Don’t Let It XPire

Seems everyone who tries Windows Vista comes to at least one of two conclusions (if not both):

  1. Please don’t let Windows XP Expire – There’s even a petition for those in this camp. And it’s getting press.
  2. Mac Time – Enough said. Mac OS X 10.5 isn’t perfect, but is anything? It’s about as close as anyone has gotten.

It will be interesting to see the fate of XP.

Is Vista For Me?

CNet’s review pretty much sums up my feelings on Vista after playing around with it for a little while:

The bottom line: Windows Vista is essentially warmed-over Windows XP. If you’re currently happy with Windows XP SP2, we see no compelling reason to upgrade. On the other hand, if you need a new computer right now, Windows Vista is stable enough for everyday use.

I don’t see a reason to upgrade. There’s nothing I really want/need in Vista that I’ve seen. Aero is a giant waste of battery life on laptops, not to mention it’s GPU hungry. So I don’t see my laptop enjoying that. Then there is the issue of all the DRM, and “security” (aka annoyances) they built in. Not to mention the added cost of upgrading older software to work with Vista. XP seems to do the job just as well as Vista does. Oh yea, it’s not exactly priced to sell.

Perhaps by Vista SP1 there will be some compelling feature or benefit. At least for now I don’t see what the big deal is.

On the other hand, I’m somewhat impressed by the Office 2007 release. In my opinion it’s much more polished than past releases. I’m still using Microsoft Office XP (2002) since there was nothing in subsequent versions worth upgrading for. This one may be worth getting, though I’ll likely wait until they shake the remaining bugs out and it’s a bit more used in the real world. I have a feeling corporate adoption may be a little slower due to the UI changes. This upgrade may require some retraining of employees, and I’m sure many companies won’t be into that.

David Pogue’s Windows Vista Review

David Pogue’s Vista Review has to be one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time. I’ve been a fan of his for years, but this has to be one of the funniest things he’s ever done. Being a Mac fan of course I really understood the joke, though Windows people would too if they were honest with themselves. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should. Apparently he upset a few people who didn’t quite get it.

Windows Vista Pricing

Am I the only one who thinks Microsoft went a bit over the top with Windows Vista pricing? Looking at the pricing for Windows Vista I’m starting to wonder how “worth while” it really is. It seems when you look at it, you very quickly get pushed to Windows Vista Ultimate (which is super expensive). Wikipedia has a decent rundown on differences between editions and pricing

And of course, if you use a PC who ships the OS in an image format (like IBM/Lenovo among others), the “upgrade” editions only work if you install the previous OS first. Making the task of reinstalling on a system just that much more complicated. I had that drag when upgrading a system from Windows 98SE to Windows XP. That’s right, I had to install Windows 98 on a new drive, before I could install XP! What a mess.

Come on Microsoft… make the pricing more reasonable, or perhaps have some financing options on the site, so it’s more like buying a car.

I just can’t imagine the average end user spending that much cash to have the headache of installing a new OS. So I’d assume this is just an effort to get people to buy new PC’s, rather than upgrade their old ones. I just don’t see average Joe spending hundreds on the nightmare that is OS upgrades. I really don’t see it. From what I’ve seen, most people are fed up with paying for a nightmare experience like that.

Windows Vista

Foreword: This is somewhat of an informal rant, it’s pretty much my notes tinkering in Windows Vista.

Am I the only one who is not very impressed with Windows Vista? Several things so far have just shown to be a complete turnoff:

  • It warns me about everything. Warnings stink, people just ignore them if they happen to often. This will prove to be effective security for about 2 weeks. After that, people will click OK without reading a thing. I got a security warning trying to show processes from all users in the task manager. Why? How can a Microsoft App not trust another Microsoft App? I’m guessing the next step is a CAPTCHA on each dialog.
  • Learning Curves are evil. The new Save dialog isn’t totally evil, but it’s quasi evil. It took me a few seconds to figure out how it works, and still feels really really awkward no matter what method I use to navigate. On a somewhat related note, took a while to find the familiar command prompt (it’s nested deep in the start menu now). Is there a “classic view” for the control panel like there was in XP? This “intuitive” stuff is just extra clicks and a waste of my time.
  • Despite my best effort, I’m still not sure why I’m denied permission to my own Application Data directory. It’s my data!
  • Start menu with scroll bars? Maximizing a folder caused scrollbars! Oh come on, that’s awkward, as if the old design wasn’t bad, now I have to scroll as well? What I’d really like is programs get sorted by category in the Start Menu (tagging) rather than how the publisher thinks they should be. That way you don’t get programs all over the place.
  • Killer feature? This is my biggest complaint. Other than shiny menu’s (which I’m not to fond of) and some new icons (which I do like), I don’t really see much in here that says “this is worth money”… not to mention in many cases you’ll want “Vista Ultimate” (or Vista ‘Take a Loan From The Bank’ Ultimate) if you want some of the features from various different editions they will be offering. If they include them all on 1 media anyway, why not let me pay per extra feature? Rather than these bundles? Perhaps I want some of the mobile and some of the business stuff, but don’t need the kitchen sink, dishwasher, and knit toaster cover.

