First of all, gonna… well, not exactly eat crow, but issue a correction.
I did, in fact, get Windows 8 Pro and installed it on my system, and I only find it about 33% sucky. Best fix of all was to add Start8 from Stardock, which I was able to get free because I subscribe to their OpenDesktop program. It does feel a little bit faster, but I wouldn't say the difference is huge, especially since I already had SSD acceleration on my system drive. Why did I go for it? The price. Microsoft was offering the upgrade to Win8 Pro for just $40 and I couldn't pass it up, not when the usual upgrade price will go up to around $130 (system builder DVD) to nearly $300 (full retail version) after the first of the year. (Guessing based on Win 7 Pro pricing.)
Start8 is a lifesaver, by the way, and between it and Tweak8, I barely know that the horrible Metro/Modern UI even exists. My system boots up straight to the desktop, no muss, no unlocking, and most of all, the Windows keys on my keyboard bring up the traditional Start menu.
I can hardly wait until Stardock comes out with a Win 8 compatible version of WindowBlinds, a UI customization program that lets you 'skin' your windows however you like. I really, really dislike how Microsquishy made it all but impossible (for now) to truly customize the look and feel of the desktop.
Second item: We hateses iTunes 11.0. Loaded it up, then couldn't find anything. Finally got the sidebar and status bar re-enabled. But then they dumped the dynamic playlists in favor of their new "Playing Next" feature. With 10.7, if I shuffle a playlist, I can see right there on the screen what's coming next. For 11.0? I have to go click on little icon on the UI, which'll show the list, but it's not persistent. I also didn't realize that in fact I do use the old 'coverflow' feature — and Apple dumped that, too. Nothing to replace it; it's just gone. Meanwhile, the ONLY place in the entire display that consistently shows what is currently playing is at the top of the screen, in the little player area. The browse lists don't update or shift to the currently playing song, overall making the new iTunes LESS usable, informative, and dynamic than the previous version. So I downgraded to 10.7, restored the library, and turned off automatic updates. Maybe I'll take a look again in a few months or so, see if Apple has relented at all on the klunkiness of the design.
Third item: Damn Mozilla…and thank you, Mozilla, for 'End of Lifing' Thunderbird, the open-source mail application with which I've had a longstanding love/hate relationship. Early on, it was the perfect replacement (for me anyway) for Microsoft Outlook. To my thinking, it was also a hell of a lot safer because it didn't store everything in a single humongous mail file. But over the years, they've broken more things than they fixed, and added UI elements and features that made it less usable. They were also fast-tracking releases over the previous couple of years — and this had the extra effect of constantly causing add-ons to be declared incompatible. Adding new accounts became a nightmare. And apparently not long ago, Mozilla announced it was ending development. To be sure, Thunderbird still works, but in addition to no new development, this also means the existing problems and bugs are likely not to be fixed. This latest release (17.0) broke my news feeds — now none of them will do anything but load the full web page when what I want is summaries.
Anyway, long story short, I decided to give Postbox a try — and I mostly like it. True, I've had to lose a few add-on features, but on the other hand, it's fast and seems really stable. Plus its interface is sufficiently like T-bird (has some of the core code), it's not like it's a complete shock to use. Nice thing is they've been dropping the price like crazy — used to be $30/license, now during the holidays it's only $7.