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An Unbiased look at Windows Vista


Author:  Artiom Bell
Date:  2008.03.11
Topic:  Software
Provider:  Microsoft
Manufacturer:  Microsoft






An Unbiased look at Windows Vista

Windows Vista retail box

Whether you like flashy colors, the convenient start menu search bar, added security, or just tired of the plain ol’ XP, Windows Vista is another option you might want to consider. Like all operating systems there are advantages and disadvantages to using the operating system from Microsoft. Most of the people I talked to so far take up “I hate it or love it” attitude. People that generally love the system tend to point out its convenient features such as the new Graphical User Interface (GUI), added security, DirectX 10, and other extra features that are packed into the 6 billion dollar giant. The people that disagree tend to complain about Vista’s slow transfer speeds, compatibility issues, and other miscellaneous problems that become annoying and unbearable to them over time.

Advantages:

windows Vista start menu

Much like Windows XP, Vista operates using their standard "Start bar", except for one small detail. Once the "start" is pressed, the user is presented with a search bar where just a couple keystrokes can locate the desired program. This is an especially useful feature if there are more than 30 programs installed and it would take you a significant amount of time to search through menus to find the program you are looking for. In addition to being able to look through your program list this feature also searches through documents, videos, photos and other multimedia files on your hard drive.

Another big improvement over its predecessor is Vista’s DirectX 10 capability. For gamers who run high end graphics cards on high end computers DX10 is very attractive. These users tend to value graphical performance and features over maneuverability and cost, in the end DX10 sounds much more attractive to gamers than to your average “businessman” who might look for better performance on a cheaper system. If you are an avid gamer and think Crysis on your 8800 GTX running DirectX 9 is stunning, get ready, because Crysis with DirectX 10 looks much more impressive given all the files remain unaltered. The reason why I say "unaltered" is because maximum allowed settings in the game running with DirectX 9 in Windows XP is "High" while the maximum allowed setting in Windows Vista using DirectX 10 is "Very High", which leads me to believe that the makers of the game might have downplayed the full capabilities of DirectX 9 in order push forward the newer engine. Of course getting Crysis to run at "Very High" settings is a monumental task and will require a beefy machine to achieve playable frame rates. You can however, hack XP into playing "Very High" by replacing the .cfg "high quality" content with "very high quality" code. The results become immediately apparent, not only in the images that are being rendered but also in the frame rate. All this being said DirectX 9 is not DirectX 10; the graphics rendered with older engine do not look as stunning as with the newer one. DirectX 10 overall offers deeper shadows, more texture, and higher quality images. Of couse you only have to check any DX10 vs DX9 review online to discover that the frame rate hit you take enabling DX10 is significant to say the least. Below are the images from Crysis in both Vista and XP with default highest quality as well as the modified (hacked) highest quality settings.

Crysis in Vista using DirectX 10
Crysis in Vista using DirectX 10
Very High Quality
Crysis in XP using DirectX 9 with hack
Crysis in XP using DirectX 9 with hack
Very High Quality
Crysis in XP using DirectX 9 without hack
Crysis in XP using DirectX 9 without hack
High Quality

With new version of Windows came a set of “new” security upgrades. BitLocker, User Account Control (UAC) and Windows Defender are what make Vista the most secure Windows to date. BitLocker allows the user to encrypt and password-protect their main drive which greatly reduces a possibility of unauthorized access. BitLocker uses Trusted Platform Module (TMP) version 1.2, user pin, or USB key to limit unauthorized access to the main drive. Please note that this feature is only available to Vista Ultimate and only Server 2008 users have the ability to encrypt more than one logical volume. The logical drive restrictions will be lifted with the release of the Service Pack 1. User Account Control, one of the more prominent features of Windows Vista, is a security measure which asks the user’s approval before executing any administrative-level applications. Windows Defender which was previously called Windows anti-spyware has the ability to monitor areas which may be influenced by spyware and eliminate ActiveX applications that are believed to be compromised. Also please note that Windows Defender is greatly limited when UAC is turned off.

The release of the Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Vista brings new promises of greater stability, more compatibility, faster transfers, and improved security. As of now only retailers and MSDN subscribers are able to obtain SP1 while all the other users have to wait until mid-March. Only future testing and interaction with Vista can prove if the update lives up to its name. Please note that as Microsoft itself pointed out that software that is incompatible with the architecture of Windows Vista now will still be incompatible with SP1.

Disadvantages:

The latest GUI, the pretty colors and silly animations come with a considerable performance drain. The new “Aero” executes transparencies, shadowing, glass-like window borders, minimization/maximization shadows, and other attractive things that make up the “Vista” experience. Firstly please be informed that “Aero” doesn’t come standard with Vista Basic. Therefore if you are looking for the “Aero” experience, be prepared to shell out an extra $50 (Upgrade). Aside from the extra money, all “Aero” does is make things look better and if you are a person who values performance then you will probably disable “Aero” to see a significant system performance increase. At that point you will probably be wondering why you paid extra for something that you aren’t going to be using.

While the User Account Control (UAC) is a great security feature, I must frankly say that it is very annoying. It pops up way too often, and lags your system every time it does so. Also, a significant amount of programs require the user to use “administrative mode” which means that the UAC window will be appearing each and every time that program is run. If you intend on using Windows Vista with a limited account, then it is completely useless using a program that writes to your main drive directory.

Another annoying feature of Vista is the sharing of files over the network. The only way that the outside users can access your files without having to log into one of the user accounts is if the files are put into the public folder and password protected sharing is disabled. This isn’t a problem if you have only one HDD, however if you have more than one the files will have to be copied over to the primary HDD to be placed into the public folder for password-free sharing. If any other folder used then a user log in is required.

Lastly the most annoying thing about Vista, in my opinion lies with their file transfers especially those to USB devices. It actually takes more time to calculate the amount of time to transfer something than to actually transfer it. If the file you are transferring is a song, for example, then it will take the computer longer to calculate how long the 3 MB file will take to transfer than to actually transfer the file.  This annoyance greatly increases in magnitude with the number of files to be transferred. Be prepared to wait quite a while if you are transferring something containing thousands of files and folders.

Conclusion:

The decision to buy Vista is at the discretion of the individual. In my opinion this decision should be based on the kinds of things the system that you are buying will be used for. If you are buying a computer for the ease-of-use, eye candy and improved security, Vista would be the better choice over Windows XP. However, if you are a user that values performance over advanced effects, interactivity, and are willing to compensate the holes in the security with advanced firewalls and virus scanners then XP may be better choice. It is also essential to have in mind that something as new as Vista always has room for improvement and the hardware that is incompatible now will be replaced by more compatible as well as capable hardware in the future.

 



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