Wednesday, December 12, 2012

'NOT YOUR FATHER'S OLDSMOBILE' JUST PISSED OFF ALL THE FATHERS WITH OLDSMOBILES: There are two (probably an infinite number, actually, but I'll round down to two) ways to look at Windows 8. One is that Microsoft, distracted by the shiny bauble that is the iPad money-printing machine, has moronically and belatedly decided that everything it makes is going to be either tablety or appy. The other is that Microsoft is internalizing the lessons of Blackberry and trying to make sure that when the generations to whom iPhones and iPads are native technology finally graduate to business tools, Windows-based computers will be both familiar and exciting to them.

Whichever you believe, Windows 8 is a pretty upsetting change for those of us who have a lifetime of accreted Windows knowledge and a firm dedication to the old separation of church and state: the iPad is mostly for fun; the laptop and desktop are mostly for business.
To me, Windows 8 is not just something with a learning curve. It is galling; it is presumptuous. It is as if Microsoft just said to me, "if you want to use this machine for business, I won't try my hardest to stop you, but what I think you really want is a larger, heavier tablet that will make it easier for me to sell your data to my business partners." The machines are pre-loaded with Netflix and are Facebook, Twitter, and cloud-storage-ready, but ugh, the thought of somebody using the DVD player to play a DVD -- how absurd is that? I'm not sure why a machine would come with a DVD player but no DVD video-reading capability (since thumb drives have rendered DVDs redundant in all areas other than video), but Microsoft literally will not sell you a DVD video decoder for a Windows 8 home-edition machine.

It really seems as if Microsoft paid no attention at all to the business user -- the person who, I think, is most likely to buy a laptop instead of or in addition to a tablet. Because people rarely shut down their tablets, Microsoft has forgotten to give you an intuitive way to shut down your Windows 8 laptop. I literally had to Google to figure it out. Because tablet users usually have in-app connections to their files and data, Windows has banished the Start menu and marginalized file-tree organization. The Metro/Modern UI is probably great if you buy a touch-screen, but if you opt for the track pad, get used to tearing your hair out trying to move around the UI while it opens programs seemingly at random just because you lingered on them too long as you scrolled the pointer across trying to reach the corner you have to swipe to open the cloyingly-titled "charms bar."  No more task bar; instead, like on a tablet, you'll just have to guess how many programs you have sucking up memory at a time. And because tablets run on apps, Windows is trying to steer you away from reliance on a one-size-fits-all browser and toward the tablet-like proliferation of dedicated programs. No more using IE for Twitter, Facebook, and reading content; instead, you should download a dedicated Twitter, Facebook, HuffPo, ESPN, etc. Never mind that storing all of those programs and running their processes is going to slow the computer. If your Excel spreadsheet isn't working right, just close out of it to free up resources for the pre-loaded Plants vs. Zombies. You know you want to.


  1. J. Bowman2:20 AM

    Linux may not be your solution, but it sounds like the day is fast approaching when it is an acceptable workaround.

  2. Everything I read about Windows 8 makes me want to punch something. This is no exception.

  3. My wife's laptop broke two weeks ago, and we got a Windows 8 machine. After starting my normal process of removing bloatware, copying over old profiles, I gave up! Win8 was absolutely horrible. It felt like every single method that I'd used for interacting with the OS and File Structure was changed. My wife decided this would be a good opportunity for her to learn more about how her computer worked, and, in the process, keep me from throwing her laptop out the window.

    The good news is that she didn't find it that bad. With a liberal use of CMD-D to get back to the desktop, she was able to navigate and at the end of the day posted on Facebook that Windows 8 was fine. That said, when my son's laptop broke last week (yeah, we've got gremlins), I went out of my way to find a refurbished open box laptop that had Windows 7.

  4. Jenn.8:28 AM

    My husband just got a Windows 8 tablet. While it seems like it will suit his purposes, his first comment to me was "Microsoft is so going out of business." It sounds like Microsoft's insistence of packaging its tablet software and desktop software together has guaranteed that neither flavor of user will get a good experience. If he's having this kind of reaction, I can guarantee that I would have a worse reaction, as he is much more open to tweaking operating systems than I am.

  5. Everything I read, including this, makes it sound like they're re-upping on all the mistakes they made with Vista: The bloat. The mandatory hyper-media-friendly OS plug-ins. The half-assed aping of what is working well for their competitors.

    No way am I switching to this, or putting it on a new machine. I ran XP until 7 came out. I'll happily keep 7 until hell freezes over.

  6. Jordan10:26 AM

    I read a report a couple weeks ago that they've bundled so much software that the 32 gig version actually has less than 16 gigs free out of the box (compare to 28+ for the iPad). That's an outrageous amount of bloat.

  7. Jordan10:30 AM

    I put a DVD in my computer a couple days ago (be cool, just to download the attached digital copy) when my optical drive decided it no longer wanted to mount DVDs. And you know what? I didn't particularly care. I couldn't remember the last time I had used it for anything other than ripping a CD (or the occasional aforementioned Digital Copy verification).

