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I ditched my old lappy recently, the one with Windows Vista, because its hard disk was making funny noises that I was told were the precusor to sudden and unexpected megadeath of my megabytes. So I rushed out and spent £320.00 on a fresh one. It's a Lenovo, if you must know, and it has Windows 7 because Bill Gates (or probably Steve Ballmer nowadays, to be fair) won't sell older Windows to manufacturers any more. I have now been using 7 for a month or so, even though 7 has been out since October of 2009.

Windows 7 is a bit of an anomaly really. It's so much faster than Vista like you wouldn't believe, although that may be due to my new lappy having 6 GB RAM. It has lots of amusing things, like Aero, which is kinda like virtual double glazing in that it lets you look through programs, and that flippy thing when you press Win-Tab that 3D cascades all your programs, and suchlike. But all that was in Vista. As was "Superfetch" that proactively attempts to manage your memory, and "Readyboost" which lets you use a suitably fast USB drive as second tier RAM, and that indexing search feature that wastes loads of time and effort and that anyone with a bit of sense turns off, and the gadget bar (which still is no use to man nor beast), and support for x64 processors, and that annoying User Account Control that keeps asking you if you're sure you want to do anything, but it doesn't really have anything else that Vista didn't have.

So why would you want it then?

The answer is this - because it has all the fluff that Vista had but is more efficient with it. I think Microsoft, in the two and a half years between Vista coming out and 7 coming out, must have basically gone through it and tightened all the screws and filed off all the sharp edges and plugged all the leaks and little else. In fact, technically, if you go to Help > About, it's strictly speaking "Windows NT 6.1," which makes sense because Vista was "Windows NT 6.0" for all intents and purposes.

Which is why I am in two minds about Windows 7. It is very good indeed, but it's a bit cheeky of Microsoft to charge everyone an extra wad of cash to make their old Windows work properly. Imagine if you'd just bought yourself a brand new car and after two years GM or Toyota or BMW recalled it to make it use less petrol and crash less, but then charged you for the privilege. There'd be torches and pitchforks and burning effigies of their executives, surely. Why Microsoft couldn't have just held off on releasing Vista until it was truly ready in the form of Windows 7 I don't know. I suspect the phrase "money, dear boy" may have been involved in that decision.

I'm not going to compare 7 to XP here. I dare say XP would be even faster still but I last used XP on a Pentium 4-era laptop so it would hardly be comparing like with like. I recall XP was a massive headache also until about two and a half years after it first came out, when Service Pack 2 came along and filled most of the security holes. However on that occasion Microsoft didn't see fit to rebrand XP SP2 as a new edition, probably because they were under siege from the Macites and the Linuxers very heavily back then.

There are two main criticisms I have of 7, though. Firstly, the massive array of different versions - Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate. There's no real difference except in price and in the higher versions you get bits of cruft that you don't get in the lower versions, including a virtual machine. Also, the Starter edition has no support for 64-bit processors, and the Basic editions don't have the shinier bits of the Aero interface.

The other criticism is there's a new task bar system which kind of acts like a "dock" where you can pin things to it to turn them into quick launch buttons, so to speak. This was an annoyment because unless you specify otherwise, the applications on the task bar are only identified by their icons and automatically grouped; you can't identify at a glace which document's open in which program unless you hover or click on it. I found this annoying. Also, YOU CAN'T HAVE THE CLASSIC START MENU! They've killed the good old "Programs, Documents, Settings, Search, Help, Run" start menu that's been around since the days of Windows 95 and insisted on you using a single-box affair that tries to be intuitive but just ends up a disorganised, jumbled mess. Thankfully there are third party mods that restore the real start menu which, quite frankly, should never have been changed as it's simple and logical.

(Some Mac fanboy will probably come along and explain how this was stolen from Mac OS X's dock system. To which I say, avaunt, and go and look at Windows 1.0 from 1985 which has the icons lined up in exactly the same way.)

I also believe that Windows 7 will possibly be the last Windows that we're used to. Windows 8, due out in 2012, will apparently get rid entirely of the start menu and replace it with a full-on Start screen so that touch screen users aren't fiddling around so much. Hmmmm, say I.

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