Computers / Mobile Tech / Smartphones / Technology

TRICK or TREAT? – Windows 8 is Knocking


Microsoft’s argument to why eyes are the ‘Windows’ to the soul.


“Something wicked this way comes.”


Upon first impression, the above phrase sounds more like a cryptic warning from everyone’s favorite vertically challenged green Jedi than the title of a Ray Bradbury novel.  Alas, due to the creative – yet incoherent – youth of this planet taking all negative words and giving them a positive spin via slang, the expression can indeed have a double meaning if applied to the latest major revision of Microsoft’s bread and butter computer operating system, Windows 8.


Before I delve into whether the statement above represents what the ‘cool kids’ deem as cool or a nerd’s or a nerd’s worst nightmare, let me first preface this blog by saying I am NOT an Apple person.  It’s true when it comes to eating them (with the exception of the pie) and it’s true when it comes to using them.


How much is that ‘Apple’ pie in the ‘Window’? (Get it?… Get it?!)


Ever since the day when a notebook was actually something you wrote – get this – notes in, and desktop computers required the entire U.S. Olympic weight-lifting team to transport and setup in your home, I have been a Windows nerd.


I have nothing personal against the fruit-based company or the people who refuse to even glance at a device that doesn’t start with a lowercase ‘i’.  I also have no intention of starting a World War 3-type debate over which software is better to play solitaire and watch adult videos on (as we all know who wins in both of those categories.)


Where the most important suit, is your Birthday suit!


My preference for Windows-based devices started years ago, when I was just coming into my own geekiness as a young teen.  I loved the ability to build a computer of my choice from scratch and then spend more time trying to get all the parts to work together than actually using it.  Logically, by the time I got everything working in perfect harmony, each part was three generations out-of-date and it was time to upgrade each component again.  It was a vicious yet life-shaping experience.


As I’ve grown older, I’ve decided I’d like to transition to technology that’s less work, but still offers more flexibility and choices than the religious walled garden Steve Jobs has created.  Enter Windows 8.


Seems Microsoft has deep enough pockets to to bring Picasso back from the dead to design their new retail boxes.


Just about every Windows 8 article you’ll find online these days is written by a tech-head whom provides an elaborate 74,000 point-by-point argument of why you are better off taking up life with the Amish than upgrading your computer.


I’m going to make life simple and give you the three overly simplistic reasons number 8 could be great:



1)      “It’s alive!…  It’s Live tiles!”

Sure it looks like a mess, but it’s an incredibly up-to-date and informative one.


Say goodbye to icons and hello to ‘Live Tiles.’  Windows 8 marks the single most drastic change in the software since it’s existence in that it offers a brand new application environment with a Tetris-like grid of colored tiles that (based on app functionality) can display ever-changing information on the main start screen without having to even open the app.  It all changes on the fly… live.  Hence the name, ‘Live Tiles’.


Think of it like an Android widget wall, but organized.  While the artless grid looks like it was designed by a preschooler (or Paris Hilton), how you customize which apps are displayed and where is up to you.  If you have any interest in upgrading, the video below is required viewing… trust me.


Ok, ok, the guide is Uncle Fester’s nephew and it’s a bit dry, but it really explains the pros of Windows 8.


Visual styling being subjective, the technology itself is very impressive (again, see video demo above).  Like it or not, and regardless of it’s initial success, Windows 8 is going to set the stage for how we interact with our gadgets moving forward.


Cranky curmudgeons of change need not worry though, as my reference to ‘goodbye icons’ was just me trying to create an overly dramatic introduction.  The full versions of Windows 8 that most people will typically buy with a new laptop or upgrade to, will include the traditional ‘desktop’ interface we have all used for the better part of half a century.


Calm down everyone, your precious desktop is still there.


*NOTE:  In all it’s illegal drug induced wisdom, Microsoft decided we no longer need the physical ‘Start’ button that is traditionally located in the lower left corner of your screen.  Thankfully, some companies such as Stardock and Pokki (not to be confused with the little yellow animated rabbit thingy) feel otherwise and have developed replacements that are free and easy to install.



2)      “When I think about you, I Touch my (screen).”

