Vista underrated

On Thanksgiving the hit of the day (other than our two turkeys) was our photos that were playing on our HD screen — Maryam’s mom watched them for hours. They were coming off of a Vista machine located in my office upstairs. The photos were streaming through my Xbox. Everyone commented that they thought that was mondo cool.

It’s something that you can only do with the Xbox and Vista’s version of Media Center is much better than the one you can buy with XP.

After playing with Vista, I think it’s underrated. I have a new Voodoo box that AMD is loaning me. It sits next to PodTech’s MacPro — both playing on my 30-inch Apple monitor.

Ryan Stewart notices something that I notice too. Outside of the tech world there isn’t the hatred of Microsoft that exists on some blogs. Normal people don’t care that Vista was two years late. They aren’t like Chris Pirillo and won’t notice that some of the UI isn’t consistent.

They’ll just see the photos on their friend’s Xbox and say “I want that.”

Chris Sells might be biased (he works at Microsoft) but he’s right. Vista rocks and is way underrated.

UPDATE: although it does have its problems. Joel Spolsky has been talking about the start menu and shutting down functionality, which prompted  Moishe Lettvin to write about his experiences as a developer on the team that implemented that feature. That matches my experiences too. Microsoft has too many committees. They suck the life out of everything (which is why I made fun of the sound — that’s a metaphor for a lot of what’s wrong at Microsoft lately).

66 thoughts on “Vista underrated

  1. “Diego: you take that comment out of context. Vista shipped on time after the reset about two years ago (translation: the schedule was changed, and they stuck to that, which greatly impressed me).”

    Ahh, OK, fair enough. But the whole resetting the date is a joke. I can reset the schedule as much as I want and I’ll always deliver on time :)

  2. James: no compelling reasons? Let’s see. Networking is way faster (the whole stack was rewritten). Security is way better (far less chance that you’ll get a nasty). Audio is way better quality (the whole audio stack was rewritten). The UI is way better. And there’s tons of other things too.

    Nah, you’re right. No compelling reasons. Hell, why don’t we just go back to Windows 3.11. According to you there’s no compelling reasons to be on XP.

  3. James: no compelling reasons? Let’s see. Networking is way faster (the whole stack was rewritten). Security is way better (far less chance that you’ll get a nasty). Audio is way better quality (the whole audio stack was rewritten). The UI is way better. And there’s tons of other things too.

    Nah, you’re right. No compelling reasons. Hell, why don’t we just go back to Windows 3.11. According to you there’s no compelling reasons to be on XP.

  4. Anona: this is a common place for both Apple and Microsoft to be in. Apple’s OS, back in 1989 was WAY WAY WAY further ahead of Microsoft’s than it is today.

    So, answer me this: why did Apple end up with less than 10% market share?

    Do you remember the 1995 Microsoft shirts handed out at MacWorld that year? I do. They said “Windows 95: Sucks Less.”

  5. Anona: this is a common place for both Apple and Microsoft to be in. Apple’s OS, back in 1989 was WAY WAY WAY further ahead of Microsoft’s than it is today.

    So, answer me this: why did Apple end up with less than 10% market share?

    Do you remember the 1995 Microsoft shirts handed out at MacWorld that year? I do. They said “Windows 95: Sucks Less.”

  6. James: yes, it does deliver in those areas.

    Diego: you take that comment out of context. Vista shipped on time after the reset about two years ago (translation: the schedule was changed, and they stuck to that, which greatly impressed me).

  7. James: yes, it does deliver in those areas.

    Diego: you take that comment out of context. Vista shipped on time after the reset about two years ago (translation: the schedule was changed, and they stuck to that, which greatly impressed me).

  8. I am still undesided about Win Vista on my home PC, though I have been having issues with my XP at the moment crashing all the time and have been looking at other “More Stable OS`s”.
    As a technical support advisor for PC games i am not looking forward to the reliece of Vista. The amount of calls we are going to get from people ssaying that their games are not working on this OS is ging to be soul destrying, though for the moment we are comfortable in only being able to advise that the game in question was not tested on Vista so there are going to be issues untill the game developers get updates and patches created.

