Cleveland Windows 7 Launch EventPosted: October 12, 2009
I attended the Developer track for Windows 7 in Cleveland today. I’ve been running Windows 7 Ultimate RTM on my work laptop (when I’m not at work, unfortunately) since it became available on MSDN. Here’s a little writeup of my experience at the event and with Windows 7 in general.
Windows 7 has been a joy to use overall. The entire install on my Dell D830 took less than 30 minutes. That’s an estimate, I didn’t time it because I was too impatient! I can say the 64-bit version fairly screams. I have a 7200RPM hard drive and 4GB RAM on this machine, so it’s well powered. I can honestly say this is the most responsive OS I have ever used. Startup and shutdown are insanely fast. I don’t remember ever waiting for the system to grind, which has been wonderful for my productivity. I run VS.NET, SQL Management Studio, Gimp, IE, and many other apps simultaneously and it’s smooth as silk.
When I started making plans to run Win7, I didn’t know my laptop was 64-bit ([blush] I’ve been on the developer side so long my hardware chops have atrophied!) Windows 7 64-bit has none of the hardware compatibility problems that plagued XP 64-bit and even Vista. I run XP x86 on the same machine by day, so I can compare the difference in performance. Wow. I’m sure there are many others like me out there running a 32-bit OS on 64-bit hardware. If that’s you, UPGRADE. You’re running a Ferrari on two cylinders. It’s the cheapest performance upgrade you’ll get in a long time.
I learned several things at the launch event today that I didn’t know before.
The first presenter at the launch event explained that Windows 7 is the first OS in Microsoft’s history that is targeted to run fast, not just acceptably, on older, slower hardware than its predecessor. He cited the popularity of netbooks and the “breakdown of Moore’s law” as the thinking behind this targeting. I don’t have much experience with Vista, but I can say from personal experience that the boot time for Windows 7 is good if not great when compared to XP, and shutdown is almost like a lightswitch. Apparently the improved startup time is due partly to parallel loading of drivers, where possible.
Problem Step Recorder
This is a support dream. It’s simple: have your end-user (mom, dad, grandma) go to Start and type “PSR” in the search box. The Problem Step Recorder will appear in the list. Have your end-user hit record, then follow the set of steps that led to the error about which they’re bugging you. Hit stop, then save the file, which is a ZIP file. They email you the file, and you see a wonderful stream of screenshots with detailed information about the system state, all in your browser. Cool stuff.
I knew about the ease of side-by-side windows: just drag a window all the way to the right or left and it will pop to that side. I didn’t know about shake, though. Grab the window bar and give it a shake. All other windows will minimize. Shake again and they restore. Neat.
Powershell 2.0 is now baked right in, and has a cool little editor. I haven’t dug into Powershell very much yet but it looks very cool for automating tasks.
Windows API Codepack
During the developer demo, the presenter introduced the Windows API Codepack. This is a managed wrapper around the native API bits that make Windows 7 sing. We saw demos on Jump Lists, Icon Overlays, and Trigger-Start Services. Very little code was required to make these things work. If you’re migrating an application to Windows 7 the CodePack is the place to start. You may also want to check out the Photoview uber-demo.
I was actually surprised that I had been looking at them in Explorer since installing Windows 7 but never really noticed them. Now that I know what they are I like them a lot. It’s simple: Libraries are collections of folders. There is an API for creating and manipulating them, though you will want to be careful changing something that is really a user-preference system.
Windows 7 Troubleshooter Packs
This is more cool stuff for reducing those pesky support costs. The presenter demoed an issue where there was no sound coming from his laptop. He ran the Audio Troubleshooter, and it unmuted his audio for him. You can write your own packs, which are simply collections of Powershell scripts held together with an XML manifest. You can pack them into a singed CAB file and distribute them with application installers or over the web. I found a great crash course here.
This is just a few of the cool things in Windows 7. For more, take a look at Direct Access, XP Mode, and BitLocker. All in all, Windows 7 looks like a win for Microsoft. I’ve enjoyed it personally and it looks compelling for businesses, which is a big improvement over Vista. It’s in stores and shipping from vendors October 22nd. Check it out!