Months ago, I rambled about Mac versus PC and what my personal preferences were. After running Ubuntu Linux for about a year as a media center PC, I have gotten fed up with it enough that I wanted to move to a different system. My main gripe was that it seemed any software I wanted to run for a media center PC was always getting stiffed because of my particular configuration (AMD64 Linux) or some strange hardware oddities (like how my motherboard will absolutely fail with certain RAM modules).
For some time, I was deciding what kind of configuration to set up in my home. I was pondering switching my media center to a Mac Mini and moving the Ubuntu Linux box as my main computer. The problem was that I would still have my old Dell computer leftover. I had also thought about getting an Xbox360, but the idea of basically adding another PC into my living room didn’t sit that well with me because then I would still have an extra computer leftover. I thought about getting a new laptop, but I’m hardly mobile. It would have been pointless, and all I would do is use it to ssh access into my Linux computer from my couch or dining room table which is a whole 6 feet away from the computer.
I had been wanting to get a Mac laptop for some time, but the hefty price tag for hardware that can’t be upgraded is very unattractive. After using OS X at work for a long time, I decided it was not what I really wanted. The operating system does some very nice things automatically under the hood that you don’t have to worry about, and configuration of the system is very easy. However, what I don’t like is largely the Mac Finder. Its presentation of file system browsing doesn’t really fit me. The other thing about Macs is that I get this uneasy feeling that Apple is always hiding something from me. As nice as Macs are, I feel it’s a little too simplified for the kind of user that I am.
I decided to skip Windows Vista because of all the bad press it was getting, and it was mainly driver support that did it in early on before the problems were fixed. The new Aero theme was not attractive to me either. It basically looked like Microsoft slapped on an ugly skin to the very old and very classic look-and-feel of earlier versions of Windows. My only real experience with Windows Vista was within a virtualized environment (Parallels running on a Mac). Windows Vista seemed okay (now that it’s been out for a few years), but it looked like it still needed lots of polish and trim.
I bit the bullet and downloaded the Windows 7 Release Candidate a few days before downloads closed on Microsoft’s website. Early reports of the beta and release candidate seemed to say that this was a very good operating system, but I was skeptical. After backing up data over several days (via wireless SFTP, ew) I installed the release candidate and was very impressed by the new operating system. Overall, the presentation is nice, a lot simpler than previous versions of Windows. Configuration and settings are organized neatly while advanced settings aren’t too hard to find beyond that (and I almost didn’t need to even touch those settings).
The new taskbar is a very nice change. Despite the parallels to the Mac OS X dock, its implementation is much better because of it previews and highlights the windows rather than stack window titles in a huge list. The included Windows Media Center is also one very nice piece of software that works very well with the system. XBMC was nice, but there were things about it that felt too convoluted (not that configuring it was hard at all). Windows Media Center’s presentation almost makes everything a no-brainer. What also sold me is that Microsoft has better market share for software. I didn’t want to dink around with Linux anymore (or even try on Mac OS X), and I was already very used to lots of (free) software readily available for Windows.
I’ve liked the release candidate so much that I immediately want to upgrade my Windows XP system. Windows XP is admittedly getting old but vastly improved on its predecessors. Windows 7 does that same thing to Windows XP in a new era. I’ve read that this the operating system Windows Vista should have been originally, and it certainly seems so. It looks like a Windows Vista that was done with the right, smart decisions from the beginning. I think Microsoft has something very good on their hands with this operating system.