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Windows 8 Logo.
Windows 8 Logo

Microsoft released Windows 8 Release Preview on Friday, June 1st. And I just wanted to start a game playthrough on Sunday. Wish me luck, as I want to do both ASAP. Here we go again!

Notice: Please read A Look at Windows 8 Consumer Preview first.

Déjà vu time: Setup.

Another offer of an .exe. I did not accept it. Downloaded the ISO, it was quite fast.

Anyways, I created a new VDI and ran the ISO. I was greeted by a screen with the Windows word on it and a throbber (not depicted on the screen, shot it too fast). Notice that the word doesn’t look quite right. It is made for 16:9 screens: when you do use a 16:9 screen (depicted in the image gallery), it is stretched, what gets its proper look back.

The setup program hasn’t changed too much. But in the Repair section, the fonts look a tiny bit different and CMD’s scrollbar is now Metro-ish. And Microsoft changed the setup icon again: now it's an arrow pointing to a screen. Or: a tablet.

On the product key screen, I discovered that the right-click menu style is from Office XP or Windows Whistler betas, released eleven years ago. And I am dead serious. Just look at it. Apparently, Microsoft loves going back to the past: in terms of movement, Metro apps are even more limited than Windows 1.0. Especially when you’re a few pixels short from the “proper” screen resolutions according to Microsoft. And when you need more than ⅓ or ⅔ of your screen for your apps.

Menus comparison.
Menus comparison. Office XP and Whistler images courtesy Paul Thurrot’s SuperSite for Windows.

License screen, the same scrollbar as in CMD. I came back to the CMD immediately. Right-clicked the titlebar and I got even more new UI elements. New buttons and other controls. (keep in mind that the setup is composed of images of fake controls and even more fake glass, which hasn’t changed to reflect the new glass.)

Setup: New controls in CMD.
Setup: New controls in CMD.

Also, why do they even ask me for the product key? There is one for the whole world.

After the install finished, let’s say hi to our new OS.

Restart. Getting stuff ready. Restart. The boot logo is still for 16:9 displays.

New Windows boot logo.
New Windows boot logo.

And we go through the OOBE again. First change: MORE COLORS! Then I decided not to choose express settings, although this won’t make a big difference. Sign in with a Microsoft account? Sure, but first I look at the “local account” procedure, which gives you the details of both choices, something that should be displayed instead of the Microsoft login prompt. Put in my e-mail address, I do exist, I am asked for my password, I give it, then I get a request for security verification info. I like that idea. Done. Creating my account. Hold on for a second, a new mail message. It tells me that I added a phone number to my account. Good to know. Back to writing this post. Another one! A new mail address. Ten seconds pass, you’ve got mail! They want me to confirm this PC as a trusted PC. So be it, we click all the three links and go back to Windows 8.

First Boot: Personalize.
First Boot: Personalize.

Welcome to Windows 8!

It greeted me with a different start screen wallpaper, a quite pretty Desktop wallpaper, and without my avatar. After a short while, the Desktop tile went black (so did my wallpaper) and the Photos tile now displays photos from my SkyDrive. App rundown? APP RUNDOWN!

Mail. Can’t see a change since last time. And you get to see YET ANOTHER GOG.COM NEWSLETTER. They know when to send one. And they’re awesome. But I just noticed an overall UI change: the toolbar-ish things accessed by a right-click now get the selected item displayed in a square. That's made especially for PCs, as you can now use this from your keyboard. And yes, that fancy Menu key on your keyboard (left of Right Ctrl) does work.

People. Again, my Android/Google contacts list appear. My login details are shared from Mail. And I just noticed that the wait cursor changed. It is now a plain light blue square with a bit darker. Metro style. Then I notice that EVERY SINGLE password input offers you a button to see your password, and every other input field has an × button to quickly erase. And I am now authenticating Application for Windows Phone (via Windows Live). It says it will take a few minutes, much longer than my Gmail account. I won’t even bother waiting. Or wait, it’s done! New tile: I get to see 5 avatars of people I follow on Twitter (as my Google contacts don’t have any as I never bothered and don’t even care. But I DO get to see my Google avatar out there sometimes.)

