back to article Windows 7 versus Snow Leopard — The poison taste test

Apple's Snow Leopard arrived during the twilight zone between the completion of Microsoft's Windows 7 and its general release. The Snow Leopard media was built in early August and shrink-wrapped and on sale late the same month. Windows 7 went gold in late July, but will not appear on the high street until October 22nd. The …

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Pint

Makes a change ...

.. to see a balanced article on this thorny subject.

Having used both fairly extensively I reckon that I pretty much concur with the article wholesale.

Windows 7 is a massive improvement on that abortion that is Vista. But I cannot help feel that Microsoft is missing something by making the new OS as mixed up and muddled a configuration to buy as possible. OS X by contrast comes in one single flavour and does everything that Windows 7 in its most expensive incarnation can. And then the price difference of the OS is huge.

That said, the migration from Vista to Windows 7 should be a snip for any sysadmins who are currently looking after that bastard OS. The leap from XP to Windows 7 is not too extreme either, given that even in its first Beta form that OS was already streets ahead of Vista in too many ways to mention in a comment.

Meanwhile, I lovin the new Snow Leopard experience. All of the improvements and tidy-ups are superbly engineered, as can be expected.

I suspect that either way the two new OS are #win and #win alike.

Deserving of a nice tall cold pint

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Paris Hilton

Nicely done...

Of the two, I definitely prefer LOLcat. I'll probably upgrade my one Windows box to Win7 (after seeign what sort of hellish DRM bites early adopters in the ass), but the betas have been pretty decent.

For work, I'll stick with my workhorse linux desktop, of course. Ain't choice a grand thing?

Anyway, nice article, surprisingly sane and bordering on balanced. I'm sure the angry old gits whose masculinity is threatened by using anything Cupertino-flavoured or penguiny will be in here Clarksonning it up by the time I submit this- but at least the article is a good start.

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FAIL

> Microsoft's Open XML is best avoided in mixed environments.

!! Enough irony in that that I shan'thave to press a shirt for a week...

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Pirate

Oops!

That would never have made it past the Mac design tyrants. Thats a Microsoftish fanboi comment isn't it? ;)

Regarding multiple workspaces; well, duh. *nix systems have had this for years.... There are third party apps that can do this with Windows, but I have never been that into using them when on *nix or windows.

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Grenade

far too reasoned!

Amiga OS4.1 rulez....because it was necessary

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Go

Well rounded

Nice to see a well rounded article, seems like everyone goes bat-shit insane these days when you bring up Windows 7 / Snow Leopard.

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Ty
Jobs Halo

*sigh*

Whichever OS you choose, you can only run them both 100% native, 100% reliable and 100% legally on a Mac.

Either way Apple wins hands down. Beige box crapware manufacturers be damned.

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nice

How refreshing to read such an unbiased article.

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Pint

</title>

I agree that those who moved from Vista to OS X are unlikely to return but I believe Windows 7 may be able to move a few that got sick of Vista back to Windows. If they gave it a chance they may like it.

That said... all fanboy arguments are about not giving the other one a chance so we have learnt a lesson of love here. Play nice.

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Gold badge

Once, just once in a while...

Could you do an OS comparison without mentioning any business applications?

Lets face it, if you want a business OS then you go for the dull clunky Windows platform and pay an array of tech support guys to keep the old banger going.

If you want to do anything creative, render 3D, edit video, write music, author a DVD or website then you will have less pain on a Mac.

If you could at least compare say Cubase on Windows 7 with Logic Studio on Snow Leopard then you might have a more useful comparison of how the OSes truly compare.

I'm pretty sure the out of box experience with Cubase on Windows 7 will be fun, lots of feature disabling, disabling services and tweaking the OS to make it run stable.

I've never had to tweak a single OS setting on OSX to use Logic. I even forgot I had a Linux install running in a VM in the background once.

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Grenade

Hm, what about normal users?

> "Press F8 and you get four desktops to play with. Why can't Windows do that?"

well, er, who wants four desktops? only you tech loons.

why dont you try running an article where normal people review the two platforms? cos, like, that's a thousand times more important than what you tech loons worry about. isn't it?

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Thumb Up

Overall a reasonable review

Experience with MacOS obviously lacking - the magnification of the dock used to be on by default but I guess it got disabled as it's distracting eye candy. Shadows and highlighting are much more effective. In fact the only eye candy that Apple refuses to tone down are the fruit pastile traffic lights on the window bar. The rest of the magic mushroom trip that was Mac OS X has fortunately gone as it reaches maturity.

