Posted 11/2/2008 4:15:35 PM
This Post is Part 2 of my Windows 7 Series, and will reflect the Out of Box Experience (OOBE) of Windows 7. As usual, these thumbnails are clicky.
Unfortunately, I was not about to shell out $2500 to attend the Microsoft Professional Developers' Conference last week, so I didn't receive a pre-beta copy of Windows 7. However, I have a friend on the Internet (herein, "my Internet friend") who's agreed to provide me with screenshots and a close approximation of the actual experience. To the best of my recollection, none of this information is covered by NDA, and I'm sure it exists elsewhere on the Intertube.
I reiterate my key opinion, This is what Windows Vista should have been.
As you read through, keep in mind this Windows 7 installation is running in a Virtual PC (free download). Thusly, the machine sees different specifications than are on the physical machine. My Internet friend allocated the Windows 7 VPC a 16GB disk image and 1GB of my physical RAM (Out of 250GB and 8GB, respectively). The Virtual Machine only detects one core, but the Affinity has been set to physical cores 2 and 3 of the physical Quad-Core CPU; thus even the VPC is about as fast as a Core 2 Duo would be.
Unfortunately, my Internet friend had less than ideal experiences with the Microsoft Windows Vista closed beta, going as far back as Microsoft Windows Codename: Longhorn, Build 4074, circa WinHEC 2004. As a result, my Internet friend will not be installing any Windows 7 pre-release onto his primary machine. Then again, it's not even in Beta yet; what can one expect?
So, my Internet friend decided to virtualize his beta experience by running it in a VPC. Unfortunately, because of this, it can't support such hardware-specific technologies as Aero Glass, nor Dreamscene. As you read through, keep in mind this is not Microsoft's fault.
With that out of the way, on with the first impressions.
One of the first things my Internet friend did was to load up the Task manager and play around a bit. I was very impressed by the low memory footprint, only consuming 362MB with Aero disabled. After the first reboot with UAC disabled, total consumption was a piddly 297MB. That's about the same as Windows XP! By contrast, my physical Windows Vista PC starts up around 1GB used.
A very related topic is the enhancements made to the Resource Monitor. Those of you in the know will know that Microsoft acquired Sysinternals / Winternals in July 2006 and incorporated parts of several of their utilities into the Windows Vista Resource Monitor. I'm happy to say great strides have been made. So impressed was I that I'll be writing an entire blog post around the Resource Monitor itself.
Upon first launch, 7 delivered my Internet friend square at the desktop. There was no Welcome screen, no "Take a tour of Windows!" popups nor balloons; no desktop background setup, not even an open start menu. my Internet friend was brought directly to the desktop, the system ready to do his bidding.
The only caveat in my eyes was that the default wallpaper is somewhat distracting and very low-contrast for text; For an example, try to read the text at the bottom-right of this image. It actually reads:
For testing purposes only. Build 6801
Immediately after seeing the desktop, the first thought that comes across the mind is "Well, this is just a rebranded Vista!". Well, there have actually been a great deal of changes. Most of them have been behind the scenes to make Windows behave the way we expect it to.
For example, take the Notification Area, frequently and incorrectly referred to as the System Tray. In the above image, you see the system clock and three icons by default:
- Windows Solution Center, formerly known as Windows Security Center
These can be eliminated entirely, reducing down to a simple arrow. The rectangle to the right, in the corner of the screen, is the "Show Desktop" button. Microsoft decided that once you figure out where it is, you don't really need the icon and text anymore. You can remember stuff like that, people are smart... Right?
The improvements to the Notification Area don't end there. Remember when Windows XP introduced the concept of Balloons to notify you of updates, network connectivity, system status, etc? It was a great idea, but Developers abused it and started spamming the user with updates for things that don't need to be updated (Java and Adobe Updater are two of the worse offenders). Companies started putting Notification icons there simply to check for updates, which is a horrible abuse of its intended purpose.
It's not called the "System Tray". Raymond Chen (Blogger, author, and one of the foremost Developers on the Windows team), blogged about Why do some people call the taskbar the "tray"? way back in September of Ought-Three1. The System Tray was another navigation methodology Microsoft developed for Windows 95 but never really ran with; it was replaced with the Taskbar. Kind of a shame; it had potential.
