windows 7 – quirks, quips and quarks

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So I finally moved to Windows 7 on one of the machines I use regularly. It wasn’t without its share of weird-ass issues – I don’t think any M$ OS can be without its quirks. Not issues/problems, mind you. Quirks. I will try to update this based on what else I figure out in the future as well. I’m not attempting a detailed critique of what its like, there are ton-loads of such reviews online (most comprehensively, here). I’m merely noting stuff that stood out to me, personally. I’ll try not to degenerate to ranting or raving about anything.

  • It started out with problems in just trying to upgrade the damn OS. I have Vista x64 installed – I should be able to upgrade it to Windows 7 x64 directly. After a whole lot of confusion about the disc image available from the university, I finally managed to get one that works. Pop-in, click-through basic blah-blah, wait for 5 minutes while it does some kind of analysis… and ping! Error message. Random unknown error that I saw a lot of online. Never got round to solving it though.bootmgr
    Why? ‘Coz I then restarted. Big mistake.
    ‘Bootmgr missing’.
    Eventually, some searching later, I found a solution on the Windows 7 forums online. This problem apparently happens very randomly, and is generally not fixable. I got lucky – the solution+’Startup Repair’ on the install disc seemed to do the trip. An inauspicious beginning? πŸ˜›
  • Eventually, I ended up installing a fresh Windows 7 on a separate partition. Zip-zap-zoom, like so many others it only took about 20-30 minutes to have a fully functional Windows installed. Took me a few more hours to actually have it all set up the way I want it, but what the hell. Very zippy, very snappy, very intuitive. Polished. I remember feeling parts of Vista were just brought forward from XP. Not so here. Everything has been shined up just a little bit. The drivers box from Win95 ‘Plug-n-Play’ is still there though. Hard to improve perfection πŸ™‚
  • win95 vs win7 - classic dialogs

  • After struggling to auto-login to my network share on Windows since XP, I finally have a solution. Til date, the only way to do this was the make the user-name/password for Windows as well as the network share the same. Suboptimal by any standards. The ‘Vault‘ feature in Win7 lets me save a user-name/password for any network drive, or even some random network computer I want to access. Login to Windows -> auto-login to network drive via ‘Vault’ permanent credential. Its not a full-fledged credential manager like Keychain (OS X), which can get confusing. Still pretty cool that there finally is a secure solution to my problem.
  • Windows 7 has mucked around with UAC, for god knows what reason. I’ve used Vista for 2-odd years now and personally thought UAC was one of the best ways of ensuring some modicum of security in the mess that is Win-32 (note that Win-64, due to a radical redesign, does not have such problems). I reset it to ‘high’ – which, contrary to what random techblogs say, did not cause me any major hassles at all. Hell, UAC prompted me when Adobe seamlessly tried to install Flash player with nary a prompt when I visited some random page in IE8. Think about just how scary that is if you have your alerts on low – and you won’t know when software is sneakily installed on your computer. Win7 default settings? You’re probably not getting prompted about such installs.
    However, all this UAC mucking around means that MiKTeX/TeXnicCenter (for LaTeX) doesn’t work perfectly. Sometimes MiKTeX packages need to be installed on-the-fly as you compile the document. In Vista, during a similar situation, UAC prompted me properly and installed everything beautifully. Apparently something broke (or maybe UAC works differently in Win7), but for all my trying I could not get on-the-fly installs to work in TeXnicCenter+Win7. I had to use some random editor to get the package installed, after which everything has been fine. But something seems amiss there. Whenever I do my next such install of Win7, maybe I’ll know more.
  • Windows Media Player 12 rocks. Codec support out-of-the-box is astounding to say the least. Interface is sweet too. Minimalistic by default (which is always cool), and elegant when expanded. Did I mention snappy? That drudgy mess called iTunes is shown up for the.. well.. drudgy cludgy mess that it is.adding network folders to a Win7 library
  • Libraries and Win7. The start of the elusive WinFS. The idea is smart. Aggregate content from multiple folders into a single view (library). Folders can exist on multiple drives. But not just anywhere. You can’t add folders to a library which are located on a network drive. If you want to add them, according to Windows Help, you have to make the network folder available offline, so that they can be indexed. Also known as maintaining a copy of the folder on your local computer. Which is automagically synced at various times with the network share.
    Yes, you read it right. M$ wants you to save whatever network folder on your local computer if you want to add it to a library. The only way to ensure that Windows can monitor it correctly.
    However, that said, hidden inside WMP > Organize > Libraries, is a dialog box that looks exactly like the ‘Add folders to library dialog box’ from Explorer, but lets you add any damn folder to the library! And folders thus added are easily indexed by WMP. Explorer remains pissy and won’t show you meta-data info for such files/folders, going far as to say that all Library features are not supported for “some included folders” (i.e. my network locations). You’d think that if WMP can index it, Explorer can display the meta-data too… but it doesn’t work that way. However I have a single navigable interface in in my Library for folders on any drive connected to my computer (network and non-network), and thats all that matters I guess. This mainly applies to music and videos.
    [In my graphic is the error you get if you add network folders via Explorer on the left, and the successful result of adding network folders via WMP on the right.]
  • Update: Default power settings are to put the computer to sleep in 20 minutes and switch off hard drives in 10. Why? Aggressive eco-friendliness? You’d think they would ask you about such things, or at least set acceptable defaults. WTF is 10 minutes of idling? Resuming from sleep is instantaneous though. Unlike Vista which would lag just a little bit.

Maybe more. Maybe soon. Don’t hold your breath.

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7 thoughts on “windows 7 – quirks, quips and quarks

    • SEV

      Well, any review of Snow Leopard I’ve read says that its more a SP than an OS release πŸ™‚
      Win7 is what it is: a significant release of the Windows OS that does not disappoint, keeps all its promises, and significantly improves in every way on every version of Windows so far.
      If we were to start comparing what one OS can do and what another can’t, it degenerates into fanboyism. Each has/will borrow off the other, no matter what fanboys of any breed say. Each caters to different markets too. Can you really say apples (pun intended) are better than oranges ?

  1. Rahul

    Wonder what Pogue will say on this! Good review man… I guess I’ll be stuck with XP till I get a new computer πŸ™‚

    • SEV

      You can get it for $30, if you do not plan to upgrade your computer any time soon. From what I read it runs fine even on old hardware πŸ™‚

  2. Matthis

    If you run TeXnicCenter with administrator privileges it will successfully tell MiKTeX to install the missing packages. Not a real solution, but this way you don’t have to use “some random editor”.

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