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Latest build of Windows Vista reviewed (with some comparison with Mac OS X)

April 23rd, 2006 by Zack Whittaker

How can Windows Vista beat the pants off Mac OS X? It’s not really that difficult to be quite honest, seeing as you’ve got a platform which supports over 90% of all applications out there, and the fact that you don’t now need a specific computer to run Vista on.

I’ll grant the fact that Apple has created the “Boot Camp” software which enables Mac hardware users to split the hard drive in half and stick Windows XP on it – that’s a good move from Apple, but even still, if I was to buy a Mac, I wouldn’t even bother with OS X because it’s complicated to use and simply, it doesn’t support half the file types out there in the world.

I saw this video some time ago (I’ll try and dig it out from my vast storage server) of a bloke who hates the Mac OS X system so much that he deliberately recorded and edited everything you could see… on a Mac. But I’m not here to talk about the Mac as much; I’m here to talk about Vista and what’s new in the latest build. I’ll start with whatever I think of first, and carry on working my way through.

Searching
Wow… compared to Windows XP, has anyone realised how fast this is? You can search for anything and it’ll pop up a whole load of results within the first few seconds of it searching. Granted that the SearchIndexer.exe application crashes sometimes, but regardless of that it’s really smooth.

You can save your searches, you can modify the search to a whole load of different subsections including specific size ranges, data ranges and modified/created dates. You may think that’s standard, but it’s easier to search, it’s faster to search and it takes the hassle and pain out of searching, something which had to be fixed ever since Windows 2000 Professional hit the shelves over half a decade ago.

Windows Internet Explorer 7
Nothing much has changed in this build from the previous build of Vista, even the public-Beta 2 preview that was released to Windows XP, there’s very little difference. What I did notice, is that in the About box, it now says “Windows Internet Explorer 7+” whatever that means… but it obviously means that something’s coming after 7…

PNG transparency still works a treat, and it seems much smoother with the user interface. The Glass area’s haven’t changed, but the entire application seems more streamlined. You have a strip of toolbar options which can be played with instead of having a chunky Classic menu (which can be viewed at any time by pressing Alt on the keyboard). There are even more icons and minor changes – especially with the Feeds icon and the Favourites area of IE7. As expected, the favourites you store still link in with the Sidebar gadgets… of which reminds me…

Windows Sidebar (ahhhhhh :))
You’ve got to love the Sidebar. I missed it when it left after 4053 Alpha builds, but am so glad that it’s back and better than ever. We see even more Gadgets making an appearance in this build, such as the Stock Checker which enables you to check stock quotes. You have the option of even more skins for the clock (and some rather funky looking futuristic ones), a calculatopr has been added, sticky notes enabling you to leave a note on the desktop, but two especially cool Gadgets. The CPU Meter and the Weather Gadget – the CPU one you can probably work out for yourself, but it measures what the Performance tab in the Task Manager shows you, and the Weather Gadget lets you type in your local city and have a visually rich graphic showing you the weather. If it’s sunny in that area, it’ll tell you. If it’s snowing or raining, or even cloudy, it’ll tell you. Even if it’s nighttime, it’ll tell you! It’s absolutely great – now I don’t even need to step outside the house to see what the weather’s like!

I’ll say this though – back to the original title of this entry – placing all the Gadgets on the desktop really can make it look like the Dashboard on Mac OS X, but it looks so much better and the content is much richer. Windows 1, Mac OS X 0.

UAP (User Account Protection)
Not a huge amount of change you may notice, except for the background dimming whilst a UAP dialog asking for authentication appears, but a lot has improved. It prevents standard users from creating silly mistakes that can harm the operating system, but really does it’s job.

I tried removing registry entries, playing around with system settings and that kinda thing whilst logged in as a standard user. I really couldn’t do it without entering in my administrators password. We’ll end up seeing a lot more improvements coming to UAP over the next few builds, because some critisise it saying it doesn’t implement the UX (user experience) guidelines because there are so many dialog boxes, but before you know it, I’m sure it’ll appear much more appealing to users.

Installation
This build installs in less than an hour, almost guaranteed. I’ve installed it now on 3 machines at home, with WinSAT Ratings of 2 to 4, including one on Virtual Server 2005 R2 and they all complete within the hour. The general view of the installation is much easier to understand what happens, because it breaks it down in about 10 or so seperate categories all counting up what’s happened. Before you know it, the installation’s been copied and expanded etc. and the time goes by quicker because you’re being updated about the installation much more regularly.

