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Why Windows 8 Scares Me - and Should Scare You Too
June 1, 2012 6:42 PM   Subscribe

Why Windows 8 Scares Me - and Should Scare You Too

The most important message I want you to understand is this: Windows 8 is not Windows. Although Microsoft calls it Windows, and a lot of Windows code may still be present under the hood, Windows 8 is a completely new operating system in every way that matters to users.  It looks different, it works differently, and it forces you to re-learn much of what you know today about computers.  From a user perspective, Microsoft Windows is being killed this fall and replaced by an entirely new OS that has a Windows 7 emulator tacked onto it.
posted by Trurl (318 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
Also, it has draconian DRM that requires an always-on connection to Microsoft's license validation servers.

Actually, I don't think it does, but wouldn't it be cool if it did?
posted by Nomyte at 6:44 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


And Microsoft wonders why Windows 7 has had soooo much trouble competing with - And Vista lost the OS war against...

Windows XP.

Free hint, Redmond - You got it right, a decade ago. Stick to bugfixes and hardware support, and quit changing things for no good reason!.
posted by pla at 6:48 PM on June 1, 2012 [59 favorites]


The simplicity of Metro is very appealing in many ways, especially when viewed against Apple's interface, which is becoming more and more encrusted with strange textures and bits of faux 3D gewgaw.

I have to say, I really agree with this observation wholeheartedly. I'm a longtime Mac user, but I just could not bring myself to upgrade to Lion once I got an eyeful of that mess. Metro, by comparison, looks far more modern and grown-up.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:50 PM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was seriously thinking about jumping off the Apple ship until I saw Windows 8.

Not.going.to.happen.

I may even buy a copy of Lion next week.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:50 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


But iOS! Apple's sold a million magic slabs of glass so that proves everyone prefers touchscreen interfaces and such now!

PLEASE STOP CHASING FADS AND STICK TO MAKING BASICALLY USEABLE DESKTOP INTERFACES KTHNXBYE
posted by JHarris at 6:51 PM on June 1, 2012 [18 favorites]


There's also this, (via jwz), the implications of which I am still digesting, painfully, but which appear to be along the lines of 'Windows 8 machines will be substantially harder to install Linux on than previous versions of Windows.' Unless I have misunderstood, which I hope I have.
posted by motty at 6:53 PM on June 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


Windows 8 is not Windows, it's a new operating system with Windows 7 compatibility tacked onto it.

I don't think the author mentioned one thing that changed in the OS. He talked about the User Interface for the entire article.

Personally, I think Metro looks terrible. I won't be rushing to upgrade any time soon. I bet Windows 7 will stick around as the primary version of Windows out there until Windows 9 comes out, even more so than with the Vista debacle.
posted by demiurge at 6:56 PM on June 1, 2012 [16 favorites]


Win 7 is the new XP.
posted by benito.strauss at 6:59 PM on June 1, 2012 [67 favorites]


OK FF'sFS:

Skeuomorphism?

What the holy fucking fuck?

Creating an imaginary answer to an imaginary problem by creating a UI composed of flat-ass 2-d boring squares?

So help me god, we didn't create super amazing resolution for goddamn 2-d single color squares.

Jesus Christ.
posted by roboton666 at 7:00 PM on June 1, 2012 [19 favorites]


And fuck you you adobe CS-whatever the hell number you are on, bring back my illustrator 10 splash page.
posted by roboton666 at 7:01 PM on June 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


Things change, get used to it. While I'm not entirely sold on the Windows 8 idea yet, I welcome MS trying new and different things.

I'm an Apple user, but wary of Apple dominance as much as I worried about MS dominance. Let them both keep each other on their toes and watch what they come up with.
posted by purephase at 7:06 PM on June 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


Oh, and the word is that, in the upcoming ARM version of Windows, apps will be forced to use the Metro interface, and Microsoft will not allow any competing web browsers on the platform. That's right, they looked at Apple's damnable iOS walled garden and thought hey, now that looks like a good idea.
posted by JHarris at 7:07 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, he's hitting at something I tried to express in the last thread: In Windows 8, Microsoft is deprecating windows. They're trying to literally do away with the windows in a program called Windows! Programs that use windows are now second-class citizens, banished to the ghetto, while Metro takes center stage. But the problem is, Metro is freaking horrible as a desktop interface. Awful, no good, bad bad bad bad. It's designed around small touchscreens, and the bigger and more expensive your machine is, the worse Metro becomes.

On my 30", 2560x1600 screen, it is ridiculously terrible.

It would be a fine interface for a tablet. I think I'd really enjoy it there. But Microsoft wants to assault Apple in the tablet market, and they want to make Metro look like it's more popular than it really is. So to get the usage numbers up, they are bending you over the counter, and readying the broomstick.

As long as you don't trigger the DRM bullshit in it, Win7 is truly outstanding. It's fast, it's reasonably attractive (not quite as nice as a Mac, but far from the Fisher-Price XP theme), it's extremely stable, and it really handles desktop apps well. There's very little, at this point, that it doesn't do well.

In almost every respect, Windows 8 is a giant step backwards; they're trying to make your expensive desktop into a brain-dead tablet, and you into a brain-dead consumer of the Microsoft App Store. On the default screen in the last preview, I counted five different ways to give Microsoft money, but no help button. I mean, think about that a minute. Five ways to spend money, but they couldn't be arsed to give you help to understand the new interface. How much more clearly could they show you their priorities?

Everything, everything in Windows 8 is for Microsoft's benefit, not yours. In comparison, it makes Vista look awesome. There is essentially no benefit to you in this operating system, if you have a desktop. It's all about Microsoft, and what Microsoft needs.

What's that, you say? An operating system should be for its customers? Not if you're a monopoly. Your needs and wants are about this >< important.
posted by Malor at 7:08 PM on June 1, 2012 [59 favorites]


Reasons people use Windows:

1. It came pre-installed on the box that they bought at Best Buy.
2. There is existing software written for Windows that they want to use.
3. There are no other reasons.

And they can't count on #1 forever. But apparently nobody at Microsoft understands this. I think Tycho over at Penny Arcade nailed it back in 2009, talking about the Zune:
What Microsoft needs badly is a shaman. They need somebody who is situated physically within their culture, but outside it spiritually. This isn’t a person who hates Microsoft, but it’s a person who can actually see it. I can do this for you. Give me a hut in your parking lot. I will eat mushrooms, roll around in your cafeteria, and tell you the Goddamned truth.
posted by jcreigh at 7:09 PM on June 1, 2012 [55 favorites]


Things change, get used to it.

Oh yes. We should roll over and accept every idiotic arbitrary decision any big company makes as if it were honey spooned into our mouths by Athena herself. Take it in the ass customers! You know Microsoft knows best!
posted by JHarris at 7:10 PM on June 1, 2012 [14 favorites]


And keep in mind, I was pretty jazzed about Windows 8 before I installed it. I thought Metro looked cool.

That enthusiasm did not last long.
posted by Malor at 7:10 PM on June 1, 2012


Maybe this will inspire enough big businesses to throw enough cash at ReactOS to make it viable and get hardware manufacturers behind it and we can all settle into a stable post-Microsoft era.

Yeah, they're deprecating Windows, just like they deprecated Visual Studio 6, at the time the most popular programming environment EVAR, for crass marketing reasons. Anyone who develops a system dependent on anything after that -- and by that I include everything .NET -- is a fool.
posted by localroger at 7:10 PM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


(please pardon my visceral reaction)
posted by roboton666 at 7:11 PM on June 1, 2012


Also the sky is falling.
posted by oddman at 7:11 PM on June 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


People will continue to use Windows 7, because it's handily the best, most functional, and easiest to use desktop OS on the market. They'll skip over Windows 8, and reinstall Windows 7 if they buy a computer that comes with 8 - just like they did with Vista.
posted by kafziel at 7:13 PM on June 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


Anyone who develops a system dependent on anything after that -- and by that I include everything .NET -- is a fool.

As far as I can tell, they're now throwing .NET under the bus in favor of the shiny new world where Microsoft gets a cut of all Metro app sales, and they get to tell you what programs can run on your computer.

Yeah, that's a great deal. Sign me up!
posted by Malor at 7:14 PM on June 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh, and let me address Nomyte's comment at the top of the thread: NO, NO IT WOULD NOT BE. KEEP YOUR FOOL MOUTH SHUT, DON'T GIVE THE CHIMP IDEAS.
posted by JHarris at 7:15 PM on June 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


I fear this might devolve into a Microsoft pileon.

Or do we have to have a Windows 8 defender for a true pileon?
posted by b1tr0t at 7:18 PM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh yes. We should roll over and accept every idiotic arbitrary decision any big company makes as if it were honey spooned into our mouths by Athena herself. Take it in the ass customers! You know Microsoft knows best!

No, you shouldn't over-react. No one is forcing you to buy the OS and there are plenty of other options. MS has all to lose on this bet but obviously they see value in making it. Aside from Office, Windows is the MS juggernaut. They're not doing this to put you out. They're doing it because they see potential value in this investment and their betting billions on this decision.

As much as it might be easy to rag on MS, there are a lot of very smart and talented people that work there and they do a lot of things right.

Reasons people use Windows:

1. It came pre-installed on the box that they bought at Best Buy.
2. There is existing software written for Windows that they want to use.
3. There are no other reasons.


4. Billions of dollars have been spent on enterprise software that relies on the Windows platform.

This is their golden goose. If you think OEM licensing is where MS makes their money, you're incorrect.
posted by purephase at 7:19 PM on June 1, 2012 [9 favorites]


Well, crap. It appears I have summoned one.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:21 PM on June 1, 2012 [18 favorites]


I downloaded the preview and ran it in a VM and really hate it. As the article says, just finding the simplest configuration settings is close to impossible and I never did figure out how to shut it down, I just suspended the VM to get it to stop. Can you imagine being an IT worker in a big corporation and having to train office workers to use this? *Shudder*
posted by octothorpe at 7:22 PM on June 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


If you willfully misread my comments, then yes. I'm an Apple user from top to bottom, but am worried about a world where they dominate as much as I worried about MS before.

Also, it's a bloody OS. People need to relax.
posted by purephase at 7:23 PM on June 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


How can anyone be surprised by this? Windows OS consumer versions are on the same release pattern as Star Trek movies; every other one sucks.

Windows 3.1 - wow
Windows 95 - suck
Windows 98 - That's more like it!
Windows ME - Oh, my god, the suck
Windows XP - It works! It really works
Windows Vista - A steaming pile of what again?
Windows 7 - Ooooh, pretty
Windows 8 - Your destiny is to blow, and blow mightily

They try things out in alternate releases, figure out what they can get away with, and put it in the 'real' release cycles.

Skip every other release, and you're good.
posted by MrVisible at 7:23 PM on June 1, 2012 [73 favorites]


Windows 8 is a completely new operating system in every way that matters to users.  It looks different, it works differently, and it forces you to re-learn much of what you know today about computers. 

So this is the Microsoft equivalent of OSX? I guess the next step will be to only port it to Intel processors.
posted by TedW at 7:25 PM on June 1, 2012


I'm really quite amazed that Mr Michael Mace felt compelled to write 8,390 words on this topic.
posted by simra at 7:25 PM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I will keep Windows 7 for as long as possible. After that, I think I'm going to switch to something that comes with Gnome and a decent terminal emulator and otherwise stays out of my way.

I like the internals of the Windows OS. I can do without the legacy compatibility cruft, and I can do without all the exotic stuff and eye candy layered on top. Give me the much-discussed MinWin with a basic Windows GUI on top, the requisite Control Panel items and update system, and the bare minimum DirectShow implementation. Don't lock down anything else. I'll pay $100 for an install disc.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:25 PM on June 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


I had no opinion on Windows 8 until I read the article, but now think it looks really, really bad. You know what's wrong with the window/folder/control panel metaphor? Not a whole lot, to be honest, and whatever is wrong with it isn't something that turning my PC in to a bad tablet will fix.

I guess there are a number of things that make this attractive for Microsoft: Really, it seems like they're half-assedly following a bunch of bad trends in recent computing. Then again, maybe this is the first sign that I'm getting old, and when I'm 50 I'll be befuddled by kids and their tablet interfaces, grumbling about how much better computers were when you could manually manipulate files, organize folders, and have more than one screen open at once.
posted by codacorolla at 7:26 PM on June 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


I note that this piece was written before Release Preview.

The main problem with Win 8 as far as I'm concerned is that stuff gets duplicated in the Metro mode and 'regular' mode, not that the Start menu has become a Start screen. I'm hoping they have some switch in the final version that would turn that off; keep a Metro control panel a Metro IE on in WinRT for all I care, but turn it off in laptop versions. Otherwise, it'll be he'll trying to fix your stereotyped grandma's laptop, for instance.
posted by the cydonian at 7:27 PM on June 1, 2012


I'll let my prior comment regarding Windows 8 speak for me.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:27 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Large rectangles in primary colors?

Where do I sign up?
posted by c13 at 7:28 PM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, it's a bloody OS. People need to relax.

Spoken like someone who has never been forced by their employer to use crap software.
posted by Trurl at 7:31 PM on June 1, 2012 [42 favorites]


An awful lot of point-missing in that article.

MS is trying to have their cake and eat it too, that's all. They want to use them same codebase for desktops and laptops and tablets, too. They see what Apple has done and where Apple is going, and they're trying like fuck to copy and catch up (sorry, embrace and extend) same as they always have.

They're probably going to fail, and Win 8 is probably going to be the WinMe of this decade, and they'll probably go back to functionally separate SKUs for different device types that may or may not share the same codebase. The only question is whether they will give up and try to present different UIs depending on the usage scenario, or try to bring the two separate UIs in Windows 8 (what the fuck were they thinking there?) together into some kind of frankenUI.

My bet is on the former. They may be downplaying the desktop, but counter to the semi-informed yowls of some folks in this thread, they're not removing it. After this experiment of theirs, Windows on desktops and laptops with continue to look much as it does these days (with refinements, certainly, or hopefully, at least) and their Metro thing (which I think looks like hammered fisherprice dogshit, but that's just me, perhaps) will be the UI for smaller devices, I reckon. But in the meantime, they're in for some serious user revolts, and a good fucking shake of their heads.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:32 PM on June 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Then again, maybe this is the first sign that I'm getting old, and when I'm 50 I'll be befuddled by kids and their tablet interfaces, grumbling about how much better computers were when you could manually manipulate files, organize folders, and have more than one screen open at once.

That's more like it. It's the same thing that's happening in OSX, Ubuntu (via Unity), Chrome and now Windows. It's hardly a new direction in desktop computing. If anything, MS is late to the party but probably making a more drastic maneuver.

The future is your mobile touch-based platform mirroring your desktop platform with all settings, applications and data stored in the "cloud". Enter all the stupid buzzwords here.
posted by purephase at 7:32 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


It should be obvious that the iOS people have now successfully infiltrated and subverted every other GUI development team on the planet. How else do you explain the swath of contemporaneous, similar but seemingly-independent insane decisions: to replace Gnome 2 with Gnome 3, KDE3 with KDE4, Windows with Metro, anything sane with Unity, and Aqua with nothing better than mildly improved versions of Aqua?

I'm tempted to start grepping through XFCE mailing list archives for concern trollish keywords, to see if I can watch how the sabotage process works from the beginning.
posted by roystgnr at 7:32 PM on June 1, 2012 [14 favorites]


Reasons people use Windows:

1. It came pre-installed on the box that they bought at Best Buy.
2. There is existing software written for Windows that they want to use.
3. There are no other reasons.


Oh, please, just stop.

That is absolutely ridiculous. It's just laughably stupid. I use Windows 7. I use it at home and I use it at work and I use it because it's, in my opinion, the best OS out there. I think it honestly puts OS X to shame, in any of its cat-shaped forms. I love it. It's great.

I've got Windows 8 installed on my Lenovo X201 tablet. It has a multi-touchscreen interface, so it's kind of an ideal situation which is a happy accident. It's great.

I installed it for awhile on my desktop. Not so great.
posted by kbanas at 7:33 PM on June 1, 2012 [22 favorites]


Um.

If I said I didn't care because my life is in the browser now, would you hate me?

Seriously. I have to give W8 headspace because of Stuff, but personally I've moved on from that whole OS/Desktop/UI thing. Sure, there are apps. But I know how to touch them. Why should I be thinking about Windows 8, any more than I think about whether Gary Numan still has street cred?
posted by Devonian at 7:33 PM on June 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Spoken like someone who has never been forced by their employer to use crap software.

Paid by your employer to use what they purchased to do your job.
posted by purephase at 7:34 PM on June 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


they've turned my dual 24" monitors into a giant phone. Grotesque. Color squares? Three inches across? Look at those screenshots -- look at the Office apps! The old Office icon is in the corner, the name of the program (unnecessary, with the icon) takes up half the rest, but most of it is a giant block of primary color. Blechhhhh.

High-res screens allow you to make things SMALLER, not bigger. If this was a car the turn indicator would be four feet long and as big around as my thigh.

Windows 7 is bad enough -- you can't cram the icons as close together as you could in XP, which is stupid -- and, if you're like me, and have ten things open at once all the time, they've made it much more difficult to switch between them using the trusty old "Alt-Tab".

Windows 7 is an annoyance. Metro looks like a deal-killer.
posted by Fnarf at 7:34 PM on June 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


The old Office icon is in the corner, the name of the program (unnecessary, with the icon) takes up half the rest, but most of it is a giant block of primary color.

Not that you care, because your mind is pretty made up already, but I've found it does that by default for apps that don't yet have a Metro tile icon or whatever.. it's not how they're "intended" to look - it's just the default way it handles older apps that haven't been updated for Metro yet.
posted by kbanas at 7:38 PM on June 1, 2012


Shrug. It's just hard to get too worked up about an OS anymore. If it's great I'll use it, if it's terrible I'll stick with Win 7. It's just something to sit between the apps you use and your hardware. I launch apps from the keyboard on any OS I use anyway (win key and start typing or use launchy in Win 7, there are similar options for all other OS's including Win 8) who cares if there is no start button?
posted by markr at 7:40 PM on June 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Windows 7 is bad enough -- you can't cram the icons as close together as you could in XP"

You still use icons? My desktop is bare, I just pin the apps I use frequently to the taskbar.
posted by MikeMc at 7:42 PM on June 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


So I'm not sure what version this guy is using, but I just found all the power management options in two seconds, and I've never looked for them before. I installed Windows 8 a few weeks ago and am using it the same way I used Windows 7 the day before that. I barely see the Metro desktop, because it's not useful for the machine I'm on -a powerful development machine. Fortunately for me, this works perfectly well.

The trick this guy seems to have not learned, is hit the Windows key (takes you to the metro desktop) and start typing (searches programs/settings options and files). So, find power management? Win+p+o+w and there it is.
posted by jacalata at 7:42 PM on June 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


So this is the Microsoft equivalent of OSX?

Basically, for the following reason:

It should be obvious that the iOS people have now successfully infiltrated and subverted every other GUI development team on the planet.

Everyone has looked ahead and seen mobile devices on an easy trajectory to outnumber desktop PCs in the next few years, likely, and the coming decade for sure. The desktop form factor is going to lose out as the choice of casual computer to tablets and phones, and any platform that doesn't primarily work on tablets and phones will become a niche platform just because it only works on desktop PCs.

My unease with Windows 8's Metro interface lasted exactly as long as it took me to notice the Windows Explorer tile in the bottom right, which dropped me right back into the familiar desktop interface. Then I became grudgingly impressed with the scale of the bet MS appears to have made with Metro.

And I say that as someone who finally moved to Apple last year exclusively for my computers.
posted by fatbird at 7:43 PM on June 1, 2012


I'm tempted to start grepping through XFCE mailing list archives for concern trollish keywords, to see if I can watch how the sabotage process works from the beginning.

XFCE is actually my favorite GUI these days. It's ugly and derivative and kind of clunky but it's fast, easy to find everything and it mostly stays out of my way.
posted by octothorpe at 7:44 PM on June 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


I Installed the preview and played with it for a few days. It's AWFUL. Truly.

