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January 18, 2009

1

Seven days of Seven

After using Vista for the last few months, I was eager to test the new Windows 7 beta. It was released on Friday, but with typical Microsoft distribution – their servers were overloaded. I was able to obtain a copy from the MSDN distribution site on Sunday.

I wanted to leave myself with a comfortable weekend just in case I wanted to revert. I could have dual booted, but I want to force myself to make it work and see what doesn’t.

Test Platform

I need to make sure I have a working Windows machine for work and home, so I decided my ThinkPad T400 was a good candidate for this beta test. I have a working desktop at work and one at home just in case I need it in a pinch.

  • CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 2.53Ghz
  • Memory: 4GB PC5400 DDR
  • Hard drive: 200GB 7200RPM Hitachi (full disk encryption, hardware based)
  • ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3400 – 256MB
    • the secondary low power onboard Intel video adapter is disabled for this trial until drivers are released
  • 14.1” Widescreen LED backlit WXGA

Installation

Today is day 1 of actually using it. The installation went smooth and uneventful. The esthetics of the installer have been tweaked slightly but that’s just marketing. I was glad I didn’t have to change my SATA settings to “Compatible”, now the installer has AHCI drivers to allow me to leave the hard drive controller in its higher performing state.

I did notice the installer created a 200MB partition during installation. There’s about 33MB of data on this partition right now, but after further review, it appears this was for the EFI System Partition. Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) is the attempt at moving PCs away from using 16bit PC BIOS limitations.

Wireless, wired networking, and sound worked right out of the box. Intel gigabit Ethernet and an Atheros based 802.11b/g wireless card aren’t devices too far off the beaten path. Vista did require me to have these drivers available before installation as they weren’t built into the installer.

ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3400 video drivers were also included with installer, however they are labeled “prerelease WDDM 1.1” and Lenovo hasn’t made updates available yet. ATI has published beta versions of its Catalyst software which I’ll be installing shortly.

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Lenovo has already published a Windows 7 Beta drivers site for those of us willing to be subjects of Microsoft. As of today they have only posted the drivers for active hard drive protection system for 32 and 64 bit installations. If I had a choice, this would have been one of the first on my list for obvious reasons – thanks Lenovo.

imageFingerprint reader drivers were not available from Lenovo, but beta versions of the  drivers were available directly from the fingerprint manufacturers (Upek and AuthenTec x64 or 32bit) . After locating the correct drivers, Windows 7 now handles the biometric enrollment and authentication from within the OS without requiring additional software hooks and compatibility issues cropping up.

Gotchyas

I did have a few gotchyas though. Originally my laptop was using a biometric single sign-on. Which would unlock the computer, hard drive, and then log me in to Vista with my domain account. After installing Windows 7, the biometrics were still working to allow me into the computer, but would error out during the OS start. I disabled the computer password and hard drive password until I could start Windows and adjust the biometrics settings. After further review it appeared that this was actually expected behavior and disabling the hard drive and computer password is recommended when you install an OS.

The wireless light on the screen bezel isn’t lit up, even during use. This makes it a bit tricky to see which network I’m actually using now. The icons on the status bar do not flash with activity – so now I don’t have a good network traffic indicator. I’m sure a driver update from Lenovo will resurrect this LED, but I wish Windows 7 gave me the option (like the previous four versions of Windows) to have the network icons flash in response to traffic.

Two unknown devices are listed in the device mangler, but both are directly related to Intel AMT features that I don’t use, so I’m not worried about them.

Antivirus software is limited, although a few providers have stepped up with demos and beta versions for Windows 7 users to download.

iTunes is functional – barely. iPod sync is not functioning correctly and causes iTunes to behave very strangely.

I’ve had Internet Explorer lock up a few times – once requiring a hard power off to clear

Interesting observations:

When downloading in Internet Explorer, the taskbar button becomes the progress bar. Handy when the download is forced to the background and no task bar buttons contain text.

image

I won’t repeat what’s already published elsewhere, but here’s a good list of wizbang stuff Windows 7 is bringing to the table:

http://blogs.msdn.com/tims/archive/2009/01/12/the-bumper-list-of-windows-7-secrets.aspx

Another interesting feature that IE has began to display is to highlight the actual domain name and TLD. This will help users avoid falling for phishing scams that obfuscate the domain of a trusted site, for example… www.paypal.com, but the user is actually at www.paypal.com.trustedwebsite.au which is just a fake site setup to steal your identity…

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I hope more browser begin to provide this simple function.

So Far

So far, it’s been a good beta evaluation. It’s obvious 7 is based on Vista, even though Microsoft is slapping a new number on it, but they took a lot of shit feedback from Vista users and look like they’re making the operating system the foundation again – not the “we will do everything for you” software bloat.

Yes, having nifty features like photo editing and email are nice – but wholly unnecessary. People shall be allowed to use their own choices in software and not get in the way with what the corporation thinks is best. After all, this isn’t OS X we’re talking about.

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1 Comment
  1. Andrew A. Sailer
    Mar 21 2010

    Getting adequate Laptop memory is very important to effectively run all the many applications that need to be run. People do see the difference clearly when they upgrade from a 512 MB to a 1GB or perhaps 2GB RAM.

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