Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Windows 8 Consumer Preview, Just a Tad Shinier Than The Previous Turd

So hopefully everyone who is reading this has already read my previous blog entry on Windows 8, where I sighted my numerous complaints. If you haven't read it please check it out, its entitled Why Windows 8 Will Fail, at Least In the Desktop Market...

Okay so now that I've gotten that out of the way, yesterday in Barcelona, Microsoft released its consumer preview of Windows 8. Immediately people started scrambling to get the download as fast as possible before the servers get clogged. The ISO is over 3GB, however Microsoft provided a nice little alternative to that in the form of an in-place upgrade install tool. The tool basically looks at what you have installed and only downloads and installs what is necessary to give you the consumer preview update. It's a very small file, took seconds to download.

Several people were reporting that if you wanted to install the consumer preview you would have to ditch the developer preview, this is just not true. I installed it just fine, using the upgrade tool. The tool will show you any applications it can upgrade and any it cannot. It then asks you what you'd like to do, install a fresh copy with no previous user files, or install a copy with your settings and files. I wanted to see how well the tool worked, so I chose to keep my previous settings and installed it. I know I have complained a lot about Windows 8, and I will have complained a lot more by the time you finish reading all this. Here's a couple of things I want to not complain about first, the in-place upgrade tool. Seriously whether Windows 8 flops or is successful, at least Microsoft has gotten this right. It is almost entirely automated and when its not, it's asking you a couple of important questions. It's exactly the way I would want an upgrade done. The second thing I liked was this was a little peppier than the developer preview, I figured they would fix a lot of the sluggishness I was feeling and I was right they did. And now on to the complaining.

After loading Windows 8 consumer preview for the first time, I was introduced to the Metro interface. It looks a little better, but not by much. So I clicked on desktop to see if anything changed and it looked ever so slightly better, but its still a turd compared to Windows Vista and Windows 7. I immediately noticed something odd, the Start button was missing. So I moved my mouse around and pulled it to that corner and nothing. So I figured maybe you need to use Metro to find it, so then I tried searching for a way to get back to Metro and couldn't find one. In the developer preview it was easy for me, on the desktop I'd just clicked the start button and it would yank me into Metro, clearly a bug, but useful for returning to Metro. The problem was, the start button was now gone, and there were no icons on the desktop to help, no shortcuts, no bars, I was screwed. I spent five minutes trying to figure out how the hell I was going to get back into Metro without having to reboot. It felt like if I was given a machine with only DOS on it, and someone removed the dir command. So several minutes later, on pure chance I hovered for a second in the top right corner of the desktop and a transparent menu appeared on the right of the screen. In the menu, I see an option called Start, so I assume this must be where they put the Start button, so I click it. And...It wasn't the start menu at all, it brought me right back to Metro. So I clicked on the Desktop tile and it occurred to me, the assholes at Microsoft have probably completely replaced the Start button with a shortcut to Metro, so on the desktop, I click my trusty Windows key on my keyboard and sure enough, up pops Metro. Here is a video of my experience:

So I click back into the desktop, I cannot believe the start button and start menu are completely gone. What a bunch of assholes. So having realized not only were they assholes for drastically changing a staple of Windows since 1995, they were assholes for making hidden features. You see Microsoft when you change something someone is so used to, they can do it in their sleep and on top of that hide it from plain sight, you earn the "Biggest Assholes in the World" award. It's like going to the home of a blind man, and rearranging all his furniture while he's away. The biggest problem with Windows 8 is its absurdly unintuitive. Frankly, I think people are going to need a manual to use it, which is tragic since manuals probably haven't been needed for windows since the days of Windows 95. So after my blood pressure dropped a little, I started moving the cursor all over the place, then I found that if I pull the cursor close enough to the edge of the screen in the lower left corner, a small box appeared. So I tried to click on the box, which promptly disappeared again. So I moved the cursor back and when it appeared, I tried again. It promptly disappeared again, so I tried again, this time I tried to right-click, still nothing. Ok, seriously this is starting to piss me off. I had no idea what to do, so I fidgeted with the mouse, moving it back and forth in the corner and clicking frantically, first with the left mouse button and then with the right, and suddenly a menu appeared. I realized now, you literally have to be right on the edge, touching the corner perfectly and then right-click the mouse to get the menu to appear. At first glance, I thought it was a context menu, since it didn't look like the start menu. Then sadly I realized Microsoft had fucked with the start menu making it an ugly gray dialog box with system shortcuts. I took a video showing you what it looks like and what you have to go through to see it.

I took a video of various things including my experience with the new Task Manager. I warn you its nothing special. Check the video to see what it looks like.

Here is a video I took of the new Internet Explorer version 10. Check it out, its radically different in every way. I hope it won't look like this on Windows 7.

In this video you will see what Windows Explorer looks like now, its a copy of the Windows 7 version of explorer with a Ribbon interface. Check it out:

So I wanted to get a video of me playing with a bunch of Apps, check it out. Its a little longer than the previous videos, so I added music to it to help pass the time, and since I'm only commenting on some of the stuff I'm playing with I figured it would be a better experience.

I point out a couple of times during these videos how unintuitive Windows 8 actually is. It was while trying to shutdown Windows 8, that I found another blockade. I show you just how hard it is to find the Windows Shutdown command. While it seems easy after the fact, when I first went looking I just couldn't find it.

