Finally have my new machine and installed Vista. This has been my first experience with it, though I've followed a lot of the online discussions during and after the beta. I've only got 24 hours under my belt with it so far, but I have to say most of
the reviews I've read in the past really missed the mark.
I know it's trendy to bash MS, and it's also human nature to complain when things change, but really now, most reviews I've read have been overly critical.
There were a few places that I thought needed some polish. There were two places in particular during the install where it was not appearant to me that anything was happening, and I actually wondered if I had a problem, what with the new hardware
and all. For example, the install starts right up with a nice background image, unlike past installations that showed white text on a blue background in a text mode application. But for me, that's all I saw for what seemed like a full minute. Nice looking
background, but nothing else. Not even a mouse cursor.
However, ignoring that, the install was great. Looked really nice, asked very few questions and did all of that up front, then installed in a fraction of the time I've grown used to for installing an OS.
I much prefer this over any theme I've used in the past, including hundreds of themes I've gotten from third parties or used in Linux. It's clean, colorful, non-intrusive and has feel appropriate for both casual use and business environments. I initially
was using non-Aero mode because my graphics card driver wasn't installed. That experience was wonderful, in comparison to XP where initial impressions were "yuck". I grew to like the XP theme, but not so much that I'd miss it, especially with a theme this
Aero itself is a little "glitsy". The transparencies serve little real purpose, though I do admit they lessen the "importance" of the window frame, putting focuse where it should be... on the application. I'm not certain the required hardware, if you don't
have it, is worth spending money on for this, however.
That said, though, Aero does bring some things to the table outside of the window adornaments that are useful. Alt-Tab and task bar hover previews are very nicely done and useful. Flip 3d is very nice looking, though I'm not convinced I'll use it long term...
especially if the keyboard access to it isn't as simple as Alt-Tab (haven't discovered how to access it via keyboard yet).
I've always liked the concept here, but have never liked the implementation. First, I've always been someone prone to running applications maximized, making the side bar unavailable in the first place. Some implementations have tried to address this
by making the sidebar always on top and auto-hide, but that only works for toolbars on the bottom. When they are on any other side of the sceen, they interfere with the normal workflow for managing windows. On the right, they unhide themselves and interfere
when you're trying to close a maximized window. On the top they likewise get in the way when trying to access any of the buttons, not just close, and often even interfere with attempts to access the menu. On the left almost works because you access the system
menu so infrequently, but even that I find annoying.
By default, the Vista side bar isn't on top of other windows, which is the right decision as far as not getting in my way is concerned. But then we're back to it not being useful when running maiximized windows. I have to say, however, that so far, I've not
felt as compelled to run my applications maximized. VisualStudio will be an exception, but the rest of my applications I've left small enough to not obscure the sidebar, at least so far. I'm not sure why this is, but my habits have changed with less than
24 hours of Vista usage.
OK, but I spend a lot of time doing development work, and I stated that I will certainly still run VS maximized. Does this mean I won't have access to the sidebar? Yes, and no. I won't have visual use of it "at a glance" like is so nice the rest of the time.
And I definately won't have physical access to it with out some effort. But I'm finding the access to "the desktop" (i.e. minimizing every thing else temporarily, a feature we've had for some time) is somehow more natural to me with Vista than it has been
in the past. Don't know why on this one either... there seem to be some subtle psychological things going on, and I won't even try to claim it's intentional. But regardless, I'm liking the sidebar this time around.
Start Menu/Orb/Perl/What ever
I like the new design here. Much easier to use, less clutter, etc. I am a little concerned about how the program menu will hold up when I install the thousands of applications (only slight exageration) that I typically have installed on a machine.
On the one hand, getting rid of the cascading menus is much cleaner. On the other, with a lot of applications it may make it a little more difficult to use because of the required scrolling. I'll have to reserve judgement there for a while.
I've disliked every desktop search application I've ever used. They have all been intrusive, slowing the computer down during normal usage. Most have had bad interface designs. None have been as effective at finding things for me as I'd like, and some have
actually interfered with other searching mechanisms I've grown accustomed to, despite them not being as effective as a search tool should be.
I've not used Vista's search a lot yet. It's something I'll have to get into the habit of, and with 20 years of structured storage habits to break, it won't be easy. So I don't know how effective or accurate search will turn out to be. But I do know there
are two things I like. First, it's not intrusive. It doesn't appear to effect the normal operational speed of the OS. Second, I really like the UI design. Instant feedback within the "start menu" is nearly perfect for about 80% of what one wants to do
with search, i.e. find and "invoke" a file quickly. For more power search usage, the search window looks like it will probably cover the bases well. I'm actually excited to try and break my habits and get into using search.
Finally, Windows has adopted some security best practices that other OSes have used for years. Administrative access is something that shouldn't be granted from the very start, even for users who administer a box. IOW, normal usage of the OS should be done
by non-adminstrative accounts and administrative tasks should be done by
temporarily signing in as an administrator.
That's not precisely how UAC works. As most of us know, it's still "normal" in Vista to log on with an account that has Administrative priveleges. But even then, access to parts of the OS that require an administrative account don't just happen automatically.
Instead, you're prompted to elevate your priveleges to true administrative levels
for that action. The difference is that an administrator is presented with just a confirmation dialog, while a non-administrator would be presented with an administrator login dialog. IOW, non-administrators would have to provide credentials,
the same as in other OSes, while administrators get much of the same security but don't have to provide credentials again. I actually think this is a step in the right direction from a usability stand point, and don't see how it could lessen the security
As for the complaints about too many UAC prompts: sour grapes, IMHO. I've been doing nothing but install applications for the past 24 hours. Something that requires elevated priveleges and results in numerous UAC prompts. This has not bothered me at all.
I get much the same experience in other OSes, including Linux. SUDO is a little less intrusive, since your elevated status doesn't require answering further prompts for a period of time. However, that period of time isn't that long, so in practice there's
not much difference here. I wouldn't dream of disabling UAC, and don't understand the folks who want to complain about this feature.
That said, there are some security related issues today that would make me hesitate to recommend Vista to mom and pop with out knowing a lot about what programs they use. But those issues aren't with the OS, but with legacy applications that run on the OS.
Programmers have been lax, to be polite, with best practices for way too long. Many applications don't run well in lowered rights mode. Or run at all. I have an online game that I play frequently that simply won't run in Vista unless you run it as an administrator
(which is a bad idea for an application that interfaces with the internet!). Several months down the road this won't be an issue, since developers will have to clean up their act, but in the early days Vista may prove to be too frustrating for non-tech savvy
people because of this.
I came from a 1GHz Celeron with 256MB of RAM to a 2.1GHz dual core CPU with 2GB of RAM and a RAID 0 array, so it's a little hard to compare performance to XP. However, I have no complaints at all. Everything loads nearly instantly, and everything performs
at very respectable speeds, including applications that tax the system, such as my video editing software.
I'm excited about my new Vista desktop. I've not yet found anything to complain about (except for legacy apps that don't work or don't work with out security elevation), and have plenty of new features to like. Thus far, I think MS has delivered.