Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Windows 8.1

I think 6 years is a good life cycle for a personal computer. I bought a new desktop PC in 2002, and another one in 2008. Now it's 2014, and so, time for a new one! Hooray! My existing PC is still running decent, but it's time to upgrade. Maybe we can pass my old PC down to Marla, once she's old enough to navigate a computer on her own. (It'll happen faster than you think!)

I actually decided to go with a laptop instead of a desktop this time, but instead of talking about that (or about "tablets", which I still don't think are worth the money), I'm going to talk about the change in Windows operating system versions. For you see, my old PC still had Windows XP on it. When I bought it in 2008, my two options were Windows XP or Windows Vista, and Windows Vista had a pretty bad reputation, so I steered clear. Windows XP was just fine, and there's a reason it hung around for so long, even though it's now, what, 12 years old?

(Side note: I briefly considered ditching Windows and going the Apple route, but...nah.)

When I was doing my research and trying to figure out which laptop brand and model I should buy, from reading reviews and whatnot, I learned a couple of things:
- Every single company that makes laptops has models that are good, and models that are not good, so it's not really sufficient to say, "Well, I'm going to get a (insert brand name here)". Generally, all of the top brands make reliable computers these days, and it's up to you to look at the specs and the price and see that you're getting what you're paying for. (And also not to overload it with performance-sapping junk and/or viruses once you get it.)
- For the laptop that I bought, most of the reviews went something like this: "The laptop itself is nice, but Windows 8 sucks!!"

Yeah, kind of like Vista, Windows 8 doesn't have a great reputation, although the reasons have more to do with appearance and usability, instead of performance like with Vista. People really, really hate the new Windows 8 "Start Menu" and their effort to make a PC home screen look just like a mobile phone home screen. Nevertheless, unlike with my past PC, I had one and only one choice of operating system this time around: Windows 8.1, and that was that.

Well, worst case, if I decide I hate Windows 8.1, and I go and buy a copy of Windows 7 instead. I have Windows 7 at work, and I like it. But you know, after using Windows 8.1 for week, I don't think it's that bad. Certainly not enough for me to go out and "downgrade" to Windows 7.

What's the difference between Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, anyway? From what I've gathered, Windows 8.1 is designed to act more like Windows 7, if that's how you like it. The "Start Menu" button in the lower left? It's back! Do you want the PC to go straight to the traditional Desktop look (which has been around since Windows 95) on boot? With Windows 8.1, you can! Windows 8.1 is also supposedly a little less intrusive, in that you don't have to sign quite as much of your soul over to Microsoft in order to do basic things. (No, I would not like to associate my laptop with a Microsoft account, thank you very much.)

It took some configuring, but I have Windows 8.1 set up to my liking, so that it's really a lot like the Windows 7 I use at work, with a couple of enhancements. And, I think I actually like the new large-icon-based mobile-phone-looking "Start Menu". There really aren't all that many programs (I refuse to call them "apps") I use on a day to day basis, so I don't need to wade through that huge program list every time. The "Start Menu", which is customizable, has everything I need, nothing more. Sure, I could use traditional desktop icons for that like the old days, but starting a program that way requires two clicks. Via the Start Menu? One click. Well, two, if you count the click to get to the Start Menu in the first place. But I like having a relatively clean desktop. There are a lot of different ways to quickly access your most-used programs and files in Windows, but that was true with XP also.

So, my point is that while Windows 8 got off to a rough start, Windows 8.1 is fine. It's certainly better than Windows XP - I mean, it's 12 years newer, so it better be - and I also won't be going out and buying a copy of Windows 7 instead. Credit Microsoft for addressing some of the issues with Windows 8, and in a reasonably quick time frame at that.


Spartangoogle said...

So now even Marla will have a more up-to-date computer than her Grandma!

James Allen said...

The big complaints about Windows 8 had to deal with having two interfaces: the "Metro" start menu and the regular desktop. The issue was exacerbated by "apps" that could only be run full-screen in the start menu and could not interact (like copy/paste) with desktop applications. I had to look up how to do simple tasks in Win8 for setting up my mother-in-law's new laptop. If I had to look things up, I can't imagine what other people have to deal with.

On a related note, how is Euro Truck performing on the laptop?

Chris Allen said...

Euro Truck runs great on the laptop. No issues at all.