Updated: July 4, 2013
Several days ago, Microsoft released a public beta of their upcoming Windows 8.1 release, which has previously been known and called Windows Blue. This was a great opportunity for me to test the alleged rumors of a desktop renaissance coming back to Windows, given the obvious failure of the Windows 8 operating system in the market.
Anyhow, unlike all so many corporate lickers out there, who gave you a bland, emotionless outlook of the new Windows, without trying to be controversial so they do not hurt their sponsorships and such, I will give you an honest, brutal and totally accurate review of the new thingie. And as you know, I am always right about everything.
Windows 8.1 installation
There's nothing to it. The old, proven, fairly simple and straightforward process, so if you've done one of these in the past, you will get along just fine. You can use my Windows 7 installation tutorial as an excellent baseline.
Still, there were a few interesting bits and pieces. Windows 8.1 lets you upgrade an existing system, or install fresh, which means you do not get to preserve your account data. I tried the upgrade first, but it prompted me to reboot back into Windows 7 and try the option there. In the end, I simply installed over, ruining the current installation.
The test box at hand was a T400 laptop, with a decent processor, 4GB RAM and an 80GB SSD. Overall, the installation was rather quick, about 20 minutes in total, which is not a bad thing for almost 4GB worth of 64-bit Windows stuff.
User setup - Not online? GTFO!
Then, I reached the user setup. Previously, in the past, Microsoft allowed you to create a local account and skip all the online crap. Not anymore. At this stage, during the installation, you are forced to configure an online account. I guess it's also partially my fault, because I connected to my Wireless routers beforehand, allowing Windows 8.1 access to the Internet. Maybe if I had not given it any network, it would have allowed me the option to use the local account, too. However, the way my testing of the preview version was going, I had to use a Microsoft online account.
Do not worry dear users - you can fix this later on, after you enter your desktop. It's not a pretty thing, but it's doable, and we will have a separate tutorial on this. I will show you how you can use your local account like before and ignore the bullshit.
To Microsoft's credit, they at least set the data collection options for your account to off, which means you will have to opt-in to share your localization, usage patterns and other details. Being online also has a benefit of data consistency across devices, if you're into that sort of thing.
However, if you don't have an Internet connection, a fast connection, or do not wish to keep your data in the so-called cloud where allegedly government agencies can allegedly take a look at your alleged pr0n activities at their leisure, allegedly with the full backing of the cloud storage providers, then you might want to tell Microsoft, politely, no thanks. I mean politely in a sarcastic sort of a way, right. Allegedly, as they like to say.
Anyhow, time to enter the new operating system and see what gives.
Using Windows 8.1 Preview
At first glance, Windows 8.1 is identical to its forerunner, Windows 8. You have the tiled Start Screen, full of stupid, animated tiles showing you things happening in the mediocre world out there. I can't even begin to express my disdain.
Then, if you go into the desktop, things also remain identical. You will have to dig a little deeper under the hood to see the changes, improvements and regressions introduced into the new system. Overall, the changes are subtle and smooth. Windows 8.1 is a very gentle and gradual continuation of the earlier failure.
Overall, you get a more streamlined Control Panel, with more of the desktop options added, so you do not have to flip your entire screen to get there. The search is also slightly more refined, as well as the hot corners. You also have SkyDrive right there.
Supposedly most importantly, the Start icon is back in the desktop mode, which only proves how awesomely right I am, truly the king of everything there is. However, this icon will merely flip your giant screen back to the stupid Start Screen. Works great for tablets and small phones, I admit. Honestly, on tiny touch devices, this is a great solution. On large desktops, with a huge screen, this is a bloody joke.
An important message for Microsoft:
Mark my words. Your Windows line of products will remain a failure on the desktop as long as you keep insisting on shoving the Metro crap on the users. People do not want to see colorful burgers flipping on their 24-inch screen, without being able to remember the position and state of their open applications. That's a huge fucking distraction, and no one wants that shit. Until you swallow your pride, realize the enormity of your mistake and fix it somehow, you will keep suffering from awful sales and adoption rates, and keep wondering why people do not use your tiled crapps and run alternative start programs. There you go.
