A Linux desktop and tablet user and Windows 8

A Linux desktop and tablet user and Windows 8

Summary: I'm a Linux user, but I kind of like Windows XP, and I can get along fine with Windows 7, but Windows 8? Argh!

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By default, Windows 8 Metro is one ugly spud of an operating system.

By default, Windows 8 Metro is one ugly spud of an operating system.

Some people think I dislike Windows in the same way some people dislike sports teams-I'm just prejudiced against the New York Yankees, Manchester United, Duke Blue Devils, whoever. Nope. I just dislike operating systems and programs that don't run well. Over the years, though, Windows has improved. These days, in addition to my Mint Linux desktops, I happily run Windows XP SP3 and Windows 7 SP1. Windows 8 though? Oh Lord!

When I installed the Windows 8 Consumer Preview in VirtualBox and natively on another PC, I didn't have high hopes for it. I've been playing with Windows 8 alpha releases for a while now and I found Windows 8, like Vista before it, to be pretty awful. But, I decided to give this latest sample of Windows 8 a fair chance to show me its stuff. Well, I've been kicking its tires for almost two weeks now and I'm here to tell you Windows 8, and its Metro interface are as awful as I feared they be.

Gallery Tour: Setting up Windows 8 Consumer Preview with VirtualBox

It's hard to know where to begin. But, perhaps I should start with a Windows 8 Metro problem that follows GNOME 3.x of all desktops down the same wrong alley. Both Windows 8 and GNOME 3.x make the simple task of turning a system off a pain-in-the-rump. Why? Oh why?

Some people argue that shutting down systems is so old-fashioned, but until every device I have has a battery life like the new Apple iPad is supposed have, I want to be able to easily turn it off. And, besides, why the heck make it hard to turn off the first place anyway?

Speaking of other basics, I, for one, am used to scroll up and down, not from side to side, on a desktop. Sure, it works on tablets, but I'm trying to use Windows 8 on a desktop. I think most people are going to try to use it on tablets either. If I'm on a desktop, why are you forcing me to relearn such a basic way of working with my PC?

Oh sure, Microsoft wants Windows 8 to be a major tablet player. Well, guess what, I want to be king of the world too, and neither one is going to happen. Apple owns the high-end of tablets, has designs on the mid-range--thanks to keeping the iPad 2 around at a lower price point-and Linux-based Android will own the low end. I don't see a lot of room for Windows 8 tablets.

In addition, also like GNOME 3.x, now that I think of it, Metro is just ugly. But, hey you don't have to take the word of a Linux guy for it. Ed Bott, who favors Windows as much as I do Linux, says, "I think a lot of the reason people have a negative reaction to the Metro style Start today is because the default presentation is so ugly and impersonal." And, then, explains how to customize Metro into a more reasonable interface.

It's a great guide, but, wow, that's a lot of trouble just to take Metro's default and turn it into something that, even afterwards, Even after the clean up I still don't find Metro that usable. Give me a GNOME 2.x style desktop, ala Mint's Cinnamon, any day. On Windows 8, you could, of course, try to just use the classic desktop, but Microsoft doesn't make that easy.

A walk through Mint Linux's new/old Cinnamon desktop (Gallery)

In addition, as again Bott notes, Windows 8 is actually built for small displays. How small? Try 10 to 13-inches. Are you kidding me? I've considered 20-inches the minimum size for a display since I paid $2,700 back in the 90s for a then state-of-the-art NEC 5D multisync monitor. Ubuntu's Unity and Head Up Display (HUD) don't do great with my current large monitors, but they can make effective use of my screen real estate. Cinnamon and KDE 4.8, however, do great with large displays.

A first look at Ubuntu Linux's Head-Up Display (Gallery)

The big question with Windows 8, is whether the dual-or is it dueling?--and mostly separate user experiences in Windows 8 make any sense at all. That is, Windows 8 offers both the classic desktop interface we've been using since Windows 95, as well as a new Metro-style runtime environment called WinRT that consists of the Start screen, Metro-style apps, and the various edge UI [user interface] bits that transcend both environments.

"Microsoft's contends that by not eliminating the backwards compatibility of the past and including the desktop in addition to the new Metro environment, it has created a 'no compromises' operating system, something that offers the best of both worlds, if you will. Microsoft's critics offer up an equally compelling story: This two-headed hydra is a mess, and is in fact the opposite of 'no compromises.' It is, they say, the very definition of compromise."

Those last two paragraphs by the by? They're not mine. They're the slightly paraphrased comments of Paul Thurrott, the man behind the Supersite for Windows. Even this Windows expert's Windows expert, "worries that Windows 8 is disjointed, that these two separate environments will never be crossed, and that Microsoft is essentially creating two different products that will coexist, weirdly, together."

