Charles Engelke's Blog

January 25, 2009

Trying out Windows 7

Filed under: Notes,Uncategorized — Charles Engelke @ 3:32 pm

Last Tuesday I finally took the time to swap out hard drives on my laptop and install the new Windows 7 beta.  I was skeptical thanks to my Vista experiences (which I shared on this blog), but there was a lot of good buzz on this one.  I decided to go whole hog and install the 64 bit version to make it more challenging.

The buzz is right.  Windows 7 is much better than Vista was.  In fact, I’m having fewer problems with it in beta than I did with Vista after it had been out for a year.  It seems to be pretty much the same as Vista and the core, but Microsoft has paid a lot more attention to details this time, and it makes for a much better experience.

Windows 7 boots fast, and performs fast.  I don’t know if it would benchmark better than XP, but it in day to day use it’s been quicker for me than XP is.  The user interface changes are actual improvements, and enhance working with the PC.

The installation took well under half and hour, and went flawlessly.  Upon first boot, everything was working fine, but there were a couple of rough spots:

  • The eye candy (translucent title bars, et cetera) didn’t work
  • I couldn’t turn off the trackpad part of my ThinkPad TrackPoint
  • About four devices, including the fingerprint reader) showed problems in the device manager

Running Windows update solved most of the problems.  I downloaded a couple of drivers from Lenovo for the TrackPoint and fingerprint reader.  That fixed the TrackPoint, but not the fingerprint reader.  Then, about a day later, Windows popped up an alert telling me there was a problem with the fingerprint reader, and would I like to fix it?  I said yes, and it directed me to a site to download the right driver for it, and after that it worked fine.

So right now, everything is working, and working well.  The only operating system issue I’ve had has been the NVIDIA display driver locking up for a few seconds a couple of times.  Windows reports that it crashed and restarted, and after each restart, everything was fine.  I could actually live with that happening a few times a week if needed, but I’m sure NVIDIA will get it fixed long before general release of Windows 7.

Almost all the software I use installed and works fine, too.  No problems with:

Picasa 3 works fine, except that the screen saver doesn’t seem to actually trigger.  It says that it is set up to run, but Windows 7 doesn’t seem to know it exists.  Oracle web conferencing wouldn’t install automatically, but it did when I downloaded and ran the setup problem.  It seems to run okay now, though.

Windows actually suggested AVG as an antivirus solution, as well as Norton and Kaspersky.  Since I’ve been using AVG for a while, I first installed and used Kaspersky to make the test more challenging.  It worked, but it was often popping up alerts that an update was needed, and then when I manually ran an update, saying that it wasn’t needed.  It was too chatty and tried to do too many things (like being a network firewall, too), so I dumped it and went to AVG, which has been working well.  I guess.  I supposed I’d have to try to infect the PC with a virus to know for sure!

What didn’t work?  Just two programs: Google Chrome and Cisco VPN Client.  I really like Google Chrome, but the installer isn’t happy when it’s run.  I finally got it installed, but it won’t display any web pages.  There are suggestions online about ways to get it to run, but they involve telling it to operate in a less secure mode, so I’ll wait for an update from Google fixing the problem.

The lack of a VPN client is a much bigger problem for me.  I can’t really stay in Windows 7 without it (though I’ll use it for at least another week and live with the hassles that long).  Cisco apparently has no intent to ever support 64 bit windows clients.  Personally, I think Cisco does a lousy job supporting client systems, period, and would like to not use them.  NCP does have a compatible VPN client that runs under 64 bit Vista, but they warn it won’t work under Windows 7.  They have a Windows 7 version in beta, and I’ve requested a copy to test.  They’ve agreed, but I don’t have it yet.  I’m hopeful about it.

The way things have gone during my five day test (so far), I could see myself having this beta as my regular operating system while I wait for the real release.  If I can get a VPN client, and don’t run into major problems, I’ll probably do that.  Though I’m keeping my XP hard drive with me at all times, ready to swap back to it if I need to.


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