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One Last Look at My Windows Vista Review

Those of us who write about computing for a living can be so busy trying out the next would-be-big thing that we often forget to follow up on our past predictions. So I was happy to see Technologizer tech writer Harry McCracken spent some time re-reading some of the first Windows Vista reviews to see what those reviewers missed:

Negative reaction to Vista among consumers and businesses ended up preventing it from ever truly superseding Windows XP in the way it was supposed to do -- but were the reviews among the first signs that something was amiss?

That's a good question to ask, not just for the sake of holding us reviewers accountable but to get us thinking about what sort of underlying issues we might overlook in our coverage of Microsoft's Windows 7, shipping next week.

In his article, McCracken evaluated Vista reviews from both mainstream and tech journalists -- for example, the New York Times' David Pogue, the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg, BusinessWeek's Steve Wildstrom, CNet's Robert Vamosi and PC Magazine's John Clyman -- to see whether they gave sufficient warning of such Vista foibles as its appetite for memory and all the third-party programs that weren't updated to work with it.

I wasn't among the reviewers subject to his scrutiny, but reading the piece inspired me to look up my own evaluation of Vista to see what I missed then. I posted a lengthy comment to McCracken's piece sharing that re-assessment; here's a revised, annotated version of it:

* I was lukewarm overall about Vista.

* I had no idea so many users would hate Vista. Mind you, I don't like XP and was glad to see Vista improve a few things about XP that have bugged me, such as Windows Explorer's default interface.

* I did note performance and compatibility issues but grossly underestimated how long the second category of problems would persist. It amazes me how apathetic some Windows developers have been about tweaking their apps to work in Vista when so many Mac developers have rewritten their software twice in this decade (once for the OS 9-to-OS X transition, once for the PowerPC-to-Intel processor switch).

* I called UAC a "constant barrage of nags ... a disaster in the making." That last part may have been too negative, as UAC doesn't seem to have made Vista less secure in practice -- just more annoying.

* I counseled against upgrading from XP but wrote that on a new machine with enough processor/memory/graphics resources, Vista represented an advance from XP. I still think that, but I suppose I may be in the minority on this point.

In looking over my 2007 review, I also see that I placed way too much value in the applets bundled with Vista -- Windows Calendar, Windows Mail, Windows Photo Gallery and so on -- inasmuch as Microsoft has yanked most of them from 7. And I didn't even think to mention compatibility issues with 64-bit Vista, a topic that now takes up a non-trivial amount of my reader e-mail.

I did cover some of these Vista problems in the follow-up column and blog post I wrote on Vista's one-year anniversary. It took me another few months to note the quiet demise of one of Vista's initially hyped features, support for secondary "SideShow" LCDs, and I didn't devote serious attention to 64-bit ailments until last fall.

If you've got some spare time today, I encourage you to give my first Vista review another look and tell me what you think I missed.

For extra credit, check out Microsoft's advertised Windows 7 features and share your best guesses about which ones will (a) work out as promised, (b) be unappreciated or ignored by most home users or (c) fail in some gruesome fashion unforeseen by Microsoft and, perhaps, those of us in the computing press.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  October 14, 2009; 12:32 PM ET
Categories:  Recommended reading , The business we have chosen , Windows  
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Vista came with the new computers I bought in '07. It was brand new. Old multifunction was not compatible but I knew that would be the case. I was fine with buying a new gizmo. Overall I guess my opinion's the OS I use for better or worse. After getting software tweaked at the beginning it's been fine since then. It has been far more stable than XP so I'm happy there. The aero was way cool when I got it but's just the way a page looks on my computer. I go in every once in a while and change up the look but mostly...I forget about it. The nagging Mother is annoying but...I'm used to it so I just click through it. I could disable it but it's ok to just click through. Guess it doesn't bother me that much. I do not shoot for perfection b/c I don't think there is any one perfect OS for everyone out there.

Posted by: tbva | October 14, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

I have a laptop that came with Vista and my work computer runs 64-bit vista. To date, I haven't had problems with both laptops. I think part of Vista's problem was caused by all the false "Will work with vista" labels slapped on crappy low-end computers that didn't have the power to support vista. And of course, part of the blame falls on developers that refuse to adhere to Vista's guidelines.

Posted by: tundey | October 14, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

My 2 college kids, my mother all have had Vista machines for 3 years, 2 years, and 1 year. All moved up from XP effortlessly.

The OS is trouble free.

I'm not sure how MS lost the PR battle and let the 'Vista sux' meme linger for so long. Certainly some of the early reviews were a little too whiny.

