Why Vista? The Good, The Bad, The Ugly – Part 3

Continuing my baffling series of unbalanced, insane and yet thoroughly enjoyable rants on Windows Vista, we’ve reached Part 3 – the bit they(ve) missed or perhaps under or overstated. 
There are number of convincing benefits which may make Vista an attractive migration/upgrade today (i.e. from consumer launch on January 30).  These items (arranged in no particular order) are what I believe ought to sway end users into upgrading, assuming they agree with my point of view on the topic(s).  Decide for yourself!
– Power management
Windows Vista comes with a very complete power management solution which is particularly mindful of not using up all your laptop’s battery life.  This is extremely important if you happen to own a desktop replacement system (like I do).  I’ve actually tested Vista on a long haul car trip north (to Armidale) where I was able to coax over two hours of continuous use out of my Dell Inspiron XPS (Gen 1) – which has rarely lasted past 90 minutes in the past.
Obviously, the usefulness of power management will largely depend on the type and quality of your hardware since Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) has got a lot to do with your motherboard.  However Windows Vista seems to make good use of whatever you’ve got.  Important to keep this in mind of you do a lot of travelling with a laptop.
– Windows Defender / Improved Security
User Access Control is new in Windows Vista as it introduces the concept of running as a ‘least privledged user’.  This means you, as a user, don’t have advanced access rights or permissions assigned to your Windows account until you actually need them.  This means that malicious software (or accidental use of critical software) can’t ruin your system half as easily.  The end user (you) will know if something’s trying to use advanced permissions or credentials – visually – much like you’d expect if anti-virus (on your computer) detected a virus.
There is a lot of criticism that UAC is terribly inconvenient for advanced users.  Lucky for those users, they can choose to switch it off.  For less advanced users I really don’t think that UAC will pose an everyday nuiscence since they probably won’t need to use advanced permissions regularly anyway.  If you disagree, please leave a comment, but otherwise I think this is an extremely useful feature and ought to be a major selling point.
Although Defender is available on XP, it can’t be understated how much better Vista is from a security perspective.  This stuff comes shrink wrapped and gets regular (free, I might add) updates.   In combination with a decent Anti-Virus package (when there are Vista-compatible products available!) and UAC, you’d feel pretty safe.  There will undoubtedly be flaws found – especially in the short term – but Microsoft’s proven to be fairly reliable in patching.
– Resource Monitor/Performance Tools
– MOM-llike reporting and management capabilities
– Improved Stability
How good does it get from a problem solving point of view?  The new and improved resource monitoring in conjunction with the fault tracking and improved performance tuning configuration makes Vista probably the easiest version of Windows to manage and debug faults and errors.  The new Event Log isn’t half bad either.  From a systems’ management point of view, Microsoft has pulled out all the stoppers on reporting and tracing. 
Whilst not 100% useful for the average user, the new Windows Experience Index is great.  This finally makes it possible for end users to get an overall feel for how suited their hardware is for what they’d like to accomplish.  Not more will the user need to figure out if it’s their CPU, hard drive or memory which is causing them grief.  The WEI also makes it easier for users to determine if their PC can handle certain games – which is a nice touch, since sometimes the ‘recommended’ and ‘minimum’ system specs can be confusing — not too mention a little vague or inadequate.
– Image Previewer
– Graphics Support/Aero
Wonderful advances here to the Image previewer which made it’s debut a while ago.  Not exactly a huge drawcard in the scheme of things, but makes it easy to demonstrate Vista’s capability to do interesting things with different types of media.  Desktop experience will wow a few people, but I think it’s become a bit of a trend.  XP’s theme manager was also designed with wow factor in mind.  There are some cool Aero features, but until WPF applications become mainstream (could be years) who knows what the real drawcard is?
– New Start Menu
– Gadgets/Sidebar
Love these features!
The sidebar reminds me a little of the old Office Toolbar from Office 97 and earlier.  Obviously more flashy and customizable, but the thing is that the idea isn’t new.  A new start menu?  Well blow me down, isn’t that new and fancy?  Didn’t they premiere a new start menu in Windows XP?  At least this menu has some real treats, I love the filterable text box.. very cool.
It’s not all good though.  Here’s a recap of some of the badness which you need to weigh.
– Windows Media Player 11 & DRM
This version of Windows is truly the most heinous in terms of not allowing you to view your own content.  DRM is, for my mind, a way to satisfy the big content owners and has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with empowering end consumers.  DRM doesn’t present much of a challenge to hackers and big business knows it.  They want you, the target consumer, to pay many times for content you should be able to transfer between mediums.
– Shell Performance
Sluggish at best, the old XP shell environment seems a lot more stable and user-friendly.  Vista’s shell will probably get better though.
In Conclusion
Seems like Vista has some very compelling features but it’s still a little early to tell what’s in store for it.  It’s worth a look, decide for yourself.

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