In my last entry, I ended mentioning that I was backing up in case the Windows 8.1 installation totally screwed up my computer. The installation went fine, but it's always good to have backups. It didn't take that long for me to back things up anyway, since I back things up every couple weeks. With that out of the way, I guess I'll talk about my first impressions.
Yesterday, I got a banner that appeared across my screen inviting me to open the Store app and install Windows 8.1. It's weird that it doesn't come down through Windows Update, when it's basically Windows 8 SP1. It provided a scarily large download size, but based on how long it took to download it, they were either providing the worst-case scenario download size or the uncompressed size. Anyway, I took a nap while it downloaded and messed around on another computer. The download also randomly stopped for several minutes, then started again. I couldn't figure out any sort of pattern; all I wanted was it to finish so I could use my Internet connection again. Eventually, it finished and restarted...and restarted...and restarted. When I finally had a chance to interact with my computer again, it started asking very installing-an-OS kinds of questions. Then I hit the "Sign in to your Microsoft account" step. I purposely didn't want to do that when installing Windows 8, but with this upgrade, it did not [visibly] give me any kind of choice not to. The only choices were to sign in, create a new account, or view the privacy statement. I hopped on the other computer I had nearby to look up if there was a way past this. Basically, you just click the option to create a new account, then there's an option at the bottom to keep signing in the way you always have, i.e., locally. This works the same way for a fresh install; click to create a new account, and click the option to sign in without a Microsoft account. (This site was the first one that showed up when I did a search, so it's their advice I took. The site also has how to remove a Microsoft account if you didn't want one in the first place.)
I poked around a bit and it's basically Windows 8 with a small Start button. The Start screen is far more colorful, as it picks a color from the icons of desktop applications to use for their tile. You can't change that color though, and they're only a few colors. I guess I like having more colors than having everything as the background color. You can make the buttons much smaller (though no text will appear at the smallest size), so you won't have to choose between a horizontal scroll bar and access to applications. You can make your desktop background the background of the Start screen, which in my case is actually not as good as I'd imagine. (Maybe if I could have one background for the Start screen and another for the desktop mode, it'd be better. I ended up just keeping it plain.) More of the settings that were previously only available in the desktop mode's Control Panel are now available in the full-screen PC Settings area. Luckily, they're still available in the Control Panel. I haven't touched the new apps (Health & Fitness, Calculator, Food & Drink, Help+Tips, Scan, Reading List, and Sound Recorder), but then again, the only app I used was the Store (because it bugged me about updates) and the Weather one since it's handy to hit the Windows key and see the temperature outside. Probably one of the best features added was the ability to bypass the Start screen. (You can turn that bypass setting on by right-clicking the taskbar, clicking Properties, then go to Navigation. It's the first option under "Start screen".) A lot of the instances of the word "Computer" as they appeared in Windows Explorer or the Start screen have been replaced with "This PC". In the
Computer This PC view of Windows Explorer, something similar to the Libraries feature appears at the top, linking to the Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, and Videos. The Libraries feature that used to be shown on the left in the navigation pane is gone, though can be turned back on. Explorer also says whether files and folders are available offline, which is pointless for me, since all my files are available offline. You can log out, sleep, hibernate, restart, or shut down via the Start button, though only by right-clicking it. You can also show the desktop by right-clicking the Start button, though you could do that by clicking the far right side of the taskbar. You can have a slideshow on your lock screen; Skype is now an app; Alt+F4 doesn't get you out of the Start screen anymore (but it still closes apps); you switch between the Start screen and the apps listing by clicking a little downward pointing arrow, rather than right-clicking; grouping items pinned to the Start screen and renaming them makes more sense (right-click, Customize); and when I looked around the new PC settings area, it kept trying to get me to move the mouse to the corners of the screen, going as far as blocking what I was trying to do until I actually moved the mouse to a certain corner. The upgrade process also got rid of my VirtualBox host network, which was an easy problem to fix as soon as I realized that's why one unrelated program failed silently; it was looking for the VirtualBox host network IP instead of something like 127.0.0.1. The Run (Windows key+R) history was cleared and the font settings in Notepad were reset to a rather gigantic default. I don't have Windows save recent places, but I would imagine those would be cleared too. All the devices were set up from scratch, so any devices that aren't hooked up when you first run the Windows 8.1 update process will have to go through that driver installation process again. (This is a good thing as there are often devices set up that you only use once, but all it's info is stored until you figure out how to remove it, which in most cases is never.) Almost all of my file associations were reset to defaults.
Once I got everything configured the way I wanted it, it was basically Windows 8 with a more colorful Start screen. My dad, who manages quite a few computers, still sees Windows 8/8.1 as a training nightmare, and he doesn't have enough time or staff to train everyone on how things have changed since Windows 7. It definitely looks like Windows 7 will be the next Windows XP as far as the business he works for is concerned. It wouldn't surprise me if more businesses feel that way. Imagine trying to set up Microsoft [Live] accounts for every single employee so they can log into their computers. He's got until 2020 to figure out something. Hopefully Microsoft will make an OS that's easier to use or ReactOS will catch up.