The other day I had the utter misfortune of having to set up a new laptop for my wife that came pre-installed with Windows 8.1. Her old laptop had finally reached the end of its days, after around seven years of use and was playing up badly. Unfortunately, it was a hardware issue, so it wasn’t worth trying to get the problem identified and fixed (cleaning etc made no difference). So I bought her a new laptop with Windows 8.1 pre-installed, as Windows 7 ones were, unfortunately, no longer available (the period where you could buy a PC with Windows 8 and get a Windows 7 upgrade disk are long gone – though not so in the US).
Now I’ve been using computers since Windows 3.1 and had even taken up the Windows 8, $15 upgrade offer a while back, and ran it as a dual boot, but quickly got rid of it because it was such a pain. I thought that with version 8.1, some of the frustrations had been removed, but such is not the case. It’s still clear that Windows 8.1 isn’t designed for devices that don’t have a touch screen, as the Windows metro interface (or whatever it’s called today) keeps intruding whenever the mouse cursor happens to hit the edge of the screen. It may be possible to turn off this feature, but it should be off by default (maybe there’s a setting somewhere, so I will have to do an internet search). After Bill Gates left Microsoft, his successor clearly didn’t remember Bill’s words.
Unhappy customers indeed. The first thing that was installed, after going through the crappy user setup process, was Classic Shell, to get rid of the stupid interface that Microsoft insists is to everyone’s liking. I still have no idea why Microsoft insisted in mandating a mobile phone interface for desktop and laptop users. It may be fine on mobile phones and tablets, but even on my tablet I prefer Windows 7. To me it’s like having a steering wheel and pedals on one side of the car and all the dashboard controls on the other; to change something, you have to stop the car, get out, go around to the other side, make the changes and then get back in again. Little wonder that Windows 8 isn’t seeing any love but from a few fanboys and the small ownership numbers are propped up by those who have had no choice but to use what came with their system (we now fit in that 10%, but not by choice).
Now for just about every Windows version since 3.1, a lot of commonality was retained throughout the operating system as it progressed and was updated over the years; certain aspects rarely changed and you always knew how to find things. There were hits and misses with some of the versions, but even my wife’s laptop with Windows Vista had no issues in all of those years and was easy to understand and manage. Windows 8 threw out everything that was familiar to users for at least the last 20 years and Microsoft expected the billions of windows users to fall in love with a Frankenstein Monster. Buried somewhere inside may have been a heart of gold, but on the outside it was a creature waiting to drive you insane.
Even the installation process has become a nightmare, where you have to carefully read the fine print, as Windows 8 tries to get you to sign up for things you may not want or need, placing the ‘bugger off’ option where you can easily miss it. The unwary sign up without knowing any better. If it’s not essential, make it clear and allow an easy option to say ‘not today’ and let the installation proceed without any nagging. This applies to ‘apps’ as well, which really show what Windows 8 was designed for and the almost insidious nature of the apps. To test whether the apps had changed in any way, I had a look at the accuweather app to see what it had for our local area, but when I typed in the location, it couldn’t find it and said I needed to enable the location services on my mobile phone ie, it needed to track me physically before giving out any weather information. Odd that you can get weather reports on a browser without the intrusion.
There are still lots of other minor annoyances, like the fact that there is no longer a software extraction program built into Windows 8; you have to buy the WinZip one that comes as a demo, or do as I did and install 7Zip (freeware). Windows Media Centre also no longer exists, for those that used this program. As an aside, and this is has nothing to do with Windows 8, I do not understand why some manufacturers still insist on installing crapware onto their devices, disguised as important software; it’s one of the most hated things when it comes to pre-installed systems. The most obvious one was Norton which was uninstalled immediately and requires the use of the Norton removal tool, as the Windows software uninstall program is not sufficient to ensure that everything is removed (as far as I’m aware, it’s the only software on the planet that requires this special treatment).
I think the only reason I was able to set up the laptop for my wife, without going into an utter rage, was the fact that I’d been using Windows 8 for around six months in a dual boot system, in the hope that I could get to like or at least tolerate it, and so I had a reasonable idea of where all the landmines and other traps were set. But that doesn’t mean that everything will be smooth running. I’m very thankful that my wife doesn’t use the laptop for any major work, and all I can say as far as Windows 8 is concerned, it’s a million ‘nopes’ from me.