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

btarunr

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#1
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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MxPhenom 216

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#3
I am going to Windows 8 here in a few weeks when I move over to Haswell.
 
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#4
Whatever...
 

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#6
Looking forward to my free upgrade.
 
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#7
If PC is going to go anywhere, it will be because of the people flaming Windows 8; refusing to use it, and spreading their bias to others, will have a negative effect. People will begin to look elsewhere...
 
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#9
I'll change when I want to.
 
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#10
I hope aftermarket start buttons still work. Not only does this new start button not do what people asked for, it now places a truly embarrassing aliasing heavy icon on your taskbar. Amateur hour at MS never seems to end... That icon better be hideable.
 
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#11
Let me start (no pun intended) with saying that I'm completely "fine" with Windows 8, and adjusting to the GUI wasn't difficult.

However, I used Windows 8 on my desktop until I uninstalled my AMD display driver, which caused the system to BSOD while booting, then automatic repair kicked in and not only left the Windows 8 install broken but completely corrupted/wiped my Windows 7 install on another drive and I had to completely start over. My laptop still uses Windows 8, but when I played with the AMD display drivers (here we go again) it would BSOD while installing, restart, BSOD, and then the automatic repair would fix things by UNINSTALLING EVERYTHING INSTALLED RECENTLY, even if it worked fine. The more times I installed dodgy drivers, the more stuff got removed from my laptop automatically. What I could easily fix in Safe Mode couldn't be done because Windows 8 doesn't appear to have a Safe Mode that I could access. Even if I clicked "Cancel" on the automatic repair screen, it would still end up doing shit for an hour a.k.a. removing my non-problematic programs.

Since BSODs pretty much automatically run the mandatory repair if your computer BSODs twice during startup, that means my attempts to overclock my new Haswell system would have probably completely uninstalled Windows 8 with how many times I have gotten 0x124 BSODs because my chip only does 4.2GHz. Perhaps they have changed this in 8.1, but if I try it out, I am unplugging all my Windows 7 main drives while testing it so it doesn't automatically nuke them again when it crashes.

As I said, aside from the automatic repair/lack of Safe Mode, I would be content with Windows 8(.1). Would be nice if I could get my window color set nicely as well, as I don't really like the three sliders along with the fact that the taskbar is still translucent and there's no option I see to make the window description/clock be black text so if the color is light enough, you can't read those things anyway. :(
 

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#12
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.
I'm going to address this point, as this is really the only sticking point I have with Windows 8. The start screen is not better than a start menu. And the fact that Microsoft took all the complaining about the start screen and thought that slapping a start button in would solve everything show that either Microsoft is completely out of touch with what their customers actually want or that Microsoft was just giving a big F U to their customers.

Why shouldn't it take up the entire screen? Simple, I am capable of multi-tasking. I often have a video playing while I'm using my computer. When I open the start menu in Win7 my video is not completely obscured. When I open the start screen in Win8 my video is completely obscured. And no, the start menu does not have my entire attention, I'm looking back and forth between the start menu and the video that is playing.

And it is funny that collapsed start menu is mentioned. Because the start screen doesn't let you collapse folders. They are all open, which means as I install all the programs I use the start screen gets filled with totally useless junk that I now have to scroll through. Almost every program I install puts two or three icons on the start screen that I'll never use. Yet I have to see every single uninstall icon and every single help icon, and scroll through them, every time I want to run an app that isn't pinned to the tiles screen. And no, I don't want to go through and pin everything to the start screen, that is an extra step that I shouldn't have to do.

To say this system is quicker is laughable.

I hope aftermarket start buttons still work. Not only does this new start button not do what people asked for, it now places a truly embarrassing aliasing heavy icon on your taskbar. Amateur hour at MS never seems to end... That icon better be hideable.
ClassicShell still works fine in 8.1.
 
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btarunr

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#13
I hope aftermarket start buttons still work. Not only does this new start button not do what people asked for, it now places a truly embarrassing aliasing heavy icon on your taskbar. Amateur hour at MS never seems to end... That icon better be hideable.
The latest Stardock Start8 beta works fine.
 
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#14
Thanks for your opinion, but I'm sticking with win7.

Thought I was reading a Microsoft press release. :confused:

And I thought this column was for "news", not opinion.
 
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#16
To say this system is quicker is laughable.
This is my biggest gripe.

I don't see myself upgrading anytime soon possibly skip 8 all together?
It offers no real benefit so why spend the money.
 
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#17
I am running windows 8.... I was a little worried about making the switch. I thought to myself .... Oh god here is another Vista/ME/NT. But honestly I love it. Everything in this article that is a positive about windows 8 is really true.
Especially when it comes to the bloated OS comment. I will take on any windows 7 PC with similar specs and if I loose it won't be because Windows 8 is a bloated OS.
I actually like Win 8 so much I have switched every PC in the house (all 10 of them) over to windows 8 OS.
I also agree about t he start menu section. People worry that the start menu has disappeared in Win 8. Not true! It's there and always has been.... its now called the Metro menu and its also located in the same place it has always been.

If you don't want to spend the money because you won't use any of the features of Windows 8. Or you just can't swing the investment right now. Or even if you tried the Beta and you just didn't like it's functions. Well then that's fine, at least those are decent reasons for right now. But if you are an enthusiast and you are worried that it is just a boated crappy OS. Then I think you would be surprised to find out you are wrong. At least IMO

And NO I don't work for Microsoft :)
 
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#18
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#19
All these people will adopt eventually, whether it's Windows 8.1 or something newer. I say let them cling onto their old OS for a bit longer, we just know who to blame for holding things back.
 
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#20

trickson

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#21
WOW you people are fighting over what OS is better? I mean really this is happening right now. Issuing a challenge at the faster OS win7 or win8? Just makes no sense at all. Like comparing an orange to an orange!
 
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#22
i dunno, i dont think about it too much
so far im pretty happy with my 7. win 8 is good but so far i dont plan to get it in short time
 
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#23
Yeah yeah, M$, keep your toys'r'us SO to yourself, grow a pair and recognize you are not Apple. Nobody wants the full M$ toddler's device experience, and you have no pack of million brainwashed fans (maybe console ones, but that changed a bit lately, right? Who knows why...) Apple can even sell a buttscratcher with their logo on it...
M$ might be going to the gutter and I can't say it's not deserved...

Too bad Linux gaming is still lagging behind, otherwise Windows would be really on free fall (even more than now)... IE effect all over again. Fingers crossed for Valve/Steam... PCGA could also do something about it if they actually did something for a change, but anyway... probably there are other intere$ts involved.

Let's at least hope Ballmer takes some extended vacations soon.
 
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#24
This is why the PC is fab, next-gen consoles or not, you can wave goodbye to any vendor advantages. The lowest common denominator always rules.
 
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Keyboard Corsair Gaming K95 RGB
Software Microsoft Windows 10 Pro
#25
I'm just gonna leave this here

 
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