I've used Windows for a lot of years, and I was flummoxed as to how to do things I have never had a problem doing. That is not improvement. That's a giant step backwards and a big pile of fail.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:47 PM on June 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


IOS is game over for MSFT. Apple wins, Fatality. Not only does M$ need to fight iOS, they need to fight Android, who is a very, very credible 2nd place, destined for first. Not only do they need to fight Android, they need to fight Windows XP, which is as far as the traditional GUI goes for their large institutional customers, who only u/g'd to Win7 at gunpoint.

Windows 8 is a last gasp, as Microsoft is crushed under its own inertia... BYOD means the end of desktop computing in the enterprise as we have known it. It means side-show platforms like Linux and WebOS get to play, so long as their patch levels are up to spec.

(A discursion... BYOD means Bring Your Own Device. Corporate VPN concentrators that can peek into your computer/phone of choice, make sure its secure, and then let you in. You bought it... the company doesn't spend a dime on hardware, software or support beyond access to networked resources... You support it.)

Since Linux rules the server farm, and users can run whatever they like, and Google makes Android better than free for device makers that don't rhyme with "okia", and Apple rules the coolosphere... Yeah. Grim times for the desktop PC... and dismally grim times for a company reliant on the desktop.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:51 PM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


xfce is awesome. I use it for everything, except work, where I must have Windows. (I run a virtualbox with xubuntu there, too.)
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:51 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


You still use icons? My desktop is bare, I just pin the apps I use frequently to the taskbar

And what have you got there on your taskbar? Icons. And you can't cram them as close together as you can in XP.

it does that by default for apps that don't yet have a Metro tile icon

Does the fact that these "old apps" that are Metro-unaware are Microsoft's flagship Office apps tell you anything about how Microsoft's warring-department organization works?

Not that Office apps are even going to be around in three years....
posted by Fnarf at 7:52 PM on June 1, 2012


I fear this might devolve into a Microsoft pileon.
Or do we have to have a Windows 8 defender for a true pileon?


Yeah, I notice people don't seem to get as defensive when people attack Microsoft around these parts. It's probably because it's still hard to see them as an underdog.

purephase: No, you shouldn't over-react. No one is forcing you to buy the OS and there are plenty of other options.

HA!

MS has all to lose on this bet but obviously they see value in making it.

And the company is always right!

Aside from Office, Windows is the MS juggernaut. They're not doing this to put you out. They're doing it because they see potential value in this investment and their betting billions on this decision.

I refute you thusly: MICROSOFT BOB.

Also, it's a bloody OS. People need to relax.

It's a bloody comment thread. You need to relax.

kbanas: Oh, please, just stop.

That is absolutely ridiculous. It's just laughably stupid.


As a rhetorical technique, the hyperbolic dismissal only works if people already agree with you, and it's obvious from the rest of the thread that here they don't. It doesn't stop people from trying it, but it doesn't do their position any credit.
posted by JHarris at 7:52 PM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Paid by your employer to use what they purchased to do your job.

Expected by your employer to perform work with tools poorly suited for that purpose due to their dumb purchasing decisions.
posted by Trurl at 7:52 PM on June 1, 2012 [28 favorites]


xfce is awesome. I use it for everything, except work, where I must have Windows. (I run a virtualbox with xubuntu there, too.)

I'm exactly the opposite, use Ubuntu 10.4/xfce at work and Windows 7 at home.
posted by octothorpe at 7:54 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I do my real work in linux; the idiotic corporate cruft I deal with (time reporting, exchange calendars, helpdesk/ticketing system) all require Windows.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:55 PM on June 1, 2012


I tend to skip Win versions, sometimes more than one. went from 98 to XP to Win 7. All three of those where decent OSs. I suspect It's be Win 9 or 10 before I think about moving again.
Change is fine, change is good. But change for the sake of change bores me
posted by edgeways at 7:55 PM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


So, find power management? Win+p+o+w and there it is.

If that's the best way to find it, the whole UI is braindead. That should be your option of last resort.
posted by localroger at 7:55 PM on June 1, 2012 [11 favorites]


All the indications are that Windows 8 is the new Vista, etc etc. I plan to avoid it. I tried the preview for a short while but Metro, while potentially very interesting, is way undercooked at this point.

I use a Mac for my daily work (we're a Mac company) and I've come to the opinion that unless you're doing something that you NEED to run on a Mac, you're better of with Win 7.

By need, I say generally programming or music/video/photoshop/art-heavy work. If you haven't gotten past the point where Windows can't handle what you're doing, the inferior UI (yes, I said it), the deeply-ingrained UNcustomizability, and the much more expensive hardware, don't move to OSX.
posted by chimaera at 7:57 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fnarf: You can use the arrow keys to navigate through the open windows using alt-tab in Window 7. No more "Alt-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-shit one too far-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab".

Now? "Alt-tab arrow around like you're nethacking" done.

For that alone I will strenuously defend Windows 7.
posted by Grimgrin at 7:58 PM on June 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


Windows XP, which is as far as the traditional GUI goes for their large institutional customers, who only u/g'd to Win7 at gunpoint.

The Fortune 500 company I work for is still using XP.

I pray they go to 7 rather than 8 when the time comes.
posted by Trurl at 7:59 PM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, please, just stop. That is absolutely ridiculous. It's just laughably stupid. I use Windows 7. I use it at home and I use it at work and I use it because it's, in my opinion, the best OS out there. I think it honestly puts OS X to shame, in any of its cat-shaped forms. I love it. It's great.

Hey, I think Windows 7 is the best version of Windows ever. I'm using it right now. There's a lot of nice things in it. For example, automatically installing drivers sometimes actually works! And I don't mean that sarcastically: Things like 3rd party video drivers will install magically and work! It's really, genuinely a good feature. And there's a ton of nice little tweaks and improvements over previous versions of Windows, as others have noted upthread.

And I use Windows at home and work too: I use it at home because Windows is a de facto requirement for PC gaming and it use it at work because a ton of tools required for my work are Windows-only.

I'm curious: Is it the case that all the software that you need to use for your work or at home is also available on, say, OS X or Linux as well? If you weren't happy with Windows and you wanted to change OSes, there wouldn't be a single deal-breaker that would prevent you from switching? If so, lucky you.
posted by jcreigh at 8:02 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


the idiotic corporate cruft I deal with (time reporting, exchange calendars, helpdesk/ticketing system) all require Windows.

This used to be the case... Lately, everything is moving to a web-based client. Cheaper and easier to code and deploy. Where I work, the lone holdout is the ticketing system... and they're falling all over themselves to go web-app before we pull the plug for a competitor who's just released a migration tool.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:02 PM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


My daughter is 13. Her laptop died. I snagged a new disk, but needed an OS to reload. All I had is a USB key with a Windows 8 release preview ISO... so I figured, what the hell. I loaded it up and handed it to her three hours ago and said, "This is new, try this."

I'll check in in a few minutes.
posted by kbanas at 8:03 PM on June 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


If that's the best way to find it,

There might be others, but I'm a keyboard user who already knows the name of all the settings in the Control Panel - why would I look for a slower way to do it?
posted by jacalata at 8:04 PM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fnarf: You can use the arrow keys to navigate through the open windows using alt-tab in Window 7. No more "Alt-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-shit one too far-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab".

Alt-Shift-Tab?
posted by Talez at 8:10 PM on June 1, 2012 [16 favorites]


I am continually amused by how Microsoft tries to outdo its competitors and totally misunderstands what they're competing against.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:15 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


My unease with Windows 8's Metro interface lasted exactly as long as it took me to notice the Windows Explorer tile in the bottom right, which dropped me right back into the familiar desktop interface.

In other words, it was sweet relief to escape the "new and improved" UI and go back to what works.
posted by Trurl at 8:17 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Expected by your employer to perform work with tools poorly suited for that purpose due to their dumb purchasing decisions.

Ah yes. The age old "user knows best" argument. If I had a nickel...

Having been a position to support over 5000 workstations, take my advice. The day-to-day frustrations experienced by users pale in comparison to the overall costs associated with supporting said users. IT departments are constantly challenged based on their support spend as it is often viewed as a sunk cost. They have to find the most optimal way to support the largest number of users at the lowest cost.

And, no other software does that at the enterprise level better than Microsoft. Seriously. If your company is like most others, MS will almost always trump on competitive bids.

They are so far out ahead of any other competitor from a cost and back-end support perspective and some of the features coming with the new server, Active Directory and SQL server platforms and their bridge with Windows 8 are impressive.

It's a bloody comment thread. You need to relax.

I'm quite relaxed! This new OS does not even affect me any more. I'm out of that game entirely. I just have to test services with IE10. I'm just amazed that MS gets the flack for doing essentially what almost all major OS vendors have or are in the process of doing already.
posted by purephase at 8:24 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Things change, get used to it.

Yup. Just not sure if my OS is going top change to Apple or Linux.

I love this nonsense of trying to paint objections to this as resistance to change. Nobody would complain if the change were "half the price" or "runs faster" or "less bugs."
posted by tyllwin at 8:24 PM on June 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


In other words, it was sweet relief to escape the "new and improved" UI and go back to what works.

It did a lot to alleviate my anxiety at being forced to use a completely different interface when I found out I wasn't forced to use it. Like the author of the linked article says, it's a lot easier to introduce fundamentally new things when you don't require a switch, when you allow users to switch at their leisure and comfort level.
posted by fatbird at 8:27 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought Windows was for getting stuff done.
posted by TwelveTwo at 8:28 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yup. Just not sure if my OS is going top change to Apple or Linux.

Why not just stick with Win 7?
posted by markr at 8:32 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


some of the features coming with the new server, Active Directory and SQL server platforms and their bridge with Windows 8 are impressive

Swell. Did any of those require making tutorials necessary for how to turn the fucking thing off?
posted by Trurl at 8:32 PM on June 1, 2012


Windows 8 is a last gasp, as Microsoft is crushed under its own inertia... BYOD means the end of desktop computing in the enterprise as we have known it.

Sure. Tens, perhaps hundreds of millions of workers around the globe are just clamoring to spend their own my money to buy computer hardware to use for work. Can't you hear their cries of "Save your money boss, we'll pay for our own computing hardware out of pocket. It's only fair that we should bear that cost!"
posted by MikeMc at 8:33 PM on June 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


I will keep Windows 7 for as long as possible. After that, I think I'm going to switch to something that comes with Gnome and a decent terminal emulator and otherwise stays out of my way.

The everything-is-a-phone brain worms have infected the Gnome project too. So far, XFCE seems uninfected.

Gnome has been forked, but I switched to XFCE before MATE stabilized and I'm actually liking XFCE better. The panels in 4.8 work better than the Gnome panels ever did: they use expanding separators for layout control rather than attempting to have the panel itself keep track of where items are positioned, which means that unlike a Gnome panel, an XFCE panel won't totally lose its shit when you change screen resolutions.
posted by flabdablet at 8:34 PM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Talez : Wow, now I feel dumb.
posted by Grimgrin at 8:36 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Talez already responded to Grimgrin's alt-tab scenario. Alt-Shift-Tab cycles through the windows in reverse order, and I think has worked since Windows 95. (Which means, really, that the problem is documentation fail.)
posted by JHarris at 8:36 PM on June 1, 2012


Sure. Tens, perhaps hundreds of millions of workers around the globe are just clamoring to spend their own my money to buy computer hardware to use for work. Can't you hear their cries of "Save your money boss, we'll pay for our own computing hardware out of pocket. It's only fair that we should bear that cost!"

The prez of my new company has his own iPhone, as does the 18 year-old working the call queue. They both turned down blackberries. They both still get access to corporate services like our CRM platform, email and IM.

Our IT still offers windows notebooks and blackberry phones. More people bring in their Macs and iPhones, once they know they're allowed to. Android and Linux, too, esp. in our software dev team. The company offers partial re-imbursement for your mobile phone bill, so long as you support your own device. User buy-in on this is amazing.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:51 PM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Been using Ubuntu Studio for a while now. Comes bundled with lots of good multimedia software and optimized kernel that, at least when I installed it, beat everyone else for speed benchmark. Also using it for software development.

http://ubuntustudio.org/
posted by AppleSeed at 8:54 PM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


(Which means, really, that the problem is documentation fail.)

Maybe, but at least it's consistent with the way tabbing works in a dialog window: Tab cycles through the fields one way, and Shift-Tab goes the opposite. Knowing that is how I thought to try Alt-Shift-Tab myself.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 8:59 PM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Alt-Shift-Tab cycles through the windows in reverse order, and I think has worked since Windows 95. (Which means, really, that the problem is documentation fail.)

Given that every IBM-style keyboard I have ever seen has a back-tab icon right above the tab icon on the tab key, I'm leaning more toward PEBKAC on this one.
posted by flabdablet at 9:01 PM on June 1, 2012


flabdablet:
Wow, just WOW - I never noticed that. Even having long ago become accustomed to using Alt+Shift+Tab for back-tracking through apps/windows. It works even inside a word processor, to 'undo' your tab insertions.

Thanks!
posted by armoir from antproof case at 9:06 PM on June 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


"The company offers partial re-imbursement for your mobile phone bill, so long as you support your own device. User buy-in on this is amazing."

Our new owners are killing our corporate phone plan (Boo!) and offering partial reimbursement. I rather liked our old plan - pick a Verizon phone, we pay the bill. I like that better than BYOD. Also, our corporate IT policy expressly forbids VPN access to personal hardware. I can see where some people would prefer to use their own devices but I think most people would rather not spend the money on hardware if the company will pay for it. On a side note... our new owners contract out IT support for our facility, the guy the contractor has on-site couldn't figure how to eject the drive tray on a Mac Pro so I shudder to think what would happened if we needed support for various and sundry hardware.
posted by MikeMc at 9:13 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


flabdablet : Given that I can honestly say I have never used shift-tab go go backwards before tonight, you're probably right.
posted by Grimgrin at 9:14 PM on June 1, 2012


BYOD and borderless networks will bite microsoft's OS and Office revenue streams pretty hard in the next few years.

Windows 8 is a DOA attempt to thwart the inevitable move away from wintel laptop computing.
posted by roboton666 at 9:15 PM on June 1, 2012


I've been using Windows8 for a while. Here's my review:

Metro: elegant and awesome
Win8 Desktop: awesome and basically Win7
The integration between Metro & the desktop: horribly inelegant. You have to live in one or the other, because trying to live in both is horrible. Just task switching between two apps hurts.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:21 PM on June 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Happy XP user here (at home). It runs everything I need and has been solid. My 5 year-old desktops are still productive

I had a Windows 7 lappie at work... it was OK I guess, though it seemed to require twice as much hardware (CPU speed, RAM) than XP to do the same job. I despise Office 2010...

At home I've weaned myself off of most payware; I happily use Open (now Libre) Office and GIMP and NetBeans to get work done, and they aren't locked to a platform/OS.

This winter I spent more time trying different Linuxes, and just this week I grabbed an older PC and spun up a Ubuntu-based server and some custom code in under 3 hours. I'm at the point that I think my next work PC will be a Linux box.

I guess I better run out and buy a PC or two before the Win8 BIOS crap locks me out of installing Linux....
posted by Artful Codger at 9:24 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


purephase : Paid by your employer to use what they purchased to do your job.

"So, glad to have you on board, I hear talk of you as the best plumber this side of the tracks! We have a bit of a problem here, though... Now, I understand you'd rather have old-school kit like torches and wrenches; But we need to standardize the work environment, see? Don't worry, you'll learn to love working with superglue and a ferret. Really quite a lot better than that old rubbish, trust me!"
posted by pla at 9:31 PM on June 1, 2012 [15 favorites]


Slap*Happy : The company offers partial re-imbursement for your mobile phone bill, so long as you support your own device.

Partial?

Partial???

If my employer wants me on their digital leash... Well, I find another employer. But in the meantime, they can bloody well pay - in full - for the device, the service, and the support.

People seriously bring their own handcuffsrdware for partial reimbursement for the privilege of effectively getting to work 24/7?

/ I actually find it harder to believe that your NetOps lets people bring their own, but, different discussion entirely
posted by pla at 9:39 PM on June 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm leaning more toward PEBKAC on this one.

Why, do you need to induce vomiting?

(My alternate joke was: "Well sure you can ask the bartender for it and he'll give it to you, but he'll laugh about it with his friends later.")
posted by JHarris at 9:45 PM on June 1, 2012


I'm no computer geek, merely a user, but if I can't see the file structure (and file extensions), it's not my operating system.
posted by jb at 9:48 PM on June 1, 2012 [19 favorites]


If my employer wants me on their digital leash... Well, I find another employer. But in the meantime, they can bloody well pay - in full - for the device, the service, and the support.
I hate the idea of BYOD because I'm a privileged developer and expect kick-ass tools to be provided. No really, I'm serious.

But the cell phone thing makes a kind of sense. Often you have a choice of carrying the company's cell phone or pager along with your own personal device, or they will pay for the data on your existing device. Since I don't have room in my pockets for multiple devices, and hate belt-holsters and clips, I prefer the data plan option.

That said, if Microsoft can pull this off, I can see the company computer going the way of the company car. Sure, some privileged jobs will come with a shiny new Apple. The rest of us will bring our own iPads to work.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:13 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Paid by your employer to use what they purchased to do your job.

Then there's my employer, who refused to actually buy us a decent database tool for our absolutely essential information we use every fucking day, and so some poor schlub cobbled together a LotusNotes database because that's all we had, and it's been a pain in the ass and noncompatible with all subsequent upgrades since.

We finally kinda/sorta got that fixed but now they've cracked down on security such that our ability to copy on to flash drives or get CDs burned (of essential information that our clients demand or we lose their business), keeps being periodically and randomly turned off of our machines. We're talking people going around asking each other to burn a fucking disk because it takes two days and a signature from the Pope to get your ability to do so turned back on, never mind we're about to lose several thousands worth of business.

I would be worried about them making us use Windows 8, but they're so cheap we just got 7 two months ago. They kept us on XP until then. But who knows, they might be perverse enough to do it anyway.

Never underestimate the stupidity of corporate IT administration.
posted by emjaybee at 10:13 PM on June 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


I don't like it. It's wayyy too simple looking and feels like I would have less...control over things. Also it reminds me slightly of Idocracy - push the picture to get the candy!

Of course I am stuck in my old ways and still use the Windows Classic theme for Windows 7. Get off my lawn, damn kids.
posted by littlesq at 10:38 PM on June 1, 2012


A lot of the design conferences I've been going to have been saying that the future is going to be to start designing web sites for mobile first and then bolt on the desktop afterward. (There's also a lot about how "natural" user interfaces involving touch are going to be more and more prevalent.

Windows 8 is extending that way beyond and saying, what desktop?

However, the problem I have with this is that not everything needs a gesture/touch interface. I type way faster than I can poke on a phone, and on-screen keyboards are never satisfactory. There's no gesture for find-and-replace, there's no standard undo, try drawing a straight one-pixel line in Photoshop with your fat fingers, etc. Plus, I really doubt a touch interface can be used for 8 hours a day without seriously fucking up your posture way beyond the RSIs one can get from typing.

There has to be a happy medium somewhere, but I don't know that Win 8 is it.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:03 PM on June 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


All of this makes me sad and a little worried. My computer is a big part of my life, and I am still firmly on XP. I guess from what others are saying I can eventually go to Win7, but after that... I have played with phones and pads, and to me that isn't a real computer, they are limited little toys.

Am I going to be able to have a desktop computer in 5, 10 years, with all of the level of control over it that I have now?
posted by Meatbomb at 11:08 PM on June 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's also this, (via jwz), the implications of which I am still digesting, painfully, but which appear to be along the lines of 'Windows 8 machines will be substantially harder to install Linux on than previous versions of Windows.' Unless I have misunderstood, which I hope I have.

It will be more difficult, but it will at least be possible to disable secure boot on Windows 8 UEFI machines. That won't be possible on Windows 8 ARM devices. Anyone who wants to use their hardware for something Microsoft didn't intend will need to steer clear of those.
posted by cmonkey at 11:08 PM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


The rest of us will bring our own iPads to work.

