Thursday, 1 November 2012

Windows 8. Bored already.

I find myself typing this post in Notepad++. Great app by the way. I use it for a great deal of my drafting and correspondence, and even a bit of HTML code. I highly recommend it! However, I also find myself writing this on my laptop in Windows 7, rather than the much-publicised Windows 8 and I don't feel bad using it either, which is weird.

Let me explain.

I am a keen new tech adopter. I got an iPhone 3G as soon as it was released, and iPad as soon as I could snap up a good second-hand deal. The same with an Alienware M11X R3 and Windows Phone device. I like the new and the different, and am very happy with all of these devices. The same is also usually true with app and operating system updates. As soon as an update is available I will jump to it. I did it with OS X Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion and Mountain Lion, with the longest time I have waited being 3 weeks, so I could complete my final dissertation for my degree. So I did exactly the same with Windows 8.

I had a spare 2.5" drive, so I took out the M11X's standard Western Digital Black and installed each of the different preview versions of the OS. The Developer, Consumer and Release Previews, and finally the Enterprise RTM, their final version they were shipping to their OEMs. I was excited for each version and their new features and bug fixes, and the new apps for the "Metro" or "Modern" *sigh* interface. It has so much potential, but hasn't reached it for me, yet, which became jarringly obvious when I put my Windows 7 drive back in the M11X for a bit of housekeeping, (OS updates, security updates, etc). There

Windows 8 - things that don't work for me

Poor "Modern" apps. Don't get me wrong, the "Modern" interface and the Live Tiles are beautiful. I have them on my phone as well and I could write a short essay on how they make my life so useful. However those on Windows 8 just feel a little weak and half-baked to me and made me feel like the Microsoft developers were downright lazy. No integrated inbox for email and poor messaging integration with Facebook chat were ones that got me immediately. However, to have no native "Modern" notepad app and no calculator? This meant I couldn't perform the most obvious task a student would want to do on their computer - read a pdf in their app and take notes on in in another app. That was massively disappointing for me. Sure, you could use the desktop ones, but that gives you the jarring experience of leaving the new and shiny "Modern" world, and drops you back in the desktop environment with a bump, and I'm trying my hardest to learn to love Microsoft's new way of doing things! The same appears true for users of the Surface RT tablets, who are finding the same thing especially true since they would be expecting a far better touch experience than that provided by these apps on the desktop.

While the "slack" created by poor native apps has already begun to be taken up by third-party developers, it smacks of laziness on the part of Microsoft or perhaps an unwillingness to part with the past. Some have questioned why Microsoft has even included the desktop environment as part of the Windows RT OS, and I agree with them. The new Office apps are really the only point to having it, and prove that had Microsoft just made true "Modern" interface apps, they wouldn't need it at all. Or perhaps Microsoft are trying to provide another differentiator between themselves and Apple's definite OS X vs iOS platforms.

Windows 8 - benefit

Speed - Microsoft has done a really impressive job at reducing the boot-up and shut-down times and operating system actions. As a real-life example, Windows 8 on my slower 5400 rpm drive boots over twice as fast as the Windows 7 partition on my better, faster 7,200 rpm WD drive. It also uses far fewer system resources and allows my laptop to stay cooler and quieter throughout normal usage along with a longer battery life.

Finally, let me say that I don't find myself using the "Modern" apps much at all. So far everything on the desktop does everything quicker than I would otherwise be able to from the Start Screen. On top of that, a bug that prevents me from docking two apps side by side is preventing me from actually multitasking and using two at once. It started as soon as I plugged the laptop into an external display and then unplugged it. It has been "tainted" ever since and removes much of the actual use from the new apps. This should have been fixed by the RTM build that is being shipped to OEMs and now users. Hopefully it will be fixed soon.

I am not saying Windows 8 doesn't have potential, but it doesn't seem to realise much of that potential to me on release, but perhaps it is better to pay the £25 or $40 and hope it realises that potential sooner rather than later. I hope I change my mind, but using Windows 7 on my non-touch device, I really am in no particular rush. But I'll see how it goes after a week!

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