Software // Operating Systems
Commentary
2/8/2012
08:24 AM
Paul McDougall
Paul McDougall
Commentary
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8 Features That Could Make Windows 8 Great

Microsoft's next OS is loaded with features like eight-second boot times and better file management that could make it the best version of Windows since XP--if the company can pull it off.

Windows 8 represents the biggest redesign of the Windows operating system since Microsoft gave the OS a big overhaul with Windows 95. That effort introduced the Start button, Taskbar, and other now standard icons. Windows 8 goes even further.

Users will have the option to ditch the long familiar Explorer interface and work in Metro mode, which effectively turns a PC into a tablet or big smartphone. There are lots of other big changes in store--here's a look at some of the more significant ones that Microsoft has confirmed to date.

1. Live Tiles.
The most notable change in Windows 8 is the addition of Live Tiles, the cornerstone of the Metro interface. Borrowed directly from Windows Phone, Live Tiles are blocks of screen real estate that display real-time information, such as the number of new messages, from content sources like social networks, e-mail, and news feeds. Metro was built with touch in mind, and it's an indication of how serious Microsoft is about making Windows 8 as at home on tablets as it is on the desktop.

[ How sound is Microsoft's strategy in bringing Windows Phone features to Windows 8? Read Microsoft Windows 8 Unification Plan: Grand, But Risky. ]

2. Faster, Prettier Boot Ups.
Microsoft knows that Metro and Live Tiles alone won't be enough to make Windows 8 a player in tablets. It needs to be a lot faster than its predecessors when it comes to booting up. Microsoft promises that Windows 8 systems will fully boot in just eight seconds or less.

To display more advanced graphics during the boot cycle, Windows 8 relies on new technology called the unified extensible firmware interface (UEFI) for BIOS. UEFI lets Windows work in concert with PC makers' firmware to render visually consistent graphics, such as artwork or vendor logos, through the entire boot cycle. Gone are the DOS characters that appeared during the boot cycle of earlier Windows versions.

3. Fewer Restarts.
Windows 7 gave users a number of options for update notifications and installation. Users could elect to have updates installed automatically or opt for notification when an update was available and choose to be notified only before installation. Those who chose to have updates installed automatically could elect to have the update occur at a predetermined time, or installed as soon as it was available.

Most of those options will remain in Windows 8, with one big difference. Users will only be asked to restart their PCs so that an update can take effect once per month--on patch Tuesday. That's usually the second Tuesday of each month. There's one exception--critical security patches will trigger an update request immediately.

4. Secure Boot.
In the age of highly organized attacks by hackers and privacy thieves, booting doesn't only need to be fast, it must be secure. With that in mind, Microsoft developed a boot process called Secure Boot, which is designed to prevent malware from infecting computers during startup, before Windows and all of its built-in security features are launched.

Secure Boot works by confirming that all components contain the appropriate security certificates before they are allowed to launch. To meet Microsoft's Windows Certification requirements, PCs and tablets must ship with Secure Boot enabled. It can be turned off by the end user in PCs, but not in tablets.

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ANON1242824982399
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ANON1242824982399,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/7/2012 | 3:57:35 PM
re: 8 Features That Could Make Windows 8 Great
If Microsoft REALLY wants to make some money - and make Users happy at the same time (what a concept!) - they need to figure out how to do a straight upgrade from XP to Win 8 without wiping out everything and having to reinstall everything. If they are able to make that happen, the general User community (and IT professionals) will be all over Win 8. I run my business from the house and I had finally considered taking the plunge and moving to Win 7 - even though I would basically have to rebuild my entire software system. (Generally, I take the path of "if it's not broke, don't fix it!) If Microsoft can fix this shortcoming, I will gladly wait for Win 8 and be an early adopter!
No-one
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No-one,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/11/2012 | 11:38:48 PM
re: 8 Features That Could Make Windows 8 Great
there's a really cool see-though black thing that pops up from the IE bottom/top when you go near it, or press a button. What is it and how can I get it back?
YMOM100
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YMOM100,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/10/2012 | 11:53:27 AM
re: 8 Features That Could Make Windows 8 Great
1. Live Tiles are only useful for apps that have a wee bit of dynamic content. So for the most apps there is nothing live about tiles, they are just ++bersized icons that work well for touch, but flop for everything else. Especially after adding a few to the metro desktop you end up scrolling the whole time, which pushes some if not all of your live tiles off the screen. A small section that stays in the same spot relaying the desired information is the way to go, as we already have with the task bar apps.

