Thursday, 11 December 2008

Windows 7 pre-beta build 6801

I tried it on my MSI Wind couple of weeks ago. I wanted to publish this post much more sooner but better now then never. I had tested Vista /w sp1 on the same computer but generally uninstalled it the same day. I just couldn't live with all that bloat and 30+ windows in networking.

Windows 7 (build 6801) is completely another animal. I'll concede right away its not windows xp. But it is no worse either.

Firstly, most of the bloat is gone. Networking has at least half of the windows cut down and selecting a wireless network is much more simpler now (almost like os x). Still there are problems which are carried over from vista (not xp, evidence that 7 is based on vista). For example: 60sec lag spike when using wireless connection is still present which makes web browsing less pleasant than on the xp and online gaming impossible which isn't a small deal. I just cannot fathom why still they haven't fixed it. The problem was present at least from Vista RC1 (which I tested too back then), and today it thrives in windows 7 too. There are other issues too (including major ones, like random disconnects from ad-hoc networks etc) but its late and I want to write about other stuff.

Windows explorer has some new features which is nothing but bloat unfortunately. Almost all the new gains in UI are offset with this. Why on earth there is Favorites, Libraries and Homegroup in the folder list (left part of explorer)? They cannot be removed and all of them are placed above (My) Computer and your local disks which are used the most. And every time you open explorer, Libraries are open by default. This is completely unacceptable. And I don't really get what Libraries are all about. It seems that those are links (like favourites) and at the same time they are indexed. The same can be set for favourites folder too so I'm confused. As the guy at writes, Libraries and Homegroup are made to facilitate file sharing between computers (on the same network). I can understand that and I'm a great supporter of better file/folder integration in networks but this solution reeks of infamous microsoft way of doing things. Take a simple idea (better file/folder integration) and combine it with heavily bloated, poorely customizable and impossible to turn off designs and you get Libraries and Homegroup. Normal user will be either completely confused by this or will completely ignore both favourites and librarires. I can predict it will be the latter rather than former. I have trouble explaining to a normal windows user anything in windows which cannot be said in couple of sentences. If you've seen the article I've posted in the link above you'll understand how complicated (even if that blogger says otherwise, he is wrong) this "feature" is. And this tells you exactly how many users will experience this addition in a positive way. Add the fact that the libraries/homework work only with windows 7 (so all your computer have to have winows 7, to fully utilize the concept) and yes, you guessed, very few people will use this feature at all. And oh, did I mentioned that they've changed yet again the name of the default folders? Windows xp->My documents Vista->Documents Windows 7->Personal Documents. Great consistency boys!

Task bar is new and by default it is two rows high and only shows icons. It is a bad decision to have this by default. You can switch to normal windows information display (icon + app title text) and then it looks and handles nicely. Hats off to the guy who designed that cool mouse tracking effect on the taskbar. There are minor aesthetical issues with other taskbar features but this is not a place to expand on it. Yeah, they still haven't come to terms with flip 3d which is a garbage and a blatant feature copy of mac's expose. I wouldn't have anything against that but they copied it badly. It is nice to show off to a friend the first time, but has no practical value whatsoever. They added "aero snap" (or some buzzword like this) and that is one of those little features which are good and forward thinking. This way you can easily have firefox centered (because it a is complete waste of screen space to have it maximized) on your 1920x1200 desktop, which is the picture below showing (on win xp though, just to illustrate my point). This is the a feature you can put on rather small list titled: "Windows does it better than OS X". I just hate all the windows micromanagement when you are using a mac. Add to that a pretty slow and high friction touchpad on my mac and you'll know what I'm talking about.

They added some new features like character editor, keyboard shortcut to connect a projector or an external display (pretty slick and useful actually, win-p), new calculator (I like xp power toy one better though), power shell (finally) etc. Still I find mac os x more feature complete though.

Other than that, stability is great in the days I have tested it. Haven't had one single problem. All hardware devices were recognized and drivers automatically installed once you connected to the internet (which can be a tricky one on a msi wind;). Battery lasts at least as long on the xp, maybe even more because the indicator says that at full charge battery will last for 2:20 (vs 2:00 with xp). And yes, power management was streamlined, but that could be done even further though. And finally, yes, it runs very well on Wind, just as xp. Contrary to Vista which feels very slow most of the time, and extremely slow some of the time.

Just to conclude the post. Win 7 is windows on the right track (if you give a blind eye to libraries/homegroup). Vista definitely was like Me, but 7 is not to Vista as xp was to 98. It is something in between. It is not bad at all (even this early, but as a sidenote, I don't think they will change much after this pre-beta), but it is not game changing like xp was to 98. At the same time one could say that 7 will be a good replacement for aged xp. It will be what vista should have been from day one. But I still long for a real desktop mac, more customizable os x, and lower prices in europe at least...

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