I have a hard time seeing this for clerical work, i.e. the majority of computer-using workers. Clerical workers are not going to be able to do their jobs on an iPad, nor are they likely to want to buy one to do their job.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 11:08 PM on June 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


The jump from DOS to Win 3.1, and then to windows 95 made huge leaps in ease of use and what normal people could do with a PC without being experts.

Windows 8 is just a new design aesthetic. Maybe it will make the computer more "fun" for people, I guess. But it seems like most of the "Fun" of using the computer should come from the Apps, be they the browser or else a game or having fun using Photoshop or whatever. The OS should just get out of the way or else help facilitate switching between apps or whatever.

So like I've been saying: it's really more about fashion then anything, and windows has a sleek new design to make it more fashionable. The thing for me, though is that I don't even really like the design at all. I think one of the UI designers for android called it "Airport Signage". He was talking about windows phone, but it has the same style as Win 8. Just big slabs of color. I think it looks boring.
No, you shouldn't over-react. No one is forcing you to buy the OS and there are plenty of other options. MS has all to lose on this bet but obviously they see value in making it. Aside from Office, Windows is the MS juggernaut. They're not doing this to put you out. They're doing it because they see potential value in this investment and their betting billions on this decision.
Well, if you want to get a pc in the near future that's not a mac, then you are probably going to end up with it.
Windows 3.1 - wow
Windows 95 - suck
Windows 98 - That's more like it!
What? I remember everyone loving windows 95. Maybe it was rough around the edges, but it was way better then windows 3.1 Also, you skipped windows 2000. Just saying "every other release sucks" is way to simplistic.

Also, the vista hate just seems kind of ridiculous. I think it was just a case of people flipping out over something new, and being annoyed that the UAC stuff, because they didn't understand that security was, like actually an issue that they should be worrying about. Since I actually knew what they meant and actually cared about security they didn't bother me at all.

And Microsoft actually dialed it back a little in some of the updates to make it less annoying.

By the time win 7 came out, people were already used to Vista, so it wasn't new and shocking, and they could actually appreciate the cool stuff that had been in Vista all along.
posted by delmoi at 11:09 PM on June 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also, in vista and I assume Win7 if you use hit [windows key]-tab instead of alt-tab you get a fancy 3d windows switcher. Probably less useful but it looks awesome :P
posted by delmoi at 11:15 PM on June 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


Another task switching shortcut for Windows 7 is Windows-Key+Tab. Gives you a cascading preview of all your available windows. Windows-Key+Shift+Tab puts it in reverse.

And I'm sure everyone know about Windows-Key+Arrow (left, right, up, down) to control window placement, right?
posted by bionic.junkie at 11:19 PM on June 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Doh! Delmoi beat me to it.
posted by bionic.junkie at 11:20 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am perpetually confused as to which key is the Windows Key on my Mac.
posted by mazola at 11:20 PM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Look, everyone... Windows isn't going away. Ever. It's cute that some of you think because you're high-end developers who can run your own stuff can use something different. But it takes years for The Big Corporations to make sure the thousands of apps and tiny plug-ins their tens-of-thousands of people use work right. And I don't think their biggest vendors want to rewrite their shit either.

So, like I said, cute.
posted by Cyrano at 11:20 PM on June 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am still firmly on XP. I guess from what others are saying I can eventually go to Win7, but after that...

I am not a computer person - XP was the first OS I ever used extensively - but, for whatever reason, I've never felt comfortable with 7 the way I did with XP, and that's just for not-techy-dinking-around business. If I were more technically inclined I could probably identify my issues and explore solutions or adjustments, but I dunno, I just feel really alienated from this machine and how it does stuff, period.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:20 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am perpetually confused as to which key is the Windows Key on my Mac.

Command.
posted by Talez at 11:29 PM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Alvy Ampersand: for whatever reason, I've never felt comfortable with 7 the way I did with XP,

Win7's a little different than XP, but one thing I love with intense devotion is the new Start bar. I was mad at first because my old launcher icons had gone away (I used to use Quick Launch a LOT in XP), but then I eventually figured out that pinning programs to the Start bar is Quick Launch on steroids. Instead of just icons that launch apps, it's little icons that become apps, while the apps are running, and then shrink back to icons again. And the context menus on your pinned apps are tremendously useful.

That's really the major UI difference that I remember between the two versions, and while it took me a few days to realize how much better it was, I can assure you that taking an hour or two to play with and study it pays off. It's WAY better than the old way. It does everything Quick Launch did, plus tons more. I think it's way better than the Dock in OS X.

Metro? That's just shit on a stick. I'd be kind of jazzed about it on a tablet, but it just doesn't work right with a mouse. It sucks. It's there as a clumsy cash grab, not to make my life better.
posted by Malor at 11:33 PM on June 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't understand you Windows 8 fanatics. I'm at my freelance gig on my Windows 8 preview box copying a 15MB file...
posted by porn in the woods at 11:37 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


WOAH WOAH WOAH.

We are over 100 posts into this thread and only one person spelled MS with a dollar sign?

Is this what heaven is like?
posted by jason_steakums at 11:37 PM on June 1, 2012 [11 favorites]


Oh, and:

delmoi: and windows has a sleek new design to make it more fashionable

Yeah, but in doing so, it totally fucks up usability. Just utterly screws the pooch. It's all hat, no cattle, a Ferrari body with a 2 cylinder engine. To make it fashionable, they completely arsed the system up.

So sure, yeah, now it looks cool. But it's an operating system for the brain dead.

Every goddamn desktop team in the entire world simultaneously went insane, chasing after tablets. And all they're doing is fucking up the desktop.
posted by Malor at 11:40 PM on June 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


Argh, something else:

delmoi: Also, the vista hate just seems kind of ridiculous. I think it was just a case of people flipping out over something new

No, the Vista hate was for the same reason that we're seeing Win8 hate now. Microsoft, faced with slipping deadlines, cut all the features that made user's lives better, but kept all the features that made Microsoft's life better. You gained almost nothing going from XP to Vista, and had a terrible time with drivers and compatibility and UAC. Microsoft got a bunch of money, and a bunch of new power over your computer, but you got almost nothing.

In Win7, they finally got around to putting in all the consumer-level stuff they dropped from Vista, and the driver and compatibility issues had been largely ironed out by then. So that version did well. But if they hadn't included the user-centric stuff, people would still be on XP.

And now we're at W8, and they're doing the same old shit again -- everything that's included is to satisfy Microsoft's needs, not ours.
posted by Malor at 11:46 PM on June 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think my biggest beef with Windows 8 it that it would work really well on a tablet or phone but not on a PC. It's like they thought "Hey, you know how people love the iPhone and tablets? And you know how there are millions of PCs out there? Sooooo what if we put the tablet functionality on a PC? Profit!"

Also, am I the only one who really hates touchscreens?
posted by littlesq at 11:52 PM on June 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


Win 8 is about Microsoft saying that they have seen the future, and it is tablets -- even in enterprise.

And it's the enterprise part that's downright scary. Six months ago, I could barely get mobile on the radar of my enterprise software company employer. Now, it's all anyone talks about. Why? Because our customers (Fortune 500 + Russell 2000 companies) are buying iPads by the truckload. Someone talks to the CEO or CFO or CIO and they're looking at our product on their iPad. In fact, one competitor is getting traction by demoing their product on an iPad.

Apple is just waking up to this. The last updates to iOS have included more and more enterprise driven features. But Microsoft knew this already. Thus, Windows 8, an OS so tablet-aligned it's pretty much giving the middle finger to the desktop.

And they're ditching skeumorphic design, which makes me really happy, because holy crap I HATE how iOS refuses to admit that references to physical objects most of their users have never SEEN let alone USED is pretty damn ridiculous. When they started really bringing this into OS X it just made me pissy. I want a UI that knows it's 2012, not frikkin' MAD MEN. I think Tom Hobbs really nailed it this week.

Plus, there's Apple's thing with Lion about "bringing things in from iOS" that, in retrospect, seem completely misguided. Reversing scroll direction, for instance. WTF? I am using a TOUCHPAD, not a TOUCHSCREEN, you idiots. Launchpad I'm OK with, except that I can't delete non-App Store apps by dragging them to the trash, you know, like I could do in EVERY OS X VERSION BEFORE.

All that said, though, I think the charms are a huge misstep for Win 8. It is completely unintuitive how you get them to come up. They're just... there. Hover your pointer over a corner? Hell, the affordance on the bottom left corner is atrociously small with a mouse pointer. Where OS X threw ideas onto Lion while failing to consider the form factor, Microsoft... well, they're kinda just ignoring the idea there's a desktop altogether.

But again, I don't think this is about the desktop anymore. MSFT knows enterprise far, far better than Apple. They know how CIOs and IT directors think. Plus, Apple's attitude is that they could care less about enterprise, because they're a consumer electronics company. And yes, Tim isn't as anti-enterprise as Steve was, but they have a long, long row to hoe to catch up to MSFT.

So MSFT's play is very simple: Make a single UI to work across a touchscreen ecosystem, and then give companies the tools to create the locked corporate IT system on tablets and phones. Oh, and back it with a corporate cloud. And I think they could do it with Win 8. The question is whether they'll ever be relevant as a consumer software company ever again. And I don't think it's an automatic "no" for two reasons: XBox Live integration into Win 8, and the tight integration of what was called Live.com into the OS.

And as for Apple, well, they're sitting on the same pile of money that Microsoft was sitting on in the early 2000s. What happened afterwards was the stalemate of Longhorn turning into the utter disappointment of Vista, IE sitting stagnant for six years, and a lot of stupid "innovations" that just opened the door for others to push them aside. Now, Apple is a different beast, and they're driven by a need to continually innovate. But they also had a single design visionary as a CEO. What they have as a CEO now is one of the greatest supply chain managers in the world. And while that's a great thing to have if you want to make dump trucks full of money, it's not what the same thing as a design visionary.

Does beat having Steve Ballmer as a CEO, though.

There's a lot I like about Windows 8 -- the lack of skeumorphic cruft, the heavy references to Swiss Grid style and Cook and Shanosky's DOT pictograms, the simple but not simplistic look and feel. There's also I lot I don't like -- it's too prescriptivist with how it handles interaction design across form factors, the colors feel too much like a throwback to Win 3.11 and the days of 16 colors, and it's going to be awfully hard for developers and designers to build software that looks like it's part of Win 8 and not just glommed on. I don't dismiss it out of hand because in a design sense, it's right. Every decision can be justified without rationalizing (which is more than I can say for iOS). But it's not just dismissive of the desktop and laptop, it's Microsoft burning the ships in the name of pursuing a tablet/phone market they are woefully behind in.

What does it really mean, though? It probably means when the big companies are finally, gun to their head, forced to ditch XP for good in the coming year, they'll decide between Win 7 and Win 8. It doesn't mean they'll reach for OS X, and even with Unity (and man, what a pile of woe that is -- and I use it every day) there's little chance they'll deploy Linux on desktops. Microsoft will continue to rule enterprise, and no one will come close. The question is whether that means they're still relevant in a world where Apple's about to lock everyone in to iOS and throw away the key.
posted by dw at 12:12 AM on June 2, 2012 [13 favorites]


Having to drop down to desktop mode to run Windows apps doesn't make it easier for desktop users, it only makes it harder. Win8 is a downgrade that forces you to interact with Metro and the MS app store before you can do what you really came for.

And there is no way I can imagine Metro productivity apps. If there was a version of Windows XP that supports x64 and 16GB of RAM, I'd be using that instead.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:22 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've only seen screenshots of Win 8, but it looks like an awful interface. There doesn't seem to be any purpose (that I see) to the colors, sizes, or locations of the rectangles, so the overall effect is jarring and opaque. It's like the junk drawer in the kitchen; you yank it open and there is everything in a jumble. You go in looking for the screwdriver, but the visual noise is keeping you from actually seeing the shape of the screwdriver.

It looks sweet if you slightly unfocus your eyes. I bet it demos well and looks cool to see someone else use. And if your screen and rectangle count is low, like on a mobile device, it's probably livable. But when I look at a Win 8 screen and actually try to start seeing where the hell shit is and think about using it, my eyes go, "nuh-uh."

Signs are meant to grab your attention from the non-sign world. They are not meant to look clear an informative when jumbled up next to a whole bunch of other signs regardless of purpose or shape. Basing your UI on the sign and making everything a sign is like giving all your power point slides a neon yellow background because important text is highlighted--and darnit, all your text is important.

Also, "charms", lol.
posted by fleacircus at 12:43 AM on June 2, 2012 [11 favorites]


As others have said, the article focuses on the interface, not on the OS.

What I want to know is - where do I go in the "Metro" interface to add a new ODBC data source, or define an environment variable?

What I want to know is, will the software I use hours every day, Postgres, Revolution R and ArcGIS, come out with sparkly Metro interfaces? Would love to see how one would use GIS software with a touch screen. Oh, but hey, some people are saying the desktop doesn't even matter anymore - can't wait for ArcGIS in the cloud...

As for "Office disappearing within 3 years", call me when I can format a paper for submission to an academic journal using Google Docs.

Meh. After trying the Windows 8 preview, I went and got myself a Mac and am increasingly learning to use open source alternatives to ArcGIS, so it's probably irrelevant to me.

the lack of skeumorphic cruft

This seems to be the meme of the month. Apparently calendar applications shouldn't look like calendars anymore, because real people don't know what a real-life calendar looks like. Address book applications shouldn't look like address books. And what's with things involving time having an analogue clock as an icon?! Those things run on motors and cogs, that's not relevant to people using digital computers! And why have an envelope for an app that sends mail!

Pfft. I'd love someone to explain to me a completely, virgin non-skeumorphic icon for a stopwatch app, or an address book, or an email application that people would universally understand.

tldr; Grrrrrr.
posted by Jimbob at 12:43 AM on June 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


Grimgrin: "Fnarf: You can use the arrow keys to navigate through the open windows using alt-tab in Window 7. No more "Alt-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-shit one too far-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab".

Now? "Alt-tab arrow around like you're nethacking" done.

For that alone I will strenuously defend Windows 7.
"

Also, try Windows Key+Tab.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 12:44 AM on June 2, 2012


Trurl: "The Fortune 500 company I work for is still using XP."
We upgraded from 2000 to XP two years ago. If not for EOL, we'd still be running 2000.
posted by brokkr at 12:51 AM on June 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Signs are meant to grab your attention from the non-sign world. They are not meant to look clear an[d] informative when jumbled up next to a whole bunch of other signs regardless of purpose or shape. Basing your UI on the sign and making everything a sign is like giving all your power point slides a neon yellow background because important text is highlighted--and darnit, all your text is important.

Perfectly said, and thank you.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:52 AM on June 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Alt-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-shit one too far-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab-tab
Alt-tab mouse click on the one you want.

(at least in Windows 7 - I only discovered this accidentally and recently, so I'm not sure if it was in earlier versions or not)
posted by Flunkie at 12:58 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm from 2029, where we have neural implants and interact with the UI using entirely new motor skills dissociate from the physical ones and I'm here to tell you that in Windows Zinc Tau, it's
Alt-queem-fnerf-fnerf-fnerf-fnerf-fnerf-vomp
The alt key is the only one that involves a legacy physical action and it's been relocated to the roof of the mouth.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:07 AM on June 2, 2012 [10 favorites]


It should be obvious that the iOS people have now successfully infiltrated and subverted every other GUI development team on the planet. How else do you explain the swath of contemporaneous, similar but seemingly-independent insane decisions: to replace Gnome 2 with Gnome 3, KDE3 with KDE4, Windows with Metro, anything sane with Unity, and Aqua with nothing better than mildly improved versions of Aqua?

I just assume it is a new generation of programmers learning by making the mistakes that their forebearers already made. It has the utility and conviction of teenage rebellion.
posted by srboisvert at 1:17 AM on June 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


There's also this, (via jwz), the implications of which I am still digesting, painfully, but which appear to be along the lines of 'Windows 8 machines will be substantially harder to install Linux on than previous versions of Windows.' Unless I have misunderstood, which I hope I have.

Well, not entirely. Excluding ARM-based tablets and phones which will be locked down tight as an iOS device, for Windows 8 certification - i.e. pre-built machines running 8 - the computer has to have
a) secure boot turned on by default, with the windows 8 key in the EFI
b) secure boot must be able to be turned off, and also have the secure boot key replaceable.
c) secure boot must be able to be reset to default settings if you screw it up

So to install linux on a windows 8 OEM pc, at the simplest, you'll need to go in and turn off secure boot in the BIOS/EFI first. While not great, if fiddling with a BIOS option makes you nervous, then installing a fresh OS may not be for you - and that applies for windows just as much as linux, frankly as you're probably going to have to tweak the boot order to boot off USB device or CD anyway.

Fedora will be paying the $99 to get their boot kernels signed by the microsoft key (via verisign, not microsoft), so it will run without changing anything on a PC with secure boot enabled. With other versions of linux, you'll be able to copy your own custom signing key into the secure boot store, so you'll be able to secure boot any version of linux if you like, instead of just turning it off.

I'm not terribly chuffed with the idea, but it's not as apocalyptic as it's been portrayed to be, and potentially, secure boot linux pcs will be able to partake in any future secure boot requirements - such as 'must-have for online banking'. And of course, it helps protect your pc from boot-loader trojans etc, which isn't a bad thing at all.

I suspect the main reason Microsoft are pushing it will mean that the current in-vogue method of pirating Windows 7 - adding custom SLIC entries to the BIOS to make windows think it's running on an OEM PC, and thus automatically activate - becomes much harder or impossible, as modifying the BIOS itself means it won't pass the secure boot test, so you'll have to turn off secure boot - and I suspect they won't allow OEM key activation on non-secure boot PCs.

Not that it will impact personal piracy any; if nothing else, faking a business volume licence key server is easy enough, there's been plenty of hacks against the activation service itself, and I'm sure some clever coders will have new methods within hours of windows 8 RTM. What it might do is cut down on resellers modding the BIOS to sell PCs that appear to have fully licenced copies of windows to end users, but in fact are pirated which does actually cost microsoft money.
posted by ArkhanJG at 2:34 AM on June 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


FWIW, when I first ran the windows 8 developer preview for a few days, it prompted me to switch to OSX, and I'm quite happy there now. I do however have to run windows 7 in parallels for various windows only software management (i.e. vmware, active directory etc). I do not expect to replace that VM with windows 8.

I am running 8 release preview on my home gaming rig; consumer preview before that. Eh, it kinda grows on you after a couple of months. Hell of a shock changing over though.

The one big advantage is that sucker is *quick*. Seriously, I've timed it - boot to auto-logged in desktop on the same vertex 3 SSD is literally half the time in 8 vs 7. Sleep wakeup is definitely improved too. Given I have a quiet pc for osx, and my roary beasty GPU monster for gaming that's off the rest of the time, the difference is noticeable.

The other nice thing is they've finally remembered to work on file copying and task manager. Much improved.

Metro as a start menu replacement is bearable. You get used to it. Going back to windows 7 feels oddly cramped now; everything crammed together in a mini list, with most of the programs hidden away behind a click or two sub menu... The big downside is it gets cluttered with cruft shortcuts very quickly, so you have to be ruthless at clearing it out every time you install something.

Metro apps themselves? Meh. Pretty much entirely crap. The odd one isn't too bad as OK widgets; weather, the people one to keep you up to date with what's going on with facebook/twitter, news as an RSS feed for dummies... But full screen metro apps pretty much entirely suck. Especially if you have multimonitor, as you can't have two metro screens open at once, if you open the start metro on a different monitor they minimise and don't come back... Switching between metro apps and desktop apps is really quite jarring, especially if you leave aero on. Two entirely different methods wedged together awkwardly. And it's still a nightmare to use under virtualization, or via non-full screen RDP.

So windows 8 - tolerable if you stick with it, ignore metro apps, keep your start metro clean with just an odd widget, and turn on autologin so you don't have that stupid bloody slide-to-unlock splash screen. And a lot quicker than windows 7.

