Three Years late, Was It Worth The Wait? Windows 7, Vista Promises Delivered.
Having been married to Microsoft for most of my professional career doesn’t mean I drink the Kool-Aid.
I have had the distinct privilege to grow up in interesting times. I loved DOS. As a BBS operator DOS was the de facto OS for most BBSes that ran on x86 hardware. Combined with QEMM/DESQview I was a multitasking fool, running many nodes on a single 386 and a ton of ram, 8 Megabytes to be exact.
Other OSes came and I tried them as well Even running OS/2 for a while. It was DOS compatibility and multi-instance that I was after, though you could run Windows 3.x apps in it, why bother.
I just didn’t see where Windows was anything near as powerful as my good old DOS prompt. I had used GUI’s before and knew that some day it would be the way things went. To put it bluntly though, I hated Windows. I my eyes at the time, it did nothing well. It made my sleek powerful machine run like a pig. It required me to learn how to do things the Windows way, which slowed me down. I even went so far as to actively refuse to own or install a mouse I so loathed Windows.
In many aspects my opinion hasn’t changed much. To be honest I blame the “over promise, under deliver” method of development that Microsoft seems to employ with Windows OS development.
Windows 3.11 for Workgroups was modestly noteworthy in my view because it help bring the internet into homes for the first time. I also knew the internet was awesome and powerful but I didn’t grasp the whole World Wide Web thing immediately ether. Not being a graphical guy I didn’t see what it bought me over any other tools that ran on the internet, until I really saw it running on Windows.
It still wasn’t enough to completely win me over. I was already working with GNU/Linux going back to DOS/Windows mostly to play games or develop on as a platform since that paid the bills. I had been using NT for quite a while as a systems/network/database administrator but still ran Linux at home and for other projects when I could. That changed a bit with the release of Windows 2000. To me it was Windows all grown up. 32 bits, nice GUI, fairly stable it had a lot going for it. Plus, Windows Me was such a miserable experience it was an easy choice to go with 2000 Workstation and pretend that particular nastiness just didn’t exist. Though it wasn’t until XP hit that I switched full time for my day to day desktop to Windows, from dual booting just XP all the way.
That lasted for quite a while…. Until Vista. Vista didn’t have a marketing problem, it didn’t suffer from bad press. It was just fundamentally broken. I don’t care how many Mojave commercials you run, live with it for a while and you will be just as unhappy with it if it was named Santa Clause.
I do thank MS for releasing Vista though, it turned me back on to Linux and specifically Ubuntu which I have been using now for the last couple of years. If anyone can close on Windows I think Ubuntu and Mark Shuttleworth have the best chance, unless Apple looses its mind and releases OSX for white boxes.
In the interest of full disclosure, I will always give Windows its due when it comes to ease of configurations and common usage. If it wasn’t for Windows my mom would still be putting stamps on her mail to me.
With that little history lesson, and my obvious bias against Windows I still always try the latest and greatest for MS. It is in my best interest to do so. I don’t want to ever be too far behind the curve, or have a lack of something to complain about.
So, with all my gripes and soap-boxing, here I sit typing away on a x86 machine with Windows 7 loaded on it, and I’m happy with it. So happy I’m not dual booting into anything at the moment and my laptop has it loaded as well.
Why, you may ask, am I back on the bandwagon? Here is the short list.
That’s right, as bad as Vista was, 7 doesn’t show any signs of the past sins. My first big ugh moment with Vista was trying to copy files on the network. It just wouldn’t start, or if it did it took forever to finish. I know it was addressed in a patch and later by SP1 but it was a band-aid on a sucking chest wound. Rarely would I come close to gigabit speeds even though I’m on a managed switch and both ends can easily handle the load. XP came much closer, and if I wasn’t using Samba, Ubuntu just flew over the wire. Windows 7 brought that back in line. When I got near wire speed on my first test run I just assumed it was wrong. I still doesn’t handle lots of small files as well as my Ubuntu setup but its not enough to quibble about.
Vista had them but at the cost of making your state of the art machine run like last years eMachine you bought for your mom for 300 bucks. On the other hand Ubuntu with Compbiz was just stunning and ran on my older Pentium M laptop with a radeon x200 mobile GPU in it. Again, 7 addresses this it keeps the visuals from Vista and improves on them, I got to say the rotating wallpapers is my current favorite feature at the moment. It is still a generation behind Compbiz as far as raw visual stunning effects.
I’ll never forget when a friend of mine was going on about Aero glass and transparencies in Vista all I did was break out my laptop and tab through the running apps. Once he picked his jaw up he asked how I had gotten Vista to do that….. After he got over the second shock, that it was Linux, I had him trying Ubuntu for himself.
I’ve also attempted to use Stardock to get as close to the same effects on windows and just had to give up. There was enough annoying crashes and blips to make it not worth my time.
I wasn’t sure I was going to like the new fat bar but it has quickly grown on me. I hate having a million icons on my desktop but I want things to be accessible that I use day in and day out. With Windows 7 replacing the quick launch with the ability to pin an application to the bottom bar, or in the start menu, you get the best of both worlds you task bar shows you what is running it also acts as your quick launch and it is remarkably uncluttered.
I am also a fan of the mouse over preview that shows you how many things you have open per group and what is in them i.e. having multiple browsers open or multiple management studio sessions. With the quick preview I can just peek and pick the one I need to work with now without having to alt-tab through everything.
The focus and fade effect you get when you mouse over then up onto the preview showing you only that window on the screen is also a nice touch. I use to always use the minimize all windows using the shortcut on the quick launch bar, then alt-tab through the list of running programs to find the one I was after it sucked but it was fast enough.
Out of the box I had very few driver issues with 7. It even installed without my help on my Nvidia raid array. There are a couple of drivers missing for my laptop but no real show stoppers. Since Vista took the brunt of that attack I’ll chalk it up as a win in that column for Vista.
Don’t laugh I mean it. 7, even as a beta and now RC has a better, more polished security model. Not the open range XP was and not the heavy handed style of Vista.
Just to make other Ubuntu/Linux junkies upset I don’t think it is any more disrupted as having to execute under sudo to install components or do administrative actions.
I do wish there was a bigger push to move stuff out of the kernel space and into user land for security and stability but I think time will fix these issues as well.
I still hear you snickering from the above topic but I must push on. Other than the 1.5 BILLION reboots to install software or update drivers I haven’t had any real issues with crashing.
The compatibly run as model actually worked for me on a couple of apps that didn’t play well under 7, but did just fine on Vista. Also, the fact you can install an application in this mode made life easier to the legacy stuff I have to have.
Another thing that will make the OSX guys upset is I haven’t rebooted my laptop since the install was completed. Hibernate actually works and that is the mode I leave it in. On my new laptop with 4GB of ram and a decent SSD drive it comes back from hibernate in a flash(no pun intended, oh hell who am I kidding of course it was intended). I was pretty much guaranteed that If I put Vista into hibernate it was about a 1 in 3 chance that I’d have to ditch the saved image and reboot clean.
This all adds up to a better user experience and enhanced productivity without a steep learning curve. I don’t feel like this was rushed out the door and then crammed down our collective throats as the pentacle of operating systems.
If you haven’t tried it, do so. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.