Saturday, December 14, 2013

Windows 8 Syncing: Cool or Creepy?

I'm the first to admit that I have not had a good time with Windows 8. Probably part of the reason is that I've been using it on a non-touch laptop only. I like many of the features (such as the awesome Task Manager), but I've mostly been fighting with the Modern App side. It seems like the Pictures app comes up when all I want is the desktop Preview application. And the Video app does not recognize the files on my Mac partition, but Media Player on the desktop works fine.

This laptop was the only Windows 8 device that I've had in my collection of devices.

A Little Creepy
It was the only device until recently, that is. A few week ago, I got a Surface 2 tablet, and I must admit that Modern Apps are much better with touch. I've spent much more time learning the apps that I had previously ignored on my laptop. (Disclaimer: I got the Surface 2 at a very steep discount.)

But my first experience was just a little bit creepy. When I was setting up the Surface 2, I logged in with my Microsoft account (which is the same account I use on my laptop). That's when I found that the lock screen on my Surface was the same as the lock screen on my laptop (a picture of my cat, Toby).

That was unexpected (and a little bit creepy). I would not be surprised if settings were stored in the cloud with my Microsoft account, but I didn't expect that a lock screen photo would be automatically uploaded and associated with my account.

But I got over that pretty quickly. My next experience was this last week.

Cool or Creepy?
This past week, I finished up my next Pluralsight course which is about localization. In my demos, I changed the language on my OS so that I could show how that impacted the languages that were used by Internet Explorer.

I ended up leaving the language set to French. This really didn't impact the laptop that I was working on because you need to logout/login for the setting to take effect at the OS level. I didn't really think much more about it.

When I went back to my Surface later in the day, I went to type in a web address and found this:

This is the French AZERTY keyboard (as opposed to the QWERTY keyboard). Changing the language on one machine affected the keyboard layout on a completely different machine. When I took a closer look, the language on some of the icons had changed on my Start screen as well:



I'm not sure I like this too much. I know that these sync settings can be changed, but I like to use the default settings for a while before I make any customization. This default behavior seemed just a little bit creepy -- like a bit of my local computer had leaked into the cloud.

(And to emphasize this: while I was writing this post, I changed the keyboard layout on the Surface to French so that I could take a screenshot, and my laptop keyboard changed to the same layout as I was typing.)

So I could see how this could be really cool or really creepy. If I had multiple PCs, it would be nice that they all had the same settings, layout, experience, etc. But with the PC and tablet, I find that I want different settings on each device.

A Good Upgrade Experience
Since I just finished a Pluralsight course, I figured it was a good time to upgrade to Windows 8.1 (before I start my next course). The upgrade experience was painless, just a bit slow. Fortunately, I set this to install when I didn't need my computer.

As a side note: The language and region settings screen is completely different from Windows 8; I'm glad that I finished up my course with the old "dialog" screens as opposed to the new "Modern" screens. It was much easier to show the dialogs on the video.

I've been fighting with parts of Windows 8 for a while. Having the Surface as a touch device has helped me get used to the Modern app paradigm, but it's still not a great experience on a non-touch device. I'm sure that I'll find the balance somewhere.

Happy Coding!

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