Windows 8, I'm warming up to you

Windows 8, I'm warming up to you

Summary: Windows 8 and Server 8 sport the new Metro interface. You might hate it now but you'll get used to it and you'll like it.

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Windows Server 8 Server Manager

Windows Server 8 Server Manager

It's going to take a little time to find everything in Windows 8's new interface but I think I'm warming up to Metro and its idiosyncrasies. I finally successfully installed Windows Server 8 into a XenServer 5.6 hosted VM. I gave my new Server 8 VM 2 CPUs and 2GB RAM. Alternatively, Windows 8 Desktop installed easily into VMware Workstation 8. I also installed Windows 8 Desktop onto a physical system so that I could test on real hardware as well.

I think I might actually like the Metro interface now that I've had a chance to test it, be mad at it, curse it to Hell and then to try it again with a sense of "this is the way of the future for MS operating systems."

It's time, as I once told a coworker about 15 years ago, "Put on your big boy pants and learn to use this system." I was referring to his resistance at learning Windows NT 4.0 after I upgraded his system from Windows NT 3.51. My attitude was soon dampened by the sound of a Director informing my Domain Admin group that we had to stay every night until all of the desktops had 64MB RAM in them. Most of our NT 3.51 systems had 32MB RAM.

The next couple of weeks were difficult and I got backhanded for my harsh commentary. Those users knew how to 'best' me at my own game by complaining about performance. It was a rough transition for everyone. That's OK, I turned the tables on the "complaint department" by rebooting his system randomly during the day with my handy SHUTGUI command. Of course, there was never anything wrong with the system when I or any of my coworkers checked it out.

Truthfully, I never told that user that I didn't really like the "Chicago" interface when I first used it either. Over the course of two months a couple of years or so earlier, I converted to and from Windows 95 (Windows 3.11 was the standard) a dozen times or more. I finally decided that I had to "man up" and do it once and for all.

I digress.

So, now it's my turn again to get tossed to the Lions as I attempt to transition to Windows 8, Server 8 and the new Metro interface.

This time it seems easier to make the transition from something I've worked with for many years. Oh, not at first, if you recall my original, "I hate Unity. I hate GNOME. I hate Windows 8. The ultimate desktop search continues," it seemed like the desktop was haunting me. Unity, GNOME, Windows 8 were all out to get me. These new, funky, over-simplified desktop interfaces were putting me in a very bad mood. And, they all seemed to hit me at once. I've gone back and tried them all again. The only one I can warm up to at all is Metro.

After working with it a bit more, I realized that Metro is nothing more than an efficient redesign. It's the way I work. For years, I've created desktop shortcuts to quickly launch the apps that I use most often. My desktop is cluttered with them.

If you look at the picture I've provided above, I have Windows Server 8 DataCenter Edition installed and Server Manager is open. Microsoft provided the three key components for any Administrator's needs right on the Taskbar: Server Manager, PowerShell and Explorer. I like it. I don't have to create shortcuts. I don't have to fumble through cascading menus and I have everything I need within a click or two of loading the desktop.

Metro, on Windows Server 8, feels light. I like it because Microsoft has moved away from the operating system-centric viewpoint that's prevailed for the past 20 years or so. The operating system is out of the way. Now, it's all about getting work done efficiently and without obstruction. What's not to like?

If you like the full-blown Metro interface on Server 8, then press the Windows key on your keyboard to show that interface. The Windows key toggles the minimalist desktop and the large-iconed Metro interface, shown below.

Windows Server 8 Metro Interface

Windows Server 8 Metro Interface

If you open Explorer or a CMD window, you'll see that Microsoft hasn't changed much "under the hood." The filesystem layout is still very Windows 7ish in that you have a Windows folder, a Users folder, Program Files, Program Files (x86), Perflogs and inetpub (IIS).

System and System32 are still there. You can open a CMD window and use command line utilities.

One of the coolest features of Windows 8 is PowerShell (PS) 3.0. Compared to PowerShell 2.0, you're going to enjoy a lot of new power in PS 3.0. PS 2.0 had about 200 or so cmdlets but PS 3.0 has more than 2,000.

