Encounter in the Wild (Windows 8)

Even long-term readers of my blog may not be familiar with my background in computers.

I got my first “micro-computer” in 1978 – a TRS-80 at the age of 13. Just like my modern day counterparts, I was obsessive about the computer. I taught myself to program it, taught myself the hardware and spent my time trying to make it do increasingly complex and interesting things.

I sold my first program that same year. It was nothing complex, just a simple stock portfolio tracker, but it was the start of my career.

I had three fields of interest when it came time to go to college. (There was never any doubt I would go to college and even to this day, kids who don’t want to go mystify me.) Ultimately for reasons I won’t expound upon here, I chose computer engineering over paleontology or forestry.

In 1983, while attending Arizona State University, I used a sizable chunk of trust fund to purchase an original IBM PC, with 2 floppy disk drives running IBM DOS 2.0.

It is not an exaggeration to say that I’ve worked with PCs every day of my adult life and while I don’t normally get down to the hardware level anymore, I am a long-time professional.

If you’ve not been living under a rock, you probably know that Microsoft Windows 8 came out recently and it hasn’t met with the greatest of reviews. This isn’t uncommon and you have to take these things with a grain of salt. Yes, I admit, my computer nerdy friends and I have looked at the asinine touch-screen laptops running Windows 8 at Best Buy and Costco and laughed at the once-mighty Windows, but the fact is, I’d not had a chance to actually use Windows 8 until yesterday.

All I had to do was setup a wireless network and a couple wireless printers, but I’ll say that Windows 8 seems to be the most illogical, counter-intuitive bag of hurt I’ve encountered in a long, long time.

Yes, I know that unfamiliarity makes things more obscure, but this isn’t entirely that. How many different places does one operating system need to call “devices” when none seem to contain any devices? (You know, like printers or something) Or how many places can you find that say “settings” or “change my PC’s settings” and still not find things like network settings?

While its certainly within Microsoft’s purview to change the names of things and make them less specific and confusing, I would argue it’s not a good idea to do so.

Did I find what I was looking for? Yes. But I had to force the machine into “Classic” Windows 7 mode where it was easily found on the task bar at the bottom of the screen.

And what’s up with the damned trackpad? I’d be using it to navigate and suddenly it was like a poltergeist was in the machine. I might be scroll right to left and suddenly screens would change or it was hop backwards a page. Irrelevant screens just kept popping up on the screen unbidden.

On another occasion, I popped a CD into the drive and a dialog popped up in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. First time it happened, I looked at it, started to read it and it went away. I could not find a way to get it back without ejecting the disk and putting it back in.

The second time I moved the mouse to the dialog, but it disappeared as my mouse crossed into the dialog box. I managed to click the box on the third try but it went away anyway. It’s completely unclear to me if it was just evil or there’s some trick that the trackpad holds and was playing wonky with me. Fourth time was the charm, but why it didn’t do the same on the third, I haven’t a clue.

Windows has, in general, be getting better over the years – with that minor detour for Windows Vista – but this was like a trip to bizarro world. What the hell are they thinking? Any IT manager would be a fool to implement this on their users, the costs in training and lost productivity would just be wasted money.

Roll on Windows 9.