  9. I am still undesided about Win Vista on my home PC, though I have been having issues with my XP at the moment crashing all the time and have been looking at other “More Stable OS`s”.
    As a technical support advisor for PC games i am not looking forward to the reliece of Vista. The amount of calls we are going to get from people ssaying that their games are not working on this OS is ging to be soul destrying, though for the moment we are comfortable in only being able to advise that the game in question was not tested on Vista so there are going to be issues untill the game developers get updates and patches created.

  10. If you lower your expectations to a level whereby “normal” people just don’t care about much, does that make the product “Fantastic” as Ryan Stewart put it? In another words, the standard of *excellence* at Microsoft is that the current product sucks les than the previous one. Care to remember all the accolades MSFT heaped upon XP when it was introduced? If after five bloody years the best MSFT can come up with in an OS and digital music is Vista and Zune, then Apple has little to worry about. Pity.

  11. If you lower your expectations to a level whereby “normal” people just don’t care about much, does that make the product “Fantastic” as Ryan Stewart put it? In another words, the standard of *excellence* at Microsoft is that the current product sucks les than the previous one. Care to remember all the accolades MSFT heaped upon XP when it was introduced? If after five bloody years the best MSFT can come up with in an OS and digital music is Vista and Zune, then Apple has little to worry about. Pity.

  12. It will be interesting to see how quickly folks adopt Vista.

    In my world – the OS means less and less. I recently switched to Ubuntu (from XP) and haven’t really found anything I’m missing. Most things I do on the web these days – photos, mail, calendar – and what little word processing I do – Open Office works fine.

    Looking at the hardware most of my friends and neighbors are using – I don’t think they could upgrade if they wanted, so I imagine they will wait until it’s time to purchase a new computer and then they’ll simply take what OS they are given.

  13. It will be interesting to see how quickly folks adopt Vista.

    In my world – the OS means less and less. I recently switched to Ubuntu (from XP) and haven’t really found anything I’m missing. Most things I do on the web these days – photos, mail, calendar – and what little word processing I do – Open Office works fine.

    Looking at the hardware most of my friends and neighbors are using – I don’t think they could upgrade if they wanted, so I imagine they will wait until it’s time to purchase a new computer and then they’ll simply take what OS they are given.

  14. I have been trying to think of any compelling reasons to upgrade to Vista, but have not yet found any. Media Center built in and “pervasive search” sound like valuable additions, but neither do anything for me, I do work on my PC and don’t have any problems finding programs or files now.

    Viewing images on a tv across the house is a neat trick, but running two power sucking computers to do that seems silly. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of the XBox. But it is better to chuck a slide show on a CD or DVD and into a DVD player.

    What I want in an OS is stability, power, speed, security, and flexibility. Does Vista deliver better performance in these areas over XP? This is not a rhetorical question, does it?

    Oh, I see some new bells and whistles, but overall, Vista looks more like a warmed over version of XP then a new OS. I like XP/Win2K so that is good and I won’t complain about the next PC I buy having Vista installed (though I will probably turn Aero off as it seems to do nothing but add overhead), but how is it worth an upgrade? I did not switch from Win2K to XP until it came preinstalled on a new computer. I still don’t see any significant advantage from Win2K to XP. Though, I do really like XP’s Picture and Fax viewer, but that is it. And not being able to stand the PlaySchool aesthetic of XP, I run Windows “Classic” theme.

  15. I have been trying to think of any compelling reasons to upgrade to Vista, but have not yet found any. Media Center built in and “pervasive search” sound like valuable additions, but neither do anything for me, I do work on my PC and don’t have any problems finding programs or files now.

    Viewing images on a tv across the house is a neat trick, but running two power sucking computers to do that seems silly. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of the XBox. But it is better to chuck a slide show on a CD or DVD and into a DVD player.

    What I want in an OS is stability, power, speed, security, and flexibility. Does Vista deliver better performance in these areas over XP? This is not a rhetorical question, does it?

