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Top 8 Vista Annoyances

Date: January 23, 2007
Author(s): Rob Williams

I’ve been using Vista frequently since it lost its Longhorn code name. During that time, I’ve found one annoyance after another that just makes me ask, “Why did they do this?!” Read on to share my gripes and maybe even agree with me.



Introduction


Vista has been on everyone’s radar for quite some time now and with that, there are a lot of complaints about why certain things are as they are. Vista has come a long way since Longhorn but it still has some issues that make me scratch my head. This is not a Vista bashing article by any means. So far I’ve been impressed with many aspects of the OS and find the RTM leaps and bounds better than Beta 2.

After talking to many friends, it appears I am far from being the only one who is confused about some aspects. Some say, “I’m sure they will fix/add that.” Well, not at this point in time. Vista has been in final release state since November, so nothing major will be changed between now and a Service Pack.

That said, I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. Whether or not you do, feel free to speak your mind in our forum thread once done reading! Take a deep breath. Here we go…

#8 – Are you sure?

“Windows needs your permission to continue.” Oh really? So going into the Control Panel and double clicking an icon wasn’t enough of a confirmation? For those who are not sure what I am talking about, chances are great that you’ve never touched Vista before. When the time comes that you need to change some form of configuration, you will get a prompt asking you if it’s ok to continue. It’s highly annoying but in all fairness, this nag -can- be disabled on a per user basis.

I’d agree in saying that sometimes a prompt like this is important. Sure, it’s a good thing to ask when you want to open up a partitioning tool, but to change the date and time? To make matters worse, any time such a prompt pops up the entire screen dims while only this window box remains in focus. While this doesn’t seem like a big problem, it can happen when you are least expecting it. Because of this, it can be headache inducing after having it happen a few times… at least with me personally.

It seems like Vista is trying to be more Unix-like in this regard, but I don’t know anyone who would willingly put up with it. Maybe in an environment where uptime is an absolute must, that I could understand. My solution to this is a new question at the installation screen.

Depending on your answer, it would change various options to cater to what type of user you are. If you are experienced, you shouldn’t need to be asked to perform various functions. Chances are good that you know full well what you are doing.

#7 – General slowness

When Beta 2 became available, I quickly noticed that some meaningless tasks took a while to complete. Most notably, deleting a shortcut off the desktop such as Internet Explorer. I could never figure out why it took 7 seconds to remove a 2kb shortcut. This was a Beta OS after all, so perhaps it would be fixed in the final version.

No.

I haven’t run into the problem as much with the RTM, but it still lingers in certain areas. There were a few instances where I copied a very small file and actually had a progress bar stay on the screen for a few seconds. I may be impatient, but you really shouldn’t have to see a progress bar due to moving a > 1MB file.

At some points during use, you may wonder if the current process is actually doing anything at all since some of the progress bars are infinite… they simply loop. This is not one of my biggest gripes though, as it’s still been vastly improved since Beta 2.

#6 – Where did Vista put this?

This is a common complaint I heard at CES two weeks ago from friends. Countless people who are making the Vista leap will be experienced users. I’ve personally used Windows since 3.x, so I’ve become well accustomed to where things belong and how things are handled.

In general, some of the most common aspects of the OS that experienced users want to access are kept in a different place than in XP. One instance is the Display Settings. In XP, you right-clicked your desktop to access the properties. In Vista, you have to go into bloated menu called Personalize. Then, the Display Settings is the absolute -last- option on this list.

There are other instances that I won’t get into. If you are a regular Windows user, you will know what I am talking about quick.

#5 – DRM…

DRM has been a touchy issue with Vista since 2005. For those unaware, DRM is the technology schemes used to protect copyright files. It’s the same thing used in the music you purchase online and similar to the protections put on computer games and DVD movies. Fact: DRM is a pain in the ass. I don’t believe for a second that Microsoft is putting DRM at the forefront to anger customers, but rather to avoid confrontations with media producers. Just take a look at how Universal is riding them over the Zune.

One feature included in Vista is called OCP Management which takes advantage of various DRM schemes. Most notable is the popular HDCP, a standard that has been getting a lot of attention as of late. Machines using Vista will be unable to play high-definition content such as Blu-Ray and HD-DVD without a capable monitor that supports HDCP. If you are in the situation where you are planning to buy a new monitor for the sake of watching such content on your PC, you will want to make sure that it is fully HDCP-compliant.

There are many other instances where DRM could come into play. Imagine being a fan of a new blockbuster release and wanting to take a small audio snippet from it to use as your Windows startup sound or for use in your IM programs, but not being able to. All ethics aside, there’s no doubt DRM has become a burden, but it plans to only get worse.

#4 – Lack of ease

This is somewhat relative to the “Are you sure?” section. Vista is great at making simple tasks difficult. Using the OS for a single evening will prove this quick. Think that task could be done in one step? Hah! Try four or five.

As a rule of thumb, I think the Vista developers decided to put at least one step in between whatever it is that you want to do. I’m not even talking about the constant nag screen, but rather a menu or series of menus that you must navigate through to get to your destination.

Lack of ease may not come to everyones minds, but I am a huge fan of simple. Something Vista goes completely against.



Final Thoughts


#3 – Activation fun

If there’s anything that stands out in my mind from Windows XP besides the 900 major security holes, its the reaction from the community in regards to the activation and WGA scheme. The fact is, WGA is a huge annoyance and primarily inconveniences those who legally bought the OS. If for whatever reason you never felt the bite of WGA, it was essentially a way to force people to activate their Windows before being able to download specific software or use Windows Update. Of course that doesn’t seem so bad, but it was when WGA screwed up that people started their rants.