Messaging. Supports WLM and Facebook only. I am not very happy about that.

Desktop is left for the end, so Calendar. And I see three calendars: Windows Live Mail (light blue), GMail (green) and National Holidays (purple). I also noticed that I forgot to put an event somewhere. Fixed. Quite nice way to manage your stuff. (on a related note: my clock is set terribly wrong and I can’t easily change that.)

Photos. SkyDrive, kwpolska-win, Pictures lib— hold on for a second. Kwpolska-win? Those are all the photos from my Windows 7 with SkyDrive. Nice. Anyways: Pictures library, Facebook, Flickr. And a pretty background.

Video (Xbox Live-related). Just some video-related stuff, you can also watch your local videos.

Weather. Location services will fail, so we won’t use them. Instead of getting Seattle as a default, I get to enter my location. Let’s get quite close to myself and let’s choose Celsius.

Internet Explorer (10). I want to enter an address, but I see that it remembered my history from Consumer Preview. Useless for me. Shot a screenshot of my website, and I got the new wait cursor on the image.

Store. No changes since last time. Installing (for an additional test): msnbc.com, Evernote, Fruit Ninja and Wikipedia. The store connection failed quite often. The “try again” link out there failed to work. So bad.

Maps. No, not gonna use location services. First of, scrolling to zoom doesn’t work, and it sucks. Second of, my city sucks on the map.

SkyDrive. Still awesome, just as in CP.

Music. Same as Video. This time, I get to play some local music, from Portal 2 OST. The background doesn’t showcase MY songs, I do not have any other music in my SkyDrive. Overall, it’s a nice management UI. Although I won’t use one, as all music management on this machine belongs to MPD (even on Windows, a bit cheaty setup, but worth it)

Music: Playlist: Portal 2 OST.
Music: Playlist: Portal 2 OST.

Xbox LIVE Games. That should be pretty much obvious.

Camera. Don’t have one.

News. We encounter a new app: Bing News. It should be obvious what it means. New live tile!

Sports. I hate those. Bing Sports. Nothing more. Live tile unlocked. Sort of like game achievements.

Travel. Bing Travel. Live tile.

Finance. Yup, you’ve guessed it: Bing Finance + another live tile.

And, while we’re at it, our 4 new apps.

*Evernote.* A nice app, I must admit.

*News on msnbc.com.* Better than the Bing News. Pretty. I also learned something. (see the gallery if you wanna know what do I mean)

*Fruit Ninja.* What does that × mean? Oh, it’s broken. Great. It can’t be fixed by Windows 8. What do you expect? Like something is gonna work here?

*Wikipedia.* Works okay, but it could’ve been better.

Summary

Apps rundown: quite good apps out there. Lotsa live tiles, and that’s good. But this thing has HORRIBLE NOTIFICATION SYSTEM. Can’t they copy the great system from many mobile OSes, like Android or iOS? Once a notification disappears, it’s gone forever.

And here comes my start screen state right now. (dropped the desktop background for a second or two)

Full Metro start screen.
Full Metro start screen.

Settings rundown

Time to run down all the settings you get. Fire up charms, Settings, More PC Settings.

Personalize. Nothing new.

Users. Notifications. Search. Share. Obvious.

General or settings-we-couldn’t-fit-anywhere-else. I get to set my clock properly, and Advanced startup = F8 in older Windowses. TODO DOES F8 WORK TODO PORTAL 2 SS

Privacy. Standard.

Devices. You can choose not to download drivers on metered connections. For crying out loud, who cares? People on tablets don’t even NEED drivers! And people on the desktop wouldn’t want to wait for them!

PC settings: Devices.  Note the “Download over metered connections” section.
PC settings: Devices. Note the “Download over metered connections” section.

