Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Linux pro trying out an Windows 7RC installation

In a previous life, I worked for a huge Dutch IT consulting corporation. This was back when I started in IT (well not really, but at least I didn't have any certifications), so they required me to go on MCSA training. I completed all the courses and exams successfully, so apart from being pretty well qualified on Linux, I am actually an MCSA on Windows 2003, too. Don't tell anyone, I'd really like this to remain a secret between us.

So anyway, they see to keep your friends close, but enemies closer. Therefore I decided to give the RC for Windows 7 a spin. Not really, of course, but in a KVM virtual machine on my laptop running Fedora 11 to my full satisfaction.

I downloaded the ISO, got me a serial and read the requirements. The first thing I noticed, was the fact that the system requirements aren't all that steep. I'm not sure what that means for the performance inside a VM (and actually performance in general, remembering the Vista class action suit), but then again, I'm only test driving it.

What did stand out in the requirements was the fact that I had to have 16GB (what??) available in free disk space. Now, I do have space. Lots of it. But 16GB? What the heck does an OS without any extras (like Office applications, photo editing software, etc.) need 16GB for?

Then, whence installing, I noticed the installer partitioning my disk with a 100MB partition of the "System"-type and the rest as the "primary" partition. I'm pretty sure from my endeavors with fdisk, that there is not such thing as a partition of the "System"-type. I'm downloading a Knoppix image right now to find out what Windows thinks is a partition of the "System"-type. Maybe it's /boot? ;-)

There is no 'Use whole disk' or 'Do this automatically for me' button, but the 'New' button functions more or less as one of those.

The actual "Installing Windows" screen shows a couple of steps, which take a while to go through but nothing extreme. There is something listed called 'Installing features', though, which made me wonder what the other 'Install' items were doing.

Then there is a reboot, and 'Setup is updating registry settings' and 'Setup is starting services' screens.

After that, we're back in the "Installing Windows" screen, where 'Completing installation' is highlighted. Processor is at 100%, screen flickers a bit, hardware detection going on.

After another reboot, 'Setup is preparing my computer for first use' and I am asked for my username and a password (and a password hint? what?) in a second screen. In the next screen we enter the serial. Apparently, MS still has an Activation scheme going on, because Windows 7 wants to 'activate' itself when I'm online. Mmh. I don't really like that stuff. So let's not, for now.

I like the fact that an update scheme is presented to the user, which makes security a more prominent issue in Windows. Timezone picking is next, followed by a computer location selection screen. I wasn't familiar with this. I am supposed to pick from 'Home network', 'Work network' and 'Public network'. I imagine this affects default firewall settings and stuff, but a bit more detailed description of the three options would have been nice for people that have a clue and would like to know what happens under the hood. What is good, is that 'Public network' (and thus high secutiry, I think) is recommended. I select 'Home network'.

After this, setup goes on 'Preparing my desktop' and there we are. Notice there is no last reboot in between. The desktop instantly made me think 'hey, this looks like KDE4'. It has a broad taskbar and huge icons, just like default KDE4.

IE asks me what search provider I want to use, which is good. It then start babbling about 'accelerators' and 'web slices'. I am clueless about what those are, so I turn them off. CTRL-L still acts retarded on Windows, sadly.

The layout of the control panel looks cluttered, but there is a search option, so I finally got to see what this UAC thing is, everybody was so mad about.

At this point, I started to loose interest. I tried a reboot to check boot speed and I must say, Windows 7 boots pretty quick. It lost my network settings though, again asking me the 'Home network', 'Work network' etc. question.

Final remarks: the KVM soundcard, that works fine in Windows XP, doesn't seem to work. The actual amount of disk space Windows 7 takes is well over 7GB. I don't know what the 16GB requirement was for then. Otoh, 7GB? For an operating system without office applications and such? What? That's insane! There's the system32 directory holding almost 2GB, but the big whopper is the winsxs directory with almost 4GB. I read this directory has something to do with compatibility and resolving problems with dll hell, so it probably has its uses, but 7GB for an OS? Wow.

I rebooted once more into the Knoppix Live environment. The 'System'-type partition is just a normal type '7' HPFS/NTFS filesystem, just like the main partition. The difference is that the 'System'-partition is bootable, which actually *does* make it a bit like a /boot partition. Oh well, copying is a form of flattery.

Ok, enough played. I'm shutting down the VM and going to do some actual work here.


Shawn Tan said...

Hi Yung Chin's friend. Check out my blog on Win7 Beta.

wzzrd said...

I did and I tried to comment to it, but someone called Mollom is stopping me from posting ;-)

Anonymous said...

The soundcard didn't seem to work for me either, but worse: neither did the networking. It sees the interface but fails at DHCP it seems.

What options do you pass to kvm/qemu?

Shawn: here's another vote against captcha's! :)

wzzrd said...

Network did work for me, but then I am using the snapshot preview of Fedora 11, so my KVM is pretty new...

Anonymous said...

FYI... I have an old soundblaster live 5.1 card... The old drivers for it seem to work, for the two front speakers...

In order for me to be able to get full functionality to my card, I had to install a program called sandbox...

For your issue, do you get at least some functionality out of it or does it not work completely?