microsoft vista review

December 13th, 2006

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When Bill Gates requested his programming team create the first version of Microsoft Windows, he offered the simple instruction: “Make it just like a Mac”. It’s hard not to imagine the same phrase being bandied about at Microsoft H.Q. during the development of Microsoft‘s new operating system, Windows Vista. Vista is the successor to Windows XP, the PC operating system used by over 400 million people daily. Business Week estimates that over the last five years, Vista has cost Microsoft over ten billion dollars to develop, a figure close to the cost of the Manhattan Project. And speaking of potentially dangerous bombs: what did ten billion dollars get Microsoft?

Well, Vista is neither a bomb nor the bomb; instead, it’s a purely evolutionary upgrade that tidies up a lot of what was seriously old and crusty about Windows XP. But after a couple weeks with Vista, the most striking change I’ve noticed are the much improved “Mac OS X” style graphics. Microsoft calls the shiny new Vista interface “Aero Glass”, and while it is appreciably more elegant than previous versions of Windows — with nifty fading and 3-D effects on the graphics on-screen — the new interface also requires a relatively modern graphics card, so factor in the price of a new video card into the price of the operating system if your PC’s graphic card is more than a year or two old.

The previously all-but-useless Windows Search has become genuinely useful in Microsoft Vista; simply typing a search phrase into the start bar will produce a quick list of relevant search results. Also improved are the bundled Windows email and web applications, Windows Mail (a.k.a. Son of Outlook Express) and Internet Explorer. Both applications have been significantly polished up since their last versions, with spam filtering and browser tabs respectively. However, with free and arguably superior alternatives available like Firefox and Thunderbird, these bundled applications are not compelling reasons to upgrade.

Another dubiously useful addition is the addition of “gadgets” to the operating system. Vista’s “gadgets” are tiny programs that hang out on your desktop and fulfill a small but dedicated function, acting as a calculator, or a desk clock. mac
Mac OS X users already have this stuff with “Dashboard”, but if you’re a PC user hungry for this kind of functionality, both Yahoo and Google offer their own spin on this idea via their own free products, including the wonderful “Google Desktop”.


Vista’s tendency to bug the user again and again regarding nearly every little thing — online and off — will drive you crazy. Install a program and get a warning. Visit a website and get a warning. Plug in a printer, get a warning. This is “cover your ass” security, in place only because if the user is asked every time something could potentially harm their computer, then it’s not technically Vista’s fault when something bad happens. What I suspect will actually happen is that most users will be overwhelmed by the sheer number of times they are requested to allow a change, and either turn the feature off or simply start allowing or disallowing everything as a rule. That’s what my parents would do, anyway; but in fairness, my parents are under the impression that if they click the wrong button, their computer will start a small fire.

Those wishing to “borrow” a friend’s copy of Microsoft Vista will be in for a surprise, as Vista checks in with Microsoft every so often to make sure that your personal license is legit. If it finds that a user has “borrowed” their copy, or has “borrowed” it upon too many computers, the software will cripple itself and limit the user’s ability to use the Internet. This feature is being touted by Microsoft as something called “Windows Genuine Advantage”. The only one with the advantage is Microsoft, which certainly has a problem with piracy — I suspect every PC in China uses the same Windows XP serial number — but I also bet that more than anything, this feature will simply drive customers and businesses to explore open-source Linux alternatives like Ubuntu and OpenSUSE, free operating systems which are powerful, user-friendly and completely free.

Did I mention free?

In the end, it doesn’t matter how good, bad, or simply over-hyped Vista is, because every PC user will be getting a copy next time they buy a new computer. This is the biggest market advantage that Microsoft enjoys — eventually you’ll want a newer, faster PC, and when you bring it home, it will already have Vista installed. If you’re a die-hard Windows fanatic, you’re already excited about Vista; others might simply want to hold off on the expense until Vista comes bundled along with their next PC, and in the meantime, fill in the gaps with existing (and free!) third-party products.

Or, buy a Mac.

