BOOT CAMP 564 (18/02/09)

Introducing Windows 7, part 1


If things go according to plan – and that’s by no means certain – Windows 7 will be released into a market that has only just come to terms with Windows Vista, but do we really need yet another new version of Windows?


Many PC users are content to stick with XP, which after a somewhat shaky start has evolved in a reasonably stable platform. Vista, launched in late 2006 (or early 2007 in the UK), suffered with some early glitches, though to be fair these were mostly due to a lack of hardware support and manufacturers shoehorning it into underpowered machines


Vista came in for a lot of stick but I quite like it and judging by my Ask Rick and Houston postbags it’s causing fewer really serious problems for users. It is much more forgiving of user error and able to recover from quite nasty faults without the dreaded BSODs and fatal lockups that plagued earlier incarnations of Windows. On suitable hardware it runs smoothly and there are a number of very useful features (and it’s fair share of annoying ones as well…). It looks pretty and new PC users, without the baggage of XP, seem to take to it fairly quickly. In my experience most users who dislike it do so initially out of frustration, at the upheaval of changing computers and having to learn new tricks, but eventually many warm to it. One way or another Vista should be good for another few years, which brings us back to the question of why we need Windows 7?


To understand that you need to know that work on Windows 7,originally codenamed Vienna, began 4, 5 or 6 years ago, depending who you talk to and which version of Microsoft’s recent history you subscribe to. Its design objectives have changed several times but that’s normal in Windows development. Microsoft’s biggest problem is to try and anticipate the changes in computer hardware, software and most importantly, the way we use the things, five years and more down the line.


Windows XP was a largely successful attempt to tame the Internet, bigger hard drives, faster CPUs and the USB port. At the time of its development, in the mid to late 1990s most of us were still using slow and cranky dial-up connections and the only things we plugged into our PCs were printers and modems. Few anticipated the seismic impact that broadband and the explosion of media on the web would have in such a relatively short time, and who knew how quickly hard drive capacity would increase and how many USB gadgets and widgets would come out of the woodwork?


XP’s improved filing system, device connectivity and Internet and multimedia facilities have seen it through those changes, though it’s now starting to show its age when it comes to networking and handling the unexpectedly large amounts of data coming down the Internet pipe and accumulating on our hard drives, mostly in the form of music, video and digital images.


That’s where Vista comes in and its support for multi-core processors, superior networking, file handling and search facilities, plus slick multimedia features and general robustness are keeping up with the times, but even bigger changes are on the horizon. However, unlike those earlier revolutions in computing there’s not just one or two big things that we have to keep our eyes on, there are lots of them and it’s anyone’s guess which directions they’ll be taking us. Microsoft isn’t sure either and Windows 7 is essentially an upgrade of Vista and a collection of features that tries to cover as many bases as possible.


Here are just a few of the new ideas we’ll be seeing Windows 7, next week we’ll focus on the nuts and bolts. Pundits have been predicting the demise of the keyboard and mouse for years but Windows 7 brings it several steps closer with built-in support for touch-screen displays and advanced graphics adaptors. It recognise ‘gestures, so you can make things happen with just a few simple movements of your fingers. Couple that with advanced speech and handwriting recognition and the mouseless and keyboardless ‘Tablet’ PC, on the verge of taking off for ages starts to make sense.


Files, folders and drives have always been a tricky concept for newcomers but Windows 7 simplifies file handling by using ‘Libraries’. Essentially these are special folders, containing collections of folders where your music, video, photographs, documents, contacts, email messages and so on, are stored. They can be anywhere, on any drive or network PC, even on the Internet, and it doesn’t matter if they move around. As far as you are concerned the file you are after is in a library folder and it’s accessible with just one or two clicks.


A feature called ‘Play To’ could have a major impact on your choice of home entertainment gadgets in the near future. If you want to watch a movie, or listen to an album downloaded from the Internet just tell Windows 7 to send it to your DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance – see also this week’s Top Tip) compliant TV or Hi Fi. No messing around with files or folders, think of your PC as powerful universal remote control.


Next Week – Introducing Windows 7, part 2





Blue Screen Of Death – appears when Windows crashes and needs to be rebooted



Hand or finger movements used to control functions via a touch-sensitive visual display



A compact computer with a touch sensitive display screen built into a slim case



Over the past 20 years there have been countless attempts to develop home entertainment networks but they have all failed through lack of industry support. DLNA or Digital Living Network Alliance is one of the most recent arrivals and it has received a significant boost through built-in support in Windows 7. The idea is DLNA compliant devices, such as TVs, hi-fi systems, video recorders, video games and so on will all be able to communicate and exchange media files with one another over a home computer network, using fast wi-fi or LAN cable connections. At the time of writing over 3000 home entertainment and computer products from 36 manufacturers have received DLNA certification.


Don't forget, there's a full archive of previous Boot Camp Top Tips at



© R. Maybury 2009, 2801

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Top Tips Index

Windows XP

Windows Vista

Internet & Email

Microsoft Word

Folders & Files

Desktop Mouse & Keyboard

Crash Bang Wallop!

Privacy & Security

Imaging Scanning & Printing

Power, Safety & Comfort

Tools & Utilities

Sound Advice

Display & screen

Fun & Games

Windows 95/98/SE/ME






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