Opinion - I'll make this short and sweet because I know this subject has flame war earmarks. Recently, I bought a Vista powered notebook. Leaving aside the fact that I have to constantly click through "Vista needs your permission to continue" prompts whenever I try to do most anything, even when I go to look at the properties of my own network connections (not change them), there are significant design flaws with Vista, at least from a user's point of view.
The first significant design flaw is how verbose it is. Every prompt comes with an explanation that's at least a full sentence long. Whatever happened to the simplicity of prompts? Something with a "help" button or link which would then take you off to the world of the verbose? Or what about the ability to wield network connections as easily as we could in XP?
With Vista, in order to connect to a wireless network I have to click on a link from a mini popup window. That popup link is a very short line of several words embedded between other links above and below. It requires a precise mouse movement and click to get it just right. I consider myself to be a good mouse user, but there's no reason for such complex maneuvering when engaging in a routine operation.
From there, I'm taken to another window which appears in the middle of the screen. After moving there from the corner of the screen, I have to click on the network connection I want. And, as anyone with more than two network connections knows, in order to reach that third one you have to scroll the entire listbox down because each entry is about 1" high, and there is a dividing bar between wired and wireless connections. After selecting the network connection I want, I have to then move down and click the connect button which is in the lower-right of the window. It connects, sometimes taking up to five seconds, which means I'm waiting for a variable amount of time so I can complete the transaction which comes after. Never mind the fact that those few seconds could be used actually opening the next app I might want to use once the most-likely-to-connect wireless connection inevitably connects. Perhaps I could only get a follow-up promp if it failed?
So, after waiting for an indeterminate amount of time (at least several seconds), after it's connected I actually have to click the "Close" button! All told it's about 20" of mouse movement, a right-click and four left-clicks just to connect to a wireless network. And, there's a period of time in the middle which is a variable based on network traffic, router availability, etc. Why?
But that's not why I'm writing this article. It's something far more restrictive. After several weeks of use I've discovered a new system hangup at boot time which is the real cause for this article. My computer literally freezes for two solid minutes during startup. The desktop appears, the start bar, and then if I try to launch most any program, it hangs. I can't open anything which uses the network, or even checks to see if the network is available, until that two solid minutes goes by. Any stand-alone apps which do not use the network run just fine. I've tested that personally by some software I've written. It runs. But anything that touches the network in any way, hangs completely until the two minutes passes. This includes email, Internet Explorer, other web browsers, Windows Media Player, other media players, and of course any network change or view settings. The system is completely unusable during that time, and it happens every time I turn on my computer.
Microsoft might not know this, but when people turn on their computers it's not so they can have them on. It's so they can use them. And such an extreme design flaw in the Vista model, one which also affected my desktop system several months back (and it did not even have wireless connectivity), is enough to take a usable device and turn it into a brick. Why would I want to use something which is so verbose, requires my permission to do everything, halts all other programs until it's ready to proceed, and sometimes takes up to two minutes to shut down?
I know there is some device driver timing out, possibly several times, possibly multiple drivers. But I can't find it. And it's still ridiculous! Why should any network connection attempt have to wait so long before timing out? And why should it have to takeover all system features, thereby stopping most everything from launching until it's ready? Any why isn't it easy to find out what's causing the problem? I've disabled every add-on service. The only ones currently active are the ones recommended online. Nothing changed. It's not anything I've installed since then, but I still can't figure it out. It's a Vista mystery.
What were they thinking?
What was Microsoft thinking when they released Vista? It's awful. Sure, it is by far the prettiest GUI they've ever released, but it's completely unusable, especially when compared to Windows XP. The long prompts, the constant pass-through permission screens, the incessant warning about everything. "Yes, Vista, I don't have an anti-virus program installed. Do you really need to warn me every single day about that fact?"
I can say truthfully that I don't care that much for the fancy GUI. In fact, when I had to run Vista a while back on my desktop machine, I turned the Aeroglass stuff off, and went back to the traditional XP-looking system, mostly because of the huge amount of system resources Aeroglass consumed. Still, I was constantly reminded that I was running Vista because of the incessant stream of "Vista needs your permission to continue" prompts appearing before my eyes whenever I'd try to do most anything I typically do in a day on my computer.
"Vista needs permission o run the program you were just asked whether or not you wanted to Open or Save after manually clicking on the website's download link. Please waste some more of your time while passing through this prompt. And don't worry, if any essential drivers are installed, especially those Vista doesn't have catalogued in the 'official Vistal Driver Database', then you'll know soon enough about those as well. Thank you for wasting dozens of seconds of your time passing through these prompts. We hope your attitude hasn't been affected by the waiting. And if it has... what are you really going to do about it? Switch to Linux? HA!"
Well, today is the day I am switching to Ubuntu on everything I own. For those applications I *HAVE* to run Windows on I will be using one of my old Windows 98, Windows 2000 or Windows XP discs. I am leaving Redmond, WA for any Vista efforts or future ones. And as soon as I can find replacement software for the rest of my Windows-only programs (specifically Microsoft Visual Studio), I'm gone. Never looking back. Never to return.
Vista, you've made a believer out of me ... at least regarding the value of open source efforts.
UPDATE: In response to several commenters, I must report that I was unaware that you could change the notification messages. I knew there were custom applications you could setup which would run without prompting, but I remain unaware of any way to remove the continuous popups which arise whenever a system action is taking place. In addition, I don't think it is inherently intuitive at all in the way Vista operates. Migration from Windows 95 to Windows 98 was intuitive. The mild change in thinking between Windows 95/98 and Windows 2000, with its significant NT style, was more pronounced, probably the most outside of Vista. And I believe the migration from Windows 98/2000 to Windows XP was much more intuitive than anything else to date. Vista changed the baseline eXPerience that we all enjoyed in Windows XP. It removed common properties by default, opting instead to place new, unfamiliar territories before the Windows user. In fact, it's arguable that this significant change, while not as wide in scope, is similar to that of moving to an entirely new OS. And I believe very strongly this is the main reason why Vista has not been overwhelmingly received. It's also the Microsoft backpeddled slightly from its previous position, and is now allowing previous-Vista-only machines to now have XP installed after the fact.
UPDATE: It often takes me by surprise how much people assume about the other person's knowledge base. That doesn't just go for responses to this article, but also responses to responders. There is no way that over a cold, static medium like this printed text in the comments that any one of us can divine a full and correct viewpoint of the other person's background. For example, how many people know that I spent the last half of the 1990s and early 2000s designing a 32-bit operating system? I spent weeks researching user inteface models, how much distance the mouse should travel for user interaction, context relative positioning, coloring, GUI, text-based solutions, basically the human component. I have lots of data and, more importantly, thought on this subject. It is not whimsical or fanciful. There are real issues with Vista.
Just now for example, in preparation for listening in to a conference call, I launched Internet Explorer, went to the company's website and clicked on the link. Internet Explorer blocked the ActiveX control and I had to click the yellowish bar which appears. That's fine and dandy, I expect that. And then, Vista popped up a message indicating that I again needed to click continue to actually run the ActiveX app. It's stuff like that which is ridiculous. It's uncalled for, it might help one person out of 10,000 once out of 10,000 times. But for the rest of us, it is an annoyance which takes a couple seconds to pass through. Multiple that 2 seconds by the number of users who have to do it, and it quickly adds up to 100s and 1000s of hours. It's unnecessary and undesirable. At least from my humble point of view. And Microsoft should be aware of that fact because I know of no other OS which makes you jump through so many hoops, unless you have specifically gone out of your way to install extra software to ensure something like an unwanted program doesn't run.
Please feel free to post your comments below.