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I Can See For Miles

Posted by tungtide on July 24, 2008, 9:39 pm

Microsoft has gotten a bad rap surrounding the Vista operating system, some of it deserved and some of it unduly heaped on for the sake of badmouthing Microsoft. It would appear that much of the opinion is hearsay and word-of-mouth when it comes to “everyday” users. (via Stupid Evil Bastard) Microsoft used an operating system codnamed Mojave to a group of Windows XP users:

The subjects were put on video, asked about their Vista impressions, and then shown a “new” operating system, code-named Mojave. More than 90 percent gave positive feedback on what they saw. Then they were told that “Mojave” was actually Windows Vista.

“Oh wow,” said one user, eliciting exactly the exclamation that Microsoft had hoped to garner when it first released the operating system more than 18 months ago. Instead, the operating system got mixed reviews and criticisms for its lack of compatibility and other headaches.

Now, I have two computers that I use on a daily basis. My laptop runs XP and my desktop runs Vista. This puts me in the (somewhat) unique position of being a person who is currently using both operating systems. I installed XP on one of my old computers within a month of its release (to escape from the horrors of Windows ME) and installed Vista within about a month of its release while rebuilding my desktop to its current form.

When XP was first released it was clearly an upgrade to the OS that took it in directions that Windows had failed to tread before. It was a task that Microsoft wasn’t quite prepared for, either. XP was incompatible with almost everything upon its release and it took months, sometimes years (such as the case with my HP scanner) to obtain compatible drivers for some devices. However, XP was able to grow and evolve into the most stable and usable version of Windows that I had ever used. Currently, it’s compatible with just about everything, and therein lies the problem.

With previous releases of updated Windows OSs we were able to look forward to major fixes, new and exciting bugs, and the chance to see shiny blue screens of death with only a double click in the wrong place. XP is a stable, functional, compatible, and comfortable operating system. Yes, it has its flaws, but for all it’s shiny new transparent windows Vista had nothing to offer that XP couldn’t already do. At its release, Vista was the poorer choice since it required a more expensive and powerful computer to run and had compatibility issues with older programs. The device compatibility issues were (from my perspective, at least) significantly improved over what was seen when XP was released.

Which is the superior operating system? Depends upon what you’re trying to do. XP will run just about anything, which is why it’s still installed on my laptop. I use that computer in my lab and it needs to be able to run software for older programs and be able to interact with data from outdated (but still functional) systems.

I upgraded my Office XP software on my laptop to become compatible with the Vista version of Office (unless saved in a “compatibility” format, Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and all other Office documents now use a new extention such as “.docx” for word over the old “.doc”) and found that my reference managing software was no longer compatible with the semi-Vista Office. This is the major reason that people don’t like Vista, it requires the end user to upgrade, fix, or purchase software just to be able to do what we could already do in the first place.

Vista is also a resource hog. The sidebar is full of fun widgets and toys, but eats up RAM like Cookie Monster raids Girl Scout wherehouses (okay, terrible simile). With only iTunes, Word, and Firefox running I’m using more than 50% of my RAM right now, but the two processors are sitting at about 2%.

Is Vista bad? No. It’s just not enough of an improvement for the associated hassle.

3 Responses to “I Can See For Miles”

  1. Brandon said

    It’s about time sometime put up a good word for Vista. On release it had the usual problems- buggy drivers, incompatible hardware, extreme resource consumption. Part of the problem was Microsoft. But an equally large share of the blame rests on software and hardware developers that refused to listen to Microsoft when they announced new driver models and new security features (e.g. no kernel-level access).

    I personally haven’t used it very much and have not installed it on any of my PCs. Not because it’s bad but because 1) I’m pissed that they moved everything around and made everything 15 clicks deeper, 2) I haven’t seen enough improvements to warrant switching from XP, and 3) the basic versions don’t come with super awesome functions like Remote Desktop (although there are work-arounds for this). Also, the new “ribbon” in Office is just the worst kind of garbage. But that’s a different story.

    The reason the RAM use is so high is two-fold. Obviously more services and functions require more headroom in RAM. More important is the increasing use of “smart” features that try to predict what you want and hold your most used programs in RAM so that they start up with a minimal amount of time and hard drive access. Essentially, Vista has gone back to a model used in early computing where, instead of leaving the RAM empty as much as possible, they try to keep it full since it’s a faster, lower-latency storage medium. It’s not a bad idea, but it’s quite easily misunderstood by the general populace who can’t even figure out why a new 160 GB hard drive does not, in fact, have 160 GB of usable space.

  2. Brandon said

    Comment #2-

    The new version of Office is wildly lame. The ribbon is terrible and the new .docx format is garbage since there’s no backward compatibility. In fact, when publishing in science journals, you can’t even submit .docx since they changed it so much as to be completely incompatible with the internal formatting systems used. I’ve also had huge problems converting .docx into .pdf. Weak sauce Microsoft. You get a B for Vista but a FAIL for Office 2007.

  3. tungtide said

    There’s no real reason to make the upgrade to Vista yet. I don’t even have a good justification for putting it on my desktop, I just did.

    The new Office is a wild example of failure. Unfortunately as more new computers ship the prevalence of “x” Office files will increase. When I’ve borrowed computers from other people in my lab I can barely use Word because none of the controls are in the right place. I might as well switch to a DVORAK keyboard in the process. The reason I installed the compatibility upgrade onto Office XP was because my professor (through no fault of his own) is stuck using the new version.

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