Written: June 30, 2011

Windows 8, My First Impressions

Today I read an article about Nokia, the one-time world leader in cellphones and how they are now rated as “Junk” by the financial world, and it got me interested in Microsoft because their OS runs on the newer Nokia phones. Apple has two operating systems iOS for mobile devices and Mac OS X for laptop and desktop, while Microsoft has merged their mobile (Metro) and desktop OS (Windows) into the upcoming Windows 8.

My first step was to double check that I could run Windows 8 Beta on my MacBook Pro using the Parallels virtualization software. Yes, according to Parallels this can be done.

From Parallels I went to my Virtual Machines list, then clicked the + button to add a new virtual machine, then clicked the Windows 8 choice in the lower-right corner. The 3.3GB download said about 4 hours of waiting. At the end of the download was a lengthy “Validating” phase, followed by “Your download is corrupt, try again.”

My second download ended in exactly the same state as first, failure.

Since the Parallels auto-install wasn’t working I just looked in my download directory, located the 3.3GB file, renamed it windows8.iso, then asked Parallels to install from an ISO file. Installation was straight forward after that. A bit of Microsoft humor shows up in the install because this is a Beta release they used a beta fish icon:

While waiting for the Windows 8 install to complete there’s an animated swirl of five stars to mesmerize you into a hypnotic state and forget about time passing.

The background color scheme can be selected among a dozen earthy choices:

The opening Metro screen uses tiles instead of icons, and you can make them wider, narrower, re-arrange, or un-pin them.

Microsoft has you login with your LiveID, so that it can remember your preferences in the cloud:

You can customize the lock screen with some beautiful photography included:

With the Parallels software on my MacBook Pro I now have many Operating System choices including Windows 8:

Just like Windows 7 you will find that Microsoft has many updates it wants to install, and with Windows 8 Beta I get failures to update for an HP Laserjet printer (never been attached, so unsure why it thinks that I need it at all):

Start Screen

As you setup accounts in Windows 8 the Metro UI becomes more personalized to your tastes and habits:

I setup accounts for:

SkyDrive

I downloaded the SkyDrive app for Mac then added photos from a weekend trip, and my profile photo:

I found that the background color is constantly changing in Metro. The first time you visit the background is a style pattern and solid color, then in SkyDrive the background is white, but when looking at Photos on SkyDrive the background changes to black. Thank you Microsoft for the very liberal free storage capacity of 25GB for me, that is just wonderful.

Apps

In Metro you will notice that Apps need to be updated with a number inside of a circle, clicking Store shows you:

Once you’re in an App and using a Mouse/Keyboard it’s not real intuitive how to get back to Metro, so after a Google search I discovered that I had to move my mouse to the far right side and select Start:

Once in the App called Store you can scroll horizontally to the right to see lots of App categories and suggestions. I added the free Kindle App and it looked just like what I use on the PC or Mac:

Windows 8 adds every App and Program on your computer to the Metro start page, so it’s a hassle when I downloaded the Kindle App because it gets added to the farthest right of the screen, causing my to scroll about 8 pages to even find it. I would prefer that new Apps are pinned to the Start screen on the far left with now scrolling, not the far right. On the Android when I add a new App it gets added alphabetically, while on iOS new Apps get added to the farthest right screen (still don’t like it, too much scrolling).

Desktop

From the Start screen you click Desktop and see something that looks just like the Windows 7 desktop.

The marketing folks at Microsoft want you to believe that Metro and Windows are now merged however I don’t drink that Kool-Aide because clearly these are two totally separate Operating Systems glued together, there is simply nothing merged about it. You are either working with the Metro UI or the old familiar Windows 7 UI. Honestly I am underwhelmed, but have no choice but to learn and use Windows 8 because my clients will be using it.

Microsoft documentation tells me to click the Windows button on my keyboard to switch back to Metro from the Desktop or App, however on my MacBook Pro the equivalent key is the right-hand Command button.

Finance App

Yes, the Microsoft folks went a little crazy for this App and provided maximum eye candy, charts, numbers, facts and figures:

Conclusions

Microsoft will certainly continue to extract their OS upgrade tax moving Windows 7 users into Windows 8. I’ve really just scratched the surface of what Windows 8 will do however I can say that this OS does have a learning curve, works OK with a mouse, and the Metro UI should work OK as a touch-based UI. Windows 8 works fast enough for me as a virtual OS under Parallels on a MacBook Pro, at least as fast as Windows 7 did.

Will your life forever be changed for the good after buying and using Windows 8? Uh, no.

Download Windows 8 Consumer Preview here, I would recommend on a PC to add a new partition and keep it separate from Windows 7, on a Mac get Parallels which will keep it separate from your other OSes.

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Email setup for laptop plus smart phone

With the recent growth of smart phone users (Android and iPhone) there’s an immediate question: How do I use email from both my computer and smart phone at the same time?

IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol)

When you add a new email account to your smart phone you get to decide the type of account, you will want to choose IMAP. Make sure that your other computer is also setup for IMAP, and if it’s instead setup as POP then you’ll have to delete that account and then create a new IMAP account.

IMAP will leave your email on the mail server, so that you can have two or more devices simultaneously using the same account. This is perfect for when you have both a smart phone plus another computer to access your email using popular email clients like Outlook (PC) or Entourage (Mac).

Details

Check with your web hosting company to find out how to setup IMAP because it involves setting up your Incoming Server and Outgoing Server with:

Most web hosting companies also specify that you use a Security Type of SSL and a specific Port Number for both incoming and outgoing messages. My web host is 1and1.com and they have posted online details.

Summary

Enjoy your new smart phone where you can now send and receive emails, just like from your laptop or desktop computers.

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