Sounds like you have it sorted Brian. But why should you have to use a third party add-on to be able to use a new OS? As you say, "The big question is - why didn't Microsoft do that?" I'm sure an awful lot of people are asking that question right now. Microsoft need to learn the old adage - "If it ain't broke, don't fix it...."
"and then downloaded “Classic Shell” from sourceforge"
Was this step in the windows installation instructions?
You used your advanced knowledge of computers to bypass the problems with Windows 8. Most people don't know to do this. Windows 8 is not designed to improve productivity or the user experience. It's purpose is to get computer and lap top users trained in to the Windows system for tablets and smart phones. It's the same with Intel now demanding ultra books have touch screens. Microsoft and Intel want to leverage their dominance in computers and laptops to grab more market share in mobile devices.
Agreed - I had done some research beforehand and I hope I have now made it easier for many other people to make the transition. I do see aspects of Windows 8 that I like, but I want to bring them into my usage at my pace. Performance appears to be much better than Windows 7.
The big question is, why did Brian feel so scared that he did not even try the new interface? Looks like he put the classic shell in without even exploring the possibility that the new shell has advantages justifying the change. I have Win8 running on half a dozen systems, from 10" tablet up to 30" desktop (and my favorite is a Dell 27" touchscreen). I do think the new UI makes the most sense when paired with touch, but on no machine have I felt the need to have the classic UI. The new UI has its own logic and self consistency. Things change. Touch systems demand new approaches, and the old UI does not work well on touch (I've had touch systems for a few years now).
(I do work at MS, but not in Windows, and the opinion is purely my own)
As you say, I was scared by the reviews of others especially those who said it was designed for those who want to view content rather than create it. I could not afford a large amount of downtime and wanted to be as productive as possible, as quickly as possible. So, I am not against the new interface but I want to be able to learn it when time permits rather than have the "hit" of learning it all at once. I am not stuck on the old shell, but want a slower transition.
Happy new year, Brian! Improved performance seems to be a common finding in many reviews that I have read. I presume that you have factored out any CPU speed differences? (Trust but verify - I have faith in you!)
I will look forward to your reviews of EDA tools running on Windows 8. We are still working in an XP environment, b) as many engineering environments are still there and b) a minority have moved to Windows 7 (I'm about to make that move for my own machine, finally).
At SAME, I did an unscientific survey among the other EDA exhibitors and everyone was going to hang back on Windows 8 until there was significant take-up by customers.
Both my wife and teenage daughter use Windows 8, and for my daughter it was no big deal to learn the new Metro UI. My wife had an hour tutoring session before diving into Windows 8 in order to prepare her for all of the changes. If you love change, then you'll be attracted to Windows 8, however if you don't like surprises then keep Windows 7 running.
Strategically I predict that Windows 8 will be another failed attempt by Microsoft to glue together two unrelated GUIs: Metro and Windows 7.
I've got Windows 8, Windows 7 and Windows XP all running virtually on my MacBook Pro, although I only use them under duress or to validate that a web site looks OK on Internet Explorer.