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Windows 8 Preview

Bit the bullet and installed the Windows 8 Release Preview on my HP laptop for poking around. Here are some initial impressions, likely to be updated as time goes by. I haven’t yet done anything with it, this is just from an hour of trying to bludgeon the system into shape.

installation

Pretty easy. Download a 3GB ISO. Tried burning it, got error code 0xfailtard. Moving on, there’s a tool that can write an ISO to USB which worked fine, even if it’s a little confusing because all the instructions are about Windows 7. Just run it, and click the obvious buttons.

After that, things went smoothly. No hard questions, until we got to the create your account part. I figured let’s go whole hog and sync with my Windows Live (or whatever it’s called) account. Unfortunately, this requires typing my Live password in, which is hard because I wasn’t planning on ever typing it by hand. I expect muscle memory will kick in in about four weeks, unless I change it first. This is a somewhat unfortunate design because I don’t mind a weaker password for a physical device, but the hassle of typing in an “internet ready” password at every screen unlock is a bit much.

hardware

Appears to have drivers for all the regular stuff. It even upgraded my trackpad I think. The old driver with Windows 7 only supported one finger side of pad scrolling, which I have trouble with because I always miss the target area. My trackpad was magically upgraded to two finger scrolling by Windows 8.

I take that back. I noticed that one CPU core was constantly pegged at 100%. A little fiddling, and I noticed it briefly dropped to zero when I rescanned wireless networks, even though turning off wireless entirely didn’t help. After digging through Realtek’s website, found their driver for my RTL8188CE, installed it, CPU is now under control. Driver team’s gold star is clawed back.

appearance

I kind of miss the glass effect from Windows 7 Aero. The basic effects and square edges make me think I’m running in degraded hardware mode. I like the square not called Metro look though. I liked it on Windows Phone too.

Some of the builtin apps are pretty cool. The Finance widget expands to a great app summarizing various market data. Or it would, if I had a tablet. It’s a little weird interfacing with the touchpad, especially since side scrolling doesn’t work. Up/down scrolling works, but moves the page side to side. I guess they wanted to support computers that only have a single mouse wheel. For example, the weather app has a list of temperatures, but it scrolls up and down. So moving past it left or right requires scrolling through the list to the end before the scroll “catches” on the larger pane outside. Actually, it’s weirder than that. Some apps don’t seem to support scroll wheel at all. I can’t really tell what’s going on, except to say it’s annoying.

I’m not convinced I want to run this on my desktop, but if I pretend I’m running a tablet emulator, it makes a convincing case to buy a Windows 8 tablet. With some more app support, and an all-in-one style computer with touch, it could be great. But if you can’t live in the Metro, it feels like running a VM. The desktop is now like a computer in a computer.

performance

Cold booting seems a lot faster. I’m at the login screen in seconds, and then at the start screen a few seconds after that, even booting from a mechanical hard disk. Loading apps takes a little while sometimes, particularly the first launch. After that (on subsequent boots), they show whatever data they had previously loaded while waiting to download new data. The effect is similar to a lot of the apps on my phone.

little things

The new task manager is particularly awesome. The copy file dialog is nice too.

Flash

Flash comes preinstalled. There’s an applet in control panel where I can click a button to check for updates. It opens IE and goes to a page which tells me I’m running 11.3, but the latest version is 11.4. I click the link to go to the download site. It tells me my version of Flash is too old to view this content. No shit, Sherlock, that’s why I’m here! Apparently I’m supposed to get my Flash updates through Windows Update. But Windows Update doesn’t have anything to give me.

networking

Windows has decided my home network is a private network, presumably because I set a wireless password. I don’t like this, and want to change it to a public network. I always want Windows to assume whatever I’m connected to is a public network, regardless of wifi password. There’s some help online, mostly about moving in the other direction (public -> private/home), but it involves clicking on some networking “charm” icon that was either removed, or is simply missing on my computer. The best I’ve come up with is to turn off all the sharing options I could find and leave the HomeGroup. I’m still concerned that Windows is actively announcing its presence and seeking out new friends. The new gloss of easy settings has removed a bunch of advanced settings. (Figured that out. Had to right click on the wireless network name and choose the option to turn off sharing. Still not sure what happens when I connect to a different network. I don’t trust the default.)

settings

Speaking of settings, it’s a weird mix of new and old. Some settings have to be changed using regular desktop windows that resemble their Windows 7 equivalents. Other things live in the new Windows 8 settings command center. But there doesn’t appear to be much organization. Links on one side will randomly take you to a window on the other side. When I found a HomeGroup setting on the desktop (typically more advanced) side, I thought, ah ha, this is it. But no, it just jumps back to the Windows 8 setting.

visual studio 2012

First program I try to install is VS Express 2012. Fails because my version of .NET isn’t new enough. How is that possible? Turns out VS will only work on RTM or later builds of Windows 8, not the Preview. But the RC version of VS is still available. First install stalled out (I blame wireless driver as above), but second finished. Made a dummy Metro app with lots of tiles.

Posted 05 Sep 2012 09:05 by tedu Updated: 04 Apr 2013 13:22
Tagged: review software windows