Posts Tagged 'Windows; Win7'

Whassup, Windows 7 “RC”?

As some of you know, I’ve been using (and abusing) Windows 7 for a few months now.  I was an early adopter of the “beta” version, which has since been superseded by the “RC” (Release Candidate).  Microsoft offered the “RC” version download for their MSDN / Technet subscribers on April 30th.  Their servers were hammered, but I managed to squeak in and download the 64-bit edition, which I promptly installed on my work machine.  The install went very smoothly, and completed in only 30 minutes or so.  After that, I reinstalled Office 2007, Paint.NET, FileZilla, Live Mesh, Hyper-V Manager, SQL Management Studio, and a handful of other apps that I use regularly.  Getting “my world” setup again is a bit of a hassle, but it (honestly) only takes a few hours these days.

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So… without getting too detailed, the Win7 “RC” is really an improvement over the “beta”.  The setup screens are much nicer to look at, the login screen is improved (if a bit “bright”), and even more devices were detected automatically.  In fact, everything was detected and installed without hassle.  There are additional (and very cool) wallpapers included, better user icons, subtle program icon changes, and more jump lists for supported programs… like Remote Desktop (yay!).  Going from “beta” to “RC” is, understandably, very evolutionary, but I’ve noticed many needed improvements.  Performance is also very good, though I didn’t have any complaints before.

On a bigger note, we are now using Windows 7 on our home computer!  We had purchased a new system, but I was waiting to get it dialed-in until the latest version of Windows 7 came out.  This past Friday, I backed up our home machine, swapped the harddrives into our new box, and installed Win7.  Will I have drivers for everything?  How will the family adjust?  How will it perform?  All good questions…

DRIVER SUPPORT
Windows 7 “RC” includes all the necessary drivers for the machine itself – including network, video, and sound.  You know… the important stuff.  I was able to download a Vista 64-bit driver for our Samsung color laser, which worked just fine.  Our scanner, unfortunately, was more difficult.  Canon does NOT have a Vista 64-bit driver for their (relatively old) LiDE50 device, but this site had  the answer.  Downloaded, installed, and the scanner is working great! 

Program compatibility has (so far) been surprisingly good as well, but we’re still getting all of our apps installed.  We’ll see how that goes.

GETTING THE FAMILY TO ADJUST
I’m pretty flexible when it comes to my computing environment, but more and more my family demands that the computer “just work”, so swapping to a new OS can be a bit of an uphill battle at home.  The excitement of a new, faster computer helps somewhat, as well as new wallpapers and things like that.  You know… the “bells & whistles”.  It’s only been a few days, but everyone seems to be adjusting pretty darn well.  Nice!

THE PERFORMER
Our new home machine is, of course, much faster than our previous.  If all goes according to plan, this machine ought to run circles around our previous box.  So far it is.  Launching apps are nearly instantaneous, switching users is no longer laborious, and the box just feels “snappy”.  Pretty good for $520! 🙂

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So… that’s my mini-review for Windows 7 “RC”.  The publicly-released download will be available tomorrow, May 5th.  Even better, the “RC” install doesn’t expire until March 2010, which is well after the (expected) final release of Windows 7.  Get your copy and install away!

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Gettin’ jiggy with the new home PC

So… our “old faithful” Dell PowerEdge 400SC box at home is finally beginning to show its age.  For a 5-year-old machine, it’s really faired quite well, but it’s making it known that it would prefer to be put out to pasture.

That’s the call I was waiting to hear.

I initially found a pretty sweet deal on a PowerEdge T105 box from Dell – and I even ordered one! – but there were some issues around upgradeability that I didn’t take into account.  Specifically, just getting a decent video card and sound card was proving both difficult and expensive.  All of a sudden the “sweet deal” was looking less and less sweet.  😦

I cancelled the order and started over.

Given that we were already looking to spend about $540 on a box, I had my price-point to shoot for.  (Note that we aren’t needing an OS, monitor, keyboard or mouse.  We’re good there.)  It finally dawned on me that I could simply do what I always use to do: build my own PC.

I headed over to NewEgg and began my research. Intel or AMD?  What kind of case?  How much RAM and at what speed?  Onboard video or an add-on card?  For a pretty awesome price/performance ratio, I chose a top-of-the-line AMD Phenom II Quad-Core CPU.  Once that was decided, I could research some compatible motherboards with good onboard gear.  We don’t “game” on our PC anymore, so I really only needed a video solution that could handle the Win7 “Aero” interface.  Most motherboards these days also come with very good onboard sound, video, tons of USB ports, firewire, and so forth.  I also needed an easy-on-the-eyes computer case to put everything in.

Here’s the gear I decided upon:

  • AMD Phenom II 940 3.0ghz CPU “Black Edition”
    • This is their (current) top-of-the-line quad-core processor, boasting 8mb total onboard cache, great overclockability, and very good performance.
  • Gigabyte GA-MA790GP-UD4H Motherboard (catchy name, eh?)
    • Quite honestly, this motherboard is amazing.  Not only does it look great, but it supports 16GB RAM, SATA RAID, 8-channel onboard audio, gigabit ethernet, ATI HD3300 onboard video, HDMI, DVI, firewire, optical-out audio, and more.  The pipe-cooled chipsets are pretty awesome too!
  • Kingston DDR2 1066 RAM
    • Pretty basic stuff here.  4gigs (2 x 2gigs) of DDR2 1066 memory, for dual-channel support.  Good looking RAM with a nice heatsink.
  • Antec NSK6580B Mid-Tower Case w/ 430W Power Supply
    • Finding a “normal looking” computer case these days is like trying to find a normal looking pair of running shoes.   Sheesh!  This Antec case, however, is very subdued with cold-rolled steel edges (no finger slices!), front ports, plenty of internal expansion, and a very decent power supply.
  • Samsung SATA 22x DVD Burner w/ Lightscribe
    • Pretty basic SATA DVD burner, but the Lightscribe functionality is nice to have.

All this gear is then matched up with our current 19” Samsung LCD monitor, 74GB Western Digital Raptor drive, 74GB Western Digital secondary drive, and the latest version of Windows 7 64-bit.  How much did I spend?  The full purchase was just $519.49 – shipped.  Thanks, NewEgg!

So… my son and I put the box together last night, and I brought it into work to run through a test install of Windows 7 “Beta 7000” 64-bit.  The install went great, and the box is running wonderfully!  For giggles, I also increased the CPU multiplier and bumped from the stock 3.0ghz core speed to 3.42ghz – no voltage change necessary.  That’s a combined 1.6ghz overall bump to the CPU!  No issues so far.  This machine is also amazingly quiet.

Here are some (not-so-great quality) pictures of our new home PC sitting next to my desk at work…

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Sweet, sweet Compaq monitor with 1024×768 resolution! 😉

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(No… I won’t leave the harddrive there!)

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Look at all those drive bays!

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Here’s hoping that the “RC” build of Windows 7 is released very, very soon!

Thanks for reading 🙂