Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Goodbye XP.... it's been a good run

In an effort to bring myself back into the modern ages, I am now using Windows 7. So far, my experience has been pleasant, with a few annoyances, but ones that are tame-able.

My first pleasant surprise was its discovery and flawless installation of my peripheral devices. It found and installed my various gaming input devices (even the old school stuff), my monitor and my printer with no issues. I didn’t have to do a thing, it found and installed everything (except for the printer, which is attached to another computer in the house).

The new task bar threw me for a little loop. Unlike XP, the new task bar is like a combination of the old quick launch bar and task bar rolled into one. It kind of reminds me of the....... Mac Dock! [sarcasm filter on] What a surprise! [sarcasm filter off]. If a program (like IE) is installed on the task bar, opening the program doesn’t open a new task bar button, it just uses the original icon as the task switcher. So if you minimize IE, the window disappears and when you hover over the icon for IE, a little preview window appears to show you what’s running / open. Very Mac-like. That’s a compliment, by the way. So for example, even if you have multiple
windows explorer windows minimized, you’ll still only get one icon on the task bar, which once hovered over, will spawn preview windows of what you have open in that program. Click on any spawned preview and it restores the window to its original view.

Another really nice surprise was that the new, free Microsoft Security Essentials (anti-virus and security suite) was already installed, as it now comes with Windows 7. Nice touch. For those of you looking for a free security solution, this product is my new default recommendation, even over AVG. Sorry Grisoft.

One annoyance that I chalk up to Microsoft’s trend of increasing security posture regarding what the user (and a user application)is allowed to do to system configuration without getting permission is the installation of certain types of programs and program plug-ins. I had some issues with adding a couple of things to my computer, but luckily Windows 7 immediately prompted me to ask if it should try to install the item in an administrative role. Which begs the question – why doesn’t Windows just let installs run as administrator. Don’t worry, I already know the answer. It’s a security thing. Paranoid bastards!

More nice touches. The buttons on the task bar can be re-arranged. You can 'pin' any running program to the task bar (kind of like adding a program to the old quick launch - or like the Mac dock). Right click any running program button on the task bar and get a jump list of recent files used by that program.

One flaw that I think I managed to fix is that shortcut icons were deisappearing from my desktop between reboots. I followed an online hint to increase the icon cache and that seems to have fixed the issue... but that's a pretty big bug Microsoft.

Another nice added feature in Windows 7 is the built-in ability to burn a CD or DVD from an .iso file, something you used to need a 3rd party program to do before.

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