For office compatability use either OpenOffice.org or the real deal. I don't know anyone who bothers with iWork - despite it's undoubted merits. Either you want "free and good enough" (I routinely exchange MS Office documents that I've worked on in OO.org) or "expensive but perfect", paying for "okay" doesn't fit inbetween.

I'd agree with you that Windows 7 is looking pretty good even if font rendering in Mac OS is still superior. Fortunately 7 runs fine as a guest OS.

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Bravo - Fair and Balanced

Finally, someone who just gets it and refuses to drink the cool aid. It is incredibly refreshing to read cogent analysis that compares apples with apples - ;) - inb an attempt to provide real information and not some fanboi wet dream rant.

I use both OS's even though I don't require or use an enterprise-bound computing environment. I do not need Exchange support, nor am I am dependent of Microsoft's Java-wannabe .Net environment. That said, there are compelling reasons to maintain a Windows VM or partition if you enjoy more than casual gaming or if you have a particularly compelling piece of Windows-only software. I prefer to run my instances of Windows in a nice big sandbox (in my case Parallels Desktop for Mac) with no network connectivity, that way I don't have to worry nearly as much about viruses, worms or malware. I use Mac OS for all my everyday computing because OS X + iLife + iWork (and MS Office 2008), gives me not only everything I need, but with tight integration. It's as close as one can get to promise of polymorphic computing predicted years ago where one opens a single application that magically mutates with preferences and options as one changes tasks. If ever a company successfully pulls this off, it's more likely to come from Apple.

Although I love my cats, I will readily admit that windows se7en is an attractive and responsive operating system. It is essentially what Windows Vista should have been. Also, I have to admit that Snow Leopard isn't necessarily as polished and refined as the Jobs propaganda leads one to believe. Although it is a rock solid, smooth-as-glass, speed demon on my MacBook Unibody early 2009 model, SL still has some rough edges when running on older Intel hardware (sporadically dodgy display adapter issues along with the tendency for the OS to lock up briefly for no apparent reason that can be gleaned from either the activity monitor, or the Console. I hope this is cleared up with the release of 10.6.1. Until then I had to roll back to Leopard on my 24" iMac.

Finally, there is one distinct advantage that Apple has over Microsoft. Both operating systems can be run legally and simultaneously on the same Intel-based Apple hardware. This is not the case with PCs, unless one disregards the Mac EULA, and works hard at modifying the OS and even then one is likely to encounter PC hardware that won't function properly or at all with SL installed. Interestingly enough, Apple hardware is often the platform that shows of Windows at its best. Many of the latest MacBook Pros, iMacs and MacPros run Windows faster and more efficiently than the bog-standard OEM PCs. This is no doubt due to (1) the absence of OEM "customization" (i.e., malware and bloatware) combined with (2) Apple customized hardware along with custom built Windows hardware drivers designed to squeeze the last bit of performance. In fact, one can simply wipe the Mac OS from the hard drive and install Windows se7en directly. In this case, the advantage must go to Apple.

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Hmm

Just wondering ..

Jump Lists - er, you mean like the contextual menu that pops up when you right click something on the Dock? (e.g. on Mail you can choose things like "compose new message") AFAIK jump lists are also static, ie they don't change according to the state of the application.

Libraries - you mean like OS X's "Smart Folders" which have been around for many years? And can I mount a partition into a directory, say something equivalent to:

mount /dev/disk0s1 /music/samples

mount /dev/disk1s1 /music/recordings

Seems like these Win 7 "advantages" are really just MS playing catch up.

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Program Launcher

Having both a Mac and a PC, I agree that the Dock is definitely superior as task switcher. The problem is that it's designed as a program launcher as well, and Windows' start menu is far superior in that department once you load up your machine with a load of small apps (as I inevitably do). There are clunky ways around the Dock's limitations by dropping your Apps folder on it, but I still end up launching apps by typing the name into Spotlight far too often. The Dock is very slick and elegant for those who use only a small number of apps, but just can't handle the range of stuff I like to have installed in case I need it.

I was a long devotee of the classic win2k style on XP, but Win7 has won me over to the new style.

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OpenOffice 3.1.1 is available for Mac OSX x86

Surely it would be advantageous to include OpenOffice on the Mac when attempting to open the latest Office 2007 files.

