While I await delivery of the MacBook Air sometime this (or possibly next) week, I’ve taken the liberty of dusting off 2009′s Dell XPS M1730 which is a beast of a “laptop” (read: brick). It has 6Gb RAM, RAID-0 striped 320Gb 7,200RPM drives, Core 2 Duo Extreme that can be overlocked to 3.4Ghz and a Blu-Ray reader/burner.
It’s now running Windows 8.
It’s a good excuse as any to spend time getting to grips with Windows 8 on proper hardware (rather than virtualisation) because love it or hate it, 8′s coming. As I work with Windows to an extent that I support the software we’ve written for backing up Windows desktops, laptops, and notebooks, I need to understand the ins and outs of Windows 8 to best answer the inevitable questions that await me when we release the next version of our software.
As it stands Windows 8 isn’t bad. It’s not great either, but it isn’t bad. I was overly worried when first booting from the DVD that anything was happening. For a long period of time, I thought the installation system had crashed. I do wish Microsoft would have taken the liberty to provide more on-screen feedback when booting the kernel and the installation program because for a very long while only the new Windows logo appeared on screen.
Apart from that, the install went smoothly and was up and running within 30 minutes. Having installed the NVIDIA drivers (this monster has dual 1Gb 9800M GTXs configured in SLI mode), we were pretty much good to go. I had to disable Windows 8′s default font size of “medium” as it made everything look terrible. I opted for the smaller font size and now I feel I’m not looking at a dinky toy OS. However, there is the matter of..
Windows 8 User Interface (which I won’t refer to Metro due to ongoing trademark disputes). The Windows 8 UI forces everybody to use an UI that is really best suited for tablets and not for desktop computers. It’s the equivalent of Apple forcing me to use Launchpad for everything rather than the freedom of OS X’s Finder. I just want to go into my desktop and launch individual programs from there. I do not care about a full screen weather app, news app or anything else that’s full screen. Save for that the tablet.
Even after a full day of use, I find myself continuing to use Desktop much more than I would any of the Windows 8 UI apps. Indeed, I’ve even removed many of them from the “Start” home page.
One thing I did first of all was to test Now TV. I’m pleased to say that apart from reaching the number of maximum devices message (probably caused by the iPad and failed attempts to get anything working on the Macs), films played smoothly and without fuss. I’ve so far seen Johnny English Reborn and the 60s classic, Fantastic Voyage. All good so far. I’ll vent my anger at Now TV regarding the Mac side of things later this week.
I’ll let you know how I get on with Windows 8 – in many respects it’s much more responsive and nippier than 7, but with the new Windows 8 UI getting in the way, it’s making simple tasks more complicated and annoying (it’s not a question of retraining – literally, there are things I can do much quicker with just the Desktop rather than having a clunky tablet-style interface getting in the way).