Wednesday, October 28, 2009

post release: Windows 7, homegroups and me

Microsoft released the much anticipated Windows 7 OS to retail on Friday Oct 22, 2009.  The general consensus among the majority is that it is indeed a great OS and worth the upgrade (especially if you avoided Vista and are still on XP). Upgrades from XP and Vista to Windows 7 have been pretty smooth for the most part (minus the fiasco w/the Student Windows 7 upgrade problems).

This last weekend I finally clean installed Windows 7 Ultimate Edition Retail on my Wind and HP (prior to this I was running beta/rc versions of Windows 7).  I also received my Windows 7 license for my desktop and did another clean install (wiping vista right off) of Windows 7 on it.  Previous OS upgrades have taught me one thing; upgrading can/will bite you in the end.  I recommend backing up data and doing a clean install to avoid any possible issues that may crop up later down the road (ie driver incompatibilities, software that doesn't work on Win7, crashing).  So my advice, if possible clean install.  Yes, its more work to start with but may save you some and frustration down the road.

After my installs were completed, the first thing i did was setup networking on the machines and in Windows 7 case, join a Homegroup. Keep reading for more info on my homegroups and media sharing experience.One of the coolest features of Windows 7 is the way you setup networks.  You no longer have to use Workgroups to setup a local network, but instead setup a Homegroup on the first computer and then connect to that Homegroup using a static password.

Once you connect/setup the Homegroup, it will let you choose what you want to share initially; Documents, Pictures, Videos, Music, and Printers. You can then easily share other folders by just right-clicking on the folder and then going to the Share With > and then choose Homegroup.  Once you do that, your other computers on the homegroup will instantly see the folder and files.Homegroup sharing also comes into play if you use a Windows 7 computer on the homegroup to record tv.

This is probably one of the coolest features, imo, for those who use Media Center for their DVR.  Once I have all of my computers on the homegroup, i can then go into Media Center and then to the TV > Recorded TV.  Be sure to go to the Shared tab so that way the host pc will stream the shows vs playing the file from the shared folder.  You can also make a copy of the show from the shared area; this is nice if its a larger HD show and you want to take a copy with you or would rather play it locally.

Using Homegroups/Networking with non-Windows 7 computers works like it did with XP/Vista.  Just need to have the computers in the same workgroup (actually, you can probably just have them on the same connection, i use workgroups out of habit).  You won't have the cool abilities with Media Center on a Vista machine but that is expected. Windows 7 definitely lives up to the hype and brings Media Center back into the releavent digital media world.

For DIY HTPC people, this OS defintely helps to make up for Vista Media Centers failure to live up to hype and features (no real QAM support, better cablecard support, sharing media libraries). However there are still a few things that do need to be addressed in Windows 7 such as native Bluray movie playback, but thats what SP1 is for right? :)

Here are some of my videos showing Windows 7 in action:

Windows 7 Clear QAM Demo

[youtube srdpJwh8ly8]

Windows 7 and TV Sharing Demo

[youtube kLGPM_eqTuU]

Windows 7 and Streaming to PS3

[youtube n6Fi5OrO8ec]

Windows 7 and Dell XT Surface/Touchpack Demo

[youtube p4NKdKHjyLA]