Three months ago, shortly before it's release in stores, I installed Windows Vista on my machine. A couple of days ago, I deleted it and installed the previous operating system - Windows XP. Why did I go backwards in operating systems? Let me explain.
It has been my experience over the years that Microsoft's operating systems usually need a good year to 'season' before they are ready to be used. When Windows XP first came out, I upgraded to it. It didn't last very long on my machine. At the time, I was still using a parrallel port printer. USB printers were still fairly new at the time but parallel printers had been around for a long time. I installed XP and setup all my devices. Somehow, XP decided it didn't want to work with my parallel printer, but the cheapo USB printer I had, worked perfectly. Now I usued that parallel printer (an old HP Laserjet) 99% of the time when I printed stuff. It wasn't color like the cheapo USB inkjet, but it printed much better than the cheapo, was faster and was quieter. But since XP couldn't work with it, I got upset and went back to Windows 2000. I couldn't believe that Microsoft would be able to get a brand NEW type of printer (USB) working, but they couldn't get a technology that had been around for 10 years beforehand (parrallel printers) working? WTF? This was unacceptable. It worked in Windows 2000. Why didn't it work in XP? It was another year before I went back to XP and tried again. This time it worked perfectly on everything, including my parrallel printer. It looks like Vista is going to turn out to require the same one year 'seasoning'.
Now, my usage of PCs has changed drastically since those days of my first experiment with XP. Back then, the PC was my ONLY computer. Without that, I couldn't do anything. So, back then, I used the PC and as a result, Windows every day. I had to have something that worked! These days, that's changed. Now, I use my Mac 99% of the time. I only switch over to the PC for the occasional small task that I can't do on the Mac. This means that I actually didn't use Vista all that much. I would use it for a few simple tasks - copying files, browsing the web, organizing the files on my iPod etc. for a few minutes a day. Despite this very small amount of usage, Vista continued to aggravate me and get in my way more so than XP ever did that first time. If it hadn't been for my printer problem back then, I could have kept using XP. Vista has been nothing but problems for me.
My first impression of Vista was certainly positive, as I wrote about in my blog at the time. It had a pretty UI, and it had some nice 'Mac-ish' features. Over time though, the 'thrill is gone'. I've come to really dislike it.
First, the UI. While, it definitely is a more colorful UI than XP, I'm not entirely sure it's a good design. Vista's Aero UI has this interesting 'frosted glass' transparency of the title bar and the borders of it's windows. This means you can see a somewhat blurry version of whatever is underneath the title bar behind the title bar at all times. Frankly I find this very distracting. I've seen Vista running on my machine and on other machines in the stores. Every one of them looks different to me. But they are all running the same graphical scheme. It's just that the background image on each was different. This means that there was a different background blurring through the title bar on each Vista machine I looked at. I don't like this. This means that essentially your title bar will have a different look depending on where on the screen it is located and what it underneath it! This can make it very hard to spot the title bar and which application is the active application. This is going to lead to a great deal of confusion among the less computer-savvy users out there. Hell, it leads to confusion with me and I'm far from a computer novice. I think this was a major UI mistake.
Vista is highly unstable (or at least it's drivers are). I've lost count of how many times I've had to reinstall my video card and motherboard chipset drivers of the last three months. This thing has given me the 'blue screen of death' more time in 3 months than in the 6 years that I used XP.
It also seems to have an even worse case of the 'XP pause' effect. You know the one - when you bring up Windows Explorer and it just sits there and 'thinks' for a good 10-20 seconds before it shows the contents of your hard drive. This is unacceptable to me. Even on a directory with only a few files, it pauses for a long period of time. It also seems to pause for long periods of times when you click on an app in the task bar to switch applications. I've lost track of how many times I've clicked on iTunes in the taskbar to just have nothing happen.
It has many problems with iTunes and iPods in general. At times I'd click on iTunes in the task bar to switch from another app back to iTunes and it would just sit there and do nothing. iTunes wouldn't respond for a good 10 seconds. It also had the annoying habit of every time I plugged in my iPod, it would tell me that the drive on the iPod is corrupted and offer to repair it. The drive on the iPod is NOT corrupted. If it were, it wouldn't be playing any music, now would it? Yes, I know these iTunes problems are well documented and Apple and Microsoft have been working hard to fix them, but I just cannot live with them anymore.
The network configuration panel in Control Panel is one of the most confusing things I've ever seen. I am a very knowledgeable computer person, but this thing damn near baffles me. It almost seems to be too smart for it's own good. At one point, I went in there and temporarily disabled my network card. The problem was, I had a hell of a time trying to figure out how the hell to turn it back on! I'm afraid to touch anything in that network configuration panel now, for fear it won't work.
Vista has serious software compatibility problems, even with Microsoft's own software! For a while Microsoft's Zune software wouldn't work with it. Visual Studio 2003 doesn't work with it. This incompatability with VS2003 is a major concern. My company still uses VS2003. This means we essentially can't upgrade any developer machines to Vista! The initial version of Visual Studio 2005 doesn't work properly with it. You need to install a service pack for it to work properly.
Microsoft's Active Sync software doesn't work on Vista. You need to install a completely different program on Vista to get the same functionality as the older Active Sync. I use Active Sync to sync with my new Treo 700 cell phone. This cell phone runs Microsoft's PocketPC OS. The problem was, I couldn't get the Active Sync replacement to work at all on Vista. It never seemed to recognize my cell phone properly. Plus, I had to install an OS update on the phone itself, but that update did not support Vista. It was this Treo incompatibility that ultimately caused me to give up on Vista.
What's even more funny about the fact that I went from Vista back to XP? It's the fact that I bought a copy of XP to do it! For the last 6 years, I've been running a 'less than legal' copy of XP. It took the 'Vista Experience' to make me want XP enough to buy it - after it was already out of date!
Maybe in six months to a year from now, Vista will have stablized enough for me to use it. In the meantime, I'm going to stick with the 'old' XP and my Mac.