Windows Vista – give me back my computer

A couple of weeks ago I decided that I would like to try the Windows Vista RC1 release to see whether it is going to be worth my while reformatting my PC again to get it up to date with the latest Windows OS. I currently run Windows Server 2003 and find that it is much nicer, and more stable, than Windows XP and thought that it would be an interesting time to compare the old with the new to see what Microsoft has managed to develop this time.

Microsoft seem to have once more lifted the basic UI from the latest OS X and then applied a paint brush to it is evident. Just go to your My Documents and see how you navigate through it. There are also a new set of icons that are bigger and take up more of your desktop as a result. The Sidebar is another OS X rip off – Apple introduced the widgets idea a couple of years ago and suddenly it has appeared in the latest version of Windows!
The Start Menu has been upgraded and now sports a built in find/run bar at the bottom making it even quicker to load a command prompt or notepad or…. It has however put a button that “looks like” the Shutdown button in the corner but is actually a standby/sleep button instead. In order to shut down your computer you need to click the arrow to the right and then click shut down from there. This is incredibly annoying!

Adding further to this annoyance is that the computer automatically protects your system from anything you try to change. “Windows has detected that you are trying to open the Device Manager. Are you sure?” Of course I’m sure – I just clicked on it!!!! This happens all over the system wherever you see a little shield next to an option Windows will ask you for permission to use it. Well why not just disable it? I did and for about 20 minutes I had a more relaxed time looking around the computer. Then I had to reboot. When Vista started back up again a nice red warning was sitting in my system tray. “You have turned off the features you just disabled. Im going to tell you about it with this annoying balloon popup” There seems to be no “I’ll monitor it myself” option as per Windows XP SP2 Security Centre and this became even more irritating.

The aforementioned reboot had been due to the installation of GriSoft’s free AVG – a really quite useful alternative to McAfee, Norton or Sophos. This however brought about my next grievance. The idea of automatically updating your anti-virus when you log on is a fairly standard practice. Vista is now so paranoid that when AVG is trying to update in the background it stops you from what you were doing to alert you to the fact that “A program is running in the background. Do you want to check what it’s doing?” NO ITS MY ANTI VIRUS LET IT RUN IN PEACE. I can see the use of this however – it can help people to see when malicious programs are running in the background that shouldn’t be there but I didnt feel that i needed it running and I didnt want to face a barrage of “Do you want to do….” as I searched for a way to turn it off.

One of the more positive things that I had noticed about Vista a while ago was that if you setup user accounts for children then you could stop them having access to system functionality (like Device Manager) and as an administrator you would need to enter your password to give them access. I didnt get a chance to test if this was still a feature but I am fairly sure that it is which means that this new OS will become a success with the home users who want to make sure that their precious little children arent looking at the latest erotic website or buying viagra off ths internet.

Vista doesn’t strike me however as an instantaneous replacement for Windows XP in the workplace. XP & Server2003 work well together and I can see that for the larger corporations to shell out on site licenses for Vista to install on all their workstations is a while off because they will need to trial it on a small group first to check for teething problems. After which they will probably keep to the old WinXP because the process of upgrading an entire workplace would be more trouble than it’s worth.

After a week of using it I have decided that IE7 is no improvement on IE except for the addition of tabbed browsing which isn’t as nice as Firefox anyway so no need for that. WMP 11 is nasty and so completly different from WMP10 that it’s hard to understand where half the options have gone to so I wont be using it anyway.

Windows Vista does make a lot of improvements over the WinXP interface but at the end of the day I still like to be in control of my computer and when I give it an instruction it shouldn’t question me about it. Amazon have been listing the different variants on its website for a couple of months now and the Ultimate version which I was testing comes in at £325 which is an insane amount of money to spend for a very small upgrade.

If you really want that Vista look download a visual style that has been made to look the part and use that – it then gives you £325 to spend on something more useful!

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