Windows 8 Review

For years, I've been saying "Whenever Microsoft makes one thing easier, it makes two things harder." I'm going to have to stop saying that.

Microsoft doesn't like getting beat. Microsoft especially doesn't like getting beat by either Apple or Google.

Microsoft is getting soundly thrashed in the Smartphone market by both Apple and Google.

Microsoft's previous efforts at its Smartphone operating system, Windows Mobile, had always been to make the Smartphone look like Windows on a desktop computer as much as possible. Its thinking, no doubt, was that everyone already knew how to use Windows on their desktop computers, so they would feel more comfortable using a Smartphone that looked just like it. The latest version of Windows Mobile is a significant departure from prior versions, which may or may not be a good thing, but Microsoft's persistence at keeping Windows Mobile looking like Windows on the desktop remains. This time however, the effort has been to make Windows on the desktop look like Windows Mobile, instead of the other way around.

The past several versions of Windows on the desktop have tried to minimize the clutter that accumulated on the Start Menu, culminating with Windows 7's requirement that programs must be "pinned" to the Start Menu or Taskbar. Windows 8 does away with the Start Menu altogether, replacing it with a Start Screen instead. This Start Screen contains tiles for each App. (If you thought your Start Menu was cluttered now, you ain't seen nothin' yet.) You can still get to the desktop (it has a tile) but once you've run the Desktop App, you'll find that there's no Start Menu. When you put the mouse pointer in the lower left corner of the desktop screen, a pop-up will appear allowing you to switch back to the Start Screen. This is an amazingly complex way of configuring a computer, and requires considerable effort and customization to make useable, the result of which will undoubtedly be that no two computers will look alike, and administering those computers will require substantially more time and effort.

The Start Screen has some Apps that can only be run from the Start Screen, and while some of the Apps will run inside of the Desktop App, others won't. As a result, if you want to switch between two Apps, you may find that you must keep going through the Start Screen to do so. In addition, Internet Explorer is available either as an App on the Start Screen and as a Pinned Application on the Taskbar of the Desktop App, and if you've opened webpages in each of them, you must go through the Start Screen to switch between the two. (Only from the mind of Microsoft ...) (... with apologies to Minolta.)

Also, every guide to workplace ergonomics says that you should keep your monitor about an arm's length away from you. Windows 8 wants a "Multi-Touch" [] touch-screen monitor, but to use it, you'll have to keep your arm outstretched. The idea may be ok for a smartphone or tablet, where you'd be holding it with one hand and operating it with the other, but for a desktop computer, this will put quite a lot of stress on a person's shoulder. (I wonder what the shoulder's equivalent of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome will be.)

Lastly, if you don't have an Internet connection, don't bother. It won't work. And if you don't have a Microsoft (Live, Hotmail, etc.) e-mail account, it won't work either. For some reason, it won't work unless Microsoft has two ways to get in touch with you, and one of them must be with a Microsoft e-mail account. Also, if Windows 8 can't determine your location, about half the apps that come with it won't work. I don't know what people who value their privacy and security are going to do.

My advice is that, if you think you'll need to buy any computers in the near future, buy them now before all you can get are ones with Windows 8 on them.

In closing, I found lots of things that Microsoft has made harder in Windows 8, but I've only found a few things that are easier. So from now on, I'll be saying "Whenever Microsoft makes one thing easier, it makes ten things harder." I don't know how accurate that is, but I suspect that I'm being generous.

Microsoft Windows SBS is a Ripoff

The retail price of Windows Small Business Server (SBS) is about $65 more than Windows Server. Both products come with 5 Client Access Licenses (CALs), but additional CALs for Windows Server cost $40 each while SBS CALs cost $90 each. Windows SBS requires more RAM and a faster processor than Windows Server, so the hardware is more expensive. Symantec Backup Exec for SBS costs $1003, but the QuickStart Edition of Backup Exec for Windows Servers comes free with many tape drives.

All you really get for your money is a bunch of TeaseWare that adds no real value except the TeaseWare versions of Exchange and SQL Server. SQL Server, even the TeaseWare version, requires a seperate server, and many off-the-shelf applications (ACT!, Dynamics, etc.) that can use it will run as well (for small offices) on SQL Server Express, which is a free download, and is often distributed with the application. And SQL Server Express can run on a Domain Controller, so you don't need another server.

As for the TeaseWare version of Exchange, if ever there was a function that should reside on the cloud, it's Exchange. Hosting your own Exchange mailboxes requires considerable additional maintenance tasks (like, for instance, when a user drops a Blackberry in favor of an iPhone.). In addition, in order for Exchange mailboxes to be available outside the LAN, the server must be accessible on the Internet, which makes the server much more vulnerable to known and future threats. Hosted Exchange is much more secure, flexible and useable than hosting your own, and if you feel the need to do your own backups of Exchange mailboxes, there are multiple ways to do it. (My favorite is Easy2Sync for Outlook.)

The biggest cost of SBS, however, is on the backend.

With Windows Server, you connect the new server to the LAN, add it to Active Directory, promote it to domain controller (updating the existing forrest as necessary), replicate everything, demote the old server, remove it from Active Directory, and disconnect it from the LAN. This is a relatively simple, straightforward process, much of which can be done during normal business hours without adversely affecting normal operation. In addition, much of this can actually be performed remotely.

Replacing one Windows SBS server with another is quite complex and tedious, and that's if your old server and new server have the same version of SBS. If your new server has a later version, not only do you have to upgrade the old version on the old server, but you have to reinstall the new version on the new server. And that's before you can migrate any data or settings. Plus, the process is quite disruptive to the organization's normal operation. (You should probably plan to work through a three day weekend.)

Utilities - Operating System "Enhancements"

Today's operating systems are tremendously complex beasts; it is surprising that they work at all. Anything you do to add levels of complexity to the operating system will undoubtedly reduce its reliability. Even if it might provide you with some useful function that is not available by other means, I strongly suggest that you refrain from installing it.

Screen "Savers"

Screen Savers are not. Your screen doesn't need to be saved.

Screen savers were created to prevent a single image from "burning in" to your monitor. The burn-in effect was apparent with the old "Pong" video games that people used to connect to their TVs. After playing Pong, they could still see the game court when they were watching Bonanza.

Monitors don't burn in. I've been working with computers since 1980, and the only monitor I ever saw with an image burned in was in a government office; it was an IBM PC XT with a Hercules graphics adapter and a monochrome display, and was only used for running Lotus 1-2-3. It was turned on every Monday morning when it loaded 1-2-3, and was left on until the following Friday evening. After 5 years, you could see the row and column headings when the monitor was turned off. That's the only monitor I ever saw with an image burned in.

Know what? Nobody cared!

The only function of any value which screen savers provide is the security aspect of their operation. If you get up from your computer, a screen saver can keep casual observers from looking at what's on your screen.


There was a small company, not too far from us, a general contractor, whose two person office was getting along fine with a PC-XT and WordStar. The husband created draft documents in longhand, and the wife typed them into the computer, and all is well. They had been able to do anything they needed to do just fine, and she had the time to learn everything there was to know about WordStar.

The problem was that the wife has had to come back to the office because the husband couldn't hire anybody who wanted to work on WordStar. The last employee he had left to get a better job where she could keep her job skills current. He couldn't even get his children to work in the office part-time.

You don't always have to jump on the latest upgrade as soon as it comes out, but you should plan to implement it before your people see their job skills eroding. Upgrades don't have to be disruptive, and they can be seen by your staff as your attempt to get them the best tools to do their jobs.

© 2013 T C Solutions, Inc.
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