I installed Windows Vista on the new development computer I’m building. This is the first time I’ve even seen Vista running. I figured that with the impending release of the first Vista Service Pack, now was as good a time as any to jump into it. (I also wanted to try out Visual Studio 2008 Beta 2, which I think requires Vista – I might be wrong about that though.)
Up until now, I have not heard much of anything good about Vista. I’m starting to see why, but I’ll get into that later.
First, the good: Vista is very pleasant to look at. All the fancy window animations and glass effects and so forth are pretty dern cool. Unfortunately none of that stuff does much to improve productivity. It just turns the mundane drudgery of opening and closing windows into more of a video game experience (it’s sort of like the extra-fancy animated computer screens you always see in science-fiction shows). (Update: I’ve, um, turned most of the fancy animation stuff off.)
The SideBar is pretty cool. It’s basically the same thing as Apple Dashboard and/or Konfabulator – it just lets you plop little widgets onto the desktop, like a clock or calendar. It’s mainly just eye candy, but it’s pretty neat. I liked the concept of widgets a lot in Konfabulator but I never found anything useful enough to justify eating up the extra CPU cycles on it. Basically your main categories of widgets are clocks/calendars, weather reports, todo lists, performance monitors, and various unconfigurable branded news readers or streaming media players, none of which are particularly needed on the desktop all the time. I expect to get bored with the SideBar and turn it off just like I did with Konfabulator.
I had been prepared for Vista to be slow, but it’s actually pretty snappy on a 2.0 GHz dual core with 2GB of memory and a GeForce 7200, a system I wouldn’t consider bleeding edge by any means.
Okay now for the bad.
The User Access Control popups are a serious WTF. There are so many of them that you simply have no choice but to disable them, or else expect to blindly click “Okay” on every popup you see without even reading it (and there will be tons of them), and God help you if a “please confirm reformatting your hard drive” confirmation should appear. I even got a UAC window trying to view (not even edit!) the desktop font DPI settings. OMGWTFBBQ! I am dead serious with the following statement: Getting a virus is a much more pleasant experience than confirming UAC popups all the time.
It’s also somewhat challenging to find things in the new interface. The default Start menu is different from anything you’ve ever seen before. I don’t know if it’s a copy of the Mac interface or what, but it’s definitely not the old Windows interface. Even if you go back to the “classic” Start menu, the Control Panel is entirely different. It’s not “Display” anymore; now it’s “Personalization.” I had to go to Google to figure out how to change the network workgroup name. All the Explorer menu structures and navigating methods are different. You’re pretty much learning a whole new user interface, about as drastic as it was going from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a hassle for those of us who want to dive right in, and/or have to switch between different operating systems all the time.
Drivers are a problem, too, just like when we all tried to migrate from Windows 95 to Windows NT 4. Vista doesn’t recognize my external USB DVD burner, which was quite strange, because I was able to boot the computer and install Vista from the very same device. After that, I had to find another IDE CDROM drive to put inside the machine in order to install the motherboard LAN driver. My MicroTek ScanMaker 4900 doesn’t have a driver for Vista, either.
My sentiments echo what everyone else is saying. I can’t say I’d recommend Vista at the moment. After a couple of weeks, I haven’t encountered anything yet that’s made me think, “Hey that’s much better than it was in XP!” So far it’s just been a lot of, “Why’d they change that??” and “Why doesn’t this work??”
I’ll stick with it at least until the Service Pack though, if for no other reason than to increase my own personal knowledge base.