We’ll see staged and unstaged installations being rolled into Vista, enabling system administrators to have a whole load of computers running exactly the same because they’re from the same installation package which is useful for corporate networks and school systems.

Aero Glass
As a “colleague” of mine in the newsgroups said, Aero Glass does need a little work on it, seeing as it’s difficult to tell whether a window is active or inactive. I agree – the only difference I see is brightness and cloudyness of the window.

Nevertheless, a good example for a “full Glass demo” would be to “Add Gadgets” to the Windows Sidebar, stick a nice wallpaper on such as the palm-tree wallpaper in the “Vistas” category, then apply and move around the Add Gadgets window. Pay special attention to the diagonal lines, also known as “Glass refraction”. You can see the shadows and blending behind them, you can see the transparency but you must understand the complexity of the whole thing. Each pixel is updated every refresh rate, so if you played a video behind the Glass enabled window, you’d see the whole thing blur and refract.

What people may see as a gimick or a bit of eye-candy, I see as a technology as something beautiful. It really is like a set of glasses or spectacles, that’s probably the best way to describe it being a glasses wearer myself.

Fine details
Finally for now, the fine details that are there. The icons have nearly all but been updated to brand new icons. There are brand new wallpapers in there (of which may stick for the public beta, we just don’t know yet) and the animations that are present in the dialog boxes when you copy, move or delete files – it’s all there just the smallest of details.

Messaging
Windows Mail, the sometimes critically acclaimed new version of Outlook Express ships with the new operating system. Some people don’t like it, I for one am still getting used to it. However with it comes advanced searching of emails in the content bar at the top. You can type in and click andthere you have any email you search for. It also has integrated public newsgroup support so instead of having to configure it, you can access them instantly.

With newsgroups in mind, the MVP support people will have it much easier to select out nominated MVP’s also. With newsgroup post rating, you can rate a post on how useful it is, giving the user extra points or negative points depending on your opinion of the post. This helps other users pick out genuine helpers and also dull out the ones that spam.

Windows Explorer
Explorer has come along a long way since Windows XP. You still have the ability to search straight away from the folder your in. You have favourite links down the left hand side which enables you go straight to places where you might need to go in a hurry.

You have different panes such as the navigation pane and task pane which run seamlessly with the display enabling you to perform functions with your files with a touch of a button and not need to click through multiple displays. Not to mention, the views menu, enabling you full control of the view of your files. Yeh you’ve got the standard settings such as “list” or “large icons” and “small icons” but with the new slider menu, you can set custom views with your files and folders enabling you an in-between setting which many users have been wanting for some time.

External protection
The firewall has been advanced and set to “on” by default, and also had bugs that were present in Windows XP fixed. Windows Defender (previously known as AntiSpyware) has been integrated as part of the system, and set so it runs all the time but as part of the svchost.exe (the Generic Host for Win32 Services) so it runs in the background. The Security Center has had a bit of a facelift and enables you to customise the settings a lot more. Such things as UAP, it will alert you whether it’s running or not, but doesn’t let you change whether it’s on or not as this is part of the user protection again.

Finally…
If anyone can think of anything else to add to this, leave a comment. But although there isn’t a huge comparison to Mac OS X in this entry, I still think that overall if you read again, these features totally outnumber what’s there in Mac OS X in my honest opinion.

Slate me if you will, but that’s my opinion from a technological professional.

Posted in Reviews, Windows Vista | 20 Comments »


This entry was posted on Sunday, April 23rd, 2006 at 1:29 pm and is filed under Reviews, Windows Vista. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


20 Responses

  1. Andre N Says:

    “I still think that overall if you read again, these features totally outnumber what’s there in Mac OS X in my honest opinion.”

    I truly believe Vista isn’t that much better than Mac OS X… In fact, Mac OS X has everything you mentioned Vista has – even the “save search” feature and a builtin firewall…
    I’m not bashing Vista, on the contrary – it’s a giant step in the right direction. But Mac OS X isn’t a beta – it’s a released product, and it already has many many features which are were just now introduced to Windows with Vista.

    I could go on, but then we’d start an endless and pointless discussion. We just have different opinions and points of view, and people should use the OS they’re most confortable with – not the one others think it’s the best!

  2. Deansweb2004|NT Says:

    Apart from it doesnt support half of the data/image/video formats plus most of the applications available in most of the shops . Plus when they update from Mac to another Mac Edition/Version they dont change much in my eyes. Compared toWindows XP and Vista they have personally changed alot of things and introduced alot of new technologies.

