windows 7It seems some people at Microsoft are starting to get the idea that Vista was a bad idea.

Okay, it’s not quite that dramatic, but, according to Computer World,  Bill Veghte, Microsoft’s senior vice president for Windows business, made a keynote speech this week, and said the following.

If you’re just starting your testing of Vista, with the [Windows 7] Release Candidate and the quality of that offering, I would switch over and do your testing on the [Windows 7] Release Candidate, and use that going forward.

Well, yes, if your company is just starting to test Vista, then you need to pick up a technical journal once in a while and realize that Windows 7 is in heavy testing at this stage.  The new version is expected to make it into consumer level PCs this fall, so enterprise desployment would probably start in late 2010 or early 2011, and with Windows XP support having been extended to April 2014, this would give them plenty of time to do a full roll out in a company.

However, there is one small problem with this entire idea in that apparently you can not upgrade directly from Windows XP to Windows 7.  The upgrade appears to only work from Windows Vista to Windows 7, so companies that are still filled with Windows XP machines… good luck on figuring out that workaround.  I would imagine they can just wipe the systems and start over, but then you have questions about hardware configurations.

This is where my personal gripe with the whole Microsoft plan comes in.  There is a reason Apple just keeps extending Mac OS X: it works.  The same could be said for Windows XP, even with its numerous bugs, those could have been ironed out and they could have sold incremental updates, just like Apple has done with great success.  However, Microsoft doesn’t always like to make sense it would seem.  Why sell just a small update when you can sell a whole new operating system and cause headaches for consumers at all levels?  Yeah, that’s some bright thinking there!

As much as I don’t want to hate Microsoft, they just keep doing stupid thing after stupid thing.  Yes, Windows 7 may be more stable than Vista, but isn’t that kind of like saying “Well this boat leaks… less.  It still leaks, just… less.”

Any way you slice it, all PC users will eventually be forced into Windows 7, just some of us will have been lucky enough to have skipped Vista.

Categories: Windows 7, Windows XP   

windows 7The Windows 7 release candidate is now available for immediate download.

Putting out a release candidate is one of the last stages before a program is officially put into the marketplace, and that is exactly where Windows 7 is at this moment.  As of today you can download Windows 7 Release Candidate (presumably #1), and you’ll be able to use it free of charge up until June 1st, 2010.  However, there is a catch to that 13 months of free Windows; starting on March 1st, 2010, your system will shut down every two hours to remind you that you are still using a release candidate copy.

Oh well, still 10 months of free Windows isn’t too shabby.

The download page lists some other caveats and suggestions for you keep in mind before you go crazy with your Windows 7 upgrading.  (following list courtesy of Microsoft)

  • You don’t need to rush to get the RC. The RC will be available at least through July 2009 and we’re not limiting the number of product keys, so you have plenty of time.
  • Watch the calendar. The RC will expire on June 1, 2010. Starting on March 1, 2010, your PC will begin shutting down every two hours. Windows will notify you two weeks before the bi-hourly shutdowns start. To avoid interruption, you’ll need to install a non-expired version of Windows before March 1, 2010. You’ll also need to install the programs and data that you want to use. (Learn more about installing Windows.)
  • Protect your PC and data. Be sure to back up your data and please don’t test the RC on your primary home or business PC.
  • Tech details/updates: Before installing the RC, please read the Release Notes and Things to Know for important information about the release.
  • Keep up with the news. You can keep up with general technical information and news by following the team blog. And, you can get non-technical news, tips, and offers by subscribing to the monthly Exploring Windows newsletter.
  • Keep your PC updated: Be sure to turn on automatic updates in Windows Update in case we publish updates for the RC.
  • Installation: You can install the Windows 7 RC on a PC running Windows Vista without backing up the PC—but we encourage you to make a backup for safe keeping. If you’re running Windows XP or the Windows 7 Beta, you’ll need to backup your data, then do a clean installation of the RC, then reinstall your applications and restore your data. If you need to do a backup, please see How to back up your PC for more details and a suggestion for how to backup a PC running Windows 7 Beta or Windows Vista.

All good suggestions, and please pay close attention to the one about not putting this on your primary machine!  This is still not a final release, and you WILL encounter bugs.

This all just makes me think even more within a few years people will go, “There was a Windows version called ‘Vista’?  Huh… never heard of it.”

Categories: Windows 7, Windows XP   

windows 7In quite possibly one of the biggest “mea culpas’ in the history of Microsoft, Windows 7 will be able to run Windows XP software.

