In Defense of Vista

On October 22, 2009, Vista will officially die to make way for Windows7. For Vista, it’s gonna be a sad and painful death. In this day and age, the battle for technological supremacy has never been more intense. War is raging on various fronts, including web browsers, game consoles, mobiles and of course, operating systems, where every involved parties try to outdo their competitors and even a minor flaw gets magnified a thousandfold thanks to the rabid supporters of each platform who flood user-driven sites. The whole thing is pointless, if you ask me.

It’s easy to understand why there was too much expectation for Windows Vista. Its predecessor, XP, was widely regarded by a lot of people as the best Windows ever. Period. XP was so good it lingered for more than 6 years, quite a lengthy period of time to prepare the next version of Windows. The pressure for Microsoft to top XP was quite high. And Vista failed to do that.

For the record, Vista wasn’t the first heavily-maligned Windows. Everybody remembered the suckiness that was Windows ME. In fact, Vista was regarded as the reincarnation of ME this generation. Having used ME for about two years, ME was a decent and usable OS imo. Sure, I have seen a few BSOD’s and endless safe modes, but they rarely come and they can be readily fixed thru one magic method [C:\>scandisk C: /restore]. But it’s not proper to ignore ME’s improvement over 98 or those features that were carried over to XP. ME replaced the drab gray shades of 98 with a much brighter palette (though it was Luna that’s regarded as the true improvement). Many of XP’s Explorer enhancements were introduced in ME, including the image and sound preview and the custom image background for folders. ME also showcased huge improvements in multimedia. Windows Media Player 7 packed a lot of features not found on any other media players at the time. ME was also the first Windows to support USB. Plus! was also packed-in to ME, containing many cool themes and games to enhance computing. Finally, do Help & Support, Automatic Updates and System Restore sound familiar to you? These features started in ME. Many of ME’s instabilities were attributed to faulty device drivers, not entirely the fault of the OS. Additionally, many of the emerging technologies at the time has not yet matured. In the end, what matters is that I’m a happy user, enjoying a lot of things 98 users can only dream about.

* * *

Okay, I didn’t expect my rants about ME to be that long. Let’s get back to the present.

I was a late Vista adopter, having just installed the OS at the beginning of this year. Now six months have passed and I have yet to get frustrated with it. It’s a very solid and stable OS, with so many real and useful improvements over XP. Anyway, I have listed down some of the criticisms hurled at Vista as well as the new features and make a comparative analysis between XP and Vista to prove that Vista is in every bit a worthy successor to XP. Here it goes:

  • Hefty hardware requirements.
  • Having less than 1GB of RAM and single-core μprocessors was so 2005. Wise consumers know that the best computers are those that are “two-year proof.” Besides, Vista-capable CPU’s are already dropping down in prices and is already within the range of affordability, while computer hardware are getting more and more powerful, like Intel’s i7 processor and RAMs already reaching 8GB. One of the reason why Vista adoption was so low is that a lot of XP users who want to upgrade or have already upgraded to Vista are frustrated with it because their hardware was just unfit for it. For the record, I migrated from ME to XP without doing any hardware upgrades, so it’s probable that many people has the same mindset when it comes to upgrading from XP to Vista.

  • Unsupported hardware and software.
  • This is a typical problem of most OS’s, not only applying to Vista, but also to every other Windows including XP, 2K, ME and 98. Many of these hardware incompatibilities were already fixed with the release of Service Pack 1 (MS has already released SP2 BTW), and maybe the problem with most people is that they aren’t aware of stuff like Windows Updates and Service Packs. For the record, XP suffers from the same problem; I wasn’t a full-time XP user until after SP1, before that I alternated between ME & XP, the primary reason being this. Same goes for software, though it didn’t take long before software developers came up with updated software compatible with Vista.

  • “Shiny.”

    This statement comes mostly as a sarcasm from people who likes to judge books by the cover, to imply that Vista underwent nothing more than a cosmetic change from XP. Vista’s new GUI, named Aero, wasn’t just meant to make Vista more attractive and pleasing to the eyes, but also to increase productivity, minimize visual clutter and get things done in a more exciting manner. Flip3D was an extremely cool alternative to Alt+Tab, thumbnail previews in the taskbar helps you observe a window without opening it and the automatic thumbnail icons of image files were downright useful. Hell, the graphical makeovers of many stock Windows programs, in particular the games, were quite refreshing. A few months after installing and using Vista, I turned on my XP desktop after long period of inactivity (later on, I used my desktop for printing and burning {I recently got addicted to burning movies on DVD because I prefer watching movies on screens larger than my monitor. Laptops are impractical for burning movies because they tend to overheat before the burning gets finished}). Anyway, I just realized how ugly XP really is. In fact the UI was so ghastly, I was quite shocked. Literally. The icons looked blunt, the windows were littered with useless components and it takes extra effort to accomplish extra tasks or view info’s about the files. Trust me, the shine and transparency of Vista (or its successor, Windows7, which will recycle Aero anyway) is more than enough reason to switch to the OS.

