Vista

So, I’ve had Vista (64 bit) installed for about a week now. I actually like it, from a user interface perspective, more than XP. It has a lot of nice touches:

  • When you go to restart your computer, and there are programs still running, it gives you a nice list of the programs preventing a restart.
  • Searchable start menu
  • Windows Explorer Breadcrumb Bar
  • Explorer at-a-glance drive usage bars
  • More attractive icons
  • Revamped, easier-to-use sound control panel
  • Much saner (fewer spaces!) filesystem layout for user home folders.
  • Related: no more “My” prefix!
  • Related: Separate Desktop and Downloads folders.
  • Task Manager -> Resource Monitor is nice
  • Explorer’s taskbar: Organize -> New Folder

Features I was looking forward to using, but didn’t get a chance to play with:

  • Speech recognition
  • Per-app sound controls
  • Ink

Not-so-great things:

  • When bringing up a context menu, you have to click the actual name of a file in Details view, otherwise you get the parent folder. This bit me again and again.
  • Useless additions: Sidebar, rearranged control panels,
  • User Account Controls
  • Un-tweakable Explorer taskbar buttons, especially Burn
  • App compatibility: iTunes doesn’t burn CDs out of the box, and bootable-USB-flash-drive utilities (based on old 16-bit code) don’t work period.
  • Explorer.exe stability issues. In one week, it unexpectedly quit five times.

Overall, I was happy with Vista for the price I paid (that is, nothing, thanks to MSDNAA). I didn’t find Vista sluggish, thanks to four gigs of RAM. When I had only 1 GB installed, it was much more painful. I wouldn’t recommend using it with anything less than two GB.

The not-so-great things about it were mostly ignorable or disable-able, so I would have stuck with it. Unfortunately, the other thing that went wrong was that I’d get complete system freezes, usually after a toaster box popped up saying “The graphics driver stopped responding and recovered successfully.” This would happen every two or three days. Not often enough to debug, but regularly enough that, after the third time, I could see it wasn’t going to stop. It happens at stock speed, and even more frequently when overclocked. Other than that, the system is orthos stable and memtest clean.

I suspect the culprit here is Vista’s new WDDM driver model. The new driver model may lead to fewer stability issues in the future, it’s possible. Unfortunately, at the moment, the graphics car makers have dozens of years of experience writing drivers under the old model, and roughly one year of experience of having actual people run their Vista drivers.

So, it’s back to 32-bit Windows XP for me. It was a fun experiment while it lasted, and I think it’s good to form one’s own opinions. Maybe in another year or three, whenever I next upgrade my processor, I’ll re-evaluate Vista. More likely, though, I’ll move to Ubuntu by that time. Oh well.

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