Product Type: Microsoft Operating Systems
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Windows Vista Review
MS Windows Vista Ultimate
Member Name: simnor
MS Windows Vista Ultimate
Advantages: Great improvement on XP
Disadvantages: Lots of problems and bugs
Windows Vista is the "next generation" operating system from Microsoft, well that's what they say. The "WOW" starts now is their new tagline, so does it really? I am going to review the new and rather expensive offering from the biggest computing company in the world.
Microsoft say that they are hoping for Windows Vista to be installed on 100 million computers by the end of 2007, but the people that I have discussed Windows VIsta with, all say the same thing, they'll buy it when SP1 (codenamed, Windows Figi) is released, this will get rid of all the bugs in the system, of which there are a lot.
For a start, if you think there is fantastic driver support, then think again, when I installed Vista there were 4 drivers missing, OK, go online and get some new drivers, but the Ethernet card driver is missing, I cannot get on the internet. I finally get a driver for the network card and out of three I tried only one worked. Driver support isn't good, I think you can establish that and this is one of the main reasons why people are reluctant to upgrade, after all why couldn't MS just offer support for XP drivers.
Installing has its problems as well, I started an upgrade from XP Professional SP2 at about 8:30 at night, I ended the setup at about 11:45 after I wanted to go to sleep. I get up the next morning and turn on the computer only to have it say there was a problem and it was restoring to XP, over three hours of my time and electricity disappearing before my very eyes. I would like to point out that the clean install that I did the following night finished in just over an hour.
I've had my moan now, so lets start to point out some of the good parts of Windows Vista.
It looks great, my computer cannot run the new Aero interface at the moment, but the basic interface works a treat. The user interface is very similar to Windows XP with the taskbar and desktop setup. A new addition is the Windows sidebar which allows you to add gadgets(like Mac's widgets, hmmm) which you can download from the internet, these include things like live feeds and news and weather.
Microsoft keep pointing out that Windows Vista is more productive enabling you to carry out tasks quicker and more effectively, with features like desktop search and start search. You can now launch any application or file on your computer by simply typing in the title of the file in the start menu. As you type, search results will start appearing as soon as the file you want to open is at the top of the list, simple press Enter and it will open.
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---WINDOWS VISTA LOOKS---
The new windows look much better, the titlebar and sides of the window are all semi-translucent and you can change the tint of the glass effect and transparency so you can tailor it to how you want it.
Opening, closing and minimizing effects look beautiful as it smoothly fades out.
New titlebar buttons glow as you hover over them which makes the whole windows look much better. Microsoft's take on the windows is that rather than focusing on the bold windows borders like in Windows XP, you are focusing on the content inside that window.
Flip and Flip 3D
This is a more advanced feature based on the Alt + Tab function in previous editions of Windows (if you don't know what Alt + Tab do, it switches between open windows).
Flip is based on the old style Alt + Tab, a simple bar appears and you choose the window by pressing Tab until you find the window. There are however, some differences. Obviously, the back of the windows adopts the glass effect. Also, when you press Tab the list of open applications smoothly moves to the next.
Flip 3D is the more advanced version of Flip, you may have seen this in adverts for Windows Vista because it is such an impressive feature to look at. So what does it do? Well, it takes all of the open windows and stacks them at an angle, as you move between them, the next active window comes to the top and the whole things looks professional and attractive, although I don't see why many people would use it, most people will just use Alt + Tab (or Flip) for quickness.
Windows Sidebar went through many stages throughout the 5 or 6 years of Vista development, from being included, to not, to being included again but not as a default part of the OS, rather just an Accessory program.
The sidebar is a bit low on options, you can set it to start with windows, but you have to either choose it to appear over the top of your windows or just on the desktop, however if you have it on top then your windows are a lot smaller, really I think that MS should have included an auto hide function.
The sidebar is just seen as a base where you can add gadgets. These are very small applications that carry out simple functions like tell the time, news headlines and search the internet. You can download more gadgets from the Windows Live Gallery and you can add, remove and rearrange your gadgets as you want to. You can also drag your gadgets on to the desktop and use them like Mac's widgets.
