Loading the Real

by Dick Sandlin


I've been an early-adopter of Microsoft products since the preWindows, MS-DOS, days when we did everything on the command line and Xerox Parc had yet to invent the mouse. It's been a checkered past with many frustrations with new versions that broke our existing comfort zones. Windows 8 is a good example of such in a new version. It's a step into the future that will stretch us to adapt. One day, though, we will look back and laugh at our grumbling the same way I do now about the objections to moving into the Windows world and giving up the DOS days.

What's all the fuss about?

The primary difference that Windows 8 introduces is the idea of running the same Operating System on desktop, laptop, tablet, phone, and even some yet unforseen platforms ("One OS to rule them all"). In order to do that, compromises have been made that ruffle some of our feathers. The changes are not really that huge, but this is the first attempt and it's still a little rough around the edges. Newer versions will polish those rough spots, but there will be no going back; so we might as well learn to adapt. There's little point in exclaimations like, "I'll never use a mouse! The keyboard is all I need to enter commands!"

You may need a VPN tunnel

My first attempt to purchase Windows 8 was thwarted because the subcontractor that handles the purchase kept refusing my credit cards. All 3 cards I tried were valid, but it wouldn't take the American Express cards (though it said it would). When I used a Master Card, I got further but it kept refusing on the last step. Grasping at straws, I tried a 2-hour free sample of ibVPN's tunnel to move to Los Angeles and the card went right through. I received a Product Key and started the installation only to find that it estimated a 3-hour download. (Remember that the VPN was only good for 2 hours.) I decided to let it complete and to my surprise it finished the installation without a whimper about my location. I did have two problems after the installation, however. I couldn't access the Windows Store and couldn't update the signatures for Windows Defender. So I broke down and purchased a $5/mo VPN from ibVPN and repeated the download without having to pay again (since I had a good Product Key).

[Note: Mac was able to purchase Win8 without a VPN by using a local BCR credit card. Apparently, your location must match the origin of the card.]

Download the media

My experience so far has forced me to reload the installation only once (my own fault), but that taught me to accept the option to download the system into an ISO file before beginning the installation. I burned the ISO file into a DVD and now I have a copy of Windows 8 that I can install repeatedly. But installations on a different computer will require the purchase of a new Product Key.

It's not like Release Preview

I've been using the Windows 8 Release Preview for some time now and I was surprised to see differences immediately. The gadgets that I had imported from Windows 7 (a clock and a speedometer to show system activity) were gone. After restoring my wallpaper and trying a few things, I saw that Aero wasn't working. Aero is the feature that makes the borders of windows translucent. Both of these have been mentioned in the writeups as features that were deleted from Windows 8, but since they were still available in the Release Preview, I was surprised by their absence. Another absence was my collection of toolbars. When I loaded Release Preview I was expecting the worst, but my toolbars with icons for all of my apps were faithfully reproduced at the bottom of the screen and they all still worked. Not so in the actual release. The toolbars were still on the disk and I was able to restore their position on the screen, but the icons no longer worked because the directories to which they pointed had been overwritten. Fortunately, none of these differences was a deal breaker for me.

[Note: I noticed later that my toolbar band at the bottom of the desktop was still translucent, so I guess that part of Aero survived after all.]

Reloading your apps

Even though I selected "Save my personal files" in the installation, that didn't save my applications. The Windows 8 installation creates a directory named "Windows.old" and moves primary directories from the old Windows into it before creating new program directories to replace them. Since my system is 64-bit, the two main folders affected are "Program Files" and "Program Files (x86)". The toolbars that I mentioned above were still very useful to me in restoring functionality to my desktop because they served as a checklist to make sure that I didn't miss anything when it was time to reload my apps. For most apps, I had kept a directory of downloaded installation files, so it was simple to execute them again to repeat the installations. Others required reinstalling from the web. For a few I had to copy files from "Windows.old" into the appropriate new folders to restore them. I caution against yielding to the temptation to simply redirect the old shortcuts to the Windows.old directory to restore them to function. The reason this is bad becomes clear if you do a second installation of Windows 8 and it wipes out your Windows.old directory with a fresh copy of the previous installation's Windows 8 program files. The only problem remaining is that Win8 couldn't find a driver for my microphone, which connects through my six-year-old motherboard. I might be able to hunt one down, but I'm too lazy to tear my computer apart to get the numbers off the board. Thankfully, the speakers work even though they are plugged into the same motherboard (go figure). Fortunately, I recovered the function when I loaded the app for my camera; so now I'm using the microphone in the camera. I'm still debating whether to buy a new sound card to accomodate my regular microphone.

If you have a question or comment about Loading the Real Windows 8, send it to the club president.

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