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One week on Windows 8

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  • User profile image
    Sven Groot

    Yesterday marks one week of using Windows 8 for me. I figured I'd give some of my views. This ended up being kind of long, sorry for that.

    OOB experience

    That was pretty good. All my devices worked pretty much with built-in drivers, I only installed newer video/audio drivers because I always do; they weren't needed to get functionality. Strangely, on Windows 7 I'd gotten a new version of IntelliType/Point with Metro UI, but Windows Update furnished me with the old version on 8.

    The little movie showing to use the corners is nice, though since I always set up an Admin and a limited user, I got to see it twice within minutes, which is somewhat pointless.

    For various interoperability reasons, it's very important that my user name is the same on all my machines, including several Linux clusters at work. When creating an account with a Microsoft Account, you get a user name that's a mangled version of the e-mail address, which is not good. This was solved by creating a local account with the desired name, and then converting it to a Microsoft Account. I'm kind of used to having to jump through hoops here, though, since even in Win7 I had to apply some tricks to get an account with a different display name than user name.

    It's nice that all my settings (that I'd previously configured with the CP in a VM) were immediately there when I connected my Microsoft Account.

    My network settings were extremely insecure by default (private network with home group even though I'm directly connected to the Internet with a public IP address). The way to change this to a more secure setting was removed from the network center and is extremely difficult to find now.

    Performance

    This is the big improvement. Windows startup is crazy fast, thanks to the partial hibernation thing. Windows 7 was never this fast, even on a clean install. It's literally about 15 seconds from the end of the BIOS POST to a functioning start screen. After boot, the system feels very responsive, all the animations are incredibly smooth. On my laptop, the animations are still equally smooth when running in "power saver" mode using the Intel graphics adapter. App startup is good, the whole OS just feels very snappy (not that 7 was slow on this PC, by no means, but the difference is still noticeable).

    Compatibility

    No complaints yet. Big things like Office and Visual Studio are fine, but even esoteric things like running an SSH server with Cygwin are all working fine. Mass Effect 3 runs perfectly too, and I can record gameplay with Fraps.

    Reliability

    A bit of a weak point, admittedly. My reliability graph looks terrible after one week, but it's mostly due to the fact that my system died, and some problem with video codec configuration (caused by a codec pack, not Win8) caused endless DllHost crashes.

    Internet Explorer crashes frequently, but this appears to be a driver problem (and may or may not be Flash related as well, not sure yet). It always recovers the tabs, so that's working as intended.

    Some metro apps are also a bit flaky, including the store itself.

    Metro and the start screen

    The best I can say about this is that it doesn't get in the way as much as I feared. The start screen itself is quite nice, though I still don't know why it has to be full screen. The live tiles are nice, though since I use Outlook I don't get the benefit of the Mail and Calendar tiles. Hopefully Outlook 2013 will get some form of tile to fix this.

    I spend most of my time on the desktop, but those times when I need the start screen the transition isn't as jarring as it was in earlier builds because of how smooth the whole thing is now. I still hate that it's not self-organizing (no MRU list, tons of crap after every install that I need to remove), and I'm slowly getting used to using a pinned Explorer instance to replace the right-hand side of the old start menu.

    There's still too much of a zigzag motion needed to access some things with the mouse.

    The rationale for what settings are in the metro Settings app and what's in the old Control Panel completely eludes me. This could've been done better.

    The right-click menu is neat, only complaint is there's no easy way to open an elevated instance of computer management if you're running as a limited user.

    The only Metro apps I've really used are RDP and the weather app. I really like the RDP app, I run RDP full screen usually anyway to that works for me. Weather at least looks nice and does what it needs to. It's also nice that there's a PDF reader built-in, although I switched to Adobe Reader because I don't see any reason to read PDFs full screen. The photos app is nice and I like that it can access Facebook and SkyDrive, but I still prefer Photo Gallery. I disabled the Messaging app in favour of Messenger because again, I don't see a reason to have a full screen chat window.

    It's nice that the People app shows recent status updates from Facebook on the Live Tile, but since it scrolls through them and doesn't give you notifications (or even a number of new notifications on the tile like the Facebook app for iPhone does), it's useless for quickly checking if there's something new.