2. Faster boots were so far achieved by running the test systems with SSDs. While the boot will still be faster, how about an instant on feature and load what is needed when it is needed or when the system has capacity to do that. Nobody cares about prettier. What we do care about is a real boot manager that is no longer ignorant to other non-MS OS.

3. How about no restarts unless I want to change hardware. Linux can do that!

4. Secure boot has to show how secure it really is. As it looks right now, it is more a tool to cut off the competition at the hardware level.

5. Better WiFi, nice, but since it takes forever to then attach to network shares the time saved there doesn't matter. Why was NT and W2k so much faster when it came to browsing and attaching network resources - WiFi or not?

6. Factory reset will, based on how it is described here and in other places, also wipe out all Windows updates. What is the benefit in wiping the system to a point where it is less secure? Microsoft should do what VM vendors already can do, keep the areas for apps and OS separate and merge on the fly to make it work like one system. That way updates are preserved and the OS portion gets regular backups.

7. Unless it comes to speeds that I can get with TeraCopy this is a dud. What I want to is copy, not have Windows first think for eons how long it will take to do this just to give me timings that are always wrong. Who cares how long it will take, tell me the progress and I decide if it goes to slow or not. Already know the size, count the bytes going out, show me a percentage in text. Don't use progress bars, they are incredibly slow due to the frequent screen refreshes.

8. Runs on XP hardware....like Vista on the early Vista ready systems. By the way, what does Microsoft consider XP hardware? A Pentium II with 450 MHz and 512MB RAM and a 256 PCI graphics card? Runs XP perfectly fine....
UberGoober
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UberGoober,
User Rank: Strategist
2/9/2012 | 6:49:05 PM
re: 8 Features That Could Make Windows 8 Great
The new UI makes any other improvements useless. If I have to spend weeks learning where things are that I can now find quickly. having a full-screen sidebar (that's pretty much what Metro is) won't ever repay me for my pain and frustration.

Give me a button that puts EVERYTHING back where it was in XP, or even Win7, and I'll consider it. Otherwise, its just another Office 2007 and Tool Ribbon.
occabot
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occabot,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/9/2012 | 12:52:42 PM
re: 8 Features That Could Make Windows 8 Great
I tried the Windows 8 developer preview, downloaded from Microsoft I backed up my netbook, and then let the new OS install and wipe out everything. Ok, so it booted fine, and saw my wireless network. I typed my password, and it wouldn't connect. Tried multiple times, and it would never connect. I realise it's a Beta, but this is unacceptable. I can install almost any current Linux OS, and it always finds my wireless, and connects immediately after typing my password. Amazing considering Linux is supported by computer enthusiasts, yet Microsoft's experts can't create a driver to allow an Acer aspire to connect (this computer has been out for quite a while). I will stick with XP and my Linux variants. This preview is a disappointment. Let's see if the final release will be any better.
VasyaPupkinsan
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VasyaPupkinsan,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/9/2012 | 11:26:50 AM
re: 8 Features That Could Make Windows 8 Great
No. 1 is stupid. I hate jumping and dancing icons on desktop. Clowns.
Fill
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Fill,
User Rank: Strategist
2/9/2012 | 7:19:40 AM
re: 8 Features That Could Make Windows 8 Great
9) Is Open Source.

10) Isn't patent encumbered.

11) Isn't produced by a company that's run into the ground by Steve Ballmer? ;')
ThePrisoner6
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ThePrisoner6,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/8/2012 | 7:53:59 PM
re: 8 Features That Could Make Windows 8 Great
One more feature I would consider to be highly desirable would be a file system that doesn't require daily defragmentation. Diskeeper is a nice solution, but if the problem didn't exist in the first place, it would effectively lengthen the useful life of most hard drives by eliminating repeated and unnecessary disk accessing.
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