I upgraded my home PC and my work desktop PC to Windows Vista today.
My first impressions? I have many. And they aren’t good.
There is no flow and no logical layout to anything. It’s a hybrid of Windows XP and the new way of doing things, and it shows. There are 50 control panels, for instance, and it takes me two to three steps to find things I could do with a right click before. Some things look new, some look old, some have new parts grafted on the old parts. It was a design by committee, none of whose members were of the same mindset.
It’s buggy. I edit the Start menu and a phantom “Start Menu” folder appears on my desktop, disappearing sometime later. I somehow have two networks configured on a single network card which I need to mess with, ultimately “merging” them into one. Also, why do I need a map for the network? Nobody needs that; it just clutters things.
It’s more intelligent, sometimes. It didn’t know what to do with my Realtek AC97 integrated sound, but while I was trying to find drivers it did it for me. But it didn’t tell me what it was doing, and I learned of the fix when I heard an error “ding!” On the other hand it can’t detect vendor-supplied video drivers and keeps offering to update my ATI display drivers. Learn to read dates from the driver. Seriously.
It’s misguided, and teaches users the wrong lessons about security with the User Access Control. UAC bothers the user so much that you have to disable it to get anything done. Or, if you don’t you learn to just keep clicking “Allow.” What happens when a malicious program comes along? What would my Mom do? She’d click “Allow” just like I would, out of habit. Why doesn’t it learn to whitelist the things I do use, and then question anything else? This was an opportunity for Microsoft to do the right thing and they missed it.
Once you disable UAC the Security Center starts throwing fits. What happened to the option of disabling certain checks? Now I have to disable the whole Security Center, rather than having it fail gracefully and letting me just disable the UAC. I know what I’m doing, please help me do what I need. Don’t just take your ball and storm off the playground. Microsoft’s security improvements, to borrow a phrase from Mr. Schneier, are pure security theater. They miss the point; security isn’t “all or nothing.”
Aero looks nice but it makes the system too dependent on a graphics card. The new icons don’t have symmetry which bothers me, because sometimes they don’t align down the center. The status bar is nearly useless now, because it won’t tell you the size of the contents of a folder. I used that a lot. I dislike the new Start menu that was introduced in XP, but under Vista the classic menu looks like it is straight from Windows 95. Could it not take some styling cues from the rest of the theme and maybe even match the color scheme? “Classic” doesn’t have to mean old-and-shitty looking, just not bulbous like the new style.
I cannot seem to get rid of the “Favorite Links” bar on the left of all of my Explorer windows. It took me searching Google and feeling like an idiot doing so to figure out how to get the Tools->Folder Options menu again. Oh, you push “Alt?” Not intuitive in the least. I’ve been using Windows since Windows 386 and if I can’t figure it out inside of 30 seconds it’s broken.
I like that an effort has been made to have the system take care of itself, with Windows Defender watching some security and a defragmenter that is scheduled by default. Except that my antivirus software disables Windows Defender, which then makes it impossible to manage my startup programs because that’s built into Defender. Defender, like the rest of the security measures, does not fail gracefully. Instead it’s either on or off. Why?
Why doesn’t the Windows Update check all my software by default? Why do I have to go to the Microsoft Update site to get it to check my Office applications?
Vista does not ship with software my applications require, like the .NET Framework 1.1 or DirectX redistributable libraries. I had to go download them. Why can’t I download them as a component in the update/manage programs control panel? Open a menu, pick the libraries I want, let it do all the work. Why aren’t they just there? My game installers are going to put some ancient version on if they are missing, wouldn’t it be better to preempt that with better versions?
It appears I can burn ISO images by default now. That’s cool. Why can’t I mount them as a filesystem and save myself the trouble of burning a disc, as well as a CD/DVD blank? I can do this in every other OS I work in.
The screen that appears at your first login seems intent on selling you software. Why doesn’t it walk the user through some decisions that need to be made, like with the power settings and whatnot? I found it a bit rude that my PC shut down after a little while when I was expecting it to stay on, and I’d like to have been presented with the choice.
Lastly, IPv6 support still does not expose nearly any configuration options in the control panels. You still need to use the command line or registry hacks to change settings, which is unacceptable.
Overall, I give Vista a grade of D. From a usability standpoint we’ve gone backwards from Windows XP, because of the clutter, pointless UI changes, and scatterbrained organization. From a functionality standpoint we’re right where XP was with a few third-party add-ons, missing the other things those add-ons gave us. From a security standpoint we’ve gone backwards, teaching users to do the wrong things, and taking an “all or nothing” approach to security when a “take what we can get” approach is warranted and the precedent.
Was it worth the time for me to upgrade to Vista?
The jury is still out, but right now it’s a ‘probably not.’
Do I recommend the upgrade to anybody currently satisfied with XP?
It sure seems like Microsoft copied all the eye candy from Apple but forgot the usability and design work that is the foundation of all of it. The fact that it will take another six years to get any of this fixed via another OS release both sucks and is awesome. Sucks because I need to run Windows, awesome because open source desktops really start to look attractive now that the usability and security is on par or better than Windows.