Small business, Windows 8 and me

Vostro 1000 with Windows 8Having revived my old XP desktop with Windows 8 I ought to report that I have updated my five-year-old Dell Vostro 1000 laptop from Windows Vista to Windows 8. The laptop was getting rather slow. Actually Vista made it rather slow. I should think it would have been quicker in the first place with XP.

It wasn’t as though I didn’t have a choice in speeding up the old machine. Given that all applications would need to be re-installed, I did think seriously about installing Ubuntu. After all Ubuntu is quick and not demanding on memory.

Just the same I thought it would be better (on balance) to “update” to Windows 8. I was allowed to reinstall Microsoft Office without a new key as MS licenses are linked to the motherboard. I like Open Office and installed that. It runs well .

I installed my other favourites which are the decent browsers, i.e. Firefox, Chrome and Opera; anything other than Internet Explorer. That is just as slow and cumbersome as in Vista, or at least that how it seems to me.

I also have the Tweetdeck client program. All fine and dandy.

So, the machine runs much more quickly. It boots quickly. It shuts down rapidly. It syncs with my other Windows 8 machine, the one which was revived by being updated from XP. That means it uses the same theme and has the same tiles leading to the same applications and social media things.

The one major difficulty in installing Windows 8 on this old machine was that it trashed the graphics driver and installed a generic one which meant that the display definition was much worse than before. The ATI website tool failed to detect one suitable for my ATI IGP Xpress 1150 graphics. After much head scratching, a visit to the Dell Support Forum brought a link to a suitable download, so all is fine now, and our screen quality is restored.

Of course the laptop does not have all the bells and whistles of touch-screen, but it is a new quicker version of itself. For everyday use with nothing too specialised in the way of software, Windows 8 has turned out to be a good choice for this maximum 2 GB machine, and is not too greedy for this older machine.

I hate throwing out equipment just because it is ageing if it is perfectly serviceable. Windows 8 has transformed the laptop back into a useful piece of equipment. I just thought you might like to know before throwing out your old machine.

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The On Our Bikes guide to Windows 8 for small businesses

Strictly for illustration, not for a profile pic

My desktop

Windows 8 is here and still on a special introductory price that we didn’t see with Windows 7. There are all sorts of wizard devices that run Windows 8  and if you want to play with it and see what suits you than you have a huge choice.

I come from the angle of a small office-based business running certain specialist applications,. I do not have touch screen facilities in the office, and nor do most people who are not in art or design (but do correct me if I am wrong).

I have installed Windows 8 on a machine about five years old which had 3Gb memory and which was running XP, 2.7 GHz AMD LE 1640 processor and 250 GB drive, only 20% full. This XP machine has no unusual specialist applications.

The plus side

  • Windows 8 looks very pretty.
  • I think the tiles are fun (you can look elsewhere to see what it looks like)
  • There is something very satisfying about the desktop which feels modern, but then so does my android tablet.
  • The machine boots in 10 to 15 seconds as opposed to a couple of minutes to settle down in XP.
  • It shuts down in less than 10 seconds; about the same as my older machine running Ubuntu.
  • There is a lovely modern feel and you can whip into any program (or App as we are being trained to say) very quickly because…
  • …the old machine is much faster than it was under XP

The minus side

  • You can take your programs with you from Windows 7 but you cannot from Vista or XP. You would have to reinstall them. That would take a lot of time. You can only carry over your personal files.
  • A lot of office programs are not currently compatible with Windows 8, for example any version of QuickBooks below QB 2013, and even that might be trouble.
  • So you would have to buy a lot of new software if you wanted to upgrade any system to Windows 8.
  • Having reinstalled your programs from disk you would then have to get new license keys from the software providers like if you had bought a new hard disk.
  • The touch screen would suit the artistic among us but most designers will be using Mac anyway.
  • There is no start button. You can use the tiles to start a program but have to wave your mouse cursor / pointer in the corner of the screen to get tiles if you are in desktop mode which you will be most of the time.
  • There is more waving of the cursor on the other side of the screen to get to the settings or even to shut the machine down.

Windows 8 has revived my old XP machine brilliantly, but it wasn’t running any specialist applications. In terms of functionality Windows 8 without touch screen is no better (because it is the same) as Windows 7, so if you have Windows 7, stick with it.

Let’s not forget that more and more specialist applications run in the cloud, which might be less of an obstacle to installing Windows 8, but then the cloud offers the choice of many operating systems.

If you have any specialist applications on your Vista or XP machines, you might also have to stick with what you have. I have two machines running Vista. One desktop with QuickBooks and tax programs and all those other programs needing to be reinstalled will stay with Vista. I might change over my Vista laptop eventually but not any time soon.

I guess Microsoft are trying to please too many people across too many devices, many of which are tablets or phones. You cannot have something which is all things to all women and men, because somewhere you are going to fall short. Windows 8 does fall short in the typical office, but is worth a punt for an XP machine with a bog-standard set of applications at the introductory price.

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