Windows

First Impressions of Windows 8 — is it worth it?


I wouldn’t be in any rush. I work as a web developer for a place that has Microsoft site licensing, so we get free upgrades to the latest windows. Today, I installed it to 2 non-critical machines and this is my story.

 

UPGRADE INSTALLATION

Personally I hate upgrades compared to full installations, but with the amount of software we run, I also don’t want to spend a full day re-installing everything. Strictly speaking, the upgrade worked well across the two computers, all programs seemed to function and all enterprise domain network settings carried over fine.

When you put the disc in and start setup it will want to download an update file which reminds you that CD/DVDs need to be replaced. As you cheerfully click along, you will probably get to the compatibility screen which always seems to find something wrong the first time you run this. Setup quits and leaves a file on the desktop reminding you why it did.

Setup is a simple 2 step install that actually has like 25 steps that Microsoft doesn’t count because it wrecks their marketing that it is a simple 2-step installation. About 30-60 minutes later it finally restarts and you get to witness the world slowest startup where it actually finishes the installation while it informs you that it will only be a little bit longer.

Then Microsoft finally did something kinda right…

Once you get past the really long startup screen, it then plays a well done animated video explaining what’s new in windows 8 while it continues to finish setup. Unfortunately the video ends well before it actually done setting things up. Which, what is it possibly doing that is taking this long?

Then you finally get into windows 8, it has a pretty quick interface asking you to pick your default color and if you want to accept the default settings or if you want to do a custom setup. And the default values aren’t that bad, like windows update set to automatic. And then it loads the Metro Menu.

Multiple Monitors

And this is where it all fails for me. I realize not everyone is up to dual monitors but I am. Actually I use triple monitors at work. Windows has never had great multi-screen support. Sure it can do it, but not well. You end up installing a bunch of third party tools like GridMove to make it more useful. Even Apple doesn’t have great support. Well, Windows login screen just blanks out the extra monitors and uses only one. That is kinda like what Metro does but it just leaves the other monitors on. Metro is a full screen app, its kinda like when you play a full screen game on multi-monitors and your desktop is just left on the other screen(s).

But I can get over the leftover screen, its been that way since 2000/XP. The issue comes up that Windows got rid of the start menu and now is using hot corners (where you point at the corner and a menu appears). They set it so each monitor has its own hot corner. It’s a pain to point at the corner of one monitor when it wants to flow to the next monitor.

 

Pros

New elegant UI when in Metro Apps

Doesn’t feel any slower than Windows 7

You can tell your friends you have Windows 8

Useful widget-y Metro screen integrates with email, facebook, flickr, etc

Has a Microsoft account where you can store you Windows settings and it will follow you to any computer, maybe

Cons

Feels half-baked — like Metro is just an app running on Windows 7

Terrible multiple monitor support

Doesn’t feel any faster than Windows 7 and still slower than XP

Got rid of the Aero glass or maybe just upped the requirements to see it (though I heard aero wastes a ton of resources so maybe this is a pro)

Takes a bit to get used to no start menu (definitely install Launchy until you get used to it)

A lot of default “widgets” for Metro are designed for Microsoft products like mail and messenger

Terrible default login screen that if you have multiple accounts is a pain to change

 

Final Thought

Regardless if you think this is the best or worst, this is the direction Microsoft is going, so either get on board now or wait and get on board later. But it’s normally easier to keep current and make smaller updates.

Though I don’t foresee windows 9 to have a good future. I actually predict that Android and iOS will take over and full blown OS like windows or mac os will disappear  For most average users, they have no need for a full OS and most are so bloated anyways that its hard for them to make them faster/better. In the future with WiDi and bluetooth, I see just multicore smart phones linking up to desktop monitors/HDTV and bluetooth keyboard/mice.

In the end, windows 8 is the next step but unless you are planning to buy a new laptop/desktop, I don’t see any rush to upgrade to it.


I'm a 31 year old UIUC Computer Engineer building mobile apps, websites and hardware integrations with an interest in 3D printing, biotechnology and Arduinos.

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