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Taking a ride on the Metro
May 19, 2012 4:03 PM   Subscribe

Creating the Windows 8 user experience — an inside look from the Windows engineering team, with a brief history of the Windows user interface.
posted by cenoxo (98 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's a brief history?
posted by cjorgensen at 4:07 PM on May 19, 2012


Windows 8 will only succeed because it will be preloaded on the systems people buy, and Microsoft is not going to allow vendors to offer an "XP downgrade" option this time.

Everything that is coming out of Microsoft recently has been smeared with some ugly-stick design group (VS, Office, Windows). I'm starting to believe that 2013 is when Linux actually starts making serious headway on the desktop, or it's the year Apple starts selling MacOS without their boxes.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 4:08 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Regarding Windows 3:
It is worth noting in the screenshot above that File Manager is being used to browse the files in the OS itself—something that was commonplace at the time, but now the modern equivalent of looking under the hood to repair an electronic fuel-injected car.
Blood starting to boil...

I should note, however, with complete honesty, the day I tried the Windows 8 preview I thought "Fuck this shit!", and went out the next day and got a Macbook Air, feeling that, what with Ubuntu's dreadful Unity interface, Apple had become the only option for a desktop OS actually focusing on computers. Now, a few months later, I'm in love with full-screen apps and swiping between them to switch, and I'm feeling maybe I could have got used to Windows 8.
posted by Jimbob at 4:09 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Everything that is coming out of Microsoft recently has been smeared with some ugly-stick design group

Recently?
posted by slater at 4:12 PM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Windows 8 will only succeed because it will be preloaded on the systems people buy

That's it in a nutshell. For most people there simply isn't any other choice, either because that's the only thing their local Compushack has or because they work at a company where it's also the only thing they have. Sure, there are some companies that allow you to buy your own computer, but the people who do that are the same ones who buy Macs or Linux boxes and have always been a minority. Microsoft knows this but for some reason feels a need to maintain this front of caring about "user experience".

And in a way, I guess they do if you realize that their "users" are mostly IT deployment managers and purchasing agents looking for the lowest cost of maintenance.
posted by tommasz at 4:16 PM on May 19, 2012


Recently?

I didn't like it as much as the classic Mac interface, but I really liked the Windows interface in Windows 2000. It was still around (and I used it) in Windows XP, but there is something tremendously off about the Classic interface in Vista and 7. When Microsoft started adding new widgets to the toolbars, they didn't seem to bother getting them to look right in Classic - and why would they, since Aero is their focus now.

Classic in Windows now looks and feels a bit like the old Windows 95 knock-off desktop environments that Linux had years ago. A pity. It wasn't pretty but to me it had its beauty.
posted by dumbland at 4:19 PM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'll be interested to see Visual Studio Tablet Edition.
posted by scose at 4:19 PM on May 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Here you go.
posted by Artw at 4:27 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Will I be able to use the Windows Classic Theme? As dumbland said, it's not quite Windows 95 but at least it gets rid of all the jumpy, flashy, transparent crap that they borrowed from OSX for Vista/7. I'm pretty set in my computing ways and am never going to use gestures or swipes and unless I'm watching a movie, I never want to use a application in full-screen mode.
posted by octothorpe at 4:27 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Could we have a desktop Android OS? I think that'd be super.
posted by Malice at 4:29 PM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I really like the aesthetics of windows 8. It's clean and flat and simple, and it doesn't seem too cute or anything. I really disliked XP and vista. They seemed garish and gaudy, and while I like snow leopard a lot Lion shows troubling signs of pursuing a skeuomorphic sensibility that doesn't work for me. That said I don't trust Windows to integrate metro and desktop with any sort of consistency. I don't trust PC manufactures to provide quality hardware with good build quality. We've got phones that for many of us are powerful enough to do everything we need so what makes a computer (particularly a laptop) good is less the quantifiable power and more unquantifiable things like the resilience of the case, the quality of the keyboard and touch pad, how hot it gets and how easy it is to keep the screen clean and scratch free, how it reads in sunlight. Some of these things macs do well others macs do poorly but it's more difficult than it should be to find a PC that even does these things adequately.
posted by I Foody at 4:29 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


or it's the year Apple starts selling MacOS without their boxes.

Apple is quite unlikely to start doing this. One of the reasons Mac computers work so well is that their parts are pretty much standardized across the line. One of the things which Windows is brilliant at is being able to function no matter what components are used to build the computer.

In order for Apple to start selling MacOS as a standalone product, they would have to create a driver database for every possible computer component and find a way to distribute any and all drivers needed to users. That's pretty much not going to happen.
posted by hippybear at 4:29 PM on May 19, 2012 [4 favorites]




bleh, I'm sick of everything being increasingly geared towards social media. Where's my anti-social OS?
posted by desjardins at 4:36 PM on May 19, 2012 [18 favorites]


Huh, well I learned something new from that article. You can hit the Windows Key and just start typing the name of a program and it will search for it. Tried it just now and that may be the forth or fifth time that I've ever actually hit that key intentionally in the seventeen years that it's existed.
posted by octothorpe at 4:37 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here you go.
Wow, uh... looks pretty much the same. I can't imagine using that on a tablet.

