Windows 7 Revealed

Today at PDC, Microsoft gave the first public demonstration of Windows 7. They’ve been pretty tight-lipped about the new OS until now (with the one exception being the Engineering 7 blog), in stark contrast to the way Vista was announced. I read some of today’s reaction, and I’ve been reading the news over the last couple of weeks too. Here are a few of the things we know about Windows 7:

  • The final name will be simply Windows 7.
  • The version number will be 6.1, which indicates that the codebase is based on Vista.
  • There won’t be a major interface overhaul – just refinements and improvements to Vista’s attractive UI.
  • User Account Control (UAC) isn’t going away, but it has been refined.
  • The sidebar has been killed – gadgets now live on the desktop.
  • Windows 7 will run on netbooks on the small end, and will support up to 256 CPUs on the large end.
  • Built-in apps like Mail and Calendar are gone, with Windows Live Essentials left to fill the void.
  • The final release will likely come in the latter half of 2009.

For a simple overview of what was demonstrated today, check out The Windows Blog. If you want something a little more in-depth, check out Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite or ActiveWin. If you’re just looking for screenshots, see this post.

As you can see, it looks a lot like Vista! I’m definitely looking forward to playing with the revamped taskbar. Even ignoring the new functionality, the clear look is a welcome improvement.

Looking good so far Microsoft!

Make Windows XP look like Windows Vista

You might think I’m crazy, but possibly my favorite thing about Vista is that it’s black and glossy. You’ve got to admit that Vista is an attractive looking OS! In comparison, Windows XP just looks terrible. The first thing I usually do is switch the default blue theme to the silver one. Even still, I have often longed for something better.

Recently, I came across BricoPack Vista Inspirat Ultimate 2. Quite the mouthful, but it’s really quite simple – download and install it, and it transforms your desktop into a Vista theme. Normally I wouldn’t give something like this a second glance, but I was feeling particularly curious one day, so I tried it. Of course, I created a restore point first, and I strongly recommend you do the same (here are the instructions). I didn’t run into any problems though.

I have to say, I love what Vista Inspirat did. My taskbar and windows are black and look like Vista. The “Start” menu has been replaced with the Windows orb. The icons, cursors, and sounds all mimic Vista. Two small programs run in the background to provide extra effects – Y’z Shadow adds a nice border and drop shadow to windows, and UberIcon provides some nifty animation for navigation. And best of all, I haven’t noticed any performance issues. The only two problems I have are that the user icon doesn’t show up in the start menu (it’s just a white box, big deal) and that “screen artifacts” appear somewhat more regularly (you know, parts of a window not refreshing right away). Otherwise it’s great!

One thing to note is that Vista Inspirat includes a utility called RocketDock, but it is an out-of-date version. I’d definitely upgrade to the latest version as it is more stable and includes some useful new features. RocketDock is pure eye-candy:

Looks like Mac OS X! It works quite well as an application launcher though. All you need to do is drag shortcuts or files to the dock.

One other thing you might need is the UxTheme Patcher, which enables you to install custom themes like Vista Inspirat. I say might need, because I already had it installed, so am not sure if it is strictly required. Here’s the download if you have Windows XP SP3.

Have fun, but be careful – backup anything important and make a restore point first!

Microsoft Surface – Surface Computing Has Arrived

Post ImageMicrosoft Surface is insanely cool. I mean uber cool. Seriously, go watch the videos and tell me you’re not excited (Channel 10 has a longer video and Popular Mechanics also has a video). If there was ever a question about whether or not Microsoft can innovate, that question has been answered. Sure, similar ideas have existed for a long time, but not commercially available products. Microsoft Surface is new, different, and exciting. They’ve made it happen. From the press release:

Surface turns an ordinary tabletop into a vibrant, dynamic surface that provides effortless interaction with all forms of digital content through natural gestures, touch and physical objects. Beginning at the end of this year, consumers will be able to interact with Surface in hotels, retail establishments, restaurants and public entertainment venues.

It’s kind of like the user interface in Minority Report, except that Surface is not a hollywood trick. Surface is real!

Five years in the making, Surface is being targeted at businesses initially. According to CNET, Microsoft expects that individuals will be able to get their own surface computers “within three to five years.” The devices currently have a price tag of around $10,000. Okay, that kind of sucks, but it’s to be expected for cutting edge technology I suppose.

Don’t be surprised if Surface is all you read about for the next few days – the blogosphere is sure to be buzzing. Heck, there’s already a bunch of articles and posts available and it was just announced! For instance, this “making of” article is an interesting read.

So yeah, Microsoft Surface looks awesome! I’m all excited now 🙂

Read: Microsoft

Dynamic multi-dimensional scrolling in Vista

Post ImageThe launch of Windows Vista is drawing near, so you might be wondering if it is worthy of your hard earned dollars. Ask someone to tell you about Vista, and they’ll likely tell you that it is more secure than XP and has much nicer eye candy. That’s all well and good, but what you really want to hear is that Vista has dynamic multi-dimensional scrolling. No really, that’s what you want to hear. Long Zheng has an awesome animation that compares the scrolling experience in XP with the new experience in Vista (if you’re too lazy to look, essentially Vista does horizontal scrolling for you automagically).

I can’t say it better than Long:

Is it a feature? No. Is it worth mentioning? No. Is it a selling point? No.

Does it deliver a great experience? Yes.

Assuming Vista contains many more of these little gems, you’ll want to spend your money on the new operating system.

Read: Long Zheng