Windows 7 Beefed

Plus, the new OS won't get any virtual tricks, IE 8 is declared the fastest browser, and more.

  by Doug Barney

Microsoft tries as much as possible to lock down new product features early in the beta, and then drives to make sure they all work. The Windows 7 crew must have missed that memo as the team just added a troupe of tweaks, tunings and trimmings all tailored toward tightening the tool before it takes on release candidate status. Many of the tweaks are fixes to little problems, like USB items not working after the machine comes out of suspend mode. Others affect look and feel, such as moving the "new folder" button up higher so it's easier to build new places for files.

Windows 7: No Virtual Tricks 
Microsoft has used virtualization for years to ensure compatibility. Windows NT ran on RISC chips like Alpha, even though it was native to Intel. The solution was the Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL), a thunking layer that more or less let NT run on different processors.
Some gurus saw this approach and thought a somewhat similar approach could work with Windows 7 to help it run the software and drivers Vista failed to support. The idea was to use a virtual layer that mimics older OS architectures. The newest OS -- say, Windows 7 -- would be the leader and underneath would run the virtual layer. If done elegantly, you wouldn't even know the virtual layer is there.
Microsoft hasn't chosen this approach with Windows 7, and so far the compatibility reports are pretty good. These virtual pundits may be smart, but the Windows 7 dev team may be even smarter.
IE 8 Declared Fastest...Before Race Even Starts
I remember some months ago reading about a research team (not Microsoft) that found IE 8 to be the safest browser ever built. This is a bit like saying the Mercury Bobcat was the safest car -- before it was ever built, and before its gas tanks started exploding.
I didn't run IE 8 through any lab tests, but you've all told me about IE 8 and how the beta and release candidate spend more time crashing than driving. How can it be the fastest when it isn't even moving? When it does work, many of you find it faster than IE 7. But can we at least wait 'til final release before declaring victory?
Your Turn: IT Gone Good
Two-and-a-half years ago, I wrote a story about IT abusing its power -- blackmailing executives, spying, stealing and sexually harassing.