Friday, July 20, 2012

Windows 8 Preview Hates Netbooks

Microsoft's next operating system, Windows 8, worked poorly out of the box on a netbook.

Ok, yes, that's a lot in one line so let me do what I do well and simplify it all.

First off the Netbook thing.  A while back people were able to buy a teeny laptop with a 7 or 9 inch screen. I called them "Barbie's Computer". They were a great second computer since they were cheap but there were some limitations.  The screens were small, but that was partly because the bottom part of them were "shaved off".  That meant they reduced the resolution from top to bottom by about a quarter. 

The video card inside was locked down in some cases to only be able to put out that one resolution.  The processor was a slowish for the time "Atom" processor and they came out with low memory.  1GB of memory and 160GB hard disc.   For a casual machine they were great, but they were limited. 

Those limitations meant that they were using "Starter" editions of Windows which removed functions in order to make them run faster.   They would also run Linux which might be better suited for the computer but fewer people have experience with Linux so it would scare off "Mom and Pop".

These days the Netbook "category" is being replaced by tablets like the iPad and Android Tablets.  They do the job of the casual machine quite well, in fact they can replace the need for a computer for easily 90% of the people out there.

Next, Windows 8.  The version I tested was what they call "Windows 8 Release Preview".  Microsoft have put the next operating system out so that you can download it and test it out on a computer. If you have a spare, great, have fun, but absolutely not for the "daily driver" or your critically important machine since you may lose your data and the operating system is set to "die" some time after Windows 8 actually ships in October 2012.

Really quite generous of them.  But don't do it on your main computer.   If you are curious and download it and lose your data, well its on you.  That being said, you can find the link for download at the end of the article so you can see it for yourself.  Please be careful, I care for my readers, now be a good person and read on before you jump to the end and download.

Windows 8 is a game changer.  It is Microsoft's way of bringing the tablet to the PC by changing the familiar Start Button to a square mosaic of tiles.   Click on that and you go to the Home Screen.  Home Screen looks like you handed a child some colored construction paper and a white paint pen, told them to cut up some rectangles and write words on it.  I personally find it ugly but I have been told that it can be animated and set to put information like your weather app does on your phone or tablet. 

I say "I have been told" because I wasn't able to use any of the apps that are installed on the machine.  You see, I went and installed it on an Eee PC, a Netbook which is clearly not up to the task because of that graphics issue.

Every time I clicked on one of the bits of construction paper, I got a message saying that I needed to change the graphics on the computer and that the app would not run.

Sorry, try again.

I did, and most of the apps that were there were tried.  I got frustrated after I found that Internet Explorer and the Desktop worked, I could explore the files on the computer but that was about it.  Since I can surf just about everywhere these days, I ended the experiment.

It clearly is not designed for a Netbook.   Netbooks are getting a bit long in the tooth at this point, and if you find one in the stores you are finding "New Old Stock" that has been leftover when most folks went and bought a tablet instead. 

Windows 8 is designed for "regular" PCs that ideally have a touch screen.  Desktop or Laptop.  You'll do fine there, but that little netbook that you were hoping to bring along into the future may be stuck where you are at now.  It's getting older anyway and may only have another year or three left in it but at this point not with Windows 8.  After all, this was a Preview edition and will change before October's release.

It did run, did not crash on me, but I was so frustrated by the experience that I started installing Linux on it so it can be used as a PC for the user instead of a paperweight.

Sometimes you try something for a client who admits it may be the wrong thing to try but "hey it will be fun".  Like slapping a V8 in an old VW Beetle, sometimes its just not worth the trouble.

If I come across another machine that is more "normal" then I'll try Windows 8 again.  On the right machine I am sure it will be a wonderful experience.  It shows promise, if I can get past the rounded scissors home screen.  They call it Metro, I call it Art Class in Second Grade.  Maybe I can make it look like Windows 7... Hmmmm...

If you really do want to try the new Windows 8, and remember you do NOT want this yet on your main computer because you probably will lose your data on that machine, you can follow the link below.  At Your Own Risk.   It does work reasonably well but you do not want to use it as your daily driver.   As Microsoft says:

Note before you download: Windows 8 Release Preview is prerelease software that may be substantially modified before it’s commercially released. Microsoft makes no warranties, express or implied, with respect to the information provided here. Some product features and functionality may require additional hardware or software.
Link is at

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