Archos follows its competent media players — the Archos 5 and Archos 7 — with the Archos 9 PCtablet. Instead of a 5- or 7-inch screen, this one has a 9-inch touch-sensitive display, and its new-found versatility makes the 22-ounce unit more netbook than mere media player.
It’s packing more power than its brandmates, employing the latest Intel Atom Z515 processor, with storage choices consisting of either a 60GB or 120GB hard drive. Thankfully, instead of Archos’s own clumsy operating system, this one comes loaded with Microsoft Windows 7.
We’re hoping Archos has improved that touchscreen, which we found a bit cumbersome in the Archos 5 and Archos 7. Whether its resistive touch system will be as responsive as other advanced capacitive touchscreens remains to be seen. The company hasn’t announced pricing yet, planning to ship the PCtablet this Fall. Here’s the Archos press release.
If the Release Candidate is any indication (and it should be), then Windows 7 will be a nice upgrade for any Windows user. The new OS, however, is a huge step up for netbook users. Vista is notoriously poorly suited to netbooks; a buggy resource hog that subjects its users to incessant dialog boxes and requires far too many clicks to perform basic tasks, it’s kind of a nightmare to use on a 9-inch laptop with a 1.5-inch trackpad.
Windows XP has been given a boost by netbooks, as its system requirements—more-or-less decided in 2001—are more in line with the specs hardware like the Eee PC and Mini 9. But let’s face it: XP is nearly a decade old. Its user experience is trumped by free alternatives like Ubuntu Netbook Remix and Linpus, and it’s not at all optimized for solid-state drives—especially cheap ones. This means that on low-end, SSD-based netbooks, it borders on unusable.
Hence, Windows 7. It’s noticeably faster than Vista on low-spec machines, properly optimized for netbook hardware, and, most importantly, free (for now). Thing is, installation isn’t quite as easy as it is on a regular PC—in fact, it can be a pain in the ass: netbooks don’t have DVD drives, which means you’ve either got to get your hands on an external drive or boot from a USB stick for a clean install. Furthermore, smaller SSDs, like the 8GB units in popular versions of the Dell Mini 9 and Acer Aspire One, make a default installation impossible, or at least impractically tight. Luckily, there are simple methods to deal with both of these problems. Let’s get started.
What You’ll Need
• A netbook (Minimum 1GB of RAM, 8GB storage space)
• A 4GB or larger USB drive
• A Windows 7 RC Image (details below)
• A Windows XP/Vista PC or a Mac to prepare the flash drive
• For low-end netbooks, lots (and lots) of time
Getting Windows 7
Downloading Windows 7 is a piece of cake. Just navigate to this page and download the 32-bit version. You’ll need to get a free Windows Live ID if you don’t already have one, but this takes about two minutes.
Microsoft will then give you your very own Windows 7 License key, valid until June 1st of next year. (Although after March 1st, it’ll drive you to the edge of sanity by shutting off every two hours. But that’s a different story, and March is a long way off). Microsoft will then offer up your ISO through a nifty little download manager applet, complete with a “resume” function. There are ways to sidestep this, but don’t: you’d be surprised how hard it is to keep a single HTTP connection alive for long enough to download a 2.36GB file.
Preparing Your Flash Drive
1. Open a Terminal (under Utilities)
2. Run diskutil list and determine the device node assigned to your flash media (e.g. /dev/disk2)
3. Run diskutil unmountDisk /dev/diskN (replace N with the disk number from the last command; in the previous example, N would be 2)
4. Execute sudo dd if=/path/to/downloaded.iso of=/dev/diskN bs=1m (replace /path/to/downloaded.iso with the path where the image file is located; for example, ./windows7.iso)
5. Run diskutil eject /dev/diskN and remove your flash media when the command completes (this can take a few hours on slower drives)
Starting Your Install
Ok! Now you’ve got a bootable flash drive, and you’re ready to start installing. It should go without saying, but once you start this process, you’ll lose all existing data on your netbook, so you should back up any important files before going through with anything from here forward.
