Taking the leap from (hardcore) XP to 7

I’m a big fan of Windows XP, but only because I’m so used to it, like many other people. I’ve been running it since early 2003 (sometime after Service Pack 1 came out to resolve the first big set of issues). I use it (though I use Linux for strict work/school purposes), my parents use it, my sister uses it.. basically all friends and family I supported used it. When Vista came out, I saw no reason to switch. Everyone complained about the differences anyways. Now 7 has been out for a while and I still saw no reason to switch, but I figured I should do so, to take advantage of my new Intel X25-M G2 80gb SSD.

First trial: Intel Atom/nVidia ION nettop:
I first installed the x86 version on my Acer AspireRevo AR1600-U910H with an Intel Atom 230 and nVidia ION chipset. The thing is powerful for playing HD video with hardware acceleration, and using a low 16W while idle. It was pretty easy to install and I first went to install updates and graphics drivers. I did both and rebooted, only to find myself at a flashing display. The computer worked fine, but the display just kept flashing black every half-second. Frustrating. I switched from HDMI output to VGA output and that wasn’t flashing, but that didn’t solve the problem. I installed some another Windows Update (I forgot which one it was) and it went away. Phew. Adobe just released hardware acceleration in Flash 10.1 beta and it wasn’t very promising on the Atom/ION. YouTube 720p was still sluggish and CPU usage was lowered, but not enough for smooth playback. I activated Windows on this machine, which I think may have been a mistake. I don’t think I want 7 anymore on this PC (I used it for less than a day!) and I want to save it for my DVR PC. I also couldn’t get hardware-accelerated x264 in .mkv containers with Media Player Classic Homecinema. Windows Media Player seemed to work, but lacked features that I use in MPC-HC…

Real deal: Main PC and “My Documents” hassle
Once I got my SSD, I installed the x64 version on my main computer. This time I remembered to not activate Windows until I was sure it was suitable. First I tried to remap my user profile’s “My Documents” folder to my “E:\Documents” folder (on another disk of course.) After being confused about “Libraries” for a bit, I went into Properties of C:\Users\Ricky\My Documents and there was a Location tab to change the location. This was new to me, because the old “My Documents” was simply a link to “Documents and Settings\Ricky\My Documents”. Now we have a real folder linking to another real folder. Okay.. so I pointed the location to my regular Documents folder, and as always it asked me if I wanted to move my “existing documents” (I pretty much have none, it’s a fresh install) to the new location. Like I did in XP, I said no, and.. it didn’t work. I ran in circles wondering where My Documents was, so I fired up a program that wrote to “the” directory and it was writing to C:\Users\Ricky\Documents. pretty much a new folder. And this new folder didn’t have a Location tab, so I couldn’t figure out how to change it. I was stumped and gave up for the night.

I decided to make a new user profile to try again, and this time I hit yes.. and it actually worked. That’s silly. Moving on, I loaded Digsby to see if it referenced the new location. I was able to see all of my IM logs again, so I thought it was safe. I started chatting and after a while I noticed that it wasn’t doing any *writing*. Questioning why, I loaded Synergy and tried saving the config file, and it told me “Access is denied”. Okay.. I love proper security practices but I’m the only user of this PC and I don’t care about security between users and operating systems, I just want access to all of my stuff. I gave write permissions to the “Users” group for the disk, and all was well, but that’s not exactly a proper solution. I don’t want to repeat that for all of my disks, and it had trouble taking permissions from some directories. There were so many other things wrong so I moved on..

Taskbar/task grouping/jump menu/Quick Launch/pin buttons:
I’m not a fan of task grouping on the taskbar, not even in XP. In XP you could disable it and it wouldn’t combine similar tasks into a single button, AND it wouldn’t place similar buttons next to each other. I went to the properties page and set buttons to “never combine”, but unfortunately, similar buttons were still next to each other. For that, “7 Taskbar Tweaker” (some third-party program) let me switch “Group by application id” to “Don’t group”. It also let me change the right-click menu to the old-style menu, which I use for the really close proximity of “Close”. “Close” *may* be on the bottom of the new-style menu, but it’s more pixels up than I’m used to (I’ve used the exact same mouse and sensitivity for over 6 years so I don’t even look to rightclick-close items on the taskbar anymore.) For both of these functions, I would hope that some registry edit is enough and a third-party program isn’t necessary.. so I’ll figure that one out later.

I use Quick Launch in moderation, only for applications that I will click multiple times in a day. Namely Firefox and a file browser. Shells/calculator/notepad are used sparingly but still used a couple times in a day. I can pin these items to 7’s taskbar, but that caused a different issue.. When the application was open, I couldn’t click the icon again to open another instance of the application. I discovered that middle-click would open another instance, and it’s an interesting UI feature that I should probably follow.. But I went through all the hassle of getting Quick Launch back! =[ The problem is, I’d have to hit the existing tab to launch another instance, instead of the predefined area, which takes slightly longer to do since I’d have to find the application.. (I’m all about optimization/speed/Starcraft here..)

Speaking of which, StarCraft doesn’t really work well. And I installed the standard nVidia drivers for win7x64 but the “Change flat panel scaling” option wasn’t even to be found. For resolutions without matching aspect ratios, I prefer the “keep ratio + stretch” option.. so now I can’t play any games.

Cygwin sshd wasn’t too bad but still annoying. Cygwin itself + the retarded file permissions all over the place are making things unusable.. I can’t use SVN right now..

The UI is significantly less responsive than it was in XP. Winamp, Firefox, Digsby, selecting items on the desktop, you name it. Thank you bloat. Windows gave my system 5.4/7.0/6.7/6.7/7.4 (CPU/Mem/Aero/Gfx/HD out of 7.9) for Windows Experience ratings. Now it’s making me upgrade my CPU when my 4850e was plenty for XP. -_-

I like the new way of hiding system tray icons in 7. Yay..

I also like front panel audio jack detection (though I had it with drivers in XP) and auto-switch/separate set of volume control settings. May have existed in Vista though.

I’ll end it there.. there’s a lot of other crap that I don’t even want to think about right now.


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