8 Days of Windows 8: Part 1: Quiet, too quiet?

January 9th, 2013 by Chris

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I installed Windows 8 on my game computer. A few weeks prior, the Win8 pro upgrades were on sale for $40. Inevitably, they were on sale for even less (perhaps $25?) a week or so later. In any case, I’m sure that over the long run they’ll cost more. So I picked up to upgrade licenses, one for my machine, and one for another of the three Win7 boxes we have in the house.

I also picked up a free (until the end of January) Windows Media Center add-on since this is a feature we use on K’s machine currently to record broadcast TV.

The install was, well, mostly-harmless. Not exactly a glowing review, but I think appropriate so far. Details on the install follow. More on what works and what doesn’t work (so far) tomorrow.

After making extensive (and complete) system backups, I decided to throw (some) caution to the wind and do an ‘upgrade’ rather than a ‘clean’ install of Win8. Mostly, I just didn’t want to suffer through reinstalling everything. To be fair, I had already run the compatibility checker which found only a few minor issues. I downloaded the software (ISO) and burned it to a DVD for safe keeping. After one minor complication (my fault, not Microsoft’s[1] ), the install went pretty smoothly. They warn you that some time and several reboots will be necessary… and they’re not kidding. Although I was doing other things (so it might have been faster if I was paying more attention to prompts) it took my capable machine several hours to complete.

In the end, it warned me that my Bullzip PDF Printer and WinPCAP driver[2] were incompatible. The first were resolved by installing the latest version, the second was resolved by running the installer in Win7 compatibility mode.

Your first taste that Win8 is a little different is that before you can do anything, you must pick a color scheme. After that, there’s the most basic introduction to tell you how to open the “Charms”[3]. After that it’s, pretty much “Wubba-What?”[4] You have a somewhat mesmerizing display filled with squares and rectangle of various bright colors, something like a Mondrian inspired kindergarten classroom. After some brief thrashing, I discovered that the Windows key lets you get to the familiar Win7-esque Desktop. Pretty much exactly like the Win7 Desktop but for the conspicuously absent Start button. Instead, mousing into the lower left reveals a thumbnail of the “Start” page… which is what I described above.

Don’t get me wrong, if you had a touch-capable tablet or phone, this is probably a logical graphical interface. Things are just too far apart to make mouse use convenient. For Desktop users and most business/enterprise users, it’s sort-of an extra unnecessary step each time you want to access a new program. Thankfully, Windows (key) – is an effective way to jump to what you want. I futzed about with the ’tiles’ on the Start page until they were reasonably useful for my needs, but I honestly don’t expect to use that interface much. So my initial reaction was to be slightly confused/frustrated, but after an hour or two, this had mellowed to ‘meh’.

As I said at the beginning, I’ll go into what works and what doesn’t work tomorrow.

  1. I’m man enough to admit it. I had written the product keys on the DVD, and took it out of the drive when the key was requested. Foolishly, I forgot to put the disk back in when I entered the key. It was rejected until I put the disk back in. I was actually on the phone with MS Support before this dawned on me. []
  2. Used for Wireshark Ethernet packet capture software []
  3. For what it’s worth, nowhere that I could find does Win8 use the word “charms” to refer to this hidden icon/menu, I learned this only from context while browsing various pages on the internet. []
  4. Apologies to Pigeon and Mr. Willems. []

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