First impressions of Windows 7 Beta 1

After a very quick install on a Dell XPS M1710 laptop, and a few hours of messing around, I have come to the conclusion that this is going to be the best release of Windows yet. At the same time, it's not very exciting for the alpha geek in me. Perhaps it is good to have regular stable releases and leave the fireworks to user ap­pli­ca­tions?

Before I list some of the things that I like, or didn't as the case may be, I have a tip for anyone trying to get Aero running on the M1710. For some reason, Beta 1 doesn't have drivers in the box for the NVIDIA GeForce 9700M GT. Just download the mobile drivers from the NVIDIA website and install the Vista version using the "Have a disk..." option. Ignore any warnings about com­pat­i­bil­i­ty, the Vista drivers are close enough and I would expect NVIDIA to release some beta drivers for Windows 7.

What I liked

Per­for­mance im­prove­ments

This has been a problem for a large number of Vista users and Microsoft have made big strides according to my un­sci­en­tif­ic testing. Little things like searching for programs on the Start menu is noticeably quicker than Vista on the same machine. No doubt anti-virus vendors are working on ways to reduce the per­for­mance.

System protection

You can now reserve a percentage of disk space to storage of old versions of user and system files (just like Recycle Bin has done since Windows 95). This is something I would want to increase for someone like my Mum.

Task bar ap­pli­ca­tion in­te­gra­tion

The thumbnails introduced in Vista are now more useful since you view individual tabs in an ap­pli­ca­tion like Internet Explorer 8. When you have a long running task like a file copy, the progress is shown directly on the task bar when minimised.

Easier wireless network access

Clicking the network icon in the task no­ti­fi­ca­tion area now shows a list of network con­nec­tions. This makes it much easier to connect, and is similar to the experience in Apple OS X.

No­ti­fi­ca­tion area grouping

I find the pollution of the task no­ti­fi­ca­tion area to be a real pain. Every ap­pli­ca­tion thinks it belongs there and needs to be visible. With Vista you could force some items to be hidden, in Windows 7 they are grouped under a single icon. It only takes simple stuff to improve the overall experience.

Requires more thought

Taskbar ap­pli­ca­tion iden­ti­fi­ca­tion

So is Internet Explorer running, or do you have a shortcut pinned to the task bar? It's hard to see on the task bar, but I can see the rationale for this design decision. It would be nice if there was an option for clearer iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, such as the name of the ap­pli­ca­tion appearing on the task bar. I suspect more use of Windows 7 will result in a change in my ex­pec­ta­tion for this aspect of task bar operation.

IE 8 rendering issues

There is a still a lot of work to do here. I suspect that a lot of people will enable com­pat­i­bil­i­ty mode to enable sites to load. One site with problems was GMail (I'm using Google Apps for e-mail).

Tagged with internet-explorer, task-bar, dell, geforce, nvidia, review, windows and windows7.

Nokia E71 Smartphone

Last week Expansys shipped me a shiny new Nokia E71. This is a follow on to the popular E61/E62, and a sig­nif­i­cant step up from my E60 which also lacked 3G support on AT&T's network.

I was thinking about getting an iPhone, but the poor battery life and lack of real keys were a problem for me. It turns out Joel Spolsky got an E71 too - maybe great minds think alike?

The Good

  • Great battery life with a mixture of voice, WiFi, HSDPA (3G), and GPS usage. It only needs to be charged every third day.
  • Some very solid ap­pli­ca­tions are available including Mail by Google, Google Maps with GPS in­te­gra­tion, and a decent Web Browser (based on Safari/KHTML). It plays Flash in the the browser, so YouTube doesn't need it's own ap­pli­ca­tion. The device supports Java (J2ME), Python, and Symbian C++ ap­pli­ca­tions so there is a big market.
  • Camera. Whilst users of the consumer Nseries phones may have a better camera in their phones, the 3 megapixels works pretty well for me. I was able to post to Flickr without down­load­ing another ap­pli­ca­tion.
  • Bling factor! It's lighter and slightly thinner than an iPhone. It's stainless steel outer shell is also a nice touch.
The Bad
  • Ap­pli­ca­tion market is likely to grow faster in the iPhone and Windows Mobile world. Nokia need to improve their de­vel­op­ment tools and doc­u­men­ta­tion. Python support is a nice touch but they can do better.
  • Locking the device can be a pain since the default option when you tap the power button is to switch off. Perhaps there is an ap­pli­ca­tion that can hook this button?
  • Headphone socket is 2.5mm instead of the regular 3.5mm size. It means you need to carry a convertor or a second set of headphones.
  • Flash Lite 3 seems to be integrated with the File Manager. This can be annoying if the Flash doesn't fully support a device without a touch screen.
  • No touch screen. Sometimes it's nice to be able to do things with a stylus or your finger. You won't miss this if you are coming from a Nokia phone.
So that's it for my E71 review. I'll update this post as I get more experience with the device.

Tagged with e71, nokia and review.