Yes, I know W8 has been out for a while and that MS has sold >”100 million licenses.” However, about a month before it came out, my computer died and I was left with a wait as I didn’t want to invest in W7 if W8 would be out. My solution was to go with Linux (Ubuntu – Mint) as I had never used Linux more than sporadically and thought it would be a good time to install it.
I thought the learning curve from Windows to Linux would be massive, but it was much easier than I expected. Once I got the basics of the Terminal Down and understood how Software Manager and other niceties helped make life easier, I found Linux surprisingly easy to use. What is more, I found the software to be outstanding!
On Windows, I generally used the MS Office products and then freeware like GIMP, Eclipse, etc. for most of the rest of my work. While there is no doubt that MS Office offers superior products, the difference is small. LibreOffice, which comes free for Linux, not only works, but it works well. It is missing a few of the luxury features of MS Office, but I found that I used them so little that I barely missed them. In fact, the biggest shift for me was relearning shortcut keys. So, even though MS Office is better, overall, in terms of features, it just doesn’t compete with LibreOffice when you consider that LO is free.
So, after months of using Linux and doing all of my work on it (word processing, spreadsheets, programming, web surfing, graphics/photo work) I decided to pick up some Windows Phone programming as there was to be a seminar on it. Of course, the development environment they planned to use only runs on Windows, so I would need to get W8 finally. It was no big deal as I had planned on getting W8 at some point anyway. As I loved Linux so much, I decided to go dual boot and have the best of both worlds. This gave me an interesting perspective on both OSes.
As it turns out, moving from W7 to Linux was much easier than going from W7 to W8, which led me to wonder if W8 simply sucks. The answer is a qualified no. In terms of speed, stability, and features, W8 is actually the best OS MS has released. It blows everything else away. Unfortunately, some jackass decided to completely destroy the user interface and go against all the hard-learned lessons of the 80’s, 90’s, and 2000’s. The UI on W8 is awful. It is pretty, but that is all. I find it hard to get to the things I need and very difficult to customize the OS. As an example, to shut the computer down, you have to go to the side “charm bar” and select “settings.” In there will be a power button. I would have thought the button was for setting power features like screen off time and hibernation. Nope, it’s where they put the damn shutdown button. It is just an example, but illustrates the elaborate lengths to which a person needs to go to do simple things on W8. This is ultimately what is killing the OS. Moving from W7 to Linux should NOT be easier than moving from W7 to W8.
As a last point, I want to illustrate something I have noticed, but not had time to dig into much and that is the difference between the “desktop” and the “Metro” (Yes, I know it isn’t called that any longer, but what in the hell should we call it?) interface. They seem to be almost like two entirely different OSes. Let me explain.
When you open IE from the Metro tiles, the navigation bar is on the bottom, there is no way to access Internet settings (at least not that I have found from tinkering, though I intend to look it up) and there is no way to open additional tabs. It is like a browser on a mobile device, very limited. If, however, you go to the “desktop” and open IE, then it works just as you would expect with full access to settings, tabs, and with the navigation bar on the top. Interestingly, these two browsers do not communicate with one another at all, so it is like running two OSes with browsers open in each at the same time.
Interestingly, the same thing I just said about IE applies to everything I have tested so far. For instance, if I open Eclipse in the Metro interface, it is only accessible in the desktop, where it actually opens. I can see the Metro interface next to the desktop (kinda like the old W7 snap-to feature), but they can’t both be used at the same time. Switching is necessary and it takes time (not much, but it is noticeable). It is almost like the two are running in separate sandboxes. If I had to create a good analogy, it would be like running one OS and then running a second in a virtual machine. They are both on the same CPU, but they really aren’t able to communicate in any meaningful way. Basically, W8 was designed to be fragmented from the beginning.
The bottom line is that W8 is a great OS that is completely knee-capped by its UI. Whoever designed the metro UI is an idiot and should never work in software again. It looks pretty, but to treat it as separate from the desktop is just strange, stupid, and useless. Ultimately, it is the UI that makes W8 suck (and it does suck).