windows 7 beta review

so, i’ve been running win 7 beta on my main machine for a little while now and thought i should share my thoughts, since, you know, that’s kind of the whole point of this beta thing…

boot time

bootup time is significantly faster than vista and xp.  i’m actually pretty surprised at how quickly it’s able to load all my crazy startup apps since it was always a good 5-10 minutes before vista was usable after loading the desktop.  i could do without the light-of-god startup wallpaper, though.  i was hoping it was just an installer wallpaper, but, no, it’s there every time i boot.  however…

uptime stability

it seems pretty stable when it’s up.  i’ve only had to reboot it a couple of times in the last week or two i’ve been running windows 7, and i leave it on all the time.  one of those reboots was after the install.  one of them was a hard reboot after the install when i must’ve tried to open too many windows before it was ready and it locked up hard.  since then, i’ve been a bit more generous and let it finish its thing before trying to start up anything.

installation

horrible, horrible, awful, worst thing ever.  like cutting my fingertips with a lemon-soaked razor blade and force feeding them to myself with some vinegar while being tarred and feathered.  right now, you can only upgrade from vista.  fine.  so i start up the installer.  the installer says there might be a problem with some RAID controller i don’t care about because i’m not using a RAID array.  it asks, do you want to upgrade to the most recent version of the software?  sure, i say.  it is a beta version, after all.  so it does the update and says the installer can’t continue without a reboot.  so i reboot, and assume that i can boot off the cd and continue the install.  negatory, good buddy.  i wait the requisite (?!) 20 minutes or so for it to finally get to a screen where i can actually do anything at all when the installer tells me, “i’m sorry, you need to be running Windows to be able to update it.”  now, having used microsoft for, oh, i don’t know, ever, being required to have windows running… in order to install windows… aaaah…. does. not. compute–

so, i reboot again, and start the install over.  this time, i skip the update — natch — and plow ahead to the install.  it says i may have a problem with some RAID controller i don’t care about only now skype might not work.  crap.  i actually use skype for communicating with customers, so if that were a miss, i’d be s.o.l.  i quickly google “win 7 skype” and find two relevant links, one of which is a pc computing site reviewing the beta who also got the message, but said skype worked fine, and one was a somewhat aggressively dumb-sounding blogger who lamented over the fact that skype wasn’t working, so he had to resort to using the “butt-ugly” skype 4 beta — so my worst case scenario is i have to use an “ugly” beta skype.  whatever.  after that the install went without a hitch and skype did work, but i had to tell windows that i understand there may be problems with the performance and yeah, i do this at my own risk, yadda yadda yadda.

user experience

huh?
huh?

so far, in using win 7, i’m a big fan.  i agree that the new taskbar is awesome, especially the preview windows and being able to cycle through them, although i’m a little lost when it comes to the reason for hiding all the windows and showing the desktop but with the outlines of your open windows — i.e., when would i need this?  i don’t agree that the new taskbar beats the osx dock — it still seems too clunky to me, but it works in addition to the dock and thank god stardock’s objectdock still works in win 7.

overall performance seems a lot faster than vista.  i haven’t done any real benchmarking but it feels faster, and since that’s one of the main improvements microsoft was working on, i’m trusting that it actually is faster, especially since win 7 beats vista on netbooks. (yes, this is a gizmodo farm, but it’s been my primary source of news and information regarding windows 7, and was the inspiration for me to make the upgrade, so i figure it’s justified.)

most of the rest of the user experience just repeats what vista started, and i actually liked the gui in vista, so i’m not complaining.

 i’m not a fan of when a security warning window pops up (like when you need to unblock an app that is trying to access the internet), it blacks out your whole screen until you respond to the security pop-up.  windows 7 also did some crazy shiznat with my gamma after installing, and i had to run through the display wizard to make it not suck.  additionally, ie8 is a pile of poo, and displayed arcanepalette.com in completely new and excitingly bad ways as compared not only to  other browsers, but additionally to ie7 and its’ own “compatibility mode.”  as a web designer, this is insanely frustrating — how am i expected to design for browser compatibility when even the browser isn’t compatible with other versions of itself?  (arcane palette looks fine in ie7 now)

hibernation is broken

as has previously also been mentioned on giz, hibernation is broken.  i just got a taste of it tonight as i came to my computer and found it mysteriously off.  this often happened in vista, too, when there was a power hitch, and the pc switched over to the backup battery — vista would run for the hills and go into hibernation even when i modified the power options to not do that unless it’s running on the battery for 5 minutes.  unsuprising, then, that win 7 seems to have done the same thing, only this time trying to resume left me staring at a black screen for several minutes until i cold booted.  unlike some other reports, though, that, and saying screw the resume, just boot me up when prompted was all that was needed to get me going again.

