Guy’s Ezine 163 – Windows 7 Update

Microsoft Windows 7 Update Microsoft Windows Version 7

Windows 7 is Microsoft’s latest client operating system, and its final RTM release is likely to be timed to attract Christmas shoppers.

Whereas it was easy to find fault with many aspects of Vista, there has been nothing but praise for Windows 7.  Microsoft has soaked up the punishing criticism of Vista and tackled each and every shortcoming with zeal.  The result is it’s now a pleasure to use Windows 7 whereas grappling with Vista made many users hanker for their old XP.

Windows Version 7 Topics

What to Expect from Windows Version 7

Before I discuss the specific improvements of Windows 7 rationally, I want to give you three emotional reasons why you should have faith in Microsoft’s latest operating system.  I realize that after experience of Vista some people are going to find it hard to regain confidence in Microsoft.

1) Bloggers of Windows 7 are so impressed that they want to use this operating system on their production desktops, even though they know they should only use beta software for testing. 

2) My pappy always says, ‘Never buy software before it reaches version 3’.  Well, if Vista RTM was version 1 of Microsoft’s brand new operating system, then Vista with SP1 may just count as version 2.  Following this logic, Windows 7 reckons to be version 3 and thus it’s time to get serious with this new operating system with its Aero Graphics.

3) Another indicator that you should give Windows 7 a chance is that, unlike Vista, no-one is saying after using Windows 7 for a week, ‘I want to go back to XP’.

Specific Improvements Brought by Windows 7

After trying Windows 7 for half an hour I could see how Microsoft has worked tirelessly to overcome every criticism of Vista.  As a result, not only will everything that worked on XP now work on Windows 7, but also they have introduced neat refinements that should have been in Vista in the first place.

What makes Windows 7 a joy to use is that there are no stutters where menus hang for 5 seconds, or worse, the program crashes – and this is only the beta version.  One day it dawned on me that there was less intrusion by the UAC and associated ‘Wizards’ than there is in Vista.

People are not too concerned if the operating system’s boot time is 60 seconds rather 75, but it is irritating when the battery life is reduced from 300 minutes to 240 minutes.  It is evident that extra features such as Aero Graphics will mean more power consumption.  Hence Microsoft faces a tough challenge to make a battery on a Windows 7 laptop last as long as the same battery on XP.  One solution has been to try new technologies such as to dim the display and slow to down the system timer. 

Talking of laptops, entering and leaving ‘Sleep’ was a lottery in Vista RTM, matters improved after applying SP1,  and now Sleep is rock solid in Windows 7.  Another tiny but welcome improvement is that the battery % indicator is accurate rather than a work of fiction.

To achieve this transformation Microsoft has tackled dozens more features that lacked perfection in Vista.  For example, changing the screen resolution quickly, and configuring IP addresses with minimal clicks.  These, and a hundred more refinements, are not worth commenting on individually, but the whole improvement is greater than the sum of the individual parts.  Moreover these are real gains because whichever 20% of the features you use the most, in Windows 7 those features will work better than they did in Vista.

Review of Interesting New Features in Windows 7

Taskbar – It is fractionally easier to position the icons, and keep it the way you like.  There are also better previews, and also easier access to the Windows Explorer.  On a related matter the Navigation Area is better behaved.

Start Menu – The jump list has a bigger list of recent programs. Tip, do remember to pin those programs that you want to stay on the list.

Desktop Search – This has come of age.  In Vista, you can type a word into the Search box, and you get a list.  However, if what you are looking for isn’t there, you have to click Search Everywhere.  The improvement in Windows 7 is that each heading is a clickable link for you to investigate.

Resource Monitor –  This is real techie’s delight.  It’s also better than Vista’s Process explorer at tracking down a program that is hogging CPU, memory, or disk resources.  The killer new feature is the ability to filter a list of processes so you can see which files they are reading and writing.

Better Device Management – Every version of Windows claims ‘Better Device Management’.  I await the perfect system, meanwhile it is handier to have the mouse, monitor, and camera in the same ‘Folder’ as the printers.

IE8 and PowerShell 2.0 – As expected, these latest versions of these programs are built-in.  However, there is a new twist, an ability to disable features such as IE8 should you want to replace it with Mozilla Firefox.

Windows Live Essentials – Messenger, Photo Gallery, Movie Maker.  Share your music and videos.

Gadgets – Now embedded in the desktop

HomeGroup – I call this Home Network, and it is useful for controlling wireless communication, configurable through the Network and Sharing Center.

Backup – Let us take backup as mini-case study.  With XP you could select individual files from the backup menus, whereas in Vista you could only backup the whole system.  Windows 7 reverts to giving the user the choice of what to archive. 

