Changes to Windows 7 in Release Candidate


This MS blog contains a great look at the numerous improvements that Microsoft have made to Windows 7, all based on beta testers feedback. Some of these changes include:

1. Windows Flip (ALT + TAB) with Aero Peek

8. Jump List length

21. Improved playback support for video content from digital camcorders and cameras

Steven Sinofsky says that they have fixes for nearly 2000 reported bugs/glitches in the pipeline. He also gives his definition of a bug which is “any time the software does something that someone one wasn’t expecting it to do” and “a cosmetic issue, a consistency issue, a crash, a hang, a failure to succeed, a confusing user experience, a compatibility issue, a missing feature, or any one of dozens of different ways that the software can behave in a way that isn’t expected”.

Steven’s whole post can be found here.

These are all improvements that help make it an even more enjoyable experience to use Windows 7-well done team!

Go and check out the list and see how what might well be MS’s best OS has got even better :-)

No more betas for Windows 7


Steven Sinofsky has confirmed that the beta we are all using and loving is the only one we’ll get. The next step will be the Release Candidate (RC) which will have a complete feature set and be very close to the final version.

His statement included:

We will continue to listen to feedback and telemetry with the focus on addressing only the most critical issues that arise. We will be very clear in communicating any changes that have a visible impact on the product. This release allows the whole ecosystem to reach a known state together and make sure that we are all ready together for the Release to Manufacturing. Once we get to RC, the whole ecosystem is in “dress rehearsal” mode for the next steps.”

MS are still stating Jan 2010 as the release date as this fits 3 years after Vista, but I along with many others, think that Q3 this year is more likely.

Windows 7 Sleep Mode


The guys over @ Gizmodo have found an issue with Windows 7 beta going into sleep…it doesn’t like waking up again (note to self: Ask MS if Windows 7 is a student…)…

From the Giz article:

“I came home last night, I thought my previously healthy Windows 7 machine was dead. It was making a horrendous squeal and refused to reboot multiple times. Turns out it was asleep.”

Only after countless reboots, pulling the plug, booting and re-booting again did it come back to life-a worrying time I’m sure!

Things like this are to be expected in a beta and I’m sure Redmond will get it fixed before Windows 7 is released in it’s full glory, but it’s good to be aware of these things so people don’t freak out :-) I’ll echo Gizmodo and say it’s probably a good idea to disable sleep/hibernate/power save just in case…

Original article is here.

My impressions of Windows 7


I’ve now got the Windows 7 beta installed on my desktop PC at home and so far, everything seems fine!

It took me a while to choose between installing it in a Virtual Machine, dual booting with Vista or just putting it on top-and eventually I decided to go with the latter. I did try and do an upgrade but Windows 7 refused to “upgrade a staged build to a non-staged build” so I went with the full (custom) install. I assume this is to protect people from accidentally installing an unstable OS on their machines?

I have to say it took quite a long time to get through the installation process. After about 1 hour, I went to bed and picked it up in the morning. When I returned, I had to select my country of use (with keyboard layout etc), set a machine name and choose a password etc and bing-install done; the almost zero-touch approach to the install was greatly appreciated :-) Once I was in, my first concern was internet connectivity and sure enough-there were “no wireless connections available”.

A few of the people at work who I’d spoken to were pretty sure that drivers would be my downfall with this installation and I was worried that this would be where it all fell over. However, the problem was solved nice and easily- I simply downloaded the newest Vista drivers from the Netgear site, ran the installer, rebooted the machine and I was online :-)

I haven’t had much of a chance to play around with it yet (hopefully that will change tonight) but so far the only issue I’ve noticed is a somewhat regular “Assertion Error” in Windows Explorer. Doesn’t seem to be much to worry about though-I just “Ignore Once” and it seems to be ok.

As I get a chance to use Windows 7 more, I’ll keep updating this post with any great new finds, problems, quirks and probably some screen shots too!

*Update 1* So far it’s definitely IE 8 that is the shakiest part of the beta, it’s having a lot of “assertion errors” and now it’s just crashed out and is sending what appears to be a BIG chunk of info back to MS.

 However my big issue is with the patch to fix the MP3 deleting issue-I just can’t install it! If I try to run it, Windows tells me it’s “not applicable to my computer” and stops the installation so the big question is “where does this leave me”? Was it built in to the build I downloaded or perhaps Windows has downloaded the patch itself and just isn’t lisiting it? If either of those are the case then it’s happy days and I’m good to go…but if that isn’t the case, I stand to kacker a load of MP3′s :-( I’ve got them backed up but still it’s a hassle and I worry that some got missed from the backup too.

Well I’ve just started importing all the music into WMP 12 so we’ll see what happens re: the MP3′s. I’m sure they’re all backed up and the vast majority of my music is .wma anyway so (fingers crossed) it’ll be ok.

