Windows Vista never did manage to win over an enthusiast following, leaving many eagerly awaiting the release of Windows 7. But while Microsoft's next OS is still a year (or less) from release, you can already get your paws on the beta 1 version (build 7000). Windows 7 beta 1 isn't supposed to make its way into the public sector for another couple of weeks, but leaked copies have already started appearing on BitTorrent, and initial reactions is that it's pretty good.
"This beta is of excellent quality," ZDNet wrote. "This is the kind of code that you could roll out and live with. Even the pre-betas were solid, but finally this beta feels like it’s “done.” This beta exceeds the quality of any other Microsoft OS beta that I’ve handled"
ZDNet noted "exceptional" performance while playing with the beta code, saying it feels faster and more responsive than is typical of beta builds. But what the site didn't find were any new features compared to earlier builds.
BlogsDNA lists several torrent links for the DVD ISO image, which should make installation a breeze for anyone wanting to chance pre-release software.
ZDNet's Hardware 2.0 maven, Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, rose to the challenge and has put Windows 7 build 6956 up against Vista SP1, Vista RTM (the original and worst), and Windows XP SP3 in three benchmarks: boot time, Passmark Performance Test 6.1, and Cinebench R10.
Not surprisingly, Windows Vista SP1 blew the doors off its RTM ancestor, but was similarly run off the road by Windows 7, which also made Windows XP SP3 eat its dust in virtually every test. The only test in which Windows XP SP3 held off its two-generation newer rival was in the OpenGL version of the Cinebench R10 benchmark. If this performance level continues until Windows 7 sees the light of day sometime next year, Windows 7 users will be very happy, and Windows XP diehards who have resisted "Mojave" will finally upgrade.
Join us after the jump for your chance to chime in on how you rate Windows 7 versus its predecessors.
In the coming days and years the uses for multitouch will only grow, some will act as innovative new pieces of technology that the world will benefit from, and then there will be others that lack practical use. This is the latter.
While the PQ-DVD made app (the same folks responsible for the iPod video conversion software) looks like a Microsoft Surface made just for synching media to and from an iPod (because it is), it just doesn’t look useful. The tasks, while pretty, would be far easier to complete with the traditional mouse and keyboard.
Admittedly, the software is easy on the eyes – nobody’s questioning that. But ultimately, this is a party trick. Sure it’s cool to show off when people are around, and you might use it once or twice when you’re home alone, but you and I both know that there are far easier ways of opening that bottle of beer than with your molars.
Microsoft appears to be well on its way to releasing Windows 7 Beta 1, and may have it available by the middle of January. To get your hands on a copy, you'll need to attend one of Microsoft's upcoming MSDN Developer Conferences, with copies ready perhaps in time for the January 13 events in Chicago or Minneapolis. Word around the web is that attendees will either receive a Windows 7 Beta DVD at the event, or if the Beta isn't ready in time, Microsoft will send a copy in the mail as soon as they become available.
Earlier this year, Microsoft gave out alpha editions of Windows 7 to those who attended PDC. At the time, Microsoft said it would release a beta version in early 2009, though it still has not committed to a specific date. Attending an MSDN Developer Conference ensures you'll be one of the first to get a copy, and it's not too terribly priced at $99, assuming you're not planning to go solely for the DVD.
Attendees will also have a chance to win several prizes, including a Mindstorm NXT robot with a copy of Professional Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio, a Mobility Pack consisting of a LifeCam NX-6000 and Wireless Notebook Laser Mouse 6000, and a Gamer Pack containing some Xbox 360 swag.
According to a blog post by Bob Familiar, an Architect Evangelist with Microsoft, the Windows 7 Beta 1 will be available at the upcoming MSDN developer conference. Said conference will take place from December 9th to February 19th.
In the post, familiar writes, “attend an upcoming MSDN Developer Conference and you will receive a Windows 7 Beta 1 DVD.” It hasn’t been made clear whether or not this means that attendees will receive the disc after or during the conference, but it has been confirmed by other Microsoft employees that the beta will be available.
One such confirmation comes from Keith Combs, who has stated that the DVDs will be available on January 13th. This places it right in time for this year’s CES, and mounts for an even grander unveiling at the trade show.
In recent times, there have been quite a few reports about some enterprises having professed their liking for Windows XP. The consumers and enterprises that have vowed to abstain from Windows Vista, or plan on running old software owned by them, are scampering for used XP-toting PCs.
