It’s been a wile since I mentioned anything about Windows 8. Partly because I felt like complaining about it was a little repetitive and a little bandwagony, and partly because I don’t really use it day in and day out. I have three machines in the house now that run Windows 8, though I have gone through four of them, not counting my previous experimentation with the Beta and RC1 versions. They are my kids’ laptops, so I don’t use them regularly, but I do some trouble shooting on them from time to time as needed when issues arise. I also do maintenance tasks maybe once a month of them, make sure updates are going through, make sure nothing malicious has been installed, etc.
There are still so many little issues that are just annoying about the Windows 8 interface.
Simplified to Uselessness
Let’s look at some scenarios and the related issues. The other day, my daughter mentioned that the internet wasn’t working on her laptop. She could use other computers or her iPod and it worked, just not on the laptop. So I went through the usual processes, do some ping tests, IPs work, domain names don’t seems like a DNS issue. I’m running OpenDNS via the router, so I tried Google’s DNS, still no fix, Reinstall the network drivers, nothing, follow some other posts online, flush the DNS under ipconfig, reset some network parts etc. Eventually it started working, but I am worried it may come back. The forum post was following was two weeks old and it was a chronic issue.
During this process I had to get to some of the old configuration menus. Device Manager, the Network Device page, etc. I also went into add/remove programs and made sure the thing was updating properly. One, hitting the Windows key and typing "Control" into the Start screen should bring up "Control Panel" first but instead "PC Settings" is first. Except PC settings is a neutered watered down Metro interface screen. These settings I need to troubleshoot this issue aren’t even present. The Network menu gives me the IP and DNS settings but it doesn’t allow me to change them or even get to the Network Device settings to change them. It’s ridiculous, it’s useless.
I had a similar experience with Skype. I’ve had a chronic issue that I believe is related to Skype being used on one of the laptops. I’ve got an admittedly crap/slow internet connection, Skype+Netflix+WoW pretty much kills it, but only when Skype is going. I figured it would make sense that Skype would have a setting somewhere to choke the allowed bandwidth or choke down the video quality to reduce bandwidth. Except Metro Skype has no such option. Maybe Desktop Skype doesn’t either but the settings on Metro Skype are severely lacking in usefulness.
Full Screen Apps
The Full Screen metro apps are amazingly tedious to navigate. You know what makes Windows great? The Windows. Back in the early early days of GUI interfaces, there were full screen and side by side screen "apps". It was surprisingly similar to what Metro is trying to do today. Except we got floating overlapping "windows" and it was great and it won out. Now we have reverted back, and it’s awful. Let’s look at the networking issue above. I needed to reinstall the drivers, so I download the driver on another machine, open two windows, drag and drop between two windows to put the file onto a flash drive, then stick the drive in the laptop and drag and drop the file off. Then I’ve got to make a folder and drag and drop the files out of the zip file to run them. It worked out fine, I still have the desktop, but the whole system is pushing to be more phone like, where navigating the file system to fine and open and extract a zip file is discouraged.
Things get even more annoying when you have to fight with full screen apps. You can’t layer windows to read a how-to at the same time as trying to execute it. I was bouncing a bit between the PC settings and the desktop windows, except there is no taskbar when in a full screen app, making it a multi step process to hop back to a desktop window. It’s needlessly complicated while trying to simplify everything.
Apps Bouncing in and Out
Which leads me to probably my number one annoyance with the Windows 8 interface. It tries to add all these gestures and touchy navigation elements to help users get around the full screen environment. I already dislike using a touch pad, but when you add in these annoying Windows 8 gestures, it’s 100 times worse. The most annoying action, which happens CONSTANTLY when trying to navigate Windows 8. I’m swiping around on the touch pad, moving the courser, I miss the pad slightly, off to the left side, and "swipe in" from the left. I’ve just pulled a random different app in, and now it’s full screen taking over my screen, I’ve lost whatever I was doing somewhere, and I’m irritated.
I also have no task bar to easily just jump right back. So I start swiping in from the left hoping that the App roulette wheel will throw the app I was using back at me.
It’s an incredibly unfriendly design. I can’t even see this being useful on a tablet. I don’t even care about the dumb charms bar on the right side, I even kind of like the swipe down from the top to close, except I also dislike smudges on the screen from touching it at all. The "Let’s swipe on the left and pull a random app up" is beyond stupid. It just completely exemplifies the entire issue with trying to force this lame full screen interface onto Windows.
I really wanted to give it more of a chance. I really wanted to hope that the whole Windows 8.1 Update changes would have somehow made it better. It’s just a broken system. Here’s hoping Windows 9 can make things better. I actually do like the tiles interface, I use it daily now on Windows Phone and it’s great. I just don’t like it when it consumes a 15" laptop screen. It’s almost information overload. I can’t even imagine what it would be like on my desktop PC, spread across 3 large monitors. I like the mock ups I have seen where the tiles show up in a partial pop up Star Menu though, or across the taskbar maybe.