“Wait, but I need one hand free for… oh well, back to Windows 7.”


With the success of iPads, iPhones, Androids, and self-exploration, touching stuff has never been more popular.  Although it’s attempted unsuccessfully on a few occasions, Microsoft has never been able to make all the tiny squished together icons and menu options of the traditional Windows desktop experience touch-friendly.


With the new Windows 8 UI (the name just scream sex appeal), Microsoft has built an interface from the ground up that is accessible for all fingers, even Michael Moore’s.


This video makes me want to dance, sing, and touch stuff (the tablet… perverts) all at the same time!


Simply put, ‘Live Tiles’ were just meant to be touched, and the apps that are created specifically for the new interface are all designed for your greasy little fingers.


*NOTE:  If using the traditional ‘desktop’ interface of Windows 8 with a compatible touchscreen device, your mileage will vary as old school Windows applications and menus are still created with mice and touch-pads in mind.




3)      “PCs, Tablets AND Phones, oh MY!”

One big happy (and expensive) family, awww…


As mentioned, Windows 8 isn’t just your new run-of-the-mill update.  While throwing the software on your current computer will provide some performance benefits, Windows 8 was meant for a new breed of machinery… that you can touch (see # 2 above).


To celebrate Microsoft’s new threads, PC manufacturers such as Dell, HP, Sony, Samsung, Nokia, HTC, and many others are releasing a new generation of hardware aimed at ‘touching’ your bank accounts.


Luckily I have insurance, because Microsoft is about to put a serious dent in my wallet.


Even Microsoft is getting into the hardware game with their highly anticipated tablet called the Surface.  With a built in kickstand and magnetic cover that actually can be used as a keyboard, it has some unique hardware design right out of the box that even the current “i” standard bearer lacks.


“i” what now?


Since a picture doesn’t do the device justice and a video is worth a million more words than a picture, check out Microsoft’s blatantly biased – and catchy – ad that shows off the hardware tech sweetness that is Surface.


Clickity-clack, I now want that! 


Windows 8 is also simultaneously making a splash into the smartphone market, and hopefully this time more than five people will know about it (which is roughly how many people bought Windows Phone 7).


Nokia plans on blinding you with color, in addition to science.


So what’s the big deal?  Well for the first time, Windows 8 users will be able to start syncing all of their their devices’ content to the cloud (even via the XBox 360) ala similar services offered by Android and Apple.  Microsoft’s own storage center floating above us, appropriately named SkyDrive, will be a huge part of this endeavor.


Joining in on the fun will also be the fledgling Windows Store, where all of your Windows 8 Apps will be available for download in exchange for some more of that hard earned credit card space.


Its a far cry from 40 billion, but “if they build them, we will buy”.


*NOTE:  My reference to the Windows Store is indeed a store where the new UI style apps can be purchased.  These are in no way associated and are entirely different than the traditional ‘desktop’ apps that you may already own or continue to purchase separately for ‘full’ functionality.


In spite of all of the benefits I’ve laid out, there will be many who are afraid to leave the confines of their static icon-based tranquility (aka traditional Windows Desktop, Apple, and Android).  Not making life easier is Microsoft itself. In what as always seems to be the case with Windows, is releasing a few versions of 8, specifically within the tablet / hybrid PC sector of the market, which will undoubtedly cause some confusion.


Why do I smell another rotten lawsuit in the works?


To try and help clear up some of that confusion, check out this fairly straight forward link explaining some of the differences between the different versions of Windows 8.  If you learn nothing, don’t blame me, I just work here.


I’ll be the first to admit, change is not for the faint of heart nor is it for those that are not willing to be pioneers to a new way of doing things until that ‘thing’ has become mainstream.


Finally someone can say, “You can look, but you CAN touch.”


Sink or swim, Microsoft has suggested it’s time to change the way we interact with computers.  Mainstream users may undoubtedly wait to test the ‘tricky’ waters of the unknown, however millions of other brave and tech-savvy souls are going to dive into the Windows 8 waters head first.


What am I going to do you ask?  Let’s just say that Geek Outlaw plans on “treating” himself by going for a swim.


A Surface in my pumpkin this year would make this the best… Halloween… EVER.



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