Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Avoid Windows 7

Microsoft is launching Windows 7 in a few weeks, so I wanted to get ahead of the marketing. But the Microsoft PR engine has been working overtime, so maybe I'm too late ... but some are pushing back against the PR, which is great.

Lest we forget: Windows 7 is just like Vista, folks. "Windows 7" is Microsoft's attempt to re-brand the damaged "Windows" name after the extremely poor "Windows Vista" release. I love that you can still buy systems with Windows XP "downgrade" because Windows Vista still isn't trusted 3 years after it was released.

According to Wikipedia: A number of capabilities and certain programs that were a part of Windows Vista are no longer present or have changed, resulting in the removal of certain functionality.*

Also note that various Windows Vista features and components have been removed in Windows 7, including the classic Start Menu, Windows Ultimate Extras, InkBall, and Windows Calendar. And Windows Photo Gallery, Windows Movie Maker, and Windows Mail (previously bundled in Windows Vista) aren't even in Windows 7 - you need to add them manually from the separate Windows Live Essentials package.

Let me go back to that again - the Start Menu won't even be in Windows 7. The user interface changes again under Windows 7. I guess that raises the question: if you have to re-learn the interface for Windows 7, isn't it just as easy to pick up another operating system ... like Linux?


  1. Check out this great commentary:

    From the article:

    I know Windows is awful. Everyone knows Windows is awful. Windows is like the faint smell of piss in a subway: it's there, and there's nothing you can do about it. OK, OK: I know other operating systems are available. But their advocates seem even creepier, snootier and more insistent than Mac owners. The harder they try to convince me, the more I'm repelled. To them, I'm a sheep. And they're right. I'm a helpless, stupid, lazy sheep. I'm also a masochist. And that's why I continue to use Windows – horrible Windows – even though I hate every second of it. It's grim, it's slow, everything's badly designed and nothing really works properly: using Windows is like living in a communist bloc nation circa 1981. And I wouldn't change it for the world, because I'm an abject bloody idiot and I hate myself, and this is what I deserve: to be sentenced to Windows for life.

    That's why Windows works for me. But I'd never recommend it to anybody else, ever. This puts me in line with roughly everybody else in the world. No one has ever earnestly turned to a fellow human being and said, "Hey, have you considered Windows?" Not in the real world at any rate.

  2. you aren't the only one who deosn't like the new microsoft ad. CNBC also hates it. maybe there's a reason microsoft didn't allow commnets on their vid?

    this may be the most painful microsoft move since ballmer pitched windows 1.0. or maybe the seinfeld ads. ouch.

  3. I just found your blog. I'm a Windows user, but I'm not happy with it. I think I have the same problems you mention on your blog. I only use it for email and web and solitaire, but it just seems slow. Will Windows 7 be slower? Maybe it's time I tried Linux if that's supposed to be better. What version do you recomend?

  4. It may not be clear in my comment, but my point in quoting that was that Windows users KNOW Windows sucks, but they still use it anyway. Talk about cutting off hte nose to spite the face ... "I know Windows is awful. Everyone knows Windows is awful."

  5. I wonder if it would be possible to make a streamlined "bare-bones" version of Windows with very few programs pre-installed, an interface like Windows 95 through 2000, and overall designed to just be able to run most Windows applications while minimizing space and maximizing speed?

  6. Let me start by saying that I am a linux guy (slackware, specifically). That being said, it has been part of my job over the last couple of months to use/test the Windows 7 RC and determine if it is ready to deploy to the whole office. To put it succinctly, Win7 is better than Vista. By better I mean more responsive and more stable. It doesn't touch a well configured linux system, but it is better. Oh and there is a start menu. It is almost identical to Vista's and it shares (borrowed) a lot from KDE 4.3.

  7. @crash: That's great to hear. I saw screenshots of Win7 and the Windows button in the lower-left didn't seem different than Vista. Interesting that they're pulling from KDE, though ...

    @Steve: My wife and I prefer Fedora, but I've been a Red Hat Linux user for a long time (Fedora is Red Hat's "proving ground" for the next version of Red Hat.) Others like Ubuntu. Give either of those a try.

    Note that you can run a "live CD" version of either, to try it out before installing. It's great, you don't even need to install Linux to see how it will work on your system.

    When you install, be prepared that you are installing an operating system that would replace Windows. It's not always easy for a "beginner" to set up a "dual boot" system with both Linux and Windows.

  8. @Izeas: Some Linux distros provide a version of WINE, which will run most Windows apps (or so I hear, I don't use it.)

