I have finally made the leap from Windows XP to Windows 7 for my home machine. I never bothered with Vista (although I did have to manage the development of a build including Virtual PCs running both XP and NT for a client) and did not get around to trying out the Windows 7 release candidate.Over the years I have built many PCs myself but I no longer enjoy doing this. I would rather spend time with my family, looking after my fish or doing photography. Sadly, I have had machines in bits in my study for over a year and this weekend decided it was finally time to do something about it. I had a really nice case for a rebuild but, unusually, the standoffs (to support the motherboard) are non-standard (only slightly) and I had lost the standoffs that came with it. I tried putting a standard standoff in but it sheared off. I was not until I got a rotary tool (Dremel clone) that I was able to drill this out again and use the proper standoffs that I found some time later. My main usage of a desktop PC now is for editing and managing photos. This is of course doable on a laptop, but a much slower and somewhat frustrating exercise compared to the experience on a half-decent desktop. I used to play a lot of computers games, but not so much now (not even on the consoles). I still have a vague interest though in the development of PCs and their use as a gaming platform. I think we are just reaching that point in the cycle where the PC leaps far ahead of the game consoles in capability as the technical refresh cycle for PCs is so much faster. I checked out a computer fair at the weekend. That was a big disappointment. Relatively small, too little competition and not enough innovation. I came away decided I was right to stick with my year old middle-of-the-road AMD processor and motherboard. Windows 7 installed quickly an easily. I went with the Home Premium version as I could not see much point going for the Pro (let alone Ultimate) version. The key difference seems to be the inclusion of a Virtual XP PC capability but VMWare is free and works better (I have no shortage of XP licenses – full ones – I can redeploy). Not that I have found anything that needs it yet. Just for fun, I am running a virtual instance of the latest Ubuntu linux distro. I have also finally given GIMP a really good go as a cheap (free) alternative to Photoshop – it is simply too expensive to keep up to date with Adobe. I am sticking with Adobe Lightroom though (Lightroom 3 beta is out now) as this is a huge productivity tool. I find I do not need to tweak many pictures in Photoshop now, and I do not think I need to do anything that I cannot do easily in GIMP (I tried Photoshop Elements and found it too limited, especially around layers and masks). One of the reasons my PC had been in bits was because the main hard disk (not that old) was failing. Probably caused by me not having assembled the system fully so the hard disks were not properly supported and probably vibrated too much. Tried usual recovery measures. I also had a problem with the main board not recognizing the graphics card even though they were from the same manufacturer. No such problems under Windows 7, I picked up a cheap replacement hdd to use as the boot drive and stuffed in a few 200gb drives I had laying around. Fortunately, with the build completed over the weekend, I have been able to let the machine burn in and carry out some long cycle tasks as I have been working at home for a couple of days. I have been working away on my work laptop – mostly catching up on some critical background reading I needed to do – with my new build churning away next to me on the kitchen table. Purchasing a Mac was seriously considered. In hindsight though (and to the benefit of my wallet), I am glad I stuck with Microsoft. Macs may be a lot easier, but you do not get as much for your money.