The new Hacker News darling IDE project Light Table seems like it would work well on a tablet.
posted by scose at 4:37 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Where's my anti-social OS?

QNX, maybe?
posted by Jimbob at 4:39 PM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


The biggest tragedy in all of this?

Windows 7 doesn't actually suck so bad
posted by Blasdelb at 4:40 PM on May 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


Dude, that's Linux isn't it?
posted by Windopaene at 4:44 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


In reference to anti-social OSs
posted by Windopaene at 4:44 PM on May 19, 2012


Could we have a desktop Android OS? I think that'd be super.

Here you go.

I've run this on an old EEE netbook and it's not bad though there was a lack of apps. If you want this experience on an ARM based system, you can buy the Asus Transformer with keyboard attachment to have an Android laptop. Google apparently wants to merge Android and ChromeOS, so the next generation of Chromebooks will probably have Android as well.

Have to say Android as a desktop environment was tons better than Metro on Windows 8. Oddly enough, Android was more mouse friendly.
posted by honestcoyote at 4:49 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


So they are planning to evict even those things that survived the transition to WIn7. Great.

We recently had a computer smoke a capacitor and it became obvious that replacement is a must. But it is running an app written in Access (A MICROSOFT PRODUCT MAY I REMIND YOU) that is not compatible with Win7. The guy who wrote it is no longer with us. Getting it rewritten would cost tens of thousands of dollars. We just need an XP compatible box.

Fuck Microsoft and their jettisoning of the past. I don't mind that they come out with something like Vista or Win7 or dot.NET. I mind that when they do they withdraw support for their previous flagship product to force you to upgrade, even if the upgrade is incompatible. The Vista/7 transition badly abused a lot of businesses and I think this will be the last straw for some, possibly including the small shop I work for.

Just as it got a lot easier to tell people "send it to me in RTF format" once Microsoft abused their monopoly in office software too badly, "We're gonna have to put an Ubuntu box in here because we don't have compatibility with the newest Windows" will become increasingly thinkable.

I'm about to rewrite a system that I first put in in 1994. It won't change all that much, I'll just be making it a telnet server instead of having it pick up the acoustic modem, and writing some reports automatically to a web-linked folder. That system has been through three PC changes, two of which required minor rewrites. This is what industry wants. They do not give a flipping shit about their user interface. They have a program they paid a guy to write 10 years ago and they want a box to run it on. Fail them at your peril.
posted by localroger at 4:51 PM on May 19, 2012


We just need an XP compatible box.

Is there a reason why you can't throw the old Access app onto a VM running XP? Seems like a fairly painless and portable solution.
posted by honestcoyote at 4:55 PM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


We do not have anybody who actually knows how to do that, or whether it would work with this application, since the guy who wrote the app is bye-bye. Also, don't you have to pay for an XP license on top of whatever OS you're "really" using to legally use a VM?
posted by localroger at 4:59 PM on May 19, 2012


Windows XP Mode - I beleive it's a free download.

If you wnat more help you should probaly take it to ask, Im sure lots of people would jump in.
posted by Artw at 5:02 PM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes, you do. But you can get Windows XP plus a Virtual pc to run it on with some versions of Windows 7.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:04 PM on May 19, 2012


razzlefrazzleArtw
posted by MartinWisse at 5:05 PM on May 19, 2012


XP Mode would work as long as you have a copy of Win 7 Pro (and I assume Ultimate would work too.)

If you don't, then give it a test run by installing VirtualBox (or the VM of your choice) and installing XP. Skip the part where it asks you for the serial number and you can run XP for 30 days for free without activation. That should be long enough to test your app and make sure it will do well in the VM. From my experience with ancient apps, most of them, even games these days, will run well virtualized so I think you'll be fairly happy with it.
posted by honestcoyote at 5:07 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


It shouldn't be necessary for most things, but when it is there's usually a guy writing an app who's no longer around and rewriting it would cost tens of thousands of dollars etc... etc...
posted by Artw at 5:08 PM on May 19, 2012


Everything that is coming out of Microsoft recently has been smeared with some ugly-stick design group

Recently?


Three simple words. Hot Dog Stand.
posted by mikelieman at 5:09 PM on May 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


Windows 7 doesn't actually suck so bad

Indeed.

Windows has actually gotten better over time as an OS, with '95 being not very good but getting better with the service packs, '98 being alright but a bit of a dead end, 2000 being a huge improvement over NT4 and finally XP managing to get the best of the two Windows branches together. Windows 7 is a slight improvement on that, nicely stable for a Mickeysof product, but let down by needless interface tampering, some of which can be put right, some which can't (no proper start menu).

Windows 8 otoh just feels like another ME or Vista something designed for a niche market forced on us and likely going to fail as miserably as those two.

Most businesses are still happily running XP after all. Many can't really upgrade because of the same sort of problem localroger has run into -- let's not even think about all those mission critical programmes still depending on IE 6....
posted by MartinWisse at 5:12 PM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Tried it just now and that may be the forth or fifth time that I've ever actually hit that key intentionally in the seventeen years that it's existed.

The Windows Key shortcuts are great! You are missing out!

