Windows 8 needs a little more work

Windows 8 gets a poor grade on a simple task. What is that task you may ask? Read on.

Every Windows computer needs a beginners programming language. Those of us from the DOS days can look back fondly on QBasic. From learning how to program, to just having a quick and easy scripting language that a business user can use to write some simple app in a few minutes, a beginners language makes sense. So what beginners programming language might fit the bill for Windows 8? Microsoft's own Small Basic!


Yes, Small Basic. It is free. It is popular. It is BASIC, ala .NET-style. I thought Small Basic would be the perfect choice to download and install on my latest install of the Windows 8 Release Preview. Sadly, it was not good news. I will be kind and just assume that Small Basic was not on Microsoft's top-10 list of apps to test on Windows 8, but this does indicate that Microsoft may want to make sure Windows 8 is really ready for those who have lots of existing desktop apps to install.

I downloaded Small Basic from Microsoft's website and tried to install it. The first problem I experienced: The software requires a version of the .NET runtime that appears to not come with Windows 8. I had to then download the .NET 3.5 (service pack 1) runtime first before I could even install Small Basic.

Okay, I was now ready to play with Small Basic. I ran the app and then started to try some of the sample Small Basic apps (source code) that come with it. I loaded one source code file after another, but with each encountered a problem that I still don't know the solution to. Each time I ran (compile and run) a Small Basic sample app I got the same error message: "Sorry we found some Errors" and "Access Denied". Likely there is a solution to overcome this, but I could not find it on the web (did a Google Search). I could not get a single sample app to run in Small Basic.

So I decided to download another beginner's scripting language, called ThinBasic, which I know is not a .NET application (written in pure native API code) to see how well it worked. I downloaded and installed ThinBasic, and it ran fine -- each sample app. Even some OpenGL 3D sample apps ran quite well (I had installed the latest video drivers on my Windows 8 installation).

Now, this may not be important to many of those who are currently testing out Windows 8, but I do think this does say something. With all the emphasis going into Metro, maybe a little more testing of the Windows desktop would be in order here. Maybe this is simply a .NET issue, but shouldn't all of the .NET runtimes be installed on Windows 8 and multiple popular apps that use different versions of .NET be tested?

Remember, Small Basic does come from Microsoft and it is their solution to the need for something akin to DOS' QBasic for Windows, so it makes a lot of sense that it should have been tested with Windows 8.

I will give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt here, since I understand they have a lot on their plate right now with Metro and all. I would like to say that it would be nice to see Small Basic added to Windows 8 so every PC or tablet shipped will offer an easy to learn programming language. Please just make sure it works on the official release version of Windows 8.

Chris Boss is an advanced Windows API programmer and developer of 10 year-old EZGUI, which is now version 5. He owns The Computer Workshop, which opened for businesses in the late 1980s. He originally developed custom software for local businesses. Now he develops programming tools for use with the PowerBasic compiler.

19 Responses to Windows 8 needs a little more work

  1. smist08 says:

    Windows 8 does come with a couple of beginner programming languages namely JavaScript and VBScript. I'm sure all the newer scripting languages like Perl, Python, Ruby, etc work just fine. I'm not a fan of Windows 8, but pretty much everything I've tried has at least run, its just annoying switching back and forth to the start page. Makes me really go back to using just a cmd prompt.

  2. frankwick says:

    .Net 3.5 is included but not installed by default.  You install by the "add windows components" screen.

  3. The MAZZTer says:

    Your problem may have been due to not installing .NET 3.5 correctly... it should be installed through "Windows Features" in the Programs Control Panel.

    .NET 2/3.5 is disabled by default, likely to encourage devs to develop with .NET 4.

    I have a .NET 2 app I wrote that runs fine in  Windows 8.  I can't speak for 3.5 though.

  4. KingMotley says:

    No Chris, not all versions of the .NET runtime should be installed.  Just the latest one, which is 4.5.  If small basic does not run on that version, there is a problem with that program, and it needs to be fixed.  The fact that it is now not 1, but 2 versions behind tells me that project is dead.

  5. Tumultus says:

    I just wonder why you didn't go with one of the Visual Studio Express editions which are also free? Small Basic was never considered a real programming tool but rather a play thing.

  6. Tumultus says:

    I just wonder why you didn't go with one of the Visual Studio Express editions which are also free? Small Basic was never considered a real programming tool but rather a play thing.