So I gave this version much more of a chance than the developer preview, which was a complete piece of shit. This preview is still shit, just a little shinier I guess. Everything about the OS screams, "Come and play with me, I'm a cartoony reincarnation of my once former glorious self." You know those cell phones you give old people and children under six, you know the ones with like three buttons on them you have to program. That's what Windows 8 feels like to me, it wants so bad to be one of these:

Instead its one of these:

I think if Microsoft wants even a chance at success with Windows 8, they need to lose Metro as a primary component of Windows. I'm sure its really nice on a tablet, but it sucks major donkey shit on a computer. If they are determined to have this Metro UI be part of Windows, they need to redesign some of the OS. First, when you setup Windows for the first time, it should detect you are not using a tablet and ask you if you'd like to disable Metro and just use the standard desktop. That's a perfectly acceptable way to make Windows 8 a little better. The next thing they can do is fix my fucking Start button and Start menu. If they want any chance at convincing consumers to hand over $300+ for an OS, or $800+ for a new computer they better fix this now before its too late. Consumers do not adapt to change very well. Microsoft already saw this with Windows Vista which flopped. Human beings like changes to be made gradually over time, not all at the same fucking time. It's how greedy oil companies trick consumers into forking over $5+ a gallon for gas. They didn't just raise the price of gas from a dollar to five dollars, they did it gradually over a decade. It's like the boiling frog anecdote. Drop a frog in a pot of boiling water and he will immediately jump out, however put that same frog in a pot of cold water and slowly raise the temperature to a boil, and the frog will boil with it. The last thing Microsoft can do to make Windows 8 more tolerable is fix the malware problem once and for all. If consumers have more to gain than lose, they're certainly more likely to pay for it. 

Almost everyone in this world has had their computer compromised at one time or another by something malicious. At least those people who don't consider themselves to be tech savvy. Considerable time, effort and money are spent trying to solve the problem. Consumers are bombarded daily with attempts to compromise their computers, and many of them have ineffective or no software that will protect them from the problem. Microsoft has the ability to lock down the kernel, preventing much of this code from actually harming the system. They could also take steps to prevent this kind of code from even getting on the system. Windows Defender was a good tool to include with Windows Vista and Windows 7, but it doesn't protect against everything and it stacks up poorly against other products of the same type. Then Microsoft took a major step by releasing Security Essentials, which combined an Anti-Virus solution with a Anti-Spyware solution making it one of the more effective tools in the fight against malware. So while anyone can download this software free of charge, it does not come included with Windows 8. This is a major boneheaded move on the part of Microsoft in my opinion. Also they definitely need to do something about Internet Explorer. While Internet Explorer 9 made great strides toward solving this problem, it is still a vector for infection. Microsoft needs to take a couple more steps in my opinion, first block ads by default. While some ads are harmless tools that allow sites to monetize, most ads are used to bring a user to either an infected site, or used simply to execute code that will cause them to be infected. If you want ads, then either one build a database of known good ad hosts, maybe set something up like the Certificate authority, or two only allow ads that do not run using flash, java, active x, or another scripting language. The second thing that could be done is to setup an intermediary between the browser and the source of a url. That is, when a user clicks on any url, the browser first checks the link through a third-party system that can scan the source of the link to determine whether its safe, and return it to the browser. If the link is not safe, the user gets a message telling them it has been blocked for their safety. Obviously if the user knows the source to be safe or wants to assume the risk, then you have an option for it to be temporarily disabled. This gives them security but also freedom. And lastly, Microsoft needs to release Internet Explorer as open source. The two other major browsers, Chrome and Firefox are both open source. By allowing the community to check the source code of the browser, exploits can be found, and patched more quickly, as well as give programmers an opportunity to develop additions to the browser to help improve and secure it. It would also make the browser more available by allowing developers to port it to a different OS. There is no reason to keep Internet Explorer as a closed source, they don't make money from it, its caused them only grief since they started making it and although they do have browser supremacy right now, over time that will change as Chrome is becoming more widely adopted. I did see something interesting with Internet Explorer 10 while I was looking at it in Windows 8. Much like Google and Mozilla, Microsoft has added the ability for the browser to update itself as soon as there are changes. This allows them to quickly get vital code changes to the browser when needed. This is certainly a step in the right direction, but it won't help Windows 8.

I think about one more thing Microsoft can do to help sell Windows 8. Bundle Microsoft Office with it, at least in the Home Editions. You don't need to give consumers access to all of the tools, most people have no use for Infopath, Access, Publisher, OneNote, Outlook, or Visio. Just give them the basics, Word, Excel and Powerpoint for free. It will help save consumers some cash, by not having to purchase the suite for a couple of apps. Most people have no idea what most of those applications are actually used for with the exception of Outlook, but Outlook is dated for average users. Its now used mostly in corporate settings with an exchange server. I think most people today have some kind of webmail, its rare for anyone to still have a pop3 account to get their mail. And although Outlook can be configured to get webmail, since most people are in their browsers probably 99% of the day, it may be more convenient to get it from the web. Also most people feel its safer if they store their email online, at least from the perspective of disk failure. Why store thousands of emails locally on a hard disk that is just waiting to fail, when you can store them in a cloud where you can get tons of free space that is protected by redundant backup solutions.

So those are a few things Microsoft could do to help sell Windows 8. Of course no amount of help is going to solve the arrogance they have shown toward the consumers who buy their products. While this kind of thing may fly with consumers when it comes to Apple products, I doubt very much that it will fly for Microsoft. If you want to be innovative, inventive and hip, then give people a choice. Give them two competing products, and ask them to choose. You can say, "Hey would you like this outdated, insecure, pretty, standard, product or would you like something new? Something that can be used on many types of hardware, features cutting edge technology and was built with the mobile user in mind." You may not get the result you wanted but at least people will be given the choice. And that's all people really want.

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