Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Windows 8 and Elementary OS 0.2





Three months ago my current workstation was a slow hulking monster. It was taking forever to boot and literally crawling in between reboots.
I was frustrated with Ubuntu. Unity was the synonym for awkward desktop that tires you just using it. It was like my $4 Blues headset that was a pain over the ears despite its above average sound. Startup of over 1 minute and shutdown of another minute. Add to that I wasn't able to use sleep with Ubuntu - mostly it would screw up WiFi and sound. On a bad day it did hung my lappy into permanent sleep. Had to remove the battery to revive it. So no trusting it. Lots of wishing that someone would fix it, but even after 4-5 iterations and the sleep remained just the same deadly. ScaryBuntu!!!
Windows 7 has also aged quite some and it was also acting up like an old crone that has all the youth sucked out of it. Truth is Windows 7 was the best of all windows. It was stable, it worked, didn't ask you for crap that you don't give a damn about. But then you load a crapload of programs on it and invariably it starts showing. It takes 2-3 minutes to boot and if you need to shut it down then it goes 3-4 minutes. It especially sucks if you switch between OSes as often as I do being multi-platform developer.
So the quest was to setup something that would be light to boot and faster than the aged horses I had on my hands. I found one half of the pair in the form of elementary OS. I started with the developer build, tested it for couple of weeks on my hardware and found that it actually kicked major ass. So after some tweaking and murmuring prayers and of course some crashes I had half the base covered. I have upgraded that build twice since then, the latest being Luna Beta. Its just awesome. Starts in about half a minute and shuts down in 4 seconds flat.
The second wheel for last 3 months had been win 7 - the aged horse and it had been dreadful. So I quickly got my hands on the Win 8 pro version to see how much kick ass it is. I had read a bit about Win 8 and it has received attention as well vista like praise too. But one thing I came to know that it's supposed to be faster than win 7. In fact supposed to be a lot faster than win 7. So with all these expectations and hope I installed it. The experience has been mixed bag so far.
#1 Win 8 is only marginally faster than Win 7. I have startup times averaging half a minute for a laptop with Pentium B960 processor and 2 GB of RAM. Mind though, no heavy programs yet. And shutdown times are also around half a minute which tells me that when I go full on assault on applications this windows is also gonna crawl.
#2 The supposed to be Not-Metro Apps and NEW Start menu or screen whatever MS calls this. Looks like a gimmick. It as the only interface would make more sense on a tablet. On a desktop its just confusing. And it takes more time to browse for apps. Luckily application search is something that MS got right. So I'm using Unity like keyboard searches for apps. The whole UI seems kinda half-ling. There are some metro elements popping up on desktop here n there. The dialogs appear faster and the animations are great eye candy. But it all feels inconsistent. And this inconsistency is present everywhere. We have a metro settings app as well as control panel. And the stuff is divided between the two. That's kick ass confusion.
#3 Some small life saving touches. Upgraded windows explorer. New copy dialog with pause button. New metro style task manager. Hot corners are better on a tablet or desktop with mouse. On a laptop they are pain in the arse to use.
#4 Can a desktop and tablet UI be ever merged?
Its a million dollar question. Tablets are completely different than computers. They are held near eyes. They are handhelds while a desktop is not. You need to approximate the user input considering finger input for tablets while on a desk top user typically has finer control using mouse. On a laptop also a touchpad works pretty well. The so called touch mice are a gimmick. For most users these gestures mean more learning and complexity. I don't  want to generalize but yours truly has never bothered with gestures in all the browsers. I personally like clear easy to access menus and a UI which is WISYWYG. This Thing about discovering things would suck for general users. Because most of them tend to overlook what's presented to them right in front.
From workflow point of view Win 8 doesn't cut it. Its not intuitive. It feels like MS should have gone with a separate touch shell. But only time and the general user will tell what is to stay and what not!!!

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