  7. Well, what I do hate the most is the following. I call myself a skilled Visual Basic developer. I use it for my work and make program's that make lot's of my work alot easier. I'm not that skilled to write C#, but I can do loads of things people didn't know was possible in basic.

    With that being said, I can't do s---t with the new metro language, and I just can't figure out what i'm doing wrong. Besides that the designer simply no longer works after testing an app, how can I even get a value of a textbox? For some reason, it's no longer usefull to name an item automaticly. I'm just limited to one page (as far as I know right now), and the propeties list became like totally unreadable.

    And Visual Basic express 2012 won't be able to write desktop apps, so i'm stuck using 2010. Well, that wouldn't be a problem if it simply worked on Windows 8. But it doesn't.

    The debugger no longer shows whats wrong, the program (Basic express) crashes randomly. And it shows bugs I didn't have before. I even had to re-create a program because for some reason, a program I was working only worked on Windows 8, but didn't work on any other pc. And even with a copy-and-paste of the code, location etc, the new project simply started to work again.

    And with all this new XAML, I really feel lost, like how the hell do things work right now. And look at the code Hello world

    Why isn't Microsoft continuing the maybe dumbed down code like:

    With all of the improvements they made, I can't find any 'easy' code to perform millions of task with like the my.thingfromthelist

    So Visual Basic Express 2012 doesn't work unless I want to create programs only for Windows 8, VB Express 2010 doesn't work because of bugs and issues. And 2005 only has more bugs simply because it's from the stone ages. How am I as a developer going forward?

    I always loved Visual Basic as a solid language. I thought it would be a language that was rock solid, was never going to change drastic things like some open source languages are doing... But guess I was wrong :(

    And at this point, I really hope I get to know the new metro language and it's 2012 program, because I really feel lost and can throw away 10 years of experience, simply because Microsoft doesn't care. :(

    • Harvey says:

      Awe dude!
      You have to approach this another way.
      As a programmer ( at least in the MS world ) things are changing.
      Its very "inefficient" to say something like Texbox1.Text = "123".
      Think about what happens when you need to change the code to have the Textbox say something else. 

      In the new MS programming world, you will have to learn and understand "binding".  This is the direction.

      No way in hell would I be a good programmer today if I was still writing only Access 2.0 and VB 3.0 way!

  8. Avatar X says:

    Apart from SmallBasic which is considered for Kids and Tweens. There is Lightswitch.

    And then there is Blend. 

  9. nilst2011 says:

    "Windows 8 needs a little more work"
    Yes it does; removal of the ridicilous MetroBS UI

  10. rauckr says:

     When you get right down to it, Windows 7 works just fine. Somebody remind me again why we need Windows 8. If the answer is for use on tablets, the Metro interface is likely just fine there. Why try to force fit it onto PCs?

    • Well, isn't Windows XP just running fine? I do believe in Windows 8 and it's metro interface, but not how it's being used as of today.

      I see alot of benefits of the metro itself:
      - Simple way to find and install applications
      - One system that manages my updates of both Windows and my installed apps
      - No longer 10 to 20 steps just to install something
      - The Metro start page is easier to setup compared to the start menu.
      - One interface and it gestures that works across all apps.

      So metro can be awesome. But the current apps by Microsoft are just terrible. They say they have talented people working on their apps, but a simple Mail program looks like a 5 minute project. And the Windows Store app lists are so unreadable that you simply can't browse how nice the apps are.

      Besides the metro part, great new functionality has been added to Windows 8. I so love the mounting of ISO's and VHD files without having to spend minutes on launching programs that do the mounting for me. The new copy dialog with pause functionality. And the awesome boot time (1 second for my system).

      And what I loved the most was... When I re-install Windows 8. (I know, you don't plan to do that everyday). But all my bookmarks, history, passwords etc are inside my browser just before I reinstalled it. Even the new-tab page was restored. Things like that make windows 8 much better.

    • Harvey says:

      Yep, Windows 7 works just fine.  As a matter of fact, im pretty sure MS extended support to Windows 7 till 2019 or 2020. windows 7???  stick with that.  Its not going anywhere.

      MS is showing that Windows 8 CAN work on desktop PCs as well as any touch device.