  8. Tosy and Cosh10:37 AM

    I've been sorely tempted to switch to a Mac when the current home laptop merits replacing (still a good year or few away, I wager (hope)). This is only supporting that impulse.

  9. The Pathetic Earthling12:38 PM

    I switched to Mac when they upgraded the user interface on MS Word. I figured if I was being forced to relearn something, I might as well just switch platforms altogether. I know we've previously discussed the change to Word, but all the changes to the format probably slowed my writing speed by 20-30%. Dreadful.

  10. isaac_spaceman1:07 PM

    My workaround was to load up a shell with a start menu (good design: the start menu button is a Windows icon in the shape of a shell). It's made the learning curve tolerable but has not solved several problems, including: (1) because IE10 is native to Win8 and is not a "desktop app," pop-up windows open in Metro/Modern UI, not in desktop, which creates a problem with browser-based utilities like mail programs where you use dialog windows to attach files (the dialog window opens, but you can't resize it or scroll in it, so in my program the "attach these documents" button is off the page and unreachable); and (2) for some stupid reason, the Windows 8 basic version (the home version) cannot be connected to a domain, so I literally can't connect my laptop to my office Wi-Fi network. The upgrade to Pro is only $40, but this is still kind of like an auto manufacturer selling you a car without a heating system and then charging you for it as a retrofitted upgrade.
    Windows used to compete with Apple on three basic principles: compatibility with existing business tools, learning curve to switch, and price. Now it competes only on price. The bet obviously is that it was going to have to make the switch at some point, so it is sacrificing 2013 users for more users in the future, but still, ugh.

  11. Nigel from Cameroon1:28 PM

    Ugh...I just bought my 12-year old her first laptop (for Christmas). It comes with 8...and just after checkout ( I thought to myself I should have configured it with 7.

  12. andrewraff2:27 PM

    I know that Mac OS is becoming more like iOS and I know there are ways that I'd love iOS to be more like Mac OS, but I've never wanted to use both at the same time on the same computer. I get that Microsoft thinks that mobile and desktop OSes will converge eventually, but by taking a good desktop OS, removing the main way that users interact with programs, and then adding a tablet OS as a shell (like Windows 3.1 over DOS) is a confusing hodgepodge.

    If Microsoft had made a Windows 8 that was an iteration from the very good Windows 7, and released the Metro/Modern UI as its own thing, with a native interface version of Office, both products would probably be better products that the confusing mash-up that is Windows 8.

  13. isaac_spaceman2:33 PM

    Honestly, at 12 years old and without a lifetime of working with Windows, she's probably the one for whom this operating system was designed.

  14. isaac_spaceman2:36 PM

    I lack the foresight necessary to pre-load my entertainment for cross-country flights, and even if I had that foresight, there's a lot of stuff that you can only get on DVD or streaming (i.e., not download). And I'm not an illegal-download kind of guy.

  15. Fred App2:52 PM

    If Microsoft is just going to give users a poor imitation of Mac, why wouldn't everyone switch to a Mac? Fortunately, the company that employs me hasn't even gotten around to upgrading our machines to Windows 7, so I assume that by the time we upgrade to Windows 8, Microsoft will have moved on to Windows 10 or 11 -- which either will have fixed the mistakes of Windows 8, or (more likely) made them worse.

  16. GoldnI4:11 PM

    I had a chance to try out the Surface a few weeks ago. It was cool I guess, but I'm having trouble determining why you would buy that over an iPad. It doesn't have nearly as much functionality, and it's more expensive. I suppose it'd be good to use if you're a heavy Outlook and MS Office user, but iOS syncs with Outlook much better now than it used to, the iWork suite allows you to email and upload into the cloud in multiple formats, and everything I've read indicates that an actual Office for iPad suite is inevitable. Besides, if those two are the most important features to you, you're probably not relying on a tablet for that.

    As an avowed Mac user, the reason why I switched was not because of the apps or the fancy graphics. I simply appreciated how seamlessly all my devices worked together. With the exception of Amazon and the Kindle, I don't think the other tech companies trying to come up with the Mac-killer have figured that out yet (and of course, Amazon did well precisely because the Kindle isn't meant to compete with the iPad).

  17. isaac_spaceman4:20 PM

    AT this point, I think the only reason not to switch to a Mac is that the Mac is two or three times as expensive. Maybe also that it seems slightly more likely to declare ownership of your electronic self, so that if you migrate to another platform you will forfeit your right to anything you purchased or created on an Apple product (we're not there yet, but it seems to be where we're going).

  18. Tosy and Cosh12:49 PM

    This is why I still get the larger laptop (with disc drive) at work. Until this week I had a 45-minute train ride in and out of the city each day. Over the years, during that ride, I watched, thanks to the good folks at Netflix, the entirety of Buffy, Deadwood, and the Wire, along with many seasons of other shows and of course lots and lots of movies. Streaming does not help on a train ride. Also, I own a hundred or two DVDs and Blu Rays that I like to watch while traveling sometimes. I know the industry is pushing us there, but I don't think we are anywhere NEAR the time for the disc drive/entertainment on physical media to die.