Early this afternoon I decided, fairly randomly, that I wanted to try out the Windows 7 release candidate. I suppose this wasn’t totally random as I was hoping to check it out at some point. However, up until recently it would have been impossible for me to do so without formatting my XP partition, which I didn’t really feel like doing. I had wanted to run it using VirtualBox, but sadly my ext3 partition did not have enough free space and my 320GB external hard drive was formatted as Fat32 (max file size of 4GB). However, that external hard drive recently died and I purchased a new one which was formatted NTFS. Since I finally trust the ntfs-3g driver I was able to install a few more virtual machines for myself. So, keep that in mind, this is me running Windows 7 under a VirtualBox installation and not installed directly to the system. Alright… disclaimer out of the way :) .
First, a bit about the installation. I was glad to see that, unlike the Windows XP installer, which stops you half way through so you can set the time… , that the Windows 7 installer has you go through some simple options and then does its thing. I must say that it installed surprisingly fast considering that it had the overhead of the virtual machine, but also the overhead of the ntfs-3g driver which seems to be a CPU hog. I don’t really know how the partition manager is because I had fresh space to play with so I was able to simply choose all the defaults.
After the installation one has the fairly standard setup options of choosing a username/password combination and this is also where one sets the time and date. The default account type is administrator, which is a shame, because I doubt many people will know to make themselves a “standard” account for security reasons. Personally, I think the solution to this is obvious. Have the user make their standard account first, then, instruct them to make the administrative account with plenty of warning to only use it when software needs to be installed/settings changed/etc. I can picture Microsoft being apprehensive about this, though, because most people are already used to the “I’m always admin” mentality (even if it’s only on a subconscious level).
I had a bit of trouble getting myself network support mostly due to the fact that VirtualBox doesn’t technically support Windows 7. I eventually found a guide which told me to install the guest additions in compatibility mode for Windows Vista. So, naturally, the first thing I did was open up Internet Explorer. I mean, how else would I be able to download a good browser, like Firefox. As a bit of a side note here, I have used IE8, and it doesn’t do much for me.
So far so good, nothing really that out of the ordinary. One of the first things I noticed after logging in was the new task bar. No text on this bad boy, just little icons, very similar to how Apple does it, actually. Is this a coincidence… I doubt it. I do wonder how the average user, who is used to Windows XP, will like it, but I guess we will have to wait and see. I will say that it does feel rather clean and I like the simplicity of it. However, I do have one complaint with it. By default Windows 7 adds a button for common files like My Documents, My Pictures, and so on as well as a button for Windows Media Player. To me, this blurs the distinction between ‘running tasks’ and ‘icon to launch a program’ and with all my running programs minimized I sometimes had trouble telling which program was the one I wanted to pull up again. After playing a little more I realized that the running programs pop out a little bit, but it was not immediately obvious to me. A case of user stupidity? Well, maybe, but it still irked me for a bit until I got used to it.
Beyond that I poked around in the control panel, which is often a hobby of mine since I spend a fair amount of time helping other people with their Windows boxes even though I am a Linux user myself. The layout was similar enough to how it was in Windows XP that I felt pretty comfortable going around and changing various settings and looking at how things were configured. This is handy for me because explaining to people how to access different settings over the phone is sort of difficult if you don’t know it very well yourself.
My final note is that I thought it was very funny to see Windows Defender installed. It touts itself as a anti-spyware and malware system. To some degree I find the tool … misplaced? How come Microsoft doesn’t simply lock down Internet Explorer so that people can’t acquire all of this junk in the first place? It’s not exactly a closely guarded secret that most spyware and malware comes from people using Internet Explorer.
Overall I was much happier with Windows 7 than I was with Windows Vista, but it certainly didn’t wow me enough that I will be leaving Linux any time soon. It’s probably to Microsoft’s advantage to get Windows 7 out there as soon as possible, because Vista is just utter rubbish.
Oh yeah… sorry about not having screenshots, but I figure the net is flooded with enough Windows 7 screenshots that me taking some is just a waste of time :) .