Windows w8 or 9?

My wife needed a new computer and we decided on the HP Pavilion TouchSmart 11. It’s a nice little budget laptop with touchscreen but … it comes with Windows 8. Don’t get me wrong, my wife prefers Windows (I’ve been trying to convince her to switch to Linux to no avail), but she really doesn’t like Windows 8 and I have to agree.
Metro Modern UI might look great on a phone, but despite all that extensively advertised fanciness, most work you’ll do on a day-to-day basis will still be in the old desktop-oriented graphical shell. And the combination of these two environments does not really work. “Old style” applications are 2nd class citizens on the start-screen at best, while Modern UI apps aren’t accessible from the desktop. An example of what that leads to: for mail (and specifically to see notifications of incoming mail), Veerle now uses the Modern UI mail app on the start-page and Windows Live Mail on the desktop. 2 mail applications on one OS, seriously?
My wife finally got so frustrated that she decided to install the preview release of Windows 8.1! Based on the decreasing frequency of sighing and frowning on her part, things seem to be somewhat better already (the return of the start-button on the classic desktop UI was a big relief), but I feel as though there still is a lot of room for improvement. But I’m sure at least Windows 9 will be gr8, no?

Making do with Windows Phone, loving Metro

Every now and again you should go out of your comfort zone to get a new perspective on things. Or so they say. I love my comfort zone, it took me 43 years to build the damned thing after all, so please leave me be, will you?
But things break and in this particular case the screen of my trusty old Samsung Galaxy S2 went dark, literally. I brought the phone in for repairs and grabbed the only test-device left at work as a temporary replacement. It was a Samsung Omnia 7 with Windows Phone 7. Now look at this little droid-boy getting pushed out of his comfort zone!
I’ve been using it for 5 days now, so why not make a small list of what sucks and what’s great? Here goes:
What sucks:

  • The browser. It’s not I can’t live without Firefox Mobile, but boy does Mobile IE7 suck.
  • No Internet connection sharing (not over USB, not over Bluetooth, not over WiFi)
  • The fact that the phone doesn’t present itself as a USB storage device when I connect it over USB with my Ubuntu netbook
  • The lack of an SD card slot
  • I can’t login with my Live ID (my ancient Hotmail address) on my phone (but it does work in Zune), which means I can’t install applications from the Marketplace (I’m asked to call support! Seriously?)
  • The fact that after installing Zune on my work PC and then waiting until I got home because Zune doesn’t do proxies, I still wasn’t able to upgrade to Windows Phone 7.5 (which does have Internet connection sharing and a more decent browser)
  • There’s no way to reliably fetch information from the Exchange servers at work. Every once in a while mail gets downloaded, but in general there’s error code 8501001D ruining my Exchange experience

What’s great? Just one bullet point actually;

  • The UI!

Really, despite my grievances about how poorly the device integrates with the outside world, my general feeling about Windows Phone is positive, and that is because Metro really is that great! The screens are sober, with lots of space and a prominent place for content (text & typography). Applications scroll horizontally to display different views and it’s the typography that makes this pretty discoverable. The graphics effects and sound add to the great responsive “feel” of the UI. And tiles are a radical break form the icon-based approach that is typical of iOS (and Android, classic Mac OS, Windows 3.11 and …), you could compare them to widgets (as seen on Android), but without the anarchy and clutter.
So yeah, really, I Metro! I hope Google (Android), Mozilla (b2g) and Ubuntu (Unity) take clues from what is, in my view, a pretty radical break in graphical user interface design, because I would love the computing environments in my comfort zone to be more about content and less about chrome as well!