Thursday, October 06, 2011

Windows 8 Developers Preview


After much gnashing of teeth and hair pulling I have managed to get Windows 8 up on both an old laptop and a Virtual machine.

The installation was much helped after I found out that there have been download issues from the MS website and some people (me included) ended up with truncated .iso files!!  I re-downloaded it an checked that it was the correct 2.8Gb, which is was second time.

After that…. 

It would not load on VMware workstation, but I am using V7 so I was only able to specify Windows 7 as the OS type not Win8, not sure if it makes any difference whatsoever.
I then tried Oracle Virtual box.  When I started the App it immediately wanted me to update it, so I did (more out of habit than any belief that it would make a difference) and loe and behold it offered me a “Windows 8” OS type!  Notable features.  Well I noticed immediately that it set the memory requirement to 1Gb(for 32bit 2Gb for 64bit!) Which is much  higher than the usual values for other OS’s.
My laptop only has 4Gb, 1Gb of that is used by the graphics card so I had to kill a few tasks to get it to a point where it would actually install.  But it then went on to install and start working!

Initial comments.

My 1st impression was “Very pretty, but nothing works”.   Then I changed the screen resolution. It, by default, sets the resolution to 800x600 (on both the laptop and the virtual) but then you click on the tiles and nothing happens.  I wound it up as far as I could, just to see what it looks like, and the tiles sprang into life.

Many (all??) of the tile apps that come pre-installed seem to want to be full screen.  I will withhold judgement on that for the moment.  IE looks totally different when launched as a tile, but can be put back in to “standard” mode.  I like the apps I have played with (Facebook, Twitter)  they are pretty, not revolutionary, but pretty.  I think that if I can pin Word Excel, and a few other key business apps to the Metro interface it could actually be quite good for offices where you only what the staff to have the apps you authorise.  I must remember that, being a techy, I am not like other users.  I typically have several apps open at a time, and visible (maybe even on two or more screens).  Most “normal” users tend to switch from app to app, using one at a time.

The active tiles are interesting, but I must admit the Facebook tile is very irritating as it scrolls through an ever changing selection of pictures from my friends.  Very distracting, especially as, when I saw a picture that intrigued me, I clicked on it and it took me to the home screen rather than the picture in question.  I think I would like it to scroll the news feed rather than pictures (this may be possible, but I have only been looking at it for a while and have not got that deep).

Another “odd” feature is the lack of “Exit” buttons on apps.  The intention is that you just use the apps and don’t worry about managing them.  When you want to move on you just go back to the “Start” screen (incidentally, alt + tab will take you back to the desktop not the start screen.  This is a pain, but, again, I am assuming it is a tweakable feature) and select another app.  Windows 8 will manage the open apps and will terminate the “oldest” when it needs more resources. 

So far I quite like it.  It will require slight mental shift and a change in my working practices, nothing dramatic, but still a change.  I will have to take my own advice and stop fighting the system (to make it behave the way it always has) and try to go with it.  The performance is not what I would call snappy, but I am not too upset about that as a, I am running it on a Virtual Machine and an aging laptop, b, It certainly is not bad, c, I have heard reports from people running it on better hardware that it is quite snappy and d, it is not released code so it probably does contain debug info, which will make it bigger and slower.

I will carry on experimenting and see where it takes me.