Pity the poor legions of program-writing serfs at Microsoft, many of them “contract employees,” of course (in other words, no benefits and gone in an instant).
Dreaming of creating great things, they actually spend their days trying to figure out why everyone gets an “IRQ_less_than_or_equal error in module C000004EFx0” when trying to print in Portuguese. Like school kids drawing cartoons of flying zebras in math class, they long for magical happenings that will free their minds.
Like designing a new version of Windows, for instance.
It can’t just be a better, more stable version of the old version. It must be visionary, lest the serf be relegated back to the coal mines forever. So they sketch things with wings, never noticing that zebras are afraid of heights and would be a lot happier living in a lion-free zone of plentiful food and hornier attractive zebras.
That’s got to be the only probable explanation for Windows 8.
Why, They Ask?
I’ve been asked why I so dislike Windows 8, and have been advising clients to choose units (and there are plenty of nice new ones out there) that are still loaded with Windows 7.
Basically, it’s a matter of how much time you want to waste every day trying to figure out how to do simple things that were easily accomplished in the past.
Windows 8 was designed primarily for tablets, and has much in common with Windows Phone. And that’s fine for a tablet or a phone, but not a computer.
I’m sure I’ll get flak for this, but I refer to Win8 as Windows ADD. It can’t just sit there; it must be constantly updating, updating, updating — photos sliding by in albums, news stories in mini-bursts on little “tiles,” e-mail checking itself over and over. It’s a short-attention-span on steroids. It’s designed for entertainment, and a touch screen is highly recommended.
That’s not exactly what you need for work.
Take the Metro
But, you might say, there is the Metro user interface, a choice that gives you a quiet screen with icons, much like the past. Why not be happy with that?
First off, try Googling “Windows8 Metro apps not working,” and you’ll get 2,010,000 results. That’s not exactly confidence-inspiring. O.K, you’ll have problems with any new operating system or program, a good reason never to buy the initial version. Maybe they’ll straighten this out; maybe not. Why not wait and see?
This reinforces my curmudgeonly thinking on why there are only two valid reasons for changing your computer or software: The unit itself is dying (not as common in recent years), or there is a new or upgraded program that won’t run decently on your old one.
Otherwise, don’t mess with it.
But, let’s return to hating Windows 8. Switch to the Metro interface; now try to turn the unit off. Hey, where’s the start button? Ever since Windows 3 20 years ago, there has been a start button in the left corner that allowed you to access things, namely the Control Panel, your program list or even the off function.
But nope, it’s not there any more.
Going along with that, try to launch a program. Oops … no button. You may have just installed Office, but there are no icons for Word or Outlook, and no simple way to find them. Moving your cursor up to the upper right corner gives you a menu of essentially four items, none of which lead anywhere instinctual.
And you’d better get handy with the search feature, because you’ll be using it constantly, for absolutely everything — from starting a program to accessing your printer.
So, that’s why I hate Windows 8. It’s more than just disliking something that removes the familiar and easy-to-use. It’s a zebra with polka dots and ears on its rear end.
So, What Do I Do?
There is the problem that the big box stores (think of one that rhymes with “Good Try”) automatically switched to Win8 the day it came out, and are staffed with 19-year-olds who will tell you that you must adopt or die; just ignore them and go to the business side of Dell’s web site or look at distributors who work the commercial market.
There, you will find great units that are loaded with “Windows 8 with Windows 7 downgrade pre-loaded” — in other words, Win 7 with the disks to go to Win8, if you desire, in the future.
Sales Are Tanking
In related news, sales of new PCs tanked last quarter to the lowest level in years. One result of this was Blackstone’s withdrawal of its offer to buy Dell. Blackstone was probably scared off by the idea of owning another Titanic. We’ll see where that goes.
But it’s not hard to see why things went south: Better equipment is lasting longer, and the introduction of Win8 caused everyone to hold off. Especially in larger offices, the IT guy is not going to introduce something until he has tested it and is ready for the inevitable rush of questions on the new version.
Also related is a burst of new add-on programs that add back the Start button and menus to Win8. I’ll be trying a few and will let you know how they work.
Cliff Feldwick is president of Riverside Computer Consultants, and does PC troubleshooting, networks, data retrieval and all that stuff for small businesses, when not busy drawing unfortunate animals. He can be reached at 410-880-0171 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Older columns are available online at http://feldwick.com.