Hello and welcome to Geekgasm 2.0. In this new version of Geekgasm I will be talking extensively about one topic every week. There will most probably be a wide range of things so I think after a few editions there will have been something for everyone. So let’s get into today’s post!
Windows 8 Consumer Preview
Microsoft have recently shown off their new operating system, Windows 8, and have allowed users to download of a preview of it. I have had the new system for a couple of weeks now and have been playing around with it. This operating system is possibly the most different to its predecessor that Microsoft have produced in a long time. And as it’s only a preview who knows how it could change even more?
The biggest difference is the Start Menu. There is no Start button on the Desktop this time round. Instead there’s a funky page which you can pin your favourtie programs too. Observe:
I actually much prefer this system, though it takes some getting used to once you first use it. I’ve found that it means I’ve been actually using the Windows button on my keyboard now as it’s the easiest way to get to the Start menu (though you can click the place where the start button used to be on the desktop to access it).
To get to the rest of your programs you have to right click and click “All Apps”. That’s right, Microsoft have opted to call programs apps now, largely because want to link the new operating system to it’s phone equivalent. Clicking all apps takes you to a page which is pretty much the same as if you clicked “all programs” on the old Start button menu. Expect it’s spread out on a page rather than crammed into a little box, which is much better.
Coming with the operating system are some new brand new apps. You can download some for free from the store but here’s an overview of each of the apps that come as standard.
Calendar: It’s a calendar. It looks pretty awesome though and handily puts any appointments onto the app box on the start menu.
Camera: A very simple version of a Web camera program that lets you take photos and record videos. Very simple but that could be what you want when using your webcam.
Finance: I don’t know what this does as it just loads a white screen. I guess it would either show stocks or somehow show personal finances, though I’m not quite sure how that would work.
Mail: It’s Windows 8 version of Outlook. And it’s very frustrating as I’ve tried putting on a second account and that doesn’t work very well. Plus moving back to the accounts page involves right clicking and clicking accounts, which is really annoying and way more long-winded than Outlook or Windows Live Mail or something similar. Still, it looks good and if it would work better might be a decent standard e-mail program. Sorry, “app”.
Maps: This is simply Bing Maps outside of an internet browser. I would always use Google Maps ahead of this though so it’s made a bit redundant. Does the job though.
Messaging: It’s Windows 8 version of Live Messenger. It’s just a messenger in exactly the same style as the Mail app. I’m not sure this will ever be widely used what with Facebook Chat, Skype and things like BBM on smartphones all being better alternatives.
Weather: This is a great looking app which displays the information from Bing weather in a stylish and detailed way. It’s not quite perfect but is a much better way to check the weather online than any website I’ve ever come across. Plus it puts an overview on the start menu, as do most of these apps.
There’s a few others too, such as People which has all the information of your hotmail contacts on, the Store to download more apps from and Xbox Live Companion. You can download some Xbox online games to your computer, those that are compatible. I haven’t tried this out apart from the preloaded ones. The first of these is Solitaire, which is nothing new and in fact isn’t as easy to use as the previous version (no handy keyboard shortcuts for hints or putting all the cards away). However, much more enjoyable is a nod back to the pinball that came on Windows XP. It’s a huge pinball game with loads of different tables which is great fun.
I’m sure when the operating system is properly released lots of new apps will come onto the market and the store will become much like the iTunes App Store or the Android Store. The possibilities of having an App store for PCs though are huge so it’ll be interesting to see which developers can release apps onto it and what they come up with. Will we see things like iTunes on there for example, or how about Photoshop? We’ll just have to wait and see I guess.
Windows Live Account Integration
The new system encourages you to sign in with your Windows Live Account. If you set this up then you log on using your Live account rather than just an account for your PC. This means your settings can remain the same across any Windows 8 PC you log onto, which is pretty cool. It also means all your apps are logged in straight away which saves some bother setting them up. So the Mail app has you Live e-mails on it, the Calendar has your Live appointments on it and the Xbox bit is connected to your Xbox Live account. It means everything is much more integrated, though that does leave some security issues.
One last thing that I found to be quite different was the way you exit your computer. Instead of simply going to Start and then Shut Down, you have to either Sign Out or Lock your account from the Start menu and then from the startup screen Shut Down or Hibernate of whatever. It’s a bit weird but I guess it makes more sense than pressing Start to turn your computer off.
Overall Windows 8 is a breath of fresh air for operating systems. It looks better, it’s certainly pretty quick, and the new App store has huge potential. Of course there may be some significant changes yet but from what I’ve seen it's pretty damn good. All PCs should have Windows 8 on, now! If you too want to take the plunge and download the consumer preview you can do so here. Beware though, it takes a long time to download and install!