Windows 7: Some Thoughts

As I mentioned last week, I’ve now got my new Windows 7 software, and am in the process of installing it on our computers. I’ve been running the beta version for a while, so I know what to expect; nevertheless, I’m pleased with it, at least for the most part. There are still some less than shiny bits on the final result, but on the whole it’s pretty good. The two areas that grate on me the most are these:

  1. Windows Media Player. Windows 7 comes with a new version of Windows Media Player (WMP12). With this, Microsoft has given with the left hand and taken away with the right. What’s new is that WMP12 has a “Play To” feature, which allows it to act as a digital media controller (see my Fun With Technology – Part IV post for more geeky information on this). This is a nice feature, and it’s far easier to use WMP12 running on my Tablet PC to stream music from my Windows Home Server to my Denon Hi-Fi system than it is to use the Denon’s limited interface to hunt through my music collection. Alas, while Microsoft has given us “Play To”, they’ve taken away the editor that the previous WMP version had for editing metadata. While that editor was far from perfect, what now remains is so limited and clumsy that it’s a disaster. I’ve resorted to using Media Monkey purely for its metadata editor, oh, and for Podcast support, which WMP still doesn’t have a clue about. Peter Bright’s extensive review of Windows 7 in Ars Technica deals with WMP12 in some detail, and points out just how poorly Microsoft has done with this latest, and not-the-greatest, incarnation of Windows Media Player.
  2. Remote Access. I’ve ranted on before about how Microsoft’s marketing of Windows Home Server is misleading; in particular that you can use it to access “any home computer” remotely via the internet. The fine print actually points out that if you are running Windows 7 Home Premium on your home computers, then you can’t do this. What really irks me is that I recently discovered that Microsoft’s Live Mesh (a free download) will give you this capability. As Peter Bright points out:

“Home Premium users don’t get the ability to remotely view their PC’s desktop. Unless, that is, they install the (free) Live Mesh beta, which provides remote desktop support for all. One might suggest that perhaps the left hand is not so familiar with what the right hand is doing; if remote desktop support is a feature that we can have for a free download, on any supported version of Windows, why not let us use the (technically superior) built-in facility?”

Yet another example of the phenomenon that I’ve remarked on before: Microsoft’s teams do not leverage each others’ work to the extent that they could. “Not Invented Here” could be the unofficial motto of many of them.

If you’re a geek, it’s well worth reading Peter Bright’s review of Windows 7. I found myself nodding in fierce agreement with a lot of it. I note that some people have found his review too nit-picky, for example where he points out that the Windows 7 developers are not even following their own guidelines for Windows 7 look and feel. However, I side with Bright – it’s attention to detail where Microsoft often seems to fall down. And I had the same reaction as him when I saw the default wallpaper that now ships with the released version of Windows 7 – it is simply god-awful. Practically the first thing I did was to switch to another desktop theme…

Even though Peter Bright’s review is fifteen pages of often dense detail, he has not managed to cover everything that is in Windows 7. For example, he makes no mention of the Homegroup feature, or of the many under-the-cover improvements that have been made over Windows Vista. Still, and despite the fact that he spends much of his review bemoaning the shortcomings, I agree with his conclusion:

“But at the end of the day, that doesn’t really matter. Windows 7 is, overall, a fantastic OS. It builds on a solid platform, and just makes it even better.”

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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