Windows 8 doesn’t suck – if you tinker a bit.

In my previous 3 posts I’ve spoken out against Windows 8. I am no fan of the metro UI, and a tablet OS and tablet apps have no place on the desktop.

I have been a fan of the good stuff in Windows 8,¬†noticeably the vastly improved 2d rendering performance and the visibly less routine IO, makes your system feel snappier and your SSD’s last longer or your traditional HDDs quieter. Built in Hyper-V is also a bonus. But the metro stuff, err excuse me so called “Modern UI” was up until now a show stopper.

This is until I came across an interesting way of obliterating the Metro UI. You can do this by installing the Windows 7 explorer.exe shell Рcompletely replacing Windows 8 shell, and at the same time get all the performance benefits. There are some minor drawbacks but it is possible: http://www.msfn.org/board/topic/157302-windows-7-explorer-for-windows-8/

Another excellent alternative is just to use Classic Shell : http://classicshell.sourceforge.net/. This means you still have metro lurking around, but you’re in control of when you want to enter “Metro land” – more or less. And you demote Metro from being King of the realm on your PC, to being the lowly peasant it deserves to be.

Once you’ve done this, Windows 8 starts looking like a real operating system, and actually a better operating system than Windows 7, but there are some problems still.

If you’re into skinning your OS, Windows 8 hasn’t caught on to skinning. You get one default look and that is it – this will change as more people adopt Windows 8, but right now not even Stardock have a working product. Windowblinds isn’t yet compatible with Windows 8.

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Windows 8 RTM, my objective opinion

I’ve blogged in earlier posts about my experience so far with Windows 8, starting from the developer preview, going onto the consumer preview, and now finally the RTM.

The RTM (release to manufacturer) release is basically the final product. No big changes go into an operating system once it hits RTM, so this will most likely be my final review on Windows 8 as it stands.

As I write this I have the install process going on in the background on a virtual machine, for this reason I won’t be talking much about performance, simply because we all know Windows 8 is designed for a tablet environment and because of this we already know it will run quicker than Windows 7.

This review only focuses on the end user experience from a desktop computing perspective.

At this point in time my feeling are mixed, I really hated what they had done with the consumer preview and I’m not a fan of Metro, a lot of you guys commented and gave feedback, and so I believe that most of us power users don’t like the direction Microsoft are taking, some have called Windows 8 a bad joke, others scoff at it in disbelief.

I’ll tell you right now I don’t have high hopes for the way Windows 8 is out of the box, so I am going to cheat a bit and try and use 3rd party start menu apps and attempt to bypass metro as much as possible and hopefully end up with a faster operating system that is still relevant in a desktop power user setting.

I might succeed or not. This post will explain my best attempt to like this new operating system – how it will end I honestly don’t know yet.

1. The setup process. It is the best setup process in the history of MS operating systems. It did ask me for my phone number – very bad idea! Otherwise the setup was pain free. Setup is the type of thing you don’t do everyday, but it seems it is geared towards performance.

2. Ok I’m in, it didn’t ask me for a login screen instead booted me straight into Metro. Now let me see if I can install Chrome and some other vitals – brb.

Managed to get Chrome and Start 8 installed. It isn’t exactly what I expected, but it did offer me the option to boot straight to desktop after login. So let’s test that out. There has been a lot of posts on Reddit, saying Microsoft blocked this ability, let’s see – rebooting now!

I’m also going to say at time of writing start8 is simply not well polished for regular use – I think they will release an update based on the RTM code which clearly has changed since consumer preview.

Ok , another thing worth mentioning – drag up to sign in is gone – a single click works! That’s a good start!

3. Alright time to install viStart – the installer is filled with tons of adware and crapware – not a good sign, but this is a virtual machine, not sure if I would trust installing it in a real environment. Honestly doubt it, unless someone stripped down the installer.

viStart looks a bit better, lets see how it handles a reboot –

While we’re rebooting, it’s worth mentioning you’re logging into your Windows Live Account – I’m not entirely against this, but I would suspect in a work environment suddenly you’ll be required to have a Windows Live Account.

viStart doesn’t take you to desktop mode after a reboot, and I am now in Metro mode, and can’t figure out how to get back to desktop mode. Fuck! Give me a few minutes 6:48PM….

6:51. Well viStart might be the way forward. Let me check for some other options. ….

Alright there is classic shell, but it seems a bit too XP like – very old school, I’m not sure if I want to go back in time.

So here is the thing… Start8 needs time to mature and other start menu applications need to make their way onto the scene to make Windows 8 usable again.

For now let’s forget about the start menu. It is a bit of an epic failure, and indeed a show stopper – but now I need to find some value in using Windows 8.

Skydrive: I kinda expected a new drive to be available in my computer – because I am logged into my Windows Live Account, it seems strange – no drive is mapped! No OS level integration to Skydrive – I guess the best they could do was that Metro app? Mmmm ok that sucks.

The rest actually looks very similar to Windows 8 without Aero. It looks like a very simplistic skin. And now nearly identical to Windows 7.

I’m honestly not sure at this point in time Windows 8 can offer me very much. I think it is an OS trying very hard to be new and fresh, but it is an OS which is clearly not designed with passion and love for my type of computing usage.

I’m sorry I did try to like it, now I’m a bit depressed because it is fairly terrible in it’s current state.

Maybe once some 3rd party apps launch that fix the usability issues – who knows!

But I think it seems they’ve hit a surface with Windows 7, and cannot innovate beyond that.

The end! Oh fuck how to shut this thing down now! Ended up just killing the power of the virtual machine.