Windows Forums member, MSherwood spent seven days using Windows 7 and nothing else. In this two-part series, he shares his impressions, likes, dislikes, and recommendations for Windows 7. The second part of this series covers program installation and feature exploration.
Check the first of this two-part series.
Installing Basic Programs
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Sitting at my work computer is killing me. My laptop is sitting in my bag next to me, sleeping, with nothing installed on it. I can’t wait until I can play around with it.
Finally. It’s time to get some virus protection on this computer. I emailed myself the product key for my antivirus, so I need email first. I download the Windows Live Essentials suite, including Messenger, Mail, Movie Maker Beta, and Photo Gallery. This is no longer packaged with the OS, as Microsoft is trying to avoid any appearance of breaking antitrust laws. Basically, lawmakers say that if Microsoft packages video and picture editing, communication tools, and web browsers with the operating system, everyone will go out of business and the world will explode. I disagree, but it helps lean down the install. Anyways…The installation goes perfectly.
I get the product key and go to the Avast Antivirus website and download my antivirus program. No problem! Avast is 100% compatible with Windows 7. To check if your antivirus is compatible with Windows 7, search “antivirus compatible windows 7” on any search engine. I have only heard of 2 that are not, namely McAfee and Windows Live One Care (Microsoft isn’t stupid; they’re just discontinuing it in 2009 to offer a free alternative) After that I install CCleaner and it works fine, except that the “Open CCleaner” option does not appear on the Recycle Bin menu when you right click. I take the opportunity to do some maintenance, scanning for malware and viruses (just in case). As a side note, Disk Defragmenter is not enabled by default because of Windows 7’s compatibility with Solid State Drives (SSDs), which have different properties than the drives we are used to.
After fiddling with maintenance, I pull out my Microsoft Office 2007 Ultimate DVD and install the software. It installs perfectly, as would be expected. I also download and install Apple Safari, which works like a charm but does not have support to have all the tabs previewed on the taskbar when the icon is hovered over, like IE8. So I uninstall it.
First of all, with regards to drivers, I would suggest that you connect your computer to the internet and let it find its own drivers for your hardware. In fear of surfing the net antivirus-less, I had my wireless turned off when I first booted 7 and then installed an incompatible sound driver by accident. Three days later I noticed my audio was crackly (my laptop is usually muted-classes), uninstalled the driver, rebooted, and 7 found the compatible driver right away.
Now it’s about time to get out my new toy and sync it. Recently I bought an HTC Touch Pro smartphone and I absolutely love it. It connects to my laptop through Windows Mobile Device Center and syncs outlook calendar, contacts, notes, OneNote notes, and Windows Live Mail. Mobile Device Center downloads and installs fine, and then I hook up my phone. Here I hit a little hiccup. My phone was still set to sync on my Vista setup, with the default setting to delete information from the phone if it conflicts with the laptop. So after I hook up my phone and delete its sync relationship with Vista, it deleted a couple appointments from my Outlook. No big deal. After that it puts everything from my phone into Outlook. There is a new program in Windows 7 called Device Stage (shown at right) that manages sync relationships with compatible devices more easily than with extra software, but my HTC is not supported yet. Later on I had a ton of trouble getting this to work the way it was supposed to (it took me about 2 days), fiddling with settings on the phone AND the computer, until it finally recognized my device again. Note: 7 only supports Windows Mobile Device Center and Device Stage. Microsoft will NOT ALLOW you to install ActiveSync on Windows 7.
While typing up a part of this article during class, I find out a few things. First of all, Windows Media Player 12 (the default media player in 7) has built-in support for both DivX and XVid file extensions. No more codec packs! Also in class, while closing IE8, I get a disheartening message: “explorer.exe has stopped responding”. This doesn’t make me happy, but after it closes 7 automatically starts it back up (In Vista I would have to reboot it manually from the task manager “Run” function). It’s working fine now. Bullet dodged. So is life working with Beta software. I have had IE8 stop responding numerous times since this, but 7 is very good at either keeping it open and recovering from the error or restarting IE8 and recovering all of your open tabs, so it doesn’t test my patience that much. If you are using the Beta, try to send the error information to Microsoft so they can fix the problem. I think this is one of the reasons they did not limit the Beta to a certain number of people. They need this information!
