Kicking the tires: Windows 7 Beta

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve most likely heard at least something about the recently released Windows 7 Beta from Microsoft.  Since we’re MSDN Subscribers at my work place, I was able to grab a copy of it a day or so earlier than the general public.  Good thing, too, since the traffic essentially brought down the beta download sites for about 2 days!

Anyhow, I just wanted to give a quick run-down of my Win7 experiences thus far, having installed it five times already.

INSTALL #1 – Virtual PC
Before I had a decent physical machine available to install on, I went ahead and created a Virtual PC instance running Windows 7.  I was somewhat discouraged, I must say, as the install took about 2 hours to complete.  Not only that, but Win7 runs fairly slowly as a virtual on my work PC.  Slower than Vista in a virtual?  Hard to say.  Perhaps about the same.

INSTALL #2 – Sony Vaio
I was commissioned to wipe/reload a Sony Vaio laptop with a new OS for a co-worker of mine.  I decided that this laptop needed Win 7 (64-bit), and off I went.  VERY MUCH to my surprise, the entire install took just 29 minutes from boot-to-desktop!  That is pretty astounding, actually. 

Unfortunately, Win7 could not find any drivers for the wireless network adapter under the 64-bit version.  In fact, it appears that  64-bit drivers do not exist for that device, so I had to move along.  So sad 😦

INSTALL #3 – Sony Vaio (again)
I decided that I could live with a 32-bit install of Win7 on this laptop, so I set out for another shot at a 29-minute install… and that’s exactly how long it took!  This time, though, Win7 was able to find every single device on the laptop and supply the corresponding drivers.  Nice!

(Listen – I understand that Windows XP also installs very quickly, but it really takes the steam out of your experience when you have to follow-up the install with 96 Windows Updates + 7 driver downloads!  When all is said and done, Windows Vista and Win7 are faster OS installs.)

Anyhoo… the Vaio was cruising along with a 32-bit install of Win7, so I promptly joined it to the domain, loaded Office 2007, and handed it off to the user.  So far, so good!

INSTALL #4 – Dell PowerEdge 400SC
My home machine is more or less considered to be a “dinosaur” at this point, and I had a similarly-spec’d machine at work that wasn’t being used for anything any longer.  I grabbed a Dell PowerEdge 400SC (2.4ghz P4, 1gig RAM, 40gig HD) and started a Win7 install.  Again, to my surprise, the install took just about 30 minutes to complete – even on a older machine!  The video card was pretty sad, so I added a slightly-more-advanced AGP card to enable the fun n’ funky Aero interface for Windows – transparency and all that.  Everything else was working fine, and the box really moved along at a very respectable clip!  Nothing to sneeze for a 4+ year old computer, running a next-gen OS in “beta” form!

INSTALL #5 – Acer AM5100
Well… I couldn’t take it any more.  I just *had* to install Win7 on my work desktop machine, which probably seems crazy to some.  Had the previous installs gone poorly or the “word on the street” been less-than-positive, I wouldn’t have attempted such a thing.  As it was, I was already thinking about wiping my desktop machine to install Vista 64-bit, so a Win7 64-bit install didn’t seem like too much of a stretch.

I made the leap.

Without sounding like a broken record, the install once again completed in just under 30 minutes – and all of my devices were present and accounted for.  After logging on, you are greeted with the clever “betta fish” desktop.  This also happens to be the first 64-bit OS that I’ve ever run for my personal desktop, so that’s strangely exciting.

win7beta-desktop

SO HOW HAS IT BEEN SO FAR?
Had I not been a Vista user for quite some time, now, the UI in Win7 would’ve been a bit of a surprise, followed by a learning curve.  That said, Win7 does offer some very nice updates to the user interface – primarily around the Taskbar and Start Menu.

