One Giant Leap …
This story is more than about Windows 8.1 Pro Preview – it is a tragic tale, oh, just read and weep.
One of the biggest uses for computers by the senior folks is for managing and sharing photos of trips and family. So I wanted to check out how well Windows 8.1 handles photos since Windows 8 was not exactly competent in that area.
After getting some surprising results I stepped back to conduct a series of tests.
My Windows XP machine does not have a USB connector so no testing there.
Next came a Windows Vista machine. When the camera was plugged in and turned on this, is what I saw: “Installing device driver software”. Then AutoPlay came up. It offered to import pictures “using Windows” and also showed Windows Live Photo Gallery as an option – I have that installed on the machine.
Nothing unusual there. Windows Vista used to do a good job this way.
On to the next one.
Nothing unusual there. Windows 7 handles importing photos beautifully. I have Windows Photo Gallery installed and the options set about location, naming of folders and files. Moments after the camera is detected the import process commences. After the pictures are imported Photo Gallery opens to show the newly added photos.
This PC had not handled this camera before, the photo files were in raw (camera manufacturer proprietary) format, so neither Photo Gallery nor any other program could display the photos. A problem? Not in Windows 7. It popped up a dialog saying “Some photos or videos can’t be displayed” and explained that a “codec” needed to be installed. It offered to download the needed driver. In the past this would take you to the manufacturer’s driver download page, but quite a while back Microsoft released a powerful codec that can handle just about anybody’s proprietary formats. So this is the page that came up upon clicking “Download”:
The download and installation proceeded rapidly and pretty soon the Windows 7 PC handled the raw files just fine, both in Windows Explorer and Photo Gallery.
Now Windows 8 had shown a lack of prowess in this area, but I went through the test once more. When the camera was plugged in and turned on there was the sound signaling that an attached device had been detected and a message popped up in the upper right corner. It did show the correct camera model designation. The next dialog, however, was rather disappointing. You see, I had already installed Windows Photo Gallery on this machine.
There were just three options: “Import photos and videos [using] Photos”, “Open device to view files [using] File Explorer”, and “Take no action”.
The Windows 8 Photos app is a anemic, impotent, useless toy. It offers absolutely no option for the import process. It decides where the files should go, what the folder names are to be.
But I already said that Windows 8 and its Photos app lacked competence, so I had great expectations of Windows 8.1.
Mind you, I was testing the Windows 8.1 Pro Preview. Previews are not feature-complete and may lack a lot of what will be available in the final release. But hey, importing photos is something that Windows has been doing for years. So let’s see.
When the camera was plugged in and turned on there was the sound signaling that an attached device had been detected, but nothing more. It just sat there. Yes, Windows 8.1 detected the camera and even recognized the model. “This PC”, what is called “File Explorer” elsewhere in Windows 8.1, showed it. Right there as the first item under “This PC” (see the red pointer pointing to it in the illustration).
Well, maybe AutoPlay needs to be configured. Windows 8.1 clearly isn’t smart enough to bring that up by itself. Microsoft managed that back in Windows Vista just fine. Maybe their good engineers all retired. Have the young upstarts forgotten what Windows is supposed to do?
So I press the Windows key to bring up the Start screen and type “autoplay”. This part works nicely. It offers “Choose AutoPlay defaults” and “AutoPlay settings”. Both take you to the “PC & devices” screen.
And there it shows the camera, a “D60”, with an option selection box. Great, yes?
“Open device to view files (File Explorer)”, “Take no action” and “Ask me every time”.
Mind you, I had Windows Photo Gallery already installed on this PC! Not even the option to import using the anemic Photos app showed up! But Microsoft already has made claims about improvements in this app. Sigh.
So next I went to the desktop and opened Photo Gallery. It has an import option. Sure enough, there is the camera listed.
And indeed the Photo Gallery import function could be launched manually. It found the photos on the camera. It showed little thumbnails of the pictures and proceeded to import them. Joy at last?
Sad, sad, downer. When the import process completed this is what came up:
A stack of windows, one for each folder that Photo Gallery had made – as it always does, showing blank picture place-holder thumbnails. Indeed in Photo Gallery each folder shows absolutely nothing. No place holder thumbnail, nothing, just as if the folder was empty.
Nothing about needing a codec, no offer to download a needed driver, nothing.
Now you might think this is were this story ends in disappointment, disillusionment, disenchantment. But we have not yet hit bottom in this dark abyss.
There is something else I tried: I downloaded Picasa, the picture handling program from that nemesis Google. No problem installing or running the program. I next went back to see what AutoPlay might see.
Yes, AutoPlay offers the competitor’s product, but not Microsoft’s own! Can you believe it?!
Not only that, it works just like you would expect. And when the photos are imported, Picasa has no problem showing them, editing them, saving edited copies!
Now you may weep, cry for Microsoft, for this is indeed a giant leap for Microsoft
… toward oblivion
© 2013 Ludwig Keck