Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I Think That Beta Is Greek For "Crash"

Windows 7 Screen ShotWell, I've finally done it. I installed the Windows 7 Beta this morning and have just recovered from my first crash. In fairness to Microsoft, I've had the same problem on Windows Vista as well on at two computers including the old laptop on which I installed Windows 7. It seems that nVidia's drivers don't always play nicely with full screen flash videos. While this is bad news for Youtube and Hulu fans like myself, it at least is a predictable and reproduceable problem which has nothing to do with Windows 7.

So far I've only spent a couple of hours with Windows 7 and I certainly can't outdo ars Technica's excellent coverage of Microsoft's OS but here are some thoughts. So far, everything seems to work except for Daemon Tools which mounts disk images. I mostly just use it for playing Diablo II without having to look for my play CD. Since I mostly play Diablo II on a different computer than this one, I'm willing to overlook this problem for now. 

I think that I'm the only person on the Internet who actually liked the old Vista sidebar—on a widescreen laptop like this one it was a good way of organizing the Vista gadgets so it's a shame to see it go. On the other hand, the extra screen real estate does sometimes come in handy. Sometimes. Most of the time it goes unused; there seems to be a conventional wisdom among web designers than no one uses a screen wider than a 1024 pixels so Windows 7 web browsers can now double as a way for users to test the way their computers display the color white. Still, Windows 7 provides a couple of ways expose your desktop, by hitting the Win+Space keys or hovering over the edge of the task bar, so it's easy to show your desktop and the gadgets that reside upon it all the while maximizing screen real estate. Now if only Microsoft would make some decent gadgets.

For decades Mac fans have accused Microsoft of ripping off the Macintosh while ignoring the fact that Apple pretty much stole the Mac interface from Xerox PARC. Now, with the Windows 7 Beta, Microsoft has stolen more directly from Apple. With its big, shiny icons the Windows' taskbar looks like it has swallowed a Mac OSX dock. This is both good and bad. While Windows duplicates the way Apple indescriminately mixes running applications with quick launch shortcuts, it does  a better job than Apple of helping users distinguish between running applications and shortcuts. It also has bigger, more detailed thumbnails which show a full screen preview of their windows when you hover over them. I think that a lot of the positive reports of Windows 7 being faster than Vista or even XP are due to these little refinements which make the workflow of using your applications smoother. All these little changes make for a smoother, more pleasant experience.

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