Windows Vista: My take, for what it’s worth

Having seen a little nonsense and a fair amount of sense on Vista, I thought I’d add my two cents worth.

What I’m saying applies to personal computers. Workplace and public-access computers have different sets of issues. I think you’ll have to make a decision within a year or so, but you don’t have to today.

First off: Suggestions that you should wait for “SP2″ are absurd. Windows XP was a more secure and stable OS than Windows 98SE the day it came out (never mind the lamentable Windows ME). Vista is, to some extent, SP3 for XP; although it includes an optional dramatically different GUI and some advanced search capabilities and other new features, it’s based on the same NT kernel (as I understand it). Every report I’ve seen (that wasn’t written by Apple) says that Vista is more secure on day one than XP with SP2, and as stable assuming your system and OS version are reasonably well matched.

That nonsense aside, here’s how I see the situation.

  • You might want to read “Don’t be misled by these 10 Windows Vista myths,” . While I’ve seen much more in-depth discussions in magazines, this has the gist of the information and responds to the most widespread disinformation. (Or misinformation, but as the comments indicate, some of this is deliberate misinformation–when someone proclaims in their second comment that they will never ever have any Microsoft code on their computers, you can pretty much dismiss the “expertise” in their first comment: They can’t possibly be giving you first-hand info.)
  • The first really positive effect of Vista’s release is that fewer new computers are coming out underconfigured–but, unfortunately, HP/Compaq and a few others are still willing to cheap out with 512MB RAM to get an aggressive list price, and make up for it by configuring the Vista version you probably don’t want (Home Basic). I think such companies should be ashamed of themselves (yeah, that’s going to happen); RAM isn’t that cheap, and the fact is that XP really doesn’t work very well on a 512MB system with shared memory graphics, which all of these dirt-cheap systems have.
  • The minimum reasonable configuration for any contemporary PC is 1GB RAM. Period. RAM’s so cheap, and having enough RAM makes startup and multitasking so much faster, that this shouldn’t be an issue. You’ll find that most midrange systems now have 2GB, and if you’re doing video editing or loads of multitasking (and you have a dual-core or quad-core PC), that’s fine–but 1GB is a minimum, whether you’re using XP or Vista (or OS X, for that matter). (If you’re a happy Linux user, why are you reading this? I’m not going to try to convince you to switch, any more than I’d try to convince a happy Mac user to switch. If you like what you have, more power to you!)
  • If you’re planning to use Vista Home Premium and the snazzy Aero Glass interface–which is neato keen shiny, but won’t necessarily get your work done any faster–then you really should have a separate graphics card with at least 128MB RAM, presumably a reasonably contemporary one.
  • For that matter, a dual-core PC wouldn’t hurt–and, for any new PC, chances are any notebook over about $800 and any desktop over $600 (and some under, in both cases) will have either an AMD 64 X2 Dual-Core or an Intel Core 2 Duo or Pentium Dual-Core or equivalent. In this Sunday’s Office Depot flyer (just one example), I’m seeing $600 name-brand desktops and $550 name-brand notebooks with dual-core CPUs, 1GB RAM, Vista Home Premium and (for the desktops) 17 or 19″ wide-screen LCDs–and all of them have good-size hard disks and DVD burners as well.
  • Yes, Vista with Aero Glass runs slower than XP if you’re running one task that doesn’t do multithreading. If you’re more typical–browser open in the background, virus scanning, whatever, while you have at least one other task running–Vista appears to run a little faster than XP on a dual-core machine; it does a better job handling the multiple CPUs, apparently. Without Aero Glass, there shouldn’t be a significant slowdown even on single-tasking.
  • Vista and Office 2007 are entirely separate issues. Office 2007 will run just fine on Windows XP. Office 2003 will run just fine on Vista. I note that Microsoft’s finally stopped encouraging people to lie about their student/faculty status: Office 2007 Home and Student Edition is $149 and includes full Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
  • You still need security software, although at least Vista has two-way firewall protection. That may be a short-term issue if you use anything other than Norton or McAfee; it’s apparently taking a little while for other vendors to produce Vista-compatible editions.
  • If you have unusual peripherals–or maybe even if you don’t–you will want to check Microsoft’s compatibility lists. Any problems should be reasonably easy to solve, but there are always exceptions.

So what does this all add up to?

  • You’re somewhat less likely to encounter PCs that are underconfigured to the point of being barely usable. I’d like to say they’re gone, but that’s not quite true.
  • It’s always easier to upgrade operating systems at the same time you upgrade personal computers. Always.
  • Office 2007 is apparently a considerable improvement, and it uses XML for its standard file formats, and the new “ribbon” is likely to encourage people to use worthwhile features they weren’t aware of. But, and it’s not a little but, there is a learning curve–and if you save 2007 files in the default formats, you can’t read them on 2003 and XP Word and Excel, etc., until you install the patches for those applications. You can save files in the old formats, I believe…and the patches are either out already or will be soon.

Here are my own plans–but they may not mean much, since I’m now using a 4.5-year-old computer that hasn’t given me reason to want to replace it yet.

  • I don’t plan to upgrade to Vista until I’m ready to buy a new computer.
  • I’m thinking seriously about Office 2007, and if I decide it will be more than 9 months before a new computer, upgrading Office may make sense.
  • If I was buying a new PC, it would absolutely have at least 1GB RAM, a dual-core (or quad-core) CPU, a contemporary graphics card with 128MB or 256MB RAM, and Vista Home Premium–and Office 2007, either bundled or through that $149 price.

As always, YMMV.

By the way: If you’re using Bloglines and this doesn’t show up on Sunday, it’s being worked on–but I might also suggest that you unsubscribe and resubscribe using the first option from the browser-bar icon, which will get you the Feedburner feed. That seems to be working. Actually, doing that change isn’t a bad idea in general…

2 Responses to “Windows Vista: My take, for what it’s worth”

  1. TARA Says:

    Thank you for your info! I understand A Little more now about Vista.

    I am getting a new PC this weekend from Dell- I am using your notes to build my pc- Thasnk you!

    Have you used Vista at all? I am a little nervous about the learning curve- Why they decided to change from XP- I don’t know- XP is so user friendly- I’m just wondering what the pro’s and cons are-and
    what the biggest difference is

    Thanks!!

    Tar a

  2. walt Says:

    No, I haven’t used Vista, and won’t until I get a new PC at some future date.

    I doubt that the learning curve amounts to much for Vista itself. There may be more of a learning curve for Office 2007.

    You’d need to read some of the PC articles to see the full set of differences, pros and cons. It’s certainly not unusual to introduce a substantially revised operating system every few years, and XP has been around for quite a few years.

    I believe most of the improvements are graphic (making the interface prettier and maybe more functional) and in the areas of media support and integrated desktop search.


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