Windows 8.1, first impressions.

After taking the plunge and installing Windows 8.1 I was presented with some good things and some bad things.  The whole installation process required little interaction from me, just a password here and there and choosing some options.  One thing to be careful of is that (like Google) Microsoft are (by default) opting you into the thing where your details may appear next to ads, not cool, I turned this off.  Other things I turned on were for customer experience tracing (amongst other things), this helps Microsoft decide what to do in the future by looking at how you use Windows, the information that is sent is anonymous so I opted in.

Good.

The first thing was the introduction of the Start Button, I know it just shows the Start Screen but it is welcome to take the real estate in the left hand corner of my screen, I also re-enabled the Quick Launch toolbar so things look a little bit like XP (?) weird.

The second thing that was a pleasant re-introduction was my ability to watch Netflix, for the record Windows 8, the AMD video driver and Silverlight did not play nice together which resulted in Silverlight just hanging.  Windows 8.1 and Internet Explorer 11 with Netflix works without the use of Silverlight!  This is something that is just wonderful, Netflix has taken advantage of Internet Explorer 11’s HTML5 capabilities to render video without the use of a plugin, this means that I am up and running catching up with old TV shows while I scan my negatives, yippee!!!!

The third thing is simple but it makes using the Start Screen better, there is an option to use your desktop background as your Start Screen background, this sounds trivial but it means that switching from the desktop to the Start Screen is less jarring to the user.  Also as an added bonus for me since my desktop backgrounds change regularly and I tend to have my negative scanner full screen most of the time I get to see some of those crazy cars which are on the desktop that I never really see.

Now the not so good.

There were a couple of issues that needed to be sorted out before the machine was usable, unfortunately these were quite major for me since they involved the video driver and the scanner, not cool.

The first thing was the video driver, for some reason the screen was reduced in size, I originally saw this when I installed Windows 8 and the solution was to run the AMD Catalyst Control Center and just tell it to overscan so that the image would fit the entire screen (and also look sharper in the process).  For some reason this program would not run, it looked like the installation did something to it.  The solution was to uninstall the one that was there and install a later version, run the program and make the change, sorted.

The second one was freaking me out, my scanner was not recognised, so off to the Device Manager so see what was going on, the first thing to always try is to scan for changes, this didn’t work.  On further inspection I saw that the there was an unrecognised SCSI controller showing up, damn, the driver was not loading or was not recognised.  So, off to the Adaptec web site to look for a driver for my card (an Adaptec ASC-29320LPE Ultra320).  I found a reference to Windows 8.1 and it indicated that the Windows 7 driver should work, so I downloaded it, install it and the scanner was showing up in the Device Manager again, phew!  Off to the races scanning again.

So far so good.

Since the installation was a breeze and fixing the issues didn’t take too long I’ll give Microsoft and A- for this release.  The fact that this came about a year after Windows 8 is a testament to their new mantra of getting stuff out much more quickly, time will tell whether the quality will be good enough to keep the most important people happy – their customers!

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