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Windows 7 beta – a few days into testing…

First of all, I’m overall impressed. Much more so than I ever was with Vista. This is truly the XP to Vista’s ME. That being said, of course the sun still has spots, and Windows 7 is so far far from free of fault.

The Positives

First of all, window management. Wow. The Aero Peek feature is actually genuinely useful, and I can actually see which of my programs are active, something I’ve never managed to do in OSX. The visual representation of “The Program Is Running” is just very, very good.

Also in the area of window management is the partial maximization, a real godsend for people like me. First of all, of course, was the ability to move a window to either side of the screen and thereby make it take upp 50% of the screen area. perfect for widescreen monitors or just for programming, file management, etc. Then we have the “vertical maximizing” feature, just double-click on the top part of the program, right where you usually drag to resize, and it maximizes – but only vertically. Small but useful feature.

Then we have stuff like the Games area, which automatically recognized about 80% of the games I got installed, and told me exactly why some of them just don’t work as well as expected (my graphics card isn’t good enough). very nice.

Most of the “advanced options” I usually like to play with haven’t been hidden away – in several cases, the path to them was clearer and more intuitive than in good old XP. And we do need to remember that I’ve been running a highly customized XP install for several years. I was unpleasantly reminded of how uwieldy pre-SP3 XP really is when I first arrived at my current workstation at work.

The Start menu looks more or less like it did in Vista, though it seems a bit quicker and smarter, but maybe that’s just me. The ability to limit the folders available to the automatic search thingie is very, very nice. I’ve been using Launchy and Gnome-Do for so long I’ve almost forgotten how to use the start menu, and W7’s start search thingie is almost as good as Launchy.

The Negatives

Well, first we have the cost. The beta may be free, but it seems I’ll have to shell out more than 200 dollars if I want to keep on using it legally. I’ve gotten very used to the idea of no-cost operating systems thanks to ubuntu. The OS just seems to me like the kind of thing that should be free.

Then, we have lack of driver support. I’ve yet to be able to activate surround sound, due to lack of Creative drivers for my Audigy card. But this is a passing problem, the OS is just a beta and developers will catch up.

Let’s see, what else… The moral issue, of course. Supporting the old megacorporative structures, the inefficient way of managing code, not tomention the way Microsoft handles and slanders its competition. I find it hard to actually support Microsoft with additional funds or, well, any kind of support.

A lot of copy protections just don’t work, forcing me to crack games I own legally.

The network connection seems a bit bobbly in a way it’s never been in Ubuntu. Sometimes, it just won’t find Internet.

It does eat a lot of system resources, but since I mostly use my Windows boot for games and since I got 4 gigs of RAM and a spankin’ new dual core, I don’t see much of a negative impact.

In conclusion

What keeps me on the Windows platform is games and Adobe. Adobe CS3 runs fine in a VirtualBoxed Windows XP, for which I do have a license. That leaves games. At least newer games – a lot of older ones run very fine under Wine.

Newer games will, probably, move more towards DirectX 10. And that means either W7 or Vista. And W7 is a much more mature opertating system, with a myriad of enhancements. I think I actually prefer W7 to Windows XP, though I still prefer Ubuntu to all of them. I’m just waiting for some clever bastard to port Aero Peek and the rest of the window management goodies to Ubuntu (preferrably without Compiz, since Compiz fucks up the way I handle workspaces by disabling the use of the scroll wheel on the workspace switcher to switch workspaces).

There seems to be a slow movement towards the Linux platform, bith by regular users and by game developers. Mostly old games get converted, and not-so-popular new games. But we’re getting there. perhaps some day, games will be published for all three major platforms at the same time. That’d be my dream. Let people choose the operating system by its own merits, not by what software is available.

Or, if that ain’t happening, I’ll just hope Wine gets better. And soon, please.

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