    OneNote MX looks very cool, would definitely use it on a tablet, but there's no use-case on a desktop since I also have the full desktop OneNote which again doesn't need to be full screen.

    Kindle app looks neat too, but I have a Kindle so its uses are limited.

    Very few other useful apps in the store for my region right now. We'll have to see how this develops.

    The desktop

    Lack of start button is weird. I thought the new window chrome was seriously ugly when I first saw it, but it doesn't bother me much during actual use. Still prefer glass though.

    Hot-corners occasionally get in the way when trying to hit something else that's near a corner. I do appreciate that hot-corners "capture" the mouse in a multi-monitor situation, and work on every monitor.

    I appreciate that the taskbar can now be shown on all monitors, though I personally don't use this. But it's nice that it's there.

    Love the new task manager and most of the changes to Explorer (particularly the file copy UI). I don't like that the details pane was changed to vertical, though, I preferred the horizontal one from Vista/7.

    Miscellaneous

    Built-in ISO mounting! Thank you, long overdue. Smiley

    Language settings are cleaned up, and actually work right now (this was a horrible broken mess in the CP). I still need to override the default because just letting it use the order of the list is unreliable. Regional settings specified during setup don't seem to take if your language settings are different (it reverts back to determining it by system language).

    New method of switching language with Winkey-space is nice, but it's hard to break the old shift-alt habit, which still works fortunately.

    The Japanese IME is awesome. It works like a phone IME now, with autocompletion of commonly used phrases and words. 大好き!

    Integrated spell check is very nice, though sometimes it's difficult to convince it of what language you're typing in. Also, why doesn't WordPad have the ability to use this spell check?

    Conclusion

    Overall the various little things do add up to quite a nice OS. It's very fast, extremely smooth, and most initial hick-ups are more from unfamiliarity than anything else.

    I'm still not a huge fan of the start screen, but it's not as bad as I thought it'd be. Once you get past the initial period of having to organize and clean up after installers, it's okay. Maybe if we get some useful metro apps and live tiles in due time, I could learn to like it. It does at least look neat.

    Would I recommend it to others? No. Unless the metro apps story really takes off, there's not enough here to justify upgrading for a user that's satisfied with Windows 7. Not even if it's just $40. If a user wants to upgrade because he/she is interested and doesn't mind getting used to some of the new stuff, then I will give them my blessing, as I have no reason to give a negative recommendation either. But if the question is "I'm happy with Windows 7, do I really need 8?" then the answer is quite simply no.

    Reasons to upgrade for me would include: personal interest or a user who wants to be on the bleeding edge (that'd be me), interest in developing metro apps (would be me if it weren't for lack of time), or if you also have a Windows 8 tablet or (presumably) Windows Phone 8 getting the similar UIs on all of them could be a compelling reason to upgrade.

    Beyond that, I guess it's up to us to get that killer Metro App out there so people really have a reason to upgrade.

  • User profile image
    MasterPi

    Internet Explorer crashes frequently, but this appears to be a driver problem (and may or may not be Flash related as well, not sure yet). It always recovers the tabs, so that's working as intended.

    It crashes for me every time I try to use a particular flash video player in both IE and Chrome (but not in FF). The faulting module is Flash32_xx_x_x.ocx.

  • User profile image
    Sven Groot

    , MasterPie wrote

    *snip*

    It crashes for me every time I try to use a particular flash video player in both IE and Chrome (but not in FF). The faulting module is Flash32_xx_x_x.ocx.

    For me the faulting module is ati3dxx32.dll, a component of ATI's support for DirectX, so it's definitely a driver issue. It seems to happen mostly on sites with Flash, but I'm not 100% sure if Flash is the only trigger.

  • User profile image
    spivonious

    @Sven Groot: My thoughts exactly. There's a lot of cool new stuff, but not enough to warrant an upgrade from Windows 7. Actually, it's very similar to the XP->Vista move in that respect. The geeks will upgrade, and people buying new machines will use it, but the large majority will wait until Windows 9 (or until the store gets some nice apps).

