This week, here in the United States, we celebrate Martin Luther King Day on Monday. The holiday is a tribute to the man who represents our country’s progress towards equal rights for all--a journey that continues to be marked by “two steps forward, one step back” but is absolutely worth celebrating. The next day, Tuesday, January 20, two million people will attend, and tens of millions will observe on television, the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States. Regardless of one’s politics, the historic significance of this day cannot be overstated.
My earliest memory as a child is when I was just over two years old. My parents sat me down in front of our black-and-white television set and told me, in no uncertain terms, that I simply must remember what I was about to see--that it was history in the making. I then watched Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, and I remember it to this day.
Please, parents, make sure your children--no matter how young--know that you think they should remember this day. Let us all, regardless of our politics, join in the hope that the promise of better tomorrows can be built by this astounding man and the team he has assembled. For I think we all, around the world, recognize that these times call for us to join together in ways we haven’t done for decades.
History, Beta 1
I want to call out two major developments in the Microsoft space this week, starting with the historic level of interest in Windows 7. Windows 7 Beta is, in a word, tremendous. The overhauled and responsive user interface marked by the new task bar takes a day or two to get used to, then is completely addictive. I applied the Beta to my production laptop (risky, I know) last week, and I am in fact addicted to the task bar’s previews, to the tight integration of search functionality, and to the new Explorer windows with their crisply designed navigation and the new libraries functionality. Even little things make a big difference--a New Folder button on every Explorer toolbar. It’s about time! Now if we can only get Microsoft to add an “up one level” button back in to make up for the sometimes too-small breadcrumb navigation feature that appeared in Vista. Oh, and if anyone at Microsoft is reading this--why the heck can’t we search Favorites within IE?
Windows 7 is a not-so-tacit admission that Vista just didn’t cut it from a usability perspective. I love Vista, and have been using it since early betas, but the “pro vs. con” equation was only slightly weighted on the “pro” side, and then only after significant tweaking. Windows 7 is a whole other story. It is, so far, entirely pro. There may be some problems that arise over time, but so far… wow. In fact, I’ll put out there that Windows 7 is arguably “moving past” Mac OS X (which I really like as well) for usability, and certainly for functionality. If you are interested in trying Windows 7, follow the rules: do it on a test system. And if you’re going to dive in head first (like me), back up your system fully and read all the release notes (especially this time, so you don’t screw up your entire MP3 collection!). I found a few “tricks.” First, my laptop’s mobile broadband drivers would not install under Windows 7, so I ended up restoring my backup and upgrading my Vista system. This worked well.
With a few other small workarounds, I seem to be fully up and running in Windows 7, except for my beloved Rhapsody player and for the often-persnickety QuickBooks. So I have a VMware virtual machine (which has USB support) running Windows XP with those two applications, and anything else I find incompatible later on.
Hats off also to the Windows Live team, for the tremendous new Windows Live Essentials suite. The Photo Gallery is so, so good! When I have time, I’ll post my configuration and favorite Windows 7 applications, but until then I found this blog, which boasts a list of recommended Windows 7 applications quite similar to mine. (http://www.on10.net/blogs/nic/Top-15-Essential-Apps--Codecs-post-Windows-7-Install/)
My most recently-implemented random and silly Windows 7 tips: Since I live on the Hana Highway in Maui, I just had to get the Hana Highway theme from the Windows 7 Themes site (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/Windows7/Personalize). I added my own photos of Maui and am using Windows 7’s new desktop background shuffle (http://windowsteamblog.com/blogs/windowsexperience/archive/2009/01/13/shuffle-your-desktop-backgrounds-in-windows-7.aspx) which, because I have a multi-monitor setup and one monitor is often showing the desktop, makes for a nice “picture frame” for me.
Virtual Support for History
A lot of organizations have applications that won’t run on Windows Vista, let alone Windows 7. These applications are, sadly, often among the most critical to a business because they were custom developed at some point in history to support a business process. Last week, Microsoft released MED-V Enterprise Desktop Virtualization Beta.
This tool allows you to run legacy applications on a Windows Vista client. In a nutshell, a Virtual PC running Windows XP runs “in the background” to host the applications, but the applications appear in the Start menu just as if they were installed locally on the client. Enterprises can completely manage the VPC images, so basically you will create VPCs with one or more ‘problematic’ applications and deploy those VPCs, rather than the applications themselves. It’s a super-slick technology based on Kidaro, which Microsoft bought a while back.
Why MED-V doesn’t run on Windows 7 so I can run my QuickBooks installation is beyond me! Windows 7 Team, please meet the Virtualization Team. But I’m sure it will happen by Windows 7’s release, predicted by most to be in the May/June timeframe.
Folks, this kind of solution is the future of compatibility solutions. Don’t wait to learn more about MED-V 1.0 Beta 1 (http://blogs.technet.com/mdop/archive/2009/01/15/microsoft-enterprise-desktop-virtualization-med-v-beta-is-publicly-available.aspx).