Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Will the real "new" features in Windows 7 please stand up

Windows 7 is out. The release parties are over, the Windows 7 Whopper is hopefully digested (and not taken anyone down with severely clogged arteries), and the operating system is installed.

So most likely you’ve had plenty of time to make a judgment call on whether or not 7 is a winner for you. I will confess that I personally think Windows 7 is one of the best offerings that Microsoft has put out. And even though I was nearly stoned to death for my article, “10 Reasons why Windows 7 could fail,”

I do not dislike Windows 7. I like it. What I do dislike is the marketing coming out of Redmond. Why?

Once again Microsoft is claiming creation of features that have been in other operating systems for a while now.

This happens nearly every time Microsoft releases a new operating system. And in this week’s open source blog, I thought I would illustrate that point with regards to Windows 7.

It is not my intention to do a feature-for-feature comparison, but point out the features Microsoft are claiming to be “new” that have actually been in Linux for a while.

I want to make a point, though, of saying this is not an article cutting down one operating system while supporting another. I am just pointing out the errors of the PR machine at Microsoft.

With that said, here we go:

Aero: We all know this isn’t new. And we all know that Linux has had every feature displayed in Aero for some time now.

This is one area that really burns my cheeks. Microsoft claims to have redesigned the desktop experience, when in fact they just took ideas from Compiz and OS X and claimed it as theirs.

BitLocker: This is a big one. BitLocker (only available in the Ultimate edition) basically allows you to encrypt your entire drive for added security. Umm…Ubuntu Linux has had this starting with 9.04.

You can encrypt your home directory during installation. And if you forget that (or decide you want some encryption later on) there are plenty of tools available to encrypt entire directories.

Shake, Peek, and Snap: The sad thing is that Microsoft PR makes these features out to be big. They’re not, at least when you’ve used KDE and/or Compiz for any length of time.

Shake is basically mouse gestures (which you can configure in nearly any Linux desktop), Peek is translucency (again any Compiz install has this), and Snap is effectively edge-snapping hot spots.

Gadgets: Gadgets, Widgets, Screenlets, whatever you want to call them, they are not new in any way, shape, or form.

These desktop “toys” have been around since the days of Karamba on the Linux desktop (remember, that was the tool Apple “purchased” and turned into Dashboard).

64-bit support: Do I really need to go there? I’ve been happily using 64-bit Linux for so long I can’t remember which release I started with.

Jump Lists: This is a re-invention of GNOME Do, or any number of other Linux tools that have offered such a feature.

A Jump List is basically a more powerful “Favorites” menu (or box). The biggest difference between Jump List and GNOME Do is that GNOME Do “jumps” better than Jump “does.” What I am trying to say is that “Do” is much more powerful than Jump Lists.

But at least Microsoft is starting to learn that making things actually easier for users is a good thing.

Libraries: This feature, which allows you to associate folders with other folders, is essentially the Tagging feature available in Beagle and Tracker. Even Thunar has media tagging by way of a simple plugin. This is nothing new, Microsoft.

Play To: Isn’t this basically a DAAP server built in? Linux and OS X has had this for quite some time now.

Startup Repair: The Elive distribution recently (prior to the Windows 7 RC release) introduced the Nurse Mode which is a special, graphical boot mode intended to help repair a system.

Nurse Mode is not just a start up repair, but a full system repair tool.

Windows XP Mode: With Linux you can still get your full XP on using VirtualBox or, Wine for that matter. And you won’t need a special CPU capable of hardware-assisted virtualization.

The above is not a complete feature-for-feature list, but you get the idea. What I find interesting is that Microsoft, Apple, and even the open source community steal from one another.

It’s a predatory world out there and only the strong will survive. The biggest difference is that the open source community doesn’t steal from either Windows or OS X and claim that the theft is their creation.

Windows 7 is a good OS. It’s nowhere as powerful or flexible as Ubuntu 9.10 will be (when it is released in less than a week), but it certainly  has its place (like all OSs do).

But Microsoft needs to be careful what it claims it created. Maybe some day the Redmond giant will embrace truth and give credit where credit is due.

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