Posted by: JkR- | October 14, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

I bought a laptop this winter - after I hear most of the big Vista issues were fixed. I'm just a simple computer user - the net, photos and basic word processing. I like all the apps that came with it. Saved me money not to buy a bunch of software.

An occasional mild problem here and there but nothing serious. I'm happy.

Posted by: cmecyclist | October 14, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

The criticality of the latest bunch of Microsoft patches for all OS's of this decade, even unreleased Windows 7, must make even the most vociferous Windows backers wonder if any version of the OS can ever be made secure for even a day.

Saying "other OS's have problems, too" is disingenuous. It's very hard to find one person or business who's ever been harmed by a Macintosh or Linux virus

Posted by: GWGOLDB | October 14, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

"I also see that I placed way too much value in the applets bundled with Vista -- Windows Calendar, Windows Mail, Windows Photo Gallery and so on -- inasmuch as Microsoft has yanked most of them from 7."

That's a disingenuous statement since it implies that Microsoft "yanked" them from 7 because of some sort of flaw or problem. In order to streamline Windows 7 and not fill it with programs that not everyone uses, as well as to allow for more timely version upgrades, those programs are available for download separately from Windows Live in newer incarnations. But of course as usual a negative comment is preferred by Rob even if it has nothing to do with the truth.

Posted by: scarper86 | October 14, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Well - in 2007 there were 3 computers in our household, all operating Windows XP: two laptops and a desktop.

When Vista came out, every single person who I talked to who had used it said it was a hopeless, clogged and slow operating system. And this were all on new computers. Although I've been using Microsoft products since PC-DOS in 1985, I decided not to upgrade to Vista.

Now still have three computer - all running Apple's OSX. Two laptops and one desktop.

My wife and I love OSX: It just works.

Posted by: Alexander6 | October 14, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

I was extremely apprehensive about buying a new notebook a few months ago with Vista (Home Premium, 32-bit for software compatibility) after my long experience with WinXP at home and at work. But except for a few annoyances in the user interface -- like for some reason not being able to permanently reorder items in the Start Menu -- and after figuring out the new folder structure, it has not turned out to be the stinker the IT press has alleged. It has yet to crash while I have been using it, although apps have crashed on it.

I am still quite annoyed, though, that some device manufacturers (I'm talking to you, HP!) have decided not to write Vista drivers for pre-Vista products -- hardly Microsoft's fault -- so there won't be Win7 drivers, either.

Posted by: 54Stratocaster | October 14, 2009 9:18 PM | Report abuse

My office of programmers runs on a mix of Ubuntu and XP. New computers come in almost constantly and we roll 'em back to XP (or order them with it).

More and more, however, the programmers are clamoring for Macs (used by the non-programmers, already). The biggest thing holding us back from allowing this? Not price: backups. Time machine doesn't play nice with networked backup systems.

We've virtualized Win7 and Vista and both seemed alright, though damned resource heavy. I had three Vista VMs die of random corruptions that I've never seen in a virtualized XP; my main Win7 VM keeps ticking, although somewhat sluggish with only 2gb of RAM devoted to it.

Biggest beef with Vista and 7? They moved/renamed 'features' for no apparent reason. Trying to find elements from within the control panel can be a nightmare.

And, Rob, I don't understand the whining of the 64-bit'ers: none of our geeks use or clamor for 64-bit machines.

Posted by: Bush--notrelated | October 15, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Vista introduced a "feature" that drives me crazy to this day. It persists (I think) in Win7. It's the annoying insistence of Vista to decide what "view" of folder contents is best for you.

Before any one suggests a "remedy", I've tried them all. Even fiddling with the registry only delays the inevitable.

I want the standard "documents" contents folder view, in the spreadsheet-like "details" columns. This lets me see file name, date modified, size and type. But Vista eventually looks at the folder. If it sees a video (I have hundreds across many drives), it will switch to a view that supposed to be good for images (showing date taken instead of date modified).

This makes it impossible for me to sort out file by date recorded, a crucial item.

Posted by: fpink3 | October 15, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

I don't if I was luckier than most, Vista has always worked well for me. I did upgrades on both my desktop and laptop. Both were reasonably configured machines (i.e. Core Duo with 2GB RAM and a dedicated graphics card) -- maybe that made the difference.

It's a good OS. Not sure what the big deal was. The old software I had wouldn't run under Vista, but did just fine under the compatibility mode.

BTW, Win 7 has all the goodies that Vista has. They just aren't loaded automatically, which is fine with me. I use 3rd party apps instead of the MS stuff anyway.

It's impossible to make anything idiot-proof because idiots are so resourceful.

Posted by: obss | October 15, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

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