Thurrott hopes that Metro, in which "the final release will essentially be the world's biggest beta test" and Windows 8 will be successful. I don't think so. Desktop or tablet, users want operating systems that either work the way they're used to them working or provides a truly compelling reason to learn a new system. Windows 8 provides neither.

Don't mis-read me. I'm not predicting that Windows 8 will be such a flop, ala Vista, that some users will move to Linux. Desktop Linux is a niche operating system. For those of us willing to give it a chance and like its superiority stability and security, it's great.

But, unless a day comes that major OEMs like Dell and HP make Ubuntu or Mint as easy to buy as Windows 7, it's not going to jump forward. Its close relatives, Android tablets, Chrome OS and Google Chromebooks may be another matter, but classic desktop Linux? No, it won't benefit that much even if Windows 8 is an even bigger flop than Vista.

No, what I expect to happen is that Windows 8 will flop, users will insist on keeping Windows 7. In fact, very quietly, Microsoft has extended Windows 7's consumer support cycle. If things go the way I think they will for Windows 8, I expect you'll see a similar announcement about Windows 7's sales life cycle about this time next year.

While all that's happening, I'll still be happily using my Linux systems as my main desktops and running Android on my main tablets.

Related Stories:

Here's what's wrong with Windows 8

Sorry, power users, Windows 8 is built for small displays

The Metro hater's guide to customizing Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Virtually Windows 8: How to set up the Consumer Preview in VirtualBox

Five Reasons why Windows 8 will be dead on arrival

Topics: Windows, Tablets, Software, Operating Systems, Open Source, Mobility, Microsoft, Linux, Laptops, Hardware

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  • A Linux desktop and tablet user and Windows 8

    [i]I just dislike operating systems and programs that don???t run well.[/i]
    Then why do you continue to use linux?

    [i]Both Windows 8 and GNOME 3.x make the simple task of turning a system off a pain-in-the-rump. Why? Oh why?[/i]
    Because you only have to do it once a week so its not something that needs to be advertised in the middle of the screen. As for the side scrolling, it works out a lot better that way. There really is nothing you need to relearn except swiping left to right instead of up and down which is not a difficult task. The Microsoft Windows 8 tablets will be competitively priced. No one wants a linux tablet so that gives Microsoft plenty of room to expand in this area.

    I keep hearing all these anti-Microsoft people saying Metro is ugly but its not. Look at it and then look at the icons on your current desktop. The difference is night and day and I would much rather have the Metro UI as its much easier to look at and choose your apps. Quoting Paul Thurrot doesn't do your article any favors either. He's just another blogger.

    I can't see one valid point you had in this whole article about Microsoft Windows 8 other than you just wanted something to whine about, and lets face it, despite you saying you like Microsoft Windows 7 and XP we all know you don't. Your just trying to save face by saying that so you won't get critiqued as hard on your Windows 8 rant.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • Loverock, check your bib, your dribbling all over your self

      If you bothered to try W-* on a tablet and a system with a 24" monitor you'd see why W-8 dosen't meet the needs of either and will end up a Vista in the long run. W-7 works for 90% of the people out there, but your not going to business to buy more hardware to keep M$ in business. Tablets will never replace a laptop in completing everyday tasks .........w-8 is going to be a jack of all trades and a master of NONE ........ mark my words.
      Over and Out
      • definition...

        [i]Tablets will never replace a laptop in completing everyday tasks .........w-8 is going to be a jack of all trades and a master of NONE ........ mark my words.[/i]

        That depends on what your everyday tasks are. Perhaps they won't ever work for YOUR everyday tasks. But you nor I, are everyone.
        Badgered
    • thats a sensible analysis, completely makes sense

      Not sure why SJVN is commenting on Windows again, nothing on Linux to talk about?
      ninjacut
      • Linux discussions...

        I agree. I would appreciate more discussions on Linux and/or BSD operating systems - please! Thank you.
        goalsetter
  • LOL! Right, blame it on the OEMs

    "A common complaint about Windows comes from those who want to purchase a computer without a copy of Windows pre-installed, because they already own another copy of Windows available to install (ex: pre-ordered an upcoming version of Windows) or intend to use another operating system instead (such as Linux, FreeBSD, OpenSolaris or any other libre-free open source OS). Since free operating systems provide strong competition to Windows, which is a non free OS, Microsoft tries to force users not to choose an operating system by creating a market where most computers shipped from OEMs come with Windows preinstalled, and by secretly agreeing with OEMs by means of rebates, to make it very hard to receive a Windows refund."
    guzz46
    • You could try another OEM

      [i]A common complaint about Windows comes from those who want to purchase a computer without a copy of Windows pre-installed[/i]

