Software // Operating Systems
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5/26/2009
05:55 PM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Wolfe's Den: Mixed Review For Windows 7 Release Candidate

Our columnist loves the performance -- and impressive enterprise ecosystem -- of the upcoming successor to Vista. But he wonders if Microsoft isn't missing a chance to offer more help to the average PC user.

I've just taken half an hour out of my busy day to install the new Windows 7 Release Candidate and boy, am I happy. Now reflect on that sentence for a moment -- you might think I'm making light of Microsoft's efforts. Or perhaps you believe I'm an arrogant hacker, when really I'm aware how fortunate I am to get paid to play with software. The point is, getting Windows 7 RC up and running is a refreshingly easy draw on ones' computer skills-set. It installs with hardly a glitch.




Walking through the Windows 7 RC installation process.
(click for larger image and for full photo gallery)

I do have some issues with the operating system. However, they are mostly philosophical, not operational; more about that stuff, below. Let's begin at the end, with my top-line assessment of the main pluses and minuses of Windows 7 RC:

Big Plus: Windows 7 RC is the Vista that Vista never was. It runs great and looks good. (Vista was only one for two, and it wasn't the important one, either.)

Lingering Minus: Endless Loopism. You still need a computer science degree to diagnose any problems you run into. Most newbies will hit a snag, click on a Windows box offering to diagnose the problem, then eventually get notified that the problem couldn't be fix, and would they like to go off into help hell for further troubleshooting? No, they'd like you to fix the freakin' problem.

Flummoxed at the lack of a solution, most users will return to square one. They'll click on "diagnose problem," again, then rinse and repeat. This is how I coined the term "endless loopism." Eventually, they'll call the relative who's the designated family IT support person, and get the glitch resolved. I think most people go for that option, because it's far more appealing than talking to a script robot at a call center. Also, because many families have on-site 15-year-olds who can indeed help.

This issue occurred to me after my Windows 7 RC installation was finished. I was all booted up and everything was running fine. Then my Internet connectivity suddenly went South. Only it wasn't my cable modem or router; they were working just fine. Win 7, however, was unable to "repair" my connection. Eventually I did what I always do when I have the same problem on Vista. (Interestingly, this issue has occurred often with Vista, though never with Windows XP.) I simply shut off the computer and do a cold restart. Problem solved.

But I digress. Let's get back to the Win 7 RC review at hand. My installation went without a hitch, and when Windows 7 booted up, it was hard to discern much of a difference from the Windows 7 Beta (which I reviewed in February, here.) That's a good thing; most of the differences between the RC and the beta are under the hood, in the form of bug fixes.

I could natter on about the many point features in the OS -- taskbar previews panes, picture libraries, streaming media support -- but those are actually very minor in the scheme of things. Stipulated: Windows 7 has got lots of cool stuff in it. OK, we get it!

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