So, the Windows 7 beta has been released…

I suppose it’s kind of stating the obvious that Windows Vista hasn’t exactly caught on with people. As far as I know, the only reason it gets the sales it does is because it’s offered by default with new machines. I’m not one of those that have been using it, though. I have a perfectly good license for Windows XP Professional, and I have no real pressing need to upgrade. (I have no programs that require Vista to run.) In addition, at work, we’re still ordering machines with XP Professional as the OS. I don’t see us moving to Vista until we absolutely have to.

In any event, Microsoft’s been aware of the very cool reception towards Vista, and have been working to get its replacement, Windows 7, out the door. This past Friday Microsoft released a public beta of Windows 7, and I decided to go ahead and give it a try. I did so for Vista when it was in release candidate form, and I figured doing so for Windows 7 wouldn’t hurt this time either.

However, seeing as I’d just as soon have a completely functional main PC and not deal with any real issues with having a main machine that doesn’t work, I’ve taken a slightly different approach this time around and installed Windows 7 in a virtual machine. It’s definitely a less than ideal situation, as my main PC only has 2 GB of RAM in it and Microsoft recommends a minimum of 1 GB, so the virtual machine (named Anezka; I name my systems after female video game characters) only has 512 MB of RAM available. I definitely took care to give it plenty of disk space, though.

So, how does it run, you might ask? The answer is, “Surprisingly well.”

Even though Anezka is definitely underpowered as far as the memory requirements go, the system itself stays snappy. Granted, though, most of what I’ve been doing has been involving web browsing and checking out the controls. One thing I’m not finding is an equivalent to the black Aero glass theme in Vista; it might be a stupid gripe, but it’s one all the same. I’ve also found that at least one program suite required me to run it in Vista compatibility mode in order for it to install properly. The install itself was relatively painless as well. As far as installed programs go, Windows 7 is actually lighter than XP or Vista. There’s no mail client, IM client, or any of that junk. About the only two of those programs I personally found have been Internet Explorer (version 8 beta) and Windows Media Player. There’s also the opportunity to add gadgets to the desktop, but I haven’t availed myself of that yet.

The thing that amused me most, though, was the version number. The official name of the operating system is “Windows 7”. However, if you open up Command Prompt or happen to look at logs from a web server accessed by a Windows 7 machine, the version number given is “6.1.7000”. Which is it, folks? :-) (For the record, Windows 2000 was 5.0, XP was 5.1, and Vista was 6.0.)

So, the question becomes… will I migrate my main PC to Windows 7? I probably will, at some point. However, I’d just like to make sure Logitech SetPoint works for it first (it currently does not), and also it would help if I could find out if my Dalek webcam will work with it. Anezka currently lacks USB support, but I suppose it might be possible to enable it so I can test something like Skype or Windows Live Messenger on it. We’ll see. The interesting thing is that when I posted on Facebook this morning that I was working on installing Windows 7 beta on a virtual, I had a couple of friends tell me they were already running it as their primary OS with absolutely no issues. (I should add that one said he helped another mutual friend put it on as his primary OS too.) In fact, they liked it better than Vista, which appears to be the common theme from reactions across the web. We’ll see.

For now, though, I’m going to keep using XP as my primary OS and testing out Windows 7 on the virtual. Once I know the core apps I need work, and I get around to putting an external hard drive on this box for archival purposes (my media folder is far larger than my tape drive’s capacity), then maybe I’ll see about switching. Still, it’s impressed me more than Vista, so a switch is a definite possibility.