Business-like, isn't he?



Business in Vancouver logo

    The long and short view of Microsoft’s new Vista

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2007 First published in Business in Vancouver 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 home users;
    •   better backup and encryption for business users:
    •   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 secure.

    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 next computer.

    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 ($49).

Search WWW Search

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan