Windows 8 Upgrade Experience

In 2007, I bought a Dell Latitude XT because I wanted a computer I could use on the couch. Really, I wanted an iPad, but those were a couple years away.

I never used it that way because Windows XP Tablet edition wasn’t much of a Tablet edition. Neither was Windows 7.

But Windows 8 appears to be more of a tablet edition.

Is use a Windows 7 machine at work, and a Macbook Air at home. I generally prefer Windows 7 to OSX, and each platform has its strong points.

The fact that Microsoft released Windows 8 at $40 was low enough of a threshold for me to buy it for my old Latitude XT.

Some things have gone quite wrong, and the upgrade experience has been highly time consuming.

Here are the steps that I’ve gone through. Trouble spots are far more notable pleasure spots because one “I can’t proceed with anything at all” far outweighs a few “Well this is nicer than before.”

  • Purchase Experience
    • My purchase appeared to be from Microsoft, but the email labeled the seller as some unknown company in California.
    • The welcome email had a bunch of German in it.
  • Download and Install Experience (Friday 9 pm – 1 am)
    • I only have a 32 gb SSD in this machine. It takes a ZIF drive, and nobody has ever made ZIF drives that are comparable to 2.5″ drives.
    • The Windows 8 install helper required me to free up 5 gigs of space.
    • Once I removed a bunch of files, I freed up 5.1 gigs and started the installation.
    • After ~4 hours, the download was complete, I was uninstalling everything I could and the installer seemed to be about 20 minutes from starting.
    • I killed a process called “web-config” so I could uninstall Adobe Flash (Yippee!)
    • The installer crashed.
    • Restarting the installer had the required step of buying the product again.
    • The web was no help. This was release day.
    • I had to call Microsoft support.
    • They didn’t open until 11 am on Saturday.
  • Call to Microsoft (Saturday 11 am)
    • The hold time was under a minute
    • If my representative was not US-based “Angelo”, he may as well have been. He was great.
    • Angelo directed me to this website to download the Windows 8 installer that wouldn’t require “purchase” as a step:
    • That got me on my feet again.
  • Run the new installer (Saturday 11 am – 10 pm)
    • I fired up the new download and left for the day.
    • When I got back around 8 pm, this installer required 20 gigs free.
    • I tried deleting everything I could, but couldn’t get more than 9 gigs free.
    • After fiddling with some of the options, I found one that moved the installer to a USB drive.
    • This took 2 attempts and about an hour.
    • Running the installation within Windows 7 still required 20 gigs free.
    • There was no indication I could boot from the drive, but I altered the bios and tried anyway.
    • It worked.
    • Windows 8 installed in about an hour, and I reformatted the C drive.
  • Windows 8 setup (Saturday 10 pm)
    • Everything seemed to go pretty well with the configuration.
    • The importing of Flickr, Facebook and Twitter sources was nice.
    • The common apps within the Windows marketplace went well: Netflix, a Twitter client, mail.
    • The synchronization of those accounts in a separate area was redundant, but integrated more soundly than any other platform I’ve experienced.
    • I started fiddling with tiles, and found some of the experience very nice before it became frustrating.
  • The Drivers and Common Tasks
    • It literally took me 3 minutes to figure out how to reboot the machine to apply updates.
    • The only resolution option is 1024×768.
    • The ATI drivers from Windows 7 don’t detect their own card.
    • I’m using a Microsoft basic display driver from 2006.
    • My native resolution should be 1280×800, and everything is blurry.
    • This Dell has a touch screen. Windows 8 doesn’t detect it.
    • The Dell installer for the touch screen from 2008 fails immediately.
    • The Dell display driver from 2008 is three times as big as the ATI driver and two years older. I tried anyway. This took ~10 minutes, and failed immediately.
    • I tried again later, and it worked.
    • Browsing both folders and trying all the .inf files as a manual driver override all failed.
    • Internet Explorer doesn’t run as a Metro app. Retaining that experience would be the ONLY reason I would switch from Chrome. I do enough stuff that requires Webkit that there would be no reason to switch other than beauty and rewarding novelty.
    • There is an interesting integration with my Microsoft Live account. I used to use MSN Messenger exclusively, but then more and more spammers were my main interactions there, so I went exclusively to Google chat.
      • Microsoft syncs with my Live account deeply, so deeply that it’s my machine login. That’s weird.
      • I can’t disable the account. And I got hit up by a spammer using some Asian characters.
      • It’ll be interesting if this revitalizes the Live platform.
  • The fun bits
    • The video camera recording software is far and away the best I have ever seen. Your video is full screen. Clicking ANYWHERE starts and stops the recording. The “Recording Active” indicator is a counter. Perfect. This is the only task this machine has had for the last year, and now it can do a far better job.
    • There was no installation of the web cam. It immediately worked. I was braced for the common driver hunt, but pleasantly surprised. Brilliant.
    • The internal wifi in Windows 7 would stop working after about 10 minutes of usage. So I had a USB wifi adapter with a big cord. In Windows 8, it’s stable. Huzzah!