If your tolerance for wankery is slow, just stick with windows 7. It's going to be supported with security patches until what, 2020? Hopefully in that time period *someone* will realise that desktops and laptops are still sold in the hundreds of millions every year; even if it's a mature market without much growth, that's still a lot of users who aren't using a fricking 10" touchscreen and need an OS.
posted by ArkhanJG at 2:58 AM on June 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


Being someone who uses computers a lot but doesn't own a single touchscreen device and isn't really interested in them, I do find it annoying that interfaces and layouts designed primarily with touchscreen users are starting to take become more prominent on the web and the desktop. Things designed to be used with your fingers on a touchscreen just become clunky and pointlessly large and dumb-looking when you're using a mouse. Presenting a desktop user with the Metro interface, clearly designed primarily for use with a touchscreen, is just galling. Even the lock screen simulates what you get on a touchscreen device - it's as if they've made absolutely no concessions whatsoever to the fact that some people will end up using it on the desktop. It makes you feel, as a desktop user, that the software designers really don't care about your experience at all any more. Which I don't think is good.

Admittedly I'm probably in a minority in not being into touchscreen phones and iPads etc, but still, just because they're popular, there's absolutely no reason whatsoever to have the same interface on a desktop PC as you have on a touchscreen device (except perhaps laziness on the part of the designers).
posted by rubber duck at 3:28 AM on June 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


I mean "layouts designed primarily with touchscreen users in mind are starting to become more prominent". Sorry.
posted by rubber duck at 3:30 AM on June 2, 2012


It makes you feel, as a desktop user, that the software designers really don't care about your experience at all any more.

They really don't, rubber duck. All they care about is bodies in seats that are using Metro. Happiness is irrelevant.

Microsoft's core competency was always backward compatibility; they were better at that than anyone. And now they've even lost that. I think maybe all the OS division has left is process, not true competency in any area. They still seem excellent at producing bug-free code, but have no idea what code to produce.
posted by Malor at 3:53 AM on June 2, 2012


Seems like a lot of people don't understand Windows and/or simply hate anything Microsoft. I googled "windows 8 metro turn off" and got this for the first hit. There is usually (always?) a way to revert new Windows UI "features" to the old way of doing things.

Two salient points mentioned above are that:

1) Microsoft usually messes something up with every other version of Windows or so and many usually just skip those releases
2) Microsoft is trying to have one OS for mobile and desktop. I'm happy about that as a developer of .Net, but am pretty sure I'll turn Metro off after I play with it to see what it is like.

Also, calling anyone/everyone that uses .Net a fool only shows your lack of understanding on the issue of software, OSes, development, programming languages, and the like. If for no other reason, people will use .Net and/or stick with the MS stack because there are billions invested in the current technological infrastructures and it makes no sense to change the platform for most of them. On top of that, .Net is such an improvement over the previous Microsoft stack(s) by whatever measure you want to use as to make your statements laughable.
posted by Bort at 4:00 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


So if I want a new laptop this year, should I get it before W8 comes out?
posted by moorooka at 4:10 AM on June 2, 2012


So if I want a new laptop this year, should I get it before W8 comes out?

I'd say no, don't wait. Looks like MS hasn't confirmed a release date, but hints at October. If you're getting a tablet that can function as a slate and you are waiting until after October anyway, it may be worth considering, but typically I'd say waiting for the next MS OS is not worth delaying a purchase. I'll often skip an OS version completely or at least wait until the first service pack/release is out. I'm writing this on my laptop with XP, though I have Win 7 on my desktop and probably won't upgrade to 8 for at least 6 months after release.
posted by Bort at 4:21 AM on June 2, 2012


Turning off metro was possible in early development builds. It no longer is. You can install a 'fake start button', but metro is still there and tied in at many levels - i.e. to shutdown you need to go through the Charms bar (unless you create a manual shortcut)

I'm happy about that as a developer of .Net, but am pretty sure I'll turn Metro off after I play with it to see what it is like.

Except you can't. Also - did you know visual studio 2012 express can only be used for metro apps? You need 2012 pro (for $500) for desktop or cli apps. And the SDK for windows 8 won't include a compiler. You'll still be able to write C# apps, but without VS pro, they're gonna have to be metro ones sold through the app store.
posted by ArkhanJG at 4:28 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


So if I want a new laptop this year, should I get it before W8 comes out?

Windows 8 will have downgrade rights to windows 7, as long as you get windows 8 Pro, but it's a bit of a pain to exercise unless you already have windows 7 media. Hardware wise, the driver support is near identical, so any windows 7 laptop will run 8, and vice-versa.

Microsoft are also doing the 8 upgrade program starting today; buy a windows 7 laptop between now and january, and you'll be able to buy 8 for $15 if you find some really compelling reason to want it later. Odds are you'll still be able to get windows 7 laptops for quite a while after launch, so there's no massive need to rush now to avoid 8.
posted by ArkhanJG at 4:36 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Except you can't. Also - did you know visual studio 2012 express can only be used for metro apps? You need 2012 pro (for $500) for desktop or cli apps. And the SDK for windows 8 won't include a compiler. You'll still be able to write C# apps, but without VS pro, they're gonna have to be metro ones sold through the app store.

No, wasn't aware. Seems like a misstep and I hope they back petal. If they don't, I'll definitely skip this version. If they continue down the walled garden path, they are truly shooting themselves in the foot long term and I'll re-evaluate my usage of MS/Windows. If I see the need to jump ship to a different development stack I will, but I do love .Net and expect I'll be able to continue being employed as a .Net developer until I retire, should I choose to.

I was very concerned about the MS steps to embed DRM in Windows as well. I still watch for that kind of thing, but it hasn't affected my computer usage to date, as far as I can tell.
posted by Bort at 4:46 AM on June 2, 2012


I love this nonsense of trying to paint objections to this as resistance to change. Nobody would complain if the change were "half the price" or "runs faster" or "less bugs."

You keep missing the main point. While those three items may be important in the consumer market, they don't really matter in the corporate world (well the price might).

MS has the desktop world locked-up in the enterprise. The enterprise is increasingly being pressured to consumerize which is why Apple is making in-roads like never before.

The problem is that Apple hardware is a bitch to maintain in any cost effective way (and don't even mention Linux) which leads everyone back to MS. Supporting Windows in the enterprise is dead simple and extremely low cost. Most of the supporting tools are practically included for free with volume licensing deals.

Enter Windows 8. You get what every other OS developer has already been doing. There's an App Store, a more friendly ubiquitous interface, and tighter integration with cloud services and other products in the MS stack. I'm not saying these are necessarily good directions, but it is what everyone is asking for right now.

CIOs and CFOs get to trumpet these items while still ensuring that all of the existing investments in hardware and software were justified and the majority will still work on the new platform.

Never underestimate the stupidity of corporate IT administration.

Never underestimate the lengths in which IT administration has to go to order a pencil. I can't speak for all organizations, but most IT departments are so woefully underfunded and supported at the higher administration levels it is laughable.

On paper it may look like they have a lot of cash in their department, but the vast majority of it is already spent by the time the budget is drawn-up just to keep the lights on.
posted by purephase at 4:50 AM on June 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am primarily a Mac person. However in life things don't always go as planned, so I am forced to support Windows at work. A week ago some dunderhead installed Windows 8 bets and it blew up his encrypted computer. The two of us were stymied when attempting to use Windows 8 to do the following
1. Shut down his computer. We resorted to the power button.
2. Find an installed Application. It was not listed in the install/ remove program. In fact nothing was listed there.
3. Find certain control panels, or more specifically find the name of his computer.

Win8 is, I am sure lovely on a tablet.
posted by Gungho at 4:51 AM on June 2, 2012


Also, in vista and I assume Win7 if you use hit [windows key]-tab instead of alt-tab you get a fancy 3d windows switcher. Probably less useful but it looks awesome :P
Holy shit, delmoi, did not know this. I just spent a few minutes flipping through my screens while giggling maniacally.
posted by DisreputableDog at 4:55 AM on June 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


It makes you feel, as a desktop user, that the software designers really don't care about your experience at all any more.

Well, I figure if Microsoft were really committing themselves to this, if they really believe the future is in mobile/tablets/touchscreens, they need to take away all their developers' desktops, laptops, hell even servers (as I suggested above, are people really going to be administering their webserver/SQL server through Metro?) and give them all touchscreen tablets! Connecting to the corporate network over Wifi! Let's watch how their productivity just skyrockets... let's see how they manage in an environment where useless little things like files are considered cruft not worthy of the user's attention...

I just feel that we are pretty much at a point of technological maturity for the population. There are no longer huge numbers of people out there who've never used a computer but would if only they were friendly. Almost everyone who's ever going to use a computer, demographically, is probably using one already. And those people, even the most technologically illiterate of them, have learnt in a WIMP interface. They know what files are. They know what applications are. They know what menus are. Interfaces like Metro are solving a problem that exists on very small screen devices, or keyboardless devices, but they aren't solving any wider problem of creating a friendly interface for general purpose computer use. My wife's 80-year old grandmother knows how to get files off her digital camera, move them to where she wants them, and attach them in her email client. Dumbing down the interface, taking things to new levels of abstraction, simply isn't necessary to attract new customers, and just frustrates the existing population of computer users who already know how to drive them.

And like I said, if companies really believe PCs are going to go extinct, they would force their development, design, accounting, manufacturing departments to use touchscreen tablets. Do you expect the CAD work to create the next Microsoft mouse to be done on a tablet? Do you expect a tablet to be driving the machine that cuts the plastic?

Not going to happen.
posted by Jimbob at 5:08 AM on June 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


Having to install a third-party app to get a glommed-on start button speaks volumes, doesn't it?
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:15 AM on June 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


Also, calling anyone/everyone that uses .Net a fool only shows your lack of understanding on the issue of software, OSes, development, programming languages, and the like.

No, it shows my understanding of Microsoft.

.NET may be, by now, an improvement over VS6, but I doubt it; it still requires an enormous framework download of which there are now several mutually incompatible versions, in order to pretend to be cross-platform (as if) it's less well integrated with the Windows API than VS6, and from the outset it lacked important features, particularly in VB, which were nearly impossible to code around if you had used them.

Now .NET has had ten years and maybe by now they've fixed all the stuff they broke when it came out, but that's not the point; the point is that they deprecated the most popular programming environment in the history of computing for what amounted to marketing reasons. Broke trillions of lines of code and simply stopped supporting the old platform to *force* users to something new and incompatible, basically so that they could steal Sun's thunder with Java.

If they were willing to do that to us VS6 users, they'll do it to you .NET users too. Just watch.

The problem is not that .NET is not good, or that it's not very easy to use or maintain. The problem is that it's a Microsoft product and they will stab you in the back as surely as God made little fishes, for what will seem to you like no reason at all.
posted by localroger at 5:17 AM on June 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


localroger, I probably agree with you about MS to a large degree, perhaps entirely. However, I think given a current reliance on MS, it is not foolish to continue to use it unless/until MS makes it more cost effective to switch. Switching a business infrastructure is extremely costly and risky. That's why COBOL is still in use for many core systems. If MS went out of business tomorrow, it'll still make sense to continue to use .Net for years.
posted by Bort at 5:34 AM on June 2, 2012


The prospect of having their own app store where they get to pre-approve software (cutting down on malware and hacking) while also taking a cut of each transaction

Oh yes, cut down on malware and hacking. Like the famously malware- and hack-resistant Internet Explorer and Outlook did.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:41 AM on June 2, 2012


This is all going to end with me having to learn Linux, isn't it?
posted by lesbiassparrow at 6:08 AM on June 2, 2012 [16 favorites]


How does XP behave in Virtualbox under Linux/BSD? The main thing holding me back is my dependency on EAC/foobar2000/CUETools which are all Windows-only. Does someone here have any experience running those programs virtualised?
posted by Bangaioh at 6:16 AM on June 2, 2012


I am very confused that there seem to be a lot of people with a hard on for WinXP. Really? Windows 2000 was pretty great, then along came XP and it was by comparison crap. I finally started switching machines over to it after SP3. It was mostly usable at that point.

Windows Vista was a steaming pile of crap, then Windows 7 came out and I thought it might be the same thing. Until I used it for 5 minutes. Now Windows 7 is on everything I use because it blows XP out of the water. There are two workstations at work that are still XP and I dread doing any support on them.

Windows 8 on the other hand I have not enjoyed working on at all. I tried living with it for a couple weeks and it was mostly unusable. AutoCAD would just constantly crash among other things. The built in PDF viewer was nice. Also the Metro interface is great on a tablet or phone. But it should stay the hell away from the desktop.
posted by MrBobaFett at 6:43 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am perpetually confused as to which key is the Windows Key on my Mac.
Command.
Well I meant what the Windows key is when I'm actually using Windows via virtualization on my Mac. I always wind up mashing 'fn' 'ctl' and 'opt' knowing it's one of them.

Everytime I actually figure it out but -- like a goldfish -- the next time around it's all new.
posted by mazola at 6:44 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think given a current reliance on MS, it is not foolish to continue to use it unless/until MS makes it more cost effective to switch.

Oh, I agree. It's why I'm still using VS6. When I'm finally forced to switch because I can't get what I need done through the API or helper apps, whatever I switch to won't be a Microsoft product.

I just put in a test system for one of the largest manufacturers of roofing products in North America, and all their core business stuff is still in VS6 too. Their developer was able to take some sample code I sent him and drop it straight into their system to control our product's interface.
posted by localroger at 6:58 AM on June 2, 2012


Windows 2000 was pretty great, then along came XP and it was by comparison crap.

2000 was better if it did what you needed at all, which was fine for servers and industrial controls. XP supported a much wider variety of peripherals though; for multimedia, 2000 hardly worked with anything, and XP did a lot of stuff out of the box (like support USB mass storage) which required driver downloads in 2000.
posted by localroger at 7:05 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


1. Shut down his computer. We resorted to the power button.

Which is exactly what the designers want you to do. There's no reason on a modern device that an average user in a normal usage cycle should need to use the UI to find a menu and decide, "Do I want my computer to lock, sleep, hibernate or shutdown?". Modern devices manage power/sleep state automatically. The user just shuts the lid or hits the power button or leaves the thing running and lets it decide when it wants to sleep. All these options work fine for your TV, iPad, smartphone, Kindle, game console, MacBook, fridge. They'll work fine for Windows 8 devices too.

For users that do want to manage power state, it's a matter of relearning (move mouse to botton-left) > Start > Shutdown which is now (move mouse to the top-right) > Settings > Power.
posted by rh at 7:11 AM on June 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's worth noting that when 2000 came out I was working in networking and end-user support for a college. So really I cared way more about network configuration and how it played with the servers. XP hid so many controls that I regularly used in 2000 and also had a really ugly skin. The first thing I would do with XP was turn off all the simplified file and print share controls, switch back the the 2000 style start bar, etc to make it feel as much like 2000 as possible. Launchy greatly improved on the XP interface. But it still sucked at simple things like switching user credentials on the fly.
Run As Administrator on Windows 7 actually works, unlike in XP.
posted by MrBobaFett at 7:22 AM on June 2, 2012


delmoi: "Also, in vista and I assume Win7 if you use hit [windows key]-tab instead of alt-tab you get a fancy 3d windows switcher. Probably less useful but it looks awesome :P"

[Windows Key - Tab] doesn't seem to do anything on my Windows 7 laptop.
posted by octothorpe at 7:22 AM on June 2, 2012


Nobody would complain if the change were "half the price" or "runs faster" or "less bugs."

You keep missing the main point. While those three items may be important in the consumer market, they don't really matter in the corporate world (well the price might).


I don't think you're wrong on this point, but I find deeply depressing that price trumps productivity every time. When I sit staring at a screen that has unexpectedly locked up, or realise that bugs in the software have lost scanned copies of confidential documents that have already been sent to shred, resulting in minutes or hours of lost time, not to mention reputational damage if someone has to call the client and beg for fresh copies, I will remember you.

Everyone else has a budget and targets to meet, inot just IT. When we can't do our jobs, it costs our employers money. Corporate structures are, of necessity, short-termist and short-sighted, but these are bugs, not features.
posted by howfar at 7:24 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Reasons people use Windows:

1. It came pre-installed on the box that they bought at Best Buy.
2. There is existing software written for Windows that they want to use.
3. There are no other reasons.


You forgot:

1. Personal preferences (it is possible that others have different opinions and preferences then you do).
2. Hardware control. It's great to be able to purchase the hardware you want and build the exact system you want to.
3. Not impressed by OS X.
4. Impressed with Linux for server use, not so much for desktop use.

Did any of those require making tutorials necessary for how to turn the fucking thing off?

I watching a friend's place recently and I wanted to turn on her iMac and check my email. I've used computers since the Commodore 64 days, still use them every day for web application and site work, so for over 30 years. I could not figure out how to turn the fucking thing on.

After hearing how the desktop is dead, Windows 8 will most likely prove it is far from dead as it seems, not suprisingly, that a lot of people still use desktops (look at sales of Windows 7) and don't like this move to the supposed "future".
posted by juiceCake at 7:27 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


&gtl1. Shut down his computer. We resorted to the power button.
Which is exactly what the designers want you to do.


Except that on many machines by default the power button puts it to sleep, not shuts it down. Whether it does this on Windows 8 sounds like it's up to Microsoft to decide. It's probably configurable to work either way -- but it's probably a choice most users won't know to make, meaning 90% of them won't change it.
posted by JHarris at 7:37 AM on June 2, 2012


Of course I am stuck in my old ways and still use the Windows Classic theme for Windows 7. Get off my lawn, damn kids.

Respect! I am one of the damn kids, and I do this too.

This is all going to end with me having to learn Linux, isn't it?

Yes, unless your highest computer-use priority is commenting on Youtube videos, apparently.
posted by kengraham at 7:44 AM on June 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Win7 is truly outstanding. It's fast, it's reasonably attractive (not quite as nice as a Mac, but far from the Fisher-Price XP theme),

I've always switched XP to the Win2K theme on any machine of my own (or that I'll be using for more than 5 minutes and have my own login). In Win7 I get it as close as I can.

Not having checked out the developer tools for Metro, what happens if you try to create an icon with a larger color palette, so that it looks like, say, an iOS icon or something else from the normal Windows universe? Is it a developer constraint of their own tools, something in the presentation model, or something in the presentation runtime that stops an app from doing this? How do they actually prevent your app from escaping the "wall of airport signs" look?
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:47 AM on June 2, 2012


(My guess would be that your app doesn't supply an icon to Metro at all, it supplies what would amount to a mask and maybe a color hint. That's pretty much how I'd do it if I were designing it. And an asshole.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:05 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


The absurdity of pretty much all of the OS and application interfaces became obvious when we spent a year working on a Sci-Fi Horror film. This was a very dark picture, physically, psychologically, and spiritually.

That we had to work on this in a candy-colored gumdrop flower garden felt like such an imposition. Give me the equivalent of neutral-colored vellum graph paper, a T-square, and a compass. Don't give me Happy Meal toys, because I just might not be playing around like that.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:18 AM on June 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Cyrano: Look, everyone... Windows isn't going away. Ever. It's cute that some of you think because you're high-end developers who can run your own stuff can use something different. But it takes years for The Big Corporations to make sure the thousands of apps and tiny plug-ins their tens-of-thousands of people use work right. And I don't think their biggest vendors want to rewrite their shit either.

Having spent alot of this spring playing with different Linux 'distros' (those kids and their darn words), and using Open Source software whenever possible, I have a much better idea about the possibilities in Linux, and I'm getting close to being able to create distros myself.

Also, as someone mentioned, the only thing companies value more than predictability is savings.

So, I can envision approaching a company, asking for a list of their vital apps, then rolling a custom Linux distro that installs exactly that, generating some decent documentation, and providing a CD or network installer, and at a cost of less than $40 per desktop.

Weaning companies off of MS Exchange will be the hardest nut to crack, but it's not impossible.
posted by Artful Codger at 8:22 AM on June 2, 2012


...what happens if you try to create an icon with a larger color palette, so that it looks like, say, an iOS icon or something else ... How do they actually prevent your app from escaping the "wall of airport signs" look?

