Saturday, June 6, 2009

10 lies you need to stop believing about Windows Vista


We've all heard the litany of complaints about Microsoft Windows Vista. The blogosphere reverberates with Vista schadenfreude (DVICE occasionally included), perpetuating assertions that the flagship Windows operating system is expensive, unwieldy and generally a disaster. It's time for a fact check.

We wanted to approach this project from the only angle that counts — one of experience and first-hand knowledge of Vista. To do this, we've been extensively testing the current version, Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1, both Ultimate and Home Premium versions), using it on everything from a dinky laptop to a dual quad-core monster desktop workstation. We've been putting it through its paces all day, every day for six months.

We set out to test the Top 10 Vista criticisms we found, determining if those complaints held true with how Vista works today. Is it really as bad as everybody says it is? Or is it all just perception based on a few initial problems and Internet propaganda? Hit the Continue jump to read the 10 biggest lies you need to stop believing about Vista.

1. Plenty of Bugs and Glitches
This one is pure propaganda. In our experience, the only crash we've experienced happened when we installed the new version 8.0 of iTunes (how ironic!), and even that didn't result in the dreaded Blue Screen of Death — just a hard lockup that required a cold boot. System Restore blew out the problem, bringing everything back to normal in minutes.
Lie Meter: 10 (Key: 10 = total lie, 0 = everything you've heard is true)

2. Upgrading Is a Hassle
Using Vista's original version, we encountered a weird anomaly with HP printer drivers where Microsoft Word would mysteriously re-launch after we closed it, but no crashes resulted. We've had another issue with M-Audio, where its USB preamp for our podcast microphone has no Vista-compatible driver, to this day. In its first days after initial launch, 29% of Vista's driver problems are allegedly the fault of NVIDIA. While we're using NVIDIA graphics cards on both the notebook and desktop, we've been lucky not to experience any video-driver troubles. And on the notebook with Vista pre-installed, the driver troubles have been nonexistent.
Lie Meter: 5

3. Nagging Security Prompts
The dreaded User Account Control, or UAC, does nag you incessantly, wanting to know if you're sure you want to do this or that. But it's easy to disable those prompts, so much so that if you can't do it, you're not even trying. The one's a favorite complaint from those who are completely clueless about Vista.
Lie Meter: 9

4. There Are Many Versions — Expensive Versions
Microsoft is brand spamming us with all those multiple versions of the Vista operating system, and we wish there were just one. The pricing is high, too, retailing at $319.95 for a non-upgrade copy of Vista Ultimate (upgrade for $219.95), and $259.95 ($129.95 to upgrade) for the most popular version, Vista Home Premium. Cheaper versions don't even have that sweet, gorgeous Aero interface, so we're not even counting them. Keep in mind that these are retail prices, and all Microsoft's future service packs and updates are free, so you could get away with only buying Vista once and keeping it for years without paying any more. Taken in context, it's not a bad deal, and unless you're using Ubuntu (our fave OS) or other open-source software, a modern OS isn't going to be cheap no matter how you slice it.
Lie Meter: 8

5. It's Not Simple or Intuitive
This is so subjective, one person might think all computers are near-impossible to use while the person next door thinks they're all simple. We've found Vista to be full of usability enhancements, and see no difficulty using it. We particularly like the way menus stay on the top of an application window, and not at the top of the desktop — this is especially useful when multiple apps are open across our dual-monitor setup. We also like the two mouse buttons on our Vista laptop.
Lie Meter: 10

6. Windows Defender Slows Everything Down
It's true that Windows Defender is a memory hog, but that's the case with most antivirus software. It's unfair to single out Vista's software on this one. And if you're careful (like us), you don't need antivirus software, anyway. It's like closing the barn door after all the horses have already run out. Virus paranoia is a trumped-up piece of fear mongering planted for propaganda purposes. Are we just lucky? Windows Defender doesn't slow us down, because we shut it down without consequence. Maybe it's because we know better than to click on strange attachments (and use Gmail), we have a hardware firewall with a strong password, we always use Firefox, or we just don't wander around sleazy websites — but virus trouble on Vista is rare.
Lie Meter: 5

7. It's Generally Slow
If you have an old PC, just about anything you do short of MS-DOS is going to seem slow. Yes, Vista and its Aero interface require more resources, and Vista needs a modern processor and multiple gigs of RAM. But hey, this is 2008. Also, Microsoft made a mistake in quoting the minimum system requirements way too low. But overall, in my tests of XP vs. Vista on the exact same machine, Vista was 15.28% faster.
Lie Meter: 10

8. Slow File Transfers
This was a problem with the original Vista, but it's been largely solved in Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1). When we tested SP1 (a pre-release, not the shipping version) file-transfer speeds, they felt slower than Windows XP's, but a lot of that difference had to do with the way the transfer is displayed on the screen. When XP's file-transfer window closed, the transfer wasn't really complete, but Vista was more true to the actual transfer and the subsequent file checking that goes on. But yes, the file transfers aren't as fast in Vista, but in the shipping version of SP1, the difference is hardly noticeable.
Lie Meter: 6

9. Activation Issues
Windows Vista must communicate with the mother ship in Redmond if you want to keep on using it, or you must enter a special activation number after you contact Microsoft. But it's really no big deal. On the laptop we received with Vista already installed, activation wasn't even an issue at all — it was already done. On the desktop machine where we installed Vista Ultimate, the activation was done online in about two seconds and if we weren't looking, we would have hardly known it happened. If we were constantly swapping out a lot of hardware, this would be annoying, but usually, complaints about activation come from only the most inept software pirates who aren't aware of numerous activation workarounds.
Lie Meter: 10

10. Start Menu Is Hard to Navigate
This is a really lame complaint. If the start menu is hard for you to navigate, it's probably pretty tough for you to operate a close-and-play record player, load a DVD, and start your car, too. We saw this complaint in a lot of places all over the web, and find it to be vacuous.
Lie Meter: 10

Most of the disinformation floating around about Windows Vista is simply not true. Yes, you've been fed a pack of lies, accompanied with a healthy dose of "truthiness." Sure, a lot of that static originated at Vista's clumsy release 18 months ago, but since SP1 was rolled out, Vista is a different animal now. We originally planned to dump Vista after we finished this half-year test, but now that we've experienced it first-hand, we're sticking with it. In fact, we like it. A lot.

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