Wednesday, October 31, 2012

First Impressions Of Windows 8 By a Non-IT Person

Windows 8 Start Page

The moment I got the email from Microsoft that Windows 8 was available for download, I downloaded it right away last Friday. I had other things to take care of so I just copied the ISO file to a DVD disk and installed it on Sunday because I spent most of Saturday making an image copy of Windows 7 on 14 DVD disks.
These were my first bumbling attempts at installing this new Operating System. I had a big enough hard drive (750 GB) so instead of installing Windows 8 on top of Windows 7, I installed it on a separate partition, thus making my recently acquired Asus Core i5 Laptop a dual boot machine. On my first try to install Windows 8, it hanged and wouldn’t proceed any further. I couldn’t even shut it down properly or use Ctrl-Alt-Del, so I had to use the power button. On the second try, Windows 8 proceeded to install itself. When this was done, the computer restarted and gave me the option to boot into Windows 7 or 8. I chose the latter of course. Setting up was no problem. Instead of the usual way of making you choose a username, it gave you the option of using your Microsoft account if you had one. Since I was already using Outlook email (the reinvented Hotmail), I logged on under that username. As advertised and discussed since the Beta version was released for testers, tiles appeared on the screen which were representative of apps that came with the operating system. Some examples were: email, travel, maps, weather, news, etc. If you are a tablet PC user, you may already be familiar with this type of interface. So what about the Desktop? Well, there’s an app for that too, which when you click, takes you to the more familiar screen, but without the start button on the bottom left. Start is now actually that whole screen with tiles. Right clicking on the desktop brought out the same choices as previous versions of Windows, so that’s how I found my way to My Computer and Control Panel. One of the first problems I encountered was that Windows 8 could not find my external hard drive, wouldn’t let me use my cordless mouse, and didn’t launch MagicJack which I use extensively for long distance calls. These were all connected to a 10 port powered USB hub. Even when I connected the external hard drive directly to the USB port on the computer, it still didn’t work. I thought these were driver problems and I needed to update them. But despite downloading the latest drivers, it was still a no-go. Only much later and after several hours of frustration did I discover that when I used a different USB port, everything worked as they were supposed to, even the 10 port hub. I don’t know what was wrong with the first USB port because it worked very well with Windows 7. Perhaps it is a USB2 and the others USB3’s. So everything is now hunky dory with all my USB connections: cordless mouse, MagicJack, TV tuner, cell phone charger, external hard drive, and printer cable. See, that’s why I need a 10 port hub!
Here are some problems that I encountered with Windows 8:  When using the trackpad, sometimes my mouse pointer disappears if I overshoot the dimensions of the screen, and it takes a few wide swipes to find it again. Ever since my cordless mouse started working, I am able to control the movements better and it eliminated the problem. Initially, I had problems shutting down and restarting - when I tried shutting down, my computer didn’t shutdown completely. The Power light stayed on and wouldn’t turn off. I had to do the press and hold to turn it off completely. When I turned it back on, Windows had to do an extensive disk check to make sure there was nothing wrong with the hard drive.  Similarly, when I clicked Restart instead of Shutdown, it just made the computer hang and I had to press the power button several seconds to turn the computer off, which is not the proper way to do it. This problem mysteriously disappeared a couple of days later. Well, I hope it doesn’t come back. Another mysterious thing - sometimes when you install new software, the installation freezes. When I downloaded Windows Updates and tried to install my old Microsoft Office 2007 (Windows 8 did not even include Office Starter anymore), the message onscreen was stuck at: Installing. Normally, you would see some hard drive activity when something is being installed and I didn’t see that. The next attempt I did  wasbefore I went to bed. Another miracle happened. Windows Update and Microsoft Office installed properly overnight. I guess all I needed was patience. Because of all these negative experiences, I was even thinking of staying with Windows 7 for awhile since support from Microsoft for that supposedly goes all the way to 2024. Windows 8 is either buggy, or I am the one who has the bugs.
                When I was having problems installing Office 2007, I downloaded Open Office and Abisoft.  My previously saved Microsoft Word files did not come out properly in those two applications until I figured out that I had to re-save the MS Word files in ODF format (Open Document Format which I guess is the new Rich Text Format). That took me awhile.
So going back to the “Metro” interface, it’s just a matter of trying to figure out what those tiles are on the Start screen, then you can launch the app and do whatever it’s supposed to do. When you right click on the mouse at an empty spot on the Start screen, an option comes up to show all the apps, not just the ones docked on the Start screen. I won’t even tell you what swiping to the upper right or upper left corner will do. You can figure that one out for yourself if you haven’t read about them already.
Windows 8 Desktop

Being more comfortable working on the familiar Desktop, I downloaded the software I normally use in Windows 7 and installed them (all my Cloud drives, VLC Media Player, MS Office,  Chrome browser, Google Desktop, Gmail notifier , etc.). In short, you can still do your previous work at the desktop including your familiar applications. Even some of the apps in the Start screen open in the Desktop. By the way, all the software I installed appeared as apps on the Start screen. Since I have my frequently used files already on the Cloud, it made the transition much easier.
I remember reading months ago that Windows Media Center was not automatically included in Windows 8 and that you had to purchase it separately. Later, Microsoft changed its mind and made it a free download for Windows 8 Pro. When I tried downloading Media Center, the product key I had for Windows 8 was not recognized. I had to call technical support to find out why my product key didn't work, and was very surprised that an actual person answered the phone after just a few button pushes. The lady was able to help me connect to the proper website which asked for my email address (which now happens to be my Windows 8 log in name) and it would take 24 hours for Microsoft to email me the free Media Center product key. Sure enough, almost exactly 24 hours later, the email with my product key arrived and Media Center installed flawlessly. I reprogrammed all the TV shows I wanted to record and Media Center was actually more responsive than the previous version.
With all the inconveniences I encountered installing Windows 8, at only $14.99 for recently purchased computers, I’m just glad the update isn’t expensive because if it was, I would have waited longer.
Other than the installation and rebooting problems I had, which seems to have corrected themselves, the main first impression I have is this -  it appears that Windows 8 is just Windows 7 dressed up with apps just in time for Halloween.
Here’s an unusual suggestion: if you miss the old Start button so much on the Desktop screen, you can either install all your familiar apps or shortcuts on the Desktop or make a new folder and place those apps in your new Start Folder.

Public comments below, private comments: E-mail Me!

No comments: