realize.

Startdock has an app called Start8 which brings the button back, after a fashion, but the result is not entirely happy. If you press that button, you'll find that Start8 simply pulls up a reduced version of the Metro UI, which now functions as your list of installed programs. But you won't see a list. You'll see a whole lot of large-ish rectangles, or tiles. Those tiles represent your programs. But since they are sizable, you have to scroll through lots and lots and LOTS of rectangles.

Worse, the tiles are not nested within folders. So if you have (say) the Microsoft Office Suite or one of the Adobe suites, each program within that suite will have its own rectangle.

And so you scroll, and scroll and scroll and scroll, just to get to the app you want. XP and 7 were infinitely more convenient.

4. No Chess Titans! This decision really peeves me. Chess Titans is the only chess program I like.

5. Good luck finding a firewall. At this writing, the free firewalls (Zone Alarm and Comodo) don't work with W8. Your for-pay firewall, if you have one, may not work either. You'll have to work with Kaspersky, McAfee or Trend Micro. I don't like Kaspersky's firewall because it doesn't have an easy one-touch way of blocking the internet entirely.

(Weirdly, the major security providers don't like to use the word "firewall" these days. I wonder why? You really have to dig deep into Kaspersky's settings to access the firewall.)

6. You can't shut off the damned computer! At least, you cannot do that should-be-simple task simply. In essence, you have to bring your mouse over to the lower right corner. This gesture brings out a side menu which allows you to hit a "Settings" button -- which, in turn, offers access to a Power button nested beside a whole bunch of other buttons. (For newbies, it's not at all easy to find.) The Power button then brings up the usual list of shutdown options.

That's a four step procedure, just to turn the thing off.

I was able to hack together a DIY shutdown button -- a pure "instant off" switch -- which I placed in the taskbar next to the Start8 start button. But most users will not want to take on that chore.

7. Access. If you're a W8 novice, I dare ya: Try to get into the full-screen "More PC Settings" menu. It's tough to find. Now that you're in, try getting out. It's almost impossible! What idiot forgot to include an "Exit to desktop" button?

That kind of navigational idiocy is all over W8. You just can't get from place to place.

8. Some of your programs/drivers may not work. Of course, that's to be expected. It's early days. Even so, some of the problems are unforgivable.

Until very recently, Realtek audio drivers (which come with Gigabyte motherboards, the only mobos I recommend) didn't work with W8. Without Realtek, one must rely on the audio drivers built into Windows. My god, who wrote those things? They're screwy!

Microsoft forces you to plug your headphones into the minijack in front of your case; you are not allowed to go in through the rear. It didn't occur to those geniuses that some people don't have a working front jack. If you're one of those jackless unfortunates, no headphones for you.

My VPN (about which, more later) did not like 8.

9. There is a good chance that W8 won't detect the existence of your DVD drive. Even though the DVD drive shows up in BIOS, W8 won't see it.

Finding the solution for this problem drove me nuts, but I finally doped it out.

You may have thought that, since SATA cables have replaced IDE cables, the concept of "master" and "slave" devices no longer held sway. Ah, but with W8 on your system, you will find that you have gone back to the bad old days. You have gone with the wind, as it were, to antebellum times. If your BIOS considers your DVD player/writer a "slave" device, then W8 will snootily ignore it. Eight wants a master.

The solution? In essence, you have to open up your computer and play around with the SATA cables until you find a configuration that W8 likes. Expect lots of restarts. Have fun!

10. It isn't pretty. The glowing windows logo in W7 is very attractive. In W8, you get a very simple graphic of a fish. Meh.

Metro has a distinctive look which many like. But it conflicts with the Aero environment held over from W7. Aero is better, in my opinion.

11. The new Apps simply did not work for me. Video and music files are supposed to open up in new Metro apps, which simply failed. I had to assign those functions to old standbys like KMPlayer and Winamp.

