Well, With the Windows 7 beta to be released to the public in the next few weeks I just had to get my hands on it - and I'm glad I did. As a beta OS released by Microsoft you could say I was skeptical. I ran a few Vista betas way before any release candidates were made. It was fun to try it out for sure, but it was also scary, it was a beta and not meant for any type of use. Just as Windows 7 build 7000 beta 1 isn't meant for any kind of serious usage, but it can do it. In fact, it's pulling it off right now as I right this. BUT FIRST
I want to clear something up about Windows Vista. Vista is a strong OS, it needs a lot of serious power to run smoothly but run smoothly it sure does. I take that back, it doesn't need "serious" power, it needs average power to run nicely. A 2GHz dual core CPU w/2GB of ram should be just great for Vista. Vista got a lot of knocks, but it has grown up fast. About every 3 months after Vista was released it received reliability updates and performance updates. Now with it's first service pack about 11 months old, Vista SP2 has been in beta since October, and is now in public beta. Early Vista adopters may have paid a small price if their hardware's driver software was made before Vista went beta to developers, however most recent modern equipment seemed to be natively supported, and the more reputable companies were pounding out 32bit and 64bit drivers before Vista hit the shelf. Personally I didn't have to struggle looking for one single driver throughout my Vista experience, including pre-RC candidates.
Vista vs. Apple
This is a great topic. I feel like mac fan boys love to slay away on Vista users, this is my only statement/question regarding this topic:
If I spent as much money on a PC as it would cost to buy a MAC, the PC I bought would run Vista amazingly.
OK, so what's new in Windows 7? For one, it's the same core kernel as Windows Vista, which despite the naysayers is a fast kernel packed with a lot of real mode security. (Don't fret about this, the same Windows 2000 kernel is used in Windows XP) The task bar has been given a square shape as opposed to Vista's rounded square bar. The sidebar looks to be taken out (of this beta anyway) but gadgets still remain and can be placed anywhere on the desktop. Program icons can now be stuck to the task bar, much like the Quick launch toolbar, and when a program is running it's icon exist in the task bar. If you have both a running program, and one that is also in the task bar, you get back to the window by clicking on the same icon. This is a neat space saver if you run a lot of applications at once.
Active Directories, which were supposed to be released with Vista make a different type of debut. You can now incorporate as many file paths as you want to be represented in one folder. This is useful if you have the same type of directories spanning different drives. I have a huge video collection that spawns two hard drives, but when I go to my videos folder I have access to both.
The start menu isn't much different to Vista users, though it will take some getting used to for XP users.
Just like with Vista though, the menu is highly customizable, as you can see here I've even added back the run command. The "run" command though is pretty much useless. The search box on the start menu is all you need and then some. You really just need to type part of what you're looking for and it pops up. Icon sizes can be changed and most other properties can be changed as well. The load time is on par with Vista, which is very fast compared to XP - especially after the system has been up for months or a year and a lot of start time programs have been loaded. The install time of the system was very fast. It took just under 15 minutes from the first time I inserted the install disc to when I was installing AIM.
Internet Explorer 8
Internet explorer 8 feels a lot like Internet Explorer 7. Which in turn, is nothing like Internet Explorer 6, while I'm an avid Firefox user, for the purpose of demoing Windows 7 I wanted to give IE8 it's fair shake. There isn't anything too bad about it, just as in IE7, the menu bar is refined from IE6 and it fits nicely in to the new OS. (Just as I feel IE7 did with Vista).
Browsing seems fast, I only needed to install Adobe Flash Player so far, which is among the usual install applications. (Though HTML5 will make that all obsolete, that post is for another day).
Windows Media Player 12 offers some nice improvements. For one it's ability to connect to any type of media box. If you have a box connected to your network that can play streamed media, WMP will do it, and even faster and better than WMP11. I like the re-designed interface, though it's not a brutal difference as compared to WMP11, WMP12 is a bit more intuitive. (as is all of Windows 7 so far!) I'm familiar with the left nav, the Play, Burn, and Sync buttons get a right side alignment. The best feature so far? The way it automatically connects to the web when you build your library for media information. This was available in Windows Media Player 11, though I never saw it work quite like this out of the box. I usually had to right click on the album and tell it to fetch more info. Codecs, codecs and more codecs. Instead of making users search around the Internet for codecs to the most common types of media files, Windows Media Player 12 in Windows 7 has built-in support for a bucket load of more codecs! This is nice.
The UAC (user account control)
OK, there was a big deal made about Vista's UAC - specifically during Apple's "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" ad campaign. I have to say I never had much of a problem. In fact when I downloaded a virus on my laptop the UAC and Windows Defender shut down my system, including all network ports to allow a cleanup without inference. Windows 7 refines the UAC a bit from what I've seen. You get the admin pop up for installation of new programs and unsigned drivers. I like this feature - I don't want software being installed on my PC unless I'm telling it to be installed.
I'll be back with more on Windows 7 later, including a step by step from install to desktop and then going in to installing programs and different operating system features.