Windows 8 and Photogaphy

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windows-8-box    You’ve probably seen the OS on new computers at the local big box store. You also may have read all the negative talk about Windows 8 Metro and lack of a start button. I too was put off by my experience in the store and all the negative chatter on the net but I also read about  a work around to get the  OS more like Windows 7, so I decided to give it a try since Microsoft offered  Windows 8 Pro for only $39. I made a clone of my HD on a matching external drive so I wouldn’t  have to reinstall everything in case I didn’t like it, all I would have to do is swap drives. I was anxious about it at first because I have a lot of software and plug-ins which means a lot of work getting everything setup again. So here’s what happened. See links at the bottom too.

1. Installation went very smooth, no problems what so ever.  I did do a clean install though, not an upgrade over the previous OS. See the link below for a tutorial on doing a clean install (you need to read this first or you may not be getting a clean install). The only problems I had was with getting my older versions of software and unlock codes, that’s not W8s fault. All is well though.

2. Going from Vista 64 that was running well and still giving me the same Geek Bench score from 3yrs ago to Window 8 was a very noticeable increase in speed (not CPU but actual usage with software), the computer is much more responsive, almost like a CPU upgrade. I upgraded because a lot of photo editing software does not function correctly or is no longer supporting Vista (such as Adobe Photoshop ). I was tired of unstable software issues plus Vista came with some bugs that never got fixed for me. Even so I still liked it better than XP.

3. What about Metro and the missing start button? I don’t go to the start page(Metro section) very often so I have no problem with it. As far as the missing start button, No Big Deal, you just hit the upper RT corner with your mouse and click on the button on the Charms bar, plus on more click, what’s the big deal?. Getting deeper in the system such as the start-up list is in the Task Manager. Control panel, Music, Videos, Pictures, Clean up etc. is all in the folder on the left of the task bar. The “Run” app is in the All Apps section, you may be able to access this from the folder on the task bar as well I just have not spent enough time with W8 yet. W8 I really like much better than Vista. Once you get used to this new OS I think you will like it better too. I absolutely don’t need the software to add back the start button. At start-up you are sent to the start screen which you can customize, there you click on the desktop Icon which you move to where you want and change it size and you back to familiar territory. There are key board short cuts for many functions as well. It took me just one day to get used to things now it’s as if I have been using it all along. You don’t have to even see the start screen except when you first turn it on so don’t worry about it. Coming back out of sleep mode you can set it up so you don’t have to enter a PW, it’s just like W7 except no start button but you don’t need it because of the folder on the left of the task bar. If you want to see all your programs to open or pin to the desktop or task bar you go to the start screen  and right-click on the icon and select from the list on the bottom left of the task bar or just double-click it to start it up. To see more like control panel etc. right-click the bottom of the screen and select All Apps to see everything in case you can’t remember how to find it in the desktop folder. Everything seems faster including the internet with the new Explorer. What about the Apps? I don’t really have much use for too many APPs, we have tablets for that but as time goes by I might make more use of them and that is what Microsoft is banking on. Don’t forget you have keyboard short cuts like accessing the Run function just hit the Windows key + R or X. There are many more. Not reason to complain it’s too hard to find those things we accessed in XP thru Windows 7, you just need to learn a few new things that’s all.

4. Everything is not perfect though. Windows Media is still problematic as it has always been for me. It found and cataloged all my music and videos okay but many music albums it fragmented the first track as a separate album forcing me to retype info so it could be absorbed by the main album. Also volume levels vary quite a bit between music, something I hadn’t noticed before. SRS and the Equalizer are gone, you now have to buy a $30 app to replace it. You should also know that in order to play DVD from you player you will need to purchase the Codecs which run about $10.  Windows was offering these for free when I brought W8 Pro, so far like many others I have not received the unlock code for them yet and probably never will. as far as Apps go Make sure when you first start up the weather app you don’t let it use location services. Pick your city manually or you might get stuck with the city your connection service chooses otherwise you will have to uninstall the app and reinstall it to get the city correctly. This happened to me with 2 weather apps, I was unable to change home to be the one that showed up in the tile.  As time goes on and new improved features and apps come out I may end up using the Start/Metro menu more.

One more thing about the Plug-ins for Media player, you basically have two to choose from. The SRS version  and DFX. I brought DFX because the free version worked on my system and I don’t have a sound card installed. the sound is better overall with better bass. I don’t care for the 3D effect or the fidelity effect, I turned that off, there is a bit of annoying treble brighness to the sound but I can live with it for now. SRS effects  I liked in the old Media players and had planned on buying the new version didn’t work on my rig most likely because I don’t have a card. Maybe some day when it’s on sale I will get a sound card and give it a chance and compare. If you like bass you will want one of these. I’m using some older Polk Audio home speakers and a 40 watt external amp in my office for sound which is waaaaay better than any computer speaker setups  I have seen (except for some high-end ones over $500).  By the way DFX does not give you an Equalizer just those sliders. SRS used to but I don’t think the new version does.  I’m sensitive to the upper midrange and lower treble so the EQ is something that I make use of in my system I miss that feature because I can tune the sound just the way I like it. With DFX you can’t really do that. Seems kind of pricy to be paying $30 for these basic apps, if you don’t need it than don’t pay those high prices wait for a deal or another third-party to make one that is reasonable. The DFX version will work for most people I think depending on the sound system in use, the sound is a bit more forward in the upper mids. One more thing is that IMO the headphone option sounds awful with my Grado SR125 headphones, it destroys the high frequencies 100% the head phone mode is a complete joke fidelity wise at least on my computer. It makes me mad that you can’t get a fully functional free trail of these to see which one works best for you. That’s probably because there is no competition right now but that will change soon. So the bottom line is that unless you have a dedicated sound card you only have one choice right now and DFX is it at a regular price of $39. IMO these apps are worth about $10 tops. Having better bass might be important to you if like me you listen to music a lot on your computer.

There’s good news here regarding Windows Media Player, you don’t have to use it. iTunes works well and gives you a sound equalizer too. You could also use it for videos.  You also have the option of VLC Media Player which will play just about anything and is free. I have not used it in a long time so I can’t comment on the latest versions but I am confident that it is better now then a few years back. It also has an EQ built-in. Check it out:

What about browsers? IE is working very well for me but FireFox and Chrome are unusable for critical photo viewing because they give harsh shadow and oversaturation in many photos. IE is fine this is only with the latest versions of Chrome and FireFox so these browsers still need updating to work right with W8 pro. Yes my images online are in sRGB, I also see this with other  peoples photos online.

Update: I fixed Fire Fox by turning off color management which shouldn’t make any difference but it does, there must be a bug with W8 or FF & Chrome. The new version of Chrome does not have an adjustable Color Management dialog to work with. keep this in mind when you get W8 and do some testing with your images to see if its still an issue.

Bottom line, don’t be put off by what you have read or your experience in the store. If you’re using W7 you should probably just stay with that unless you buy a new computer. XP and Vista I would say yes for photographers due to software issues alone, and you still get a faster more responsive interface. I’m glad I took a chance for $39. Now I just need to make a clone of the current drive and keep up my backups. IMO best OS yet and it likely to get better with updates and upgrades. My understanding is that MS will not be bringing out a major release every 3 yrs like in the past but instead will build on this platform and have yearly upgrades for a price, the first upgrade to Window 8 (Blue) will most likely be free for existing users because that upgrade will have some major changes in the Core programming  After that it will cost everyone. So the $39 upgrade in December – January is a big money saver for users of an older OS. Yes Windows 8 is a very good OS for photographers.    Tips for Windows 8     Clean install how to.

The internet is full of tips and tricks for Windows 8.

The only way right now to change the start screen background  without hacking is to purchase the $5  Stardock Decor8 software app. The is just plain weird that Microsoft does not allow folks to change the BG.

All these little issues will get working out over time and is not reason to not use the product. Every OS had issues some that never got addressed. No OS satisfies everyone, there will always be the complainers out there just like with everything else. Apple has their issues too, namely right now it’s  their closed system which users have to find work arounds to do what they want (mostly applies to the ipads and phones). That too will change over time. I like Apple products but just can’t afford most of them (I do have an iPad). I remember when anything that worked with Apple/Mac costed twice as much, that used to really irritate me back in the day and I refused to be ripped off buying a printer that cost twice as much just because it worked with a Mac which already cost much more than a PC. These days it really does not matter what system you use anymore. The playing field is much more even. One thing though is that  Apples use IPS screens in pretty much all their product now which is really important to photographers using portable devices such as laptops etc. This is probably why so many pros use Apple laptops and iPad (most tablets now use IPS type displays now).

Update: It turns out W8 has some issues with PSCS6 which causes the work space to flash and change background colors (transparent – gray – black etc). You can go to preferences and either turn off the Graphics card under performance or select basic and see if that helps. I also got flashing making selections and zooming. I changed some settings in the Catalyst control center which  fixed only that. Also until I made those changes I had really bed jaggies when zooming in and out to any zoom level that was not an even number like 50% etc. The latest updates don’t fix it yet as of March 5th 2013. Adobe said they are working with vendors and MS to try and get it resolved. Not all video cards cause this.

Update 6/7/13:  You can remove the start up password if you like by typing netplwiz in the run dialog box (Hit the Window and R keys to get the run dialog box to show up). Once you do this you may have to change what happens once you computer comes out of sleep mode (laptops particularly). To do that go to your power settings in control center (hit window button and c then select settings and control panel) and select the advanced settings for sleep mode and uncheck the box for requiring a password on wakeup. My Windows 8 Pro has a different dialog box than a friends laptop so your options may be a bit different.  My computer is off by default but the laptop was not. If your option to uncheck the box is grayed out you need to select the change settings that are currently not available.    video for start up    Video for sleep mode.

Another way to get to control panel is thru your file cabinet at the bottom left of your desk top screen. click on that then click on the right arrow next to the word Libraries, than select control panel.  then select  category – large icons. Now you have a familiar layout.

A third way to get to control panel is to go to your metro screen that you see at start up and then put you mouse towards the bottom of the screen and right click then select ALL APPs then scroll to the right and you will find control panel.

A fourth way is to just start typing control panel while in the metro screen and vola it appears on the upper right of the screen. This is the simplest way to find anything in W8.

A fifth way to get to Control Panel is something you do every time you log out. when ever you are selecting shut down just look up and you will see the control panel option on the log out dialog box.

As you can see there are a lot of ways to find things in W8 and we all just tend to do things the same way each time, but first you need to know what is where.