Maybe it's a good thing that the new video player didn't work. They say that in order to play your movie, you have to scroll through pages of ads! How the hell is that supposed to be an improvement over (say) firing up good old VLC Player?

For pure horror, read this.

12. Gmail. With Windows 8, you can't have more than one Gmail account! I'm not kidding.

And now, the advantages of Windows 8...

1. Different background images on your monitors (if you have more than one monitor). Nice. Very nice. But in the end...not a big deal. Purely cosmetic.

2. An improved task manager. This is the very best thing about W8. I'll miss it.

3. Faster startup. This video shows a major improvement. My experience was quite different. W8 is speedier, but not that much speedier, especially after you load up some programs.

4. Windows Explorer. I like the new interface better. Still -- not a big deal.

5. Copying. Moving large files is easier in W8.

6. Administrator. It is much easier to set up an Administrator account -- thank god! -- and it isn't difficult to switch over to it as the need arises.

7. Internet Explorer. They say Microsoft's new browser is better. I wouldn't know. I'm addicted to certain Firefox add-ons. Hey, I even made my own Persona.

And in the end...

In the end, my friends, I'm glad I did not delete my pristine Windows 7 image. It'll be heading back onto my hard drive, just as soon as I publish this post.

All is not lost. Later in the year, a whole lot of Windows-based touchscreen systems will come out. Windows 8 will probably prove to be a terrific OS for those devices.

But for serious computing, there is no compelling reason to get behind the 8 ball. In fact, there are plenty of good reasons to stay the hell away. If you are in any way involved in "content creation" -- video editing, motion graphics, illustration, 3D, programming, CAD -- or if you simply have grown used to working within a big This-is-Cinerama multi-monitor desktop environment, stay with lucky seven.

I'm glad I'm not a Microsoft stockholder. Windows 8 ("It's two...two...two operating systems in one!") could prove to be a bigger disaster than Vista. If I had to choose between working on a 64 bit Vista machine and 8, I would take Vista in a heartbeat.

If Microsoft is smart, they'll cut their losses and relegate W8 to its natural home, the touchscreen. I suggest that they start working on a "Windows 7.5" operating system which would include the better (non-Metro) aspects of 8, such as the improved task manager and Explorer interface.

Update: I found another problem -- and as far as I am concerned, this is the very last straw. You can't re-image your system without a system repair disc on a CD or a DVD. There's no way to do it via the Control Panel, because that part of the Control Panel has been changed.

In my case, using a system repair disc is not a problem. My DVD player works. But what if you don't have a working DVD drive? What if you don't happen to have any blank discs handy? You're SOL. If you own a traditional laptop, you probably know that, on those devices, the DVD players are the first things to go.

I really wanted to like 8, but this new OS is a catastrophe. Even the nicely implemented bits can't change the fact that the whole damned thing was based on a fundamentally flawed concept. In many ways, Windows 7 was a better version of Vista. Windows 9 will not be a better version of Windows 8. Microsoft has to rethink.
Comments:
Thanks for the warning.
 
Reminds me of the difference between Lion and OSX. One difference is that Microsoft appears to have made more important improvements and made more good features worse.

Lion is at least usable, just a little bit worse than OSX in many respects.

Funny thing is if Microsoft had just focused on making 7 great, they could have made a superior operating system to Lion (offline at least). So now Apple's flagship OS will look much less crappy than Microsoft's than might have been the case.

I hope these less-than-useful tablets don't forever ruin good computer operating systems.
 
I got as far as it wasn't compatible with my internet security suits a nd quit the install.
 
Get a Mac, you silly billy.
 
Perry, if it were anyone but you, that comment would have gone in the delete file. I DID give a warning, did I not?

And as I said: Apple products are for people who like to spend money. I don't have any.
 
