Shivering on the 49th Parallel
Saturday, January 10, 2009

Yesterday I watched from the sidelines while the Microsoft web servers were hammered into submission and ultimately failure as people tried to download the Windows 7 Beta. Someone found a direct link to the .iso files and some people reported that their multi-gig files just stopped partway through. I guess there were people physically deleting the iso file from webservers at that point. It was an epic fail; microsoft.com was down for a little bit, windowsteamblog.com was offline, eOpen (licensing site), MSDN and TechNet were all having problems as the deluge continued.

Lifehacker actually posted an opinion piece admonishing Microsoft for not being ready for it and while they DO have a point, I don’t think they anticipated just how many people wanted an alternative to Vista. To give them some credit, there’s a difference between 38 million Firefox 3 downloads and 2.5 million 2.4 gigabyte Windows 7 downloads.

By late last night and this morning they had things ironed out and brought more capacity/bandwidth online and re-opened the beta. (I wonder if they ate their own dog food and used some sort of Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform, or if they just used Amazon S3 or (doubtful) Google’s cloud computing platform. More likely they just upped their commitment to Akamai.

Earlier today I signed up for the beta and got my product code that’s good through August 31st, 2009.

Tonight I backed up my laptop (which has been having wireless connection issues almost since I got it) and then did a hard drive swap so as not to damage my vista installation that has all my data on it. On a side note, I picked up a 320gb, 7200RPM, 2.5” SATA notebook hard drive at NCIX on Friday for $104 after taxes. While not as cheap as 3.5” SATA drive, that’s still pretty cheap.

I fired up my laptop with the Windows 7 DVD in the drive, made a few selections (language, regional settings, keyboard layout, that sort of thing) and then it installed. It seems to have installed a little slower than the Vista beta did a couple years ago. Once it was “ready” it asked for my name, a computer name (for networking) and then asked me if I wanted to connect to a wireless network. Judging by that, it had a driver and installed it during setup. It asked me for my WPA password and that was it. It then checked with Windows Update and downloaded 68mb of updates. One of the updates it downloaded (probably the bulk of the 68mb) was the nVidia video driver for my laptop. (At the time, it was running at 1024x768) Once it downloaded and installed the video driver, the MP3 bug fix and a couple other updates, it rebooted and came up at the native 1280x800 resolution. There was one “optional” update yet to be installed, the Broadcom Ethernet adapter driver. I installed it, and then downloaded/installed the new Windows Live Essentials (including Windows Live Writer, which I’m using right now to write this up)

I opened up the Device Manager, to see if any drivers did not get installed and was shocked to see that there was only one device that didn’t have a driver installed: the biometric fingerprint reader. The good news was that it identified it as a biometric reader interface, rather than just “PCI device” or something like what probably would have happened in an earlier version of windows.

I opened up IE8 and navigated to Facebook, and then I opened a new tab and went to another page. When I was done, I clicked the close button and it asked me if I really wanted to close Internet Explorer, or did I just want to close the current tab? Nice touch.

The only annoyance I’ve found so far, is that my fan is cycling on and off constantly. I don’t know why yet, but it’s probably something simple.

There was a notification that came up, telling me I did not have antivirus software installed. Clicking the notification balloon where it said “click here to find antivirus software online” opened Internet Explorer and went to a Microsoft Security webpage that had links to AVG (woo!), Norton/Symantec and Kaspersky Labs websites. I clicked on AVG and the landing page said “Welcome Windows 7 users!” It had a link to download AVG Antivirus standalone or AVG Internet Security for 38.99 or 59.99 respectively.

I don’t know about anyone else in the position to beta test a new OS, but I sure as hell am not going to pay $60 for a security package for a beta install. Sure I can re-install it in Vista or XP if I go back to it, but what the hell. I clicked on “all products” and then over to “free trials” to get a copy of AVG Free.

So far, the only thing that hasn’t “just worked” right out-of-the-box (so to speak) is the Windows Live Call. I wasn’t sure how it worked or even really what to do with it, but when I clicked it in the start menu, it came up with an MSN messenger-like window with a telephone keypad on it and a text message saying that the service was temporarily unavailable.

Even IE8 seems pretty responsive. Firefox 3 has been getting on my nerves lately. Facebook, Canadian Tire, Rogers and VanCity Savings websites constantly gave me problems with connection reset and other “page cannot be displayed” type errors. If it wasn’t for AdBlock Plus, I would probably have switched back to IE7 by now.

Tomorrow I’ll install Office 2007 Small Business and use Windows Live Sync to copy my pictures, videos, data and downloads back onto this installation and start “using” it for real and contributing feedback to the beta team.

Update: I downloaded and installed i8kfangui which originally was written to control the fans on the Dell Inspiron 8000. It works with the XPS m1330 and Windows 7 (as well as Vista 32-bit) and my fans are silent now until temperature thresholds are reached at which point they kick in until the temp is back below the threshold.

Another thing I just noticed is that IE8 will not run the "rich" text editor on my blog, so if there's any funky formatting, it's because I'm doing this update and manually inserting HTML tags into it :)

UPDATE 2: Clicking around the "Action center", I found the "Check for solutions to problem reports" and clicked it for grins. To my surprise, it popped up a Yellow notification saying "Solve a problem with your Fingerprint Reader" A new driver is available for your Fingerprint Reader. Go online to install this update. I clicked the Problem Response Button and it brought up an explanation and a link to UPEK, the manufacturer of the hardware. I clicked the link and it took me to a page titled "UPEK biometric software for Windows 7 - Preview version (32bit) Well holy crap! I'm downloading it now.

Saturday, January 10, 2009 9:34:49 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [3] | Tech | Microsoft | Wireless#
Sunday, January 11, 2009 11:26:35 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
i use AVG free and have for years with no trouble. I do a trend periodically.
Monday, January 12, 2009 11:19:09 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
That's impressive, especially for a beta. From what I've gathered around the weeb, Win7 looks pretty well cooked. I still have no reason to install it on my MacBook (plus I'd have to clear some serious drive space), but maybe it will help dispel the Vista funk that's been hovering around for the past couple of years. I'll be interested to read your impressions once you're working on it regularly.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009 8:27:10 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
I had my first crash last night, it was IE8. I had facebook open in one tab and tv.com in the other. There's a lot of crap and flash and video and other uselessness on tv.com so I'm blaming it for the crash. There's a "send feedback" link in every title bar of every window next to the minimize, restore and close buttons so you can send good or bad feedback. It's pretty slick, when I post about the error tonight i'll include a screenshot of it. At this point, I'm echoing what I've heard from industry bloggers and podcasts: it IS really polished. Everything in this beta is "ready to go" and not half-baked. They've changed their entire model for releases for 7 and it shows. The thinking now is "hey if a feature isn't 100% ready, then it won't ship. What's to stop us from shipping a new version of (paint|wordpad|backup|etc) through Windows Update in a few months when it IS ready, as opposed to rushing junk code to release like we did in Vista" This way they don't have to ship the OS "complete" with crappy apps instead of a 95% complete OS with everything included at 100%. Splitting out a lot of "cruft" into Windows Live Essentials (movie maker, photo gallery, messenger, mail, etc) lets them slim down the OS and if you want/miss it, "hey no problem, it's a free download. Bloat YOUR system to your heart's content."
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