Friday, January 23, 2009

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Windows 7: Overhyped?

Now that I've been using Windows 7 Beta 1 for a couple weeks, I do feel as if I've developed a bit of an affinity for the new OS on the block. However, I really have a hard time understanding this "world beater" attitude that some on the web (and yes, some of them are other no-name bloggers such as myself) have gotten when it comes to Windows 7 compared to its oft-bashed predecessor.

I was also a Windows Vista beta tester, and had the unfortunate fate of downloading, and using on my main computer, Windows Vista Beta 2. Those of you that were also a part of the beta testing, and maybe even some of you that weren't, already know that Vista Beta 2 was one of the worst debacles in Microsoft OS history. I do like to water down the Beta 2 flub by arguing it was simply a beta, and betas can't be expected to be flawless, but, let's face it, Vista Beta 2 was a constantly crashing, ever-incompatible mess that's singlehandedly responsible for frying my laptop battery.

However, once Vista RC 1 was released, everything seemed magically better. The crashes were gone, the UI was cleaner and faster, driver support was improved, and Vista was on the right track. I upgraded my computer to Vista within a couple days of its release, and, outside a couple minor driver issues that have since been corrected, I haven't looked back. I feel like Marty McFly whenever I happen to go back to the future and mess around with somebody's XP system.

Windows 7 will likely make me feel the same way about Vista, but I don't have some overwhelming drive to upgrade like the only way I can save my system from the computer apocalypse is if I do. When it comes to those things people nag on about Vista, and beam about how Windows 7 has fixed 'em, there's usually a pretty easy workaround/explanation for their Vista issue:

UAC: The most popular of Vista knocks, the UAC can simply be shut off. It's not easy to figure out, but it can be done, and a quick Google search will usually suffice for the instructions. Vista might get mad at you for doing it, but, if you hate it that much, you may as well go for the jugular.

Overall Speed: Generally, a clean machine means a fast machine, and Vista isn't much different. Are there sacrifices in speed compared to XP, sure, but not so drastic that it makes me want to yank my hair out. As long as the install is clean, bloatware removed, and startup apps are kept to a minimum (this is where I falter most often), you shouldn't have too many issues in terms of speed with Vista.

Incompatibility: Another favorite of mine. As I mentioned in one of my first posts, people will praise 7 for it's amazing compatibility out of the box. Vista, as of 7's release date, will have the exact same compatibility as its new cousin, but nobody will care. They'll just say that 7 is so much more compatible upon release than Vista, even though Vista really was the OS that did the driver dirty work for the kernel the two OS's are based on.

Edition Names: Who the hell cares!? It's not too difficult to discern between Windows Home Premium, Business (Professional for 7), and Ultimate. Also, for that matter, the feature set isn't exactly radically different, with the main shift probably being Windows Media Center's absence from Business (although the lack of a DVD codec in Business is also incredibly baffling to me). Windows 7 really keeps essentially the same labeling structure, and I don't see any real reason to change it or why people struggle so mightily with what each one entails.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

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Windows 7 Beta 1: My Experience

Back after some time off during the holiday, I had a chance to install the Windows 7 Beta on my 3+ year old HP Pavilion zd8200, and here's a summary of my experience so far:

When using the Pre-Beta builds, I had created a 20gb partition upon which to install my test subjects, and that's also where I installed Beta 1. Starting off, I decided to go with the 32-bit version for compatibility reasons, even though I have little issues running x64 Vista on my main partition. Funny thing is, this ended up NOT being the way to go, as I had unrepairable sound card driver issues that caused unbearably choppy video/audio.

So, after downloading Windows 7 x64, I encountered a couple driver issues I figured I would considering I originally had the same problems under Vista x64. The sound card, this time, decided not to work at all, and neither did my media card reader. However, even though Windows Update wasn't able to find the correct drivers, I was able to pull them same drivers I use in Vista over to 7 using my USB flash drive, and, as long as I run in "Disable Driver Enforcement" mode, both devices now work.

Once the driver issues were resolved, I was pretty happy with the overall experience. I enjoy the window preview that brings particular windows to the forefront when highlighted in the taskbar, and the "Desktop Slideshow" feature, which I have set to change wallpapers every 5 minutes, is pretty cool. Shutdown time, more so than startup, is extremely peppy as well.

The only real issue I have with 7 comes in the form of sleep mode, from which it has had a couple issues recovering. The biggest issue here was when it woke up once without recognizing, or even powering, my USB flash drive that had been plugged in even before it went to sleep.

All-in-all, 7 has been a decent experience so far, but I've only used it for a couple days, so I'll let you know more of what I think as I become more ingrained in the interface.

NOTE: If you are also having sound issues with a 2005-2006ish HP Laptop (remember, I have a zd8200) and are having problems finding drivers, follow this link:

Put all the files into a folder where you would keep your drivers on your local hard drive, and then manually install them through the Device Manager in the Control Panel. Also, you can get ReadyDriver Plus, a program to ease your pain when attempting to boot into "Disable Driver Enforcement" mode, here.