    Oh, I see some new bells and whistles, but overall, Vista looks more like a warmed over version of XP then a new OS. I like XP/Win2K so that is good and I won’t complain about the next PC I buy having Vista installed (though I will probably turn Aero off as it seems to do nothing but add overhead), but how is it worth an upgrade? I did not switch from Win2K to XP until it came preinstalled on a new computer. I still don’t see any significant advantage from Win2K to XP. Though, I do really like XP’s Picture and Fax viewer, but that is it. And not being able to stand the PlaySchool aesthetic of XP, I run Windows “Classic” theme.

  16. I am one of those outside of the ‘tech world’ and I have been a PC/Microsft/Windows buyer my entire life. Recently, however, I have decided to purchase a MacBook due to my consistent frustration that most anti-MS people outside the of tech world have: a Windows-supported PC has a lifespan of about 5 months. I mean actual lifespan, not just “oh, my computer isn’t cool enough anymore”. Since 2000 I have bought 2 PC’s and 4 Laptops – all Windows. All have had OS-related issues within a year of purchase. For the average consumer with heavy usage, like myself, it simply is not worth it.

  17. I am one of those outside of the ‘tech world’ and I have been a PC/Microsft/Windows buyer my entire life. Recently, however, I have decided to purchase a MacBook due to my consistent frustration that most anti-MS people outside the of tech world have: a Windows-supported PC has a lifespan of about 5 months. I mean actual lifespan, not just “oh, my computer isn’t cool enough anymore”. Since 2000 I have bought 2 PC’s and 4 Laptops – all Windows. All have had OS-related issues within a year of purchase. For the average consumer with heavy usage, like myself, it simply is not worth it.

  18. “Normal people don’t care that Vista was two years late.”

    Robert, you now admit Vista was late? As compared to a recent post where you said:

    “The Vista team, under Jim Allchin, suprised me. They shipped it on time. With a lot better quality than I was expecting.”
    :)

  19. “Normal people don’t care that Vista was two years late.”

    Robert, you now admit Vista was late? As compared to a recent post where you said:

    “The Vista team, under Jim Allchin, suprised me. They shipped it on time. With a lot better quality than I was expecting.”
    :)

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  21. I’m a Mac guy, but I will admit the anti-MS (and thus anti-Vista) zeitgeist is a bit too much and unfounded. I’ve used Vista several times, and while I am a design Nazi and do tend to notice the little details, Vista is *markedly* better thann XP, and it will do very, very well by just about every standard.

    It’s got some rough edges, and yes, it was uber-late in coming, but guess what? Most people won’t care — it’s Windows, it’s closest to what they know, and that’s what they’ll use.

    Is it better than OSX? I personally don’t think so, but I would need more time with Vista to really make an honest assessment.

    The bigger point is this, as far as I can tell: the desktop OS showdown between OSX and Vista is great for the blogosphere, but not much else. At least not yet.

  22. I’m a Mac guy, but I will admit the anti-MS (and thus anti-Vista) zeitgeist is a bit too much and unfounded. I’ve used Vista several times, and while I am a design Nazi and do tend to notice the little details, Vista is *markedly* better thann XP, and it will do very, very well by just about every standard.

    It’s got some rough edges, and yes, it was uber-late in coming, but guess what? Most people won’t care — it’s Windows, it’s closest to what they know, and that’s what they’ll use.

    Is it better than OSX? I personally don’t think so, but I would need more time with Vista to really make an honest assessment.

    The bigger point is this, as far as I can tell: the desktop OS showdown between OSX and Vista is great for the blogosphere, but not much else. At least not yet.

  23. I believe chris pirillo objected to the licensing costs of longdong vista versions; not their tech details. Is that in error?

  24. I believe chris pirillo objected to the licensing costs of longdong vista versions; not their tech details. Is that in error?

  25. You don’t need Vista for this. I just did it last night on my XP box, that’s not even Media Center. It’s built into Windows Media Player 11 with Windows Media Connect. It is a really cool feature, but you don’t need to spend $500+ to get it !

