I’m sure most of you know by now that Windows Vista beta 2 was released to the public to try out absolutely free until June 1, 2007. So…here is my review on it after having played around with it for nearly a week.
Aero Glass UI: I’d say someone has finally come up with a challenge to Mac OS X’s Aqua (competition keeps the industry interesting and moving forward; granted, I still like Aqua better). Aero is really nice; I like it, except for every once in a while when it’s just a little too flashy. I like to go by the mindset that if I still notice effects after using a theme/gui for a while, then it’s too flashy, so we’ll see.
Flip 3D: Flip 3D is pretty much a glorified and tricked out Alt+Tab. Now, that said, I do like it. What I don’t like about it, however, is that the entire catalog of windows you have open is displayed, and you have to scroll through each individual window to bring up the one you want. There is no option to seperate windows of a certain type from the bunch but you can pick the desktop from the list, and when you do, it performs the equivalent of Windows Key+M and minimizes everything so you can see your desktop. It’s flashier than OS X’s Exposé, but not quite as functional.
Security: To put it simply…User Account Control (UAC) sucks. It is supposed to be the Unix-like authentication system that allows you to easily run within a “limited account environment” and authenticate for administrative priviledges when needed. However, authentication is just pressing “Continue,” and the UAC system is actually extremely annoying; so much so that I turned it off, and now that I did, the Windows Security Center icon will not go away from my System Tray (changing the way security center alters you, disabling the security center service, yadda yadda, nothing makes it go away). I actually submitted a bug report/suggestion for this, because I hate unnecessary desktop clutter.
Start Menu: The best thing about the new start menu is the flashiness and the search feature. The flashiness is cool because it’s good eye candy and it’s not too flashy (too flashy = not good). The search feature is cool because, unfortunately…you need it (and it’s also kind of QuickSilver-ish). The start menu is so cluttered that without a search feature, you may find yourself annoyed looking for what you need. I plan on looking into a way (I’m sure it’s a feature by default) to change the start menu to a more XP/Classic program list, because having to scroll through your programs list in the start menu instead of being presented with all installed programs is an extra step that I don’t want to deal with. And what’s up with that no-confirmation-go-to-sleep button?
Compatibility: Symantec Antivirus and UltraMon are the only two programs I’ve tried to install that do not work properly/at all. Vista automatically installed nearly all of my drivers, and though it installed the wrong network driver, it was close enough to where I could still get online with very limited functionality and download the right one. Vista also automatically detected our HP Laser Jet 2300d at work and installed it. (And yes, Ragnarok works fine; I was actually playing KoRRupT on Vista yesterday).
Windows Sidebar: A direct rip off of the dashboard and widgets from OS X, which is a direct ripoff of Konfabulator (now Yahoo! Widgets). I have my dashboard disabled on OS X because I’d rather the extra 10 minutes of battery life that would’ve otherwise been consumed by the dashboard (as well as the resources). On a desktop Mac, I would enjoy the dashboard a lot more. The Windows Sidebar, however, seemed like a pretty bad implementation of the whole “widgets” idea. I disabled it almost immediately after installing Vista, so until I get more time to mess around with it, I can’t really say anything else about it.
Explorer: The new Explorer is arranged almost exactly like Finder on OS X. Granted, there is an address bar in Vista’s Explorer; a very nice one with a very good file-tree system that let’s you go up earlier in the file hierarchy and pick another folder without actually going up or back through folders.
-My Computer: (Now dubbed simply “Computer”) The new “drive window/My Computer” is very nice. The bars that show hard drive space are very, if nothing else, nice to have. Not necessary, but not unwanted.
-Control Panel: Being very used to the old XP Control Panel, the new one is nice, but confusing, because a lot of features have been renamed/moved/combined with other things. I think I will enjoy it more when I am used to it.
-Network Connections: I find that the new network connections preferences are very confusing, and though we’ll all adjust, it seems like there’s just too much in it.
Other New Features:
-Performance Rating: The performance rating system is…stupid, to say the least. It only rates the hard drive that your Vista installation is installed on, rather than total hard drive space. How it comes up with the numbers it gives, I have no idea. What processor gets a perfect 5 rating?
-Internet Explorer 7: I’ve been using the IE 7 beta on Windows XP since it came out, and I’m really glad that Microsoft finally came out with a browser this good. Tabbed browsing was implemented perfectly, with no needed extensions. Tab previews are great. The browser itself, even though in beta, crashes less than any other browser I’ve ever used (minus Opera, since I haven’t ever used Opera extensively as an exclusive browser on a system, but I do use it). I’ve personally yet to get any malware while using the browser, and though the browser is not as standards compliant as some of the more popular browsers in the tech community (Opera, Safari, or even Firefox), it is more compatible with a majority of web sites.
-Media Center: I haven’t used it much, so I’ll keep this short and sweet - it seems full of features, but kind of confusing at first to get accustomed to. Front Row on OS X felt like a program I already knew how to use when I first used it, and media center is something I’d have to learn (though not hard, I’d still have to learn it).
-Wallpapers: Vista comes with really, really cool wallpapers. End of story.
-Windows Defender: Like IE 7, I’ve been having Windows Defender on XP since the beta of it was released. It is a really good anti-spyware/ad-ware program, but it does not replace a good anti-virus program. Symantec Antivirus (not Norton Antivirus; yes, they are different) is one of the best anti-malware clients out there, and Windows Defender is a good program to run alongside it, if you are concerned about malware.
I’ve seen it said somewhere that Vista was evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and so far, except for a few minor things, it looks like that statement is true. Vista is playing catch-up to OS X rather than innovating. Granted, there are only certain ways to implement a lot of features, like tabbed browsing, so in that case, Microsoft took it step further and did tab previews. But in other cases, like Aero Glass, they took it a step too far.
All in all, I like Vista (any harsh judgements above are just part of my process of criticism. There’s things about all of the operating systems I use that I don’t like). It is a welcome improvement over Windows XP and it’s predecessors, and brings a lot of new features and overhauls to the table.
Props to anyone that read all of that.
And by the way, I installed Vista right alongside XP with no problems (on a different harddrive, but you can partition your harddrive with a partition tool and install it there). I can boot into either one just fine by default (I didn't have to do any manual configuration of the boot loader, though it did overwrite my GRUB bootloader without telling me that it would).