Windows 8, I'm warming up to you

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.
Written by Ken Hess, Contributor

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.

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