After this day I lost track of when I used 7, what I found, and basically what I was doing. From here on out I’ll just cover some other basics of 7 that I came to know and love…
Because Windows 7 was designed primarily for notebooks, and branching out to netbooks and tablet PCs, Windows 7 is much nicer to your battery. Like Vista, power options are available from the battery tray icon. On the power saver mode when the PC is on battery power Windows Aero is automatically disabled, a feature that is included in Vista Battery Saver, a program that has been featured on Mintywhite. Also, an adaptive display feature has been added, dimming your computer screen much like a cell phone when unused for a specific period of time. The battery life has been documented online to beat Vista by quite a bit. There is also a chart on Microsoft’s windowsteamblog.com website that shows their decision to focus on sleep instead of hibernate or shut-down, basically because shutting down programs, saving the computer state, and then restoring all of this takes WAY more time and power than leaving your computer in a higher-power state for a short period. If you are anything like me, you may put your computer to sleep only to wake it up 5 minutes later in a different building.
Along with the new user interface, Microsoft has taken the opportunity to revamp a couple of their old programs. As seen in an earlier review on Mintywhite, Paint and Notepad have the familiar Office 2007 ribbon, making them a bit easier to use and a bit prettier in my opinion. Calculator has also gotten a bit of an overhaul, making it the seemingly all-knowing calculator I always wanted it to be. “Quick calculator, how many fathoms are in one nautical mile?” It never ceases to amaze me. Built in programs for networking, managing devices, and the Windows Action Center (which processes error reports, shows information for antivirus and spyware programs, maintenance, etc.) make this the easiest Windows yet. The User Account Control is back in 7, but a little easier to deal with. There is a slider bar that you can adjust its sensitivity with, and although I have it at the default setting, it is far less prevalent than in Vista. Windows Media Player also has a fresh twist. Not only does it play DivX and XVid file extensions, but it has a new mini-now playing mode, and FINALLY you have the ability to pause it from the taskbar thumbnail preview. Stay minimized WMP!
I’m not too much of a gamer, nor can my laptop handle the types of games I would like to play (I did manage to get all the way through Half-Life 2 on the lowest settings without chucking it out a window though), but just to let you know more modern games will play on 7. I was able to install a couple older games from their .iso files and play them fine, including Warcraft III (including the expansion) and SimCity 4. I don’t know if I had a video problem at the time, but Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield did not work. I may try it again now that I have the 7 driver for my chipset.
At the time of writing the conclusion of this article I have been using ONLY Windows 7 Beta 1 for 2 whole weeks, no using Vista allowed. Windows 7 is a beautiful thing, not to mention something that “I’m a PC” people have been waiting for (at release time we may be able to rub this in Apple’s face). It looks great, works great for a Beta, is much easier to use than Vista, and arguably fixed all of Vista’s problems. I love it!
Should I upgrade?
When it’s released in late 2009-early 2010, YES! It will especially be great if you have a tablet PC, other touch PC, a PC that supports multi-touch, or a netbook. If you don’t like buggy software, don’t try using the Beta 24-7. I had a lot of crashes, especially when IE8 had its “daily freeze” as I have come to call it. Some of these crashes were embarrassing, for example yesterday in class when a professor gave me a CD with Jeopardy Music to play during a review game and Media Player crashed, forcing a restart. When the release is final, all of these problems will be solved (mainly because of the endless error reports I have sent) and 7 should be a clean install with smooth sailing afterwards. If you haven’t tried it yet, make sure you do before the February 10th cutoff for the Beta download.
It’s been my pleasure testing Windows 7 so that I can tell all of you great Mintywhite readers about it. If you have any question, don’t hesitate to get on the forums and chat me up. Enjoy!