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December 23, 2009 / douglasac

Windows 7: First Impressions

So, yesterday, after a Road Incidient, I decided to take the plunge and install my newly arrived copy of Windows 7 on my laptop, nuking Vista in the process. The installation was easy enough: once I told it were I was and where to install, it was pretty much self sufficient until it wanted me to introduce myself to it.

Then some problems reared their head, although not strictly the fault of Windows, in that Lenovo didn’t actually ship a proper driver disc. However, all the drivers, bar the audio driver, were easily found on their website. For the Audio driver, I downloaded the Vista driver. Works a treat: in most cases, if there’s no 7 driver the Vista driver should work. If there is a Windows 7 driver available, though, download it.

So, now onto using it. At first glance, it looks an awful lot like Vista. However, it behaves very little like Vista.

For starters, the taskbar has had a makeover. It’s now a bit Mac OS X dockish, but it’s very nice whatever it is. I’ve fiddled with it a bit, so you might see it differently if you go and buy a new machine. On mine, if a program is open, it widens and shows me the title. Otherwise it’s icon only. The three little things to the left of the system tray (Wifi reception, Battery and Lenovo toolbox) are proprietary Lenovo addons. I can’t see myself using the Lenovo Toolbox often, but the Wifi reception bar links to Access Connections which, thank god, hasn’t changed much. The Lenovo battery meter is by far the most usefel thing ever, as it was written by Lenovo exclusively for their batteries and can hence give a better reading than Windows.

Anyway, I’ve had no problems with it. UAC has popped up several times, but that was mainly because I was installing a bajillion drivers yesterday (although in all fairness and honesty, it did’t pop up much in Vista unless you were having a field day installing programs or whatever). Some problems that I had with certain programs under Vista (Yes, Chrome, I’m talking about you) are still there: as I said, Chrome has this nasty habit of not showing the taskbar when it’s set to autohide I hit the bottom of the screen with my cursor, although this is universal across all Windows versions, allegedly.

Aero Peek is sort of like Enchanced Thumbnail view which you may or may not have used in Vista. If you have a group of programs opened, you’ll get a popup like this:


Another interesting thing is this:

Windows Live Messenger, a staple in my Computer Software diet, has two icons, yet only one window. This confuses me as I go to click on the first one, and the window on the right comes up anyway. And if I close the first one, they both close. Go figure.

Feature for those who are in love with tabbed browsing: middle click on a thumbnail in that little window. You will be in love. If you click directly on an icon on the taskbar of an open program, it tends to either make another Window that is somehow related the the one you clicked on (for instance, middle clicking on an Outlook email message will open a new Outlook window, middle clicking on Devices and Printers opens a new Control Panel window), which is interesting as I thought it would make much more sense for it to nuke the window as well. Go figure.

Aficionados of the Windows Media Player Toolbar will be a bit depressed as the toolbar has been removed. However, some of the functionality remains in it’s Aero Peek window:

In a way, this is a good thing because I always managed to click on the toolbar in a funny way and bring up the visualization, which required many more clicks to get rid of. However, Mute and the volume control have been removed from this window. Also gone is the little popup that tells you what the new song playing is: you must mouse over the icon to find this out.

Devices and Printers is now a new feature: it takes the Printers folder and adds a splash of Device manager. Whereas Device Manager show just about everything that the computer has (ACPI Sleep Buttons, anyone?) Printers and Faxes tends to stick with things that the user would see and\or have knowledge about; in this case it shoes me that I have a laptop named Archimedes, a webcam, a fingerprint sensor, and so on. Another cool feature is that, if you give it permission, it will scout the internet for icons of your hardware (with the exception of the fingerprint sensor, I have no idea what that icon is), which might come in handy if you have someone who gets confused easily as they would be able to open this, look at their device, look for a matching image, and go, ah, so it’s an Epson TX300F Series. The mouse and printer are actually quite accurate, but again, no idea what’s up with the fingerprint sensor.

Remember Desktop Themes from Windows 98? It was the only version of the OS to have them as part of a default install (Windows 95 needed the Plus! Pack and Windows Me required the user to install them manually). It made customizing your Windows install easy, and, dare I say it, fun: within five minutes you’d have a new wallpaper, colour scheme, screensaver, icons, cursors and sounds.The concept of themes, sadly, died off when Windows XP was realeased and mainly became a way to switch between Windows XP style and Windows Classic Style. In Windows 7, this has changed:

Windows comes with a variety of themes, with things like Architecture, Nature, Scenes and <insert name of your country here>. Why I say that like that is because that, when you install Windows, it will install a theme based on which country you select. Because I chouse Australia, I got the Australia theme. If I chose Canada, I’d’ve gotten the Canada theme. And so on. The others are available from the Microsoft Theme gallery, which you can get to by clicking the Get more themes online link. Windows 7 also includes some new sound schemes, which are for the most part variations on the default sounds (which are the same as Vistas), but they’re nice. Screensavers are pretty much the same as well. There are more default colour schemes as well, and the ability to choose your own colours are also retained. And, as per Vista, Aero Basic is still the same bland colour.

Hovering over the Show Desktop button (now the rightmost thing on the taskbar) makes all your windows transparent, so you can either admire your wallpaper, desktop icons or inspect your gadgets. As we can see, it’s a horrid day in Mount Gambier.

So, I’ve waffled on a bit. The next question is: is it worth the upgrade? If you are using Windows XP, the OS itself is well worth the upgrade: Windows XP is almost ten years old now, which means that it really shouldn’t be supported as much as it is, but Vista has kept it alive. But doing the actual upgrade isn’t really, because you have to wipe your hard drive and do a clean install, so you may as well buy a new computer with it preinstalled (A decent Dell with Windows 7 Pro starts at about $900, look under Small Business, Desktops at the Vostro range for this price). If you have Vista, and it’s annoying you, then by all means, buy it. You can either install 7 over the top of Vista, which isn’t always a good idea, especially if your Vista install is dodgy, or you can wipe your hard drive and do a fresh install.

But whatever version of Windows you have now: it is a worthy upgrade.


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