Windows 8: Will You Be Pleasantly Surprised?
The run-up to Windows 8's release (tentatively in October) has made everyone nervous -- or excited -- depending on how one feels about radical changes to the world's most popular operating system. As pundits probe the beta versions of Windows 8, surprise features and Microsoft policies are greeted with delight or dismay. Here are some of the current rumors surrounding Windows 8...
Surprises in Windows 8
When I first heard the "Windows 8 won't play DVDs" rumor a few days ago, I immediately assumed it was bogus. But actually, it's true, strictly speaking. In order to save on software licensing costs (about two bucks per copy), Microsoft has decided to eliminate DVD playback support on the basic version of Windows 8. The "codec" required to play a DVD movie is patented, and every device that wants to (legally) include DVD playback must pay a licensing fee. Windows Media Center won't be included, either. To get DVD support and Media Center, users will have to buy Windows 8 Pro or download Media Center Pack.
Microsoft's rationale is that more Ultrabooks and tablets are being made without optical drives, and it would be unfair to make everyone pay for things that only some can use. That does make sense, and it should be noted that Windows 7 Starter and Home Basic editions didn't support DVD playback, either. I wouldn't worry too much about this surprise; vendors will be sure to bundle Windows 8 Pro with any computers that feature optical drives. But I'm pretty sure the difference in cost will be a lot more than two bucks.
One alternative is to download the free VLC Media Player, which offers DVD playback capability. VLC is a French company, and skirts the patent licensing issue by claiming that software patent licenses do not apply to them, since French law does not recognize software as patentable. So does that make it legal for citizens of other countries to download VLC? Hey look... a butterfly!
On the plus side, Windows 8 users will finally be able to capture a screenshot and save it to a file directly. In previous Windows versions, the PrtScn key would capture a screenshot to the Clipboard, and one would have open a graphics program such as Paint, then paste in the image in order to save it. But in Windows 8, just press Windows key + PrtScr to capture the shot and open a dialog that allows you to save the data in a PNG file.
Refresh and Reset
One really cool surprise is the Refresh function built into Windows 8, which restores your computer to a designated state of your choosing. The System Restore function in earlier versions does much the same, but System Restore Points may be lost if your machine runs out of space in which to store them. The Refresh function creates a permanent Restore point that mirrors your ideal system configuration. By default, it's the factory installation of Windows 8 and OEM software.
But you can also get your system just the way you like it -- remove crapware, install the apps you do want, make sure there's no malware, customize the settings, themes, wallpaper, etc. -- then create the restore point for the Refresh feature. So if ever find that your computer is bogged down with unwanted software, toolbars, or malware, just click Refresh and you're back to good in about 8 minutes. All of your documents and other personal files will be preserved in a Refresh operation.
A related new feature in Windows 8 is Reset, which will return your system to its "factory fresh" state. Unlike Refresh, a Reset will wipe out your files and any software you've installed. Reset is more drastic, but it's just the ticket if you want to wipe the proverbial slate clean, before selling or donating your computer. (You'll have to buy your own pine-scented dashboard hanger, though.)
More Surprises in Windows 8
Administrators, geeks and tweakers will be pleasantly surprised by the new, faster access to system management tools baked into Windows 8. A whole menu of system tools is just a right-click away from the main menu.
Mozilla and Google, however, are not so happy. They charge that Microsoft is trying to lock competing browsers out of Windows 8 and its table-focused derivative, Windows RT. Windows 8 will support three application types: Metro, classic desktop, and Metro-enabled desktop browsers (MEDB). A MEDB browser need only be installed once and it will run in Metro or traditional desktop mode. But Windows 8 will only allow your default browser to run in both modes, and of course the default browser will be Internet Explorer.
Yes, you can designate another default browser such as Firefox or Chrome, but we all know how lazy some users are. Furthermore, Windows RT will not give non-IE browsers access to APIs (software interfaces) that are necessary for optimal performance, placing them at a serious disadvantage compared to IE. There may be another anti-trust dustup in store on these issues.
Let's end on a happy, money-saving note. According to unnamed sources inside Microsoft, users will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for only $15, if they buy a Windows 7 PC after June 2nd. And unlike discount offers in the past, this time the upgrade to the Pro version of Windows 8 is available no matter what version of Windows 7 you have.
We are still months away from the final release of Windows 8. More surprises are sure to come. If you have any Windows 8 rumors to share, or just want to sound off, post your comment below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 18 May 2012
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Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved