Inappropriately Touching Windows 8

5 03 2012

It’s time to dust off the cobwebs here.

I’ve got a few things to do in 2012 technology-wise and I may shift the focus of this blog so that its content better includes what I’m actually doing. Including more content like photography and shooting information in addition to computing and technology topics.

Most of my technology these days involves cloud computing and lots of data management. Photography happens to be involved or reliant upon both those things!

Onto Windows 8…

Starting with the Developer Preview, I knew that this would be something interesting. In fact, prior to its release, I bought my new Tablet PC Convertible with multi-touch, and a pressure-sensitive Wacom stylus (for Photoshop) knowing that “the future of computing” involved touchscreen computing.

(And, I have looked at the iPad for a long time. I’ve used them, and I’ve used the iPhone as a primary device, Mac OS X etc. I’ve also been watching Android tablets closely to see if they would fit my needs…)

Now, I’ve used Tablet PC’s for the past 8 years, so that’s nothing new. I know Apple says that “if you see a stylus, they blew it,” but Wacom appears to have made an OK business out of it. And now, I have a mini Cintiq that is also a computer with me (note – I would not refuse owning a real Cintiq!).

The Windows 8 Developer Preview was pretty lumpy. I did use it as my “primary desktop” for a few months. But, I used Windows 7 as my “photography OS” for using Capture One, FastPictureViewer, Photoshop, etc. while using Windows 8 for Office tasks and Visual Studio.

The current Windows 8 Consumer Preview seems like a totally new, much smoother experience. And, I will state up front, that this experience will be very familiar to me because of the following factors:

  • I have a Windows Phone 7 (going on 18 months) – but my LG is dying
  • I used the Developer Preview
  • I have a multi-touch device

That said, I use the keyboard and mouse just as much (I don’t use my tablet as a “tablet” – I just touch the screen).

You’re going to love this when Apple invents it!

If I’m in a public setting, inevitably surrounded by iPads, and I boot up my laptop, I have to touch the screen to boot into an OS… it’s a dual boot system. And the boot screen uses the Zune / Windows Phone 7 “swipe up” type unlock move which isn’t subtle on a bigger screen.

I get asked: “Did you just touch your laptop?!”

No kidding…

After I type in the password and Metro shows up, they say “WTF is that?!”

And, I have to say “You wouldn’t like it. But, when Apple invents it, you’ll love it.”

It’s the same thing I say after they watch me use my Windows Phone for a while. They watch me post a status update, reply to a comment, or rip through my photo albums online when reviewing a recent photo shoot and say something like “Wow, that’s really fast… what kind of phone is that again?”

“It’s not an iPhone, so you probably wouldn’t like it.”

“Oh. Yeah. I use iTunes.”

But, the thing is, I bet Apple IS inventing touch-screen laptops right now. They already have their Magic Mouse, and the big track pad for their machines. Lion and Mountain Lion incorporate the iPad-esque desktop metaphor (which is sort of like Windows 3.1 Program Groups) for quick access to apps. So, a touchscreen laptop isn’t that out of the question.

It could be a great time for them… when a $30 Lion upgrade leads to a $1,500 hardware upgrade to get the touchscreen functionality! But seriously… their mouse and trackpad do all that touch integration already… sort of.

Why is Windows 8 OK for me?

So Developer Preview was really rough for me because I had to spend most of my time in Desktop Mode. And it seemed to get really flaky toward the end of its life. But now, there’s a mail / calendar app built-in. So I can spend more time in Metro. And also, there’s a Pictures Hub and People Hub like my phone. This is a very very important feature (for me).

That means that my Tablet PC is starting to fit the “use case” I’ve been thinking about as a photographer. If I can flick through a photo shoot with a client and “just access my photos” with or without Internet access, and sync changes (ratings, comments etc.), and then even make changes, without doing a lot of extra steps, I’m way ahead.

If you just said “Yes, but iCloud + iPad…” – hold that thought, and read the next section.

If I can have a machine that “does apps” – simple tasks, but then can transition into “deep silos” of functionality (Capture One, FastPictureViewer, Photoshop, Office) when I need to, then I have it all.

The Windows 8 Metro Apps are Apps. They do shallow things for now. They are lightning quick. They exploit the multi-touch UX (and Natural UI / NUI). But, just start typing… search “just happens”. Then tap what you want. Or click. Who cares?

I’ve composed via the on-screen keyboard. It’s OK, but really… I don’t have to, so I don’t.

Leaping into Desktop mode when needed is like “rolling up your sleeves” to go to work. Which isn’t all bad… and it’s nice to have a machine that will do both.

