Native Windows 8 on a Mac mini: first impressions

Summary:ZDNet's David Gewirtz spent the weekend installing Windows 8 on a Mac mini using Bootcamp. His observations and early impressions (along with descriptions of some of the problems he ran into) are described in this helpful article.

A few other strangenesses

I use HDMI to output audio and video from the Mac mini (as I did previously with the now-dearly-departed gaming laptop). The HDMI signal goes through my amp and an HDMI switch, before it gets to the TV. I have a bunch of other devices I switch between, including each of our Tvios, the gaming consoles, and the Apple TV.

Last night, we noticed the strangest thing. I switched from the PC (technically the Mac mini) to the Apple TV, and suddenly we started hearing voices, very quietly coming from the Mac mini. I recognized the voices as from an IBM technical YouTube video I’d been watching earlier in the day – but that video hadn’t been opened for hours. Curious, we switched back to the Mac mini, looked at all open windows, and couldn’t find anything related to that video open or running.

It’s still a mystery.

Another, minor strangeness is the “ENG” keyboard indicator that lives in the system tray. Even though I keep customizing the Notification Area and keep turning the system Input Indicator off, it turns itself back on. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

Windows 8 comes with its own native antivirus protection, in the form of Windows Defender. It’s not a half-bad tool that’s, essentially, the old Microsoft Security Essentials, bundled into the OS. What’s weird is the little MSE tray icon, the little house, is now gone. So there’s no visual indicator that everything’s good or potentially problematic. Windows 8 also removed the “Scan with Security Essentials” context menu, although I hacked a little batch script that does the same thing.

It’s a shame, though, that you can’t (without hacking) just right-click and scan something. I’d think keeping systems virus-free would be a top Microsoft priority.

My last two observations relate once again to the so-called “Modern UI,” which is somewhat jarring in Windows 8. It just randomly shows up. For example, if you want to configure a Bluetooth device and you’re happily working in a standard Windows window, all of a sudden the entire screen will turn white and you’re blasted into full-screen Modern UI mode to add a device.

But not all device configuration involves seeing the white light. Many device setup options remain normal Control Panel operations. The inconsistency is weird.

Finally, the live corners are distracting, especially when aiming for a Save icon or the red X that closes a window. More often than not, a quick mouse traversal will display a rectangle (on the left, when saving). This is whatever app the Modern UI thinks you might want to run. When you move to the top right, to close a Window, the moderately useless “Charms” bar shows up.

Neither of these is anything like a deal-killer, but they are a bit annoying. Start8 can turn them off, and I may well do so if they prove to be too intrusive.

Topics: Windows 8, Apple

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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