Back on topic, I'm sure you've all been inundated with Balloons that wanted your attention despite not actually having anything to offer you. For example, your Adobe Updater wants to update Adobe Reader... Can anyone tell me why a simple PDF viewer would actually need updates?
So Microsoft gave us a way to stop this "Balloon spam" and icon clutter:
Hah! The balance of power has shifted! Now it is us who shall decide what really needs our attention! If, as a developer, you need to show your Notification icon and a Notification, you can call Shell_NotifyIcon to do so. Both will be displayed for a short time. I hereby plead to other Windows Developers: Please don't put your call to Shell_NotifyIcon in a timer event!
As you can see, the verbosely-named Notification Area Icons Control Panel gives the User total access over what appears in the Notification Area - Every single Icon and Balloon notification, including both System and third-party members.
Further, the equally-loquacious System Icons Control Panel enables you to turn any Windows System Notification Area Icons on or off. These include Clock, Volume, Network, Power, and Solution (Windows Solution Center).
I was suprised to find it didn't notify my Internet friend about a pending "Important" Windows Update, and my Internet friend was suprised to find one available for download less than a week after the disc was compiled. The Update is as follows:
Security Update for Windows 7 Pre-Beta (KB958644)
A security issue has been identified that could allow an authenticate remote attacker to compromise your Microsoft Windows-based system and gain control over it. You can help protect your computer by installing this update from Microsoft.
Additional information from Microsoft Security Bulletin MS08-067-Critical:
Vulnerability in Server Service could allow remote code execution (958644)
This security update resolves a privately reported vulnerability in the Server service. The vulnerability could allow remote code execution if an affected system received a specially crafted RPC request. On Microsoft Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003 systems, an attacker could exploit this vulnerability without authentication to run arbitrary code. It is possible that this vulnerability could be used in the crafting of a wormable exploit. Firewall best practices and standard default firewall configurations can help protect network resources from attacks that originate outside the enterprise perimeter.
I regret to inform you that, while you can disable Windows Update notifications including the Restart dialog, you cannot disable the Restart notification without disabling the "Updates Available" notification. This was the most annoying one in Vista.
You'll have to watch this PDC video for a proper account of the enhancements to the Taskband (The part of the Taskbar that displays open windows). Because my friend's W7 installation can't run Aero, he can't see these improvements and therefore cannot provide screeshots. Here's a synopsis that doesn't do the video justice:
IDeskBand2 is a Taskband Interface which inherits from IDeskBand and exposes methods to enable and query translucency effects in a Deskband object. This will allow Windows software Developers to provide new Taskband functionality. The video didn't have time to present IDeskBand2, so hopefully I can provide some information a few Googlers will be looking for. IDeskBand2 features include:
|CanRenderComposited||Indicates the deskband's ability to be displayed as translucent.|
|CloseDW||Notifies the docking window object that it is about to be removed from the frame. The docking window object should save any persistent information at this time.|
|GetBandInfo||Gets state information for a band object.|
|GetCompositionState||Gets the composition state.|
|ResizeBorderDW||Notifies the docking window object that the frame's border space has changed. In response to this method, the IDockingWindow implementation must call IDockingWindowSite::SetBorderSpaceDW, even if no border space is required or a change is not necessary.|
|SetCompositionState||Sets the composition state.|
|ShowDW||Instructs the docking window object to show or hide itself.|
Allows you to click on a window thumbnail to switch to it
Apparently, users in focus groups and those who provided feedback indicated that while Vista's window thumbnails are nice, people kept trying to click on the window preview. Unfortunately, when they moved their mouse away from the Taskband button in the direction of the Preview, the preview would close. Now the Preview stays persistent between the Taskband button and itself.
When you have two instances of a Window (i.e. Word, Excel) open and Taskband button grouping is enabled, or when you have an Internet Explorer window open with multiple running Tabs, you will now receive one Thumbnail per grouped window or tab.
For each window in the Taskband that's actually running, the Preview pane can contain a Toolbar containing up to 7 features of the Application (i.e. Navigation controls in Media Player; Reload in Internet Explorer 8, etc).
1: "Ought-Three": '03. It's a new Century, we get to use this old-man terminology again!
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