Samsung Series 7 11.6" Slate

Samsung Series 7 11.6″ Slate. A tablet? Or a notebook with an onscreen keyboard?

It doesn’t take a relationship counselor to see it: In our reviews and others, Windows and touch-screen tablets don’t have the best reputation for getting along. As we saw with Fujitsu’s admirable attempt—the $849 Stylistic Q550 Slate PC—at massaging Windows 7 to run on tablet hardware, Windows itself is the problem, not the hardware. While Windows does run well enough, with ample speed and performance, once you start to evaluate touch and multi-touch gesture interpretation, you quickly see that Windows is something of a graceless clod. Hence, manufacturers that have ventured into the Windows-slate market have found it necessary to include a digital pen or stylus to help make touch navigation less frustrating.

Leave it to Samsung, a company that has mastered the Android-based tablet with three outstanding models (the Galaxy TabGalaxy Tab 8.9, and Galaxy Tab 10.1) to take the most impressive stab at the Windows-slate market so far. Enter the Samsung Series 7 11.6″ Slate. Instead of trying to squeeze Windows 7 onto a slate running tablet-grade hardware, such as the 1.5GHz Intel Atom Z670 processor found in the Fujitsu Stylistic Q550, the Series 7 uses Intel’s second-generation “Sandy Bridge” 1.6GHz Core i5-2467M mobile processor, which is much more suitable for running Windows 7.

See the review at Computer Shopper.



 

EliteBook 2560p - A great little powerhouse.

EliteBook 2560p - A great little powerhouse.

HP let me look at this exceptional little 12.5-inch notebook. I have to say that, except that it’s a power hog, I really liked this machine. See the review at ComputerShopper.com

Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 Slate PC

Tablets are hitting the market at a break-neck speed, and man are they in no way created equal. The Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 Slate PC comes with a load of great features and runs Windows 7 Professional. I ran Photoshop and Illustrator on it without incident and was overall impressed with this device.

You can see the entire review at Computer Shopper.



 

Since my last post on upgrading from Vista to Windows 7, I (and many others) have experienced a number of snafus, ranging from the mildly annoying, to disastrous. In any case, the upgrade issues that arise during and after the upgrade process are at the least frustrating and incredible time wasters.

In last week’s Communication Technology Watch post about the upgrade experience, Installing Windows 7 – Not so Easy, I recounted some of the issues I encountered during the upgrade. Today we’ll look at some of the residual problems I have had to spend a few hours figuring out.

Compatibility Issues

During the upgrade process, Windows 7 checks to see if any of your programs are incompatible. Well, it did that for me, but missed one. After the upgrade finished, I started having trouble with my Internet connection. Windows 7 couldn’t communicate with the Windows 7 validation or Windows Update servers. I kept getting errors telling me that my serial number couldn’t validate; I should call Microsoft (eh!). Thinking that maybe a Win 7 update might solve the problem, I ran Windows Update, only to get an error telling me that either the Windows servers were too busy or there was something wrong with my firewall. Also, I could no longer download files successfully from my browser. The download would go all the way to the end, give me a message that I had one second left, and then hang. The few times the files did download successfully, they were corrupt.

None of the Troubleshooter solutions worked. I was pulling my hair out. I was beginning to think that the upgrade had failed, and was just getting ready to install Win 7 fresh on another computer. As a last ditch, I decided to go through my running services. To my dismay, I found an old antivirus program running that had been disabled for at least a year.

Attempts to stop the service or install the program proved futile. All the service control options, Start, Stop, Automatic, Manual, and Disable, were grayed out. During the uninstall process, I got an error that the program could only be uninstalled under XP or Vista. I was starting to think I was screwed.

I was able to stop the service in Safe Mode, but still can’t get it uninstalled.

Peripheral Woes

Within a day or two after the upgrade, I started having trouble with some peripherals and my video adaptor. My Logitech Bluetooth keyboard and mouse began disconnecting intermittently and some graphics programs wouldn’t display properly. It seems that, even though Windows 7 drivers are available for these devices, the upgrade utility decided to use the same Vista drivers already installed on my computer. Now that, my friends, is just downright neglect on Microsoft’s part.

Complaints from the World at Large

Apparently, my problems so far are fairly minor, compared to what some others are reporting. Checkout this link to cio.com for some real upgrade problems:

http://www.cio.com/article/506323/Users_Should_Delay_Windows_7_Upgrade_Support_Firm_Warns?page=2

A survey over at Gizmodo reports that about 20 percent of the upgrades have been troublesome. This is surely much better than the Vista release, but still, one in five!

http://gizmodo.com/5390991/over-80-of-you-had-a-smooth-windows-7-install-experience

William Harrel – www.williamharrel.com

After over 20 years of Windows upgrade snafus, I have been running Windows 7 beta on a duel boot machine, just to be safe. Whenever my friends, colleagues, and clients ask me about upgrading to a new version of Windows, my advice is always, “Wait until it has been out for awhile and updated a few times.” Not once have I upgraded a Windows machine without at least one or two annoying, and sometimes catastrophic debacles. However, after reading all the rave reviews about how easy and stable the upgrade has been for everybody else, I decided to give it a try. My experience, though not disastrous, was not without incident, and certainly not smooth enough to sing Microsoft’s praises.

