Saturday, February 10

Vista Enterprise review

As a bizarre new year resolution, I decided to guinea pig for Microsoft and have been using Windows Vista Enterprise Edition since January. I wanted to see if it addressed the many problems I have with XP Pro, even after SP2. Below is my top 5 list of complaints that I would have liked to see fixed on the new OS:

  1. Need to restart OS after software updates. Enough said.
  2. Fix underlying file copy algorithm and its often absurd time estimates. Raymond has the details.
  3. On my 1.86 GHz Pentium M Processor with 2GB RAM laptop, trying to copy (or simply read) a damaged CD or DVD can cause the whole system to slow down to a halt unless the whole process is killed. Killing the process is sometimes very time consuming and frustrating -the OS just doesn't seem to be in control and I need to repeat the instruction several times. Worse, I sometimes get the dreaded blue screen.
  4. The streaming experience of Windows Media on XP is ghastly. Even on a reasonably fast network the buffering is useless (and clueless, really) and provides an awful user experience. The contrast with Apple's Quicktime is embarrassing for Microsoft's product.
  5. The "Safely Remove Device" feature is often unable to perform the operation, requiring (again) repeating the command multiple times (or changing settings). It often returns the useless message "This device cannot be stopped right now" even though there is nothing else running on the machine that could possibly be accessing the device.
So, how is it with Vista Enterprise?
Well, it certainly looks good.
Also, with the same hardware configuration, it feels faster and more responsive than XP.
However, despite the initial wow with the Aero UI, the harsh reality after only a few weeks of use is that:
  1. I had to restart the system after updates. Not once, not twice. Many, many times. I find this unacceptable and I am not alone.
  2. I had blue screens. I had one (caused by reading a damaged DVD), and a colleague of mine at work already had 2 in 2 weeks of use (he is using Windows Vista Ultimate Edition, though).
  3. The new copy/move dialog is still slow, inaccurate, and just painful to use, especially when moving large numbers of (large) files. I wish I could disable the time estimate feature completely to avoid the annoying "preparing to copy" step that can take a really long time.
  4. Streaming capabilities of Windows Media seem to be improved.
  5. "Safely Remove Device" feature still has the above mentioned mood swings.

1 in 5 is not good. Not good enough.

On top of this, Vista's crises of confidence and personal problems are extremely irritating: UAC? What were they thinking? Raymond writes, back in 2003, that users don't read dialogs. Popping a dialog every minute is a sure way to induce dialog-blindness across the user base. Other people agree: there is too much intrusion breaking activity flows, and there are too many confirmations required.

It also seems Vista, despite its 5 years in development, is somewhat unfinished and unpolished. Underneath the Aero beauty plenty of XP and pre-XP horror creeps in.

2007/03/26 Update: More people noticed the copy/move/delete slowness.