Ease of Access. Sync your settings. HomeGroup. Windows Update. Don’t even ask.

That was quite short, wasn’t it? But I covered them in the CP review, and they haven’t changed much.

DESKTOP

Welcome to the desktop. First of, let’s change our wallpaper. I have no idea why it’s black, but let’s get back to the default one. Right click, Office XP menu. Personalize, and I get to see new stuff. Everything lost its glassy Aero feel. It is now much different. It is more Metro-ish. Look below: many controls at once, as many as I can put on one screen. They aren’t pretty.

Most of the new UI elements on one screen.
Most of the new UI elements on one screen.

There isn’t, unfortunately, too much to showcase in terms of apps.

But! In terms of OS behavior, I found a few changes. I also noticed that it takes AGES to shut the system down or to sign into the system.

First of, I wanted to play my music in the Music app. I could’ve just clicked on something and it would play, but I wanted to have it locally forever and I wanted my playlist to work. I wanted to play the Portal 2 OST, which is in my SkyDrive. The only option I found was to select a file and then use Save local. I could also select more than one. I found an easier and faster solution: downloading a .zip from skydrive.live.com. But later, I decided to actually try this Save local thing. It did its job right.

The first time I tried to play a .m3u file, I got a Metro-style window asking me whether it should use Music or Windows Media Player. (screenshots depict “Open with”.) I do not like that. Mixing two environments went too far here.

Then, I created a .bmp file on my desktop. It had the icon of Photos from Metro. When it opened, I got a notification: “You have new apps that can open this type of file.” Clicked and I got yet another window of this style.

Photos: You have new apps that can open this type of file. (1/2)
Photos: You have new apps that can open this type of file. (1/2)

Control Panel

They had to change stuff and drop everything related with the old Windows. First of, System and Security in Control Panel’s category view have a plain blue shield instead of one with the Windows flag colors. (Windows 7 CP included for comparison; visual style is Soft7 2.0)

But we have some changes!

Add features to Windows 8. Or: Windows Anytime Upgrade. It’s broken now, but in the future it will handle Windows 8 → Windows 8 Pro + Media Center OR Windows 8 Pro → Windows 8 Pro + Media Center. Media Center will also allow DVD playback, NOT POSSIBLE BY DEFAULT.

And please welcome The new Windows Update icon! Seriously, Microsoft, decide. All the three iterations of Windows 8 had a different one. DP had the old one, CP had one without a Windows logo, RP has yet another one.

Control Panel: Windows Update’s new icon.
Control Panel: Windows Update’s new icon.

Family Safety. Or: Parental Controls. Now for weird human-like colorful WLM icons. This OS is not made for humans!

Language. I see all my CP languages. But can’t get a languge pack for German. Why didn’t they make it available if I can download the ISO file WITH GERMAN? Another change is that UK English displays “A language pack isn’t available.” Yup, the Brits are gonna get their language in Windows. I, for one, don’t think it would be of use, but some Brits apparently don’t like col*or*ful fav*or*ites in the cent*er* of this piece of shi*t.*

Editions, Languages, Troubleshooting

This is an old post, redux. It was lost when my server was vaporized.

Editions

This thing is gonna have five editions. But you can’t get exactly all of them.

  • Windows 8. The standard version. Nothing specific.
  • Windows 8 Pro. With some more advanced features. Meh.
  • Windows 8 Pro + Media Center. In order to play DVDs or use Media Center, you will need to pay. And if you bought regular Windows 8, you need to upgrade to Pro+WMC to use WMC capabilities. But if you only want the “advanced” features of Pro, you need to pay for the Media Center. No way to skip that.
  • Windows 8 Enterprise. Obvious, expensive, can’t get your hands on it.
  • Windows RT. WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS, may you ask? The answer is easy. ARM version of Windows 8. Without any desktop apps, except Office (free with your DEVICE with RT, as you can’t buy this in stores.

