A few weeks ago I installed the free upgrade to Windows Vista that came with my new PC. Yesterday, I backed up my data, reformatted my hard drive, and re-installed Windows XP. Here's why I'm so happy I did:
My PC is three weeks old, has a brand new high end Core Duo processor, and 2GB of RAM. Yet, everything in Vista takes forever. Switching programs takes 1 second. Switching tabs in FireFox takes 1 second. Opening a popup menu in explorer once took 6 seconds. In that span of time, my processor could have performed at least 15 billion operations. These apparently were all required to show me a popup menu.
Many new features in Vista seem to be aimed at copying something in OS X. Unfortunately, every one of these copied features misses the mark big time.
One such copy seems indicative of the whole Vista experience. On boot up, instead of seeing potentially confusing system messages, you now see a progress bar and the word Microsoft. This is a lot like the boot up screen with a Mac. Except, the word Microsoft is blurry. I know, who cares? But it is a great metaphor for the Vista experience. Decent (stolen) ideas, bad and lazy implementation.
For example: now Windows has a sidebar with widgets, clearly aimed to fill the same need as OS X's Dashboard. Except, the clock widget only supports a 24 hour clock. You can only have one sticky note. You can't have the sidebar auto-hide. Did this really take 6 years?
Really, the main changes in Vista are the new look and feel. Finally, I can see a weird 3D slanty angle view of all my Windows! Hooray! And it only takes 3 seconds to render!
Now my window headers can look like frosted glass. Why?
Now when you close windows, they shrink to oblivion. But, unlike Apple's genie effect, which reinforces visually where my program "went", this animation just wastes time and processor cycles.
Or take FreeCell. The cards are much prettier now and when you click on one - it glows! Woooooh. Unfortunately, it's nearly impossible to see the faint yellow glow and so you can't tell which card you've selected. Sometimes prettier is shittier.
Just Plain Bad
I had a folder that Vista magically decided should be read only. So, I opened the properties window, unchecked read only, and clicked OK. But I still had trouble with the folder. So, I opened the properties window. Lo and behold it was still read only. What?
Apparently, this error-message-free ignoring of my wishes had to do with Vista's new security features - one of which involves having a ton of users and meta-users like 'Everyone', 'All Users', 'Guests', etc. To make the file actually not read only required setting up permissions for 3 meta-users. Why?
Or, if I went to my 'Documents' folder, and then tried to click 'Pictures' I was told I did not have access. But, if I clicked on the same folder elsewhere (the 'Pictures' icon underneath my name in the left) I could get in. This doesn't even make sense.
I Did Like One Feature
The chess game was fun.
Lessons I've Learned
As a software engineer myself I feel like I need to learn something from this mess, if only to justify all the time I wasted waiting for popup menus.
1) Don't blindly copy - Vista copies the surface level features of OS X but fails to understand their motivation. They should have focused on actually solving the user's every day problems.
2) Performance is key - There is nothing worse than waiting for something that shouldn't take time. I'm happy to wait for CDs to burn, or Photoshop to apply a filter. I understand that these things are "hard". But there is nothing hard about switching from one window to another.
3) Usability > Design - Graphic design should be make the user's experience easier and more visually pleasant. In that order.
4) Get a Mac - After 13 years of being a dedicated PC enthusiast and Mac basher, I think I'm ready to switch. I don't want to rely on a company that takes 6 years to make their product worse.
Anyone else have similar experiences?