Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Full on Windows 8 Consumer Preview immersion

I've been using Windows 8 Consumer Preview at home on and off for a while now and enjoying it so far and found nothing I couldn't do with it that I could do with Windows 7. I thought long and hard about it and I've decided that I would install it on my work computer. I can hear those gasps from here, calm down!

Yes, I have installed Windows 8 Consumer Preview on my work computer, that is in a live working environment and would be in used 9+ hours a day in my consulting and support duties with customers using Window XP - Windows 7, 2000 Server - Server 2008 R2, SBS 2003 - SBS 2011,

The main reason I wanted to try Windows 8 Consumer Preview is that Oracle's VirtualBox kept BSoD'ing my Windows 7 installation, the USB drivers were the cause, I even had most of the hardware replaced by the OEM. The other reason I chose Win8CP over other available options is that it has Hyper-V built in. I do a lot with VM's and £200 for VMware workstation is definitely not an option when Win8CP can do it out of the box. Almost. You just have to turn on the Hyper-V feature in Programs and Features.

As a precaution and fall back I have done the following to ensure I can still continue working with as little disruption as possible:

  • I took a full backup as I would have liked to do a full restore in case of a dire situation I couldn't work around.
  • I took a VHD image of my Windows 7 installation so that if I did find something in Win8CP that I could no longer do that I could in Windows 7, I could just boot up the Windows 7 VHD using Hyper-V and do what I needed to do. I used the disk2vhd tool from Microsoft, available on the Sysinternals website here.
  • I still have the hard drive with my Windows 7 installation on it as I did chicken out, we're very busy lately and I couldn't afford the time to do a restore, even if it 'only' took my computer out of action for two hours whilst I restored it.

I must point out here that I've not had to use the Windows 7 VHD for anything other than exporting my Chrome bookmarks and transferring my files / tools over. Why not install Chrome and have all my favourites back? Well I'm doing this all or nothing. I'm testing as much of the new shiny bits as I can, this includes IE10 Metro and IE10 Desktop, thus importing the bookmarks into IE10.

I have been pleasantly surprised that so far everything has been running just as well as Windows 7 Pro full patched - minus the BSoD's caused by VirtualBox's dodgy USB drivers.

I'd just like to point out a few things I would like to see changed before the final version of Windows 8 is rolled out the door.
  • As a default display the programs on the taskbar that are running on that particular screen, rather than an option for someone to choose in the Taskbar properties, be real here, how many average users would even think to look for this? See the three options in the drop down list below, I have mine set to 'Taskbar where window is open' and it works well for me. Also, please allow us to pin programs to either Taskbar, rather than just the main Taskbar. Power users would love this, without a hack or extra piece of software to do it.

  • Remove or make Window borders thinner. In Windows 7 you had the choice to decrease the thickness of the Window borders, which I did and wished I could remove them altogether or make 1 or 2 pixels wide. In W8CP you can't. But these should be removed all together or made to a 1px or 2px, whatever works best and removes the borders from yester year.
  • Keep the 'hot corner' but also have the Start button where it once was, maybe a thin silver of a button, not for me, but for people who are new to Windows 8 - you know? The average person who fears technology and wouldn't necessarily try things out to see what happens, because they may break it if the wind is blowing in  the wrong direction. I fear that even with a tutorial on how to use Windows 8, some people will skip it or not pay a lot of attention and suddenly Windows 8 will be the bain of their life because the start button is missing and they didn't take notice of the tutorial. I think Microsoft have under-valued the importance of the Start button. Maybe remove it the the next Windows incarnation as a logical step forward? Every average person I've asked, could not find their way back to Start. That's telling. Something like this, perhaps with a bit more gloss? It even had my mother who has used computers for the last 25 years stumped.

  • Change the name of Windows 8 RT. Change it now. Maybe to Windows 8A, Windows 8Arm, Windows 8OA.... That is unless we won't be seeing Windows 8 RT Arm tablets? and Windows 8 RT will be for embedded devices, TV's, Satnav, Phones. This is quite likely as Intel say they will have x86 (and x64?) processors more power efficient (from what I've read) than ARM processors by the end of the year. In which case, it won't matter much as to what it's called. The problem would come from where people have the choice of a Windows 8 Intel based tablet and a Windows 8RT tablet. They'd probably buy on price as it looks the same, so it must be the same, right? If they bought soley on price they'd get a nasty surprise that their other stuff from their old computer just won't work, but their friend who bought a more expensive Windows 8 tablet can... This will cause issues and more aggravation for buyers and quickly become another Vista or worse, there needs to be a real distinction between Windows 8 and Windows 8 RT.
  • Internet Explorer 10, desktop. It's buggy. Oddly enough mostly noticeable if I enable Compatibility View. It doesn't like sites that have dynamic content like facebook (not that Chrome worked flawlessly using fb), our server & workstation monitoring and asset tracking system dashboard, it's not a fan of Google Maps (or vice versa) - unsurprisingly Bing maps works OK so far. I've not used IE10 Metro a lot, mainly because I'm in the desktop most of the time getting on with stuff as normal, like I did in Win7. But I'm confident these rendering issues will be fixed in the final release. In fact I've only install Chrome to use NTR Support remote control software because they don't support IE10 and won't even let me login!

I've also just seen some of these issues may be 'fixed' in the final release, according to the Building Windows 8 Blog, though I'm not sure about the complete removal of the Aero theme, I still like the glassy effects and 'chrome' as they call it.

Links for said changes:

NOTE: I've been trying to steer clear of any Windows 8 blogs, reviews etc. for the last few weeks so my views don't get swayed.

So how has the experience been so far?

Superb. Though there is lots to learn, for both us the Windows 8 testers and Microsoft.