Saturday, March 04, 2006

Vista ... will it suck ... or not ?

As you might remember from this old post I was NOT impressed with the last year beta of Vista so I was quite curious on how things have evolved during those 2-3 months up to the recent build 5308 ... but to find my 'temporary rating' you will have to read on ...

The boot loader seems slightly better (there is a command-line tool called BCDEDIT.EXE and the older BOOTCFG.EXE that can be used with it) but it still does not 'play nice' with anything else - my normal stuff is on a SATA HDD and I test beta-like stuff (Vista, OSX) on a separate ATA HDD (with the SATA controller disabled 'just in case') - Vista refused to install itself on a non-active primary NTFS partition (the active partition was the old OSX 10.4.3) and some extra work was needed since after making that partition active and installing Vista I could no longer start OSX, then when I started OSX from the DVD and 'repaired' the partition table boot code (with OSX fdisk) I could no longer boot Vista and I needed that DVD and then the BCDEDIT utility ... in the end I got things working but the road to that was certainly not nice!!!

Apparently the 'eye-candy' part that I was suggesting in my previous post is now firmly going into the right direction - some new wallpapers were added and also some interesting screen savers - I wonder if they also fired somebody for that :)

The new "desktop composition model" is also working quite nice and a lot of things are now looking much better - but what surprised me a little was the very poor hardware support for video cards that I consider right now budget-level - like for instance the nVidia 6600 series - with that card the new Aero features were NOT activated by default !!!

Windows update is finally working - and a new nVidia driver was available - but that one was also not working as expected, so I had to download the beta 87.15 ForceWare driver - after installing that a BSOD was generated on the next restart but somehow after that things started to work and I FINALLY managed to see the new Aero interface - and it is indeed quite nice (even if still needs some extra fine-tuning and a lot of extra work on the drivers part!!!)

A part of Vista that might have an even bigger impact that the visual part is the new 'security model' - now it seems like most of the 'administrative rights' that a user might have are still present but no longer 'enabled by default' - and the operating system will ask when an application is trying to do something potentially dangerous - the overall result is that running things full time from an administrative account have been placed at least at the same security level as in OSX - but so far it might look quite annoying for the real administrators (that were only logging as such in order to do some specific tasks) to be constantly asked if they really, really mean that ... and as with OSX the potential danger is that the average user might become too used to 'approving' every single action so in the end the dangerous programs might still be able to infiltrate into Vista (eventually with a little social engineering).

The new stuff might also break a lot of programs (including some of my small favorite tools) ... but that still remains to be seen ... and here comes the major problem that I see with Vista - if MicroSoft would really like to launch Vista in 6 months or so and if they want to avoid embarrasing situations they might be quite a lot behind the ideal schedule - if MS wants to make Vista a major hit they should provide to all (ALL!!!) Windows developers a rather stable and mostly frozen build for at least 6 months in order to be certain that the vast majority of programs will work 'almost perfectly' - and build 5308 is obviously not stable nor feature-frozen, not to mention that is far from 'for all developers' :(

There are MANY other features inside but those might be eventually left for another post - the overall result so far is that things are starting to look promising and I am more tempted to give some credit to an over-optimistic article like
this rather than the pathetic one from here ! (don't even get me started on that last one - any so-called 'expert' that picks a Gateway with integrated video like that one and then complains about how software can't do miracles with his stupid choice simply deserves to be neglected).

There IS however one point where I am afraid that Vista might be a major disappointment - and that is for the rather advanced users - it is not a bad idea to be more user-friendly for the less experenced users but that can EASILY be done with a separate configuration for them - and that can even be the default one - but neglecting and upsetting power users by not providing an easy way to switch off some or all of the 'dumb mode enhancements' might be a very costly mistake for MicroSoft !

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