Windows 8 mini-review: My first hour

An hour of primarily disappointment and three total machine lockups.

Tons of stuff that looked like a good idea turned out to be a disaster. Let’s list some stuff. All this on Macbook, unibody late-09. I point out once again: this is after an hour of playing, without studying anything or doing any reading.

1. Three complete machine lockups. Unacceptable. I’m typing this from Ubuntu 12.04, fastest booting OS on my machine.
2. Boot not much faster. My time to desktop, uh, I mean Steam, isn’t much faster. Reports of speedups may have been exaggerated.
3. Microsoft account required to read Gmail?! Seriously, wtf.
4. Games app not updated out of the box. You get a big banner that you must must must update via Windows Store app. It’s clickable, except nothing happens.
5. Touchpad doesn’t work. I get it, I have Apple drivers for it which may be broken. But if they don’t work, don’t completely disable the device — it’s moronic. You don’t need a driver because it is also representing itself as a mouse, not just a touchpad.
6. WPA2 Enterprise settings finally at sane defaults. Something good at least. They could have turned on ‘authenticate as user’ by default, too, though.
7. Whoever designed charms opening method needs to be shot. Point to up right, then wait, then click on an option? Seriously?
8. Extra options by right clicking. Seriously?! Apps have hidden interface — and I’m supposed to just GUESS it’s opened by rightclick? I wouldn’t mind if it didn’t go against every convention on every other OS, including Windows 8 itself: charms are opened one way, additional app options another. Why not make me point into another corner, at least, to be consistent!?
9. Windows Store app doesn’t come with obvious Update button. The only way I found to open the update screen is to open Games app and get that app to open Windows Store app to see 14 updates available.
10. Services blow. More than once an app started doing something online (with an annoying oversized “I’m working” bar instead of their equally annoying excuse for a spinner) and never finished. Including the Windows Store app doing updates.
11. Calendar app doesn’t support multiple calendars per account. And it’s even documented in the FAQ for the Calendar app with my precise use case: Gmail account with multiple calendars, including shared ones. Jeebus. This from the company that makes Outlook.
12. Tiles are oversized, live tiles are annoying. Some tiles are live, some are not. Most that ship are completely useless to me, for example the stock ticker tile. So they add to the noise. I saw an option that appears to allow me to turn tiles off, but having some tiles live and some not makes me yell and scream at the choice of the default ones. Most of default ones that are live are the ones that are useless to me.
13. Microsoft account required for Mail app. Did I say this? If I did, I’ll say it again.
14. Messaging app doesn’t come with XMPP. Facebook supports XMPP, Windows Live Messenger supports XMPP, Google Talk supports XMPP. Instead they opt for supporting one Facebook account and one Windows Live account — the one you used for login. Doesn’t matter that I actually have two old unused, but contact filled accounts which I may want to put into good use again (and which happen to be linked with the current account); I can’t, because I switched to a new account and a new address. WTF.
15. No Twitter support out of the box. Windows 8 is the only current desktop OS coming without at least the ability to send tweets, if not read them. Ubuntu comes with Gwibber and integration into menu bar, and OS X comes with integration into notification center.
16. Everything is in alt-tab. Metro apps, Win32 apps, it doesn’t matter. Everything is mixed. And if an app starts launching and you alt-tab, apparently you canceled the launch and made it shut down. If it completes the launch, it’ll stay active. If not, not. At least that’s the impression I have.
17. Apps launch slowly. Shouldn’t use of Metro and .Net and whatever not made launches snappier?
18. Tiles are, in practice, ginormous and ugly. Oh, I said that already. But I didn’t say that some are tiny, and some are big, and that I’m totally confused by the way they’re supposed to be ordered.
19. CONTACTS TILE IS ANIMATED. (!!) First, I have NO idea why I’d want to watch my contacts’ photos. Second, don’t animate that. I do need an addressbook, but I don’t need it to blow up contacts’ avatars into my face by default.
20. Mail app is best made of the default ones. And that doesn’t mean much.
21. I need quick access to settings, especially during setup, but also later! Mac’s even got a standardized shortcut for that: command+comma. While I’m setting up the system, I don’t want to always go through annoying procedure with charms.
22. Expose! If you guys already bothered to make all these fullscreen apps and all cutesy and what not, and if you mapped command+tab to something more sane than what you did in Windows 7, then you could have also implemented Expose so I can actually see all the apps that I’m running. Their content would even be easily visible in tile-sized thumbnails, considering what font size you guys picked…
23. HORIZONTAL M*F* SCROLLING. (Say that in your best Samuel L Jackson voice, please.) I find horizontal scrolling HIGHLY irritating. I think it even stops scrolling if you point it over some widgets while not over others, so you have to ‘evade’ the deadzones? I may be wrong on this one. And I surely ain’t rebootin’ into Windows so it can freeze on me once again.
24. Did I mention how the Games app doesn’t work out of the box? And how the Store app has hidden the Update button somewhere I couldn’t find it?
25. ARGH! And argh! No “sideloading” of Metro apps! Argh! They renamed plain-old installation into sideloading, as if it were something despicable and not-recommended! And then they blocked it!
26. Whoever came up with the idea that Store app needs no search box because you can open the Search charm needs to be outcast from the user interface design community for the rest of their life. They thought you can replace all search functionality with a hidden, hard to reach button that’s reachable only via a gesture that needs a delay. I didn’t think of hitting Ctrl+f because I saw no search box. Perhaps it works, perhaps it doesn’t. I’m not rebooting to check.
27. During install you are ‘encouraged’ to connect to WLAN… but lack enough options. Metro interface itself lacks enough WLAN configuration options; you have to drop back into desktop to configure the details, because improved defaults for connecting to a WPA2 Enterprise network are just that: improved. What if they don’t work? Well, no manual configuration for you. What’s worse, during setup, the network I tried to connect to didn’t appear even after refreshing the list. New networks appeared, but not the one I needed. Cute. So I skipped connecting, hopefully not missing an opportunity for more joy.
28. I could probably come up with a dozen more things, but it’s 1am.

Some things are so horribly limited, so horribly underthought (or perhaps overthought by wanna-be-clever strategists) that I can’t imagine myself even contemplating switching to Windows 8 for productivity if, for any reason, I couldn’t use OS X anymore.

If I ever have to go anywhere but Mac, I’m going to Ubuntu. And I suspect that for my minimal gaming needs I’ll upgrade back to Windows 7. Some text I read implied that I’d need a developer license to even start writing Metro apps (hint: not needed even for writing iPhone apps in Simulator), and at the moment I’m unwilling to contemplate joining any such dev program and even less forking over cash for it. If I’m wrong on this one, sorry, I can’t be bothered to Google this at 1am.

I’m even extremely happy and pleased that I didn’t have to buy Windows 8, instead getting it via university’s membership in DreamSpark.

It’s 1am, and maybe I’m just tired. These are just first impressions. If I force myself to use the OS enough, maybe it’ll grow on me. Maybe Microsoft will turn Metro apps into something more than a pile of colored underpowered pieces of… joy. In the meantime, I’m just writing down my first, early impressions. If they change, I’ll write a small follow-up. And I sure hope that I’m just sleepy, grumpy and over-irritated right now. Because otherwise, this is a flop of epic proportions.

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