This apple doesn’t have nearly enough pith   Leave a comment

Yet somebody is taking it.

One of the reasons for new hard-drives and all that mucking around with RAID arrays was so that I had enough room for a fresh OS install for work-related testing (and just to play with). And so, on Monday, that’s exactly what I did: I installed the Windows 8 developer preview in a spare partition, and had a muck around. It was better than doing any proper work.

The first thing that hits you is “where is Explorer and why is my screen filled with squares?”, because you’re faced with a garish splurge of cacoiconography. You then figure out which square to click to run Explorer, and everything is back, much like Windows 7. Possibly better, because it doesn’t have that useless “Organise/Views/Burn” folder-band thing taking up a big chunk of every window. Oh, but if you click the “Windows Explorer” square instead of the “Desktop” square, you will be taken to a “Libraries” window. Libraries? Really? Windows 8 lets me borrow books? Look. Microsoft. Stop trying to be friendly. You are rubbish at it, and you aren’t helping; you’re just hiding files that people want to be easily accessible somewhere deep down in a hidden system directory, so that they might never be found, and so that they might easily be destroyed on a re-install. This. Is. Stupid. Stop. It. I know you want a UNIX-style home system, and that would be a very good thing for all concerned. But until you get over yourselves and just directly copy the UNIX system, recognising that such a directory structure must be entirely unrelated to the OS, or it completely misses the point, how about you just give up, leave my files for me to look after, and stop trying to piss around with them? Thanks.

Eventually, you’ll click the Start button, and your screen is once more filled with squares. Where is the Start menu? How do I turn off this screen full of squares? Where have all the program shortcuts gone? Are questions that may go through your head. The answers? Vanquished, never to be seen again; you can’t; I don’t know, so just make sure you check the “place shortcut on desktop” box when you install anything.
Oh, you can drag the squares around, and even make them big or little. You can have a well-organised array of meaningless boxes. How do you change their size? You right click them, move the mouse all the way to the bottom-right corner of the screen, and then click the button. Did anybody actually try to use this system with a mouse and keyboard before they inflicted it on people? No? Didn’t think so.

And once you have finished mucking around, you’ll wonder: OK, how do I turn this off? Where’s the shut down option? It’s vanished from the Start not-menu. Don’t worry; it can still be found on the logon screen, or when you hit CTRL+ALT+DEL. Sigh.

Oh, and should you boot it again (maybe a driver required a reboot before you’d tested what you needed to test, or you’re feeling needlessly masochistic when writing your blog), you’ll not see the login screen; you’ll see a pretty picture of a road, with a clock in the corner. What must you do to it? Wiggle the mouse? Click? No! You must drag it upwards as if you were opening a blind. Really, Microsoft?

And just in case you’d not got the message, it enjoys using fonts that are so large you have to step away from the screen in order to see a whole word at once.

I know that Windows’ user interface has been made steadily worse ever since Windows 2000, but this is shockingly awful. I have no idea what they were thinking.

OK, that’s a lie. I know exactly what they were thinking. It’s just painfully, obviously stupid. I don’t know why they were thinking it, though.

It took a long time for people to figure out that desktop PC UIs really don’t work on small, touch-screen devices like tablets or ‘phones.

But this is the painfully, obviously stupid part: my desktop PC isn’t a tablet or ‘phone. It’s got a 32″, non touch-screen display, a mouse, and a keyboard. So why on earth would it want the same user interface as a small, touch-screen device with few (if any) hardware buttons? Two completely different devices, with completely different uses, with different means of input and display?

It took a long time to figure out that using same UI didn’t work one way round. Why in the seven fucking hells would it work the other way round either, you utter, irredeemable morons?

For crying out loud.

I can’t even see how it would work on a tablet. The screen o’ squares can’t do anything useful, so you’d still need to run Explorer to install or use programs. The built-in “apps” (they do not warrant the extra -lication-) for the new UI run fullscreen, and don’t give you any kind of menu or anything; the only way I’ve found to escape them is to hit the Windows key on the keyboard. A tablet without any hardware buttons would be pretty stuffed, wouldn’t it?

Ugh. I’ll keep the new Explorer, that’s fine, but can we just kill the whole “Metro” thing and have the Windows 2000 Start menu back, but with the Vista/7 search box at the bottom (but not enabled until you press a key, so shortcuts like Windows key -> U -> Enter still work)? That would be nice. Thank you.
Or you could just rip out the entire user interface and return everything to exactly as it was in Windows 2000, and then never, ever touch any of it ever again. That would also work, and probably be for the best. Having a UI that stays the same forever is much better than having a “better” UI that changes every five minutes; I will be able to use the former on autopilot. The latter, I will always be learning, getting lost, and being uncomfortable.

Still, I did my testing, and it turns out that not only did my installer work first time (amazing, it’s like the development environment’s list of dependencies knew what it was talking about), but – to my slight surprise – programs written in Visual Basic 6 worked with no problems at all. I suspect that that will turn out to be more of a curse than a blessing; they really could do with being ported to something vaguely modern; but it saves me a long, hard, tedious job in the meantime.

And that is all I wish to say about Windows 8. Hopefully Microsoft’s hegemony will have ended before I need to use it properly.

In the evening it was time for regime change at the gym. No more the aim of 500 kCal used; now I intend to use as many of the weight-lifty contraptions as possible, then finish off with about 300 kCal on either the treadmill or the uphill step-trainer thing (I’m good at names, aren’t I?), just to keep me in practice. The aim, of course, being building muscle rather than burning fat.
Because this meant less aerobic exercise overall, I thought it was also time to start taking the long route when jogging home, rather than the short one; a mile, rather than half. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t manage the whole thing without walking on my first attempt, but that’s almost the point, so we’ll try again another day.

Then I ate a crème brûlée. Mmm.

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