First Impressions of Windows 7 Beta

So ever since Vista came out, I’ve been a cynic of anything Microsoft, ranging from their Zune (and rightly so) to the XBOX 360 (which I actually consider pretty good if not for the fact that they still haven’t fixed the red ring of death).  Software-wise though, I still considered their solutions pretty good (I.E. Visual Studio Suite & Office).  When I got notification about Windows 7 from my friend, I was skeptical, but later decided to go ahead with it.  Of course, the problem is I just switched to a Pavilion dv5 (heretofore known as Piekno) from an old Presario M2000 (which was handed over to my mother).  However, I was not willing to test anything on my primary computer, not when I had just finally got things settled on Vista (bulky operating system it is…).  However, I still have two desktop computers (One Shiori and Makoto).

Firstly, let me explain the machine I decided to test the beta on (Shiori).  She was a pet project in my freshman year of high school with help from my uncle and my father.  She has an 80 GB IDE hard disk (of which only 17.18 is partitioned for Windows, the rest is file storage, Ubuntu, and a swap partition), a 1.67 GHz AMD Athlon XP processor, 1 GB SDRAM and an ATI RAGE 128 PRO graphics card (old, right?).  Seeing as this is now 6 year old hardware, it’s no surprise that the Vista Upgrade Advisor didn’t give me a good result for her.  I have been running Windows XP Professional on it since… until recently, when I installed the Beta… successfully.

I installed the beta on Shiori almost without problems, with one exception: my motherboard’s sound device was not recognized by the Beta, which is no surprise, since it wasn’t detected in XP either.  After I located the driver and installed it, she ran quite fit as a fiddle.  First thing one would notice would be the interface (Actually, the fact it was a betta fish on a Beta test made my day).  The taskbar seems similar enough to Vista.  In fact, the start menu is pretty much the same.  The only difference comes with the indicators for windows on the taskbar and the notification icons.  The notification icons now have an extendable balloon rather than expanding on the taskbar itself.

capture

It also did not close after a few seconds, making it easier to locate what I needed.  The windows on the taskbar are somewhat reminiscent of the dock used in Mac OSX.  Under normal circumstances, I like that sort of organisation method, but the problem is that I want my buttons smaller to make use of my screen real-estate.  At that point, it mattered not whether I moved my taskbar to the left of the screen (like I usually do) or left it at the bottom of the screen.

So then comes the question, did my graphics card have anything to do with my experience?  It’s likely.  The Windows Experience Index (which you’ll likely have encountered when looking at system properties in Vista) has been extended to a scale of 1.0 to 7.9.  Shiori scored a 1.0 in the base score simply because of my ATI Rage 128 Pro (FAIL) card.  I could not beta test the newer Aero, but there are still quite a few choices to customize the display nonetheless:

personalization

Looking at the task manager, I find that there are hardly any processes going on in the background (services maybe, but no processes).  Of the processes that existed, they were much more compact than their Vista counterparts.  For comparison, a fresh start of an untouched Vista gives me around 60% RAM usage (on Piekno, who has 4GB) compared to the 50% RAM usage on a 1 GB computer using Windows 7.

processes

This might account for how smooth the system seems to run (much smoother than older operating systems on a much older computer).

I think, really, that Windows 7 isn’t much of a new operating system, to be blunt.  If I were still in high school doing analogies on the SAT, it would go like this…

Windows 7:Vista::Windows 2000:Windows ME

I think as far as marketing goes though, the hype going through the beta testers will do Microsoft much good, and perhaps the redemption of the upcoming Windows 7 will win back the user base Microsoft lost to Apple in recent years.  It is still far too soon to say, but there’s a lot of promise in this operating system.

Advances against Vista in Windows 7 are quite apparent.  In the Start Menu, if there’s a program that is used to open files, rolling over them for a bit will show recent files opened in that program, which can be useful sometimes if you forget what you were last working on.  Even PAINT gets a makeover:

paint

Gadgets are also no longer limited to the sidebar.  The process is still under sidebar.exe, but it takes significantly less space on RAM as well:

gadget-placement

Next time, I will be attempting to connect a few devices to try Windows 7’s new connection functions.

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