There's a set of tile templates which includes all sorts of layouts of text and images. I guess you could use the TileSquareImage template and use an image of a photo-realistic doodad like in iOS, but the transparency would probably look weird during animations. You need to remember that these tiles are dynamic though - they animate between multiple templates, to provide the "live" look and through user interaction (scrolling/zooming).
posted by rh at 8:23 AM on June 2, 2012


One thing lost in all this .NET yelling is that Metro apps don't have to be written in C# -- you can use JavaScript/HTML5 as well.

Which, honestly, is pretty smart of Microsoft. Where Apple is pretty much forcing every web app into an Objective C wrapper to get running out of the chrome of any of their OSes, Microsoft is saying you don't have to do it. The whole Responsive Web Design conversation comes to the desktop as a result.

Still not as good as Apple's original thought with the iPhone 1 ("native web apps forever!"), but definitely a step in the right direction.
posted by dw at 8:46 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


lesbiassparrow: This is all going to end with me having to learn Linux, isn't it?

Well, the problem is, all the major Linux desktops have gone insane too. Everyone is off chasing tablets, and wrecking the desktop. GNOME 2 was just about perfect, but they dropped it. And, worse, they very deliberately made sure that you can't run GNOME 2 and GNOME 3 on the same machine. They didn't just stop developing the old system, they did their very best to break the old version and force you to move to the next one, and that version sucks. And KDE4 is a fustercluck... it's like they just sprayed random UI elements at the desktop and randomly chose one out of three to keep. It's ugly, inconsistent, and annoying to use, with incredible morphing button layouts and no sense of any kind of design language whatsoever. I find their lack of polish... disturbing.

So Mark Shuttleworth at Canonical sees that both GNOME and KDE have gone crazy, and then comes up with Unity, which is even worse. I think of it as the UI for drooling morons. As bad as Metro sucks, I'd still use it before I'd use any of those systems.

So I recently tried Xubuntu. I think I might be able to like XFCE, but at least on my virtual hosts, it is completely impossible to resize windows. The target to grab a window for resize is exactly one pixel large, which is very hard to even find on a 2560x1600 screen, but when I finally find the right spot, and oh-so-carefully click the mouse button to grab, it doesn't grab. It just, flat, will NOT resize windows, period. It pretends like it's going to, but any click and/or drags get passed to the desktop, without changing the window.

So the only decent Linux desktop I presently have is Ubuntu 10.10, which is now out of support and not getting patches anymore.

I just spotted that a team has forked GNOME 2, calling the new package MATE, and apparently it's the default in Linux Mint. I'm so desperate for a decent Linux UI that I plan to try it out in the next few days, and if I like it, I'm definitely going to throw some money at both teams. I really liked GNOME 2. Ubuntu 10.10 is a genuine pleasure to use, every bit as good as Win7 or OS X, albeit slightly less pretty.

The huge steps backwards in Linux over the last couple of years have really left me wondering if open source is just as bad as commercial development. The Linux kernel has turned into a security nightmare, to the point that the kernel devs themselves are now shrugging and saying that they can't offer security anymore, it's just too hard. (which I find very much like climate change denialists; the kernel team scorned the people warning them about security issues, scorned them, mocked them, scorned them, oops, now the problem is so large we can't fix it anymore, sorry.) And the Linux desktops have all gone off chasing after illusionary candy, like birds after something shiny.

This is not the Linux I came to love, anymore, and I don't recommend its use at all.
posted by Malor at 9:04 AM on June 2, 2012 [13 favorites]


That we had to work on this in a candy-colored gumdrop flower garden felt like such an imposition. Give me the equivalent of neutral-colored vellum graph paper, a T-square, and a compass. Don't give me Happy Meal toys, because I just might not be playing around like that.

You know you can change the color scheme on any desktop OS. I almost always run a dark/neutral scheme on my machine. Except at work where I have a bright shiny Chicago skyline so I don't feel completely trapped in an office in an industrial lot.
posted by MrBobaFett at 9:16 AM on June 2, 2012


I watching a friend's place recently and I wanted to turn on her iMac and check my email. I've used computers since the Commodore 64 days, still use them every day for web application and site work, so for over 30 years. I could not figure out how to turn the fucking thing on.

Heh. When my Vista laptop entered its death throes recently, I wanted to use my wife's iMac to download some drivers. After 5 minutes of increasing rage at being unable to figure out how to turn the fucking thing on, I literally had to Google it from my iPad.
posted by Trurl at 9:24 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just noticed in the "Related Posts" box:

"Is Microsoft finally doing things right?" - November 2, 2001
posted by Trurl at 9:25 AM on June 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have been building industrial control applications since roughly 1988. We started with DOS based PC's because those were the only affordable machines that could do what we needed.

I moved from DOS to VB4 under Win 3.11 to VB6 under NT4.0, then 2000, then XP. I have recently started porting stuff to 7. 7 broke my straight to the API serial drivers but since I own the source I was able to find the problem and fix them.

Modern computers are 100 times faster than the early DOS boxes, but the machines I work with still generate the same amount of data and the paperwork and records still have the same complexity. I have skipped databases entirely, going straight from fixed width disk files to hauling everything into RAM and writing changes to sequential files with tags -- sort of like XML before there was XML -- which can be edited and inspected with a text editor, because I can get away with it. (On the enterprise, my stuff is rarely more than a front end and doesn't have to scale.)

PC's are no longer the only boxes capable of handling my applications. I see the future as being embedded boxes presenting the user interface to a web browser. The current generation of those embedded boxes is getting powerful enough not to even require the ca. 1988 programming techniques.

In industry it is not unusual for hardware to stay in service for 20 years. This very week I am updating a system I installed in 1992. I know of embedded digital devices (computer based, but not general purpose) that have been in service since 1981. When they finally break and can't be replaced considerable engineering will be required to replace their functionality. Millions of dollars worth of equipment will be idle instead of generating revenue while that is done.

In the 1980's the IBM PC architecture froze out as a standard that might have that kind of IBM mainframe-like longevity, and with a few speed bumps that architecture remained pretty solidly backward compatible for 20 years or so. That is what industry wants. They do not want your cool new feature. They want to get the plant back online when a 25 year old machine fails and they've used the last replacement parts.

One manufacturer I know of had to redesign an entire product line when Texas Instruments decided to stop making the TMS9995. So they went with Intel, and recently got bit again because Intel decided to stop making the 80386. The Atom is way more complexity and support cost than their design requires. Industry doesn't like this.

Once your computer can play and record music and video and render 3D gaming worlds, there isn't much more that you need it to do except be compatible with your old data and have a user interface you understand. If the PC becomes a walled garden like the iPhone, another layer will emerge from the increasingly capable and cheap embedded world. If the PC bios is locked out this is where the tinkerers and industrial techs will move.

I am already doing expensive systems where the embedded device puts the user interface in a browser window. My customers like the combination of stable embedded controller with disposable web client. As the embedded solutions become cheaper, exactly what the web client is capable of doing will become irrelevant.
posted by localroger at 9:26 AM on June 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


They had to scrape a little but: PC Pro bravely tried 30 Best Features of Windows 2008.

I think a lot of people are so horrified by the Metro UI that they don't go on to notice the other stuff.
posted by rongorongo at 9:37 AM on June 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


You forgot:

1. Personal preferences (it is possible that others have different opinions and preferences then you do).
2. Hardware control. It's great to be able to purchase the hardware you want and build the exact system you want to.
3. Not impressed by OS X.
4. Impressed with Linux for server use, not so much for desktop use.


These are fair points. You're totally right, and I shouldn't have let my desire for snarky hyperbole overcome me like that.
posted by jcreigh at 9:40 AM on June 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


And the Linux desktops have all gone off chasing after illusionary candy, like birds after something shiny.

The way I see it (as someone who runs OS X and Ubuntu/Unity at work and Win 7 at home) is that Linux-land finally got the message that their distros are UX nightmares for non-Linux people. But then they don't understand that the way to solve the problem isn't to just make eye candy but to make a UI that people can use, then want to use.

The main complaint about Linux always seemed to be "oh, you want to do that, that's easy! Just do the following 800 steps from the command line!" Now with package management you don't have to do that.

Except you do. And now that hard part is even harder because you spread a layer of Easy on top that lies to you about the Hard underneath.

And that Easy layer isn't very thick -- it's a veneer. OS X does similar things, but I've only really had to go to the command line a couple times to do things that are impossible in the OS X UI.

It feels like the "sheeple" attitude that Linux people had for non-Linux people is still coming through in their UI design. It's depressing, really. Unity feels condescending, honestly. I feel stupid from using it, like it's stooping to my level. I've never felt that with Windows or OS X.

The chasing tablets part, well, that's just 2012. I think Microsoft is right -- tablets are the future of portable computing -- and apparently some other Linux people agree. I just wish the distro authors would hire a real UI designer already, someone who will yell at the developers about form factors and not assuming One UI For All.
posted by dw at 9:45 AM on June 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


Yes, dw, that's exactly it. All the Linux distros are being made for what the developers believe are stupid people. The arrogance and dismissiveness is inherent in the designs. They don't seem to realize that there are many kinds of intelligence, and they're not developing tools that exploit those kinds of intelligence to inherently explain to visual people what's going on in the computer. Instead, they strap their arms to the chair and spoon feed them porridge, because that's all those morons can handle. But then they're also strapping down people who are smart in the same way that they are. So it ends up being as bad as it ever was for non-geeks, and horribly constricting for geeks. Nobody wins.

It took me awhile to really warm up to Win7, but I gotta say, there's a lot of neat stuff in it, and it in no way is talking down to me. I still prefer Gnome 2 for actually getting work done, but I've never felt I was being snickered at, patted on the head, and handed a cookie instead of the chainsaw I asked for.
posted by Malor at 10:19 AM on June 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sorry, I should have said 'all the major Linux UIs', not distros.
posted by Malor at 10:20 AM on June 2, 2012


Win 7 is the new XP.

Only if Microsoft deigns to keep Windows 7 around as long as XP. They won't make that mistake again, if they want enterprise to adopt Windows 8.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:23 AM on June 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


After thinking about this a few minutes more, it's like walking into Home Depot in your grubbies, and having this conversation:

"Hi, I'd like to buy a chainsaw."

"What? Oh, don't be silly, you can't have a chainsaw. It's nice today... why don't you go outside and play with your friends instead?"

You wouldn't take that treatment from Home Depot, and you shouldn't take it from your UI vendor, either. You are an adult, and if you want a chainsaw, they have no business handing you safety scissors instead.
posted by Malor at 10:29 AM on June 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


Only if Microsoft deigns to keep Windows 7 around as long as XP. They won't make that mistake again, if they want enterprise to adopt Windows 8.

I believe Microsoft has committed to supporting OSes for ten years from the date of last sale, so Win7 should be supported through at least 2022.
posted by Malor at 10:29 AM on June 2, 2012


This just appalls and depresses me.

I'm a computer programmer and I'm constantly being told I'm stupid and short-sighted for writing desktop applications.

But I'm writing software for other professionals - musicians and the like. You can't use a tablet as your main machine for serious music production, or serious software production, and you never will be able to - because you need a large working area on your display to do serious work, you need many hardware peripherals, you need a lot of RAM and a lot of disk.

There are millions of people who actually do real work on computers - not just computer programmers but people doing financial spreadsheets or architecture or engineering. We are the early adopters, we are the ones who pay a premium for fast machines, and yet recently we're always treated as an afterthought.

Some of my friends who do video professionally got a serious kick in the head by Apple's revamping Final Cut Pro. To the best of my knowledge, most of them are simply switching to other video editing programs - a depressing waste of everyone's time and money where they need to spend - waste, even - a few thousand dollars and a few full work weeks per person on switching to a program that they don't like as much as their current one, simply because Apple hung them out to dry.

This is more of the same. I see this costing me weeks of work and thousands of dollars in the medium-term future and leaving me in a place that wasn't as good as the place that I started in...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:31 AM on June 2, 2012 [18 favorites]


Just installed Ubuntu 12.4 in VirtualBox and the Unity stuff isn't really all that bad. It's annoying that Terminal isn't a default application on the toolbar since that's what I use 90% of the time in Linux but it was simple enough to add it. I'll probably go ahead and install it on real hardware.
posted by octothorpe at 10:43 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm curious: Is it the case that all the software that you need to use for your work or at home is also available on, say, OS X or Linux as well? If you weren't happy with Windows and you wanted to change OSes, there wouldn't be a single deal-breaker that would prevent you from switching? If so, lucky you.


I'm more or less in this situation. Given the choice, I prefer to work in Windows. It's just the eensiest bit more efficient - for example, alt-tab switches not just between programs, but between *windows*. I can have a pop up in Chrome and alt-tab to the main Chrome window then alt-tab back to the pop up. Or two separate Word files. My Mac doesn't seem to do that. (Please feel free to teach me your alt-tab + shift shortcut that I am being dumb about).

That said, my home computer is a Mac because at the time I bought it, my choice was Vista or OSX (or, yes, Linux, but that's an awful bother). Yes, I spent hundreds of dollars extra to avoid Vista (and to avoid installing some flavor of Linux) in favor of a more traditional operating system. [I managed to hold out at work until Win7 was the default. I often have to rescue my supervisor from Vista. He also requires rescuing from drop down menus though, so grain of salt.]

Yes, there are still largely computer illiterate (or, more accurately, 4th grade reading level) users out there who will buy and use whatever comes on what's on sale at Best Buy. But I'm hardly the only mildly educated (let's say 8th grade reading level) user out there who switched to a Mac (or dug up their old XP disks) to avoid Vista. I suspect the same thing will happen with Win8.
posted by maryr at 10:47 AM on June 2, 2012


> I watching a friend's place recently and I wanted to turn on her iMac and check my email. I've used computers since the Commodore 64 days, still use them every day for web application and site work, so for over 30 years. I could not figure out how to turn the fucking thing on.


Assuming you're talking about the all-in-one slab iMac, and not the earlier incarnations, there's a power button on the back. Grip the lower left side of the iMac (thumb in front, fingers in back, the natural grip you'd use to grab any similarly dimensioned object) and the button is right under your fingers. Granted, tower Macs and laptop Macs have the button on the front or top right of the lower half of the clamshell, respectively, but, given that on the iMac the ports are all located on the back as well, it's not much of an inference to figure out that's probably where the power button is, too, once one has noticed it's not on the front. One can disagree with the design decision and say that all the ports and the power button should be on the front (it's possible one might not mind the sprouting spaghetti look that would produce), or to say that the power button alone should be on the front, but given that one is presented with a blank front, it seems reasonable to start looking elsewhere on the slab.

(My first computer was a C-64, too, unless you count the borrowed TI-99 I used to generate one track of Soft Machine's tune Kings and Queens.)
posted by Philofacts at 10:48 AM on June 2, 2012


By the way, the impression I'm getting is that multi-tasking is difficult in Win8? At least in the Metro setting? As a "productivity" user of Windows, this alone would be enough to send me to an alternate OS. I use at least 5 different programs to analyze some of my regularly generated data at work. If I had to open and close them all every time? Gah.
posted by maryr at 10:50 AM on June 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


And calling the Control Panel and such "Charms"? What is this, fucking Hogwarts?
posted by maryr at 10:52 AM on June 2, 2012 [15 favorites]


Apps are now Spells. (Viruses, etc. are Dark Arts?)
posted by Philofacts at 11:04 AM on June 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


> but given that one is presented with a blank front, it seems reasonable to start looking elsewhere on the slab.

I also had great difficulty in getting an iMac to turn on. I searched the front, and then searched the sides and back corners with my fingers. I didn't managed to find the button until I actually moved the machine away from the wall, incidentally pulling out one of the plugs.

It's not just that the power button is on the back - it's that it's flush with the surface and hard to detect with touch. Most people tend to have their machine up against the wall and treat it like a TV.

Now, many modern TVs don't have power buttons in the front because they have a remote. But you can't turn an iMac on with a remote...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:04 AM on June 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


maryr: You're looking for Command ` (backtick right under the escape key). That will switch between windows of the same program in OSX.
posted by minedev at 11:07 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Advertisers slam Microsoft over 'Do not track' decision
posted by Artw at 11:22 AM on June 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Jimbob writes "What I want to know is, will the software I use hours every day, Postgres, Revolution R and ArcGIS, come out with sparkly Metro interfaces? Would love to see how one would use GIS software with a touch screen. Oh, but hey, some people are saying the desktop doesn't even matter anymore - can't wait for ArcGIS in the cloud..."

Or AutoCAD. I'd be interested to see a touch screen process piping or building plan drawing program that can be driven by a touch screen but I'm pretty sure Metro isn't going to enable that and it seems unlikely a finger will ever be precise enough.
posted by Mitheral at 11:37 AM on June 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Windows 8 doesn't scare me one bit, but I don't like it either, so far. It doesn't scare me because it's issues will be dealt with long before most anyone in the working world is forced to adopt or it will be replaced. Microsoft showed extremely impressive capabilities with the whole Vista debacle /Win7 phoenix.

I am no Microsoft fan by any means but I work in IT, and am the rare person who gets to work with all three desktop platforms extensively and really enjoys all three.

My preference in terms of getting work done is Windows 7, by far. My Linux and OSX machines (with similar or the same hardware) simply cannot keep up. Win7 (with a ton of resources, I admit, though resources are dirt cheap these days) is perfectly happy to run dozens of programs simultaneously with dozens of browser tabs in multiple browsers open, flipping back and forth constantly and keeping the same desktop session running for weeks. Ubuntu and OSX both choke out long before.
posted by Cosine at 11:46 AM on June 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


switching to a program that they don't like as much as their current one, simply because Apple hung them out to dry.

EXACTLY!

I got this kind of answer from some Microsoft forums, about the new Office 2007-10

MSGuy: ...our researcher have assessed the new interface s more usable and better....
ME: Can you JUST give us a switch to the old interface?
MSGuy: ..no sir no can't do...
ME: if your researcher are so fucking smart, why didn't just "skin" the interface?
MSGuy: ..they sort of did...
ME: oh so they did, but they "accidentally" left the "old GUI" option out?
MSGuy: ...our researcher have assessed the new interface s more usable and better....

Somebody tell the wannabe Machiavelli from marketing the ACTUAL core users are 100x times more likely to switch to Linux, if you turn Windows into a fucking smartphone WITHOUT giving us full old windows interface (and god forbid you start restricting my access to files).

Which actually, now that I think of it...it's not a bad idea.
posted by elpapacito at 11:55 AM on June 2, 2012


If there was a version of Windows XP that supports x64 and 16GB of RAM, I'd be using that instead.

Other than the one that was released seven years ago?
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 11:56 AM on June 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


rongorongo writes "They had to scrape a little but: PC Pro bravely tried 30 Best Features of Windows 2008."

One of the touted features is "Split-screen apps" which is hilariously horrifying. I've got six apps active over two screens right now with several occluded windows in the background a quick click away and I'm not even working just messing around. The ability to share screen real estate with two unwindowed apps is a horrible step backward.
posted by Mitheral at 11:58 AM on June 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Metro and the desktop both seem fine, as other people have said the thing that worries me is the flip between the two. That the moment my work machine is a mac and I'm doing most things via Lion, but there's some things that I need to over on Windows so I have Win7 in Parallels runing as well and flip into that every so often. At first this arrangement was sort of okay but as I get further and further into doing things like this the tiny distracting moment of switchover has become more and more of a painpoint, to the point where I'm considering just cutting down the number of mac apps I use to the minimum and just doing everything in Win 7. If the Metro/Desktop split ends up feeling like that then there's going to be real trouble.
posted by Artw at 12:00 PM on June 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Now, Apple is a different beast, and they're driven by a need to continually innovate. But they also had a single design visionary as a CEO. What they have as a CEO now is one of the greatest supply chain managers in the world. And while that's a great thing to have if you want to make dump trucks full of money, it's not what the same thing as a design visionary.

What's interesting about the stories coming out of Apple since Jobs' death is how often he was wrong, or an idea wasn't his, or the company went a different way than his vision, etc. Your statement that Apple was run by a 'single design visionary' is simply, and completely, false.

Don't get me wrong, I'd rather have Jobs still running Apple, but the idea that Apple was being run design wise (and other ways) solely by Jobs' vision, as you seem to be claiming, has been shown not to be the case.

