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Initial thoughts and feelings about Win8x

Updated on July 14, 2014
Marilynn Dawson profile image

Born-again Christian single mother of two grown kids. PC Tech, and Author of 18+ books in the non-fiction, personal/spiritual growth genres


New operating systems come and go in the world of computers and laptops. It doesn't matter if you are dealing with the Mac OS, or the myriad that Microsoft has put out over the years, or even if you are a linux person and wading through the jungle of Linux distros popping up on the 'net every year. Regardless of the corner you choose to engage in, change is inevitable. In fact, for us technicians, change is part of what drives our income. Drivers for hardware change depending on the OS being utilized. Software changes from one update or version to the next. Criminals jump into the mix, making sure us techs are kept on our toes as we engage various tools to clean up various systems from the latest threat

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Ways We Learn

All this change puts technicians squarely into two groups: A) Those that have the financial backing to jump back into class with every new change. and B) Those who learn on the fly. Now the first group will often learn on the fly as well, but with reduced need thanks to paying for the next round of knowledge updates.

I've always been one to learn on the fly. That's just been how I've done things over the years. I'm hands on, don't like video tutorials, and can usually find what I need within 15 to 30 minutes of time. More often, answers can be found in less than 5 minutes. This even has friends and family asking me to locate information for them because of the speed with which I can locate it most of the time. Much of what you learn in tech school has more to do with how to find the info you need, than actually giving it to you. This skill is highly prized in the tech industry.

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Different Types of Users

Lately, the learning on the fly has been with sporadic forays into Windows 8/8.1. Before Windows 8/8.1 began crossing my desk, other technicians and geeks in the digital world have been trading hands-on reviews ranging from "My grandparent can't figure this out" to "my toddler loves the metro interface!". I've run into people who have no trouble using the OS, to people whose circumstances make the OS quite a challenge to overcome! Not everyone learns at the same speed, and certainly not everyone out there embraces change very well.

So far, I have clients in all three groups. One client has very little trouble with their win8/8.1 machine because they do very little with it. They surf online, use email, manage photos and that's about it. Another client finds it very difficult to transition from the world of Win7 to the world of Win8. Every new message on the screen is a catastrophe. A third client has discovered that while general usage works quite well, there are new dances in the mix to get win8/8.1 to talk well on existing networks.

1st Observation

So far, most of the techsupport I've had to engage in, has been on win8x laptops. My first observation in that arena, is that there is no default desktop method being employed for the usual graceful shutdown. Some laptops come from the factory with a shutdown button on the taskbar, others don't. For those that don't, I've since learned that the preferred way, according to Microsoft, for shutting down a laptop is to head back to the Metro Interface and click the shut down button way up in the top right of the screen. This is a dangerous place to put that button because if you swipe too far with your finger on the keypad, you'll bring out the settings charm bar instead. Fortunately, other technicians have learned how to create that shutdown button themselves, and posted the how-to online so other techs can put that same button onto the desktop of their users as well. If there's one thing I really appreciate about the IT industry, it's how freely technicians generally exchange knowledge with each other. I've met the occasional scrooge who insists on being paid for their knowledge, but most are throwing it all over the 'net. Such freedom of information helps those of us who learn on the fly, quite a bit.

2nd Observation

My second observation so far, is that once again, Microsoft has made individualization difficult. They've jumped on the "single sign-on" bandwagon that Google, Facebook, and others have decided to start using. If you need to join your unit to a domain-based network, or if you just plain prefer to have your own private login separate from anything Microsoft would force you into, you have to look for a small link in the bottom left of the setup screens when it comes time to set up your login account. Even after clicking this link to use your own login, you must still cancel your way through the Microsoft Account creation screens until you are finally given the opportunity to set up your offline account. Once this is done however, you are then able to join it to a domain or carry on privately as normal. Well, almost normal. Recently, the client where all new messages are a catastrophe had me swing by their desk, and the only way out of a full-screen white Messenger box demanding a Microsoft Account, was to click the Windows key on the keyboard which jumps you back to the Metro screen, THEN return to the desktop where they wanted to be originally. I had to enter Task Manager to end the Messenger app so that her machine would run normally again. Learning that the windows key was the trick was just the usual, "I wonder if this would help" routine. But for a new and scared user, having this Messenger screen take up the entire desktop area with no on-screen cues to get rid of it was cause for panic.

Third Observation

In keeping with different companies setting up win8x laptops differently, a laptop I was given for subcontracting work wouldn't just bring out the charm bar when you swiped too far to the right, but would also flip me back to the Metro screen mid-task! I had to turn off this laptop's side-swipe action in the unit's touchpad settings. I am one to use the entire real estate of a touchpad, so discovering the side-swipe feature doing the constant kick-back to the Metro screen was a rude surprise.

Final Concluding Thoughts

So far, Metro is just an annoyingly busy welcome screen that I could seriously do without. I spend all my time on the desktop, never making use of the Metro interface unless I am trying to find a program I just installed. As far as desktops go, the win8x desktop is largely functional if not boxy-looking, or as many techs are putting it, very win95 or win3.1 for workgroups-looking. Many feel that as a result, Microsoft has come full circle, just adding in more security finally. Even most of the dos-shell commands are still available as left over from win7.

The question now is how quickly third party hardware companies will update their drivers for win8x. When winXP first came out, it took HP almost three years before all their printers had XP drivers. I'm not against progress, but I do find myself frustrated by change simply for the sake of change. If there is a genuine benefit to changing, then fine, do so. But if the change is merely for the sake of change, more headaches than smiles tend to result. So far that seems to be the case with Win8x. Outside the surf and email crowd, the headaches are outweighing the smiles to such a degree that even Microsoft is changing their marketing tune to focus on windows 9!

My initial take on Windows 8x then, if you like adventure and being on the bleeding edge with plenty of Tylenol and bandaids available, then dive into win8x. But if you don't like headaches, don't like being on the bleeding edge, and just want things to work right out of the box as you've come to expect, my advice is to wait.

© 2014 Marilynn Dawson


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    • Marilynn Dawson profile image

      Marilynn Dawson 3 years ago

      Unfortunately, from screenshots I'm seeing on various tech blogs already, win10 is supposed to be a win7/8 hybrid, mostly building on win8. Kind of like how win7 was built mostly on VISTA. Sadly, that means there' s still going to be that major learning curve for some people.

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 3 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      I think that with their announcement of Windows 10 (not 9!) Microsoft is implicitly admitting that Win 8/8.1 was a major dud. I don't want to have to be "retrained" in order to use my computer; I just want to get my work done with as little need to pay attention to the tool itself as possible. All the training I've imbibed from Windows 3.1 on makes me extremely resistant to a totally new paradigm that doesn't help me do what I do any better. I skipped Win8, and am looking forward to seeing what Win10 looks like.