Friday, June 28th 2013

Windows 8.1, and Why You Should Let Go of Windows 7

When Steve Jobs went upstage in early-April 2010 to unveil the iPad, it was expected to be the next logical step to Apple's successful miniaturization of the MacBook to the category-defining MacBook Air. It was expected to be an OS X-based handheld that ran on hardware not much different. When Jobs revealed the iPad to be an upscale of the iPhone idea, rather than a downscale of the MacBook idea, the industry was never the same again. The successful reception of the iOS on both the iPhone and iPad is what could have been the genesis of the Windows of today, which looks great on smartphones, tablets, and touch-enabled notebooks, but is hated on desktops, particularly by the PC enthusiast community. Much of that hatred is misdirected, and is a waste of time. Here's why.

While Microsoft Windows CE and Windows Phone powered PDAs for years before the smartphone revolution, Microsoft's most popular creation in the mobile space has been Windows Phone 7, and its successors. The brand new 'tile' interface, coupled with clear, finger-friendly, and forgiving UI elements finally gave Microsoft the UI design it was looking for. Rather than making a repeat of Apple's winning formula of upscaling Windows Phone 7 to a software for tablets (i.e. being content with Windows RT), Microsoft extended the UI to the entire Windows product family, including operating systems for the PC, and shockingly, even Windows Server. With the new Windows 8.1 Release Preview, it's clear that Microsoft isn't going back on the direction Windows 8 took, and so as PC enthusiasts, we're forced to ask ourselves if putting up a fight against it, by clinging on to Windows 7, is really worth it.

The Start Menu that never really left.
The guiding principle behind a tile-like UI on mainline PC operating systems isn't that people would drop their mice and stretch their arms out to the monitor (a touchscreen), and begin using their PCs that way. It was so the PC in itself could evolve. The biggest point of contention for PC enthusiasts refusing to upgrade to Windows 8 and its inevitable successor is the lack of a Start menu. Well, not sure if you noticed, but the Start menu never left. It's only not a menu anymore, it's a screen. When you click on the start button on older Windows desktops, whatever shows up as a result, has your undivided attention. You're either looking for a program to launch, a document you were just working on, or finding your way to the key areas of the operating system. Your business with the Start menu gets wrapped up in a few seconds. So why not stretch that Start "thing" to cover the entire screen, and make it more functional?

Submenus of the Windows XP Start menu stretched out to the entire height of the screen, and with enough items, you could practically fill the screen with an extremely collapsed Start menu. Ask yourself if a fullscreen Start screen is really that different, after all, when Microsoft shrunk the Start menu to a fixed-size one in Windows Vista, by dropping in a scroll-bar, it sparked outrage.

Finding programs, documents, or OS-related functions using the Start screen takes nearly the same time once you get the hang of it, and can actually be quicker. When people screamed from the rooftops asking for their familiar Start button back on the taskbar, Microsoft obliged. The upcoming Windows 8.1, which will be a free upgrade to current Windows 8 users, features a Start button, right where you expect it to be. Before you get excited, all it does is spawn up the Start screen. Windows 8.1 also features an option with which your computer starts up straight to the desktop, instead of the Start screen.

The Modern UI bloat that doesn't really exist.
Another point of contention for Start screen opponents is the modern UI apps that come included with the operating system constituting bloatware. Well, they don't. These are apps that tell you the weather, list out the headlines, track your stocks, and so on. The default set of apps that come with Windows 8 barely have a couple of dozen megabytes in memory footprint, which is made up for by an overall better memory management by Windows 8. Besides, enthusiast PCs begin at 4 GB of memory, 8 GB is considered mainstream for gaming PCs, and enthusiast builds are getting the whiff of 16 GB already. Plenty of room in there for an app that tells the weather.

The grass on the other side stays greener even after you get there.
With the Windows 8.1 Release Preview we got to play with, Microsoft made it clear that it's not going to make steps backwards. There's "a" Start button, not "the" Start button. What shows up after you click it is bigger and better than its predecessor's Start screen. There are new tile-size options, including "large" (double the area of a medium tile), and "tiny" (a quarter of the area of a regular tile). The new "tiny" tile size is perfect for organizing shortcuts to scores of programs or games, the tiles have just enough room for a clear icon.

Windows 8.1, like its predecessor, starts up quicker than Windows 7 does. The kernel of the operating system never really shuts down, but hibernates, and wakes up in a snap each time you power up the PC. The new Storage Spaces, which is similar to Linux LDM, lets you better organize data across multiple physical hard drives.

Windows 8.1 introduces a new display driver model, WDDM 1.3. This brings with it a few new display features, including the standardization of wireless display, 48 Hz dynamic refresh rates for video playback, V-sync interrupt optimization, video conferencing acceleration, a Direct3D API feature so major, that it warrants a version number change. Introduced with DirectX 11.2, a new API feature called "tiled surfaces."

