I got my work laptop just over 2 years ago, and had been using the same install of Windows 7 since then.  This is actually quite a long time for me to go without reinstalling Windows.  It was getting really slow and I had been planning on doing a fresh install once I got through a couple of projects.  I would boot the computer, log in, go make coffee and get breakfast, come back, and still have to wait for programs to load.  Although I am able to avoid malware, I still tend to bog down a machine with everything I like to try out.

Over Labor Day weekend, I decided to make the jump to Windows 8.  I figured worst case I’d have to install a Windows 7 virtual machine in Hyper-V if I needed to target Win7 for development.  Now I’ve been running a few days with Windows 8 Enterprise, Visual Studio 2010, and Office 2013.  I can say I couldn’t be happier.

This machine is FAST now.  I’m able to boot in seconds and be working within a couple of minutes.  (Although I still think a SSD would make huge difference with my build times in my larger solution.)

The new UI hasn’t gotten in my way, either.  Using the new Start has been a painless transition.  I spend most of my time on the desktop in Visual Studio and Office anyways, so I just have my programs pinned to the task bar.

The biggest win was just this morning I was able to boot, open a project in Visual Studio, and run the project all in a few minutes.  I was able to help someone out before I even left for the office just because I didn’t have to worry about waiting minutes just to get to the point where I could open Visual Studio.

So I guess my opinion on Windows 8 is really good right now.  😀


Thanks to everyone who was able to make it to the Evansville DNUG meeting today.  Here are my presentation materials and other resources.

Slides: View | Download

CSS3 Media Queries demo: Download

Other Resources:

Mobile Support in ASP.NET

Simulating an iPhone or iPad browser for ASP.NET Mobile Web Development with WebMatrix 2 or Visual Studio 2012

How To: Add Mobile Pages to Your ASP.NET Web Forms / MVC Application

Learning about Progressive Enhancement – Supporting Mobile Browsers with CSS3 Media Queries http://www.hanselman.com/blog/LearningAboutProgressiveEnhancementSupportingMobileBrowsersWithCSS3MediaQueries.aspx

Introduction to media queries – Part 1: What are media queries?

MSDN: Mobile Site Development: Markup http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/magazine/jj133814.aspx

Windows 7 Start Menu SearchingI was inspired by How-To Geek post on How to Get the Classic Start Menu Back in Windows 8.  I thought surely others might want features other than just the old Windows 7 Start Menu (because everyone loves waiting for a search to complete).

It’s nice that Windows 8 makes it easy to customize the Start so you can make your most frequently used programs readily available.  Being able to see your e-mail, weather, and other information quickly in the live tiles is pretty nice, too.  For me, searching Apps from the Start screen has been near instantaneous.

But is all this really necessary?  I mean, sometimes, I’d much rather drill down through a hierarchy of folders trying to remember where I need to go to find the calculator.  I really miss Windows 3.1’s Program Manager.  Sad smile

Here I’ll provide steps to get the classic Program Manager everyone loves and misses from Windows 3.1.  I found that there is actually a way to get the existing File Explorer to behave like Program Manager!

Windows 3.1 Program Manager

  1. On the Start screen (sorry, you do have to start here Crying face) click the Desktop tile.
  2. On the taskbar click on File Explorer
  3. In the File Explorer window’s path type or copy and paste the following path
    %ProgramData%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu
    This will take you to your Start Menu folder
  4. Right-click on the Programs folder and select Pin to Start
  5. Now, anytime you want to open the classic Program Manager like folder, you can just select Programs from the Start screen!

If you want have even quicker access to the Programs folder without using a mouse, you can drag it to the very first spot in the top left of the Start screen.  This location is unique in that it is always selected by default when you go to the Start screen, so you just have to push the Enter key to open it.  How’s that for an efficiency boost!

Programs in the ready position

imageI’m on my second day of using Windows 8 as a secondary desktop at work.  As mentioned in my last post, I’ve been using it along with the Office 2013 Preview to have access to my “other” domain accounts.  With Mouse without Borders it’s been a pretty great experience, and I’ve gotten to actually use a lot of the new features in Windows 8.  I especially like having the MetroTwit app docked to the side.

One of the things I haven’t liked, though, is links opening in the Metro Windows 8 style Internet Explorer.  Since I spend most of my time on the desktop and am using a mouse, the Windows 8 style IE can kind of get in the way.  Here’s how I changed it so IE and links open in the desktop IE.  (I’m going to avoid the alternative browser discussion for the time being Winking smile)

  1. Click the Desktop tile on your home screen
  2. Open Internet Explorer from the taskbar
  3. In Internet Explorer click on the gear icon and select Internet options
  4. In Internet options, select the Programs tab
  5. For “Choose how you open links” select “Always in Internet Explorer on the desktop
  6. Check the box for “Open Internet Explorer tiles on the desktop (this will cause the IE link on your Start screen to open on the desktop)
  7. Click the OK button
    Now your links, such as from MetroTwit, will open in IE on your desktop.  I have a feeling I’ll appreciate the Windows 8 style IE on a tablet, though, and won’t be making this change when using a touch screen.

In the past I’ve had multiple computers setup in my office, and I wanted to share the mouse and keyboard between them.  I’ve used Synergy and Input Director in the past with mixed results.  At the time I tried it, Synergy just didn’t work well with Windows 7 and was a bit of a pain to configure.  Input Director worked well and made configuration a little easier, but I still had occasional issues when first booting due to DNS issues.  It’s been a while since I’ve used either, though, since I stopped using a second computer.