Insert your USB drive and reboot your netbook. As soon as your BIOS screen flashes, you should see instructions for a) changing your netbook’s boot order or b) entering its BIOS setup. In the first situation, simply assign the USB drive as the first boot device. In the second, navigate through your BIOS settings until you find a “Default Boot Order” page, and do the same thing there.
From there, you should see the first Windows 7 installation screens. Anyone with a 16GB or larger storage device in their netbook can just follow the instructions until the installation completes, and skip the next step.
If your SSD is smaller than 16GB, or if you just want to save some space, do what they say, but only until the first reboot. After the Windows 7 installer has restarted your computer, you’ll need to modify the boot order again. Do not allow installation to continue! Manually change the boot order to prioritize the USB drive again, just as you did at the beginning of the installation.
Simple file compression is the secret to squeezing Windows 7 onto your skimpy 8GB SSD. Now that the Windows 7 installer has copied most of its system files to your drive, you’re going to tighten them up with Windows’ trust old “Compact” command. Here’s what you do, as described by Electronic Pulp:
Choose “Repair” at the Windows 7 Setup screen, go to “Command Prompt” and enter the following code:
d: (or whatever drive letter is assigned to your SSD)
compact.exe d:\*.* /c /s /i
And wait. And wait and wait and wait. This can take anywhere from eight hours to two days, so you’ll want to set your netbook down in a corner and forget about it for a while. [Note: compressing so many of your system files does have a performance cost, but in day-to-day use, it’s negligible]
Once this is done, reboot the netbook again and let it continue the installation as normal. That’s it!
All said and done, an 8GB SSD should have nearly 2GB of free space left—not much, but enough to work with. And given that most netbooks come with inbuilt, flush SD expansion slots, and that high-capacity SD cards are extremely affordable, having a small amount of space on your root drive isn’t at all prohibitive.Setup and Customization Help
Windows 7 works fairly well out of the box, but as with any new Windows installation, you’re going to need to download some drivers. Vista drivers usually do the trick, but sometimes workarounds are necessary. Thankfully, most popular netbooks have spawned helpful fan forums, many of which have Windows 7 subforums. Some of the best:
So there you go! Enjoy your new Windows 7 netbook! Please share your experiences in the comments-your feedback is a huge benefit to our Saturday guides. And of course, have a great weekend!
Microsoft will make the first public beta of Windows 7, the next version of its desktop operating system, available as a free download on Friday. There are several limitations, however, so even if you’re excited and committed to trying out Windows 7 Beta 1 on your home PC, check out this list of rules, requirements and considerations.
We culled this list from a post on the official Windows blog and its comments, so check it out before taking the plunge:
- Windows 7 Beta 1 will be made available for a limited time during the day on January 9, 2009.
- Visit the Windows 7 page on Microsoft’s website for the link.
- It will only be made available to the first 2.5 million people to download the code. Demand will be huge, so prepare to act quickly.
- Microsoft has not announced a specific time on Friday for the release, but we can expect it will be later in the day so the west coast of North America isn’t left out.
- Windows 7 Beta 1 will be offered as an ISO image. It’s around 2.5 or 3 gigabytes, so you will need a DVD burner if you want to install it.
- You will be required to register before downloading so Microsoft can give you a product key.
- It will be build 7000.
- The beta will only support Windows Vista SP1 to Windows 7 upgrades. If you’re not running Vista SP1 right now, upgrade before you try to install the Windows 7 beta.
- There is also a clean install option for the Win7 beta.
- There is no upgrade path from XP.
- There’s only one version of the beta, which Microsoft says “is roughly equivalent the Ultimate edition of Windows Vista.”
- The Windows 7 Beta will expire on August 1. You will probably be forced to go back to using Vista SP1 on August 1 (or maybe upgrade to Win7 Beta 2?).
- English, German, Japanese, Arabic, and Hindi versions will be available Friday.
- Both 32-bit and 64-bit versions will be available (except for Hindi, which only gets a 32-bit version).