In XP (though I believe these all work in Win7):
  • Win-R to open the Run dialog (then, for example, "cmd" or "regedit" or "dxdiag").
  • Even better, Win-E to open up a new Explorer window (focused on "My Computer").
  • Win-F to open a Search window.
  • Win-D to show the desktop (and again to restore all windows to where you were)
But beware Win-L, which logs you out.
posted by nobody at 5:21 PM on May 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I bought a Dell Latitude ST tablet to try out at work. It came pre-loaded with Windows 7 Professional and it ran just fine. The Windows 7 interface is a little tricky with the stylus that came with it, but after a few hours of playing around with it I got used to it.

Then I installed the consumer preview version of Windows 8 and it immediately turned into a paperweight. It was completely unusable.

I've used every version of Windows since 3, and in my opinion 8 is just disastrous. It's Vista plus Windows ME bad.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:24 PM on May 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


The company I work for, one of the biggest handful in Korea, is finally moving from XP and IE6 this very month, to Win 7.

Good times. Win7 is, as others have said, actually pretty good.

Frankenwindows, though, this schizophrenic, two-UI thing they're coming out with soon? I'm not optimistic about it, and not at all enthused to get it on my home machines, though I suppose I probably will, and just set it (as apparently you can, it has recently been announced) to boot into the traditional desktop along some 3rd part start menu replacement, and Directory Opus running for the file browser.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:28 PM on May 19, 2012


The Windows Key shortcuts are great! You are missing out!

I'm sure they are and I am but unless they're the same as vi key strokes, I'll never remember them.
posted by octothorpe at 5:30 PM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


...'handful of biggest ones', I guess that should say
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:31 PM on May 19, 2012


all of those interface are cute, but how are you supposed to get real work done on them?

i'm having enough problems with the latest Apple software, which is not geared towards people who know how to use keyboard shortcuts without needing pictures on the keys or want to move files around between directories [where's my Total Commander for mac? it's like, 2012!]. this seems even worse, much worse. Linux sans Unity seems like the only solution at the moment.
posted by ye#ara at 5:43 PM on May 19, 2012


Win 7? Pretty ok, but gripe gripe gripe
1 - Drag a window by the title bar and hit the top of the screen? Zap you're in full-screen mode.
And I just discovered--drag the top of a window with the double-arrow cursor (drape the cursor over the top edge of the window) and drag up. When you reach the top of the screen, the window is sized to fill the screen vertically; kind of semi-maximized.

2. Click on a disk drive in explorer. It often takes about a minute to open, as a green progress bar crawls slowly over the title bar.

3. Some USB2 disk drives are unreadable on Win 7, though XP has no problem with them. Here is the thread (with entries from 2009 to last week)
(I haven't looked at it recently, and I notice there is a new 'this will fix it' entry dated this april 2012--well, there have been earlier 'this will fix it' entries, but I may try this newest one.)
posted by hexatron at 5:48 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


yeara: if you know linux, you can always open a terminal window in MacOS and use that to do all the directory moving via command line that your heart could desire.
posted by hippybear at 5:52 PM on May 19, 2012


It's an odd argument. I don't sit in front of my PC and stare at the operating system and wistfully wish the start bar was a dock, or the icons could be more glassy. I have a browser, a terminal window and either an IDE or a word processor loaded. Like 99.9% of users, the OS is the shit that holds up the productivity tool. Search is nice, but when did I seriously last need to search? Used to be the day but productivity components of OS's - My Documents /MRU etc means this is largely not needed, anyway this is done in email now, having said that Windows search sucks . Also, so many people use cloud productivity now - my email is purely cloud, docs will be too soon - if there was a more compelling reason. As a great man said - "Fuck art, lets dance" Gimme a big fucking icon to click that will launch what I want launching, and I don't give a rat's arse what that icon looks like.
posted by mattoxic at 5:56 PM on May 19, 2012


Drag a window by the title bar and hit the top of the screen? Zap you're in full-screen mode.
I really like that feature. Even better, dragging a window to one side of the screen makes it fill that half.

One thing I don't undertand: why is Windows 7 search so much slower than Mac OS? I guess Mac OS indexes every folder or something? Considering how much they have permeated the interface with search boxes, you'd think they would make it faster.
posted by scose at 5:58 PM on May 19, 2012


Yeah, I'm kind of imagining people throwing a big fit over win8 being all tablety orientated, storming of to the Mac and running slap bang into Lion.

It's walled gardens, the file system being hidden away like a dirty secret and touch orientated UIs all the way from now on, folks...
posted by Artw at 6:01 PM on May 19, 2012


You can turn off the "Zap you're in full-screen mode." in "Control Panel\All Control Panel Items\Ease of Access Center\Make the mouse easier to use"
posted by octothorpe at 6:03 PM on May 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


all of those interface are cute, but how are you supposed to get real work done on them?

You're not. The design goal for Windows 8 is to closely mimic what Apple has done with the iPad and iPhone: turn the user into a simple buyer of pre-packaged goods from Microsoft's walled garden (one could argue, quiet successfully, that Microsoft has always copied Apple, and this is just more of the same). Apple could give away iPads and iPhones (they don't, for a very good marketing reason) and still drag in billions with just their cut of the iTunes store. Microsoft wants that kind of continual over-and-over income. And they are willing to completely disavow their userbase, pushing them elsewhere, to get it.

