Friday, March 28, 2014

I'm Not Mad At Windows 8.1

It's been a while since I've posted, and in that time I've been a full time Linux Mint user. My Macbook handled like a champ and every day computing on Linux was pleasant and ideal. My only complaint was that I couldn't connect my iPhone and my Bluetooth mouse would occasionally drop it's connection. On a whole though, no complaints. Linux Mint is definitely my OS of choice.

Still, as content as I was, I wasn't totally satisfied. I didn't have a dedicated graphics card and simple things like visiting Facebook would still cause my browser to stall. My laptop was more than six years old and it was time to upgrade. I wanted another Mac, but the truth about how expensive they were was finally very apparent to me, and I found that the Lenovo u530 would more than meet all my needs.

I knew that buying a Lenovo would mean great support for Linux, but it would also mean a system pre-loaded with Windows 8.1. I decided this would be a great opportunity to give 8.1 a try and have the chance to dual boot between the two operating systems so I could have the best of both worlds. Going in I had no expectations for Windows 8.1.  I use Windows 7 every day at work and found it to be bearable, but I knew I'd be anxious to get my Linux partition set up as soon as possible. So I set off to Best Buy (I know, keep your comments to yourself!) and picked up my first non-Apple machine in 15 years.

I've learned a lot in the past week with my new Lenovo. First, Windows 8.1 isn't all that bad. I can't hate it. I kind of wanted to hate it, but as I come home and use it every day I can't say it's been much of an obstruction to my regular computing needs. In fact, it's been pretty easy to use. Metro is definitely a bit annoying, but it's easy to leave alone (and I'm sure as time goes on they'll let the user turn it off completely). 8.1 is better than 7. It's cleaner and more stable, and I'm content using it. Anyone who knows me knows that it's a rather big deal for me to be so open to using Windows. And the truth is if you set every choice in front of me I would still choose Linux Mint and OS X over Windows without a second thought, but the reality of it is that my laptop would have been another $1700 if I wanted to run OS X, and so running Linux next to Windows was actually the most practical of choices.

The second thing I learned was that Linux Mint was not the cause of my bluetooth mouse dropping it's connection on a regular basis. Turns out bluetooth is just a crappy way to connect devices to computers, and Windows dropped the mouse even more than Linux did. I've since upgraded to a regular wireless mouse (with USB receiver/dongle) and it's worked flawlessly.

Lastly, I learned that most machines now come with a UEFI boot manager that makes installing Linux next to Windows 8.1 and dual booting a lot trickier than installing Linux by it self on an older machine with a regular BIOS. This has stalled my install of Linux Mint and today I learned version 17 is due out at the end of May, and I've decided that for the next couple of months, until its release, I'll be fine as a Windows user. I hope to update this blog with my Linux install and share my experience with everyone.

On a final note, I can't say enough about how much I like the Lenovo hardware. The u530 is a fantastic machine that is under $1000 and very close in configuration to the $2499 Macbook pro. It's thin, light, and has a dedicated graphics card that has really brought back the joy of PC gaming for me. If a friend came to me  today and wanted a new computer I'd tell them Lenovo was the way to go and if you can use Linux Mint on it then all the better, but Windows isn't the piece of crap it used to be. I hope Microsoft continues to improve upon itself, it's good to see a company with such an enormous market share still attempting to enhance the user experience.

My new Windows 8.1 desktop

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