In Context

Windows 7 is nice–well, nicer than Vista–but hardly anything to get aroused over. Everybody seems to like it, but some reviewers are not overly impressed. Here’s a luke warm preview from Communications Technology Watch with links to several other not-so-impressed reviews:

http://commtechwatch.com/?p=648

However, when you compare Windows 7 to Vista, it truly shines. Check out this review from Engaget:

http://www.engadget.com/2009/08/12/windows-7-review/

So, if the new OS isn’t wonderful, why bother? In my case, the decision was simple. I wanted to ditch Vista. After a few years of running it, I was still having annoying performance issues, weird crashes, problems with IE, and so on. I figured that even if I did have a few problems with the Windows 7 installation, chances were they’d be worth it. Anything to finally get rid of Vista!

Hardware and Software Compatibility

Like most people, my PCs are mission critical. I run several applications that if, even for a few days, I had to do without them, I’d be dead in the water. My experience with Windows upgrades has been that at least one or two programs don’t work properly, and some of my hardware devices, such as backup drives and printers, are not recognized. (Since much of my work requires my computers to do some heavy lifting, such as Flash, Indesign, and Photoshop, I keep my machines pretty modern, loaded with RAM, hard disk space and the latest video interfaces.)

All of this is to say, that I wanted to do everything possible to make sure my machine was Windows 7-compatible before I upgraded. My first stop was the Microsoft Website to look for known compatibility issues. At the the Windows 7 Compatibility Center I found a link to the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor, a download you can run on your Vista machine to make sure all your hardware and software are Windows 7 compatible.

Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor

Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor

Great! This should make things easier. Right?

Hmmm… Well, no. I tried to download and run the application several times, but kept getting an error that a required component was missing. Frankly, I didn’t try to run down whether the application was faulty or whether it was looking for something in my Vista configuration. What I can tell you is that I was running Vista with Service Pack 2 and all the latest patches. In typical Microsoft fashion, there was no other information–just the name of the missing component, with no instructions on how to solve the problem.

(Ok. Yes, I know how to Google errors and figure out the problem. But I wasn’t about to go to all that trouble to run this utility. Besides, I recalled a similar utility for Vista that I had trouble with, and, once I got it working, it wasn’t all that accurate, anyway.)

My computer is fairly new. It has plenty of RAM and drive space, a recent video adaptor. I figured I was safe on that account. My printers and software are all industry standard. What the hell, I decided to roll the dice.

Ready, Set, Install!

After about 5-10 minutes of churning away, checking my computer for compatibility issues, the Windows 7 installation utility gave me a check list of tasks I needed to perform before the installation could continue. My only option was cancel the installation and perform the required tasks. The tasks were:

  1. Decommission my computer from iTunes and uninstall the iTunes program.
  2. Uninstall Windows Mobile Device Center
  3. Uninstall a couple of Dell diagnostic utilities.
  4. Restart Windows

Not so seamless, right? At least it didn’t want me to uninstall all my Adobe and Microsoft Office programs, which was a relief.

Granted, none of this was a big deal. The one thing that baffled me was why I had to uninstall Mobile Device Center (the application that helps you sync your cell phone with your PC). Windows 7 comes with a replacement called Sync Center. Why didn’t the installation utility just upgrade it?

Anyway, I got off easy. Check out this PC World article for some real installation nightmares, just three days after the Windows 7 release:

http://www.pcworld.com/article/174309/Microsoft_Confirms_Windows_Upgrade_Install_Snafu.html?tk=rss_news

And here’s an issue with the student version posted on Gizmodo:

http://gizmodo.com/5389235/microsoft-acknowledges-problems-with-windows-7-student-edition-upgrades

Hurry Up and Wait

After I completed my list of tasks (geez), I launched the install program again and waited for it to do another compatibility check. By now I had about an hour into the install. (Want to make it slicker Microsoft? Just have the checker make sure I did my homework, rather than run this gruelingly slow process again.)

Once the installation process actually started, I got a message telling me that the upgrade “could” or “might” (something like that) take several hours. After a few minutes of watching the progress, I went to bed.

A New Day – A New OS

The next morning I entered the registration key and, bang, I was running Windows 7. So, the upgrade took a while, but it went off without a hitch. Naturally,  I started opening programs and documents to make sure everything worked. For the most part, everything did. In fact, some things work better. IE seems more stable; my RAID tower (which gave me connection headaches in Vista) connected right away; programs open and close faster. So far, so good.

I did have to re-enter the serial numbers on a couple of games I play now and then, but I can live with that.

In Conclusion

After all is said and done, so far Windows 7 is running good for me, and noticeably faster. It was a bit of a pain getting there, but probably worth the effort.

Here is a list of what 27 reviewers have to say about Windows 7 from Gizmodo:

http://gizmodo.com/5387822/27-takes-on-windows-7

William Harrel – www.williamharrel.com

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