Windows 8 is the Super workstation OS I had been waiting for
Long back I had written a blog post about Using Windows Server 2008 as a SUPER workstation OSthat caused a lot of buzz
I had my reasons to use a Server OS on my work laptop and have been doing it since Windows Server 2003. When I wrote that blog post I had a vision of Windows which I now think has become a reality.
After nearly 9 years I have made my switch to a desktop version of Windows. My work laptop now has Windows 8 (RTM).
And before you drift into the world of Touch and Apps. My laptop doesn't have a Touch Screen. I am still a mouse and keyboard guy.
Search and Launch is way better than the Start Button
I am surprised at the number of hard core Start Button fans. The most common use of the Start Button was to launch apps. I had ditched the Start Menu long back for the Search Bar. Simply because my “All Programs” list had grown to three columns.
To launch any program I would just hit Start and type the first few characters of the program I wanted to run. Say you want to launch Paint … Just hit the Windows button and type in “pa..” and hit Enter.
With Windows 8 it becomes better… You can search Apps, Settings and Files in one place. You can also launch search within apps. Like search within the Store App.
I have seen a lot of people use Search to launch Apps than actually traversing the “All Programs” list.
And in case you can’t do without it here is a tip I learnt. You can create a Custom Toolbar and point it to C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs. You will get a list similar to “All Programs”
Searching and Launching Apps is way faster than clicking the Start Button and traversing the list. And its not just for power users. Say you want to change the Sounds your computer makes. Now instead of knowing that you have to open the Control Panel you can just hit the Windows button and type in Sound. You will be given a list of Apps and Settings related to Sound. Go to the Settings section and you can now easily change the Sound Settings.
The most unexpected outcome of the new Start Screen for me … Its strange but a Start Screen that covers the entire screen is something I didn't realize I was missing all these days. There have been a lot of instances when I have been working on something confidential and a colleague walks by your desk. I am pretty sure a lot of people have been in this situation. You struggle to hit the Minimize button with your mouse or try to switch to some other app or hit Ctrl+M or (and I have seen this happen) just turn off the screen. Now I just hit the Windows Key and voila the entire screen is covered.
And the concept of Tiles which display updates is also very useful.
Virtualization ! … Virtualization on my workstation is a must have for me. A lot of people think virtualization is not something meant for a client OS.
Fist it enables me to break and restore as many times as I need. I now have a Windows 2008 R2 server running virtualized on my Windows 8 machine. I can do all my risky experimentation on my VPC and even if I end up rendering the VPC unusable I can just restore back to an earlier snapshot.
Since the host machine can be networked to the virtual PCs you can partition your software. Move all your heavy software like SQL Server to a virtual PC and it can be access by the host machine like a regular networked machine. The advantage ?… you can save /turn off the virtual PC releasing all the resources when not in use.
You no longer have to deal with the limitations of Virtual PC or Virtual Box you get Hyper V with Windows 8.
One problem with enabling Hyper V on Windows 2008 R2 was that the machine would no longer Sleep or Hibernate. With Windows 8 there are no such restrictions. I can just close my laptop lid and even with Virtual Machines running, the laptop goes into Sleep mode. You lift the lid and your virtual machines are up and running where you left them.
For Hyper V you would need the Pro / Enterprise edition and a machine with SLAT.
Apps are not just for phones and tablets… Initially you might be averse to Apps, the concept of having two different types of applications might sound a bit strange. For me the concept of Apps is simple … its controlled software. The last time you installed a game from the internet did you bother to check if it used your location information or connected to the network ? Not really right … now think of all the consequences because of that. When you download an app from the Store it clearly warns you about what the app can access … like use your internet connection. The Apps run in a Sandbox and that way are very safe. We all download small apps like games or utilities from unknown sources… doing it from the Store is safer as all Apps in the Store are verified.
For me the most used App is the Reader. You no longer have to install a software for reading PDFs. I no longer have to choose between Adobe and FoxIt … I love the simplicity of the Reader.
Multitask Without Interruptions… The Snap View is very useful for multitasking. You can keep an eye on the stock market while doing you regular work on your Desktop.
The Duplicates… One thing that you might find strange is that you now have two Internet Explorers. But what I have seen is that depending on who uses the computer eventually one will take over. For me the Desktop IE is the preferred choice because some of our corp websites require ActiveX plugins. But on my home PC the new IE gets used a lot. The new IE is better both in terms of presentation and safety. Having duplicates is not a big deal … a lot of people install multiple browsers and media players on their desktop but eventually.
The simple things like Using Corners instead of button clicks saves you a lot of time. And its doesn't take long to adapt to it.
One feature I always missed was the ability to mount ISOs. Now with Windows 8 you can mount ISO files and VHDs easily.
Windows 8 has a lot of features in it for both the power user and a normal user.
Its Smarter than you think… I was pleasantly surprised by what Windows 8 does in the background. I have been using Windows 8 for nearly two months now and my disks have 0 fragmentation… which basically means better performance. The best part is I never knew when it defragmented those disks (until of course I looked at the Last Run column) because it never interrupted my work and carried out this maintenance work when the machine was idle.
Even without all the Touch goodness Windows 8 still puts on a great show.