Windows 7 Graphics Engine

I own a Dell Inspiron 8200 (Intel P4m 2.2GHz + 2GB RAM) with a Nvidia Geforce 2Go 32MB RAM and am currently evaluating Windows 7 Ultimate (trial). I have been an XP user since the begining. Being an IT professional, and an avid tinkerer since the begining. I personally feel, and I’m sure there are a lot of people out there with similar feelings, that Microsoft is leaving us behind.

Hey, I’ll be the first one to promote advancements in hardware architecture, microprocessor manufacturing and software. And I also understand that for organizations it is difficult to maintain legacy or old hardware as it adds an additional cost to the product, also it becomes a technical nightmare to manage and maintain and provide support to the customer base.

Microsoft either made a huge blunder with Vista or it was a fire test, a market study so to speak. They guaged the user response to a radical change in the operating system. They needed to do that to do three things, 1) to test their new graphics engine and the radically changed user interface, and 2) to see what percentage of users would actually switch, and 3) to technically evaluate the operating system to look at what problems the general user is facing.

Some might say it was an expensive exercise.

The company needed to push the new technology out to the market, however, by pushing it out now, like they did, they have put a lot of people in a very difficult position to make a choice, not only upgrade the operating system, but also, upgrade their hardware.

It is easier for a user to upgrade software, however, hardware is another issue.

I live in a developing country with a much weaker economy than the US. This translates to a much lower buying power, which means, I am borderline between switching over to Linux. However, my work always has kept me on the Microsoft of things.

If I were involved in the architecture stage of Vista and 7 this is how I would have gone about this.

  1. 1. Draw a line on what minimum legacy hardware will be supported.
  2. To not alienate the customer base who do not want to or cannot affor to upgrade graphics, an option will be provided
  3. This option will provided limitations to the Windows 7 user interface.

Legacy Graphics Support

At the architecture level, I will design the graphics modules in such a way that, it may be switched between legacy support and contemporary support. Afterall, according to my knowledge Windows is a micro-kernel architecture, so this should not be that technically difficult. It is a matter of how the graphics engine will be supported. Allow for new architecture, and build a wrapper for legacy architecture for limited support. This should allow the XP graphics drivers to run natively, and not be forced onto the DirectX 10/11. Simply put, My graphics card supports DirectX 9 and XP supports up to 9c. So when I install on my machine, Windows 7 asks me if I want legacy graphics support, explaining the difference in terms of DirectX support. If the user says “Yes” then Windows 7 does not install the DirectX 11, but installs the older graphics engine to allow for XP drivers. Otherwise, it does what it does now.

The reason I am thinking on these lines is because, I at one time tried the Vista Transformation Pack, and then later on also tried the Windows 7 Transformation Pack. the amazing thing was that both producs changed my XP interface to include a lot of user interface goodies that Vista and Windows 7 had introduced, including the alpha blended borders, the fancy 3D Alt-Tab alternative, the task bar application previews. Almost all were there. Of course these two products didn’t change the fact that I was using Windows XP. Which basically convinced me that the fancy user interface can be supported on my 8 year old machine.

Now with the support option for Legacy graphics, I feel that Microsoft can put in a disclaimer, say, sure, we’ll give you legacy graphics support, but we’ll disable the aero theme. I will be the first one to switch. Simply because, I would be able to watch movies which I like doing sometimes with my kids, do some graphics intensive work, maybe play NFS Hot pursuit for 10/15 minutes. I would like to do that without spending two to three months worth of pay on a new machine.

Right now, Windows 7 supports my hardware pretty well, by that I mean, I get enough response from a fully loaded and configured system to run SQL Server, and develop computationally intensive desktop and web applications using .NET Framework 2 and 3.x. Of course I don’t get Aero, and personally I kind of prefer the basic theme over Aero. Aero makes the windows borders quite busy for my liking. — While using XP I was using the Zune theme, prefered it over the default Luna with it’s three age old variations.

I do like to watch movies with my kids every Friday, it has become an important ritual that we do every week. With Windows 7, I can’t do that, however, I have a Ubuntu installed hard drive stashed away, and on Fridays I have to put in another 5 minutes to switch hard drives. It’s just an inconvienence, that my kids enjoy also (they are 5 and 7 years old).