Marmite you either love it or you hate it right? Windows 8 in my opinion is in the same mind set as Marmite. That said I used to hate olives, a wise person once told me that be persistent with eating olives and one day you will love them….. Maybe its the same with Marmite?
I have been running Windows 8 now for about a month along with the Office 2013 preview, when I eventually got my system up and running (more about that later) I found myself hating it to start with, but I can now fondly look back over the last 4 weeks and see it as a learning curve.
The install of Windows 8 is very fast, I recon you can build a system from scratch in about 15 minutes, the whole process is very slick and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist. I personally opted for the UEFI option as opposed to the standard legacy BIOS boot, this caused me a few issues. Mainly because I was using our Zalman virtual cd drive which doesn’t seem to detect the presence of UEFI bootable media, after a couple of failed attempts I quickly burnt the image to a DVD and 12 minutes later I was presented with the metro modern desktop.
There are a few drivers missing for my system (Dell Latitude E6420), namely the fingerprint reader and the SD card reader, both of which I very rarely use so will put up with until the official Windows 8 drivers are released. Again maybe its me been a little OCD, but what is the point making your system unstable by installing drivers that weren’t designed for it?
I built my system at home but as this was a work machine I needed it to be part of the domain and it would then benefit from our DirectAccess connectivity back to HQ. I setup our firewall to allow PPTP access, joined it to the domain, did a quick “GPUPDATE / force” and before you know it I was up and running.
I quickly installed my favourite apps, I like to keep my system relatively clean, I guess its a bit of a OCD thing I have going. On the whole it went relatively smooth though I did hit a couple of snags;
- Activating caused me a few issues, I am not sure why yet. I suspect its because Windows 8 Enterprise was looking for our internal activation server (which we don’t have), the resolution to this was to use the following command in an elevated command prompt slmgr.vbs -ipk “YOUR_PRODUCT_KEY”.
- I then came to install our helpdesk software, this needed .NET 3.5 windows feature enabling to install correctly. Seems that Windows 8 uses Windows Update to install new features, I am guessing that this is what gives the OS a much smaller foot print. Anyway I got round this my using the CD and the dism command “dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:NetFX3 /Source:f:sourcessxs”, which effectively installs the feature from the source CD. I think the reason for this was that we are using an internal Windows 8 R2 servers as our WSUS server, I am assuming that an update will be released or we may have to upgrade this to Windows 2012.
In my initial period of getting used to Windows 8 I have found myself searching Google for lots of answers, you are usually greeted by a few pages of people experiencing similar issues. After all the product has only been available in its final incarnation since the 16th August, 2012, people who are running this software are in the minority, I would like to call us pioneers….. Here are the answers to a few things that I found myself pondering over;
How do I get to the desktop?
A couple of ways I have found, when in metro modern you can press the Windows button (The Windows button will become your friend in Windows 8), you can also type Desktop and click on the icon, I have also found escape works but I think you need to have some non native Windows 8 apps running for this to work. You can also alt and tab if you are in the modern desktop
Where has my show desktop icon gone?
Easily just put your mouse in the bottom right hand corner, right click and press show desktop.
How do I see all my apps that are installed?
Right click in modern and select the All Apps icon in the bottom right, this is especially useful if you want to see an app that you have hidden.
How do I shutdown my machine?
Again a couple of options, the easiest I have found is by pressing the Start+I combination which brings up the settings for the current context. You will always have the power icon on there and you can just select this and decide the computers fate.. You can also use the Alt F4 shortcut when you are on your desktop.
What is my charms bar?
This is a context sensitive system wide bar with a total of 5 buttons; Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings. While the buttons appear from the right side, a notification panel appears from the left side displaying the Current Time, Day, Date, Internet Connection and Battery Power Status. You can get to it by moving your mouse to the top right or pressing Start+C.
Where has my Windows Aero gone?
Microsoft have dropped this feature stating it was “dated and cheesy”, there are people who are currently building modifications to bring this back. But is it worth it for something that brought very little value? Just use alt tab or hover over the relevant application icon on the taskbar.
What happened to my easy to find options in the start menu?
There is a hidden basic start menu which will get you to all your much loved areas of Windows, device manger, system menu etc…. Just hover over the bottom left of any screen until the modern UI icon pops up and then right click. You can also press Start+X at any point.
How do I name my networks?
Any wireless network seems to name its connection by its SSID which is fine. Any wired network just gets named Network 1, Network 2 etc… I have found a way in the registry to change this but no easy way in the UI, would love to hear if someone has found a way or Microsoft’s reasoning for taking away something that was easily done in Windows 7.
So to a couple of things I really like;
- The file copy has a graph, nice to see what sort of throughput you are getting when you are copying files.
- Task Manager looks great and gives you lots more information
- Spell Check is now in IE and also in many modern desktop apps
- You can uninstall apps directly from the modern desktop
- Once we get better support from our existing apps to use things like tiles in the modern UI I think we will find ourselves spending less and less time on the desktop and more time in metro modern.
- It looks clean
- It boots and sleeps much faster.
- I like the simplified way of categorising networks, private or public and the fact you can switch between them by turning sharing on or off
- Like the idea of a store, though not used it much yet! There is a Remote Desktop modern desktop app which you can install.
- Ability to use Skydrive, I am told that DRM it also built into this which can help with company data leakage.
I actually think we also need to look at the new Microsoft tablets that are coming out, these will be running Windows 8 & Windows 8 RT (ARM based version), once you have one of these devices running alongside your desktop, all based on the same code base you have a very powerful tool indeed.
At Fusion we need to start exploring the management side of Windows 8 and ensure that we can support it effectively, we have already started this so watch this space. Depending on how our internal testing goes we will be looking all rolling out Windows 8 to certain clients in the next 6 – 12 months. If you are interested in what Windows 8 can do for you, why not get in contact with us?
I have just scratched the surface here, but what I hope to get across is don’t believe everything that people are saying about Windows 8, its not the next Vista. Vista was disappointing, even Microsoft admit this, but Windows 8 is more like olives. If you try it enough and persist you will end up thinking how did you live without it.