I have been hanging on my Windows XP for many years, much longer than my usual upgrade cycle. Everybody hates Vista, so I follow the crowd and skipped a generation of the Microsoft OS. Now I have a new computer, it’s time to upgrade to the last OS, Windows 7. I installed Windows 7 Ultimate on my new computer and Windows 7 Home Premium on my old computer. I think Windows 7 is probably the best OS from Microsoft since Windows 2000. It runs fast and very stable. My old computer is actually running faster on Windows 7 than XP.
The immediate benefit of Windows 7 is 64 bit support, so the OS now support address space above 3GB. Driver support in Windows 7 is very good, I don’t have any trouble installing drivers for my video cards, motherboards, webcams, printers, etc. Windows 7 comes with a new Areo interface with a few new gimmicks. It is so good that actually converted an old fashion interface die-hard like me who have been using Windows 95 appearance in Windows XP all these years. The new taskbar is convenient, the desktop peek with desktop gadget is very handy. I have CPU usage, Drivers Meter, Network Meter, System Up time gadget running on my desktop telling me everything I need to know about my computer. The wallpaper slide show looks cool, so I download the Summer Dogs theme from Microsoft for Pat’s account. For myself, I don’t need any fancy wallpaper, I am still using the same wallpaper I have been using since Windows 3.1.
For long time Windows user, Windows 7 feels like home once get used to minor changes on the new interface. The new Power Shell is a long over due replacement for the old bat files. It support many familiar UNIX commands and makes scripting in Windows possible without installing Tcl or Python. Finally Window 7 supports UNIX style symbolic links (or Junction in NTFS for similar function) with mklink in the command prompt. I think Windows 95 is the last time the calculator, Wordpad is upgraded, finally Microsoft is have a new version of those legacy applications. The new Math pad and sticky notes application is quite handy. I found even create a virtual desktop just for sticky notes.
Hard Link Extension integrates the function of mklink to the Windows Explorer. The new Windows Explorer looks nice but it is a dump down version of the XP Windows Explorer. Installing ClassicShell gives me back the familiar icons and information on the status bar. The program list in the new start button is pretty hard to use, ClassicShell also fix it for me.
The new Aqua interface has some useful windows management function, but AquaSnap takes it to the next level. The ATI video driver comes with virtual desktop feature, but it is really slow and take up lots of system resources. Dexpot is one of the best virtual desktop software out there. I would say those are the essential Windows 7 system utilities and all of them are freewares!
I am happy that NJ Star still works under Windows 7. I am so used to its key sequences typing in Chinese. I just don’t bother to relearn built-in Chinese IME come with Windows 7.
Virtual PC comes with the Ultimate (require download from Microsoft’s website) edition is truly amazing. I can run a copy of Windows XP inside a window and it is isolated from my Windows 7 environment. It provides virtual hard drive roll back, so I can run keygen or patches under the Windows XP sandbox without worrying virus infecting my Windows 7. I can even run a Ubuntu linux inside the Virtual PC just for fun!
Remote Desktop is Windows 7’s answer to VNC. It runs faster, probably thanks to Microsoft knows some secret system level access. I can remote control the living room PC from the PC in my room. I still have a VNC server running in the living room PC just in case I need to control the PC from my Wii or iPhone.
The Library feature is a nice advancement over the stupid My Documents. I want to take complete control of exactly where my files are stored in the hard drive. It is just a dumb idea storing everything under the folder deep inside the user profile, which makes your files so inconvenient to access. The Library feature is really nothing fancy, it is just symbolic links under the hook.
Windows 7 out of the box without any service patch is really solid compare to Microsoft’s past track record. However it is not without any problem. The new Windows Media Player 11 is a resource hog even when I am not playing any media fiels. Disable the stream media server manually to make it stop slowing down my computer. The Home Group feature is a joke. I manage to get the it working for the first day, then somehow the computers stop seeing each other in the Home Group, although network sharing working perfectly OK. I spent so much time debugging the Home Group setting but all my effort prevail. Just map the remote folder to a drive letter is a way simpler and more elegant solution.
Windows 7 comes with voice recognition, letting us use voice command to control the windows or dictate any text. I spent a few hours training the computer to understand my voice. I think the voice recognition is quite accurate, except that it is pretty slow and hog system resources. When I enable voice recognition, I have trouble scroll down the page in my Firefox. It is a nice idea but I guess my computer is still not powerful enough.
I have been using Microsoft Sync Toy to back up my files from the local hard drive to external hard drive. Unfortunately it is a known problem that Sync Toy 2.1 is not working properly in 64 bit Windows 7, it may corrupt some of your backup files. I am now using Allway Sync instead. I like the GUI of Sync Toy better but having reliable backup is way more important than having a pretty GUI.
I think I have done enough set up my Windows 7 for the mean time. The next step is to re-install useful applications and get my FTP server back online.