On Windows Vista

As I’ve mentioned on here before and I’m sure you’re aware, I’ve been running Vista since around January. I’ve been running it on my desktop and laptop at home but haven’t made the cut-over at work yet. For the most part, the first impressions are gone; although I’m always running into new things with it since I’m only using it a few hours a day at home. I’m sure once I get moved to it at work I’ll be learning things at a much more rapid pace.

That said, what do I think of it? It’s pretty good. Not great. Not bad. Another evolution, really. From a developer’s standpoint, there are a bunch of new features I’d just love to learn and play around with – things like the new Transactional File System, the Integrity Mechanism, Peer to Peer networking, etc..

From the books I’ve read and the time I’ve spent poking around, it feels like they’ve built a very forward-looking operating system that they can really leverage in the future. What I mean by that is that there’s a lot of under the covers magic they’ve invested in that hasn’t been fully surfaced to the end users yet, it’s just not sexy for them yet. If you were to mention any of those above topics to the average user, you’d get lots of blank stares. Mention them to some Windows developers and you’ll get a much different reaction. It’s always the case that the software makes the OS worth having, but it sure seems like there far more new plumbing and technologies in this version than in past upgrades. It’ll be exciting to see what’s built atop it.

Everyone talks about how Vista smashes the user on the head about security. It’s true, UAC can be annoying at times. But having users run in an enforced limited-user account (LUA) is a good thing and the pain should only decrease from here. Until apps get updated/rewritten, Microsoft has provided a pretty good system for keeping the LUA “sandbox” in-tact while still allowing the user to run non-LUA-compliant software. This bridge is called Virtualization and essentially virtualizes reads/writes to now-protected locations in the file system and registry. So if an app writes to C:program filesAppFolder, it doesn’t blow up with Access Denied and instead writes to a virtual store buried in the user’s profile directory. Legacy apps don’t break, but since the 64bit version of Vista doesn’t support Virtualization, there’s still a very large incentive for software companies to clean up their apps (Vista logo-compliance aside).

Back to security in general – Microsoft has been touting Vista as having outstanding security, but they never really provide information to support the claim. Well, reading through Windows Vista Security is definitely shining the light on the dozens of security changes and improvements that are in Vista, for me at least. There are new features ranging from the low-level like Address Space Layout Randomization to the higher-level Integrity Mechanism that are going to have a real impact. But it’s a shame that one has to dig for information on them. They really should disseminate this information somehow; probably not the regular channels because mom & pop would probably be scared off by the details. There’s got to be a way though. I now cringe when I hear or read people talking about Vista’s security features and the conversation stops at UAC.

As a regular user, there are a few things here and there that also pique my interests. One of these is Windows Sideshows; I think there are lot of potentially cool things that can make use of the capability.

Lest I get carried away (I hope I didn’t miss that boat already), I do have some things that I hate:

1) I had to buy another freakin’ scanner. My 2-year old one wasn’t supported by Vista and I loathe the idea of booting into my XP partition to scan a document, just to turn around and boot back into Vista to use said document. Is scanning technology changing at such a rapid pace that my “old” scanner can’t be supported? Seriously.

2) Microsoft, would you please get native CD/DVD burning working correctly? I have two burners and, more often than not, it gets confused about what type of discs are in the drives and whether or not it can burn to them.

3) Along the lines of CD/DVD burning – why on earth is the default burning mode “Live File System” instead of “Mastered” like it should be? I’ve accidentally started a couple burns in the Live mode and my 16x DVD burner started writing 4GB at approximately 100K/sec. That’s a sure-fire way to make someone really, really mad 🙂

4) I had to buy a couple books to not be confused by the security model.

5) When my system boots, it can sit at the pretty “press ctrl+alt+delete” screen but I can press those keys all morning long and they won’t do anything until Vista is good and ready. I’m talking 2-3 minutes sometimes. Not cool.

6) The new Virtualization feature when you don’t know why on earth a file you just wrote no longer exists and you didn’t get an error.

7) The 500MB memory footprint on boot.

8) In typical MS fashion, many settings are now one more level deeper than before. An example? Toggle your network connection between static ip and dhcp…

Did any of that make sense?  I hope so, but it’s also midnight so it could be a puddle of drool not worth the electrons it’s taking to display it on your monitor.

Eric OUT!

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