A Closer Look At Vista’s BS

Windows Vista Logo So, I said I would go into more detail about my first impression of Vista when I had the time. Well, here we go.

The plain-jane Vista boot screen

The plain-jane Vista boot screen

Oh dear God we’re going backwards! After Windows 95, 98, and ME gave us little more than an animated bar at the bottom of the screen that meant nothing, Windows 2000’s actual progress bar was refreshing. But then Windows XP came and took that away. Now Windows Vista takes away the Windows logo. It’s pretty bad when people think the No GUI Boot option is Vista’s hidden boot screen.
An outline showing where the animated logo video begins and ends.

An outline showing where the animated video is.

Since when was video an essential part of the boot-up process? Since Windows Vista. You’ll never notice it on normal occasions. But if you install a big program, or a lot of little ones, your computer might chug enough on re-boot to reveal this dirty secret. As I couldn’t recreate this event (and don’t wish to do a fresh install as setting everything up in Windows is a tedious 12-hour process), I’ve provided this picture with an outline on the approximate size of this video.
Search or run?  Take a chance!

Search or run? Take a chance!

Yeah, I know…the search bar doubles as the command input box for the old Run dialog box. Still, want to search for a command’s location instead of run it? Dare you to try it using this. Why bother having a search function here when there’s Windows Search? Why not give us an icon-sized drop-down combo box to let us switch between the two, and leave it where we set it?
Don't hover over this link for too long!

Don't hover over this link for too long!

This drives me up a wall. Sometimes I lose my train of thought and I have to sit and think for a couple of seconds to get back on track. That’s just enough time for Windows Vista to click All Programs or Back for me if I happen to rest my mouse cursor in a certain position on the Start menu. This behavior is fine when the original context remains on the screen, which has been the behavior in all previous versions of Windows. However, in this case, the original context is lost.
What are my categories again, Alex?

What are my categories again, Alex?

The old cascading menu style of Windows 95 through XP facilitated searching far better than Vista’s single-pane tree-like menu style. If you happen to have a folder with a lot of items, that folder’s contents now forces most of everything out-of-view, thus requiring scrolling. This is more efficient that cascading menus how?
'Shopped to show all your options.

'Shopped to show all your options.

NO NO NO NO NO NO! If you want to encourage users to enter stand-by or hibernate modes instead of powering the computer off and on, that’s fine. Just use the appropriate icon. And give users the ability to choose which two functions to put their instead of shoving your philosophy down everyone’s throats.
See, I wasn't pulling your leg.

See, I wasn't pulling your leg.

Moving Start Menu and Desktop items around between users (including All Users) use to be a simple task. Until Microsoft switched things up a bit. Why? I wish I knew. But instead of C:\Users\[username]\Start Menu and C:\Users\[username]\Desktop, we have C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu and C:\Users\[username]\Desktop. For All Users, we now have C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu and C:\Users\Public\Desktop. Wait, what? No, I am not making this stuff up. None of this stuff correlates very well with each other.
Find it yourself.

Vista to user: Find it yourself.

As a lot of Windows programs are shoddily written with hard-coded paths (heck, HP printer software installations are STILL guilty of hard-coding to Program Files), it only makes sense to provide links from the old expected paths to the new ones. This would be a great opportunity for the user to explorer their system and find out what used to be in Windows and what’s there now, but no. Microsoft explicitly denies Everyone from List Folder / Read Data for these folders, allowing only SYSTEM to use these links. There really needs to be an option to show/hide these compatibility links, but since there’s no special attribute for said links, they are considered “protected operating system files” instead.
Confusing to users and admins!

Confusing to users and admins!

Quick! Tell me how I can find what IP address is assigned to my networking device? What is it’s MAC address? No, you’re not allowed to use the command line! This is supposed to be the best GUI evar — tell me how to use it to find what I need! Give up? Click on any of the icons in at the top of Network Sharing center? No. Clicking on the local computer icon, the network icon, or the Internet icon will open up My Computer, a list of computers on the network and their shares, and the default browser, respectively. Wow. You actually have to click the View Status link. Now, how do you change the IP address? Manage Network Connection > Double-click network device, Properties. double-click the Internet Protocol Version 4 protocol. Double-wow. Linux actually has this beat hands-down with Network Manager!
Screw this!

Screw this!

New in Vista: Harder-to-configure boot loader! Before, we’d just have to enable the showing of hidden and protected operating system files, and then use NOTEPAD to edit BOOT.INI. I guess this was too easy. Now we have MSCONFIG and BCDEDIT, the former not giving power users any power and the latter being a CLI command that’s too confusing for power users. Seriously, is Microsoft trying to throw in the towel against GRUB and LILO? Pretty freakin’ bad when you have to rely on third-party software like EasyBCD to get the job done — this is something Microsoft should have done itself.
What?  Nothing about running as Admin?

What? Nothing about running as Admin?

The theory: Let’s put a road block in between malicious software and the operating system there so the user will be prompted whenever making changes to protected parts of the operating system. The execution: Let’s put a speed bump that nags the ever-living hell out of the user, gives them next-to-nothing in information, and trains them to click Continue/Allow regardless. UAC needs to make the distinction between a potentially dangerous action and one that simply requires elevated privileges, but doesn’t. This could have been the perfect tool but the lack of information dumbfounds.
ALchemy Screen Shot

MS to sound card vendors: YOU deal with it!

Let’s be perfectly clear: There is no good reason for DirectX 10 to be Vista-only, and there is no good reason to dump support for DirectSound in DirectX 10. I don’t care that DirectSound used to go through the kernel, providing an opportunity to bring the whole system down. The whole point of using an API is to abstract a particular function well enough that it can be ported anywhere. If the DirectSound API couldn’t be ported from a kernel-land driver to a user-land driver, or if DirectSound couldn’t be re-written as a wrapper around OpenAL, then it wasn’t doing its job of abstraction well enough, and at that point, why not just access the hardware directly? The only thing that’s apparent is the Microsoft wanted to draw a line in the sand, and did so at the expense of users and developers. Rumors also have it that DRM requirements might be involved the decision — in other words, DRM = no direct access to hardware.
Key wording changes underscored.

Key wording changes underscored.

One of the first things power users of every stripe did in previous versions of Windows was to go into a folder, set up how they wanted to view their files, and then go to Tools > Folder Options > View, tick the option to Remember each folder’s view settings, and then click Apply to All Folders. They would then go into various folders like My Pictures and such and specify a particular view for that folder only. In Vista, there’s a catch: There are 5 types of folders (NotSpecified, Contacts, Documents, Music, and Pictures) and you can only change the view for the folder type you are currently viewing. Astronomically weak and confusing if you don’t know what’s going on. You’ll now have to visit 5 folders instead of one.
Added on Sep 1, 2008
Good luck following all those arrows

Good luck following all those arrows

Looking at the image to the left, I bet you can tell that Windows Vista is on the right without even clicking on the thumbnail to get a full view of the image. While Windows’ upgrade paths have never been something simple enough to fit into one sentence, Vista’s upgrade paths look like they were invented by someone with ADHD. Microsoft is extra greedy this time around, as XP is the only OS from which you can upgrade. And XP Professional users got a huge shaft, being forced to shell out for Business or Ultimate.