But this is where Microsoft has completely missed the key underlying principle that is, and has been, driving things for quite some time now. Simply put, the computing user base is pretty much fragmented into three distinct "brands" or "user type groups".

Linux for servers, Windows for productivity, and Apple for sheer pleasure (to paraphrase a raunchy joke). In other words, you put your web server on a LAMP system, give your workers Windows laptops with Office or Visual Studio installed, and if they need a phone or a toy to play with on the plane/trane/bus, an iPhone or iPad.

Microsoft apparently no longer thinks that Windows is for productivity any more, and that that a net income of $23 billion dollars per year is not enough. They think that chasing after Apple's $2 billion more net is worth throwing away... everything.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 6:06 PM on May 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


We do not have anybody who actually knows how to do that, or whether it would work with this application, since the guy who wrote the app is bye-bye. Also, don't you have to pay for an XP license on top of whatever OS you're "really" using to legally use a VM?

As already linked, XP mode on windows 7 pro, ultimate or enterprise will do what you need in the short term. It comes with a licensed copy of XP and is effectively a dedicated virtual machine for XP (using virtual pc under the bonnet). If you're a corporate, MED-V v2 allows you to do bulk deployment, but I've not personally played with that.

VMware player/workstation or virtualbox running a non-OEM copy of XP will also work, and will be more flexible for mass deployment as you can more easily clone the image out for multiple users. If you're eligible for 'downgrade rights' - i.e. you have windows 7 pro or ultimate, or you have a volume licence for windows 7, you can deploy XP into your VM using your existing media (can get off technet if you have that) and if prompted for activation you can ring up the phone line, give em your windows 7 details and they'll give you the activation code for XP.

Windows 7 is going to be supported for another 8 years yet, but note XP extended support ends on April 8, 2014 - beyond that date, XP SP3 will get no more security updates/patches so should definitely not go on the internet and really should be isolated from the rest of the network too; this is generally do-able with the virtual hosting software, including XP mode - you can use virtual drive mapping to local drives to allow sharing/access of files via the host, without the XP mode/VM being able to access the network itself.

You should start looking into what alternatives are available for porting your access db though; possibly it may be cheaper and more robust to re-write it as a more transparent and standard sql server/web-server front-end.
posted by ArkhanJG at 6:30 PM on May 19, 2012


Microsoft apparently no longer thinks that Windows is for productivity any more, and that that a net income of $23 billion dollars per year is not enough. They think that chasing after Apple's $2 billion more net is worth throwing away... everything.

Well, we'll see. I think a lot is going to hinge on having Metro apps in place where appropriate and making desktop a seemless extension of Metro rather than a jarring jump when it's not. Having played with the consumer preview a little I'd saythat jump isn't nearly as horrendous as some folk are making out, but could definatly do with some tweaking. Bringing the desktop visuals in line with Metro will actually be a help there.

Personally I suspect it won't be a flop but it won't instantly be a roaring success either - as others have said, WIn7 is damn good and there just isn't a compeling reason to upgrade unless you're purchasing some newfangled device.
posted by Artw at 6:33 PM on May 19, 2012


[where's my Total Commander for mac? it's like, 2012!]

Try totalfinder. You can customise your own keyboard shortcuts if you wish, it has tabs and dualpane view. I found it fixed most of my issues with finder.
posted by ArkhanJG at 6:33 PM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I love that Windows is now sort of a tiling window manager.
posted by en forme de poire at 6:40 PM on May 19, 2012


I love that Windows is now sort of a tiling window manager.

Heh. Metro is more of a launcher with some interesting integration with some running apps, and either launches to a traditional desktop or a fullscreen mode which is apparently all the rage now and what the kids are into.
posted by Artw at 6:45 PM on May 19, 2012


The Metro Bunch
posted by Artw at 6:47 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, we'll see. I think a lot is going to hinge on having Metro apps in place where appropriate and making desktop a seemless extension of Metro rather than a jarring jump when it's not. Having played with the consumer preview a little I'd saythat jump isn't nearly as horrendous as some folk are making out, but could definatly do with some tweaking. Bringing the desktop visuals in line with Metro will actually be a help there.

Personally I suspect it won't be a flop but it won't instantly be a roaring success either - as others have said, WIn7 is damn good and there just isn't a compeling reason to upgrade unless you're purchasing some newfangled device.


I've been testing windows 8 developer and consumer previews. My first impressions were so bad I'm now running OSX as my primary desktop at home and work; 27" imac in the office, hackintosh at home. Lion's pretty nice (and they've finally just added a UK standard keyboard layout in addition to the apple weird hybrid one, at last!), but I'm not a huge fan of the short lifespan on support; Snow Leopard, which is still damn common, loses pretty much all support when Mountain Lion comes out soon - and ML itself seems to largely only be of interest if you're also an iOS/icloud user, while dropping yet more backwards compatibility.

I am running windows 8 CP on my gaming rig and in a couple of test environments at the office. My two biggest issues with it are:

1) windows 7 style aero with metro is really jarring when you flip between the two. Switching it off via basic mode gives you flat/square window styling which is much more in line with the metro look, and actually looks better; picked that up from testing windows 8 server.

