Open Letter to Microsoft: Windows 8.1 Broke My Laptop

eHow Tech Blog

I’m writing this on a Samsung Series 9 Ultrabook, the single most expensive laptop I’ve ever owned. It came with Windows 8, as terrible an operating system as Microsoft has ever produced, but I learned to live with it by pretending it wasn’t there: Freeware utility Classic Shell allowed me to boot straight to the Desktop and restored the Start button. For all intents and purposes, I was using a slim, speedy Windows 7 system.

Yesterday I installed Windows 8.1. Not because I wanted or needed it, but because I write about technology for a living and needed to take a screenshot of a certain “feature.”

Aside: In Windows 8.1, the much-ballyhooed (and very useful) Libraries option that debuted in Windows 7 is disabled. Turned off. I was writing about how to turn it back on. This is a great example of the mysterious and almost whim-like changes Microsoft frequently makes, the benefits of which are dubious at best.

After the update finished and my system rebooted, the first thing I noticed was a bunch of pop-up error messages from the Cisco VPN client I use to connect to a work server.

Even worse, my screen was no longer running at its native 1,920 x 1,080 resolution. I could tell because the fonts were larger and text looked fuzzy. A quick check of the display properties revealed a setting of 1,600 x 900, with no option to bump it higher.

Why? By most accounts, Windows 8.1 merely makes a number of small changes (some would call them fixes) to the user interface. The only notable change to the Desktop is the restoration of a Start button, though it’s not technically “the” Start button because all it does is take you back to the Start Screen. If you want to get to a program the traditional way, well, tough.

So there’s nothing about Windows 8.1 that would suggest a possible incompatibility with a simple VPN client, and certainly nothing that should prevent the graphics hardware from working properly. And yet my Samsung is no longer the machine it was. I have a work-related connectivity issue to deal with and a screen that’s inconveniently enlarged and not particularly sharp.

In other words, Windows 8.1 has robbed me of the laptop I paid for. It has cost me time and productivity as I’ve chased after solutions (of which there are none, at least for the moment). One could argue that Intel and/or Samsung share some (maybe even all) of the blame for not having compatible drivers ready. After all, 8.1 has been in beta for months.

But, ultimately, it was a Windows update that broke my laptop. And this is nothing new. Like many users, I feel like I’m walking on eggshells whenever I use a Windows PC. One wrong click and you’ve got a virus. One wrong driver update and your Wi-Fi no longer works. One distracted pass through a software installer and you’ve got unwanted toolbars and adware. It’s ridiculous that in 2013, 21 years after Windows became the dominant desktop operating system, problems like these still exist.

Even more ridiculous is that I continue to tolerate it. But no more. Last straw. I’ve had it with Windows, had it with the endless glitches and pointless changes. My new goal in life is to find a viable alternative, a computing platform that allows me to get my work done without all the grief that’s baked into Microsoft operating systems.

Macintosh? Maybe, but it’s insanely overpriced and not without its own technical issues. (See Apple’s online forums if you need proof.)

Linux? Maybe, but it’s hard to get it working properly with modern hardware.

No, I’ve realized that what I want is a tablet that can truly take the place of my laptop. That means a decent-size screen (9-10 inches just won’t cut it), a detachable keyboard, and the bloat-free, no-nonsense, instant-on Android or iOS operating system.

Right now, making this kind of switch would be a challenge. I do have to sign into a couple different VPNs and use some custom blog tools, and I frequently need to capture and crop screenshots, which is difficult without a mouse.

But this is my mission. I’ve had all I can stands, I can’t stands no more. Windows, you’re fired.

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