But is there anything cool besides the icons? Well I tried out the new Parental Controls on a profile, and to my surprise, they don’t just effect IE, but everything including Firefox (because it’s likely sniffing the TCP/IP stack like it should). Of course a very fitting screenshot:

Firefox with Parental Controls

And for those wondering, it does give what seem to be pretty nice HTTP Headers, so it would be possible to sniff and serve up our own pretty error pages to keep a consistent UI if desired. I can’t vouch for the effectiveness of the filter, since I haven’t tested it for what it filters, only how it interacts.

So will I upgrade? I’m really not sure to be honest. I see a few things that make me hesitant:

  1. Will my Thinkpad T43 handle it well? Or will it be sluggish and annoying (I’m running it virtualized right now, hence I said nothing about performance). I know the minimum specs are pretty low, but typically the minimum specs are nothing but a pipe dream, nothing you could use on a daily basis.
  2. I don’t want to pay extra to keep the features I have with XP Pro.
  3. Annoyances fixed… the above is really annoying stuff. Really annoying. I don’t think I’d be able to tolerate warnings all over the place. It’s just to distracting if even simple tasks involve signing wavers and sacrificing your first born child.

Perhaps I’m just fussy, or maybe I’m selfish for wanting an easy to use OS, that doesn’t have an abrasive security policy, is secure without locking me out of my own files or nagging me with warnings, and doesn’t cost me an arm and a leg to upgrade my somewhat new (less than a year old) hardware.

As far as next-generation OS’s go, my initial impression says Mac OS X, and Ubuntu still have a lead over Vista. If Apple can get Windows binaries running from within OS X (virtualized as rumored), that could be a crushing blow to Microsoft.

Hopefully someone at Microsoft is listening.

Windows System Performance Ratings

If Microsoft were smart, they would have released the tool for Windows 2000/XP to test for Windows System Performance Ratings in Windows Vista. That way users could test and start upgrading if necessary, so when launch time comes around, their customer base is more ready to accept the new product.

Then again, if they are smart, they will offer massive discounts to upgraders, since I know I’m not alone in thinking that Windows XP may be more than all right for another few years. Not sure I’d pay $200+ for the privilege of installing an even more bloated OS on my computer. It could be a hard sell. It will be interesting to see how they actually do when launch time comes.

Edit [3/16/2006 @ 11:10 PM EST]: According to Engadget they will release a tool for Windows XP users to test with.

Backdoor? “Over My Dead Body”

Niels Ferguson of the Security Integrety Team had this to say about the idea of a backdoor being implemented in Windows Vista’s new Bitlocker security system:

Over my dead body.

Well, maybe not literally—I’m not ready to be a martyr quite yet—but certainly not in any product I work on. And I’m not alone in that sentiment. The official line from high up is that we do not create back doors. And in the unlikely situation that we are forced to by law we’ll either announce it publicly or withdraw the entire feature. Back doors are simply not acceptable. Besides, they wouldn’t find anybody on this team willing to implement and test the back door.

Very good to hear. If there is anything of the sort in Vista, it’s only a matter of hours before someone (bad cop, someone on vista team) leaks enough info for hackers to figure stuff out. That changes the product from a “security” product to an “obscurity” product.

Security is important in computing. “Backdoor” is just a public relations spin on “security hole”. Nothing less.

Vista Requirements

According to this article about Windows Vista Requirements:

Other requirements included a SATA or 7200 rpm EIDE hard drive. For Vista on notebooks, Microsoft recommended the Acer Ferrari 3400, the Acer Ferrari 4000, the HP Pavillion zd8230, the IBM Thinkpad T43 and the Toshiba Tecra M4.

emphasis mine

Sweet! If IBM/Lenovo will adjust their BIOS so there’s no more error when using a standard Hitachi or Seagate 7200 RPM drive, this sucker will be ready to go.

Very cool, this is a rather decent system. I like hearing that it’s anticipated to work well with Vista. That means I can keep it around for a while, and still be modern.