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WEEKLY WHINE

Computer destruction

Should you upgrade to Windows 7?

No. In fact you should destroy all Windows discs, manuals, peripherals, shirts, and other merchandise you may have and install a useful operating system.

But if that option is not feasible, perhaps because you run the computers at a large corporation that has developed an inherent and irrational mistrust of anything that comes with a “general public license”, we here at GoobNet have decided to help you by reviewing the copy of Windows 7 that Microsoft provided us.

Unfortunately, we seem to have lost it. It must be around here somewhere, seeing as it is inconceivable that Microsoft would not have sent us, one of the most influential sites on the Internet amongst football obsessed programmers who have an affinity for 1980s style monochrome displays, a free copy.

So instead we will review what various other websites are saying about Windows 7.

LOOK AND FEEL

Windows 7 looks and feels like Windows Vista, but with some other funny behaviours. For instance, the taskbar is about 50% wider, and it displays icons for a fixed group of programmes regardless of whether they are running [like the dock in Mac OS]. Of these, the running programmes get a silver border, and the user can point to one of these buttons to see thumbnails of that programme’s windows. Then, when the user points to one of the thumbnails, that window is highlighted in the main screen area. Furthermore, when the user right clicks a taskbar icon, options specific to that programme will appear [eg, a list of recent files or music playing commands], rather than the standard menu options for placing windows.

There are also some mouse gestures that Windows 7 recognises. For instance, the user can shake a window horizontally to minimise all the other windows, or the user can drag a window to the left or right side of the window to tile it to that side. “Tile horizontally” and “Tile vertically” have of course been present in Windows for quite some time, but were not as easy to access.

A new Device Stage, within Windows Explorer, handles external devices. It shows status for all devices connected to the computer [eg, iPod memory available, or mobile telephone battery life] and gives common actions for each.

Since most people skipped Windows Vista, upgrading to Windows 7 will take some getting used to. The change to the taskbar is not an improvement, because we want to see tasks that are currently running instead of a mixture of running and nonrunning programmes. On the other hand, being able to rearrange taskbar buttons is a welcome change.

FUNCTIONS

There have been several functional improvements in Windows 7. It is better at dealing with multifunction devices [like combination scanner/printers], it supports the Virtual Hard Disk format, and it supports encryption for USB drives and other removable disks.

Searching in Windows 7 is vastly improved. Better disk indexing means that searches are executed faster, and combined with updated grouping of items in any Windows Explorer window, it means that filtering through search results is easier. In an Arrangement view, thumbnails of photographs, fonts, or other files can be grouped into stacks by criteria such as last modified date, similarity, or size.

A virtual machine allows programmes that can’t run under Windows 7 to run in a Windows XP environment, but as fully functioning windows on the Windows 7 desktop.

SECURITY

The former Windows Security Centre has become the Windows Action Centre, a Control Panel item that also includes computer maintenance functions. Other security modifications include support for Domain Name System Security Extensions, which helps authenticate DNS data and avoid attacks involving DNS servers.

Several Windows components will be disablable, including Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player. This is surely a welcome change for those who have had difficulty convincing previous versions of Windows that they do in fact want all URLs opened in a browser that is not IE.

OVERALL SCORE

CAN HAS

In the GoobNet Testing Laboratory, Windows 7 would have received a score of CAN HAS. Though the user interface still has the Vista era ugliness, there are numerous improvements under the hood, and we feel that many people will enjoy the support for mouse gestures and some of the other additions to the UI.

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