[A] Windows 8.1

This post originally appeared on an old blog on 26 Oct 2013. It’s part of a series of posts which I’m “recovering” from the archives.

I assume I had just upgraded my PC to Windows 8.1. It seems that past me was somewhat impressed, after the lackluster windows 8.

[edited lede 2019]

Windows 8.1

So… Windows 8.1. Where to start?

How about we start at the beginning [saying “start at the new start screen” would have been too obvious]. The installer. The terms and conditions page [which I attempted to read] contained URLs, or web links, which you can’t actually use unless you’ve accepted and installed the system. So there’s that. A pretty major problem.

The privacy settings in the installer seemed a bit odd. Some of them had a sensible on position by default, and some were not turned on. Not quite sure what’s going on there, but OK. The defaults are better than some I’ve seen elsewhere.

The metro UI:

The start screen has some new backgrounds, and you can set your desktop to be one of them. Pretty neat stuff, although one minor issue is that if you change backgrounds all your colour preferences get overridden. No big issue. Speaking of which, there are lots more colours to choose from, which is very nice to see. Also, the new “all apps” screen seems to do the job nicely, although there is a noticeable delay in waiting for the button that opens it to load onto the start menu.
The settings app now looks a lot more organised, and integrates a lot more of the features of the computer, which is good. It’s much easier to see what everything is doing now.
Snapping is easier than ever, plus you can have more than 2 apps open at a time! 3 apps at a time. 3 is more than 2, but that’s your limit for now. This is very useful, I must say. I have noticed though, that some apps don’t support some of the sizes you can choose, and have some letterboxing. This is more of an issue for developers, though.

The Aero UI:

The taskbar has a start button now. I had just gotten used to the idea of it not being there any more, but now it’s back, uglier than ever. It goes all black when you mouse over it. And given that my taskbar is at the top of my screen this isn’t very useful for me.

The built-in apps/functions:

So the mail app has been given an overhaul. While a bit jarring to get used to, it does seem a bit nicer. I had to disable the “social updates” nonsense, because that just sounds terrible. A pro tip: if you often use folders for sorting them, use the “star” icon next to them, so you don’t have to keep going into the folders menu each time. Something I don’t understand is the need for “favourites”. I don’t understand what purpose this functionality serves. hmm.
Messenger seems to have been removed completely in favour of skype. Not that I used either of these very much. Hopefully this means we will se some development into making skype more feature rich, then? [hint: adding irc as a chat option?]
Search. Now It’s worth noting that i have bing fully disabled, and even then the search function still works very well. While not delivering web search content, it shows me every single thing I could find useful. Take the example search “opera”. The charms menu displays the opera web browser first, as i expect, with some other junk. Clicking the suggestion “Opera” in the list takes me to a screen filled with everything related to opera on my computer. Even the opera twitter account, which i assume comes from integration to the “people” app. All in all, very good.

Major Issues:

The only major issue I’ve come across thus far with the upgrade is that your oblytiles will be erased, so make sure to export them beforehand, unlike me who forgot and is now stuck with a fairly empty start screen. It’s also worth noting that any oblytiles will look like internet explorer shortcuts if you use the zoomed-out start screen, or the all apps menu. This is purely to do with how oblytile manages it’s shortcuts.
Now, my graphics card has always been a bit temperamental, but after the update I have seen wackier and wackier things happening. Clearly they’ve done some updates in that department and I’ll recommend you check to make sure your drivers are up to date. (This is not a windows 8.1 issue, per se) though.

Miscellaneous Improvements worth mentioning:

The bug I have experienced with dragging apps from metro taskbar to the start menu seems to be fixed, which is nice to see. Also, I have seen many apps running moderately faster than they were on windows 8.
There seems to be a new security option, offering people to use a “pin” to log in. This doesn’t seem as safe as the apparent randomness of a picture password, but I guess it’s good for people on mobile devices running w8.1.

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