First impressions of Windows8

As I write this note, I have just concluded a short but exciting tryst with Windows8, and have rolled back to my trusty old Windows7. And I can’t help but wonder, why do I do it? What is it that tempts me to spend hours learning, conducting R&D and spending money to get a new OS, when the old one is working perfectly fine?? Especially since I am no widget lover and had tuned my earlier OS to perfection. All unnecessary threads and background apps were killed. Gamma and screen display was tuned to Photoshop. Registry was scrubbed. Life was good!  Yet I fell for the charms of Windows8. This can only be a mixture of curiosity and the constant desire for something “new and better”! Well, at least the curiosity part is satisfied now 🙂

But don’t get me wrong. Windows8 is very nice indeed! It’s slick and modern. The starting screen with “live tiles” and widgets for social apps brings it much closer to the Tablet / Smartphone interface that we are all used to today.  The upgrade process itself was surprisingly trouble free. It was fully automated, provided an idiot proof, menu driven process and had me up and running in about an hour and a half. Best of all, my data was safe and 99% of my apps worked just fine. The icing on the cake was the attractive upgrade offer from Microsoft of Rs. 699/- (uSD 14) for Windows7 customers. Agreed, the OS did feel like two separate operating systems, uneasily bolted together. One slick widget interface when you log in, and the same old Windows when you get past that screen. But it’s very usable, and if you get 2 Os’s for the price of 1, why not!? One can only hope that Microsoft applies this new found pricing wisdom to the Surface tablet range as well, before it dies another lingering death!

So now the 14 $ question… why then am I back to Windows7? Mostly for 2 key reasons. First, for some weird reason, the live tiles simply did not work on my system! Click them, and instead of the familiar “blue screen of death” I got a new rotating cursor that, well, just kept rotating! Progress?? Perhaps!! 🙂 When I went to the Microsoft support forum, I found that an MS engineer had very kindly advised people facing this problem to “refresh the OS” through suggested steps. I did that, and all my lovely 3rd party apps disappeared! Since these apps form 80% of my PC usage, this was understandably a panic inducing moment! The second reason? Well, one cannot really fault Microsoft there. But I found that my system tuning software (Tuneup Utilities), which I love, would not work with Windows8 unless I upgraded to the 2013 version. The catch was that the Windows upgrade was only 14$, but the tuner upgrade was 30$ !! Obviously, this was not happening! On principle, one can’t pay more for the support software, than the core os itself! This was a deal breaker. Luckily I had created a restore point to my old setup, in anticipation of such an eventuality. And that’s how I came back to old faithful Windows7.

While we are on the topic, a few other disconcerting features of Windows8 that prospective users may want to be aware of. Firstly, the “start button” is gone. Yes gone, poyindhe, chole gachhe!! For legions of Windows users, this can be terrifying till you learn how to navigate the new system. One interesting outcome was that I found myself rediscovering the old keyboard shortcuts that we have all but forgotten. Sometimes old is gold! The other mildly annoying things were a strange black screen between the bootup screen and the logon, which could cause you to imagine that something was wrong and press random buttons. Then there is the issue of various hardware drivers being less than the ideal versions. In order to ensure everything works and to release the OS quickly, Microsoft appears to have used generic drivers for most devices, which produces average results on things like display etc. So it may be well worth your time to upgrade various drivers and codecs. This needs a bit of geek intervention. Lastly, there was the completely counter intuitive shut down process that first leaves you wondering “how”? Then you figure out that it requires you to go through a strange two step process that seems totally unnecessary. Yes, I created quick shut down icons using scripts. But again, geek intervention needed!

All said and done, am I going to stay away from Windows8 forever? Not a chance! I’ll just wait till they produce a patch for the live tiles bug, and hopefully by then Tuneup Utilities would also come to their senses and roll out a decent upgrade offer!

Oh, did I mention that the rotating wait cursor looks a lot like the one on Android, which is of course, just a hacked Linux? Well, yeah 😀

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