I think users might find Windows 8 a little frustrating at first but I think that Administrators will embrace the new all-in-one Server Manager.

So, I've changed my mind about Metro and the new interface. I like it. I think that Microsoft has gone in the right direction with this new look and feel. I actually praise their efforts. Microsoft has spent years researching the work habits of its vast user base and came up with an interface that works and focuses on work.

Related Stories:

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Topics: Operating Systems, Hardware, Microsoft, Servers, Software, Windows

About

Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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235 comments
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  • Huh

    A positive Windows 8 article. You see something new every day.
    Shmythey
    • Yep

      It had to happen eventually when people finally start to realise that Windows 8 is designed to provide an integrated UI across multiple platforms using touch, kb, mouse, voice and gesture.

      Whether it's uglier than grids of static icons leading to siloed applications is in the eye of the beholder, but those of us lucky enough to have WP7 phones already realise the benefits of functional design.

      Yes it may be confusing initially as we try to do things the old way. Just as it was when I moved from mainframes to a PDP-11 to DOS to Win 3 and Win 95 and XP and Win 7. At every stage there were people lamenting the down-rated command line and the uselessness of GUIs, someone even tried to tell me that word processing would never succeed, as all we needed was TeX.

      If you take the time to read the Win 8 docs and the guidelines for development you start to appreciate the reasons for the design and the work that has been put into it. In any event, your only option to not using Win 8 is to try and stick with those grids of static icons filling up your desktop, with task bars and docks trying to make sense of the mess and lame animations trying to distract you.

      Either embrace the new or you can buy this abacus I'm trying to get rid of ;-)
      tonymcs1
      • siloed applications?

        That'd be the description of Metro's immersive applications, no?

        Certainly doesn't describe the desktop. Scattershot might be fair.
        hrlngrv 
      • StartMenu7

        StartMenu7 will give back a reasonable but not perfect start button. I never have to use metro at all and the desktop works same as always. I'm running it on a 10yr old toshiba m40 and it is almost as fast as xp! win 8 has some good points and now you can have a start button too! No worries!
        photomstr1
      • Change for the sake of change?

        "If you take the time to read the Win 8 docs and the guidelines for development you start to appreciate the reasons for the design and the work that has been put into it."

        Oh sure, I'll be sure to read a few hundred pages of tech speak to I can learn how to use such an "intuitive" UI.
        Beechcraft
      • Embrace the New

        That's what MS told us when they gave us Vista, Windows ME and yes, Microsoft Bob. I think Metro is a great tablet/phone interface and I'm glad if other people also like it on their desktops. I don't, and no amount of Kool-Aid will change that. But if it succeeds and there is no other choice, I have the mental capacity to work around MS's idiosyncrasies now, and I'm sure I can do it with the next great idea too. Glad there are indeed other choices.
        JoeFoerster
      • this piece of crap

        will drive many users like me to a company I absolutely hate - Apple. And where does the author get off bt telling us we have to "man up" and swallow this dung just because the powers at Microsoft have lost their frigging minds?
        sackbut
  • Windows 8 is a shell at last

    "I think users might find Windows 8 a little frustrating at first."
    Enough said...the thing ships without an email client!
    The only application installed seems to be 'weather'
    When I went to program files to see if there were any applications there, all I could find was something called "windows Journal" and the "Windows Media Player"
    after making a shortcut to WMPLAYER.EXE which Win 8 told me could not be placed in the folder but had to be placed on the desktop.
    So after lauching this shortcut and setting up WIMP, the short cut dissapears and must be created again..way to go MICROSOFT! and your shortcuts will be
    "WAB.EXE" or "WMPLAYER.EXE" or after downloading the mail client "WLM.exe"
    confusing indeed!
    dcsos
    • Wow

      It ships? Who knew??? You must be the very first person to get it.
      mep01378
      • So you are saying multitasking is dead?@bitcrazed

        "But for the majority of apps, having them suck up considerable CPU, IO & battery while running in the background is just not acceptable in this day and age."
        I use a mac also and it runs 4 apps simultaneously fine....
        Are you saying Metro is not allowing this because of cpu constrraints? I don't buy it! I wan't my multitasking back
        dcsos
    • I suppose that big "Mail" metro app

      Isn't an email client. Which is funny because I have my gmail account and my work Exchange account setup and working in it. Nevermind the fact that Windows 8 isn't "shipping".

