Funny, but true – I’ve been using Windows Vista for the few weeks. My desktop PC started acting up a few weeks back, and while it exactly hasn’t died out, it’s motherboard IS behaving quite erratically. So until AMD Fusion-based computers come out, or I stop being lazy, whichever is earlier, I don’t think I’ll be using a desktop PC running Linux for quite some time. Until then, my dad’s HP laptop has officially passed on to me, and it runs Windows Vista Business edition. I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time, about my experiences as a Vista user.
It’s not that I didn’t think of installing Linux on it – I *did* install Ubuntu 8.04, but version 8.04 (mark these words, *version 8.04*) is truly pathetic. Yes, you’re hearing that from me, a Linux fan. I was shocked to find applications hanging all too often, and it’s accessibility features didn’t work AT ALL (I’m talking of Sticky Keys). It seems as if they put all their efforts into Wubi, and forgot about the distro itself. So until they get their act together, I decided to uninstall Ubuntu Linux, and give Windows Vista a try.
Now it’s not like I haven’t used Windows – I’ve known it all too much using it at school and every other place. That was Windows XP or 98 or 2000; I’ve even used Windows 3.1. The first thing you’ll notice about Windows Vista is that it looks WAY better than Windows XP. They way Vista allows you to tweak color schemes in a way you couldn’t earlier made me, a Linux penguin happy. The other thing I really really liked was the new program launching system, by clicking on the Orb and typing in the first few letters. I think it’s brilliant, especially since even a few letters works (you don’t have to type the whole name out). It actually IS faster than navigating through menus and sub-menus to launch a program. Windows Vista also indexes allows you to search through your documents from the same search bar, and that doesn’t have a noticeable lag either. Also, I didn’t find keeping indexing enabled to be taxing on my system, unlike some other people say.
A lot of people talk about how slow Windows Vista is, or how programs don’t work with – I may have said so myself earlier when talking about Vista – but that was before I used it. Frankly, even with an Intel T7100 Core 2 Duo processor and 1 GB of RAM (which is considered to be the ‘minimum’ for running Aero properly), I don’t feel the pinch – the system is zippy. Yes, it does take longer than Linux to boot, but that’s Windows. After it has started, I don’t feel the system works as bad as the critics make it out to be.
Multitasking is fine too – running Winamp music player, Mozilla Firefox with multiple tabs, editing multiple photos in GIMP, AND running OpenOffice (for typing out my blog posts) – at the same time works without the system feeling ‘slowed down’. That’s an achievement, because I’ve already said earlier that OpenOffice is a big memory hog. I’m not a gamer, so I can’t comment on game performance. For a normal home or business user though, Windows Vista works nicely. Note that I’m using Windows Vista Business edition with 1 GB RAM – which some people would have called inadequate.
About Flip3D, the much touted windows switching style, it’s nice, but I’d rather simply minimize to the taskbar. Not because it’s slow or anything, it’s good for showing off, but during daily usage people don’t keep flipping windows. So my verdict on this is neutral – it’s not a bad thing, but I won’t shed any tears if it isn’t there.
As a Linux user, I’ve got very used to seeing thumbnail previews for almost all kinds of frequently used files, and Windows Vista’s capability to do that too makes me feel comfortable. This was something which earlier versions of Windows couldn’t do.
I was impressed by the amount of documentation with which Windows Vista ships. As I said, I’ve been using Linux distros for a long time, so I thought I wouldn’t exactly feel ‘at home’ with Vista. It’s Help and Support Center has extensive and exhaustive content on every kind of query, and searching works! Try loads of permutations of your query, and there’s a good chance you’ll find an answer. Not only is the software explained, but also brief explanations of related technical stuff. That really DID blow me out of the water – the DEPTH of documentation. After seeing this, I have to admit that Linux DOES have a LOT to catch up in this field – it’s simply NOWHERE compared to Vista’s documentation. Plus the search feature works nicely.
Speaking of configuration, I found Windows Vista’s Control Panel easy to navigate. It’s a lot like Mandriva Linux’s control center concept, except that you can search the stuff you want to do. It’s a big leap from Windows XP, where you’d have to dig into different sub-categories and guess out where a configuration option was, or go through a big list in the Classic View. As a newbie user (in a sense) to Windows, this greatly simplified things for me. Even otherwise, it is MUCH faster to search out what you want to configure than dig around in menus.
The other thing people crib about is the User Account Control (UAC), which prompts the user before elevating a program. A lot of people have called this nagging, but I don’t think so. UAC prompts aren’t that frequent, and even then, I’d rather have this sort of authentication system than allow malicious programs to execute. Maybe it’s because I’m used to elevating programs to higher privileges when needed from Linux.
Talking of stability, Vista is definitely much more stable than previous versions of Windows. I never had a very good impression about XP or 98 in this regard, but Windows Vista is pretty good in this regard. And I’m sorry for Linux when I say this, but Ubuntu 8.04 (specifically) is less stable than Windows Vista. Even if you do get the rogue non-responding application once in a while, the Task Manager launches quickly and it’s easy to kill an app. Haven’t had many system crashes at all, like I have with our school computers running Windows XP. Reliability and Performance Monitor’s System Stability Index is also a nice touch for gauging the history of your Vista PC’s stability since the time you bought it.
I think, after using this, that Vista is a very competitive option for business users, compared to Enterprise editions of Linux distros like Suse and RHEL. Small businesses may not have the resources to shift to alternative software for their needs on Linux, and compared with Ubuntu 8.04, Windows Vista Business edition IS more stable. Of course, buying genuine Vista also means that you enjoy customer support from Microsoft, which, according to The Tech Nut, is quite good.