Windows Could Be Kool Again?

14 Jul '09 - 05:59 by benr

It's wierd... I know. I'm the last person to defend Microsoft, or anything other than Solaris for that matter, but its true. Windows 7 is pretty non-sucky!

Windows 7 is, frankly, the first OS from Microsoft since Windows 98 that is interesting. I admit that I love the Aero look that came with Vista, but it was a pig. Vista in general was a pig. But Vista also had some high points, such as an iSCSI Initiator by default and PowerShell, an entirely non-sucky command line interface. Windows 7 goes much further though, unlike Vista it feels moderately light-weight although still not as light as Mac OS X. UI touches here and there are welcome, the start bar is massively improved by the excellent run/search textbox, and the control panel is finally in a fairly intuitive layout.

Microsoft has also done something great in allowing you to download and try most of its software for free, including Windows 7, Windows 2008 Server R2, Hyper-V Server R2, etc. There is no way in hell I'd try Windows 7 otherwise. I think it helps cut down on piracy and makes Microsoft much less evil.

On a similar note, Hyper-V Server is free and itself non-sucky. It's not superior to XenServer or VMWare ESXi, but it's a solid product in its own right that is perfect for Windows shops and runs Solaris pretty nicely to boot.

It really strikes me that if Microsoft dumped this notion of versions (Basic, Home, Small Business, Ultimate, whatever), dumped the difference between a Full version and an Upgrade version, and adopted a reasonable price of $99, it's possible... just possible... that Windows 7 could make Windows kool again.

Mind you, Microsoft still has one big problem even after that... there aren't many interesting applications for Windows. I know that might strike some of you as odd, but as someone who only runs Windows every couple of years for a couple days (typically for BIOS upgrades or something) I look around for kool Windows apps that I'm missing out on... and there aren't any. Just games. Windows apps still all have a very old feel to them, like nothings changed since Windows 98. I just hate the feel. Clunky and old. Any UNIX platform can do anything you want to do and Mac has a much better selection of really nice apps than Windows.

If you haven't tried Windows 7, I highly suggest you do. I've run it on VMWare Fusion, Solaris xVM, Hyper-V Server, ESXi, VirtualBox, and bare metal... it runs well in any environment. I don't think I could run it as a daily operating system, but I'd happily dual boot Windows 7 if it was reasonably priced.


- - C O M M E N T S - -

I’ve come to the same conclusion. Windows 7 is pretty damn cool. Looking forward to the release so we can purchase a copy. However a little disappointed with pricing that has been suggested.

Michael Fox (Email) (URL) - 14 July '09 - 06:07

I’ve stopped using windows a long time ago, running OSX, Solaris & linux but every so often I have to help someone with some weird issue on windows, and my point is that windows XP run pretty well for a short period of time until you try to do install to many things or changing hardware.

Anyway at some point you will just lost control of windows, so I reckon that it would take more than just quick test to see how windows 7 really behave.


rno - 14 July '09 - 08:44

Given up on Windows a long time ago too. I’m running Win 7 RC in Virtualbox, and it just feels so completely derivative and, well, unauthentic. After having used GNOME for so long it just feels cludgy and counter-intuitive – and the eye candy is a horrible mish-mash of ideas. No style in its execution.

I’m a long-time Mac fan too – although less and less these days I must say.

Grant - 14 July '09 - 09:12

True, but it is still missing some BASIC features for a 2009 OS: software raid (you can’t do soft mirror raid with Windows 7) and why the hell can’t I be connected by remote desktop with my user at the same time my girlfriend is connected on the console? I use to do that with XP32 with a dll hack…

Francois (Email) (URL) - 14 July '09 - 09:20 proves that hype around Vista 7 is organized by Microsoft. It pays blogger, journalists, and reviewers for positive feedback.

And Vista 7 actually is not much different from Vista 6. It is still a pig, still too slow, and has ugliest architecture.

