Posey's Tips & Tricks

Initial Reaction to the Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Brien loads up the early test build of Microsoft's upcoming OS on his tablet and hits the road.

Microsoft recently released the first public beta (the Consumer Preview) of Windows 8, and, like any self-respecting Microsoft geek, I couldn't wait to try it out. The only problem has been that I have been a little bit busy. OK, actually I have been really, really busy. In addition to all of the writing that I normally do, I have been presenting a series of technical discussions related to backup and recovery. The tour covers roughly 25 cities in multiple countries.

So what's a geek to do? Well, shortly after the Consumer Preview release of Windows 8 I was scheduled to spend a few days in London. Normally when I travel to cities on this tour I bring along my laptop. This time, however, I decided to install the latest Windows 8 build onto my tablet and bring it with me to London to see how well Windows 8 would work on the road.

Because my tablet has limited internal storage space, I copied all of the articles that I was currently working on to an external hard drive. I also made a backup copy on a USB flash drive. Since I didn't want to have to write lengthy articles using the on-screen keyboard, I also brought along a docking station.

The reason why I mention this is because I actually ran into some problems related to the use of the docking station and external media. When I plugged my external hard disk or my USB flash drive into a USB port on the docking station, Windows refused to recognize the device. However, when I would plug the devices directly into the tablet they worked fine. It is possible that something might have happened to the docking station's USB port, but it seemed to work fine before I installed the latest Windows build.

Once I had sorted through that little glitch, I decided to try connecting to the Internet. I honestly wasn't quite sure what to expect. I hadn't tested this build at all before I left home. I also wasn't sure if I would have any issues with European Wi-Fi (it supports a few channels that American Wi-Fi doesn't). I am happy to say that the tablet easily connected to the hotel's wireless Internet and that the connectivity was rock solid. Furthermore, the latest Internet Explorer 10 build performed flawlessly.

So what about using Windows 8 to do any real, actual work? Well, on that particular trip I used Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and I played a few training videos that I was doing a technical edit on. Word and PowerPoint seemed to both work fine. I did have a problem with keystrokes occasionally being omitted as I typed, but I suspect that the problem was related to my keyboard rather than to the operating system.

I was less-than-thrilled with the experience of playing videos on the current Windows 8 build. Don't get me wrong -- all of my videos played fine. It's just that I found the new interface to be cumbersome. In all fairness, I realize that Microsoft is still working on Windows 8 and that there is a chance that the final release will offer improvements beyond what is available today. For the time being, the current release is what I have to base my opinion on.

One of the reasons why I say that playing videos was cumbersome is because the current Windows 8 build does not seem to have a Metro version of Windows Explorer. We still have the legacy Windows Explorer that was included in Windows 7.  That in itself isn't a huge problem, except that I was trying to use a tablet. The small print on the legacy version of Windows Explorer does not lend itself well to a touch screen interface.

My main beef with Windows 8 with regard to playing videos is that in previous versions of Windows you could click a video and it would play. The new media player presents you with a couple of nag screens before your video starts playing. Even then, the media player interface is very minimal. It doesn't even have a volume control. I am really hoping that this is something that Microsoft addresses prior to the final release.

I realize that it may sound as if I am ranting about Windows 8. However, I have to say that in spite of the issues that I have mentioned, the current beta seems remarkably stable and it allowed me to work from my tablet while I was traveling. Sure, there are still some bugs and there is a bit of a learning curve, but it is reasonable to expect that from beta software. In spite of everything, I am highly anticipating the final release.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.


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