My Vista Field Report

Vista sucks.

Seriously.

What really amazes me is that, apparently, tens of thousands of people tested this operating system for an extended period of time, and it still made it out the door.

I’m not going into elaborate detail about the problems, which, while numerous, fall into two categories:

  • Performance
  • Usability

Performance

Vista performance is terrible. I am running Vista on a 3Ghz Pentium D, 2 GB RAM, 1 GB ReadyBoost, 200 GB main drive, 500 GB data drive, etc. etc. etc.. Not the world’s most modern computer, but still quite powerful. XP runs on it like a champ.

Here’s my benchmark. I run a NAnt compile script repeatedly on an app that I maintain. I’ll compile this thing 20, 30 times at a sitting. I was frustrated with the process because, on Vista, sometimes it would compile in 5-8 seconds, but about 40% of the time it would take 30-60 seconds. Very slow, and far more variable.

On XP? The same process runs in 6.8 seconds, with approximately .3 seconds variability. Like clockwork.

The reason for the slowness and variability is easy to guess: the problem is probably any number of the 89 processes or dozens of services running at any time in a minimal Vista install. The thing is so horribly overbloated. If even one or two are rude, then that could be the problem.

What I do know is that my hard drive is constantly spinning. I’ve complained about this many times in support forums. The answer is always the same: the Windows Search indexer will chew on the drives for a few days to weeks while it’s building the initial search index. This is a perfectly reasonable and understandable explanation, and I’m willing to accept it since the idea of Windows Search is possbily worthwhile.

However, six months and one red-hot disk drive later, nothing’s changed. I don’t know what Vista is up to, but it’s really working hard. Way too hard to just be idling. And that ReadyBoost memory key just stays lit up.

I figured I might have a bad install, so I switched back to XP for a few months, then, stupidly, reverted back to Vista. SSDD.

I don’t have time to test, fix, troubleshoot, or benchmark. I use the computer too much. But my near-constant use provides me with outstanding subjective measures. The user experience of Vista is very, very slow.

Conclusion: Vista performance is terrible.

Usability

Aero is beautiful. My video adapter is quite powerful, so Areo renders nicely with no performance hit. Lovely. But no improvement in usability.

The rearrangements in Vista are a setback. Did the “Add/Remove Programs” control panel really need to be changed to “Programs and Settings”? It was a lot easier to find near the top of the list. But the rearrangements are, overall, trivial annoyances that I would eventually overcome.

The UAC is a nightmare. Supposedly, after a while, you don’t have to deal much with the UAC. Clearly, these people don’t ever clean up the shortcuts on their desktop. Every deleted shortcut is first met with “Destination Folder Access Denied – Continue, Skip, Cancel” which, when Continued, requires a UAC authorization.

Yes, that’s right, I need Administrator privileges to delete a shortcut from the desktop.

I’m sure there’s some reason that is perfectly compelling to some propellerhead somewhere. But it’s stupid. I can delete an EXE from my desktop with no interruption at all. So why do I need Administrator permission to delete a shortcut to the same EXE?

This is just one usability example. There are others. The worst offender is not Vista itself but its user-spiteful sidekick, MIcrosoft Office 2007.

Let me get this straight. They decided to change the toolbar and the hotkeys in one fell swoop?

So I’m a hotkey user. Right off the bat, I’m grounded, because so many have changed in Office 2007. So I go hunting for the right button.

However, some genius decided that what I really need, what would be really great, is context-sensitive buttons, completely and utterly missing the beauty and purpose of the button bar.

How so?

If I already knew the context of the command I wanted, then I could just as easily have picked it off a drop-down menu as I could a context-sensitive button bar. The beauty of a button bar is precisely that it isn’t context sensitive. It’s immutable. The same things are always in the same place no matter what I’m doing in the application, unless I specifically modify the bar to suit me.

Which wouldn’t be so horrible if the hotkeys (which are also immutable) hadn’t changed at the exact same time. But they did, grinding my ability to edit Word docs to a complete halt.

Indenting, numbering, and other simple, critical word processing functions have, however, remained broken. No time to fix them, what with all the oh-so-important toolbar redesigning going on.

It would be laughable, if it wasn’t so damned painful.

So, it’s back to Windows XP and Office 2003 for me. At least until it’s time to upgrade.

To a Mac.