Confusion over Windows 8 retail version

The Australian site pcauthority.com has an interesting post about consumer confusion related to the retail version of Windows 8.

Microsoft has made significant changes to the way Windows is being sold. The resulting confusion has retailers claiming that the boxed copies of Windows 8 they are selling are full versions, not upgrades. In fact, they are upgrades. Anyone wishing to purchase a non-upgrade version of Windows 8 can either buy a new computer that comes with an OEM version of Windows 8, or wait until the new “System Builder” version becomes available. The System Builder version is not yet available, and pricing is yet to be confirmed my Microsoft.

The pcauthority.com article explicitly demonstrates that retail boxed copies of Windows 8 cannot be used for new installs. And despite the source being Australian, the same rules apply here in North America.

ZeroAccess botnet growing rapidly

Growth of the ZeroAccess botnet is unfortunately showing no signs of slowing down. darkReading reports “2.2 million infected with fraudulent ad-click botnet’s malware“. The perpetrators make money by using infected computers to fraudulently ‘click’ on web-based ads.

Most current anti-malware software can detect and disable ZeroAccess-related malware. Make sure your anti-malware software is up to date, and run regular scans.

Windows 8 miscellany

The new O/S is apparently selling well, or at least better than Windows 7 did at this stage, according to Steve Ballmer. Of course, when Windows 7 appeared, the previous viable version (Windows XP) was not imminently losing support from Microsoft. Clearly, the huge number of Windows XP systems out there have to go somewhere, and it looks like a lot of early adopters are going for Windows 8. I’m sure the much lower upgrade price ($40 as opposed to $100) was a big factor in those decisions.

ARS Technica has an extended look at the use of Windows 8 in the workplace, specifically the Enterprise edition. Their conclusion? That upgrading to Windows 8 isn’t really worth the trouble, unless your existing systems run Windows XP. In other words, stick with Windows 7 if that’s what you’re using in your business. There are simply not enough useful new or improved features in Windows 8 Enterprise. Add to that the increased training costs associated with the new user interface, and it’s best to stick with 7 for now.

Yet another post from ARS Technica looks at the viability of Linux as a replacement for Windows on the desktop. They conclude that the arrival of Windows 8 is not going to drive people to Linux, as others have predicted, and that the big beneficiary is actually going to be Windows 7. I think they’re right. However, if the current push towards mainstream gaming on Linux goes anywhere, that may change.

Windows 8 core apps not useful for desktop users

According to a recent review over at ARS Technica, the core apps that come with Windows 8 (People, Calendar, Mail, etc.) may be okay for tablet users, but most desktop users will probably avoid them in favour of what they used previously.

Which raises the question: if the idea was to move toward a common user interface for all Windows platforms, but desktop users avoid apps that use the new UI, has anything really changed? Application developers (including Microsoft) will be working on software that supports the new UI, but for now, nothing much has changed.

Windows 8 overviews

There’s a lot being written about Windows 8 on technology blogs. Below I’ve linked to a few recent posts from ARS Technica and The Verge. These articles are not reviews, so don’t expect much in the way of criticism. Still, for anyone trying to decide whether to try Windows 8, they might be useful.

Windows 8: how fast?

Traditionally, upgrading to a newer version of Windows on existing hardware meant a noticeable drop in performance. That’s because ‘new’ in the software world usually means ‘uses more memory and other hardware resources’. Is that the case with Windows 8?

Ars Technica ran some benchmarks, comparing the performance of Windows 8 with Windows 7 on the same hardware. Given the amount of hype out there about Windows 8’s improved boot times, I was curious what a real world test would show.

Well, there’s good news and there’s bad news. The bad news is that although boot times have improved with Windows 8, the difference isn’t as large as we’ve been led to believe. The good news is that Windows 8 doesn’t appear to be any slower than Windows 7. In fact, in most tests, Windows 8 is about the same or slightly faster than Windows 7. Of course, that really just emphasizes a point that Microsoft has been making: that Windows 8 is – at its core – the same as Windows 7.

Windows 8 released for retail sale

Today is the big day for Windows 8. Those of us who remember the Windows 95 release are perhaps less excited about this one. As was Windows 95, the new O/S is being touted as a game-changer. Jaded by the marketing hype, and disappointed by duds like Windows Me and Vista, my considered opinion is “meh.” I’ll get it, I’ll install it, I’ll test it, and I’ll report on it. But I seriously doubt it’s going to change much of anything for me.

Pricing and retail availability for the new O/S are discussed in a post over at net-security.org. As predicted, a download-only upgrade version of Windows 8 Pro is available for $40 USD. If you want media, the same thing will cost you $70 USD. The new System Builder version, of interest to PC hobbyists and professionals, has yet to be announced.

Ars Technica has a detailed report on the Windows 8 upgrade experience. They wanted to know if the old warnings about Windows upgrades still hold true. Spoiler: yes they do. If you’re one of those people who only uses a few applications, and who keeps their software and drivers up to date, then the upgrade may work fine for you. Otherwise, you’re taking a chance on making a big mess.

Ars Technica also has a new review of Windows 8.

The Verge has a useful buying guide for Windows 8 that helps to sort out the various options.

Service Pack 2 for Windows 7 cancelled

With the pile of post-SP1 updates for Windows 7 growing and no end in sight (at least until 2020), Microsoft has decided to forsake IT workers by cancelling plans for SP2. This means that installing Windows 7 is going to become increasingly tedious: install Windows 7, install SP1, then install 100+ (and growing) patches.

Is this yet another attempt by Microsoft to get IT administrators to throw in the towel and upgrade to Windows 8? Maybe. Luckily, IT workers have plenty of tools available to create new, slipstreamed installation media for Windows 7. That means one unattended install for Windows 7, SP1 and all the updates available at the time the media was created. Microsoft stopped officially supporting slipstreaming in Vista and Windows 7, so the process is a bit more difficult, but it’s both possible and worth the effort.

News for me, stuff that matters… to me. Windows, Linux, security, tools & miscellany.