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Steven Goodwin [opinions]

Another week with Windows Vista

fsmsh.com/2650 [vista] [case-study] [ms-windows] [gnu/linux-rocks]

Many moons ago I tried using Windows for a week to see how the other half live. Despite my thorough openness and fairness, I still got criticized! (Well, it wouldn’t be the free software community if people didn't, I suppose!) So, when I needed I new PC I decided to take the plunge and buy one. For the first time ever I bought a PC from a shop, instead of building it myself. Consequently, it came with Vista pre-installed. So I decided to spend a week with it to see what had changed...

After booting up, and entering the time, date, and time zone, I started playing around. Well, there's not much I can do with an operating system without software, so I copied some from my home server. At least – I tried to copy some. Vista wants to study every file in question before it begins to copy it, which is annoying to say the least. It also seemed to take significantly longer than it should, and eventually timed out. And by "significantly longer", how does 5 minutes for 2 MB file sound? I’m not sure how fast your gigabit Ethernet is, but I expect more from mine!

During this time I discovered something that would continually occur: Vista is too keen to write "Not responding" in the caption bar of any application that doesn’t return control immediately. Perhaps this is an attempt at ensuring that Vista is faster than all its predecessors by not running anything at all, but if I were less patient I’d have hit the Ctrl+Alt+Delete buttons sooner.

For an interface that claims to be at the cutting edge, I did an awful lot of bleeding this week! After I’d made the mental adjustment of treating my three-button mouse (with wheel) like an Amiga two-button version, circa 1995, and cursed the list view in explorer for not resizing (why...?) I decided to look at the media player. The DRM rumours were true. It was horrible. Plus visually, the default colour scheme uses a dark gray background, onto which it writes dark blue text. Important information was blind to my eyes for several minutes as I was forced to download codec after codec when trying to play a single file. On more than one occasion it said "Download successful", followed by "Please download the codec". The same codec, alas.

For an interface that claims to be at the cutting edge, I did an awful lot of bleeding this week!

While I’m thinking of interfaces, Vista seemed to remember the size of my windows (good!), but not their position (bad!). So consequently, when I re-opened a file, it was frequently off-screen.

Sometime in the week, I discovered some updates that purported to solve my file copy problem. So I installed them. And it didn’t. Ho hum. Perhaps I should go back to university and learn how difficult it is to write a file copy routine. Oh, I forgot, I’ve already done it, and it wasn’t difficult!

Which reminds me; and one point I booted up and it said "something has changed". Well, my hardware was identical to how it left the shop (not that it should be any concern of their operating system what hardware I decide to place in my computer). But, I let it do its thing, but when it searched to find what that something that had changed was, it said, "I can't find anything". So something's a problem, but it won't say what that something is. It's the SCO case all over again! It did suggest a portable music player, though, which was less than enlightening. I’m glad the USB designers never considered the option of hot-swapping USB devices, otherwise this suggestion would appear ridiculous. Oh, wait...

Also in the silly bugs list is the "Incompatible program" error, which has a "don't show" option--which doesn't work. More silliness occurred later when I tried upgrading the hardware (let’s see what happens, eh?) I inserted the driver disk in the (only) drive--the DVD-RW one. And because it's a DVD-RW drive it wants to format it. Obviously, the most common usage of Vista is to burn pirate DVD’s, I thought! Only after I let it try to format the disc, and fail, will it let me explore to the drive, and install the software.

I’m glad the USB designers never considered the option of hot-swapping USB devices, otherwise [Vista's error message] would appear ridiculous. Oh, wait...

Something odd I found during the upgrade debacle is that you can't cancel the driver install process, so when the Microsoft web site ignored me I couldn’t stop and try again. Nor could I try rebooting computer/router/modem/etc for fear of losing my machine forever. I'm so glad my net connection didn't give out completely during this time--given my experience thus far, I have no idea how it would have handled a permanent outage.

Stability wise, I only saw a few blue screens on bootup; on the other hand, while web browsing (Firefox), text editing (OpenOffice) and working remotely (putty) I didn’t have any problems. I did make my music sequencer crash, however, so I’d either need to buy an upgrade (£££), or downgrade my operating system.

Vista was uninstalled shortly afterwards. It never made it through the week. So, I’m sorry Microsoft, you’ve sold me a dud operating system.

Oh, and GNU/Linux--you still rock. All I have to say to you and your developers is, "Wow!"

(P.S. I was impressed by the pre-install of Python. Thanks, HP!)

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