‘The Wow starts Now’, was the catch-cry at Vista’s lavish launch early in 2007. The campaign was slick and glossy, but it didn’t take long for users to complain in droves that Vista was as slow as a wet week, a resource hog and painful to work with. The cool aero-glass look wasn’t enough to offset the pain. The verdict: Vista was a cane toad in fancy drag.
Microsoft’s infrequent responses reflected, with crystal clarity, the company’s arrogance. ‘Frankly, the world wasn't 100 percent ready for Windows Vista,’ was how one spokesperson put it. Mostly, Microsoft ignored the howls of protest because it knew that Vista would sell up a storm regardless, because it gets installed on almost every new PC sold.
By mid-year, the rousing chorus chanting that the Wow had become a mere whisper stung Microsoft into action. A new campaign was launched: ‘100 Reasons You’ll be Speechless.’ The marketing hype took enormous liberties with the truth and failed to mention the heavy slug of the Vista upgrade price or the cost of the extra hardware needed to run it.
By the end of 2007, most of the early wrinkles - including missing drivers - had been ironed out via various updates, but Vista’s poor performance remained. Those who hope for Service Pack 1 to improve things will be out of luck, as the tests at this site
show. Service Pack 3 for Windows XP, on the other hand, showed a 10% improvement.
Vista’s advantages over XP are largely cosmetic, despite what Microsoft says, while some of its drawbacks are very real. For a light-hearted take on this comparison, check this story
which uses reality inversion to great effect by introducing XP as the successor to Vista and going on and on about the many improvements XP introduces.
Bottom Line: If you have a well-working XP set-up on your PC, keep it. There’s little you can achieve with Vista that you can’t do faster with XP
. If you run professional graphics applications, the lack of support for the OpenGL graphics library under Windows Vista is an extra handicap. The same applies to CPU-intensive applications like video transcoding, where Vista lags a long way behind XP.
The old XP theme doesn’t look too bad if you change the blue borders for silver ones (Control
Panel>Display>Themes) and replace the green lawn with a pretty picture (right-click on picture>set as desktop background). If you’re still hankering after Vista’s eye-candy, there’s plenty of it and it’s mostly free.
is a popular choice. Vista transformation pack
is another. Be warned that some of these transformations can have unintended effects on system stability.
If you still have your heart set on Vista, the best way to avoid the steep upgrade price is to buy it with a new PC. My Vista Business edition came with a bargain Compaq Presario laptop I bought on sale (twin AMD Turion cpus, 1gb of RAM, nVidia go 6100 graphics).
"Vista makes using your PC a breeze"
This is one of the first of the ‘100 Reasons you’ll be speechless’. It did that alright because, fresh out of the box, Vista Business took many minutes to reveal its full glory, the long periods of darkness relieved occasionally by the mouse pointer appearing with the circle spinning like a top.
About performance, the 100 reasons list says this: ‘New technology in Windows Vista makes your PC significantly more responsive while you are performing everyday tasks. Improved start-up and sleep behavior helps both desktop and mobile PCs get up and running more quickly ...’
Don’t believe a word of it - Vista runs many more services than XP and uses far more resources as it looks after itself. That’s no surprise, since new Windows releases have always been heftier than previous versions, and Microsoft’s architects have always relied on Intel to restore performance. Put another way, ‘whatever Intel giveth, Microsoft taketh away.’
"It’s the Safest Version of Windows Ever"
This is the third reason in Microsoft’s 100 reasons campaign. With Microsoft’s poor track record in security, that’s not saying much. Vista’s User Account Control, the great new security feature here, is about as well-thought out as Bush’s invasion of Iraq.
What is the point of forcing a user (who is also the administrator) to re-enter the same password she started the system with, over and over again, and going all dark on her every time she wants to do something? It’s worse than the constant pop-ups in XP that warn us not to open files from un-trusted sources (including those from Microsoft). At least that made you stop and think. UAC just makes you mad.
And Vista still needs the same old security software to keep it protected, despite Microsoft’s assurances to the contrary. More of that further down.
2. Optimize Windows Vista for better performance
That’s the title of one of the articles
Microsoft has dribbled out of late to address the issue. It shows clearly that Microsoft is still in denial, preferring to blame the user: ‘That state-of-the-art PC you bought last year might not feel like such a screamer after you install a dozen programs, load it with anti-spyware and anti-virus tools, and download untold amounts of junk from the Internet.’
That’s adding serious insult to grave injury, but the court jesters at Redmond aren’t done yet: ‘Sometimes changing your computing behavior can have a big impact on your PC's performance. If you’re the type of computer user who likes to keep eight programs and a dozen browser windows open at once—all while instant messaging your friends—don’t be surprised if your PC bogs down.’
There you have it, you pitiful dumb users. The final insult for this user who bought a brand-new laptop with Vista Business installed is this piece of advice: ‘If your PC is rated lower than 2 or 3 [on the Vista Experience Scale], it might be time to consider a new PC ...’
The Vista Experience Index
In the Control Panel, clicking on ‘Performance Information’ leads to a panel where Vista offers to rate the Presario's performance. Taking up that option produces an ‘Experience Index’, which holds up numbers like those sullen judges who rate Olympic ice skaters.
You’d assume that the score is on a scale of 5 but it turns out to be out of 5.9, a number only the King's architects could conjure up, isolated as they are in their tall towers at Redmond. They say it's the nVIDIA GeForce Go 6150 integrated graphics chip that's letting the side down, which I’m not ready to accept. For one, the Presario handles Ubuntu’s Emerald’s aero-glass and compiz-fusion 3D with no dramas of any kind.