Two First Things Before Switching To Windows 8 (And A Rant On Single Identity)

by Jon Davis 29. November 2013 00:20

I am normally an eager if not early embracer, especially when it comes to Windows. Windows 8, however, was an exception. I've tried, numerous times, to embrace Windows 8, but it is such a different operating system that had so many problems at launch that I was far more eager to chuck it and continue calling Windows 7 "the best operating system ever". My biggest frustrations with it were just like everyone else's--no Start Menu, awkward accessibility, etc., since I don't use and don't want a tablet for computing, just like I don't want to put my fingerprints all over my computer monitor, hello!? But the dealbreaker was the fact that, among other things, I was trying to use Adobe Premiere Pro for video editing and I kept getting bluescreens, whereas in Windows 7 I didn't. And it wasn't random, it was unavoidable.

At this point I've gotten over the UI hell, since I've now spent more time with Windows Server 2012 than with Windows 8, and Server 2012 has the same UI more or less. But now that Windows 8.1 is out and seems to address so many of the UI and stability problems (I've yet to prove out the video driver stability improvements but I'm betting on the passing of a year's time), I got myself a little more comfortable with Windows 8.1 by replacing the host operating system for the VMWare VM I was using with my [now former] client. It was just a host OS, but it was a start. But I've moved on.

In my home office environment, making the switch to Windows 8.1 more permanently has been slowly creeping up my priority list particularly now that I have an opportunity of a clean slate, in multiple senses of the word, not the least of which is I had a freed up 500 GB SSD hard drive just begging to be added to my "power laptop" (a Dell) to complement its 2nd gen i7, its upgraded 16GB of RAM, and its already existing 500 GB SSD drive. Yes I know that 1TB SSD hard drives are out there now but I already have these. So last night and tonight have been spent poking around with the equivalent of a fresh machine, as this nice laptop is still only a year old.

The experience so far of switching up to Windows 8.1 has been smooth. The first things that went on this drive were Windows 8.1, Visual Studio 2013, and Adobe Creative Cloud (the latter of which has taken a back seat for my time but I plan on doing video editing on weekends again down the road). Oh, and Steam, of course. ;) All of these things and the apps that load under them were set up within hours and finished downloading and installing overnight while I was sleeping.

But in the last hour I ran into a concern that motivated me to post this blog entry about transitioning to Windows 8. It has to do with Microsoft accounts. Before I get into that, let me get one thing out of the way: the title mentions "two things", so the first is that if you hated Windows 8.0, try Windows 8.1, because the Windows 8.0 quirks are much more swallable now, which means that you won't be so severely distracted by all the nice new features, not the least of which is amazing startup time.

Now then. Microsoft Accounts. I want to like them. I want to love them. The truth is, I hate them. As a solution, it is oversold, and it is a reckless approach to a problem that many if not most people didn't have until Microsoft shoved the solution down their throats and made them have the problem that this is supposedly a solution for.

So before I go on ranting about that, here's the one other thing you should know. If you're tempted to follow the recommended procedure to setting up Windows 8.x but you want a local login/password for your computer or device and not one managed by your Microsoft Account, don't follow the recommended procedure. Look for small text for any opportunity to skip the association or creation of a Microsoft account for your device. But more importantly, once it is installed, even if it is a local user account, your account will be overhauled and converted to a Microsoft Account (managed online), and your username/password changed back to the Internet account username/password, unless you find that small text at every Microsoft Account login opportunity.


If you want to use apps that require you to log into a Microsoft account, such as Microsoft Store, or the Games or Music apps, when your Windows profile is already a Microsoft Account profile then you might be logged in automatically, otherwise it'll prompt you and then all apps are associated with that account. You may not want to do that. I didn't want to do that. I don't want my Internet password to be my Windows password, and I certainly don't want my e-mail address to be visibly displayed to anyone who looks at my locked computer as the account name. I like "Jon". Why can't it just be "Jon"? Get off, Microsoft! Well, it's all good, I managed to stick with a local account profile, but as for these apps, there was a detail that I didn't notice until I did a triple-take--yep it took me three account retroactive conversions for me to notice the option. When you try to sign into a Microsoft Account enabled app like Games or Music and it begins the prompting process to convert your local user profile to a Microsoft Account profile, there is small text at the bottom that literally saves the day! It reads, "Sign into each app separately instead (not recommended)". No, of course it's not recommended because Microsoft wants your dependency upon their Microsoft Account cloud profile strategy to succeed so that they can win the cloud wars. *yawn* Seriously, if you want a local user profile and you didn't mind how in the last couple decades on Internet-enabled apps you had to reenter the same credenials or maintain a separate set of credentials, then yes this action is recommended.

I would also say that you should want a local user profile, and you should want to maintain separate credentials for different apps, and let me explain why.

I ran into this problem in Windows because everything I do with gaming is associated with one user profile, and everything I do with new software development is associated with another profile. But I want to log into Windows only once.

I don't want development and work related interests cluttering up my digital profile that exists for games, and I don't want my gaming interests cluttering up my digital profile that exists for development and work. Likewise, I don't want gamer friends poking around at my developer profile, and I don't want my developer friends poking around at my gaming history. Outside of Microsoft accounts, I have the same attitude about other social networks. I actually use each social network for a different kind of crowd. I use Facebook for family, church friends, and good acquaintenances I trust, and for occasional distracting entertainment. I use Twitter and Google+ for development and career interests and occasional entertainment and news. And so on. Now I know that Google+ has this great thing called circles, but here's the problem: you only get one sales pitch to the world, one profile, one face. I have a YouTube channel that has nothing to do with my work, I didn't want to put YouTubey stuff on it for co-workers and employers to see nor did I want work stuff to be seen by YouTube visitors. Fortunately Facebook and Google+ have "pages" identities, and that's a great start to helping with such problems, though I feel weird using "pages" for my alter egos rather than for products or organizations.

I have a problem with Microsoft making the problem worse. Having just one identity for every app and every web site is a bad, bad idea.

Even anonymity can be a good thing. I play my favorite game as "Stimpy" or as "Dingbat", I don't want people to know me by name, that's just creepy, who I really am is a non-essential element to my interaction with the application, except so long as I am uniquely identified and validated. I don't want to be known on the web site as "that one guy, with that fingerprint, who buys that food, who plays those games, who watches those videos, who expressed those comments". No. It's trending now to use Facebook identities and the like for comments to eliminate anonymity, and that to get commenters to stop being so malicious, but it’s making other problems worse. I don't want my Facebook friends and family to potentially know about my public comments on obscure articles and blog posts. No this isn't good, let me isolate my identity to my different interests, what I do over here, or over there, is none of your business!

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About the author

Jon Davis (aka "stimpy77") has been a programmer, developer, and consultant for web and Windows software solutions professionally since 1997, with experience ranging from OS and hardware support to DHTML programming to IIS/ASP web apps to Java network programming to Visual Basic applications to C# desktop apps.
Software in all forms is also his sole hobby, whether playing PC games or tinkering with programming them. "I was playing Defender on the Commodore 64," he reminisces, "when I decided at the age of 12 or so that I want to be a computer programmer when I grow up."

Jon was previously employed as a senior .NET developer at a very well-known Internet services company whom you're more likely than not to have directly done business with. However, this blog and all of have no affiliation with, and are not representative of, his former employer in any way.

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