Windows 7 Beta 1

Like with Vista, I’m beta testing again. This time, I’m using something a little more powerful, my laptop. Since it came with Vista, some direct comparisons can be done. The first thing to note is Windows 7 Beta 1 is just that, a beta. Though I have yet to have something on it crash, there are some visual bugs that need to be worked out. In certain circumstances I am getting visual corruption in Aero. One thing that was improved right off the bat was wireless networking support. Vista was much better than XP, likewise Windows 7 is much better than Vista in this regard.

Booting does not seem much faster than with Vista, but I am using a slightly slower hard drive, and all my ready boost stuff is disabled at the moment. The sound driver that was installed did not work for the built in speakers on my laptop, but installing a Vista driver for it resolved the issue. Like Vista, the automatic installation of drivers is improved greatly over XP. Unlike Vista, in Windows 7 more information about the devise, and process the installer is following is available. Most devices are just plug-n-play with Windows 7, even more so than with Vista.

The window peaking, and new taskbar are two things I’d throw onto the improvement list. On the taskbar you can move around the currently active applications in a manner that reminds me of Avant Window Navigator (OS X is probably like that too). The mouse gestures will take a little bit to get used to and fully learn, so I won’t comment fully on them at this time.

There are still quite a few problems, but hey, it’s a beta so it’s my job to let Microsoft know about them. The first issues is FTP support, it sucks. Vista FTP support wasn’t much better than XP, they both have issues if you double click on an file (they both try to open the files in Internet Explorer). In Windows 7 Beta 1 I can not even log into my FTP folder, all authenticated FTP accesses fail with the error “The handle is invalid.”

Printer drivers for older USB devices do not exist. My HP Officejet v40 (which is built better than most new printers) had drivers built in to Windows since XP. In Vista the included drivers were slow and made printing painfull, in Windows 7 the drivers are not there. HP does not even distribute Vista drivers for the Officejet v40, so unless you have Vista and rip the drivers out of it, or are resourceful with Google, you are SOL.

There are some screen corruption issues, where Aero flakes out, or the font does not render properly. The font issue is reproducible, go add a printer, and scroll quickly through the driver listing (not using the scroll wheel but instead the scroll bar). It is a flaw in the rendering of the letter ‘e’, and specifically the horizontal line is too thick (two to three times the thickness it should be). The fact that a screen capture using the Print Screen button captures this points to a rendering issue caused by windows rather than a driver issue. Using the ClearType configuration utility (a quick, six step, which text chunk looks best ‘test’ ) seems to resolve this issue.

The Aero corruption issue may be a graphics driver issue. So far I have not found a method that reliably reproduces the issue. It will some times affect the taskbar, when opening and closing windows, or minimizing and maximizing them. Sometimes it will affect the titlebar of an application.

Overall Windows 7 is shaping up to be a good replacement for Vista and XP. Sure the Beta has some bugs, but then again it’s a beta.

-John Havlik

Viva La Vista

Eye candy; two words that accurately describe Vista. My main gripes with Vista are the layering and hiding of many features that previous Windows versions have. The most obvious to the new user has to be changing the background/display settings. When right clicking on the background there no longer resides a ‘properties’ option, but instead a window for themes/visual settings exists. The old properties menu has been butchered to only show the first two tabs, with settings having its own window. After getting over these setbacks of ‘hidden’ options, I really like Windows Vista.

The lack of anti-aliasing support for the windows + tab replacement for alt + tab, and in the new photo management application is very annoying. Speaking of the photo manager, I’d say it’s almost as good, if not better than iPhoto, and is multitudes better than Pisca. Web 2.0 inspired tag organization along with other methods makes organizing photos a snap. One photo belongs in three tag categories? that’s fine and supported. This is particularly useful for creating slide shows for special events with pictures from different categories. In the slide shows that have about 10 different themes that can be chosen from so far, the edges of some photos, when using a theme that lays the photo down at an angle causes sever aliasing along the edges. This better be fixed by the final release.

Other minor gripes are about Foobar2000 not being able to play files, it is shut down because of an access violation. Songbird also fails to load due to missing DLLs. I guess I expected a heavily optimized application such as Foobar2000 to not load at all. Running in compatibility modes didn’t resolve the problems with these audio applications.

As a linux user, I see many ideas from linux desktops migrated into Vista. What comes to mind is the ‘protected’ administrator mode, and new user folders. Even as an administrator in Vista, programs don’t automatically run in administrator mode. Just as in linux with root users, Microsoft is migrating away from everyday users being able to do everything to their system. While this is a good idea, I constantly find myself needing to run applications as root in Gentoo to do the things I need to do, but that’s because I am typically doing server administration. Now in linux every user has their own folder and their desktop is somewhere within this folder, the same sort of thing has been in windows for a while. What is different is the new focus on the user folder being the main folder for the user, with the documents folder for documents, not downloads, which now have their own folder on default. The entire ‘My’ thing is gone from Vista, instead of My Documents, or My Music there is just Documents and Music folders located in the user’s folder.

Other perks of Vista include automatic support of all plays of sure devices, without having to install drivers or anything. I plugged my Zen Micro in and was ready to transfer music, it just worked. The search for drivers on the internet feature on XP that usually doesn’t find what you need now works with Vista. Originally the driver for the onboard sound wasn’t found, within seconds of going though the install driver wizard my sound chip was recognized and working, without me going to a single website to download drivers, which I had to do for XP. The new searching is nice too. There is no run program anymore, search takes the run program’s functions now.

-John Havlik

[end of transmission, stay tuned]