2) the mouse gestures are really broken on anything other than a full single screen. Running in a VM, or with dualhead, or via RDP is just painfully awkward. They're just insanely tricky.

Supposedly both of these have been re-done for the windows 8 Preview coming next month, so will be interesting to see what they've done with it.

My third issue is the inability to stack shortcuts in metro; although they do have custom folders for their own stuff that then open in explorer, any old style installed shortcut folders are flattened; so when you install something, you get that app short, the uninstall shortcut, the manual shortcut. It's a mess, and it should have been avoided. Imagine every single shortcut under 'All programs' all mooshed together in metro as one giant smear of shortcuts. It's fixable by being ruthless on cleaning up, but for ordinary users it's going to be a giant mess if they don't change that behaviour.

The final issue is that the shutdown/sleep options are buried far too deep, especially given how awkward the 'charms' bar is to get to. I've currently got a couple of shortcuts in metro for shutdown and sleep that gets round that, but I hope they tweak that before release.

Metro in and of itself does kinda make sense after a while; Although it's a big shock at first, when you HAVE to use it for a few weeks, you get used to it - and the normal win 7 start menu does feel rather cramped and cluttered afterwards. I personally think the OSX dock + adding a shortcut to the Applications folder (with 'stack view') is a better solution, but having got used to metro - and cleaned out all the shite shortcuts and metro widgets - it's not that bad as a start menu replacement. I don't use any metro apps though as they all suck and are considerably less functional than their full desktop app equivalents.

The munging of settings between metro settings and control panel settings is also not at all well done, and nor is the window switcher when in metro. I just use the traditional one in the desktop and ignore the metro side altogether for that; the two app switchers are entirely separate (metro and desktop) and don't really work alongside each other at all.

The one advantage of windows 8 has is that it is very quick - noticeably quicker than windows 7 on the same (SSD) hardware to boot or wake. So it'll probably keep its home on my gaming rig, where booting quick and running a single full screen is basically all it does, and my quiet mini OSX box will stay as my main rig.

Plus of course desktop users won't get a choice, unless they're businesses, in which case they'll be using downgrade rights and sticking to windows 7. For desktop users, it's a no-brainer to do that. For laptop users... well, if they fix some of the more glaring faults in the CP it might be a slight upgrade in the speed and ease-of-use front; full-screen windows do make more sense on a single screen laptop. And of course, there's the forthcoming ARM or medfield based windows 8 tablets to take on the ipad. I wouldn't use one of those if you paid me, personally.
posted by ArkhanJG at 6:59 PM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's truly bizarre that just at the moment large, high resolution displays have become affordable to everyone, everyone is taking their design cues from an operating system designed for a 320x480, 3.5" display.

Not only that, but this is the first time I can think of where the new operating systems are substantially less attractive than the ones that preceded them. Windows 7 and Snow Leopard were largely refined, workhorse operating systems, but with Windows 8, Mac OS 10.7 and Ubuntu 12.04, desktop operating systems appear to have fully entered their "American cars from the 70s" phase.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 7:00 PM on May 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


2. Click on a disk drive in explorer. It often takes about a minute to open, as a green progress bar crawls slowly over the title bar.

Oh man, reminds me of my one major annoyance with Windows 7. If I grab a file, and drag it somewhere (another folder, or dropping it into an app), and I happen to drag that file over the icon for a network drive on the way, Explorer will freeze for 30 seconds while it tries to log into the network share. I've found myself dragging files in interesting wonky paths across the screen to avoid this.
posted by Jimbob at 7:05 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


The year of Linux on the desktop may well be the year Apple and Microsoft stop making desktop OSs.

(I actually like some of what Microsoft is doing with Windows 8, and suspect the reality will be less dire than some of the predictions, and as far as design sensibility goes, while there's some functional parallels with the rest of the tablet mania, it feels like MS isn't taking most of its design cues from Apple for the first time in a while, though I'm sure they are looking hard at the app economy.)
posted by weston at 7:07 PM on May 19, 2012


I wish there was a "vim" window manager, for any OS. It would have command mode where you use hjkl and other keys to manage, resize, switch windows, move between desktops, etc, and then you'd hit enter to use selected window.
posted by rainy at 7:09 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


rainy, you know about dwm, right? If you don't already I bet you would like it.

Artw, yeah, you're right, I was being a little flip - but it does seem like their fullscreen mode has (super limited) tiling ability.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:13 PM on May 19, 2012


rainy: "I wish there was a "vim" window manager, for any OS. It would have command mode where you use hjkl and other keys to manage, resize, switch windows, move between desktops, etc, and then you'd hit enter to use selected window."

Well there's screen, which is where I do 90% of my work at work.
posted by octothorpe at 7:17 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not real happy that the hated ribbon interface has found its way into Windows Explorer in 8. Fortunately I only end up using MS-Office once or twice a year but that ribbon never fails to flummox me.
posted by octothorpe at 7:19 PM on May 19, 2012


Apple could give away iPads and iPhones (they don't, for a very good marketing reason) and still drag in billions with just their cut of the iTunes store.