    But I don't think Microsoft is really interested in providing a version of Windows that minimizes space and maximizes speed - unless you count the "Vista Home Basic" edition. Microsoft has 4 versions of Vista and based on how few checkmarks are in "Home Basic" I think that may be the closest to what you describe. Doesn't seem to do much for $200, though. (No 3D accelerated GUI, but says not a good choice for laptops either?) That's probably why they dropped "Home Basic" in Win7.

  9. @Anonymous: That's an awesome Win 1.0 commercial, thanks! I like how the 1-minute ad doesn't really talk about actual features (starts off with a copy/paste, which is neat for the time, then shows stupid stuff like the clock!) And most of the time the camera is on Ballmer, not showing Windows much. That's so Microsoft!

    Wikipedia says Win 1.0 was released in 1985, so that probably explains the 'Miami Vice' reference.

  10. WINE's pretty useful, yes, except for those few applications that it won't run, or runs too slow to be useful. Media Player Classic comes to mind for the former, while a lot of games fall under the latter. (I've tried playing Iji and Fate/stay night under WINE. Waaay too much slowdown.)

  11. I use Windows 7 and like it (well, as much as I like any OS anyway, which isn't very complimentary), but I don't particularly feel the need to justify my decision or think you need to agree. I'm just going to elaborate on a couple points here.


    crash has it right... the Windows 7 start menu is more or less the same as the default Vista start menu.

    What's *removed* is the option to switch to the classic, Windows 95-style Start Menu. (That is, 1-column, doesn't have recently-used program list.) The only difference I've noticed is that there is no explicit recent documents menu any more; instead, programs for which there would be documents for and that show up in the recently-used programs list get a right-facing arrow. Clicking the arrow shows the recent documents associated with that program. (This I think is a mistake from a UI standpoint.) It's also possible to right click a taskbar entry and select that program's recent documents too.

    I would say the principal thing that Windows pulled from KDE is the integrated start menu search box, but that's present in Vista too. I did some digging to try to find out who had it first, and IIRC KDE (or maybe it was just a Suse patch to KDE) had it first, but only by a pretty short margin in comparison to the Vista dev cycle. (Maybe a year?)

    What has changed a little is how the taskbar works. It pulls some ideas from the OS X dock, but unlike the OS X dock it actually isn't terrible at dealing with window management. (OS X has Expose which of course is an entirely different way of changing windows. I know Mac people swear by it, but I haven't used it enough to make "I like this" or "I dislike this" judgements. I do think that the dock does a terrible job at window management, because it's application-centric and not window-centric, or I'm missing something crucial with its use.)

    There are two basic differences with the task bar though. First, it's now combined with the quick launch menu. Non-running programs that have "quick launch" icons appear intermixed with the windows of running programs. Clicking on them opens them, and the taskbar entry for that program replaces the quick launch entry. When the program exits, if that program is in the quick launch then the quick launch icon comes back. In what I think is a pretty slick feature, you can right click the entry for a running program, choose "pin to taskbar", and that's the equivalent to adding it to the quick launch.

    The second change is how multiple windows from one program are presented. In XP (and lets say Vista too, though I forget what it does) there were two ways that you could tell the taskbar to group windows. By default, it was set so that if there was limited space on the taskbar, multiple windows would group into a single entry in the taskbar that listed the windows in a vertical list when you clicked on it. You could also tell it to not do that and always display separate entries. Win 7 makes two changes. First, it adds a new (now default) option which is to always combine windows. When set, only the icon of the program is shown. By default the taskbar is a little larger than it used to be, and in this configuration the reasons people compare it to OS X's dock become obvious. The second change comes from how multiple windows are listed. Instead of just a vertical list of the names of the windows, it shows what each of the windows looks like. It will also show this list even if you only hover over the taskbar entry. While I still have my taskbar set to "collapse only if there's not room", I do think this works far far better than the XP-style grouping.

  12. @anonymous's commercial: I can't say this with certainty, but I'm not sure that video was ever a "commercial" in the traditional sense of being actually shown to try to get people to buy your product. My understanding -- which comes from the internet, so take with a grain of salt -- is that MS used to (does?) create silly promotional videos for internal purposes and the one in question was one of those.


    @Steve: You say Windows seems slow for you, but what version are you running? If you're on XP now, Win 7 will probably be slower. If you're on Vista, Win 7 will probably be faster.

    As for Linux, Ubuntu is now my sort of go-to distro to recommend to newbies. My impression is that it's aimed at that "market" a bit more than the others are.

