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Technology Today - Windows 8 - A First Look
By Robert Sanborn

I have really been trying to avoid Windows 8 mostly because of all the reviews, videos, and everything else tells me that it really isn’t suited for traditional Windows computers and how radically different it was from Windows 7. Launch of the new program is just a week away and I know that I will start to get questions simply because the next new computer you buy may have it already installed on it whether you want it or not.  So I took the plunge and downloaded my own copy from Microsoft to see how my laptop will deal with it.

If you are upgrading your current Windows 7, Vista, or even XP machine, you still need to get the same 32 or 64bit version that your current system has. No upgrading to 64 bit from 32 bit unless you nuke the machine and start from scratch. What I wanted to do was to see if the older laptop I have can handle the new drivers that comes with Windows 8.  Start the upgrade and the first think it wants is the new product key and you are on your way. It then will check your system to make sure you don’t have any incompatibilities and on my system, it said that it didn’t like the Kaspersky Internet Security 2012 package I was running and uninstalled it. Now that I am unprotected, after a system reboot, start the upgrade again. I would have preferred that it go through the assessment and license agreement before I have to enter the product key so hopefully, I only have to do it twice. In my case, it seemed that the only complaint was the Kaspersky and the install started. One of the options that it gives you when upgrading is to keep all your files and Windows settings; Just keep the Windows settings; or to start from scratch with a new clean operating system.

Once cruising, the install took nearly 45 minutes on my laptop. Partly it took that long was I had an external USB driven DVD drive. You also have to create a Windows Live account if you don’t already have one. Since this was going to be my test laptop for Windows 8, I created one from the beginning but was a little irritated that they want my birthdate. I understand the passwords and secret questions and all that but to include the birthdate as well seems a bit overkill especially in the light of all the identity thefts going on.

But finally, it restarts for the last time with the new Windows 8 running. Pretty cool interface but because it is Windows 8 and is based on what you see on Microsoft Smart Phones, it expects you to do a lot of swiping and doing it with a laptop touchpad is not that intuitive because while you can do it with a horizontal scroll bar that is at the bottom of the screen, or just run your mouse to the edge of the screen.  If your touchpad has a scroll feature (you may have to figure out how it works) that makes going across the screens very easy. The screen that comes up looks very much like the Windows Phone screen with the tiled apps divided into sections. That also means that there is no “Start” button for you to get to your applications. The furthest group of them to the right is the desktop icons and programs you had under Windows 7. In one of the app squares on the left side, is the background image that I had on my old Windows 7 system and if you click that, you get your old looking windows 7 desktop. To get back to the Windows 8 interface called Metro, you just tap the Windows key on your keyboard. What is interesting is that if you go to the app group that has your original desktop applications and start one, Windows 8 switches to your Windows 7 desktop screen, opens the program, and then when you exit, returns you to the Windows 7 desktop screen and then you hit the Windows key and return to the Windows 8 Metro screens.  

If you have an app (or program) running, by going back to the metro screen, it suspends the program or app to keep it from taking up more resources. So, it is better than minimizing it where it stays running in the background.  You have a lot of new apps from Microsoft loaded with your computer, mostly powered by Bing.  Weather, Maps, Mail, Stocks, News, Travel, and more.

Another block of icons/apps are all from the xbox side of life; Games, Camera, Music, & Video. On the notebook, all of my old videos that I had saved were found in the Xbox Video window and you can just click on “my videos” to see them all and play them. Again, the interfaces are a bit different (for a non xbox player) but easy to follow.

The next time I started up the computer, it started with a simple graphic picture with two icons on the screen, one the wireless and one the battery. A click anywhere on the screen wants you to sign in with your Windows Live password you set up.

So, whether it is an upgrade you do or just starting out with Windows 8 on a brand new computer, remember a couple of things, especially if you don’t have a touch screen. One; with a laptop, if you don’t have a built in scroll bar then be sure to get an external mouse. Two, remember the Windows Key gets you back to the main metro screen. And three, a right click on a blank spot on the screen brings up a large bar at the bottom with a single icon saying “All apps”. Click that, scroll right to the end, and under the “Windows System” section, you will see all of the usual Windows programs including control panel. Again, a quick tap on the Windows key on the keyboard brings you back to the metro screen.

And, if you are not sure you are ready for Windows 8 and Metro, why not get a Windows Smart Phone to start with and give yourself a head start. Unfortunately, I had already made life difficult for me when I decided to go with the iPhone. It is a learning curve but so far it is working.

Robert Sanborn


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