Thursday, November 1, 2012

Windows 8 - My initial experience

As you all know, Microsoft has been betting big on Windows 8 and much have been talked about it in the recent times. I wanted to try it out myself and the attractive upgrade offer from Microsoft tempted me further and I just went ahead for the upgrade.

I decided to try it then on my office Laptop, which is DELL XPS 13, which eventually is my own as I have bought it from my organization. I know that Microsoft has made the upgrade easy using their Upgrade Assistant. I just googled for it and ran it . It did not took much time to scan the hardware and all the installed application to come up with a compatibility report. Among few others, the components that are not compatible were the Cisco VPN client and the Touchpad driver. While the I would not be using the VPN client any more, thought I could find a driver update from DELL and as such went ahead the upgrade by ordering it online.

The 2 GB download took under two hours, and after downloading, it prompted me whether to create a disk or to save it for later install, but I just chose to run it then as I did not had any data to be backed up and I was fine to lose everything on the Laptop. The installation did not took much time and there were couple of restarts in between and I was greeted with the Windows 8 screen prompting me to login. Logged in, I saw the Start screen, much like the Windows Phone, with tiled shortcuts for the Windows 8 Applications.

Amongst the apps on the Start screen is the short cut for the Desktop, which is similar to the typical Windows 7 desktop screen but without the Start button used to explore the programs.During Login, Windows 8 did greeted me that there are certain hidden shortcuts on the corners, which I did not pay much attention though, but figured it myself later. Hover your mouse on the lower left of the screen, you will see the shortcut to switch to the start screen / desktop. When you take the mouse cursor to the top right, you will find the previously used applications be it Windows 8 Apps or Desktop Apps. The Alt + Tab also works for switching amongst the open applications. The lower right corner hides a context menu, which brings up settings, search options, the operation of which is dependent on the actively running application on the foreground.

I experienced an inconsistent response from my external wireless mouse, but did some research to find that it was a problem with the driver for the USB 3.0 hub which I was using to plug in the wireless USB dongle. The DELL XPS 13, being an ultrabook, it has only two USB ports, and did not had Ethernet port. That’s why I had to use a USB hub to have enough USB ports. I could find a driver update for the USB hub, which was from Fresco logic and it worked well after the update.

I then looked up the DELL support website for available driver updates for Windows 8 and there were quite many updates for the Touchpad, Wi-Fi, WIDI (Wireless Display) and I downloaded all and updated them. With this, the OS and Hardware worked fine.

Chrome and Firefox worked as before, but the desktop version of IE did not work well. But the new IE part of the Windows 8 Apps worked very well, but the UI is far different and it needs time to get used it. It is more like the IE on the smart phones. No Menu bar / tool bar, etc. I still find better working with the Desktop version of the browsers as I have been used to it. But also making attempts to use the other browser time and again to familiarise myself with it.

It took a while for me to figure out how to shut down my Laptop, as there isn’t a start button and the Windows 8 start screen also does not has an option. But later figured it out that it is hiding in the Settings context menu, where you will find a power icon, which then leads to options for restart, sleep or shut down. Later I also figured it out that the Alt + F4 on the desktop brings up the usual shutdown screen. Alt + F4 also works for closing the active applications. The Windows 8 Apps do not have a title bar and there are no close buttons or menus. Alt + F4 seem to be the only way to close such applications.

Another issue I ran into is that I had lose my corporate domain user account and login using my own local account. Switching to a different local account was very easy, but I did not get to see the apps / configurations that I did as the corporate domain user. Though this is the expected behavior with any version of Windows OS, I need to explore much to figure out how to get these working for multiple users.

The native mail application allows you to set up your google mail, exchange email or even any other email accounts. The mail, calendar and the people applications are all integrated and it allows you to setup sync the contacts in facebook, linkedin, twitter and google to the people.

Though the UI and the OS is good and usable, it is far different from the earlier versions of Windows and one may have to spend considerable time in exploring, learning and getting used to this all new Windows 8 OS.

Though little confusing as there are considerable changes in the UI it is very much usable. There is still so much for me to explore and I will post one more blog on this topic, covering more of my experiences with Windows 8.