Real Time Thoughts On Windows 8
With our move to the new show and format this week I have been swamped. We have had to rework a lot of show material, go over and rethink how we look at the show and in general rebuild our concepts from the ground up. To say this week has had me on edge is an understatement. This is a big move and I wanted everything to go as smooth as possible. However it occurred to me this morning that in the efforts to make this move to the new format smooth I had neglected to think about the blog and making sure we had an article for today.
As I type this blog entry I have been playing with my Windows 8 setup, in fact this is be typed from that computer. I am really torn about if I like or loathe Windows 8 and I am sure you have heard me speak of it enough on the show. You can me my start screen as I have it currently. I removed a lot of the app shortcuts and have tried to organize my buttons in a manner that makes sense to me. This feature I do like as it allows me to have quick and easy access to the apps I want to use from the desktop with out the cluttered look or feel that I had in previous windows desktops.
I have found found that the current apps available for Windows 8 just do not do a lot for me. Many of them are essentially tools that I have found other ways to use over the years but they do the job in this big, all encompassing window mode. They in essence work like apps do on a smart phone, taking total control of the screen.
It is possible with many of the apps to create a split screen as I have done here. Told you this was real time thoughts, I am literally doing this all as I type. Introducing LIVE BLOGGING!!! However this does not really give the quick windows access feel we have grown accustom too with swapping apps.
I wanted so much to like the music apps, especially when I saw the smart DJ, that was until it asked me to put in an artist. I started with Nickleback and it said it could not do that. Then I tried Weird Al and again it said it could not do that. Finally after about 5 minutes I was able to get Van Halen. This is a neat idea, essentially a mini Pandora and it could be really cool if they get a larger artist list. A lot of people have said that Windows 8 seems build for the teens and twenties crowd, I can tell you the music app seems pointed in that direction.
One of the complaints I had with Windows 8 early was the transition from the Start screen to the desktop seemed so harsh. I found a great tip online for resolving this. What I did was go to the Star screen and shrink down the icons. I then hit print screen and edited the image in paint, taking out the buttons. I left the name and photo at the top right and then set the task bar to auto hide. The transition is still there but no were near as harsh as it is when the desktop has a different, often photo, wallpaper. Microsoft really should have made the two wallpapers default to the same thing to minimize the kludgey feel of the transition.
That transition is a big deal because we are doing it often in Windows 8. Steam, any game I want to play that was not bought at the app store, various programs I use, even Office 2013 result in a drop to the desktop for the program to run. This is something Microsoft should have worked on in this release and for sure should have right in Windows 9. There should be no transition, the programs should run just like apps. This even extends to exiting a program, if I close Live Writer I will not find myself back at the Start screen but rather at an empty desktop. This will create nothing but confusion to the tech novice.
If the Start screen is not for you , there is a way around it, Start8. Start8 is a start button replacement program brought to us by the folks at Stardock. Stardock has for a long time been a company that tweaked the Windows interface to add functionality and even new style to it so they know what they are doing when it comes to tweaking Windows.
The program offers a couple of settings that lets you put the traditional Start menu button back on the taskbar and allows you to bypass the Start screen and new UI from Microsoft. You can use a more traditional look that is very similar to Windows 7 and should be easy for anyone to jump right into. As you can see the Start screen can be easily accessed at any time if you desire to go there. Of course if you want a hybrid look that puts you on the desktop but makes the Start menu like more like the new UI that option is there as well. The size of the menu can be adjusted as well so you can make it a start menu or even a pseudo Start screen or just really large menu.
I know there are a number of free ways to add the Start menu back to your system but for $5 I think Start8 with it’s customization options is the way to go. This means we have some good options to make Windows 8 really fit the way we use our computer, which was at the end of the day one of the goals Microsoft stated was being shot for with Windows 8. They hit the mark but the sad part was the way the mark truly seems to get hit are with methods and options that Microsoft should have made standard.
what I find very odd is the response form the enthusiast community to Windows 8. It has been a LONG time since we have had so many chances to tweak the OS and make it personalized in a meaningful way. To even explore an OS and find truly new things is something we have not seen for some time, you would think the geeks out there would rejoice. Yet all I hear is people complaining about the new interface and they will not switch? Does this mean that the Geeks of today lack the adventurous nature of the Geeks of old, or are they not truly the Geeks they claim they are, simply posers?
Either way I have to say that Microsoft has given me back some of the wonder that I had back in the earlier days of Windows. I feel like I have to discover how to make things work and that is a feeling that I have not had in a long time and I find that I have missed it. Now I do not want to let that sense of discovery I have found scare off the novice user. For most people they will find the OS is actually pretty easy to make use of and for a lot of people the new UI will be the only place they see while using Windows.
When you get past the interface and into the guts of the OS there is a lot to like here. The OS comes with a usable security suite built in. I would not say it is the best protection you can have but it means that the millions of people that ignore the advice of getting a good AV program are still protected. My own testing of the built in protection put it on par with Security Essentials in protection and this is not something to sneeze at. The core of the OS is leaner and meaner which means base OS functions seem to run quicker, making the system as a whole feel snappier. This does not show up well in benchmarks but in day to day use the feeling is there none the less. File management has undergone a revamp as well with the ability to watch the transfer rates as they rise and fall as well as pause transfers and even unzips in progress if you were to have need to. In general once you get past the kludgy drops between desktop and Start screen the OS has a lot of polish, it is a shame that polish is tarnished by the UI kludge.
In the end Windows 8 and I have a love/hate relationship. As I venture deeper and discover little tidbits my sense of exploration returns to the personal computer but at the same time I will find some strange UI twist that this new system brings and spit out a string of words recalled from my days in the Navy. The real question that most of you have however is will I keep using Windows 8, the answer is yes. With just a $5 from Stardock to get Start8 and a MINOR update cost for the new OS I can get a nice upgrade from Windows 7 with better security, a quicker and less resource intense core and the option to make use of the new UI and the Microsoft App Store if I choose.
Will I make use of the new UI, that is a mixed bag. I have installed Windows 8 on my child’s PC and he will be fully in the Metro UI. He only has three or four programs he really uses and the app games fit his play style. I have moved my test machines to have both Windows 7 and Windows 8 but will gradually put all future testing to Windows 8 so we can stay with the curve. My wife has still not decided on the move. I think her usage style would benefit but she is happy right now so why mess with a good thing. I am personally making the move to Windows 8 whole hog. Everything I run has had zero issues on the system when tested and I actually find I like the things Windows 8 brings to the table?
Should the rest of you move? That is up to you, for most people they are happy with what they have right now and there is nothing compelling to make them move. Remember what I preach, the best computer is the one that does what you want to do, if yours is doing what you need it to do then there is no reason to move. If you want to explore a new OS then Windows 8 is a great way to do it, the system is stable enough for your everyday use and you will have to learn many things again, something some of us do not mind. If you are a minimal user, you surf the net, check email, play on Facebook and twitter and that is it then Windows 8 might actually be a worthy upgrade. The new interface actually fits that style of user well.
In the end I think Microsoft actually has a solid product on their hands and might prove the majority of the pundits wrong. Windows had grown stale with nothing truly new for some time, this is a breath of fresh air. As I sit here playing this the system, tweaking in my main system in fact, I find I actually am enjoying this OS quite a bit. Okay enough writing, time to get back to playing with Windows 8. Now what corner was that for the settings???? LOL.