I eventually decided that something drastic needed doing with my laptop when Flash Player crashed and wouldn’t reinstall. This meant that I couldn’t play poker on it nor watch baseball. I had tried reinstalling Window 7 and it wasn’t having it and had concluded some time ago that there was a major registry corruption or the HDD was on the way out, so some major surgery was due. As there was nothing on it of great significance, I thought I might as well give Windows 8 CP a shot.
It took a couple of attempts to get up and running; first trying to put it on the partition without Win 7-wouldn’t boot; I then removed the partition and formatted the whole drive, which resulted in me going through to the logon screen, where it asked for a user name and password. Having removed all Windows 7 data and not having been prompted to create a user account in the setup, I was left stumped. The forums for Windows 8 confirmed that I should have been prompted to create a user account or if this step had been skipped, is should have fired up without requiring user/password. I’m not 100% sure but the install may have hung and I may have had to interrupt it via the power button, which may explain why the creation of user/password was missed? Third time around and it went through, including getting online and linking to a Windows Live ID as part of the user/password setup.
Once past the logon screen it’s immediately obvious that you are not dealing with any previous version of Windows, on the surface at least. The screen you get is full of square or rectangular blocks of colour, in most cases with just word or two of white text and a simple graphic. This view will be familiar to Windows 7 phone users I suspect with MS looking to create consistency across PC/Smartphone/Tablet as this now seems to be required, following the lead of iOS and Android. OK, fair enough if you must but I would have thought making it look a little less like something out of the Early Learning Centre wouldn’t have been too taxing to the design bods at MS. Once all this has been shouldered aside you get to a more usual desktop, sans ‘Start’ button. This being a preview, I really hope that MS reconsider removal of the ‘Start’ button, I can’t imagine what MS believe they have gained by it’s removal? I know I will be working mostly on the desktop and not via the ELC page and the ‘Start’ button gave quick access to the most frequently used applications and all others if need be but now I’m having to pin application shortcuts to the task bar in order to be able to get at them easily, it’s about half full now and on the laptop I probably won’t fill it but on my main PC I don’t think I would have any problem filling it up. Other than this, everything else seems much the same as Windows 7, task bar, notifications area, clock and date, option to add gadgets. The new task manager offers some extended information, details on disc usage, history, details of startup programs and impact on boot time in addition to the usual information.
And so back to the Early Learning Centre page. I was a little perplexed by what these blocks seemed to be offering, which initially seemed to be access to some clunky, cut down applications for mail and calendar and simple links to videos, music, e-books and photos on the local machine but it does all seem a little more enticing once everything is hooked up to the Live ID used to logon. Now I have connected Twitter, Facebook and Google I can see at a glance the feeds from these services and my calendar from Google is now available, though I haven’t checked if this is two way sync. Scrolling to the right gives access to other applications, mostly to do with system management, and all the way at the end, applications that I have installed. The cut down version of IE10 via the big blue button is a joke, maybe just designed to open Facebook or Twitter links viewed in the Messages application? There are also links to simple weather and map applications, something to do with X Box and a couple of games, pinball and a truly awful solitaire game, also a link to a Skydrive account, which I haven’t investigated yet.
I can see how this works and its appeal to people wedded to their smartphones and the way it presents information to them, but your phone is on your person most of the time and you control access, I can’t believe that you want to leave your PC unlocked allowing all and sundry to see and access your social media activity? Whenever I leave it open on this ELC page, all I end up looking at is the screen saver, Mystify is very nice, or the lock page which does offer some very limited information on what is going on within, so I don’t quite see the point.
I have only been playing about with it for a few hours but haven’t found a way of editing the layout, there does not seem to be a way of creating multiple home pages, grouping similar applications or banishing the truly useless to the outer darkness and maybe these will come in due course and maybe an option to boot directly to the desktop with the ELC page loading in the background? Boot time seems to be considerably slower than Windows 7 and the ‘Action Centre’ keeps flagging a system volume error with my HDD, invites a reboot to fix it but never manages to do so or tell me that it has failed to do so, but the slow boot could be due to this problem. I can’t say that I’ve noticed an improvement in application load times, I haven’t attempted to put any third party applications on it yet, so I don’t know how picky it might be? I will probably load Sky Poker Air client and Firefox in due course and see how it likes those.
I guess it will get some polish before the gold code, which will hopefully include the ‘Start’ button and the ability to modify the ELC page but even with these, unless you are inextricably tied to your social media interactions and even then, I’m not sure if the upgrade will be worth the eye watering price MS are likely to be asking?