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back to article Windows 8.1: Here at last, but is it good enough?

The de-cloaking of Windows 8.1 at Microsoft's BUILD conference was greeted with cheers from attendees as the company finally confirmed changes following a major U-turn. Yes, there's a Start Button but it's really no more than an onscreen version of your keyboard's Windows key. Metro loosens the ideological shackles: you can skip …

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Headmaster

Speak your brains

Surely "spEak You're bRanes ", no?

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Re: Speak your brains

You know, I'm pretty certain it would be easy to write a Twat-O-Tron™ for Reg readers' comments on anything related to Windows 8 or indeed Microsoft in general.

Throw the phrases "Fisher Price" and "Start menu" into the mix and you're golden.

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Re: Speak your brains

I haven't had a chance to play with 8.1 yet, but I've heard "meh" and "yeah!" in equal measures from those who have. It sound like they were listening to the public. The idea of snapping up to 4 apps on a screen is an improvement - especially since you can stick TIFKAM on one screen (with say email, twitter feed, <insert instant messaging client of choice> and, well I can't think of a 4th I'd want running at the same time (maybe calendar? a to do list?), while you're working on the other. Looking forward to giving that a go.

I think the removal of a certain flamebot has improved the level of conversation and discussion on technology recently. It's like I can read the comments section again and not just scroll past the first page missing all the self inflating corporate hating.

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Re: Speak your brains

Are you referring to Eadon - is he gone? How do we know, was there an announcement? It should be Reg headline news really if so...

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Re: Speak your brains

I think this page clarifies it:

http://forums.theregister.co.uk/user/34672/

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First experiences

While I can walk into a computer store and see rows of devices showing the tile interface and not having a touch-screen, Window 8.x is going to deter buyers.

The changes in 8.1 make absolutely no difference to how this plays out for consumers.

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Re: First experiences

On that score I would entirely agree - although I would have to point out that the OEMs have a certain responsibility there, hmm?

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Re: First experiences

Let's not side-step the reality that Microsoft dealt a bad hand to both OEMs and users alike.

The lack behind Windows 8 does NOT rest with the OEMs. The lack rests with the origin -- which is the executives in Redmond.

Will the corporate brass accept reality or remain numb?

That is the next bit of fate.

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Re: First experiences

>On that score I would entirely agree - although I would have to point out that the OEMs have a certain responsibility there, hmm?

I don't disagree. They're as lazy as ever when it comes to retail presentation.

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Re: First experiences

I agree if ms want punters to buy windows 8 tablets and laptops they should subsidize the touchscreen... currently you either buy a good laptop without a touchscreen or a bad spec laptop/tablet with touch screen that can't do any serious work.

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Re: First experiences

While I can walk into a computer store and see rows of devices showing the tile interface and not having a touch-screen, Window 8.x is going to deter buyers.

*****

While there is still a physical keyboard attached, the touch screen is pointless, either:

You have the laptop positioned so that the keyboard is positioned so it's comfortable to type on in which case you will have to make be large arm moves to reach the screen

- or -

You position the laptop closer to you so the screen is easier to reach in which case you are no bunched up to type at the keyboard.

Touch works if you are holding the device because then your hands are right there, but if you have the laptop/PC setup on a desk it just makes no sense because the ergonomics are just wrong.

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Re: First experiences

- or -

you have a keyboard that folds/slides away, so you can flip between laptop and tablet mode in seconds.

Which is what I've been doing very happily with various types of Windows tablets for a decade.

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In short..

"Have you downloaded the Windows 8.1 preview and what do you think?"

I didn't even bother anymore because I simply don't see the point.

They fooled me once with the customer preview, they fooled me twice with the developer preview (basically all the mumbo jumbo marketing nonsense surrounding it), but guess what? I won't be fooled again; I got better things to do.

The way I see it none of the complaints which people had regarding to desktop usage have been addressed. Well, their loss.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: In short..

yep, as good ol' George Bush liked to say:

'fool me once, shame on ..... shame on you. Fool me ... you can't get fooled again'

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Re: In short.. (again)

Likewise. There was a time when I would carefully evaluate new MS releases with a view to deciding whether or not I should switch back to a Windows OS (from Linux). I can no longer see any point in doing this, as I have no intention of ever going back into the MS camp. Mint 14 and free open source software does everything we require, quietly, quickly, reliably and with a lot less hassle than trying to secure and update a Win system.

