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Microsoft Vista: getting stuck with it.
By Pappy McFae
On the heels of The Linux Project, this is my review of the latest offering from Redmond, Washington. I feel compelled to write my opinion about Windows Vista. It came pre-installed on my new Compaq laptop. Had my tax check come earlier than it had, I might have been able to get a new machine with Windows XP on it instead. Alas, it was not to be. No matter, I wanted a new machine, and I didn't really care what it had on it, as long as it worked better than any of my other machines.
I haven't had a new computer since the 486 DX2/66 chip was considered bleeding edge. Oh yes, that was the time when a math coprocessor may or may not have been included in your chip, and there was a separate socket on the motherboard for it. I'd say it's about the same time I began playing with Linux. Every computer I have had since that time has been used. They were also at least two years away from bleeding edge. So, when the opportunity arose to buy this machine, I was all for it!
I love the machine. It's a Compaq C504US. It came with 512 megs of RAM, 100 gigs of hard drive space, a Celeron M chip at 1.83GHz, widescreen display, DVD-ROM/burner, wireless internet, and so many other lovely things. It's a very nice system at a very nice price.
However, I get the distinct feeling that it would run a lot faster if it were running anything other than Windows Vista. Having worked on a few machines that ran XP, I can say a virgin installation of XP on a newer machine runs really well, and really fast. A full install of Windows XP tips the scales at about a gig or so, depending on the options you choose. This install of Windows Vista comes in at a bloated 3+ gigs. That's just the operating system That's none of the other included programs.
Windows Vista is built to be very flashy, glitzy, and pretty. Unfortunately, all that flash and glitz comes at a price. That price is system performance. This machine should be running like it's tail was on fire, and it's ass was catching.
No such luck. Booting takes almost a full minute. Bringing up a program such as Firefox takes about as long as it takes on The Linux Project test system. That system is at least ten years older than this one. Talk about chewing on a Sux Donut.
There have been numerous reviews of Windows Vista. Few have been glowing. Most agree that those who are running well with Windows XP should stay where they are with that, and not take the big leap to Windows Vista. I am forced to agree with that assessment.
In my opinion, Windows Vista is Microsoft's attempt to give Windows a more "Linux-y" edge to it. For someone who has spent the past six months working with Linux, it's easy for me to see some of the Linux-y bits. The standard disk tree indicators, boxes containing + or - have been replaced with triangles that point to the right when the tree is collapsed, or down when the tree is expanded. The desktop actually looks more like the Linux KDE desktop than it does a Microsoft creation. The more I look at it, the more I see the similarities to Linux. Frankly, if Microsoft wanted to release a bastardized version of Linux with the MS moniker, they should have just done what Bill Gates did when he began Microsoft: rip it off and put their name on it. But that didn't happen. Instead, they made Windows Vista.
Windows Vista isn't all that bad. It's just not all that good either. There are some incredibly irritating bugs contained in it. Not the least of which is the inability for it to share resources on the rest of my networked machines.
Unlike Slackware, which not only sees every machine on my home LAN, it also can access every shared hard drive AND printer, Windows Vista sees NOTHING! I'm totally serious! The reason for this is that Microsoft no longer supports NetBEUI. NetBEUI is the magic behind file and printer sharing on my LAN.
The curious thing is that Slackware uses TCP/IP to share network resources via a program package known as Samba. Windows Vista also uses TCP/IP exclusively. Even after almost two hours of screwing with it, I couldn't get the new machine to see the rest of my network.
Frankly, that completely sucks! I am so used to being able to print to any printer in the apartment, or moving files from machine to machine, the fact that I can no longer do that is a real pain in the ass. I am sure there is a way around it, but that way has yet to present itself. From what I hear, you can install the NetBEUI from XP, and it is supposed to work. I am just about at the point where I am willing to do that.
I'd expect network inoperability out of Linux. I don't expect it out of Microsoft. I'd really love to know what the thought process was in the mind that thought it would be a big step forward to lock people out of their LANs. I mean, it seems a real stupid thing to me. If they are going to eliminate NetBEUI, then at least rip off enough of Samba to make my LAN accessible to me via TCP/IP.
Yet another irritation with Windows Vista is the "security guard". Those of you who have seen the Mac commercials with the guy that looks like a Secret Service guy behind PC know what I am saying. There are certain functions that, when you elect to use them, bring up this irritation. The screen darkens, and a dialog box pops up asking if I REALLY want to perform the action I just told the computer I wanted to perform.
I can see how this "feature" could save someone from doing something incredibly stupid. I can also see how it could prevent someone from accidentally allowing a bad web site from loading malware. However, I really have to say that someone who has been working with computers since the time of Windows 3.1 and DOS 6.0 can judge rather well whether or not they know what the hell they are doing when they tell a computer they want to do something.
While this annoyance only pops up when you are performing configuration operations, I'd feel a lot better if I didn't have to deal with it. Once I get more comfortable with Windows Vista, I am going to shut it down. Either that, or I'll downgrade to XP and hope for the best.
The problem is, if I downgrade, I lose all the other programs that came pre-installed with my machine. I really don't want to do that! I got all kinds of goodies with this machine. I'd hate to think that by downgrading to a really functional operating system, I'd lose everything. Unfortunately, that's apparently what would happen.
In the final analysis, Windows Vista, in my opinion, is far too much glitz without anything really monumental under its skin. The improvements seem superficial at best. The network inoperability is a complete turn off! For all the hype that preceded the release of Windows Vista, I'd have thought there'd be some really cool improvements. After all, Windows NT 4.0 was a vast improvement over Windows NT 3.51; Windows 2000 was a good improvement on Windows NT 4.0; and Windows XP was a decent enough improvement over Windows 2000. Now we have Vista, and if the only improvement over XP is the Secret Service guy, that hardly qualifies as an improvement. Surely, the network glitch is anything but a plus.
If you are thinking about upgrading to Windows Vista, hold that thought! If your system is working fine as is, don't bother. It's not worth the trip, trust me! If you are buying a new machine, get ready for the let down of the century. Windows Vista is a lot more hype and crap than it is anything else.