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MoInSTL MoInSTL is offline
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Default Windows 7 HomeGroup links computers with ease - 05-25-2009, 02:28 PM

Microsoft | Windows 7 HomeGroup links computers with ease | Seattle Times Newspaper

I think I've found the secret code name for Microsoft's Windows 7: Kudzu.

If you have multiple computers in the house, this software may spread faster than germs in a preschool.

At least that's my expectation after seeing the new "HomeGroup" and media-sharing features that are among the coolest of the new operating system.

HomeGroup automatically links computers in a home so they can share photos, music, videos and documents, as well as printers.

There are lots of ways to do this already but it's often a hassle. Windows 7 automatically configures sharing after you tell the software whether you're connecting to a home, work or public network.

On a home network, HomeGroup builds a shared digital library from the media spread across different machines. So you won't have to remember which computer has the vacation pictures from 2007 — you search across the "home group," and view the pictures on whatever machine you're using.

You can decide to play the media back on a different machine, if you have another computer or a digital media player connected to the TV or stereo system.

Best of all may be the remote streaming feature that lets users access home-media libraries from anywhere, in full fidelity, over the Internet.

HomeGroup also shares things like printer drivers, so you can share a printer without having to use a print server or manually load printer drivers onto each machine.

Making these things simpler, and building them into the operating system, is one of the ways Microsoft tries to advance computing with each new version of Windows.

HomeGroup alone is probably worth the price of the software, now that many U.S. homes are running multiple computers and are flooded with digital files.

Digital media has gone mainstream, but mainstream users are still figuring out how to manage it all.

Microsoft and computer makers are also going to push consumer — as opposed to corporate — benefits especially hard this year, since companies aren't buying much technology.

But there's a huge asterisk on these new features: They only work with Windows 7.

That means that you can't have only one Windows 7 computer to take full advantage of HomeGroup or the remote media streaming.

You'll either need to buy all new PCs after the operating system ships this fall, or upgrade existing PCs to the new operating system.

If you add a Windows 7 machine to a network that has PCs with Windows XP and Vista, "You could still share media the traditional way — sharing folders and sharing files — but you won't have this sort of seamless home integration," said Chris Flores, Windows marketing communications director.

Flores said not many households would replace all their computers at once, but a lot of people will probably try upgrading older PCs since Windows 7 was designed to run well on "less powerful machines."

The $64 billion question is how the upgrade will be perceived.

If consumers are excited about features such as HomeGroup and media sharing, they could make Windows 7 viral, like Facebook or YouTube: It enables and encourages sharing, which in turn should propagate the software, spreading it through homes like kudzu.

My guess is this will boost sales of the boxed version of Windows, which have dwindled in recent years as most people now get the software preloaded on a new PC.

But there's also a risk that buyers will be disappointed if their new Windows 7 computer doesn't do all of its promised tricks until they upgrade additional PCs.

The lawyers have surely been through this already.

Microsoft is still involved in a lawsuit filed by people who felt misled because their new computers couldn't run all the new features in Windows Vista.

The company is also being scrutinized by antitrust regulators, watching for any sign that Microsoft is using its dominance to strong-arm customers.

Maybe the solution is for Microsoft to offer a drastically discounted version of Windows 7 that will encourage people to upgrade multiple computers at home.

Apple does this with its OS X operating system, offering a $199 version that can be installed on up to five home machines, in addition to its $129 single copy version.

Microsoft already does this with the home version of its Office suite, which can be loaded on up to three machines.

It's also similar to the way it prices entry-level servers, with licenses for five users.

Flores didn't rule out a Windows 7 "family pack" when I asked.

"We'll definitely have more detail on that, my guess will be somewhere around summertime," he said, intriguingly.

"We'll make it as favorable as we can, certainly."

They better.

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Fraggle.Rock Fraggle.Rock is offline
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Default 05-26-2009, 08:56 PM

I've been exceedingly happy with not only Windows 7 in general, but the HomeGroup feature in particular.

I'm no novice to computing, but sharing in the past could be a pain in the ass to setup... once it was up it was fine (sort of like setting up a TFPT server). But HomeGroup is pretty slick


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Praesul Praesul is offline
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Default 05-27-2009, 01:29 AM

something not covered there but is in the newest Win7 engineering blog (official blog) is the use of LinkID with HomeGroup. You can use this to access files and stream things to any HomeGroup joined laptop from anywhere on the internet.

Engineering Windows 7 : Media Streaming with Windows 7
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