One of the biggest original complaints about Windows Vista was its inability to run a lot of business applications. This was a problem that persisted, and kept many small businesses from wanting to make the switch as it would mean all new software, some of it being expensive custom designed jobs.  Now in an announcement on the Windows Blog, we come to find out this issue is getting addressed in Windows 7 in the hopes that small businesses will finally come back to the fold.

All you need to do is to install suitable applications directly in Windows XP Mode which is a virtual Windows XP environment running under Windows Virtual PC. The applications will be published to the Windows 7 desktop and then you can run them directly from Windows 7.

Now, virtual operating system environments habe known to be unstable, and seeing as how no one outside of Microsoft hasn’t seen this yet, no one knows if this will be the case with the Windows 7 environment.  It is also only going to be a feature in Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate, meaning the higer priced versions of the program.

Sure, this isn’t a perfect solution, but it is sure a lot better than what we had under Vista, which was nothing.  This new feature should appear in the upcoming release candidate due next week, so reports are sure to be coming in fast and furious on how well it actually works.

Categories: News, Windows 7, Windows XP   

Windows XPWindows XP’s death is drawing ever closer.

Effective today, Windows XP is no longer supported by “Mainstream Support”, and will only be covered by “Extended Support”.  All of this was announced in an email that came out on Monday.

On April 14, Windows XP will transition from the mainstream support phase to the extended support phase, as planned and previously announced.

Normally Mainstream Support only lasts for 5 years, but Windows XP was extended to 7 & 1/2 years due to the delay in release of Windows Vista. Extended Support means that everyone will have to pay for support from here on out unless they bought an extended service plan. This also means that Microsoft will only release security patches from here on out, and those will also come to an end on April 8, 2014.

In an odd move, the Windows XP “Downgrade” program which allows users to install XP if they have bought a copy of Vista, will last now until April 30th, 2010. If Windows 7 releases in the fall like everyone suspects, that means XP will still be ciculating even after it has released.  

At this point it is almost becomng funny how this operating system will just not fade away.

Categories: Windows 7, Windows XP   

windows 7At long last, it seems Microsoft is finally going to acknowledge that users don’t want all of their pre-installed software that comes with an operating system.

For as long as Windows has been around, it has always come with a slew of Microsoft products that you may not actually have any use for. The problem was that you couldn’t uninstall any of them because they were always seemingly connected to something else in the system. According to the Windows 7 development blog, this issue is finally being addressed in the next iteration of the well-known operating system.

You will be able to go into the “Windows Features” control panel and simply uncheck the boxes for the programs you do not want to run.  This does not uninstall the software, it simple prevents it from loading, and will render the software unusable by anyone using the computer.  If you should later change your mind, you can go back into the same control panel and reactivate the software.  The programs you will be to control in this way include:

  • Windows Media Player
  • Windows Media Center
  • Windows DVD Maker
  • Internet Explorer 8
  • Windows Search
  • Handwriting Recognition (through the Tablet PC Components option)
  • Windows Gadget Platform
  • Fax and Scan
  • XPS Viewer and Services (including the Virtual Print Driver)

Considering the sordid security history of Internet Explorer, this is a welcome inclusion into the system. Quite often you could get a virus through another means that would use Internet Explorer to carry out its tasks. If the program is turned off, then it shouldn’t be able to do anything and will lay dormant in your system. I am sure, however, that given enough time, virus authors will figure out how to reactivate it without you knowing.

Security concerns aside, this is a welcome inclusion in Windows 7, and something Microsoft has needed to do for a long time. Kudos to them.

Categories: Windows 7   

windows 7Rumors have begun to circulate that the first release candidate of Windows 7 may be appearing on April 10th.

According to Ars Technica, rumors have begun to spring up that Microsoft may be readying the first release candidate (RC1) version of Windows 7 for mass consumption on April 10th of this year.  For those who are not familiar with the steps a piece of software goes through prior to release it goes as follows:

  • Alpha – This version is usually only for internal testing, and is rarely released to the public.
  • Beta – This is a version that is getting close to having all of the final features, and, depending on the company, is released to some testers in the public for them to test.  There can be numerous Beta releases as small tweaks are made to the software.
  • Release Candidate – This usually consists of two versions, RC1 and RC2.  RC1 will have included notes from the beta testers, and further notes from RC1 users will be incorporated into RC2.  There isn’t always an RC2, but it is fairly common.
  • Gold Master – This is the finalized version of the software that will be released to the public.