  • Windows Desktop Search.
  • Vista is practically littered with search prompts everywhere. It’s a welcome addition. Including a search prompt on the Start Menu was so convenient because you don’t even need to do a lot of scrolling to open a program or a file. Same goes to Explorer windows, by simply doing a search on the prompt, it saves you the effort of scrolling thru or changing the file sorting order in order to find the file you need. Vista also introduced file tagging to easily classify your files. But the most important thing is, the search process was quite fast, searching takes less than a minute in a 30GB partition. And most importantly, it removes the annoying Search Assistant found in other Windows. I have been very accustomed to this feature that when working in XP, I’m miss Vista’s search prompt in every window.

  • Windows is not secure.
  • Windows has always been severely criticized for its poor security, and one of my major annoyances with XP was that I had to constantly reformat and reinstall XP because of some runaway malware that penetrated my system. The problem with XP is that many malware programmers already knew the inner workings of XP, they can make malwares that are capable of intrusion, avoid detection and circumvent the protection provided by the OS and even against anti-malware programs. MS promised to improve on Windows’ security on Vista, and it seemed that they had delivered. The only downside was that this security feature is regarded as more of an annoyance than convenience. I’m talking specifically about UAC. The mechanism of this feature is to prompt the user every time a program attempts to install or modify in your system. Personally, I don’t understand why answering a prompt that only takes around 5 seconds, or having an additional step when setting up or installing a program be considered annoying. UAC can also help you monitor the programs that modify your system, and UAC can help you intercept the damage that can be done by malwares and spywares, considering that many of them install in a stealthy manner, propagating in the background unnoticed by the user. And contrary to what others are saying, answering these prompts can be one-time only. My current antivirus (Comodo IS) is using the same mechanism, and it’s a much preferred method than the real-time protection and scanning used by other antiviruses because it doesn’t consume a lot of resources. In addition, having these prompts means that these programs are working hard; when an anti-malware program becomes uncommonly silent, I can’t help but feel paranoid. In addition to UAC, Windows Defender was also built-in. One of the tools included in Defender is Software Explorer, which monitors programs which are currently running, startup, network-connected and Winsock service providers, which can help you (or Windows itself) pinpoint viruses on memory as well as bombs that run on startup.

  • WGA woes.

    Unlike XP where you can use stolen keys to setup the OS and be done with it, installing pirated Vista is much harder, because in addition to supplying the license number (which will just determine the type of Vista you’ll be using anyway), Vista will require an online activation before you can fully use your OS, which can readily be done in less than 5 minutes, not much of a hassle really. IF you’re a legit customer. Reinstallation is not an issue either, Google “Automatic Backup & Restore” to learn how to reinstall Vista. But do you know the price for popularity? In a survey conducted by Microsoft, 85% of all Windows users use a bootleg version. Vista can be pirated, but most of the prescribed methods are generally unreliable or providing only partial activation. This is probably another reason for Vista’s unimpressive stats.

  • PC gaming is dead.
  • Gamers make up a significant percentage of users in Windows, and they’re the most affected users when it comes to Vista’s hardware issues. By theory, Vista should be perfect for gaming, in particular because Vista introduced DirectX 10 which promises better graphics, higher frame rates and much enhanced gaming in general. However, I believe it wasn’t Vista that’s responsible for the mass exodus of PC gamers. Rather, it’s because game consoles have finally caught up with the PC, with Microsoft partially responsible through its XBox360 console, featuring HD graphics and a well-implemented online framework named XBox Live both of which are almost on the par with a PC. Hell, MS has just announced at E3 several enhancements for XBox Live, like Facebook, Twitter and Last.fm integration.

  • Gadgets.
  • On a final note, something should be said about Vista Sidebar. It’s actually useful. The sidebar can give you instant information depending on the gadget installed, or let you do basic tasks without the hassle of opening up another program. On non-Vista machines, I just can’t stop squinting at the right end of the screen and feel that something is missing there, proof that the sidebar was a welcome innovation to Vista.

Conclusion:

Vista was introduced in Nov 2006, so the total lifespan for it is 3 years. It was the typical lifespan for most OS’s regardless of how good or bad the OS is (just think about the progression of each Windows: 95 –> 98 –> 2000/ME. XP was introduced a year later, but it made a significant breakthrough by uniting the two family of Windows).

But for proud Vista users like me, there’s no denying that Vista is so damn good that Windows 7 is built on top of it rather than being developed from scratch. But to call Win7 a repackaged Vista is just foul. Win7 presents many structural changes and complete overhauls from Vista, it just wasn’t achievable with a simple service pack.

In the end, Vista isn’t really a failure, it merely suffered from bad publicity. But still, calling Vista a failure may be a good thing, otherwise we may not be able to experience the awesomeness that was Windows 7.

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2 comments on “In Defense of Vista

  1. Pingback: Articles Galore! « HardWi®ed: [Refresh]

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