Posted by: mschlack
Desktop computing, Windows 7
So what’s up with Windows 7 — does it have many new features? How does it compare with Vista?
I put up the latest version — Build 7000 — in a VM on Hyper-V. I wrote about my first impressions of how Windows 7 affects the decision to migrate from Windows XP to Vista or wait. But what about Windows 7 on its own merits?
I’m actually writing this now on it. It didn’t blow up, it did work right away, and it seems highly functional with one processor core and 1GB of RAM . This is with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Chess Titans, Performance Monitor, calculator and IE open — I’m using about 75% of my allocated memory. Aside from the occasional spike, CPU is hovering in the single digits. So we’ll have to wait and see what people who run the various benchmarks come up with, but there’s some reason to believe Windows 7 may also be more like XP than Vista on the performance front. Of course, by the time you have this in your shop, the average desktop will be about as powerful as your entire data center was in 1990, but that’s another story. …
Reading the Microsoft site, there’s some eye candy features that I can’t seem to get working. But that may well be because my VM doesn’t have the video chops for that — it’s on a server with a very average video card. The “biggest” thing I can’t get to work is a new feature that allows you to put your mouse in the right corner of the taskbar that then turns your windows clear so you can see your desktop. I’m not actually sure why you’d want to do that, but since I can’t, I can’t figure out how silly it really is.
On the other hand, I can get the automatic half-window resizing feature to work: You drag any window to the right or left margin, hold it there, and it will resize to occupy half the screen. Useful for working in two windows at once, but hardly the stuff of mandatory upgrades.
In general, they’ve tried to keep the silliness quotient lower than Vista. Rather than Vista 2, this is more like Vista 0.5 — as far as the UI goes, closer to XP. The sidebar seems to be gone, although gadgets are still possible (now you can put them anywhere on the desktop). The taskbar has actually been improved to accommodate today’s multi-multitasking workforce — doing email while writing a report while IM’ing friends while answering Facebook messages while shopping online while updating a spreadsheet while buying movie tickets for a date tonight while downloading iTunes while watching YouTube while updating a spreadsheet. You can make the icons bigger if you want, and hovering over each one gives a little thumbnail and text description (“Windows 7-Microsoft Word”).
Of course, as always, Microsoft has added a widget or two that is supposed to be helpful but could just as easily be confusing, like the little file older icon on the taskbar that’s NOT a running app, but there to trigger a window of your “library”– seemingly another name for My Documents, except that the folders are actually virtual ones that aggregate like content (.docs in Documents, .mp3s in Music and so on) from anywhere on your hard drive. And you can enable a little widget called “Desktop” on the taskbar that has a fly-away menu with some of the more important stuff you might go to the left-hand Start menu for. But it’s not really complete, so which one do you go to? Hmm….
The hated User Account Control (UAC) is now controllable, not just on or off. By default, it no longer queries you every time you make a change to the machine. It just does it when a program does, and it doesn’t black out the screen, it just makes a transparent black window. You can turn both user-generated and externally generated triggers either on or off. OK, so maybe some users won’t freak out because their screen blacks out, but still – this is one of those features that no one knows what to do with. I’ve been running Vista since it was a beta and I’ve never said “No” to a UAC prompt. When would I? I guess if some hacker was dumb enough to give me a prompt that said “Hacker trying to wreck your machine.”
There are some things I need to investigate more: Is Remote Assistance just a new name for Remote Desktop Connection? Are there any hidden self-healing or managing features that weren’t apparent at first blush?
I’ve already gotten feedback from my first post that performance will be a concern for some of you, and I’m going to start researching that.
How many of you have kicked Windows 7 tires or assigned someone in IT to do that? What are your first impressions?