It has been a while since I wrote about Windows 7. This is mainly due to the fact that not many builds came out from Microsoft, and the one which did come (7022) was close to the Beta release of 7000 this January. 7022 was still a Beta release, so there wasn’t a lot of new features in there worth mentioning.
But alas, we are now moving into the RC (release candidate) portion of the development cycle. The RC won’t contain many changes either, at least not major ones — just a few tweaks and shrinking of the installation image (a.k.a. code cleaning as I call it).
In deed, now that I am on the topic of code cleaning, it is worth mentioning that the .wim (install.wim) file of Windows 7, which contains all of the installation files (programs, dlls, modules, etc), is now 2.32 GB in this build. In the Vista sp1 build, the file was 2.44 GB. So again, we are seeing a lot of “code cleaning”, which is excellent as it is needed with Vista.
Code cleaning it is. Windows 7 has a few minor (yet major) improvements in terms of reliability and performance. So let us delve into all of it.
I had a chance to install this build several times, as I screwed around with my partition tables and had to reinstall my laptop a few times. So how is the installation? There are a few things worth mentioning here.
You might (or might not) know that the product key entry in Windows 7 has been moved from the first phase of setup into the second, after the rebooting. I’m unsure if I have mentioned this in any previous reviews, but it is worth saying now — since that is a good thing.
Installation for the visually impaired:
It is a good thing for several reasons. One is that if you are blind or have low vision, you do not have to “fuss” around with sighted help, at least not if you already have the partitions of your HDD created and ready for installation. Tweak that. If you know that you will install Windows 7 on your first (and only) partition.
Because of the “no product key entry” change, you can (mostly) hit enter keys through setup and go forth with install after inserting your Windows 7 DVD.
- First screen of the DVD: choose language.
- second screen: keyboard layout.
- Third screen: choose option. Here, Install Windows is the first thing.
- Forth screen: custom or upgrade. Here I hit tab once to choose custom. (so, to recap, you would now have to hit enter 4 times after inserting your DVD, hit tab once, and hit enter again. The key is to listen to your hard-drive: after your DVD stops spinning the first time, it will do very little loading, after which point you will here nothing from it. Now hit enter (with few second pauses between each press) until you hear the Hard drive work for a fraction (and your DVD rev up). This is the point at which you can hit tab and the enter key).
This is where things become unclear for me, as you are presented with the license agreement. For me, hitting enter a few times, tab once, enter a few times again, and tab once with more enters began the installation. If you have soundcard support (which most PCs will in 7), the second phase of install proceeds as normal with Narrator.
Windows 7: The interface.
Windows 7’s interface hasn’t changed much, but for a few interesting factors:
New desktop pictures:
Included in Windows 7 are new Desktop pics. How nice! They are the following:
Chrysanthemum. Desert. Hydrangeas. Jellyfish. Koala. Lighthouse. Penguins. Tulips.
Nice combo eh?
New sample music:
The selection of Sample music in Windows 7 is quite frightening, compared to the wide variety of genres selected in the Vista release. These songs are Kalimba, which is some electronic Latin, Maid with the Flaxen Hair, a classical piece, and Sleep Away, in the Jazz genre. Impressive?
The only sample video (which is a national geographic one again) is called Wildlife.
Help content removed:
Some help content, such as the information in the What’s New section, is now gone. I assume this will return before the actually RC build of 7 ships, though.
Again, the informal help of Windows continues to dominate, which I actually am a big fan of. It allows the user to feel more “personal” with Windows, to the sense that the computer talks to you informally.
Startup of Windows 7 build 7048 is still slow, just as it was in 7000. I see no improvements in that area, so I hope that future builds will try and correct the startup lag.
New sound schemes:
Windows 7 includes 13 new sound schemes, though the default sounds haven’t morphed yet. Again, by the time the RC comes out, I expect us to have an entire new default scheme.
The new sound schemes are pretty lame. I heard that some have posted it up online for download, so if you googled “windows 7” new sound scheme, chances are that you will find it somewhere. The sounds in each scheme are pretty similar, in that they all try to “mimic” the original windows default sounds using various instruments. For example, the festival scheme uses many trumpets and generally has a festival theme to it, while the one called Afternoon is quieter and (in my opinion) quite lame.
The schemes are called Afternoon, Calligraphy, Characters, Cityscape, Delta, Festival, Garden, heritage, landscape, quirky, raga, Savanna, and Sonata, respectively.
Windows media player:
I now hear that Windows Media player received a nice redesign, which is more compact and attractive visually. This does not seem to effect my usage of the player, however.
Windows 7 in terms of accessibility:
My Beta benchmarks on 7’s accessibility hold true and firm. Well, almost. JAWS for Windows, which I reported as the “worst” in terms of functioning, actually works quite nicely now. You can activate the product (provided that you turn off User Account Control while doing so), and you can use most of the interface with relative ease. The only issue I see with JAWS and (other) screen readers is reading information in Control Panel applet. Although you can tab and shift tab between the links of various applet, usually you will find information above or below those links. A classic example of this is the system applet of Windows Vista, where you have a statement “This copy of Windows is genuine.” above the “learn more” link. Normally, tabbing through the window will only read a “learn more” link, and you are forced to wonder “learn more about… what?”
Mmost of this has been covered. Windows 7 has now become my every day OS, though the removal of the classic start menu still depresses me at times. It is as solid as XP was in 2001, and I am glad that Microsoft is cleaning up the code they don’t need — because in Vista they most certainly have made a big pile of mess. Expect 7 to sell well, work well, and perform well. The RC will ship sometime in April — until then, there are still a few more tweaks and updates to look forward to!