You have this the wrong way around - Apple make relatively small amounts taking cut of media and software sales and selling their own software in order to make a spectacular shitload of money flogging hardware. Are you thinking of Amazon?
posted by jack_mo at 7:20 PM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


en forme: no, I would actually prefer it to be like compiz, with tons of features and plugins and powerful mouse navigation, and with layer of vim-like management on top (with mappings and action recordings).

octothorpe: I never found much need for screen.. I only use it when I need to keep something running remotely. Otherwise, 99% of time, I use chrome with tabs, gnome terminal with tabs as well, and gvim without tabs but with tabbar plugin.
posted by rainy at 7:24 PM on May 19, 2012


Yeah, in fact Apple made more than 50% of their profit from sale of iPhones alone last quarter.
posted by rainy at 7:24 PM on May 19, 2012


But beware Win-L, which logs you out.

I often swap between my Macbook Pro and my desktop PC, at the same desk. So I'll just yank the monitor and keyboard cables (mouse plugged in to keyboard) and swap them over. Way too lazy to just get a KVM switch. (Sometimes I'll even VNC to the machine next to me rather than just move my hands across, but that's a different story)

Because I'm not switching keyboards, my poor brain gets a bit frazzled sometimes, and after a good long period working on my Mac where Cmd-L goes to the location bar in Safari, I'll forget to put my pinky two keys over and grrr...

Much hair is lost.

It's just a lock screen, nothing is lost and it takes me at most about 5 seconds to get back. I think it's the highly concentrated instance of personal dumbness that gets me.
posted by dumbland at 7:30 PM on May 19, 2012


This seems a very schizo approach to me. In the first article, the designer says they've attempted to remove all the chrome - thus, the full screen everything.

Then, on the page where they talk about the redesigned Windows Explorer they tout the addition of a huge honking ribbon at the top. All it does is give you big buttons for things you can already get in the right-click context menu.

I've played with the pre-release and, IMO, it sucks. They say they want the experience to be more like using a device than a computer. I want a computer, dammit.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:34 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


So... will there be some sort of warning before Windows 7 is no longer buyable by the average consumer? Maybe I should buy 2-3 copies now for my future computing needs in the next decade or so.

I'm not touching 8 with a ten-foot pole.
posted by marble at 7:50 PM on May 19, 2012


all of those interface are cute, but how are you supposed to get real work done on them?

You're not. The design goal for Windows 8 is to closely mimic what Apple has done with the iPad and iPhone: turn the user into a simple buyer of pre-packaged goods from Microsoft's walled garden (one could argue, quiet successfully, that Microsoft has always copied Apple, and this is just more of the same). Apple could give away iPads and iPhones (they don't, for a very good marketing reason) and still drag in billions with just their cut of the iTunes store. Microsoft wants that kind of continual over-and-over income. And they are willing to completely disavow their userbase, pushing them elsewhere, to get it.

But this is where Microsoft has completely missed the key underlying principle that is, and has been, driving things for quite some time now. Simply put, the computing user base is pretty much fragmented into three distinct "brands" or "user type groups".

Linux for servers, Windows for productivity, and Apple for sheer pleasure (to paraphrase a raunchy joke). In other words, you put your web server on a LAMP system, give your workers Windows laptops with Office or Visual Studio installed, and if they need a phone or a toy to play with on the plane/trane/bus, an iPhone or iPad.

Microsoft apparently no longer thinks that Windows is for productivity any more, and that that a net income of $23 billion dollars per year is not enough. They think that chasing after Apple's $2 billion more net is worth throwing away... everything.
Wow, there is so much wrong with this comment.

First of all, the cute interfaces here are from the tablet-oriented Metro UI. The regular desktop UI ought to look pretty familiar to Windows 7 users

Second, it is well known that Apple makes most of its money from device sales, not from iTunes. iTunes accounts for just 5% of their revenue. You're probably thinking of Amazon.

Regarding Microsoft's strategy, I'm not fully sure, but I know that currently Office is basically the only product line they make money on, so I highly doubt they're ready to ditch productivity apps just yet. You're clearly right that they're finally realizing that there's money to be made in high-quality consumer facing goods, but I'm not convinced they're betting the farm on it. Again, notice above that the Windows 8 desktop UI looks very very similar to Windows 7, and in fact copies over a number of UI patterns from recent versions of Office.

Regarding the different roles of computers (Apple = pleasure/luxury, Windows = work, Linux = servers), I think by and large you are correct, but I would note that Apple laptops have a cachet with younger people in particular, and a couple of other influential niches like designers and startups. I think because of this, Microsoft is beginning to fear that the the traditional roles may be shifting: namely, more startups are maturing and as they mature, they're becoming bigger and bigger Apple customers. Those customers go home and buy Apple products, and their children growing up mostly using Apple products. Right now it's still a pretty small number of people, but give it a while, and we've got a contender.

It's clear that Microsoft wants startups and other businesses to use Microsoft products to build software. The evidence is in the fact that they're pouring tons of money into excellent development tools like Visual Studio [yes, I prefer VIM too, but Visual Studio is a damned fine IDE], .Net [C# is really fucking good, and with functional programming on the up-and-up, they're well positioned with F#], and they're finally starting to come around to the idea of open source. Then, they're giving the development tools away to startups.
posted by !Jim at 7:53 PM on May 19, 2012


My Ubuntu 12.04 running MATE 1.2 Desktop. No Unity required. Gnome3 need not apply.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 8:23 PM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Second, it is well known that Apple makes most of its money from device sales, not from iTunes

And a fair amount of vertical integration - more so than Amazon I think.

