Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Assessing the Horror of Windows 8

I bought a new laptop (early Christmas present - some of the money was mine, and some was gifts). It came in, and I charged it up. And yesterday, just before I left work, I decided to turn it on and finish setting it up. You know, the usual stuff for a new Windows & Stuff installation on a pre-loaded computer. Uninstall the junk, add the programs I actually use, and arrange things where I can find them - that sort of thing.

Or, at least, that was the plan.

What actually happened - and remember, I've got XP on the old laptop and Windows 7 at work, and I haven't bothered to look up anything about Windows 8, because really how different is it likely to be? What actually happened was, well... Okay, I'm just going to copy my Facebook post from 5:12 p.m. yesterday:
Just fired up Windows 8 and OMG WHAT IS THIS WHERE DID MY PROGRAMS GO!?!?!?!?

Ahem. Pardon that. It's time to go home, anyway, so I'll just... WAIT A SECOND, WHERE THE HELL DID THE SHUT DOWN BUTTON GO!?!?!?!?!? No, no, deep breaths... Google is my friend, Google is my friend, Google is my... wait, they put it WHERE? You get to it HOW? Okay, well, I guess that worked...

Right, so... I'll just go home, eat dinner, and then figure out how to find programs from the desktop. Calmly. Quietly. I mean sure, the layout's a little unfamiliar, but how hard can it be, really?

The ominous music in the background suggests that I'm going to be indulging in primal screams quite a lot over the next few days.
Here's the thing: Windows 8 was apparently designed with a whole bunch of new features, and nothing that even vaguely resembles a smooth transition from the way you did things in previous versions of Windows. Any previous versions of Windows. No, really - the system boots into a startup screen which comes pre-loaded with a mess of different apps. Which, if I'd wanted that sort of thing on my laptop, I'd have bought a Mac in the first place. Then, once you finally locate the one that says "desktop" and manage to escape, you quickly discover that "desktop" doesn't mean what it used to, either. Huge, glaring example: there's no Start Menu. You remember the Start Menu, right? The button in the lower left corner that's been the go-to spot for pretty much anything you wanted to do since back in Windows 95? Yeah. Gone. Want a list of available programs? Good luck. Apparently you're supposed to go back to the splash screen with all the apps - except that, if you're me, you've just spent the last few minutes ruthlessly uninstalling anything you didn't want, which was most of it. You've also unpinned all the programs from the taskbar in the Desktop view, because who wants all that crap sitting down there?

So not only can I not find a list of programs on my new laptop, I've also made it functionally impossible to, for example, set my homepage in Internet Explorer. In fact, I had to open Windows Explorer (with a keyboard shortcut!) and navigate to the Program Files in order to launch the benighted browser in any sort of recognizable format. Don't get me wrong - I'd left it intact on the Apps screen, but the version that opens from there is barely recognizable as IE, and completely lacks those menu items - or menu items at all, for that matter.

But, okay, surely there's a setting in the Control Panel that will fix this. This thought reassured me briefly, until I discovered that A) I couldn't find the control panel, and then - once I finally located it - B) there is no such setting. Using that Apps screen that comes up at startup? You're stuck with it.

So the marketing strategy here is clearly to saddle you with a bunch of stuff you don't want but can't escape, thereby forcing you to use it anyway - until Stockholm Syndrome sets in and you come to believe that you actually love this interface. This is not something I have a lot of patience for.

However, I have more than just my profound irritation to fall back on. I have Google. And a search on "How do I find my programs in Windows 8" produces a number of promising leads. There's a method for creating a new toolbar on the taskbar, which looks promising but proves unsatisfying. And then there are several articles, with links, which describe programs that will give you back a working start menu. There are at least half a dozen to choose from - and that's just from the first article I read - and probably half of them offer some way to suppress the startup/app view, which should give you some idea of how badly Microsoft screwed the pooch by leaving the Start Menu out. I picked one that sounded about like what I wanted, installed it, and - Voila! - now I have a Start Menu, and access to my programs!

Open Source resolves what corporate rectal cranioendomesis will not.

So I'm getting Windows 8 hammered down into doing what I want, and hopefully today I'll be able to load my files onto the new laptop and really give it a test drive. But it's worth noting that I'm doing it in complete defiance of the will of the OS developers. It's worth keeping that in mind if you're considering buying a new machine. And it might be worth asking your vendor if it's possible to get the same machine with Windows 7 instead of Windows 8... because, hey, at least then you'll have some idea of what you're getting into.


  1. Wow. Windows 8 seems to translate directly to Epic Fail. Thanks for a first look, you've sealed what I already knew. :)

  2. It's a brilliant triumph of marketing strategy over human engineering.

  3. Silly person. Setting up a new computer always takes longer than you expected.

    I get the impression that Win 8 is designed for smart phone and tablet users which means that I might adapt more readily than you are. It still sounds like a disaster though.

    Sadly, I'm going to need to get a new laptop soon as the display on my current one crapped out. Fortunately, I was able to hook an old desktop display, but I do have to worry about how long the rest of the laptop hardware is going to last. I think I'm going to need to play with Win 8 in the store before deciding what OS to get.

  4. Sounds like MS is trying to be Android.

    Thanks for the review. I don't fear change, but I do fear stupidity. I won't be looking to Windows 8.

  5. I thought I remembered you having a rant about Win 8 and the lack of a start menu, but I couldn't find it using a keyword search. Given that Blogger is owned by Google, this is not acceptable. Anyway, I finally found it with the "First World Problems" tag.

    Anyway, I thought you might be interested in today's Giveaway of the Day which apparently is capable of creating a start menu for Win 8. If you haven't already beaten the OS into submission, I thought this might help.


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