  11. vincentw56 says:

    This line cracks me up: "Yes, Small Basic. It is free. It is popular." It's popular!? Wow, I've been programming using Microsoft products for 20 years and this is the first time I heard of it. I've never heard any MS person ever talk about it. Must be really popular. I asked a bunch of developers I work with and know about it. Nope, never heard of it either.

    Chris, you need to start moving on to the future. Stop living in the past and trying to make the stuff you do that no one uses seem like it actually is great. You are still stuck in the 80s man. I'm really surprised that you even have Windows 8 installed. Why not keep running Windows 3.1.

    • chrisboss says:

      Small Basic is intended for "teaching" students (and adults who never programmed) how to program. This is why it is useful. The key is simplicity. Not all have attended a college and take CS. Young people benefit from being exposed to programming, since it is a useful skill. Now as far as me being "back in the 80's", I am simply not a programmer and neither do I like using Microsoft programming languages anymore. I am API programmer. That means I get the benefit of the pure Windows API and its full power. I don't need any runtime installed for my software to run. I can build apps with a much smaller footprint than most VS programmers can today, which makes it perfect for developing software for tablets and it runs great on Windows 8 (desktop).

  12. ictia says:

    the people who're wondering what's the big deal ... you have to "try it" to see. i'm writing this post from win8 release preview and "I like it!". here is the big deal ... almost everyone today has a laptop right ? right now, I tend to switch between my thinkpad and my ipad and i'm so longing to just simply close the tpad lid and have it light up with the metro multitouch tablet ui = win8 = my next laptop for sure! i'm impressed that I can navigate everywhere right now on desktop where this is running. old desktop apps run in the desktop - just like it did before, so for those familiar with the old stuff ... it's all there! just click "all apps" and you're back to the old world.

    one other thing, I noticed some people -- in preview videos -- futzing around trying to find the navigation bars on the edges. it's really simple -- touch the corners of the screen and there ya go. but again, the really nice thing is that this baby has touch written all over it and expect to see almost all future screens have touch enabled ... as all these touch smartphones/tablets have shown ... people can do "a lot" with touch. there is a lot more ... like notifications on the tiles etc that's sooo much better than a ton of tiny icons in the system tray and so on.

    • extremely_well says:

      Yep, and the good thing about touch is that it extends well to Media Centers/TVs as well. You either "touch" your tablet/smartphone screen for remote control, or you wave your hands for Kinect-style control. The key is: big tiles -- no razor-sharp-pointing-accuracy needed to do most everything you need to do (except typing more than a few words).

  13. woe says:

    Waiting until the final product ships....and then reviewing it always is the best way to go.


  14. kevcole says:

    Sorry for the Essay - I am not a coder/developer etc. I just like playing with new tech and I have been a early adopter of MS products of late ie Win 7-8 beta testing etc. But I am not nowhere as adapt as your self or others that I read of on yours and other sites. Regarding win 8 I have a strong suspicion that this OS release is going to tank for MS. For several reasons. Not all of them are necessary mine (a amateur techhead) but through general observations and comments from friends in the industry. There is no strong reason to upgrade. For 90% of people (to Microsoft’s credit) windows 7 works and works well. Niggles? Sure. But are they insurmountable? No.For a lot of people I suspect Win 8 is hard work at times – Too hard to navigate, too hard to find under the hood stuff ie personalizing etc or computer mgmt. Even more so if you are 70-80% of the population who own a desktop or laptop and not a tablet. The touch features for navigating are not there. It can be painful by mouse and 80% of the pop are not going to learn keyboard shortcuts.For a lot of people no start menu orb will be an issueDitto for shutting down/restarting the pc. I guess one might argue that these days a pc does not need to be shutdown at all. But here in New Zealand the cost of power? I shut it down each night. There does not seem to be many noticeable (key word here) OS changes. File transfer is awesome and I personally like the ribbon. But it still looks and acts like 7. Another plus or minusFixes?Installation should detect what the OS is being installed on and if not a tablet disable metro or an option to do so (Maybe it will do so automatically but the 2 editions I have installed no options like that were offered) Possibly market in 3 forms (too many possible options Marketing wise I know) Metro – tablet only (OEM only) – not all desktop features are loaded. Desktop/laptop Home or premium- option given to allow/disable metroEnterprise or equivalentOffer both editions at a reduced cost a la apple. As 8 without Metro seems to be a glorified SP of win 7 (cheeky I know) $50.00 for Metro$70.00 for Desktop. Kevcole - Auckland, New Zealand

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