There is no dearth of Windows XP PCs as millions of users are supplanting their old PCs with newer ones that run Vista; a Gartner study pegged the number of discarded XP PCs in 2007 at 197 million.
Kaplan advises consumers to be slightly more cautious while purchasing secondhand PCs online as they are very likely to come loaded with a pirated version of XP.
The talk of Vista and XP is known to have elicited some passionate responses from Maximum PC readers in the comments section before and so you are expected to be ready with your astute views on this occasion as well.
If your graphics card doesn't support DirectX 10 or 10.1, don't worry about it, Microsoft has your back. The resourceful programmers at Redmond are working on a new component called WARP10 (Windows Advanced Rasterization Platform) to be included in Windows 7, which essentially ports DX10 duties to the CPU.
The upshot is that everyone will have access to DX10 eye candy even if the hardware doesn't support it. Minimum requirements for WARP10 are the same as they are for Vista - an 800MHz processor and 512MB of RAM. So if you have the hardware to run Windows 7, then in theory, you should be able to enable advanced effects regardless of your videocard.
"Our primary goal during WARP10 development was to produce a rasterizer that met or exceeded all the precision and conformance requirements of the Direct3D 10 and 10.1 specifications," writes Andy Glaister, Principal Development Lead of Microsoft Desktop and Graphics Technologies. "We wanted to do this while achieving a high level or reliability and stability. If this rasterizer was going to be used as a fallback for when hardware was not functioning, it’s important that it worked in all scenarios, configurations and different types of machines."
Hit the jump to find out how WARP10 compares to integrated graphics.
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.
A recent posting to the Engineering Windows 7 blog (one of our favorite sites for Windows 7 news, by the way) has some very useful information about the mysterious WinSxS directory in Windows 7 (and Vista), and how Microsoft is trying to curb Windows' appetite for disk space in Windows 7.
The C:\Windows\WinSxS folder (first introduced in Vista) looks as if it is a huge gobbler of disk space, (it uses 3.5GB of disk space on a new system, and can use 10GB or more as a system is used) but what does it do, and is that space really being "used up?"
As it turns out, both Windows Vista and Windows 7 use the WinSxS folder to point to files that are actually found elsewhere in Windows; in other words, the amount of space that the WinSxS properties sheet says is in use isn't accurate. So, what's the folder for?
By using the WinSxS folder to store what the blog calls the "installation and servicing state" of all system components, Microsoft makes it easier to roll out Vista installations with imaging technology and to patch the image offline (Windows XP and earlier versions aren't image-friendly, and require third-party tools and clunky workarounds to permit image-based deployment). Also, if you get rid of the WinSxS folder, you make it difficult to keep Windows running reliably. So, the word on the street is, "keep the WinSxS folder." To remove old files replaced by Windows Vista SP1, the blog entry provides a link to information about the command-line VSP1CLN.exe tool.
To find out how Microsoft is working to put Windows 7 on a disk-space diet, join us after the jump.
New versions of Windows have featured new versions of DirectX, the 3D audio and graphics family of APIs, and it now appears that Windows 7 will be no exception. According to PC Games Hardware, Microsoft's Ben Basaric, Product Marketing Manager Windows, says that Redmond will be bundling DirectX 11 with Windows 7, after all. Earlier this week, PCGH had reported that the pairing of DirectX 11 and Windows 7 was "unlikely."
So, what's new in DirectX 11? As we reported this summer, DX 11 will include compute shader technology, enabling the GPU to perform operations other than 3D graphics; better multi-core resource handling; more efficient utilization of the processing pipeline; hardware tesselation support for more detailed 3D models.
For you chance to sound off about your plans to buy DirectX 11-compliant hardware, and how long you'll have to wait for it, join us after the jump.
When can you expect to buy DirectX 11-compliant GPUs? AMD says its first DirectX 11 parts will be available in late 2009 - right about the time Windows 7 is expected to arrive. New operating system and new graphics hardware? Hopefully, that's a recipe for more realistic 3D graphics than ever before. If Microsoft and OEMs continue to work as closely as the Engineering Windows 7 blog suggests, that's much more likely than a repeat of the poorly handled integration of hardware and Windows Vista at rollout.
How about you? Are you going to wait for DirectX 11 before you buy a new graphics card, or are NVIDIA and ATI's current products tempting you to make the jump now? Hit Comment and tell us what your heart (and your wallet) are telling you.