I realise that there are lots of people out there who absolutely must have the latest MS offering, which they will pay through the nose for but which they will never own, and bound by a EULA they have almost certainly never read.

It's just that I am not one of them.

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Re: In short.. (again) @BobChip

"It's just that I am not one of them."

Great, You use Linux. At what point should we care?

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Re: In short.. @Shell_user

Agree, particularly if your job doesn't revolve around knowing how to install Windows. Also if you have a PC World, Staples etc. near you then it is very easy (and efficient use of time) to visit and play with the demo machines...

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none of the complaints which people had regarding to desktop usage have been addressed

Apart from the missing start button, inability to boot to desktop, and inability to sensibly use more than one app at once, which seemed to be 3 of the top 4 complaints.

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Re: In short..

To the downvoter: That really is an actual quote from W.

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Re: In short.. (again)

I would love Linux on the desktop but there is always something that must be done in Windows.

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Re: none of the complaints which people had regarding to desktop usage have been addressed

Desktop users were asking for the Start MENU to return, not the fracking Start "Button".

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@Roland6

Nah, the real issue here is that my company is a (small!) Microsoft reseller. Of course with the recent TechNet announcement it remains to be seen if we'll keep that up, but that's a different subject.

Quite frankly I'd rather spend my time working on my 2k8R2 experiences since there is a very reasonable chance I get to use it, rather than wasting my time on something I'd recommend my customers not to buy in the first place.

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Re: @Roland6 @Shell_user

Yep! as a small Microsoft reseller, you really are between a rock and a hard place, particularly given the TechNet announcement...

As an 'independent' I took MS's initial position that Win 7 and 9 were for the Enterprise and so largely ignored Win8, and continued focusing on the server side, until a client purchased a couple of laptops with Win8 pre-installed a few months back and turned to me for help....

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Meh

The 8.1 preview makes some nice changes but unfortunately they are disabled by default and you have to enable them by right clicking on the taskbar selecting properties and then selecting navigation!

So I have

• Enabled boot to desktop

• Enabled same wall paper on desktop and start screen (this makes a big difference, try it!)

• Minimised start screen icons

So when you click the start button you get the start screen which is just a load of shortcuts, click it again returns to the desktop. It now behaves similar to Launchpad on Mac OSX. Think I will just about be able to live with it now.

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Launchpad?

No Mac users I know ever use launchpad. Most machines have it deleted off the taskbar. Yet, that is the feature that MS decided to copy...

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Re: Launchpad?

Quite.

In fact I prefer a stack of my Application folder to Launchpad - it provides a much better interface. One that has more than a little in common with the Windows Start menu!

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> Think I will just about be able to live with it now.

What a shocking indictment on a desktop OS.

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FAIL

shurly some mishtake redux...

15:00 CEDT, 14:00 BSDT, 09:00 ESDT and 18:00 PSDT

Could it be ya meant 06:00 PSTD?!

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Re: shurly some mishtake redux...

Or do you just hate the Pacific?

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FAIL

Not really a U turn, more a wiggle in the road.

Microsoft are so arrogant that they couldn't even manage a U turn on the Start button; they fully realise that what everyone wants is a Start button that displays a start menu, i.e. the traditional list of programs and, if you must, apps. Classic Shell and half a dozen other add-ons do exactly this. But because that would look to the world like what it is, a full U turn in response to a botched UI project, they do what they think they can get away with in a futile attempt to preserve some dignity.

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Re: Not really a U turn, more a wiggle in the road.

Not everyone wants a Start button that displays a start menu.

However for those that really, really can't live without one, you can get the functionality without any third party extensions - just click on your taskbar, add a new toolbar and enter %ProgramData%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu as your folder.

You're welcome.

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Re: Not really a U turn, more a wiggle in the road.

"what everyone wants..." Everyone? I prefer the new Start page to the old Start menu, so I'd prefer them to re-introduce the MPEG codecs to play DVD's in WMP myself.

