Friday, January 2, 2009

Another day another OS

I just love messing around with different OSes and distributions. After settling down with my Linux distribution, I found some time, and the desire, to test something different - Windows 7.

The latest version of Windows beta is very much blogged about these days, so I'll try not to give "yet another review". Instead, my insights and though would be given.

Until 2001, I've been installing MS's OSes while they were in beta stages. This includes XP. About the same time I discovered Slackware, and ever since I found something much more exciting to play with. But the passion remains, and in the last few years I've been installing on VMs other OSes such as OS X 10.4 and 10.5 (which gave me very hard time on the VM) and Vista.

Installing Windows 7 on VirtualBox, my favorite virtualization product, is quite easy actually. Configure it for Windows Vista, don't forget to turn on ACPI, and you're good to go. After the installation, install the guest additions. Guess you'll get some error messages here, so set the guest additions executable to work in Vista compatibility mode, and all should be fine.
I still hadn't managed to get the sound to work, though I don't understand why. Hope to overcome that soon.
UPDATE: installing AC97 audio drivers (such as RealTek's) solves this issue as well - sound is working!

One of the things one will notice is the extremely reduced memory consumption of the OS. While writing this post I have few Firefox windows with few tabs each, and some other applications, and about 400MB of memory is in use. Quite similar to XP SP3. I suspect turning on all of the effects would consume some RAM as well, but over all the reduced resources consumption results in a very responsive UI.
Since Windows 7 is basically a better Vista, the only thing that comes in mind is that this is the first time I see a product in the scale of an OS which starts as a bloatware (and slowware) and upgrades to something more reasonable.

Since there isn't much to say about the underlying OS (don't know which features will be included in the final version, and Vista's experience teaches it's good not to make any promises), the only thing that can be judged is the UI.
It is very clearly shown that MS's engineers have been using OS X and Linux (both gnome and KDE) for quite a while. The new taskbar really does look like a merge between AWN, OS X dock and the previous Windows taskbar. No more annoying huge buttons with text labels. No more overly crowded quick launch area. Instead, nice icons which represents both "launchable" applications and running applications. If it works for the other guys for quite some years, it could work for MS as well.
Some new features added to the taskbar are Aero Peek and Color Hovering. One of the features allows the user to preview the tabs of open windows in the taskbar thumbnails previews. This sounds very promising, but turned out to be a bit of disappointment, as the tabs of the Firefox windows I'm using right now aren't previewed. Only MS's products does that in the mean while.

Last, but not least, some applications such as paint and wordpad, got a face lift, and now carry the Office 2007 interface. As this is really a matter of taste, I cannot really judge whether it was a good idea or not. e.g, people are using OpenOffice just to have the old Office interface back.

Bottom line: I think MS looked at the competition and got back to the right track. Don't know what Apple has in its sleeve, but I truly hope KDE 4.2 or 4.3 would set higher standards again, so all of us would benefit from a better desktop.

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