Thursday, January 17, 2013

Windows 8 Does NOT Suck

This is going to be a very short blog and I am going to continue it later on when I have more time. My project over the past week was to install and play with Windows 8. I had expected to be very disappointed because I have heard many stories about how confusing Windows 8 was and indeed had participated in some of the events which led me to have low expectations for this product.

I distrusted Windows 8 so much that I did not even attempted to install it on one of my real machines. I created a virtual machine on my laptop and installed Windows 8 there. This turned out to be a huge mistake. My laptop is old, it has only 3 GB of memory and two processors. This is enough to run Windows 8 but not enough to run Windows 7 together with a virtual machine running Windows 8. The performance was dreadful but it did give me a chance to play with the product. I learned enough during a couple of days to decide, especially since the performance was so terrible that I ought to give it a chance on my desktop machine.

Before I came to this decision I had learned enough about the product to be comfortable using it. I installed a product that I had been using in the past on Windows 7 called classic shell which restores a start menu similar to that found in XP. I have no idea why Microsoft decided to remove the start menu and have never been happy with the changes that they made since Windows 2000 so the classic start menu fit my needs perfectly. As a nice addition there is an option to cause Windows 8 to boot directly to the desktop without stopping at the Metro interface. This meant that I never had to deal with Metro and in my opinion that was a good thing since everything that people complain about with Windows 8 is really a complaint about Metro. I will say a lot more about Metro in my next blog posting but this posting is really about how Windows 8 does not suck..

I gave the system a real chance. I installed it on my desktop machine, a system that I have been using with various modifications for the past 10 years. In its latest incarnation the machine has three screens, six processors and 16 GB of memory. This is not a small system and there are literally hundreds of applications that have been installed over the years. I had no intention on reinstalling them.

I gave Windows 8 a partition on a drive different from the one that I had been using. I made a copy of my Windows 7 partition on the new drive. I then unplugged all other drives so that the Windows 8 installation would not have any opportunity to make changes on my production system. I made sure that the drive booted and ran properly and then I installed Windows 8.

I then installed classic shell and said it so that on boot you went straight to the desktop. I was very pleasantly surprised. Windows 8 recognized my three screens and use them immediately when the installation booted up. All my applications where there and my desktop look just like it did before the installation. Classic start menu was even smart enough to copy everything that I was doing in Windows 7. Every single application that I used in Windows 8 on the desktop has run properly. This includes things like Dragon NaturallySpeaking, Chaneru a video file server. VLC Player a good open source video player, of course Visual Studio and Microsoft Office, IntelliJ is a good job the development environment all work properly, the first time and right out of the box.

My original plan was to install Windows 8 and to play with it and go back to Windows 7. After playing with it for a couple of days I decided that it was worth keeping and would become my main production environment. I was surprised by this decision because I have heard a huge number of complaints about Windows 8 but my conclusion was that these were not really complaints about the operating system itself and its desktop but rather complaints about the Metro interface and a poorly conceived attempt to make your PC behave like a laptop. I will cover this more in the next posting

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