Windows 8 RT feels like Windows on ARM. Microsoft would be wise to embrace that.

I just got the chance to play with a Surface RT tablet, and I’m actually feeling much more positive about it. My understanding was that RT devices would pretty much only run Windows-Store, aka “Modern”, aka Metro apps, with cursory access to the desktop.

Turns out, Windows RT CAN run desktop apps. It has notepad, it has calculator, it has the command prompt and the administrative command prompt. Office 2013 is a desktop app on RT. It would appear that the infrastructure for windows desktop applications is alive and well on Windows RT, but Microsoft has taken steps to prevent us (us being developers) from using it.

This will inevitably change. Whether Microsoft condones it or not, people will figure out how to compile and load windows apps on ARM. (I’m REALLY hoping Microsoft provides a permitted way of doing it…, but I’ll take a jailbreak if necessary)

 

When Microsoft allows people to freely develop and install apps of all kinds on their Windows 8 devices (ARM or x86), Windows may just reach the holy grail of platform independence… on their flagship desktop operating system.

 

I’m really hoping they realize how huge this could be – sure they make a lot of money taking a 30% cut from the Microsoft Store, but restrictions and fees will only slow platform adoption. Restricted, closed platforms is the norm on tablets. An open, familiar platform… THAT would be game changing.

 

Keeping my fingers crossed…

How to Activate Windows 8 Enterprise (and Enter or Change the Product Key)

Wen you install the version of Windows 8 Enterprise from MSDN (and I presume TechNet), it assumes you will have a KMS (Key Management Server) in your domain.
When you try to activate it will fail (unless you actually do have a KMS…) – I saw errors about KMS and missing DNS names.
Lastly, there appears to be no way to enter or change the product key to the one provided by MSDN.

The solution: you have to change the product key using the command line:
Open an elevated command prompt, and type the command “slmgr.vbs /ipk ” followed by your MSDN / TechNet product key.

slmgr.vbs /ipk AAAAA-BBBBB-CCCCC-DDDDD-EEEEE

After a few seconds you should see a popup window letting you know the product key was successfully installed.

Note: this is based on the instructions here: http://social.microsoft.com/Forums/zh/genuinewindows7/thread/ce677eb0-7d97-46d6-81df-a05dca1c2b85

In my case, this immediately removed the “Activate Windows” overlay as well as the desktop watermark with the version and build number.

The problem with Metro

I’ve been using Windows 8 as my primary OS since the Release Preview came out. I have been trying to like it. I’ve defended it to detractors. I might have even changed a couple people’s minds about it – point is I should be a best case scenario for accepting it. I even tried to like the “Metro” school of thought. Minimize the extra fluff, go “chromeless,” design first develop second, create immersive apps…

Reality is a harsh mistress.

 

The reader app was the first victim. Out of the box, Windows 8 has a PDF viewer that is a metro app. If you click a link to a pdf in a web page, BOOM! IMMERSIVE READER! (caps are appropriate – the Reader is jarring and obnoxious). Try as I might to like it, as soon as I actually wanted to get work done in any reasonable timeframe, I installed Adobe Reader so I could have multiple PDFs open at the same time, flip back and forth between the documentation and the application and easily work with text. Install non-metro app, productivity increases significantly.

The next casualty was the Photo Viewer. Believe it or not, I don’t always want to see a full-screen immersive viewer when I open a photo. If I am trying to quickly find the right screenshot in a folder containing a bunch of screenshots, the last thing I need is a big full screen viewer to cover my workspace… File association changed, problem solved.

How about the start screen – just a different way of looking at the Start Menu, right? Perhaps, if I could still shift-right-click to run as a different user (you don’t run your desktop OS with a domain admin account, right?); or if I could open multiple instances of an application (if you attempt to run notepad when notepad is already running, it just activates the existing window); or if I had a list of the most recent apps, or if I had jump lists, or if I could pin frequently used documents. The Start Screen is a poor replacement for the Start Menu. I ended up using Run more often than the start screen. Hello Windows XP… goodbye efficiency.

So I finally figured out how to fix all the productivity issues: switch back to Windows 7.