  • User profile image
    MasterPi

    , Sven Groot wrote

    *snip*

    For me the faulting module is ati3dxx32.dll, a component of ATI's support for DirectX, so it's definitely a driver issue. It seems to happen mostly on sites with Flash, but I'm not 100% sure if Flash is the only trigger.

    I did see ntixxx.dll being the faulting module sometimes, but my event viewer is mostly filled with Flash.

  • User profile image
    MasterPi

    Also, I agree with the sentiment about there not being an urge for users to upgrade - that is, upgrading current machines that don't even support touch. While touch isn't necessary to use Windows 8 (it works really well, except for the zig-zag you describe), the experience is heightened with the ability to simply touch the larger targets and scroll with your finger. A non touch capable machine does not get the benefit of Win8.

    That said, there are a lot of discoverability issues, even for someone who's read quite a lot about Win8. For example, I had completely forgotten that per app settings were in the settings pane of the charms bar...I had thought the options for configuring each metro app were part of the app's options bar (like in Windows Phone). Then there's the shutting down functionality...I didn't even know you could do it while you were logged in until I saw Herbie complaining in that other thread. And then there's not really being able to use the share charm from within desktop (what if I want to send the file I am looking at to the person I'm talking to in Messaging?). But that last one isn't really discoverability - it's just strange.

    I wonder if future updates will cover more usability and UI stuff than in the past, sort of like how WP Mango improved parts of the UI. I still think that the start screen needs to pop out the charms bar and task switcher so the user knows those exist.

  • User profile image
    JeremyJ

    It's also nice that there's a PDF reader built-in, although I switched to Adobe Reader because I don't see any reason to read PDFs full screen. The photos app is nice and I like that it can access Facebook and SkyDrive, but I still prefer Photo Gallery. I disabled the Messaging app in favour of Messenger because again, I don't see a reason to have a full screen chat window.

    Don't forget that you can drag things to the side of the screen (as long as you are using a widescreen monitor).  This helps when you don't want to run an app like Music in full screen but still want to see the song list.  It should be very handy for messenger too.

  • User profile image
    Sven Groot

    , JeremyJ wrote

    *snip*

    Don't forget that you can drag things to the side of the screen (as long as you are using a widescreen monitor).  This helps when you don't want to run an app like Music in full screen but still want to see the song list.  It should be very handy for messenger too.

    Yeah, but that reduces the size of the desktop, which is not really ideal either.

  • User profile image
    cbae

    , Sven Groot wrote

    *snip*

    Metro and the start screen

    The best I can say about this is that it doesn't get in the way as much as I feared. The start screen itself is quite nice, though I still don't know why it has to be full screen.

    *snip*

    At first you hate it, but you will soon be institutionalized.

  • User profile image
    JohnAskew

    Anyone tried to 'disable graphics hardware acceleration' to keep IE from crashing?

     

  • User profile image
    DeathBy​VisualStudio

    Well...well...well... My IE crashing isn't such an isolated case after all. Driver at fault or no it'll still makes W8 look bad for Grandma.

    @Sven Groot:

    Great assessment Sven. I'd have to agree with most of what you wrote.

    On my tablet W8 really shines. The gestures, full screen everything, even the start menu makes sense. I still find the Microsoft provided apps frustrating at times (like the People app -- gives you bits of FB and twitter but no way to post anything.)

    While I like the touch improvements Office 2012 brings it's not quite enough when working with your fingers with device in hand. I find myself going back to the metro mail & calendar apps when the tablet's in my hands (and missing the richness of Outlook badly all the while.)

    That said, W8 held in your hands is an entirely different animal than "big phone OS" on a desktop PC. I stress "desktop PC' as opposed "PC with touch" as I'm still not sold that a desktop PC equipped with touch will make people more inclined to use touch as opposed to mouse & keyboard. When my tablet is docked I rarely use the touch screen as it's easier (abet more frustrating at times with the "no compromise" support for mouse & keyboard) to use the mouse & keyboard since moving the mouse a an inch or two is much easier that lifting my arm to the screen. It reminds me of the big push to use voice to drive the PC that never really took off -- too much effort and not enough payback.

