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.

Java still vulnerable even with recent batch of security fixes

We were wondering whether the recent Java updates addressed the security holes reported by Adam Gowdiak of Security Explorations. Well, Mr. Gowdiak tested the most recent Java in various browsers, and the answer is no, they do not.

Gowdiak went even further, developing a simple fix for the vulnerability. Oracle is unimpressed, saying that a proper fix will involve a lot more testing than the 30 minutes Gowdiak spent on it. They are sticking to their original estimate, that an official fix will not be available until the February 2013 Critical Patch Update.

So Java, despite the recent patches, is still vulnerable to exploits using the hole reported by Gowdiak. We continue to recommend disabling Java in web browsers.

Microsoft tries to convince businesses to switch to Windows 8

A recent post at Microsoft’s Windows for your Business blog reads – as one might expect – a lot like PR hype for Windows 8. Even the subtitle: “Identifying your unique Windows 8 adoption path” assumes that the reader will be upgrading to the new O/S.

The gist of the article is that Windows 8 is going to be a really good thing for “the enterprise”, meaning businesses and corporations. Having read this article and much of the material linked from it, I remain unconvinced.

This list of features found only in the pricey ‘Enterprise’ edition of Windows 8 is supposed to get IT managers all excited about Windows 8, but I don’t see anything particularly compelling there. Not enough to upgrade from Windows 7, anyway. Sure, if you’re still running Windows XP in your IT shop, you might want to consider Windows 8, but right now, Windows 7 looks like a much safer bet. Thanks to Microsoft’s surprisingly generous support windows, Windows 7 is going to be around for a long time.

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