Time for some Windows 8 news and there is plenty this morning some of which is going to make a few people that were considering Windows 8 a little hesitant. We have been covering the next operating system from Microsoft as it begins to develop its identity and the engineers hone in on performance and the shipping feature set. During this process the design flow feels less like a direction and more like a group of kids arguing over the remote.
Microsoft is doing the hard sell on Windows 8 features and in particular they have made a valiant effort to push past some of the bad press (and consumer grumbling) about Metro UI and the way many of the apps are locked down. We have talked a little about this and even touched on it during some of our gaming coverage. Although you can launch “desktop” applications from the Start Screen (The Metro UI interface) you are not actually running them there. The only apps that will run in Metro UI Mode are ones that are downloaded from the Microsoft Store. This limits the functionality of the OS in many ways. Sure you can get some applications to interact with each other, but even then there are limitations.
Yesterday the internet had an unexpected (by some) show of nVidia’s Mobile 28nm Kepler GPU. This was done through the review of an Acer Ultrabook. Although the desktop flavor is still some time away (maybe end of April or early May) we now can start to make guesses about how kepler might compare. Of course the real performance of Kepler is anyone’s guess. We decided to continue on with our coverage of Windows 8 x64. This time we dive into the nVidia side of gaming with an nVidia GTX 470 dropped into our testing rig. We used the same games and, of course, we shot some video of how well it worked out.
We have been tinkering around with Windows 8 for a couple of weeks now and while we are still not found of the Metro UI (especially on the desktop) there are things that do make it an appealing operating system. Still there are some things (as there always are) that will cause issues. Back when Microsoft made the move from Windows 98 to Windows 2000 many games did not like the transition to needing a Hardware abstraction layer. Microsoft dropped more than a few patches in the first month to adjust and correct a lot of this. The same thing has pretty much happened since then even with the move from Windows Vista to Windows 7. So, how does the early preview of Windows 8 fare in gaming? We took seven games and tried them out on Windows 8 to see how they would work.
Today marked the day that Microsoft released Windows 8 to the general public. We have tinkered with several builds of Windows 8, but so far we have not been all that impressed with what the guys in Redmond have come up with. Our big issue has been the lack of functionality and usability in the new MetroUI. In our last public coverage we had to switch back to Windows 7 after only three days or testing. So now let’s take another stab at getting Windows 8 running on current hardware, namely our Asus EEE Slate EP121.
Ok, so I missed telling you about the installation and setup of all of the tools that I use on a daily basis. The two main ones that I have to have are Office and Photoshop. Office presented no issue at all (I did not expect it to) and the install was pretty quick,… considering. The biggest problem I had in getting things installed was (and still is) the issue with the hot keys. It is FAR too easy to get stuck on a Metro UI screen that has NO WAY OF GOING BACK. This is a HUGE flaw in the OS and the UI. If you have no option to go back or way to bring up the OSK (On Scree Keyboard) then you have a useless UI. To keep moving forward and get everything installed I had to disable the Metro UI with a fun Registry hack. Tos get this done I had to plug in an external keyboard (again because the OSK cannot be manually launched with the hotkeys) run Regedit from a command prompt and then change the RPEnabled value from 1 to 0 in the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\ registry key.
After that things went a lot smoother although there were still times when I could not do anything because the OSK would not open up and there was no way to force it. The rest of our productivity applications went in without a hitch. Windows Live Messenger, Skype, Canon Zoom Browser, Zune (yes Zune), even Daemon Tools worked well. The last item we installed, but were leery of was VMWare’s Workstation 8. We use this for a small Mandriva install that I keep on a USB key. It is fun to tinker with and also is nice to have in case I need to examine files without too great a risk.
Day was uneventful on the installation range. However, we still cannot get the system fully operational. The lack of full audio support and the hot keys is huge for us on this tablet. There are just too many things that are not working without these.
Observations; The Metro UI has been designed for a touch interface this is obvious by the simple icons and the easy slide that you have. However, Microsoft had better make some changes fast. The lack of a “back” or home button in the UI is a serious oversight and not one that I would have expected from Microsoft. The UI is also missing some other very important features; where is the run line? How can I run the command line if there is no option for an on screen keyboard on a touch screen? Why do the most basic gestures not work on any of the Metro screens?
These items have pushed me back into using the no Metro UI for now and there are still plenty of hurdles to get over before we can consider this a success. Now that we have our basic productivity tools loaded we can begin to try and get to work.
This one is a short entry; I was able to get the system going without too much of a fuss, but the lack of the OSK for many things is still a hindrance. One place where this stands out is using remote desktop. You can do everything you need to connect, but once you are in there is no way to type unless you plug in a keyboard. Again the simple lack of an OSK launcher or a working hot key button is killing the usefulness at this stage. On the other hand when you can get it going the new OSK is brilliant. It is not quite a full QWERTY keyboard but when you press the “&123” you are greeted with a very nice layout for symbols and numbers. I love the 10-key layout for the number pad as it is perfect for entering in IP addresses and also performance numbers in Excel. Kudos to MS for this, now give us a back button in the Metro UI and an OSK launcher that works in all apps.
Other than my obvious frustration with not being able to do things I could do easily in Windows 7, the developer preview of Windows 8 is very quick and responsive. I am more than a little impressed with the speed of the OS even at this early stage. Now we just need to work with MS and Asus to get all of the functions of this EEE Slate EP121 working and things will be outstanding.
Check back for Day 4 when we try out Hyper-V on the EEE Slate.
Read our Day One observations
Discuss in our Forum