The Developer Preview of Windows 8 works and gets you started
The computer world is abuzz with Windows 8 preview news. You can get the last beta release today by downloading the developer preview at no cost.
That will give you a two week jump on the crowd in learning about Windows 8 and how it works on your computer.
How hard is it to install? Will it work on my computer? Will my software work? Do I need a touchscreen monitor? I’ll try to cover the basics.
Download the Consumer Preview of Windows 8
The quick answer to all those is yes and partially no. Windows 8 is fast and slick with a few hiccups. It takes a little time to learn the new interface but new does mean different.
How hard is it to install?
Installation is easy. Click on the download and select from either 64-bit with Developer Tools, 64-bit, 32-bit, or Live SDK. If you have a 64-bit operating system, I recommend the Windows 8 Developer Preview English, 64-bit (x64). There’s no time to learn the Developer Tools.
That will download an ISO file to your computer. You will need a DVD burner and 8.5 GB blank DVD. Windows 7 should be able to create a bootable DVD. I used Nero 9 which worked like a charm.
Once the DVD was done I picked a computer. I had a Dell XPS 630i doing nothing so I popped in the DVD and Windows 8 installed without a hitch. Unlike previous versions of Windows, the installation was hands off.
Alternatively, you can install it as a virtual machine on your computer using something like VMWare Player. I didn’t have time to do that yet so give me until the weekend to try it out.
The installation was faster than Windows 7 and soon I was presented with the screen login, which was my Windows Live account name and password. Get used to that. Windows 8 will want to connect to the Windows Store and you’ll need a free account.
Will it work on my computer?
The answer is yes if you can run Vista or Windows 7, but don’t let that stop you from trying an older computer. Here are the official minimum specs.
- 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
- 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
- 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
- DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver
- Taking advantage of touch input requires a screen that supports multi-touch
- To run Metro style Apps, you need a screen resolution of 1024 X 768 or greater
Windows 8 needs 4 GB of RAM so forget the 1 GB requirement. My installation has 8 GB with an Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300, an older but reasonably fast computer.
Will my software work?
Amazingly, most Windows 7 compatible software works. A few USB drivers didn’t work. More on that in a minute.
I downloaded the notoriously bad Windows version of iTunes 10. Worked like a charm and even played a Kisses on the Bottom streaming video that has stymied my Windows 7 Ultimate computer.
It wouldn’t take the USB drivers for a Cakewalk UA 25EX audio card that I have.
Update: This is persnickety since the Windows 7 64 bit drivers do not support ASIO and “Advanced Mode” in Windows 8.
“In advance mode (ADVANCE button ON), the UA-25 can record or play sound in native 24 bits, in either 44.100 Hz, 48.000 Hz or 96.000 Hz sample rates. You can choose sample rates using a button. At 96 Khz, the device is either capture or playback only. MIDI is enabled.” ALSA WIKI
So I switched the audio output to Digital Audio Coaxial S/PDIF. I got pristine 24-bit 48 kHz sound from the Paul McCartney video and 16-bit/44.1 kHz on CDs. The difference was awesome. More detailed sounds like the drums, cymbals and guitar. Next time someone says CD sound is as good as it gets give them the Bronx cheer.
Windows 8 easily loaded some software that is notoriously hard to configure. So most Windows 7 apps will work and some won’t. The Consumer Preview will probably have more compatibility.
Do I need a touchscreen monitor?
The answer is yes and no.
A two button mouse with scroll wheel will get you around the screen. Holding the two buttons down is like the two-finger pinch. The scroll wheel moves the screen like a single finger swipe. I learned this by poking around.
Will a multi-touch screen be better? One would hope. There aren’t many reasonably priced touch displays on sale yet. Two good touchscreen displays are
Both are widescreen and certified for Windows 7. I hope to review one or both before the end of February. They are highly rated by other users at 4.5 out of 5. Acer is a well known computer manufacturer. Planar make touchscreen monitors for retail, health and other vertical applications.
Reaching out to touch a monitor all day will get tiring. Another solution is to use the Apple Magic Track Pad.
For $69 you will get touch pad features. See this video on CNET.
Wouldn’t that be cool and ironic – using a Mac touch-pad to jump into multi-touch on Windows. Right up there with Mac now running on Intel processors after 3 decades of saying no way.
The Metro interface on Windows 8 is different from anything we’ve worked with before – Microsoft or Apple. It’s deeper than Apple’s use of touch on their computers and I’d say a leap forward.
The downside is about a day of frustration trying to figure out how to do the old things I learned from Windows 3 to Windows 7. I’m getting better and amaze friends and family by whizzing around to show them the weather in two cities at once on my main desktop.
Somebody should make a video to get people started. Microsoft’s will be free but there will be others, like Lynda.com.
PS Nero 11 is less expensive from Amazon.com but they won’t ship to Canada.
Thank you to Acer America Corporation for supplying the review monitor.