By Sami J. Samhuri

Getting to know Vista

It looks pretty good!

After figuring out how to minimise the translucency of the window decorations I think Aero looks ok. Window titles, on both windows and the taskbar, can be difficult to read at a glance which is really stupid if you ask me. But it’s better than Luna! They really lay the effects on thick but overall I find it pretty pleasant and it runs well on my MacBook’s Intel 945 video chip.

Ah yes, the Sidebar is nowhere to be seen on my desktop. It’s a nice-looking waste of space.

But it’s not all useful

Sadly The new task switcher (Win-tab) is terrible. Before using it I wondered why they didn’t replace Alt-tab completely. Now I know and I am grateful to MS for not replacing it. Alt-tab easily wins. Especially since it displays thumbnails of windows.

Three gripes with Win-tab fancy-shmanciness:

It’s stable (so far)

Besides the fact it is aesthetically pleasing [subjective] it also has just worked for me so far. Nothing has crashed or broken which is almost miraculous. Not that I had a terrible time with XP, but it was still frail old Windows at times. I’m equally pleased with Apple’s drivers for Windows which probably adds to the experience. I’ve used XP machines with proper drivers, and those without and the differenc is night & day. I’ve had uptimes in months on a stable XP notebook.

Never thought this day would come...

But I actually like the Start menu. Really, I do. You hit the Windows key, type a few letters and boom you launch your app or search your computer, or the web (Google in Firefox, my default search). It’s not QuickSilver or LaunchBar; it’s not supposed to be. For the average Joe this is cool, and for the average power user it’s very useful. For the casual Windows user it’s great. It even learns.

I don’t love it though. I knew before using it that the new method of navigating through the All Programs menu would be weird. It is, but I guess it may be better than the previous fly-out scheme (which I don’t care for either). I guess the All Programs menu is more or less legacy now though and I don’t see myself using it often.

I’m a command line junkie

They fixed at least one glaring bug. I used the cmd.exe shell a little bit even though I hate it. I was happy to find that Tab completion works for more than the current directory now. Before Vista it would complete the same entries from PWD no matter how deep you tried to drill down into the filesystem. Other than that it seems to be the same crummy shell. [edit—apparently this is fixed in XP as well, my mistake]

I installed the Windows PowerShell (PoSH) but haven’t really put an effort to learn it yet. The syntax is unorthodox coming from *nix shells (zsh), but it’s sort of refreshing and it lives up to the Power part of its name. I really like the fact that collections of (say) files can be passed around and iterated over, filtered, etc. not as filenames but as real objects with corresponding methods and metadata. Built-in support for XML is pretty nifty too.

I’ve often longed for a shell which acted like a normal shell for the most part, but allowed irb-like interpretation of arbitrary Ruby code as well. The PowerShell seems like it could be something similar to what I’ve wanted. Too bad it’s proprietary and only runs on Windows. If I use Vista a lot this summer I could end up getting into it more though. It’s quite interesting.


The good:

The bad:

My conclusion

Perhaps the scores of talented developers at Microsoft can save them despite their obvious shortcomings in management. .NET seems like a decent platform, but we’ll have to see how I like it once I actually use it. So far I don’t hate Vista and considering the previous versions of Windows that’s a pretty good review coming from me. I’m still recommending Macs to my family and friends, but who knows what the future holds. I don’t hate Vista and by the end of the summer I may even [gasp] like it, and/or .NET. I haven’t used an IDE since VB6 and MS has always had a decent IDE (albeit with a crummy text editor). I’m expecting to enjoy it. If there’s one thing MS knows it’s the value of good dev tools and developers.