Monday, November 12, 2012

Upgrading to Windows 8

For anyone who is used to older versions of Windows, you’re probably thinking about the eventual pain of having to upgrade to a new O/S.  Well get this:  Windows 8 is actually quite painless.  I detested Vista, and it took me months for my frustration to subside.  I bought computers over a year after I had started using Vista and  intentionally still went with XP instead.  When I switched from Vista to Windows 7, I was a bit confused, but it only took four or five days to feel comfortable.  I started playing with Windows 8 today, and it’s only taken about six hours and I feel right at home.

Geek alert:  Any good DJ should be familiar with the basic process of producing their own music too, even if he/she doesn't release music professionally.  And any good producer of dance music should be very familiar with working with computers.  So this post is specifically for the technically-minded people who read my blog AND who use PC's instead of Mac's.

Back to Windows 8.  For those of you who are used to win7, I’m just going to list a few quick tips to help you acclimatize when you decide to move up.

Where’s the Desktop?
Win8 starts with the unfamiliar Metro interface.  Probably great if you’re using Surface or a touchscreen, but I’m not.  My first suggestion is to go with what’s comfortable until you’re used to win8.  To get to a desktop, either hit Windows-D, or click on the desktop tile in the lower left of the Metro screen.

Where’s My Start Menu?
Start getting used to not having one available in the lower left.  To find things like the Control Panel and other Start Menu items, either move your mouse pointer up to the top right corner of the screen then back out just a tiny touch to the left.  You’ll give five choices.  The Start Menu and Settings are important.  I don’t use Search, Share, or Devices that much, but they’re there.

Where’s the Control Panel?
See the above, then click on settings.  Just like being home, no different than win7.

How do I get into Windows Explorer?
Same as with win7 – the fastest way is the keyboard shortcut, Windows-E.

What about Customizing Windows Explorer?
Faster than win7.  Just go up to the top of the screen and hit View.  One of the first things that I do on any machine is then right there in plain sight, “show file extensions.”  In win7, you had to go through several menus to turn this on.

What about the Run Dialog?
Same as win7, hit Windows-R.  You should already know the names of a lot of windows utilities if you’re a power user.  For example, if you go into this and type services.msc you can start editing your services options.  If you don’t know much about windows machines, don’t play with these.  If you want to learn more, look it up and then go to the Black Viper page to start learning which services you can probably play with.  He’s already got a table for “safe” mode in win8 on laptops.

Where are applications installed?
Same as win7.  64-bit software is installed in the C:/Program Files (x64) directory.  32-bit software is installed in the C:/Program Files (x86) directory.  By the way, if you’ve always wondered why 32-bit software is tagged as x86, it’s because when computers began to become powerful enough to jump from 16-bit addressing to 32-bit in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the first major CPU was Intel’s 8086 chip.  After that, the next couple major Intel chips also ended in 86.  Major IBM computers in the mid-80’s were labelled as 286, 386, and 486 systems as they got more powerful.  Remember that this is back in the days of DOS, before Windows was even invented.

Want to do a Restart?
This is one of the few annoying things that took me a second to figure out.  With no Start menu, there’s no quick restart option.  Your best bet is to either bring the right-side menus out by mousing to the top right, then go into Settings and then click on the Power icon at the bottom center.  Yes, that’s one more movement than you would have needed in win7.  Or the other option is a ctrl-alt-delete and then into the Power button the same way.

Looking for the Metro screen from the Desktop?
Mouse down to the lower left corner.  Unlike the getting at Start menu items in the upper right, you do NOT move back out of the corner.  Go entirely into the corner and left-click.  If you try to back out, you're likely to start whichever app is on the left side of your task bar.  Incidentally, did you know that if you've got a bunch of apps on the task bar and you want to start any of them without the mouse, you can hot-key the first ten items starting at the left side?  Just go Windows+Digit to open anything, ie. Windows+1 opens the program on the far left, Windows+2 opens the next one to the right, and so on right up to Windows+0.

