Friday, December 11, 2009

Hands on with Windows 7 - An Ubuntu User's Perspective

Microsoft released Windows 7 out into the wild for all of the personal computing world to experience some two months ago and now it is nigh impossible to walk into a computer store (excluding the Apple store obviously) with out being bombarded by ads for it. (There are also the rather strange Windows 7 ads, such as the "Windows 7 Whopper" in Japan or the recently reviled Family Guy Windows 7 Ads that got axed before being released). At any rate there is no doubting that this latest addition to the Windows line is going to quickly become a major player in the tech field.
In fact it already makes up for some 20% of gamers that use the Steam platform as of November 2009

At any rate I try to make it a point to play with any bit of new technology I can get my hands on so I figured Windows 7 should be no exception to this rule. I previously only had Ubuntu 9.04 installed on my laptop and I'd been meaning to upgrade it to the latest version for some time now, so I took the opportunity to set up a dual boot with Windows 7 Ultimate while I was at it.

The first thing I'd like to say about installation is that Windows 7 lost one of the features I really liked about Vista - that is there was only one install DVD and what type of install you obtained (home, business, ultimate, ect.) was determined by the activation key you entered. With Windows 7 they are back to a separate disc for each version, its not a big thing really but I thought it was worth mentioning. The actual installation process looks and feels a lot like of the Vista installation process (except it now has Windows 7 branding of course). It also takes the same God-awful amount of time to fully expand/install all the files it needs to get running from the disc. Around forty minutes and three restarts later I had my Windows 7 install up and running.

The first thing that pleasantly surprised me was the fact that I had a working wireless card from the clean install with my Intel wifi card. I was quickly able to hop onto my wireless network and grab the couple of updates that have been released for 7 in the past couple of months. As anyone who has installed Windows before knows the next stop on my setup route was downloading drivers. I went and obtained the most important one first - my video drivers (which apparently are a 140meg download for Windows? Guess I've gotten spoiled with them only being 22megs on Ubuntu). At any rate a few clicks around on my laptop's manufacture's website, a couple of downloads, and then a restart later (phew!) my system was all ready to be used!

Well not really. I now finally had the operating system installed, still need to get it loaded up with applications for it to be truly useful to me. Twenty minutes or so and another restart (thats five now) later I had AVG, OOO, Chrome, and Steam (among other things) all set to go and I was ready to use my shiny new operating system.

The first thing I noticed once I got my graphics drivers all setup is that Windows 7 truly is shiny. The aero effects present give the operating system a good feel and they ran quite smoothly on my modern hardware (while they do not quite compare just yet to Compiz it is a step in the right direction, to the average user eye candy is always a winner). The main thing users will notice right away about Windows 7 is the new task bar. It really is a great improvement, the way it allows the "pinning" of commonly used applications is wonderus along with how it sorts applications with multiple windows that are loaded.

My applications all loaded up with out much issue (had some trouble with a few of my Steam games at first - but that is really more of a Valve issue than a Windows 7 one). I was now all setup to do my web surfing and gaming under Windows 7 :)

Final Thoughts/Ubuntu Comparisons:
The main draw back/time consumer in setting up Windows verses Ubuntu has not changed any with the release of Windows 7. Drivers are still a must for pretty much any hardware you want to use and to make the operating system useful in the slightlest you need to install additional applications. Resource consumption wise 7 is still a hog by comparison at any given point I seem to be using around 1.3gigs of RAM at the very least and the base install plus my applications (not counting games) took up just over eighteen gigs of space (where is Ubuntu with the same applications runs around two and a half gigs)

All in all while Windows 7 did not "simplify my PC" any - it is a decently solid operating system. Will I be using it as my primary operating system anytime soon? Probably not, but I do plan to keep an installation on my system so I can both stay familiar with the GUI and for the occasional game I want to play that I cannot get working under Wine technology.

~Jeff Hoogland


  1. One thing that surprises me is how "demanding" we open source lovers are with FOSS applications and operating systems and how many flaws are forgiven with propietary operating systems. For instance, I've read a lot of criticism about Kickoff, the KDE 4 official menu: they say it's ugly, an usability disaster... Meanwhile, nobody seems to have anything bad to say or write about the mess that is the Vista/7 Start menu. That is what I would call a horrible menu -you can't even find the "My computer" icon easily!

    Of course, with KDE you have other options if you don't like Kickoff, like Lancelot or the traditional KDE3 menu. What can you do if you don't like a critical component of the Os like the menu or the file manager?

  2. I meant: What can you do if you don't like a critical component of the Os like the menu or the file manager IN WINDOWS?

  3. If you can't find the "My Computer" option on the Win7 menu then you need to get new glasses mate.

  4. i have to use win7 all day long as i need remote connections and that comes back to activeX and IE...booooooo boooooo

    as such I really cannot understand the criticisum of Kickoff, it works well and personally was a great way to get the family in to linux with out too much fight.

    win7 once you go to the "all programs" view is a nightmare, why cant windows group apps like linux does? media&sound, internet, office, utilities etc

    Win7 is an improvement, but it aint great.
    i have tried shells for example, but to be honest i just dont have the resources to run a few apps and extra look and feel stuff over the top of the base system.
    Also all the shells i have tried have been a headache to get working and in some cases dont. i appreciate that KDE for windows seems to have been dropped but there are tools out there to do it and well they just dont work.

    on my linux based machine.. i got XDE LXDE E17 Gnome KDE Openbox Fluxbox window managers to try and more importantly show other ppl who thing they might link a go and linux. i did it all myself without any issues and getting from 1 to the other is very simple.

    ..oo and Jeff i think its just "computer" now rather than "my computer" will of course change this to "our computer" with the next version of windows codename "ultimate lock-down (global domination)"

    R E S P E C T


  5. my word verification for the last post was

    " heduckf "

  6. It's much worse than that. Now there is no Start menu!