Windows 8 My Computer (or First Impressions of the Latest Thing)

Let’s start with a little music, shall we?

(applause for the Bard)

By now, you’ve probably heard something about a new operating system from Microsoft called Windows 8.  (Unless, of course you’ve been living in a box under a rock on another planet, and even if you hitched a ride on the Curiosity rover or were in a box under a rock in the proximity of the Curiosity rover, you probably heard at least a rumbling or two about this new OS, but I digress.)

As we geekly types are wont to do, I played around with Windows 8 as a virtual machine while it was in Developer Preview and Consumer Preview modes, and when the witching hour struck on October 26, 2012 (that’s today, in case you didn’t notice), I was standing in line (or “on line” as they say in parts of New Jersey) on the Internet waiting for the wonderful new version of Windows to download to my laptop and streamline my digital existence once and for all.

Actually, I got it because I need to be able to support our faculty and students when they come calling.  To be honest, I was perfectly content with Windows 7.  However, as the bard said, the times, they are something something and if you snooze you lose and if you lose you don’t win and if you don’t win you didn’t try and if you didn’t try it doesn’t matter how you played the game but the game is the same it’s just up on another level and the answer, my friend, is 42 and… uh.  sorry.  got a little carried away with the cliche button (sold separately).

The upgrade to Windows 8 is cheap (for now).  The “Pro” version is only $40, although the price will jump after the first of the year.  The upgrade process is relatively painless, but if you plan on upgrading you MUST MUST MUST MUST MUST MUST do a system backup first.  You should be doing that on a regular basis ANYWAY, but for those of you who don’t back up as often as you should (yes, I’m looking at you), this is one time when a full backup is absolutely mandatory.

I upgraded right on top of my existing Windows 7 installation and didn’t lose any data and almost all of my programs are working properly.  But, you don’t want to rely on my experience.  DO A BACKUP BEFORE PERFORMING THE UPGRADE just in case you’re not as fortunate as I was this time around.  The download and upgrade process took about 60 minutes or so to complete.

I’ve only spent a few hours exploring the final release of Windows 8 and the first thing I’ll say is that it requires some adjustment. In case you haven’t heard, there is no Start button.  There is no Start Menu.  There is no Windows logo in the lower left hand corner of your screen.  That is weird.  But I’m going to try to adjust and see how life goes without it.  However, for those who must have a start menu, Lifehacker has come to the rescue with information on some third party tools that you can use to bring the Start Menu back to Windows 8.

But let’s get past the lack of a Start Menu, shall we?  Windows 8 WANTS to be your friend.  It WANTS to tie all the pieces of your fractured Internet self into one cohesive unit so that you don’t have to go all over the Interwebs to carry out your online life.  For example, Windows 8 wants to tie your local photos (the ones on your hard drive) and your Facebook photos and your Flickr photos all into one album so that you can click on the album and find everything in one place.  Pretty cool, in theory, and so far, considering that the OS was only released today, it’s pretty cool in execution.  But we’ll see how it goes in the long run.

Windows 8 incorporates the concept of “Apps” into its framework with some interesting results.  Some of the apps provide a solid, seamless integrated interface while others (like the default WordPress app) leave much to be desired.  I’d really like to be able to tie everything together, and I think that Microsoft is on the right track here.  But it’s going to take some time for that seamless flow to emerge for most of us.

Windows 8 is a fresh start, a new beginning, a chance for folks to bring all those fragments of their digital lives together into a unified structure.  Time will tell if it crashes and burns or if it really does change the way we get things done.  One the one hand, I think there will be some significant resistance to the change in the market and some consumers will see this as a reason to move to Mac once and for all.  On the other hand, Apple products ain’t cheap and many consumers and businesses will be hesitant to fork over the extra cabbage to replace all their equipment with Applestuff.

The bottom line is this: Microsoft has made a ballsy move. A universal OS that works the same on the desktop, laptop, tablet, and smartphone is an idea whose time has come (or at least is coming soon).  Windows 8 wants to be that OS.  Will it?

Regardless of how it all shakes out in the end, one thing is certain. Windows 8 is a game changer.  Whether or not Microsoft comes out ahead in the game remains to be seen.

I’ll be spitting out more random thoughts and observations on Windows 8 as time rolls on.  I just wanted to add another little bit of noise to all the static that’s filling the air right now.

Til next time…



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