So, I have a down-resolution laptop running Windows 8. It’s touch-capable hardware on a touch-capable OS, but the hardware and OS don’t agree that the touch-capabilities are there. So I’m now orphaned.

These are the critical failures that have led me to the path where I just spent $40 on webcam software that took 5+ hours to install, rather than considering buying new hardware that is running Windows 8, and that my Windows 7 setup on the same hardware was better (except for the webcam software, and stable Wifi):

  1. The post-purchase emails were unprofessional.
  2. The web installer didn’t have a method to recognize that I’d already purchased it, and allow me to skip that step.
  3. The backup web installer required 4x as much free disk space
  4. The experience of getting the display drivers working was bad, and I can’t believe it worked. (Ubuntu rocks at this)
  5. There aren’t drivers that allow me to use the touch interface (these work in Ubuntu right out of the box too)
  6. The installation process takes an hour (Ubuntu is far faster)

All of those things could have been fixed by Microsoft before launch. Microsoft should have known that they scrimped on the install tools and purchase process and had people logged into chat 24/7.

The only thing that should be working, and isn’t, is the NTrig touch interface.

At the end of the (two) day(s), I’ve enjoyed learning the new interface. It has potential.

But the pitfalls have cooled me enough to the device that it will likely continue as a webcam recording device and not graduate into my gateway drug to Windows 8 computing. Without those hiccups, I would be far more prone to attempt to make this my primary machine, and more deeply explore all the other Microsoft offerings.

But Skydrive, Live, Bing, Bing Maps, etc, I’m probably not going to fiddle with this operating system enough to dive into your live tiles. Hold the UX and execs over the Windows 8 installation responsible.

Gowalla: Why I Use It, and Prefer It to Foursquare

Gowalla is a mobile check-in application, and a competitor to Foursquare. It’s something that I didn’t understand at first glance, much like Twitter, and have come to appreciate immensely, like Twitter.

This is essentially a reasoned sales pitch from someone who is invested from the standpoint that I’m a user, and nothing beyond that.

How I Use It:

Like all social networks, Gowalla can be used in different ways. It is often marketed as a game, but I don’t get that. I use it primarily as a sticker book. Everywhere I go, when I check in, a stamp is placed in my “Passport” for that place. Looking back at my passport is a nice way for me to be able to re-live trips and adventures.

For example, today we took a family trip to Uptown Dallas to ride the trolley. We took a camera and had a lovely day. I used Gowalla to check in at the Transit Bike Company, Cafe Express, Cityplace Trolley Stop (created) and North Dallas High School. Anyone connected to me in Gowalla could have seen those check-ins real-time and if they were in the area, we could have met up.

The main value to me is the ability to augment my memory of today by looking in my Gowalla history to better remember today, especially to add context to some of the pictures that I took with the real camera.

Now that more of my contacts are actively participating in it, it’s fun to be able to share in the travels of my contacts. One of my contacts is involved with college sports and travels quite a bit. It’s fun to see where he is going in more detail than the selective posts to Facebook.

Gowalla also makes it easy to share your experiences with friends who don’t use it by adding easy integration to Facebook and Twitter.

Felix fell in a fountain today at Cafe Express.  I took a picture and could have uploaded it to Facebook directly. Instead, I added it to Cafe Express’s Gowalla spot, and shared it to Facebook. By using Gowalla to post the photo, it is inherently real-time and location specific, which automatically provides more context than I could have via Facebook directly, because even if I had stated “At Cafe Express, Uptown Dallas, right now”, I could be lying.

The ease of posting pictures/location status updates that easily, with that much context makes it more likely to share things that I may not have thought of, or taken the time to before.

