Windows 8 Madness

Ok, I’ve finally lost it.

I’m typing this on Windows 8. I decided to give it a shot. I’m probably going to regret this.

Now, I’m not a n00b to Win 8. I’ve had Windows 8 Release Preview installed for the last few months, on my dual boot windows machine. My main OS is Ubuntu, 12.04, but I have windows on here for the classic reason… to play games.

Not that I play many, mind you. But I do want to be able to run Starcraft II and Diablo III.

Anyway, I’ve played with it a bit. My first impression was “Shiny! Love the Store! Could get used to the tiled thing”. I used it to watch SBS (an Australian television station whose transmitters are all broken or underground), that was kind of cool.

But once I got past the initial fun stage, I noticed that it was kind of annoying. Too little configurability. The apps are weird. And having everything fullscreen all the time on a big monitor just sucks so much I can’t really cover it. It sucks more than Facebook. It’s a bad idea. In fact here’s me using WordPress to write this article right now, just as a picture of how bad it sucks:

See how my edit window is massively wide? That’s because I’m stuck on full screen. WordPress resizes the middle column (including the text editing)  to fill the screen. And I can’t fix this.

Well, I can, I could use Chrome in Desktop mode rather than Metro, but I’m trying not to do that. I want to give Metro a proper go; that means not using this thing like Windows 7’s retarded child, but rather using Metro as often as possible.

Hrm, I’ve wandered off course…

Anyway, I just got my hands on the full, released Win 8. I upgraded my release preview, and thought hey, why not give this thing a red hot go? That’d be fun!


I started using windows in the 80s. My dad had an IBM compatible pc from work, which ran Window 3.0 iirc (might have actually been win 2.0!). Before 3.1 and 3.11, anyway; before it was cool.

Figure 1

EDIT: Someone pulled me up about Windows never being cool. I beg to differ, see Figure 1!

Anyway, I bought my first Windows PC when I first moved out of home. It was a 486sx 25mhz I think, cost me $4000 including a printer (and I’ve never had the money to buy such an expensive machine since!). Man, I loved that machine. Wolfenstein. Doom. Need I say more? (well, ok, Turbo Pascal.  Borland C++ 4.0 on 30+ floppy disks. A good modem).

Not long after that I started working as a windows developer. Access, then Delphi and C++ and VB (bleh), and then etc. Windows programming fed my young family through the 90s and noughties.

The microsoft programming world is a bit culty and a bit cut off from everything else – when you’re in it, everything is MS. Which programming language will I use, C# or VB.Net? Which database will I use, SQL Server or … well, SQL Server? And etc.

But in the noughties my spidey sense began to tingle. The outside world, particularly the unices, and the world of web dev, were bleeding in. Look, there are choices!

I was an early adopter of cloud computing; I jumped into gmail in 2004, and had as much of my stuff online as possible. I used to sync my office docs up to some online virtual server space, and I began using online source control for all my code pretty early (remember sourceforge?)

But I was scared of Linux. I’d used unix at uni, and even had a job with SCO Unix (boo hiss!) in the early 90s. But I was ignorant of Linux. It struck me that I needed to pull it together and check this stuff out. And the only real way to do that is to use it on a daily basis.

I was ready to try it, and I even had a way to cope with my daily need for a windows programming environment; VMWare Desktop. Totally magical software (especially at the time), I was already doing all my coding in VMs anyway (makes it easier to throw out a crufty dev environment and rebuild from scratch, or switch host machines where necessary).

And then came the push I needed.

Windows stopped being fun

My new Dev notebook came with Vista. Which as a .net developer I was hanging out for. The .net framework actually shipped with Vista! It was no Longhorn, but it was a shiny new version of my favourite OS, the next NT. More secure, more .net friendly, we were truly headed to the promised land!

Yeah, and then reality. It sucked to use on a daily basis. Slooooow. Bad.

And clearly, the OS was no more .net friendly than XP had been. Just more Win32 shitola in a shiny, laggy wrapper. Really????

It was time to jump ship.


Ubuntu was a revelation. I jumped in at Intrepid Ibex. I really knew nothing about it, but I downloaded and burned a live CD, ran it (worked!), then installed the real thing. It went in alongside windows without a hitch, it was pretty easy, it just detected my hardware and worked.

