My Windows 8 update experience as a web designer / developer
Earlier today, I was running Windows 7 ultimate with bitlocker enabled and a full suite of graphic design, web development apps and servers.
I read in the news today, that the it was the last day for the Windows 8 promotional upgrade pricing, so I bit the bullet and decided to upgrade not knowing if everything would work.
The Windows upgrade assistant program actually tells you what has issues before installing, and it was fairly accurate.
However, an in-place upgrade is usually always fraught with some kind of issues, and this upgrade did have its share of problems.
It appears that Acronis True Image 2012 is not compatible with Windows 8 and you are asked to uninstall it before upgrading. I uninstalled it, and then after I found Windows 8 was working correctly, I purchased an upgrade license to the 2013 version. It was a reasonable price ($30), but it felt like a rip off since it's nearly identical to the previous version.
Bitdefender 2012 was also incompatible, but they offer a free upgrade to 2013 version fortunately. Their software is more a subscription service then a one-time fee since you need to get continuous antivirus updates.
Photoshop CS5 had some crazy flickering, black images, and other artifacts with it's opengl hardware acceleration when doing simple things with layers, zooming and resizing. It turns out there are driver issues causing this which are still unresolved. Adobe doesn't claim that CS5 is compatible with Windows 8, but it does work, which is great news since I don't see anything in CS 5.5 or CS 6 that I need and it's not cheap to upgrade. If you go into advanced settings on the photoshop performance preferences, you can set the mode to "basic", and it will function better. I made sure to update to the latest ATI drivers as well, but that didn't help. Perhaps if you are using a different brand GPU, you may not have this problem.
ISC Bind was no longer installed as a service after upgrading. I had to reinstall that. I use bind to have my own local DNS test server.
Oracle Virtualbox was working except for the bridged adapter network feature. I had to uninstall and then re-install Virtualbox to get this feature back. It is now working just as it did before. I run my linux test environment in Virtualbox and I definitely needed this feature.
The Brother laserjet printer software complained that it need to be reinstalled several times in Windows 8 even after it was upgraded and working fine. I found I had to manually disable the start-up item for the ControlCenter tasktray feature. The installation process didn't wipe out the incompatible software from windows 7 for the printer and uninstalling it didn't help.
The new Windows Start Screen (Also known as Metro) is really quite excessively huge. While it seems really great if you are going to browse through media and use Microsoft's new store interfaces, it seems like it just gets in the way when you are trying to do normal windows tasks. It is not very much different from using the regular start menu, but it is excessively big and more jarring to be having such a large screen and big icons appear. I'm used to using the small icons with small text instead. It feels slightly inefficient to have to have big icons. Of course, you can still pin your apps to the taskbar, and avoid using the new start screen most of the time.
The new task manager has several options you need to enable in order to get access to the data you used to have. I prefer to see the individual CPUs instead of 1 overview of usage. So I have to right click and enable the logical processor option.
Most of my other apps didn't have any issues. Some of them I had to define my preferences again, but many of them were preserved.
Now that I have Internet Explorer 10, I'll probably encounter new bugs in our web sites since for the last several years we've had to make several hacks for Internet Explorer to look right, but now in IE10, it is actually more similar to firefox and chrome. There isn't much to say about Internet Explorer 10 - Just that I hope it doesn't have it's own share of crap to deal with.
The apps that we use to have in windows 7 that were connected to windows live, seem much nicer in windows 8. However, I'm unlikely to use them since I prefer to use more better third party tools for everything. Thunderbird and Photoshop do most of what the built-in apps offer. After just a few minutes, I found the new animated tiles on the Start Screen annoying. Fortunately, it's easy to remove all of them. Perhaps some developers will create more useful widgets in the future, but it doesn't seem useful to me as a desktop user. If I even buy a tablet with Windows 8, I'm sure I'll appreciate those features.
Perhaps the most disappointing news was that my windows smart card login software EIDAuthenticate seems to be incompatible with windows 8 - or at least the free version is. I have sent an inquiry to the developers to see if the paid version has fixed the problem. I experience "remote procedure call failed" when using my smart card to login. Sometimes it works, and other times it forces windows to automatically restart. I had to uninstall the software until there is a fix available. I can still use my smart card for email and server authentication, but not for protecting my windows login. Bitlocker still has a pin required for the system to boot, so the smart card was just adding another layer to the protection and it's not critical since I'm just working at home. The paid version of their software is about $69 euros, which is not super cheap, but not unreasonable. Smart cards are great if someone steals your computer. It makes it even less likely for them to be able to recover your data, since they'd need your password for the smart card, but if they didn't have the smart card, then it wouldn't be possible. This is a great way to protect a computer that sits at your office which you leave there when you go home.
Windows 8 is supposed to be faster, but it's hard to tell since I'm already pretty fast due to using a SSD drive for the OS partition. Perhaps people using regular spinning hard drives will notice a bigger boost. For now, I'll just have to assume things are happening with less resource usage then before.
I love to be an early adopter of new software. Many people in the mainstream say bad things about new software and create a lot of hype, but the reality is that there are hundreds or thousands of people working hard to make software like Windows better, and you are short-changing yourself to be working with older versions for a prolonged amount of time. There are gains in productivity, stability and security which you can only find in the newest version of most software. I'd recommend upgrading to newer versions of Windows (including Windows 8) as soon as you can!
So there it is. After 2-3 hours, I'm running Windows 8 and it's not causing my any further grief - At least not yet!
Update on February 3rd: I found out that my smart card drivers actually break the "Run As Administrator" feature in windows 8. I wasn't able to fix this even with reinstalling windows 8 from scratch. Now I have to unplug my smart card everytime I make a change to the system folders like when installing a program. I also can't use the card for windows logon because of this since it crashes windows 8.
It is not uncommon for you to need new drivers when a new operating system comes out, but I'm not sure if that will happen in the case of my Feitian epass2003 smart card. I have posted a message on the forum where I bought the smart card to see if there is a chance for it to be fixed. This affordable security device came from europe and the developers may or may not be actively working on it.
I found an annoyance with how the new start screen works. I posted a message on microsoft answers about this:
It seems windows 8 is pretty solid other then my smart card issue. It hasn't crashed or had other issues that have occured in at the beginning of previous releases of windows. I'd say it's higher quality on the initial release then windows vista and windows 7 were. I had a great deal of trouble with crashing, bios and drivers in those os when they first came out.
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