I installed Windows 7 beta a couple of days ago and, so far so good, first impressions are that it is a very nice operating system. I think this because Vista is a nice operating system (once you got to know it) and Windows 7 is very, very similar. Sure there’s some taskbar eye candy, some nice cleaning up of areas but it is essentially just a step up.
User Account Control
What User Account Control? Honestly once your Vista machine was setup you hardly ever saw the UAC prompts anyway, but in Windows 7 you almost never see them by default, especially when doing things like changing Control Panel settings, and showing all processes from Task Manager. This is sensible to me, fair enough ask me for admin rights when installing an application, but when I’m running Window’s own Control Panel and changing a setting I don’t want to be prompted. After all if we can’t trust the operating system what can we trust?
Control Panel has fixed a few things like you can actually search for programs found under Administrative Tools, want to access the Services MMC just search for services… it used to piss me off no end that it wouldn’t search Administrative Tools.
Windows now has what are known as Libraries, which are essentially aggregated searches across local and remote folders (and even removable drives such as USB sticks). I think this will hopefully be an area that will be expanded upon in the future, as it has great potential not just for making it easier to find stuff, but for making it easy to tell applications where to find stuff. Example Windows Media Player and Windows Media Center both use the libraries to know where all your media is at. This is cool. No more telling all your media apps where you music is at. I just hope that they can do this for things like Contacts and favourites and everything else, essentially allowing users to tell apps to find my files by category.
The bad thing about libraries is they have replaced the “My ????” folders in explorer.
This is sort of good, but it makes my initial setup a bit more painful. Normally I point all my user and public folders from my C:\Users folder where windows is installed and point them to my D:\Users folder. I do this to make it easy if I decide to wipe the OS drive and install a new operating system such as, say, oh I don’t know, Windows 7 for example. This way I have one drive that has all my personal files on it. Libraries made this process a little more painful because at first I thought, hey cool, I don’t need to do this anymore, I just add the D:\Users folders to my libraries… But then I realised that the “My ????” Folders are still used by other apps etc. and while libraries are great for finding things, they’re not so great for saving to.
Windows Media Center
I love Windows Media Center in principle, but the reality of it pains me. Don’t get me wrong the new UI is nice and neat and I love the fact that plays DIVX out of the box. But oh my god it is painful to get working with Xbox 360 Media Extender. I believe this has to be a Beta issue, but I had to go into Services and enable all the Windows Media services, and then I was getting networking and firewall issues and it was timing out. For a long time I could only manage to get the Xbox 360 setup as an extender, but not successfully connect, it just sat at the “Contacting….” screen and would eventually time out. I have had it start once or twice on me but it was very flaky. Another cause of this could my wireless network.. time to upgrade to Wireless+N I think…