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.

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