14 Responses to “microsoft vista review”

  1. Jon says:

    Vista is not so impressive. It feels like lipstick on a pig. It’s pretty transparently just XP, with some fancy new interface stuff thrown on top.

    Though rumors abound of this *not* being the case, I looks to me like Microsoft has killed or is killing OpenGL support. Installing Vista on a machine that supported our software with XP results in a machine that does not support our software.

    And the constant security warnings are *maddening*. You might end up giving permission 5 or 6 times to download and install a piece of software.

    All in all, I give this product 100 thumbs down.

  2. Morefiles says:

    I keep reading about opensuse (especially in vista articles) … need to give it a run …

    btw … my most recent MS imposed updates led to me having to restore the comptuer to an earlier date

    you can also spruce up xp with a few over the counter free things:

    Transparent windows (v 2.2) … I’ve forgotten where I got it
    Yz’s shadow and toolbar (the one that does that cute icos on a wave thing ala appple)

    toss in a skin and you can dress up the old pig for free too :)

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  4. Ron Dakin says:

    Fortunately, I do not need a new PC at this time. Thank Goodness! Everyone I know who has purchased a new CD with Vista has a horror story. One of the biggest problems is support for peripherals, i.e. printers, scanners, etc. The more I read and hear about Vista, the more I’m determined to wait until everyone else has had their problems resolved.

  5. JAMES BOND says:

    did you said WINDOWS VISTA????? NO WAY JOSE!!!!!

  6. Spencer Boaz says:

    Had to have a new PC for work, Best Buy told me they had a 15% restocking fee! But it makes a good ,,,,OK I cant think of anything it is good for. I’ve had only problems . It dont work with anything I have put in it. I bought a Verizon USB 720 and spent 3 days on the help line only to call Everex to find there was not a driver to support it with Vista yet. Fortunately a few days later the persistant techs at Verizon called back with a working patch .(big thanks to those guys at Verizon)
    Yes I went through all the changes starting with 95 up and no this is not the same. Yes I am old but us old folks have a saying .”If it aint broke dont fix it.”

  7. Kram says:

    Vista Is nothing but crap I work for a computer shop and belive me everyone there knows it is crap I personaly went and bought it and I am sorry I did nothing works right in Vista I can’t get Media player or Media Center to work there are other things that won’t work either My mother bought a laptop through QVC with vista on it and I can’t get it to find the printer through the wireless connection as far as I am concerend Bill Gates f__ked up big time on this OS and he is going to lose money on it big time unless he fixs alot of the problems before 2009 which is when they plan to update Vista but by then Bill will be in the poor house because Of Vistas Down falls If I where Bill I be worried and be working on a way to fix Vista before I end up in the poor house

  8. Dean says:

    I work for a fortune 500 compainy and they never even though about it they wait for it to be debugged (assumed).

  9. DICk says:

    I have had nothing but problems since I got my new computer with WINDOWS VISTA. Nothing worrks right and in the 2 months I have had WINDOWS VISTA all I am doing is downloading programs to get things to work. I am stuck with it now but be sure I will be very careful what I buy next time and I will wait untill the new programs have been out for sometime befor I will waste my money again.

  10. KATH says:

    I AM SO SORRY THAT I BOUGHT A NEW LAPTOP WITH VISTA INSTALLED. I HAVE HAD NOTHING BUT PROBLEMS ~ I EVEN BROUGHT IN THE COMPUTER GEEK FROM WORK, AND STILL NO LUCK! I HAVE ENDED UP USING MY OLD LAPTOP, WHILE THE NEW ONE SITS IDLE! WHAT A SHAME THAT THIS PRODUCT WAS PUT OUT BEFORE THE BUGS COULD BE WORKED OUT! I AM VERY DISAPPOINTED!

  11. Jimmyjam says:

    To tell you the truth, I have no problems with XP and I like it. I am going to stay with it until the very end. I know that there were a bunch of problems with XP when it was released, but it looks as though Vista willbe a beast that cannot be tamed. And I will not buy into an operating system that tells me what I can and cannot do with my media. F You Gates!

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