overall

my overall reaction is, wow, come july, when this thing actually ships, and subsequently august when it’s going to brick my computer, i may actually spend the cash to buy this os outright.  seriously.  i mean, this is an operating system i’d pay money for, much like osx (although, i maintain that if you’re upgrading the current os, it should be free, or a discounted upgrade, rather than dropping 150 bucks every time you move the decimal up a notch…i’m looking at you, apple).  i honestly haven’t been this excited about windows since ’98, and subsequent releases when i often said “yeah, windows 98 may have a couple bugs here and there, but i know my way around them, and at least it’s not windows ME…

computer explosion

so there we were.  playing guildwars.  trying to get some new characters to a high enough level that we can beat the mission which will unlock the ability to go from the nightfall campaign back to the original prophecies campaign.  we’re running aroung collecting XP from the quests we just finished, when, all of a sudden, click, my computer shuts off.

at first i think it’s the monitor.  i have this old 19″ from when we were at college and the color is going which has caused us to a) shop for new lcd flatscreens (cuz I can’t just get on and then be jealous!) and b) swapped monitors so i have the big, but slightly off-color monitor and erin has the color accurate monitor (she seems to do more interesting things with color in graphic design — choices for specific colors when i would go more basic. i decided she needed accuracy more than i did).  so i fiddle with that a bit, and eventually i’m staring at the monitor test thing bouncing across the screen saying “your monitor is working correctly.”  no it’s not, i tell the computer, but it doesn’t listen.

in reality, it is working correctly.  well as correct as it can.  because as it turns out, my character drops off the network in her game and when i try to reboot the computer it does…nothing.  literally nothing.  no happy little beep saying it booted or anything.  i start to get concerned.

first, i try using an ubuntu live cd — i figure if the hard drive went, then i should still be able to boot off the cd.  but after powering the box on, i can’t even get the cd tray to eject.  nothing happens.  i don’t get the pre-operating system self test (POST) screen up, even.  that means there’s something fairly serious wrong along the main brains of the system, the motherboard/processor.

good thing we have the media center, i say, and proceed to pull the new computer that was being used as media center over and swap hard drives.  i figure, the hard drive should still get me into windows and i can just rejoin the game as soon as i swap drives.  but as soon as i swap drives and boot up the new computer with the old drive, i get a bluescreen flash and then reboot.  flash of bluescreen, reboot.  it’s not even up long enough for me to read the error.  so now i’m looking at a bad mobo/proc and hard drive.

so for now the media center is acting as my backup computer until i get new hardware.  i put the original hard drive back in and installed the software i need to do my work.  the only thing lost in this fiasco is just the apps i run, since everything, all my files and everything for web design work, is saved on my server.  ’cause, you know, that was the whole point.  and the server has backups done weekly, so yeah, no harm no foul, just an annoyance, and you know, money.  money that was previously going to my macbook.  /sigh.  i really think the fates are against me in getting this laptop.  i’m going to perservere, though, if it takes every piece of electronics in the house out in the process of getting the laptop.

in completely random other news, however, damn this is a nice machine i built here.  vista runs like a charm, which, you know, is ironic since when i last installed it, it completely trashed my hard drive and led me to vow to never install that piece of trash ever again ever.  this is a much better machine, of course, and newer, and probably really built to run vista (actually, it was precisely built to run vista because the original remote i had only ran on vista, but i ended up having to reinstall it and replaced it with a stripped down vista which didn’t include the requisite driver and i couldn’t get the requisite driver from the manufacturer).  still, it never fails to surprise me to see vista running the way it should.  and fast, too.  so i’ve perhaps changed my mind that it is the spawn of satan.  perhaps…