BitDepth 679 - May 12

Microsoft introduces a new public beta of Windows that offers a window into the finished product...
Hands on with Win 7 RC1

At work on the new Windows, Installing Firefox and troubleshooting weird messages between the Action Center and AVG AntiVirus.

Last Tuesday, Microsoft let loose their latest hunting hound in the OS wars, a final candidate version of Windows 7. A few days before that, invited members of the press got their hands on an early copy, though we had to wait until the public release to get the software key that fully authorises it.
Anyone with nerves of steel and a hard disk or partition available for a second operating system can download a copy of the file, get an activation key and be running a feature frozen version of the next generation of Windows for free.
As an added incentive, the software will run until mid-2010, an unprecedented access period for a Microsoft public test of software this core to their business.

Be warned, though, that sometime in May 2010, the software will start going Mission Impossible on you, shutting down after two hours of use and perhaps even reminding you that you will be "disavowed" if you don't go out and buy the commercial version.
The Windows 7 RC1 file is a 2.36 gigabyte ISO image that most users will need to burn to an installation DVD. Most disc burning software is capable of doing this with no issues.

Ultimate Windows for free
This is the Ultimate edition of Windows 7, which will also be available in versions that steadily reduce the feature set as you go down the price ladder.
In a teleconference on April 29, Mike Nash, Corporate Vice President of the Windows Marketing Group told journalists from the Latin American region that the key versions would be the Professional, Home Premium and Starter editions, each of which drops certain features until arriving at the barebones Starter version, which is targeted at netbooks in emerging countries.
The plan, if I understood Nash correctly, is to issue one version of Windows 7 that users unlock based on an activation key that's makes the version you pay for available for installing. 

There will, no doubt, be new fees associated with buying an activation fee to upgrade to a more feature rich version of the software.
My own experience with the installation was impressive. I run Windows in virtualisation on a Macintosh and installed Windows 7 directly from the image file. From the first installation screen to running desktop image (still the arty fish) the process took 22 minutes, faster than the previous beta version by a good ten minutes.
By comparison, since I was doing updated installations of all my virtual machines at once, the latest release of Ubuntu, version 9.04, took 12 minutes, also from a disk image.
That really isn't a fair comparison, since Ubuntu is so tightly optimised that it can run off an optical disk, but there's no doubt that the installation procedure and user friendliness of a Windows installation has been significantly improved.
An inexperienced user should be able to install Windows 7 onto a bare drive with no hassles.

Update software before testing
Next up is application installation. Be warned, there have clearly been some low-level changes between the February 2009 Windows 7 beta and the RC1 flavour.
My first installation was an antivirus solution, a copy of AVG Free edition that worked just fine with the earlier beta. Fail! A newer version from AVG's website installed, but the Windows 7 Action Centre reported some funkiness with the way it was identifying itself. It works though. 
Taking a cue from the experience, I grabbed new versions of everything else I use in Windows and those installations worked well.

A bit of rummaging around on the Microsoft Windows 7 site will also unearth an installation file for the XP Mode software (450MB) which improves compatibility with older software. It's based on Virtual PC, so I've been a little wary of running a virtual machine inside a virtual machine and invoking the deadly gods of code recursiveness.
Windows 7 is a much needed kick in the rear for the Windows software franchise and a pleasant surprise after the lurching heavyweight girth of Vista. It's a lighter touch on disk (7.5GB for 7 vs 16GB for Vista), undeniably faster and more responsive. Users moving from XP or 2000 to try Windows 7 will still find some of the compatibility surprises that lurked in Vista, but they will also find a fast, attractive version of the Microsoft OS that's a pleasure to use. 
Vista users will start with a smile and keep right on grinning.

BitDepth #666
Microsoft launches Windows RC1
blog comments powered by Disqus