Microsoft Windows Vista
             The wow starts now

Contents at a glance:
  1. Overview
  2. First impressions
  3. Networking
  4. Check disk
  5. Judgement


Windows Vista is the long awaited next installment in Microsoft's line of operating systems. Known by many as the "it looks pretty" upgrade to XP and to me as "the pointless hell that is Vista" here's what I found and thought of it after one very very frustrating afternoon.

I wouldn't have been fighting with Vista at all if it weren't for a rather panicy text I received from Hannah during the week. The text went to the tune of "help, just got a new laptop with Vista on it and I can't get on the wireless network. It sees it but it doesn't work, hate Vista" and I trundled round on a Saturday to try and convince it to play ball. Please bear in mind this particular problem had already had 2 techs looking into it.

Here I'm reviewing Microsoft Windows Vista Home Basic edition - I can't really comment on the other editions but I really don't plan, or recommend, changing to them any time soon...
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First Impressions

Well, the first impressions weren't too bad, Hannah's laptop booted in a relatively quick time, about 45 seconds, and the splash screen was great - possibly the best splash screen Microsoft has ever designed:
The Vista splash screen
Yep, you see correctly - plain black with a progress bar and the copyright notice. It may be worth noting at this point the Fujitsu Siemons laptop screen really is good quality - one of these X-Brite type things. The finish on the screen is like a sheet of glass, hence you can see my reflection and the room behind me :). The bad thing about startup is the appearance of the Vista ball and the really crappy jingle that goes with it - I wanted to puke, really.

So, having been met with a nice surprise there I'm left with the feeling of expectancy, wanting to know what's next...

Well, the logon "welcome" screen isn't much different to XP's but your can't give it the gold of 3fs twice to get to a "domain style" logon prompt - pity. Logging in to the system wasn't too bad for speed either but, as usual, Windows did lag for a bit whilst it loaded every single "I must run at boot" component.

It's at this point I began to wonder who Vista was designed for - the IT professional or the 4 year old girl who's into pink satin ribbons and bows. You might see on the screen shots that every window has a drop shadow and an airy fairy blue background - not a static blue but an actual background image. No wonder you need a stupid amount of RAM to run this bloated OS.

I did some work at this point, checking various drivers, trying to connect to the wireless and decided to reinstall the Wifi card - I thought I'd reboot now. You'd think, like XP, that clicking the "start" menu (now the "Vista" menu - it no longer says start) and then the power symbol would give you the option of what you'd like to do - shutdown, restart etc. Nope! It just hibernated soon as I clicked the button :( That confused the hell outta me - to choose the power action you have to click the ">" to the right of the button which gives you a list, great!

Other thing I noticed fairly early on was the context menu - you don't have Properties anymore when you right click on the desktop you have Personalize - whoopteedo!

Control Panel

The Control Panel got raped by Microsoft once again! You remember how 98 had the really easy view with everything laid out in front of you so you chose the option you wanted, how XP made category view and classic view? Well Vista is no different and it's worse! The categories, let's just say I didn't have the time to read them, gave up and looked for some vague familiarness - a link to classic view on the left, brilliant!

Not so brilliant, they renamed stuff :( Add / remove programs is now software and features - what on earth is that all about? Display is now personalize - even with the locale (sorry, regional settings) set to United Kingdom they still spell personalise wrong :(.

The Windows Menu

Yeah, no longer the start menu - it doesn't say start anymore, just has the Windows Vista ball logo. Bit of a revamp there too. You can search from the Windows menu - nice idea but if you move away from it to do something else it seems to stop searching, nevermind eh?

Then we have the run menu item, or do we? No, we don't but fortunately the windows+r hotkey still brings up our run box friend. More importantly you can still spawn a command prompt - hallelujah. Nonetheless, the wireless still wasn't working...
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What a frelling nightmare - probably the politest way to put it. Every single time we tried to authenticate to Hannah's wireless network it failed. I know the key was right, I typed it in for crying out loud, but even without encryption on the network the thing was still fubar'd. You'd think the nice thing about Vista is that it offers to fix the problem for you, it can diagnose and repair the problem:
Failed due to an unknown reason
So all in all that was fricking useless too!

On a wire I really cannot fault the Vista networking, it seems to run OK and I could use Windows Update (access it through IE7 all you like and it will still open from Control Panel).

The Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Li 1705 we were working with shouldn't have really had a problem but after an hour (or maybe two) of poking, prodding and down right "this ain't gonna work" Grant and I decided to check the web for any other people having a similar problem with Vista. They were, especially those with the Atheros 5005G wifi cards. One gentleman, at a Geekzone meet, noted that 2 out of 3 laptops running Vista were not able to connect to the wireless LAN (information cited from this page) so I dread to think what other wireless cards Vista clearly does't work with :( Like the author of that webpage we also applied the Microsoft provided wireless driver update (and tried many other drivers besides). Note that another user has tried a laptop with the same wifi card with XP and it works fine!
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In order to transport other possible drivers to Hannah's laptop I used my portable harddisk - a very handy little gadget. Not only did it take Vista around 20 seconds to understand what it was, and then install the driver for it, it then had the cheek to try and tell me the disk should be scanned first because it thought there were problems:
We recommend you check your disk
Whereas there may be problems with the disk I think it's more likely that Vista tried to make sense of every file on the disk and came across the encfs encrypted area. More to the point, who gave Vista permission to even scan the files on my disk? I didn't invite it and I didn't dare let it run it's course!
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I'm struggling to find good points about Vista. I really am trying to find them but it just doesn't do it for me. They wrecked defrag too - you don't even see a drive map anymore. Paint has had a re-write, graphically at least and if you want a run prompt you have to use hotkeys to get it, marvellous.

Searching from the Windows menu is nice but I'm not convinced considering in my tests it stopped as soon as I closed the Windows menu to continue working. Possibly the best bit is the blank splash screen and the attractive green crystal background to the welcome screen - I think that's all the plus points I can come up with.

Bad points, well where do I start - most of them are shown above but the one that really gets me, that I still don't understand, is how it can crash having just logged in and just sitting there. I hadn't started any applications, I'd tried to join the wireless network - which failed - but other than that it was completely idle. Came back to it and it was dead - no cursor movement, hotkey or keypress would do a thing. And why oh why does Windows Update open from the control panel? Couldn't they just leave it as a webpage? Now it isn't a webpage why is it still launchable from Internet Explorer 7?

I wouldn't buy it peeps, steer well clear. Chris loves Windows Vista Business edition but personally, I can't see it. Give it 4 years and maybe I'll let it near a computer of mine, for games only.