- If you’re upgrading, remember to back up your PC. It’s a beta, stupid!
If you miss out, there will be other ways to get the beta in the near future. It’s likely Microsoft will be handing out hard DVDs of the code at developer events and consumer conferences throughout the year. And of course, (cough) there’s always BitTorrent.
Okay, never mind that I’m a dinosaur with an affinity for 1990’s era User Interfaces – I think even my best critics will very likely agree with me that Windows 7, for all of its performance improvements and bling, is essentially one big service deluxe pack for Windows Vista. It’s the Windows Vista that customers were promised when they bought “Vista Capable” PC’s 3 years ago, and despite the rest of us dinosaurs that are set in our ways about the way we like to work, it’s the Windows Vista that even Micosoft’s most ardent supporters hoped that would finally replace Windows XP. Windows 7 is the Vista that we were guaranteed would work properly, the first time around.
Taking a page from the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, Windows 7 and it’s accompanying sales propaganda is the Microsoft corporate mantra equivalent of “Wait ’till next year” that everyone is hoping may actually result in that all-elusive pennant win — the end-user and corporate acceptance that Windows Vista was never able to achieve.
Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.
Let’s face it, Windows 7 is Windows Vista Service Release 2, more than a service pack but less than a major release, with only a few added extra features, or as I am now in the custom of calling it, Windows Fixta. And since Windows 7 is essentially a performance and usability fix for a defective product, I’m of the increasing opinion that a Windows 7 upgrade should be free to anyone who was conned into buying Windows Vista.
Yes, you heard me. If you own a copy of Windows Vista — Microsoft should be giving you a download entitlement to whatever corresponding version you have. So if you have Home, you should get Windows 7 Home. If you have Ultimate, you should get Windows 7 Ultimate. For Microsoft to do anything less would be a disservice to their loyal customers, especially to the enterprises that actually bought into Enterprise Agreements for Vista desktops. It isn’t just good business for Microsoft to redeem itself in this way, it’s simply the right thing to do. Anything less than a complete “Mea culpa, we’ll do anything to make this up to you” move by Microsoft is likely to open them up to further litigation, especially by angry EU lawmakers who are just looking for another excuse to hit the company with billions more in fines as well as an expansion of existing class action in the United States.
As reported by Mary Jo Foley today, selected PC OEMs will begin offering free upgrades from Vista this summer, but these upgrades will not be retroactive. Microsoft needs to address their loyal customers and early adopters with free certificates NOW.
Should Vista users get Fixta For Free? Talk Back and Let Me Know.
Yes, Virginia, there’s a leaked copy of Windows 7 beta floating around, and if you aren’t the type to “break the law” and check it out yourself, the folks at Tech Cast News have made for you a picture-laden walkthrough of the installation process and some of the OS’s new features, including Alt+Tab doppelganger Aero Peek, the icon-only Taskbar interface, and the Smart Folder-esque Libraries. Overall, they found the beta a major improvement over Vista and predict the final release will put Microsoft in consumers’ good graces again. Here’s hoping that apparent January beta release comes to fruition so we can sweep that other OS under the rug a little bit faster.
Update: Looks like Tech Cast News is down, standby for innovative Ballmer-based conspiracy theories.
Update 2: … and it’s back!
ANALYSIS Certainly Microsoft wants to avoid another debacle on the scale of Windows Me, an operating system release that tilted more toward a mistake than an upgrade, and whose publicity turned into pushback from both customers and the press.
However, two analysts from Gartner certainly didn’t help Vista much with their comments earlier this week. At an Emerging Trends conference in Las Vegas, Michael Silver and Neil MacDonald argued that Microsoft is collapsing under its own weight, and that Windows has become monolithic.
Central to their point was the fact that Microsoft is leery to cut the cord, so to speak, on more than two decades of applications. Backwards compatibility remains something of an expectation with each new Windows release.
At the same time, this support for the past has gotten them into trouble. “Security should have been enough of a reason for Microsoft to stop bringing these applications forward,” Directions on Microsoft analyst Michael Cherry told BetaNews.