    So I come to the same conclusion; W8 is ok but not worth recommending to W7 desktop PC users to upgrade. Now if you're in the market for a tablet or laptop (with touch, preferably a convertible) then W8 is certainly a an option worth looking into.

  • User profile image
    elmer

    , Sven Groot wrote

    I'm still not a huge fan of the start screen, but it's not as bad as I thought it'd be.

    Yes, that was pretty much our assessment.

    For a new tablet - it absolutely makes sense. 

    For an existing desktop-based installation... not so much.

    Until there is some compelling killer app we can't do without, we are simply not going to put ourselves through the pain, having just bedded down Win7 as a reliable standard environment.

    Furthermore, we intend to downgrade any new desktop/laptop hardware with Win8 pre-loaded, but will mix that with Win8 based hand-held devices.

  • User profile image
    cbae

    , JohnAskew wrote

    Anyone tried to 'disable graphics hardware acceleration' to keep IE from crashing?

    I haven't had any issues with IE. It's Chrome that keeps crashing. I suspect that it's a Flash plugin issue.

  • User profile image
    JoshRoss

    I think $40 is a bargain price for better performance and security. Although, I haven't used a metro app that isn't a pile of steaming crap, that's ok. It might take some time for some metro style killer apps to be released.

    The biggest WTF has to be the term Metro. It's nearly impossible to talk about Windows 8 without using that term several times.

     -Josh

  • User profile image
    cbae

    I think Windows 8 could be improved considerably for mouse users if  they made the mousewheel scroll inertially. I have a mouse that physically spins inertially, which helps, but it would be nice if a quick rotation of the mousewheel behaved analogously to kinetic scrolling with a flick gesture with your finger. The issue then would be how to make the scrolling stop. I think a left mouse click, which is analagous to a simple finger touch to stop kinetic scrolling, would make sense as the action to stop an inertial scroll with a mousewheel.

  • User profile image
    cbae

    , JoshRoss wrote

    I think $40 is a bargain price for better performance and security. Although, I haven't used a metro app that isn't a pile of steaming crap, that's ok. It might take some time for some metro style killer apps to be released.

    *snip*

    I've used a handful of apps, mostly games, and they're pretty fun. I guess I'm easily amused.

    My biggest complaint is that for apps like Wikipedia, they went out of their way to make it conform to Metro/Modern UI standards at the cost of convenience. The developers wanted Wikipedia to be a search provider for Windows 8, but searching with the search charm is the ONLY way to search in the Wikipedia. They couldn't be bothered with putting a textbox and search button anywhere in the interface.

    Having the search charm work with the app is great, but who says that you can't include an additional search method as well?

  • User profile image
    JoshRoss

    cbae wrote

    I think Windows 8 could be improved considerably for mouse users if  they made the mousewheel scroll inertially. I have a mouse that physically spins inertially, which helps, but it would be nice if a quick rotation of the mousewheel behaved analogously to kinetic scrolling with a flick gesture with your finger. The issue then would be how to make the scrolling stop. I think a left mouse click, which is analagous to a simple finger touch to stop kinetic scrolling, would make sense as the action to stop an inertial scroll with a mousewheel.

    There has to be some software patent holder preventing them from doing this. When using the mouse, the metro environment feels like anything but fluid. And then there is the issue of orientation. Mouse wheels are orientated vertically, while everything in metro is horizontal.

    After that, you have the dead space. The white space areas of your app. You should be able to drag that space around with the mouse as you can with touch. I don't know the design reasons behind this, but I would think it has to do more with legal than engineering issues.

    -Josh

  • User profile image
    JoshRoss

    , cbae wrote

    *snip*

    I've used a handful of apps, mostly games, and they're pretty fun. I guess I'm easily amused.

    The solitary collection isn't terrible, it's just the environment. In Windows 7, I might fire-up a game of solitary while I am waiting for a job to finish. I'll keep both windows visible, because I don't want to keep flipping from screen-to-screen seeing if I can continue my task.

    -Josh

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