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Silver badge

10 out of 10

...for the article. Sadly I think most anti-the other rhetoric comes from the two companies themselves, and is mostly repeated by people spoiling for a fight. I'm sure somesuch children will pile in momentarily to spout straw men concerning the other lot. It'd be interesting to find out if the proportion of people shouting from either side varies over time with marketshare, but if anyone does work that out then please don't post the results. It won't end happily.

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Gates Horns

I'm the only one who thinks

That Win7 is the same dog with a different collar, Win7 sure had 2 long Vista years to make sure the manufacturers build computers that can run it.

So yes, it does run better on recent hardware, but have you guys check what happens if you try it on any of those Pentium 2.4mhz 512mb most business run on (Or those Semprons 1.x/2x) XP is here to stay for a long time on those.

I do not think the new taskbar is that great, I think is not and improvement but just different. Like the ribbon.

My impression is that Vista/7 are copying the worst bits of environments like Gnome/MacOS and forgetting what makes windows great.

Also Explorer.exe is as buggy and neglected as it always has been, they just coated it with a new layer of aero paint, and made it different enough as to make regular people (those that do not care about IT) even less productive.

But anyway no one cares and the press has decided it is the new king... long life to the king.

I do not like MacOS, never did but I have to admit that most of the time they get things right.

I just hope that they fix bloody X.org one of these decades so I can leave the windows ship behind once and for all.

And yes, I work on the field.

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@Charles King

Try Quicksilver. It's a brilliant app launcher and more. I couldn't live without it on a Mac.

http://blacktree.com

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Paris Hilton

Re: AC - 4 desktops

4 desktops are great when you are busy watching some girl on girl action streaming from youporn.com and the missus walks in - "No, I'm not doing anything dear - just a bit of work - see".

Not that I would know of course ...

(AC, and Paris, - obviously)

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Gates Horns

RE Press F8 and you get four desktops to play with. Why can't Windows do that?

Erm,

Windoze has done that since XP in 2002, it is called the Virtual Desktop Manager PowerToy for Windoze XP.

I use it with Multimon taskbar and they play together quite nicely.

That said, I am still slipping down the slope of buying a Mac laptop to replace my Dingly Dell, the only thing holding me back is offline file functionality which I use extensively and I don't fancy having to maintain an RSYNC script on a real O/S to do that against my Windows Server.

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Is Windows 7 faster then XP?

Just curious. I know Windows 7 is faster then Vista. I get it. But since no one I know upgraded to Vista, the answer I want to know is Windows 7 faster then XP? If so, I just might upgrade.

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Thumb Up

Office - just as necessary on either OS!

Good article on the whole, but I don't get the point of the office comparison. Just to put that part straight, to get good office support:

On PC, you need to buy office.

On Mac, you need to buy office.

Both also have various other packages with various levels of office compatibility.

I've installed snow leopard on my mac tonight - first impression is that it's FAST. Apart from that my xcode build in it didn't behave quite as expected so I'm back with leopard for now (imminent deadline says I haven't got time to figure it out)

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DT

twix intel chip and 3rd party app.

@ty Why would anyone buy a mac to run windows on it? Unless you're tacitly saying that OSX has limitations?

@Gilles You're "pretty sure" about the installation process of an application onto an as yet unreleased o/s? Is it that you think "creative sorts" are that thick or that you find windows *that* difficult?

@all

So an early adopter, of the kind who has switched operating systems twice in the last couple of years ->vista->OSX is unlikely to be lured by anther OS? I disagree. They sound exactly the group who'd be likely lured away by the next big thang, be it from M$ or anyone else.

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Anonymous Coward

Dock Magnification is a pain

I click and drag an icon down to the Dock to perform a task, but no, the target icon wanders all over the place as I scrub around trying to find it, muscle memory wasted. No magnification is the way to go, but the scaling as one seeks The One True Dock Size matches all the praise in the article. It rather seems this is how Apple flags up neat stuff these days: make it over the top and irritating just to draw the user's attention to the existence of this cool stuff, then leave it to work unobtrusively.

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Pint

4 desktops

it's called deskwin.exe

gives you 4 desktops on windows. s been around since i can not remember when......

google it, and you will find it.....

here, for example.....

http://www.yipton.net/deskwin/latest/deskwinbin.zip

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Silver badge

"In the end you have to choose your poison."

I have, and it didn't come from Cupertino or Redmond.

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WTF?

xcode?

