The Verdict on Vista is In

I’ve been using Microsoft Vista on a test system for over a year now, and in a production setting since about a month before the official release. I have also been using Microsoft Office 2007 for a similarly long period of time.

I strongly dislike both. First, I will explain my gripes; second, I’ll say what this means for Microsoft and the computer world.

Much of what Office had going for it was that almost everybody has been using Word for 15 years, and the other apps in it for almost as long. PowerPoint is essentially a way of life for some people. So it took a lot of balls for MS to completely change the interface on these programs and make people relearn them. I wonder how many people took that opportunity to give the free OpenOffice a shot? Furthermore, MS has to maintain a critical mass of users, because if a truly open document standard ever became the de facto standard, Microsoft would have to compete.

Even in my office, where we do not use Word as our main production software, we have it because most of our clients use it. If letter-perfect imports worked on any word processor, I would not use Word, I like OpenOffice Writer fine. I would use Keynote instead of PowerPoint.

Outlook, though, is still where it’s at. Until somebody comes up with a similar pushy folder-based hotsynced solution to things, Exchange for all of its clunkiness is still what I prefer, though I am starting to prefer off-site management for that. If I keep it onsite, Exchange will run in a VM, and I probably will never move to 2007 server.

What I can’t believe is that Outlook 2007 handicaps HTML e-mail. E-mail as an application in general is broken badly because of spam. HTML e-mail presents some security issues, but only if your HTML rendering engine is vulnerable. Since Outlook use(d) Internet Explorer to do that, naturally it is. (I believe it now uses Word.) That’s cutting of your nose to spite your face.

But this biggest problem is, there is no feature of Word that’s been added since 97 that I actually use. Every new license was in hopes that there was some real improvement, but it’s never materialized.

That’s a perfect segue to Windows, which has not improved much at all since Windows 2000. Forcing game manufacturers to use their 3D solution and making Windows XP was nice to unify the platform, but this is still a VMS legacy OS that, by its nature, isn’t really all that great. Vista is just more of the same with a ton of inefficient bells and whistles that suck up computer resources in an effort to get you to buy more hardware.

Vista’s Aero is pastiche of Mac’s Quartz, and the window manager is a ripoff of Mac’s Aqua. Why, then, on the same machine does Mac OS X boot in 15 seconds and Vista in 2.5 minutes? Why does the screen struggle in Vista and pop in OS X? (Dell Inspiron 9100 512mb, 3.2MHz Prescott Pentium IV, ATI Mobile Radeon 9700 128mb)

Because Vista wastes resources to get you to buy more hardware, the same way that new version numbers without features or killer apps get you to buy new versions of Windows and Office. It doesn’t really do more. It doesn’t help you get work done faster. Yet Mac OS X, Solaris, Linux, and *BSD can deliver on most of what Vista was supposed to be in the first place, and Mac has it all. Leopard will have even more.

For these reasons I am moving away from any Windows platform as my default production environment. For most of my machines, it will be Ubuntu Linux. When I need Windows for Windows only applications, like Outlook or the Oxford English Dictionary, I’ll pull up an XP virtual machine. I will do the same on my Macs. If there ever comes a point where Vista is required for any of these things, I will do the same. With no data on the VM, if something goes wrong with it, I just restore it to its fresh state.

The fundamental point here is that Microsoft cannot compete in a fair marketplace. Its products are inferior and money wasting. If open standards ever do take over in office apps, and especially in e-mail (something beyond the aged POP and IMAP), they’re done.

I am not an Apple evangelist. I dropped the Mac like a bad habit in 1995 when it no longer made sense to run their old OS on expensive hardware that didn’t run enough programs. I also wasn’t a fan of Linux until recently, with Ubuntu. Linux’s creator Linus is running around criticizing the desktop interface on Linux because he can’t customize it enough. He might be a great coder, but he’s a marketing idiot. Mac OS X shows a unix system can avoid the command line 99.9% of the time. If Linux ever can do that–and they’re getting close with Ubuntu–their market share will explode. I also feel that Linux’s architecture isn’t as sound as BSD, but in situations mostly only relevant to non-desktop applications. BSD and Solaris lack enough apps and hardware support to enter this race as non-niche competitors, but I like them both a lot.