Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Unpeeling the Hype of Windows 7

Unpeeling the Hype off Windows 7

Launched in Oct 22nd, 2009, the computer world continues to watch the meteoric rise of Microsoft's latest operating system. Marketed as a replacement for the much disliked predecessor, Vista, and the older XP, the newest operating system comes across much sleeker, more stable and a lot better publicity from both experts and lay users alike. What is happening to Windows 7 appears to be virtually the complete opposite of how Vista was received. The Vista operating system was launched in January 2007, mainly because Microsoft was frantically trying to slow Apple's rising popularity. The XP system was increasingly overshadowed by Apple's continued onslaught of newer and feature-packed Mac OS upgrades. As it turned out, Vista's earlier release pales in comparison to Apple's Tiger, in both features as well as stability.

I remember supporting the Vista operating system in its first year of launch. Installation times were extremely long. Older applications would break. Irritating security messages would pop up unexpectedly, prolonging an already lengthy installation process. As a systems engineer, I remember the simplicity of letting an installation run its natural process while I go for my morning coffee. Upon my return, I am used to seeing "Installation Complete. Click OK." For Vista, it would be windows after windows of agreeing to continue. Feeling frustrated is an understatement. I know that command flags can be program to automatically skip any prompting. However, Vista is supposed to be a tool simple enough for the everyday user, not professional programmers.

I got my first Windows 7 a couple of weeks ago. Here is a quick list of rundowns what my experience looks like.

  1. Windows 7 fixes Vista
    The latest operating system is not exactly a new creation. When we are told that upgrading from Vista would be easiest (compared to XP), we should have taken the clue. Windows 7 is closer to Vista than any of the Windows earlier versions. Indeed, if we upgrade from Vista to 7, installation of the OS can be less than 30 minutes, without having to re-install everything else. This is assuming that we are moving from 32-bit Vista to 32-bit 7; or 64-bit Vista to 64 bit 7.
  2. The Main Difference is in 64-bit
    Unlike what some people think, Windows 7 is not greatly superior to Vista in terms of performance. Tests have shown that speedwise, 7 is only marginally better. The performance distinguisher is between 32-bit and 64-bit. I have two computers, one running Vista (64 bit) and the other Windows 7 (32 bit). The 64-bit Vista outperforms the 32-bit 7 in everything.
  3. Windows 7 feels More Intuitive
    I like the ease of use and the way Windows 7 understands where I want to go. My favourite feature is still the quick search feature. I do not need to open up folders and manually look for my programs. All I need is one search box for everything.
  4. Better Driver Recognition
    Windows 7 comes loaded with its set of drivers. All the devices I have do not require additional software installation. Windows 7 automatically recognizes everything. Compared to Vista, I have to install and re-install drivers in order to make the system accept the new devices.
  5. Thumbnail Preview
    This is one of my favourites for Windows 7. Simply by moving my mouse pointer over the minimized program along the taskbar window, the preview also updates the images accordingly without the need to make that window my primary window. The constant updates are impressive.
  6. Less Alerts. Much Less.
    This is a welcome relief compared to Vista. I dislike clicking through windows after windows of security prompts.
  7. Network Connectivity
    This has also been improved in Windows 7. It is easier for Windows 7 computer to connect to other computers running a different operating system. In fact, the help information anticipates this. This is really refreshing, as it shows that Microsoft is thinking what the user is thinking.
  8. Windows 7 Starter, Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate
    I still dislike the way Microsoft packages the operating system this way. It will be much better if we can have one common platform for all users. This way, we need not worry about what can this version do and not do. I use a Windows 7 Home Premium edition. Two features I miss. Firstly, the ability to connect to a domain, and the flexibility to run older XP applications in their native mode.
  9. Can Run on Older Hardware?
    I remember a computer salesman last month, telling me how Windows 7 perform flawlessly on a 386. I doubt his boast. Netbooks can run Windows 7, but like the biblical example of wineskins, new wine is better placed in new wineskins.
  10. Uncluttering "My Documents"
    This may be frustrating to many users who are used to seeing this as their storage area for working documents. It has been renamed "Documents". The word 'My' is history. However, I find looking for documents much easier, I begin to search for my documents a level earlier, from a "User" level. Previously in XP, all my documents, music, videos etc are under "My Documents." Under Windows 7, everything is under "User" which allows me to quickly navigate my most recently used files automatically on each category without having to open up the folder.
  11. Jump List
    I like the way each open program lists the latest files used by it.

  12. Supportability
    This is perhaps my main reason for upgrade. XP is no longer supported officially by Microsoft. Software makers are increasingly fleeing from Vista. That leaves us with basically one option: Windows 7. If we can upgrade, why not?
My Recommendations

Windows 7 is a good operating system. It is more stable and much more pleasant to work with. We need to be wise with our own resources, and upgrade only when necessary.

XP: If you are currently using XP, know that upgrading to Windows 7 is a big move. Moreover, if you retain the same hardware, there is a good chance that your system may become slower. Do not assume that newer operating system runs faster on older hardware. Compared to XP, Windows 7 is still a more resource hungry system. However, if you are an XP user buying a new computer, choose 7 over Vista for the new operating system for your new hardware. Of course, you can always skip Vista and 7 totally and buy yourself a new Mac.

Vista: If you are currently running Vista, I will recommend you move to Windows 7 as soon as possible. If your computer is 64-bit ready, go for the Windows 7 64-bit version. I am not talking in terms of technical performance. As far as the operating system performance is concerned, I can live with Vista. However, when it comes to future compatibility and the market direction, there will be a sharp rise of software written to support Windows 7 more than Vista. Hence, my recommendation to move to 7 is primarily driven by the market pattern more than technical considerations.

In summary, if you are running Microsoft XP, chances are, you should try to use it as long as possible. If you are running Vista currently, make a move soon to Windows 7, for more software makers will be fleeing from this platform. Most new PCs loaded with Vista comes with a free Windows 7 upgrade anyway. Why not take the plunge if it is free? Even better, when you buy a new computer, make sure it is 64-bit ready, which means at least 4GB RAM and a dual core CPU and at least 250GB hard-disk.

Having said this, some of you may be tempted to go Mac. Remember, that Mac too, especially the Intel ones, can run both Mac OS and Windows. So, having some knowledge of Windows can be extremely helpful.

If you are a student like me, remember that upgrades need not be expensive, especially if you are a registered at major US educational institutions.
    SOME GREAT SOFTWARE DEALS (students only)
  1. Windows 7 Student Upgrade Pack (29.99USD) - up to Jan 3, 2010
  2. Office 2007 Student Ultimate Pack (59.99USD)


No comments:

Latest Posts