If the RC1 is truly going to be released by April, this adds heavily to the other rumors we’ve heard that Windows 7 may be out by this fall.  This really gives us pause here at StarterTech that Windows 7 will be more like what Windows Vista was really supposed to be.  The time lapse between Windows XP and Windows Vista was five years, but this will be only two years between Vista and Windows 7.  This is beginning to feel more and more like Vista was a massive release candidate, or even a beta, for Windows 7.

Whatever the case may be, we highly recommend you hold off on all Windows-based computer purchases for the time being if at all possible.  Vista is flawed, as is well documented all across the Web, and while Windows 7 may not be perfect, it is already looking to be an improvement.  If you can wait, we suggest it so that you aren’t essentially buying an already outdated piece of software that is flawed to boot.

Categories: Windows 7, Windows XP   

windows 7Could the August 1st cut-off date of the Windows 7 beta be a clue as to when Microsoft plans to launch the final product?

While the rumor of a fall 2009 release for Windows 7 has been heralded by some, and scoffed at by others, the idea has picked up some more steam since Alexander Wolfe of Information Week decided this truly may be a clue.

even a Clouseau-like analysis (the Peter Sellers version, not Steve Martin) of that August 1st beta shut-off date leads one to the realization that Microsoft is probably planning to release the final version around that time. I’d say we can expect to see Windows 7 ship around back-to-school time.

I Think Mr. Wolfe has the right idea.  Seeing as the beta shuts down on August 1st, this means either you will have to roll back to an older version of Windows, a slim chance of going for a Beta 2 version, or, and this seems the more likely scenario, be told you can now go out and purchase the full version.

While there is nothing concrete to back this up as of yet, it is certainly something to keep in mind if you ware in the market for a new computer over the next eight months.  Can you squeeze by until the all new operating system comes out?  And would you even want to buy it when it first launches due to potential problems.  Only time will tell the answers to thse questions, but be sure to keep your ear to the ground, or your browser pointed here, to find out what the final result is.

Categories: News, Opinion, Windows 7   

windows 7If you were worried you wouldn’t be able to get the Windows 7 beta, your prayers have been answered.

When Microsoft originally announced they were releasing a beta version of their upcoming Windows 7, the public was told it would be limited to 2.5 million copies.  As people raced to be one of those lucky folks, their servers got overloaded and hardly anyone was getting their much desired copy.

In what appears to be a move to avoid even a whisper of bad publicity around the product that could possibly bring them out of the Vista duldrums they have been in, Microsoft has had a change of heart.  According to The Windows Blog, they have lifted the 2.5 million copy rule, and now made it a time based offer instead.  You have until January 24th to now download this test copy of the next Windows operating system.

We still stand by what we said in our original post that Windows 7 should not be installed if you only have one computer, but for those of you with an extra PC sitting in the corner, you may as well take it out for a spin.  Just remember, this copy expires at the end of July 2009.

Categories: News, Windows 7   

windows 7The beta version of Windows 7 has officially been released, but it is certainly not for everyone.

The vast majority of people like to be on the cutting edge of technology.  If its shiny and new, then they want it.  With the official announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that the beta version of Windows 7 is now available, there are sure to be many people rushing to try it out, but the question is if this is for you, the average computer user.

The shortest answer to this is a resounding “no”.

To expand on this, I have always likened changing versions of Windows on a PC to trying to change the table cloth on a table AFTER you’ve set the dishes.  It is inevitable something is going to break.  Especially with a beta version, meaning a version that is unfinished and almost certain have bugs, you are definitely going to run into problems with your existing programs and drivers.

There is also the issue that this beta has a limited life span that expires at the end of July 2009.  So after you’ve gotten this on your PC, you’ve gotten things to run somewhat correctly, you will have to either revert back to your previous operating system or pay for a fully licensed copy of the final version of Windows 7.

If you are someone with only one PC, then I definitely, and vehemently, do not recommend you try doing this.  Sure it may be tempting to run the new system, but if something goes wrong during the upgrade, you could very well end up with a dead computer.  Even with multiple PCs in my life, it is doubtful I am going to try this because I can’t think of one machine that I am willing to sacrifice to this test for one reason or another.

For now we suggest you remain content with whatever you have because it is probably working.  If you really want Windows 7, you can try it, but we highly suggest you wait for the finished product.

The brave ones amongst us can find the beta version here.

Categories: General Computing Tips, Windows 7   
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