Apple laptops have a cachet with younger people in particular

With a whole bunch of people actually. Having used both, I'm far more productive on Mac than PC, mainly because the OS doesn't get in the way all the time and break my train of thought. I've been on some projects with folks I regard as being smart and tech savvy (not that I regard myself as so) and they've been pretty much exclusively Mac shops.
posted by carter at 8:39 PM on May 19, 2012


Search is nice, but when did I seriously last need to search?

You're kidding right? At any given time I manage 6-8 ongoing projects, totalling a few hundred over the last few years. Up until Google Desktop (and now Windows 7 search), I relied on my only-as-good-as-my-memory filing schema to direct me to old project files. Now I find what I'm looking for in three keystrokes, while my boss is wtill in the office.

Fast, indexed search is one of the best productivity improvements invented in the last 8 years (by Apple first I think).
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:28 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wish there was a "vim" window manager, for any OS. It would have command mode where you use hjkl and other keys to manage, resize, switch windows, move between desktops, etc, and then you'd hit enter to use selected window.

Have you tried xmonad?
posted by cmonkey at 11:31 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


That was a really interesting read. Not only to learn what's coming up in the realm of Windows OS but also to lean of the design trade offs they had to make.
The contracts approach sounds exciting. Reminds me of how powershell extended the old unix paradigm of pipes to be object oriented. I think that makes for some exciting possibilities.
Also it's cool that winrt development can be done in javascript.
I was struck btw by how they emphasise the changes in a historical context and how any change was met with resistance. I interpreted that as an effort to mitigate the inevitable nerd rage. Not quite succesfully juding from this thread.
All in all it sounds exciting to me. My only reservation being that it seems they're moving to a model of an app store as well. That's fine as long as I have a choice to go elsewhere as well. We'll see.
posted by joost de vries at 12:29 AM on May 20, 2012


Uh, I use windows 7 and I don't find the OS getting in the way. Can someone explain, with a specific common example?
posted by maxwelton at 12:56 AM on May 20, 2012


I see that article conveniently skipped mentioning Windows ME.

I think a large percentage of Linux users keep a dual-boot Windows option around because of the crippled graphic card support under Linux. If this ever changes - and it might be getting there, what with all those Kickstarter projects announcing Linux support and even Valve working on a Steam port - then Linux will finally be usable as a primary OS for gamers and capturing a much larger desktop market share would be feasible.
posted by xqwzts at 1:04 AM on May 20, 2012


Second, it is well known that Apple makes most of its money from device sales, not from iTunes. iTunes accounts for just 5% of their revenue.

First: don't say something is well known when it is not well known. Second: the chart covers revenue. Of course devices are a huge portion of revenue, they'd have to be, but the difference made to Apple's bottom line is profits. Profit margins are much higher on iTunes.
posted by JHarris at 1:05 AM on May 20, 2012


Has anybody ever enjoyed anything sold as 'an experience'? It's like they wilfully misspelled 'experiment' or 'extraction'.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:26 AM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wish there was a "vim" window manager, for any OS. It would have command mode where you use hjkl and other keys to manage, resize, switch windows, move between desktops, etc, and then you'd hit enter to use selected window.

There are lots (hundreds, probably) of window managers that'll let you use vim-ish movement commands. Have a look at this list for Linux, and there's a few more for OS X and Linux listed on my weblog.

As far as I know, there isn't a truly modal window manager out there though - all the ones listed in those links use, eg. Ctrl + H to switch to the window on the left - except for mowm, which I haven't tried and hasn't seen an update since 2007.
posted by jack_mo at 3:09 AM on May 20, 2012


The U.S. Government has largely bought Windows Vista and now Win7 computers. So that is likely what will be the winner for the foreseeable future. No talk of Windows 8 coming for USG purposes - which of course is one of the largest purchasers on the planet.
posted by AndrewKemendo at 5:19 AM on May 20, 2012


One thing I don't undertand: why is Windows 7 search so much slower than Mac OS? I guess Mac OS indexes every folder or something? Considering how much they have permeated the interface with search boxes, you'd think they would make it faster.

Give the search program Everything a try. It uses the NTFS indexes (so does have the drawback of only working on NTFS drives) to search instantly.
posted by netd at 5:35 AM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I see nobody's mentioned Chrome OS...
posted by Devonian at 5:42 AM on May 20, 2012


Has anybody ever enjoyed anything sold as 'an experience'?

I think Jimi Hendrix was pretty successful using that sales approach.
posted by hippybear at 6:17 AM on May 20, 2012


One thing I don't undertand: why is Windows 7 search so much slower than Mac OS? I guess Mac OS indexes every folder or something? Considering how much they have permeated the interface with search boxes, you'd think they would make it faster.