The new start menu looks much better, if you are running Aero then you will get a transparent effect similar to the glass look on your windows. Menus have now disappeared and you now simply choose your application from the list which uses a treelike interface, or you could just use Start search, which I will go into more detail in a later part.
The start menu "orb" looks better than previous start buttons with a sphere look so that it sticks out from the taskbar.
Now as you hover over a function on the right hand side, your user account image smoothly changes to the icon of the task hovered over. There are also new buttons to shut down, restart, logoff etc. but there is a button simly dedicated to shut down your computer without any messages asking what you want to do, you simply click the button and your computer will shut itself down.
This is only a small feature of Windows Vista, however it is worth a simple note, the new wallpapers look brilliant and with so many available you will be spoilt for choice. Screensavers are also good but you will need a good graphics card to run them. There is only two main themes, Windows Aero and Windows Basic, although Windows Aero can be customised. There is also the old Windows themes like Windows Classic.
Icons can now be different sizes, you can have large, medium or small icons on your desktop, and when you hover over them a filter is added on top which is personally a bit annoying. The icons themselves have also improved immensely, they look much better than in previous versions, for example in the folders icon the files in that folder are sort of shown within the icon, you can see this in the image opposite.
Windows Basic Interface
In earlier builds of the OS the basic interface was rubbish and you felt punished for using it, however in the final build it is much better, it bears resemblance to both the Aero interface and the previous Windows XP. You don't get the glass effects but you still get a more attractive interface with professional effects and icons. If you do not have the appropriate graphics card installed then this will become your interface, I am running Vista with an AGP 4MB card, so you don't need much.
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I personally am not very happy about some of the applications included, as a software developer I feel that I will lose out on potential customers because of the included programs such as Windows Photo Gallery, because users of Windows Vista will just use that rather than looking at applications on the internet.
All the same programs see a return in Vista, including good old Notepad, Paint and Sound Recorder. All applications have undergone a new look making it fit in with the rest of the OS.
Windows Media Player Version 11
This application is also available to Windows XP SP2 users. The new version is much more attractive and fits in perfectly with the new interface. You can change the tints of the interface as well to customise it to how you want it.
A much improved library makes it easier and quicker to find music. Album Art icons allow you to quickly find an album just like you would on a CD rack. There are plenty of viewing options such as Artist and Genre for better sorting.
A handy back button allows you to go back to the task you were previously doing and all controls are centred at the bottom of the window.
Windows Internet Explorer Version 7.0
Again, available to XP SP2 users as well, this new version of the highly popular Internet Explorer offers tabbed browsing, better (but annoying) security, RSS support, better CSS support, advanced printing and fantastic page zooming options.
The new browser claims fantastic security but it is very annoying, if you used IE 6 you may have noticed that annoying yellow bar at the top of the browsing frame, well it returns in full force in IE 7.
IE 6 was behind the times for a long time, this is when my favourite browser, Mozilla Firefox started to get a look in. 6 years later IE 7 was released and many of the features had been around for a number of years including tabbed browsing and RSS feed support.
Better CSS support make pages look much better and the zooming capabilities are much better than any that I have seen previously because IE enlarges everything including images and videos along with the text.
Windows Photo Gallery
Windows Photo Gallery is designed to be your main image viewer and has some small fix tools such as red eye removal, adjusting colours, exposures and cropping your images, that is about all you can do in editing, so you may want to buy a dedicated graphics package or take a look at Google Picasa.
Google Picasa is something that I am reminded by when I look at this application because there are parts which look very familiar hmmm…, Microsoft are moving to copy Google now.
You can build a movie using Windows Movie Maker by simply selecting your images and clicking Make a Movie. You can also print or email your images.
Images are sorted into playlists like in Windows Media Player which is what the looks of the application are based on.
The program is perfect for organising, printing, emailing and performing quick fixes on your images, for more advanced editing and organisation I suggest Google Picasa although the application is good enough for most users.
