As noted by Gizmodo, Windows 7 has made quite a few tweaks to the Windows Experience Index (WEI) first introduced by Windows Vista. For those of you tuning in late, the WEI tests hardware performance of five subsystems (processor, memory, desktop graphics, 3D gaming graphics, and hard disk), calculates a score for each one, and uses the lowest subsystem score as your WEI base score.
Since just after Windows Vista shipped, users of high-performance components, especially graphics cards, have been complaining loudly about Vista's WEI top score being capped at 5.9. While the Minpaso database of Vista WEI scores calculates a "presumption score" to try to make allowances for today's faster hardware, there hasn't been an official move from Microsoft until now. The code jockeys in Redmond heard you, and the top WEI subsystem and base score in Windows 7 is 7.9.
Wondering why the top score changed, and what else is different? Join us after the jump for details.
After a brief look back at the original taskbar in Windows 1.0 (Windows turned 20 this month), the Engineering Windows 7 blog dug deep into the enhanced features of the Windows 7 taskbar in its most recent entry.
A More Visual Taskbar
The Windows 7 taskbar now features large icons, support for Aero Glass, and no text, and when a window is maximized, the taskbar and the window's title bar no longer turn opaque and dark.
Smarter Program Launch Options
Windows 7 no longer has separate taskbar and Quick Launch buttons for applications, avoiding duplications. Right-click a button on the taskbar, and you can open recently-used documents associated with the program. How can you tell which button represents a program that's already running? A new feature called Color Hot-track changes the color of a running program's taskbar icon when you move your mouse over it.
To find out what's new with thumbnails, the notification area, and for your chance to sound off about the changes, join us after the jump.
Screenshots have been appearing all over the net of Windows 7 M3 Build 6780, and one criticism seems to float to the top every time. Users are disappointed that the UI looks exactly like Vista. This reaction although true, should be taken with a grain of salt. Microsoft has a very storied history of leaving user interface tweaks to the very end for a good reason. Popular GUI elements are always in a state of flux among fickle users. Core improvements to the kernel on the other hand, are something that can be worked on at any time while leaving the final layer of Chrome to the very end. A full layout of screen shots of M3 (milestone 3) were posted at thinknext.net and is likely going to be similar to the version Microsoft will show at its upcoming PDC in October. One trend that we can identify now however is the inclusion of the ribbon interface from Office 2007 into core applications like Paint and WordPad. Other than this, things don’t look a whole lot different. Love it or hate it, the ribbon UI seems to be the future of Microsoft applications and is likely to become a trademark of the OS. The latest builds of Windows 7 include Internet Explorer 8 and presumably, given the lengthy turnaround on IE releases, will be the final version included in Windows 7. Currently the OS seems to remain on track for its scheduled launch somewhere between mid 2009 and early 2010. This timetable seems reasonable given that ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley expressed belief that Windows 7 will enter beta 1 by December of this year. Want to see the evolution of the paint UI from Windows 98 to Windows 7 so far? Hit the jump to see the side by side comparisons.
As the system [running Windows Vista SP1] arrived to us, the off-the-shelf configuration had a ~45 second boot time. Performing a clean install of Vista SP1 on the same system produced a consistent ~23 second boot time. Of course, being a clean install, there were many fewer processes, services and a slightly different set of drivers (mostly the versions were different). However, we were able to take the off-the-shelf configuration and optimize it to produce a consistent boot time of ~21 seconds, ~2 seconds faster than the clean install because some driver/BIOS changes could be made in the optimized configuration.
Fortin identifies a number of design goals for Windows 7 to help it achieve a high percentage of "very good" boot times (under 15 seconds), including:
Reducing the number of system services
Reducing the demand that system services make on CPU, disk, and memory resources
Device and driver optimization
Improving parallelism of driver initialization (enabling multiple drivers to be installed at the same time)
Faster prefeching optimized for both traditional and SSD hard disks
Fortin's comments suggest that Microsoft is working very closely with system vendors to help assure that Windows 7 works well in typical preconfigured systems. Hopefully, Microsoft has learned a lot from the vast difference in performance between clean installs of Windows Vista and systems cluttered with OEM products not optimized for Vista.
Don't want to wait for Windows 7 to get faster boot times? Fortin also discusses analyzing systems with the Windows Performance Toolkit for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, available here.
How do you define fast boot time? When is a system "ready to go?" Give us your thoughts after the jump.
The Engineering Windows 7 (aka "e7") blog at MSDN is providing us with a useful look at how the performance of Windows 7 is being analyzed in this week's blog post. So, what are the major subsystems being analyzed? Some of them include:
Memory usage: trying to balance time versus space (disk, memory)
CPU utilization: keep it as low as possible to improve multi-user scenarios and reduce power consumption
Disk I/O: reading, writing, paging performance for both traditional and solid-state drives
Boot, Shutdown, Standby/Resume: working with system vendors to make these operations as fast as possible
Base system: balancing "on-demand" loading of resources with the need to keep performance at as high a level as possible
Disk footprint: working with the space demands of device drivers, help system, optional components, diagnostics, and logging information
To learn more about how Microsoft is performance-testing Windows 7, and how your comments can help shape Windows 7, join us after the jump.