You're joking right ? XCode is a toy compared to developer studio, its mostly just a front end that most programmers editor can match, its closer to VC 6 than 2008.

Way better plugins, tools, support for many more languages, xcode just drives makefiles of a sort with a few property pages.

Still at least its not PWB.

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Thumb Up

Looking forward to Boot Camp'ing Windows 7

I'm pretty excited for Windows 7, and see it 'completing' my Summer 2009 MacBook Pro with both OS'es available at boot time, I'm already running XP with VMWare for various things, but would like to play some DX10 games too.

I have a question for the more informed PC'ers here - should I go with 32bit or 64bit?

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Bronze badge
Thumb Up

Re: Program Launcher

@ Charles King:

I suppose that this is also a workaround, but I keep my apps sorted in folders within the Applications folder: Communications Apps, Graphics Apps, Media Apps System Utilities, Time Wasters, etc. Drag THOSE folders to the dock and I've got everything quickly available and alphabetically sorted. (I'm still on 10.4 on PPC hardware, FWIW.)

In other news -- my compliments, as well, on a well-balanced article. I won't be using either OS any time soon, but the article was interesting, even-handed, and contained just the teensiest touch of mild snark, El Reg's favorite spice!

Well done.

Give that man a raise!

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Alert

@ Ty

"Whichever OS you choose, you can only run them both 100% native, 100% reliable and 100% legally on a Mac.

Either way Apple wins hands down. Beige box crapware manufacturers be damned."

Are ou tlling me after spending all that money on a mac you then go out and spend another £100ish on new LEGAL copy of windows I think not.

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@charlie wallace

I develop daily with raw GCC on Linux, VS on Windows, and XCode wrapping GCC on OSX, and yeah, VS is always my preferred IDE.

That said, XCode is moving away from GCC. LLVM and Clamp allow for much better interactive functionality. I think XCode will probably catch up with VS on many fronts over the next few years.

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Troll

Yes but no..

Sadly (for the legions of Microsoft bashers), even Mac grandees need to have at least a working knowledge of Windows and it's host of software titles. 90% of computer users use Microsoft, and that will probably not change as quickly as some would like, especially as Windows 7 apparently is a good package. (Windows Vista was an XP refudge, a bit like Windows Millennium was a 98 refudge). I'd buy a Mac because they're nice. But that's like saying that I'd buy a particular calculator because it's nice. If I wasn't a retard I wouldn't need one.

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Coffee/keyboard

Give me a kiss

..and I'll bring a little reality into your cozy IT bubble. Most people don't give an Android what operating system they use as long as it does as much of their lifestyle stuff as possible. I'd use an operating system designed by insect hive minds if it complemented my lifestyle sufficiently. If the iPhone had a better battery AND a plug-in keyboard, AND support for Windows & Mac programs, AND some serious plugin storage, AND was properly networkable..

Well, I wouldn't need one of your damn computers at all.

Come on, it's not like computers are THAT good. They're for people who don't get out enough.

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Anonymous Coward

(untitled)

"!! Enough irony in that that I shan'thave to press a shirt for a week..."

I was gonna say more irony than a bucket of slag, but same idea :-)

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Heart

RE: Is Windows 7 faster then XP?

On a more modern PC where you have more ram, multiple cores and potentially a SSD as your boot hard drive, I would say that Windows 7 is faster than XP.

On low-spec machines? No idea, and I would reason that XP is faster simply because it's more trimmed-down.

I have heard of friends using the Win7 RC on several year old laptops and PCs and it runs like a dream. XP of course would've been just as fast as well.

Nice article, cheers.

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Would it be too much to ask

For a nod in the article to the fact that both operating systems are guilder cages? gosh, closed source stuff, all technical, not practical.

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Coat

@magnetik

you also mean like:

net use \\<your IP here>\X\music

which has existed since NT was called NT

ok im off before the flames get lit

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Anonymous Coward

Win 7

I'm not an Apple fan and while historically I've used Windows on pretty much everything, I'm no MS fan either.

That said,I upgraded my wife's laptop (which was with Vista on it was only useful as a paperweight), and it's now quit stable, and does everything asked of it. However even with the Win7 install, the interface still sucks (there interface really isn't much different from Vista) - especially the task bar. So while Win7 is more stable than Vista, other than that there is nothing compelling about it.

I'm on the verge of installing Ubuntu on my home and work machines, and even though her laptop is now usable with Win7, my wife is adamant that her next machine will be a Mac.