Like Media Player and Internet Explorer, Windows Defender is available for both Windows XP SP2 and Vista. It is designed to protect against malicious and unwanted software (malware), it is not an anti virus software, so make sure that you install something like AVG to ensure maximum protection.
The application is simple to use and sticks close to the Windows Vista theme. You can perform a scan of your system which is quick and thorough, and there is also a handy software explorer so that you can see in depth details about currently running applications.
All the main accessory programs like Paint, Notepad and Calculator return in Windows Vista, all sporting the new Vista interface, Paint seems to have gone through a nice upgrade with a move around of controls and much better zooming capabilities.
There are many more accessories included in Windows Vista, along with the sidebar there are better system tools like backing up facilities and the Welcome centre.
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---WINDOWS VISTA SHELL---
The new Windows Explorer has been massively improved with new features and a recharged interface, it is no longer just a place to search through folders to find a file.
A new desktop search has been added to Windows Vista, which makes finding files much easier, you can access it through any Windows Explorer window and it can be found in the top right hand corner. If you don't know what a desktop search is, it searches all your files content, so for example if you have a letter on your hard drive, you can type in 'Dear Tom' and it will find every file with 'Dear Tom' inside it. The desktop search shows results as you type so you can access your files quickly and easily.
If you search from an explorer window, it will only search the folders and subfolders from that location (eg, If you are in Documents, it will search just Documents). To access the full system desktop search, select Search from the Start Menu.
The location bar has changed in Windows Vista, making it even easier to navigate to your files. This new location bar takes each of folders you have navigated along your way and gives a list of all the subfolders next to it, so that at any point you can go back to a certain folder on the way. The picture above will explain this.
The sidebar now gives a list of locations so you can easily navigate to the main loactions on your system such as Documents and Recently Changed. You can access the classic Windows Explorer sidebar with a list of Folders by clicking the folders button at the bottom.
By default this can be seen at the bottom of the window, it gives all the main details of the seleted file(s), or folder information if nothing is selected, it gets rid of the idea of having to right click and select Properties. There is a large version of the icon shown at the far left and all details are shown in small lists. You can change the size of the Properies pane, the bigger it is, the more information that is shown.
A handy feature of the pane is that you can simply click on say, the title of the document and you can rename it, click Save and it is done, instead of the conventional way of right clicking, selecting Rename and then renaming the file.
In Windows XP we saw thumbnails and tiles added to the list of views, now Windows Vista, goes one step forward and offers the ability to show any size of the icon through a slider on the Views menu.
You can also simply click the type of icon view you want, and the Extra Large Icons are very big. What is impressive about the icons is that, they still look good even on the highest icon size.
Now 'Computer' rather than 'My Computer', you can access all your drives from this point, it can be launched from the Start Menu.
Your harddrives now have a handy progress bar which tells you how much space you have left on your drive without having to go into the properties pane, tasks are seen across the toolbar at the top and the sidebar gives links to the most popular folders. The properties pane at the bottom of the window gives you more indepth information about the drive.
It is easier to use, as is the whole of the new Windows Explorer Shell, with links to the main folders on the sidebar it makes navigating much easier.
The structure of files have now changed in Windows Vista, no more is there 'My' before everything (eg, My Computer), now it is just the word (eg, Computer, Documents etc.).
In previous versions you found My Pictures, My Music and My Videos within your My Documents folder, now they are stored as seperate folders under your user folder.
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Windows Vista's security has massively improved with the introduction of User Account Protection and Windows Defender. However, how annoying is this protection?
User Account Protection
User Account Protection is to protect users from themselves, it is designed to stop a user from performing a system task like deleting a file or changing a setting, asking for a password in order to continue a task.
In Linux and Mac OS you are not set up as an administrator unlike in Windows where you have up until now had the option to change or do anything on your system. User Account Protection stops this. You can however turn it off, and you may find that you will end up doing this because of how much it gets in the way, for example, deleting a shortcut off your desktop requires no less than three windows before it finally is deleted.
