I feel enough has been written about Windows 7 at this point that I don't want to waste too much time on the Oct. 22 launch, or the features of Microsoft's "Hail Mary" operating system. Here are a few things to consider before you rush out and buy:
• Operating system specs: if your computer can run Vista comfortably then it will run Windows 7. If Vista lags and your system is right at the minimum - 1.0 gigahertz or faster processor, one gigabyte of RAM for 32 bit or two gigs at 64 bit, graphics card compatible of running DirectX 9 with a Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) 1.0 or higher driver - then you might want to consider making some hardware upgrades first, or just waiting until you can buy a new system. You may already be obsolete.
Consider that most new games are already optimized for DirectX 10 at minimum and that DirectX 11 graphics cards are already out. As well, most new processors are well over the 2.0 GHz range, even for laptops, and usually have some kind of multi-core processor.
The cost to upgrade to Windows 7 from Vista or XP is $129.99 for the Home Premium edition, which is all most people will need. An all-new full version is $224.99. Considering you can buy an excellent desktop computer preloaded with Windows for about $700 it might not be worth it to upgrade all the way from XP just yet.
• Windows 7 is a bare bones launch, which means it doesn't come bundled with as much software as Vista or XP. You'll need to go to Windows to download a lot of different programs you may use separately. The first priority is to get Windows Security Essentials, a free program that protects against viruses, spyware, malware and other intruders. Then you might want to consider things like Windows Movie Maker, Windows Contacts, Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Photo Gallery and Windows Live Family Safety if you have young kids.
• Upgraders will be able to keep and access all their old applications through a custom install, but a complete "clean" install will require you to download everything again. You're also going to need to back up your bookmarks and favourites by exporting them as files to your documents folder or another folder you back up separately onto a second hard drive or thumbnail drive. Same goes for your other programs, personal files etc.
Considering how much junk piles up on computers these days it might be worth it to back up the files you really need (contacts, programs, documents, photos, videos, etc.) and do a clean install so you can start over with a clean slate. While this seems like it could take a long time it could actually be faster.
Consider that a clean install will take 30 to 45 minutes while upgrading can take anywhere from two hours to 20 hours depending on your computer, how many programs you use, and how much data is stored on your hard drive.
Add the time it will take to download all your software again and you should probably prepare to spend a full day configuring your system with Windows 7.
Judging from the reviews, it's all going to be worth it when you come out the other end.
Lifehacker.com has a must-read article "Prep Your PC for Window 7" that will walk you through the process of backing up your files, software, etc. and make your life as easy as possible.
The eyes have it
Staring at a computer screen all day long is not great for your eyes.
When you sit down in one place for an extended period of time, like on a plane, you always need to stretch a little when you stand up. When you sit with your eyes focused on one confined space at a set distance - usually less than two feet - your eyes will also stiffen up. They also dry out, as people typing, watching screens, etc. tend to blink a little less than normal.
In addition to focusing, there's also the fact that screens are generally bright enough that if you look away quickly there's some ghosting. Your pupils are generally narrowed in a consistent way while staring at your computer, which is why the real world can sometimes appear dim after a long day in front of a screen. The opposite occurs when you walk from a dark room where your pupils are widened into a world that seems much too bright.
The bottom line is that eyes get tired. You should always take breaks from staring at a computer - read a paper report, or just stare out the window for a while. You can also do eye exercises, holding a pen in the air and following it with your eyes (not your head) while you move it around.
But there's another option you might want to consider - tinted glasses.
A few companies are making and marketing a series of grey, red or yellow-tinted "gamer glasses" that do a number of things. One is hold in humidity, which prevents your eyes from drying out over a period of time. Another is to filter the light emitted from your screens to make them seem less bright, but without diminishing colours or vision. In fact, the lenses can bump up contrast and make screens seem even more brilliant than before. Add to that a coating that reflects glare from your screen, overhead lights, etc. and your eyes will feel great according to reviewers.
This isn't new technology, but it's a new approach for Gunnar Optik (www.gunnars.com) to create a series of glasses and lenses aimed at gamers. It doesn't take a huge leap to imagine using these glasses for day-to-day work, or anything that involves staring at a screen all day.