I have been using Windows Vista for about a year now and while originally I was on the “Vista Sucks” bandwagon, I have since come to like it. I am going to try to explain why, as a long time computer user, I think Vista, doesn’t suck.
Let me first preface this by giving a bit of my background and a little information about why you should listen to me. Firstly, since you are reading this, you obviously assert that my opinion on almost everything is vastly superior to anyone else’s, I mean, I have a blog; How can what I say not be right? On a more serious note though, I have been a windows user since the days of Windows 3.0. I was probably 12 years old at the time, but I still used it. I have also used almost every iteration of Windows since then. In case you don’t know all of the desktop flavors of windows, I will list the versions I have used here.
- Windows 3.0
- Windows 3.1
- Windows 95
- Windows NT 4.0 Workstation
- Windows 98
- Windows 98 SE
- Windows 2000
- Windows Millenium
- Windows XP
- Windows 2003 (Server)
- Windows Vista Ultimate, 64-Bit Edition
On top of this it should also be noted that I have also used many other desktop operating systems. This article is not simply me comparing Vista to other versions of Windows. Prior to Windows I believe the first OS I ever laid my hands on was MS-DOS 5.0. I have also used about 10 different Linux distributions and about 5 different window managers on Linux. I also use AIX on a daily basis, and I am actually writing this very article from a Mac. So, I am not biased towards windows, in fact, I wish the games I like to play would run natively on other operating systems so I would not be forced to use Windows. The reason I am listing out my desktop computer experience is to give you a little insight as to the types of Operating Systems I have used, and to give you a little perspective on my basis for comparison.
So, why does Vista not suck? Well, I will spare you the technical jargon and just give you my impressions as a user, I am going to try to place myself in the mindset of an average Windows user and how you can expect to benefit from using Vista over XP. I will also highlight a few of the negatives you can expect to find in the OS.
The first thing you must ask yourself when considering a switch to Vista is “Why am I going to make this switch?” I would be hard pressed to recommend that anyone using a computer that is 2 or more years old, for basic tasks such as web browsing, email, instant messaging, or other relatively simple things spend the time and money to upgrade. However, I find that a growing trend online is that people with brand new computers either downgrade back to XP, or choose XP to be installed from the factory over Vista. If you are one of these people, I suggest you also look at the above question I just posed. Why are you making the switch back?
Here is how I made my decision: Being an IT person, it is in my nature to always want the latest and greatest version of any piece of software I use on a regular basis. My Mac has Leopard 10.5.3, my Desktop has Vista, my server has CentOS 5, my TSM Servers run TSM 5.5. I wanted Vista because it was new, and I wanted to experience using it for myself. I wanted to see what was new, and familiarize myself with the OS since it is something I need to do in my line of work. As soon as Vista went RTM, I had a copy installed. My history with Vista is a bit shaky at the beginning. I was definitely part of the Vista Sucks bandwagon. My initial impressions were that it was a slower, prettier version of XP.
So why the change of heart? Let me summarize the last year in the life of my desktop PC’s. Prior to Vista coming out I built myself a brand new top of line computer, and put a fresh copy of Windows XP on it. All was well, since Windows XP is probably the best Operating system Microsoft has ever put out. At the time I was a very hardcore gamer, so when Vista was in beta, I didn’t care to bother much with it. At some point the gaming toned down a lot for me, so I took the plunge and wiped my hard drive and put a fresh copy of Vista on it. No dual boot, no spare PC. I just dove right in. Months later, my girlfriend wanted Vista on her PC. I obliged. We both were sufficiently enjoying our experiences with the OS.
At some point a few months ago, we started playing some game in which she was experiencing poor performance. Mind you, her PC was a couple of year old Dell which was never even meant to game on. Instead of taking the correct approach and upgrading her PC, we decided to downgrade her back to XP since you are said to expect around 10% performance gains in 3D games on XP versus Vista. Since we were downgrading, I decided to downgrade my PC also. This was basically a test to see if on the latest and greatest hardware, you could expect a significant performance gain on XP. I would say that neither of us found the performance gains to be worth the trouble, and we were both in regret about the downgrade. She is still in the closet about it though since she doesn’t want to feel like she wasted my time switching OS’s back and fourth. We eventually discovered that her Wireless network card is what was causing her random performance issues, not Vista.
That being said. We recently upgraded our PC’s a little bit. Through creative swapping of hardware, I was able to build 4 usable PC’s out of a combination of new and old parts I had lying around, sell two of them, and in the process upgrade our two desktops for a relatively low cost. Since we were doing all this work, and my new system is running over 4GB of ram, I decided to take the time to put Vista back on my system. This point here finally brings me to why I think Vista doesn’t suck.
