Windows 8 is not for the power user

Mar 08


This posting is a reprint of an article I wrote for the Journal of Property Management which can be found on IREM‘s website.  A PDF copy can be found here.



I’ve had a chance to play with the pre-release and official copies of Windows 8 and while I appreciate the amount of work it must have taken to engineer this
newest version of Windows, I do not intend to upgrade any of my machines.

For the purposes of this article, I will define a “power user” as anyone who uses 2 or more applications at a time. The new interface is attractive and informative, but as a power user, it is just I my way to getting work done and at the end of the day really adds little value to being more efficient.

Where to Start?
Ideally, the next operating system interface would build on and enhance what you already know. After years of training us to go to the “start menu” to find our programs, Windows 8 has erased it (fear not, there is an $4.99 app for that – ), which reminds me of the less efficient Microsoft Office Ribbon that ate our menus (but fortunately not the shortcut keys).

Power Power user
You may have seen my office setup ( ) before and know that not only do I run more than 2 apps, I run more than 4 computers spread across 9 monitors, something that Windows 7 made a joy, and Windows 8 makes unnecessarily difficult ( )

Getting Work Done
Most of my work involves reading something the client (or a 3rd party) has generated, processing it, analyzing it, and incorporating it into a new document. I often run Adobe Acrobat (where I have my clients document in digital format), side by side with Excel, Word, Publisher, Outlook (for calendaring), Internet Explorer, Evernote and many others. I often have half a dozen apps running at the same time as I do research, crunch numbers, and write content.

To get the Windows 8 to be as efficient and productive, I need to go into Desktop mode (a couple of clicks or swipes) first. Essentially, Microsoft has just added another layer between me and my work.

The Windows 8 devices are starting to ship with less harddrive space, reflecting the ongoing trend to use the faster and more reliable solid state drives. So a 64 gig to 128 gig drive is common. Since 23 years of business data and paperless office takes up almost 100 gigs, that doesn’t leave enough room to work. In fact, it has been reported that the Windows 8 Operating System takes up twice as much space as Windows 7 ( ).

Bottom line, it’s a move backwards.

Hands off!
After spending a lifetime of telling my kids not to touch the monitors or big screen tvs, now Windows 8 encourages touching. Not only do I not want to take my hands off my desk to touch, I don’t really want to look at finger prints all day long. We have a touch screen all in one computer that has Windows 8 and its monitor looks like a finger painting kindergartener attacked it!

Back to the office
Never fear, as though torpedoing their largest source of income wasn’t bad enough, the upcoming Office 2013 (or Office 15, or just Office Office), has some new features (, but drops the ever popular Microsoft Publisher (which is one of the main apps I use that keeps me from just booting into the Mac mode all day).

If the target audience for the newest version of Windows is the new user, then explaining to them that Windows 8 Phone ( is a different operating system than Windows 8 RT (that runs on the recently released ad uber cool Microsoft Surface neither of which runs legacy applications like Windows 8 Pro does (Surface running Pro to be released in 2013 ). This reminds me of the 6 different versions of Windows Vista that Microsoft released ( and the public’s inability to tell them apart.

It also reminds me of the marketing/branding flop of Adobe Acrobat (I’m amazing at how much time I spend in classes explaining to the audience, that the free version of Adobe Acrobat will not do the things they need for a paperless office that the paid version of Adobe Acrobat does.)

A tablet is not an laptop
I love my iPads and spend quite a bit of time reading, surfing and being entertained with them. They make great devices to replace paper (Good reader rocks for this), and carry documents, but they in no way come close to being a replacement for my excel, word, and publisher driven work style.

The Surface, appears to want to be both, without doing a good job of either.

How to survive when you’ve missed the mark
If you do need to run Windows 8 you might check out this Windows 8 Survival Guide from Gizmoddo –

Ideal office setup

Dec 09
Todd Clarke's ideal office setup taken with iPhone 4s

Todd Clarke's ideal office setup taken with iPhone 4s

Todd Clarke's ideal office setup

Todd Clarke's ideal office setup

Todd Clarke's ideal office setup

Todd Clarke's ideal office setup

Todd Clarke's ideal office setup

Todd Clarke's ideal office setup

Todd Clarke's ideal office setup

Todd Clarke's ideal office setup

I have been pursuing my ideal office for decades and this arrangement is the closest I have come to a nirvana of office productivity.

What you see here includes 7000 gigabytes (7 terabytes) of storage, 9 screens, 4 computers all controlled by one keyboard and mouse sitting on an Ikea desk.
Additional equipment on deck includes 2 iPads, one Kindle fire, one iPhone, a Fujitsu Scansnap S510 scanner (for going paperless), a Brother PT-2430PC labeler and of course the all-important Aeron chair.
Most of the monitors are 22” to 24” Samsung’s with a 22” Samsung USB Driven monitor a Phillips Boom Boom monitor and a Mimo 7” USB driven monitor. The desktop computers are redundant setups with a physical keyboard/mouse switch and Multiplicity software that ties them together with the MacbookAir, and the MacMini.

