Tomer Gabel's annoying spot on the 'net RSS 2.0
# Thursday, April 27, 2006
As part of an on-going research I've been playing around with Windows Vista build 5342. Spoiler: it's not ready for prime-time, not even remotely. Here's a quick run-down:

  • Performance is aweful. On my reasonably powerful development workstation (Athlon 64 3500+, 1GB RAM, Radeon X300) it literally crawls, and feels closer to how Windows XP performs on my old Celeron 900-based server at home. Eating broken glass shards seems almost preferable to browsing files on the Visual Studio 2005 DVD.
    There are also minor performance issues which may be related to immature drivers as opposed to Vista itself, primarily to do with sound: practically any CPU time-consuming operation on the OS side (such as when it changes screen mode or performs sudden but serious disk I/O) results in sound stuttering.
  • Eye-candy: Vista looks slick, have no doubt about it. The new Aero is very appealing. I'm not a Mac afficcionado so I can't really tell if it's been ripped off of Aqua or not, but strictly speaking I don't actually care. Some aspects of the UI can definitely use some polish - particularly the annoying tendency to reset the display whenever I switch to one of the "secure" displays (i.e. login or ctrl+alt+del), but the window fade and deformation effects are wicked, and the Glass feature (where window frames look vaguely like glass and everything beneath them is blurred) are absolutely gorgeous.
  • Compatibility and stability is severely lacking. I'd expect an OS that's been in production for years (not to mention scheduled for a 2006 release, which was only recently postponed) to be a lot more stable than this. Most applications work reasonably well, but for example while Firefox installed perfectly it wouldn't work past the first boot:

    What's worse is that Firefox wouldn't even uninstall afterwards. That's not generally a good sign. Visual Studio 2005 wouldn't install at all (installation failed silently) and I couldn't find anything useful about it on the 'net (just some comments regarding MSXML6, which was not the case here) until I rebooted the machine. The .NET Compact Frameworks, J# Redistributable and SQL Server 2005 would not install at all. Some applications would not even start (the Total Commander installer, for instance), others would display unusual error messages but work just fine afterwards:

    Networking in particular was unstable; I've no idea where to get beta Vista drivers and since everything was mostly working out of the box I wasn't inclined to look, but the network driver for the onboard nForce adapter would often simply stop working, claiming that there is no traffic on the network. Only a reboot would remedy this.

  • Usability: In some respects, Windows Vista is a tremendous improvement over Windows XP; it contains a huge amount of subtle but helpful hints in dialog boxes, much quicker access to some aspects of the OS configuration and a search function is available almost everywhere (especially useful in the Start Menu). When it comes to security, though, Vista is horrendously frustrating. Check out this post by Paul Thurrott. A noted Microsoft fanboy, such harsh cristicism coming from him gets double the attention. He is so right: Vista will continuously pester you with annoying security dialog boxes, and of particular annoyance is that this happens even if you are an administrator! If Microsoft ever wants Windows to be taken seriously security-wise, they should stop trying to stop malware from exploiting administrative privilidges via ever more sophisticated techniques, and start educating users not to use administrator accounts in the first place. This malfeature, called User Account Protection (UAP), sends the wrong message. I initially had the same reaction to Fedora Core 3, which would keep asking me for administrator password, but I became accustomed to it quickly because you don't usually DO things that require administrative priviledge as a user. With Vista you can't do squat without getting a series of annoying dialogs. For example, simply going to C:\Documents and Settings results in this dialog:

    Clicking on Continue results in this dialog:

    And finally, to add insult to injury, despite being an administrator I can't seem to change ACLs on folders that reside on my own machine:

    Last but not least, having a look at the security settings for said folder showed that nothing, in fact, was wrong and I shouldn't have any trouble accessing it:

    Additionally, there was some really weird usability bugs/issues. For example, when I changed a folder's view settings to show hidden and system files, this had some unexpected results, which you can see here:

    Finally, I leave you with this jaw-dropping dialog I encountered on a file copy operation:

  • Internet Explorer 7 is leaps and bounds beyond Internet Explorer 6 in everything from performance to usability. Still, in the spirit of frivolous security Microsoft has chosen to annoy the hell out of you with brilliantly useless warnings that require user intervention, such as this:

I hope to update to the newer 5365 and re-test things, but currently this OS seems so far from ready it's not even funny.

Thursday, April 27, 2006 10:18:08 PM (Jerusalem Standard Time, UTC+02:00)  #    -
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