Windows 8 pluses and minuses...

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  May your day be filled with amazing food, animated conversation and an abundance of love. 

After 18 days as owners of two new lightweight Acer Windows 8, 15.6, 64 bit laptops we've had adequate time to determine its flaws and merits as typical, not expert, PC users.  (Well, not quite the typical user, as far as time online is concerned in preparation for our upcoming travels).

Back in 1991, Tom and I each had our own over sized desktop computers when we both became obsessed with a online beta game called Netplay, one of the first of its kind at that time.  It took 8 hours to download the game via a phone modem.  Wow, times have changed!

Over the years, we've updated our computers every few years, intrigued by the latest software and technology, finding ourselves enjoying their use as a tool to enhance our lives, to learn, to entertain us, to shop, to read aloud to one another, maybe spending more time online than other users.

As we planned our travels, we knew that our two old workhorse Dell Inspiron 17.3", 7.8 pound laptops, had their day.  Once Microsoft started promoting Windows 8, we decided we had to make the laptops last until the new laptops were available. 

It was a long wait.  My case broke and was held together by a huge plastic clamp.  Tom's monitor's light dimmed beyond repair (believe me, I tried) leaving us both chugging away waiting out Windows 8 release date.  Alas, it arrived on the market a week before we left Minnesota. 

We decided to wait to purchase the two new laptops until we arrived in Scottsdale avoiding any concern of a possible hotel room thief along the way.  One day after we arrived, we headed to the local Costco store, credit card in hand, chomping at the bit to get back to our temporary home to begin the process of transferring the data.  Ugh!

Mistake #1:  In order to get a "good deal" of $1658 (including 9.5% Arizona sales tax) buying at Costco, we shortchanged ourselves in some ways.  Don't get me wrong, we love Costco, always have.  

However, buying a computer from Costco resulted in zero in-person technical service, all precipitated by the desire to save a few hundred dollars.  Add a new operating system of which we had zero experience with limited information online, we were in a quandary.

Desperate, a few days later, we attended a free one hour course at the local Microsoft store.  Had we not had a few days to "play around with it" the course would have been way over our heads.  Fortunately, by that point we knew exactly which questions to ask, coming out of the class feeling more at ease.

Mistake #2:  Not purchasing a new data transfer software program or paying $69-$99 to have a professional do the transfers.  The software we brought with us for this task was obsolete for Windows 8.  Yes, we had transferred most of our data to the free 2 G DropBox before we left Minnesota, which we are now transferring to Microsoft's own new cloud, SkyDrive with 25 G of free storage.

Fortunately, we had brought along the CDs for Microsoft Office and Outlook 2007, which miraculously, we were able to install. We didn't want to buy Office 2010 when Office 2013 is coming out in February.

Fortunately, we brought along a zip drive enabling us to transfer all of Outlook files which included all of our communication, rental agreements, receipts and instructions with the owners and managers of the many vacation homes we are renting all over the world.  (I had placed the actual leases in Dropbox).

If I were to say, we each spent about five days setting up our computers, it's no exaggeration.  Finding support online was difficult with little consistent Windows 8 information available.  This will change quickly.  We were a few weeks ahead of the availability of reliable online guidance. 

Somehow, we figured it all out while swiping our fingers across our "touch screens" trying to maneuver those pesky little tiles.  Somehow, all of our data, contacts, pictures and settings are in place.  Somehow, we've learned the zillions of nuances one will only find in Windows 8.

The biggest issue we discovered, using Adobe Flash player, supposedly pre-installed into Internet Explorer 10.  Not the case, with error messages on many websites that require Flash. 

After hours of looking for solutions; patches from Microsoft or new versions for Windows 8, I stumbled across what proved to be a workable download, when several downloads didn't solve the problem.  (Of course, I uninstalled the non-working version we had but even the uninstall feature had issues). Quickly, I repeated the exact same process that made it work on my laptop, onto Tom's laptop and it didn't work!  We had the exact same computers!

Days later, after downloading and re-installing several versions, I finally got Flash to work  enabling Tom to get into his historical documents in Ancestry.com, his favorite site.  At one point, I was so obsessed with finding a solution, I sat here in this not-so-comfy chair, palms sweating, until almost midnight, bound and determined to fix it. 

Lo and behold, a few days later, it stopped working!

The next day, I spent over an hour on the phone with Costco's technical support in a conference call with a rep from Acer, neither of whom could resolve the issue.

Our laptops are quietly humming along loaded with our stuff, access to our travel files, filled with new apps, mine with little blocks of tiles, categorized by topic, each a single click to what I want to do.  I'm learning to love it, now that the worst is almost over with (the Flash issue remains).

Would we recommend Windows 8?  Yes, tentatively, provided one has professional assistance in transferring data from the old computer, getting Adobe Flash Player working correctly which we have yet to do, attending online or in-person training, and a willingness to spend considerable time learning its unfamiliar commands and hand gestures so unlike former Windows operating systems.

We both have found that the learning and the resulting mental stimulation from acquiring and getting up to speed on the latest technology may ultimately prove to be instrumental in keeping our brains working and perhaps, in keeping us young.  That would be nice. 

We have lots to do today including going out to Thanksgiving dinner at The Wandering Horse Buffet at The Talking Stick Casino in Scottsdale. 

After dinner perhaps another hour long walk to walk off the meal, as we did yesterday perusing past the 100's of art galleries in the art district in our neighborhood.  I told you "he'd walk!" 

Have a happy day!

P.S.  Since writing this post this morning, I have found a solution for Flash Player.  Actually Internet Explorer is supposed to be pre-installed with Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash Player.  In both of our computers, it was non-functioning.
1.  Download the patch at this Microsoft site:  http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2770041
2.  Open Internet Explorer on the DESKTOP, not the TILES START SCREEN. In the upper right hand corner is a little gear (settings), click on this and then click on Manage add-ons. 
3.  In the middle of the box that appears, click on Show and select ALL add-ons.  Scroll down the right inside of the box and find Shockwave Flash
4.  Double click on Shockwave until a box appears.  Check ALLOW ALL WEBSITES.  This should do it.

That fix worked on our Windows 8 computers.  We now both have working Adobe Flash Players  Hopefully, it will work for you.  If you have trouble, feel free to comment here or email me and I will gladly respond promptly.

I don't profess to be a Windows 8 expert but with the lack of "free" tech support that knew how to solve this problem, we had no choice than to figure it out on our own. 

Now have a happy Thanksgiving day!  With both of our computers in full function mode, we sure will!

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