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Posts Tagged: Windows 7

Smooth Operator

Saturday 17th January 2009

I am currently temporarily unemployed (technically), so I’ve had a lot of time on my hands. Lately, I’ve spent some of that time fiddling with both my computers.

Firstly, the Windows 7 beta was released last week, so I decided to install it on my Desktop machine. To be honest, it’s very similar to Vista, so theres very little to write home about. Except to say that it’s the first version of Windows I’ve ever installed that has configured both monitors right from installation. It still doesn’t let you choose different wallpapers for each screen or give each screen its own taskbar, but it’s a start. Speaking of taskbars, I like the new one. It’s fairly minimalistic, but it works really well. It bunches each application’s windows together, and you hover over the icon to see the different windows. And if you use IE, you can hover over the icon to see all the different tabs you have open. It’s kinda hard to explain without screenshots (which I can’t take, cos I’m on the other pc). Also, networking seems to be much improved over Vista, which is good (although I’m having a fairly weird problem at the moment where it sometimes refuses to see my network connection). However, it’s still fairly tempramental; I ran quite a few beta versions of XP (or “Whistler”, as it was called then) and it was always rock solid. That said, I also ran one of the Vista betas for a while (“Longhorn”), and I seem to remember that it was fairly dire (although that may have been before they restarted the development programme, so…).

Talking of Vista, it’s had a hell of a lot of bad press since launch. I’ve been running it for a while now, and I think it’s rather good. It’s always been completely stable and ran really well on my system. The only reason for everyone disliking it was the poor driver support at launch, but Microsoft can hardly force hardware vendors to write new drivers. I was reading a thread on a tech forum about the new Windows beta, and there were loads of people saying that they hated Vista but love Windows 7. Really, there’s very little difference between the two…

Anyhow, that’s the less interesting fiddling that I’ve been doing (and lets completely sidestep the possible innuendo there…). I mentioned a while ago about buying an Acer Aspire One netbook, and said that the only weak point was the software. Well, ages ago I read about a new flavour of Ubuntu which was being tailored especially for netbooks, and thought it looked kinda cool. A version was released not long ago, so I decided to install it.

Ubuntu Netbook Remix - Desktop

That’s the UNR desktop, and it’s really a joy to use. The top-left shows all the currently-running programs (so in this case, just Firefox), the top-right is the system tray (or whatever it’s called in Linux), the middle bit (which says “Home” in the screenshot) shows the titlebar of the software that’s in focus. It’s as good an interface as that supplied with the Eee, but much better looking in my opinion. It all sits on a kernel that’s been specifically optimised for netbooks like my Acer that run on one of Intel’s Atom processors, so everything runs really smoothly (well, it does now I’ve tweaked it for the Acer’s solid-state storage). Out of the box, pretty much everything works; I’ve done a few tweaks to get it working how I want it to work, but other than that it was fine. Certainly it needed less work than the Linpus distribution that the computer came with. The only snag at the moment is that I can’t mount network shares by NetBIOS name, I have to do it by IP address. Which is actually only a snag because I want to run Amarok for my music and it needs my shares mounted to the filesystem; the filemanager goes to smb://mydesktop/myshare with no problems, but Amarok can’t for some reason… I had the same problem with Linpus and I can’t remember how I solved it, which is irritating.

All in all, I’m fairly convinced that this is the best OS out there at the moment for devices like this. It’s astoundingly good. I really appreciate it when developers set out to make a UI which works really well; one which is immediately intuitive but also pretty powerful. The technology we have today is amazingly clever and can be amazingly complicated, but I don’t think that using it necessarily has to be the same.

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