Alexei - 14 July '09 - 10:15

here is the coverage

Alexei - 14 July '09 - 10:20

Ben I still wouldn’t consider using it voluntarily (have to on work laptop), I think I would miss ZFS and IPS too much and with the upcoming Gnome 3 we will have an interface that sucks less anyway. I will probably try it just to see if we need any RFE’s in OpenSolaris…

Che (URL) - 14 July '09 - 12:39

One of the nice features of Windows Vista and 7 is very good IPv6 support. Especially for an end-user machine, it’s much more thorough than what I’ve seen on Mac OS X and Linux. At least in my environment, that matters.

Derek Morr (Email) (URL) - 14 July '09 - 14:06

You have got to be kidding me.

Windows was never “kool” in the first place. Using Windows was, for a long time, the equivalent of riding a school bus. It wasn’t cool, but most kids did it because it was a better option than walking.

But things have changed. We have options. Apple isn’t up its own ass anymore, and Mac OSX is an OS that is actually enjoyable to use on a daily basis. Projects like Ubuntu are finally putting Linux within the grasp of the general public.

Microsoft may have installed a more efficient engine in the bus and given it a fresh coat of paint, but it still handles like a school bus, and it’s still being driven by the same scary, sweaty fat guy that it has been for the past several years. No thanks.

Andy S. (Email) - 14 July '09 - 14:45

I have tried Windows 7 for a Video Playback machine.
The Gimmicks are nice and the show fine. But when it comes to showing the film, it sucks just like Vista.
OK ! The machine is Sempron powered with a Geforce 5200, but since this is enough for Windows XP to play a film in double speed, why does Windows 7 sputter ?
So, if you don’t need the features of Windows 7, don’t heat the world by wasting CPU-Watts.

Knut Grunwald (Email) (URL) - 14 July '09 - 15:21

Windows is “kool” ? Ben, what did you smoke ? I want the same ! :)

Windows XP is ok for booting and playing your favorite games, maybe to fire up that putty shell in a hurry, until recompiling a graphic driver on your preferred OS, but that’s it, excellent comment about the school bus BTW.

For the rest, I think it’s best to use the right tool for the right thing, moderated by your preferences of course, I do FreeBSD for networking and OpenSolaris for storage.

MacOSX Desktop is for ladies, but I like their pricing scheme – just one version, simple and easy, and avoid MacOSX server at all costs, just never, never touch that thing!

evaldas (Email) - 14 July '09 - 16:16

I have been using Windows 7 from Beta to RC and have yet to have a problem with it running all production software and coding in Visual Studio.

It is by far the most stable “beta” or “RC” I’ve used from Microsoft – however, as we all know, it is less a new operating system than a Service Pack++ for Vista.

Chris (URL) - 14 July '09 - 16:21

I too was surprised by your “doesn’t suck” comment, Ben, but OK.

To your question about good Windows apps:
I don’t really have a choice but to run Windows for most of my work day (don’t ask), but it’s almost always XP. OSX is not an option for me. To make the most of the situation, there are some apps which are “must haves” for me, and which work pretty well:

  • Adobe Photoshop and Premier

  • Flickr Uploadr client –

  • Google Earth

  • Google Desktop – has save my butt many many times

    The others that I depend on daily have close equivalents in other OS’s.

    Dave Stewart (URL) - 14 July '09 - 18:01

    I have decided to stick with XP and not use any windows 7. I personally approach a nervous breakdown anytime I try to use them for real development. (VS2008 is good for Hello World though). Moreover for an OS that does not print, makes any sound, connects wireless or wired(many times), or can use any hardware without blobs I think paying me (not paying them) 99$ to use is little. I use ,because of necessity, Word though I I’m trully deeply in love with OO and this is the only reason I use Windows (and because I have to release some binaries for partners). When my only closed apps on windows I use are word+acrobat+flash (and of course windows) you understand that I have no reason to upgrade. As far as games are concerned, I use linux ( I dual boot it at home with opensolaris)

    The moral : Personally I will not upgrade
    Disclaimer :
    Please make bluetooth + Profiles available for OpenSolaris (windowsXP has bt support but not very good). Opensolaris is a giant and needs some generic driver love. It is lightyears ahead of windows, why are we talking about this thing in 2009?