Looking for Installed Programs in your Start Menu?
I’ve found that I prefer pinning most of my common app shortcuts to the quick-launch (task) bar on the
Desktop.  But of course, I only pin the most common apps there.  I used to access the other few dozens rarely used apps through the Start menu.  Now I just go into the Metro screen (mouse to bottom left of desktop) and then drag over to the far right of your Metro clusters.

How do I Find stuff?
This is simple.  From the Desktop, hit Windows-F.  Lots of search options there.  Play with this.  Hit Windows-F then try hitting a random letter.  You'll be surprised what this option "finds."

What’s new and cool for people who tinker with their computers?
Well, from the desktop, try hitting Windows-X.  Look at your options.  Very handy.  Regular users won’t play with any of this stuff, but power users will.  For example, in win7, if I wanted to get to the Disk Management utility, I’d hit Windows-R and then type in mmc to get the Microsoft Management Console, and then go through the process of adding the Disk Management module as a snap-in.  Now, it’s just sitting right there.  Cool.

Does the Task Manager still work?
It sure does.  Get to it the same way, with a ctrl-alt-delete, but check it out.  Major,  major improvements.  Performance broken down by CPU, disk, all kinds of stuff.  So much better.

What about Copying Files?
You’ll like the new copy dialog.  Extremely detailed.  Say you’re copying something minor like a 300gig handful of directories with about 100,000 files.  The copy dialog will be giving constant speeds updates, time remaining, file progress, and more.

What about Anti-Virus software?
I used AVG for years, and recently switched over to MicroSoft Security Essentials on most of my machines.  Turns out that MSE has been incorporated into Windows Defender in win8, so you don't need to actually load a specific anti-virus program.  McAfee is probably fairly perturbed about that.

Ableton Live Comment:
If you happen to be installing the Suite free trial (which I’m doing right now since I’m on the road with a new laptop and just experimenting), be careful when it gets to the default installation location.  It defaults to the C:/Program Data directory.  That might be a problem if you are looking for it, because this defaults in win8 as a hidden system folder.  I’d recommend that you just change the installation directory to C:/Program Files (x86).  Alternatively, go in and turn on “Show Hidden Folders” in the View options of Windows Explorer.

Ok, that’s enough for now.  Anyone who is comfortable with computers should just start experimenting for an hour or so.  Afterwards, skim though these notes and you’ll find a few “Ah Ha” answers to solve some problems that you hadn’t figured out already on your own.

Final thoughts?

So far, I really like it.  I’ve only played with the legacy side of the O/S in any detail.  In that respect, I like Windows 8 because it isn’t entirely a new operating system.  It’s basically a slightly improved version of Windows 7.  Easy to learn, but addressing a few of the minor drawbacks of win7.  On the Metro side, there may be headaches, but I’ll ease into those over time.

I think Microsoft has the beginnings of a good thing here.  You see, one of the strengths that Apple has always enjoyed has been the integration between hardware groups, ie. between their computers and iPods and iPhones and iPads.  Microsoft is moving in the same directions.  People who are comfortable with Windows 8 on any one type of hardware will be more comfortable using it on a different device, AND all of the devices will be easier to integrate.  I’m not just talking about computers and tablets here ... think mobile.  I’ve been a Blackberry fan for several years.  I feel that Blackberry 10 couldn’t possibly be enough of a game-changer to save their eroding market share.  On the other hand, even though everyone thinks iPhone and Android when discussing mobile, I feel that Windows phones will start seeing a lot more popularity in the next few years thanks to the introduction of Windows 8.  I've been waiting for months for the new Blackberry to come out.  I might just have to start looking at Windows 8 phone options, once some decent hardware comes out and the user base matures.  I'm not suggesting that win8 phones are going to be a runaway hit.  They won't be. But I think that starting in about two years, they'll be some serious competition for Android phones and the iPhone.

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Oh, and one more thing not directly related to Windows 8, but VERY useful: Have you ever shut a tab in your browser by mistake and wanted to get back to that web page, but were cursing because it takes a while to find it again? All you have to do is hold down the control key and shift key at the same time and hit the letter T. A new tab opens to that page you just closed. Magic. This works in Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and presumably several other browsers too. There are a ton of people I know who don't know this trick, but it's one of the best keyboard short-cuts out there.