Why the Hate for Windows 8?

20 June 2012

At this point, the new interface for Windows 8 is old news, with two preview releases out and the screenshots all over the Internet.  To boil it down briefly, the iconic Start menu and button is gone, and has been replaced with the Metro Start Screen, which serves more or less the same purpose.  The Start Screen is more customizable and is the new place for everything installed on Windows 8, which can include apps from Microsoft's own store.  Additionally, the old "desktop" is now part of the tiles on the Start Screen since it is no longer intended to be the starting point, which takes a little getting used to.  Other things, such as settings, are moved around a little and take some searching to find, since panels like the Charms menu pop up when the cursor is in the corner of the screen.

For some reason, the new interface has been the subject of a lot of hate across the Internet.  The focus is generally on getting the start menu back, which isn't possible on anything newer than the consumer preview.  I understand that the Start menu has been part of Windows for long enough that everyone expects it to be there, so there is some resistance to changing it.  Personally, I like the new Start Screen, which is really saying something considering my opinions of where some of the Linux desktop environments have gone, such as GNOME 3 and Unity.  I moved away from Ubuntu to avoid Unity, and I switched to XFCE from GNOME because GNOME 3 did not work for how I use my computer.  The Start Screen in Windows 8 allows for much more customization with where applications are placed in it and the search is snappy.  The lack of a Start menu took a little getting used to at the beginning, but having used Windows 8 for long enough to have gotten used to it, it is definitely much faster to use.

With that said, Windows 8 is much nicer under the hood than 7, which is the latest I can compare it to.  I installed 8 on a severely underpowered virtual machine because my laptop only has so many resources I can use, and it feels like it runs better than my physical Windows 7 machine on the other side of my drive.  On a VM with the same specs (1.3 gigs of RAM, 1 x 2.3GHz CPU), Windows 7 is almost unusable when anything more than one program is running at a time.  I was impressed at how well Windows 8 ran, though for the consumer preview I had to disable Secure Boot for the system to run in my VM.

My honest opinion of Windows 8 is that it's actually pretty good.  It does take a little getting used to to be sure, considering it is a hybrid desktop/tablet interface, but it isn't terribly difficult to learn.  There is a bit of a divide between Metro apps (full-screen apps that don't run on the desktop), and desktop apps but I found that it wasn't all that bad.  Metro looks nice, runs well, and is nice to use.  I do worry that some third-party apps will clutter up Metro by taking a departure from the style Microsoft is trying to set, but when it's all said and done that's really not a major problem.  My operating system preference has been a Linux distro for a long time now and I've avoided Windows because let's be honest, the command line sucks, and it can feel bloated.  Windows 8 is different and I can definitely see it as a companion to Linux on my system rather than "that huge drive partition that I use to run Steam and AutoCAD."  The only real qualm that I have with Windows 8 is Secure Boot, because though I don't have a problem with Windows 8, I do have a problem with not being able to boot my computer into whatever I feel like booting it into, be it Linux, Windows, OS X, Solaris, Nyan Cat, or whatever else.  Secure Boot worries me and I've discussed it before, but what happens with that is up to hardware manufacturers more than Microsoft at this point.

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