Why I Find Gowalla Preferable to Foursquare

Mainly, Gowalla is prettier in all aspects. Pretty things are more fun. It has custom icons that have a certain cache for marquee spots. It’s easy to navigate and understand. People have profile images that are easier to process than their name.

The experience is far less cluttered. Foursquare doesn’t feel as thought out or polished. It encourages over-checking in through it’s point system that increases with every check in you do during the day. That sort of quantity over quality diminishes the application for me. The abusers of Gowalla stick out like sore thumbs. Lance Klien and Skip Norton, I don’t like all the clutter you’ve put all over Dallas by checking in everywhere. In Foursquare, that sort of behavior is encouraged far more than in Gowalla.

Gowalla integrates features intelligently, in a well thought-out, well-executed way. They have recently added the ability to attach photos and comments to “spots”, comments on check-ins, and for extra slides to come after check-ins. The extra slides seems to be the main way that Gowalla is integrating advertising. Today, after checking in at the Apple Store, I got a link to Twitterific and a custom item for them. It was  a nice little perk that made me feel better about Twitterific.

It’s not that I have any bad feelings about Foursquare, it’s just that the application of Foursquare is more haphazard. Foursquare has found the one of the best tones to communicate with their user base and their founder, Dennis Crowley is a cult of personality who comes across as both an expert and fun.

I strongly dislike the concept of “Mayor” in Foursquare. That title goes to the person who has checked into a spot the most. To me, it encourages over-use bordering on spam. Also, with Foursquare pushing perks for the mayors of places, it’s going to be worse. At the Las Vegas Hilton, there is a sign stating that the Mayor of that hotel gets something special, a discount or something, I don’t even remember. How is that relevant at a hotel? Does the Hilton now need a policy where employees can’t check in there leaving the Mayorship to some local who is the Vegas equivalent to Lance Klien, the Dallas-based Gowalla over-checker-inner? It is irrelevant and sloppy. I much prefer Gowalla’s individual rewards. At SXSW, I won a free taco, along with a bunch of others at a taco stand across the street after a lucky check-in. It felt like a great reward, and there were several other happy Gowalla users at that taco stand redeeming tacos. If the Mayor of the taco-stand got a discount or perk with a purchase, I can see how that may be appealing to just them, but not a larger user base. To me, the Mayorship is exclusive rather than inclusive.

The haphazzardness of Foursquare feels fun, like anything is a possiblity, but it doesn’t match the applied uses that Gowalla does. So, if you have an iPod Touch, iPhone or any Android device, I recommend Gowalla. Please add me. I’d love to see what you’re up to. Search “Ben Guthrie” and I should come up.

Feedback is welcome @benguthrie

If the only point of competing is to win, what is the point of competing at all?

Watching the Olympics Athletics competition (Track and Field in the US), it’s striking the difference in attitudes that different athletes have.

By far the most fun athletes to watch are those who celebrate their finishes, and see victory in the places where they do place are my favorites. Sally McLellan and Richard Thompson finished second in their events and celebrated like it was the best thing ever.

The problem with sore losers seems to be that expectations become an entitlement, and that there is no plan B. Sayna Richards and Jeremy Warnier  were disappointed with their medals, and just soured the proceedings. There is also no excuse for the attitudes of Jen Stuczynski’s coach, who acted like her performance killed puppies after she finished second to someone who set a world record.

If the only point of competing is to win, what is the point of competing at all? The best case is to be relieved that you won. The worst case is all other cases, because you didn’t. That’s a pretty miserable scenario.

So, now dead to me: Rick Suhr, Jeremy Warnier, Sayna Richards, and Brazil’s crying fuutballing women.

The persistance of that attitude may be why there is not more adult sport participation in the US. it’s the attitude I had when running the 800 and 1600m as a freshman in high school. I went back and read my journal, and it was full of misery and fear even as I was experiencing the thrill of winning races. Winning was a great thrill, but it was always more relief than elation.

The joy should be in a competition well played, and modified only marginally based on placement. Or at least, that’s this Ben Fact.

Update: Carolina Kluft was the best heptathlete in the world from 2003-2007. By far. While she did it, she was a live wire, joking around with the other competitors, dancing, being an entertainer. In early 2008, she decided it wasn’t fun anymore, so she stopped. This exemplifies the mentality that I think is ideal: love to compete first, love to win second.

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