Posted by: reformedmusings | November 22, 2013

Windows 8.1 in WMWare Workstation 10 under Ubuntu Linux

First and to be perfectly clear, I am not even remotely considering going back to Windows. Good, we got that out of the way up front.

I have been running WinXP under VMWare Workstation in Linux for years for three reasons: Logos Bible Software, Turbo Tax, and Garmin GPS updates. That’s it, but all three are important to me and have no Linux alternatives. Logos 5 now only works in Win7 and higher, presenting a dilemma. I actually decided to abandon Logos and did so for a few months, but then found a Window 8.1 CD at Discount Mountain Software for just under $100 and I found it painful to abandon several thousand dollars of resources under Logos. DMS shipped promptly and I had the CD in just 3 days.

My reasoning in picking Win8.1 over Win7 was simple – I didn’t want to have to buy a new OS for my VM very often. Going with the latest for relatively cheap extends the time when I may have to do this again.

Installing Win8.1 into VMWare Workstation 10 proved a snap. Workstation automatically installed the operating system upon creation and also installed VMWare Tools for me. Whereas WinXP took 45 minutes to an hour to install from scratch, Win8.1 took just 16 minutes or so.

Win8.1 turned out to be as bad or even worse than I’ve read about. It may work fine on a touch screen, but it stinks on a desktop computer. This is what you get on startup:

win81-start-tiles

You’ve got to be kidding me! If you dare click on one of those tiles, it then owns the screen and some useless box appears about how to swipe between programs. REALLY??? On a desktop??? They’re on some mighty powerful pharmaceuticals in Redmond. It took me a while to lose the stupid swipe hint box and I have no idea how I did it. I made the mistake of opening a picture and then couldn’t get rid of the full-screen app with no visible controls. I finally used the task switcher (upper left corner of the screen) to switch to the desktop and then used Task Manager to kill the app. There’s probably an approved way to do the same thing, but I didn’t find it in a reasonable time.

If you click on the little arrow in the lower left of the screen, you can swap to an applications list which is somewhat more useful:

win81-app-list

I discovered that by hitting the escape key, I can get to a real desktop (pictured with a custom theme that I added later; the standard themes are incredibly lame):

win81-desktop

That allowed me to install Logos 5, the Garmin Express updater, Olive Tree’s Bible Study, and eventually Turbo Tax when I get the download link. Good enough on that count, but how do I get rid of the stupid “Start” screen with the tiles?

The answer lies in the Control Panel -> Taskbar and Navigation controls (you can get to the control panel by moving the mouse pointer to the lower right corner of the screen, then clicking on the gear icon on the pop-up panel, then select Control Panel):

win81-control-panel-tan

That dialog contains all the controls needed to bring sanity to Win8.1:

navigation-settings-dialog

For a change, the settings proved self-explanatory. I unchecked showing Start screen with the tiles, substituting the app list display when I click on the “Start” icon. If you have a lot of apps, this app list could get very difficult to scan. Since I only use a handful of apps that I pinned to the task bar, I don’t need that screen often at all.

For completeness, here’s a Logos 5 screen showing the Passage Guide on Psalm 11 with some of my resources:

win81-logos5-ps11

The Exegetical Guide for Psalm 11 looks like this:

win81-logos5-ps11-exegetical

Before closing, I have to sing the praises of Workstation 10. Workstation 10 is the nicest upgrade yet from WMWare. It supports advanced 3D graphics modes for Linux and Windows guests. I gave the Windows 8.1 VM 1 processor with 2 cores, 3 GB of RAM, and a 60 GB hard drive. That provided excellent performance. Because Workstation will mount a virtual disk in Linux when the VM isn’t running, I was able to transfer the data files I desired from the WinXP virtual hard drive to Win8.1 by sharing the appropriate folders through Linux and Workstation. Very simple and effective. I had a lot of old garbage in the WinXP VM, so had to transfer very little data to Win8.1.

One last observation on Windows 8.1. The transition for a normal user from WinXP or even Win7 to Ubuntu or similar Linux distribution would be far easier than the transition to Win8 – FAR easier. I use Win7 at work and have used WinXP since its introduction, and I had great difficulty trying to figure out how to do simple tasks in Win8.1 until I discovered how to keep the “obsolete” desktop as the primary display to make it work roughly like Win7. I still don’t know how to close a full-screen app from the tiles or app screen without using Task Manager to kill it, and I’ve been using and mastering computers in every form since the early 70’s. Win8 may be OK on a tablet, I don’t know, but it’s a disaster on a non-touch screen desktop computer. Ubuntu Unity is a breeze to use by comparison. I have set up complete computer novices on Ubuntu and they have zero difficulty with Unity. I wouldn’t think of giving them Win8, especially if I had to support them after setting them up.

So, I now have Logos 5 running like a top, and at the same time positioned myself for another long stretch without sending more money to Micro$oft. Mission accomplished for years to come.


Responses

  1. Reblogged this on the Assault of Nimbosa.


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