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Windows 8 install and test drive: Welcome to Microsoft's brave new world

Loyd Case | Aug. 16, 2012
I’m writing this on an Asus Zenbook UX31A at a Peet’s Coffee on Steven’s Creek Boulevard in the heart of Silicon Valley. In an adjacent table a man and woman have papers spread out on a table, talking in hushed tones, with the word “Apple” occasionally audible.

Office 15 Preview Installed

I followed up the Windows 8 installation by installing the Office 15 preview. Windows 8, Office 15, and SkyDrive make up the three legs of the tripod that shores up Microsofts new vision of computing. Office 15s SkyDrive integration when running under Windows 8 seems much less sluggish and more organic than under Windows 7.

After installing Office 15, I encountered one more issue: the touchpad. The Zenbooks Elan touchpad supports edgedetection, but Windows 8 saw the touchpad as a Microsoft PS/2 Mouse.

Using the touchpad in this mode is a pretty terrible experience. The touchpad lacked any advanced features--no multitouch gestures or palm detection.

I hit up the Asus website, where I found actual 64-bit Windows 8 drivers for the Elan touchpad. After that, usability went up considerably, though it's still not perfect. Palm detection seems to go in and out. Multi-touch gestures work great, but edge detection only works some of the time.

One key problem for me in this installation is that Cicsos AnyConnect 2.5 VPN client software wouldnt connect to PCWorlds corporate VPN. Some Internet searches uncovered possible solutions, but none seemed to work. So while I can write on the Windows 8 system, Ill have to post it from my desktop system. Since Im saving this to my SkyDrive, grabbing the file from another system is simple.

After installing software, the Windows 8 user interface screen became cluttered with tiles. Tile sizes seem to vary and, while there may be some logic to the organization, it's not always esthetically pleasing, as shown below.

The Usability Experience

While the touchpad worked reasonably well after installing the new drivers, I carry around a Logitech Anywhere MX mouse for most normal use; I've never been much of a fan of touchpads. Windows 8 recognized the Logitech Unifying receiver after inserting it into the USB port, and I was mousing away in short order.

It didnt take long to realize how seriously improved the responsiveness of the mouse has become. Charms, sidebars, and Windows 8 UI features popped up with no lag. Clicking on items offered similar immediacy. In fact, the mouse experience is so improved that the user interface formerly known as the Metro UI didn't get in the way nearly as much.

You're never more than a couple of clicks away from the desktop, if you prefer that, but the desktop seems almost extraneous now. More often than not, you can get to any important running app just by moving your mouse to the corners. In fact, the single tutorial tip you're given during the Windows setup process is to tell you to move your mouse to the corners.

 

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