FOR THE PAST three years I have been a Linux fan-boy using Ubuntu most of the time and Windows XP when I needed to play games or run CS desktop lay out stuff.
In a bid to focus my bile on something other than Apple for a bit I decided to play with the new Windows 7 beta. I was disappointed. It was pretty good and, if I am right, could result in the move away from Voleware to Linux and OSX being stopped in in its tracks.
Anyway I installed the 64 bit version of Windows 7 on my Phenom 9350e, quad core based machine with 2GB of very fast RAM.
Installation is still slower than anything Linux could dream up, but didn't really require much effort. There was no eye candy at the installation and a couple of times I feared that the process had frozen up. This might be a beta problem and in the final version there will be the usual beating drums or adverts. I gave the installation a clean hard drive to play with although it did offer to upgrade XP for me, which would have been nice if I had known this was an option.
After installation, Windows 7 could not find my wireless dongle, but to be fair neither could Ubuntu. In the end I had to install a Vista version of the thing which sort of worked. Oddly Windows 7 could not find my webcam either, which was a little odd because it was made by Voles in Volish factories in Vole land. I was just about to write up sarcastic comments about this when the OS helpfully directed me to the site where I could get the drivers for the thing. Skype was another problem. Windows 7 directed me to download the latest beta which did work.
So everything was in place and it looked really good. The security nagging is about the same level as Ubuntu.
After years of working on XP and Ubuntu you forget what a decent graphics interface looks like. Vole has spent some money on it and it has several features that make it easy to navigate.
As you would expect, Windows 7 ships with Internet Exploder and after playing around for it a while I started to realise that while I was having no problems with the stability of the OS, I was getting all sorts of hanging and other problems from IE. In the end I downloaded Firefox and the Internet interactions worked like a charm. It is a bit strange that Internet Exploder is more flakey with Windows 7 than it is on Vista, but at the moment it is the weakness in Vole's launch. Fortunately it is not a problem if you install Firebadger.
I installed Open Office which worked fine and means that I can't see the point of any new version of Office, even if I made the switch to Windows 7 permanently. I also installed and ran a few of my favourite XP games which seemed perfectly happy under the new regime.
Speed wise my perception is that it is about the same speed as XP and Ubuntu (64-bit version). Certainly it was not any slower even if it was chewing up a lot more power running eye candy than I use in Ubuntu.
There was a tool I found in the control panel which allows Windows 7 to test how well your machine is performing. It pointed out that my machine was barely running Windows 7 to its maximum (rated 4.4) because my hard drive was so shite. Fair enough, it is not a SATA drive but it seems that Windows 7 leans on the hard-drive in a way that Microsoft has not made public. It also said my 2GB of Ram was okish but was also dragging down my performance.
Running and shutting down still takes longer than Ubuntu and XP and about the same as Vista. However the OS is much less of a resource hog than Vista.
I did have a few beta related problems. A couple of screen freezes when things went wrong with some installation. Most of these probably are down to the fact I am using an ancient, soon-to-be-retired non-SATA disks. These are so old they only display data in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs which makes it difficult for any post agricultural revolution machine to read.
Windows 7 also has a habit of forgetting about drives when they go wrong. The icons just vanish from the screen. I guess this 'out of sight out of mind' problem will go in the full public version.
Given the advantages of using Windows, particularly if you use open source software to do your office functions, it becomes harder to say that more user-friendly versions of Linux, such as Ubuntu are worthwhile.
If the Vole has learned something from Apple is that an operating system has to be simple to use and look a bit tasty. Windows 7 does this in a way that Vista didn't. It also has to work, which Vista didn't properly.
If Microsoft had released Windows 7 instead of Vista there would have been no rise of Ubuntu or OSX. Now, alas, it is only a matter of time until people come back to the claws of the Vole. The Linux crowd were too busy talking about their superiority on the server and ignored the desktop to the OS's eventual doom. Windows 7 is as pretty as Apple stuff, just as easy to use, and does not treat you like a moron.
The only thing that will keep people away will be the price. If Microsoft was a little bit sensible it would learn that the prices it is shipping the software on are far too high. With a product like Windows 7 at a price of less than $100 it would clean up spectacularly. It will not do this of course which might just save other operating systems out there. Me, I will probably get Windows 7. µ