The first 22 days with Windows 7….

I got an email from a friend of mine who is a prof at Algonquin College – Richard Hagemeyer. I met him a while back on one of my visits to the college to talk to students and we became friends both online and in person. He’s one of those guys who’s been around the industry a long time and has a very diverse background with a very long memory. He’s kept a running tab of his experiences using the RTM code for Windows 7 on one of this machines. He sent me this email update documenting his thoughts on the install, issues and use of Windows 7 along with some of his observations. It makes for an interesting read. 

What about you? What are your experiences?

Oh – and Richard – I’ve got that Windows 7 Sticker for ya.

Come to think of it – if anyone catches up to me on my travels over the next while – ask me for one.



Do I want to wait?

Saturday, 2009.220
In 75 days Windows 7 will be launched. Do I want to wait?
Technet downloads at school were frustratingly slow this week and my Vista severed all network connections at least once in the middle of downloading. The school network sometimes does wonky things, so I will continue today from home.
I tried the regular Technet downloading mechanism, but Windows 7 RTM iso images were really too slow to be of use. I then noticed a small link on an announcement page for a secondary download site. This would be available during the expected heavy initial downloads of Windows 7 RTM. Perfect! I could now saturate my pipe (and do nothing else online)!
Sunday, 2009.221
Still timid and no firm plan. I burn a copy of 32 bit Ultimate and try it out on my Dad's old laptop. A smoother install, but the video card is still not recognized. I had previously tried putting on Vista and Windows 7 RC and both had issues with the video card. I was hoping that RTM would be better, and it was. Miscellaneous other small issues disappeared, but still no widescreen. Oh well, I guess this old laptop has Linux in its future.
Some app complained today and I had to reboot Vista; that's about a minute to shutdown and five (yes 5!) minutes to boot up and log in. I've seen Vista run very well on other’s machines, and for a long time now I've suspected it's a 64-bit issue. My only real complaint with MS has been the perception that they abandoned Vista and with 64-bit Vista they apparently went running in the other direction. Windows 7 will be better; right?
Well actually a few companies seem to have software like Star Trek movies, one good, one bad, repeat as required. Norton Utilities used to be this way and MS's OSes seem to be following the same pattern. DOS 1, good; DOS 2, no so much, and so on. Moving on to Windows, I again saw the good/bad pattern emerge throughout; Win 3, Win 95, Win 98, Win Me, XP, Vista. So, according to this very scientific method, Windows 7 will be a hit.
So, with no better feeling from "trying" Windows 7 on either a virtual machine or some old hardware, but still frustrated by 64-bit Vista, I decide to go for it!
No guts, no glory.
I burn a copy of 64-bit Ultimate and start preparing to upgrade. The first step is to free up some space by tossing the recovery partition, I burned a set of recovery DVDs so I don't worry too much. I really cramped my laptop's HD when I downloaded all the Win 7 ISOs (and a few other items from Technet), so I could really use the space. Next I turned off Diskeeper; Diskeeper is an excellent tool for keeping your HD defragmented and I recommend it.
I popped in the DVD and started the upgrade. After a bit, a page came up with a few software warnings. Now I didn't expect this because the Upgrade Advisor didn't indicate any issues. The warnings were about VMWare player, DigitalPersona and HP launch keys. It suggested that I uninstall these before I upgrade and that VMWare player would be okay to reinstall after the upgrade.
So I aborted the upgrade to investigate. Oddly enough VMWare player did not have any way to uninstall. I use VMWare workstation anyways and I only use the player if I am testing an image for students. VMWare workstation likely has to be reinstalled anyways, so I'll ignore this one.
DigitalPersona is the software used by my fingerprint reader. I know this is less secure than a password, but I like the convenience. I mostly use it to log on to Windows and only rarely for web pages and such, so I wonder whether or not uninstalling this will take away my ability to log in. The website isn't much help and suggests that software support for bundled versions is though the laptop manufacturer, in my case, HP. I also wonder whether uninstalling it will make it impossible to upgrade later. I ignore this too.
Finally the HP Quicklaunch keys. The only key I ever use is the speaker mute key. I tried to use the volume adjustment, but it always froze things under Vista. I ignore this and continue.
Once the upgrade in place starts, it takes a few hours. Once I am convinced it will not be prompting me, I leave it be. Nap time.
It worked! I log on with a fingerprint scan and it builds my desktop. Woohoo!
The first thing I notice is that it seems smoother and cleaner than the RC release. My video resolution has to be set and the power setting needed to be redone. Other than that, it looks clean.
After some initial playing around, I decide to test sleeping. Now under Vista, my laptop could never sleep. More accurately, it slept fine and woke up fine but networking wasn't. The fingerprint reader also dies upon waking. I called last year about this problem, but it couldn't be fixed. Now having a laptop that can't sleep is not a real laptop, it's really just a very light transportable.
So the machine goes to sleep. I wake it up, log in with my fingerprint... so far so good. The desktop appears... and the network works! Woot!
Monday, 2009.222
Well, I played all weekend, now I have to work. I have an exam to prepare today, time to put the machine back to work too. I do put off the exam long enough to write this, but real work awaits me.

