Thursday, May 1, 2008

Windows Vista!


This is a long blog entry, as the matter is serious and it cannot be trivialized by a few sound bites.

I started using Windows Vista only in January 2008. I didn't believe all the negative reviews out there. After jumping into it, I still do not accept all the comments that I have read previously. But Windows Vista is more than a disaster, it is alarming. It looks like the first step of a Microsoft decline, unless Microsoft takes drastic steps to get out of this complacency.

Speedwise, Vista is not slow, it is just fatally flawed. Features-wise, Vista is a retrograde, a big step backward. Things which we could previously do in Windows XP and Windows 2000 are now missing.

Microsoft does not give information on how Windows Vista is done. So I can only try and reconstruct by deducing from what I can see.

First, it is a very different team that worked on Vista. This is a team of Generation Xers, iPod-totting, and who use Windows XP without venturing beyond the default configuration settings that came out of the box. I will substantiate these hypotheses.

Lack of Common Sense

And this team or the program manager probably had never attended a class on operating systems. If they did, they did not understand what was taught. I have 2GB of RAM. All my loaded programs add up to less than 1GB. Tell me, why is my computer paging like no tomorrow? Why does Windows Messenger generate 13 million page faults after running for a week when at no time in the week did my programs ever go beyond 1GB? Why why why? Why should the disk even be touched at all (except when allocating paging space, space that will never be accessed again in my computer)?

I have Windows Explorer showing about 100 files in a folder. I press Ctrl-A. The hard disk goes into over-drive , the new fanciful hourglass comes on, and I cannot do anything to the folder for the next 6 seconds. Why? I have more than 1GB of RAM free, doing nothing but draining electricity. If I press Ctrl-A repeatedly, the same hold-up occurs each time. Doesn't the iPod-totting Vista team know anything about caching or not doing work that is already done? This is basic. This is an F. Windows 2000, XP and Server 2003 do not have this problem. I have just installed Vista SP1, and this major flaw is not fixed.

All the reviews that describe Vista as slow are technically incorrect. When we say a software is slow, we mean that there isn't sufficient hardware power to do what the software wants to do. In Vista's case, there is gross overkill of CPU power and RAM to do the task at hand, eg select all files, but Vista is not using them.

There is a long list of things that I could previously do in Server 2003, XP and 2000. Possibly Windows 95 too but that was too long ago for me to remember to make accurate comparisons.

The Vista team probably did not know of these features, because they do not go beyond out-of-the-box XP. They are people who leave the default settings where they are.

They use the XP interface which consumes the extra pixels on the window borders for no beneficial returns. They use Windows Explorer in the default showing files as pictorial icons, just like the early man with his pictures of the day's hunt on the cave walls. Mind you, the icons of two different Word files are exactly the same but they prefer it this way. The icons don't even tell you that the files are of different sizes, but they like the blue W graphic. The screen real estate for four Word document icons would allow a listing of 20 files with details, but they prefer the pictures.

Missing Feature #1

The sad consequence is that they crippled the Windows Explorer Details view without even realizing it. Wake up! Previously, I could resize the width of a column in the detailed view to just a couple of pixels, for example the file Type column, which I don't need to see (because the file name extension already provides the same information) but I want to leave it there to be able to do a quick sort by file type by just clicking the column header. Vista does not permit a column width to go less than 70 pixels! Why why why? I want my file Type column to be only 3 pixels wide. Why must I waste another 67 pixels that can more than accomodate the file Size column? Why must the file Size column be at least 70 pixels wide when the string "144KB" takes up only 31 pixels?

(How do I make Blogspot not resize my images?)

Missing Feature #2

One limitation of a GUI as compared to command line mode is that repeating the last action is difficult to implement. Hence, it was ingenious of XP to have the recently launched programs stuck onto the Start menu. In XP it works reliably. In Vista, it's random. Sometimes a recently used program is there (Notepad), sometimes it is not (MSDN Library), and sometimes it stays there for a short while and then disappears (SQL Server Management Studio Express). Another feature loss compared to XP.

About the only innovative feature I can find in Vista is the ability to just type in a command or program name after hitting the Start button. Unfortunately, this feature is disabled by the Vista team whose members probably are not CS educated. If I type a command, I expect to see what I type immediately. However, Vista starts churning the disk, and it is less slow to click menu items instead. I have a 100 million times more RAM than what is required to contain my whole Program menu listing, but alas the Vista team insist on reading the disk.

I find it puzzling. I type some search words into Google, they are looked up against the whole world's billions of web pages, and the results come back from Google's servers 5,000 miles away on a narrow 128kbps pipe faster than the Start button giving me the right link after I type in "MSDN" on my computer with megabits of bandwidth among all the different components. This incompetence and complaceny will kill Microsoft.

Why iPod-totting? These people are a marketeer's fantasy. They fall for hype and have difficulty understanding the bare facts. The Aero interface is a joke. If I am so lame as to need swooshing windows I get a Mac. The Aero is a half-hearted effort that results in a half-baked Mac. I have no need for swooshing. All I need is a visual indication that a window is closing or opening so that I know that my system is still responding. The classic Windows interface, which I use even on XP, meets this UI requirement just fine. Swooshing the way the Mac does does not give me a single benefit in my use of the computer. Whoever thought of the Aero interface must have thought Windows users are equally gullible for a gimmick.

Missing Feature #3

Windows Extended Desktop must be just a mere curiosity to the Vista team. I have been totally reliantly on it for the past seven years, with different monitors in the office and home. My latest is a 1280x1024 display in one location and a 1680x1050 one in the other. My physical organization is the second monitor sitting above the LCD at both places. With XP, I have no problem plugging in at the two locations when I get my notebook PC out of Sleep or Suspend. (By the way, I do not Shut Down my notebook, not since Nov 1997.) It is a disaster with Vista. Each time I get the PC out of Sleep, the configuration is random! I make it a point to plug in the monitor and power it on before the PC. Sometimes, the second monitor would be on the right, sometimes it would not be detected, sometimes it would be on top, sometimes it would be on the left. At other times, Presentation Settings would automatically turn on.

Now, Presentation Settings with the New Display Detected dialog is one stupid gimmick that makes me deride the Vista team as incompetents. They allow the the second monitor to be on the exact left or exact right only. They think the whole world is a bunch of simpletons? It seems that the group that designed New Display Detected is totally unaware that Extended Desktop is a Vista feature.

work in progress ...