The computers are task driven and run software during the day based on their portability. Starting left working right they include:

I have found this setup to be very efficient. The two HP desktops run jobs that take a long time – like backups or print runs, or they are used for big projects we have going – stuff that I want to leave up (like maps). The Mac mini is used mostly for coding apps for the iPhone/iPad. The MacbookAir is my main day to day machine – so its running email, contact management, quickbooks, and document management. It is configured in such a way that on a moments notice I can pull its plug and dash out to a meeting.

The glass wall you see to the left of my desk is a 8’ wide x 4’ tall white board that we write on and/or tape things to as we work through projects .

How is your office configured?

One of my favorite blogs – has a great gallery of office setups – including this mobile one or thi sone in a barn – and this map shows where everyone is located that has made a contribution to Lifehackers Workspace show and tell.

Just a few days after I posted this article, I came across this showcase of minimalist office setups.

Technology presentation for the MN/Dakotas CCIM & SIOR Chapters – 11/10/11

Nov 11

Thanks to the MN/Dakotas CCIM chapter and SOIR for a fabulous turnout and a great session!

The list of must have iPad apps can be found here.
and the article I wrote on iPad apps can be found in the Journal of Property Management.

You can also always search our blog for iPad or Apps for the latest news.

and I’ve uploaded yesterday’s powerpoint here MN-CCIM-SIOR-Tech-SocialNetworkingWebinar-11102011.

If you have interest in taking our tech session a bit further and using social networking -click here to watch our Prezi.

You want to do what to my main computer?

May 14

Windows 7 would like an update…why doesn’t it speak the truth “my updates are more important than the work you are trying to get done AND there is a 15% chance, that I won’t reboot after I install these files”

My latest computer is… a Mac?

Dec 06

Yes its true, I’ve migrated into a MacBookPro for my primary laptop.

Was it the allure of Mac OS X? no.
Was it the sex appeal of a sleek machine? no.

It was simply, the best built machine money could buy. After decades of taking apart my Sony VAIO’s and Toshiba Tecra’s, Portege’s and Librettos, I’ve come to realize that the design of these machines is grossly inferior to the MacBookPro. Within the first few months of owning a laptop, I often end up pulling it apart to upgrade the memory or hard drive. Some of my favorite machines are Sony’s (TX, TZ, P), but I am appalled at how difficult it is to replace simple components like the hard drive. Unlike my Acer netbooks that I can replace a hard drive in minutes (or my Samsung, that has an external access port), I can spend hours on a Sony, carefully taking pictures as I remove each layer, only to find some “switch” or button has been booby trapped to make reassembly very difficult.

When my Sony TZ needed a windows reformat and redo, I realized its hard drive space was just too small, so I upgraded to a Samsung R480 (now for sale)

which offered a 500 gig harddrive, and a blu-ray drive that would allow be to read my backups.

Unfortunately, the Samsung just ended up being to big and clumsy to take to meetings, and although I had removed the Blu-Ray drive and added a 750 gig harddrive for data, I was concerned about jostling the machine, so I ended up restore the blu-ray and resetting the machine to its original settings and then set off on my quest to find a durable long last machine.

I wanted a machine that could easily hold all of my data and media (i.e. iTunes) – check
I wanted a machine that could be my hub for synching the iPhones, iPad iTouches and iPods, in our family.
I wanted a machine with enough USB ports and a SD Card reader to be helpful – check
I wanted a machine that felt solid to travel with – check
I wanted a machine that had a large high resolution screen (1680×1050)
I wanted a machine that was fast enough to be my main machine during the day – which means a lot of multitasking (which ruled out most netbooks) – check
I wanted a machine that was well built and easily upgraded – check
I wanted a machine that would let me create apps for the iPhone and iPad – check

While I liked the idea of a Mac Air, the hard drive and processor speed ended up being a limitation.

I purchased the 15″ model with the Core i7 and 4 gigs of RAM and a 500 gig hard drive. I had the hard rive replaced with the 750 gig model and had the superdrive (thats a DVD to PC users) replaced with another 750 gig for a toal of 1.5 Terabytes.

For the first time in a long time, I can carry ALL of my data around with me.

(this photo shows the now replaced Superdrive with an additional hard drive above the existing hard drive.

What was appealing about the design?

Start with the original concept – instead of a series of plastic parts held together by a bunch of screws (if you’ve taken apart an Acer, Asus, Sony or Toshiba you know what I mean), the MacBookPro starts out as a solid aluminum brick:

and then they carve the keyboard out of the top,

followed by the computer innards out of the middle, leaving a small sheet of aluminum on the bottom to seal the machine in. In short – remove ten screws and you have access to the elegance of design of the laptop and easy upgrades to the harddrive, memory and DVD-drive.

