The Seventh Fail

Windows 7 is out today.

When Vista came out, there were a lot of glowing reviews of pre-release versions in magazines, a lot of caution from the more tech-savvy PC users, and Microsoft tried vainly to get the public to hold "Vista release" parties in their homes - using a series of cringeworthy adverts. And within a month everyone who'd tried it hated everything about Vista.

This time, there's a lot of glowing reviews of pre-release versions in magazines, a lot of outright hostility from the more tech-savvy PC users, and Microsoft has a new round of horrible party adverts - evidently having learned nothing from the last time. I wonder how many ordinary users are even going to try Windows 7.

After XP, Microsoft announced it was going to redesign Windows from the ground up - removing all the useless junk and memory-hogging redundant resources, doing away with all the bug-ridden bug fixes, spyware-installing updates, and security patches that created security holes and had to be patched themselves. The result would be small, fast and easy to use.

This they completely failed to do. The result was bloated, slow, impossible to configure and a pain to use. Yes, it was called Vista.

After Vista, Microsoft talked about...well, redesigning Windows from the ground up. For real this time, honest.

This they have completely failed to do. Windows 7 uses the Vista kernel, with some efficiencies made in memory management. I've used the beta version and read reviews from journalists who've used the release version. It looks like Vista, it's a bastard to use in the same way as Vista only slightly worse, it's about as configurable as a concrete block - just like Vista - and best of's even larger than Vista, at 8-11GB.

Oh, and it's less compatible with XP software than Vista was.

Here's a benchmark test, to give you some idea of the speed.

I use a stripped down version of XP - my customised version of someone else's customised version. The OS is 500MB, plus about as much again for Java, .NET, C++ runtime and such. The software comes to 1.5GB for 78 programs, all in portable formats.

I started using XP because a few programs wouldn't run on Windows 2000 - programs that I actually don't use anymore. So I can't help wondering how many of my current programs would run perfectly under 2000, which has a kernel of 56MB.

But why do I use Windows at all? Ubuntu is more stable, Linux more elegant and configurable. OSX on a Mac would be faster.

There's two reasons. First, all my software is for Windows, and everything I know about fixing problems relates to Windows. I'm used to it and I know how to use it.

Second, there's just a lot more software around for Windows. I spent last night trying out a dozen free programs to make mindmaps - and there's two or three times that number of commercial programs to chose from. There's maybe half a dozen for the Mac. Months ago I tried out nearly thirty "session capture" programs - applications that make a "movie" of what happens on your screen - and there were at least as many that I didn't try.

In both cases, the best programs turned out to be free ones. That happens quite a lot.

How many DAWs does Ubuntu have? To my knowledge, one - and it's still in development. So if I don't like that one, I'm screwed. There's easily 20 for Windows - and incidentally the one I think is best costs GBP15.

Windows will never be great, but it is well supported and does work pretty well. Which is to say, XP works pretty well. I might check back on Windows 7 when it's on its second service pack and there's a lot of illegal programs to hack it into usability.


  1. I think it's hilarious how Microsoft spent all that money on stupid ads instead of fixing the damn operating system to make it more user friendly.

    Some things are classics, like XP. I still have Netscape Navigator as one of my web browsers! Why? Because I like it!

  2. With the exception of XP (because it came out a few months after I bought a '98 computer for college), I've never done upgrades. Generally, our family runs our computers into the ground before biting the bullet and buying a new machine. I am considering Win 7 though. Apparently my computer is well capable of handling an upgrade but like you, I'll be waiting until the service pack comes around.

  3. @MJ:

    Aww, poor mistress. Have a lie down in the Medieval Room, have a flagon of mead and get a houseboy to give you a massage with pig oil. Leave all that technology behind.

    Then you'll be energised to post more cybersmut :-).


    The irony is, Microsoft thinks Vista is user friendly. They have a rather distorted idea of what a user looks like - they think it's someone who doesn't want to make any decisions about how Windows operates or looks.

    They think the average user wants to be presented with a simple, colourful, "one-size-fits-all" system, which they can learn quickly once and not worry about re-learning later.

    And of course, the result is not simple, is not so much colourful as garishly cartoonish, and is a major pain to learn. They have a patronising attitude to users.

    You use Navigator? I haven't used it for years, but I remember preferring it greatly over Explorer.

    I use Firefox, which grew out of Navigator going open source. It's still not as fast as Opera, but it's highly configurable, with some excellent plugins.


    Yes, if you don't want to do anything specialist or intensive with your computer, upgrades usually just aren't necessary.

    I know people who still use Windows 95(!), and for their occasional report writing it's perfectly adequate. My wordprocessor is the small and stable Word 97 - after struggling for 6 months with the big and baffling Office 2007.

    Eventually I might be forced to switch to W7 - but only if certain programs no longer work on XP.

  4. I use Firefox, too, most of the time! And I like that it was based on Netscape! But sometimes, I like to use Navigator. I like blue :) AOL bought out Netscape and then stopped the service upgrades, but there're still a bunch of us out there who enjoy surfing on Navigator. It's like a little cult!

    I rarely use Internet Explorer.

  5. I have two computers, one with Windows 95 and Word 97 and one with Vista and Office 2007. After a year, I’m still trying to figure out how to do simple tasks like putting page numbers in Office 2007 documents!

    I much prefer my old computer – it is friendlier and gives me the illusion I know what I’m doing. I can churn out documents by the boatload. And I can play X-Wing, the only game I was ever any good at.

  6. Freemind is a wonderful (strangely free) mind mapping program!

  7. I find Freemind too restrictive - the way it automatically arranges branches and the way you can't move them much.

    I've tried Conceptdraw Mindmap, Edraw Mindmap, Gael MIndGenius, Headcase, iMindMap, Mindmanager, MindMapperPro, Solution Language Tool and Xmind...and don't really like any of them.

    Headcase and iMindMap (which is essentially the same program, but not freeware) are highly flexible, full of features and produce output that actually looks like a handdrawn mindmap. Most of the others miss the point of mindmaps in one way or another.

    SLT is like a more basic version of Headcase, with only the essential features. It's got a few usability problems, but it's the one I'd recommend in the lack of anything better.

    In other words...I still draw my maps by hand.