Windows 7 – Could this be It?

I’ve been using Windows since before Windows 3.1, which is when this unruly beast finally became functional. You can’t imagine what it was like running PageMaker and Photoshop on machines that sometimes took a full minute or so for screen redraws. Crashes were a regular occurrence, driving me nuts and making me wonder why I bothered. Finally, with version 3.1, Windows became relatively stable and PCs were almost fast enough to run the struggling OS comfortably. Now, over 20 years later, here we are at version 7. As usual, Microsoft and pundits are touting it as the greatest thing since sliced bread. But we’ve heard that before…

With each Windows release the everyday enduser encounters numerous serious issues that don’t turn up during development and testing–upgrade issues, program compatibility issues, performance issues, security issues, you name it. Let’s face it, Vista was a disaster. Even after Service Pack 2, it’s still a bloated dog.

So, the question is, is Windows 7 what Vista should have been?

So far, my experience with Windows 7 has been relatively positive. But then, I doubt that I am the average PC user. (In fact, I doubt there really is such a thing as an average PC user.)

So, instead of simply recounting my limited experience with the new OS, let’s also take a look at what others are saying about Microsoft’s latest OS.

One thing we should all know by now is that moving to a new version of Windows will undoubtedly be an adventure, a test of our patience and fortitude.

Another Convoluted Edition Scheme

As with Vista, Microsoft has once again come up with an elaborate Edition scheme to confuse you and relieve you of more of your money. The more you need your computer to do, the more Widows 7 will cost you. Oh how I long for the days when all you had to do was buy and install Windows, without trying to figure out what level of user you are. This time, at least, there are only three Editions (so, Microsoft knows we don’t like this whole edition thing). Rather than go over all three and what they allow you to do, here is a link to a page on Microsoft’s site comparing them:

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/products/compare

Speed and Stability

Several testers, including Microsoft, are touting Windows 7’s speed. Microsoft’s ads are calling it “snappy.” There’s a lot of hype out there about faster boot speed. Here’s an article about how fast the new OS boots:

http://windows7news.com/2008/11/11/windows-7-boot-speed-benchmark/

Most of the tests I’ve seen test how long it takes to display the desktop. But these tests are done primarily without virus and other software installed. Besides, just getting to the desktop is half the battle. Vista displays the desktop rather quickly, but the OS continues loading long after that. In fact, programs are slow to open and sluggish for quite some time after the operating system “boots”, to the point where Windows is nearly unusable for several minutes.

The real issue is, of course, how fast will programs load and perform their magic. Outlook, for example, is sluggish under Vista, and always misbehaving. We won’t know until the OS is released and running in real world environments how nice Windows 7 plays on PCs with various configurations.

Granted, Microsoft’s beta environment and sampling is much more sophisticated than with previous releases, but haven’t we heard that before?

My experience so far is that the new OS seems fairly stable. No real problems with crashing. Here’s an article from a guy with similar experience:

http://www.benhblog.com/2009/01/windows-7-beta-stability-is-solid.html

Notice, though, that Ben had trouble with one of his programs, which takes us to the next issue.

Program Compatibility

More often than not, upgrading Windows means also upgrading several programs, or running them in compatibility mode. Here’s an example of some experiences people have had running Photoshop CS4 in Windows 7.

http://www.neowin.net/forum/index.php?showtopic=720420

I haven’t had a lot of trouble with the graphics and design software I run, mostly Adobe products. And it really looks like most applications will run alright in Windows 7. Here are a few sights where people are listing their experience with various programs:

http://www.insanelymac.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=150360

http://www.joejoe.org/forum/index.php?showtopic=17767

New Features

So, we upgrade software to get new features, right? Well, Windows 7 has a bunch of those. Even Vista was easier to use than XP, once you found everything. And that’s the issue again. Microsoft seems to move things around and change how things are done for no apparent reason. A classic example is Office 2007. Does anybody know why it’s so different from previous versions?

Many things are different in Windows 7. For example, you setup dual monitors in an all new way.  So, there is always a learning curve.

Anyway, I found most of the new features useful, though nothing to get excited about. Here is a list of the new stuff:

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/products/features

So far, it looks like Windows 7 is relatively stable, fast, and pretty slick. But I’ve said that before about other upgrades. We’ll see…

William Harrel – www.williamharrel.com

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