He was a great visionary. He was also often wrong. It was the dynamics of Jobs vision mixed with other visionaries in the company that proved to be right more often than wrong. It's too early to tell how the company under Cook does in that department.
posted by justgary at 12:01 PM on June 2, 2012


30 Best Features of Windows 8"

Ow. One of the most scathing criticisms I have read.
posted by fuq at 12:24 PM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


minedev: Ah, apple key + backwards apostrophe I never use, naturally. How intuitive.

(Seriously though, thanks, that's handy. I still wish alt/cmd-tab did it, but it's nice to at least know it can be done.)
posted by maryr at 12:51 PM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


30 Best Features of Windows 8

According to the article, they are achieving faster boot times by storing the system state in HIBERFIL.SYS - the "swap file" for hibernation. So now you have 2 files ( HIBERFIL.SYS and pagefile.sys) with reams of system history information that you can't really get to.

Convenience at the cost of privacy is a shitty tradeoff to some of us. One of the first things I do on a Win7 machine is disable hibernation, which makes the hiberfil.sys file go away - so this new setup really bothers me.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:03 PM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Say what you like about hiberfil, but it's still the best synthetic sleeping bag insulator since goose down.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:25 PM on June 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Skip every other release, and you're good.

So you're saying we should just w8?
posted by mahershalal at 1:59 PM on June 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


So every time you like a Star Trek movie, don't take the Windows upgrade?
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:01 PM on June 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


If the Metro/Desktop split ends up feeling like that then there's going to be real trouble.

As someone who also flips between parallels 7 and OSX, yes, that's pretty much what switching between metro apps and desktop apps is like. You even have the separate apps task switcher - metro apps get win-tab to themselves, and the desktop (no matter how many apps are on it) gets one slot - desktop is just 1 metro app equivalent. If you use alt-tab, you get the more normal behaviour (metro apps and desktop apps each get a slot) though it all goes Pete Tong in multi-screen setups.

I've found setting windows 8 on the Basic theme helps though; the flat colours and buttons fit a lot better than switching between metro and aero. MS presumably agree, as RTM will have a Basic-style theme for the desktop instead of aero-lite as current in the preview.

The best bet though is basically to ignore metro apps entirely, and just use metro as a glorified app launcher with a few widgets. Otherwise it all gets far too weird, and it's not like any of the metro apps don't suck - with never knowing whether you should right click or bring up the charms to do any given operation; there seems to be little rhyme or reason as which operation ends up where. Plus right clicking will give you different things depending upon where you did it. It's a right mess. If you're a keyboard warrior, it's not too bad though - hitting the win key then just start typing the app name will usually get what you want quickly without having to use the right click/all apps shortcut in metro.

By the way, the impression I'm getting is that multi-tasking is difficult in Win8? At least in the Metro setting? As a "productivity" user of Windows, this alone would be enough to send me to an alternate OS. I use at least 5 different programs to analyze some of my regularly generated data at work. If I had to open and close them all every time? Gah.

By multi-tasking, if you mean 'have every window full screen, and use win-tab to cyle through apps with their crappy list on the left side that quickly fills with useless stuff you don't actually want so have to manually close out by right clicking so you can actually see that apps you want' then you'll be fine with metro. Otherwise err, I have some bad news... Unless you just stick to the desktop apps, use alt-tab and the 'app dock' bar (since it's hardly the start bar any more!) and try very hard to pretend metro apps don't exist, in which case it will be basically as you have now.

And calling the Control Panel and such "Charms"? What is this, fucking Hogwarts?

Heh. I always end up thinking of badly stereotyped irish leprechauns myself.
posted by ArkhanJG at 2:27 PM on June 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


they are achieving faster boot times by storing the system state in HIBERFIL.SYS

Wait, is Windows 8 still stuck with an 8+3 file naming scheme?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:29 PM on June 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


So you're saying we should just w8?

Yeah, I've been wondering for a couple of months now why W8 4 9 hasn't become a...a thing.
posted by Malor at 2:34 PM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wonder what it says, if anything, that the only company to have actual measurable success in the tablet market has deliberately chosen NOT to merge their desktop and tablet OSes.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:35 PM on June 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was thinking that that was one of Apple's better choices too, Dr. Use what works better on each system.
posted by maryr at 3:47 PM on June 2, 2012


Looking at Lion I'd say that's blatantly not true - they're clearly going in that direction.
posted by Artw at 4:02 PM on June 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Wonder what it says, if anything, that the only company to have actual measurable success in the tablet market has deliberately chosen NOT to merge their desktop and tablet OSes."

That convergence is coming. The Mac App Store, iCloud and the elimination of physical media (online only OS X upgrades, removal of the optical drive in the 2012 MBP refresh) are the first steps in that direction. If Apple doesn't kill off the neglected Mac Pro line it will probably end up being the only line that runs a true desktop OS. Then again I could be completely wrong. I'm smart enough to guess but not dumb enough to be a tech analyst.
posted by MikeMc at 4:04 PM on June 2, 2012


Wait, is Windows 8 still stuck with an 8+3 file naming scheme?

Not at all. That's probably a holdover from when you could still run Windows NT variants on FAT volumes. (you might still be able to, in fact, but I don't think the OS installer will create anything but NTFS volumes anymore.) The code's used to looking for HIBERFIL.SYS, and there's no sense changing it -- that's hidden from users anyway, unless they take special pains to see it.

NTFS is really, really good. It's still one of the best production filesystems going. ZFS is better, and btrfs in Linux may eventually be better, but it's a remarkably robust and performant filesystem, considering its advanced age. And it supports very long filenames with ease, along with a host of other very nice features. It's one of the strongest points of the NT lineage.
posted by Malor at 4:05 PM on June 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


dw: "It feels like the "sheeple" attitude that Linux people had for non-Linux people is still coming through in their UI design. It's depressing, really. Unity feels condescending, honestly. I feel stupid from using it, like it's stooping to my level. I've never felt that with Windows or OS X. "

Absolutely agreed. I could go on at great length as to how Linux desktops patronize their users while making things difficult for anyone who wants to delve beyond running Firefox- the "easy" layer isn't very deep, and once you scratch through (especially if you do something slightly odd and there's a bug) you're solidly in "sysadmin" territory.

Once, for example, in the midst of customization I accidentally removed all the panels from my GNOME desktop. It then refused to let me reset my settings, instead trying to fire up Unity, failing due to a missing GFX driver, and returning me to my nice blank desktop.
If you peel away the veneer, Linux is so damn customizable that you can render your user profile (if not OS) useless if you're not careful. I much prefer an OS where there's one way things work, it works very well, and it can't be fucked up without a rm -rf /. I wish everyone would just switch over to GNUSTEP.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:10 PM on June 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Except that on many machines by default the power button puts it to sleep, not shuts it down. Whether it does this on Windows 8 sounds like it's up to Microsoft to decide. It's probably configurable to work either way -- but it's probably a choice most users won't know to make, meaning 90% of them won't change it.

On the machines I've had the default has not been sleep but shut down. Just tried it on a 2 week old machine that I haven't customized at that level. Power button turns the machine one and off.
posted by juiceCake at 4:29 PM on June 2, 2012


LOL I remember the first time I turned off a LISA. I poked the button and nothing happened. The machine kept churning away and then about 20 seconds later, it shut off. This was such puzzling behavior that I consulted the manual to see if this was normal.

I personally don't think Windows users will be happy unless there is a screen that says "It is now safe to turn off your computer."
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:08 PM on June 2, 2012


NTFS is really, really good. It's still one of the best production filesystems going.

As a sysadmin for over a thousand servers that is not my experience, to the extreme.
posted by Cosine at 6:19 PM on June 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I personally don't think Windows users will be happy unless there is a screen that says "It is now safe to turn off your computer."

That's because they've spent 10 years teaching us that it was not safe to turn our computers off until we reached that screen. And, if rarely, reinforcing it by fucking up our computers.
posted by maryr at 6:28 PM on June 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


I personally don't think Windows users will be happy unless there is a screen that says "It is now safe to turn off your computer."

There was that exact thing before ATX power supplies were introduced that could turn themselves off under software control; you would click Start, Shut Down, and then after the filesystem was stabilized a message would appear telling you it is OK to hit the OFF switch now.

Even ATX power supplies will turn off without software control if you hold the button down for a few seconds. Windows really, really gets pissed when you do that though.

Yesterday I had to fire up a 17 year old DOS box to look at a program I installed in 1994 and which hasn't been actually used since 1999; a remote branch manager wanted to know if he could sell it as-is to another customer. After figuring out how to tell him no, I marvelled at the luxury of safely hitting the hard contact OFF switch without having to go through a bunch of crap first.

Modern OS's may perform better, but the inability to survive an unexpected power loss is a major fail compared to what came before.

Also not having a reliable software API to commit changes to the hardware. Braindead. In DOS you close the file, it gets written to the disk immediately. Maybe not best performance, but great if the power suddenly fails. NT4 was so bad about never doing this I joked that the RESET button should be labeled PRESS TO LOSE DATA.

It took me years to figure out that SQL (everybody said "use SQL! It journals! to which I would reply HOW DOES THE FUCKING JOURNAL GET COMMITTED and nobody knew) launches a thread to make the changes and then terminates the thread. Thread termination commits disk changes. Nice documentation job there, M$.
posted by localroger at 6:30 PM on June 2, 2012


You can't use a tablet as your main machine for serious music production [..]] and you never will be able to - because you need a large working area on your display to do serious work, you need many hardware peripherals, you need a lot of RAM and a lot of disk.

Depends what you mean by serious. I've been making electronic music for ~15 years and I got sick of using a computer, so I mostly stopped. I agree that one needs to be able to run desktop applications like Pro Tools (blech) or Live or whatever in a commercial studio context, but this year I've abstained from doing any sequencing whatosever in the computer.

Wait, is Windows 8 still stuck with an 8+3 file naming scheme?

No, hasn't been for years. It's just the default for system files, on the theory that developers will a) want to rely on the established MS filenaming conventions for system libraries and b) not have to type too much.You can always look at/browse by the file descriptor if you prefer. Are Mac users still using only one mouse button?
posted by anigbrowl at 6:37 PM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been running Win8 on my laptop for a few months. I love the booting, the fact that it goes to sleep if my battery dies and I can hot swap a new battery, and it runs more apps multitasking better. (I do fairly intense data analysis that slows things down.)
Search is improved and more logical.
It works with all my weird foreign language scripts beautifully.
The metro UI - whatevs.

I like Win7, and Win8 was a pretty big learning curve (and I'm a long time Win user, former computer tech), but I'm pretty happy.
posted by k8t at 7:42 PM on June 2, 2012


Call me a weenie if you want to, but I just don't see all the Unity hate. I run Precise on both my desktop and an Aspire One D270 and I seem to be able to get what I want to get done done. I just need to learn how to hack the icon size a little for the netbook.

Oh, and for easy access to the console under Linux, I am pretty fond of Guake. F12 and boom, it's there.

Now if there was a decent version of Growl for Windows...
posted by Samizdata at 7:45 PM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Speaking of the Aspire One, should your kernel support it, zRam is pretty nifty. (She's only got a gig of RAM in her right now.)

DERAIL ENDS

(Also, mostly nthing the Windows 7 love, even if I only keep it around for games pretty much.)
posted by Samizdata at 8:04 PM on June 2, 2012


Malor: the kernel devs themselves are now shrugging and saying that they can't offer security anymore, it's just too hard.

Could you expand on this, or point to a place where it is discussed?

(I searched a bit but, well, the googles do nothing.)
posted by stebulus at 8:35 PM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


XFCE ... just, flat, will NOT resize windows, period.

That's not actually a fault in XFCE, just in the "Default" theme shipped with version 4.8, whose window-edge drag handles are indeed annoyingly thin (the corner ones are OK). Try switching themes (Settings->Windows Manager->Style). "Default-4.6" works well for me.
posted by flabdablet at 12:34 AM on June 3, 2012


I use Windows 7 about once a week virtualized on Linux. I have to admit that it isn't half-bad. If I were a typical user, I would probably be happy with it full-time.

rongorongo: "They had to scrape a little but: PC Pro bravely tried 30 Best Features of Windows 2008..."

Wow. That's damning with faint praise.
posted by double block and bleed at 2:27 AM on June 3, 2012


If there was a version of Windows XP that supports x64 and 16GB of RAM, I'd be using that instead.

Other than the one that was released seven years ago?
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 2:56 PM on June 2 [1 favorite +] [!]


Do you know anyone who has had success installing it and supporting it in the enterprise? IIRC when it was requested at a former place of employment, XP64 required a special set of technical experts to support. It also required the most up to date,and most expensive hardware, and was thus reserved for the CIO and a few other execs who, even though they had no use for it, demanded to have it.
posted by Gungho at 6:06 AM on June 3, 2012


stebulus: Could you expand on this, or point to a place where it is discussed?

Ted T'so just said this:
These days I'd argue that multi-user is such a corner case that it's not worth optimizing for it as far as defaults are concerned. If you're trying to run a secure multi-user system, you need to be an expert system administrator, keep up with all security patches, and even then, good luck to you. (The reality is that these days, no matter what OS you're talking about, shell == root. And that's probably even true on the most unusably locked down SELinux system.)
In other words: it's impossible, we can't do it. Shrug.

Source: lwn.net security quotes of the week

There have been others like this, too, this is just the most recent.
posted by Malor at 8:39 AM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


NTFS is really, really good. It's still one of the best production filesystems going.
As a sysadmin for over a thousand servers that is not my experience, to the extreme.
Hmm, interesting. So comparatively speaking, which filesystems give you less trouble than NTFS? Which give you more?
posted by jcreigh at 9:08 AM on June 3, 2012


I think Windows 8 is part of a general trend where they're trying to shut down general-purpose computing, where you can have a PC that will accept whatever peripherals you want and which will run whatever software you want.

Instead, they want you to be running an appliance. General-purpose PCs are too versatile. You can rip DVDs and BDs with them, you can go to the Pirate Bay and easily get whatever software your heart desires, you can install cards that decrypt HDMI signals so you can watch them on 'non-trusted' devices.

What they want to do is enforce monetization at the platform level and have PCs be devices solely for content consumption, thereby shutting down the non-monetized side of the Internet. The app store model effectively takes the bazaar where anyone can share software, be it for ripping DVDs or cracking password hashes on your GPU, and replaces it with the shopping mall, where you can download your "apps" for viewing approved, monetized content.

Yes, Windows 8 will not require locked-down PC hardware. But they will in the future. The only reason they're offering a $15 to switch from 7 to 8 is because it's not an upgrade, it's a trap.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:08 PM on June 3, 2012 [12 favorites]


Yeah, no, that's not gonna happen.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:27 PM on June 3, 2012


Though they might like it to.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:35 PM on June 3, 2012


They can do one hell of a lot of damage trying to make it that way, though. Their monopoly power is immense. It would likely break their stranglehold if they tried, but it would still be pretty miserable for techies for awhile.
posted by Malor at 5:07 PM on June 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Gungho : Do you know anyone who has had success installing it and supporting it in the enterprise?

Never mind "enterprise", you can end that sentence with "installing it".

I have. WOW do you not want to use XP64... Even if you manage to find drivers for your hardware, you'll soon discover what happens when 90% of software can't figure out your version of windows, including the ever-frustrating "You can't run the free version of this software on a server version of Windows" that every free antivirus program will puke out.

That said, the typical user, for now, could realistically get away with PAE and the 8GB limit present in XP32. Since 64 bit machines with 8-16GB of RAM have hit the mainstream, though, you can expect programs to get very memory hungry over the next few years, the same way they did when we moved from 16 to 32 bits.
posted by pla at 7:17 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


pla, they removed PAE support from XP around Service Pack 1. It will never address more than a 4 gig memory space, usually giving you no more than about 3.1 gigs usable.
posted by Malor at 8:11 PM on June 3, 2012


Also, I could never get why Win7 had 4x the install footprint of XP.

Remember NextSTEP? They crammed a UNIX-based proper desktop OS into under 100MB.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:46 PM on June 3, 2012


Malor : pla, they removed PAE support from XP around Service Pack 1.

Although support for PAE memory is typically associated with support for more than 4 GB of RAM, PAE can be enabled on Windows XP SP2, Windows Server 2003, and later 32-bit versions of Windows to support hardware enforced Data Execution Prevention (DEP).

That said, I did apparently have the number wrong, and they still artificially limit it to 4GB (making it effectively useless for its intended purpose of adding more RAM) rather than 8GB. Huh, would have sworn I read 8GB just the other day.

Though in fairness, XP and 2003 use the same code base (you can even install all the various VLK versions from each others' media just by changing the key), and you can trick XP into running more; Definitely not for the average user, however, and doing so would almost certainly violate your license agreement, for those who care about such details - And it still doesn't make my original point "right", because I though MS actually allowed up to 8GB.
posted by pla at 3:43 AM on June 4, 2012


They might have allowed as much as 16 gigs, originally, but they removed that feature with Service Pack 1. There were some drivers that didn't like being loaded above 4 gigs -- the Creative drivers were particularly bad. (No surprise there; if ever a company has needed cleansing with fire, it's Creative.) So instead of leaving in the feature, and letting drivers get updated, they just pulled it completely.

So, at one time, what you said was correct, but they changed it.
posted by Malor at 4:50 AM on June 4, 2012


Just as a tech/geeky aside: 32-bit Linux is perfectly capable of using PAE mode to address up to 64 gigs of system RAM. However, it starts to have some trouble around 48 gigs or so, because the tracking structures required to keep track of and page all that RAM have to be in the bottom 4 gigs, along with all memory for device drivers that use DMA, and some other critical stuff I forget. The practical limit seems to be right around 48 gigs, as I recall, though I've never actually tried this myself.

64-bit mode really is a lot easier. It's all just memory.
posted by Malor at 7:11 AM on June 4, 2012


32-bit Linux also has a per-process limit of 4GB (inherent in the 32-bit virtual address space visible to processes) split 3GB/1GB user/kernel. So if you're running stuff like virtual machine monitors that use large amounts of RAM per process, you're certainly better off hosting those with a 64-bit kernel.

Running in 64-bit mode also gives you access to the extra CPU registers defined by the AMD64 programming model, going some way toward alleviating the x86 architecture's dreadful register poverty. On the other hand, every pointer variable is twice the width, so instructions that work with memory pointers are bigger, which them slower to fetch and makes application programs bigger and RAM-hungrier. So some 64-bit apps run faster than their 32-bit versions; others don't.

At the school I netadmin we're running a mix of XP and 7 and I've stuck with the 32-bit versions of both, simply because none of the stuff we run is demanding enough to make 64-bit necessary and even though it's now 2012 I'm still seeing irritating compatibility gotchas with 64-bit Windows - all the way from niggling driver issues to code that assumes that %ProgramFiles% points to the parent of its installation directory.

Assuming MS's Windows division survives the Windows 8 debacle, I might consider rolling out the 64-bit version of Windows 9 in due course. I expect that 9 will be to 8 as 7 is to Vista: essentially the same but with fewer paper cuts.
posted by flabdablet at 8:06 AM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


> I remember everyone loving windows 95.

What I remember best:

Q: What's the theme song of the Windows 95 release campaign?
A: Rolling Stones, "Start Me Up"
Q: Which line best describes the product?
A: "You make a grown man cryyyy"
posted by jfuller at 9:05 AM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


... the "Default" theme shipped with version 4.8, whose window-edge drag handles are indeed annoyingly thin (the corner ones are OK). Try switching themes (Settings->Windows Manager->Style). "Default-4.6" works well for me.

I've just noticed that although the side and bottom drag handles in Default-4.6 are easily usable, the top handle is also only one pixel thick. Default-4.4 looks similarly clean and uncluttered and seems to have a 3px top drag handle and 5px side and bottom handles.
posted by flabdablet at 9:07 AM on June 4, 2012


So some 64-bit apps run faster than their 32-bit versions; others don't.