Word of advice on upgrades and using Bootcamp: don’t move the DVD drive until after you’ve installed Bootcamp – I spent easily a day of time trying to figure that one out. Also if you plan to run Parallels (Macs version of allowing you access to Windows while running the Mac, as opposed to bootcamp which switches between the OS’s on bootup), install bootcamp first, then windows, the install all of your software, and BEFORE you activate, go back into parallels, install it, run it and then tell Windows (office, etc.) to activate- this will save you from having to repeatedly activate for what is essentially the same machine.

Finally, for those CCIM instructors, Designee’s, and candidates, you should know that the new Microsoft Office 2011 for the Mac now works with Macros for our CCIM spreadsheets.

Has the upgrade been seamless? Not quite, but I have enjoyed it and I love the laptop. I still use my Sony netbook P for meetings during the day, but I prefer the MacBookPro for all other tasks.

I think my new Mac, fits right in – how about you? (bottom right of all the monitors)

iPad update

Jul 24

In my last review of the iPad I covered how I was unable to use the iPad to replace a notebook, my book reader, to teach from, and many other tasks. After 30 days of trying to use the iPad in my daily life, my feeling was that eventually Apple would get the iPad Operating System to the point that it was an effective replacement for a notebook, but until then it was just an interesting device.

As I have continued using the iPad , I’ve had a change of heart and found three arenas that it truly excels in, including:

  • 1. family trips
    2. as a PDF device
    3. as a 2nd screen for my laptop using MaxiVista
  • For these three uses, the iPad has become an invaluable tool.
    1. Family Trips – our family took a whirlwind, 6,400 mile, 28 day vacation across the western United States hitting most of the National and State parks in 14 states. The iPads always on 3G, mapping and ability to extract information on the internet as well as WikiHood and Wikipanion made for an amazing tool to use on the road. The 10.5 hour battery life was ideal as we were often in the car driving anywhere from 2 to 8 hours a day. Being able to view our photos from that days outing was also very cool – particularly using the “places” feature.

    Our kids were also responsible for providing reports on the people, places, and events that we would see, and they used Keynote to make their presentations on (we also hooked the iPad up to the headrest monitors for presentations in our Toyota LandCruiser).

    2. Using the iPad as a PDF reader. Before I head out for a days meetings – I will load the iPad with PDF documents and files that I might need into the GoodReader App which allows me to pull up any document on short notice and then I can hand it to a client and walk them through it. Just in case I forgot to load a document, I’ve been using the PogpPlug and its related iPad/iPhone App to gain access to all of my date. I know good friends who use Dropboxes App the same way.

    3. One of my biggest frustrations on the road is the lack of a large monitor to manipulate all of my data (our office is entirely paperless). If I am out of town for more than a week, I often end up carrying a 21″ screen (stored in the original box with a handle on it), which also isn’t ideal is this era of only taking carry on bags.

    The iPad now has a $9.95 app called MaxiVista that allows me to use the iPad as a second screen for my Windows machine. Although the app requires an open Wi-Fi router (open in the ports it has open), I travel with one and thats not an issue. After you install the driver on the Windows machine and run the App on the iPad, viola! a second screen that looks like this:

    All in all, the iPad is moving up in its usefulness to our business and our family.

    As an additional note, I can’t be the only one feeling this way, as a revised estimate indicates that over 12 million iPads will be sold htis year.

    NAR Commercial’s technology webinar

    Apr 09

    NAR Commercial recently featured yours truly for a technology in commercial real estate webinar.

    This is the same class that I teach in 4 and 8 hour blocks, condensed down to a 1 hour overview.

    Next course dates are in Sacramento, CA and Santa Fe, NM.

    Great price on netbooks

    Mar 20

    Cnet has tracked down a refurbished netbook for only $249 and that includes Windows 7 (starter).


    If you are in the my market and ok with used computers, I’ve been able to pickup a number of netbooks for $100 on or

    Windows 7 upgrade guide

    Oct 27

    I installed the retail version of Windows Home Premium on my Sony TZ laptop over the weekend. As it had been about 2.5 years since vista was installed on the machine, I decided it was high time to reformat the solid state drive and start over with program installs (Vista’s girth had swelled to consume my 32 gig ssd drive, but fortunately I still had my 500 gig data drive (both are internal)).

    The Windows 7 install was smooth, eash and reasonably fast. The followup install of my software was without bumps except for Adobe Acrobat PDF which refused to authorize my install (I forgot to deauthorize the previous install before I formatted) – shame on Adobe for no ability to call in a serial # (like Microsoft does).

    The machine has 15 gigs free on a 32 gig drive, and boots fast, and runs like a dream – the new features for window placement are a dream, and I finally think Microsoft has served the mobile user (the Windows Key – P for project/powerpoint settings is a major coup!)

    Additional features an an upgrade guide can be found here at Maximum PC.

    The good guys at Gizmodo just updated a be all to end all overview of Windows 7 – click here.

    Tips & Tricks for the new Windows 7

    Oct 25

    Although I’ve had a few months to use the Windows 7 beta, I only recently have started to discover all of the shortcuts it offers for organizing your desktop.

    Tim Sneath has a great article on those tips here.