Windows 8 Preview
I will have to admit that it was with some trepidation that I installed Windows 8 onto an old laptop that I have had lurking around for a few years. This laptop is what I call my 'scarificial laptop' in that it can be formatted and have an OS dumped on it with no loss of data. It's purely there for specific testing that needs a piece of hardware.
At first, I thought i would be clever and install it over the network via the windows deployment server that has served me very well recently but no joy with that as the deployment server doesn't support WIM files from Windows 8 or Windows 2012. Nope, for that you'll need the newer Windows deployment toolkit (which was in beta when I first penned this) and is probably part of Windows 2012 as a feature.
I have not had the opportunity to test Windows 2012 to see if it's version of the Windows Deployment Server will be able to handle Windows 8 but it's certainly on the 'to test' list as it will also provide the first 2012 server in my environment with a decent task. I didn't try any third party tools so cannot say if they will be suitable for deploying Windows 8.
So, after that false start I opted to go the old fashioned route and burn a dvd and install from that which worked perfectly. The install took around an hour but this was from dvd to an old laptop which whilst it has 4GB of RAM has a rather old processor.
Once Windows 8 was installed it connected to the 2003 domain flawlessly and before long I had a fully working windows 8 box with the much discussed.
There has been a lot of negative talk around metro and after using it both to see what it had to offer and 'in anger' and I didn't find it too bad. Searching for apps is fairly intuitive certainly it would have been better if my laptop was one of the newer touch screen ones it may have been even better thanks to the oversized icons but overall it was usable and if you are used to keyboard shortcuts such as Ctrl-Esc then you'll have no issues with Windows 8.
A lot of the issues with Metro seem to be around this absurd notion that its only possible to run one application at a time. Now any 'proper' metro app that is run does take the full screen and there is no way of shrinking it much like an iPad type application but also like an ipad application metro apps can be loaded at one time and one of those metro apps is 'desktop' which provides a windows 7 style desktop complete with task bar but not start button and the normal ctrl-esc key combination to activate the start button will instead bring up the metro screen. Typing in this search does a basic search for an application based on whatever name the shortcut has.
During testing of windows 8 most of applications worked first time so I was able to use it run rdp sessions, putty sessions, web browser sessions via firefox as the built in, metro enabled internet explorer had major issues connecting to another other than bing so web management of things like avocent kvms and netapp filers was right out.
The big issue I had with the metro front end was with just how many applications required a Skydrive account, for example, I clicked on mail hoping for an outlook express type configuration wizard to pop up but no joy, I just got this:
The pictures library was also a huge dissapointment, I was hoping that I could point it to a URL or UNC path and let it read the images in there but nope, it requires them to be in the local pictures library:
The weather application worked perfectly once I told it the location and I have to admit that I found it a very neat and powerful application, a real shame the others didn't work the same way:
The other thing that gave me a shock was the task manager - it's certainly changed!
Overall, I do like Windows 8. I do think it needs to be a bit more network aware especially for things like the picture library and it should also allow for things like the mail icon on the metro front end to be replaced with Outlook or something else otherwise it's just wasted screen estate.
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