Computers, Events, Linux, Open-source, Personal, Software, Thoughts, Windows

Windows 7 RC Initial Impressions

Windows 7 logoFor those of you who hate Windows Vista, don’t stop reading just yet. I hated Windows Vista too, but for objective reasons that were derived from my experiences, instead of being a sheep. I think its important to try new things, if nothing else but as a base of comparison.

Installation:

Windows 7 won’t win any speed contests here. The installation took so long that I left and made breakfast (bacon…yum) , ate it, and came back and we were still “Uncompressing files”. What is most interesting is that this install seemed to take LONGER than Windows Vista. Compare that to the 15-20 minute installations offered by Ubuntu Linux.

Out of the Box Experience:

Windows has historically been a weak OS out of the box, and Windows 7 makes improvements, but is still arguably in last place. The tools are bare metal, with the usual roundup – notepad, paint, calculator, and a few games. Interestingly paint has undergone a significant upgrade. Too bad no one uses or cares about paint. The most significant changes in the OOTB experience is the revamped Windows Media Player, Internet Explorer browser, and Windows Explorer file manager.

I have never cared much for Windows Media Player because it has historically done WAY TOO MUCH. The result is mediocrity across the board, and a difficult to user application. I did feel like this version has separated quality from quantity resulting in a nicer experience. It still relies too much on contextual menus, and hunting-and-clicking to perform the action you want. There is no Windows Explorer context option for “Play in Windows Media Player” or anything when you want to play a whole folder on your computer. Also, dragging music folders onto the WMP icon doesn’t play them.

Internet Explorer is now at version 8. Microsoft has supposedly spent a lot of time and effort in revamping the browser experience. All I can say is that it rendered the download page for Mozilla Firefox without any noticeable problems. It may be a good browser now – I will never know first hand, because I will not use it out of principle.

Windows Explorer has been revamped. It does start the browsing location at the root of the drive – something that earlier versions didn’t do, in favor of landing you “My Documents”. I would have like to have seen a consolidated file transfer dialog window that gets appended to instead of having a separate pop-up for each operation. Another annoyance is that the tree on the left no longer follows your navigation on the right – making it basically useless.

The Operating System:

The operating system layer itself is responsive and stable. Windows updates have been moved into a new Action Center component that resides in your system tray. If you care what it says it will nag you about needing to apply updates, and scanning your computer with Windows Defender. Updates still require a full reboot, and the “reminder” to do so is still very annoying and intrusive. God forbid I need to do work – my computer is too busy bothering me about installing the latest security patch for Internet Explorer 8.

The UAC is still alive and ticking – of course you can turn it off anytime you want. It does hinder the download and install software experience, as you have to acknowledge that you do actually really truthfully DO want to install application ‘x’ about four different times.

Appearance and Task Management:

The appearance of the operating system is largly a carry over from Windows Vista, but somehow less masculine. Animations have a purpose, and everything seems to be more fluid, and organic. I would sum it up as being like Windows Vista, but with more creativity and design. That being said, it is dissappointly uncustomizable. You have themes, and gadgets, and your wallpaper can cycle backgrounds – but if you love to tinker you will be dissappointed.

The task bar now has the icons of applications open instead of having labels of what they are. It is any easy setting to change, but a poor default setting choice. Another task management feature is that the task switcher application previews are too small to even pick out details of the window you want to focus on. If the point is to show the application, then SHOW it – don’t make me squint.

Compatability:

The core of the operating systems seems to share a LARGE code base with Windows Vista, and I think that it is advantageous to Windows 7. Vista gets to be the bad guy that broke everything, and Windows 7 is seen as the version that works with everything. In reality, it was just a matter of time for the device drivers to become compliant with the next-gen Windows base. I doub’t Windows 7 is any more compatible with software / drivers. I even tried the emulator on a Dell printer driver – after the hype it was a just a let down.

I installed Adobe Reader, Corel WordPerfect, Google Picasa, Microsoft Office, and Mozilla Firefox without any problems. The Dell printer driver was another story entirely. After fighting with installer files that reported missing post script drivers, and OS incompatability, I finally did a “Windows Update” for printer models. Luckily for me I am on the list, and the process finished successfully.

Initial Conclusion:

It is a rare day indeed when I review a new distribution of Windows. Extremely long development cycles mean the operating system appears to always be just behind the technology curve. Vendors rush in and make software to address the inadequacies of the Windows platform, and make a killing. Vendors get rich, and Microsoft sells more copies of Windows.

I view Microsoft with an overly critical eye, because while they are inovating now, and trying to change, they are a very seedy company. They want to control a lot of aspects of computing, and have the money to try. They drive out competition that offer superior products, and stifle innovation. They are also a monopoly that is so big the world seems to be its hostage.

I am glad to see a breath of fresh air come into the Windows 7 development now that the dust of the disaster codenamed Vista has settled. I truly believe that Microsoft realized their market share is not to be taken for granted anymore, and they will have to fight to hold it.

The real test will be to see what my wife thinks. If she doesn’t ask me to reload her desktop, then I know that the product is “there”.

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