I started writing this as a blog post however as it continued in length it started to sound more like an article so here goes.... For doing IT support at work we had to learn Windows Vista and while we haven't had much interest yet it is inevitable that something will go wrong for us to fix. The majority of other reviews I've read online have not been particularly positive with many people commenting on the DRM restrictions and lack of anything ground breaking.
I wanted to see for myself and of course share it with the wonderful ImAFish fans. To save reinstalling I opted to use Virtual PC 2007, it made sense as it meant I could do XP and Vista support from one computer though it made it hard to see the performance differences. My rig is an Athlon 64 3000+ with 2GB Memory, I gave Virtual PC 1gig of memory and used Vista Business Upgrade. Installation seemed to take forever and wasn't helped by the fact I had to install XP first then install Vista. Three hours later and a couple of restarts I had a Vista desktop. At this point Vista was painfully slow to do anything , I managed to slowly install the Virtual PC additions and reboot the system. This vastly improved things however I tweaked the performance settings a bit more to give maximum performance. At this point i'm sure your all gagging for a screen shot so here we go Windows Vista... (click to enlarge)
As you can see from removing all of the high performance settings you get what looks like Windows 2000! This unfortunately made me lose the "wow" factor so I enabled "Use visual styles on windows and buttons" from the performance options.
This made Vista look like....
You probably recognise this from many of the other Vista screen shots. It's hard not to like the new theme, even without Aero its a lot more polished, smart and has an almost calming effect on what you do. Also in the screen shot is the new start menu, finally they have discarded those annoying nested menus that required pin-point mouse accuracy to follow. Start menu items now simply display below the folder title, more like files in Explorer view. Once you start doing anything you will notice lots of confirmation windows popping up, these tend to be incredibly annoying, I got 3 pop-up boxes just when trying to install Flash Player in IE7.
Fortunately these can be turned off in Control Panel > User Accounts > Turn User Account Control on or off. It will ask you to reboot but its well worth it. You will also need to turn off alerts in the Windows Security Centre to stop Vista from constantly reminding you that account control is disabled.
I tried a couple of common applications, Firefox and SmartFTP both worked fine and didn't look too misplaced within Vista, in fact IE7 looks more out of place with its annoying interface. The majority of Vista can be customised like XP and as you can see from my first screen shot its not hard to pull away the glossy interface though as I said before it is nice.
Most of your favourite tools will be in the same place such as msconfig and the command prompt though incidentally these are now run from the start search box. This can also be used for launching applications, if I was to type in 'Internet' it would launch Internet Explorer, or if I type in 'ass' it launched Remote Assistance. Search has been deeply improved, instead of it taking three minutes to search your hard drive its takes three seconds. Microsoft have redesigned control panel again but give you the option to go back to the classic view.
The majority of items within control panel are unchanged, though there are a few new additions such as the option to upgrade your copy of Vista online. The networking section has the most changes and is now branded under the Network and Sharing Center (even though I set my language to English they still cant spell centre right). At first this is a little confusing however it ends up being a nice way of organising various connections. The system tray now only shows one network icon for all your connections making it easier to forget if you keep a VPN connected by accident. The network map is also a nice tool as it shows other Vista computers and how they are connected. Useful stats such as IP address and computer name are also displayed.
Here you can see many more of the tools common in XP have not changed greatly for Vista. I could fill another four pages with Vista comments but its not really worth it, on the surface Vista is not hugely different. It's stable, has working applications and looks nice. If I brought a new PC having Vista would not put me off however I wouldn't upgrade my current desktop. Vista might be a lot different deep down but on the surface its not and for the price of