Tiled Surfaces is analogous to the OpenGL mega-textures technology demonstrated by id Software on "Rage," which helped it create vast, detailed, and smoothly animating 3D scenes. Instead of streaming textures as the scene is being rendered, mega-textures allows developers to deploy larger textures that are fewer in number, and dynamically show portions of it. These textures needn't be loaded to the video memory entirely, can stay on the disk, and the API would access portions of it as they become relevant to the scene, as it's being viewed. In essence, mega-texturing is a sort of "virtual-memory" for GPUs, and could shift focus from larger video memory to faster memory, in the upcoming generations of GPUs.

In conclusion
Suck it up. Windows for PC isn't going to change, and was always prone to significant change. Windows 95 was Microsoft's response to PCs that were firmly capable of GUI, at a time when people at large were getting the hang of using a mouse. Windows 8 and 8.1 are just as landmark, whether we like it or not. Microsoft is catering to a large mass of people that are getting the hang of a touchscreen, and prefer a uniform experience between devices both on the desk, and on the move. Improvements such as new "tiny" tiles make the Start screen just as functional and quick to use as a menu, and Microsoft isn't stopping with its innovations that will get increasingly out of reach for Windows 7 users.
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339 Comments on Windows 8.1, and Why You Should Let Go of Windows 7

#1
Jetster
because "thats the way we have always done it" do not make it the best way
Posted on Reply
#2
WarEagleAU
Bird of Prey
I have been on Windows 8 since Alpha/Beta. Loved it then and love it now. I just updated to the beta 8.1 however I seem to have slower startups and no idea why. At least it allowed me to redo the cable management (actually to ever do it I should say) and make it all nice and neat. Anyone else having any slow issue when starting up (hitting the password log in box, etc.)?
Posted on Reply
#3
naoan
by: Jetster
because "thats the way we have always done it" do not make it the best way
Thanks for the revelation, now I should start eating sandwich through my ass since it's the best way to do it, someone told me so.

IF the change is genuinely good, people will naturally come to embrace it just like what happened to Windows 95 (which still offer the old way by the way). I don't see that happening with Windows 8.
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#4
jmcslob
by: Jstn7477
.NET 2.0-3.5 are included with Windows 8 but are disabled by default. It should prompt you when you install a .NET program that you need to go to Windows Features and enable it.
Yeah it did that...I'm still not sure what happened...I'm starting to suspect the OS was fine and that my Razer Lycosa was causing the problems as when I went back to 7 I still had similar issues with stuff not working until I plugged in another keyboard LOL
Posted on Reply
#5
VanGore
It's so funny: you refer to Apple, a company which in the last years got pretty much everything right, when talking about a company which messed up many of their decisions.

Apple launched the iPad with iOS for a good reason. Microsoft knew that, but the starting point was different. Apple has an excellent and widely accepted iOS, Microsoft's mobile OS is a joke with almost zero acceptance among users and hardware manufacturers. So they want to stop Windows mobile in order to reduce cost. Reducing cost in business means: we give less to our customers. Less choice, less tailor made solutions for mobile and desktop usage.

Furthermore Apple realizes that nobody, but seriously nobody apart of some Admins and geeks cares about an OS. An OS has to work.period. Apple gives you a new OS for 29 bucks. Microsoft wants to make a living out of it and is disappointed when people don't upgrade. That is pathetic. Why for god's sake should I (as a user not a nerd) buy a new OS? For that money I can buy several nice games!!! The new OS will come anyways with the new PC, so why bothering?

Last but not least Apple was pretty much always just in time with there launches. iPhone? the time was right for smartphones! iPod, MP3 just started its march towards victory....iTunes, the music industry couldn't find an online strategy and so on.

MS since many years is too late or too early. No mobile strategy for years. Now Windows 8.1. ahead of its time, because tactile desktop screens are just not an option at the moment.
Posted on Reply
#6
WaroDaBeast
by: ManofGod
Oh cool, so ALL my steam games, origin games, boxed games, gamefly games, greenmangaming games, Good old Gaming Games, Gamestop digital games and other digital download games will all play on Linux natively out of the box for free, great! :laugh: Yes, if you want a Linux version of a game, lets say the original Crysis, you will have to buy it again. (Of course, there will never be a native Crysis for Linux anyways so that point is only hypothetical anyways.)

I like all OSes but I am going to use what is best for the job. For gaming, that is windows. (Windows is best for the job in many other areas as well but, we were speaking of gaming at this point.)
Nice strawman, but I'm too old to fall for those now. If you so much as possess half a brain, you will have understood what I wrote, which was: "No, you don't need to buy games a second time under Linux." The rest is completely irrelevant fluff you've added to make it seem you gave an actual answer.

Let's see if you can stay on topic with this one — which games would I have to buy under Linux, supposing I already own the Windows version?
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#7
Easy Rhino
Linux Advocate
I upgraded from Windows 7 to Linux Mint.
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#8
Morgoth
im upgrading to windows 3.11
Posted on Reply
#9
Prima.Vera
by: Morgoth
im upgrading to windows 3.11
for Workgroups, or vanilla version?
Posted on Reply
#10
newtekie1
Semi-Retired Folder
by: Prima.Vera
for Workgroups, or vanilla version?
3.11 was only for Workgroups.
Posted on Reply
#11
trickson
OH, I have such a headache
I think I am just going to take the plunge next time with a new OS. Win8 not that great.
Posted on Reply
#12
aayman_farzand
There needs to be a change in the conclusion. It should say something like "Suck it up and buy Start8".

