A Narrow Look At Vista


Well, now that it's officially out and all, I can sum up the results of my experience in five bullet points:

Why? Because I use the thing to work, that's why.

I immediately turned down all the bling to Windows 2000 levels, and have a plain "metal grey" look to my windows and desktop, same as I did on XP. But it should be noted that Beryl moves like greased lightning on this video chipset - something the Linux crowd will harp on about for months to come, even if Enlightenment has demonstrated, over the years, that the pursuit of bling is somewhat of a dead-end.

Some day, when I'm feeling blue-green, I'll probably start using Aero. Until then, I'll stick with a UI that doesn't slow me down.

  • Everything worked. Everything. Accelerated graphics, proper dual-head (i.e., plugging in a monitor, detecting it and expanding the desktop), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, laptop function keys, suspend/resume, hibernation, Firewire, the works.

It should be noted that Linux can't get half of this straight on the first pass.

Also, pretty much all the software I threw at it worked first time, with the exception of Freemind (Java seems to be a bit wonky in general). Office 2007 is no news to me (been using it for months now), so I'll skip that.

  • It's pretty snappy. Could be due to my simplified theme, but there's also neat things like the Start menu's search feature and the Thunar-like Explorer bar, that makes it pretty easy to navigate deep filesystem trees.
  • I like the new Windows Mobility Center, for the simple reason that I now have a single place to set up presentation mode and it seems to set display mirroring and power schemes together in a sane way (i.e., no more fumbling for display options and remembering to set the laptop to always on mode). I've yet to figure out if it can be triggered by a hotkey.

And, finally -

  • There is absolutely nothing in Vista that makes me feel better using it than, say, the Mac. Neither system-wise nor UI-wise - and I'm not rating the UI in terms of looks, but in terms of interaction design.

Rather the opposite, in fact - I am particularly annoyed by the new Control Panel, which feels like UI shrapnel from Windows 95 onwards and seems designed with the sole goal of making you visit as many little nooks and crannies as possible to get anything done. In contrast, the Mac's System Preferences is something your proverbial grandma could use.

(And I still find the side panels on Explorer windows to be a colossal waste of screen real estate, but fortunately they can be collapsed away.)

A Matter Of Feeling

All in all, it feels solid, reliable, etc. Time will tell if this is what XP ought to have been like in the first place or a decent incremental upgrade, but ground-breaking it isn't.

But that doesn't mean that Leopard won't have to deliver more substance than "wow" factor, since Mac OS X isn't perfect either. I fully expect Apple not only to actually fix Tiger but to go an extra step forward where it regards making Mac OS X the operating system I want to use.

It is still way more reliable and secure than XP, and Vista has no track record to speak of yet (although I happen to like the new user-level security features, I doubt their real effectiveness).

Which reminds me, what happened to that "Month of Apple Bugs" thing? Was it even relevant? I kind of lost interest (and they any glimmer of credibility as far as I'm concerned) when they tried to pin a VideoLAN bug on Mac OS X...