    About the 99$ : If opensolaris could sell a version with BT and increasing crazy HW support (writing drivers and keeping platform in shape) by sun/oracle or whoever and have a 49$/year home user service plan I would really have no problem to buy and enjoy a look into the future with optimism.

    About windows7 : use UNIX or suffer a painful death.

    Vasileios Anagnostopoulos (Email) - 14 July '09 - 18:18

    Interesting picks, there. Windows 98 was basically an improved version of Windows 95. Likewise, Windows 7 is Windows Vista with the warty bits filed off. I don’t mean that as a criticism, because generally Microsoft’s second try at something is much better than the first. But Windows 7 doesn’t represent anything revolutionary in the Windows world.

    Re Dave Stewart’s comment above: I suspect what Ben really means is there isn’t a lot of interesting free software for Windows. Most of the innovative free development is happening on Linux and OS X these days, with a Windows version being a bit of an afterthought. Windows still has the edge when it comes to big-name engineering and design software, though. There’s no Linux or Mac equivalent to AutoCAD, for example. Windows also still rules the PC gaming world.

    David Brodbeck (Email) - 15 July '09 - 18:02

    When you guys say that Windows is expensive, you also have to consider the fact that Mac’s are the most expensive Desktop device as a whole (OS plus hardware).

    The really cheap x86 hardware added with a “premium” priced OS (Windows) is still much cheaper as a whole.

    I haven’t tried Windows 7, but if all the hype is really true, I will try it.

    I also like Mac’s but they a bit expensive for me. The next option is Windows. I have several apps that only work on Mac or Windows (e.g. Tax Cut …) In that case, my only option is Windows. So, a more slick Windows is welcoming!

    Anil (Email) (URL) - 16 July '09 - 03:17

    The Mac Minis are actually fairly competitive; they’re a little more than a PC with similar specs, but in the same basic price range. I think the big problem Macs have, cost-wise, is that there’s a big hole in their lineup between the Mini and the Mac Pro Tower. The iMacs don’t really fill this because with an iMac you’re paying for a monitor you might not need. You also have to go all the way up to a Mac Pro Tower before you can get a serious 3D chipset, which makes the Mac line a non-starter for gaming.

    David Brodbeck (Email) - 17 July '09 - 20:17

    Reasonably priced is right. I have been running 7 since the first beta and I do like it, even better than XP, but for the price they want it is simply not worth it. Directories with a large number of files still sucks, it is a big memory hog(for the wrong reasons), and slower game performance. The only thing keeping me on any form of windows is silverlight because of netflix.

    Francis Ridder (Email) - 18 July '09 - 00:45

    I don’t think Mac mini’s are the same range. Look what I found: [[]]

    Both are $599 but with notable differences.

    6GB ram, 720gb disk, 2.5 QUAD (vs a mini with core duo).

    Plus it has a free Windows 7 upgrade. To make it the same, the mini would need another $300 in expense, 50% more cost atleast.

    I wish we had better Windows though, I hate the fact that Windows gets slow after some time… damn registry!

    Anil (Email) (URL) - 18 July '09 - 04:27

    Wait, did you say that Microsoft Hyper-V runs OpenSolaris? Yours is the only website I’ve seen that mentions someone getting Hyper-V to run OpenSolaris! Believe me, I’ve googled for days on this topic.

    Can you tell us how you got this to work? I’ve read that networking is broken, but I have no idea if Microsoft fixed this or not.


    Max (Email) - 21 July '09 - 16:55

    You’ve got to be kidding right?
    Still the registry mess no one can maintain or use properly?
    Still the system32 madness where any app install writes or overwrites stuff in system directories?
    Still no no real “pre-emptive” multitasking, where any app (especially MS ones, they are so well “integrated”) can crash the box, or where inserting a floppy or a CD makes to box freeze for a few seconds?

    chris (Email) - 17 August '09 - 23:23

    And I didn’t mention UAC and other plasters over a cracking architecture… because I am too nice for that :)

    chris - 17 August '09 - 23:37


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