    That said, there are a few others that certainly wouldn't be bad choices. Fedora is one of them though I haven't used it myself. I haven't used it in years, but I cut my Linux teeth on Mandrake Linux, now known as Mandriva Linux. And when I was looking for a newbie distribution, a number of peple recommended Suse Linux (you'll want OpenSuse now), though again I haven't used it. (Finally, there's a very special kind of person who I'll recommend Gentoo Linux to, even as a first distro, but it definitely sounds to me like you are not that kind of person if email/web/games is all you do. If you're not comfortable at a command line then Gentoo's definitely not the right choice, and even if you are that doesn't mean it is.)

    Anyway, there's a lot of choice in this area, and the important thing is that if you think you're interested, don't get paralyzed by choice and just try one. Pick Ubuntu, or flip a coin between Ubuntu or Fedora, etc.; just don't sit aroung going "well, I have to read these other dozen comparison articles..." and then never get around to doing so.

    Most of the distros out there nowadays (looking at the ones listed above, I think all of them) have what's called a LiveCD, which is a CD you can boot off of and get an environment you can play around with, run programs, etc. without actually installing anything to your hard drive. (Just keep in mind of course that it'll be running off of CD and loading programs and some other actions will be very slow in comparison to if it was local of course.) So if you're not sure if you're interested or not, the cost to exploring more is very very low.

  13. My irony meter exploded when you mocked Microsoft for not bundling enough things into Windows. I must have been halucinating in the '90s when Microsoft was sued for bundling too many things into Windows. I have to think that if they had added InkBall instead of removing it you would be bemoaning their anti-competitive monopoly actions against the makers of insipid tablet games.

    We get it, Linux is cool. Seriously, we get it.

  14. @Izeas GT: I wonder if it would be possible to make a streamlined "bare-bones" version of Windows

    There nLite (for editing installation files of 2000 and XP) and vLite (for Vista and Win7). You might also be able to find and download TinyXP.

    As regards Windows 7, I'm sure it'll be perfectly usable...after the second or third service pack. And the classic desktop is reintegrated by some clever hacker.

  15. i find windows 7 way better than ubuntu...

    I hae read many posts these days from linus even stating that the linux kernel is becoming bloated as they try to add more features and do more with it...

    WOW, maybe linux will finally know what the challenge is and microsoft does not do that bad of a job..

  16. Anon, here's the source article you're referring to, the actual quote from a LinuxCon developer roundtable.

    Yes, Linus says the Linux kernel code is getting a bit bloated. “We’re getting bloated and huge. Yes, it’s a problem.”

    "Bloated" means different things to different people. Just like "1.0" means different things to different people. When the Linux folks were willing to finally label it "1.0", the kernel was waaaaaaay more stable and feature-rich than a commercial product's "1.0". Extending that to "bloated", I think Linus's view of "bloated" may not be the same thing to the rest of us who aren't kernel wizards.

    Yet, acknowledging there's an issue is a step towards fixing it. That's what F/OSS is all about. You don't see Microsoft saying "hey, all this Windows crap is too much, let's trim!" To give Apple credit, MacOSX made a huge effort to improve performance - I think that's all they did with SnowLeopard.

    Linux is a very customizable system, the kernel can be everything to everyone. You can do a custom compile of the kernel to get just the support you need. If you're using a popular distro like Fedora or Ubuntu, the distributor is doing that for you (for example, you aren't running your Ubuntu desktop on a 48-CPU SPARC with 500GB memory and 1PB of storage, are you??) So while the overall kernel is "bloated" (according to Linus) the version you run on your server or desktop is pretty great.

  17. Hate to burst everyone's bubble, but I have been running windows 7 for about a week now at it is much faster than my old XP Machine. The only problem now is keeping up with it. The taskbar is great. Why would anyone want to go back to XP after running window 7? I imagine others will copy windows 7 features into their OS's in short time.

  18. All I see is a bunch WINEy linux fanboys and one mac fangirl. Windows 7 has the feel of Vista, but they aren't the same. Windows 7 is what Vista should have been. I think Vista actually helped Microsoft get a shot in the arm and create the best Windows operating system yet. Windows 7 will propel Microsoft back over 95% usage rate in worldwide computers, up from the 93% they enjoy now. I like Mac OS, but it is just too expensive and doesn't enjoy the hardware/software support Windows does. I have always like playing with Apple machines, but they are more or less toys. Linux is fun. You can do almost anything with it. But that level of customization leads to less standards. It is hard to create software and hardware that will function properly on all those different configurations. Windows will always have the market cornered, because the OS is standardized and it can run on a limitless configuration of hardware. That is the basis of its incredible hardware and software library.


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