The Windows Experience

As I mentioned earlier I’ve began using a Windows machine for some day to day stuff as well as my trusty MacBook.  I’ve been a Mac user for a great many years, and have also worked doing extensive support for them back when I was a professional geek.  I’ve used Windows off and on that time and have even done some first level support for it.  Still, it’s never been my operating system of choice.

While doing a little research on To Do programs and other organizational utilities I kept running across articles talking about Windows 7  beta – so my research changed direction as I began to read more and more about the Windows 7 beta.  I was intrigued by a lot of what I was reading, especially how Microsoft with this release seemed to be focusing on stability and usability.  Or in simpler terms, they were striving to  just make things work.  As that has often been an area where I’ve been less than enamoured by Windows I decided maybe I’d give this beta a shot.  After all, nothing important was on my Windows machine, it would be no problem to simply wipe it clean and see what makes Windows 7 tick.

The installation screen was very clean and straight forward.  There was very little in the way of clutter, it’s obvious that  they really are working hard to make it so that just about anyone can install a working OS with only very limited computer knowledge.  For me the only obstacle I had to face was one that I had been expecting since my hard drive is plugged in to a PCI IDE card.  However it was nice to see that, unlike with Windows XP, 7 was willing to look at more than just the floppy drive for device drivers so that I could install the OS on the hard drive.  It’s good to see the major OS vendor has finally begun to accept that the floppy drive is dead and that many systems now ship without one.  Progress!

After a simple and straightforward install I found myself looking at a fairly alien OS.  Having not ever used Vista, I found many immediate diferences from Windows XP and had to go searching for a few things.  Fortunately most things were roughly where you expected them to be so it didn’t take long to begin to be able to customize all my settings.  In fact I found some things seemed quite natural simply because they had things in common with Mac OS X.  After poking around a bit a lot of it seemed quite familar to me and I was able to dive right in.

With XP I  had two main issues with this computer.  The first was that no matter what I did it did not want to print to my printer.  My printer is connected to a wireless Linksys print server which both my Mac, and my former Linux box were able to print to without a hitch.  Windows XP, however, wanted nothing at all to do with the printer.  In Windows 7 the printer worked.  Though it did give me a bit of a scare because at one point it seemed as if it was hung up.  There was no progress bar or any other type of indicator letting me know it was doing anything.  After about 10 minutes a screen of printer driver choices finally popped up and everything just worked.  The second XP issue I had was frequent signal drops from the wireless card.  This was most evident when playing World of Warcraft as I would get disconnected around once or so an hour.  I had always chalked it up to the dirt cheap wireless network card that I had in my PC.  I had accepted the “you get what you pay for” scenario.  Since installing Windows 7 I haven’t had a single disconnect.  In fact my transfer rates have more than tripled.  Apparently there was a big focus in the OS on network management.  I can’t tell you how impressed I’ve been by this.

I know that Windows 7 is only in beta at the moment, but in my use of it over the past several days it has been as stable, if not more stable than my Windows XP install.  In fact several things that didn’t work in XP are now working just fine.  I’ve installed several third party applications that I use daily and so far I haven’t had any issues with them.  In fact, the only negative experience that I’ve had so far is Internet Explorer.  Version 8 isn’t any more useful than previous version.  I tried writing this post with it, but everytime it saved a draft the screen would improperly redraw with various elements overlapping one another.  It seems that web standards compliance still isn’t a high priority in Redmond.  That’s okay though, because Firefox works like a charm.  Overall I’m very impressed with Windows 7 and I see a lot of potential for it.  In fact, because I’m already enjoying it on this machine so much I have a filling that when it’s finally release I’m going to have to plunk down some cash and pick up  my copy of Windows 7, which for me is just about the best endorsement I can give.