Saturday, 22 December 2007

Why Vista disappointed me so much

I'm sorry. The sheer amount of recent flood of hate posts about MS Windows Vista certainly doesn't warrant yet another post adding to the negative hype. But I just couldn't help myself, I'm so much disappointed that I feel compelled to write a little bit about this OS.
So, without further ado, let's start with the good first:
Finally!!!! I don't have to select Slovenia / Slovenian five times during installation any more. One selection fixes them all properly and if I later desire to add a bit more support for additional character sets, I have the option to do so. I really like this and MS certainly delivered on this little tidbit.
It looks good. I always was a sucker for eye candy and the look of Vista certainly is enjoyable. I think the look is clean and really done professionally. On XP you can choose any theme, load any 3rd party software, but it will never have that cleanliness and smoothness. Well, at least I can't find anything that would duplicate the effect. I've also tried out Compiz for Linux and while it is technologically way more sophisticated than anything Vista delivers, it's the good measure of aesthetics and just the right measure of effects that makes Vista superior in my eyes. I know you can set all this just about the same in Compiz, but I must say that sometimes too many options can also be a pain. Even if I know exactly what I want, I sometimes spend hours looking for the setting that would do that for me. On the other hand, Compiz simply doesn't provide a preset that would appeal to me. Anyway, Vista looks good.
I like what they've done to some of the Control panel applets. Some of them look cleaner and make managing their respective assets easier than was possible before. However, also see the Control panel section in "the bad" part.
The open file dialog has a minor addition that makes my life a bit easier: the favorites list. It's sooo cool, but at the same time so unmanageable. It's so hard to set it so that it would always show my favorite folders at the top and others, a bit less favorite lower down... This certainly is a feature that I immediately liked, but also delivered tons of frustration for me.

Ahem, that's about it. Aside for some minor other things, this is just about everything I like about Vista more than with XP. Did I forget anything? Maybe, but I really don't think so. A shame really since MS invested so much into the making of this OS. After all this work everybody just bashes the product... Well, it seems a lot of the work maybe went into the wrong code.

So, what's the disappointment?
There's so many things Vista didn't deliver for me I don't even know where to start, really.
Let's start with bloat. The thing takes > 8GB of my disk space and 1.1 GB of RAM just to run the most basic services I require. Sorry - OS thinks I require. WTF?!? This is an OS, not a complete human brain replica. I hope. At least the functionality doesn't suggest a particularly high level of intelligence in it. I believe XP is a bloat, but compared to Vista, it's an angel. I'm sorry, but I really believe an OS should never take more than a few MB. I'm talking less than 100 here. Yes, OK, Vista does have some fancy animations and some pretty pictures, but that most certainly doesn't take 8 GB. With XP I had a feeling my 1GB of RAM was more than sufficient for anything, but just installing Vista made me go buy another GB of RAM in hope that after the upgrade the OS would show at least some superiority over XP. Boy, was I wrong :(
Display. Wait a second, I just praised it's looks a few paragraphs back. Yes, I did, but at the same time, Vista's display capabilities are one of the greatest disappointments for me. I really expected that the new and shiny WPF would finally dispense of the pixel and just draw vector graphics, properly antialiased and all, mind you. This would finally allow for high resolution displays to gain entrance to the market. And no, I'm not talking 2560 x 1600 resolution here. I'm talking 200 DPI, 300 DPI and the like. Size and final resolution don't matter. Try working with XP on a 300 DPI display (if there was such a display) and you'll see what I'm talking about. Fonts so small you can't read it, icons not much better and just you try to resize that window - you'll never make those 3px of headroom you have. Vista doesn't bring anything new to the table in this respect. Just using "large fonts" creates a myriad of problems on both systems. So, yes, this is a huge disappointment for me.
I also had high hopes for I/O. You know - when some service really uses the disk a lot and you can't even start explorer properly? Waiting and waiting and a bit more waiting is what remains with Vista. And to top this all off, there are a myriad of services in Vista that only increase the load to the disks or any other streaming device for that matter. In fact there are so many that disks practically have to work constantly. OK, so I'm exaggerating a bit, but it's a pretty good description of what's going on in your system. Anyway, Vista unfortunately doesn't make I/O faster, only slower. I'm talking real-life usage here, don't care about theoretical peaks. Oh, did I mention that setting the "compressed" flag for a large file still yields that unresponsive dialog box which tells you absolutely nothing until the file is actually compressed? Yep, it does.
While just at the amount of services, I have to say that Vista surely delivers on the numbers. A service for this, a service for that all doing something on my computer and I'd really like to know what that something is. Then I decide a particular service is of no use to me and I cant even turn it off! And that stupid time service is still a service. Oh, just naming an example here, showing the pattern. You can pick your own "favorite" service name instead of mine. Anyway - why on earth would I want something that is executed once a week to update my computer's time to run as a service? I for one really don't know. I have a 50KB utility I picked up somewhere on the net sometime around '96-97 and I set it to run at every midnight. No fuss, it just sets my computer's clock to what the time server says is the correct time. Unlike the super-duper always running service that has to run all the time only to remind me that computer clock cannot be set because it differs too much from the time server's. Yes, I had to manually alter the computer's clock to test some program's functionality. What's it to you, stupid service? Just set my clock so that I won't have to. I changed date, hours AND minutes, repeatedly, by various amounts, you know, I really can't tell how much. Do I really have to find another clock, set the time back manually for you to grace me with a properly synchronized computer time? Idiotic.
Ooooooooohhhhh. Just remembered the famed "super fetch". 'Tis a service, you know. Taking some 100MB RAM, give or take. This beauty really is the masterpiece: when the OS starts, this little service will begin reading my disks for everything I touched in the last week. Well, I'm sorry, mrs. Service, that's some 30GB of data. Just what do you think you'll achieve reading 30GB of data into your non-existent buffer and system disk cache which can't under no circumstances be more than 2GB (which just happens to be the amount of RAM my comp has)? I couldn't believe my own eyes when I saw this pretty little service using up my disk resources reading files it shouldn't be reading...
Oh, did you know that the Calculator still doesn't provide the square root function? But this is not the point: All the applications that were already in Win 3.0 are still exactly the same! Not a single function added. Why are these apps even installed if the first thing I have to do after installing the OS is go get some decent utilities that cover this functionality for me? Well, dear MS: don't waste MY disk with useless crap. I buy your OS to help me do things and these API programming samples without the accompanying source code don't help.
Let's say that I primarily even bother with Windows for one reason only: games. Unfortunately, pretty much all the games for PC are for MS Windows. At least this functionality still works in Vista, right? After all, Vista is Windows too, and the newest and shiniest too. Wrong!!! Pretty much all the games I can run on Vista, I can also run on Linux. The other's just don't work. The ones that do work typically have lower frame rates than when ran in Linux. What??? Wait a second. I just bought an OS that gives me a hard time playing my games? But the OS is Microsoft's?!? It's supposed to be compatible? You wanna say they kept all those stupid ANSI char API functions, but didn't keep Direct X compatibility? And what happened to all those performance improvement promises about the new Direct X API? I just don't see them. Maybe I didn't look hard enough. Or did I?

OK, enough bashing. This post is too long as it is and I left out all the concept changing expectations of mine except the display one. Let's just say I needed some venting and this amount of text just about does it. Maybe I'll continue next time. Or not.

Just what might be the reason to keep this OS on my hard drives then?
I don't see any.
I'm waiting for Windows 8. I hear MS finally got the message and are doing it properly this time. Maybe...

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