Staying with backup, here is an example of progress.  In XP, if you wanted to back up to an external drive, then you needed a third-party program.  In Vista the procedure was indeed a little better, after plugging in the external device, it was possible to backup but only if you could ferret around and connect to the backup program.  Now in Windows 7, once you plug in an external hard drive, its AutoPlay produces a menu item: ‘Use This Drive for Backup’.  It then guides you through the steps needed to automated backup.

I cannot emphasise enough that this is not a one-off improvement; there are dozens of other small but time-saving improvements in Windows 7.  As a result Window 7 not only catches up with everything that XP could do, but also delivers the improvements that we had hoped Vista would provide with its brand new operating system.

See how to backup outlook with PowerShell »

3rd Party Software

It always seemed a most reasonable expectation that programs which work on XP would work on Windows 7 (and Vista).   Rumour has it that some programs failed simply because XP reports ‘Major Version = 5’ whereas Vista and Windows 7 report ‘Major Version = 6’.  If this is true then it could not be hard to modify the run routine to say ‘If Major Version greater than 5 then proceed and launch this app’.

An indication of Microsoft’s commitment, worry, sensitivity – call it what you will, is that they are extending testing to include 50% more 3rd party applications for Windows 7.  What impressed me was that each application warrants its own project.

Hardware and Drivers

When we are in between major operating system changes we take for granted that all software works on all hardware, at the very worst you may have to right-click and update a driver.  Thus in 2007 Vista bore the brunt of user dissatisfaction caused by lack of drivers, or else hardware not delivering the full range of features that Microsoft designed.

Two years on from Vista’s launch the technology the partnership between Microsoft and the hardware manufacturers has resulted in a more effective interaction between operating system and peripherals.  Consequently, even if Windows 7 brought no improvements, it would have ridden on the coat tails of product development aimed at Vista.  This is because Vista and Windows 7 share the same core operating system code.

Surveys on the Uptake of Windows Versions

I never feel the need to follow the crowd, but it is fascinating to see how other react to Vista and Windows 7.

Microsoft’s critics will tell you that corporations have completely ignored Windows Vista.  However, Forrester’s survey shows that 11% of large companies have already installed Vista.  Meanwhile, 30% of respondents have at least trialled it and a further 25% have plans to begin deploying within 2 years.  15% -perhaps the most savvy – are going to bypass Vista and go straight from XP to Windows 7.

Once again, this pattern is uncannily like what happened when Windows 2000 replaced Windows 98.  There were unexpected complications when operating system version 5.0 replaced version 4.1.  Microsoft reacted quickly and brought out XP (5.1) to usurp Windows 2000 (5.0).  Vista doom and gloom merchants may have also forgotten that took XP at least 3 years to replace Windows 98.

Tales from the Training Room

Take a new feature, such as the Control Panel.  When I am training I have to steel myself to take the ‘Management line’, and tell delegates "The new Control Panel is better, please give it a chance".  After a while I was convinced that the new Control Panel truly was better.

It may shock you that I am talking about the change from Window 3.11 to Windows 95.  And I have seen the same resistance with each successive reorganization of the Control Panel.  The present generation are extremely resistant to a changes in Windows 7, just as the previous generation did not like the switch from Window 98 to XP.  My points are these:

  • Resistance to change is normal human reaction.
  • The young embrace new ways more easily than the old.
  • If such cosmetic changes are the only complaints about Windows 7, then it’s a good system.  

About Guy’s Involvement with Beta Programs

Let me start by saying I haven’t updated my phone for 2 years and I drive a 2005 model car, but when it comes to beta software I am a sucker for the allure of a new program.  That said, every time I vow ‘never again’, it’s just not worth all the hassle, the bugs and the fact the final version is much changed from the beta releases.  It’s as clear as day that smart move is to wait until service pack 1 before you use any software for work as opposed to messing about for pleasure.  Sorry I meant testing!

The Source of Microsoft Beta Software

If you totally disregard this advice about avoiding beta software, then you can download all manner of test software in various states of development from  I registered years ago, so I have no idea if the rumours that it’s difficult to get accepted by Microsoft Connect are true.

Guy Recommends: Tools4ever’s UMRAUMRA The User Management Resource Administrator

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Guy Recommends: The Free IP Address Tracker (IPAT) IP Tracker

Calculating IP Address ranges is a black art, which many network managers solve by creating custom Excel spreadsheets.  IPAT cracks this problem of allocating IP addresses in networks in two ways:

For Mr Organized there is a nifty subnet calculator, you enter the network address and the subnet mask, then IPAT works out the usable addresses and their ranges. 

For Mr Lazy IPAT discovers and then displays the IP addresses of existing computers. Download the Free IP Address Tracker

Will and Guy’s Humour

April Fool’s Day is around the corner.  It’s always worth keeping a lookout for the latest spoofs both in the newspaper and on the T.V.  Here is will and Guy’s advice forApril Fools 2009

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