[Nottingham] Vista experiences please

Pete Goodall pete at yellowhouse.org
Fri Feb 2 15:55:12 GMT 2007

Hi all,

Comments in-line...

On 2/2/07, Michael Erskine <msemtd at yahoo.co.uk> wrote:
> Hi all,
> I think we could go on and on about the perceived (and real!) problems
> with
> the newly Microsoft Windows Vista for some time but not really get much
> out
> of it except for perhaps the reloading of old grudges and the venting of
> old
> frustrations.
> As Graeme may have pointed out, the FUD slinging is unlikely to do much
> good
> so what I'd like to encourage is the honest (non-sarcastic) discussion of
> the
> _positive_ _first-hand_ experiences of Vista that our members have, and
> the
> honest discussion of what GNU/Linux has/doesn't have to offer in the same
> area.

I had the opportunity to run Windows Vista RC1 on my IBM Thinkpad T41p back
in October.  Unfortunately, I don't have access to the final build.  The
installations was incredibly easy compared to my past experience of
installing Windows.  Admittedly I was installing it as a single-boot OS, but
I think that is probably the norm, rather than the exception [1].
Unfortunately, I cannot remember clearly, but I think my wireless did not
work out of the box.  I had to add the device myself and I had to know that
I had an Atheros 5212 chipset.  Boot up was very quick, and I did not
witness any of the long boot times that others have [2].

One of the first things I noted was that Windows Vista now comes with an
e-mail program, simply called Mail, and it does not seem to be Outlook
Express.  The UI is relatively simplistic, though not necessarily simple to
use.  It seems like it is intended to be a clone of the Mail program in Mac
OS X.  Unfortunately, the performance of their mail program was horrible,
and I was unable to use it for very long to manage my IMAP mail account.
The filters did not work, and the Junk mail filtering was not very accurate
at all.

I had already seen IE 7 before I installed Vista, so it was no surprise to
me that the new spartan look was just annoying.  Though I think the goal was
to make the UI more simple, it only served to make it more cryptic.  I could
figure out where things like your favorites are easily enough, but I
anticipate that others will have a real difficulty adjusting.  I wonder if
Microsoft did any usability testing on this at all.  Ironically, IE7 could
not render some of the Microsoft Web pages, so I had to download Firefox to
see them.  I checked out the anti-phishing feature, by clicking on a link in
an e-mail that I knew was a phishing scam and it indeed blocked the site.

I played around with some of the gadgets, and they are pretty neat.  You can
choose to either have them always visible or hide them until you mouse over
that way.  However, the space in which to add gadgets is rather limited.  I
think if your gadgets reach the bottom of the screen you need to scroll to
see the gadgets below.  I added an RSS feed gadget and really struggled to
find out how to change or add new RSS feeds.  The default feed is a
Microsoft one that I was not particularly interested in.  I can't remember
how easy it was to get new gadgets. :-/

The power management was excellent, and I could not make it fail by closing
and opening the laptop lid rapidly or removing peripherals while it was
sleeping.  The one complaint I no have is that the power button in the
Windows menu (detailed below) is actually a sleep (suspend-to-ram) button
[3], but there is not warning of this.  If you didn't know that the little
moon light on your laptop meant that you were suspended and not shutdown
then you could easily leave your laptop in your bag like that for the
weekend and have it run out of battery.  However, they may have mimicked the
Mac behavior of hibernating (suspend-to-disk) after so much time in sleep.

The new Windows menu particularly interesting to me [4].  In my experience,
menus are confusing to many people, and apparently many people complained
that the menus in Windows XP took up too much screen real estate.  The
solution that Microsoft came up with was to have one pane where the menus
would appear.  The default view has the recently used applications and pin
board Windows users are used to from the XP menu.  If you click on
"Programs" everything shifts and now all you see is the programs menu.  If
you choose a submenu off that, everything shifts again, and all you see is
that submenu's content.  Seems reasonable, right?  However, how do you get
back?  In addition, this does nothing to help you find an application if you
don't know what submenu to look under.  The only problem this solves is that
it takes up less screen real estate.  I asked a Microsoft product manager
about this, and his response was that the menu did not do well in usability
testing, but they went with it anyway.  :-/

Personally, I haven't used it yet but our IT manager has and he likes some
> of
> the features (esp. to do with notification of certain event log events).
> My
> immediate thoughts when hearing about these features was "Linux/MacOS has
> had
> that, like, forever!" but I resisted voicing this because, well, for one:
> it's rather childish(!), and two: he's heard me say all that before! My
> inner
> Windows "power-user" would ask "how accessible are those features in
> Linux?", "How can I get them working?", etc.

That is exactly my thought.  Though the log files are there,  but how easy
are they for the average user to find.  I don't really have much experience
with this from Vista.

Just a thought to get some Vista discussion on a constructive track.

An excellent idea, and always necessary to avoid the perception that Linux
users are nothing but whingeing, elitist geeks.  Thanks for bringing us back
to reality. :-)

- Pete

[1]  For an interesting read on Windows Vista vs. Linux and dual booting see
the article by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols at
[2]  I saw a reference yesterday that first time bootup took roughly 25
mins, but I cannot find the reference now.
[3]  There is a really good article I read by Joel Spolsky at Wind River
Systems on the new Vista shutdown menu at
[4]  I hope soon to have a blog entry on why this is particularly
interesting to me, but it is not yet finished.

Pete Goodall <pete at yellowhouse.org>
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