I Metro UI is still as intrusive as it has always been. Performance on 8 has always been top notch and it benefits from an SSD much more than 7. Glad I made the switch and ponied up the $5 for Start8, best of both worlds.
Posted on Reply
#13
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
by: aayman_farzand
There needs to be a change in the conclusion. It should say something like "Suck it up and buy Start8".

I Metro UI is still as intrusive as it has always been. Performance on 8 has always been top notch and it benefits from an SSD much more than 7. Glad I made the switch and ponied up the $5 for Start8, best of both worlds.
Start8 helped me with transition to the new UI, but I did get a hang of it eventually. As mailman pointed out, you can actually do things quicker on a Start screen than a Start menu.
Posted on Reply
#14
trickson
OH, I have such a headache
I think Miro$oft is maybe just giving users a choice for once? I mean lets just be real about this. Windows 7 is still being shipped you can get a PC at the store with windows 7 if you really want. Most users just take what is new and do not care about any thing else at all. Once the consumer has it that is where it is judged. If it sucks it will not sell. That is about it too really. They still have me at windows 7. No reason what so ever at all NONE to change this OS or even my setup for that matter lol. I am waiting this one out.
Posted on Reply
#15
lexluthermiester
by: btarunr
With your Windows 8 x64? Glad to hear that :)
I'm fairly certain he meant he was good with Windows 7, as am I and many like us. Windows "Tiles" 8[8.1] is crap.

And for the record, Mr. Editor, the "improvements" included in 8.1 still don't solve the GUI's most glaring problems. It's [still] ugly, unintuitive, cumbersome and simply unappealing to the vast majority of computer users. It's still not very customizable. And we're not talking small learning curve, we're talking massive. People I know have had an easier time transitioning to OSX and Linux than to 8. Then there are people who simply HATE fingerprints on their screens. And Windows 8[or 8.1] with a mouse? Forget it.

Microsoft tried and failed. Full stop. And if enough people abandon Windows, which is the current trend, will Microsoft get the message? Or will they be crushed? I've been a Windows person for decades, yet if MS doesn't pull their collective heads from there bums and put out something worth using, then Windows 7 will be my last peace of MS software... R.I.P. Microsoft...
Posted on Reply
#16
rtwjunkie
@lexluthermiester: Welcome to TPU!
Posted on Reply
#17
Slizzo
I upgraded to Windows 8 Pro from Windows 7 Ultimate.

I believe I've gained functionality. I did install Start8, so it's nice to be able to flip back and forth from good old desktop plus start button, and start screen. But the improvements to the underlying OS are where it's at. Win8 is overall faster, and the task manager + other small things are great to have (like no color warning when playing games. Even though I turned off reporting of it in Windows 7, it still would pop up while playing games!)
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#18
natr0n
I tried the 8.1 iso today.
You can modify the start menu somewhat;although I used classicshell for convenience.

Testing it out doesn't feel any faster than a tweaked 7. It has an absurd amount of new unneeded services running. It also is harder to turn things off like windefender etc. .

I could play with it more and tweak things to my liking, but in the end it's like painting over a wall that doesn't need painting.
Posted on Reply
#19
MxPhenom 216
Corsair Fanboy
by: natr0n
I tried the 8.1 iso today.
You can modify the start menu somewhat;although I used classicshell for convenience.

Testing it out doesn't feel any faster than a tweaked 7. It has an absurd amount of new unneeded services running. It also is harder to turn things off like windefender etc. .

I could play with it more and tweak things to my liking, but in the end it's like painting over a wall that doesn't need painting.
why would you turn off windows defender?
Posted on Reply
#20
tacosRcool
I just love all the love pouring out to Windows 8!

Get over it people, its a good operating system.
Posted on Reply
#21
natr0n
by: MxPhenom 216
why would you turn off windows defender?
I don't need it or use antivirus programs. Just because it's there doesn't mean you need it.

I like to run windows just about barebone.
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#22
cdawall
where the hell are my stars
by: natr0n
I don't need it or use antivirus programs. Just because it's there doesn't mean you need it.

I like to run windows just about barebone.
Same thing I do :toast:
Posted on Reply
#23
johnspack
Man, another os I have to install classicshell on, and then carry on. Yawn.
Posted on Reply
#24
Prima.Vera
by: natr0n
I don't need it or use antivirus programs. Just because it's there doesn't mean you need it.

I like to run windows just about barebone.
To be honest, I think the Windows Defender is the best antivirus out there on resources management. Has the lowest CPU and RAM usage from ALL antiviruses I have tested so far. Maybe I am wrong...
Posted on Reply
#25
Fatal
All I do is game and surf the net and Windows 7 suits me fine for what I do. I will not upgrade to Windows 8. Not because people say Windows 7 is better or less of a hassle. I will not spend cash on something I do not need.
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