Windows 8: It's Not Bad

This is my first blog post written on a brand new computer.  As some may notice, I am also marking the occasion with a new look for the blog.  After doing some shopping and checking reviews, I have settled on a new desktop machine rather than another laptop.  With an Intel i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM, 2 TB of disk space and an IPS monitor, it is a truly great photo editing and blogging machine.

A new computer meant considering Windows 8.  After reading all the negative reviews, I was apprehensive about the prospects of the the new OS.  Then I noticed something about all the bad-mouthing.  It sounded vaguely familiar.  When Microsoft adopted the ribbon menu for Office, I heard the same complaints, "confusing," "bewildering," "incoherent," "disappointing," "annoying" and the like.  Once I located the first tool in the ribbon menu with a little help from Google, I discovered that it was easy to predict where to find everything.  The ribbon menu was not as bad as the tech writers were saying.  I decided to boldly go into the unknown realms of Windows 8.

After just a week, I am here to tell you that I think Windows 8 is terrific.  Read the title of this post, "It's NOT bad."  I enjoy how fast and smoothly everything runs.  The look is crisp, clean and modern.  Gone are the silly "Aero" or see-through effects of Vista and Windows 7.  Also gone are the little fanfares played during start up and shut down.  Only very pleasant and subtle chimes sound for things like arriving email.  Everything is smooth, quiet and fast.  Internet pages glide in a browser like they are sliding on ice.  It only takes 15 or 20 seconds to fire it up.  I like it very much.

I have discovered that many reviewers of Windows 8 are hung up on the Start Screen (above).  This is where their complaints are directed.  The Start Screen is a feature of Windows 8 that makes it usable on a tablet or phone.  On a PC, there is really not very much that happens there.  If you want to use Windows 8 on a desktop or laptop computer, forget about the Start Screen.  Use it as a start menu and nothing more.

The native apps on the Start Screen all open full-screen as they would on a tablet.  On a 23 inch PC monitor, things like the Mail app are very strange to use.  This is one point that Microsoft may want to rethink.  For the moment, it is another reason to move directly to the desktop.

You will do most, if not all of your work from the familiar Windows desktop (above).  How do you like my reptilian theme?  If I am not mistaken, this is good old Windows 7 here.  I have not found a single piece of software I use that doesn't work from this desktop.  Photoshop Elements 11 is lightning fast and beautiful.  All of my Canon software runs fine.  No Problems with Windows Live Mail and Writer 2012.  MS Office H&S 2010 is very nice and I get an upgrade to 2013 when it is available.  I have confirmed that my WeatherLink software that powers the weather station and uploads data to the internet will run without a hitch.  So far, nothing has crashed or locked up the system.  In fact, it all feels very solid and stable.

The only glitch I have encountered is with an update.  When I first turned on the machine, I found about fifteen updates were needed.  After attempting to install them, they kept failing and the entire batch would be rolled back.  As a solution, I tried downloading and installing each of them one at a time.  The culprit turned out to be KB2770917.  It didn't sound like something I needed, so I hid it and now the updating process runs as it should.

If you decide to take the Windows 8 plunge on a PC, here are some tips to get you started:

Shut Down and Restart:  My first dilemma was how to shut it down.  Google came to the rescue and after figuring out this one thing, everything else was easy.  Move your mouse pointer to either corner on the right edge of the screen.  This opens the "Charms" menu on the right edge (above).  You can do this on either the Start Screen or the desktop.  Click on the gear wheel Settings icon, then the Power icon.  Your options will be Sleep, Shut down and Restart.  Now you can explore the other "Charms" (I know, I know) to see what they do.  Anyone who is willing to explore and experiment will have no trouble using Windows 8.  Click on the gear wheel, then on "Change PC settings" and see what happens.

Windows Key:  The Windows key on the keyboard will finally become useful after all these years.  At least for me.  Use the key to toggle between the Start Screen and the Desktop.  Another way to move between them is with the "Start" icon in the Charms menu.  For a third way, you will automatically get a "Desktop" tile on the Start Screen.  It will look just like your desktop.  Use the mouse to drag the tiles wherever you want.  I put mine in lower-left corner where it is easy to find.  To return to the Start Screen, move the mouse pointer to the lower left corner of the screen.  Click on the Start Screen image that opens.  Try right-clicking on that image to find a useful menu.

Now, from the Start Screen or the desktop, press the Windows key + C and see what happens.  Remember, C for Charms.  To find more, do a search on "windows 8 winkey shortcuts."

Windows Explorer:  Oh the trials and tribulations, there is no start button.  Don't forget, the Start Screen is the Start Menu.  You will find no search box either, so don't look for one.  While on the Start Screen, just type what you want.  For the Control Panel, "C - O -"...  By now, a list of programs matching what you typed will have opened.  Remember also, you can customize the Favorites menu on the left edge of the folder windows just like in Vista and Windows 7.

Internet Browser:  Windows 8 comes with Internet Explorer 10 and Bing is the default search engine.  Rumor has it that these are locked in by Microsoft, but that is not true.  You can designate any browser and search engine you like as defaults.  This is Windows, not Apple.  You can use whatever you want.  I like Chrome and it is available as a Windows 8 app.

Live Tiles:  Some of the tiles on the Start Screen are "Live Tiles."  This means they update when new information is available.  For example the "News" tile changes stories and the "Photos" tile will be a slide show of your photos.  All the stuff moving and changing was kind of bugging me, but I learned how to fix that.  Right-click on the tile and options to remove it or turn it off become available.  Other useful options include "Uninstall" and "Pin" or "Unpin from taskbar."

These five skills are all that are necessary to master Windows 8.  It will take an hour at most.  I am a little surprised that so many of the tech writers and bloggers are such whining fuddy-duddies.  I would expect high tech people to be more open to new ideas.  Again, we heard it all before about the ribbon menu.

If you don't have a touch screen, a useful device is the Logitech T650 Wireless Touchpad.  This provides even more options for navigating around Windows 8.  It utilizes Logitech's "unifying receiver."  This allows you to use a Logitech wireless keyboard, mouse and touchpad all with just one tiny USB antenna.  Very nifty.

I felt compelled to write this post after my own experience was so different from the reviews I had read.  I am not here to sell an operating system.  If you are pondering the prospects of Windows 8, however, don't be afraid of it.  It's NOT bad.

Weather Statistics for November, 2012

TemperatureHigh 60.8° FLow 30.8° FMean 50.9° F
Rainfall2.55 inches
WindHigh 29 mphAverage 2.5 mphDom Dir SSE

Observed at South Fidalgo Island (See Climate page for complete climatological data)