So in my household at least, Win7 hasn't done anything to convinced us to stay with Microsoft.

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Thumb Up

Nice article

The problem stems from passion, we all get passionate about things. I moved from XP to OSX, which is obviously a big jump, XP is very old and clunky. I almost always root for the underdog so I have become a bit of a fanboi, but I gave Win7 a try in an attempt to ensure I had made the right decision and I have to admit that I waivered, genuinely waivered for a while, Windows 7 is pretty damn good and will give the MS camp a reason to feel great about their latest offering. It has some genuine pizazz that MS has had a hard time getting into their platform, but Apple put in, sometimes at the expense of the usability. MS will learn from Apple mistakes and in this cutthroat world, as Vista proved, you cannot be complacent, the backlash with come swift and fast before you know it. MS has found form with Win7, unless you have already jumped ship, I have a strong feeling that Win7 will probably make you seriously think before you do jump.

When I was young I had plenty of time to mess about with my O/S, spend 4 days trying to get something to work, I don't have time now. I spend all day at work fighting to make Oracle and Unix sing and dance and quite frankly I'm too old to fight with my home computer, especially with kids about breaking it every two minutes. So like any sad and tired old timer, I use something that I simply turn on and use, no fuss and I can let someone else worry about fixing it, hence Lord Jobs won out this time. When the iMac goes to heaven, looking at Win7, MS could well get a look in next time around.

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WTF?

Mounting disks in Windows

@magnetik: While I generally agree with your posts, Windows has been able to mount a drive into a directory since 2000, and possibly NT4 if memory serves me right so a poor example there.

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Happy

Some misled comments as usual...

Good although not too indepth article. Felt a bit like the author was walking on egg-shells at times though (didn't want to rock the boat or fan the flaming?) :-)

@By Ty

Check the fanboi-ism at the door please. :-)

@Giles Jones

Cubase on Windows imho is garbage, however.

I've been doing audio/video for over two decades and I've never had issues with any of the Windows audio packages or hardware. Currently 94-channel fully-digital fully-automated console connected to multiple PCs running audio/video with unlimited tracks and hardware/software samplers and effects. Used to do it pro part-time, now its just a [expensive] hobby.

@Raymond Cranfill

"Apple hardware is often the platform that shows of Windows at its best"

But if I assemble the same hardware as what a Mac has, Windows will run equally as well, and at half the cost. Most computer stores other than the few big "brand-name" ones will custom your kit with whatever hardware you want, all pre-installed and tested.

@John Sanders

Win7 isn't just a "rebranded" Vista. And it doesn't require "high end" hardware.

FYI: I'm running W7RC x86 right now on an Atom 330 system with 2GB RAM and it runs fast and smooth (even better than Ubuntu and Kubuntu).

@ AC "4 desktops"

In W7 simply use the "Show Desktop" button on the taskbar right. Or as mentioned by others, use the available desktop managers.

@ Mad Hacker

Is W7 faster than XP at what? :-)

The systems I have are: XP Pro, 2x Server 2003, Vista x86, Vista x64, W7RC/Kubuntu.

W7RC is on my slowest system (Atom 330), and I honestly have to say that I like it the most of all OS's I use (other than the non-customizable Windows Explorer toolbar!). Dual-booting Kubuntu and W7, and W7 noticeably outperforms it.

FYI: for the Mac Fanbois... I have been looking at getting myself a Mac for a few years, but because it will just be a secondary system to me I haven't wanted to spend that much. And yes it will be secondary because of the software I run.

@Simon 81 "32 or 64"

Depends on your hardware. The current MacBook Pro supports up to 8GB RAM.

If you have less than 4GB of RAM I would go with 32-bit. The memory footprint will be slightly smaller. If you have 4GB+ or are upgrading later then x64 for sure.

I've ran both W7 x86 and x64 and you won't see any real speed difference, just more memory available for 64-bit apps and 32-bit apps that are compiled LargeAddressAware or C# apps with "any platform", etc.

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Gates Halo

@mad hacker

I am using Windows 7 on many pcs I own, especially on my netbook. it is much faster than windows xp and more responsive.

I like it... ;-)

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Dead Vulture

IOW...

So basically, 2 pages of text to tell us that things are pretty much the same as they've been for the last decade or so?

