“WOW” – First hand experience

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to buy a new PC for home. I managed to give my wife a number of feeble excuses before she finally agreed to let me get one. In reality I didn’t really need one, except for the fact that I haven’t had a new one for a couple of years and being a ‘techie’ felt that it was time I upgraded.

As expected, I had a choice of pre-installed operating system:

  • XP Home
  • XP Media Centre Edition
  • Vista Premium

Note: There was a distinct lack of Linux on the list!

I was slightly apprehensive about opting for Vista due to its lack of maturity. I usually follow the un-written rule and wait until at least SP1 before installing an OS as my mainstream choice on my desktop. Normally, I would install on a virtualised platform for testing, but I knew my graphics card wouldn’t hold up to it. Therefore, since Vista is here to stay, I took the plunge.

My machine arrived at the weekend and I spent a few hours on Saturday playing with it. I must admit, my first impressions were indeed “WOW”, just as Microsoft predicts (I could almost be in Microsoft’s marketing department). The interface is graphically very impressive. I like the whole Aero thing. However, i’m not sure how long I will stick with all the twiddly graphics once the novelty wears off and I find that it is just hindering performance.

In addition to the impressive look and feel, I have found a couple of really useful features. Like most people I have ripped a lot of my audio CDs to MP3. Whilst trying to transfer some songs to my MP3 player, I couldn’t find a song I was looking for. Entering the song title in the new search field at the top of every window, immediately brought it up. It works in a similar way to Google Suggest in that it filters the results as you type. Cool!

However, unfortunately, that is where my jaw dropping awe stops. I haven’t found any major problems with Vista yet but there are a few niggling issues.

1. File operations are ridiculously slow.
One of the fundamental uses of an operating system is to allow you to manipulate files. Not with Vista. Whenever you try to move/copy/delete etc a file, Vista spends time calculating how long it will take to delete the file before actually commencing the operation. Both the calculation and the actual operation seem to take far longer than in XP. Whilst trying to delete a 1.5GB file, it must have taken Vista what seemed like a minute just to calculate that it would take another minute to delete the file. This definately needs to be fixed.

2. Compatibility
During my few hours playing on Saturday, quite a bit of this time seemed to be taken up with installing software, only to uninstall it again when it wouldn’t run.
Granted, I should have probably spent longer playing with “compatibility modes” for each executable but I would have hoped more apps would have worked ‘out of the box’.

3. User Account Control
There is nothing more frustrating within Vista than User Account Control (UAC). This annoying function makes the OS seems like your mother. Whenever you attempt to do anything ‘privileged’ (e.g. run an admin util), UAC pops up to ask if it is definately you that has executed this function. On Saturday, this box must have popped up over 50 times. I will be disabling that very soon.

4. Low Resolution
I can’t decide whether it is the new look and feel or whether it is because I have now got a widescreen LCD screen, but the screen resolution looks really low. I have it set at my usual of 1280×1024 but all the icons seem big (even though I have them set to small). I am used to a nice high resolution giving me lots of real-estate on the desktop but with Vista I seem to have very little real-estate. I need to investigate more to see if there is a way to change this but it isn’t obvious.

On a final note, I did think it was a good marketing ploy on Microsoft’s part to include a pre-installed copy of Office 2007 which just requires you to purchase a license (online) to activate it. Office 2007 does look a huge improvement on Office 2003 and looks far more intuitive. However, one of my first tasks after booting Vista was to uninstall it so I wasn’t tempted to fork out another £100 to buy that as well. You will be pleased to know that OpenOffice 2.1 works perfectly well under Vista and that is what I will be using.

Now that I have had a play with Vista, I can use the disk management tool to shrink one of my existing volumes to create enough room to install Ubuntu and give myself some real power under a dual boot system.

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