Another day, another reason to hate Windows 8. And I haven’t even installed it yet. According to ghacks.net, using the Windows HOSTS file to block web sites will no longer work reliably in Windows 8.
Modifying the Windows HOSTS file is a simple and effective way to fiddle with the way domain names are translated into IP addresses. I use it on development PCs to allow access to locally-hosted web sites using their public URLs. It can also be used to redirect unwanted web sites to LOCALHOST, effectively blocking them. This can be used as a rudimentary form of ad blocking, although there are some risks involved.
Microsoft apparently doesn’t want people using the HOSTS file that way, because it silently updates the file, even if it’s marked as read-only, removing entries for facebook.com and ad.doubleclick.net (a major advertising source), and presumably others.
It turns out that the culprit is Windows Defender, which is enabled by default in Windows 8. Exactly why Windows Defender is doing this is not certain, but it’s safe to assume that Microsoft was pressured to do this by Facebook, Doubleclick, and others. Microsoft will probably claim that it was done for reasons of security, in which case it will be interesting to hear their explanation.
Meanwhile, disabling Windows Defender apparently resolves this issue. You should probably use real anti-malware software anyway. There are plenty of free alternatives.
Windows 8 is now available for computer manufacturers. The RTM release gives manufacturers some lead time to complete their preparations and testing before the general consumer (retail) release on October 26.
The new Windows O/S is also now available through Technet, MSDN and other Microsoft subscription services. A three month evaluation copy of Windows 8 for developers can also be downloaded.
As predicted by many, Microsoft has officially adopted Apple’s “take what we give you and like it” approach to software development. The hopelessly clunky, nameless, tablet-oriented new user interface in Windows 8 will not be avoidable.
Microsoft apparently really does think that everyone will like the new UI, and anyone who doesn’t is just not important. Since that last group of people includes everyone who uses their computer for more than web browsing, Skype and email, as well as everyone who reviews and evaluates software and makes software purchasing recommendations for organizations, I’m calling it now: Windows 8 is going to be a disaster.
On the other hand, intrepid developers out there have found ways around Microsoft’s idiocy before, and they’ll no doubt do it again. With any luck, they’re working right now on ways to make Windows 8 a usable O/S. UPDATE: Indeed they are – see how to bring back the Start menu in Windows 8 and Samsung’s attempt to revive the Start menu.
Microsoft has completed preparations for the release of Windows 8. System builders and participants in various related programs will get access in the next few weeks, and retail copies will appear on store shelves on October 26.
Technet subscribers will get access to the new O/S on August 15.
Ars Technica and The Verge have more details.
Valve is one of the most successful – and influential – gaming companies around. Valve’s boss, Gabe Newell, has expressed his feelings about Microsoft’s upcoming version of Windows, and they are not good.
In fact, Newell is so worried about Windows 8 that he is predicting major OEM players will bail completely. And Valve is actively looking at porting its Source gaming engine and Steam client to Linux. The hugely popular Valve game Left 4 Dead 2 has already been ported to Ubuntu Linux.
Having Steam and Valve games on Linux might just be the push needed to get Linux gaming off the ground at last. Once Linux is seen as a viable gaming platform, Microsoft will be in serious trouble.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether Windows 8 is the disaster predicted by Newell. But Gabe is a smart guy, and he spent some time working at Microsoft. If he’s right, we’re about to witness a major shift in consumer operating system preference.
Update 2012Aug01: Richard Stallman, an outspoken leader of the free software movement, isn’t happy about the idea of non-free games running on an otherwise free software platform. Still, he agrees that if you want to run non-free software, you’re better off running it on a free software platform like Linux.
According to ARS Technica, the fancy new Metro-interfaced email program in Windows 8 leaves a lot to be desired. Many features now considered to be standard for any email app – like IMAP support – are notably missing.
It’s unlikely that these deficiencies will be addressed before the release of Windows 8 in August. And of course anyone who previously depended on Outlook Express – included with many earlier versions of Windows – will be looking for alternatives.
Jeff Atwood raves about Windows 8 on his (awesome) blog, Coding Horror.
One rather surprising observation is that Windows 8 appears to start, shut down and generally run faster than Windows 7. Equally surprising is that the hardware requirements for Windows 8 are actually lower than for Windows 7.
I remain unconvinced, although to be fair I haven’t yet used it. The new Metro user interface alone is going to make Windows 8 a tough sell for me.
Windows 8 will be on store shelves in late October.