Last week the new Windows 8 Consumer preview was released and I thought I would share some of my experiences so far. I think I’ve installed it about 6 times so far on different devices. Some are touch and some do not have touch. Windows 8 touch is addicting, after a couple days last week of using it most of the time on my machine without touch I was still touching the monitor.
I have the Samsung Slate they gave out at build and it was the first device I updated. I was planning on doing a couple days of development work last week so I took it with me. The device is smooth and probably one of the best test devices I’ve used for Windows 8. In case you’re curious the Samsung Series 7 slate is very similar but not exact and I have seen many people get those if they didn’t have the Build conference device and wanted a slate. For developing though I found it a little clunky primarily because Visual Studio is not very touch friendly. So that means you need a keyboard and a mouse to really be productive. For me, once I have to drag those around I might as well just use a laptop. The slate though is perfect for showing off what you build and once more apps are there it or a similar device will easily do all the things I keep an IPad around for. One upgrading the Build slate – if you don’t boot from USB you don’t boot from USB you will need to have at least 20gb free. If you want to make a bootable USB – I used the Microsoft store tool - http://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msstore/html/pbPage.Help_Win7_usbdvd_dwnTool In my case I had 20gb free so I ran it from within the prior Windows install. It created a Windows.Old folder containing my developer preview version of Windows 8. That will consume 10-20gb of space so you will want to remove it. You can’t simply remove the Windows.Old folder using delete but you can using Disk Cleanup.
On my Windows 7 laptop, I use VMWare to run my virtual machines because they are all 64bit (hoping to break that habit with Windows 8 support for 64bit guests) I setup a virtual machine on that with Windows 8 and that ran pretty smooth. You do need the more recent version of VMWare if you are going down that path. I have also known me to use Virtualbox. The reason to do a virtual install is so you can run it at the same time you are doing stuff on Windows 7 – otherwise you should check out Scott Hanselman’s post on booting from VHD - http://www.hanselman.com/blog/HowToGuideToInstallingAndBootingWindows8ConsumerPreviewOffAVHDVirtualHardDisk.aspx
Just after build we got a HP Touchsmart all in one computer we have it sitting on the counter and sometimes it just acts as a picture frame and other times it’s a full Windows 8 device. Upgrading it seemed to work. Of the different devices jury is still out if it picked up a few quirks on the latest consumer preview. For example, it seems like sometimes touch is not as responsive as it used to be.
I mentioned earlier that developing on the slate wasn’t all that I thought it would be. Not that you can’t but for me I don’t like to carry around a keyboard and mouse for a slate – seems like it should standalone. So after some research I found that the Lenovo X220 tablets seem to be a good option. Turns out they are also on Microsoft’s short list of recommended systems as well - http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/archive/2012/02/29/running-the-consumer-preview-system-recommendations.aspx The thing with these is it has keyboard, mouse and touch all in one device. It’s also a really small form factor so you don’t feel like you are carrying around the kitchen sink. We were lucky and found a couple slightly used/open box that we picked up for a really good price. I did the setup on one of these this morning and it went smooth. The touch was very responsive and I’m getting addicted to the fast switching between applications.
Our e-mail/ Lync etc is hosted via Office 365, so after installing Windows 8 – download and setup of Office did from the portal and that went smoothly just like with Windows 7. Visual Studio 11 can be found here http://www.microsoft.com/visualstudio/11/en-us During the beta you can use any of the editions so there really is no good reason to just use express right now. Visual Studio 11 now has backward compatibility on the solution files so I’m hopefully to use it more than 2010 at this point. The one holdout here is the Windows Azure tools but they are likely to follow soon behind. This post is helpful in the meantime if you need to use Windows Azure tools - http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/develop/vs11/
One other nice thing is that the new preview has an actual app store connected up and live. It is still pretty empty because all of us need to build applications. It does give you an idea where things are headed. There are a few apps in there like USA Today and Photobucket etc. These are clearly preview versions but its great they are there to get you started. From my perspective filling this with the key apps is a done deal since Microsoft has done that with the major ones for Windows Phone. Sure there will always be a few hold outs that aren’t there but I suspect by later this year we will be surprised how many applications are in the store.
The bottom line is find a machine that you can put Windows 8 on. Clearly this is where Microsoft is focusing its mass energy and like it or not it will be here soon. I’ve gone through this with all the past Windows versions and this is about the time that if I can I simply just start using it as my daily OS. I’m in the first stage of that now which is trying it to see if I find any blockers that would prevent it from working. I’m guessing by a week or two I will be ready to make the leap. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting Windows 8 is perfect, or done just that its ready for you to get to know it if you are a developer.