On Wednesday, 2013-07-25, I have received an HP 2000 series PC. The PC is good for what I expected. It is in no means my ideal PC, and not even my first choice of sub $1000 PCs. It is a good choice as a sub $500 PC. However, one serious flaw of the HP is it comes with Windows 8. Now, is Windows 8 the same kind of fiasco as Windows Vista, no. But is is a completely different mess of its own.
If you don’t know the idea of Windows 8, the idea is that you have a fully functional OS that runs an x86 CPU. Windows 8 and Windows RT are very much alike with the exception of Windows 8 is able to run “legacy” programs or programs that are designed to run in the native environment of Windows 7 or earlier Windows OSes. This segregation is only a part of the problem.
So, what are my gripes about Windows 8? Well, I have been frustrated with the OS in almost entirely. The reason I am not sending it back, and going back to the my HP G62 is that this PC will one day fail me, and I would want to extend its life as long as possible, so it is intended to only do a few tasks. Once the system dies, this PC will have to pick up those roles. But let’s go with major issues that I have have experienced in Windows 8.
Now, I am by no means trying to insult people afflicted with the mental illness of Schizophrenia. However, this is the best way I can describe how this OS behaves. When you log in, you automatically enter the tiled interface that Microsoft used to call Metro, but had legal issues with that, I will call it the Fisher Price interface. Anyone with Windows 8 can see the rationale to my sarcastic tone of the interface.
However, as much as it wants you to stay in the Fisher Price Interface, you are forced to the Desktop Interface to do some basic system management, or when you want to use some legacy apps. Now, if you download most programs from the Microsoft store, then you would be able to stay in this primary interface.
However, even the way the programs behave in these two environments are radically different. In the Desktop environment, you have most of what looks like a crippled version of Windows 7. In the Fisher Price environment, every app seems to consume the whole screen, and in some areas makes it a lot of trouble to have a 1/3 – 2/3 layout or a 2/3 – 1/3 layout. In other words, you can have two programs running at the same time, but one takes 1/3 of the screen, while the other takes 2/3 of the screen. You can not have an option of 1/2 – 1/2. If you are trying to work with two documents, or need to reference large text of information from one program and use it with another program, you are going to be frustrated. Even more, you have to go through multiple steps if one of the programs you are trying to deal with is in the other environment.
Now, most of the apps in the Windows Store is intended for the Fisher Price (tiled) interface. Keep in mind that these apps demand the whole screen or some eccentric layout. I say most as there are some that are just pointers to a “legacy” app. However, are all Windows Programs here? By any means – no. So, you may still have to hunt, peck and search the Internet to get your programs.
There are a lot of programs that do the same thing. I have seen 30 clock apps. Why will there be a clock app? Because the Fisher Price interface omits the clock, showing it only when you pull out the “Charms” bar. This again reduces productivity as I now have to flip my finger, or in a more likely event move my mouse around to just see the time. No more just looking at a particular corner. Even with the clock apps (at least the one I chose), you still have to go to the main screen of the Fisher Price interface to see the clock. In other words, you must stop what you are doing.
Other apps are rather shady, and while I can’t prove malicious intent, it would seem as if Microsoft may not have a real vetting process, especially for apps that can compromise one’s security or privacy. I found a few unofficial Google Drive apps. Yes, an app that will require your Google Credentials. You have to put a lot of trust in a stranger for that.
Windows 8 Fisher Price environment is very friendly for touch screens, and terrible hateful to non touch screens. For example to close a program, you have to take the top, and drag it to the bottom.This is fine if you have a computer with a capacitive touch screen. However, many computers (even currently built) do not have a touch screen. My PC is brand new, and no touch screen. Now, I am not complaining that there is no touch screen, but now I have to move the mouse to the top – wait for it to change to a hand, click and hold the mouse button down while dragging it to the bottom. In Windows 7, as well as the desktop environment, there is an X which one simply clicks at the top of the window. Keep in mind, in the Fisher Price interface, there is no window. Every thing runs in the foreground – just like DOS. At least there is still multi-tasking.
As much as I tried, many programs I need – there is no Windows 8 Fisher Price app for it. Even with those that there are – hasn’t been reliable. There is a mail app, however I can not connect my standard IMAP email account from my hosting company to it. I even contacted my host’s support, and made sure I did everything correctly. However, it works well in Thunderbird which is a Legacy Program.
Next, I installed Firestorm which is a Second Life viewer. However, there has been a few times where this program crashed, even though it didn’t crash the Windows 7 PC (although that PC is failing). I am even using the same version, and if anything I will expect things to be less stable on the older PC with a less common CPU.
Hidden Chores Everywhere
If you want to shut down the PC, you have to move to the charms bar, select settings, and power. At least with the default settings on this PC, if I simply push and hold the power button, it goes to sleep (still running but at a reduced state). On the power button, there is sleep, shut down, and restart. So, where would hibernate be?
Want basic system management, move the mouse to where the start button should be in the Desktop Environment, and right click on the Start Screen that shows up in icon form. Scroll through your apps, move to the top left, and click the icon that shows up. And while there might be keyboard shortcuts, not everyone will know them.
There is no one place for everything, and one has to hunt down everything only to take twice as long to get there once you find where you have to go. This OS is far from productive.
What Should Have Been Done?
Let’s face it, Microsoft has completely screwed up. However, this is what they should have done. First, they shouldn’t have pushed Windows 8 on every PC. They should have let the Beta trials proceeded as they had, but they should have still allowed and even encourage OEMs to load Windows 7 on non-touch PCs. I mean when I (a 20 year long Windows user) is wondering if Linux will be a better option, this is obviously a problem.
Next, they should have stuck with one interface for Windows 8. If you want people out of the Desktop environment and in your Fisher Pirce UI, fine – but put everything there. Once you force your users (sometimes first timers) to switch UIs all of the time to do simple tasks, you are only going to make matters worse.
Next, there needs to be a better handle on your store. If you are trying to get everyone to go through your store, loading it with Shitware is not going to work. You need to commit to providing real programs, and alternatives. Doing it the way you are doing is only driving me away from the store.
When Microsoft came out with Windows 95, they also provided a manual. Windows 8, not so much. With something that is a major difference of what people has been doing for the past 15+ years, you should provide a manual to help guide people along, and not leave it to the OEMs to provide this. On-screen help tips will also be useful. None of that is apparent in Windows.
What Can Be Done?
My solution that I will be going for will effectively reduce the cause of going into the Fisher Price Interface. This will however cost me money. This will be through a shell program called RetroUI. There is a $5 price for 1 year of updates/upgrades, and forum support. I will likely choose the business package which will give 3 years updates/upgrades as well as email support for $15. This will give me less hassle of keeping it up to date, and email support is thrown in. Since I will likely only have this model for a few years, this will be an ideal situation.
RetroUI is a shell program which changes the UI of the OS. In this case, it will make the desktop mode more Windows 7 like. I could also block the hot corners, but that may or may not be needed. I will also be able to use the apps that are in the Fisher Price UI as if they were desktop programs.While this will be a hit on my budget (for what it does), it will be the best solution for me. Keep in mind I still have a credit card bill that I will have to pay off as well.
Keep in mind this will minimize the usage of the primary UI. For those that actually like the tile design of the OS will probably find this a waste of money. However for those that wish their PC came with Windows 7, this is hopefully an acceptable compromise.