  3. Andre Da Costa Says:

    “and also dull out the ones that spam.”
    I guess your days are numbered huh Zack? LOL!

    Anyway, great review, but like Andre N says, OS X pretty much has everything Vista is just coming out with. Just that OS X has an awkward interface and Finder needs work, its darn slow and I can’t agree with the navigation. Smart Folders is what Virtual Folders should have been, I have been playing with this feature in 10.4.5 and I must say its really awesome.

  4. Zack Whittaker Says:

    You can talk Andre – I think with all the critising posts that you make towards me count just as much as those you accuse me of “spamming”, regardless of your policy on replying to certain people, I still think that they deserve a reply.

  5. Andre Nogueira Says:

    “Apart from it doesnt support half of the data/image/video formats plus most of the applications available in most of the shops.”

    Windows also doesn’t support most file types unless you install an application that supports them…
    And about the applications, that’s really a developer’s problem – Apple has nothing to do with it. Yes, I agree that this can keep people from choosing another OS over Windows. But from that point of view, no matter how bad Vista was (imagine it turned out to be worse than ME… :D) it would still be a good OS – simply because it has applications for it.
    (BTW, rumor has it that Apple will release a program to allow you to run Windows applications on Mac OS X – pretty much what Wine does on Linux. It remains to be seen if it’s just a rumour or not!)

    “Plus when they update from Mac to another Mac Edition/Version they dont change much in my eyes.”

    Some would argue Windows changes less than Mac OS X 😉 (lol just kidding! And not, I’m not talking about Vista – everyone can see it has changed a lot).
    I can’t really talk about it because I’ve never owned a Mac. Only this year did I start using them at my university, but I believe (again I say this might be incorrect) that while the interface remains pretty much the same, new features and applications are added to the OS and it’s components.

  6. Jason Says:

    I think both Mac OS X and Vista has good points. However, I do have to give credit to MS for finally making an OS that is starting to be great.

  7. Patrick Elliott [MVP] Says:

    Wow.. it’s great to be back from Las Vegas — OK guys, I think we’re going to have to create a microsoft.public.andre-vs-zack NG here soon 😉 Hope everyone’s doing well -P

  8. Jim Gray Says:

    Way to go Andre…I always see you picking on Zack on this site…Leave the poor guy alone…If he makes Awesome blog entrys like this…he cant be half bad.

  9. Patrick S Says:

    Awesome Post Zack It rocks!
    Go the ducks!

  10. Sidney Says:

    I know that by jumping in here I’ll be labeled a “fanboy,” and sometimes responding to things like this gets tiring, but it feels necessary in this case.

    “I wouldn’t even bother with OS X because it’s complicated to use and simply, it doesn’t support half the file types out there in the world.”
    I’m curious where this comment is coming from. Since this is MSBLOG, I’d like to hear some users’ opinions. What kinds of filetypes are you referring to? I’ve run into virtually no problems over the years, and want to know what I’m missing. I’ve also found the Mac OS to be much less complicated and better designed. For example, at installation, configuration questions are saved until the end so it can run unattended. I’ve noticed that, where in the Mac OS you can connect to a wireless network by clicking on the AirPort icon in the menu bar and selecting its name, In Windows you have to open a Wi-Fi window, select the network, and click connect, sometimes accepting a warning if the network is unsecured. On that topic, recently a friend of mine bought a new ThinkPad. The second day he owned it he was unable to use any networking. Why would this happen? Windows has activation with constantly changing licensing (apparently if you buy a new motherboard now you have to buy a new copy of Windows?). Windows has a registry which can become cluttered or infected…
    Ach, I’ll stop ranting. It’s late so some of this is probably incoherent anyway. I’m not trying to write a Windows bash, but want to know what parts of the Mac OS you’ve found confusing or annoying. Oh, and one more thing:

    “I saw this video some time ago (I’ll try and dig it out from my vast storage server) of a bloke who hates the Mac OS X system so much that he deliberately recorded and edited everything you could see… on a Mac.”
    I’ve seen this video many times. Everything in it is outdated or, at best, exaggerated to extremes. I’ve grown to hate it because it keeps being rediscovered and used as “ammunition” against the Mac. It’s not. Oh, and I suppose I can make room for ONE more:

    “It’s not really that difficult to be quite honest, seeing as you’ve got a platform which supports over 90% of all applications out there, and the fact that you don’t now need a specific computer to run Vista on.”
    Saying that Windows supports >90% of apps is misrepresentation of data. It’s more “there are 9 Windows apps for every one Mac app.” I’ve found that where there may be ten applications that perform a task in Windows, there are ~five for the Mac. Three or four of the WIndows apps are actually good, two or three of the Mac apps are good. You’re still able to to nearly everything that Windows can do, there’s just less junk to sift though. As for the other point, I like having my computer and OS from the same company. It means that Apple’s responsible for all problems — MS and, say, Dell can’t argue over fault — and you know that your hardware will be compatible with the OS.