*Update 2* It seems that everything’s ok with my mp3′s so I can only assume that the MP3 patch is pre-loaded in the build I downloaded…it’d be nice to have some confirmation from Windows though!

The best thing so far is that all my M4a files are in WMP 12 and playing fine-that certainly makes things easier :-)

IE8 is still being buggy-crashing out when it tries to block access to potentially dodgy sites which is doubly annoying. I’ve also noticed that maximizing a window shows a fetching BRIGHT pink background…who chose that Microsoft?!

*Update 3* I’m getting “assertion errors” from most parts of Windows 7-Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer are the biggest offenders, but Windows Media Player is trying to join in as well; although it seems that the WMP errors were triggered by my selecting a new wallpaper to be scheduled. They didn’t cause WMP to crash out or anything-it simply paused playback until I acted on the prompt (ignore once, always or never) and then the track picked up where it left off, so no biggy.

I don’t want to only pick out the buggy parts as these are to be expected in a beta so over to the good bits :-)

Scheduling the changing of wallpapers is a brilliant addition although I know a lot of people don’t see the point of it. I’ve got a crazy amount if images on my machine-family photos, downloaded wallpapers of various kinds etc and I like to have one of them as my desktop wallpaper, but I do tend to get bored after a while. That then involves trawling through all the images and choosing a new one, which can be a surprisingly time consuming task-so having Windows do it for me is great.

Another small but excellent addition is the ability to re-arrange running programmes on the taskbar. I like to have my applications open in a certain order but every now and then one will crash out and I have to re-open it at the end of the taskbar. That really throws me and I’m sure I waste a fair bit of time just trying to find the right app on the taskbar, but not anymore! This is the feature that consistenly peaks peoples interest during conversations and I’m definitely a big fan of it.

Libraries:

Libraries looked like an interesting feature from what I’d seen PDC’ers sayng and they sure are great :-) Libraries help bring together files of the same type, even if they’re in disparate locations. I’m a terrible On-PC filer (as my co-workers can attest) as I’m always creating new folders to save things to and then filling those full of sub-folders and so on; plus when I “tidy up” I tend to just dump all those files into another newly created file…so this makes things a lot easier for me & anyone who needs to find something on my machine when I’m not around!

My Music library brings together all the “iTunes”, “Newly ripped (Nov 07), “Newly purchased May 08″ etc folders into one central location so I can see all the media of that type in one place. I say “one type” but it has collected MP3′s, WMA’s and M4A’s without an issue…and has done the same for the 1000′s of pictures too, all in the Pictures library.

It’s things like this that really show that MS thought about who will be using this OS and how they will be using it. They make using Windows a more enjoyable, intuitive and fun experience, which I believe, is what it’s all about.

*Update 4* A couple of things here. I’ve just discovered that the Desktop Gadgets aren’t being particularly friendly, it refused to let me have the Calendar gadget while the clock worked fine which annoyed me a bit. I then turned off the Clock gadget and went back to a clear, uncluttered desktop and jumped back into Windows Media Player (WMP). I’d been singing the praises of WMP12 earlier for it’s speed and smooth functionality but now it seemed sluggish and worse than WMP 11-which sucked. It was stupidly slow at refreshing album art when changing views and would often hang when scrolling through the library-in my eyes 2 of the 3 basics it needs to be good at (the 3rd being playing the music). At this point I brought up Task Manager (Ctrl+Shift+Esc) to see if I could see any reason for this and lo and behold I could…Sidebar.exe (from the Desktop Gadgets) was taking up 80% (yes eighty percent) of my CPU, even after I’d disabled the gadgets!!! I ended the Process Tree and straight away WMP was back to it’s new, snappy self-whoo hoo :-)

So this is a cautionary tale about the Gadgets and also a round about way of say “WMP 12 rocks!”…is anyone else having probs with the sidebar?

Anti-Virus:

This is an important topic as no-one wants to get their machine full of viruses and malware-but what works with a beta OS? Well, Microsoft have got a list of approved partners here and includes Symantec, Kaspersky and AVG so I decided to go with AVG V8. Admittedly that too is a beta (as are the other products) but the next time I went to open IE8…BLUE SCREEN…Noooooooooooo! I tried a few times but always got a wonderful BSOD so I had no choice but to un-install it which amusingly also made it blue screen :-) Since I took AVG off everything seems to be working again so that certainly seems to be the cause.

This leaves me with something of a dilemma. Do I try the other vendors and risk going through this rigmarole again or do I just leave it at risk catching something from the internet? What would you do?

