March 23, 2006

Vista Delayed Again…Millions Roll Their Eyes

I’m not at all surprised that Windows Vista has been delayed until January 2007. The entire history of Vista, formerly Longhorn, has been one of delays. First it was supposed to come out in 2004, then 2005. And most recently, November of 2006. Now it’s been pushed back again, just the latest in a long line of delays.

At least we’ve got a mostly-finished product that we can play with now. The February CTP (which is really Beta 2 even though they refuse to call it that) is a pretty nice piece of software, keeping a lot of what I like about XP and building on top of it. There are tons of little improvements that make the interface slicker, and a few big things that make you realize you’re going to have to shift your thinking when you start using it.

For one, they’ve got this “Least User Access” idea, where even though your user account may have administrator priveleges, it acts like a standard account most of the time. So any time you do something that needs administrator access, like installing software or dinking around in the Control Panel, your level has to be temporarily raised so you can do it. And every time it raises your level, it has to ask for your permission. So you end up with this box that says, “Windows needs your permission to use this program”, and you have to click on the Allow button. And if you’re doing any kind of real work on the system, you see this box over and over and over. I can only imagine how many times I’m going to see this box in the next few years. I guess there are a couple of reasons they put this in. One is to make sure you know that what you’re about to do is serious, and to get you to think about whether you really want to do it. But more than that, I think this is built in so you can’t have a piece of spyware install something or change your system without you knowing about it. The problem is that you see this box so much, that you just kind of get used to clicking it without thinking. So it doesn’t make your computer any more secure, it just adds one more click to the process and pisses you off a little.

But some of my favorite things about Vista are changes they’ve made to things that I really hated about previous versions of Windows. Like for example, when you’re copying a whole bunch of files and directories, and somewhere buried deep there is one file that is corrupt or locked by another program. Windows XP will get to that file, pop up an error saying the file could not be copied, and then abort the copy process. I hate that so much, and I’ve spent hours trying to track down exactly which file couldn’t be copied and highlight all the other files to copy them, while leaving that one alone. It’s even worse when there are two locked files, or three. Each additional file seems to add about fifteen minutes to the copy process.

Well, in Vista they’ve finally done what they should have years ago. When you’re doing a large copy operation like this, and you hit one file that can’t be copied, it pops up a box telling you so, but then it gives you three little buttons. Continue, Skip, and Cancel. These three buttons mean that you can finally skip over the one offending file without having to interrupt the whole operation, and I don’t know why they didn’t do this sooner. I want to find out who decided to add those three little buttons, and buy him or her a pony, because that is going to save me so much time. Almost enough time to make up for having to click those Least User Access boxes every ten seconds.

Plus Vista has all kinds of little 3D graphics and shadows and transparencies, so much that it’s almost hard to believe it’s Windows. I know Microsoft wants you to use these beta versions for bug testing and feedback, but personally I’m using it for training. If I spend all year getting familiar with Vista and all of its quirks, then by the time the final release comes out I’ll be a pro at using it, and I’ll be ready to deploy it throughout the company. It took about two years after XP came out for me to finally upgrade the computers here. That won’t be happening with Vista; I’ll be on top of things this time.

Filed under The Computer Vet Weblog

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