Thursday, November 11, 2010

Windows 7 - I'm a PC!

Folks, I've been using Windows 7 for a couple of months now, and I have to say - I am not impressed.  The biggest 3 things Microsoft did with Windows 7 were:
  • Fix the stability issues introduced in Vista (seems like every other release of Windows is inherently unstable)
  • Pretty up the interface - a lot of graphical enhancements with very little real benefit
  • Completely move around all of the administrative functions, just to shake things up and make sure that the "experts" have to relearn it, while the "average joe" suffers and calls on the experts more
First, let's look at the "fixes" on stability.

Shoring up the House of Cards
We all know the score, especially those of use who have been using it since the first viable version (3.0).  Windows for Workgroups, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows NT, Vista - all these versions were, let's face it, unacceptable for customers paying for a product.

Windows 2000 introduced the first version of Windows where I didn't have to reboot daily, and could still use it.  Bravo.  Windows XP was, actually, an improvement on 2000.

So, we all are aware of the egg-in-the-face that was Vista.  Those of us who sprang for machines with Vista on it were burned, first by the operating system, and second by moving to 64-bit without waiting the requisite 5 years before stable drivers and software came out.

Now that Windows 7 is out, what's so great about it you ask?  Well, remember Vista?  Microsoft never admitted how bad it was, but they took a beating against the Mac and other Unix-based machines.  They know it, so they changed up the naming convention again (marketing ploys do work against the masses).  Enter Windows 7 - basically Windows XP with the Vista interface.

Except how good was XP really?  It's Windows - crashes periodically (once a week or every few weeks), slows down the longer you use it, you know the drill.  Kind of makes us wonder, why do we pay Microsoft for this stuff anyway?  With that said, it was the most stable version of Windows workstation yet.

Well, Windows 7 returns us to the XP days of stability - with all those fancy special effects and completely rearranged interface.

Wow, it's Pretty!
One thing Microsoft has always done well is designing graphics - icons, pictures, menus, and user interfaces.  Aside from the marketing thing.  They know a good looking vehicle sells better than the rust bucket, even if the good looking one barely runs and can't go above 50 on the freeway.  Especially if it's popular.

I have to admit, the styling is really nice, although the default window translucency is really really annoying.  A few features they introduced make it a bit more usable, but barely.

First, is the drag-window-and-snap-to-screen.  You drag a window to one edge or another, and it snaps to take up that portion of the screen.  Big deal, it's not that great.

Second, multi-touch gestures on touchpads.  Remember my article about the Mac?  Apple knows how to do things right - the 2-fingered swipe to scroll, brilliant.  So brilliant, Windows now offers this, but it is, as all things Windows, jerky scrolling and works moderately at best.  Often times it scrolls too fast, or not at all, and is actually more frustrating than the old swipe in a reserved edge of the pad.

Lots of animations in previously non-animated things, but the Start menu is really annoying.  Before when you hit Start and started typing letters, it would jump down to those choices.  Now it does a search - perhaps useful, perhaps an innovation I'll grant them.  I find it annoying, I hope there's a way to turn it off.

Administrative Confusion
In their never-ending quest to mix it up, Microsoft has again completely reorganized the administrative interface.  That is, the Control Panel, all the little things in Windows you do to control the inner workings (services, scheduled tasks, etc.), even the installation and uninstallation of software.  Just when things were stable from Windows 95 through XP, they went and pulled out the rug from under our feet.

What about the average Joe?  Probably doesn't spend too much time on these things, so doesn't care.  If you are a tinkerer, it would just piss you off.  If you were an expert?  You just gut it up and learn.  The more gullible ones probably pay for training on it - like you need it?  Us poor folks use Google a lot (I avoid Bing like the plague!), and good old-fashioned hunting around.

What about searching in Windows Explorer?  In older Windows, you could avoid the Windows Search 4.0 installation and thus have a useful file search.  Nowadays?  No 2 ways about it, you have this simple (and dumb) search field in the upper right corner.  How do you specify dates, how do you search contents of files?  Yeah, it's dumb.  There is a drop-down when you start typing, you can add a date or file size modifier - that's it.  Haven't figured out how to search file contents yet - unless you use Google Desktop.

Ever wonder why there's no Google Desktop for Mac?  Because Spotlight is built into the Mac, and does all that for you.

I'm a PC, and Windows is Mine
So, if like me, you're not buying this massive advertising campaign, I say my money's going to Apple.  I never cared much for the first generations of Mac, but as of OS X (that's OS 10 for the layman), form and function unite in a perfect synergy - one that all the might of Microsoft still can't even come close to touching.  Thanks to Windows 7 I came up with a new abbreviation - SOSDV (same old stuff, different version).

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