Wednesday 10 June 2009

Windows 7 Gets Official Release Date: October 22


 Christo [PCD]    10 Jun : 16:31
 None    Software

Release date is in line with previous reports, holiday-season ready

Release date is in line with previous reports, holiday-season ready

Windows 7 will indeed be hitting in time for the holiday season. The much-buzzed about operating system is set to inherit the operating system throne from the much-maligned Windows Vista, with general commercial availability starting on October 22 according to a Microsoft press release aired today.

Previous reports had come quite close to pegging the release date, with October 23 being the cited date in many reports. Bill Veghte, senior vice president for Microsoft's Windows, helped announced the true date, stating, "We feel confident that we will deliver Windows 7 with our partners on Oct. 22."

Microsoft faces tremendous pressure with the release. The company has been hounded by its investors in recent months for revenue drops related to the recession. These investors are quick to note that Windows Vista, while a solid seller, failed to surpass Windows XP.

Despite these problems, Vista and other Windows operating systems accounted for roughly 30 percent of the company's $60B USD in sales in 2008. Windows-based operating systems are currently installed on approximately 90 percent of the world's personal computers.

For Microsoft, the finalized release date represents both good news and bad. The good news is it will make the lucrative holiday shopping season, a frequent time for people to buy new systems. The bad news is that it will miss the equally lucrative back-to-school shopping season, where parents and college students typically purchase systems.

Microsoft does face some pressure, too -- Apple will be releasing its Snow Leopard OS sometime this summer or fall, and Google recently announced that its Android OS was coming to netbooks, courtesy of Acer. The challenges, for now, though are limited -- Windows 7 will almost certainly lead these next generation operating systems in sales.
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Monday 02 March 2009

A Peek at Windows 7 RC1 Interface Changes


 Christo [PCD]    02 Mar : 23:57
 None    Software

Microsoft is listening to you, and here's what it's done

Microsoft is listening to you, and here's what it's done

Microsoft's Windows 7 team has been pretty quiet for the last month and a half since releasing their beta to the public, and many wondered what, if any, changes were going to show up in the final version of Windows 7. Microsoft's senior vice president in charge of the Windows group, Steven Sinofsky, this week broke the company's silence, telling about how Microsoft has taken in user feedback from its beta and used it to fix over 2,000 bugs.

Now Microsoft has posted a long Windows 7 blog detailing some of these user-inspired changes that are included in the Release Candidate 1 (RC1) of Windows 7. The changes include tweaks to virtually every area of the OS's operation. In this first segment, we'll look at some of the interface changes that will affect the user experience in the OS.

First up, one attractive change is the addition of Aero Peek to ALT+TAB'ing through windows. In Windows, this keyboard shortcut always let you switch through running programs by icon. Some users inquired, why not use the thumbnail preview of Aero Peek to this feature? Microsoft complied and after a time delay, the ALT+TAB window turns into an Aero Peek preview that can be tabbed through.

Another big set of changes are tweaks to its Windows Key+<#> launch scheme, a largely overlooked feature in Windows Vista. In Vista, this shortcut would launch the program that was in the Quick Launch list. However, it did not switch to the program, but merely started it. In Windows 7 RC1, this has been tweaked significantly. The key combination still launches the Window. However, pressing it again will now scroll through open windows of that type of program, using the above mention Aero Peek additions. And by clicking SHIFT+Windows Key+<#> you can open new instances of the window. But the fun doesn't end there, CTRL+Windows Key+<#> allows you to instantly switch to the last window instance, while ALT+Windows Key+<#> will allow you access to the programs jump list --- all without a single finger touching your mouse.

Another nice little tweak is to make "needy windows" -- windows demanding your attention, such as an IM program with new messages -- more visible. Many users complained that the taskbar button flashing was too subtle and they were missing events. Microsoft has changed the flashing to a "bolder orange color" and the flash pattern to a more jarring saw tooth wave, as well as increasing the flash rate -- all of which should help get your attention when a window needs it.

One switch which bugged some users was that the drag and drop in Vista's Quick Launch which allowed you to drop a file into a program's icon to open it with that program was replaced by merely pinning the file to a task bar in Windows. Microsoft, though sounding a bit chagrined about the user feedback on this, consented to adding a SHIFT+drag feature, which allows you to drag and drop files into pinned programs, just like in Vista.

Another little tweak is that when scrolling through thumbnails after clicking an item in a taskbar, the item now stays highlighted with its "Color Hot-Track" visual. This will help the user remember which program the thumbnails are associated with. One more nice tweak is that after installing new programs, Microsoft now temporarily adds the program to the bottom of the Start Menu to allow for easier pinning and making the program easier to find.