Wednesday, 2009.224
The exam is written and now returned and no troubles from Windows 7, that’s a relief! I mean playing around with new technology is fun and all, but real deadlines don’t wait for issues to be resolved. I’m glad everything worked well.

Thursday, 2009.225
Exam’s over, now to mark. If Excel cooperates during marking as much as Word cooperated before, this should be a breeze.

I really like the user interface and the whole experience of Windows 7; very clean. It seems that more than a few UI types at Microsoft have been buying and using stuff from Apple, ‘cause it definitely moving in the right direction. Overall, the threading seems a bit better, less time waiting. But then again, I’ve only used two real apps. Time will tell.

Sunday, 2009.228
Did I mention that I’ve already downloaded a dozen or so updates so far? A few for Windows Defender (nice to know that team never sleeps!), a couple of security updates for Visual Studio (ditto on the kudos) and a couple of driver updates. There doesn’t seem to be much of a schedule, so I will infer from this that the folks at MS want to have a solid product by launch day and the individual teams have the freedom to release when ready. It’s kinda fun being in on the ground floor!

Wednesday, 2009.231
At school today; my plans are to see how well Windows 7 plays in the corporate/educational environment. I head to the lab first. I’m not doing much lab work, but my office is a mess! The first thing I notice is that the network connects fine and I can access my network share and print, this is good. However, when I try a wireless connection it chokes and gags, oops! I fiddle with a few things with no luck. I then delete the connection entirely and let it find the network and prompt me – success! I use SSH and VNC to connect to my servers and find no problems here either. Sweet!

Thursday, 2009.232
I configure Outlook to access the new Windows Exchange server at the college and it really chokes. Since I’m unsure whether it’s a Windows 7 or an Exchange issue, I leave it for now.

Saturday, 2009.234
I want to check out VPN access to work. I expect no trouble, but you never know... A few dialog boxes later, the Cisco VPN chokes and dies. This would suck if I can’t VPN to work! I guess I’ll try deleting and re-adding like I did with the wireless; later.

Sunday, 2009.235
More playing around today. The library thing is kind of neat, but takes a bit of getting used to. Hopefully, I’ll “lose” fewer files this way! Started noticing some issues, Acrobat reader seems to lock things up a bit while it’s reading. Firefox doesn’t seem nearly so leading edge anymore compared to IE 8 on Windows 8. I always had trouble with IE 8 on Vista, so this is an unexpected pleasure.

Friday, 2009.240
I’ve noticed that quite a few programs “lock up” while loading/doing IO. The Office 2007 programs are guilty and it is annoying! The threading seems to work better while the programs are running, but when a program is starting up or loading a file, it sometimes seems to take forever. In generally though, less CPU usage makes the machine quite a bit more responsive and I like that!

Sunday, 2009.242
Fifty-three days to go and I’m sold! Each passing week has more updates, more drivers. 64-bit does not seem to be an issue... at all... period. The UI and the whole user experience are happy times. Each problem seems to just require a little bit of thought and even less effort.

I guess I should mention that removing and reinstalling the Cisco VPN did work as I expected. I also had some networking issues with VMWare, but again, reinstalling got me going. I haven’t yet tried all the networking options, but I don’t anticipate major issues.

My mother now wants me to “evaluate” a copy on her computer. She’s a bit far away, but she dove right into Vista without much tech support (actually, practically none), so I might consider trying her desktop platform and evaluate Windows 7 on a desktop machine. She has a terrible video card and Vista won’t support the Aero features, but everything else should work fine. It’s kind of neat to have parents who are early adopters and they do provide me with valuable information about product usage and compatibility. Perhaps next visit...

Now all I need is a new sticker on my laptop to replace the “Windows Vista” sticker!

Richard Hagemeyer
Professor, Computer Studies
Algonquin College

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