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GPS, Ambient-Light Sensors and More

Windows 7 for Notebooks and Netbooks
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Some notebooks already have ambient-light sensors that adjust the display’s backlight automatically. You typically want the display to be brighter when used outdoors (or to turn the backlighting off completely with a transflective screen, such as with the Portege R500 and R600), and dim when you’re in a dark room (which saves power and makes the screen more comfortable to look at). At the moment, there’s no standard way of doing this in Windows.

Windows 7 will support light sensors through a sensor framework that also includes GPS, accelerometers, cameras and anything else that provides ”senses” to the PC. Having this level of support in the operating system means that there’s less work for the PC manufacturers to do to make the components work. Microsoft is in discussions with what it refers to as a “major laptop supplier” to put ambient-light sensors into notebooks next year. As well as saving power, this means that software could adjust to match lighting conditions as well; Microsoft has developed a version of the MSDN Reader software that increases the point size of text, makes thin lines thicker and changes color charts to black and white so they’re easier to read.

As well as increasing display brightness using an ambient light sensor, Windows 7 can tell an application to automatically adjust settings, such as contrast or zoom.

Similar to the accelerometer in the iPhone, many business laptops also have accelerometers that detect when the systems are dropped so that they can park the hard drives’ heads to protect the data on the drives. Supporting accelerometers in the sensor framework will also make it easier to use them to control games, set off an alarm if anyone picks up your laptop while you’re away from it, increase the accuracy of GPS by detecting how fast the laptop is moving, rotate the screen when you turn a tablet PC around, or anything else that you could think of controlling with a motion detector. Sony and Lenovo already have notebooks that use spectrophotometers that color calibrate the display; the Windows 7 sensor platform should make it easier to build that kind of calibration into cheaper laptops.

Few notebooks have built-in GPS (although some UMPCs do). If you use a navigation application, such as Microsoft Streets & Trips that comes with a USB-based GPS device, only one application can access the GPS device at a time because USB is a serial connection. Accessing GPS through the sensor framework, however, means that several applications can get location information from the GPS at the same time, and you can set privacy controls as to which applications get access. If you’re indoors, the sensor platform could use a Wi-Fi triangulation such as Loopt (which Google Maps uses for cell-tower location on Windows Mobile devices and on the iPhone). Applications can get your location from Windows (along with an indication of how accurate the location data is), rather than needing to be aware of multiple devices and services. You can also set a default location for where you’re most likely to be.

As well as using GPS and Wi-Fi location services, Windows 7 lets you choose a default location.

Combining ambient-light sensors and GPS in the sensor platform means Windows 7 navigation applications could adjust the display for bright sunlight or driving in the dark.

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  • 0 Hide
    zodiacfml , November 26, 2008 11:59 AM
    i just hope that on the desktop we can turn off windows features.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , November 26, 2008 1:43 PM
    It looks like my lenovo already has most of these features. And always this discussion about battery life. I have never gotten the advertised battery life is I actually use my laptop. So the screen can not be too dim (let alone outside... what a joke). I actually need the harddrive. So much of these features don't seem that interesting. What is really new in Windows 7. (all the features for OEM's... do I care if I already have it?).
    The easier networking. Interesting. didn't XP show you the wi-fi networks with one click. And then in Vista they removed it. So now it is a feature again? Come on...
    An 8Gb footprint for barebones windows. What is that all about. I can run XP easily on a 10Gb drive. And it needs only about 2Gb. So where is the progress here...???
    Overall from what I read: not much new stuff.
    Sounds like lots of these are already in XP... Should compare battery life with XP, not vista I guess....
    And would love to see a comparison on some of these tasks with an Apple. Just to know if it will be worth my money to switch.
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , November 26, 2008 4:19 PM
    I've played around with Vista a bit, but glad I skipped implementing it as my main OS.
  • -1 Hide
    hellwig , November 26, 2008 5:14 PM
    Same here with skipping Vista. I had plenty of driver-incompatability fun when I switched to Win XP Pro x64 (for the heck of it). I figured I would just skip the whole Vista issue entirely. If Windows 7 needs less hardware than the 2-year old Vista it is based on, it just further shows how unnecessary Vista was. Looks like the wait for Windows 7 will be well worth it.

  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , November 27, 2008 4:29 AM
    what about tablet features?
    to my understanding the 7 OS supports active, passive, wacom technology and multitouch options much better then the Vista did.
    Since the vista did (does) it well, i wonder how much better will the 7 be on my tablet-pc...
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , November 28, 2008 10:21 AM
    Windows 7 IS Vista with options to strip down unnecessary parts and with some tuning done. But most important, with completely new marketing! And people will pay for something that they should already have when they bought Vista. Smart Microsoft is and that's why they're rich.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , November 28, 2008 2:22 PM
    That's right medmeks..

    So, Why don't we make another class action lawsuits against Ballmer and his god-damned Microsoft?
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , November 29, 2008 6:19 PM
    I agree with medmeks... it is just an updated version of vista as said by Microsoft themselves...because the update was so big they deemed it release. But then Apple charge for each of their big updates every time...so nothing new here...Mircosoft copying Apple??

    I run Vista as my main OS now having bought a copy upgraded from XP. I think it is great and have had zero issues with it in 3 months... i have a macbook too but will be selling soon as i dont use it enough - XBOX 360 etc.
  • 0 Hide
    jkeelsnc , November 30, 2008 7:40 PM
    This is all good. I finally started using Vista recently and after SP1 it is acceptable (finally). However, this still begs a question. Why the hell didn't Microsoft write Vista with these features to begin with to allow it to run properly on smaller machines and less hardware? I understand that SSD's were not popular at the time but the rest of the features could have been implemented. Not to mention they should checked on the hardware and software compatabilities before shoving it out the door. Having said that, VISTA is finally pretty good and it looks like Windows 7 will actually be very nice.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , December 2, 2008 11:46 AM
    vista is a rushed product - that's why...
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , February 10, 2011 5:37 PM
    I have written a small howto configure Windows 7 Pro for speed and productivity on a netbook (HP 2133), please visit my blog for howto and screencast : http://system-log.com/?p=901 , if you want to skip right to the screencast : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUhNGLPzZcU
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