*Update 5* I’ve just spotted that when you right click the Recycle Bin icon, there is no longer the option to “delete”; this is another example of Microsoft making a small change that makes things easier for everyone. I know quite a few people who’ve deleted the icon instead of emptying the bin; then there’s usually a panic and not everyone knows how to get the icon back; now there’s no more worries about it :-)

After the Microsoft Keynote @ CES


I have to say that the CES Keynote delivered by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was a bit of a let down in my opinion. I was expecting some major announcements about Windows Mobile, Zune and perhaps Xbox as well as the obvious Windows 7 beta release info…but other that Win 7 we got none of that :-(

The Windows 7 private beta was downloadable from today (from the MSDN/Technet sites if you have access) and the public beta will be available from Friday 09/01/09, just as expected. The public beta will be found here and will be a 2.7GB ISO file :-) This is a big announcement as it was such an open secret, it doesn’t really have any surprise/shock value…more just a sense of “finally”!…

Other than that, they announced Songsmith, a project that has come through from Microsoft Research which “generates musical accompaniment to match a singer’s voice. Just choose a musical style, sing into your PC’s microphone, and Songsmith will create backing music for you; and some Xbox/Netflix related news.

Other things were confirmed such as the deals with Dell & Verizon around Live Search, but nothing particularly earth shattering…or was there?!

However, one thing that does looks very interesting and could, if developed and marketed right, become quite a big part of peoples lives is Microsoft Tag. This is Redmond’s foray into the world of social 2d tagging to “tranform physical media (print advertising, billboards,product packages, information signs, in-store merchandising, or even video images)—into live links for accessing information and entertainment online.”

You download a small app for your mobile device and then you can start accessing these tags by photographing them with the camera on your device. There are some great examples of when this would be used on the Tag site such as allowing tracking analytics of ads in print media or using the tags on film posters to create a viral buzz as well as cinemas offering showing times etc.

The technology these tags is brand new, built from the ground up by the ever more famous MS Research Labs to best utilise the oftem limited camera tech on phones. The High Capacity Color Barcodes (HCCBs) as they are known “employs different symbol shapes in geometric patterns and multiple colors to provide more information in less space”. An example:

tag1

The Microsoft Tag mobile tagging system offers many advances and advantages:

  • Designed from the beginning to work with the limited capabilities of a typical camera phone.
  • Much smaller than other formats. Typical packaging application starts at 5/8 x 5/8”.
  • Optimized for both print and video display.
  • Enhanced Reed-Solomon error correction means Tags can still be read even if partially damaged.
  • On many phones can decode using a direct real-time camera video stream, you don’t even have to “click” to read the code.
  • Handles long URLs and allows for content to be dynamically changed.
  • Tags are saved for later viewing and can be forwarded to someone else (no need to scan it again).

I’ve just downloaded the mobile app as a .CAB file from the Tag site here, and it works really well. There’s a tag on the screen that you can “snap” and it takes you straight through to another MS site relating to Tag; I will say that you need to put your phone quite close to the screen for it to work-just so you know :-)

More Windows 7 Beta Availability News


Mary Jo Foley over at ZDNetsays that Steve Ballmer is expected to announce the official availability of the closed Windows 7 beta during his CES KEynote speech on Wednesday January 7th, along with Windows Server 2008 R2.

However, she also states that her sources are indicating that the Public beta will be announced at the same time, with the Server beta being available on 08/01/09 and Windows 7 public beta downloadable from 09/01/09!

This is excellent news-I really can’t wait to get my hands on the official, non-torrented Win7 beta and get my test on-whoo hoo!!!

Windows 7 Beta Leaked


A newer, seemingly more reliable version of the Windows 7 beta has been leaked to the internet and is apparently available via BitTorrent. This is version 7000 rather than 6801 so should be more stable.

I haven’t downloaded this, or any previous betas of Windows 7 as I’ve got such high hopes for this new OS, I don’t want to ruin the experience in any way. However a lot of people are running the betas and they only seem to have good things to say…as soon as the official beta is released, I’ll be one of them too :-)

win7-beta-sdljlq

Original article can be found over @ Engadget.

Windows 7 Beta Release Date


It seems that Microsoft are pointing us towards a January 2009 release date for the Windows 7 beta, rather than December 2008 as originally thought.

**Update-it seems we have dates for when the beta will be available here.

According to the Register, MS have updated their sites to show that event attendees won’t receive a physical copy of the  beta in their hands until an event on 13/01/09. If you’re at an event before then, you will get teh beta DVD mailed to you later.

Despite this, ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley thinks we could be on for a December 17th release..who will be proved right? I’m very excited about getting my hands on a proper beta of Windows 7 so the sooner the better I say!

**Update** Yesterday (16/12/08) Microsoft sent invitations to select “beta tech testers” giving them early access to Windows 7 Beta 1. The note from MS contained the line “While (the Windows 7) beta will not be available until early 2009…” so a general release date in January is nearly confirmed.