GEEKNOTE: After finishing cleaning up on a horribly infected machine belonging to one of our customers Saturday morning, I decided to tackle my first Windows 8 build. As a Microsoft Partner, we subscribe to the Microsoft Action Pack program, giving us early access to new Microsoft software. The idea is that it gives us a chance to become familiar with new products like Windows 8 before customers start asking us for help with it on October 26th.
Our checkout machine was our first Windows 7 testbed back when Windows 7 first came out. I deliberately built it with absolutely the minimum performance hardware I could put my hands on (a single core Atom), just to see how 7 would work It was "okay", but nothing to write home about, especially when booting. The machine has served faithfully, if not particularly speedily, ever since.
I decided to give everyone in the store a break by building the new checkout machine with more mainstream hardware: I used an i3-2100 processor (3.1ghz, dual core), 4gb of memory, and a 1TB drive. I could have used a smaller drive, but it was actually the smallest one I could put my hands on Saturday. Once setup, the checkout machine doesn't need an optical drive, so I didn't bother installing one.
I booted the new system to an external DVD drive and installed Windows 8 Professional. The installation took a bit to start, which I attribute to using an external DVD drive. Windows 8 seemed to find all the critical drivers, which is a good thing since the Intel support site (ark.intel.com) doesn't support Windows 8 yet. There are a couple of non-essential drivers that appear to be "MIA", but I'll chase them down later this week.
The first thing I noticed was the new "Metro" interface. Metro appears to be optimized for a widescreen format, "touch" monitor, neither of which describes our checkout monitor. I'm going to try to adjust the resolution to match the screen this coming week. I'm not a fan of "Metro", but I can see where it might be useful on a phone or tablet.
I was able to find a "cookbook" on how to get a more conventional desktop to display, and I needed it to get the rest of the way through installing the system on our network. Everything took three-four times as long as it should have, probably because I was fumbling through my first look at Windows 8. Once I got the machine playing nice on our network, things started working pretty well.
The good news is that I was able to download and install Windows 7 64 bit drivers and software for both our LaserJet and our Dymo label printer. My colleagues would have been ready to string me up if either wasn't working come Monday morning.
Quickbooks 2010 was my next challenge. It also installed without any issues. Quickbooks takes FOREVER to do it's first set of updates, but that is a Quickbooks issue, not something specific to Windows 8. I'll get to enjoy this process again on all of our computers in a couple of months when we upgrade to the latest version of Quickbooks.
The million dollar question is whether or not Metro will grow on me over time. The jury remains out on that.
I'm going to put off replacing my desktop machine at work for another couple of weeks so I can evaluate whether I want to go with Windows 7 or Windows 8 for the machine I'll be living with for the next several years. (There is quite a story regarding the machine I inherited as my current office desktop. I'll share that story when I replace the current machine in a few weeks.)
While Windows 8 will be released to the general public on October 26th, Windows 7 will continue to be available for a while, and Windows 7 may still make a lot of sense for certain folks, including companies with a large number of machines running Windows 7 and non-geek seniors that don't want to re-learn how to use a computer.
If you are looking at a tablet or a Windows based phone, then Windows 8 is going to be worth a look.
What I do NOT recommend to ANYONE is to upgrade an existing machine from Windows XP, Vista, or 7 to Windows 8. Doing a clean install on a new machine is going to create far fewer issues than upgrading an older machine.
Feel free to drop by the store if you'd like to take a look at our new checkout computer. I'll post some more first impressions here after we get to spend a little more time with Windows 8.
Feel free to drop me a note or leave a comment here if you have any questions about your computer or your office network.
Rob Marlowe, Senior Geek, Gulfcoast Networking, Inc.
(Rob also serves as deputy mayor of the City of New Port Richey. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not necessarily represent the position of the city.)