You can test the Pro + Media Center version now. Sure, we’ll do that. Entering the key provided by Microsoft, it works. Reboot. Adding features in logonui. Reboot. Long wait. Preparing to configure Windows. And I finally get my lock screen. And a WMC icon appeared at the end of my Start screen. I click on it and I am informed that I’m all done and my PC is ready to go. Well, I should see that message AFTER THE BOOT, not when I start the Desktop app. Very bad design.

Another thing is that my desktop now says “Windows 8 Release Preview with Media Center”. And that it started to lag when I started WMC. And WMC is the EXACT SAME THING as in Windows 7 Home Premium/Ultimate, the one included FOR FREE. Waste of money.

Languages

Dropping this bit. Basically, I had some weird fun with my system locale and also showcased a bit of German in CP.

Troubleshooting

One day, VirtualBox Guest Additions told me that there is an update for them. Sure, I do want an update. Installing, installing, and OH SHIT IT FUCKED MY SYSTEM UP. I got a black screen. Ctrl-Alt-Del changes the color to the fancy #004050 used by the whole Metro stuff as its background, but can’t see anything displayed. So I asked the CD for help. I noticed that it is a great way to test Refresh and Reset the PC features of Windows 8. It would be a great way, but BOTH OF THEM FAILED. Refresh worked for 15 minutes and did nothing. Restart finished doing nothing instantly. So I chose Advanced options. I saw System Restore here. System Restore is a tool included since Windows ME, year 2000. IT WORKED PERFECTLY. The only thing that was weird after the first reboot is my system language, as Metro went German.

And if we’re talking about Windows ME, it loved squares and blockiness. It was a failure, loved to crash, had no DOS mode, replaced by XP after less than a year. Replace XP with 9 and no DOS mode with Explorer desktop with less meaning than ever before and you have my future prediction for Windows 8.

Summary and additions

This thing is not great. Metro and Desktop don’t work great together. Microsoft tries to fix that by creating the new visual style, rensembling Office XP, with a more Metro-ish and blocky feeling, but IT SUCKS. Dropping the Start button makes it even harder to use. Sure, there are some new great features, like the Task Manager or the awesome multi-monitor support, but Metro makes it all worse.

I also couldn’t put my computer to sleep, nor hibernate it. There is no such feature in Windows 8, at least under VirtualBox. I have no data whether it is available on an actual PC right now, but I will fix that soon.

After installing WMC, Windows Media Player used my PC too much. Over 90%, sometimes even 95%.

I also had a better idea: upload something to my SkyDrive. I couldn’t create a new directory in the SkyDrive app. Are you serious?

This concludes my review of Windows 8 Release Preview. I suggest looking at the gallery.

Windows 8 RP Gallery

If you do care about weird numbers and ratings, here you go:

Component Rating Comment
Mail, People, Messaging, Calendar 3 Quite nice, love the integration.
Photos 5 Good photo management.
Videos, Music, Xbox LIVE Games 8 Awesome apps for entertaining yourself.
Internet Explorer 10 (Metro) 4 A nice browser, but Metro isn’t good for it.
Store 4 Doesn’t load the pages sometimes, slow overall.
Maps 3 No mouse wheel zoom. Uses Bing Maps.
SkyDrive 8 An awesome app. But it doesn’t offer anything on the Desktop.
Camera 0 Doesn’t work.
News, Sports, Travel, Finance 5 Quite nice apps. Bing-based, don’t like that.
Explorer Shell 1 Ribbons don’t work. Same goes for no Start button.
Internet Explorer 10 (Desktop) 8 A nice browser with a good UI. Chrome is better, though.
Visual Style 2 Are we in Windows Whistler?
Metro 4 Do not like that concept.
Desktop 3 They broke the desktop.
Windows 8 RP overall 4.75 A fair rating, and very close to the ratings average.

Once again, seeing this on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and what-you-have would be awesome. Thanks for reading this review.

This review was brought to you by Geany. (the previous one was written using Word Web App, but it was an overkill.)

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