Windows 8 – my first impressions

As readers of this blog may know, I have been using Windows 8 since the Developer Preview was released in September 2011. As new versions was released, I started using it on more computers, including my work computer for a brief time (more on that later in another post, maybe).

By now, I have it installed on 3 computers at home, two of my own and one used by my 9 year old son. My 7 year old daughters computer is probably next in line.
Of my own two computers, one is a Lenovo t400 with a barebone Win8 installation, and the other is a HP Pavilion dv6 that I upgraded from the factory supplied Win7 installation. Both work without a hitch, aside from a few driver upgrades that have
increased the performance from the stock Win8 drivers (new drivers do that, most of the time…).

Since Win8 was released to the public back in October, I’ve been keeping an eye on what people have said about it and also what the Professional computer related Magazines have to say about it. Note, most of the websites I tend to frequent are Norwegians sites, and so the feedback is probably a bit limited. Norway is a small country with only a few really good computer related sites, and most people tend to read them all and and give the same comments on all the sites. I find forums to be bit annoying, since most people there seems to be more interested in arguing with everyone else than actually discussing the topic at hand these days….

What I find when I read the comments to the different Windows 8 related articles, is that many people seem to have seen a screenshot or barely touch the new Windows 8 UI, decided they didn’t like it, and rule Windows 8 a failure. Epic phail.
It seems like they think they have to spend all their time in the UI formerly called Metro, and that the Desktop is buried far inside. They also say, that because of the, you can only have one app visible at a time, unlike on the classic Deskop. Please, don’t believe them. I recon I spend 80 – 90 percent of my time in the classic Desktop as we know it from Windows 7/Vista/XP etc. The only time I go to the Metro Interface (I know, they’ve changed the name, but I need a short word for referring to the New Windows UI…), is to start specific programs, find the Control panel etc. In fact, Metro/WinUI Works exactly the same way as your beloved Legacy Startmenu. You don’t have to use the mouse, or touchscreen, to find a specific program. Just start typing the name of the program, and the icon soon will appear, assuming it’s installed and you typed the name correctly.
In addition, Windows 8 comes with a few nice apps preinstalled that replaces and enhances a few of the classic ones, like for instance Media Player.
Some of the apps I like most are the Photos, Video and Music apps. They have a simple UI, they’re fast and very easy to use. Since I’be been using differenct types of digital media players and Mediacenters over the last years, I have built up a small Library of videos, pictures and music. These files are stored on my Win7 Mediacenter computer, and have been shared in my home network via standard Windows SMB file shares. These shares I added to the Libraries in Windows8, and that made them available for the multimedia apps on Windows 8. Yes, the shares had to be indexed on the Windows 8 compute, and this did take a bit of time (Note, do not disable the Windows Search service to save resources, otherwise this will not work!).
I know have all my videos, music and pictures readily available on my Win8 computer, and finding a particular file is fast, due to the built-in search function in Windows 8.
Ah…the hidden gem of the Search charm in Windows 8. 🙂 I initially wasn’t aware that this funcion was available in (nearly?) every native Windows 8 app. When I want to hear a specific song, or artist, album whatever, I start the Music App, Access My Music, and activate the Search charm (handy shortcut: Win+C or Win+F). The search is nearly Instant, and Returns all related music.
Don’t forget that Microsofts Xbox Music is also included in Music now, which is a rather good service, technically. The only drawback I see, is that both a XBox Gold Subscription and a seperate XBox Music Subscription is required to use it. That might get too expensive to some people, I fear.
The Video App Works in a similar way as the Music app, with acces to both your personal videocollection and the online XBox Movie service in one Place. Luckily, movies can be rented online on film-by-film basis, and as such does not require a seperate Subscription in a addition to XBox Gold.
The Photo app does also offer access to pictures you may have stored on online services, such as Facebook, Skydrive, other computers (!) and such. It’s a good app for showing off your best pictures.
By the way, if you have a XBox, don’t forget to check out the Smart Glass app, especially if you get your hand on a Win8 tablet or have a Smartphone where you can download it. It’s supported on (at least) iOS, Android and of cource Windows Phone 8. It’s is essentially an advanced remotecontrol for your Xbox, and can also be used in some games on Xbox to show extra info from the game itself, as a second screen. Can’t wait to get a game that really supports this!.

That’s was just a few of the functions in Win8 that I find useful. In addition, I think Microsoft may be on the brink of something really great here. Imagine, sharing the same apps, settings and data one your computer, tablet and Smartphone. This is entirely possible if they are all Win8. In addition, independant tests says that Win8 is just as fast or faster than Win7, and (unlike what we’ve been used to from Microsoft in the last years) it doesn’t require you to upgrade your computer to run fast. The startup is significantly faster, antivirus and antimalware software is included (and working quite well, according to tests), and it supports all the same software and hardware you had for Win7 (and then some…).
Adding the fact that the price of a Windows upgrade is cheaper than ever, I have no problems recommending the latest Windows OS to anyone (and a straight upgrade from Win7 is really easy, once you make sure you follow the recommanded steps of upgrading or uninstalling the software reported as incompatible by the installation procedure).

Okay, don’t take my word for it. Either you have decided never to use Win8 (hey, Windows 95 is still great, isn’t it? :), and compiling software in *nix is SO enjoyable. I’m not even going to comment on the other fruitbaskets…. ), or you can install it and have a look (you can even install it as a dualboot option to Windows 7 if you want to test it first and have the diskpace to spare). But if you do decide to try it out, please spend more than just and hour on it. Like most new OS’es with new functions, it needs some time to grow on you. It might be a friend for life.

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