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(geek alert!) Winding up the windows

So, as I'm a student at the moment, I'm eligible for a student-price for Windows 7, so back in, oh, November I think it was, I filled out the online stuff and paid my £45 or so and took delivery of a Win7 Professional disk (definitely not a bad price... its £35 if you only opt for the download version, but I'd rather have a nice shiny frisbee!)

And thats as far as I got; I had assignments due, so I didn't want to wipe the laptop, even though its getting pretty flaky, then it was the Yule break and I got engrossed in a little programming project, plus I had my cousin's laptop to reinstall and revision to do for my exam. And since the exam, I've been trying to sort my (utterly screwed up) sleep pattern out so that I'm getting up at 7am not 7pm!

But reinstalling Jenny's Vista laptop meant I had to use Vista quite a lot (and since I had a Vista machine temporarily, I was also testing the little program on it... UAC and so-on... so I ended up using it rather more)... and I have to say, I think I've just about gotten used to it... well, except for two things:

  1. the Control Panels re-layout; that still utterly confuses me (but its not something that you have to use that often once the machine is set up in the first place, so its bearable)

  2. and the f***ing Programs list that doesn't cascade; this definitely seems to be the Vista/Win7 "Marmite" feature... some people love the all-in-a-little-box list coupled with the Search box, others (like me) loathe it...
    My main reason for this is that I have way too many things installed to remember what they're all called in order to use Search; even on this current (bodged) incomplete installation I have over 250 sub-folders in the Programs list; a clean and complete install probably has 300+... (admittedly, I'd normally have it broken up into categories to aid in finding things, but the Utilities "drawer" is still usually pretty damn huge).
    So yeah, I quite often end up knowing that I have something that can do what I want installed, and hunting through the Programs list... which is reasonably easy (if somewhat time consuming) when it cascades-on-hover, and an absolute nightmare when you have to click-to-open-click-to-close each sub-folder of the tree (nevermind that you also have to click-to-scroll). Its that simple.
    RANT: Its not as if cascading things is alien to the updated Start Menu; I'm pretty sure that other menus (Documents, for example) can be made to do it, but there doesn't seem to be an option anywhere (be it in the GUI or a hidden registry value thats leaked out of MS's secret knowledge store) that turns on this really useful functionality. It seems MS have outgrown their own GUI design principles from Windows 95... and therefore the whole point of the Start Menu design in the first place; "Discoverability;" in this instance, the ability for a user to discover what is installed on their computer... its one of the things that made the Win95 GUI so easy to use for new computer users.

Anyway, this new-found Vista-doesn't-really-piss-me-off-too-much-ness has spurred me into thinking about installing Windows 7... afterall, any really immense bugs should have been found and would be all over the press by now, and (despite MS's insistence otherwise) it really is just a point release (like Win98 was Windows 4.1 to Win95's Windows 4.0)... its got some reasonably heavy GUI modifications and so-on, but the underlying kernel is far less radically changed from WinV to Win7 than it was WinXP to WinV, so I'm reasonably happy to ignore the old-school 'never use a new Windows' advice and not to wait for Service Pack 1.

But I do still have a few qualms... most notably is trying to run Visual Studio 2005. To be honest, I'd rather not install VS2005 (its from before Vista was even released and it sounds like to get it working properly, you have to run it under a full admin account, rather than a standard user... and getting to standard user-ness is almost my whole reason for leaving XP behind in the first place), but there are other programs I use that require a 'full' edition of Visual Studio to be installed, rather than an Express Edition, because they integrate into it... this is true for Visual SVN and for the Intel Fortran Compiler (ok, I don't currently have a license for IFC (I used to, it expired) but they do cheap student licences) and I really can't afford to buy VS2008 or VS2010 (since its fairly imminent).