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Magnetik Mounting

re: "And can I mount a partition into a directory, say something equivalent to:

mount /dev/disk0s1 /music/samples

mount /dev/disk1s1 /music/recordings"

AFAIK you've always been able to do this in Windows on an NTFS partition (at least since Windows 2000), using the Disk Management utility. I use it extensively, saves having drives to Z: when running those card readers :)

Oddly enough though, this feature isn't used very much.

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What about ubuntu 9.10?

Seriously why didn't you include ubuntu 9.10?

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Welcome

@ Simon

Go 64bit, might as well make use of it. Besides, it's time we killed off 32bit entirely >:| One of my biggest Windows gripes, even as a distinctly anti-Apple person.

Anti-apple as though I am, I do love MacOSX. Windows 7 though? Lovely - it's a mile ahead of Vista, but that's not difficult. XP? Set up properly, and on any modern machine it's certainly quicker than XP. Is it faster than XP on older machines? Depends how lucky you get with drivers, many of them (ATI noteably) have cut support off at the neck for some older hardware. This is where the downsides to PC's come in thick and fast, having to support all these types of hardware, and Windows is still doing a ruddy fantastic job of managing it.

I know, I can hear Linux in the background making lots of shouting noises "Me! Me! Look over here!".

Long given up trying to compare them as an OS vs OS scenario - two different systems in use in different places, they do cross often and usually play well.

Few important things to note and/or summarise:

1. All Hail VMWare.

2. I'm all out of cookies. Someone pop over to Asda for me please :)

3. Re the "can run Windows on a Mac but not MacOSX on a PC" - is the typical strictness of an Apple "use me and die licence" or EULA as they like to call it, a feature or a problem. It's only ever going to be a problem to PC users wanting to run MacOSX without having to run a Mac. Legally. We (PC users) can only really hope, a choice is never bad and it would be nice to have one other than Windows or Linux.

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Bronze badge

The Most Important Difference

Of course the most important difference of all is not the functionality or usability of the interface, it's that (hardware-wise) Windows is a more open environment than Snow Leopard. Of course that brings both strengths and weaknesses, but I figure that plays a considerable part in many people's decision making.

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Jobs Horns

Bothered?

As the years go on the OS debate will become less and less important.

I'm not blarting about "all our stuff will be in the cloud" and all that tosh... I just mean the software people will be using will and should run on anything!

There's an increasing number of open source projects that are gradually reaching maturity. I use GIMP and Inkscape now for loads of graphics stuff and only really need Photoslop to convert to/from CMYK. OpenOffice still has a bit to go to compete with Office but it will get there (I still use Office XP because its rapid)

Unlike most people it seems, I'm not a big fan of all this Fisher Price bouncing icons rounded buttons stuff that seem to be everywhere in a modern OS. Using up clock cycles and battery life for no gain in productivity.

What I am a big fan of though is checking out alternative shells! I've not used Windows explorer.exe as default for years thanks to the choice of alternative shells and file browsers that's out there. And I can see this happening in the future for Macs as well.

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Boffin

Not Convinced...

Not convinced that you can compare the two.

I'd find a comparison interesting when it came to 2 equal spec machines running OS-X and Win7, and then comparing speeds between applications.

For example should I buy off-the-shelf hardware and Win7, or a Mac to run Premier? Which renders faster? If I am Photoshopping some things together, which platform would I be better investing in? I need to run Audition to stick together some mixes, is it faster on the Intel Mac or the Intel Windows box?

Also, I'd like to know the speeds 6 months down the line. Does Windows 7 have the same 'cruft' factor of it's predecessors? If so, can I expect Windows to gently slow down as it gets older. Will OS-X do the same? I used to have to expect to reinstall Windows approx. every 6 months to keep the speed, is this new generation the same? Will there be a long term test? I hope so, because at least 7 is useable on a daily basis, unlike Vista.

Finally, I admit I am an Ubuntu user. I would like to see Reg compare the 2 big ones against Ubuntu, Fedora, Open Suse, and for fun, Open Solaris. For my work I find Ubuntu handy, and if I need a dedicated Windows app, I run it in Virtual Box. I tested 7 against bare hardware and in a VB. I'm of the opinion I'll stick with 9.10 Ubuntu and XP in a Virtual Box for my Windows apps. My Ubuntu is running the OS-X 'hack' to give me the OS-X experience on Ubuntu, and integrated Windows Apps in Virtual Box. What am I missing?

You asked about virtualisation, and that is my solution for work and home. Stick with a 'free' OS, patch it to give the the OS-X experience, and Virtual Box in Windows Apps that I need. The best of 3 Worlds.

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