  26. You don’t need Vista for this. I just did it last night on my XP box, that’s not even Media Center. It’s built into Windows Media Player 11 with Windows Media Connect. It is a really cool feature, but you don’t need to spend $500+ to get it !

  27. Our article, linked to my name, takes the approach of “how can product managers avoid this mistake in the future?” with respect to the shutdown issue.

    Thanks for pointing me to Moishe’s article – great reading!

  28. Our article, linked to my name, takes the approach of “how can product managers avoid this mistake in the future?” with respect to the shutdown issue.

    Thanks for pointing me to Moishe’s article – great reading!

  29. So Joel slips back into a Microsoft Program Management (PM) role and decides to write a spec for the power button on the Vista Start menu. The reason he spent the time doing this is because he felt the number of options provided, 9 were excessive and confusing to most users. His spec comes down to:

    “So now we’ve got exactly one log off button left. Call it “b’bye”. When you click b’bye, the screen is locked and any RAM that hasn’t already been copied out to flash is written. You can log back on, or anyone else can log on and get their own session, or you can unplug the whole computer.”

    Now if Joel actually clicked on the Vista Start button and then looked at the options presented before expanding the ‘advanced’ list of options then he would’ve realized that in fact the implementation in Vista is virtually identical to what he ended up specifying.

    To the normal user there are really just 2 options, a ‘Power’ button and a ‘Lock’ button, which have tool tips that explain what they do.

    Now on my desktop PC with a default install of Vista the Sleep option is a new hybrid sleep implementation which is really a combination of hibernate and sleep. When the PC goes to sleep, either based on an explicit user request or because it has been idle for 1 hour then Vista writes out any necessary RAM pages to disk as it would for a hibernate, but then instead of switching off it goes into sleep mode. The advantage of this scheme is that if there is a power failure (environment, cord unplugged accidentally or on purpose) then when the PC is powered on again it performs a hibernate resume. I’ve actually experienced this first hand with a recent power failure and it was really useful to get back to all my open applications etc. after the power failure.

    Now in addition when the PC resumes from sleep in this scheme you are presented with a login screen, and if Joel had taken a look he would’ve also noticed a ‘Switch User’ button on this logon screen just below the password edit control.

    So this default scheme is pretty darn close to what Joel has specified as his ideal UI, it really just has 1 extra option, the ‘Lock’ button.

    The main issue I think is that Joel hasn’t approached this as ‘regular’ user, but rather more as an advanced/power user who has decided to click on the advanced list which is shown when you click/hover over the ‘>’ button. So Vista has provided the simplicity for regular users and has made an advanced list of options available for more advanced users. Now what may have been a more useful posting/debate is whether this advanced list is too easily accessible to regular users by accident, e.g. should it maybe only show up if say the ‘alt’ key is held down like a lot of the menu bars in Vista applications.

  30. So Joel slips back into a Microsoft Program Management (PM) role and decides to write a spec for the power button on the Vista Start menu. The reason he spent the time doing this is because he felt the number of options provided, 9 were excessive and confusing to most users. His spec comes down to:

    “So now we’ve got exactly one log off button left. Call it “b’bye”. When you click b’bye, the screen is locked and any RAM that hasn’t already been copied out to flash is written. You can log back on, or anyone else can log on and get their own session, or you can unplug the whole computer.”

    Now if Joel actually clicked on the Vista Start button and then looked at the options presented before expanding the ‘advanced’ list of options then he would’ve realized that in fact the implementation in Vista is virtually identical to what he ended up specifying.

    To the normal user there are really just 2 options, a ‘Power’ button and a ‘Lock’ button, which have tool tips that explain what they do.

    Now on my desktop PC with a default install of Vista the Sleep option is a new hybrid sleep implementation which is really a combination of hibernate and sleep. When the PC goes to sleep, either based on an explicit user request or because it has been idle for 1 hour then Vista writes out any necessary RAM pages to disk as it would for a hibernate, but then instead of switching off it goes into sleep mode. The advantage of this scheme is that if there is a power failure (environment, cord unplugged accidentally or on purpose) then when the PC is powered on again it performs a hibernate resume. I’ve actually experienced this first hand with a recent power failure and it was really useful to get back to all my open applications etc. after the power failure.

