Windows 7 First Thoughts

Like millions of others, I downloaded Windows 7 not on the first day it became available, but on the second day, because the huge demand brought down MSFT's servers and it was pulled early the first day.

I tried Vista soon after it was released. The three-click process of deleting a file from the start menu: first warning me of an attempt to delete a file, then asking for authorization to delete the file, then asking if I would like to delete the file, got me to turn off User Access Control. I like to organize the start menu for fast access and move or delete a hundred files, a 15 minute job that UAC turns into 45 minutes. At the time was no mechanism to kill the popup warning me that User Access Control had been disabled. That did it for me; after four hours of Vista I went back to XP and never tried it again. Vista was slow, a huge resource hog, and for what? Glitzy graphics I turn off on XP. I tried it on my most brawny computer, but I tend to use "thin and light" hardware most of the time, and I buy low-end video cards (spending the money on RAM instead), so Vista wouldn't even run on my favorite PCs.

So why W7? It is getting good reviews, about things I care about: speed and usability. And I agree, it is excellent.

MSFT has definitely improved a lot of things over XP.

In it's mania to be helpful, a couple of things have gotten worse.

A new feature of W7 are "libraries," which are virtual folders, e.g. a library of music is a set of music files, no matter what folders they reside in. I haven't found a use for this feature but it doesn't get in the way, either.

I have W7 running on three very different machines: A Lenovo X60t Thinkpad tablet, an IBM X31 Thinkpad laptop and a Fujitsu P1610 tablet. While both thinkpads have 2GB of RAM, the X31 is quite old technology. W7 runs just fine, and takes action to minimize glitzy graphics. Popups that are graphics on the X60 are text on the X31. This is very nice; clearly MSFT plans on people installing W7 on older hardware, which they did not do with Vista. W7 also ran quite well with just 1GB of RAM on the Fujitsu, including AERO effects, but I have since upgraded to 2GB. Installing w7 on the X60 doubled its speed, although probably by eliminating the Lenovo crapware that made the thing crawl. A fresh install of XP tablet might have done the same thing but they didn't provide a disk.

W7 did an excellent job identifying drivers for the hardware. With an XP SP3 install I still have to manually install a driver for ethernet or wireless to get Windows Update running, but W7 found both for the ancient X31. As a consequence I reached full functionality without installing any drivers myself, although of course I had to run Windows Update. On the other hand, the video driver isn't the right one and doesn't support sleep. I can't get the X31 video driver from Lenovo to install properly (it does under XP but not under W7 even if I run it in XP compatibility mode); so far I haven't managed to get the computer to sleep. Hibernation works without error and I am using that as the default action when I close the lid. This isn't perfect (slow to resume from hibernate) but to be fair, the people who install Linux on the X31 report the same problem.

MSFT is permitting activing three computers with the same activation key. I downloaded a couple extra keys just in case, since I have 11 computers running XP.

I despaired over Vista because at some point MSFT will quit supporting XP, which I've been quite happy with. I like my older hardware and I like using only one operating system. For the same reason that Southwest only uses one aircraft (pilots and mechanics trained on one aircraft, one set of spare parts, etc.) using one OS on my eleven computers minimizes my challenges in keeping it all running smoothly and problem-free. (See my XP guide.) MSFT tried to force users with several machine types to operate two distinct OS's (Vista for high end, XP for low end) but it appears W7 will even run on my weakest machine, at least with a RAM upgrade. (W7 barely runs with 768MB of RAM; looks like 1GB minimum is right. Better with 2GB, especially for machines lacking a separate video card.)

I initially put w7 on three computers. The two laptops work great; it is especially nice on the Lenovo Thinkpad X60t, but pretty nice on the Thinkpad X31 too. I also put it on my brawnest machine (3.5GHz, 4GB RAM, etc.). I had to put a new video card in to get it to work well at all (I had a cheap video card because this was an office machine) and it had driver problems with the card. It wouldn't run aero even with a pretty decent (512MB AGP 8X) Nvidia 6200 card, although the driver that Windows Update installed wouldn't install. The XP driver on the disc would install with no reported errors but wouldn't run aero. Still, I like W7 for my laptops and I like it pretty much overall. Go MSFT! Now put that team on Windows Mobile...

Create a shortcut to Network Connections

To create a shortcut to Network Connections, navigate to C:\Windows\System32, and then right-click on ncpa.cpl and select "Create shortcut." You'll be told you can't create a shortcut here (then why'd you ask?) would you like one on the desktop instead? Agree, then navigate to the desktop and cut and past this shortcut wherever you like. Then right-click and rename to, say, "Network Connections". Then from that location (since you probably won't want it on the desktop) you can drag it over the start circle, where it will pin a copy to the start menu.

I also put my network connections shortcut in the start menu programs list. This was a little klugy compared to XP (you can't edit in the folder, but have to edit in the start menu list itself) but straightforward enough. (I'm not sure why editing the items in the start menu fails. The options are present -- e.g. rename folders -- but they "can't be completed because it is open in another program." This seems like a W7 glitch.)

Here is the fix to create a "clear the desktop" icon and pin it to the taskbar.

Here is the fix for installing Cisco VPN