      It's clear you spent zero time with it. There are several apps built into it and tons more on the store already. Well, tons might be strong, but for being 6 months from shipping it's got quite a bit out there.
      LiquidLearner
      • Sorry if i wasn't clear

        I wasn't using METRO
        just WINDOWS 8 desktop apps!
        as I like to have 3 or 4 things going at once..remember MULTI TASKING?
        I have Mp3 player, browser, the Email client that multitasks and whatever going..thats not poss in METRO
        dcsos
      • @dcsos

        That's like starting-up Windows 3.0 and complaining that there was nothing new in the DOS environment.

        "But what about all the apps that ship with Windows?"
        "I wasn't using Windows, just DOS apps"

        And, FWIW, yes, it's perfectly possible to be playing some music while my twitter stream flows-by in the feed pinned to the left of my screen, while I work on some docs and/or email.

        Metro apps can request for background tasks to be run for a short time in order to gather updates, perform some background processing, etc. so that when you're ready to switch back to the app, they're up to date.

        If you have to park a heavy-duty task like number-crunching or compiling complex apps, then those are best suited to the desktop right now. But for the majority of apps, having them suck up considerable CPU, IO & battery while running in the background is just not acceptable in this day and age.
        bitcrazed
      • In the new 'always on' paradigm, email has to be Metro

        Otherwise it cannot continue to function while the computer is sleeping.

        Allowing even desktop computers to sleep in low power modes, but still keep up to date using Connected Standby, makes for considerable power savings.

        Of course, there will be many other apps that will have to be Metro, such as a UPS monitor and remote desktop.
        Patanjali
      • Not always

        [i]In the new 'always on' paradigm, email has to be Metro. Otherwise it cannot continue to function while the computer is sleeping.[/i]

        Not always. Some people don't want their email on all the time, although at work I do because I have to. At home I don't and I never put it into sleep mode. That's my preference.

        I think they'll have to find a way around that. Big time.
        CaviarBlack
  • As a power user....

    ...I hate it. I regularly have 3 or 4 VMs running on my 64-bit Win7 host OS. I've tried Win8 developers release and the CP, and it seems like a good idea for a tablet, but it's not for me.

    Windows 8 made those "Is Windows 7 the New XP?" articles really have some validity in the OS futures discussion.

    I still can't fathom why MS is so focused on competing in the tablet space to the detriment of their current users. I was hoping that Win8 on the tablet would provide a solution for enterprise Windows users. Removing the enterprise components for Win8 ARM just seems counterproductive. If you're providing a non-enterprise tablet OS, the Apple iEcosystem is much more mature.
    Uber Dweeb
    • Flipped Direction

      After using Win8 for a while now the single biggest question I have is:
      [b] Why is a tablet OS being pushed for a desktop?[/b]
      After 2 weeks, in side by side testing between Windows 7 and Win 8, I find I am less productive on Win 8.
      rhonin
      • Boot direct to desktop

        It's possible to boot directly to the Win 8 desktop if you choose. So you don't have to use the Metro tablet UI on startup if you don't want to. This way you can benefit from all the other Win 8 features in desktop mode without having to use the Metro start screen.
        wp7mango
      • @rhonin

        [b][i]After 2 weeks, in side by side testing between Windows 7 and Win 8, I find I am less productive on Win 8[/i][/b]
        Why? My experience is the opposite of yours and I'm interested how Win8 is slowing you down?
        bitcrazed
      • There is a learning curve and ...

        ... not everybody learns at the same rate. I have been playing with Windows 8 CP since the day it was released and I have been able to address just about every challenge I encountered in that first week.

        There is no doubt in my mind that this will not be a difficult transition.
        M Wagner