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keeping an eye on the tree and the forest

Dave's Exegesis is my eclectic site of exegesis on pretty much everything I can think of, whether biblical studies, theology, music, movies, culture, food, drink, sports, or the internet.

A Vista Review…Finally

07.15.08

Well, I’ve seen enough this year of Apple ads, blog posts (particularly at mattheaton.com), and videos to incite my comments on the Microsoft Vista Supreme OS. Before I begin, let me put my experience in context with several noteworthy points:

  • I am no computer expert, simply an avid user. I have no programming education or experience and have learned most things through trial and error and through the advanced expertise of former roommates and brothers-in law. I like to use sophisticated Bible software (Bibleworks, Libronix, etc.), I have lots of pictures and music (about 50-60 GB’s worth), I like to do web editing (with Frontpage), I sync my devices with the computer (iPod, Blackberry, Pocket PC), and I use most MS Office Applications (Word, Excel, & Outlook). Thus, I like to have a lot of things running at once.
  • I have used most phases of Windows, including Windows 3.5, 95, 98, 98 Second Edition, ME, XP Home, and XP Professional (through each service pack). All have had their difficulties, but I found XP Pro to have the least issues.
  • I have used a few versions of Linux, including Fedora Core 5-7 and Suse Linux 9. I enjoyed the layout of these systems, but had a great deal of difficulty with drivers and optimizing my screen view (oddly enough). I wholeheartedly support the efforts of open source operating systems and other software, and do enjoy the concept of the Live CD or DVD to run off.
  • This is the probably the most important point of all: I added to my RAM by 2 GBs before I upgraded XP to Vista. Even before I upgraded and still had XP, it was a massive difference in the speed and performance of my computer. To upgrade to Vista, it requires at least 1 GB of RAM and I only had 512 MB.

Now, with all that being said, I realize that the Mac (and/or the world) vs. Windows is much like the PR battle of the Democrats (and/or the independents) vs. Republicans. Windows is the corporate product whereas a Mac or Linux OS is a product for the people. Like productive political discussion, however, it is necessary to stick to the issues and not the hype or rumors. After all, it all comes down to how a particular system pragmatically delivers our greatest spread of ideals. I have heard so many people talk about Vista as a disaster, a mistake, poorly planned, and crippled with flaws. However, I am hard pressed to find any specific examples of problems with the actual operating system. Of course, the most common problem with any OS upgrade is hardware/driver compatibility. For PCs, there is really no way around this because the hardware components are all made by different companies, and they are responsible for creating new drivers that are compatible for the latest operating systems. As a matter of fact, even after an entire year of using Vista, the company who made my sound card has not updated their drivers for it such that I cannot get my microphone or line-in jacks to work. I really don’t use them so it’s not that big of a deal to me, but I wouldn’t consider that a “failure” for Vista. And by now, as the first Service Pack is available, most driver issues have been resolved and issues of that nature have been resolved.

I have found Vista to be a very welcome and timely update to XP. I’m glad Microsoft slowed down their production of operating systems, because up to 2001, there was a new one pretty much every year. So they took their time with Vista and gave themselves 5-6 years. Thus, they were anticipating changes of the way in which we use computers. For instance, they have a voice recognition component built into the OS. It may not be the same quality of the amazing Dragon Naturally Speaking product by Nuance, but it provides the service for those who would like to try it. They have also significantly enhanced Windows Media Center, as it will serve in the future as the way people watch TV, movies, photos, and listen to music. It will replace TiVo or a DVR for those who have the vision to centralize their media on their computers. I have seen this in action at my sister’s house where my brother-in-law runs everything through his Windows Media Center server and he accesses the media at each TV through Xbox. It looks and function much better than TiVo or my Comcast DVR, and completely replaces the need for Apple TV. But, you don’t hear people talking about that, because most people have not been exposed to the far-reaching, forward-thinking capabilities of Vista. Of course, I could mention that the Vista interface looks really nice and as appealing as Linux or Apple, or that they’ve simplified the folder structure of Vista to make it a bit more intuitive, but that should be expected. Issues of visual aesthetics are all customizable even for XP. If you have XP, you can make your interface look like a Mac or Linux, or even Vista if you wanted to. You can even add the widget features of Mac or Vista to XP. So, it is no surprise that these things have been updated with Vista.

Two components to the OS that I find have greatly enhanced Vista, which most people don’t like, are Windows Update and User Account Control.  My computer is on 24/7, so Update runs every day at 3:00 AM and it includes all critical updates and even defrags once a week.  Of course, you can turn off this feature.  User Account Control is the big change people feel inconvenienced by.  This alerts you when anything wants to run or install, and gives you the choice to allow it or not.  I find this helps me know exactly what is going on my computer and eliminates spy ware at the front end.  Of course, you can turn off this feature if you do not care to use it.   But, I think it is helpful in most cases.

Other features that I don’t use often but think they are necessary are Windows Backup and Restore Center, Shadow Copy (this creates shadow copies of your computer), Remote Access, Sync Center, and Windows Easy Transfer.  You can always go to the Vista site and demo all the features.

Overall, I am very happy with the upgrade and know it will serve me well for the future.  MS is already close to completion on “Windows 7” and will be starting “Windows 8” soon (Vista is “Windows 6”).  I do think that the most important factor in my upgrade was increasing my RAM.  I cannot emphasize this enough.  My wife has only 1.25 GB, and her computer is noticeably slower running Vista.  So, keep that in mind if choosing to take the plunge.

(FYI: I started this post like 8 months ago and just finished today, just so you know)