The Windows 8 customer preview came out yesterday and I decided to test it out. Posted my intentions to Facebook and immediately a friend of mine, who really knows his stuff, informed me that it’s Windows ME given new life. This did not bode well, but I thought how bad could it be? Windows ME was pretty horrible due to it being badly executed and not a lot of added features over Windows 98SE. I actually used it a lot when it came out though, and only had issues with networking. Considering not a lot of people had home networks in 2000 this wasn’t totally unexpected.
So I burned my ISO to DVD, partitioned my hard drive and installed Windows 8 on another partition. My workstation has a nice 3ghz dual core Xeon processor with four gigabytes of RAM so I wasn’t worried much about compatibility. The compatibility tool had checked out too and no driver conflicts in general. I was up and running in thirty minutes. Or so I thought. Now keep in mind I’ve purposefully not kept up with Windows 8 developments so my opinion wouldn’t be skewed by knowing where things are.
The first thing it wanted me to do was enter my Live account for my computer Login ID. Since I was only checking out the OS I went ahead and did so, even though normally I’d select the “Local ID” option. Having the Windows Live ID as my login proved helpful as it automatically linked my Messenger, Skydrive, and other Live services automatically. For privacy reasons I’m not sure that this is a good thing, but since I use all that stuff anyway I am not terribly concerned.
That was about the only pleasant thing about it. The menu that comes up on the desktop version is pretty neat. The problem is there’s no obvious start button. I used the Windows Key on my keyboard so that was fine except most Windows users (including myself) are used to using their mouse entirely. So I fired up Internet Explorer and it came up full screen, which was cool, except again there was no obvious means of closing it once done. Hitting escape did nothing, F11 did nothing and there was no ‘X’ in the corner anywhere. I had to use ALT+F4, which is not a bad thing, but most Windows users aren’t aware of most keyboard shortcuts. I don’t remember if hitting the Windows button did anything.
I finally found the “Start” button, it’s a little nearly invisible square on the bottom left corner. It’s not really a start button so much as a sort of secondary task bar. I also have a second monitor so I was very impressed to see the extended task bar on it. What I wasn’t impressed about was how hard it was to find how to shut the computer down though. Hint: it’s on the right, and under the settings option of all places.
So my first impression about Windows 8 is that it’s basically Windows 7 with a horrible, if pretty, “Start Menu” interface. It looks like they’ve tried to make Windows mimic the idea of running “apps” the way you would on a cell phone. This is awesome, for tablets, netbooks, touch screen PC’s, and cell phones but the default options for a normal desktop just aren’t user-friendly. I hope this changes somewhat after the commercial release. Also it should be noted I didn’t customize it at all so perhaps there’s a way to have the more traditional user interface available, but I don’t particularly want to find out.