    Now in addition when the PC resumes from sleep in this scheme you are presented with a login screen, and if Joel had taken a look he would’ve also noticed a ‘Switch User’ button on this logon screen just below the password edit control.

    So this default scheme is pretty darn close to what Joel has specified as his ideal UI, it really just has 1 extra option, the ‘Lock’ button.

    The main issue I think is that Joel hasn’t approached this as ‘regular’ user, but rather more as an advanced/power user who has decided to click on the advanced list which is shown when you click/hover over the ‘>’ button. So Vista has provided the simplicity for regular users and has made an advanced list of options available for more advanced users. Now what may have been a more useful posting/debate is whether this advanced list is too easily accessible to regular users by accident, e.g. should it maybe only show up if say the ‘alt’ key is held down like a lot of the menu bars in Vista applications.

  31. “It’s something that you can only do with the Xbox and Vista’s version of Media Center is much better than the one you can buy with XP.”
    Wait… How is this not something we could already do with Myth TV?

  32. “It’s something that you can only do with the Xbox and Vista’s version of Media Center is much better than the one you can buy with XP.”
    Wait… How is this not something we could already do with Myth TV?

  33. I have been able to stream photos (in a slideshow form) to my (original) xbox for over a year now. It’s software modded, running XBMC. I just share a folder on my computer that has pictures in it, and tell XBMC what folder to look at.

    There is also a Flickr add-on for XBMC that looks like it would work great, but I cannot get it to work. :( For anyone interested, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XBMC

  34. I have been able to stream photos (in a slideshow form) to my (original) xbox for over a year now. It’s software modded, running XBMC. I just share a folder on my computer that has pictures in it, and tell XBMC what folder to look at.

    There is also a Flickr add-on for XBMC that looks like it would work great, but I cannot get it to work. :( For anyone interested, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XBMC

  35. Of course outside of the techworld no one really cares, that’s always been the case, it’s only in our little world do we actually think that the world knows who Steve Jobs is, or what open source is and represents, for better or worse.

    The world is much too busy and complicated to care about such little things that really don’t matter in the long run,it’s just that we seem to forget that.

  36. Of course outside of the techworld no one really cares, that’s always been the case, it’s only in our little world do we actually think that the world knows who Steve Jobs is, or what open source is and represents, for better or worse.

    The world is much too busy and complicated to care about such little things that really don’t matter in the long run,it’s just that we seem to forget that.

  37. I’m still surprised you can select “Shutdown” in Vista and there’s no “Are you sure?” prompt to make sure you actually want to shut the machine down. That’s the most potentially-disruptive UI event in any OS and there’s no attempt to confirm the user’s choice. Strange…

  38. I’m still surprised you can select “Shutdown” in Vista and there’s no “Are you sure?” prompt to make sure you actually want to shut the machine down. That’s the most potentially-disruptive UI event in any OS and there’s no attempt to confirm the user’s choice. Strange…

  39. They’ll love vista until they realize that they have to coninually click on dialogs to do even simple things, because Microsoft has now decided that “Annoyance” is a synonym for “Security”

  40. They’ll love vista until they realize that they have to coninually click on dialogs to do even simple things, because Microsoft has now decided that “Annoyance” is a synonym for “Security”

  41. “It’s something that you can only do with the Xbox and Vista’s version of Media Center is much better than the one you can buy with XP.”

    Wouldn’t you be able to do it with the v1 of the Media Centre Extender boxes if MS hadn’t dropped support for them in Vista?

  42. “It’s something that you can only do with the Xbox and Vista’s version of Media Center is much better than the one you can buy with XP.”

    Wouldn’t you be able to do it with the v1 of the Media Centre Extender boxes if MS hadn’t dropped support for them in Vista?

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