So I decided to install Windows 7 RC.
Loyal readers of the blog know that I am a devout Mac enthusiast (some might argue "fanboy"), but I keep a PC around for, you know, PC stuff.
For those who don't know, the "RC" stands for release candidate, which means that this version is reasonably close to done. The RC version is completely free to download, but Microsoft warns that installations will become useless in March 2010 when they will start to force-shutdown every 2 hours before expiring completely in June.
In spite of this and the disclaimer from Microsoft that this should not be used as a primary operating system, I thought I'd make the jump from XP a little early.
I must say that so far I am very impressed.
I never bothered upgrading to Windows Vista and have only played with it when attempting to fix friends' computers. I (like most people) was scared away by lots of negative press and internet scuttlebutt, so I can't really offer any insight into how much polish got Windows from Vista to 7, but overall 7 is very usable.
I have had absolutely no driver problems whatsoever. In fact, Windows 7 properly identified and found drivers for every component in my custom-built machine, except for the integrated sound card. Even the sound card worked perfectly once I manually installed a Vista version of the driver that I found online.
It even runs Sun's VirtualBox which allowed me to virtualize Ubuntu with minimal effort.
The new task bar does not display minimized windows in the way that Windows users are used to. Instead of a button representing each open window, there is an icon representing each running program. When you let the mouse hover over a program icon, large previews of the windows associated with that program are displayed. This took the most getting used to, but after a day of using it, I no longer hate it.
I think this was a Vista feature, but searching for programs in the start menu is awesome. It even finds stuff like "run" or "regedit" that don't have folders in the "All Programs" section.
Netflix streaming doesn't work. When attempting to install the "Watch Now" software, it complains that Windows Media player requires an update, but the update fails because a newer version is present (7 ships with WMP 12). I tried downgrading WMP with no luck.
UAC causes my screen to flash whenever it prompts me with a security question. A little googling yielded this post describing the behavior in Vista, but it turns out that the Windows 7 UAC control panel has a slider that can be ratcheted down a notch to stop the flashing. Theoretically this makes my PC less secure, but C'est la vie.
I'll probably do another post in the future once the novelty has worn off a little bit. I'm already starting to notice some UI inconsistencies when setting up network file sharing, but on the whole I'm glad I took the plunge.
I have absolutely no plans to give up my Mac, but as a secondary computer, I'm already liking 7 better than XP. If they lower the price of Windows and/or I can get an OEM version for around $100, I'd seriously consider buying a license when 7 is officially released.