Now it was nothing glorious graphics-wise, but I slowly learned that, with Windows running in VMWare, it was perfectly serviceable (in fact windows ran better in a vm with a linux host). Not only that, but I didn’t have to worry about being pwned (really! it took me a while to believe it), and after a while I figured out that you don’t download and install software except as the last resort, instead use the debian package manager (and synaptics). Wow. Wow wow wow.

Burning a CD by just installing free excellent software from the standard repos; a revelation. All the utilities just there at my fingertips. Amazing. For a technically switched on person, a debian based distro is just massively empowering.

I’ve used Ubuntu as my main OS since then, on a succession of beasty dell laptops, up to my current setup featuring Ubuntu 12.04 (I’m conservative with my desktop, I’m waiting until they push 12.10 out through auto updates) and Win 8.

And do you know, once I used Ubuntu all the time, I wanted to stop using windows. I tried Monodevelop and Sharpdevelop for linux friendly “.net” coding (really mono development), but really for proper .net it’s Visual Studio or bust. Which is windows only.

Instead I started building webby stuff on Google’s AppEngine (which is *awesome*), and then eventually I snagged a job doing LAMP stack stuff (php, urgh), and then AppEngine and Android (golden!). I’m still there, it’s brilliant!

Dr Phil Lunacy

But something serious has changed in Windows land, and that’s Windows 8. From all I’ve read of it, it’s quite an upsetting release for a .net developer (I’m assuming the .net part of the company are now Stephen Sinofski’s sex slaves in a dungeon somewhere, forced to listen to Songsmith tunes all day). But there’s a make-or-break about this thing, and all sorts of noises out there about it, so I feel like I need to know something about it.

And that means living with it for a bit.

I don’t look all that much like Ballmer, do I?

Dr Phil is usually a man of few words, but he does have one piece of homespun advice, and it’s this:

Love every idea for 15 minutes.

Now that idea for me, right now, is Windows 8, and I’ll give it a few weeks (because I’m a good guy).

So what I’m going to do is to try using this thing as my main environment. It needs to fill my media consumption / entertainment needs, my officey needs, and it needs to serve as my dev environment.

For entertainment, I watch online streaming shows with my darling wife, as well as some downloaded shows. Basic media stuff. Plus, my games should work, but that’s not super critical (getting a bit bored of them atm).

For officey stuff, it needs to do all things google. Gmail, gdrive, google apps for business. Google+ ! I use these exclusively (I don’t even use Open Office any more), but that should be easy, Chrome oughta do the job.

Lastly, development, and that’s the toughy. I stopped using a vm for development since I moved to doing non-windows stuff. It turns out that linux just gets less crufty that way. And moving back to Windows, I want to see Win 8 step up to the challenge of my daily development routine. So it needs to cope with Eclipse. I do Python development on AppEngine at the moment, which means it needs to cope with that (python + pydev + google plugin for eclipse) and I also do Android dev (so Java plus ADK). Oh, and I use ssh quite a bit to talk to remote machines. And some custom bash scripts (I’m prepared to rewrite those into something windowsy, hopefully not batch files!). And Git!

It occurs to me that I don’t even know how to find a command prompt in this environment.

Anyway, I’ll write a diary of how this goes, on this blog.

Next: Ermahgerd Jerver!

Windows 8 Madness

11 thoughts on “Windows 8 Madness

  1. Hey, you might wanna blur out your email ID in the screenshot of Chrome running in Metro mode (check the first tab). Just thought I’d give you a heads up. Nice post btw 🙂 gonna be checking out Win8 soon myself, currently on Ubuntu 12.04 😀

  2. Harikrishnan Padmakumar says:

    Very interesting peice 🙂 sure win8 looks cool, I like shiny so may be i should give it a try, “love the idea for 15 mins”…:D

  3. The Metro UI is not for the desktop – you can force yourself into it, but if you don’t like it (you won’t), then don’t blame win8 for that: it was your wrong decision. Just use Chrome on the desktop and think about the tiles as a full-screen start menu. If you fall in love with Win8, then you will have a Windows tablet or convertible and you will use Metro on that.
    And learn some shortcuts, that helps a lot to like this thing. Like Windows key + x 🙂
    (btw: I know it’s not called ‘Metro’ anymore, but I have no idea what’s the current branding 🙂 )

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