Boot to desktop
Anyhow, if you want to skip the tiled screen when booting, you can configure this option. Again, we will have a dedicated tutorial. Basically, right click on the Taskbar, select Properties, and then under the Navigation tab, checkbox the right option.
But this is only a sort-of workaround. You do want the Classic Shell to really fix the problem. And then, no more Start Screen, Metro, Modern UI, tiles, or however you want to call them. Bye bye.
Local user account
We will talk about this soon at length. Basically, launch the User Account panel within the Control Panel, add a new user and configure it as administrator. Note, you will get an error doing this from the Modern UI interface, but it will work fine in the classic view. Once this is done, log out of your shitty online account, log into your local one, and then delete the online one. Problem solved.
And we have a new local user:
Then, some quick cleanup:
And finally Classic Shell to top it off.
Desktop, ready and good:
This is the equivalent of Google and Apple products, and it's quite bad, I have to say. You still have that counterintuitive horizontal scroll, and the offerings seem totally random and useless. There is NOT a single application, I repeat, NOT a single application in the Store that is somehow superior to its desktop counterpart. This thing is totally and utterly useless for anyone on a standard computing device. And for me, the worst part was the mess. Look at the cropped images and text, really pisses me off.
Task manager & startup
Here's another moronlet. In its simple mode, it's just a silly list of open programs, and you have to change to the advanced mode to be able to see memory, CPU and other details. Moreover, the task manager is resizable to the extreme, and you can actually cover your list of applications. What's the bloody point. Then, if you used to previously manage startup items using msconfig, they have now been given a separate tab inside the Task Manager.
Windows 8.1 Preview is much better than Windows 8, I'll grant you that, although I would not label it a whole new operating system. It's just a service pack, nothing more really. However, better does not mean good. It's like saying it's better to have diarrhea twice a day than five times a day, but you're still knee deep in liquid muck.
It's more polished, the tiled components are coming together, and it's more refined. Nevertheless, Windows 8.1 is still bloody stupid. It's the same colossal failure, the Start icon notwithstanding. And forcing users to go online, what's up with that morons. Do you really want to fail your company? Who do you think will be using your system eventually? Do you really think everyone is an idiot all about uploading pictures of themselves on the crapper to a social network? It's not all about profit today, dipshits. You need a strategy, and you don't have it. You're chasing the other players, but it's too late, and your current ideas simply suck. You cannot have the screen flipping on a 24-inch screen and expect users to be delighted about it. Single app yourselves all you like, but you will remain a failure until you remedy the problem. You cannot go against basic human needs.
Anyhow, to sum it up, this beta version of Windows 8.1 will please those who like Windows 8, it will do nothing of that sort for those disappointed. There's nothing grand about the new system other than small fixes and polishes. A service pack by all means, still plagued by fundamental idiocracy. Good luck with that. Classic Shell, and it gets bearable, but why bother.
For you geeks, it will only get worse. As time passes, more and more companies will find innovative ways of ruining the accepted, efficient workflows, just for the sake of money. You will find yourself clicking ten times more buttons and options just to get what you could do so easily in the past, RE: Windows frigging 8.1 and friends. The normal menu is not coming back, ever, and you will see yet more forced online integration and similar crap cropping everywhere.
Then, it will become subscription based shit, with monthly fees and mandatory online checkins. Following the trend, you will get mandatory ads in every program, and it will be against whatever law or license agreement to remove them. You will not be able to install programs that were not preapproved by this or that company. And so forth. This is your bright future, and it will happen slowly, so that people do not resist violently.
If you do not want to end up an anally probed guinea pig in the money labs, you will be wise to boycott this latest Microsoft operating system thing, because it is an insult to intelligence, to poor people worldwide, and anyone with a basic sense of decency.
Final grade: FAIL. We're done.