Windows 7 Beta: Live

Tonight I'm installing Windows 7.  I just got it installed after only twenty minutes from the time the install program booted.  At a glance, there is lots of eye candy.  I really enjoyed that the startup animation is in true 32-bit graphics instead of 8.  I can see that it already has quite a bit of polish to it.  First disappointment?  I have a burned disc that contains (among other things) anti-virus software and for some weird reason, it detects it as a blank disc.  I'll go download some now, and will do live updates as the night goes on.

UPDATE 16 JAN 2009 22:09

I'm giving AVG a try since an article I had read stated that it had Windows 7 support.  We'll see how it goes with 29 seconds remaining.  I noticed that Windows 7 has already eaten 57% of my RAM.  Considering it doesn't know yet what programs I like to use, I'm not sure what exactly its prefetching for me...

UPDATE 16 JAN 2009 22:14

Looks like it installed without a hitch, now Windows isn't whining at me that I don't have an antivirus installed.  I'm going to now do some network copying.  One of the biggest problems that I have had with Vista was copying things too slowly across the network.  Before that though, I need to join my Win2k3 domain.  Catch ya back after the reboot and copy.

UPDATE 16 JAN 2009 22:24

Reboot is very quick!  It's pretty nice.  Joining to the domain was nothing out of the ordinary and copying a 2.5GB file (the ISO of Windows 7) seemed to take a typical amount of time (for XP, that is!).  One other gripe though, is they really need to get rid of the Vista startup sound.  Listening to R2D2's nonsensical chatter is more pleasant than the electronic toot-toot-toot-toot of the Vista startup sound.  No we're moving onto the clincher for how well this performs.  I'm downloading Steam right now and will download and play Team Fortress 2.  The deal breaker for me was a 10-15 fps drop when playing games on Vista.  This was unacceptable, so we'll see how Windows 7 fairs.

UPDATE 16 JAN 2009 22:33

While I'm reinstalling TF2, let's go over the new taskbar.  While I find the new taskbar to be interesting and full of eye candy goodness, I just don't find it to be that revolutionary as far as being a good interface.  Say I have two windows of Firefox open.  The two windows will be grouped under a single Firefox icon.  Now, I can hover the mouse and wait for it to bring up the mini-preview windows, or I can click on on the taskbar icon for it, then click on the preview of which one I want.  In previous versions of Windows, I could just click on the taskbar item that I wanted in a single click, while this one demands two.  This might seem a little picky to some, but a new interface ought to increase productivity, not drag it down.

Another annoyance that I found was when I went to the Control Panel.  Vista brought about the death-by-a-thousand-control-panel-items and made it somewhat difficult to find the item I wanted to configure.  It seems that they multiplied with this latest release, but to make it worse it wouldn't let me view the items as a list, instead of a vast sea of icons.  Poo poo.

UPDATE 16 JAN 2009 23:49

Well, with a long time still to go to finish downloading TF2, I likely won't be doing anything with that tonight.  However, I did notice that this beta is running the Internet Explorer 8 beta as well.  To say the least, I'm not impressed with it.  I noticed that I was unable to use my internal software database web interface because it appears to have some javascript problems.  I also noticed that it wouldn't let me scroll on the editing area of my blogging software, either.  It has some serious problems to overcome, so I have flat out just dismissed it all together, settling entirely on Firefox during my review of Windows 7.

UPDATE 17 JAN 2009 10:07

So, I've put it through its paces on TF2.  Verdict?  I'm not quite sure what to make of it.  I pretty much set it at the settings that I use on my XP setup, and it was reporting to me that it was running at ~110 fps.  That is quite phenomenal, but the 'smoothness' of it certainly did not feel that way.  It would seem to be quite jumpy for having such a high framerate.  I did try using the dual core hack, but that didn't seem to work, nor did limiting the fps to 60 and 75.  I did notice that my RAM was topped out and when doing the Windows performance test, I scored lowest on RAM, with a 4.5 score.  I'm wondering if a RAM upgrade is in order...

UPDATE 17 JAN 2009 13:16

After playing with settings for a little while, I began to notice that my slow down were occuring when my disk drive was being accessed.  I mentioned previously that my RAM was getting maxed out, so I wonder if Windows is constantly having to page things out, which would explain the constant disk thrashing while playing.  I found some cheap RAM at Best Buy, I think I'll be swinging by to get some RAM.

UPDATE 18 JAN 2009 19:17

So I swung by Best Buy yesterday and picked up an extra two GB of RAM.  I saw a marked decrease in disk thrashing and my RAM wasn't absolutely maxed out, like when I had 1 GB installed.  Performance seemed to increase in TF2, but never quite got up to what I was getting in XP.  I decided to install Vista Utlimate so that I could get a fair comparison.  I nearly nuked my BIOS while doing an update (Vista wouldn't even install with my new RAM), but I was able to recover and get it up and running.  Right now I'm downloading TF2 again.

I ran the Windows Experience test on Vista this time and noticed that I scored better in some areas with Windows 7, most notably in the CPU and memory section.  I'm not sure how to interpret that (except the evil conspiracy theorist in me), giving Microsoft the benefit of the doubt would mean that Windows 7 does better at using my hardware or has a more efficient architecture.  The conspiracy theorist in me says that they're just inflating the numbers...

Tonight or tomorrow I'll report my Vista experience and offer my conclusion on what I think of Windows 7 as it compares to both Windows Vista and XP.

Posted on Jan 16
Written by Wayne Hartman