    I’m done. Again, sorry for any incoherence. I should be asleep.

  11. Martin Says:

    Vista will be great when it comes along, no doubt about it. But unfortunately it will only draw level with OS X Tiger, as all of these “new features” are already offered in OS X.
    And just to rub salt into the wounds… Once Vista is released and it competes with Tiger, Apple is going to release Leopard and blow MS away for the next 6 years.
    Not trying to start a war here, but you can’t honestly believe that the features in Vista will “totally outnumber what’s there in Mac OS X in my honest opinion.” because as I said before, these features are already available.

    P.S. I use both a Mac and a Windows PC, and I believe Vista will be great, but saying that is offers all new features that will blow OS X away really irritates me as you may be able to tell. They are both good OS’s for what I need them for.
    Windows -> gaming and apps that dont’ run on OS X
    Mac -> Simple, easy computing on great looking hardware.. My personal preference.

  12. Patrick S Says:

    Hi there and Welcome to MSBLOG,

    I use Mac’s in day to day life as well (weekdays) so i can agree with you for some points there it is a good OS but in all honesty i like Windows better (call ME a fanboy if you wish)

    MAC OS has features that DO indeed outdo Vista, However the same can be said about Vista also-this is what makes them different in their own ways-and more specialized for each particular use.

    Since i have been using Windows (3.11-Vista) longer than Mac (Mac OS on old school Power Mac’s-MacOS X) i tend to think that my Windows setup is a lot better than the Mac’s i use for working on. In saying this however i also admit that i am using Mac in a locked down environment that only allows me to do limited things.

    That’s the end of my rant but yea in retrospect I think Microsoft’s products are superior.

    -Patrick

  13. Aeden_P Says:

    One minor issue, Zack. It seems Microsoft has coined a new monicker for UAP. Now its “User Access Control”. So now we’ve had three iterations of the same freaking technology; at least where names are concerned: LUA, UAP, and now, UAC. You’d think they’d spend more of that corporate fluff on more important things besides names, but, whatever 😉

  14. Andre Da Costa Says:

    I can make awesome blog post too, if you check the My Articles section of my blog you will see that I had previewed builds of Vista since 5112 and have discussed Vista since build 5048.

  15. Surya Says:

    I will wait to see what the final release of Vista would be like before I pass judgement.

  16. Daniel Says:

    Built 5365 crashes too many times on my machine (twice last night doing nothing special)
    Actually I am a bit concerned that at almost Beta 2 stage that Vista crashes so many times. I would have thought that core stability would have been there for a little while by now…

  17. Jabez Gan [MVP] Says:

    If it still crashes, means there’s still some bugs with the drivers, cos overall, lots of users are seeing much improvement in this build.

  18. Daniel Says:

    Damn stupid code checker, it erases the stuff I entered..

    To Jabez : Yes it’s getting better and I am seeing improvements. But that doesn’t mean I am pleased. I still spot little things here and there every couple of minutes, last one is that icon resizing is still horrid.

  19. Jabez Gan [MVP] Says:

    Yeah I understand your frustrations. 🙂 For little spots, i guess MS will work them out towards RTM. Just be patient. 🙂

  20. spelbreker Says:

    Does Vista also come standard with his viruses? you forgot to tell some things in comparrison to Mac’s I beleve. Apart from the fact that everything new Vista has to offer has been stolen from eighter mac, google or Firefox, Vista is an power absorbing memory killing beast. I use both systems and I know Mac is not more complicated. It is much mcuh mhuc better to work with. you probably never took the time to give a Mac a hounest shot. That searchfunction is in Mac OSx for years. and don’t lie saying ,,and the fact that you don’t now need a specific computer to run Vista on.” Vista will ask so much from your computer that a whole lot of people will have to buy a new one. (because of that ‘beautifull’ glass thingy). one last thing: just compare iCal with windows calander. and Mail with windows mail. its just copy paste. youre Vista is not new, its a copy of wat a mac user has for years.