Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Nightmare that is Windows 8

I recently installed Windows 8 for the first time. Have to say it was an absolute nightmare. It took a long time, had some real eye-opening WTFs, and had a dastardly hardware incompatibility.

The system was an Intel G1620 with an Asus P8B75-M. It had been happily running various flavours of Linux, but I was passing it over to my wife to use, and the demand for Windows had come with it.

Installation Summary

The high(?) lights:

  • Only boots with the UEFI option. This is more informational than anything, but the motherboard needed to be set to this option. Newer motherboards may have this as the default now.
  • During the installation, it appears to require a Microsoft account just to use the OS. This was a real WTF moment for me (call it the "Facebook effect" perhaps, the insidious attempt by companies to force encourage everyone to create an account with them to do anything, when there is no value added for the user to do so). Fortunately, there is a workaround as Scott Hanselman details here. Basically, you click "Create a New Account", and the option to avoid creating an account appears in that step. Intuitive!
  • Something broke during the first install. This was the real "nightmare" part.

Windows 8 is People Broken

The event during install was a hard lock up (almost at the end, of course :/). The hard lock required full power cycle, and afterwards the machine refused to boot (not surprising, since installation didn't complete properly). But it also wouldn't repair afterwards, despite taking as long in the repair as the initial install took. In both cases it brought up the new-look blue screen of death (the "unhappy face" screen) with the error "CLOCK_WATCHDOG_TIMEOUT".

I reinstalled Linux to make sure it wasn't a hardware fault -- everything seem okay. I updated the motherboard BIOS (which reset the SATA devices from AHCI back to IDE, which prevented the UEFI boot until I switched them back).

In frustration, I reinstalled again. This time I unchecked "downloads updates from the internet during installation". This time, Windows 8 installed. So I immediately began to suspect the wireless card, a TP-Link TL-WN851ND, which up until this point had worked flawlessly.

As soon as I activated the wireless, bam! Windows hard-locked again, and refused to boot. Interestingly, Microsoft claim this card is compatible with Windows 8. I beg to differ.

I replaced with a D-Link DWA-548, which worked flawlessly (so, +1 for D-Link).

So I don't know if the problem was purely a Windows 8 driver issue, or if it was the combination of all the bits of hardware I was using. But I would avoid that particular TP-Link wireless card (or cards based on the same chipset) if using Windows 8.

The Interface

The above doesn't even touch on the interface, which is just plain...ugly. It is also the most infuriating interface I've used, and I've used quite a few. It's not just because it's different (the freedom to change desktop environments is one of the interesting things with Linux), but it simply...makes things difficult.

Full screen apps, hot area hovers to do even the simplest of actions...bah. Sure there are extensions to "make things right", but -- really, that's the solution? Some people say Windows 8 is a disaster. I don't know if that's true, but I do know Windows 8 is awful to use, and I'm glad that I don't have to use it myself.

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