The way it works is that when you ask the computer to make a system change or install a program, your desktop gets blanked out and a dialog appears asking for your username and password. Only if you input the correct details will the task start.
I mentioned this in a previous part of my Windows Vista Review, but I'll mention it again, it is aimed at protecting you from malicious software or malware. It is not an anti virus program, I recommend AVG for this, but it does allow you to run a scan of your system for malware.
My personal opinions of UAC in Windows Vista is that it gets in the way too much, in Linux it's out of the way and I feel secure without having to enter a password everytime I want to do something. However, it does secure you very well from yourself and hackers, and most users of Windows don't actually delve into the system settings anyway, so for most people this is a good thing, for enthusiasts like me, I hate it.
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My Favourite Part of Vista
My favourite part of Windows Vista has to be the new interface, although I am not running Aero itself, the basic interface is a massive improvement although it gets a little confusing sometimes which is the active window because there is little difference between an active and inactive titlebar.
The new start menu looks much better and the sidebar makes the whole user interface look fresh and modern. The black taskbar isn't as bold as the blue in XP which is good and the new start menu button is a thing of beauty.
My Worst Part of Vista
The worst part of Vista for me is the security, I have been using Vista for about 2 and a half weeks now and I am still getting bubbles appearing from my system tray every now and then asking me to look into my security settings, whats wrong? Well, i don't have automatic updates enabled, I dont want automatic updates enabled.
UAC (or User Account Protection) is, well was, a pain until I turned it off, why should I need to give permission to send a file to my recycle bin, it's lucky I don't password protect my area else I would be having to type my password in time and time again.
So what are the advantages of Vista that are different from Windows XP, well:
* The new aero interface makes your time using the PC more enjoyable although I dont think to many people would keep this theme on because it will slow down their PC to much.
* Search Capabilities, a desktop search program is offered by most large search engines like Google and Ask Jeves, but having it integrated is a lot easier plus it doesn't slow down your computer like Google Desktop or Windows Live Desktop Search.
* Start Menu Search, this is a great feature, well it was when I started using Vista, now it is really slow, I waited nearly a minute for it to find the program I requested, it would have been quicker using the convential way.
* Bundled applications, there are masses of applications bundled in with Windows Vista meaning that you can carry out most tasks without having to install software.
* Live previews. This is a handy feature which allows you to see a preview of the presentation, spreadsheet etc. in the icon, similar to thumbnails.
* Speech Recognition to control your computer "COMPUTER LIGHTS", we move into the sci-fi world of Star Trek.
There are many disadvantages to Windows Vista, a few are shown below:
* Driver support is crap, trust me, if you install Vista expect at least 3 or 4 devices not to work, as I say to a lot of people, why not just make it compatible with XP drivers. Oh, and don't expect to many companies to write Vista driver right away, because not many people will be using it.
* Slow, startup time is ridiculous, expect to be sitting there for at least a minute before doing a single thing, and thats without applications launching at start up (virus checkers and the like).
* You need a decent machine, well that's what Microsoft says, I'm running it fine on a P3 1GHz with 512MB RAM, 30GB harddrive and only 4MB, yes 4MB of video memory. Obviously, I'm not running Aero so if you want to run it get a bigger graphics card and maybe some more memory.
* Buggy, as you would expect with a new product it has a lot of bugs and problems, but hang on a minute, they have had over 5 years to make this, so there is no excuse this time.
* Installing programs. You will most likely come across programs that wont install, the most famous of these is Nero, you'll need to get Nero 7 to stand any chance of using it. There are also problems with Norton (apparently).
Windows Vista isn't all bad, I use one computer and on that computer is Windows Vista, it is now the only operating system I use, so it must keep me hanging on somehow. I would however, not recommend it to home and office users yet, if you get a free upgrade then fair enough install it but be prepared to have trouble, I would however, recommend it to computer enthuisiasts like me, because it is so much better than XP.
Summary: Windows Vista has a lot of great features, but there are problems as I have outlined in my review
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