Column: Me and my Windows 7
by Florian Wimmer 11/09/2009
Part 1: High expectations
Because you should be open for new things, the author (and his actually to old notebook) flings himself into the adventure of Windows 7 and reports in this 5 part column about his experiences. Today: What did I expect?
I had a happy relationship. No, really! We had been together for 7 years and I had almost never been disappointed. We played together, wrote texts, looked at pictures, devoured heaps of movies, listened to music for hours and expanded our knowledge. I also got along with the family. After all, I had had a relationship to one of the elder sisters and therefore a few things were familiar. But I had never been together with anyone for so long or so close…
No, don't worry. Notebookcheck.com hasn't turned into a relationship blog for editors closing in on a midlife crisis. I'm of course talking about Windows XP. But if you think about how much time you really spend with such an operating system, then the expression "relationship" is maybe not so farfetched after all. At work, at gaming, at buying cinema cards, prior to a trip – the computer is always there and so, for better or worse, the operating system.
Such an operating system can of course drive you nuts. Which reader, now probably somewhat older, doesn't remember the blue screens of Windows 95, hour long struggles to set up a network under Windows 98 or the endless text commands under MS-DOS, which you had to, in the worst case, re-type when a small typo was made? Windows XP was a real relief: barely any crashes, a considerably easier network installation, pleasing new surface, and so forth.
Naturally, Microsoft had thought about including a few tweaks. The poor internet forum members wouldn't have had anything to backbite about, if it weren't for the balloon tips, the vexatious activation or the missing DOS support, which condemned several older games to a life of collecting dust.
It'll be okay, won't it?
Seemingly millions of updates, freeware programs and self-help internet sites later you did find out how to make Windows XP to a fast and barely peeving operating system, even directly after a fresh installation, on which you could rely on in daily work and gaming.
And then, just as the relationship finally calmed down and all primary resentments slowly started to disappear into the mist of oblivion, Microsoft again wanted money from us: The operating system was now called Windows Vista which was heralded as even better, faster and more stable. In particular, DirectX 10 was held back from the settled gamers in XP, instead you were supposed to faithfully change to Vista. Even the in the meantime really powerful internet and freeware community couldn't knit a substitute for it.
If you aren't a really big shooter fan, or had already acquired an XBOX 360 for a good graphic card (maybe that was Microsoft's plan, anyway) then you could forgo on it. Otherwise you had to bite the bullet. And it was a hard bullet to bite on: Everything was somewhere else or looked strange, the program point for deleting software in the system settings was suddenly called "Programs" and not "Software" any longer. It really couldn't be said that Vista was changer-friendly, it was also slower and couldn't cope with many programs and crashed to top it off.
A difficult legacy
Everyone who has read a magazine or an internet editorial in the line of the Windows 7 release will know that there have been some modifications in a few areas, but also that Vista is still slower than XP and still drives its users crazy with the user account control: "Would you really like to install this program?" "Yes." "Really?" "Yes!" "Are you really, absolutely sure?" "Yes!!!" "Well then, I'd like to priorly inform you that there might be a virus in this program" "Just install it!" "Well, you can't say I didn't tell you…" Okay. That's maybe a bit exaggerated, but sometimes Vista does make this impression.
Despite doubts in the beginning and a few sidesteps to Linux or even Mac OS, I was by and large very content with "my" Windows XP up till now, especially in view of the alternatives from Microsoft. But you do surrender to the allures of novelty every now and again, particularly as Microsoft makes the novelty, that is to say Windows 7, so tasty: A beta version for (almost) everyone to download, then a release candidate and both are stable and look good. I even occasionally outsourced parts of my daily computer tasks, for instance internet surfing, completely to Windows 7 Beta that was installed on a second partition beside Windows XP.
Marketing Tricks and a big venture
And then Microsoft threw its newest baby, appealing to the masses, at a dumping price onto the market: If you pre-ordered as of July 15 (ha-ha, "as of", the stocks were already gone after 7 minutes) you got an example of Windows 7 for 49.97 euro. Even if I never really understood this whole version jumble and actually wanted to buy the Ultimate version, I discovered at a closer study that I'm not planning to open a company network or to use the operating system in a foreign language.
So therefore, I left for work especially early on July 15 in order to be sitting in front of my computer at point 9 a.m. so I could order my copy (I hope my previous employer will forgive and forget the two minutes. I dutifully worked these off in the evening…). Whereby it took longer than I thought: All servers of the internet retailer of my confidence broke down and then I had to change my delivery address. The overloaded server didn't like that at all. In the end I finally obtained two examples of Windows 7 Home Premium anyway.
I'm now finally holding them in my hands because they were naturally sent to the wrong address and am contemplating about what I'm going to do with them. Two weeks ago, my loyal Toshiba Dual Core notebook passed away with the depressing diagnose: mainboard failure. Currently, I'm working on an old Thinkpad on which there still is a "1" in front of the computing capacity's decimal point, the processor is still called Pentium and the RAM capacity is measured in megabytes. This actually coaxed me into making a daring experiment: What would happen if I were to install Windows 7 on this computer that ran fairly trouble-free with Windows XP?
Will my text editor still work or will I have to face the installation for days-on-end and unaided? Will the Vista horror be repeated? And if it does work, how will the performance be in comparison to "good old XP"? I've honestly got quite high expectations on Window 7 and it's said that it would even work on netbooks in a trimmed version. Well, we'll see. In the next episode of my column, I'll dive into the adventure and install Windows 7 on my Thinkpad T41. I hope that it will develop to a long and rewarding relationship.