Impressions of Windows 8

When the Windows 8 Developer Preview iso dropped earlier in the week, I immediately downloaded it for a VM test drive.

After some trying, I finally got it working and spent a short amount of time with it.

Setting up a VM
First off, kudos to Microsoft for dropping iso images of Windows 8 to give an early preview of the OS. They’ve done a nice job building momentum and buzz around Win 8.

VM is the way to go, natch, because the Developer Preview isn’t ready for full-time use. Lifehacker has a basic how-to for the major VM packages, and Dustin Dahl (@dusda) pointed me to another method from Scott Hanselman (@shanselman) which is sadly, Windows only. Looks like a good method, but I don’t run Windows natively anymore.

VirtualBox has been my go-to for virtualization since before Oracle bought Sun, and the steps are all pretty simple for Win 8.

Initially, I walked through the process on my Dell running Ubuntu 10.10, allocating 1.5 GB of available 4 GB RAM, which is within the suggested range for a 32-bit Win 8 machine, precisely the reason I went with the 32-bit version. I have a Win 7 VM using that much RAM on the same box, and it runs like a champ.

Win 8, not so much.

I probably went through the setup 20 times before quitting. The first time actually succeeded, and I booted into Win 8, only to have it freeze and never restart properly. Each successive attempt froze at some point during the installation. I tried lowering and raising the RAM allocation, fixed and dynamic VDIs, just about everything. No dice.

So, I gave it a go on the new MBP, also sporting 4 GB of RAM. Although it wasn’t easy, I did finally get the installation finished and working.

Without any network though.

I’ve tried bridged and NAT, but neither works, and that seriously limits what I can test drive.

One final tip, to run Metro apps, you’ll need to set the display size of the VM to at least 1024 x 768. Good luck finding the display settings too, which you’ll need to do because the VirtualBox extensions won’t install.

I don’t expect that to be an issue for long, but it’s a bummer right now.

I actually wish I had more, but without a network connection, or a drive share, I can’t do much.

The biggest thing I noticed is the stark contrast between the Metro apps (tiles are the new Start menu) and the classic Win 7 desktop. Although I understand why Microsoft has to normalize the two, it’s incredibly jarring.

I suspect the usual Windows editions will account for this. Don’t be surprised if there’s a Metro-only version, which actually would be pretty sweet, even on a keyboard/mouse system.

You can tell that touch is the preferred method for interaction, which is quite irritating from a keyboard, no surprise there. It took me literally a minute to find my way out of IE 10, and I only found it by flinging my cursor around the screen.

Protip: Bottom left corner pops the Start menu and other options.

Overall, I like the Metro apps and style, and I’ve always thought Win 7 was decent, although the new ribbons are awful. So, I like both UIs just fine separately, but together, it feels like two different systems entirely, kind of like VMWare Fusion’s Unity feature.

Not a fan, but you might be.

Anyway, I highly suggest downloading the Developer Preview and kicking the tires in a VM.

Find the comments with your experiences and/or thoughts.

Update: Unsurprisingly, the Fat Bloke has a thread going about this very topic. If anyone can fix my network problem, he can.

Update 1: Decided to put some effort into fixing this and found that changing the Adapter Type to Intel PRO/1000 MT Desktop worked with NAT.This post has some useful additional tips that may/may not work. It seems some people can get the Guest Additions installed and working by setting the compatibility to Windows 7, but I’m hitting an error on the PnP video driver. Maybe I’ll invest some more time into troubleshooting that next week.

I did notice from a bit of browsing around that IE 10 has virtually no right-click menu options anymore. I tried to save my avatar from Twitter to use it as my user tile, but the trusty right-click options are no more. Only copy remains, but that did the trick.

Update 2: From reading a few places, you’ll need to ensure your host machine supports hardware virtualization, which may not be enabled by default, if it’s supported at all. This could be why my Dell choked on the Win 8 install, and my Macbook Pro didn’t. From what I’ve read, you can turn on hardware virtualization in the BIOS.




  1. Jake,
    If you figure out to get networking working, pl. post back your findings.

    I tried the ISO on a VirtualBox install in Windows 7. Had to tweak a few things to get it to boot and go through the install, but could not get networking to work.


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