With the installation complete it was time to test the critical software I use daily. The first was Microsoft Outlook and as I expected it worked perfectly. So did the rest of the Office suite.
Next on my list were the Java environments that I use, Eclipse and NetBeans. First I checked at java.sun.com for newer versions of Java and found a new release 1.6 r15. I downloaded both the 32 bit and 64 bit versions. I uninstalled the version I currently had, 1.6 r13, and then installed the new versions. I installed the 32 bit version first followed by the 64 bit version. Going to a command window I executed “java -version” and got back:
Microsoft Windows [Version 6.1.7600] Copyright (c) 2009 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. C:\Users\neon>java -version java version "1.6.0_15" Java(TM) SE Runtime Environment (build 1.6.0_15-b03) Java HotSpot(TM) 64-Bit Server VM (build 14.1-b02, mixed mode)
First, I was happy to see that the Server VM was being used and not the Client VM. Then I was puzzled why the version of Windows was 6.1.7600 rather than 7. Steve Ballmer, could you please explain this?
Next I installed Eclipse 3.5 and Netbeans 6.7 and both ran flawlessly. These are both 32 bit applications which is why I knew to have 32 bit Java installed. Since there is no 64 bit Flash for Windows you can only use the 32 bit version of IE and so that is another reason for keeping the 32 bit Java around.
Now it was time to test my remote access to my desktop at school. Dawson uses SonicWall technology for remote access so it is necessary to execute a program called NetExtender. NetExtender refused to connect to the college. When I first switched to Vista at home there was a period of a few months while I waited for a Vista version of NetExtender. When I switched from 32 to 64 it was necessary to replace the 32 bit version with a 64 bit version. I decided the solution might be to uninstall NetExtender and re-install it. I did and it worked. Now Remote Desktop works flawlessly to my machine at school.
Next up was a media server called PS3. As its name implies it is designed to stream a wide range of media formats to a PlayStation 3. When I ran it, the PS3 in my living room could not be found. So I uninstalled it, reinstalled it, and the PS3 saw the PS3. However Windows 7 supports DivX, Xvid, and H.264 so I will likely rarely use the PS3 server. Instead I can use Windows 7 as my DLNA server for most of my needs.
An interesting feature I discovered was that when I told Windows Media Player where my music, photos, movies, and videos were on my computer they became available through Windows Explorer by their category. So when I select Pictures in Windows Explorer it shows me all the directories I told Media Player about. My PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 see these folders as well.
Now it was time to deal with the issue of anti-virus software since I could no longer use OneCare (can I get a refund Steve?). First I chose AVG because it was free. It installed without incident and the Action Center, the updated version of the Vista Security center, was happy to see it. The Action Center is a nice improvement as it is the single point of information about all issues such as security and updates.
There were two issues with AVG. The first was an annoyance; it would add a line of text to every email it scanned. I don’t want every email I send to be an advertisement for them. The second was the deal breaker. When downloading files with Windows Explorer the download would hang when it finished. When I closed the download box I immediately go a dialog asking if it could scan the file just downloaded. I suspect that the downloads were completed as the files were in their destination directory but this was too much of an annoyance. Out came AVG.
Next I selected Panda. Installation was smooth and it would not expire until the end of October. No annoying additions to emails and downloads worked flawlessly. The Action Center did whine, I mean give a warning that the format of the communication between itself and Panda was not up to the most recent set of rules for Win 7. But it seemed to work so I was happy.
I asked the technical staff at Dawson if they had a Windows 7 version of McAfee as the college licenses it for all its machines. They told me that the most recent Enterprise version, 8.7i, should work. So I uninstalled Panda and installed McAfee. No problems other than the same complaint from the Action Center about communicating with McAfee.
Then a strange problem cropped up. While streaming media from my Windows 7 computer to my PlayStation 3 the connection between the two would be dropped. Worse was the fact that when this happened the Windows 7 computer lost all access to my home network. I should mention that even before upgrading I was having network issues with the same computer. It would drop its connection randomly only to have it come back after I either rebooted my cable modem, my router, or the computer itself. I thought I was having router issues. The clue that this was not likely the router came from the fact that my Mac was fine with the network even when the Win 7 machine failed.
I ran “ipconfig /all” from a command prompt when the problem occurred and discovered that my computer believed that the media, the Ethernet cable, was disconnected. The light on the router and on the back of the computer said otherwise. The network interface on my P5K SE/EPU motherboard is based on an Atheros chipset. I searched for “Windows 7 atheros problem” and found my answer.
The Atheros interfaces on Asus motherboards occasionally fail to wake up when a computer goes to sleep and so behaves as if the media is disconnected. Not my problem as I don’t put my computer to sleep. Then I came across a number of messages from Windows 7 beta and RC users describing exactly the same problem I was having. No one knew why but there was general agreement on the solution. Turn off the chipset in the BIOS and install a network interface card.
I bought a D-Link DGE-530T for $29 and installed it. Since then the Win 7 computer has never lost its connection to my home network.
All the other software of mine that I have run since the upgrade has run flawlessly. My system used to take a little more than three minutes before I could run any software when started. With Windows 7 it is down to two minutes. Windows 7 will show you a desktop in under a minute but there are still processes being run in the background that forces you to wait another minute before the system is stable and responsive.
The upgrade of my school computer also went quite smoothly. That machine is an older Pentium D 3.4 GHz machine and was running Vista 32 bit. The upgrade to Windows 7 32 bit took a little over 3 hours whereas on my faster home computer it took an hour and a half. The only software that exhibited a problem was my Novell Client. I have come to the conclusion that software that uses the network interface for its work must be re-installed after an upgrade. I re-installed the Novell Client 2 for Vista/Windows 2008 and my connectivity to the college Novell based network was restored.
All in all I am quite pleased with Windows 7. There is still much to discover but what I have seen so far has pleased me. I like the new display of files found when searching in Windows Explorer. I like the Media Player categories working in Windows Explorer. The new task bar presents a new approach to managing multiple programs and multiple documents from a single program that actually improves work flow. The goofy Rolodex view is gone, too.
If you sat out Vista then it is time to junk that old clunker of an operating system called XP (sorry no cash for XP clunker deals). If you did adopt Vista then look at Windows 7 as Vista’s Service Pack 13 and upgrade. I wonder if anyone will line up at midnight on October 21st to get a retail copy of Windows 7?