Windows 7, the road to RC…

I downloaded build 7057 and installed it on my laptop and desktop.

First some background.  I built my desktop to run Vista.  I knew the beta was buggy, I knew the RC was buggy and I thought the whole thing was on the fugly side.  But I trusted MS to get it right for the RTM.

On 10/10/06 I wrote on this blog concerning Vista RC2: “It is fugly…the UI needs work before release.  Come on Microsoft, get it together.  I am getting a little tired of making up excuses for your software.”

And after RTM but before general release (1/17/07),  I wrote:

Only 12 more days until Vista is unleashed on the public. Will it be finished? If the average user experience is comparable to mine, MS is in deep doo doo. No amount of excuses and/or blame is going to be sufficient to keep MS out of hot water.

You know the spinning beach ball in the Mac? Well MS has implemented a similar feature. About half the time that I click on Computer or Documents or any explorer applet, the computer just stops–nothing happens. Click it again…nothing, click it again….nothing…. Huh? Click on control panel, let’s go see what error messages are being generated….BAM! Windows all pop open, every desperate click is turned into an open window. No rhyme, no reason…totally annoying.

Also, do you know anyone who does not use DIVX? I don’t. Still there is no DIVX codec for playback on Vista. If you install the old one, every time you navigate to a directory with a DIVX avi in it, the computer hangs. The “com surrogate” crashes repeatedly, you spend the next minutes trying to get a head of the error warnings.

All of the pretty eye candy in the world will not hide the fact that this is the buggiest Windows release since Win 95.

Looking back now, my comments were pretty spot on.

The Vista debacle forced me to jump to Linux Mint–which I used exclusively for about a year and a half before moving back to Windows for various reasons.  During my 18 months in the wilderness, Vista SP1 was released, video drivers were stabilized and Vista had become usable, not great but usable.  I’ve been somewhat happily using it ever since.  But Vista had already earned its reputation, it could not recover.

[Edit: None of this is meant to denigrate Linux Mint, a great free OS.  I still donate regularly to Mint, the Mint KDE CE RC is the best KDE 4.x available.  I have nothing but the utmost respect for the entire Mint team.]

Jump forward to Windows 7 beta, the anti-Vista.  Upon its beta release, Win7 was already as good as Vista at launch, maybe better.  I’ve been generally satisfied with running the beta as my main desktop although I kept Mint KDE on my laptop because Win7 would not sleep properly (or more correctly it would not wake up properly.)

Which brings us to the point of this post.  I upgraded from the beta to the new build on my desktop and did a clean install on my laptop.  Everything worked out of the box–and it is elegant, it is usable, and is generally a joy to sit in front of.  How long has it been since I could say this about a MS OS?  At least since I upgraded from Win98 to Win2k, which I thought at the time was the best OS ever.

Granted it takes a little tweaking to make it fit my work flow, but what OS doesn’t?  If the final release of Win7 is as good as this pre-RC build then it will be possible to to be happy with Windows without succumbing to apologetics.  It is a genuinely good OS.

I think MS finally gets it.  The new desktop backgrounds are great, theming is superb, the inclusion of codecs is wonderful, the out of the box experience with Win7 is exactly what I’ve wanted from a desktop since….well, since forever.

I can honestly say that Win7 build 7057 is the best OS that I have ever used, no apologies necessary.

I’ve tried the latest Fedora, Ubuntu, OpenSUSE, OS X, OpenSolaris, PC-BSD, and others…Win7 pre-RC puts them all to shame.  Could it be that we are heading into an era where it won’t be embarrassing for a geek to run Windows?

MS should remove the wayward ini file from build 7057, recompile and release it as RC.  I am thinking people will be happy with it (with the exception of the stability of WMP).

Color me impressed.