Sunday, 1 February 2009

Windows 7 Beta Applications – Part 1

I have decided to do this in a few parts, not sure quite how many yet, lets see what I get to first. :)

This first blog item will be about the apps which come out of the box with the Windows 7 beta.

Media Player 12 seems to be fairly stable, works quite nicely and the user interface changes aren’t particularly major, it appears to have been simplified somewhat and a separate interface appears when you watch a video.

Library View:


VIdeo View:


The few issues that I found are that it likes to eat a lot of CPU from time to time, particularly for a little while after starting but I haven’t discovered the cause of that. The problem with having a 4 core box is you tend not to notice as quick when an app has a thread going wild. :-(

Also, the VIsualisations can sometimes get out of sync between windowed and full screen mode…which is odd.

Apart from that though, it doesn’t appear to have any killer bugs.

Media Centre appears also to be fairly stable and usable, with most features working as expected and as intended. Once my TV tuner drivers were installed (WinTV Nova-T Stick) I set about setting up the TV channels, which worked perfectly. One thing I have noticed is that Media Centre 6.1.7000 saves recorded TV as .wtv (Windows Recorded TV) files, not as .dvr-ms.

The main bug with Media Centre is the mcGlidHost.exe bug which is documented in a lot of places on the internet and which has made a lot of people turn off error reporting in Windows 7 which is unfortunate.

It is down to an exception which occurs in mcGlidHost.exe which is the Windows Media Center In-band Guide Loader. This exception occurs repeatedly and in very quick succession and you can end up with 30 or 40 wermgr.exe processes running, all trying to upload a 100 Megabyte error report. Also, they rapidly begin to fill your hard drive with queued error reports, my folder reached 40GB before I ‘solved’ the problem. Obviously this is unmanageable and causes massive CPU usage and saturates your upload bandwidth.

The obvious solution to this is to disable error reporting, but, this means you are not sending what could be important crash reports to Microsoft to enable them to fix the bugs in Windows 7 before release.

I tried a couple of things. Blocking outgoing internet access to the wermgr.exe process solved the bandwidth issue and because it couldn’t connect to the internet, the processes quit much quicker than before, but it was still filling my C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\WER\ReportQueue folder with hundreds of reports, weighing in at 100 megabytes a piece.

I also tried using Process Explorer to suspend the mcGlidHost.exe before it crashed. This stopped the crash reports being generated, but also killed Media Centre’s scheduled recording for some reason, which was a showstopper.

I actually found my ‘solution’ by accident after installing Visual Studio 2008. When the mcGlidHost.exe process crashed, it automatically attached the Visual Studio debugger (which unfortunately does not work properly in Windows 7, but attaches ok) then I received an error from the debugger saying it couldn’t debug the process (due to the debugger issue).

I then, with Process Explorer, suspended the VSJitDebugger.exe process which had attached itself to the crashing mcGlidHost.exe process. I could then dismiss the error dialog box and everything stayed as it was. mcGlidHost.exe still appears to be working after it’s ‘System.InvalidOperationException’ which causes the crash, as from time to time it’s IO usage and RAM usage goes up.

Apart from that show stopper bug (for some people anyway), it seems to work fine and seems much smoother than the Vista Media Centre.

Internet Explorer 8 is also included and is looking rather good. It works well and except for the few sites that it doesn’t render correctly which have to have compatibility view applied, I have had very few problems with it.

One issue I have noticed is that it crashes after being closed from time to time, but it never affects your current browsing session due to it’s multiprocess architecture.

The other apps which are included in Windows 7 are Paint, with it’s new ribbon interface, which works quite nicely. Then you have Notepad…which is…still good old notepad. You also have Wordpad, which also sports a ribbon interface. Incidentally, I don’t think I have ever used Wordpad on any version of Windows except for opening the occasional file which didn’t align itself correctly in Notepad. You also have Windows DVD maker, which I have not tried. XPS viewer is there also, which does the same as it was before, just it isn’t in IE now. And last, but not least, for geeks and Sys Admins alike, there is Powershell 2.0. :-)