Microsoft has also tweaked its jump lists. Some people had complained about its lists being too long, so Microsoft, based on its data, decided to limit the list to 10 items. Enthusiast still can lengthen this maximum length via an easy setting. Files of non-registered types (i.e. an .html file with Notepad) can be pinned to the program's jump list, now. When clicking that item in the jump list, it will continue to open the file with that program, if possible.

Rounding out the list of interface changes, the user can now right click on the desktop to hide all icons or to hide all gadgets, allowing the users to easily interact with just gadgets or just icons, in the case of a cluttered desktop.

There's lots more changes, but that's all for the interface update!

Color Hot-Track, which highlights the program icon on the taskbar, now stays active when browsing Aero Peek thumbnails for the program. This should help remind users which button they picked. (Source: Microsoft)


[Submitted by Christo [PCD]]

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Microsoft Says It Has Fixes for 2,000 Windows 7 Bugs Thanks to Testers


 Christo [PCD]    02 Mar : 23:57
 None    Software

Microsoft reassures its testers that it is carefully considering their feedback

Microsoft reassures its testers that it is carefully considering their feedback

Ever since Microsoft released the beta of its upcoming Windows 7 to the general public, hundreds of thousands of users have downloaded the OS. Many took the time to carefully sweep the system, scanning for defects or bugs. As a result, Microsoft has been receiving a steady stream of information from beta testers. Many testers of late, though, have become disgruntled as Microsoft has offered little in the way of official communication about the problems its testers were reporting.

However, Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky, senior vice president for the Windows and Windows Live Engineering Group, has broken the silence at last, saying that Microsoft has indeed been listening and has fixes planned for over 2,000 bugs found by testers.

Mr. Sinofsky writes that at its peak, Microsoft was receiving one Send Feedback report every 15 seconds for an entire week. It has received 500,000 feedback reports already -- approximately 500 per developer, part of why it has been too busy to say much. Microsoft also thanks its Connect members (the MSDN/Technet enrolled beta customers) for sending in numerous technical reports. Both the public and the Connect feedback has helped more bugs be found and fixed than in any previous Windows release, Mr. Sinofsky states.

Mr. Sinofsky shed light on Microsoft's definition of a bug as well, stating:

Let's talk a bit about "bugs". Up front it is worth making sure we're on the same page when we use the much overloaded term bug. For us a bug is any time the software does something that someone one wasn't expecting it to do. A bug can be a cosmetic issue, a consistency issue, a crash, a hang, a failure to succeed, a confusing user experience, a compatibility issue, a missing feature, or any one of dozens of different ways that the software can behave in a way that isn't expected. A bug for us is not an emotional term, but just shorthand for an entry in our database representing feedback on the product. Bugs can be reported by a human or by the various forms of telemetry built into Windows 7. This broad definition allows us to track and catalog everything experienced in the product and do so in a uniform manner.

Hardware support is also doing quite well for the new operating system. Microsoft has recorded 10 million device installations, and the use of around 2.8M unique plug-and-play device identifiers. Of the hardware used, over 75 percent of it worked with the system's prepackaged drivers, writes Mr. Sinofsky. He says that virtually all of the remaining hardware was easily support via driver downloads from Windows Update or by direct links to the manufacturer's web site.

Even some critics who were incensed at Microsoft's lack of communications have been warmed up by Mr. Sinofsky. Chris Holmes of the blog GeekSmack recently had written, "I know I drifted off into a bit of a rant ... and hopefully this feedback is taken seriously by the Windows team (hey, there's a chance, it's not like we're dealing with the Windows Live team, those people don't know the meaning of the word feedback)."

However, after a personal email from Mr. Sinofsky, his feelings softened. He states, "I honestly was not expecting a reply as I understand that Steven is undoubtedly a very busy man. But when I checked my in-box a few hours later, not only did he respond, but he did a very good job explaining his position and why the interim builds were not a good option for this release cycle."

While Mr. Sinofsky's metrics and comments surely won't placate all the disgruntled testers out there, it certainly seems a positive direction from Microsoft.

Microsoft has recently become less stubborn and has become more receptive to feedback, after having long gone its own way. For example, when a major security flaw was found in the UAC, a critical Windows 7 and Windows Vista component, Microsoft initially refused to change it. However, it then quickly turned around, swallowing its pride and admitting to its mistake. The UAC fix is among the many flaws and bugs the team will have fixed for the release of Windows later this year.


[Submitted by Christo [PCD]]

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