64-Bit Vista works, and it works well. Not only that but it can address 4GB of ram! Why not just use XP 64 you say? Because the driver support for it is worse then Vista 64, and the kernel is based on the Windows 2003 kernel, which I am not interested in using on my home PC. It should be noted that every single processor to come out of Intel or AMD for about the last 3 years is a 64 bit processor. So, while you might not benefit from it in any noticeable manner, why not use a 64-bit operating system? RAM is cheap, eventually almost everyone will have more then 3GB of RAM in their PC’s and none of them will have a way to utilize it if they are still using XP 32. Software will catch up with the 64 bit trend eventually. Might as well be ready to accommodate. A lot of people suggest you will have a driver nightmare on a 64-bit os, but I have not yet come across a single device which I use that did not have functioning drivers for Vista 64. This includes a 5 year old printer, a webcam, gamepads, digital cameras, mp3 players, etc, etc. If you can’t find a driver for some device you have chances are it’s and old piece of crap made by some company who is slacking to support drivers for it. In which case, get a new one!
It’s pretty, seriously. The operating system is very pretty. After switching from XP to Vista, then back to XP, I really missed the glossy pretty touches on the OS. Everyone says things like “Oh its just trying to be like a Mac”, well I think that’s crap. There is nothing revolutionary in a point and click os’s gui these days, they are bound to have similarities. I use OS X and Vista on a daily basis, and I quite honestly find very few things about either one which I feel was blatantly copied. They both have their fine points. There are some odd things in the gui however where you can get glimpses of UI elements which appear to linger from the days of windows 95, like the fonts control panel. Aside from that, the UI is very polished and highly usable.
You can turn User Account Control Off! The main thing I see people bitch about when it comes to Vista is UAC. Well here’s some news folks, you can turn it off. Yes, out of the box Vista prompts you to click to approve things left and right, for security. Yes its annoying. So do this. Start > Control Panel > Users and Accounts > Disable UAC. Done. Now shut up. Personally, if I installed Vista on my dad’s PC, Id leave it on. UAC is not a bad thing really.
It hasn’t crashed, at all. In all my days of using XP I got accustomed to the monthly BSOD. In my year of using Vista, it hasn’t crashed. Not one time. How’s that for stable? The UI might not be super snappy, but at least its stable as hell. The new kernel is stable, and it works very well. It is plenty fast.
It doesn’t impact game performance as badly as people say it does. In fact, if you are playing anything thats really new, and uses DirectX 10, it probably helps performance. That and the fact that Windows XP does not, and never will support DirectX 10 aside from using a handful of hacks. I have played several games on XP and Vista. Here is my conclusion. If you are on older hardware which can barely play the game at all, a lighter OS (Windows XP) will help you play that game. If you have a new computer with sufficiently powerful hardware to play the game you want to play, Vista might lower your FPS rate by 5-10. To me going from 100 to 90 fps is tolerable. If you are trying to play Crysis on old hardware, Vista is not going to help matters. Then again, who wants to play Crysis on DirectX 9.
The embedded software is pretty nice. Microsoft put in a few more embedded apps, at least in the Ultimate edition which are quite nice. The picture library is almost as nice as iPhoto. Microsoft Mail almost makes me want to stop using Thunderbird. There is also a really nice set of performance monitoring tools. Power management actually works really well too. Windows XP’s suspend feature almost never worked right for me. My computer would suspend and either take 5 minutes to come back on, or just never come back on. In Vista after an hour my PC quietly goes to sleep and comes back on as quickly as if it was just playing a screensaver. When both of my PC’s were on Vista using the Balance power settings, I actually noticed my electric bill go down by a couple dollars.
So in conclusion, I like Vista. I actually like it a lot. It took me a while to warm up to, in fact it took me switching back to XP after 6 months on Vista to really appreciate the OS, but I do now officially give it my vote. I think resisting the upgrade and staying on XP, or purchasing a new PC with XP pre-installed is probably just in the way of progress. Like it or not Vista is the next OS Microsoft has given us. It is not in any way similar to the disaster Millennium was. Chances are XP will be out of support by MS before Windows 7 comes out. Chances are you will see Vista installed on your work computer, and chances are if you read enough Digg, you will automatically hate it. I suggest you go into the OS with an open mind, take the time to set it up the way you want, and decide for yourself. There are far too many people complaining about it with nothing but silly complaints which are easy to overcome.