The Windows 8 Experience

Since about one month, I am using a new computer, the Dell Vostro 3560, and with a new operating system, Windows 8. This laptop is not my dream equipment, but I have to live with financial cuts at my university. I was able to get a 512 GB solid state disk (SSD) and 7 GB of RAM, which makes it run smoothly enough to satisfy my needs. The Vostro has quite an efficient passive cooler, so you won’t hear it in normal operation. The form factor is compact and slim, which means on the other hand that extreme loads will start a somewhat louder cooler. So this is not a machine for gamers or if you need a server. For such purposes, you should buy a desktop machine.

The Vostro also does not have a good display. My usage is such: I transport the laptop from home to office and plug in my screen (a huge 19:10 screen), the keyboard and mouse, the power chord etc. I have everything twice, so I need to transport the rather light weight laptop only. That meant that I use the display only for the classroom, and there the resolution is limited by the beamer anyway. So the bad display does not worry me. I use another a small netbook for travelling, and often for the class too.

Let us talk about Windows 8. It was not installed on the Vostro when I got it. Installing provided absolutely no problems. It helps to replace the hard disk.  I did that with the SSD. If anything fails you can go back easily. Moreover, you can plug the old disk into a case and transfer files from it. There are two problems remaining: You need to recover your passwords, the ones that the browser fills in automatically, and you need some drivers. The default drivers of Windows 8 work, but you will want to exploit the full potential of the machine. On the Dell site, however, you can find Windows 8 drivers. In spite of that, the finger print scanner is still not working. I suggest to solve the password issue by either writing down the passwords on an encrypted file or on paper, or by using a software like Keepass.

How does it feel? For me, it feels overwhelmingly positive. The SSD together with Windows 8 make booting a new experience. It feels rather instant, and in fact you are ready to go in less than half a minute. The 7GB of RAM frees Photoshop and other software, which you can leave running in the background now. The silent operation of the Vostro is a pleasure to have.

What about the start screen? I actually do not worry too much about it. Once you view this screen as a large and easy to use replacement of the start menu, you will feel at home. I have installed a start button too, but I use it only rarely. The main problem I had with the start screen is the missing „recently used programs“ list. I was addicted to this part in the old start menu. To compensate, I fix the programs I use most often to the task bar. That is easy to do and easy to undo.

I read about Windows 8.1. But the „improvements“ that Microsoft promises do not impress me. Microsoft may have to offer this due to pressure from users who do not feel at home. But probably just a few tiny improvements might do.

As a final remark: Currently, I never apps. If Google Mail was an app or the Google calendar, I might use it. I would also welcome Feedly as an app. Since you can run the Chrome browser either in a window or in an app, I have chosen the window. For Facebook and Twitter users, the apps might also be a nice thing. But I am not using an app right now.

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