My impressions of Windows 7


I’ve now got the Windows 7 beta installed on my desktop PC at home and so far, everything seems fine!

It took me a while to choose between installing it in a Virtual Machine, dual booting with Vista or just putting it on top-and eventually I decided to go with the latter. I did try and do an upgrade but Windows 7 refused to “upgrade a staged build to a non-staged build” so I went with the full (custom) install. I assume this is to protect people from accidentally installing an unstable OS on their machines?

I have to say it took quite a long time to get through the installation process. After about 1 hour, I went to bed and picked it up in the morning. When I returned, I had to select my country of use (with keyboard layout etc), set a machine name and choose a password etc and bing-install done; the almost zero-touch approach to the install was greatly appreciated 🙂 Once I was in, my first concern was internet connectivity and sure enough-there were “no wireless connections available”.

A few of the people at work who I’d spoken to were pretty sure that drivers would be my downfall with this installation and I was worried that this would be where it all fell over. However, the problem was solved nice and easily- I simply downloaded the newest Vista drivers from the Netgear site, ran the installer, rebooted the machine and I was online 🙂

I haven’t had much of a chance to play around with it yet (hopefully that will change tonight) but so far the only issue I’ve noticed is a somewhat regular “Assertion Error” in Windows Explorer. Doesn’t seem to be much to worry about though-I just “Ignore Once” and it seems to be ok.

As I get a chance to use Windows 7 more, I’ll keep updating this post with any great new finds, problems, quirks and probably some screen shots too!

*Update 1* So far it’s definitely IE 8 that is the shakiest part of the beta, it’s having a lot of “assertion errors” and now it’s just crashed out and is sending what appears to be a BIG chunk of info back to MS.

 However my big issue is with the patch to fix the MP3 deleting issue-I just can’t install it! If I try to run it, Windows tells me it’s “not applicable to my computer” and stops the installation so the big question is “where does this leave me”? Was it built in to the build I downloaded or perhaps Windows has downloaded the patch itself and just isn’t lisiting it? If either of those are the case then it’s happy days and I’m good to go…but if that isn’t the case, I stand to kacker a load of MP3’s 😦 I’ve got them backed up but still it’s a hassle and I worry that some got missed from the backup too.

Well I’ve just started importing all the music into WMP 12 so we’ll see what happens re: the MP3’s. I’m sure they’re all backed up and the vast majority of my music is .wma anyway so (fingers crossed) it’ll be ok.

*Update 2* It seems that everything’s ok with my mp3’s so I can only assume that the MP3 patch is pre-loaded in the build I downloaded…it’d be nice to have some confirmation from Windows though!

The best thing so far is that all my M4a files are in WMP 12 and playing fine-that certainly makes things easier 🙂

IE8 is still being buggy-crashing out when it tries to block access to potentially dodgy sites which is doubly annoying. I’ve also noticed that maximizing a window shows a fetching BRIGHT pink background…who chose that Microsoft?!

*Update 3* I’m getting “assertion errors” from most parts of Windows 7-Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer are the biggest offenders, but Windows Media Player is trying to join in as well; although it seems that the WMP errors were triggered by my selecting a new wallpaper to be scheduled. They didn’t cause WMP to crash out or anything-it simply paused playback until I acted on the prompt (ignore once, always or never) and then the track picked up where it left off, so no biggy.

I don’t want to only pick out the buggy parts as these are to be expected in a beta so over to the good bits 🙂

Scheduling the changing of wallpapers is a brilliant addition although I know a lot of people don’t see the point of it. I’ve got a crazy amount if images on my machine-family photos, downloaded wallpapers of various kinds etc and I like to have one of them as my desktop wallpaper, but I do tend to get bored after a while. That then involves trawling through all the images and choosing a new one, which can be a surprisingly time consuming task-so having Windows do it for me is great.

Another small but excellent addition is the ability to re-arrange running programmes on the taskbar. I like to have my applications open in a certain order but every now and then one will crash out and I have to re-open it at the end of the taskbar. That really throws me and I’m sure I waste a fair bit of time just trying to find the right app on the taskbar, but not anymore! This is the feature that consistenly peaks peoples interest during conversations and I’m definitely a big fan of it.

Libraries:

Libraries looked like an interesting feature from what I’d seen PDC’ers sayng and they sure are great 🙂 Libraries help bring together files of the same type, even if they’re in disparate locations. I’m a terrible On-PC filer (as my co-workers can attest) as I’m always creating new folders to save things to and then filling those full of sub-folders and so on; plus when I “tidy up” I tend to just dump all those files into another newly created file…so this makes things a lot easier for me & anyone who needs to find something on my machine when I’m not around!