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Re: Not really a U turn, more a wiggle in the road.

It make very little difference to me this. Might stop me using the physical button for the inferior option.

If the corner thing can be also disabled that would be an improvement.

(Just use Windows + c / Windows / Windows + x) - If you can use shift you should be able to use those shortcuts.

I can see why people dealing with the old don't want them to use Windows 8. (My grandfatfher who is reasonably technically competent (Can use stuff like Photoshop / Visio / Soundforge pretty well) almost tried to install XP onto a brand new Windows 8 laptop of his friends. He thought it didn't have Windows on it.) If it booted to the desktop and had the button it would probably have been fine.

What I want is the next version of RSAT to support en-GB without any messing around.

Border Padding to be put back in the GUI (The reg hack occasionally gets reset).

A way to lock Metro Apps (So I can use one on a screen and keep it open if I am using the desktop on the other).

The Metro RDP Client is quite nice but totally useless without ^^.

The Metro Media Player is quite nice but it doesn't support most of the formats I use. (Offer more codecs don't mind paying a minor amount).

Improve gmail support in the Metro Mail client. (I lost access via exchange activesync by doing a system refresh (With a Microsoft Account) and it worked wonderfully).

Let people enable sideloading if they want like volome and users of the server OS's can.

(I want to have a go at making a metro ssh client (Probably based on putty) but I don't want to sell it I am more interested in it being as good as possible).

Sucks that Microsoft has removed the keyboard equivalent of the right mouse button from their latest generation keyboards as well.

(I only use Windows for light home use and to admin my hyperv server that does various stuff mainly with Loonix / BSD).

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Re: Not really a U turn, more a wiggle in the road.

I had a go with that problem is it is not complete there is some other locations that are needed as well.

Something to just group apps together into folders for the desktop might be fine for most people. (Like progman.exe)

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Re: Not really a U turn, more a wiggle in the road.

"... I'd prefer them to re-introduce the MPEG codecs to play DVD's in WMP myself." -- Try VLC, videolan.org

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Re: Not really a U turn, more a wiggle in the road.

I've got lots of videos in HuffYUV that I'd like to play!!!!

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Re: Not really a U turn, more a wiggle in the road.

I've long considered Windows the premier gaming OS. For getting real work done I mostly use Linux. What I've heard about Win8 imposing some sort of DRM-like control over what games may be installed makes me very leery of the product.

Still, I have to admit that Microsoft makes a fine mouse. It's only real competition for mice is Logitech.

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Re: Not really a U turn, more a wiggle in the road.

+1 progman.exe!

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What everyone wants

personally I don't want either... classic start menu is almost 20 years old now and to my eye, very clunky and awkward to use especially with a trackpad or on a slow PC - menus pop up a second after you hover over them, or you click as they are auto-opening and they close again, or you move the mouse too far and all the menus close again...

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Re: Not really a U turn, more a wiggle in the road.

Nice tip, not quite the Win7 Start menu many are asking for but nice tip anyway.

Which just highlights the point, why doesn't MS just bring the classic "Start Menu" back as an option too?

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Re: Not really a U turn, more a wiggle in the road.

I prefer Logitch mice but MS Keyboards. :)

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Re: Not really a U turn, more a wiggle in the road.

I've not heard one person complain if the Start button DOES include the Start Menu, because you can just ignore it. The rest of us may be set in our ways, but it is the way we work, and we use it daily. By all. means include better options, and I'll use them if they are better.

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Snapshot of windows in my life

/Rant on

Most of the people I support are near or at retirement age. The rest are between middle 30s and the first group. Windows has always been the OS of choice here... Until Vista was released. That is when we started to go Apple. Not much at first, but enough to be noticed. That trend kind of stalled when 7 was released, which was good because it gave me and my team time to brush up on OS X. When Windows 8 was released, all hell broke loose. We had open revolts by the clients if we mentioned going to the OS. Our once 95% Windows departments have, over the last year, become 50% Windows, 30% Apple, and 20% Linux. Even then, the Windows OS of choice is still 7 (and I can't blame them).