Last week I installed Windows 8 on a second machine to get a clean setup and play with Windows 8 and the Office 2013 preview.  I also wanted to be able to have quick access to a separate Exchange account and my on premise Lync which we use as our phone system.

imageOnce again, I found myself wanting to share my mouse and keyboard between computers.  That’s when I found out about Mouse without Borders on lifehacker.  It’s actually a project resulting from The Garage within Microsoft.

UPDATE: Use the “Download the latest version” link at the support site to download.  The latest versions have fixes specifically for Windows 8 including fixing Alt+Tab in a Win8 machine.

Since I wasn’t going to need the cross-platform support that Synergy would provide I though I’d give Mouse without Borders a try.

It installed painlessly on Windows 7, then asked if I had already installed it on the computer I wanted to share with.  When I clicked No, it gave me a security code and the computer’s name to be entered on the second computer.

The Windows 8 install wasn’t so painless.  When I first ran the installer, it told me I needed .NET Framework 2.0.  When I clicked the “Get .NET 2.0” button, I was taken to a “page not found” error page on Microsoft’s website.  After a quick search in Bing, I still didn’t find an installer.  Then I tried installing .NET Framework 3.5 through Windows Features, which includes 2.0, but I got an error saying files couldn’t be downloaded from Windows Update.  (It ended up being an issue caused by us using WSUS.  I just installed from the Win8 DVD with the command line.)

After getting the .NET framework lined out, installing and linking up with my Win7 machine was easy.  It allowed me to select the order of computers and gave me plenty of options.  The nicest part was it just worked, though, and I was able to immediately start using a single keyboard and mouse across the 2 computers.  I’ll have to wait and see if I ever have any DNS/DHCP issues which will keep them from linking like I experienced with Input Director.

The Visual Studio blog just shared an update on the UI improvements coming the VS 11 beta.  I know the 2 biggest complaints I had and heard from others was on the complete lack of color and the ALL CAPS SCREAMING AT YOU FROM THE TOOL WINDOWS.  Both of these have been fixed for the upcoming Release Candidate.

Microsoft has added color throughout VS 11, and are saying they’ve increase the “energy” level of VS.  Maybe this just means that glancing at it doesn’t make you want to fall asleep.  They’ve done this by adding color to the most commonly used icons, more accent colors throughout, and adding color to object icons, such as file type and Intellisense icons.

Apparently someone on the VS team is a screamer, because they haven’t gotten rid of all caps.  They just moved them.  Now, tool window titles will be properly cased, but the top level menu titles are now all caps.

I do like the changes.  I think the toolbar buttons now have a nice balance between the busyness of the 2010 icons and the beta icons being indistinguishable from each other at a glance.  I’m not crazy about the top menu titles being all caps, but at least the toolbar window titles will be a little easier to read.

Here’s a screenshot from their original blog post showing the differences between VS 2010, 11 beta, and 11 RC.

Visual Studio 11

Microsoft hasn’t announced when the RC will be coming, but I’m looking forward to getting my hands on it!

Today Microsoft shipped the Release Candidate (RC) of Expression Blend 3.  You can download it from here.  It also includes Sketchflow, whatever that may be.

If you’ve been waiting for Intellisense and Team Foundation Server source control integration in Blend, this is a must for you.  I’ve been able to try them out, and it works great.  For TFS integration, you’ll also need a Team Foundation Explorer patch from http://code.msdn.microsoft.com/KB967483.

Improvements from ScottGu’s blog:

    • Sketchflow: SketchFlow makes it significantly easier to create prototypes, experiment with dynamic user experiences, and incorporate feedback from customers.  If you haven’t seen or tried it yet – you must.  It really is a game changing new way to create great user centric applications.
    • Intellisense: Blend 3 includes C#, VB and XAML intellisense support.  You can now write code and event handlers within Blend without having to switch to VS. 
    • Behaviors: Blend 3 includes behavior support which can encapsulate complex design interactions into reusable components that can be directly applied to a control within the design surface.  This enables designers to quickly add functionality and behavior to applications without having to write code.
    • Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator Import: Blend 3 now has built-in support for importing Photoshop and Illustrator files.  As part of the import process you can view and pick individual Photoshop layers to import, customize and regroup layers, and have Photoshop/Illustrator elements retain their original formats within XAML: including layer positions, editable text and font settings, and vector element conversion to XAML.
    • Sample Data: Blend 3 adds design-time sample data support which makes it easy to mock up data-connected applications and see what they look like without requiring access to live data.  You can generate sample data or import sample data from an XML file and it is available to controls on the artboard at design-time. You can customize your sample data details, and you can easily switch between using sample data and using live data at run-time.
    • TFS: Blend 3 now includes Team Foundation Server (TFS) support – allowing you to use source control and enlist within projects.  Blend shares the same project and solution format as Visual Studio – allowing both VS and Blend to work simultaneously on the same projects and enabling seamless editing between them.
    • Other Improvements: Additional enhancements including improved animation and easing function support, 3D transform support, visual effects support, and an improved visual state manager designer.

The Intellisense is good (faster than I’ve experienced in VS2008) and the general speed of the XAML editor seems much better.  It’s a rather timely release, too, considering Blend 2 just started locking up on me, today.

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