Friday, April 18, 2014

Windows 8.1 Preview for Developers impressions.

Okay, its been a few days in, so... keep in mind that this is a developer's
preview, but us weirdo enthusiasts can get in on it too.

Given that Microsoft and Apple were both inspired by WebOS's task switcher,
the fact that MS followed through and added "flick to close" makes me really
happy. Unlike WebOS and iOS, its flicking/dragging downward, just like
Windows 8. I did a silly little dance/squeel when I discovered that, and am
glad nobody was around to see that undignified outburst.

Current music app is an improvement in some ways, but is also a few steps
back from the old one. Most notable is performance (feels slower) and the
inability to pin a specific song or album to Start.

Truthfully, a fair number of the native apps are a little slower to launch,
but I figure its combination of WIP and I don't think they're made the same
way anymore. WP7 and WP8 apps could be made with Silverlight, HTML, etc.,
which are generally pretty light. I don't know if these are Universal Apps
or not. Could also have debug code in it for all I know.

Joe Belefoire (sic) has said Music and a number of other apps will be
updated/replaced sometime in the near future. Given that WP8.1 isn't being
release by any carriers anytime soon, I expect it to be at least a month.

Sharing is not as seamless as before. I liked/preferred it the way it was,
with a plain OS-level sharing option, rather than it starting the related
app (Facebook, for instance).

IE11 is a massive step forward in most every regard I can think of over
IE10. Compatibility is improved, interface is improved, features are
improved, and some old functionality from IE9 has been restored (most
notably "find on page" for searching). It does seem less stable, though, and
is more likely to have a fit and crash/close-out than IE9 or IE10. But, hey,
developer's preview, so I shouldn't be surprised.

Cortana is useful, as expected. And, like Siri, isn't great with Hawaiian
words. Surprise! I should probably look for tips on using Siri for ideas on
how to use Cortana.

Also, spent some time looking for Easter eggs.

"Tell me a story, Cortana."

"Once there was a beginning. Soon after, there was a middle. The end."

Pressing and holding the Search button will have Cortana just listen. TellMe
was the same way, but you had to press and hold the Windows button. They
need to tell people these things have moved. But, hey, MS... when do they
ever explain anything well? >_<

But, it works well for now. I'm sure Siri and Google Now are better overall
(partially due to maturity), but it seems competent. I appreciate the "Quiet
Hours" feature, as well as the "Inner Circle" and break-through conditions
for it (ie, let the call through if its from X, Y, Z, or if they call back
repeatedly in a short period of time). Texts will get a return text sent to
them saying I'm unavailable. However, I'd like to be able to customize the
message sent, which is something I could do on my old Palm Centro.

New customization options are quite nice. I went from the 4 column layout to
6, and am using a rather soothing blue cloudy thing for the tiling
graphic/texture. The additional two columns does make a difference for
usability, and I've got more tiles at the 2x2 and 2x4 sizes as a result.
This allows me to enjoy more of the Live tile functionality...

The Lock screen customization shown off at BUILD is not available yet,
sadly. Looking forward to that.

My app list is messier. For whatever reason all my games are spilled all
over the list instead of only being in the Games hub. I hope that's not the
new norm Also, the list seems to be a smaller font size, which is okay, I

Notifications and quick access to settings are great. However, I did find
myself turning off notifications from some apps simply because its annoying
(Facebook, for example). Also like the ability to clear off all the

The Swype-alike keyboard is annoying for me since I'm used to two-thumb
typing (I can almost "touch type" based on position/feel). If I was to type
one handed, that'd be something else.

All in all, a great update for me. I do think they need to release a WP8.1u1
later this year, or make W8.2/WP8.2. Certainly, they don't need to wait
another full year for major updates to the OS. Additionally, the new Start
Menu is theoretically coming out this year, so I think W8.1u2 and maybe a
WP8.1u1 would make sense. Granted, I think calling it W8.2 would make sense,
but we know Microsoft and naming stuff... :/

I think MS is trying keep at a 3-year release schedule. Vista was 2006, W7
was 2009, W8 came out in 2012. DX12 is scheduled for 2015 and will be for
all Windows platforms, so it sort of makes sense.

Thanks for all the iOS features that were copied, although I'm sure its
covered by Microsoft and Apple's patent-sharing agreement :D

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