Thursday, January 8, 2009

Using Windows 7 - Part 1

Ok, lets get right down to it.

Test sytem is a Dell laptop, an e1705, specs:

Intel C2D @ 2GHz, 2GB RAM, ATI Mobility Radeon x1400, 17" widescreen, 80GB Hitachi hard drive, etc - all the standard stuff, bluetooth, wifi.

The Windows 7 build is version 6.1.7000 64bit, this is Windows 7 beta 1. (See screen shots of a Windows 7 installation here) The installation went off without a hitch, I had some updates to install right when the desktop loaded, drivers for my video card and for my built-in card reader. No big deal right? Yeah OK - The radeon driver installed but my screen went blank, weird huh? I did a restart, the mouse showed up for a second and blank screen again. I collapsed the screen thinking maybe Windows 7 got the display outputs confused between the rear output DVI or VGA or built in laptop display, this worked, but upon restart the same thing! I'm going to try and update the driver now before we get started. Well, this is kind of a start, it's a real world example of what can happen with switching to Windows 7, let's hope an update from helps. This ended fast, as ATI's page says to get an updated driver and doesn't have a Vista 64 driver. Being as Vista & Windows 7 share the same driver structure, feel free to use all Vista drivers on Windows 7.

No big deal, time to keep chugging along, first thing is first - Windows 7 is telling me to get some virus protection, Avast! here I come. Alright, with Avast! installed and a reboot required I found something out about my ATI problem, I let it sit for a minute and a pop up came up in the system tray notifying me that the ATI driver has stopped responding but recovered. So, not a big deal, lets see how it behaves. Alright, Avast! is installed and already I'm shown a cool new Windows 7 feature, dynamic display options for the system tray. As you can see on the picture to the left, there is no an up arrow, getting rid of left arrow. Clicking on the customize button gives you a list of all applications that have put an icon in to the system tray, it lets you pick if you want the icons to always be there, or only show when a program has a notification. Nice space saving feature. Some programs will need updating as the system tray has more of a one click push button feel rather than the Vista/XP double click feel. While we're on the system tray, what is this cool button all the way on the right hand side next to the clock? Well, it's a desktop preview. I don't know what the point of this is really, I guess it's a different new way of hitting the show desktop button. When you have an application open on the screen, put the mouse pointer of the desktop preview button, it then hides all the applications and shows you the desktop, to get to the desktop click on the button and then you can move, otherwise moving the mouse cursor off of the button returns your last application to the screen. OK, so the system tray got a bit of an overhaul, easy enough to use and figure out off the bat. Now lets see what else is around. Time to check my facebook.

Well, Windows 7 beta 1 comes with Internet Explorer 8 beta 2 (My review of Internet Explorer 8 beta 2). It works easy enough off the bat, the Internet Explorer icon is directly to the right of the Start (well now Windows) button. That was interesting, this doesn't look like a quicklaunch toolbar, and right clicking on the taskbar proves this, there is no more quicklaunch toolbar. So what is this I just clicked on? A shortcut living in the taskbar? It looks to be so! So you can pretty much pin any icon you want to the taskbar, just like you would with the quicklaunch bar. But that's not all! This is kind of cool, it seems with Windows 7 and pinning programs to the taskbar you can get to some program options by right clicking on the program, different options if the program is running or not - this is useful! Right clicking on the IE icon gives me a list of recently visited web sites. This is intuitive and a nice improvement to desktop real estate that has basically stayed the same forever. Another nice feature, if I hover over a running program's icon that is pinned to the taskbar, it shows me a preview of it's running windows. Here you can see I have two Internet Explorer 8 windows open, I hovered the mouse pointer over the IE icon that is pinned, and I get this pop up, when I mouse over either window, it's displayed on the desktop. Also as the pop up is displayed and I hover over each one a red close button pops up, this comes in handy if you're doing research, or openned a lot of windows and want to close them all without closing something you still need. This is a different way of grouping simliar programs together ala Windows Vista/XP. Though you can edit the taskbar properties to show the program names for that familiar feeling.
Alright, lets install AIM on Windows 7 and see how this goes. Well, not so bad, I went to - went to download, got the usual security warning, UAC asked me if I wanted to continue and voila AIM is installed. Though, since there is no Quicklaunch toolbar anymore, AIM isn't automatically pinned to the taskbar. Not so bad, this was like installing AIM in any other version of Windows with one extra UAC (user account control) pop up - no big deal. Sure, people may think UAC is annoying but imagine downloading a file you're not sure of, you hit OK to install and all the sudden you get 5 UAC pop ups asking if you want to install virus after virus - You can just hit No and your PC will thank you!
So I was going through my AIM settings ant noticed my desktop icons were kind of big. To change your icon size in Windows Vista or Windows 7 it's pretty easy. Press down the left Ctrl button and use the scroll wheel on your mouse to increase or decrease the icon size.

I'll end part 1 here, part 2 will cover getting around the control panel in Windows 7 .

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