When I dug down into the reasons behind it I got lots of varied opinions from my clients, but in the end it all boiled down to 'I don't want to learn a new OS again.' Usually followed by 'If I have to learn, it is going to be something I know isn't going to change anytime soon' from the younger clients. Apple hasn't really changed their GUI in 14(?) years. Linux can keep the same GUI as long as you can get it to compile on the new releases.

Microsoft may be able to get the 5 to 25 year old customers with Windows 8.x but the rest are running away in droves. If you consider that the older generation has many more people in it that the younger age bracket, MS has just shot itself in the foot financially by losing the interest of what, 2/3 of the market?

I has always been a windows advocate until Vista came out. Windows 7 kind of redeemed MS for me. And when I read the tech specs on 8, I thought it was great that they had finally addressed some of the ongoing issues of Windows. The RC when you could choose the GUI was good. Metro for tablets (where it was meant to be), and standard desktop for PCs. Then 8 was released. I have never been so disappointed. Metro on everything was the worst decision I have ever seen by that company. It looks like the market agrees with that statement. The execs at MS, however, seem to be willing to risk the company instead of admitting they may have made a mistake.

/Rant off

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Re: Snapshot of windows in my life

I think that that's what it comes down to. It's a face saving exercise for execs who can't admit their mistakes.

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Re: Snapshot of windows in my life

Exactly! When there's no new functionality, why undergo constant change and relearning?... The Ribbon and Modern Interface both had little new functionality, instead they brought limitations to how users must work. If MS listened to its users and wanted to change but keep older users, they could have added a Toggle button to their UI to switch between Menus & Ribbon and Win8 & Win7 UI.

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Re: Snapshot of windows in my life

"...why undergo constant change and relearning?... ..."

MS does this for several reasons: (a) because it makes some money off training courses for new versions of Windows; (b) if the changes were visibly only evolutionary then people would be less likely to upgrade, so gotta make it look different; (c) renaming all the APIs or just obsoleting them every few years keeps the indie and 3rd party developers chained to the product because they never have time to do anything but relearn Windows programming.

All in all the intent is to maintain everyone's attention, to the greatest degree possible, on Windows. Now yer *NIX operating systems... well, until two years ago the common desktop metaphors had not changed in a decade or more, and once you know BASH, POSIX, or LIBC programming, well you know them. PERL I won't comment on, I'm having a nice day so far, want to keep it that way.

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Re: Snapshot of windows in my life

So why are Linux desktops doing similar big re-vamps then with Unity and the like? They aren't in it for training courses, they don't make money from people upgrading, and they don't want to keep 3rd party devs busy.

I don't think your motives are sound for Windows anyway, but even if they were the fact other OS (Apple as well as most of the big names in Linux) are doing exactly the same type of thing makes it clear this isn't the main reason.

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Re: Snapshot of windows in my life

"So why are Linux desktops doing similar big re-vamps"

a) Not all of them are.

b) If you don't like a particular desktop you can either customize it or change it for one of several others.

with MS now WYSIWYG but not in a good way.

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Re: Snapshot of windows in my life

> So why are Linux desktops doing similar big re-vamps then with Unity and the like?

Well that's what we would all like to know.

It is just as big an issue in the Linux community.

Mind you, at least you have the choice going forward.

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Re: Snapshot of windows in my life

Windows has always been the OS of choice here...

That statement isn't true for 95% of the population. The machines they bought came preinstalled with Windows and therein lies the problem for Microsoft.

The new consumer devices on the street are smart phones and tablets and they ain't running windows.

I sincerely doubt that most consumers give a shit about the OS whether its Win8, Macos, Mint, Opensuse Android or whatever as long as it looks good and works reliably.

Professionals on the other hand have always chosen dependent on the task at hand, performance, scalability, sustainability, upgradability etc etc, which explains why most organisations have a mix of HPux, Solaris, Aix, Windows, Zos, linux and so on. Hence we had divergent skill sets looking after them.

And a fine job they all do as well it has to be said.

I think Microsoft has missed the boat. Not because Windows 8 is rubbish, i have no idea if thats true, but just because the next generation are more savvy and actually don't care anyway.

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