What it all boils down to is a matter of efficiency. For the “typical”, casual user Windows 8 should be great. For a Mac user, Windows 8 should be great. For your grandparents, Windows 8 should be great. For a tablet and a phone, Windows 8 should be great.

For a power user on a desktop PC, pretty much all Metro components of Windows 8 will slow you down even after you get used to them.

That is the problem with Metro

Client Hyper-V Issues in Windows 8 Consumer Preview–Release Preview Update

Update: After having all kinds of stability and performance issues with VirtualBox on the Win8 Release Preview, I decided to try Client Hyper-V again. Guess What? They fixed the networking issues!! Your clients can now use bridged networking without MAC address conflicts. There is still no graphic acceleration, having it installed breaks other virtualiztion software (although a quick bcdedit can fix that temporarily). I have modified things below accordingly.

 

If you were considering ditching VirtualBox for Client Hyper-V in Windows 8, well don’t do it just yet (unless you are having problems with VirtualBox). Enabling the Hyper-V hypervisor has performance and stability issues with host applications, there are all kinds of issues with the networking, it just doesn’t perform all that well, and there is absolutely zero graphics acceleration. And if you enable it, other Virtualization software will not work right.

If you remote desktop into your VM you can at least get sound, but on my relatively well endowed machine, the remote desktop was sluggish – more sluggish than RDP over the internet.

Despite Hyper-V being a low-level hypervisor, VirtualBox is blowing it out of the water in all respects. The networking is rock solid, performance is screaming(something changed from CP to RP, or some updated in VBox, cause the performance hasn’t been so hot), and you get sound and 2d / 3d acceleration(This doesn’t work at all on my machine) (Oh, and you don’t have to boot to an IDE drive)

Hopefully some of this gets worked out in future releases

Using three monitors with Windows 8 CP

Windows 8 gets rid of the Start button for a “hot corner” approach – peg your mouse cursor to the lower-left corner of the screen and you get access to the “Start screen.” It actually works pretty well, and is easier / quicker to reliably “hit” than the old start button. Likewise, the lower corner provides access to search and other options.

 

 

But say you have more than one monitor?

If you have two – it’s not really so bad. As long as the main display is the one to the left, and your second display is to the right – the right-side corners are easier to hit (Especially since there is actually a button on the right side)

image

 

But suppose you have three? And suppose you want your primary display to be in the middle. Suddenly the hot corners become unusable. Presently there is no solution that makes all corners work well, but you can at least get your lower-left “start” corner working better with a little “nudge”:

image

In your monitor setup, bump the side monitors up just a tad (you can click and drag to reposition them). The consequence of this is that windows that span monitors will not line up, but at least you can actually hit the start corner…

 

I would argue that in many ways the Windows 8 Consumer Preview does a decent job of integrating the touch and mouse input methods… as long as you only use one screen. But seriously, who does that anymore?

Windows 8 File Copy Progress Window

image

This window alone is about enough to make the Windows 8 Consumer Preview worth the trouble. What you cannot see in the picture is that the line and speed are updated realtime (faster than once per second). The graph makes it very clear when something causes the copy rate to slow down. It’s awesome.

Uninstalling Windows 8 when using UEFI

So you went ahead and dual booted the Windows 8 Developer Preview with your Windows 7 machine, but decided you don’t want it anymore. There are lots of instructions online for how to remove it when you are using a standard boot, but if you are using UEFI your life is much simpler. (I’m not going into detail since if you figured out how to dual boot, you probably can handle a partition or two)

Using Disk Management, delete the volume for your windows 8 installation. Optionally, expand the volume for your Windows 7 install to get the space back.

If you want to speed up the boot process a bit, Open the Advanced System Settings (rt click Computer, Properties, Advanced System Settings), click Settings… under Startup and recovery, and make sure the check box next to “Time to display list of operating systems” is unchecked, (and that Windows 7 is the default operating system).

 

All done! No need to edit the BCD when using EFI boot, it appears that windows automatically removes the windows 8 entry when you delete the partition. (I ran bcdedit just to check)