As MacDonald and Silver argued, the ballooning hardware requirements attached to Microsoft’s recent releases — especially Vista — have some of its clients wondering if it’s just more worthwhile to stick with their current setups and wait for the next version of Windows.
“I found [their analysis] very interesting,” Cherry said of the Gartner pair. “Look at all the hardware requirements [Microsoft] has gotten into.”
The reasoning behind the leeriness over Vista in the enterprise is this: Evidence suggests that Windows 7 would be more modular, and as a result, a lot less hardware requirement-heavy.
Many groups — Gartner included — have now seemingly begun to advise clients that a Vista could be more than just a software upgrade: It could mean these folks could be buying new hardware too.
While this is certainly something the computer manufacturers would not mind at all, it’s a sticking point for corporations. Faced with buying new machines, they would much rather just stick with XP, which for many is working out just fine.
Thus, in the case of Gartner — which, by the way, had been urging its clients to upgrade as soon as possible after Vista launched in 2007 — movement to Vista is now only being suggested as old and dying computers are being phased out. Only then, the firm believes, should Vista be introduced.
Could this movement of both sentiment and support away from Vista be the catalyst for recent suggestions that Windows 7 should launch sooner than the oft-publicized early 2010 target date?
It could be the most logical reason suggested thus far. Microsoft’s customers appear ready to pass over Vista, and the company could be taking notice. If it cannot get its customers to bite on the latest Windows release, maybe it can on the next.
Blogger and Microsoft pundit Mary Jo Foley has suggested that the renewed Windows 7 speculation may be more due to a desire by computer manufacturers to have new software, and the new marketing support that comes with it, ready for the generally lucrative holiday shopping season. But a still more higher-level reason could be at work.
Cherry disagrees with the whole premise of “promising” releases by a certain date, saying it only leads to trouble. “Microsoft shouldn’t be promising when it will be done,” he told BetaNews. Such promises have already gotten the company into trouble with Vista at the very beginning, he said, as it was more than two years past its initial promised date.
Plus, he said, since Vista was billed as a major release, Microsoft shouldn’t be following it up with another major release so soon. “A major/minor release pattern is good,” he added.
Gartner seems to be suggesting such a resolution to Microsoft’s conundrum. It calls for radical change, something consultant Stowe Boyd of /Message seems to agree with. Boyd doesn’t hold much hope for it, however.
“I just doubt that Microsoft has the resolve to build a new OS, breaking the tie to Windows, which is really what is needed,” Boyd told us. “In the meantime, anticipate an increasing defection to Mac OS X and Linux.”
The question still remains, is Vista really collapsing? Perhaps not. It could be argued that Microsoft has just failed to develop the OS’ value proposition enough. With the early problems, such as a definitive lack of supporting drivers and its technical difficulties early on — not to mention the whole “Vista Capable” debacle — that job has been made much harder.
Some will argue that the security enhancements included within Vista are reason enough to make the jump. Several have argued that these enhancements resolve one of the key problems within Windows overall in recent memory: its seemingly neverending list of security problems.
In fact, Cherry told BetaNews that when he first started urging his clients to upgrade, User Account Control (although annoying at times) was a major factor. Not allowing everything to run under administrative privileges closes a great deal of those holes.
He still stands by his support, even though like Gartner, he is also now advising a hardware upgrade path to Vista adoption.
But some of these much needed changes have come at a cost. While the marketing of Vista calls it “agile,” most likely many don’t perceive it as such when a UAC dialog seems to appear on their screen every few minutes.
It is with Windows’ treatment of the “standard user” with UAC that Microsoft may need to improve most for Windows 7. Take out these perceived shortcomings, and things could get back on track.
“I don’t envision Windows 7 is going to be drastic,” Cherry said. “Although the first clue as to whether it will be a major release is PDC.”
Cherry’s referring to the company’s next Professional Developer’s Conference, currently scheduled for late October. Quite possibly at that point we will find out what Redmond’s next steps will be, and whether Vista is indeed the lame duck that some have made it out to be.