The Norman Transcript

November 4, 2012

The new Windows 8; do we really care?


The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — How long did Microsoft say its new Windows 8 operating system was in the testing stages before being released to the general public on Oct. 26? 141,458 years.

To be fair, they actually state the figure at 1,240,000,000 hours, which converts to a little more than 141,458 years, but, you get the idea. I’m guessing they don’t really mean to say 1 billion 240 million consecutive hours, which would take us back in history to the approximate time that scientists say human hunter-gatherer groups diverged from an original common ancestor and migrated away from the continent of Africa; surely not.

My question, though, is this: if 141,458 Microsoft employees spent a solid, non-stop year testing Windows 8 (or, whatever these specious numbers actually mean), then why did my computer crash on October 27, less than one day after installing this new marvel of technology? Did the Windows 8 testing crew miss something?

Yes, my installation of Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system up and crashed, right in the middle of downloading some updates. Even though it’s “brand new,” updates are already required.

At least the new Windows “blue screen of death” (BSOD) has gotten a facelift. Gone is the somber, dark-blue background and the stoic ASCII font, along with the cryptic messages and strings of mysterious numbers. My Windows 8 lighter-blue screen of death simply said, “Your PC ran into a problem that it couldn’t handle, and now it needs to restart. It’ll restart in: 1 second.” No helpful troubleshooting information, no clue as to what caused the problem; just, boom, blue screen and restart. There was, however, a big “sad-smiley face” emoticon :( at the top of the screen, consoling me in my consternation; it’s good to see Microsoft didn’t forget to modernize the BSOD.

Even so, after four days of my own Windows 8 testing, I am optimistic. Once I got past the new “Live Tiles” start screen with its overly-busy, cell phone-style layout and learned how to enable a “Start” button (it’s been eliminated), I discovered that Windows 8, under the hood, is not much more than Windows 7, with some tweaks and additional features. You can even pull up an old-school DOS screen, if you are so retro-inclined.

This gives me hope because I like Windows 7; it works well, it is stable, easy to figure out, and vastly better than Windows Vista. Windows 8 builds on the success of Windows 7 and I would imagine that, after a year or so and its first Service Pack bundle of updates, it will be stable and bug-free enough for prime time.

Some users will like the new Live Tiles look, as it is aimed squarely at the “always checking my cell phone” crowd. To me, it’s useless, and the every-three-second updates (I timed them) are annoying. I was not born with one thumb in my mouth and the other texting on a phone. My life simply does not require constant Facebook, Twitter, Xanga, LinkedIn, email, Google+ or Foursquare updating. I do not need to always be tapped in to what’s “trending.”

I do like that Windows 8 seems to run faster than one might expect from a newly-released Microsoft operating system. I am much more interested in perky performance than cosmetic fluff. I also like that many folks say it will run well on somewhat older computers, saving otherwise good machines from ending up in landfills.

What I like even more is that you can get it for $40. Until January 31, 2013, you can download the upgrade version of Windows 8 Professional for only $40; after that, the price will jump to around $200. That is a huge bargain, and I plan to download more copies for future use. You might want to do the same because, someday, you’ll probably need it.

Dave Moore has been performing computer consulting, repairs, security and networking in Oklahoma since 1984. He also teaches computer safety workshops for public and private organizations. He can be reached at 405-919-9901 or www.davemoorecomputers.com.

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