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Despite Microsoft's efforts to keep Windows 7 information secret and safe within a close circle of partners and testers until its good and ready, another round of screenshots has found its way to the web.

Over the weekend, the ThinkNext.net blog posted a variety of screenshots purportedly from the latest batch of beta code, Windows 7 M3 Build 6780. Unfortunately, the page is now deader than disco. Someone claiming to be a Microsoft suit emailed the author and dropped enough litigious words of advice to encourage a hasty retreat.

But all is not lost, curious readers. Windows7news is presently hosting the images. You may catch them there before they're gone.

The images include a Windows 7 welcome screen, start menu, administration windows, and updated applications like Windows Media Player, and – YES! - MS Paint and Calculator!

All signs point to things looking pretty Aero-y. That is to say, Microsoft appears to be sticking with the same semi-transparent glass-effect graphic interface used in Windows Vista. You may also know this as the option in Appearance Settings you had to disable because it makes your laptop run like crap. The build does appear to be using the Office 2007 Ribbon interface in Wordpad and Paint. That's a change at least.

Keep in mind the code is still deep in beta country so nobody is promising you Aero. In fact, Microsoft is doing its best to promise you next to nothing this early into the process, having learned a harsh lesson with Vista.

Back before the ponderously maligned OS made its debut, Microsoft made a fine mess out of previewing thrills, chills, and a laundry list of features - along with a thousand elephants that didn't make the cut when Vista hit retail shelves. Customers couldn't help but compare the OS against their artificially enhanced expectations – adding to the grief that made Vista the Tito Jackson of Windows releases (Windows ME is Marlon Jackson, by the way).

We haven't yet received official word whether it was Microsoft that sent the take-down request. We'll update when the datum rolls around. ®

Update

A Microsoft spokeswoman responded that the company is "not aware" of issuing a take-down notice to ThinkNext. She added it's Microsoft's policy not to comment on rumors and speculation.

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