      Walk into an Apple Store and ask for a Mac Mini, MacBook Air or iMac without OS X pre-installed. Apple hardware is good enough for Linus Torvalds (although he has found both Fedora and openSUSE wanting).
      Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Rabid Howler Monkey

      I posted that quote for William Farrel who seems to think that when people brought a PC they had a choice of OS.
      guzz46
    • guzz46

      Well, one can buy an HP workstation with the HP Installer Kit for Linux. Examples include the Z1 (coming soon), Z210 and Z420 (coming soon) workstations. The HP Installer Kit for Linux includes drivers and licenses for either SLED or RHEL desktop which the customer must install. Presumably, Windows is not pre-installed on these workstations.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Rabid Howler Monkey

      I think you're missing the point, which is microsoft gave (and presumably still does) rebates to OEM's, which is why people didn't get a choice of OS.

      That's what microsoft want's... to keep people blind to the competition.
      guzz46
    • RE: Common Complaint

      Great! You want a computer without Windows installed. Call up your local PC shop and have one built if you do not have the necessary skills to assemble one yourself. It is NOT hard to get a complete computer with no operating system what so ever.

      The truth is OEMs are in the business to sell a complete package and in order to do that the computer is going to include an Operating System and software out of the box. OEMs choose to include Windows because that is what works with the software and hardware people use in their every day life and it is what they WANT to use. You can deny that all you want but it is true. I mean they tried Linux netbooks and people returned them just as fast as they bought them because they didn't like the OS and it did not work with their software/hardware. The same goes for every time a company tried to make a computer without Windows in the past. Remember Lindows? It was supposed to be the Linux Flavor that overtook Windows in the Year of Linux back in the late 90s/early 2000's.

      There are some versions of Linux that are very nice but aside from those versions not working (fully or at all) with the mainstream software and hardware people use there are just too many versions for most people to even make an informed decision. Basically Linux is hurting itself.
      bobiroc
    • RE: microsoft gave (and presumably still does) rebates to OEM's

      Rebates or not Linux is free an you can't get cheaper than Free. The OEM still has to pay for that Windows license at a heavy discount of course but it is NOT free like Linux. Even at Free Linux cannot sell computers.
      bobiroc
    • bobiroc

      "Great! You want a computer without Windows installed. Call up your local PC shop and have one built if you do not have the necessary skills to assemble one yourself."

      No I want (and other people too) to have a choice of which OS comes installed on a PC, not have some anticompetitive company dictate what comes preinstalled on hardware that isn't even their own.
      And do you really think the majority of people will know how to install an OS? and what about laptops?

      "The truth is OEMs are in the business to sell a complete package and in order to do that the computer is going to include an Operating System"

      No shit, and is windows the only operating system? OEM's choose not to use other operating systems because they will loose their windows rebates, this isn't my opinion, this is fact.
      Read this quote from the United States vs microsoft court case... "Judge Jackson issued his findings of fact [11] on November 5, 1999, which stated that Microsoft's dominance of the x86 based personal computer operating systems market constituted a monopoly, and that Microsoft had taken actions to crush threats to that monopoly, including Apple, Java, Netscape, Lotus Notes, Real Networks, Linux, and others"

      You can deny it all you want but it was proven in a court of law.

      "Rebates or not Linux is free an you can't get cheaper than Free"

      No shit, but again how many people even know what an OS is? or how to install one?

      "The OEM still has to pay for that Windows license at a heavy discount of course"

      Exactly my point, they don't use other operating systems because they don't want to loose their windows rebates, and for Linux to sell computers it has to be preinstalled on them first.
      guzz46
    • What nonsense

      [i]Great! You want a computer without Windows installed. Call up your local PC shop and have one built if you do not have the necessary skills to assemble one yourself.[/i]

      I'm not going to pay a customizer to work around the Microsoft tax. Dream on, pal.

      I shouldn't have to do that if the OEM will sell machines with blank HDs on them.

      [i]It is NOT hard to get a complete computer with no operating system what so ever.[/i]

      How do you know. You've never done it before.

      [i]The truth is OEMs are in the business to sell a complete package and in order to do that the computer is going to include an Operating System and software out of the box.[/i]

      Truth is they get sweetheart licensing deals from Microsoft in the process. Want to put Linux on a significant percentage of machines? Then we'll have to re-evaluate that deal.

      [i]Remember Lindows? It was supposed to be the Linux Flavor that overtook Windows in the Year of Linux back in the late 90s/early 2000's.[/i]

      Lindows was sued out of existence by Microsoft because it looked too much like XP. The ironic thing was most people couldn't tell the difference using it. Shows you all the 'love' they had for Microsoft when they didn't even have Windows under the hood to begin with.

