Windows 7 RTM

July 23rd, 2009

Windows 7 is now Released to Manufacturing.What does this mean? It means that computer manufacturers are starting to get copies Windows 7 that they can install on new machines to be sold some time later this year. In the meanwhile, regular users will have to wait till October to buy retail copies of Windows 7.

Some of you may have read my comparison of some of the new OSes including Windows 7 RC. However, this was not a real review of Win7. Hopefully, I should soon have Win7 installed somewhere, and I’ll give you a nice blow by blow account of this new OS. Stay tuned.

P.S. Sorry for the delay on the browser shootout. Coming soon.

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Windows Vista vs Windows 7 RC vs Ubuntu 9.04

July 9th, 2009

This post has been a long time coming. I installed Windows 7 RC the day after it was released, and Ubuntu the next day. Since I have an older laptop, I wanted to see how well it each would work.

My laptop is an IBM Thinkpad R52 - before the Lenovo buyout. It has an Intel Pentium M processor (1.7GHz), 1.25GB RAM and a 160GB hard disk. The disk is not the original disk, but is a Samsung ATA drive.

 Here in India, it is important to note that many of us eke out the most we can manage out of older hardware. I remember installing Windows 3.1 on a XT PC with 1MB RAM… aaah, those were the good old days! :)

But back to this comparison. The laptop originally came preloaded with Windows XP Professional. Unfortunately, it also came preloaded with a whole load of crap that IBM believed was essential to a good computing experience (NOT!). So, when I upgraded the RAM with an new 1GB chip, and I put in the new hard disk – I also decided to install Vista.

I am not one of those who does not like Vista. Yes, it sucks in a lot of ways, but in many ways it doesn’t. It is the natural progression of the Windows Product Line, with a few stupid ideas thrown in. Let me not really rant about those here. But oddly enough, it ran faster than XP (maybe because of the lack of IBM crapware).

There is an interesting aside to note here, though. On all my XP machines, I have noticed that after a few weeks/months of usage, it starts to slow down. And no matter how much you try to clean up the system, defrag, regclean and everything, it still never gets its sprightly edge back! Maybe it’s just me, but with Vista, after 8 months, I still am at the same speed I started out with – it’s not fast, but hey – it’s consistent.

So, now I decided to install a triple boot system (Vista, 7 and Ubuntu).

Installation

No points for guessing what happens here – Ubuntu wins hands-down! 36 min for the Ubuntu install. Unfortunately, the first disk I burned came out corrupt – even after the verify, so I had to burn a second disk. But, even if you include the total burning time, it still came to only 50 minutes (including the time to figure out the disk was corrupt).

Windows 7 RC came in a distant second – 1 hour 23 minutes and Vista came in nearly 10 minutes later at 1 hour and 31 minutes. And of course, this was not the end of the installation for either Windows OS. The drivers, the drivers… the drivers nearly drove me MAD! In fact, there is still some device on the Windows 7 system that it hasn’t yet figured out although I’ve thrown everything I had at it. But it finally works, so that’s bearable.

But the problems don’t end with installing the drivers. This laptop has an Intel 900 GMA chipset, so there is no WDDM display driver for Vista or W7RC. And there is never going to be one. And this bug I lay squarely at Microsoft’s door. If Ubuntu and even a hacked Mac OS X can run all their graphics properly on this chip, why did MS have to raise the bar so high? So, now I don’t have all the fancy whiz-bang stuff that both these OSes are supposedly famous for!

Boot Time

Again, Ubuntu wins the day. It takes just 27 seconds to get to the login screen while Vista takes just shy of two minutes and W7RC takes 2 min 39 sec to reach the point where I can enter my password. All of them, however, just take an additional 10 seconds to get to the main desktop.

The nicest part about Ubuntu was that it gave me a proper progress bar. I always knew how much of the boot process was complete, unlike with the Windows OSes. Why they can’t get this simple thing right is beyond me.

One thing I didn’t quite figure out with Ubuntu, though, was why it always turns on the Bluetooth on the laptop when booting up. I always have to manually turn it off. Hmm…

Shutdown

It still goes to Ubuntu, but not by such a large mark. Ubuntu – 10 sec, W7RC – 11 sec and Vista – 21 sec.

Battery Life

I did this by running a simple video in VLC with all the brightness at maximum and no shutting down/standing by of anything. Windows 7 wins this one – nearly 2 hours. Vista comes a respectable second with 1 hour 49 minutes. And Ubuntu comes in last with an hour and forty minutes.

Usage

This is the part where the OSes character changes. I have certain problems with Ubuntu which prevent me from choosing it (out of the box) as my primary OS. Firstly, the fonts suck. They are far too large. Secondly, Evolution (the Outlook equivalent) has too much space occupied by the chrome and less by the email/appointment/task that I am looking at. Thirdly, I don’t want to have to download a 500 MB of updates every three days. Can’t we just collate the updates? Fourthly, the Bluetooth thing – see above. And finally, the Thinkpad keys don’t work correctly.

Now, don’t get me wrong, all of these (except maybe the Evolution problem) can be fixed with a little tweaking – but not everyone can tweak the OS that easily. Even I had trouble with the keymapping. If all these could be fixed out of the box – Ubuntu would be the best OS on my laptop. Of course, I’d have to give up Photoshop (sorry, GIMP doesn’t really cut it yet) – but that would make it possible.

Windows 7 just doesn’t do it for me, I’m afraid. Mostly because all the nice things about W7RC require that I have a laptop with a WDDM driver. So I don’t get all the fancy mouseovers, the nice popup stuff and all that. And since I don’t get all of that, it doesn’t have enough to make it more worth my while than Vista. There are all sorts of nice ideas included in W7RC like the pinned menu and the fast shortcuts and the idea of doing away with the system tray, but a lot of the stuff needs to work on my system before I could enjoy it. It works on my desktop, and I like it there, but on this system – naah. (I like the new Solitaire though – finally cleaned up after 15 years!)

So, finally we come to Vista. Which is the system I use primarily and I like it. Yes, there are a lot of things to dislike about it – the stupid implementation of the UAC, the backward compatibility breakages (especially with stuff like VNC), the lack of the WDDM drivers. But overall, it works. It works fast on this system – faster than XP at least (and since I don’t have a standalone XP license, I cannot put XP on the system). I like the new explorer – it gives a lot of flexibility and overall it has enough eye candy (even on this system) to make it nice to look at.

But I keep switching between Ubuntu and Vista. Depending on my mood, I guess. However, W7RC is relegated to the outhouse for the moment. Although, I am planning a browser test next – IE8, FF3.5, Chrome, Safari and Opera. And I’m doing this test on W7RC! Stay tuned.

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