Tag: operating system

Windows 7 promises to be a vast improvement over Vista. While this is most definitely a Mac-focused blog, I think it’s a good idea to compare all the next generation operating systems together — the other two being Snow Leopard and Ubuntu 9.04.

Having installed the RC build 7100 and using it on and off for the last few weeks, I must say that I actually like this software. Despite a few annoyances here and there, overall Windows 7 is a big step up from Vista, and even XP. Let’s take a closer look.

Installation

Right away, I was impressed with the changes to the installation process. Nearly all irrelevant options are hidden, and the important ones are out in plain site. Formatting my Boot Camp partition was as easy as clicking “Format” and waiting less than 10 seconds. After entering the RC serial number, all files were copied, settings updated and the computer reboot into Windows. From start to finish the process took 50 minutes, but that doesn’t include the extra finagling I had to do to get the setup disk to work properly with Boot Camp.

Interface

There are a multitude of changes in the interface, and most of them are for the better. The taskbar has now been called the smartbar and it gets its name from only displaying application icons, and the way applications can be “bolted” to the bar. Personally, I find this an excellent way of managing open applications, and the fact that a simple mouseover displays the entire window means a quick look is possible to make sure you have the right application.

One tiny thing that has bothered me since starting with the RC Beta is that scrolling does not automatically select the window beneath the cursor. On Mac OS X, scrolling is done in the application that the cursor is presently over, regardless if it is active or not. While it sounds like I’m splitting hairs, it becomes a major nuisance when switching back and forth between applications.

My MacBook, with its GMA950 graphics chip, returned a Windows Experience Index score of 3.2, with the lowest score being the graphics system. Despite this, Windows 7 is very snappy, and the Aero interface displayed without trouble. Some machines that were unable to take full advantage of the Vista interface eye candy might be able to do so now.

Application updates

Windows 7 also sees some nice enhancements to core software functionality and application updates. A big component of Windows Media Player is the ability to stream to other devices on the network using the UPnP server. While I didn’t really test this feature, I was happy to see a UPnP viewer included in the application. This meant I could listen to/watch any media that was stored on my file server. Unfortunately, this feature didn’t work completely correctly, as files were duplicated in the library for some reason, but the actual release version may work better.


One of the biggest surprises I found was the new take on wallpaper in Windows 7. As shown in the above picture, some of the choices are very trippy. That psychedelic turtle has found a place on my wallpaper, mostly because it is so unlike any of Microsoft’s previous wallpapers.

Many other applications have seen updates as well. Paint has more features seen in a standard image-manipulation program, Screen Capture is more versatile, network tools are more powerful and the control panel organizes things more clearly, to name a few.

This only really begins to scratch the surface of this massive upgrade, but from what I’ve been able to see/use on the last few months, I’d say Microsoft has done a good job listening to user complaints and acting on them. Of course, it will never fully replace the OS X installation on my MacBook, but I no longer dread booting into the alternate reality.

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The time has come for a new Macintosh operating system. Mac OS X 10.6, or Snow Leopard as the cool kids call it, will arrive in stores this coming Friday and bring a host of new features with it. The name of the OS differs very little from 10.5, which was just Leopard, and that is exactly what Apple wants to convey.

OS X 10.0 was by most accounts, a good start, but far from perfect. Through 5 other iterations, the software has grown from novelty to mainstream, with advanced features added with each new release. Snow Leopard takes a slightly different approach in that it forgoes the usual list of blockbuster features and instead improves the existing codebase significantly. This new version will be faster, lighter (on hardware) and will offer new ways for developers to take advantage of the latest hardware.

The big new features of Snow Leopard involve the graphics card and CPU. With the advances in technology of these two components, programmers can take advantage of the new power by using Grand Central Dispatch and OpenCL. Grand Central Dispatch is a suite of tools available to developers to use every core in the multi core systems Apple sells today. OpenCL does something similar with the graphics cards. When these tools are included in new software, they will be much more powerful than today’s applications.

Buying opinions

The most important new feature of Snow Leopard is the cost. At just $29USD, it is priced like an upgrade, and even in Canadian funds it works out to much less than other software ($35). Based on this price point, and the new features that will be available, I will be purchasing a copy soon after it is released on Friday. I may even spring for the family pack, which comes with 5 licenses for only $59 CAN.

For the benefits to users, and the price point of $30, this will be a very popular upgrade, and is highly recommended for users of Leopard, and especially those with older machines. If you’ve been holding out for a solid version of OS X that you can build on and use for many years to come, this may be it.

Look for more information about Snow Leopard here next week.

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