My Music library brings together all the “iTunes”, “Newly ripped (Nov 07), “Newly purchased May 08” etc folders into one central location so I can see all the media of that type in one place. I say “one type” but it has collected MP3’s, WMA’s and M4A’s without an issue…and has done the same for the 1000’s of pictures too, all in the Pictures library.

It’s things like this that really show that MS thought about who will be using this OS and how they will be using it. They make using Windows a more enjoyable, intuitive and fun experience, which I believe, is what it’s all about.

*Update 4* A couple of things here. I’ve just discovered that the Desktop Gadgets aren’t being particularly friendly, it refused to let me have the Calendar gadget while the clock worked fine which annoyed me a bit. I then turned off the Clock gadget and went back to a clear, uncluttered desktop and jumped back into Windows Media Player (WMP). I’d been singing the praises of WMP12 earlier for it’s speed and smooth functionality but now it seemed sluggish and worse than WMP 11-which sucked. It was stupidly slow at refreshing album art when changing views and would often hang when scrolling through the library-in my eyes 2 of the 3 basics it needs to be good at (the 3rd being playing the music). At this point I brought up Task Manager (Ctrl+Shift+Esc) to see if I could see any reason for this and lo and behold I could…Sidebar.exe (from the Desktop Gadgets) was taking up 80% (yes eighty percent) of my CPU, even after I’d disabled the gadgets!!! I ended the Process Tree and straight away WMP was back to it’s new, snappy self-whoo hoo 🙂

So this is a cautionary tale about the Gadgets and also a round about way of say “WMP 12 rocks!”…is anyone else having probs with the sidebar?

Anti-Virus:

This is an important topic as no-one wants to get their machine full of viruses and malware-but what works with a beta OS? Well, Microsoft have got a list of approved partners here and includes Symantec, Kaspersky and AVG so I decided to go with AVG V8. Admittedly that too is a beta (as are the other products) but the next time I went to open IE8…BLUE SCREEN…Noooooooooooo! I tried a few times but always got a wonderful BSOD so I had no choice but to un-install it which amusingly also made it blue screen 🙂 Since I took AVG off everything seems to be working again so that certainly seems to be the cause.

This leaves me with something of a dilemma. Do I try the other vendors and risk going through this rigmarole again or do I just leave it at risk catching something from the internet? What would you do?

*Update 5* I’ve just spotted that when you right click the Recycle Bin icon, there is no longer the option to “delete”; this is another example of Microsoft making a small change that makes things easier for everyone. I know quite a few people who’ve deleted the icon instead of emptying the bin; then there’s usually a panic and not everyone knows how to get the icon back; now there’s no more worries about it 🙂

itunes DRM Free!!!


It’s not often you’ll see an Apple related post on here…I’m not a big fan of His Steveness et al…but this is a big one.

iTunes will be completely DRM free by Spring/end of Q1, so late March/early April time and it’s about time too! Despite my opposition to Apple, I have to admit that, as a concept, iTunes is great (let’s not get into how slow, sluggish and buggy it can be) but only being able to play the tracks in iTunes really winds me up. Either that, or having to double up on everything in various formats in various placed just makes things complicated…and it’s an extra thing that you have to explain to parents 🙂

The big change that has allowed this is variable pricing so newer, more popular “bangers” will be around $1.29 but on the flip side-older songs will be as low as $0.69.

One thing that is very exciting about this is that Microsoft recently announced that Windows 7 will be able to play AAC files natively, so once they’re DRM free you can buy them from iTunes and then easily play them in Windows Media Player…nice 🙂

These two announcements being so close together does make me wonder if Bill & Steve had a little chat and decided to play nice!

I’m now trying to find out if this is going to be a US only thing, or if we’ll get it here in the UK too. I’ll update as soon as I know.

Windows 7 to come with DivX


According to apcmag.com, Windows 7 will include DivX out of the box.

“So what?” you might ask…this will go along way to putting an end to hours spend trawling the web to find the correct/latest codecs to play that (legally) downloaded/ripped for backup purposes movie; thus making media watching in Windows an even more enjoyable experience 🙂

Codec packs are often from unverified publishers and run the risk of infecting your PC with malware and/or you ending up with various conflicting codecs that slow your machine down. Windows 7 shows a real attempt by MS to give users what they need and want and to help make the user experience as smooth, safe and stable as possible-good on you boys!

It doesn’t stop there though…Windows 7 will also play the H.264 video and AAC audio formats, as used by  iTunes, via Windows Media Player. However, don’t get too excited as Good Ol’ Apple refuse to licence  their FairPlay DRM so tracks purchased via the iTunes store are still off limits to WMP…Boo Hiss I say-that would make things SO much easier for me and stop me having to double up on tracks in both AAC and WMA/MP3 formats. Still, the AAC inclusion should mean that WMP can search & index all the (non-purchased) iTunes media, so simplifying the listening experience.

%d bloggers like this: