Monday, August 6, 2012

Let's try Win 8 Release Preview and VS2012

     I've got the weekly newsletter from CodeProject and saw that Windows 8 was Released to Manufacturing along with Visual Studio 2012, so I thought this would be an ideal time to try this fresh version of Windows and this new version of VS. I've already tested the BETA version of Windows 8, but that was quite slow, everything was new for me in that version, I didn't know anything about the new features or the changes made, I only installed it to see how it is. Since then I watched some tutorials which explain new features of Windows 8 and how can this be used more efficiently without touch input.
    In the following posts I will try to present some steps about Windows Application Development for Windows 8 using HTML5/JavaScript and also WPF and XAML.

Setting Up Test Environment

     I've had a version of VirtualBox on my machine, but when I fired it up, it said that there is an update for it so I installed that also. The version of VirtualBox I tested with is 4.1.18 r78361. I created a new virtual machine, assigned for it 2GB of memory and 2 CPU cores. I have to mention that I have 4GB of memory in my laptop abd the 64bit Windows7 says that 3.79GB is usable; by assigning 2GB to this new virtual machine,VirtualBox gives a warning message, that I've assigned more than 50% of my system memory to the virtual machine and the hosting OS can remain without memory and I may continue for my own risk; what can I say :) ok, thanks for the warning, I will assume this risk. 


    The next step was to download the RTM version of Windows 8 from Microsoft's website...but this will be available for developers only from 15 August. I did not want to give up and wanted something newer than the BETA version and also my main aspect was to see how VS2012 looks and feels like. I started searching the internet and saw that the Windows 8 Release Preview was free for public access, so I downloaded this version from I have downloaded the 64bit version. The size of the ISO file is 3352.8MB. 
     I've added the Windows 8 Release Preview ISO to the virtual machine and I've fired it up. The same start up message appeared as in older version of windows: Press any key to boot from CD or DVD......The install wizard is very similar to the Windows 7's wizard, there are minor graphical changes, but the logical flow and the steps done are the same. I was quite impressed, because the installation was finished in 20 minutes. Taken into account that there were only 2GB of memory, 2 CPU cores and a hard drive with 5400RPM I think this was fast :). 
I think it is important to talk about the user management in this version of Windows. There are 3 possibilities to create users.
     The first one is to use an existing Windows Live ID, I have a Windows Live ID so I started to use Windows 8 with this, it automatically configured the Mail application to connect to the live mail account, the Messenger program automatically added the contacts which I had assigned to my windows live account, it configured the SkyDrive app also. At the first start up I had the impression that in less time I had much more things configured and ready for use that I've had when installing Windows7 and to be honest I like this thing a lot.
    The second option is to create a new Windows Live Account and start to use that, the result is the same as in the case of the first option.
    The third option is to create an account locally without adding Windows Live ID, I guess if you don't have an internet connection when installing the OS than this is the only option for you to get the system running. I don't know if afterwards the account can be changed to use a Windows Live ID, but I guess this is possible, otherwise it really does not make sense to have this option.

     After configuring the account I've started to look around in the system a little bit and I noticed that you can check for updates, so I pressed the button and waited and waited and waited; it took almost 5 minutes to identify that there are 7 new updates for Windows 8 Release Preview, I've chosen to install them. The installation was much faster, in 3 minutes the 7 updates were installed, but a reboot was required.
     The thing which amazed me was that there is a significant improvement in performance and responsiveness of the OS related to the BETA version. Most people say, ohhh if the BETA version is slow which is only a fraction of the final product how slow the final version will be? I don't agree with this affirmation, I think the BETA version of a product is BETA because it is not optimized, the features exist, but do not work well are slow and buggy.

     After using Windows 8 a little more I had the same feeling which I've had with my Windows Phone. The system is much smarter, it configures a lots of things for you and really tries to offer a complete package of services for the user. Finally Microsoft seems to understand the philosophy that Apple used for years when developing his products (I think this discussion will worth another blog post :) ).

The OS installation was done, let's start with the second part, Visual Studio 2012.

Installing VS2012

     The base idea was to test VS2012 and to get in touch with the new Windows 8 UI Style (as I've read the Metro name will vanish from the Microsoft terminology - ).
    I've started to look for Windows 8 application development and found this page: From here you can download the "tools and SDK" which only contains Visual Studio 2012 Express RC. It's not the RTM version, but it will be OK to make some tests and samples. The installation of Visual Studio was quite fast. I think if you are installing onta real machine and have at least 4GB of memory (I think 4GB of memory is not much for a software developer) it will run well.
I have to admit that I like the design of the new Visual Studio the icon's design are the same as the ones used for Windows Phone 7 Development.
     There are a lot of things which I like in Visual Studio 2012 I will discuss about these when I start to present how apps can be made for the new Windows 8...


  1. I like Windows 8 also but it will take a little getting used to. I also have installed Windows 8 on a VM. I was wondering if you could comment on a few points that I ran across while "playing" with this new interface?

    1) Maybe it is the VM or maybe it is Win 8 but have you noticed that mouse clicks seem to be different. It seems that there is a more restrictive area that one can click on and have a button "activated". Sometimes where I am expecting a single-click and have wondered what is taking so long I find that what is really required is a double-click.
    2) Again this may be a feature of the VM but I am having a hard time getting the maximum screen resolution without scroll-bars. The effect is that I have scroll bars constantly reminding me that the this is a window and not an OS. I would prefer to be blisfully ignorant of the fact that I have a VM. Not to mention that sometimes I have two sets of scroll bars - one for the application and one for the VM window.
    3) How is the best way to switch between applications? For example say I want IE so I click on the IE tile and do a little browsing then I find it would be useful to fire up the calculator app or Paint. The only way I know to do this now is to hit the windows key which brings me back to the "Start" page and then select the app I want. This seems to be alot of extra steps where I could just go to the application bar at the bottom of the screen with Windows 7.
    4) With my VM I always get a message on start up that this VM was optimized for 32 bit color and i should switch from 24 bit color. There is an option to never show this message again but I was wondering how I do this so the message goes away more "naturally".

    Ideas? Comments?

    1. Hi Kevin,

      First of all, thanks for the comment.
      Related to the first problem, I did not see this kind of a behavior, yes it is possible that it appears because of the VM.
      Related to screen resolution, I had some issues with the Release Preview version, but this was because of virtualbox. I upgraded to the newer version and now I can maximize the window of the VM and have the same resolution as on my normal desktop.
      At point 3 you are right. Currently there are 2 possibilities, the one mentioned by you, or open run window (Windows key + R) and enter the name of the app which you want to launch. As I saw there will be an extension to Windows 8 which will resolve this, so on the normal desktop we'll have Start menu( please see the link: ).
      The fourth question you posted is a good one. I think the problem is, that you have a 24bit color configuration on your normal desktop (not VM) and the machine inside the VM is optimized to run on a host OS which has 32 bit color setup. What kind of OS do you have and what kind of Video Card?