Windows Vista: Initial Reactions

Posted by Mike Merritt in Computers on

I’ve been meaning to blog about this for a few days, but…I’ve been lazy. There goes my goal from the last entry. Monday will be the official day this starts. Yes…that’ll be it. Anyway…

My dad has owned a computer repair shop for about 14 years, so he knows he has to start getting used to Windows Vista, since customers will be asking about it eventually. His old computer was running slow, anyway, so he built a new one, and put Vista on it. We’ve only got Home Premium, but we’ve still got enough power to get all the 3-D, translucent, Aero Glass eye candy. So, once he was done building it (the day I came home for the four day weekend), I tried it out.

What I Like

  • Search: The first thing I was really impressed about was the speed of the search. In previous versions of Windows, you had to wait…and wait…and sometime wait even more before you’d get all the results. Now the results are more or less instantaneous. Given that this test is on a freshly loaded copy, I’ll have to verify this same speed later on, but it is still an impressive move forward for Windows. Oh, and I’m happy that the stupid dog is gone.
  • 3-D Flip and Others: Yes, I know it’s more eye candy than major improvement, but the 3-D Flip (Windows-Tab or the Quick Launch icon), the 2-D Flip (Alt-Tab), and the taskbar thumbnail preview features are really interesting to me. No more will people be forced to guess what an certain program might be. Yea, they should really know what the icons mean by now, but I think it’s a lot more informative to show them a thumbnail of the program in question. Microsoft has been plagued with user-friendliness issues in the past (listen up, Linux), and they need to do everything they can to get past that. I also like that the desktop is always an option in the 2-D and 3-D flips, since not everyone has the Quick Launch icons enabled.
  • Windows Update: I think Microsoft is going in the right direction with this. Not that it’s a huge change, but in a day when most update panels are embedded into the program, it seemed silly to still have to go to a website to download your updates. It also makes some sense security-wise. No doubt that the most determined of DoSers will find a way to do it, but it should deter some of the less adept trouble makers from attacking their update service when they’re not publishing an address to it.
  • Windows Calendar: Nothing huge here, either, but I’m utterly disorganized sometimes. Given I can find other services to make me more organized, but I think some people will appreciate not having to buy Outlook to get this feature.
  • General Security: I have heard a LOT of complaints about the new security measures Microsoft has taken, but I think the company is heading on the basic right track, even if it’s gone overboard just a bit. MS has taken cues from Apple and Linux and introduced a security feature in which you must verify an action which should take administrator verification to complete. Some people might find it annoying, but what else is Microsoft to do? They’ve gotten blasted for leaving the OS wide open for years, and now they get blasted for making it a little more difficult to get things done. That’s the WHOLE point. Do people like the threat of hackers and viruses taking over their system? Now, I’m not a MS fanboy by any means. The company has a lot of flaws, and I think Mac and Linux do many things a lot better, including security (though with Vista the gap has started to close). Do I think MS has gone a little overboard with the new security prompts? Yea, but I still think the feature is necessary. They will undoubtedly listen to customer suggestions and fine tune the system by the time of Service Pack 1.

What I Don’t Like

  • Wireless Networking: Keep in mind that I do like many aspects of their wireless networking section, but if I enumerated them all above, I’d be here all day. That said, I think they make it awfully confusing to keep the wireless connection saved. In past versions of Windows, this seemed to have been done by default. I can see the need to make it disposable after the first use…say in airports, or libraries, or other places with wireless hotspots. I just think it could be placed better in the dialog, since it seems to me it’s easy to miss. My dad missed it the first dozen or so times to his chagrin. Of course, he was sick at the time, so that may have been a factor.
  • No Error Messages on Shutdown Hang: The actual hang on shutdown problem wasn’t Windows’ problem. The new Linksys card my dad bought was causing the problem. Still, I think by now the geniuses over there would know to code in some kind of shutdown timer, which if it ran out on shutting down drivers, would pop up an error saying, “Hey, this driver cannot be shut down successfully. You’re screwed!” Ok, not in such harsh words, but come on. They do it easily enough for programs and processes, why not for drivers or devices that are causing it to hang? Maybe in the first SP
  • The Sidebar: It’s really kinda…useless. Yea, yea, I know I don’t have to use it, but given early previews of Vista, the sidebar seemed a lot more useful back then. Now, with the reinstatement of the taskbar in later releases, it lost a lot of its usefulness, and it not just a “widget bar,” something to put up news feeds, or picture galleries. I’m depressingly reminded of the Active Desktop of Windows 95c/98 fame, but with cooler stuff like RSS feeds. They need to do something with it to make it more than a OSX dock wannabe.
  • Shutdown: Because I can probably easily make this a 20-page essay, I’ll end with this one before I wrap up. I don’t like the new shut down function. In XP, it was relatively easy to find…You click Start, and the Turn off Computer. In Vista, it’s the Start button, then the Arrow button off to the right side of the menu, then “Shut Down.” Wha…? I think this will confuse a lot of people, given there’s another button on the Start Menu that looks like it has something to do with shutting down the computer, but instead just puts it into Standby mode. I know it’s changeable, but many average users will not. This should be fixed.

Conclusion
I like Vista overall, but I can understand why people will be hesitant to upgrade. It doesn’t actually offer much in the way of new features that people will actually find useful. The faster search they can get from Google or from MS itself, on their website. The new thumbnail window switch, while useful, is not enough of a grabber, nor do I think is any of the other eye candy. The calendar they can find literally almost anywhere, including Mozilla and Google. As for the security updates, while people like to complain about it, I don’t think people will necessarily upgrade just for that.

So, while Vista does feature some interesting new programs and eye candy, for the most part, it is a “behind the scenes” update. It has focused mostly on organization and security. While these things are definitely good to improve, I’m not so impressed that it took them five years to do this. Nor do I think will most of the public, not enough to make them upgrade right away. Most will upgrade eventually, but only when they go to purchase their new computer. You’ll of course always have those who want the latest and greatest, or those who upgrade out of curiosity, but I don’t think Vista will appeal THAT much to the greater public. I think Microsoft needs to seriously look into a more impressive product for the next version.

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