Well, it IS a beta, which is unfinished software. There won't be drivers for most things, and stuff won't work right because it isn't finished. Having said that, it still sounds terrible. From the get go I thought it was a bad idea to try to force everyone to run a phone OS on a PC. Microsoft thinks that tablets are the future of computing, which I think is possible, but they are jumping the gun here. Ipad's are neat and all, but you can't do much with them that you can do on a PC.
 
Lol, I abandoned windows many years ago. I only use it for software that dont run well under wine. So, I have a windows in oracles virtualbox, very convenient. I just open up a windows window alongside with my other applicarions.
But us Linuxfundamentslists are just crazy, why use good free OS whan you can pay for buggy windows. Reminds me of that centennial lightbulb in a firedepartment in california. It was installed in 1901. It is still working. But nowadays you are lucky if you lightbulb works a year. Crap always wins over quality because people in general are stubborn lazy and stupid.
 
>>>Reminds me of the difference between Lion and OSX
>>>Lion is at least usable, just a little bit worse than OSX in many respects.

You guys crack me up!!

Lion IS a version of OSX

Those comments are like saying "Vista was much better than Windows"


>>> Ipad's are neat and all, but you can't do much with them that you can do on a PC.

I hate to tell you but if you poll the average person and ask them what they ACTUALLY do on a PC vs. what you dream about doing, you will find the iPad works just fine. In many cases, the UI/UX design of many programs are even more innovative on the iPad. You are starting to see more and more articles like this popping up:

http://technologizer.com/2011/12/05/how-the-ipad-2-became-my-favorite-computer/

I'm not trying to put anyone down here but if you are going to talk tech, please be well researched with hands-on experience if you want me to value your opinions :)

 
"Some of my feminist readers will never forgive that metaphor..."

Don't worry. Their annoyance will be as nothing to the ire among pen-heads...

...who will never forgive calling a simile a metaphor :-)
 
b, I was taught by my high school English teacher that a simile is a type of metaphor.

So your argument is with her. If she's still around. If she is, I would advise caution -- she was a pretty tough cookie.
 
Well there is that way of looking at it. But my definitions would be that a simile says something's like something else, whereas a metaphor implies it is. If we use the words your teacher's way, what do we use for just implying a similarity? 'Non-simile metaphor'?

Etymologically 'metaphor' suggests a 'transfer'. I suppose if you say A is like B you are transferring attention, but that seems to be pushing it a bit.
 
Your review is the finest review on Windows 8 I have read in the last six months.
Noone else has commented on the loss of the Safe Mode, nor on the problems with creating a drive image. Your other observations are also very insightful, and I agree that desktop PC users will not like Windows 8, which will be dead on arrival.
Since when did we develop the idea that the traditional desktop setup, with mouse and keyboard, will be superceded by the tablet/IPad ??? Most internet/digital content creators will stay with the desktop, including I suspect Enterprise users. Thank you so much for an accurate and well researched review, so rare on the internet.
 
SteveO, I hate to tell you, but my comment IS based on experience AND research. I can not do everything I want/need to do on an Ipad that I can do on a PC. I avoided boring details because I didn't think it was really necessary or appropriate to list it all out here. Nonetheless it IS true for me. Your mileage may well vary.
 
Gee Gus...the same is true for me. I feel naked if I don't have AT LEAST FOUR 24" (or bigger) screens in front of me but I clearly noted I was NOT talking about you or someone like myself but the "Average" Joe Chucklehead.

So, since we now know you DO speak from Research and Experience, how do YOU rate Photoshop, Video Editing and powerful Word Processing using a program like "Pages" on your iPad?? Most people LOVE the experience...don't you??

I mean, you wouldn't mislead us and say you have real experience and research while making comments/suggestions to us about products you don't even use...would you??

Incidentally, if your initial comment would have said as far as YOUR personal needs, the iPad cannot replace what YOU do on your Laptop or Desktop, it would have been completely different than a generalization in a world where many people just use Email, Browse the Web, Gossip on Facebook, Play some Games and watch videos.
 
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