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Some observations on Vista



October 22, 2007 – Comments (2)

I just don't get why people are whining so much about Vista. My guess is most are like the brainless zombies on Slashdot: They've not actually used it.

I hadn't had to live with Vista until recently, when I bought my wife a very snazzy Gateway C-120x tablet PC with Vista Home Premium on it.

Here's the nightmare Vista setup story: Turned it on. Entered name, codes, etc. Vista started up and was ready to run. Total time, about 2 minutes.

Now, that's not saying there weren't a few issues. There were. All of them directly attributable to crappy OEM-Installed software. Google apparently pays Gateway to install its crudulicious desktop program as well as to keep every other search engine known to man out of the search providers' box in the upper right hand of IE 7. That had to go. Also, Gateway appeared to have installed no fewer than 3 separate programs all designed to "monitor" and "help" or "predict" problems before they happen. Yeah. Just what everyone needs: a pile of resource hogs. Uninstalling all of these sped up the system noticeably. MacAfee security something or other kept crashing. (Vista, on checking the problem, reported that the software vendor was aware of this particular problem, but had not provided a solution.)

Why OEMs insist on installing this junk is beyond me. (Oh wait, now I remember. They get paid to do it by the crapware vendors, who hope that lazy consumers will sign up for the $50 a year plan some time down the road...)

Oddly enough, Vista has been very tolerant of legacy software. Installed Office 2000 and it worked fine, except for a single Word-enabled error message (that didn't actually affect the program) which was banished after a simple registry edit found with a 20-second search on the MS knowledge base. (Upon opening, Word 2000 tries to write some kind of file using old, DOS filenames, not in use in Vista... Following an old, NT repair trick -- adding a reg key to tell word not to do that -- banished the error message in Vista.)

Office 2007 and the mobile device center are huge improvements over Activesync and keep the wife's Blackjack and computer working smoothly. Word 2007 has some great onboard math equation editing capabilities which make her life much easier, and all the Office programs appear to support inking (remember, it's a tablet) directly onto the documents for hand-written note effects. Of course, you can use the pen to enter text that's converted to typed text, and here, the Vista tablet handwriting recognition software is absolutely incredible. It can decipher the ugliest chick-scratch I can put out.

Networking has been dead simple and much improved over XP (especially the incomprehensible and patchy XP Pro networking). Windows Media Center (especially as an Xbox 360 extender) is really amazing. OS-enabled quick tagging of pictures is a great help.

Security seems very good. This one came with a fingerprint reader, so that's the standard login for the system as well as programs, web pages, etc. The UAC comes up only when installing something or changing a system setting. Those claiming otherwise are smoking something. The only exception to this was a single Bluetooth driver that Gateway had, for some reason, neglected to update to the vista compatible version. I installed that one, and all was well. After getting rid of all the junk security software Gateway had installed, I reverted back to Windows Defender and AVG free antivirus, which have served us well for years.

This isn't a very powerful computer, but performance is snappy enough. Wish boot were faster (30-40 seconds, I think). Seems to sleep and wake up fine. Drivers for oddball USB devices (Garmin wrist-top GPS units, strange calculators) seem to stay installed, unlike in XP, when they'd constantly need reinstalling.

Vista has also surprised us in a few cases. When installing some old (too old) software, an error was generated, but just as quickly, Vista popped up some kind of message recognizing the error as a backward-compatibility issue, then telling us it would go ahead and install the program in a mode that would let it work. Jaw nearly hit the floor on that one.

The look and feel of Vista is nice. I don't require a ton of eye candy to be happy, and I don't think the wife tolerates much of that either. It looks slicker than the Fisher-Price XP, without the geeky and unnecessary special effects the Linux and Mac crowd seems to need. Stuff like user folders is much easier to find. Control Panel is well thought out. Power settings are where they need to be to get the tablet up to speed or in power save mode with a couple clicks.

2 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On October 22, 2007 at 9:54 AM, Andyman (86.40) wrote:

I like Vista a lot at home, but it breaks too many applications at work. Also, it has trouble with peer-to-peer environments. For example, it doesn't want to automatically reconnect to a mapped drive that resides on a share of our RAID5 backup box. That's a non-starter at our shop.

I just bought a Vista laptop for my boss, as she's gearing up for the road show for our next round of financing. Got it all set up for her, and left me wanting one of my own, just to play with. I have a Dell XPS desktop at home that I've upgraded a few times over the last four years.  Bigger drive, doubled the RAM, faster video card. Can't quite bring myself to trade it in just yet.

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#2) On October 22, 2007 at 11:12 AM, TMFBent (99.25) wrote:

"For example, it doesn't want to automatically reconnect to a mapped drive that resides on a share of our RAID5 backup box. That's a non-starter at our shop."

That's odd. Ours has no problems with an auto-connect to a share on my RAID PC. In fact, it's more reliable that was XP's buggy networking...

That said, I won't be getting a vista machine any time soon. I've got tons of legacy photo stuff that relies on precise kludges in XP, and I've no stomach for trying to rekludge it all in Vista.

The tablet bit of this Vista notebook is definitely the killer. My next notebook will be a tablet.

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