Thursday, May 07, 2009

Windows 7: Starting Out

So the day arrived that Microsoft makes Windows 7 Release Candidate available to all. While it was easy to really get the disc image earlier than expected, trusting it is a bit tricky. Without a method and way to really check the validity of the image itself, I took it with a grain of salt. And then Microsoft made Windows 7 available to those who have paid their dues, with a public release being made about a week after. With it, a couple of "digital signatures" were posted that validates the disc image that was supposedly leaked.

Windows 7 is a hot item, and with good reason. Many have failed to see any reason to move to Vista despite that various hardware are being supported and software are retooled and updated to support Microsoft's current OS. With Windows 7 making rounds and numbers being published, the general feeling of Windows 7 seem to imply that it is indeed faster than Vista. It's faster to boot up and faster to do things. It's also being touted as more resource friendly than Vista with smarter service management. Although honestly, I have yet to see if this is true.

With 8GB of RAM now installed and running, I now run Windows 7 RC in 64bit. My first day experience was rather overwhelming. But there are plenty of things to note out.

I know that jumping on the 64bit bandwagon also means having some setbacks. It doesn't take much to know that a lot of today's software come in 32bit. But I was determine to see what programs I often use can be found in 64bit form. So the hunt begins.

In order for hardware to work well in 64bit, the drivers need to be built in 64bit. Companies like ATi, nVIDIA, and Creative Labs all have drivers available for many of their hardware. Actually, I'm quite surprised that Creative Labs now have drivers for Windows 7, because they are one of the last ones to publish drivers for their audio cards. Since I have a Creative Labs X-Fi audio card and a nVIDIA video card, I have two bases covered for the time being. I delayed looking for drivers/softwares for my TV tuner card, which will have to wait for a bit.

With the drivers installed, the video and sound both fired up nicely. They both performed well and did what they are supposed to do. Other tests will be done later when I have settled down with the OS.

Reinstalling all those applications that I use is going to be a pain. An even bigger pain will be determining if there is a 64bit build. First up is communications: Pidgin and Xchat. Pidgin, using the GTK+ libraries, have no 64bit build, for now. GTK+ has no 64bit build as well. Xchat also have no 64bit build, although the build I use is freely available as it was compiled using the public source code to the software. Winamp has no 64bit build but this is of little matter. For the time being, all of these software are not much of a bother to not run in native 64bit mode. To me, as long as they run and work, I don't care if there is no 64bit build.

I find that iTunes has a 64bit installer. So I will be checking that out once I get around to installing it. There is no 64bit build of Firefox and there is a good reason for that. The current codebase and limitation to Firefox is that if you were to build a 64bit Firefox, the plugins must be built in 64bit as well. As it stands now, all the various plugins that are out there, most notably Adobe Flash, are in 32bit. Extensions, though, are not effected, as they run within Firefox's environment.

As I move on, I need a media player that can handle it all. Using Media Player Classic has been the standard for me since Windows XP. But currently the codebase for MPC is so old and outdated that 64bit is nearly impossible. There is a fork/derivative of MPC that builds upon it. And fortunately there is a 64bit build. But there are a few issues. More later.

There is no official 64bit build for the XviD codec, due to the person who usually makes these installers only having a 32bit OS. The same can be said for ffdshow, since I need it for H264 playback, amongst other things. For subtitles, the problem becomes even worse. There is no x64 build for VSFilter and the code is so old and outdated that I question if there will ever be someone out there who can revise and rewrite the dll for x64 compatibility. After many hours of googling, I cannot find an official source or build in x64 form. Yet there is subtitle support for the fork of MPC. But support is tricky and limited in many ways. VSFilter renders subtitles so much better. Hopefully, someone out there can take up the challenge of rewriting VSFilter to be up to date and compatible/buildable for x64 platform.

For now, some of the anime and videos I've watched runs fine. I wonder for how long I can keep this up.

That's all for now, though. There are a couple more, which will then transition to Day 2 experiences. I'll have that up eventually.

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