      The rest is just your usual blather.
      ScorpioBlack
    • Double standards

      Walk into an Apple Store and tell the salesperson you want a Mac Mini with Debian pre-installed. Then come back to this thread and tell us what the response was.

      Steven has written numerous times on this blog about Linux system vendors like zareason and system76. Their prices, relative to Windows-based PCs, are high, but that is simply economy of scale at work. However, relative to Apple OS X PCs, there prices are still reasonable. If enough Linux fans bought their systems from these Linux system vendors, one would likely see a drop in their prices coincident with increased system sales. Make it happen. AND STOP COMPLAINING!!
      Rabid Howler Monkey
    • RE: How do you know. You've never done it before.

      Really? Me along with the millions of other people have never went to stores like NewEgg, TigerDirect and bought parts to build a computer with no OS and then choose the OS that fits their needs? Really?

      If you have to pay a "customizer" to build a PC for you then you need to re-evaluate your alleged skills. Of course I thought some people might want to support a local business. I have several by me that will sell what they call "white boxes" (even though they are not really white anymore) with no operating system. They do not sell many of those or get many requests and when people have one built the vast majority of them check the box for Windows despite having other OS choices on the build sheet. You cannot deny the fact that the mainstream OEMs are going to sell what people want and need to use. The fact that linux netbooks failed miserably when they were offered should show you that not many people want Linux on their mainstream computer. They offer Linux on a variety of servers because there is a demand for that but on the desktop not so much. Simple supply and demand, Economics 101. Of course then there is the other question. Which of the many varieties of Desktop Linux do they offer? All of them? If you offer one version over another then you are bound to make people unhappy. Computer comes with Ubuntu and you wanted Mint. Seriously. It is not logical to extend a company's resources for something that is not in demand.
      bobiroc
    • This is partially untrue...

      OEMs go where the money is. The money is not in distributing Linux. If Ubuntu was in high demand, they would ship Ubuntu. This is not the case, however. The rules of supply and demand are a factor in the decision making process for OEMs whether you recognize this or not.

      Do you think MS had any hand in determining what off-shoot companies like "Cyber Power PC" decided to ship their systems with? No.
      thoiness
    • Double standards my ass

      [i]Walk into an Apple Store and tell the salesperson you want a Mac Mini with Debian pre-installed. Then come back to this thread and tell us what the response was.[/i]

      Double standards, my ass. Let's not forget you're comparing 9% of the desktop market with 90%

      Or did that 'little' fact not fit into your plan for hypocracy.

      [i]If enough Linux fans bought their systems from these Linux system vendors, one would likely see a drop in their prices coincident with increased system sales. Make it happen. AND STOP COMPLAINING!![/i]

      Those little fish don't have the marketing departments of one of the biggest monopolies out there, and with IT departments full of MCSE dinosaurs conditioned & educated on NT4 back the 1990s, we're not likely to see a change anytime soon on their end either. We'll have to wait for them all to die off or retire before there's any momentum.

      So no, I won't stop complaining. Not until the monopoly stranglehold is crushed.
      ScorpioBlack
    • Yeah really you

      [i]Really? Me along with the millions of other people have never went to stores like NewEgg, TigerDirect and bought parts to build a computer with no OS and then choose the OS that fits their needs? Really?[/i]

      Yeah really you. You've never bought one direct from Dell or HP installed with a blank HD before so don't lie about it.

      [i]If you have to pay a "customizer" to build a PC for you then you need to re-evaluate your alleged skills.[/i]

      This isn't about "my skills". This is about my pocketbook.

      Not to mention the principle of the whole thing.

      [i]They do not sell many of those or get many requests and when people have one built the vast majority of them check the box for Windows despite having other OS choices on the build sheet.[/i]

      Sure, it's the only checkbox on there. Pre-checked. lol... :D

      [i]You cannot deny the fact that the mainstream OEMs are going to sell what people want and need to use.[/i]

      Uh, they sell what Microsoft wants and when it comes to desktops, what Microsoft wants, Microsoft gets.

      The proof is in the pudding:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Microsoft#Licensing_agreements

      The rest is [b]still[/b] more excuses blather on your part.
      ScorpioBlack
    • Rabid Howler Monkey

      "Double standards Walk into an Apple Store and tell the salesperson you want a Mac Mini with Debian pre-installed"

      Thats completely different, Apple make their own hardware so they are well within their rights to put their own software on it, just like microsoft are well within their rights to put their own software on the Xbox.

      So you want Linux fans to pay more for their PC's because of microsoft's anticompetitive behavior? no thanks, how about another idea... instead of being anticompetitive how about microsoft actually compete by improving their product? wouldn't that be something? then the consumer would win.
      guzz46