The new taskbar – dubbed the ‘Superbar’, for whatever reason – defaults to using icons for both your shortcuts and currently opened applications.  Hovering over the icon of an open application gives feedback in the form of a nice color that moves with your mouse.  Also, you get a small thumbnail view of that application window, that also happens to show real-time data from that window.  The thumbnail of a WMP session watching a DVD would show the movie running within the thumbnail.

iconPreview

For many windows within a single app, hovering over the icon will reveal all of those windows laid out side-by-side.  They can, of course, be selected or closed from that view.

iconPreviews

Right-clicking on an icon in the taskbar brings up something called the “jump list” – essentially a quick way to do certain tasks.  You can always select or “pin” an application using the right-click method, of course, but it gets more exciting with apps that are pre-disposed to “jump list” behavior.  For instance, I can right-click on Microsoft Excel and easily access my recently opened spreadsheets!  Ever more exciting (for me, at least) is the ability to “pin” certain documents to that menu so that they’ll always show up right there.  Have a half-dozen spreadsheets that you access all week long?  Just pin them to the jump list.  Nice!

jumpList

The Start Menu, although not drastically different from Vista, features the same “jump list” information, which is great.  I’m still getting used to how everything works together with Windows 7, but so far I’m really enjoying the UI enhancements!

startMenu

WHAT ELSE DO I LIKE?
As my good buddy, Andy, stated – “it’s the little things”.  Installing an OS and having all of the drivers present is a really, really great way to start.  Other things are nice too, such as…

  • Having your screen in high-resolution (1280×1024) right after install
  • Right-clicking on an .ISO file, and being greeted with a “burn to disc” option
  • A much less cluttered system tray
  • Updated built-in applications that “look and feel” this century 😉
  • Explorer and browser icons that show your download/copy progress on the icon itself.  Nice!!
  • Auto-detected and extended dual-monitor setup
  • Paired-down application install base, as compared with Vista
  • Updated Windows Media Player
  • Much less invasive OS overall.  Fewer distracting notifications, kinder UAC, and so forth.
  • Generally seems to be a faster-responding OS, as compared with Vista (which was typically just fine for me)
  • Some good Windows 7 Tricks to check out

WHAT ELSE DO I NOT (SO MUCH) LIKE?
It hasn’t all been roses, per se, though my day two experience (yesterday) was really flawless.  A few gripes worth mentioning, though…

  • IE8 Beta was causing some system-wide sluggishness, it seems.  I like the browser well enough, but I had to install Firefox to operate normally.
  • For whatever reason, Win7 does *not* map my network drives automatically when I log in to the domain.  Not sure what that’s all about just yet. (64-bit issue?)
    UPDATE: This is a carry-over issue from Vista that has to do with security and the UAC.  There is a reg-fix that resolves this issue, or turn of UAC (not recommended).
  • Hovering over the Start button makes it look like it’s on fire.  I don’t dig the visual much.
  • The “Show Desktop” / Aero Peek button in the bottom-right corner is great, except if you have an extended monitor off to your right-hand side.  It would be ideal to simply move your mouse to the bottom-right corner and have the Aero Peek feature spring to life, but with a right-hand dual monitor, the mouse moves to the other screen instead. 😦
  • Upon booting up today (evidently some “updates” had been installed, and then my computer restarted), my screen resolution was bumped down to 1024×768.  Aggravating.
  • Some graphical hesitations here and there.  Might be a “beta” display issue.
  • Some system “freeze” type hesitations in strange places.  Went to select a screen-saver this morning, and the dialog box froze for a few moments.

SUMMARY
So far, my Win7 experience has been more positive than negative, and I *do know* what  a “negative first-time-using-a-new-OS” experience feels like.  Trust me.  Moreover, Win7 is really an amazing accomplishment already, and it’s only at a “beta” stage right now.  Here’s hoping that Microsoft continues to hunt down the lingering issues, tackle them, and then releases a ready-to-use Win7 sometime later this year!  Whether warranted or not, Windows Vista is viewed upon quite poorly in the consumer & business markets.  Windows 7 needs to hit it out of the park and get back into the good graces of users and businesses everywhere.

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4 Responses to “Kicking the tires: Windows 7 Beta”


  1. 1 Andy January 14, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    So my little Dell Latitude D430 is moving along quite nicely with Win7 installed. It took me 2 hours(that was with an upgrade, and a 4200rpm HD). But all things considered, after the install, I haven’t had one hiccup…The resume is nearly instant-on maybe 3-4 seconds, very impressive in my book.

    Nice run down!

  2. 2 yipcanjo January 14, 2009 at 11:08 pm

    Thanks, Andy. Time for an SSD drive in that D430, eh?! That would help some… 🙂

  3. 3 Andy January 14, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    Yeah if only I could find a reasonably priced 1.8 SSD HD…


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