I’ve been using the free beta release of Windows 7 on my Lenovo X41 Tablet, and during this time I’ve found that I really don’t need that many local applications installed. It’s nice and simple, and everything runs smoothly and quickly (most notably, suspend/hibernate). No IBM/Lenovo software accessories or manually installed device drivers to set up or get in the way. I think the only thing which I could imagine missing is the IBM accelerometer-based hard disk protector.
I installed the system by blindly following these instructions to create a bootable USB from the DVD ISO under Windows XP (most instructions assume Windows Vista or Windows 7). The only hitch during setup was that the system doesn’t have out-of-box support for my Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG network adapter; I needed to run Windows Update over an Ethernet cable first. Another annoyance, but unrelated to Windows 7, was that I had to defragment my (NTFS-formatted) partition some ten times over before I could ntfsresize it (with an Ubuntu live USB) to make space for Windows 7.
Here’s the shortlist of applications that I actually installed:
- Chrome: “mostly-FLOSS” browser of choice
- Flash: not FLOSS, but your alternative is to live under a rock
- PuTTY: standard SSH client
- Sumatra PDF: a PDF viewer that’s much lighter weight than Acrobat
And that’s it! No Java. No IM or email client—these run on my main desktop, but even if they didn’t, I’d just use Gmail/Meebo/etc. No IDE or dev tools—I do most of my development over SSH. No office suite—I just don’t use these applications much anymore, and probably also because I’ve moved most of my document authoring to LaTeX or Pandoc or what have you. I imagine I’ll be crawling back to Powerpoint 2007 once I have to crank out another presentation, though—it’s just easy, fast, and pretty.
I didn’t even need to download the Consolas font, since it’s included in Windows 7.
Over time, I can imagine myself also installing the following:
- Filezilla: use it mainly for SFTP
- TightVNC: so I can connect to my desktop for apps like Thunderbird
- VideoLAN Client: because it somehow manages to play any video I throw at it, but until I actually need to watch a movie on my laptop, I usually find myself watching Hulu and Youtube
- Vuze: downloading media wirelessly may be safer, and Vuze is still the best BT client with features that matter (faster downloads, resilient tracking, search); goes well with PeerGuardian
I thought I’d have more to say about Windows 7 by this point, but I honestly still haven’t experienced it that deeply. (The fact that it’s out of my way is just as well a Good Thing, but where’s the fun in that?) That, plus the fact that I don’t have many local apps, lets me realize first-hand that the significance of the laptop/netbook OS is becoming marginalized, and that Chrome OS/Android/Linux really could become relevant. The paradox is that native mobile device apps—like those written for the iPhone OS—are popular and preferred over their web counterparts, and I think that has more to do with generally less-connected usage of these devices and the not-quite-as-slick UI of most web apps.
I elected to try Windows 7 primarily for fun, but also to keep at least some part of myself familiar with the dominant desktop OS of the world, and lastly because it just has better tablet support, battery life, and suspend/hibernate compared to my prior experiences with Linux on the laptop.