Yesterday Bill Gates announced to some of the CES attendees some features that will be part of the Windows Extras. One of the new features that really stood out to me was the Windows DreamScene which allows you to add videos (MPEG and WMV) to your desktop to give an extremely unique experience. This is truly something that I would love to be able to do because it adds another dimension to your Windows desktop. There is one thing though…it requires Windows Aero to be enabled which means your graphics card needs to support it. If you don’t have Windows Aero you’ll be able to position stationary images on your desktop for a more customized experience…but it doesn’t quite stack up to the videos. Checkout this video that Microsoft posted on their new Windows Vista Ultimate site:
I had used Windows Vista RC2 for several months as my primary operating system. Within the last week I finally decided to take the plunge back to Windows XP. There are several reasons that I did this, but the biggest is that my primary PC did not support Windows Aero. Without having Windows Aero I think users will lose out on “the ultimate” (no pun intended) Vista experience. There are several things, like Flip-3D and the new DreamScene, that normal users will never be able to experience without upgrading their PC’s. The transparency that can also be enabled around the Windows is something that I can live without, but some of the features that go along with Aero take away from the “wow factor” that undoubtedly impresses people.
Now what about the theme that non-Aero users get to use? It is called Windows Vista Basic and it isn’t exactly to my liking either. It is a light blue theme that can be seen in screenshots that I have taken over the past few months like this one. I wouldn’t say that it is horrible, but Microsoft offers no color choices like users had when Windows XP was released (blue, silver, or olive). Color adjustments can be made if you enable Aero in Windows Vista, but then again your graphical hardware needs to support it.
Not being able to use Aero isn’t the only reason that Vista isn’t installed on my computers. The last release that I was able to get my hands on from Microsoft was Vista RC2 which was by far the most improved release at the time. As time went on, and I installed more and more of my favorite software, I started receiving various prompts of important Windows services crashing and having to be restarted. Then while submitting a crash report it would tell me that this was a known bug and has been fixed in the final release of Vista. That’s great to know, but that doesn’t help me at that time because I am still stuck with a pre-release version that doesn’t have a patch available to fix the problem. I managed to work through a lot of small issues like this enough to continue using Vista for several months.
Now I’m sure that the result of some of the crashes is not directly a result of the operating system, and has more to do with me installing a bunch of my “XP only” applications. Applications are slowly shifting towards officially becoming Vista compatible, but there are still so many that have not released updates or patches to make sure their programs work correctly. For example, iTunes works great for me in Vista…except when it tries to update my Podcasts. That will cause the whole application to freeze up. That was really hard to troubleshoot at first, trying to figure out why iTunes would freeze every time it started. I’ve stumbled upon several other applications (especially screencasting software) that initially appears to work great, but after digging a little deeper you’ll find that it might not be as perfect as you thought.
To review software on the site I also find myself installing and uninstalling things frequently. Windows XP never had that much of an issue with that happening, but then again, the applications I were testing were designed to work with Windows XP. In Vista I found my PC becoming slower and slower over time until it got so slow that I felt like my computer was 160MHz instead of 1.6GHz. Vista has slightly different folder structures (especially for user’s profiles) so the uninstallation process of the applications would probably silently receive errors that would eventually lead to the demise of my Vista installation.
So what do I miss from Vista now that I am back to XP? Search! Vista has an astonishing search system built-in throughout the operating system. Finding files, folders, and just about anything else has never been so quick and easy. One prime example of this is in the Control Panel where you can start typing the name of an option you are looking to change and it will return a list of Control Panel results that match the option you want to change. With Vista’s search engine you are also able to instantly search other Vista PC’s since everything gets indexed…so the results are near instantaneous.
Secondly, I miss the Windows Update feature. I never opened Internet Explorer (well, maybe when testing for website compatibility but that’s it) because Windows Updates were performed through the Control Panel rather than through the browser. Not that I go to the Windows Update site often, but it was nice not having to open a different Web browser just to see if there were any optional updates that were worth while.
The thumbnails and preview feature in Vista was also a really great and something I already find myself missing terribly. It would always give me a sneak peak at a PowerPoint presentation, an image, or a text file…all without ever having to open the document or picture. Vista also doesn’t create those dreaded “thumbs.db” files which quickly become annoying in XP if you want to use thumbnails in your folders.
There are a lot more features that I have fallen in love with in Vista, but I’ll save that for my review. Hopefully I am able to write that review on a PC with Aero enabled because then I will be able to share a better experience that involves a larger array of features. Will I ever go back to Vista? There is no doubt in my mind that I will, but it probably won’t be until some of the software developers release updates to their applications which should happen shortly after the January 30th consumer launch. Not only that but I am going to hold off until I purchase a new laptop (hopefully later this year) that can handle the graphical demands of Aero, and to me that is very important. At that time I’m sure all of my favorite software will work flawlessly on Vista, and the hardware will be much more compatible as well. Vista is a great operating system, but I think they should have put some more focus on making features for the non-Aero theme as well. Of course, almost all new computers will be able to support Aero so it isn’t that big of a deal since a lot of consumers wouldn’t go out to purchase Vista separately. Since I plan on upgrading our laptops soon there is no sense in going out to upgrade the operating system separately, so we’re going to hold off for a little while.