Since this past Summer, I’ve installed Vista around 30 times (no I’m not proud to admit that) without much of an issue. Until recently, that is. When trying to access one of my installations the other day, I received an error box telling me that I needed to activate. I found this odd since I thought I activated it directly after install. Though, I have more than one installation so it’s no real surprise if I did overlook it.

This happened last week, so I only vaguely recall all of the options, but I remember one that gave the ability to change the product key. This is great for those who end up with a pirated version of Vista in the future. You can just get a legal key and enter it here. But, this is one thing that happened with XP that didn’t work out to well. Some folks got locked out of their machines for days while waiting for a new key from Microsoft. The important thing to remember is to activate right after the install to make things easy on yourself. It literally activates in under ten seconds, so it’s not a huge deal.

One thing I will mention though, is that I was lucky to have my WiFi properly configured before this happened. When I was prompted to activate, it did so without issue. Had the internet not worked though, I am unsure what steps would need to be taken to regain control over the system. I can see some fun times ahead…


Am I genuine or not?

#2 – Hard To Customize Boot Loader

For those who have a single OS installation, this gripe need not apply. For those who have numerous installs of Windows and Vista, this becomes a pain quick. I will begin with an example. On my main testing rig, I have six versions of Windows. When booting up, I see this menu:

Earlier Version of Windows
Microsoft Windows Vista
Microsoft Windows Vista
Microsoft Windows Vista
Microsoft Windows Vista
Microsoft Windows Vista

You might ask how I know which is which? Exactly. That’s the problem. Included in that list are two versions of Ultimate, Home Basic, Home Premium and Business. In order to figure out which is which, I have to go into each one until I see the proper login screen. Another option is to recall the order in which I installed them, since the oldest is listed last.

In Windows XP, the boot loader was simple to edit. It was a matter of opening the boot.ini and changing the name of the entry to something recognizable. There’s no such thing in Vista since the boot loader has changed drastically. Now, you need to use a program called bcdedit to manually change the names of the installs. I consider myself to be an experienced computer user and even I don’t want to screw with a boot loader like this. Regular computer users certainly won’t want to bother with it!

Under the System Startup application, you have the ability to change the menu delay and also which entry should be default. You cannot however, change the titles of the entries. Why!? If they give the feature to change the default entry, they could at least give the ability to change the title to make things easier on people who have multiple installs!

#1 – Bugs still abound

I have mentioned that the RTM is far superior to Beta 2 and I mean it. The system overall is much more responsive and many common bugs have been squashed. Still, I’ve run into many various bugs in the past two months. Not surprising though, this is not exactly a small application we are dealing with. I will touch on a few here, but this is only a small few of all the ones I’ve encountered. I am not picking out Vista to be a buggy OS… all OS’ are buggy. I run into bugs on my Linux machine every other day. That said, your experiences will also vary. I have found that a lot of factors come into play with these as well. For example, I’ve encountered some bugs in one install but not another.

One bug I’ve discovered in more than one install has to do with the Games folder. Vista will auto-detect notable games that are installed and throw in an icon for quick access. Half-Life 2 is the game I’ve run into problems with. Even though Windows took it upon itself to add the icon here, double-clicking it resulted in an error… everytime. Not all games are like this though, as Oblivion started without issue.

Here is an example of where one installation of Vista shows a bug while the other doesn’t. For some reason, one of my Ultimate installs will not give me a Windows Experience Index rating of more than 1. The reason is the video card, despite the fact it works fine. Aero works, as does Half-Life 2. I refreshed the rating a few times (even rebooted) but I still get a 1 overall. This is not a big issue since it doesn’t halt performance in any way. It does show how the OS is still very finicky though.

The last “complaint” is not so much of a complaint, nor bug. Rather, it’s realizing the fact that a lot of your common software may not function in Vista as you’d hope. This was a huge issue in Beta 2, but has been fixed up so much since then, it seems non-existent. There are still lingering programs that won’t work properly though, and likely never will. Reg Supreme is one of these programs. It’s a program I’ve come to rely on quite a bit, but the copy I have is over a year old. The program runs, but it doesn’t accomplish any of the tasks I set it out to do.

Sony Vegas 7 is another. It loads, but gives me an error on each startup. Diskeeper 2007 is one of the biggest ones for me, since it’s a great program. It won’t work in Vista though. But for those who own it, hope is not lost since there is a Vista specific version available. The fact is, you will not always be out of luck if your software doesn’t function. Chances are good that the developer has released a version capable of handling Vista. If not, then the loss of use of the program is something you may have to deal with, if the backwards compatibility feature doesn’t work in your favor.

Final Thoughts

Whew, that was a lot of complaining! It’s apparent that Vista will not always please everyone, including myself. Overall, I have been pleased with my experiences in using Vista but some things I’ve mentioned really grinds my gears. As with any new major OS upgrade, problems are to be expected. But, some of the complaints I have don’t have anything to do with bugs, simply “Why did they do things this way?”

In the end, I still like Vista for what it is. Hopefully such things like compatibility will get sorted out in the coming months so that your primary software and games will work properly, in addition to drivers. Vista handles many things well, but you should prep yourself for the worst and know that you may have a good deal of tweaking to do.

This is our second Vista specific article that will be published this week. Stay tuned for content the rest of the week and make sure you read through “Should You Buy Vista Ultimate?”.

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