Our epic journey comes to a close
Tuesday, January 23, 2007 by Zoomba | Discussion: Windows Vista
|This is the final part of a 5 part series offering a look into some of the new features of Windows Vista, slated for release to consumers on January 30th, 2007. These articles will be posted once per week starting at the end of December and leading up to the commercial launch of Vista.
If you'd like to read the entire series in one shot, I've compiled a single pdf containing all five parts of the series. You can grab it here.
Conclusion & General Thoughts
This article series was not a "Is Vista Worth It?" sort of sales pitch. When I started writing this article series, I intended to just write a "Day with Vista" sort of thing, a stream-of-consciousness narration of what it's like to use Vista over the course of one work day. Nothing really pro or con, just the thoughts on average use. It quickly morphed into a more detailed examination of what is in Vista and what it might mean for power users looking to get the most out of their purchase. So it turned into a walkthrough of the OS for those who haven't used it yet, a glance at some of the bits and pieces of Windows Vista they might not have heard about.
As I stated at the beginning, this wasn't an in-depth look at Vista, but more of a skimming of the top layers, looking at some of the more obvious improvements. Others have spoken at length about the technical underpinnings and very specific features. Considering how long just this high-level article series ended up running, if I had dug deeper and broken out into more detail, you would have been reading the beginnings of a book rather than just a collection of tech articles.
So after a week solid writing (and a few weeks editing), digging around Vista, learning about the various nooks and crannies hidden away, how do I personally feel about Vista? It's a step in the right direction. The operating system is finally reaching a level of detail and sophistication that seems to match up with general level of technology we're seeing rapidly develop around us. In Windows 98, 2000 and even XP, Windows was just a shell within which the user placed interesting items. Now, with Vista, many of those interesting bits are built into the OS. The diagnostic tools alone are miles above and beyond what we've seen in previous versions of Windows, or even Mac OS X. The addition of Live components gives me the sense that not only will my OS be a framework for other applications to connect into, but that it will also become a channel of its own for services and content distribution. For the first time it's starting to feel like Windows is an actual platform.
All of that said, if you're an XP user, you have little to gain immediately from upgrading to Vista. The new features are great and everything, but there's nothing that screams "must have" just yet. Add to that the generally buggy and incomplete state of device drivers at the moment and spotty application compatibility as developers race to certify their software on Vista, there just isn't much advantage (and honestly, a few disadvantages currently) for most users. And, with the rearranged interface and resorting of where tools are placed, troubleshooting those bugs could be extremely frustrating.
If you're a gamer, stay away from Vista until NVIDIA and AMD/ATI get their drivers sorted out. If a game even runs under Vista, chances are you'll see decreased performance compared to the same system running the same game under XP. At the moment, NVIDIA's drivers are in particularly poor shape. Driver support on video cards and the fact that no games are using DirectX 10 yet make Vista a poor choice at the moment for gamers.
- Stability. My experience with the RTM build is that it's just as stable as XP is. This is a nice contrast to using Windows several years ago where a restart at least once a week was required. I rarely restart my PC anymore and see crashes even less frequently
- Search Bar in the Start Menu. Despite my gripes about the overly complicated new Start Menu, the search bar acting as a hybrid search/run command has grown on me significantly. It's one of those things that seems dumb at first, but quickly becomes essential to your day-to-day use
- Improved Diagnostic Tools. I can now see why my hard disk is thrashing, and the event logs give me something that's actually useful. There's a lot of power hidden underneath the hood here.
- Integration of Live services. This mostly depends on how Microsoft handles this new distribution channel, but I think if they do what they did with XBox Live, they'll have a huge success on their hands that provides a good service to customers.
- New Start Menu. Outside the new search bar functionality, I don't like the Start Menu redesign at all. I especially don't like the confusing way they handled shutdown/restart options. I anticipate many frantic phone calls from my parents in the future asking me how they turn their PC off. I'm also not too keen on the new way you navigate the programs list in the start menu. I liked the ever-expanding tree of menus to the right. Sure it looked ugly, but it was very functional.
- New Disk Defragmenter. This is just utter crap. It took a useful tool and dumbed it down to the point where it gives me nothing useful. I used to be able to use the defrag tool to give me an idea of where potential performance problems were coming from. Not anymore. Now I just have to press a button and let magic happen in the background, hoping that it fixes what's wrong.
- UAC. I turned it off shortly into writing this series. I'm sorry, but I don't want to have to answer a dozen confirmation messages to do simple system tasks. UAC could have been useful. It could have worked like the MacOS method where you authenticate once as the administrative user on the first system-critical task you were trying to perform, and for a certain amount of time, you remain authenticated and aren't prompted again. The way UAC is right now, less confident users will be too terrified to delete even a shortcut from their desktop after all the WARNINGS OF DOOM the OS tosses at them.
- Driver Support. It's still in poor shape, especially for gamers. This is partially the fault of both Microsoft and hardware vendors. Microsoft failed to provide a stable OS to code against until very late in the game, and evidently hardware manufacturers waited until the very last second even then to start putting serious effort into development.
Overall, it's a solid entry into the Windows family, it fixes issues seen in previous versions, it's stable, and offers a lot of promise. It's just that at this moment, much of that promise is yet to be fulfilled. Unless you're getting a copy with a new PC early this year, I'd wait to consider Vista for as a primary OS until at least the middle of 2007, by then drivers, applications and such should be sorted out.
On issues of price and value, I can't really say. I personally wouldn't shell out $400 for a copy of Ultimate no matter how fantastic the OS turned out being. So until I purchase a new computer at the end of the year, I won't be running Vista at home. Not necessarily because of technical issues, but because I can't afford it. Personally, because I do find myself working from home, and I do use my PC as a multimedia hub, I need the functionality of both Business and Home Premium (i.e. Ultimate).
Pick up Vista when you buy a new machine starting around 3rd Quarter 2007.