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August 21, 2009

Windows 7

I downloaded the RC for Windows 7 and have planned to install it somewhere for testing for quite some time. M decided she wanted to test it for work-related reasons, so I installed it on her older laptop. Just this week, after successfully using it on the laptop for about a month, I decided to try to update my desktop PC with the OS.

Now, I have been successfully using Vista since release. I love Vista. Yes, it has some quirks that you have to turn off and some different behaviors from XP/98/95 that you need to relearn, but overall it has been:

A. More stable than XP, requiring no "just because" reinstalls.
B. Faster than XP.
C. Chock full of nice gadgets and extras that XP didn't have inherently; for example, the Snip tool.

Of course, prior to going from XP to Vista, I paid attention, ran the compatibility wizard, and read the suggested minimums and the suggested "full value" requirements and was prepared. I knew what I was getting into and didn't rely on a third party vendor's determination that something was "Vista Compatible" (of those who tell me they hate Vista, most have never actually used it for more than a few minutes. Of those who have, most were tricked into thinking the machine they got could run all the Vista bells and whistles by the "Vista Compatible" proclamation, when this was not actually true).

In order for Windows 7 to impress me, it has to be as stable, as fast, and have as good an amount of nifty tools and features as Vista.

What I have discovered so far:
The Clean Install I did on the laptop went very smoothly and incredibly fast. In not much over 30 minutes we were up and running. This did not include all the additional software uploads required (like the Office Suite, work-related programs, and MacAfee).

The Upgrade Install I attempted on my PC hanged each time on the final step (of five steps) at 72% complete. I attempted it three times and each time it got to the exact same spot and stopped. The first time I left it running at this point for 4 hours to see if it was just a really big file being moved/copied/installed. The second two times I waited an hour and a half-hour before aborting. The Custom Install I did worked the first time and in under an hour.

Obviously I cannot speak to stability yet. However, the laptop has been running Win7 for over a month now and we have seen some incredible boosts to its performance. This laptop is a few years old now and was having some stability issues and performance problems prior to the installation. Since then, it is booting much faster and a few of performance issues seem to be gone or minimized. I'm only now using it hard again, as I went back to work on another contract, and it is handling everything I'm throwing at it very easily and well, including multiple monitors, VNC connections, internet and network connections, Office Suite use, screen captures, picture modifications, playing music, and everything else I do in an average day with it.

One thing we noted almost immediately; the laptop has older USB drivers and is an older machine. When we wanted to transfer some very large files using USB thumb drives, my suped-up Vista machine (this was prior to my upgrade) would transfer the file at a pretty fast rate, much faster than M's PC would (about 2.5-3x the speed of her multimedia machine running XP). However, when we transferred the exact same file from the exact same USB drive on the laptop running Win7, it was transferring at about 11x the same speed!

Yesterday and today I have spent some time setting up, redownloading, and installing many of the applications I "lost" when I did the Clean Install (they aren't lost, they are in a folder called Windows.old, I'm just leery about copying them over instead of reinstalling from scratch with the new OS). My download speeds seem to be faster and more consistent now than they were with Vista (and I had good transfer rates in that OS). For example, downloading the rather large COH and Open Office files, I was averaging around 350 kb/s. In Vista I usually was between 250 and 300 best-case; still great, but not as good.

I'm also noting that, in Vista with the new ASRock motherboard I installed recently, I was having trouble with the OS reporting the network speed as 10 mbps instead of the default 100 mbps it should have. And sometimes it would bounce to 0 mbps even though I was currently online! So far with the new OS it has been consistently reading at 100 mbps each and every time I've given the network a surprise inspection.

I did make the mistake of installing the non-Win7 Beta of Trend Micro Internet Security and that completely hosed me for a couple of hours. Something about that caused me to lose all administrator rights to my machine, and I had to roll back to prior to the install to recover from that. I found the beta and have had no issues since. Also discovered that the rollback feature works very quickly and easily. Booting from off or sleep mode also appears to be pretty quick (hard to tell if it is faster than Vista right now, but it is pretty quick and feels faster than before).

The UAC that so many hated in Vista is still in evidence. I've been slowly turning down the settings trying to find a happy medium between letting it run and turning it off entirely. At this point, I'm close to turning it off entirely, as I did in Vista. Microsoft needs to learn; if we click "Ok, let this program run" we should have an option to make that the permanent position of the UAC and not get that window again for that program. I do not like, for example, having to tell the OS every single time that City of Heroes and LOTRO are okay and please let them run. Hell, just typing this in explanation moves me another step closer to just switching it off.

I did have some trouble with getting my Logitech G15 keyboard to work properly in Win 7. I could use it as a keyboard, and I could set up my profiles for my games, but when I went into COH and tried to use my carefully crafted macros/binds from the G keys, they wouldn't work. After much internet reading, trial and error, and tinkering, I now have it working ... I logged into COH on one of my more complex characters and was able to use all of the binds for the character without difficulty. So that pleases me (hell, if I hadn't been able to get that working, this may have been a short test of the new OS!).

There is one nifty feature I was looking forward to using that I can't seem to get to work; if you move a window to the upper left or right, it is supposed to "snap" to half the screen, allowing you to snap a second window to the other half. This is useful for comparing documents, copying from one folder to another, etc. I simply cannot make it work. I read the help detail on it and, instead of getting the little screen indicator at half the screen size, I am always getting it full-screen. However, I can right-click the toolbar and select "show windows side by side" and it will perform the action for me. Not as convenient as the drag method, but still useful.

I'm happy the Snip tool is still here and I really like the small but effective changes to the Calculator gadget. I just found and have fallen in love with the sticky notes-- this was a gadget for the gadget bar in Vista, that they have taken out and made more readily available outside of the gadget arena.

I do not like how some of the features, like Sharing, display on the icons. I shared my printer so M could print to it, and the icon didn't change at all (in Vista and earlier, a special "sharing" graphic displayed right on the icon). However, at the bottom of the screen, the sharing image I was expecting was visible-- it just wasn't obvious or easy to see.

So far I haven't run into any hardware compatibility issues with Win 7. Everything I read says this should remain true; many testers are finding hardware they could never make work in Vista is now functioning again with Win7.

1 comment:

  1. Good summary of all the reasons I never change computers, upgrade, or sign on for social networking: it's far above my pay grade how to do all this stuff!!!