It's my understanding that, on the whole, AMD64 code is about 10% faster than i386 code, while being about 30% larger. (Data size typically doesn't grow very much, but program code grows by 30%ish.) With the small fraction of executable to data size in most cases where you'd be at all worried about memory, that's a fantastic trade. In memory intensive work, program code is a small fraction of your total commit; going from 5% overhead to 6.5% overhead, to gain 10% throughput, is a definite win. And when your code overhead is high, so that the numbers look less attractive, you're not usually memory-loaded anyway, so spending a few megabytes you're not otherwise using, to gain 10%, is also a definite win.

Plus, you can get 16 gigs of good RAM for less than $100, so what the hell, right?

With some specific workloads, like at least a few kinds of encryption, easy access to 64-bit integers is a whacking HUGE performance win. I don't remember what specific benchmarks I saw, anymore, but the speedup for some algorithms was somewhere north of 5x.

Further, Win7 has some really outstanding drive caching, so a 64-bit Win7 machine, after a week or two or learning your use patterns, will feel very much like you have an SSD, even if your hard drive kind of sucks. It will still boot quite slowly, but in daily use once it's started, having that much RAM does a marvelous job of hiding how slow your drives are.

It's also nice for virtualization... I can be running two or three 2-gig OSes in virtual machines without noticing that they're there, even when gaming. I probably could run even more, but I haven't yet found any reason to.

Basically, if you're buying or building a new computer today, I think it's kind of silly to not go with a 64-bit OS with 16 gigs of RAM. It's so cheap, why not, you know? If you're really cash-starved, you can still get along fine on 4 gigs, but there's quite a bit to be gained from that extra $75.
posted by Malor at 9:38 AM on June 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I should add to that: this calculation is different for a Mac. On any Macintosh, always, always buy an SSD before anything else. There is nothing so important to Mac performance as drive seek time, and SSDs reduce that to the minimum possible with present technology.

Windows 7, especially if you have lots of RAM, is quite good at insulating you from a slow hard drive, but OS X just isn't. As a result, there is nothing else you can do to a Mac that will improve it more than adding an SSD.

This may not always be true... I think this may be an artifact of the ancient and creaky filesystem on the Mac, HFS+. If ZFS or whatever does eventually come out for it, then drive seek time may no longer dominate Mac performance so completely. But, at the moment, skip memory, skip video card, skip processor, anything you need to drop, in order to put an SSD into your Mac.

The tiniest of Macs, with an SSD, will feel enormously faster in routine use than the biggest and fastest, without.
posted by Malor at 11:31 AM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


.... the bottom 4 gigs ....

Me of 25 years ago popped in to say that that expressions is too strange to have any meaning, and just contemplating it makes him feel a little giddy.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:49 PM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm with benito, when I think about what I did with 64 kilobytes of memory back in the day, my programming difficulties with modern machines seem ludicrous. How did I fall so far behind the curve?
posted by JHarris at 9:12 PM on June 4, 2012


For the purposes of my work, computationally intensive work on massive data sets, 64-bit is a dream. My only complaint about 64-bit Windows is the apparently lack of 64-bit ODBC drivers...did they forget to compile them or something? Whenever I want to work with an ODBC database, I've got to fire up the old 32-bit version of my software.
posted by Jimbob at 9:48 PM on June 4, 2012


How did I fall so far behind the curve?

You didn't fall at all. The curve just shot skywards.

Even though there are far, far better programming tools and techniques available now than when I started messing about in 1979, programming competently is harder than it has ever been because there is now just so much stuff you need to know.

My only complaint about 64-bit Windows is the apparently lack of 64-bit ODBC drivers...did they forget to compile them or something?

Any use?
posted by flabdablet at 9:59 PM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


From that page:

Some ODBC drivers are only available as a 32-bit library irrespective of the operating system platform. For example, Microsoft’s Jet-based Access ODBC Driver (*.mdb).

This is the problem I faced. Which leads me to think...why was I trying to connect to an Access database? I thought I killed off my last Access database and switched to Postgres ages ago. I could investigate this further tomorrow... or I could just satisfy myself with direct Postgres connections as I do now.
posted by Jimbob at 1:46 AM on June 5, 2012


JHarris: I'm with benito, when I think about what I did with 64 kilobytes of memory back in the day, my programming difficulties with modern machines seem ludicrous. How did I fall so far behind the curve?

I think of it this way: we were both smarter and had lower standards back then. :-)
posted by Malor at 7:42 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm |.this.| close to running Mint as my primary OS on my aging MacBookPro. The merging of OSX and iOS really bothers me. It was fun while my magicpad still worked, but now that I'm back to mouse/keyboard, it's a bit sucky. I don't feel like dropping ~$70 on a pointing peripheral every time the thin glass sheet fractures.

I don't see Apple backing down from this convergence either. I'd sort of hoped that Microsoft might provide some ballast and slow the rush toward touchtops but that isn't happening.

In the last week I started running Mint on a VM and it handles better than the host OS with only half the resources. I've been away from the Linux as primary OS crowd for the last six years so hearing the crapfest around Gnome and kernel security above is a bit disheartening. On the other hand, I think maybe this is the thing that ultimately proves *nix as a viable alternative.

Consumers will gravitate toward appliances and the vendors will follow. This leaves workstations to professionals and hobbyists, both of whom have a bit of savior faire and facility with administering a robust computational device. If the vendors are mostly uninterested in providing professional workstations, and there is a thriving community with a self-built platform to fill that void, then that's where I see the future of workstations going. I seriously hope that we don't see the end of commodity pricing for hardware, because that will only serve to strengthen the consumer/hobbyist divide.
posted by Fezboy! at 10:08 AM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Try Chrome in Metro mode
posted by Artw at 10:58 AM on June 7, 2012


I just broke down and installed Linux Mint on my netbook after getting fed up with Windows 7 being a resource hog.

First impression: The desktop is much nicer to use than anything I've used on Linux before. They basically took GNOME 3 and knocked some sense into it. The app launcher menu is really good.

After installing and rebooting, I learned that it hadn't installed GRUB like it was supposed to. Happily I was able to figure out how to install it by hand, but other people aren't as computer-savvy.

The configuration applets are a holy mess. In total there are three different control panels: Preferences, Administration, and Cinnamon Settings (for the desktop shell). Because the Linux desktop is developed piecemeal, not as a whole, a lot of applets that should be combined aren't, and the applet layout is not standardized.

"Appearance" only changes the desktop background. "Color" is for color calibration, and should be combined with "Monitors". There is no clear way to change system colors apart from changing the theme as a whole, which you do through Cinnamon Settings - Themes.
"Keyboard" and "Keyboard Layout" are separate for some reason. "Screen Brightness and Lock" should be under power settings, but aren't.

Not to say the Mac has everything right, but Linux should redo their entire control panel system, grouping things together logically- and the Mac is the best example of this out there. There's too many cooks, and it's spoiling the broth.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:02 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know XFCE has been the poor cousin in destkop environments for years, but as well as being competent and quick it has fewer cooks and a relatively sane control panel. I've pretty much lost interest in Gnome and its descendants since starting to use XFCE 4.8.
posted by flabdablet at 12:05 AM on June 8, 2012


but Linux should redo their entire control panel system, grouping things together logically-

And thus we face the problem. Who, exactly, is "Linux"? The people who code the kernel? They don't have anything to do with configuration of a window manager. A window manager that works just as well in FreeBSD.

Ubuntu did do a pretty good job putting together their configuration system, though, and beating some sense into Gnome and X. It's a pity they shit in their own bed by then killing it off and enforcing Unity.
posted by Jimbob at 1:16 AM on June 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Mint is based on Ubuntu, and last time I checked the GNOME2-based Ubuntu had the same problems with the configuration applets.

I do like the basic concepts with Mint- the traditional desktop, the excellent app menu which beats 7's Start Menu hands down- but it bugs me that beyond the basic desktop interface, things don't seem coordinated. I think there's some serious problems with the dev community understanding what desktop users need, respecting their users, and coordinating their efforts to make an integrated desktop.

In the past I've run into problems in Linux (likely bugs) and have gone through forums looking for solutions, only to find stuff like this:
-"Hey guys, I've been using Ubuntu 9.0 and every time I try to hit "OK" after storing the settings for a VPN so I can get online, the window closes and the settings aren't saved".
Answer 1: "Why don't you submit a patch to the GNOME project instead of whining?"
Answer 2: "Everyone knows that feature is broken, you have to enter this lengthy command-line argument to connect to a VPN each time, use a different DE if you don't like it".
Answer 3: "Ha! I don't believe you. Nobody uses a VPN to go online! You are clearly a FUD troll from Microsoft! Go somewhere else with your lies!".

I actually saw a FreeBSD forum post where everyone was berating this poor person, telling her that she should be using a command-line tool to download Youtube videos instead of asking the community how to get Flash working in her browser.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:10 PM on June 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Microsoft extends Visual Studio Express 2012 to desktop apps - extremely happy to hear that.
posted by Artw at 3:18 PM on June 8, 2012


Mint is based on Ubuntu, and last time I checked the GNOME2-based Ubuntu had the same problems with the configuration applets.

If I recall correctly (I used Mint briefly a few months back) Mint is based on Ubuntu as far as the packaging system and the kind of stuff goes, but the interface was pretty much pure Gnome. I remember pre-Unity Ubuntu had a menu ("System"?) with filled with pretty much all custom Ubuntu configuration applets. Mint had a more confused scattering of applets from different sources.

Either way, none of it's ideal. Although I'm pretty competent with Linux, having been using it for various things for about 15 years, I still play the game "How long after a fresh install can I delay having to do something arcane at the terminal?" with every distro I try. Ubuntu came closest, but it was about an hour. Which just makes me wonder what, exactly, they're hoping to achieve with their dumbed-down Unity interface. What happens when their hypothetical dumb-ass user who can't even be trusted with a configurable menu bar at the top of the screen needs to install a driver for their Wifi printer?
posted by Jimbob at 10:08 PM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


"How long after a fresh install can I delay having to do something arcane at the terminal?"

I guess that I come from the opposite end of things. I'm usually annoyed when I can't just edit a config file and am forced to use some gui thing to setup printing or some such.
posted by octothorpe at 6:00 PM on June 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Don't you just love, love, love CUPS?

I once had to debug a setup where CUPS would cause the printer to spit out one completely blank page for each printed page in the print job - instantly, with no print head moving noises first, so it wasn't just dried-up cartridges - and I still have no idea why the thing that eventually fixed it eventually fixed it. Nor can I remember what that was any more.
posted by flabdablet at 3:13 AM on June 11, 2012


Duplex setting. It's always a duplex setting.
posted by fleacircus at 1:18 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I wasn't clear - it wasn't spitting out blank pages between the printed pages, but instead of the printed pages. And if I recall even slightly correctly, the fix involved replacing one particular library with its counterpart from an older version of Ubuntu that didn't attempt to make use of an extension set of PowerPC instructions that the elderly G3 I was working with didn't have. I still have no idea why that manifested as blank pages instead of segfaults. Maybe there were segfaults and CUPS ate them. Dunno.

CUPS is huge: I don't think I've ever seen such a complex solution to such a simple set of requirements. Not even the notoriously fragile Windows Print Spooler service is as weird as CUPS. And even with all that complexity it still doesn't deal well seemingly simple things like paper-out conditions or ink level monitoring because its architecture is still based on the notion of a print queue full of print jobs that survives from the days of batch processing on mainframes; interacting with the printer doesn't come naturally to it.
posted by flabdablet at 4:49 AM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Don't you just love, love, love CUPS?

Yes. I absolutely love, love, love CUPS. Over the years, I have maintained everything from a multi-site network full of Macs to dozens of individuals, on devices from high end imagesetters and high volume xerographic book printer/binders, to obsolete inkjets. http://127.0.0.1:631/ has saved the day more times than I can remember.

But then, this is CUPS in its native environment, with commercially developed drivers. I think you guys didn't get the memo:

CUPS is the standards-based, open source printing system developed by Apple Inc. for Mac OS® X and other UNIX®-like operating systems.

Sucks to be other.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:37 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Apple poured a bunch of money into CUPS and eventually bought out the original developer but CUPS existed for years before Apple incorporated it into MacOS X.
posted by Mitheral at 5:01 PM on June 12, 2012


Sucks to be other.

Sucks to be wrong.
posted by octothorpe at 5:18 AM on June 13, 2012


Apple poured a bunch of money into CUPS and eventually bought out the original developer but CUPS existed for years before Apple incorporated it into MacOS X.

Much in the same way that Apple's WebKit benefits Linux Chrome and Android browser users, we all benefit from the way CUPS works today — as open source software, which has worked its way into desktop Linux, for example — because Apple incorporated it not too long after CUPS started and put developer time into making it better.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:56 PM on June 17, 2012


CUPS was always good, Blazecock, and it didn't particularly need Apple's help. Apple is no particular champion of open source.
posted by Malor at 5:17 PM on June 17, 2012


Apple is the world's largest open source software developer.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:20 PM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Indeed, if not one of the largest. It's a shame that people can't see past their own politics to acknowledge that.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:55 PM on June 17, 2012


How fucking dare you call that company a friend of open source? They championed open source precisely long enough to get themselves back into a competitive position against Microsoft, would would never, ever have been possible without using the huge reams of code written by the open source community. And they promptly layered a bunch of stuff on top to put chains on your wrists, telling you what you can and can't run on what's supposedly your computer.

They're an extremely unethical company, and they are the 'world's largest open source software developer' only in the sense that they are the company with the largest market cap that happens to employ open source developers.

They appropriate the work of many thousands of brilliant people, to directly oppose the ends those people care about.
posted by Malor at 7:42 PM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Might be time I got up from the computer and went for a bicycle ride now.
posted by flabdablet at 8:47 PM on June 17, 2012


ROFL religious fundamentalists.

While Linux spent 20 years trying to get 1% market share, in 5 years Apple sold 120 million iPhones and put BSD Unix and WebKit in everyone's pocket. Even Android uses WebKit. I won't even get into the 70+ million iPads sold to date, or the 4 million Macs it sells each quarter.

You don't get it. Apple ships more Open Source product than ALL the other vendors combined. The entire smartphone industry is dependent on Apple's projects like WebKit. Apple fought to protect users from royalties from non-open source products like H.264, which angered religious fundamentalists who have been pushing technically inferior codecs like Ogg. Apple pushes open standards like HTML 5 and is killing proprietary software like Flash, which really are the walled gardens you should be worried about.

The world has decided it does not care about the things you care about. There is nothing you can do about it. People don't want icecream sammich hackphones, Ee Pads, Ee PCs and Chromeboxes, they want iPhones, iPads, MacBook Airs, and Mac minis.

Now you must excuse me from your religious inquisition. I am supposed to be working on my own open source project, on my Mac mini.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:52 PM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, now if I could only figure out why my Aspire One will only erratically hibernate under Precise. (And how to get enough money to get/a decent machine to replace my dead desktop as the Aspire One is the only machine I have right now...)
posted by Samizdata at 9:26 PM on June 17, 2012


The world has decided it does not care about the things you care about. There is nothing you can do about it. People don't want icecream sammich hackphones, Ee Pads, Ee PCs and Chromeboxes, they want iPhones, iPads, MacBook Airs, and Mac minis.

Lots do, lot's don't. This hyperbole is absurd. There are quite literally billions of people on the Earth and millions capable of buying computers and electronic devices and they are quite a diverse lot. I haven't the slightest interest in getting any iOS devices (and I've used them extensively), but it's not for religious reasons or because I'm mad at Apple. The product doesn't suit me and I'm thankful we have alternatives. I have friends and relatives to whom it suits perfectly. That's great. I know many people who use Android, Linux, Windows as well as iOS and the Mac. We get along. We don't suffer the illusion that the world has made a decision against us based on the tools we use or our computers. We're out of high school though and we realized well over a decade ago that file formats are generally interchangeable regardless of the platform you're on and that your computer doesn't define your identity.

Linux has rather large "marketshare" in the server arena. Apache is an open source web server that runs many millions of web sites (which are needed for browsers to present to us). Before Chrome came around Webkit browsers were outnumbered by Gecko browsers on the desktop but really, so what?

You talk about "religious fundamentalists" and go on like a priest from on high. That's wonderful that you're working on your own open source project on your Mac mini. I'm working on open source projects on my computer (the operating system I use is irrelevant as is the hardware, the software that is developed is rather far more relevant and it's cross platform and the people involved are rather far more relevant as well). I'm working on open source software with other people who use Linux, Windows, and Macs! My god man to which platform did I give credit too? How can I recognize where the world is and how it's against me? Lucky we have mentors like yourself to guide us.

Someone points out that Apple didn't in fact invent CUPS but did get hold of it later on and continued to develop. It's just a fact, nothing more, nothing less. Now we're on a tangent about the largest open source developer. I'm interested for purely non religious reasons because I despise platformism, but what does large actually mean? How do they compare to IBM's open source developments? Does Apple developed open source software out number Apache installs? How about all those who contributed to Postgres or MySQL? How many millions of sites use these open source databases and are they dwarfed by Apple's open source software? I really can't find the numbers and would appreciate a pointer to them since you must have them. Your Linux 1% marketshare seems to indicate that you are only discussing the consumer desktop market perhaps and entirely disregarding the entire world and every other market but who knows, perhaps you'll be kind enough to let us know, with your Mac mini or iOS device and also let us know what clothes you're wearing when you impart the information, what monitor was used, what song or songs you were listening too, etc. It's just as about as relevant as knowing what computer you use.

Regardless of if they are or not what does that have to do whatsoever with point out that Apple didn't develop CUPS originally? It's like someone stating that Honda developed the first dual overhead cam engine and then someone responding actually no, that was Renault but Honda also manufactures DOHC engines and did some development on their own, and then getting a response that Honda is the largest developer of lawn mower engines in the world.

By the way I didn't type this message from my Toyota that's not a hybrid but is economical because if the computer we use is relevant than so to must be the car we drive and toe nail clippers we use.
posted by juiceCake at 10:03 PM on June 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


What are the hip, green, sustainable, Kickstarter-funder nail clippers nowadays anyway?
posted by Samizdata at 10:08 PM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


-funded, even.
posted by Samizdata at 10:08 PM on June 17, 2012


ROFL religious fundamentalists.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:12 PM on June 17, 2012


You have a Toyota? Loser! I own a second-hand Daihatsu, and everybody who doesn't is Wrong.
posted by flabdablet at 10:38 PM on June 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Vaguely amused to see the latest H264 patent clusterfuck used as vindication of going the proprietary route on that.
posted by Artw at 10:50 PM on June 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


The entire smartphone industry is dependent on Apple's projects like WebKit.

WebKit started life as KHTML (written by the KDE folks). It's the same situation as CUPS. Apple improved it greatly, but so did Google. It's a bit of a stretch to call it Apple software.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 11:07 PM on June 17, 2012


Apple pushes open standards like HTML 5

Saying HTML5 is an "open standard" is laughable, given that until the W3C got involved it was essentially the work of one man -- who steadfastly refused to listen to anyone outside of his little clique. It was open source in name only.
posted by dw at 11:45 PM on June 17, 2012


.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:47 AM on June 18, 2012


charlie don't surf: The world has decided it does not care about the things you care about. There is nothing you can do about it. People don't want icecream sammich hackphones, Ee Pads, Ee PCs and Chromeboxes, they want iPhones, iPads, MacBook Airs, and Mac minis.

I'd like to echo juiceCake's ringing response. Also: MacBook Airs and Mac minis? Apple hasn't conquered the PC market yet, not by a long shot.
posted by JHarris at 1:32 PM on June 18, 2012


Currently I'm enjoying the delights of how awful Finder is at relatively simple operations and how inconsistent and incomplete OS Xs context menus are, and at a certain point everyone starts tutting at you for using it and points you at the CLI, so in that regard it's exactly like Linux.

(Seriously, having to go to the CLI to do some simple file operation does not make you a ninja hacker, it just means your GUI sucks balls)
posted by Artw at 1:39 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Microsoft introduces Microsoft Surface tablet


Wow, they are not fucking around with this.
posted by Artw at 4:48 PM on June 18, 2012


Well, except by not telling us the price. They are definatly fucking us around there.
posted by Artw at 5:13 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nope, they're not fucking around. They want to own enterprise tablet computing, and they're going to do it with Win 8. And if it means eliminating desktops in the process, so be it.