I'm gonna try and do a nice sensible installation with lots of images of the system taken as I go along (I have a whole new shiny 2Tb drive I can use for them!)... and with stuff installed in a reasonably sensible order too. I definitely want to have a core system image that contains just the software that requires activation (in an activated state, obviously) so that I hopefully can avoid having to activate again later and risk bumping into activation limits. After that, its a case of getting everything else installed without breaking things (thats what happened with the current XP install; the PATH get screwed up at some point, and there are various Explorer niggles that I come across occasionally, the most notable being that you can't open the CD/DVD drive from My Computer (either by double-clicking or right-click>Open) (bizarrely, this only affects the physical cd/dvd-writer D: - the virtual cd/dvd-rom drive V: works fine; I'm sure its a registry messup, but I can't figure out what it is or how to fix it)

So anyway, the plan is to stick the original hard drive back in the machine and do the initial installation experimentation on that. Once I'm done experimenting, I'll then install the new system on the original drive, that way I still have this XP installation available to use... Uni is now back, so (apart from anything else, like access to thunderbird for my multitudinous email accounts) I have to be able to continue (start...) to do my Uni work. When I'm finally finished installing stuff, I'll then image the new system, image the old XP system, nuke the XP system and restore the new system image to the newly-nuked drive!



( 2 Mobwebs — Spin A Cobweb )
2nd Feb, 2010 15:23 (UTC)
I looked into it earlier this year, since I too get a cheap copy through being university staff. Did you run the advisor program, to see whether it thinks your system is suitable? I can't recall how good that is at telling you what programs are going to struggle with win7, but it's got to be worth a try.

Being 64-bit I've been advised to get more memory, and it's not sure about my sound-card or graphics, which is a bit worrying, otherwise I'd have probably jumped by now.
2nd Feb, 2010 17:41 (UTC)
I thought you might; hence putting the prices in, in case you didn't know... its apparently open to anyone with an ac.uk email address... (i prolly forgot to mention that, didn't I...?) don't think I had to do anything except confirm my email address to be accepted.

The advisor is, well, its ok for hardware I think, and obviously the issues it raises for software are good to know... but it doesn't seem to be very knowledgeable on software; I have prolly over 300 pieces of software on here, it recognises fewer than 30 of them.

And its not just obscure things, like Nirsoft utilities (very useful some of those!), it doesn't mention Adobe Acrobat 8 Pro or even Adobe Reader 9 (ie, the current release), but it does mention the K-Lite Codec Pack, FrostWire and VMWare Workstation... which I would have thought were all more obscure! Even the online compatibility query thing ( http://www.microsoft.com/windows/compatibility/ ) isn't all *that* good; it doesn't seem to know about anything more than a couple of years old... atleast, nothing I've tried.

Wrt your machine, I'd say check the vendor for Win7 graphics drivers; thats the one I think is most worrying... apart from anything, I seem to remember there were some changes in the graphics subsystem that broke *some* Vista drivers. Having said that, it doesn't look *too* bad in "basic" graphics (iow, with glass/effects turned off; I ran Win7 Ultimate BETA in VMWare for a bit and it was bearable enough) it certainly doesn't stop you using it.

The audio, well, if it doesn't work, you can always pick up a USB or ExpressCard soundcard... Creative Labs do an ExpressCard one that I'd love to get if I could afford to... it has Wireless Audio capabilities (well, one half of the setup anyway; it needs a receiver too... Creative call the system X-Fi), which would just be *so* much nicer than a stupid cable from the laptop to the stereo (a stupid cable that is breaking up and flaky and sometimes only gives the left channel and that I keep accidentally half pulling out and buzzing myself to deaf!)

I'd agree with the "more ram for 64-bit" comment; apart from anything there's nothing to gain from using 64-bit with less than 4GiB (plus 64-bit has a bigger memory footprint) and, if memory serves, 64-bit Windows has slightly poorer performance compared to 32-bit on the same hardware! (but thats from memory from zdnet or some other tech-source, so its not necessarily right) Anyway, 4GiB should get rid of loads of swapping and redress that little performance hit.

( 2 Mobwebs — Spin A Cobweb )