The long and short
view of Microsoft’s new Vista
Alan Zisman (c) 2007 First published in Business
January 30-February 5, 2007; issue 901
High Tech Office column
When Microsoft released Windows 95 in July 1995, people lined up at
midnight to be the first to get copies.
I’m writing this before the January 30 general release of
Microsoft’s latest, Windows Vista, but I’d be surprised if
anyone is planning to line up early to get a copy. Microsoft just
isn’t able to generate the same level of interest these days,
even though it’s been five years since the company’s last
big Windows release.
After running various test versions, and finally the release version,
of Vista since the summer, I’ve found a lot to like. Microsoft
has done a nice job visually: the 3D and transparency effects make a PC
look good. There are lots of new programs in the package:
- photo management and DVD creation targeting
- better backup and encryption for business
- support for new generations of hardware;
- security improvements like a firewall that’s
worth using; and
- built-in anti-spyware.
Older computers and even new systems with low-end shared memory video
won’t get those eye-catching special effects, however. Vista may
install and run, but it won’t look its best. A clean Vista
installation is going to take up more than 10 gigabytes of hard drive
space and will require one gigabyte of memory for adequate performance.
Vista will work with most Windows software and hardware, but
there’s a good chance it won’t if you rely on older
software or hardware peripherals, especially if the manufacturer is out
of business. A minor nit to pick: the new and improved (really) Start
Menu includes a circle with a vertical line at the top – the
image widely used for power buttons. It doesn’t, however, shut
down the computer. It puts it into stand-by. It takes more mousing
around to shut down.
A bigger problem is what Microsoft refers to as user account control.
This asks users to give explicit permission for actions that might
cause security problems, like installing software or making system
changes. In theory, this is a good idea, something that’s done on
Mac and Linux systems, which Windows has lacked.
But Microsoft’s implementation fails to require a password,
making it possible for the bad guys to work around it. And it pops up
far too often. Simply renaming or deleting a desktop icon requires
multiple permissions. It manages to be annoying without being more
As with other recent software releases, Vista uses product activation
to discourage casual copying. A retail copy of Vista can legally be
installed on a single computer and will need to be activated online or
by telephone. Without activation, a Vista installation will shut down
after 30 days of use.
While Windows XP ultimately morphed into separate versions for Tablet
and Media Center PCs, these capabilities are being included in the core
Vista package. Vista is being marketed in four versions: home basic
($259, $129 upgrade), home premium ($299, upgrade $179), business
($379, upgrade $249) and ultimate ($499, upgrade $299). On beefy enough
hardware, Vista is (in balance) an improvement over Windows XP. But
it’s probably best to wait until it arrives pre-installed on your
Vista includes an “easy transfer” wizard to migrate files
and settings from another computer. I couldn’t get it to work.
A better option may be PCMover from Vancouver-based Laplink