It says right when you conduct a search that you have the option to index the drive/folder to make searches faster. So rather than default indexing, it's an option that comes up every time you search an unindexed source.
posted by juiceCake at 7:34 AM on May 20, 2012


Fast, indexed search is one of the best productivity improvements invented in the last 8 years (by Apple first I think).

locate has been around since the 1980s (and updatedb doesn't bring my (admittedly quite elderly) Mac to its knees like Spotlight's indexing).
posted by jack_mo at 7:42 AM on May 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


a fullscreen mode which is apparently all the rage now and what the kids are into

And any day now, one of the CADT will invent "desk accessories".
posted by hand at 7:50 AM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Profit margins are much higher on iTunes.

I'm not sure about this. Gross margin on their devices is much higher than their cut of media and app sales.
posted by snofoam at 8:14 AM on May 20, 2012


jack_mo: As far as I know, there isn't a truly modal window manager out there though - all the ones listed in those links use, eg. Ctrl + H to switch to the window on the left

Well, it's trivial to map ctrl-h etc to switch windows for example, in compiz. But that's nothing like Vim where the whole point is that having two modes allows you to use very short commands for management and to use all the keys on the keyboard.
posted by rainy at 8:41 AM on May 20, 2012


Profit margins are much higher on iTunes.

I'm not sure about this.


Yes, but with iTunes and the App Store, Apple doesn't have to actually create anything. They're skimming 30% off of all sales of product that other people have created. That's pure profit, all for doing nothing more than creating a gateway through which people can make purchases.
posted by hippybear at 8:50 AM on May 20, 2012


Yes, but with iTunes and the App Store, Apple doesn't have to actually create anything.

Besides data centres but those are built by magical non-union fairies, right? And the bandwidth is free too if I'm not mistaken. And the credit card fees. You still get 2% on a 99c transaction, right?

By my calculation this results in INFINITY DOLLARS PROFIT.
posted by Talez at 10:52 AM on May 20, 2012


By my calculation this results in INFINITY DOLLARS PROFIT.

Only when actual dollars are multiplied by the level of your snark.
posted by hippybear at 11:12 AM on May 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's pure profit, all for doing nothing more than creating a gateway through which people can make purchases.

I can see there being less overhead for this than for designing devices, but the total profit is still very small compared to profit from device sales, and the ROI may also be smaller, at least right now.
posted by snofoam at 12:13 PM on May 20, 2012


Only when actual dollars are multiplied by the level of your snark.

But I didn't actually create any snark. I only skimmed 30% off all of the snark that other people have created. That's pure profit, all for doing nothing more than creating a gateway through which snark can flow.
posted by Talez at 1:29 PM on May 20, 2012


Since the thread is old and already derailed: if you're asking "How does Apple make money?" you should be looking at Asymco. Here's a recent post comparing Android revenues to Apple revenues, with a graph that compares revenues and profit margins across quarters for each of Apple's products. There's much more there, but bottom line: profits come from the iPhone, iPad, Mac, software (including app store?), iPod, and iTunes lines, in roughly that order.
posted by RedOrGreen at 1:55 PM on May 20, 2012


Besides data centres but those are built by magical non-union fairies, right? And the bandwidth is free too if I'm not mistaken. And the credit card fees. You still get 2% on a 99c transaction, right?

Har har. It's a question of scale, you nitwit*. It is true that, with manufacturing, more of the expense is upfront, but it's still a substantially higher percentage of gross revenue than providing software. That's a major reason software companies have been keen to move out of providing physical media when possible.

* We need to bring back all the old insults. Rapscallion! Dunderhead! Nincompoop! Jackanape! They have a playful tone, I think, that expresses mild annoyance while not causing much offense, or at least that's what I hope here.

The fact that I could compose this list so quickly indicates that, for some reason, they hold a prominent place in my brain. There are multiple possible conclusions you could draw from that.

posted by JHarris at 3:29 PM on May 20, 2012


(Yeah, it is a derail, isn't it. Sigh. I tend to get carried away sometimes.)
posted by JHarris at 3:30 PM on May 20, 2012


I've heard that Windows 8 won't come bundled with Windows Media Center, which is pretty much the best thing about Windows and therefor a massive mistake on Microsoft's part.
posted by smithsmith at 4:03 PM on May 20, 2012


Linux for servers, Windows for productivity, and Apple for sheer pleasure (to paraphrase a raunchy joke). In other words, you put your web server on a LAMP system, give your workers Windows laptops with Office or Visual Studio installed, and if they need a phone or a toy to play with on the plane/trane/bus, an iPhone or iPad.
This is a weird break-down for me. Maybe I've been working in Mac-centric workplaces all my life, but in most jobs I've had, employees were given Macbook Pros for all of the above. OSX becomes your UNIX flavor, you build web-based software (so the platform doesn't matter), and if you want to dick around outside company time you've got a decent-powered machine for gaming.
posted by deathpanels at 10:23 PM on May 20, 2012


Looks like they are improving multi-monitor support.
posted by Artw at 1:14 PM on May 21, 2012


Ars Technica is reporting that Visual Studio Express 2011, i.e. the free version, is only going to allow the creation of Metro Apps. Yikes, if true.
posted by Artw at 1:50 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


80" Metro tablet
posted by Artw at 10:11 PM on May 27, 2012


yes, I prefer VIM too, but Visual Studio is a damned fine IDE

Have your cake and eat it too.
posted by Jpfed at 7:50 PM on June 1, 2012


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