Monday, July 20, 2009

Windows 7 is Beautiful

Anybody who knows me knows that I'm pretty much Linus Torvald's bitch.  I've been running one flavor of Linux or another since 2000.  I've written some pretty serious code on it.  I've hosted a couple of websites on it.  I've lived it, breathed it, and annoyingly evangelized it.  So the title of this post is, well, very out of character for me.

But it's true.

Microsoft's latest offering-to-be in the operating system world is, well, beautiful.  Based on Vista code, it's no great technological departure from where they were headed anyway.  Realistically, they've just taken the lessons learned (read as: sour grapes) from Vista and applied them to Windows 7.  For those out there who are thinking "Well crap, doesn't that mean Windows 7 is just the same pig with fresh lipstick?", I'll get to that in a few minutes, but for right now, let me just say... "No".  When you see the OS in action, it becomes quickly apparent they've taken people's complaints very seriously.

My Little Experiment

So what would possess me, a self-proclaimed Linux guy, to take a chance on Bill's latest OS?  Well, I've got a handful of applications that I run under Windows.  They're things like games (World of Warcraft, Warcraft III) and applications that have life-critical data (MS Money) stored in them.  Things that wouldn't run well in WINE, or are too sensitive to trust to WINE (which is basically permanent beta software).  My wife and I also store our digital picture and music collection on Windows SMB shares.  Yes, I could build some on a Linux box, but I decided a long time ago that easy is better than cool, and I could set up a Windows file share a lot easier under Windows than Linux.  Anyway, I've got a couple of good reasons to run a Windows box, so there we are.

A few months ago, my Windows XP home-brew desktop machine started acting up.  It refused to fully load web pages.  It didn't matter what browser I used, images and CSS would refuse to load, leaving web pages an unreadable mess, at best.  So instead of sweating it out trying to figure out what was going on, I decided to just reformat and reinstall the OS.  That's when I heard about the Windows 7 Release Candidate.  I decided to give it a shot.

Chrome, Chrome Everywhere

The interface guys over at Microsoft had a good time with this one.  The first thing you'll notice is the taskbar.  It's been completely revamped, showing only icons for opened applications.  At first I was skeptical about whether this would be enough, but I found the new organization easy to use, especially since all application names (and an active screenshot) are shown when the mouse cursor is placed over the application's icon.  The taskbar application shortcuts and the active applications sort of blend together on the taskbar, which creates an interesting, and very function, integration of active and available applications.

And speaking of organization, Microsoft introduces what they're calling "Libraries" in Windows 7.  A library is a collection of like-typed media, all sorted and organized for you.  This media could all be in once directory, or spread all over your heard drive.  The library brings it all together, sorts and organizes it, and makes it available to you from the left side of any Windows Explorer window.  While I find the added layer of abstraction a little annoying (as in: where are those files REALLY?), this feature will be extremely useful for every-day users.

Most of the interface is almost exactly the same as Vista, so anybody out there who has been using Vista for a while will feel right at home in Windows 7.  The Windows Explorer, file copy dialogs, and other system-level interface features look almost identical.  One thing you won't notice, at least not nearly as much, is the Windows User Account Control.  The UAC seems to have been toned down even more than Vista SP1.  It still picks on you a pick, but only when you're actually doing something that alters the operating system.

You Never Get a Second Chance...

I've got to say, my first impression of Windows 7 has been very positive.  I've only used it for a couple of hours, but so far it has met or exceeded my expectations.  I'll be writing more as I learn more, but for the moment, I'm giving it an A+ as a replacement for Windows XP and Windows Vista.  Check back for further information in Windows 7 RC.

No comments:

Post a Comment