The Apple fanbois will be critical -- and they better be, since it's not going to be a luxurious experience no matter what "VaporMg" marketing crap they throw on it -- but Microsoft just did the thing that Apple can't do: Make tablets universal in every workplace and every home.

The desktop, ladies and gentlemen, is dead. And the tablet killed it.
posted by dw at 5:13 PM on June 18, 2012


I think that may be my next desired object - the touch cover makes it. I seriously was not expecting that.
posted by Artw at 5:24 PM on June 18, 2012


ROFL Surface.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:35 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, except by not telling us the price. They are definatly fucking us around there.
That, and it won't be available until fall for the ARM model and next year for the Intel model. Good luck keeping the hype alive for six months. Also, plenty of time for Apple to react.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:18 PM on June 18, 2012


They want to own enterprise tablet computing, and they're going to do it with Win 8.

The iPad has already made significant inroads into enterprise, and iOS is where the developers are in mobile computing. And Surface going with Intel will almost certainly mean poorer battery life than an ARM-based iPad. It sounds like a Zune tablet, and I'll be surprised if Microsoft has much success with the first generation of this, but who knows? Weirder things have happened.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:34 PM on June 18, 2012


Well, anyway, post.
posted by Artw at 7:52 PM on June 18, 2012


That, and it won't be available until fall for the ARM model and next year for the Intel model. Good luck keeping the hype alive for six months.

Fortunately, there are thousands of companies and individuals who plan ahead and don't care about hype and don't make decisions based on hype.
posted by juiceCake at 8:23 AM on June 19, 2012


And if it means eliminating desktops in the process, so be it.

There is no practical sense in which desktops will ever be eliminated, especially in the enterprise. There are far too many tasks for which a permanently wire connected, always on machine with the largest possible screen and most precise possible pointing device are needed. I have talked to several corporate IT people since the Win 8 demo and they have all agreed with my conjecture that if uS tries to kill the desktop by crippling it under Win 8 and making 7 as unavailable as XP is now, since most of those apps also don't need huge CPU power by modern standards something will probably emerge from the embedded world to provide that functionality, and it might be neither Intel nor Microsoft based.
posted by localroger at 2:05 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nice to see MS trying harder to paper over failures during presentations than they used to.
posted by flabdablet at 6:20 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The desktop, ladies and gentlemen, is dead. And the tablet killed it.

You really think that the million and millions of office workers around the world are going to be sitting at their desks working on tablets? Seriously? All those companies that have their workers using eight year old Dell towers running XP are going somehow convert to tablets?
posted by octothorpe at 6:28 PM on June 20, 2012


The desktop, ladies and gentlemen, is dead. And the tablet killed it.

This is a perfect example of the aforementioned everything-is-a-phone brain worms in action. It's a fairly plain vanilla Big Lie, made truthy by endless repetition in marketing and UX design circles.

However, I would be very surprised to find that any of the infected developers have actually given up their multiple-screen desktop workstations and are now doing all their development work on the target devices instead. Tablets have a niche, certainly; but being the only computing appliance available to a professional who needs to work with one for 8+ hours per day is not it.

The simple fact is that a full-sized keyboard with pleasant tactile feedback, a decent mouse or trackball, and one or more large high-resolution screens arranged with proper attention paid to ergonomics comprise a far richer, more controllable, less fatiguing, less constricting and less injurious professional workspace than a small and fingerprint-smeared tablet could ever do. Replacing the one with the other probably constitutes a breach of OH&S rules, apart from anything else.

Believing that the tablet will kill the desktop is akin to believing that the kazoo will kill the saxophone. Kazoos are fun and all, but it's just not gonna happen.
posted by flabdablet at 10:22 PM on June 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Believing that the tablet will kill the desktop is akin to believing that the kazoo will kill the saxophone. Kazoos are fun and all, but it's just not gonna happen.

Indeed. Where's the evidence? Where are the millions of people abandoning their desktops? Did I just build a monster (ala Frankenstein's) because I just built myself a new desktop? Are all the people I know with tablets (myself included) still buying laptops and desktops in the nether world?
posted by juiceCake at 11:53 AM on June 21, 2012


Speaking of Unity launcher icon size, here's a simple Python script to help. (It's hosted on my Dropbox.)

Just make executable, and invoke with ./iconsize.py iconsize then logout and back in.

It does work and I have used it.
posted by Samizdata at 11:32 PM on June 21, 2012


Ummmm, crap. Edit pony in aisle 10!

SUDO it.
posted by Samizdata at 11:33 PM on June 21, 2012


You really think that the million and millions of office workers around the world are going to be sitting at their desks working on tablets?

No. They're going to work on laptops and tablets plugged into docks and monitors... like they already are.

Believing that the tablet will kill the desktop is akin to believing that the kazoo will kill the saxophone.

No, this is not even close. The laptop has been killing the desktop. The tablet is about to finish the job.

Indeed. Where's the evidence?

I'll just leave this here. Read through all the links at your leisure.

And the point really isn't that the desktop is dead. It's that it will no longer be a primary form factor. It will hang around for gamer rigs and hardcore developers, but I think the days of the desktop are coming to an end.

It won't be overnight, of course. But with tablets essentially serving as thin clients, laptops getting to the point that they can run with mid-range laptops (a friend of mine was showing me how blazing fast Photoshop CS6 opens on a brand-new 13" Air), and Microsoft and Apple AND Intel both now leaning hard away from desktops (tell me, when was the last significant Mac Pro upgrade? Why this huge push for ultrabooks this year?), the desktop's days are numbered.
posted by dw at 8:39 AM on June 22, 2012


dw: "tell me, when was the last significant Mac Pro upgrade?"

Last week.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:33 AM on June 22, 2012


I'll just leave this here. Read through all the links at your leisure.

Thanks. Confirms that there is no evidence that people are dumping desktops in droves. Indeed, they are still using the ones they bought years ago and sales on new desktops continue too.

Intel continues to develop desktop chips. Windows 7 sales topped over 400 million last year at this time. Apple continues to manufacture the iMac.

And the point really isn't that the desktop is dead.

Agreed, that's what myself and others have said in response to:

The desktop, ladies and gentlemen, is dead. And the tablet killed it.

That statement doesn't say that the desktop is dead.
posted by juiceCake at 9:41 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry the statement:

The desktop, ladies and gentlemen, is dead. And the tablet killed it.

Doesn't actually say the desktop isn't dead, it'll still be around, it's just that tablet sales will be higher for consumptive devices in the future.

a friend of mine was showing me how blazing fast Photoshop CS6 opens on a brand-new 13" Air

That's great. It opens very fast on my desktop with a SATA 3 controller and SATA 3 speed SSD to.
posted by juiceCake at 9:48 AM on June 22, 2012


I think what's happening is that people who aren't very hip to computers (you know, the ones who would email you that 10MB attachment of puppies) aren't buying new desktops, they're buying iPads instead.

Tablets as they are now are great if you just want to consume content, and don't have plans on actually creating anything. For most people, that's OK because they weren't going to anyway.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:59 AM on June 22, 2012


Enterprise will keep desktops going from their sheer inertia for quite a while. And those with a need for the kind of expandability that can't be met with USB/Firewire/Thunderbolt/whatever (yes, I know that's a Mac list, but insert your fave peripheral standard here, including the multiple display setups some find handy, as I once did when I had 3 monitors/video cards (Logic has a lot of windows) and two soundcards in my music production Mac tower), whatever that might be, will probably still use desktops for a while, too.

Home market, probably not. And for a few years now each of my successive MB Pros (current one almost two years old, 2.53 Ghz Intel core i5, 8 gigs RAM, terabyte FW800 external drive in addition to 500 Gb internal) has been both my studio production machine and my performance rig. It's still got CPU headroom to spare for my needs (Ableton Live and various other music apps). even when running several apps (e.g., Reason) slaved to Live via ReWire, and a kitchen sink's worth of tracks. It's nice to be able to take the studio into the club, something I couldn't do ten years ago (at least without a roadie and more stage space than is usually available.) In about an hour I'm packing up the rig for a gig tonight.

I'll probably swap out the internal for an SSD and the concomitant speed boost when prices are better, rather than get a new machine any time soon. (And musicians in particular have learned to stay away from the bleeding edge. Upgrades to our mission-critical stuff never track tightly enough to either SW or HW model upgrades. Sometimes there is no upgrade other than buying a (full price) new version of a plugin - thanks, MOTU!)

Yeah, so laptops, for regular home users and "creatives" (gawd I hate that word - it's an adjective, not a noun, dammit, Jim!) like me, are the new desktops. And have been for a while.

I don't see pads of any sort supplanting laptops, though, just supplementing. The iPad, besides many other entertainment/info apps/basic net access functions, is a great music peripheral for me (that part of the iOS ecosystem is particularly fecund; with the iRig MIDI interface I have quite a few sync-able synths (the AniMoog is a fave) and beatbox options to add to the mix, as well as its giving me wireless MIDI controller options, though I prefer the iRig wired setup for complete dependability with the iPad's synths, and I prefer to turn the Wifi off on the MB for a little extra CPU resource freeing), but it will remain supplementary.
posted by Philofacts at 10:09 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Windows 8's innovative Metro interface shines when it's on a touch device. And soon enough, all devices will be touch devices.
posted by Artw at 11:01 AM on June 22, 2012


I'll beleive it when someone brings out integrated twin or triple head display touch devices, each at least 20 inches or more, that are puck compatible. There isn't anyone who is going to be doing serious AutoCAD work on the current vision of a tablet or even any projections I've seen.
posted by Mitheral at 12:29 PM on June 22, 2012


There isn't anyone who is going to be doing serious AutoCAD work on the current vision of a tablet or even any projections I've seen.
CAD workstations used to be $20k+ unix boxes, built with custom-fabbed CPUs. For the last decade and a half, desktop PCs and macs have been as powerful and much cheaper than the old Sun, HP 9000 and SGI boxes. That's about to change, and that means that "workstation" class applications will require custom (expensive) hardware once again.
posted by b1tr0t at 12:47 PM on June 22, 2012


Which is a major loss to people like me. PCs are being turned into idiot-box appliances.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:57 PM on June 22, 2012


That's about to change, and that means that "workstation" class applications will require custom (expensive) hardware once again.

Evidence? The prices have continued to plummet. My new rig was much cheaper this year than last, save perhaps for hard drives. I haven't heard of any trend of desktop and workstation chips skyrocketing in price, along with motherboards and so forth. They may not sell as many in a few years but millions and millions is still high volume.
posted by juiceCake at 3:54 PM on June 22, 2012


That's about to change, and that means that "workstation" class applications will require custom (expensive) hardware once again.

There are a few tech companies that are working on cloud-backed apps for tablets, which offload calculations, rendering etc. to a computational grid. How people work on iPads and iPad clones over the next ten years will more than certainly change in ways we can only barely see the outlines of today.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:55 AM on June 23, 2012


And soon enough, all devices will be touch devices.

Building the computer into the mouse pad is an interesting technical exercise, but I don't spend a lot of time looking at my mouse pad.
posted by flabdablet at 6:04 PM on June 24, 2012


cloud-backed apps for tablets, which offload calculations, rendering etc. to a computational grid

I went through a bit of a burst of enthusiasm for thin clients a few years ago. It's over now. Network latency never quite goes away, and local processing beats remote for responsiveness (especially on the important metric of worst-case responsiveness) every time.

See, here's the thing: desktop computing works. It's not seriously broken, which means that all the current attempts to fix it basically boil down to kids convincing folks to pay them for having fun. More power to them for that, but they're not going to kill desktop computing and I resent it when they muck mine up.

And let me be completely clear about what I mean when I say "desktop computing": I mean computing that's done on a desktop. Computing where there is adequate local processing attached to one or more large high-resolution displays set at a comfortable distance from a comfortable chair, with a comfortable keyboard, a comfortable and ergonomic pointing device, and a user interface that fits well with the use of these things.

Whether the processing power is a quad core x86 with great big fins inside a largely empty metal casing, or a laptop in a dock with the lid closed, or an ARM-powered phone with HDMI and Bluetooth, is neither here nor there. I'm talking about a physical arrangement of display and controls optimized for getting hours of work done comfortably, and the UI design that goes with that.

The simple fact is that none of the touch-screen interfaces works well on the desktop. Not Unity, not Gnome 3, not Metro. None of them. If my displays are far enough from my eyes to make them comfortable to look at, they are too far away to touch.

Windows 95 got the desktop user interface right, much to the despair of the creative UX crowd. Changes that amount to more than fiddling around the edges of that interface are universally unhelpful to desktop computer use, and they will be resisted for the foreseeable future by people with a serious need to get work done.

If tablet computers kill anything it will be the laptop, which has always been an uncomfortably compromised form. Laptops are unusable for any length of time on the desktop, causing neck and back pain and/or eyestrain unless you position them optimally for looking at and attach a separate keyboard and mouse. Off the desktop, they're clunky and awkward: put them in your lap and they overheat, hold them in your hand and half your typing fingers are gone.

Off the desktop, tablets just blow laptops away for casual-computing usability. No question. And off the desktop, it remains to be seen which if any of the new touch-based UI designs will do for tablets what Windows 95 did for desktops.

I'm not expecting great things to come of the Surface, either; MS seems to me to have missed the point of the tablet (robust physical form, non-fiddly off-desktop operation) with that device and just made a particularly flimsy laptop.

If MS sees Windows 8 as some kind of transition between a desktop-based past and a tablet-based future then in my opinion they're doing it wrong. But if they can resist the brain worms to the extent of leaving their reasonably well-done Windows 7 desktop interface in place alongside Metro or whatever Metro evolves into rather than squashing it into a conceptual "legacy computing" box, so that a single Windows computing device can serve both the desktop and casual use cases, they could have another XP-scale winner. My tip is that Windows 8 won't be that (it will be another ME or ME 2008 aka Vista) but I look forward with interest to Windows 9.
posted by flabdablet at 6:49 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've got my doubts that they're going to backpedal and say "We're really sorry guys, we majorly screwed up" and release Windows 9 with an uncrippled desktop.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:20 PM on June 24, 2012


I agree that they will never publicly admit to doing anything badly, or not doing anything first. But based on how much less obtrusive Windows 7's UAC stuff is compared to Vista's, I do think they are capable of quietly correcting things they clearly did get wrong.

I expect to see an "enhanced control panel" available as an optional Windows Update for Windows 8, and that and the Start menu quietly incorporated back into Windows 9.
posted by flabdablet at 8:00 PM on June 24, 2012


The simple fact is that none of the touch-screen interfaces works well on the desktop.

This explains succinctly why the (Windows/Linux) desktop is doomed. Operating systems that do not care to accept or recognize touch gestures are doomed to obsolescence. Systems that go out of they way to preserve outdated interfaces are doomed to obsolescence. Probably not in the next five years, but I'll bet good money that desktops make up a shrinking minority of computers in 10-20 years, and that the sixth or seventh and subsequent generation successors to the iPad will dominate computing going forwards.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:37 PM on June 24, 2012


Like accurate pointing devices, unsmudged screens and good ergonomics?

You will never be able to make a large touchscreen ergonomic.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:46 PM on June 24, 2012


Operating systems that do not care to accept or recognize touch gestures are doomed to obsolescence. Systems that go out of they way to preserve outdated interfaces are doomed to obsolescence.

That may be true, but if it is, it says more about development methodology than about utility.
posted by flabdablet at 11:05 PM on June 24, 2012


The simple fact is that none of the touch-screen interfaces works well on the desktop.

This explains succinctly why the (Windows/Linux) desktop is doomed.


The simple fact is that herring don't work well for cutting down the mightiest tree in the forest.

This explains succinctly why the entire forestry industry is doomed.
posted by flabdablet at 11:11 PM on June 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon writes "Probably not in the next five years, but I'll bet good money that desktops make up a shrinking minority of computers in 10-20 years, and that the sixth or seventh and subsequent generation successors to the iPad will dominate computing going forwards."

Sure but not because tablets are better general purpose computing platforms but because they are better consumption devices. In the same way that P&S cameras have completely eclipsed the once industry standard SLR camera. The overwhelming majority of P&S cameras are poorer cameras than even low buck SLRs but they are good enough for the kind of casual shooting that most people do and so they sell more because there are more people doing casual shooting than serious shooting. Tablets will probably be the same thing; there are going to be more people using computers for consumption than creation. Nothing wrong with that but it doesn't mean that tablets will be better general computing platforms for many tasks.

This is a bit of metal pain for me. People have access to what has to be the greatest multipurpose tool ever invented connected to the greatest information source ever. And it seems at the moment that most people are using it to post Facebook updates and watch crappy TV on Hulu. Every time a Metafite excuses the lack of HTML on a link "because they're on their phone" I want to sit down at my workstation and draft up a house or something.
posted by Mitheral at 1:39 AM on June 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Mitheral: "This is a bit of metal pain for me. People have access to what has to be the greatest multipurpose tool ever invented connected to the greatest information source ever. And it seems at the moment that most people are using it to post Facebook updates and watch crappy TV on Hulu."

I was going to say I don't understand how people can (A) be blessed with the gift of just being alive and (B) have the enormous power of having a contemporary computer and a worldwide data-sharing network, and yet instead of creating something amazing and new and exciting, they use it to play cow-clicker games and talk about less than nothing on Facebook.

It makes me wonder. Is that the best people can do? Don't they have some sort of art or music or significant, revolutionary ideas trapped inside that they'd like to express? Or are Youtube comments a true indicator of the average intelligence of the Internet-going human?
posted by dunkadunc at 3:59 AM on June 25, 2012


I don't believe for a second that the proportion of skilled creative people in the general population is significantly lower now than it has ever been. But poorly moderated publishing facilities like YouTube comments or /b/ certainly do illustrate something I've long suspected about people, which is that most of us do indeed suck pretty bad.

Is that the best people can do? No. Is that what people do do, most of the time, when left to our own devices? Demonstrably.

If inspirational people were run-of-the-mill, we wouldn't notice them.
posted by flabdablet at 4:31 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


charlie don't surf: “While Linux spent 20 years trying to get 1% market share...”

Unlike Apple, who spent 30 years getting to 3% market share?

“You don't get it. Apple ships more Open Source product than ALL the other vendors combined. The entire smartphone industry is dependent on Apple's projects like WebKit.”

WebKit is rebranded KHTML. It wasn't Apple's to begin with, and rest assured that's the only reason why it's open-source. Do you really think open-sourcing software pays the bills for Apple?

“The world has decided it does not care about the things you care about. There is nothing you can do about it. People don't want icecream sammich hackphones, Ee Pads, Ee PCs and Chromeboxes, they want iPhones, iPads, MacBook Airs, and Mac minis.”

Apple's strugged to gain 10% market share in the computer market, and they're still sitting right there, so "the world" has not really declared that it wants MacBook Airs and Mac minis. Hell, iPhones don't even have the largest market share in smart phones. The only market Apple really dominates is the tablet market.

“Now you must excuse me from your religious inquisition. I am supposed to be working on my own open source project, on my Mac mini.”

I'm not incensed or infuriated that you seem to believe that Apple is some sort of sacred order of Stallman-worshipers which assiduously releases everything with the source code attached. I'm just sort of baffled and confused.

That was not Steve Jobs' dictum or his personal philosophy. Steve Jobs stood for creating the 'magic' that technology could create, awe-inspiring devices that normal people could pick up and do incredible things with that changed their lives. "Mess with the source code" or "pull it apart and figure out how it works" were not supposed to be part of that.

And that's okay. That's not Apple. Apple is about incredible technology. It seems weird and confusing to now insist that Apple is all about something they've never actually been all about, though. Is it not clear that WebKit was a compromise that Apple would never have made if it wasn't forced to by the KHTML license? They aren't in the business of giving shit away.
posted by koeselitz at 8:00 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


flabdablet: "I don't believe for a second that the proportion of skilled creative people in the general population is significantly lower now than it has ever been. But poorly moderated publishing facilities like YouTube comments or /b/ certainly do illustrate something I've long suspected about people, which is that most of us do indeed suck pretty bad."

The big challenge in this life is learning how to deal with all the dullards.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:27 PM on June 25, 2012


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