Archive for August, 2012

Thoughts on Windows 8

August 9, 2012 8 comments

I’ve been using Windows 8 for a while, and since everyone else is focusing on the UI changes, I figured I’d list some of the improvements that have been made outside of the Start Screen that I enjoy. There are many others as well, even though most of the press has focused on the new UI.

  • hardware-accelerated graphics everywhere, even for things like decoding JPEG files. This makes Windows much faster all-around. Even text rendering is now done with DirectX, leaving the CPU free to do more important things.
  • built-in “file history” feature that replaces need for backup by storing copies of files in your libraries on a secondary location.
  • much better multi-monitor support, with ability to have taskbar on both screens
  • improvements in NTFS including ability to fix errors on the fly without rebooting to run chkdsk.
  • roaming settings/files with Microsoft ID (any Windows 8 device I log into will have my settings and customizations)
  • better support for high DPI (metro apps get this support automatically, which makes my 120dpi screen happy)
  • pausable file copying with a much better estimate of time to completion.
  • improved task manager showing per-app cpu, memory, disk, and network usage – comes in handy when I want to know which app is making my hard disk churn
  • storage spaces – lets you define a virtual disk out of several existing drives and add new drives to it without any formatting or partitioning. Also includes RAID-like features (RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5) without the hassle of rebuilding arrays or making sure disk sizes match.
  • reset/refresh button – takes Windows back to its factory-default state without/with personal files and settings with the click of a mouse. I haven’t had to reinstall Windows in a while, but this would be convenient rather than having to dig out the disc and product key again.
  • fast boots (apparently sub 5 seconds with an SSD and a UEFI motherboard, but still a lot faster than windows 7 boots)
  • pervasive search and share – any app can tell windows it supports searching and/or sharing and is included in the search and share charms. This took some getting used to, but is definitely a better approach than having every app implement its own solution. The app doing the sharing has no knowledge of the share destination.
  • built-in anti-virus program, no need to install Security Essentials since it’s already there.<
  • native support for ISO files – no need to burn them to a disc first, or get a third-party ISO reading app.
  • improved Open File dialogs that support grabbing files from Skydrive, Facebook, Photobucket and more, right alongside local folders.

And of course, there is the huge developer improvement of WinRT, which massively updates the Win32 API and makes programming native apps feel like programming .NET or Java apps with none of the performance penalties that happen when running on the Java Virtual Machine/Common Language Runtime. They’ve also added lots of features for tablets, like cellular data support with airplane mode and metering, much improved power saving, support for all of the gyroscopes and GPS gadgets that are in tablets, and multiple touch points (in fact, tablets must have at least five to get the Windows 8 sticker).

It’s definitely a risk, and if it flops, MS will lose a ton of money. I’ve been using it for months and have no complaints. It did take me a while to figure some things out. There are things I disagree with, like putting printing inside of the Devices charm (that one l would have never found on my own). I think lots of power users will gripe about it but eventually switch over. And in 2-3 years, no one will remember how much they hated it. The same thing happened with XP as many things were moved around from where they were in Win98. I wasn’t old enough, but I’m sure there were similar complaints when Windows first came out and the old DOS users had to start using a mouse and adjusting to the new desktop paradigm.

And remember, Win+C, Win+I, Win+F.