Microsoft

Taking the plunge into Windows 7: A switchover story

Brad Bird is running Windows 7 on his laptop and has run into a few barriers. Here's what he has discovered so far.

What I've learned about Windows 7, so far

Devices

With Windows 7, I have only two devices for which I am trying to find drivers to make them work. One is a CanoScan LiDE 20 flatbed scanner, which I bought in 2003 on sale for $40, and I still love it because of the size and portability. The other device is my Microsoft Lifecam VX-3000. (Yes, a Microsoft device...)

Instead of my Canon scanner, I am using an HP OfficeJet All-in-one 6300, which has the ability to double as a feed or flatbed scanner and is connected to the network. I have not found a workaround for the Lifecam, but I have high hopes that Microsoft will release both a 64-bit driver for Windows Vista and Windows 7. That's it for hardware devices to date. The rest all work.

Memory

Memory management for Windows 7 is more or less the same as Windows Vista. Free memory gets cached for faster program loading.

Programs

I had one program that would not work — that was Skype 3.8, which worked faithfully on Windows Vista 64-bit. I tried using the application-compatibility wizard to make Skype work but alas, no success. I did not spend hours tweaking the program since Windows 7 had a known issue posted with Skype. This was brought to light both during the upgrade process when my existing programs were analyzed and when I launched it afterward.

So off to the Skype Web site I went, and I downloaded beta release 4.0, which is said to work fine with Windows 7. It does!

One other issue that users may scratch their heads over is the 64-bit browser. Internet Explorer still has issues from what I see when running in 64-bit. Whether using IE8 RC2 loaded in Windows 7 or the "hybrid" version of Internet Explorer 64-bit loaded in Windows Vista, the most prominent problem that I could see was the prompt to load the Adobe Flash plugin from most Web sites. Flash is not currently available as a 64-bit browser extension.

Thankfully, there is a second link for Internet Explorer in the Start Menu. This one does not have 64-bit in the shortcut name, and if the properties are inspected, you will notice an (x86) in the path to the shortcut.

The 32-bit browser is still around. I find that for many sites that have miscellaneous issues ranging from crashing the browser window to not loading page graphics, starting the 32-bit browser instead of the 64-bit browser resolves the issue.

Features

I immediately noticed that one feature I used a lot was no longer present — the Quick Launch Bar. Instead, you can now "pin" program shortcuts to the taskbar and start them from there.

Another change that I hope gets modified in the RTM release is that launched programs show up with no text, so they take less space on the taskbar. That is fine; however, the icons themselves are the large size by default, which immediately led me to believe that my screen resolution was smaller! Once I got that sorted out, I located the option in the taskbar properties to use small icons.

Another intuitive option in the taskbar properties is the positioning of the taskbar on the screen. You can now actually choose the positions — top, bottom, left, or right. I am not sure why that option has not appeared until now since we have had the taskbar in all Windows flavors since Windows 95!

You can still use the mouse to drag the taskbar to a position, only now, it is slightly easier for users to configure and then lock into place, so as not to run into "the wandering taskbar" issue. This crops up if you depress the main mouse button for too long while on the taskbar, which results in moving it somewhere else on the screen.

Upon further inspection, I opened Computer and was pleasantly surprised to see a link under the menu bar to Uninstall or Change a Program or to view System Properties. No more digging to add/remove or change a program. It looks as if Microsoft has been listening to some user feedback after all.

Looking ahead

The beta release of Windows 7 will remain active until August 1, 2009. I expect that we'll see a refresh before that time. Sadly, the full-blown RTM release of Windows 7 will not be able to be installed as an upgrade to the beta. This is stated in the current release notes and documentation.

Have you tried Windows 7? How do you think it compares to Windows Vista? Share your impressions.

About

Brad Bird is a lead technical consultant and MCT certified trainer based in Ottawa, ON. He works with large organizations, helping them architect, implement, configure, and customize System Center technologies, integrating them into their business pr...

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