But it better my respect battery at the same time.

The workflow of my life – Yeah… I’m ADH… oooh shiny!

I live in a few different modes. To establish a baseline for operations, I route my mail through http://domains.live.com and set up camp there via “the cloud”. Plus I get access to Office Web Apps if I put documents in SkyDrive.

I live in OneNote, which syncs notebooks to my Windows Live Custom Domains / SkyDrive, my Windows Phone, and my Windows machines. And I Live Mesh. A lot.

I have my Windows Home Server (v1, but considering 2011 + StableBit’s DrivePool because I need Drive Extender) for backup… but I NEED LIVE MESH to work. Thus WHS 2011. (Also – hey Mesh team – don’t remove PC to PC sync. Thanks.)

So, in one mode, I “Create”.

That means taking / culling / retouching photos, creating documents, mind maps, notes, drawings etc. And yeah, sometimes stuff in Visual Studio or Microsoft Expression Blend / Sketchflow.

Taking photos can also involve something called “Tethering” – which I have yet to do much, but really involves shooting directly to Capture One on my laptop. There are lots of ways to accomplish it though (e.g. FastPictureViewer, or Canon’s software, an Android app can replicate the viewfinder…).

Culling a few hundred 25MB RAW photos on a Galaxy or iPad device doesn’t feel like the “right thing to do” during or after a shoot. So Windows 7 or 8 is good there.

In my other mode, I “Review”.

That means, I consume content I (or others) have previously created. I edit it, sync it, and push it to other devices or take it to others for review.

(Again, I get back to the problem of those 25MB each RAW photo files… but let’s pretend we’re down to small JPEGs now.)

Apple is currently pushing iCloud as the perfect way to do these things. But, I don’t use Pages / Numbers / Keynote. And, I tend to use random file types iCloud doesn’t support. Now, iDisk used to support that… why kill that? Who knows?

OK yes, SugarSync, DropBox, Box.net etc. exist and I’m sure those could be OK. However, I do get the benefit of a single identity with SkyDrive. And I didn’t much like DropBox’s previous privacy record. And none of those integrate with Office Desktop or Live directly. And Google will release some Google Drive thing soon… but I am not a fan of the Google Apps yet. That’s just a personal taste. (Mostly Gmail actually.)

Also, putting my photos on an iPad involves iPhoto or “the web”. Plus, one very important other step… color calibration. Currently, there is one application by DataColor that will supposedly let you view your pictures in a “calibrated” way on your iPad. But, if a client wants to review, remark, and sync changes back to my original libraries… well, I haven’t saved myself much work.

You see, iPhoto doesn’t accept “Ratings or Comments”. But Facebook, the local storage, and SkyDrive do. So my Windows 8 tablet, with a calibrated display, can track my images for me without extra steps.

Perhaps, the new iOS SkyDrive App and OneNote apps could help some parts of this. But ultimately, I lack the discipline to remain in one mode or the other. I sometimes start in “Review” mode and end up in “Create” mode…

The problem is mostly me and my workstyle. An iPad would force some discipline.

Metro and Desktop can get along

All that probably means that an ARM-based Windows 8 device is also not for me.

Many pundits don’t see how Metro and the Desktop can coexist.

I do… there are times when I need to “touch the screen” because it is faster.

There are apps that do not require a keyboard.

How do you know?

Ask the Supreme Court. You know it when you see it. Or use it.

Even in Desktop Mode, it is often faster to type on the keyboard, reach up, flick the screen upward to scroll, or poke a button rather than screw around with a trackpad, or reach for the mouse. This is why “operator workstations” (Human Machine Interfaces or HMI’s) in plants have had touchscreens for years in addition to keyboards and mice (mouses?).

But, would I edit photos, a Word doc, or create a Mind Map with just my fingers? Probably not. That’s why “Photoshop for the iPad” isn’t super interesting to me.

Windows 8 has absolutely great touch capability vs. Windows 7. There is zero question about that. But, when you’re not just showing off how awesome an app is or when you’re in “Review” mode, Desktop mode is where intensive-work gets done.

For now.

Of course, whenever Office 15 / Photoshop / Capture One (ha!) shows up with Metro-awesome, that will all change.

It’s also a way of “partitioning” your workspace.

For now, when you’re in Metro, you’re being “social,” checking email, and probably being distracted. And, when you’re in Desktop, you’re in Jedi-focus-content-creation mode.

And, you’re going to love it when Apple invents the touch-screen laptop…

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